Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Netanyahu’s Settlement Plan is Hobson’s Choice

By Saeed Qureshi

The peace and settlement process between Israel and Palestinians is back to square one. It is like proverbial Hobson’s choice which does not brook any choice for the other party. The Israeli hardliner Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu now in United States has been very specific this time to lay down his conditions for the creation of a Palestinian state that would be acceptable to Israel after a further process of negotiations.

He did not right away give his unequivocal assent for the establishment of a home land for the Palestinians uprooted way back in 1948. He gingerly gave a kind of lip service approval to the creation of a state for the Palestinians provided his four conditions were met in advance.

Prime Minister Netanyahu outlined the Israeli perception of peace with the Palestinian and his vision of a Palestinians state before the United States joint session of Congress in a 50 minute long address punctuated intermittently by the loud applause and rousing ovation by the Israel friendly Congress.

As a matter of fact he did not unfurl or offer any new proposals or ground breaking plans that would bring a watershed thaw in the decade’s old stalemated dispute between the Israel and the people of Palestine. It is fundamentally a replay of what Israel’s stance has been all along.

Of these four conditions the first is that the Palestinian Authority under Mahmood Abbas should abrogate its agreement with Hamas. Israel does not want Hamas to be a party in the negotiations that are purported to take place sometime in the future between the two inveterate rivals to deliberate upon the two states road map.
That would be utterly impossible for Mahmood Abbas to agree because Hamas are by race as genuine Palestinians as the other Palestinians are.

The demand of isolating Hamas are patently aimed at dividing the two factions and break their unity that was made possible after much of efforts and quid pro quo and that lent strength to the Palestinian cause.

The second condition of Netanyahu is to make Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. It is an issue of contention that would not be accepted by the Palestinians under any circumstances. The East Jerusalem is to be located in the Palestinian state which cannot be bargained or abandoned by the Muslims or Christians for the sake of accepting a state without Jerusalem. Israel annexed East Jerusalem in six days war of 1967. East Jerusalem includes several holy places for all the three Abrahamic religions.

The complete control of Jerusalem by Israel will not be accepted also by the other Islamic states particualry in the Arab lands because this place is as holy for Muslims as it is for Jews and the Christians. Until 1948 Palestinians lived in the entire Palestine including Jerusalem. In 1948 and in later wars, their lands were usurped including the holy places. Now that occupation is being solemnized in the new plan as envisaged by the Israeli prime minister.

The third condition that is untenable and will not be agreed upon by the beleaguered Palestinian people is that Israel will not vacate the lands that it forcibly occupied in 1967 war. These territories consist of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and much of the Golan Heights and, until 1982, the Sinai Peninsula. Israel withdrew from the Sinai Peninsula in 1982, as part of the 1979 Treaty.

If Israel plans to legitimatize its occupation of Palestinian and Arab lands that it took by aggression in 1967 war then it would set off a wicked tradition of occupying others’ lands by military means and then refuse to vacate them.

This violation also flies in the face of the United Nations charter that negates forcible land grabbing of the weaker countries or nations by powerful countries. Netanyahu's call to hold on to swaths of West Bank land including East Jerusalem, where Palestinians want their capital is neither legal nor moral.

The fourth condition is that the Palestinians that have been uprooted and became Diaspora or confined to the occupied lands will not be allowed to become citizens of the new sate of Israel. This is an indefensible demand that does not merit any consideration.

It is tantamount to the blatant denial of the rights of the Palestinian to live in any part of the land where they wish to be located. This condition spells out the demographic change that Israel has been straining to inject in any settlement plan. Now the cat is out of the bag and he has made his mind open on this most diabolic condition.

Israel is concerned about the forthcoming development by which the United Nations General Assembly would grant the legal status to the Palestinian state. All these eye-wash initiatives are aimed at forestalling that upcoming eventuality.

The Israeli lobby in the United States has worked overtime to make the Israeli prime minister’s visit as a thumping success as witnessed by the generous ovation given to him during his speech delivered with great emphasis on every word and phrase that he uttered.

But for all indications this stalemate would continue until Israel is prepared to agree by catering for the Palestinian proposals and treat them as equal partners. In the present situation it appears as if Israel was talking in such a way as if it was dealing with an inferior partner and throwing crumbs would be enough to pacify it.

It appears as if Israel is under the erroneous impression that with surrender of some land she was placing Palestinian under an overwhelming gratitude. She might also take it for granted that by simply agreeing to parting with some land and the settlements therein she could override and sidetrack other substantive thorny issues related to a consensus solution of the lingering dispute.

Unless Israel makes her stance more agreeable and pragmatic, a lasting and durable co-existence of the two nations in two separate independent states cannot be achieved. While the state of Israel already exists, the one for the Palestinian people is yet to be established and that is the core issue.

With Israel’s intransigence, the objective of creating two states in the light of the UN Resolution 181 (adopted on 29 November 1947),one Jewish and one Arab, would remain elusive, entailing more sufferings for the Palestinians.

The writer is a senior journalist and a former diplomat
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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Strauss Kahn: From Apex to Abyss

By Saeed Qureshi

To err is so human. It is the almighty God that grants glory and take it away as well. The former IMF chief Dominique Strauss Kahn’s case adequately highlights that dimension. A celebrity who had the unrivaled clout and power to disburse funds to the world at large with one stoke of pen, is now placed in confinement in a New York jail notorious for heinous and most dangerous criminals. He is handcuffed, huddled in a dark, suffocating and dingy cell. His bail seemed to be an insurmountable odd.

Now finally the bail has been granted for an unprecedented hefty amount of I million dollars besides 6 millions in bonds. However, the case would prolong for quite some time. The ordinary court guards, whom he may have never even looked at or shake hands as the IMF boss, now, handcuff him and arraign him before the court by physically jostling him. He is pathetically isolated and utterly helpless to solicit help from the countries that were the beneficiary of IMF largesse and loans.

Such is the thin line between fame and infamy, grace and disgrace and glory and dishonor. With one commission of a reckless and bizarre act, this one of the most powerful bureaucrats looks like the scum of the earth and perhaps a widely condemned and chided person whose future is sealed forever. He has lost his prestigious and most dignified status that should be the envy of even the most influentials of the world including the heads of the states.

He was a favorite candidate for the French presidency and was projected to win that exalted position in the forthcoming elections. His emoluments and lavish life was resplendent with all the world luxuries that a mortal human can think of. The debtor countries would be like beggars before him and his nod in the negation or affirmation in regard to loans and economic packages would be decisive. With one moral lapse he has turned into the most wretched person and abandoned by the humanity at large, his countrymen, his office and his family.

Did he commit the crime or not is beside the point. He is castigated and caught in a malignant whirlpool that has swallowed his job, his honor and his magnificent future and tarred his past. Was this man so desperate as to attack a defenseless female maid to satiate his carnal desires? Did he not envisage a decent way that would cover his lewdity and monstrosity? He could have done that with the miracle of money but since it was ordained that he should suffer; so did he.

One shudders at this mind crippling happening that does not offer any logical explanation for a conduct that even a street urchin and a sex manic cannot put up in such loathsome and crude manner. The lesson is that we all humans wear a thin veneer of morality and rectitude and chastity and decency but within we are always vulnerable to the evil desires.

The religions ordain restraint and regulating of one’s wild desires, keep them from being blown out of proportions and hold back their morbid exhibitionism. Yet there are those who fall prey to the sinister designs and unchaste propensities but conceal them to look saints and sacred before others.

The list of lustful pursuits is long but for women, power and wealth stand out from all others. If there is modesty and steadfastness to keep such morbid desires at bay, man remains immune from many pitfalls such as Kahn has fallen in. A small wrong step or decision, or utterance spurred by emotional deluge or anger or carelessness, can mar and ruin one’s past eminence and also ruin the future splendid projections forever. Did this man Kahn ever thought he would fall from a pinnacle to the lowest ditch of wretchedness, shame and calumny that can never be sweetened with all the “perfumes of Arabia”.

The American laws treat the sexual perversion and harassment and rape with utter strictness and with zero tolerance. The law of profligacy and moral turpitude has no pardon and no reprieve. That is one way of protecting the female honor in a country where consensual sex is the order of the day.

But it is all debatable what is consensual and what is not. A married woman can get his husband arrested on the spur of the moment even if she obnoxiously accuses him of forcible sexual intercourse. The women’s voice, howsoever, flimsy and devoid of truth, is treated to be the most credible and potent in matter of forcible sex even for a feigned pretext to get rid of an unwanted husband.

The prosecutors in America are like alligators or pythons that squeeze the alleged offenders to such an unbearable limit that he succumbs to accept the so called bargain plea for softer punishment, although he might be guiltless. The courts, as the empiracle observation makes one believe, go more in favor of prosecution than the defense.

But if finally Kahn comes out clean and sinless, he has no future. He would remain a cast away figure who would be seething and corroding from within for what he had done or not done but was accused of doing. Who knows he may go to jail for several years, thus foreclosing even the remote chances for his comeback and rehabilitation in life. Life would not be the same for Kahn any longer.

In a similar case, President Bill Clinton was saved from a dreadful eventuality by a hair’s breadth, which was one vote in senate that saved him from an eternal disgrace. A former World Bank president (10th) Paul Wolfowitz had to resign his post for his love affair with one of his female subordinates. But amazingly they did not encounter as much of humiliation and roughness as being shown to Dominique Strauss Kahn. They were not even arrested.

The writer is a senior journalist and a former diplomat

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Monday, May 16, 2011

How to Build a New Pakistan

By Saeed Qureshi

There is a fast gathering impression that Pakistan is sliding down to the status of a failed state. Bad governance, corruption and dereliction of the leadership are some of the principle reasons outlined for the colossal decline and drift caving into the unity, strength and advancement of Pakistan.

The anti Soviet Union war in Afghanistan created such fanatic religious entities as Taliban and al-Qaida. Pakistan joined the decade long anti-soviet crusade. The Afghan war between the West led by the United States and former Soviet Union had its most ruinous fallout on Pakistan.

Later, United States started another war against her former fighting Islamic cadres namely Al-Qaida and Taliban. Pakistan also became a participant in that war. As such Taliban and al-Qaida let loose a punitive specter of terror and sabotage within Pakistan that continues unabated in the form of incessant suicide bombing and brazen killing sprees.

However there was also a redeeming dimension of anti- Soviet Union war for Pakistan. it provided a God given rare opportunity to Pakistan to put a stop to the centuries old ambition of the Russia empire under the dynastic rulers and then under the Bolshevik regime to bring under their domination the region that linked Russia to with the warm waters.

But Pakistan’s involvement did not stop after the defeat of the Soviet Union. The 9/11 incident once against catapulted Pakistan to the status of a most needed and trusted ally of the United states to fight the fanatic bands in Afghanistan and in the tribal regions and to eliminate and flush them out. Pakistan army is fighting that war for several years now killing the fanatic militants and in return being killed by them.

It was a kind of vicious trap in which Pakistan is still caught up and cannot break it or get out of that because America’s war on terror seems to be interminable. It is a kind of morass and abyss in which it is sinking with no hope for retrieving itself.

Pakistan army’s involvement against its own people in the tribal regions had its pernicious repercussions on Pakistan’s society in the form of suicide bombing, frequent bomb blast, arson and other unending sabotage incidents that have blown up the societal peace and stability that are so essential for the sustained onward march towards prosperity and progress.

The religious parties and radical Islamic groups that were dormant or weak in the past have been swelling and gaining strength and becoming more organized as to challenge the state and defy its writ in myriad ways. The religious outfits in conjunction with the outside cohorts are wreaking havoc within Pakistan crippling the economy, destroying the peace and instilling terror among the citizens.

These are both invisible and visible elements that retaliate to Pakistan’s alliance with the western countries and the army’s combat operations in the tribal regions against the Taliban. The drone attacks have filled the tribal population with deep hatred and fury not only against America and NATO but also against Pakistan for its complicity.

Since Taliban and other militants cannot harm the foreign occupation forces to a desirable extent, the scapegoat or the immediate victim is Pakistan that has to bear the major brunt of the punitive actions by the radical religious militants. Hence an unremitting mayhem and unabated loss of human lives and property, economic decline and stagnation goes on. Now these are the harsh facts and unpalatable ground realties that are commonly known.

Let us, therefore, earnestly ponder as to how this ballooning rot can be stemmed and Pakistan can be put back on a track of peace and stability. In a nutshell how a failing and degenerating Pakistan can be redeemed.

In the aftermath of the Abbottabad event, the reaction of the Pakistan’s parliament and the unanimous resolution to uphold the national dignity and sovereignty is a redeeming development. Also the armed forces’ resolve to retaliate in such situations is the first expression of Pakistan as a self respecting and honorable nation.

If such a course is persistently pursued, it can be hoped that the foreign inexorable pressure would relent and that might prove to be the first step towards national salvation from the foreign bondage and the end of fear psyche.

To embark upon a well charted and ensured course of redemption and halting the ongoing trends of disintegration and downturn, Pakistan needs to take a stock of the causes responsible for generating the feelings of despondency and burgeoning perception of its becoming a failed state. Pakistan will have to realign its priorities and strategies and forge conciliatory alliances with the hostile groups like Taliban.

It is necessary to back track from the military operations in the tribal regions all the more after the death of the Osama Ben Laden for which the NATO and the United States’ forces were deployed on a massive scale in Afghanistan. Pakistan on its own can keep hunting the terrorists and rogue elements that are against Pakistan but must end its mercenary role in its own lands and against its own people.

Pakistan should dispense its image of a mercenary or vassal state of the United States that dumps Pakistan when it is not needed any more. Pakistan has a very time tested sincere friend and supporter in China whose relationship with Pakistan is not based upon ulterior motives or self-aggrandizing interests or arm-twisting tactics.

If the United States follows her threats of cutting off Pakistan’s financial and military aid, then it should be deemed as a blessing in disguise. With the support and backing of China the possibility of United States attacking Pakistan’s nuclear assets does not look plausible. India cannot also harm Pakistan.

So Pakistan can choose the path of disengaging itself from the dictates of an overbearing power whose relations are purely motivated by their own designs and vested interests in complete disregard of the partners’ limitations. As long Pakistan serves with complete docility and as an apron string, they are happy. Their attitude towards Pakistan is, “Since we pay you for your services, you must deliver.”

The moment there is a minor lapse; they would forget the past achievements and turn apprehensive and an adversary. United States is a fastidious country that can turn back and starts talking revenge against sincere friends when the job is over or falls short of their expectations. Pakistan should not accept aid if it is tagged with dishonorable conditions and list of dictated jobs, given to a hireling.

Pakistan should enter into a new alliance with all brands of Taliban for a grand reconciliation and for stopping mutual revenge killing. In a quid pro arrangement, Pakistan should terminate its military onslaughts. In return Taliban should call off their suicide bombing and deadly terrorist attacks within Pakistan.

That arrangement can be made as most Taliban do not nurse any ill will against Pakistan. Taliban are the creation of Pakistan and with the time passage their worldview and orthodox beliefs can undergo change. With solicitation and as a consequence of the reconciliation dialogue they can move towards moderation.

Secondly, a national religious harmony conference should be convened. This conference should bring together all the groups and parties with diverse and divergent religious beliefs and shades of opinions. They should pledge that they would follow their religious traditions and obligation without aggression, violence, bickering or diatribe against the other sects within the ambit of Islam.

That should herald the religious harmony and freedom of worship in Pakistan without any ideological friction or attacks on each others’ religious places and vitriolic outbursts against their respective religious icons.

These religious entities should also commit that they would respect the law of the land and perform their religious or social obligations according to the constitution of Pakistan and within the framework of democracy and public interest.

The Pakistan government with the support of provincial leaders, the parliamentarians, the intelligentsia, intellectuals, politicians, the educationists, social reformers, and other cross section leaders and prominent figures such as labor leaders, NGOs, should hammer out a national unity and reconciliation strategy for addressing the regional and provincial tensions and complaints.

There can be a reconciliation commission that should initiate a fresh dialogue with all the provinces to bring the dissident groups with fissiparous inclinations into the national gridline. This national reconciliation should start from Baluchistan where a simmering insurgency is going on for decades by such anti-federation groups such as BLA BLF, BRA and BLUF.

These groups should be motivated to join the process of Grand National integration by redressing their grievances within the federation so that these breakaway movements aided by foreign inimical forces can be quashed.

The majority of the people of Baluchistan want to live within Pakistan and therefore those who want to break away are fringe groups. But in order to bury the conflicts and perpetual tug of war, it is imperative that such groups should join the mission of unity, integration and take part in the political process.

The third alliance or reconciliation milestone should be worked out between the ethnic groups both social and political such as the MQM and the Pathans on one hand and Jamat-i-Islami and MQM on the other. The racial and ethnic harmony is sin quo none for the solidarity, integrity and stability of Pakistan, particularly in Karachi which is a port and linchpin of economy.

In order to bring the much needed harmony, one giant step is inevitable. It is to remove the provincial grudge and rift between the provinces of Pakistan. For smaller provinces Punjab is a much reviled province. This impression must be erased as soon as possible.

As part of the watershed endeavor to alleviate sufferings of the smaller provinces and for their active participation in national affairs, it is vital to break the current four giant provinces into minimum 16 provinces.

The division of the current four elephantine provinces into smaller provinces would definitely dilute their mutual rivalry caused by the variance in their size and the grievance of getting more or less resources and funds.

That would also be a giant stride towards devolution of powers and decentralization of the big geographical areas. Thus a fairer, equitable and exclusive system for the utilization of their locally generated revenues from their natural resources and taxation could be brought into being.

People reel under extremely, degrading, abysmal, woeful and inhuman living conditions. The daily strings of power outrages and blackouts, the water shortage, the chaotic traffic, bad and narrow roads, the suffocating, noisy and smoke emitting public and private transport are making the people crazy and reckless.

The environmental pollution, the dark and dingy streets, meager landscaping, deficient and dirty public parks, no zoning regulations, giraffes and wall chalking all over give Pakistan an image of a highly backward, disorderly and filthy country.

There is no centralized drainage system in any city, no centralized flush system, and no decently maintained public toilets. The encroachments cover roads and footpaths, the animals are kept with the citizens in the lanes and streets. There are such countless other civic and environmental deformities that make Pakistan look like a primitive and ugly country still to be polished and municipally modernized.

The government seems to be visibly blurred as judged by their performance thus far, about the stupendous national maladies and their amelioration. Barring vague promises and meaningless rhetorical statements, they have not laid-out their policy and plans, as to how they would be cleaning these ‘Augean Stables’.

As such a civic revolution is indispensable to spruce up the towns, and cities and improving the living conditions of the citizens of Pakistan. One of the overriding reasons for the Pakistanis to come to the western societies is to benefit from the civic galore and public utilities that make lives so productive and free from hassle and irritants.

There is a contrast between the degrading and tormenting life of citizens in Pakistan and the rigors-free and comfortable living the citizens in west Europe and United States lead. If we can create a better civic and municipal system in our urban areas, our people may not opt to move out of Pakistan for green pastures or for neat and hazard-free environment.

Pakistan looks so shabby and decadent country to a person who comes out of the airport after visiting a foreign country. It is expressly urgent to upgrade the quality of live in Pakistan by unfurling a grand civic revolution to the extent that no one has the audacity to spit or urinate or throw garbage in open and even in their homes. Face lifting of Pakistan should be central to the civic revolution.

A revolutionary civic law and plan should be copied from the civilized and culturally advanced countries and implemented consistently and methodically without any laxity and with full force of law. The violators of civic laws, regulations and city codes must be fined and punished so as to forcibly attune them to respect law and comply with the civic regulations.

Likewise the traffic mess can also be addressed diligently by taking a cue from the systems of the civically advanced nations. Wider highways and abundant road network should be laid out all over Pakistan for easing the burgeoning traffic pressures and to cater for the fast, safe and smooth flow of the vehicles.

The shape and models of the public transport vehicles such as freight trucks and buses must be remodeled with less colorful engraving and gaudy paintings on them yet with more space and necessary features such as cooling and heating systems.

Let us now talk about the social and structural reforms and institutional improvements. The harried and harassed citizens must be liberated, from the bribe and corrupt practices of the officials and bureaucracy; the complicated and plentiful regulations, tough conditions, and similar bottlenecks.

The public departments and courts are most notorious for their slow, outdated and cumbersome procedures for issuing a driving license to a health certificate or a verdict from a court for vacation of forcibly grabbed land. The civil and criminal cases remain under trial for decades.

Look at the railways in Pakistan. It is a nightmare and trauma to travel by train in Pakistan. The trains are slow, invariably late, the compartments dirty and overloaded, the latrines dirty and stinking. The cooling or heating facilities are confined to first class bogies. The railway stations are populated by collies and vendors who pay hefty bribes to work at the platform.

The railway tracks mostly single tracks, are the same that were created by the British before 1947. The railway land is grabbed by powerful gangs and individuals. The engines and bogies have always been in short supply. The concept of fast trains in Pakistan seems to be a fairy tale and an unattainable fantasy.

Same is the picture of PIA, health and education sectors, Police, the taxation and revenue departments, the WAPDA, the banking system, the municipal organizations, hospitals, the courts. All these institutions suffer from bad governance and are infested with malfunctioning and flaws.

The underlying and perhaps the outstanding reason for malfunctioning and deficiencies with the entire governance system in Pakistan is that the institutions and departments are not modernized.

These are being run on the same obsolete and moribund patterns that were manual and prevalent during the British rule in India. Even the indispensable computerization or automation of these departments is yet to be done.

The staffs in most of the departments make entries and maintain records by writing with hand or by typing on the old typewriters. The ticket booking systems or payment of utility bills via Internet or online is a rare facility in Pakistan.

In offices, such practices such as late coming, eating and smoking on the work desk is in vogue. Invariably, the public needs are met with delays and upon payments of grafts. The government officials mostly are incorrigibly corrupt with tendencies of nepotism and favoritism. The poor workmanship entailing a building collapse or a road falling back in poor state is common in Pakistan.

In countless instances either the road, or school or certain project was never built but were shown in records. Corruption, lawlessness and theft of the public assets are a way of life in Pakistan. People steal power, and water in collusion with the custodians of these assets.

The police in Pakistan is the ugliest institution for its corruption, cruelty and dereliction in doing their jobs faithfully and honestly. Their uniforms, their trainings, their backgrounds, their way of dealing with crime is a saga of shocks and is utterly reprehensible. It has become a symbol of inefficiency and fear.

Instead of protecting the law and the citizens, the police personnel break the law and selectively apply it. They are a band of dirty villains striking fear in the minds of those who are innocent and cannot pay the bribes. However, for strong and wealthy they behave like the house kept pets with wagging tails.

The fault does not lie with the police cadres but with the society. The government and the environ in which they live and serve, put a nerve shattering burden on them by way of personal obligations, pressure from high ups, poor training and poor equipment.

The Pakistan’ society spurs an atmosphere than fosters nepotism and subservience. Even if a constable or officer wants to be dutiful, he cannot operate independently as there would be multiple pressures on him to finally join the other sleazy lot.

The government has to refurbish, modernize, and overhaul all the government departments and the bureaucratic regime so that these can serve the people with honesty, fairness and in accordance with the laid down rules as we can see in the advanced countries.

The institutions and departments both public and privates have to be rebuilt from a scratch, remodeled and recast to make them efficient, functional and responding to the people’s aspirations and the imperatives of a modern society. A commission can also be set up to modernize and transform the entire administrative set up in Pakistan for good governance.

Another crucial reform is to recover the illegal firearms and lethal weapons with zero tolerance. Heavy sentences should be awarded to those who possess the arms without any license. The country should be cleared of all the deadly weapons that have no registration and fact constitute main cause of violence and criminal activities.

For a socially liberated Pakistan where equality between citizens prevails, Pakistan has to abolish the culture of elitism, aristocracy, privilege classes including the abominable feudalism and local lords, Sardari (nobility) and similar exploitative and oppressive institutions that have enslaved their local people for centuries. Pakistan should be a state where no class or individual should be treated as divine and superior than others.

Finally, the executive and the legislature branches of state apparatus need to be tuned up for coming up to the expectations of the people of Pakistan. Mercifully, the role of both judiciary and media is above board and that offers a ray of hope and great consolation that all was not lost with the state of Pakistan.

We must keep in mind that democracy and economy flourish and prosper in an environment of peace, order, respect for and strict application of law, with unity, togetherness, patriotism and with a sense of belonging to one’s land.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Some Stray Thoughts on Osama's End

By Saeed Qureshi

A decade long manhunt for Osama finally came to a close on the night of May 2 when America’s toughest counter terrorism force Navy Seals nabbed and killed the chief of al-Qaida in a house located in Abbottabad, a scenic city barely 60 miles by road from the capital of Pakistan, Islamabad.

If ISI had been abetting Osama then they would not have kept him in a walled and open palatial mansion, but in a secret well-guarded dungeon where no one could have ever traced him. If any secret operative of ISI had knowledge of his presence in the suburbs of Abbottabad, he would have definitely informed some of his own kith to claim the fabulous reward. So to cast doubts on Pakistan’s intelligence agency that they knew about Osama’s presence in Abbottabad is a claim that does not hold water.

If ISI or the Pakistan’s military intelligence have failed due to what is being doled out as incompetence then such a stigma must also be shared by CIA and other premier intelligence agencies of the world which as well could not trace Osama. The Indian intelligence agency RAW would have definitely passed on that information to the United States to denigrate Pakistan.

One may imagine that a super power had remained obsessed with a terrorist who remained on the run and escaped for a decade from the most intensive manhunt recorded in history. That in these ten years the United States has killed an impressive number of Al-Qaida affiliates, speaks for the tenacity and frenzied propensity of that country to punish the perpetrators of 9/11 incident that shook the world, changed the profile of America as well as the mentality and psyche of the American people.

One of the baleful repercussions of the 9/11 tragedy was the steep hype in racial, ethnic and communal profiling of the immigrants especially of the Muslims.

One can also infer that the Afghanistan and Iraq wars that consumed millions of human beings, including tyrant Saddam Hussain was the consequence of the urge for routing the al-Qaida whose network previously had remained committed to the American cause of annihilating the Soviet Communist Empire. The al-Qaida under Osama’s leadership was in the vanguard of inflicting an historic defeat upon the Soviet Union, paving way for the rival United States to emerge as the sole super power.

The United States will not relent solely on killing Osama but would pursue with a new vigor to hunt down the remaining al-Qaida affiliates till this organization virtually become dysfunctional. So one can also perceive and speculate that United States would remain wedded to this course of chasing the living stalwarts of al-Qaida and kill them.

Pakistan, at present, looks like s subdued and shaking scapegoat. She is confronted with the much speculated charge of betraying or playing a double game in America’s war against the al-Qaida terrorists who have been attacking American embassies and ship prior to the earth shaking attack on the World Trade Center in New York on November 11, 2001.

For all these years of chasing Osama and after his retreat from Tore Bora hideout, there were conflicting projections about Osama’s whereabouts. No one could be prepared to believe for a moment that he was still alive because of the widely believed perception that he might have died due to his serious kidney problems and non availiblity of complicated dialysis procedures to keep him alive.

The world had become complacent and rather forgetful that he was still a living, vibrant figure planning and masterminding further attacks on the United States. But while America remained safe from his destructive operations, Pakistan had suffered myriad suicide bombing and terrorist attacks that have wrecked the country economically and socially. Some of the attacks mostly coming from the radical Islamists from various religious groups may have been remotely maneuvered and directed by al-Qaida.

As long as Osama fought against the Soviet Union, he earned the kudos, blessings and full-fledged support from his mentors notably Pakistan and the United States. But when he started harboring the notions that he could defeat the United States in the same fashion as he defeated Soviet Union, he turned a villain and his erstwhile friends became his worst enemies.

Osama was not only a later day turned enemy of the United States but also of many Islamic countries including Saudi Arabia that he thought was sold out to American interests in the Middle East. He wanted American forces to be out from the Saudi Arabia.

For him this was not only sacrilegious but provided bases to America to operate against the Islamic states in the region. He also believed that the presence of the American forces in Saudi Arabia, the cradle of Islam, would be detrimental to the economy of that country.

In the hindsight of his military exploits in Afghanistan that were achieved with the massive support from the United States, Pakistan and the western countries, Osama miscalculated that he could establish Islamic emirate in the Islamic countries and at the same time carry out attacks on American facilities all over the world. That was the beginning of his isolation and the dismal failure due to his self delusional ambitions.
He miscalculated American military and economic might and overestimated the capabilities of his rag tag outfit of followers that could only operate in a given area beefed up by the logistic backup, financial and weaponry support and with the planning of the established armies as was done in Afghanistan.

He chose the path of terrorizing and sabotage and clandestine suicide bombing through very motivated yet misguided members of Al-Qaida. The result is obvious as terrorism or violence is the least desired option for a genuine or even non-genuine cause to prevail or make any headway.

If he wanted to disseminate Islam, the best course for him was to mobilize his cohorts and followers to become the votaries of Islam and preach the its pristine virtues with hallmarks such as justice, peace, equality, accountability, human rights, piety, rectitude, morality and all the noble stuff that Islam offers.

Had he adopted this approach, he would have been still living and his mission and message going around the world without any antagonism, with great strides and glaring achievements He chose confrontation instead of pursuation and pleading.

The American media, taking undue advantage of the unbridled freedom of expression is relentlessly heaping scorn, dirt and innuendos on Pakistan that has been and is still an overly loyal and unwavering ally in American war on terrorism. The American press is trying to level unsubstantiated allegations against Pakistan for colluding with Osama and hiding him for presumably extracting monetary mileage out of Osama- fixated America.

While airing such uncharitable accusations against Pakistan, these commentators and analysts conveniently forget that Pakistani armed forces have been fighting in the most inhospitable terrain and against the most defiant fighters for the sake of America and NATO.

The unremitting military operation in the tribal regions between Pakistan and Afghanistan, against the Taliban and al-Qaida warriors is not a child’s play. The battling against a tenacious and religiously brainwashed enemy as Taliban is, the collateral damage has been colossal. Pakistan army alone has lost its valiant soldiers in thousands, besides many more maimed and injured.

Pakistan’s intelligence agencies have captured and handed over to the United States the bulk of al-Qaida top notch leaders that frustrated this organization’s functional network and paralyzed it administratively. As a result of these efforts, Pakistan was almost cleared of the covert Qaida activists. That was one conspicuous achievement alone should have been reciprocated by America with abiding gratitude.

Yet history repeats itself. Now when America is planning to retreat from Afghanistan and draw down its forces, the onus of not doing enough has fallen on Pakistan. If compared whether Pakistan has done marvelously well in the war against terrorism or NATO, the scale would heavily tilt towards Pakistan.

The Unite States used Pakistan and Muslim fighters from across the globe against Soviet Union in Afghanistan. After the victory, Americans left Pakistan and Afghanistan high and dry. In the follow up periods, Pakistan was almost being declared as a state sponsoring terrorism.

Yet this false and made up charge was overturned when Pakistan was against needed after the 9/11 cataclysm. Pakistan is doing a thankless job that at the end of the day turns into a curse for it.

in the wake of the Osama’ end game episode, If the American Congressmen, Senators and the press alike are pleading stoppage or curtailing Pakistan’s military aid punitively, then such a move would have corresponding adverse ramifications for the United States. Pakistan even without the American aid would survive. Nations do not prosper or die because of foreign alms or aid or its stoppage. Foreign aid with strings saps the independence of a country and Pakistan has experienced this anathema.

However, in that scenario, Pakistan would have no choice but to wind up its military operations in Waziristan and elsewhere. That would deal a fatal blow to the American and NATO ambitions and objectives in that dangerous terrain, with Taliban and even some left out al-Qaida fighters once again stalking the length and breadth of Afghanistan.

Let us not forget that Pakistan is paid because it allows its land for overland transport of all kind of merchandise for NATO forces. Moreover, Pakistan has to procure military hardware and pay to the soldiers fighting a terrible war. Wars are not gratis: these cause financial burdens.

The aid that is being given to Pakistan is a pittance of what Pakistan is doing in her northern regions. Pakistan has almost cleared these safe sanctuaries of the anti American militants. If Pakistan withdraws, these rugged valleys and inaccessible mountains would again become launching pads of forays for Taliban and other dreaded militants.

How many drones American would send? It is the army that carries out straight combats and exterminates a much larger number of miscreants that what a thousand drones may not do if sent every day.

Finally let us not forget that Pakistan is a sovereign and independent state. It is not a protectorate, a hirling or vassal of the west or America. Its war efforts against the radical militants must be respected, acknowledged and highly applauded.

If this blame game and diatribe against Pakistan does not stop, Pakistan should say adieu to the American aid and let the United States and NATO fight their own war. The candid corollary and the stark truth is that United States still needs Pakistan and needs indispensably.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Christianity is Fundamentally Flawed

By Saeed Qureshi

Would you agree with my contention that Jesus Christ did no found the Christian religion and that it was brought into being several decades later by Jesus Christ’s perceived followers? In later times more specifically in the second century C. E. when a well knit hierarchical network was crafted by the succeeding generations, Christianity assumed a definite shape and contours.

Let me lace my assertion with historical, logical, chorological facts and developments that were instrumental in the formation of this religion. When the holy book of Muslims says that Jesus was not the son of God and was a prophet of God, it reveals an incontrovertible truth.

In Quran the Christians have been mentioned as people of book whereas Christianity is not been candidly defined as a religion. That can’t be a more appropriate explanation of the Christianity than this.

The divine revelation is passed on to the Jesus for the first time through a dove that descends from the skies and through that bird ( Christian believe it is the holy ghost or the holy spirit that permeates everything) the message of God is revealed to him that says, “you are my son, the beloved; I have approved you.”

While this approval is written in the four gospels, Jesus in his short ministry of three years never mentioned about the dove that was seen only by the writers and not by anyone else. The four writers were not present either on that occasion.

It would be queer to accept that God sent a bird to convey his message to Jesus. Even if an angel came to Jesus in the form of a dove then we can still argue that God did not need to get his angels camouflaged in the form of a bird to convey a very unique message that would be a turning point and a milestone for the Christians of the future. The message came when Jesus himself was a Jew.

The New treatment and the Old Testament make the whole Bible. The first five scriptures named Torah are exclusive to the Jewish religion and the Jews do not believe in the new treatment. Like Christians, the Muslims believe in both old and the New Testament. Yet the Muslims simultaneously maintain that the previous scripture have been replaced by their book Quran.

For Muslims, besides Quran, there are three previous scriptures, namely Torait. Zaboor, Injeel (basically some portion of both old and the new testament) revealed by God on Moses, David and Jesus respectively. Most of their contents were relevant to their respective times; while others were substituted by the Quran revealed on Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) during a period of 23 years.

Bible is a collection of 66 books written by 40 authors over a period of 16 centuries (1513 B.C.E. to 98 C. E.). The Old Testament consists of 39 books including the first five known as Torah. The five books or chapters start from the creation of the world (Genesis) and end at the death of the prophet Moses. The remaining 34 books are accounts and stories of the ancient kings and their mutual rivalries and battles.

These 39 books are called the Christian Hebrew Bible. The 27 books section is known as the New Testament and is exclusively reserved to Jesus Christ and his apostles.

The Jews believe only in the Old Testament or the 39 books while the Catholic Christians believe in all the 73 books. The Protestants among the Christians believe in 66 books altogether. Seven controversial books are called apocryphal.

The first chapter known as Genesis (meaning the creation of the world) describes in graphic details how God crafted this universe over a period of six days and then rested on the seventh day. The author of Genesis gives an impression of being an eye witness when God was busy in finalizing his creation including Adam and Eve.

Now who was the author who saw with his own eyes God’s engagement in creation is not known. As such it is mere a speculation or the flair of writing an interesting episode as one finds in suspense laden stories.

Interestingly in Genesis while God creates day and night on the fourth day, the author counts the days from the creation of the light ad darkness on the first day. When the days and nights are created on the fourth day how these can be mentioned before that when these never existed.

Similarly, it is mentioned in Genesis 2 that God first formed Adam out of "the dust of the ground" and then "breathed into his nostrils the breath of life", causing him to "become a living soul" Now it clearly demonstrates that God was like a human who breathes and was present before Adam like a human. Can this attribute of God be acceptable?
It is also not clear whether the dust was already there and earth was made of dust at the time of the creation. It also means that in paradise there is dust and clay, which only the author claims to, know. Was not there any other method that Omni potent God could make use of?

The fables of Adam down to Prophet Moses are narrated in third person as if the writer or the writers were present during a period of several millenniums witnessing and recording the day to day and moment to moment events.

By any stretch of imagination, this is simply impossible for anyone to live that much longer. And again who wrote the stories of these kings and ancient monarchs and even prophets is not known.

The authors of the Old Testament are anonymous. As such to claim what they wrote was under divine inspiration is also not credible. God’s utterances or commandments cannot be described in the third person. God should be wholly devoted to moral lessons and not uloigising or condemning the past generations and the rulers.

The account of Moses too is not from Moses himself but from someone who wrote his life story later. If the divine inspiration can continue for 1600 years why all of a sudden it stopped at the end of the first century?

The New Testament is entirely devoted to Jesus Christ and his sermons and how he became the anointed son of God and sacrificed his life on gallows for the salvation of the entire mankind. In case of the New Testament the story of Jesus was written by four persons. Which means there are four versions of the life and profile of Jesus Christ? Besides these four main books about Jesus, there are 14 letters written by St. Paul, 4 narrations by John, 2 by St Peter, and one each by James, Jude and Luke.

The main snag with these scribes is that they happened to be a few decades after the death or ascension of Jesus Christ to heavens. Even the existence of Mathew whose name appears as the tax collector whom Jesus met and asked him to follow, becomes doubtful as his name in the Matthew’s own gospel is mentioned in these words, “He saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax office and he said to him, “Follow me”. And he rose and followed him.”

If Matthew was the real auther he would have said, “He asked me to follow him and I rose and followed him” that shows the writer of this gospel is someone else and not the Matthew mentioned as the follower of Jesus.

St. Luke disowns that he wrote the gospel by admitting that, “they delivered them to us”. It means someone else gave him the manuscript and inserted his name as the author.

The word of God cannot be interpreted is different words and texts. But while the story of Jesus is the same in all the texts, their diction, language and even the correlation of events differed at many places. The words, the metaphors, the construction of sentences and the sequences of events differ from each other. God’s revealed messages should not differ even by one dot. Did God reveal the same on these four scribes in different dictions?

Saint Paul never met Jesus and was on the scene some 22 years after the impaling of Jesus. He is one of the principle architects who resurrected the story of Jesus and exalted him to the level of the “Son of God” while Jesus himself in the light of his own speeches and utterances spoke and preached about one God.

Before the New Testament was written, Torah was already there as the holy scripture of the Jews. Later the additions of subsequent prophets like David and Solomon were made. However, the writing time of the New Testament ranges from 20 to 85 years after the demise or disappearance of the Jesus Christ.

It is utterly impossible to write the life story of Jesus or any person after several decades with verbatim reproduction of long sermons such as delivered by Jesus on Mount, with commas, colons semi-colons, and in parentheses.

The language and texts considerably differ between the four main authors. Matthew heavily copied from the gospel of Mark who never saw Jesus. John also did not write his gospel.

It looks as if there is a time gulf of 2 to 9 decades between the crucifixion of Jesus and the writers of his story. After Christ, for quite some time, this story was circulating by word of mouth.

Thereafter, the story of Jesus was written and circulated by different authors or one author with different names. That interregnum would make one ponder that it was a continuous episode of Jesus passed on verbally by the succeeding generations to the time when someone thought of scribing it.

The story of Jesus looks like a fable that starts as told about kings or saints with their attributes. It can also be deduced that in various societies, the stories of many folk lore saints and pious people abound and pass from generation to generation by word of mouth with relish and glorification to prove the exalted status of the individual concerned.

In case of Jesus it turned out to be a well established creed and an institution of faith that was carried forward by the original believers called Presbyterians or pious elders.

Later when the Christianity in the name of Jesus, became a firm and deep rooted faith, the Romans came down on these original followers with a heavy hand and brutalized and killed them.

But subsequently, the Christianity overwhelmed the Roman pagan religion. It got a big historic and watershed fillip when the Roman emperor Constantine converted to Christianity in 313 C. E.

The identity of Jesus Christ is also subject to various interpretations. It is a common belief that he was unmarried until the age of 33 when he was crucified. But other versions claim that he was married to a woman named Mary Magdalene.

About the fatherless birth of Jesus the cynics opine that both Joseph and Mary were already engaged and only the ritual of marriage remained to be solemnized according to the Jewish tradition.

They might have come into physical contact with each and thus there was pregnancy. But since sex before marriage was an unpardonable sin in Jewish theology, they had to make an excuse that it was God’s son as there was no other pretext that could have been made up to save themselves from the then prevailing harsh law about adultery.

The accounts of the visit of females to the tomb of Jesus from where he is stated to have ascended to heaven vary with the four writers of the gospels. St. Mark says there were three women, Matthew says there were two women, Luke says a number of women, and John mentions only one woman Mary Magdalene.

There are roughly fifty thousands such discrepancies and contradictions in the Bible more specifically in the four gospels of the apostles written about the Jesus Christ.

Jesus is quoted to possess extraordinary powers to heal and even to raise the dead and make them living. He could heal the lepers and sick people with similar deformities. His reputation spreads in the valley of Galilee and the terminally sick and disabled people flock to his processions and congregations and assemble where he stays. He must be the most reputed, famed and widely known saint in the cities where he roamed and preached his ministry.

But what happens is that in the wake of his journey to the gallows he is utterly lonely and no one comes forward to console or help him. Only 12 companions are present at the Last Supper. The award of death sentence would have prompted the people to rebellion.

Even the Jews must have known that he is a man of miracles but even then they opposed him. His tomb should have been the venue of thousands of people for his healing powers. But only a woman comes to balm his body. Where is the rest of the population gone? A dead saint is more sought after than the living one.

As a son of God he is a redeemer and would ensure the humans beings to be the recipient of the promised paradise or the kingdom of God on earth. God loves him and he is the only anointed son of God whom God listens. After God almighty he is supposed to be the most powerful person in this world as well in the hereafter.

Yet the Jewish rabbis and clergy get him arrested, dragged him into the Roman courts, and got the death verdict for heresy and for calling himself the C├ęsar and refusing to pay taxes.

After the Roman governor Pontius Pilate awards him the death sentence, Jesus is subjected to the most degrading humiliations. He is traumatized, brutalized, taken almost naked to the place of hanging, his body is pierced with spears, and he is derided and jeered.

He is not able to defend himself despite having miraculous powers. He simply cries, bemoans and beseeches his God for help and questions as to why he has abandoned him in such a horrible situation.

Now to interpret that he wanted to pay for the sins of the humanity with his blood is a convoluted and frivolous argument. He had every right to thwart the insane and savage treatment of his tormenters.

If he was really shedding his blood to pay for the salvation of the humanity then he should not have cried, wailed and sought God’s help to save him from the indignities and torture that were inflicted on him until he was placed on the stake with nails bolted on his body.

Instead of paying the price for the sins of the human race in blood, the redemption from God could be obtained in a peaceful manner. Why giving his life was so necessary?
The end of the Jesus is differently spelled out by Christians and Muslims. While Christians believe that he was taken up to heaven by God from the tomb, the Muslims believe he was never hanged and God lifted him to the heaven before he was to be impaled on the cross.

The Christianity offers an easy way to enter the paradise by merely believing in Jesus as the son of God. It is too easy a ticket to paradise to be attributed as a divine reward. Such belief gives carte blanche and free choice to everyone to commit any sin and evils deeds in this world and enter the paradise by merely professing Jesus to be the son of God.

This panacea gives a free license to go wild and wicked in all manners by killing, robbing, raping and committing of similar criminalities and yet be rewarded with a place in paradise.

The gospel of Matthew starts with these words, “The book of history of Jesus Christian of David, son of Abraham.” After a long list of descendents of Abraham down to Jacob, the gospel says that Jacob begot Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ.”

Now this statement contains a big mistake which perhaps happened due to the ignorance of the latter day authors about the Joseph the son of Jacob and Joseph the husband of Mary. As the history tells us that Joseph who was the father of Jesus is different from the Joseph who was the son of Prophet Jacob.

But the writers eliminate the time distance of almost 1600 centuries and confuse the prophet Joseph with the husband of Mary who was a carpenter. Even the time distance between prophets David and Solomon and Jesus is several hundred years. So how could Jacob’s son Joseph be the father of Jesus who was born much later.

As the history of nascent Christianity bears out there were no concept of trinity prevalent during the first century after the demise of Jesus Christ. It was much later that when Christians cam into contact with Romans and Greek that they replaced the concept of one God with trinity which meant God the father, God the son and Mary the mother God.

Later the Mary was replaced with the Holy Spirit. The idea of immortal soul which was not there previously was later imbibed from the Greek mythology.

In bible highly sleazy material about prophets has been given. Various noble ancient prophets have been painted and profiled in most lurid and immoral colors. About Prophet Solomon it says in 1 Kings 1:9-10 section that, “Solomon worshipped false gods in his old age.” It further says that “Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines.” About Prophet David it says that, “David danced naked before the people and before the Lord”

About prophet Noah the Bible says that, “Noah was a drunk, and lay uncovered in his tent and his son Ham saw the nakedness” There is a huge pile up of filthy material and writings about sex and women in Bible that makes one feel that it cannot be a divine revelation and must have been written by humans.

Finally let us turn our attention to the so called King James Bible now mostly read by the Protestant Christians. This Bible is rehashed version of the previous brands of Bible texts written and revised from time to time. Ironically the bible being the revelation of God is rewritten by a bunch of humans, claiming it to be an agreed and real Bible.

The entire text of the previously existing bibles was revised, scanned with new terms and diction. The rewriting of this most popular bible started in 1604 under the orders of the King of England and was competed in 1611.

This Bible was in fact a translated version of the previous texts of the Bibles being read for centuries after these were written primarily by the pioneering four disciples. The rewriting was done by 47 theologians from the Church of England from two previously existing versions.

The New Testament was translated from Greek; the Old Testament was translated from Hebrew text, while the Apocrypha were translated from the Greek and Latin. The King James Version is a protestant bible, and therefore has 66 books. The catholic Bible has 73 chapters.

The difference in number of books between the Catholics and Protestants raises a very intriguing yet interesting question. For 17 centuries the Christians have been reading 73 books as the true message of God. But after the Protestantism came into being in 16th century, the seven books were discarded.

It means that from Protestants’ point of view, the Christians were committing a sin by believing in the books they think were apocryphal (false). How can one decide then whether Catholics are right or the Protestants with regard to these seven controversial books?

However, the main point is that King James Version of Bible is not the one that was written by four early apostles. Since it was rewritten by the 17th century writers afresh and with changes made even in the subsequent editions it, cannot be treated as written under divine inspiration.

The writer is a senior journalist and a former diplomat
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