Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Unbridgeable Shia-Sunni Cleavage in Islam

December 6, 2011

By Saeed Qureshi

This year too, all over the world and particularly in Pakistan, the Shia community observed the martyrdom of Imam Hussain, the grandson of the prophet of Islam, in a nerve-racking environment. In Pakistan they entered their congregational holy places as if entering a nuclear arsenal. Each and every person was subjected to body pat down by the security staff posted at entry and exit points. The entire country was placed under high alert with thousands of military and semi military personnel guarding the processions. Practicing of one’s faith is becoming extremely arduous in Islamic polities.

From the day Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) left the transitory abode of this world, the Islamic polity has remained divided into two unbridgeable branches: Shia and Sunni. Shias believe that the three successors of Prophet Muhammad were usurpers as the succession was the right of the blood relations of the prophet.

Shiite muslims also believe that the true leadership comes through the prophet's bloodline and his cousin and son in law Ali-ibne-Abi-Talib was the divinely ordained successor. They claim that Allah and his prophet had clearly designated Ali as the only legitimate successor. The Sunni sects believe that the four successors of Prophet Muhammad or caliphs were legitimate as they were chosen by the community in accordance with the custom of those times.

This cleavage sharpened when Imam Hussain, his entire family (excepting women and one male) and accompanying followers were massacred in the desert of Karbala near Baghdad by the troops of then Ommyad caliph Yazid the son of the founder of Ommyad dynasty Amir Muawiyah. Yazid to Shias is like a devil while Sunnis treat him like other caliphs. The Islamic unity has therefore remained a mere myth and elusive goal for all these fifteen centuries.

Imam Hussain’s death commemorated each year by a passion play or the world-wide mammoth collective mourning has become the rallying point for the shia fraternity and identity. The martyrdom of Hussain nurtured the shia cause under the Ommyads and became the harbinger of the downfall of their dynasty.

With the exception of a few common beliefs and traditions Shias and Sunnis differ on a whole plethora of beliefs with regard to Sharia laws encompassing both juridical and ecclesiastical. The Shias believe in a lineage of twelve divine imams or spiritual leaders. Sunnis have four Imams but they are primarily interpreters of the Islamic Sharia law.

Historically, Sunnis and Shias have been at loggers head with each other from the martyrdom of Hussain to this day. Shia and Sunni division in Islam is so drastic and hard that they do not pray together in one place. Shias do not pay Islamic tax Zakat while in Islam it is considered to be one of the five principle obligations.

They have been so irreconcilably hostile to each other that Islamic history is replete with their mutual annihilations and massacres. It is a colossal tragedy within Islam that this great faith is torn apart into two domains that can never reconcile or converge on several matters of faith till eternity.

While in the past they killed each with swords, in the present times they resort to mutual slaughter by suicide bombing, target killing and bomb blasts. The Shias are branded as infidels by the majority Sunni sects and therefore, their murder is justifiable to them as if they were killing a non-Muslim.

In Islam a heretic or apostate person or sect is more condemnable and liable to be punished with death than a non-Muslim who has clear denomination of not being a Muslim faithful and has come under the protection of the state as a zimmi or dhimmi.

A famous Muslim historian Shahrastani commented on the Sunni-Shia schism of creed in these words, “Never was there an issue than brought more bloodshed than the caliphate.” The sack and pillage of Baghdad in 1258 by the Mongol hordes was the result of the rivalry between a Sunni caliph Mustaasim and a Shia vizier Mohammad bin al-Kami who invited the Tartars to come to Baghdad.

In the present times Saudi Arabia and Iran are hostile competitors in upholding the Sunni and Shia creeds respectively. The Saudis are aligned to the Christian West and America to browbeat and even contain the growing leverage and influence of Iran in the region. This antagonism is entirely faith based besides the historical rivalry between the Arab and non Arab Muslims (Ajam).

Some of the Shia spiritual leaders migrated to Iran during the Ommyad and Abbasids dynasties while the others were killed by these powerful family dynasties. As such the discord between Shias and Sunnis is not only of faith but also regional, ethnic and political.

In all the Middle Eastern Islamic regimes there is always a simmering tussle, between the Sunni and Shia populations. For instance in Bahrain, the Sunnis are in minority but ruling. Conversely in Syria the Sunnis are in majority and Shias are in minority but are at the political helm. Same division and cleavage prevails in Iraq where most of the Shias religious and spiritual leaders are buried.

So to bridge the doctrinal and theological chasms between these two main sects within Islam would always remain a tall order unless the Muslim clergy decide to live in harmony despite their mutual differences of faiths and Sharia laws. Would that be possible within an Islamic state cannot be fathomed because both would vie for political power.

However if the islamic polity turns secular wherein all shades of faiths are allowed to practice freely without harming each other, this most coveted goal can become attainable. The example of such religious harmony can be witnessed in western societies where they pray in the same mosque and never fight.

Americans should vote for Congressman Ron Paul

December 5, 2011

By Saeed Qureshi

It can be only congressman Ron Paul who is endowed with enough courage and conviction to retrieve the United State from the sucking quagmire of wars that it has been caught in for six decades now or precisely after the WWII. In his speeches, comments, interviews and debates, he has been conducting himself in a pragmatic, balanced, rationale and dignified manner.

The cutthroat corporate sector and special interest groups in America would want to keep this great country entangled in an interminable and perpetual war situation. The wars fought on the strength of catchy slogans like security, honor and sovereignty are whipped up to keep the flow of the capital to the greedy upper classes and ruthless robber barons by way of manufacturing and trading of weapons, provision of logistics, transportation and security contactors and for countless other reasons.

American wars have divided the globe during the past six decades pitting the same people against each other. Korea was divided into North and South Korea, and so was Vietnam.

The American forces fought in Iraq twice, and are engaged in rooting out Taliban and Al-Qaida in rugged Afghanistan for almost a decade now. Earlier, with the help of radical Muslims it ousted the communist Russia from Afghanistan in 1989. Later America was caught in a similar viscous, bloody and ruinous rigmarole for all these years starting from 2001.

Ron Paul is the only American politician who has been forcefully pleading for winding up the distant wars that not only scuttled the blooming economic prosperity of the this great nation but made it a debtor nation to the extent of 25 per cent of its GDP. It is bizarre and certainly shameful that it is a debtor of China that ideologically is opposed to America as was Soviet Union before her defeat in Afghanistan.

Ron Paul is a one sincere leader who does not raise hollow slogans or show red herring about the overplayed security issue. He is not in the viscous habit of double speak. He wants America to eschew the doctrine of confrontation built up upon flimsy and farcical reasons as was done in case of attack on Iraq. He wants America to be leaning predominantly on moral values and abide by the constitution and treat other countries with the same yardstick of equality and dignity that it expects from others.

Ron wants America to adopt a non-partisan role between Israel and the Palestinians and the other Middle Eastern countries that support the rightful Palestinian cause. Ron postulates that the term or cliché of terrorism was deliberately coined by privileged classes in American to justify wars abroad and to create paranoia within United States. He wants to uphold the constitution of the United States that enshrines fundamental and inalienable rights to the citizens.

Ron Paul’s assuming the presidency of the United States will herald the much awaited and direly needed change of the status quo that serves the ambitions of the elitist and privileged citizenry but undermines those of the working and lower classes. If he is elected then it would be a new beginning for the United States after the Second World War. A new America would replace the old one with hallmarks of global peace and collective advancement of the world community under the benign leadership of the United States.

The United States desperately needs to break the gridlock of the wealthy and overbearing classes that feed the Americans on fabricated phobias and imaginary fears one of which is that all Americans were perpetually in a state of insecurity and under attack from terrorists.

If per say, America instead of shoving 3 trillion dollars in the aimless wars, had given 10 billion dollars each to a few Muslim countries to uproot the al-Qaida in their lands, the purpose would been served in a more fulfilling manner and with absolute accomplishment. That would have spared America from sending the occupations forces and fighting in uncharted turfs at huge and irredeemable cost of human casualties, untold sufferings and financial breakdown.

The aim and objectives of Ron Paul are to reverse the insidious mindset of the affluent classes in America which want to keep the America armed forces in perpetual war situation. The victory against the Soviet Union in 1989 was achieved by the Islamic militants and not by the NATO troops. So to expect that there can be a final and conclusive victory by NATO and ISAF in Afghanistan is simply a wishful dream and divorced of the reality.

The stark reality is that in view of the situation that one can witness in Afghanistan, an ultimate triumph over the faceless enemy such as Taliban would always remain unachievable. And even otherwise there was no overwhelming reason and indispensible motive to fight in the battleground of Afghanistan as Taliban were appeasing and conciliatory towards United States on the demand of handing over Osama to latter.

They simply asked for a proof of his involvement in anti-American activities and for 9/11 incident which was very easy for America to furnish. But America chose the war path instead and mobilized the army to defeat Taliban.

So militarily and morally there was no justification for United States to enter into a battlefield that was never conquered by any invader. The United States made a profound mistake of preferring war over a peaceful option. Ron Paul wants American citizens to have a break from the war psychosis and breathe in the smokeless air. He wants them to come out of an erroneous notion as to who was next in the line to be knocked down and bludgeoned. Ron Paul does not believe in the imperious dictation “Either you are with us or not”.

If Ron Paul becomes the president of United States then this country would usher into an era of prosperity. The eroded American economic might and its lofty image as the leading donor country with an enviable democratic system would be revived. The history is a witness, that all the great nations in the past declined and vanished because they busied themselves in wars due to hegemonic and occupation obsessions. With Ron Paul as president, the American society would ease and this spectre of unknown fear from the lurking terrorists would wither away.

Ron Paul is in favor of maintaining a just and decent equilibrium between Israel and her detractors and questions as to why Israel is such an indispensible holy cow that America simply overlooks her 200-300 nuclear missiles. He argues that these nuclear weapons can be as dangerous for the world peace as that of Iran. As such he has laid bare the duplicity and partisanship of the United States’ foreign policy perpetuated and spawned by succeeding administrations.

If we Americans want a real salubrious change in our country and revive the moral grandeur, the constitutional ascendency, America’s splendid social welfare image and an atmosphere of peace at home and abroad, we should vote for Ron Paul for a change.

Ron Paul would certainly use the armed forces if there were real dangers to the American interests abroad but not for concocted or puffed up reasons proffered and pedaled by the powerful lobbies that always want to reap a lion’s share in national wealth by creating grounds that have proven spurious and fabricated.

I shall conclude this piece with a fabulous and inestimable quote of Congressman Ron Paul. “The moral and constitutional obligations of our representatives in Washington are to protect our liberty, not coddle the world, precipitating no-win wars, while bringing bankruptcy and economic turmoil to our people.”

America is Burning Money in Afghanistan

December 1, 2011

By Saeed Qureshi

The United States has spent roughly 800 billion dollars in Afghanistan on a war that seems to be interminable and futile. This amount spent or wasted over a period of almost 8 years comes to 2 billion dollars a week. A gallon of gasoline or petrol costs 100 dollars to reach Afghanistan. America spends a colossal amount of money for transportation of supplies via two overland routes for its forces and that of NATO and ISAF to continue war. These routes are one via Pakistani territory and the other through central Asian states.

After 8 years with thousands of collateral casualties both dead and maimed, the aim to completely clear Afghanistan of Taliban and al-Qaida militants looks elusive. The Taliban are resurging and al-Qaida seems to have gone in the background or in the oblivion to wait for better times to strike again.

Their activities are replicated and echoed elsewhere on the globe particularly in Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, Libya, Iraq and, Syria and Mauritania. The electoral victories of the religious radicals in Tunisia and Egypt are indicative of the forthcoming political scenarios in these countries.

While the conflagration is still raging in Afghanistan and United State with their western partners are trying to neutralize the impact and presence of anti-American forces namely Taliban and Al-Qaida militants, America has opened another front against a powerful country Iran for the same reason that impelled her to invade Iraq with a mammoth military extravaganza in 2003.

It was the weapons of mass destruction alleged to be possessed by Iraq which later proved to be a hoax. Libya remained under innervating sanctions for several years but survived despite living under the stigma of a pariah state till the peoples uprising removed the dictator Qaddafi. So the sanctions not only hurt the victim but also the imposer because the latter is also deprived off certain lucrative benefits and privileges.

Because of sanctions the international trade seldom stops and there are always other avenues available for transactions between the target country and the outside world. If it is desired that Iran’s economy would cripple and the country would be isolated, then such strategy is fallacious and runs out of steam in due course. The imposition of sanctions by United States against Iran is patently at the behest of Israel and also due to their strong and invincible supportive lobbies within the United States.

Coming back to Afghanistan, the latest ugly episode of NATO air strikes on Pakistani check posts has caused massive impairment to the already strained relations between a very earnest ally Pakistan and indeed the NATO forces in Afghanistan. Pakistan has been tremendously helpful to the American endeavors for keeping the anti American Taliban and radical militants at bay for all these years. But when you bite the very hand that feeds you, what could be the reaction from the bitten party.

If the relatively easier supply route that runs through Pakistan remains closed even for a month or so, the NATO and ISAF troops that are fighting in Afghanistan would start starving and the helicopters and tanks, armed cars and SUVs would come to a partial standstill.

If Pakistan is bombed and coerced to open the route, NATO would be deprived of the cooperation from Pakistan that is still there. If all the merchandise is arranged via the arduous and long Russian route then it would put additional enormous burden on NATO partners and the United States particularly as the main financier for war in Afghanistan?

So the strategy of blowing hot and cold and giving carrot and kick on the back of a friend is a double edged sword that can hurt both the parties: the wielder as well as the victim. Instead that Pakistan should be appeased and consoled with all possible nice words, the NATO is caught in nuances and jargons of merely regretting and not apologizing for an act that is murderous and outright massacre of the Pakistani soldiers fighting for America.

Now if the United States and its apron strings NATO and ISAF do not withdraw from Afghanistan, the status quo would linger on without throwing up a clear and desired outcome in consonance with the wishes of the United States. With that the budget on war and even to maintain presence in this barren land would soars astronomically. That would heavily undermine and negatively impinge upon the American domestic economic situation now sliding down terrifically.

The United States is frittering away her money on a war that is meaningless. It is like burning the tax payers’ money in furnace. To eliminate or keep the radical militants under the tab and dysfunctional or debilitated, United States will have to maintain a permanent military presence in Afghanistan. How long that state of affairs would continue and how long United States would keep footing the colossal war bill at the appalling cost of its domestic priorities?

Afghanistan does not possess oil reserves. The minerals deposits of Afghanistan cannot be utilized unless these are tapped at a huge cost over a prolonged period of time. Would United States wait interminably for the day when it could benefit from the precious minerals and other hidden natural resources of Afghanistan?

Would not in the meantime a national liberation army come into being to fight against the foreign occupation forces that might also be joined by Taliban and other militants now fighting with NATO for almost over a decade? In a nutshell, to stay in Afghanistan is solely a shattering liability and unsustainable undertaking that would become more burdensome in the longer run.

Instead United State should focus on the formation of a union of the regional states of Pakistan Afghanistan, neighboring central Asian states as well as India and Iran, to maintain peace, undertake and carry out the reconstruction, foster and protect a democratic set up, and act as a bulwark against the fundamentalist or radical forces to capture power.

It is time for the United States to change its tracks from armed belligerency and war mongering to peace efforts that would be of lasting value and would be lauded and supported and welcomed by the people of Afghanistan and the regional states. In the present scenario United State is neither here nor there. The outcome of Afghan war is murky and fraught with unpredictable ramifications, one of which could be an unceremonious exit of NATO from Afghanistan.

The United States should avoid that day when it will have to leave Afghanistan with a legacy of hostility and bitterness. It can earn enormous good-will if she calls off war efforts and substitutes it with reconstruction of Afghanistan and rehabilitation of its destroyed institutions and by putting in place a genuinely elected government as it has belatedly done in Iraq.

NATO Attack has heightened anti-Americanism in Pakistan

November 29, 2011

By Saeed Qureshi

The NATO attack on two Pakistani military check posts in Mehmand Tribal Agency on the Pak-Afghan border was presumably to lure Pakistan into retaliation for sparking a wider confrontation annihilating the bulk of the Pakistan army’s presence in the tribal regions adjoining Afghanistan.

It was rather prudent by the Pakistani military authorities to not respond by a counter military action and wait for the world to judge the enormity of the violation and the immensity of the unprovoked transgression that the NATO forces have committed against its own ally.

The brazenness and audacity of the ISAF and NATO has become so daring as to penalize Pakistan army that is an easy target for its visibility, its locations, military posts, that are well within the knowledge of NATO intelligence network. The murderous attack also signals to Pakistan that there was the parallel option available for the NATO in the form of directly dealing with the militants if Pakistan was not doing that on her own volition.

It is an unbelievable possibility that NATO was unaware that it was Pakistan army’s military post and that it remained ignorant even during its attack continuing for over two hours. Even the Pakistan military authorities must have come to know about the attack within matter of minutes but perhaps they remained silent for the reasons mentioned above? Or were they in connivance with the attackers is not clear! But the connivance possibility is not credible. It would be treason for the Pakistan army bosses to remain silent spectators on the massacre of its own soldiers.

The NATO might also be gauging the reaction as to how the Pak armed forces would respond if they could be bracketed with the armed militants by launching air strikes against both. It could be interpreted that now when the NATO and American troops are destined to leave Afghanistan, they might try to make some big mischief by targeting Pakistan troops and claiming some kind of victory through a volte-face and treachery against their own ally.

The most deleterious counterproductive outcome of this mind boggling attack has been that the entire population in Pakistan has come out in streets to protest against America. Thus whatever good will was left in Pakistan for the United States has been washed off. Not only that the civil society is up in arms shouting slogans against NATO and America but the marginalized sections too have joined to pour out there hate and fury against a gruesome military onslaught.

This uncalled for military adventure is being taken as gross aggression against the territorial integrity of an ally that has gone out of way to fight for America against latter’s perceived enemies which in this case are Taliban and al-Qaida bands. But if Taliban as an enemy and Pakistan army as an ally are treated alike and dealt with militarily and killed, then how it would be possible for Pakistan to keep taking this humiliation and senseless massacres of its soldiers?

The American and NATO forces have erased the bold line between their friends and foes and thus given a justification to Pakistan to withdraw her forces from the positions where they are susceptible to be swooped upon with deadly sorties.

This wanton and inexplicable yet most callous operation has given courage and the confidence to the radical Islamists to mobilize people whipping up revenge and retaliation against a country that is otherwise deemed as friend.

This mindless act has untied the disparate sections of society into one monolithic nation, irrespective of their religious, political, ethnic and regional difference and to stand by their national honor and face the aggressor. Thus a new spirit of unity, togetherness and patriotism is infused into the divergent ranks of Pakistani nation which is like a silver- lining on the dark clouds.

United States should remember that Pakistan can prove to be an asset for America when the occupation armies vacate Afghanistan. The United States should realize and spread this cardinal perception among the NATO and ISAF coalition members that it is only Pakistan that can serve the role of a distant custodian and safeguard the unattained interests of the United States.

Where the combined might of ISAF and NATO has failed to subdue the rag tag small force of Taliban fighters and hunt down the entire rank and file of al-Qaida, Pakistan alone can do that job, although it has no reason to do so.
But if America wants to be remembered with some good name, it would be only Pakistan that can create such an environment for her.

The reconstruction of war- ravaged Afghanistan cannot be carried out alone by India or Afghanistan or the central Asian neighboring states without Pakistan’s cooperation and help. India is not geographically linked with Afghanistan unless Pakistan gives her the rights to travel overland.

Pakistan has been involved in Afghanistan’s imbroglio for over two decades now. Pakistan hosts 3 to 4 million Afghan refugees for the same period of time. Pakistan is ethnically and religiously closer to the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan enjoys goodwill and respect in Afghanistan.

Finally Pakistan has an army that is the strongest and knows the terrain so well even if there was ever any need to utilize it. With these precious and invaluable assets Pakistan deserves to be treated with esteem and its sacrifices and its superb performance of the last two decades must be generously acknowledged, appreciated and admired.

Those right wing Republicans and hawkish Democrats that talk of tough attitude towards Pakistan, cast doubts about her atomic assets and doubt her sincerity, are doing great harm to the United States by their inane and subjective statements.

They talk ill of Pakistan and teach her frightening lessons as if it was a protectorate of the United States and was under an irresistible and undeniable obligation to dance to the tune of NATO and America like a puppet. They forget Pakistan has sacrificed more than 5000 of her soldiers and 40000 wounded for a war that could not be termed as her own but a proxy war for America.

The War of America in Afghanistan was the grave blunder committed by former American president George W. Bush and not of Pakistan. Pakistan did not drag America into this futile and aimless war that achieved nothing except a disaster for American economy and ultimate return from Afghanistan without achieving any tangible or desired objectives.

Pakistan should be thanked that it was behind America for providing intelligence and other services besides plunging its armed forces into an unpredictable and most inhospitable inferno of Afghanistan for no pressing reasons except to support America. And now such a loyal and time tested ally is being bludgoned with missiles and deadly airstrikes. Does Pakistan deserve this mal-treatment?