Monday, November 26, 2012
November 26, 2012
By Saeed Qureshi
Those who believe that Saudi Arabia has an Islamic system of government are either mistaken or ill-informed. It is outright a monarchy or kingdom that runs counter to the concept of an Islamic state. Even its name is “Kingdom of Saudi Arabia” missing the world Islamic as we can find in the official name of Pakistan and some other countries. Islam ordains that a caliph as head of an Islamic government is to be chosen by the pious community notables.
A caliph or head of Islamic state is obligated to administer the state affairs with a group of consultants having immaculate character. That system if magnified comes closer to the democratic form of governance of the present times. Religiously, Saudi government is a family dynasty and professes a typical Wahabi or Salafi brand of Islam.
The Islamic State of Medina founded by prophet Hazrat Muhammad (SAW) and later carried forward by four of his illustrious successors offers a veritable and original model of Islam. It survived only for 29 years. Thereafter, it was converted into hereditary monarchy although the head of state was still called a Caliph.
The personal lives of prophet and his associates were austere, simple and embodiment of self-abnegation. They wore simple dresses, ate simple food and did not amass money.They dispensed justice in true sense. They were accountable to the community. They drew stipend from the Baitul-Maul (treasury) hardly enough for their barest minimum living.
The Islamic authoritarian empire that began with the death of the fourth Rashidun caliph Hazrat Ali in 621 C. E). cleared the way for the rival Muawiyah to lay the foundation of the dynasty (662-743 C.E. ) of Umayyad clan. The Umayyads were succeeded by Abbasids (750-861 C. E. ) and later by a string of other similar Islamic empires (868-1924 C. E.). But essentially most of these regimes professing to be Islamic were oppressive brutal, family dynasties that survived as long they could hold on to power by sword and military muscle.
The Umayyads converted the pristine Khilafat-e- Rashida into hereditary succession or a form of government that was akin to the Byzantine, Roman or Persian empires. Such autocratic Islamic empires continued for several hundred years in some form or the other.
The last Ottoman Islamic Empire (1517-1924 C. E.) also ruled over most of the Arab lands including Saudi Arabia. The end of the Ottoman Empire and abolishment of the sultanate and caliphate in March 1924 in modern Turkey founded by Kamal Ataturk marked the end of the religio-political Islamic empires that had begun with Umayyad absolutist dynasty in 622 C. E.
The story of Saudi Arabia, however, is different and needs elaboration. The first Saudi state was established in the year 1744 C. E. (1157 A.H.) following an alliance between Imam Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahab (religious reformer) and Prince Muhammad ibn Saud (the ruler). Thereafter the Saudi dynasty decreed the observance of Wahabi or Salafi creed of Islam in Saudi Arabia.
Under this Islamic system, such practices believed to be anti-Tauhid (God’s oneness) were abolished and that abolishment is still rigidly enforced in Saudi Arabia. These practices inter alia are seeking solicitation from saints, mystic, deities and spirits against sufferings and bad luck etc. This doctrine prohibits various customs such as visiting and venerating tombs, monuments, graveyards and special mosques. It also decrees it a sin to sanctify trees, caves, stones and similar other places.
In line with the Wahabi theology, the Saudi government has leveled off ancient graveyards where the companions of the prophets and other Islamic icons were buried. The kissing or touching of the outer wall or grill of the prophet’s tomb is forbidden. The diverse customs and traditions that are observed by various Sunni sects as Chishtia, Qadria, Naqshbandia etc and also the mainstream Shia branch, are sternly disallowed as being Unislamic.
Implementing the Wahabi Islam may not be objectionable because, paradoxically, in Iran there is Shia faith that is markedly opposed to the beliefs of various denominations falling under the Sunni category. Rather to uphold the concept of Tauhid is plausible and that is what Islam stands for against idolatry and human shamans (spiritual healers).
Islam exhorts that the Muslims around the world, irrespective of their region, color or ethnicity are one nation with God as the head. In Saudi Arabia there is acute distrust and discrimination about the Muslims from other countries. No external Muslim can settle in Saudi Arabia. The prevailing Saudi political system is repugnant and violation of Islamic faith in terms of being dictatorial and authoritarian. This system suppresses human rights and dignity and discards a civil society.
It concentrates power and wealth in a few hands. In this system there is no accountability through courts and national institutions. In Saudi Arabia, the royal family, sheikhs or heads of tribes are above law. The caliph was answerable in the state of Medina. Now he is a monarch and to criticize him or the royal family is a crime. The freedom of expression is unheard in Saudi Arabia and it is stifled forcefully.
The House of Saud is the ruling royal family of Saudi Arabia for nearly three centuries. The major portion of oil income that runs into billions every year is distrbuted among the royal family members. Almost all the royal members are literally sitting on mounds of wealth. They have their private banks, their private jets, luxury villas and palaces in fun cities around the world. Their lavish, regal and extravagant life style defies description and looks like a sheer mockery of the sublime teachings of Islam as practiced by the founder and early disciples.
Saudi Arabia, the abode of Islam has been turned into feudal, tribal and family fiefdom. No one can oppose this loathsome system of monarchy that survives on the accumulation of national wealth in private hands and servitude of its citizens. The land, wealth and resources of Saudi Arabia belong to the people and not 15000 members of the royal family with 2000 as the elite and notables among them.
The religious scholars in other Muslim countries decry the Unislamic practices and sinful way of life in their societies but do not censure the Saudi rulers who have usurped power, pelf and wealth and at the same time call themselves as the custodians of Islam or the two mosques. It is a sheer travesty of Islam that judges the faithful by the level of piety and rectitude and not by their social, political and financial standing. Saudi imperial lords have kept the society backward and enslaved so that there is no challenge to their dynastic hold on power.
The Saudi people live under an orthodox and oppressive system that stifles freedom of expression, blocks modern education and emancipation of women. The conservatism and obscurantism has engulfed that society. The people cannot agitate or protest due to fear of state brutality or else because of lack of realization that they live in subjugation. They cannot form associations for the protections of their rights.
During Khilafat-e-Rashida the ordinary Muslims were free to question the caliphs for their anomalies. Such a question was asked from the second caliph Hazrat Umar by a commoner about the larger size of sheet he was wearing. The ruling royal Saudi family is above any censure of their policies and ownership of national assets and oil revenues.
I shall reproduce below a compelling quotation from Wikipedia that so vividly portrays the mammoth wealth owned by the Royal family members.
“The sharing of family wealth has been a critical component in maintaining the semblance of a united front within the royal family. An essential part of family wealth is the Kingdom in its physical entirety, which the Al Saud view as a totally owned family asset. Whether through the co-mingling of personal and state funds from lucrative government positions, huge land allocations, direct allotments of crude oil to sell in the open market, segmental controls in the economy, special preferences for the award of major contracts, outright cash handouts, and astronomical monthly allowances—all billed to the national exchequer—all told, the financial impact may have exceeded 40% of the Kingdom's annual budget during the reign of King Fahd.”
“Over decades of oil revenue-generated expansion, estimates of royal net worth is at well over $1.4 trillion. This method of wealth distribution has allowed many of the senior princes and princesses to accumulate largely unauditable wealth and, in turn, pay out, in cash or kind, to lesser royals and commoners, and thereby gaining political influence through their own largesse”.
In a nutshell the Saudi kingdom is Islamic in name but in practice is clannish dictatorship. The Saudi rulers are averse to democratic institutions, detest religious pluralism, abhor civil society, bar mass education, suppress dissent and keep the society socially and intellectually retrogressive. It is patriarchal government that is at the helm without elections, parliament, independent judiciary and free media.
As Islam enjoins, it has no elected Majlis-e-Shoora consisting of acknowledged pious and austere people. It looks like a medieval dynasty still embedded in the tribal mold. Saudi Arabia is alienated from it s own people and the rest of the world for not being an enlightened modern Islamic state.
Saturday, November 24, 2012
November 23, 2012
By Saeed Qureshi
One of the biggest hurdles in the way of good governance and fair distribution of funds in Pakistan is the awfully less number of provinces. One of the most overriding priorities for any government in Pakistan is to create minimum 16 provinces in order to broaden the scope of development and nation building.
While the existing four provinces should each be portioned into three or four smaller units or provinces, the Fata region, the Northern states of Chitral, Swat, Hunza, and Dir, should be converted into provinces as well. The more there would be administrative units, the more the governance would become efficient and decidedly development oriented.
The existing four provinces are like four states within a state. These four elephantine administrative units create regional and provincial friction bordering on hatred. Ever since the creation of Pakistan, one of the overriding snags in the way of coveted national cohesion and unity are these mega provinces that vie and remain at loggerheads with each other.With a separate language of each province, the four separate nationalities look conspicuously distinct. Besides it creates communication barriers between the people with less or no knowledge of the national language Urdu.
Once the question of creation of more provinces is addressed, the stability of Pakistan can be guaranteed. Otherwise the clash of interests would keep the center and provinces in mutual bickering and feuding. The break-away feelings and insurgency that is going on in Balochistan can be nailed and quelled, once and for all, if the constitutional obligation of devolution of powers to the provinces is fulfilled.
At present provinces of Baluchistan, Sindh, NWFP, harbor a host of grievances against Punjab that range from taking more share of funds to the undue use of water. There are simmering feelings of discontent and aversion against Punjab because of the army whose bulk comes from Punjab. Punjab is the target of complaints and grudge of other provinces for being a privileged province as was West Pakistan compared to the former East Pakistan.
East Pakistan’s cessation (for Bengalis independence) could have been averted if the Eastern wing of Pakistan was fairly and equitably treated. Similar kind of specter and danger of disintegration looms over Pakistan now, which can be warded off, if more provinces are carved out of the existing ones.
The fruits of devolution of powers are universally known for balanced and effective development of both rural and urban areas of a country on one side and the backward and advanced areas on the other. In big units as we have in Pakistan, the major chunks of funds go to those cities or towns from which the politicians or the members of the parliament come. Even otherwise in Pakistan, the rural development has mostly remained neglected because most of the development funds are spent in the urban areas.
Bangladesh that separated from the West Pakistan in 1971, despite being much smaller in area (148000 sq km to 796000 sq miles of Pakistan) has 6 provinces and 64 districts. Bangladesh has a system of distribution of resources and funds for development that is much transparent, grass root and effective than Pakistan because the money is spread over more administrative units and therefore is spent on a vast area. India has 28 provinces (states) and 610 districts. Besides, there are seven union territories. Under the States Reorganization Act of 1956, the states were reorganized on linguistic basis.
The United States of America is one country where such a remarkable model for division of powers is in vogue. The 50 states (provinces) are almost independent in running their local governments even having direct trade with outside world. This model can be followed in Pakistan as far as possible.
Pakistan has four big federating units and 127 districts. The social and civic development remains largely confined to the big cities. The people have to travel all the way to the provincial capitals to meet the assembly members at a big financial cost and wastage of time.
As such even after 60 years of its existence, it is devoid of highways between major cities and an efficient railway system. The people suffer from poor, inadequate or deficient civic utilities. The political chaos takes it spillover toll on the quality of life. The availability of sustained potable water and power, disposal of solid waste, health, education, orderly traffic and good transportation that are components of good city management and a smooth civic life have remained unrealized. The quality of life in Pakistan is abysmally low.
Unfortunately, due to rampant corruption and lack of effective accountability, the funds are misused and misappropriated. The development projects sometimes exist on the paper only. The quality of work on building roads and other projects in Pakistan is woefully inferior. The oversight and strict compliance of codes and regulations are more often than not, violated and breached with connivance of the bureaucracy and government officials.
The scams and scandals, the nepotism and favoritism in doling out contracts, permits and lucrative licenses are given mostly to the party members, friends, and kith or to those who grease the palms of the members of the officialdom, bureaucracy and the parliament members.Each province would not wait for the four provincial capitals for sanction of funds for development.
With the creation of smaller provinces, the people would be able to take independent decisions, have sense of participation and commitment and socio- political freedom, tackle their problems be it law and order or building roads and dams. With more courts in the new provinces the perennial backlog of pending cases could be speedily decided.
The long standing demands of many regions with common language and ethnic bonds such as Siraiki belt and Hazara could be met by converting these areas into full fledged provinces. The population of Hazara region wants to separate from the Pushto speaking parts of NWFP (now Pakhtunkhwa Khyber) because their language is Hindko, a mixed dialect of Pushto and Punjabi. Ethnically they are hugely different from the Pashto speaking areas. Siraiki speaking people want to have a separate province because they look different from both Sindh and Punjab as for their language and culture is concerned.
Such considerations as common folklore, common language or dialect, common ethnic and cultural milieu and administrative efficiency should be kept in view in creating more provinces.The provincial autonomy once given would relieve the center of the bureaucratic over-lordship. The function of the center would be to make policy decisions and with the coordination of the provinces implement these. The shifting of most of the ministries to the provincial domain would alleviate enormous administrative and financial load on the center.
More provinces will lessen the prevailing acrimony, mutual apprehensions and tensions between the four provinces. It would readily assuage the sense of deprivation and discrimination nursed by the smaller provinces against the big province which in this case is Punjab. Such a monumental change would catapult the much coveted paradigm of good governance in Pakistan. Such a landmark decision would undoubtedly put Pakistan on the road to economic prosperity and socio- political stability and forestall the breakaway tendencies.
The PPP government deserves huge applause and due credit for passage of the 18th amendment in 2010. It was a giant step that among other revolutionary changes has abolished the concurrent list of 47 subjects. These subjects were the sordid legacy of the British imperial rule and had kept the autonomy of the provinces host and vulnerable to the interference by the central government.
However, the division of Pakistan into more provinces has to yet to be undertaken. The 18th amendment has taken care of the transfers of powers to the provinces. But to make use of those powers fruitfully, the creation of more provinces is imperative. Such a momentous measure would also put an end to the mutual bickering between the four provinces.
Monday, November 19, 2012
November 19, 2012
By Saeed Qureshi
Bal Thackeray the founder of the Shiv Sena has died at the age of 86.His legacy that he bequeathed is parochialism and hatred for all other races except Marathis for whom he founded in 1966, this cult type outfit in the state of Maharashtra. Viewed in the murky light of his political philosophy he stands out as the antagonist of the Indian constitution that essentially is secular and shuns sectarianism, communalism, racial discords and ethnic divisions.
Thackeray was known as a symbol of violence, terrorism and fear for other ethnic groups in Bombay and elsewhere in Maharashtra that were periodically targeted by ferocious and murderous gangs of Shiv Sena. He was a fanatic Hindu of typical brand and had spun a spiritual aura around his mysterious personality.
He was revered by his followers as a kind of deity with esoteric powers. As a fiery speaker in his own right and with a complexion of Hindu Sadhu or pundit (monk) he would inspire his devotees to faithfully follow his commands no matter how perilous and fatal those were for the rest of the community.
Such was the tight hold of Thackeray on the affiliates and members of the Sena (army) that they would not hesitate or think twice to rampage and even spill blood of the victims. Although Thackeray never held any office, yet in due course he had gathered so enormous a clout that he would dictate his demands to the government functionaries in the state by telephone calls and they would readily oblige.
As the head of a fanatic militant party, Bal Thackeray became the Godfather or the monarch of Bombay, an Indian metropolis that excels in business and bollywood galore and is the hub of a fast paced varied social life. He was also dreaded by the state government as he could spill disaster on the spur of the moment by a simple call.
He was never indicted against a long list of criminal activities that for others could be an ensured passage to jail if not to gallows. Since he stood for and represented only one minority in the Indian federation, otherwise dotted with innumerable religious and social factions; his philosophy and creed was entirely narrow and biased. He was brazen in his opposition to the other ethnic communities living in Maharashtra whom he would dub as outsiders and would want them to be pushed out of that state
In order to establish the supremacy of the Marathis in jobs, business and social status, his slogan was that “only Marathis [residents of Maharashtra] have the first right over Mumbai," From the springboard of Shiv Sena, he launched a vigorous movement against the South Indian migrants (from Bihar), the Gujaratis, Marwaris and the religious minorities particularly the Muslims to force them to leave the Maharashtra state. It was also aimed at halting the spread of Islam in India. Precisely for this reason Thackeray asked the Sena cadres in 2002 to respond to Islamist suicide bombers by becoming suicide bombers themselves.
His deep aversion and acute hatred for non Marathis led to their harrowing massacres, loot and plunder of non Marathis by Shiva Sena brigands for decades. During 1960s and 70s a prolonged reign of terror and harassment was let loose against the South Indians by the bandits of Shiv Sena who vandalized the shops, businesses, restaurants and homes of the former.
In 2008, the Biharis were brutally targeted by Shiv Sena hoodlums after Thackeray labeled them as infiltrators and outsiders. Most of these outsiders earned their living as taxi drivers, selling milk and newspapers. They were intimidated, beaten intermittently and forced to leave Bombay and other cities in the Maharashtra state. It was a kind of ethnic cleansing by violent means to make the Marathis as the majority race in his state.
From 1984 onward Shiv Sena carried out attacks on Dalit farmers in Vidarbha and Marathwada, destroying their crops and burning their huts. Shiv Sena also killed many unyielding politicians, journalists, community activists and notable individuals, whose names are available in the history books.
In 1992, The horrendous riots broke out between Hindus and Muslims after the demolition of the Babri mosque by fanatic Hindus with Shiv Sena militants in the lead. In those deadly riots during which the Shiv Sena cadres played dominant role, 900 people died in Bombay. More than 2,000 people were killed in ensuing riots in many major cities of India.
The Shiv Sena is already going through a process of disintegration and fragmentation. It is already divided into two parts. Although his son Uddhav has taken over the reins of Shiv Sina, yet he cannot be a match to his father’s charisma and commitment in leading the party on chauvinistic tracks.
After Thackeray appointed his son as his successor in 2006, his nephew Raj Thackeray separated from the Shiv Sena and formed his faction naming it “Maharashtra Navnirman Sena”. Earlier many colleagues of Thackeray also left the party due to differences on the rigid and racial policies of the boss.
One may safely predict that under the changing times, it would be utterly difficult for the Shiv Sena to continue the legacy of violence and terrorism against the minorities in order to give ascendancy to Marathis or to browbeat the Muslims.
A great deal of homogeneity and mutual understanding is developing among the diverse religious and ethnic sections in India. The creed of ethnic hatred and militancy as propounded by Shiv Sena seems to have run out its course. Shiv Sina is a spent force and cannot maintain or revive it creed of terrorism and violence anymore.
Sunday, November 18, 2012
By Saeed Qureshi
There looms a colossal danger of the Israel-Hamas conflict to escalate further entailing huge loss of life and infrastructure. There is no parity between Hamas and Israel in military paraphernalia and fighting force. Israel is one of the leading military powers although its size is equal to that of New Jersey (22000 sq. km). She has the potential to blast the whole of Gaza (365 sq km) in matter of hours. She can shower bombs and missiles on Gaza and for that matter on any Arab land.
The latest conflagration that if not checked would pick up momentum and result in huge chaos and unimaginable mayhem in Gaza. Already several scores of Palestinians have been killed and injured in the conflict. Three Israeli citizens have also died. With the invasion that Israel would embark upon, the whole Gaza may be reduced to heap of rubble and cause countless casualties of the Palestinians.
In recent times this is the second mammoth offensive launched by Israel against the Hamas in Gaza Strip. A similar Israeli assault on Gaza launched during the winter of 2008–2009 is known as Gaza massacre. In that offensive as many as 1,417 Palestinian and 13 Israeli were killed.
This time Israel plans to enter Gaza with a ground force of 75, 000 regular troops and around 16,000 reservists. Israeli army has positioned itself around Gaza with tanks and artillery. Also thus far the Israeli war planes have carried out 950 air strikes targeting missiles sites, residential homes and official buildings. It is a full-fledged war triggered by Israel against a 1.8 million highly dense population.
The Hamas militants are continuing their rocket firing towards the Israeli territory which they claim as the most powerful weapons in their arsenal — Iranian-made Fajr-5 rockets: a much superior weapon than homemade projectiles (Qassam) used by them in the past. Hamas seems to be undeterred by the impending dreadful offensive. But it surmises that Hamas is prepared to have the showdown with the Israel in the same way as the Hezbollah countered Israeli military might in August-September 2006 through a guerrilla war.
In Lebanon offensive, despite brutal air strikes and naval blockade, Israel could not score a complete victory and had to withdraw after 34 days of fighting following a UN truce resolution. In that conflict 1,300 Lebanese people and 165 Israelis died. It severely damaged Lebanese civil infrastructure. Besides, one million Lebanese and 300,000–500,000 Israelis were displaced.
While European countries and also the United states repeatedly talk of the Israel’s right to defend herself, no one even in passing mentions about the most repressive and humiliating conditions the Palestinians are subjected to by overbearing Israel.
The world community does not have the conscience to talk of the coastal blockade that Israel has imposed on Gaza strip by strictly checking even the food items and essential drugs that are brought in. The residents of Hamas are in virtually siege as in a concentration camp.
The world at large does not ask or counsel the powerful Israel not to build new settlements and barricades in the Palestinians territories.
The latest conflict is the result of killing of Ahmed Jabari, chief of the Gaza military wing on November 14.The western countries do not blink when the military commander of Hamas is killed by Israeli war planes. He may be a terrorist for Israel but was a respected leader of the Hamas.
The European Union, United States, United Kingdom and other Western countries condemned the Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel and expressed support for Israel's right to defend its citizens. Iran, Egypt, Turkey and several other Arab and Muslim countries condemned the Israeli war efforts.
Israel has to perceive the new ground realities that have emerged in the Middle East after the December 2008 Gaza offensive and in the aftermath of the Arab spring that is still apace. Egypt one of the strongest allies of Israel, is now with the Hamas and would not join Israel in taking a united stand against the Hamas militants. Sooner or later, there would appear a formidable block of regional Islamic states that could thwart Israeli plan to keep her hold over Gaza and other Palestinian territory.
Would it not be in order and a demonstration of justice and neutrality if the European nations tell Israel to not resort to the use of excessive power for such provocations that can be settled by mutual negotiations? If Israel stops treating Gaza as its colony and relaxes and softens its stifling restrictions and suffocating conditions on the residents of Gaza, the purpose of stopping the rockets aimed at Israeli land could be effectively and durably stopped.
Are the western countries oblivious of the United Nations resolution number 181 adopted on 29 November 1947 that calls for the creation of independent Arab and Jewish States and the Special International Regime for the City of Jerusalem?
In the ongoing ominous conflict if the Hamas somehow can offset the military offensive of Israel as the Hezbollah did in 2006, then it would be a great disgrace and losing of face for her. Israel must ponder that how long the West and the United States would support and come to her rescue by trampling the canons of established justice and showing partisan and deliberate blind support for her.
It should also be perceived that in due course, Iran and Egypt and other regional states can become militarily as strong as Israel is. With their support the beleaguered Palestinians could pose a greater challenge to Israel’s military superiority.
Israel has to grasp this fundamental fact that it would never be able to maintain its security militarily or by denying the legitimate rights of the other party that is Palestinians. Israel should live with Arab states not in constant state of belligerency but as a peaceful neighbor. Any military takeover would be short lived and breed contempt and nurse continuous hostility between Israel and the Arab states.
Israel must come to terms with her neighbors through peaceful dialogue and by brokering a peace treaty for coexistence and good neighborly relations. That would not only secure Israel’s existence permanently but would make it a partner in the prosperity and development of that region ravaged by six decades of unremitting tensions and warfare.
Tuesday, November 13, 2012
November 13, 2012
By Saeed Qureshi
On September 11, 2012 a violent, unruly mob attacked the American Consulate in the Libyan city of Benghazi and an adjacent location and burnt these to ashes. It was the most gruesome act of terrorism in the wake of Arab Spring now spreading across the Middle East and dismantling the authoritarian regimes and replacing them with the popularly elected governments.
The attack came in retaliation to the blasphemous movie against the prophet of Islam Hazrat Muhammad. During the attack there were 7 Americans including the ambassador present in the Consulate. The brutal attack took a toll of four Americans including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.
Ambassador Stevens was quite popular in Libya for his outreach to the people and plans to rebuild the educational, health and similar institutions. He was a man with exemplary dedication and immense merit besides being a competent, modest and unassuming person. As ill luck would have it, Ambassador Stevens had come from Tripoli to Benghazi at that time to review plans to establish a new cultural center and modernize a hospital.
Although the outrage by the Muslims was universal on the making and screening of the movie yet it was only in Libya that it turned bloody and violent entailing the loss of four precious lives that were in no way connected with the movie. Besides the American citizens there were Libyans security staff members and others who were also injured in that ransacking onslaught.
High level investigations by various agencies are underway to determine and discover the identities of the front line assailants. However it would be worthwhile to mull over this terrible incident in order to infer who could have mounted such daring murderous attacks on two diplomatic locations on the spur of the moment.
Or was it a pre-planned insidious plan and patent conspiracy to target the American diplomatic mission behind the cover of sacrilegious film about the apostle of Islam? Elsewhere in the world, there were huge protests and even the embassies were surrounded as in Egypt. Yet the rampaging and killing of the staff did not take place. It was therefore, a very unusual happening in Libya not to be taken lightly.
On September 28 the American intelligence reported that “it was a deliberate and organized terrorist attack carried out by extremists. It remains unclear if any group or person exercised overall command and control of the attack, and if extremist group leaders directed their members to participate."After the end of Gaddafi rule in Libya, the country has remained in most unstable situation both politically and administratively.
It might take a few years before a genuine and stable democratic system can be established. It would take a considerable longer time for the government to restore law and order by subduing the local divergent and disparate tribal lords, fiefdoms and Gaddafi loyalists.
Most of these tribal chiefs were given financial aid and were loyal to Gaddafi regime. Also the neighboring Mali, Chad, Niger and Mauritania were client and surrogate states of Libya. During the anti Gaddafi civil war (February to October 2011) the fighters and volunteers from these countries formed formidable fighting force in favor of the Gaddafi regime.
Between 125 and 150 gunmen with masked faces that attacked the consulate in the darkness looked like Islamic militants, They were equipped with “rocket-propelled grenades, hand grenades, AK-47 and FN F2000 NATO assault rifles, diesel canisters, mortars, and heavy machine guns and artillery mounted on gun trucks”. The organized way these assailants closed the access roads, carried with them the lethal arms and gasoline canisters provides incontrovertible proof that they had come to ransack and burn the consulate building.
In all probability there could be three factions to be presumably held responsible for this heinous and unwarranted crime. In the first instance the making of the film, “the Innocence of the Muslims” produced by one Sam Bacile was a dirty work of an individual for which the American administration or any official agency was not involved.
There could be general protests but to target the consulate with lethal assault weapons could not be justified. It could not be carried out by the ordinary Libyans. The Libyans national and security staff helped the consulate staff in rescuing the ambassador and other staff members. Some of the Libyans were even injured in bracing against the assailants.
Although the assault was highly organized and meticulously conducted, yet by all indications it was spontaneous. Now let us take up the three factions and sort out which one could be held accountable for that diabolic crime. Now the Al-Qaida that apparently seems to be main culprit could not come out so publicly to continue the assault for the whole night till the day break.
The reason is that this terrorist group was totally decimated and dismantled by Gaddafi as it also posed a great danger to his regime. Al-Qaida has been totally in oblivion and dysfunctional in Libya for all these years ever since its inception. For them to assemble a coterie of hardcore group of anti-American miscreants with perfect use of the modern weapons was not possible.
They know that by exposing themselves they would be identified and picked up and face the wrath of both Libyan and American administrations. This callous outfit prefers to operate clandestinely. They could at best resort to suicide bombing or limited terrorist operations but not of this magnitude and so openly.
Also for the ordinary Muslims who have been living under a very oppressive rule for ages could not become ferocious fighter all of a sudden and have access or possession of artillery mounted gun trucks and rocket propelled grenades etc. If at all the Libyans were venting their anger and outrage on the denigration of their beloved and most revered prophet, they could hold huge rallies and processions in peaceful manners.
To besiege the embassy was a highly professional and technical task that could not be attributed to ordinary citizens all the more during the night. So it should be the third group that could have carried this prolonged assault and that was capable of handling the heavy weaponry used solely by the professional and highly trained soldiers in traditional military combats.
Now let us recall that during the civil war, the Libyan Armed Forces, Libyan Air Force, paramilitary forces, pro-Gaddafi tribes and foreign mercenaries were fighting against the national liberation army, Free Libyan air force, anti-regime rebel, tribes and militias. Even after the civil war, a low-level insurgency by Gaddafi loyalists still continued for some time.
Understandably therefore, the supporters of the present regime who were erstwhile anti-Gaddafi fighters could not resort to such an attack as it would be enormously counterproductive to the incumbent political set up. It would be out of question that they could harm and antagonize the Americans by whose prodigious support Gaddafi was ousted.
The General National Congress of Libya is the legislative authority of Libya. Mohamed Yousaf el-Magariaf as its president is also the head of the state since August 2012. The affiliates and adherents of this party cannot harm Americans although Magariaf has good relations with the Muslim brotherhood. President Magariaf was in exile in United States for 30 years.
In conclusion and after sifting and evaluating all the aspects, the underground pro Gaddafi elements could have carried out the attack on American consulate in Benghazi. The video might have given a rare chance to them to storm the consulate as a kind of revenge for the death of Gaddafi and end of his regime.
They might have conjectured that with such brazen act they could win the sympathies of the fanatic Muslims and whip up anti-American sentiment, as it was for the sake of honor of their prophet. Also with this attack they could prove the incumbent government as incompetent to protect the Americans in Libya. But they failed in achieving any of these objectives as the government and the Libyans condemned this barbarity.
The American administration’s response to this wanton act of sabotage, terrorism and violence was measured, sagacious and composed. The Obama administration emphatically declared to punish the culprits but did not resort to the knee jerk reaction. The American administration wanted to find out and rightly so as to how it happened and who was responsible for this colossal crime.
The pro Gaddafi members of the Libyan armed forces and the tribes, militias and mercenaries loyal to the ousted regime are present in Libya. They could be in possession of large caches of all brands of weapons. They would keep looking for such similar chances of sabotage, violence and attacks.
With American support, the new Libyan administration, need to launch a campaign to search for the weapons and also the pro Gaddafi mercenaries and militias. The tracing and catching the perpetrators of attack on US Consulate in Benghazi can be the first step towards that imperative goal.
Saturday, November 10, 2012
November 10, 2912
By Saeed Qureshi
The prime reason for the Republican Party’s defeat in 2012 presidential election was the negative genre of politics and issue-less strategies they took to. Their overriding aim was to oust a black president as well as to safeguard the special interest groups and the wealthiest by way of fewer taxes and more perks.
They projected themselves to be pro war, anti-immigrants, pro-privileged classes and indifferent to the middle and lower middle sections of the population. They discounted and derided 47 per cent population mostly downtrodden and poor as was revealed from a secret conversation of the Republican nominee Mitt Romney.
Mitt Romney relied mostly on generalization of his perceptions and the mandate that he wanted to put in place to bring about a change for a better America. He mostly dwelt on repeating his five points that he had crammed. But he was vague and would be short of offering minute details and the modus-operandi for their result-oriented implementation.
He projected himself to be an economic wizard capable of buoying up America from fiscal quagmire it is stuck into. But he was far from being candid with regard to reduction or enhancement of taxes and also spending cuts. While he would talk in a roundabout method of cutting the spending, yet in contrast, he was wont to increase the defense budget by 2 trillion dollars.
The Republicans lost female voters by denying them the right to abortion and contraceptives for health reasons or to not have a child because of the rape. The Republicans made it a moral issue, for being conservative or Catholics. That also cut across the individual liberty and freedom of choice by women to bear a child or not. This issue was in fact of a very serious import and on this even a chunk of the conservative women among the white population supported democrats.
Some of the unscrupulous and imprudent Republican politicians even supported rape by defining it as some kind of legitimate rape, a term that was despicably offensive and stinking.
The Republicans lost majority of Latinos, the young students, the veterans, the black segments.The overwhelming number of the Muslim immigrants voted for Obama because he was perceived by them to be much less antagonistic and biased than his Republican rival and his party.Also the Asians, the Africans, the immigrants from the Middle East and elsewhere favored the Democratic Party for its liberal, non-discriminating and rather pro immigration profile.
The extra unwanted baggage came in the garb of such media showy figures as Rush Limbaugh, Karl Rove of George Bush fame, Hannity, Glenn Beck and Jack Cafferty. They were highly biased, irrational and with their passion driven predictions poured venom on Obama specifically and the Democratic party generally.
The support and publicity of these anchors and analysts for the Republican Party created negative rather than positive persuasions for the voters. Moreover the Tea Party that anchors its political philosophy on race and color also proved to be a liability rather than an asset for the Republican candidate as their stance ran counter to the spirit of America and its constitution.
In foreign policy domain, Mitt Romney projected him to be immature and less conversant with the international affairs. He was categorically against China and most of the Middle East, wanted an immediate war against Iran, send army in Syria and thus re-engage United Sates in fresh wars. He seemed to be possessing perfunctory knowledge about the world at large and the imperative of lessening global tensions and removing dangerous flash-points via appeasements than exacerbating these.
Internationally, Europe mostly was in favor of Obama’s’ re-election. Israel that the myopic observers believed was opposed to Obama’s second term was in fact supportive of him. Although Romney dashed to Israel to curry favor with Israel and Jewish lobbies within United States, yet the leadership of Israel was more sagacious that what Mitt Romney envisaged. A rational American president was more desirable for Israel than an unreasonable sycophant.
Finally the Republican stalwarts were complacent and took it for granted that they would win the elections. The volunteers and election corps of the Diplomatic Party were more committed, fired and motivated. They reached voters through emails, in person, by holding corner or indoor meetings and dropping leaflets in the houses. That missionary zeal made a lot of difference in molding public opinion in favor of president Obama.
Unfortunately the overall image of Republic Party during the last four years has been that of an obstructionist. That it legislated only as a parochial party, in favor of minority of privileged and wealthiest segments of America. That it whips conservatism not supported by the secular American constitution and Bills of Rights. That it stands more for the supremacy of the white and Caucasian races and less for the racial and ethnic equality of the Americans as a cohesive nation.
The Republican leadership has to undergo a soul searching and a rigorous process of catharsis to shed aberrations that overshadow its stature as a national party.
The writer is a senior journalist and a former diplomat.
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Wednesday, November 7, 2012
November 7, 2012
By Saeed Qureshi
President Obama has made history by winning the second term as the African-American president. His re-election as the president of the United States offers an eloquent and incontrovertible testimony to the magnificent democratic culture that this great country nurtures. There were colliding claims and divergent conjectures by the respective contenders and their supporters about the ensured success of their party.
But obviously it is only one candidate that comes on top and wins the laurels. That is President Barack Obama who scored a stunning victory that would enable him to continue his agenda of rehabilitating United States. His paramount priority by all reckoning would be to rekindle the smoldering economy and put new vitality and strength into it. That is the most outstanding pledge that he has held out to the Americans and which he must fulfill.
If economy is revitalized, the country would move forward in diverse disciplines. A healthy and robust economy would animate auto industry. It would be instrumental in creation of jobs, stabilizing the shaky social security system, modernizing the stagnant and funds-starved education system, providing affordable healthcare, bolstering the stalled research work and creating modern infrastructure like highways and bridges.
In a divided Congress whose two horns are caught by two ideologically hostile parties, the fulfillment of president Obama’s ambitious agenda for turning a new leaf and bringing back the economic grandeur and refurbishing the bruised image of America as a war monger may look a tall order.
The United States’ most urgent priority is to re-calibrate its external and internal rudder to maintain its stature of the world leader both economically and militarily albeit through goodwill and peaceful means. Besides, he has to reduce the deficit, reform the tax code, and lessen dependence on imported oil and streamline the messy immigration system.
The marvelous acceptance speech of the triumphant president provides a clue to what could be his vision with regard to a new world order under the American aegis. It surmises from his address that he intends to lessen American involvement in wars and military conflicts around the world. That is a spectacular and long overdue call, finally echoed by a president who has come to the stark realization that it was time to make this war afflicted planet an abode of peace and global fraternity.
While America’s military would remain supreme and second to none, it would be employed sparingly, needed to disengage the combatants or to restore peace in hot spots. Henceforth, hopefully, the American military might not be marshaled as an instrument of fomenting or promoting the ideological or colonial wars. In the backdrop of counterproductive military invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, the United States may desist from sending its forces for mere adventures or to flex its military muscle or to fix the rogue states.
Perhaps the time is up for America to annihilate and invade the countries that would not be in the American camp or that would be aloof in serving the American interests in distant lands. For America and for the new pacifist president it is time to win the hearts and minds of the international community even ideological foes as socialism or communism.
The world in moving into a tough competition focused on the technological breakthroughs and economic advancements. For that laudable end, domestic and international peaceful environment and cordiality is indispensable. The other compelling factor that would impel America to wind up its military maneuvers and stationing of forces aboard is its all time high debt of 16 trillion dollars. This staggering debt would take half a century to be wiped off or curtained. Ironically America as the monarch of the capitalist world happens to be the most indebted nation.
These are daunting challenges and gubernatorial thorny issues within America that need a break from the military spending and instead boosting of economy so that the American people can be saved from falling into poverty spiral. A sagacious approach and bold new vision is imperative to maintain the social safety nets and benefits that help people to put food on the table, get medical care when sick, less expensive gas for their automobiles and afford education to the highest level.
American people are used to nor would accept the austerity measures that have been lately introduced in countries with dwindling economies. One can witness an economic tsunami overtaking the western countries notably France, Spain, Italy, Greece and swallowing their economic potential and viability as social welfare societies.
If the economic Magna-Carta of reforms is not unfurled in United States by concurrently keeping the present level of social comforts, this country would too come under the crunch of an economic stagnation and lowering quality of life. That would be bleak trend for country that has been maintaining its lead in prosperity, economic ascendancy and supremacy in military power
America has lost countless soldiers in military conflicts starting from the WWII to the present rife in Afghanistan. The number of veterans including the disabled has reached 29 million. Eradication or bracing against the global terrorism should not be only American problem. It has assumed global proportions and therefore becomes the collective responsibility of the international community to be dealt with. Invasion and occupation of countries accused of hosting terrorist bands has proved to be immensely flawed.
Starting an economic war with China that has been one of the outstanding trade partners of the United States abruptly, would be harmful. It would lead to collateral damage at least till such time that a network of local small and medium sized industries is created within America. The Chinese cheap goods especially one dollar items flooding the American markets cannot be blocked so soon.
If there is no replacement of the inexpensive merchandise from China, there would be a vacuum domestically. The people will have to buy local products that would be several times more expensive. China is incidentally the biggest lender to United States and any knee jerk reactions would adversely boomerang.
However, curtailing or winding up of overseas American industries or outsourcing is what the Obama administration must take up without loss of time. Outsourcing is double edged sword. It has deprived America of the creation of domestic jobs and investment that go abroad and make other countries prosperous at the cost of the local industries.
Moreover, under the guise of outsourcing incompetent and unwanted workforce is pushed into America by the outsourcing companies and private manpower cartels, by taking graft money from most of them. This hoax must stop and the establishment of industries in foreign lands must stop or done with extreme caution to obviate the loss of jobs for the American at home.
The United State must not penalize Iran by way of stringent sanctions that have disastrously affected the people of Iran. For instance the life saving drugs are scare in Iran causing loss of life in that country. This is a humanitarian issue and any embargo on export or import of food items, or medicines ought not be banned by United States and the international community. Iran is ready to talk on her controversial nuclear program and if the talks bear fruit then the crippling sanctions must be lifted.
Any war or military action imposed on Iran would be calamitous and may harm American friendly and protégé states. A military action as being pushed by Israel may result also the destruction of that beleaguered tiny state along with the destruction of Iran partially or wholly. The saner and the wisest policy should be to resolve this issue through peaceful means.
The winding up of wars by President Obama is most admirable step that would gradually end the long drawn spell of sufferings for both Iraqi and Afghan people. While the wars are coming to a close in both these war torn countries, there is no wisdom or justification for starting another war in the Middle East to nail down Iran.
The Arab spring that was spearheaded by the people of the respective countries and supported and sustained by the Western countries and more specifically by America must continue to expand further. Gradually, the entire region of the Middle East would be blessed with representative and popular dispensations as in Egypt and Tunisia although still in their infancy, The democratic culture would consolidate and take roots over a period of time and not so soon. We must be patients and bear with the emerging patterns of liberty, freedoms, human rights, empowerment of the people and shaping up of mutually integrated peaceful world community
The United State bears the paramount responsibility to make this dream come true as she possesses the necessary resources and power to lead the humanity towards a better future, global peace and universal prosperity. With determination and sincerity this milestone can be achieved.
Saturday, November 3, 2012
November 3, 2012
By Saeed Qureshi
Air Marshal Asghar Khan kicked off his political career in 1970 with an intense obsession to destroy Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. To achieve this end he urged the then army chief Ziaul Haq to overthrow Bhutto’s government. Later he called upon Zia to “hang Bhutto by Kohala Bridge.”
Asghar Khan has earned for himself the dubious distinction as being one of the bitterest adversaries of late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. The charge would not be in vain that he is partly responsible for the demise of ZABhutto both from the corridors of power and also from this world.
By temperament Mr. Khan is incorrigibly whimsical and cannot stay on one track for a longer period of time. It is incomprehensible as to why he developed so much of deep-seated hatred for Mr. Bhutto who took the reins of a sinking Pakistan, with a defeated army, a demoralized nation and navigated the country to safe shores.
Notwithstanding Mr. Bhutto’s later postures, he proved himself to be a sagacious leader with immense talent and acumen to save the left over Pakistan that was on the precipice of further falling further into the deep ditches of humiliation and disintegration.
Asghar Khan’s role all along his political career has been that of a stubborn spoiler. He has a trenchant tendency to get indignant and unpredictably part company with the most loyal and trusted companions. By his wavering political conduct he has proven that he is far from a stable person in decision making or to stand firm on his commitment, alliances and manifesto. He lacks sobriety, a modicum of tolerance and maturity and therefore has been hopping in the political arena without landing the ball into the goal post.
The prominent columnist and Television anchor Hamid Mir has written a very compelling article in daily Jang that portrays Asghar Khan as the one who invited the then COAS General Ziaul Haq to get rid of Bhutto by imposing martial law which the latter did. Asghar was not even content with dismissal of Mr. Bhutto’s democratic government but wanted him to be sent to gallows.
He had been maintaining a noxious nexus with military regime not only to scuttle democracy in Pakistan but avenge his personal anti-Bhutto vendetta by getting him sentenced to death. Asghar Khan’s notorious call urging Ziaul haq to “hang him at the Kohala Bridge to save Pakistan” testifies to the poisonous mindset of a person and to the limits of vindictiveness he could go. In the hindsight one can explore the acute caprice of Mr. Khan demonstrated in making and breaking alliances for mysterious reasons or because of the psychological compulsion not to stay on one course.
Asghar Khan’s political journey started with the formation of his political party Tehrik-e-Istiqlal Pakistan (TIP) in 1970.On the platform of this party he launched his anti-Bhutto campaign that continued till 1979 when Bhutto was hanged. Interestingly, following the imprisonment of Mr. Bhutto by Ayub Khan, it was Asghar Khan who continued the anti-Ayub movement launched from the platform of both PTI and the PPP as a successor to Mr. Bhutto.
During the incarceration of Mr. Bhutto, Asghar shot into prominence like a meteorite. He was adored and looked upon as a hero and a revolutionary by the PPP cadres. He led the mammoth processions and kept the momentum of movement in high gear When Mr. Bhutto was released, the astronomical ovation and sudden prominence given to him was no more there.
He suffered from an inborn personality setback and started nursing the grudge that he was a better a leader than Bhutto. From that moment he started opposing and debunking Bhutto openly. His aversion and feeling of deprivation started turning into a syndrome of extreme hate for Mr. Bhutto. It was under that acute feeling of fall from an extolled position that during the 1977 elections, Asghar Khan allied his party with the Pakistan National Alliance (PNA) against the People's Party.
For his spiteful and slanderous attacks against Mr. Bhutto and the PPP leaders, he was sent to jail for a few months in 1977. It was during that brief imprisonment that he wrote to the defense forces urging them to withdraw their support for the "Illegal regime of Bhutto", and "differentiate between a "lawful and an unlawful" command to save Pakistan. That was a clear-cut call for creation of a military regime in Pakistan which the military Junta later did establish under General Ziaul Haq’s command. This demand was tantamount to decimating democracy and its replacement with the authoritarian army rule.
In the aftermath of 1977 general elections, the PNA launched a countrywide movement accusing PPP and Bhutto for rigging elections and calling for new elections. The PPP government was completely paralyzed. Along with other allies of the PNA, including the religious parties and army in the back, Asghar Khan jumped into the fray in whipping a storm against Bhutto regime. His merger of PTI with PNA was precisely for that objective.
In order to find a solution for the stupendous political imbroglio that had gripped the country, Mr. Bhutto initiated a dialogue with the PNA leadership. An Agreement was reached on June 8, 1977 to hold fresh Elections on October 8, 1977. Asghar Khan opposed the agreement and came up with a long litany of other demands that were most unreasonable and could not be accepted by even an insane person. Thus the last chance to save democracy was lost due to Asghar Khan’s intransigence.
Asghar Khan was poised to see the downfall of Bhutto in order to satiate his personal grudge against him and with that the demise of a democratic order for over a decade. True to his slippery and flippant temperament, he later dissociated himself from PNA as his sinister objective of overthrowing Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto's government by General Ziaul Haq in July 4, 1977, had materialized.
The “judicial murder" of Mr., Bhutto was extremely joyful and a big fillip to the bloated ego of Asghar Khan as he was the one who had called upon the Gen Zia to hang him. Yet in a bid to take the center stage in the political vacuum created by the incarceration and later by the death of ZA Bhutto, he unscrupulously decided to take on General Zia-ul-Haq who had announced to hold the general elections in 1979.
However General Zia-ul-Haq indefinitely postponed the elections, and put Asghar Khan under house arrest from October 1979 to October 1984. That development catapulted Tehrik-e-Istiqlal to become the most favorite party and large number of high profile distinguished political figures joined the Tehrik e- Istiqlal.
Once against true to his mercurial habit, he left the MRD in 1986 as a result of which many of the Tehrik's members resigned in protest and later joined the Pakistan Muslim League (N) founded by Nawaz Sharif in 1988.That is how the MRD was internally fragmented by Asghar Khan due to his impatience and propensity to betray the causes and missions no matter how vital for the country.
The Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD) was a formidable alliance formed in February 1981 by politically and ideologically divergent parties with a one point agenda of ending General Zia-ul-Haq's martial law and the military rule. It was led by Benazir Bhutto the daughter of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto for whose ouster from power and his ultimate hanging, Air marshal was significantly responsible. Yet Asghar disregarding any qualms of conscience of working with the daughter of his victim, decided to join this left wing alliance in 1983.
The MRD movement mostly launched in Sindh was brutally crushed by Gen Zia. Thousands of its supporters and protestors were killed by the army and countless were put in jails and subjected to torture and lashing. Asghar Khan practically had no role to play since he was confined to his house in Abbottabad.
During Musharraf era, Asghar Khan handed over the reins of PTI to his son Omar Asghar Khan who merged it with an NGO and at the same time formed another political party under the name of National Democratic Party.
After joining so many parties and alliances and then leaving them abruptly during his almost 40 years dabbling in politics, his latest switch over was to support Imran Khan in December last year. That was again a kind of merger with Imran’s PTI as thereafter he resigned as the president of his own party Tehrik Istiqlal.
While glancing over Asghar Khan’s queer and zigzagging political style, it is not difficult to discern that he started his political career solely as an adversary of late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. In his pent-up hatred for Bhutto he even preferred establishment of martial and the death of an outstanding political leader. In politics there is a political brinkmanship or tussle based on programs and manifestos but not aimed at the physical removal of the political rivals.
But Air Marshal Asghar Khan was always driven more to destroy Bhutto and the PPP and less to serve the nation or for the uplift and glory of the country. He became as the main hurdle in the implementation of the accord between the PNA and the Bhutto on holding of fresh elections. Had he consented on that and not thrown a spanner at the behest of the army, Pakistan would have been saved from a draconian martial law whose deep scars are still writ large on the face of Pakistan.
At the crossroad of history he cannot claim any political accomplishment for democracy or advancement of the county because his politicking was based on rancor and vendettas. He lacked vision and lost his time in simply keeping PTI as a petty adjunct of other political outfits for narrow objectives. He has ever remained as a vacillating, unstable and unpredictable political minion who had the audacity to join or walk out of an alliance depending upon the level of his ire and disenchantment with a party or person.
He has been an aimless trotter in Pakistan’s political wilderness all along these four decades. He is a Don Quixote of Pakistan who had been tilting his lance at every windmill but would get bruised himself in return. The fundamental flaw in his character was his unbridled intolerance and intense haughtiness that always kept him as an unreliable and unsuccessful pariah in politics.