Sunday, December 30, 2012

PPP should not be Bhutto Family Ownership

February 18, 2012
By Saeed Qureshi

The formal induction of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari into Pakistan’s murky political turf took place on the somber occasion of 5th death anniversary of his mother, former prime minister and chairperson of PPP Mohtrama Benazir Bhutto. Young and energetic Bilawal delivered his passion-decked debut speech on this occasion in that he lambasted the judiciary besides assailing certain politicians. His rhetorical outburst was reminiscent of his grandfather Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s highly emotional speeches captivating the audience.

But manifestly his political path is paved with grave odds and unforeseen hazards and proverbially is strewn with thorns that cannot be picked up so soon to take him to the garden path of cozy politics. Bilawal Zardari has to go a long way before he could come to the lofty political heights of his mother and grandfather.

Democratic dynasties are a feature of Asian politics. But in the backdrop of the ominous and ill- starred legacy of Bhutto family as that of the Indira Gandhi family in India, one would tend to harbor the troubling apprehensions about their unscathed survival in politics or power. The political culture both in India and Pakistan has been hostage to the family based dynastic overlord-ship. It should be replaced with merit earned through long struggle in the political arena and by serving the people selflessly and by dint of hard work and moral and political dignity.

The iconic political or social figures are certainly adored and loved by their admirers and fans. But this mindset should not turn into a psychological urge on the part of the leaders to undermine the national interests and principled politics. This kind of hero worship in prevalent in Pakistan because of a feudal system that survives on absolute obedience, clannish bonds  as well as the  slavish mentality from the common folks mostly bonded labor and farm workers.

Also the shrine culture has spawned the docility and reverence for the self-styled divine figures and for those who claim to have directed access with the powers that rule and run the universe. These intermediaries or so to say religious or mystical solicitors command limitless veneration and unquestionable submission from their followers and disciples who remain unmindful of their self dignity and honor.

We have to therefore, discard and reject this mentality of abject cronyism and servitude demanded by the privileged individuals or families in the spiritual or political domains. The democracy cuts across the parochial, clannish, and narrow considerations and urges, and instead gives ascendancy to the people who in fact, are the real owners of the power vested in a few individuals.

Earlier Pakistan’s incumbent president Asif Ali Zardari, who is also the acting chairman of the ruling party PPP, has indicated many a time that Asifa Zardari Bhutto would lead the party and carry forward the vision of her deceased mother, her grandfather and founder of the PPP Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

However, following the assassination of Mohtrama Benazir Bhutto, Bilawal was appointed as the chairman of the party with a new name: Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. It was a shrewd move on the part of Asif Zardari to integrate two clans, namely Bhutto and Zardari into one male successor thus crafting a semblance of unity and togetherness of the two tribes. He wanted Bilawal to represent Bhutto family to negate dissensions within the party.

Bilawal was named chairman of the PPP in December 2007. Zardari planned to serve as a co-chairman of the PPP for at least three years until Bilawal completed his studies overseas. Although Bilawal returned to Pakistan in 2011, and is a de-facto chairman of PPP, Mr. Zardari presumably plans to hold reins of the party till such time as Bilawal is mature enough to take charge of the party as its full-fledged functional head. That moment has perhaps arrived now.

Surprisingly, while it was a foregone and a settled matter that the next chairman to lead the party is Bilawal, all of a sudden, Asif Ali Zardari started propping up Asifa as the PPP’s leader and an intelligent successor of late Benazir Bhutto. Asifa who is now 19 years of age is being invited to various state functions held at the president’s house and at the prime minister’s residence. But presumably Asif Zardari has again modified his plans by recalculating that a male was better than a female to lead the party.

It should be recollected that when Asif Ali Zardari entered the presidential residence for the first time, he was ensconced on both sides by his two daughters Asifa and Bakhtawar. While initially Bakhtawar (22 years) was being bolstered, later she went into oblivion and was substituted by Asifa for making certain statements about her family, her vision, perceptions and aims with regard to the future of Pakistan and the party.

When president Zardari left for Dubai for his heart surgery, Bilawal Bhutto came to Pakistan. But he remained non vocal and reticent without issuing any substantive statements. He looked subdued and seemed to be in a state of introspection or introversion.

At that time, his visibly sluggish posture or quiet demeanor as reflected from his body chemistry could be due to the illness of his father or the lurking feeling that his father was heaped with a plethora of accusations or allegations one of which was that he could be also be instrumental in the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. He could also nurse a kind of forlorn feeling that why all of a sudden his sister was being promoted by his father as the prospective leader of the party and that finally the reins of the party could be handed over to Asifa.

But more potent reason could be his disenchantment with politics and like her aunt Sanam Bhutto; he might not like to delve in politics under paranoia of being the target of the elements that killed his mother. Or maybe by virtue of his temperament he is not attuned to getting into the political arena and instead prefers to lead a private life. It could also be possible that father and son might have developed some yet to be revealed differences on matters exclusively privy to them.
But perhaps now Bilawal seems to have come of age and can be accepted more willingly by the PPP cadres. Compared to his father who is heaped in myriad scandals and allegations, such acceptance would flow from his having a clean slate and also for being the direct descendent of the daughter of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

Patently, these are all speculations. But notwithstanding the internal feuding within the family for ascendency in the party hierarchy, a keen observer of Pakistan’s misty politics would strongly argue that the leadership of the PPP should not be passed on to a member of the Bhutto family.

Firstly, it would be negation or deviation from the established principle of electing a leader from among the cadres. If the PPP is going to be the family property then its democratic credentials would remain questionable and its legitimacy as the national party would remain clouded.

Secondly, the progeny of Ms Bhutto might not be as competent as were their mother and grandfather. The Bhutto legacy is certainly a cherished and romantic phenomenon for the steadfast Bhuttoite, so called jialas (die-hard fans) and devotees of Bhutto family. Nevertheless, the ground realities of the political turf in Pakistan are, rough, unpredictable and uncharitable.

The raison d’ĂȘtre for this assertion is that the PPP needs to re-establish its popular image as a party of the masses managed by a brand of leadership that is clean, upright and democratically hoisted in the hierarchy of the party. It would be a tall order for all the three children of Benazir Bhutto to lead PPP at a much younger age when it is faced with monumental challenge of refurbishing its bruised image.

The party needs to motivate and reunite the cadres disillusioned with the corruption of its stalwarts especially Asif Ali Zardari who cannot come clean even if he endeavors to prove himself as an honest person for his whole life.

As for the children of Ms Bhutto, they would always, like their mother, remain vulnerable for their personal safety, and thus restrained from freedom of movement and speech. During the past decade or so, the free movement and open door politicking of the political and religious leaders have come under severe containment and rigorous restrictions.

If Bhutto family is the repository of an unsurpassed fame, immense esteem and eminence, they have foes and adversaries too. It should not be overlooked that four celebrated figures of the Bhutto family were murdered, with the founder of the family hanged through a fake and farcical judicial process.

It would be befitting to allude to the Nehru family that was as much loved and venerated in India as that of Bhutto family in Pakistan. One of the globally known strongest female head of a government, Indira Gandhi was assassinated by two of her Sikh bodyguards in October 1984.

Her assassination was viewed as an act of vengeance against Indira for ordering “operation blue star “in June 1984, entailing massacre of thousands of Sikhs. Her two sons also subsequently perished. Sanjay Gandhi was killed in a flying accident in 1980. The second Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated in Tamil Nadu (May 1991) in a suicide bombing carried out by Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam.

It was a sagacious decision on the part of Rajiv’s widow Sonia Gandhi to remain in the background although she could have become the prime minister of India on the drop of the hat. She was well aware that she could be targeted as well. As such she has remained safe, as well as in a dominant position of leading her party and influencing the government with her decisions.

Rahul Gandhi, the son of late Rajiv and Sonia Gandhi has been kicking around in the political arena to begin with, but was perhaps prevailed upon by his well wishers and more by his mother to not challenge the traditional rivals as the scion of Gandhi family. He seems to have understood the message and is now modestly conducting himself that would be tolerable for both friends and foes. His position as the general secretary of the Indian National Congress and member of Lok Sabha is harmless. But the moment he would aspire for a higher status he could encounter threats to his life.

Politics is rather becoming a tough undertaking and a harrowing ordeal for traditional political families particularly in the third world countries. The people are now more politically conscious and want a free run for everyone to aspire and compete for top slots either within the party or in the government. If the families continue to occupy the parties’ pinnacle positions, then it stifles the spirit of free contest that is central to a democratic culture.

Unfortunately in several countries around the world, the politics and parties are known by a few individuals who founded the parties and then assume father figure or iconic status. These leaders maintain their overlord-ship until a stupendous shake-up within the party or in the political waters of the country casts them or their family successors away.

It is quite an objective approach by Sanam Bhutto, the younger sister of Benazir to keep away from the quagmires of politics in Pakistan. Perhaps she is not as brave or as ambitious as Benazir was. But understandably, what made her averse to politics is the tragic end of her family members that she does not want for herself.

Curiously, the profile or life sketch of Asifa and Bakhtawar can nowhere be found in chronicles or information channels such as face book, you-tube or Wikipedia or other similar blogs. All the information is either blocked or blacked out for fear of slanderous, mischievous and vicious backlash. We have come across comments in face book between the messengers that are dirty and diabolic and are dished out by culturally dwarfed people.

But while this is a prudent way of escaping the malignant and distasteful interactions, it closes the doors and avenues of wider publicity that are absolutely essential for the politicians and those who wish to tread upon the unpredictable and deceptive field of politics. Yet it depends as to what course one would like to adopt: stay in politics and face odds or steer clear and enjoy a safe private life.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Sunni Islam versus Shia Islam

December 27, 2012
By Saeed Qureshi
Muslims as religious entity have never been united, nor can there possibly be one brand of Islam ever. The irreconcilable conflict between Sunnis and Shias is a pernicious spillover from the past precisely from the moment Prophet of Islam Hazrat Muhammad (SAW) breathed his last. The ongoing orgy of blood and mutual killings in Pakistan is not a new phenomenon. It has been there for centuries wherever Muslims societies existed. It is a colossal tragedy within Islam that this great faith is torn apart into two domains that cannot reconcile or converge on a common creed.
The issue of succession after the demise of the prophet has been the bane of the unity among the Muslims for all these 14 centuries. Never was there an Islamic issue than the caliphate which brought so much of destruction and bloodshed between two leading sects of Sunnis and Shias. It is still a living issue prompting both sides to spill each others’ blood with religious fervor. In the present times in Syria, the civil war that has consumed 40000 people is primarily between Shia Alawi minority rulers and the majority Sunni population.
The prophet did not nominate a successor during his lifetime. The prophet’s death provoked a crisis. He died without any male progeny and without a clearly designated successor. Although, the prophet remained indisposed for several days before his death and he had plenty of time to decide as to who would be his successor, he did not take that vital decision. It was during his last moments that he wanted to dictate his will and nominate his successor. But those who were around his bed did not write the will because the prophet was in a state of faintness.
Following the demise of the prophet, the impromptu decision by a few of his close companions chose Abu Bakr as his successor as the first caliph. That led to a conflict between the prophet’s own family of Banu Hashim and the traditionally rival clan of Banu Ummayd. That nomination was not accepted by prophets’ family headed by his son in law, cousin brother and later the fourth caliph Hazrat Ali. The first three caliphs were from not from the Banu Hashim tribe.
Shiite Muslims believe that the true leadership comes through the Prophet’s bloodline and that 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. The supporters of Ali always looked up for an opportunity to see Ali as the caliph. But their wishes and endeavors were blunted by the more crafty and powerful Ummyad notables.
However, the murder of the third caliph Hazrat Usman by the pro Ali supporters known as Kharjis intensified the rivalry between the prophet’s family and the Ummyad tribe. After Hazrat Osman, Hazrat Ali took the mantle of caliphate (656-661 C. E.). The deprivation of Ali of the office of the caliph through arbitration and later his death divided the Muslims into two irreconcilable groups forever. When Hazrat Usman was murdered, one of the mourners predicted that the cleavage caused by his assassination would never be bridged till the doomsday. That prophecy holds true to this day.
This cleavage further 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 Ummayd 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 fourteen centuries.
Although there are several scores of sects and denominations within the fold of Islam, the level of animosity and bitterness that exists between the two leading sects of Sunnis and Shias is horrendous. There is no way that their doctrinal rift can be healed and reconciled in any way.
The 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. With the exception of a few common beliefs and traditions Shias and Sunnis differ on a whole range of beliefs with regard to Sharia laws encompassing both juridical( criminal and civil) and ecclesiastical. The Shias believe in a lineage of twelve divine imams or spiritual leaders. On the other side, besides four caliphs, Sunnis have four Imams but they are primarily interpreters of the Islamic Sharia law. Barring Ali, Shias discard the three caliphs as usurpers. 
The Islamic history is replete with their mutual annihilation and massacres. In the past, the Sunni and Shia dynasties have been taking turns for wreaking havoc upon each other. During the Shia dynasties in Egypt, North Africa, Sicily, Spain, Arabian Peninsula, Syria and Iraq, Iran & Azerbaijan Sunnis have been terribly persecuted.
Conversely, in Sunni Muslim dynasties, Shias had suffered with terrible discrimination and massacres. 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. Kami invited the Tartars to come to Baghdad.
While in the past they killed each other 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.
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
One dimension of the Arab spring is the upswing in the ideological conflict between Sunnis and Shias in Iraq, Bahrain and Syria where it is now turning into a civil war. In Iraq from the early days of Islam to Saddam Hussain’s era to the present dispensation of prime minister Nouri-al-Maliki, the Sunni-Shia feud has always been mostly underneath the societal disorders and internal upheavals.
In Bahrain the minority Sunni regime is in place while in Syria, it is the Shia minority that is at the helm and wreaking all brutalities on the Sunnis. Presently in Baghdad the Sunni majority population is protesting against the Shia minority government for maltreatment and discrimination.
In Pakistan, the Shia community observes the martyrdom of Imam Hussain, the grandson of the prophet of Islam, in a nerve-racking environment. They enter their congregational places as if entering a nuclear arsenal. Each and every person is subjected to body pat down by the security staff posted at the entry and exit points. The entire country is placed under high alert with thousands of military and semi military personnel guarding the processions.  Still the suicide bombers, callous murderers and sharp shooters from their rival sects keep killing them. Practicing of one’s faith is becoming extremely arduous in Islamic polities.
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 fiefdoms. As such the discord between Shias and Sunnis is not only of faith but also regional, ethnic and political.
The unity of Muslims as one nation would always remain a myth and unattainable goal. The bridging of the doctrinal and theological chasms between these two main sects within Islam would always remain a tall order unless the Muslim clergy of both the sects reconcile on living in harmony despite their mutual differences of faith and Sharia laws. Would that be possible within an Islamic state cannot be fathomed.
However, if the Islamic polities turn secular wherein all 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 mosques and never fight.


Sunday, December 23, 2012

Altaf Hussain in Trouble

 December 23, 2012

By Saeed Qureshi

MQM’s chief custodian and uncrowned king Altaf Hussain, of late, appears to have landed in a deep trouble. He is presumably faced with a double jeopardy. He has come under suspicion of his connection with Dr. Imran Farooq’s murder. Secondly he has picked up a row with the Supreme Court of Pakistan on delimitation of constituencies.

The investigation of Dr. Imran Farooq has, of late, assumed new twists and turns. The London Metropolitan Police has stepped up the investigation about the murder of the Dr. Imran Farooq, a former colleague and friend of Altaf Hussain. 

Imran Farooq a one-time celebrity and leading light of MQM was murdered in mysterious circumstances on September16, 2010, outside his home at Green Lane, Edgeware in North London. Dr Imran Farooq had co-founded the All Pakistan Muhajir Students Organization (APMSO), and also had been the deputy convener of the party.

It was after almost a lull of two years, that the Metropolitan Police, in connection with Dr. Imran’s murder, raided the business office of Altaf Hussain in Edgeware and conducted comprehensive search for two days. The intensive search was the follow up action of the various pieces of vital evidence and important tips that the London police was able to collect since 2010.
It was also reported that although several persons were interrogated yet no arrests were made. British High Commissioner in Pakistan Adam Thomson also confirmed in a statement that Dr. Imran Farooq was a British national and their police was investigating a murder of its citizen.
The second jeopardy came as a backlash of his stunning remarks directed at the Supreme Court in which he argued that “that delimitation of electoral constituencies was not the job of the courts, and it would not help the cause of peace”. He obliquely warned that “those who were trying to hatch conspiracies against the MQM would be eliminated.”
In response to his threatening outburst, the Supreme Court retaliated by issuing a contempt of court notice to him with orders to appear in the court and explain his point of view. Understandably he cannot come to Pakistan and thus there might be more retaliation from the Supreme Court.

It has been observed in various media columns that he stands a frightening chance of losing his residency in England due to his stinging remarks about the supreme court of Pakistan. A senior Pakistan-born and England- based lawyer Sibgatullah Qadri stated that if a foreign court convicts a British citizen against contempt charges, the British government can terminate the citizenship rights of such individual. He asserted that in Britain the contempt of court is considered as serious a crime as murder and is not taken lightly.

Altaf Hussain sneaked out of Pakistan one month before the launching of the Operation Clean-up (June 19, 1992 to August 14, 1994).  His flight from Pakistan also was the result of an attempt on his life on 21 December 1991 that was the third of its kind. He was given political asylum by the British government and is staying there since then.

Altaf Hussain founded All Pakistan Muhajir Student Organization”APMSO in June 1978 that was later renamed as Muhajir Qaumi Movement (MQM) in March 1984. It was finally renamed as Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) in June 1997.

Altaf Hussain with a mercurial and audacious temperament has been issuing statements that cut across the two nation ideology thus denunciating the creation of Pakistan. In one such statement he is recorded to have said that,

Division of the subcontinent was the biggest blunder in the history of mankind and Nehru and Abdul Kalam Azad are responsible for it because they rejected that grouping formula and greater autonomy for Muslim majority province of India. If they accepted it then Jinnah would have never demanded separate Pakistan and Jinnah was ready for co-exist within India.”

Altaf Hussain was having 3576 cases for various charges against him. But all the cases were dropped under the National Reconciliation Ordinance issued by the former President of Pakistan, General Pervez Musharraf, on 5 October 2007.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

President Obama’s Press Conference on Gun Violence

December 19, 2012
By Saeed Qureshi

 In his press conference on gun violence in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House Washington, the President Obama was pensive, stunning, and articulate. He appeared heartbroken, grieved yet serene, somber and earnest. Although in the aftermath of Newtown elementary school massacre, the press conference was meant, to unfurl an action plan and urgent measures to rein in the erratic and free-for-all gun culture, yet most questions were asked about the fiscal cliff by the journalists.

He discarded the usual tradition and recourse to constitute a commission for finding ways and means to lessen the disastrous ramification of use of assault weapons and high powered guns. Instead he demonstrated his sense of urgency and seriousness in resolving this tricky issue by announcing a task force with a time frame of one month for presentation of report to control the gun violence.

 In the backdrop of the horrendous massacre at the Newtown Elementary School, the president seemed to be totally resolved and serious about containing the unbridled gun culture in the United Stated. The gun owners derive their right to buy, own and use the guns under the second amendment of the American constitution. While expressing his belief in the inviolability of the Second Amendment, he opined that without amending the amendment, the laws could be framed to curb the violence and stop manslaughter by the irresponsible and mentally sick persons.

The president assigned this extremely crucial task to his most trusted confidant, the vice president Josef Biden.  Within a time frame of one month or so, Mr. Biden would formulate a well-thought out strategy and set of proposals to enforce ban on assault weapons, put limit on ammunition and to ensure background checks at the gun shows. Vice president Biden has worked for years in the senate for legislation to check the proliferation and abuse of the guns and assault weapons in the United State.

The complete gun control is going to be a difficult task but in the wake of the gruesome tragedy of Newtown School, where a young boy killed 28 persons including 20 small children, there is a strong possibility that he would be able to get these laws passed by the legislators. Also he exuded the possibility of obtaining the consent of the gun stake holders one of which is the National Rifle Association (NRA).

The President’s determination to address this vital issue looks unwavering to bring about concrete results to restrain the wanton use of lethal weapons for killing the Americans by crazy individuals. That is why he is not in favor of making a commission to look into this urgent issue.

He asserted that in his drive against the uninhibited use of weapons, members of his cabinet and outside organizations would be involved. Besides, the departments of Justice, Education, Health and Human Services, and Homeland Security would also join the process.

Whether the Republicans’ dominated House would be willing to lend a helping hand to the president’s vital initiative would be laid bare once the report of the task force is finalized and tables before the two houses of the Congress for approval.

President Obama wants to capitalize on the anti-gun environment generated by the heat wrenching New Town School massacre that is the latest one in the series of such gruesome carnages by the callous murders having free access to the mass-killing firearms. President pointed that if they did not like to cooperate with me let them do it for the sake of the people who deserve protection from such horrific tragedies.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Mini Holocaust!

December 15, 2012
By Saeed Qureshi

The tragic death of 26 fellow Americans including 20 children between the ages of 6-7 is an unspeakable tragedy. It is a mini holocaust that would haunt the parents and relations of the victims, no one knows how long.  The 20 year old killer Adam Lanza first killed his 52 year old mother before gunning down the children in two first-grade classrooms, of Sandy Hook elementary School in the Sandy Hook village of Newtown Connecticut.

The second gruesome massacre in educational institutions is known as the Virginia Tech massacre in which 32 people were killed and 17 wounded in two separate attacks. It took place on April 16, 2007, on the campus of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Virginia, United States. The shooter’s name was Seung-Hui Cho who also killed himself. In the recent past several shooting incidents took place in the shopping malls and public places.

On July 20, 2012, one such horrific mass shooting occurred inside the Century movie theater in Aurora, Colorado.  The perpetrator James Eagan Holmes set off tear gas grenades and shot into the audience with multiple firearms, killing 12 people and injuring 58 others.

Now all these ghastly incidents of carnage bring home the absolute urgency of curbing or controlling the firearms that are so abundantly and ubiquitously available in the United States. Anyone can walk into a gun store and buy at will, the weapons ranging from ordinary revolvers to deadly assault weapons. 

The fire-arms are purchased by the people for a variety of reasons. First it is the psyche of possessing arms that has almost become a fashion or propensity with the people with financial ability to buy the costliest weapons. Keeping assault weapons are also deemed to be status symbols.

Secondly there is running paranoid of self protection against the invisible or fantasy intruders at the properties. Thirdly there are hunters that prey upon the animals like deer, antelopes, alligators bears, birds etc, for the sake of fun or making money. There are gun shows where the weapon crazy people throng and buy all kind of weapons whose lethal capacity goes beyond the protections against burglars or trespassers.

It has been observed that not a fraction of all these deadly weapons are used for the protection of the inmates of a household or for driving away the unwanted intruders. There have been negligible number of incidents in which a courageous house owner or ranch keeper used the gun to kill a shady character or to scare away the suspect poaching the property.

On the contrary what happens is that the mentally deranged, psychopaths, trigger-happy shooters, the disgruntled individuals and the avengers use such weapons for manslaughter and pogroms of the people. As such the possession of assault and ordinary weapons seem to have become counter-productive and least used for the purpose these are acquired.

The second amendment in the American constitution permits the citizens to bear arms.  This caveat as we all witness is violated for wrongful and insidious objectives. The time when this amendment was passed was socially unstable and dangerous. This amendment would have served the purpose during those times when people felt insecure and needed to defend themselves from the enemies or the soldiers who would forcibly occupy the priorities or there were dangerous predators hovering around. 

In those fearsome times, there was a genuine need for the citizens to protect themselves as the law and order institutions were still in the making and not very effective. The responsibility to ward off the attackers or intruders, thieves and burglars devolved on the individuals mostly. Moreover, the permission to bear arms was part of a package of civil liberties by overlooking the possibility, that in future, these could become more deadly and destructive.

Therefore there is a dire need to bring about necessary amendments in the constitution to restrict buying of arms only by those who can keep them in safe custody. The laws pertaining to the licensing and purchase of weapons must be absolutely stringent and hard so that only the genuine people can have them. There is also an urgent need to maintain the names and particulars of the buyers with conditions that no one else not even  their family members could have access to these.

The neighborhood patrols by the vigilantes, watchdogs and police should be enhanced so that the people feel less threatened and have less desire or necessity to keep the guns in the house to meet any untoward eventuality. Rather facing themselves with a deadly weapons they should be able to call the police to deal with any dangerous situation.

The gun shows should be banned or curtailed. These should be held under strict watch of the law enforcement agencies and records should be meticulously maintained as to who is buying and what kind of weapons was being traded. The uninhibited trade of dangerous weapons at such shows should be completely abolished.

The underlying objective of a constitutional amendment with regard to the buying or possessing of arms should be to stop these from going into the wrong hands. It should be made mandatory for the guns to be used only by the license holder and no one else. Moreover, the number of weapons should be fixed according to the nature of one’s status.  For a private individual it could be single low caliber weapon and for official duties it could be more. The modelities of such restrictions or permissions can be worked out by the specialists and experts.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

President Morsi’s Fluctuating Fortune

December 8, 2012
By Saeed Qureshi

Egypt’s newly elected president and former chairman of the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) might have mistakenly taken it for granted that his decree to immunize his decisions from the legal oversight and interference may not evoke mammoth protests rallies, now rife in Egypt. The FJP is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood.

President Morsi took this decision under the apprehension that once again the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) of Egypt may dissolve the parliament before the ratification of the drafted constitution. It would be worth recalling that on 14 June 2012, the SCAF (the Supreme Council of Armed Forces) dissolved the parliament at the recommendation of the Supreme Constitutional Court of Egypt. The judges have been the appointees of Hosni Mubarak.

On 8 July 2012 President Morsi through a decree reinstated the dissolved constituent assembly till such time as the new constitution was passed by the parliament and ratified through a referendum. The Supreme Constitutional Court however, called that decree into question on 9 July 2012.

It was in this background that president Morsi revoked the SCC prerogative to challenge his decisions. President Morsi apprehended that before the assembly could pass the constitution it may be dissolved again by the SCC. For him to get out of this tricky imbroglio was to make himself immune from any legal action. Morsi claimed that the decree was issued to prevent the courts from dissolving the Constitutional Assembly.

He asserted that equipping himself with unlimited powers was to “protect” the nation, and to legislate without judicial oversight or review of his acts.  By a referendum he wants to push through Egypt's newly approved draft constitution that was fundamentally based on Islamic Sharia. Morsi’s political opponents have described his decree an unwarranted and unusual attack on the independence of the judiciary.

The massive protests are reminiscent of those that were staged against the former president Hosni Mubarak and that resulted in his ouster from the power. While the anti- Mubarak protests were also joined rather spearheaded by the Muslim Bortherhood cadres, the anti- Morsi agitation in Cairo’s Tehrir square are being participated by pro-democratic liberals, leftists, secularists, Christians, and Mubarak supporters.

Now it appears that the situation in Egypt is getting unwieldy for FJP. The huge protests of the Egyptian people are not exclusively against Morsi’s amassing absolute powers. The protesters apprehend that the new constitution passed by the constituent assembly will not be secular and liberal and instead pave way for the imposition of rigid Islamic Sharia law. That would be another kind of theocratic dictatorship although in sheer contrast to Hosni Mubarak’s secular dictatorship, supported by the armed forces.

There seems to be no let up in the fast escalating mammoth wave of protests not only in Cairo but in other Egyptian cities. The grave situation remains stalemated despite president Morsi’s offer to the opposition for a dialogue and promise to annul his decree after the passage of the constitution and holding of referendum. President Morsi seems to be caught unaware and under sheer self-assuring misunderstanding that he would sail through the rough water smoothly.

Now the tumultuous situation is extremely dicey. The opposition would not let him off the hook so easily. Either he will have to withdraw his decree or resign. If he withdraws his decree then the specter of dissolution of the assembly would remain dangling over his government’s head. The SCC may once again declare presidential decree as unconstitutional and reorder holding of fresh elections. The military not very friendly towards the FJP and Muslim Brotherhood government may put its weight behind the legal ruling.

Either way Morsi will have to give in. By withdrawing the decree he would be immensely weakened politically. If he holds on to his ground and pushes through for approval of the new constitution in the reinstated constituent assembly, the protest would get further fierce and bloody. That ugly situation may once again prompt the army to step in and roll up the democratic turf. In this speculated eventuality Egypt would be back to square one. The pro democracy protesters would again come to Tehrir square against the army rule.

The army may again announce for the new elections as the incumbent assembly would remain dissolved and a new one would have to be chosen. If the Muslim Brotherhood government is forced out of power, its rank and file would whip up more aggressive and violent agitations pushing Egypt towards a dreadful disorder and instability or a civil war. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Let Us Not Despair About Pakistan

December 3, 2012
By Saeed Qureshi

Pakistan has remained in the throe of a perennial multi-faceted crisis. But let us not despair about its destiny and a glorious future ahead. Pakistan a nascent state has remained caught in myriad problems ever since it came into being on August 14, 1947. These problems are both internal and external. A new nation under an inept and self-seeking leadership remained lost and distracted from its course of moving forward to progress, prosperity, and stability. Pakistan’s dilemma is that its leadership that created and struggled for Pakistan did not live long enough to set the parameters that could have transformed it into a vibrant and viable state.

In the modern times, Pakistan and India’s emergence as two independence states is a unique phenomenon that has few parallels in the history. Both the sub-continental states were the result of a sustained movement for independence kept in high gear by Muslim and Hindu leaders. For a variety of undeniable factors and divergent dynamics, these two communities could not opt to live together in one united state.

Immediately after partition of the British India; Pakistan was beset with refugees’ problem and the settlement of the incoming immigrants from the territories that became part of India. This country fell into the hands of the nasty bureaucrats who were averse to making a constitution and embarking Pakistan upon a democratic course. The intriguing politicians, whose predominant lot came from the feudal classes, hijacked the political power and until this day are overt or covert power brokers and wielders. With the feudal culture still rampant and dominant, the democracy seems to be tainted and hijacked.

The perennial Kashmir issue has given ascendancy to the armed forces as the savior of the nation although it was during the military rules that Pakistan suffered ruinous setbacks and detrimental downfalls. As is commonly known, the first military ruler Gen (how could he become Field Marshall) Ayub Khan deprived Pakistan of three rivers, lending a devastating blow to Pakistan’s agricultural based economy. Yahya Khan truncated Pakistan. Gen Ziaul buried a democratic government, hanged an elected prime minster, promoted religious extremism and sectarian animus, and turned Pakistan into a mercenary hatchet man of the foreign imperialism. 

Finally, Gen Musharraf played havoc with the constitution of Pakistan. He consolidated his power by manipulating with self-preserving amendments in the constitution and pushing Pakistan further into the lap of foreign hegemonic designs and reinforcing Pakistan’s mercenary role.

Now this is history. With the popular elections in February 2008, Pakistan has been set on a new democratic path after almost ten years of one-man rule, and 32 years of cumulative military domination of Pakistan. Despite the ferocious and unrelenting insurgency and frequent suicide bombing, Pakistan is doing well with the rest of the world and at home.

The religious based militancy that is apace for a decade or so would have challenged the authority of state at some juncture. The thorns of sectarian and ethnic bad blood that Gen Zia had sown have been growing into full-scale stature. It was foregone that eventually, the extremism within both Pakistan or of external import would descend upon Pakistan with full fury.
Pakistan could not have saved itself from the fanaticism of the religious militants after their victory in Afghanistan.

Logically they would have come home with more victories with a view to establishing an Islamic orthodox system (caliphate) of government in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. I doubt if Pakistan or Afghanistan governments or societies could hold their advance and check their unrelenting sway as was later witnessed in Swat and northern valleys.

It is here that the American and NATO forces’ presence in this region, to curb and weaken these merciless brigands, looks useful. Therefore, in a way the military might of NATO and of the United States to browbeat religious frenzy and militancy has been a kind of blessing in disguise for Pakistan.

Eventually the occupation forces will have to leave Afghanistan. So primarily, it would be both Pakistan and Afghanistan that would benefit from the weakening and bludgeoning of Taliban and Al-Qaida who could have turned this region into a hell engaging Pakistan army into a perpetual conflict. If there are people, who believe that Taliban would revive Islamic glory and pristine caliphate are morons and so to speak, living in fools’ paradise. If Taliban turn Pakistan into another Swat and Kabul, would we call it a genuine Islamic government?

Notwithstanding the personal objectionable character or the villainous volition of the individuals in power in Pakistan, the fact cannot be ignored that it is essentially an elected government. Still it is a democratic dispensation that is subject to some semblance of accountability and censure as exercised by media and judiciary. Gradually and imperceptibly the economy is showing resilience and revival, howsoever feeble and slow it may be.

Already the incumbent government would be completing almost five years its constitutional tenure by February 2013. Let it continue for a few more months and leave it to the the people to reelect them in the next elections or cast them away in favor of new praetorian.  The courts are relatively freer and so are the media and the civil society.

There is a barrage of problems for majority of Pakistan’s populace. The poverty, the insecure life, the shortage of water and power, the corruption, the unemployment, the red tape, the inadequacy of socio-civic services, the environmental degradation, and the appalling cost of living are some of the horrendous problems that afflict Pakistan. However, these problems were still there when a military junta was in power.

So by comparison a democratic government, howsoever, flawed is decidedly better than a stultifying military rule that gags freedom and rules by coercion. In the present set up, at least you can express and voice your grievances and problems. In an authoritarian system, one risks your honor, life and freedom by opposing or dissenting.

My vision is that Pakistan despite its countless problems including the oft-repeated skepticism about its viability and survival will stay its course and eventually move steadfastly on the way to becoming a modern state with all attending hallmarks. The women are more empowered now, the civil society is in the making, and democratic culture is taking roots.

There is some kind of accountability although the executive has not moved fast to address the law and order and similar grave issues. A stage would arrive when civil society would be vibrant enough to press for dire action against the defaulters, outlaws, delinquents, bribe-takers, thugs, public enemies and so.

Instead of condemning or berating the government for every major and minor fault, let us see it in a broader context. At least it is being run by the people’s elected representatives. Let us strive and wish that the incumbent government can move away from its mistakes and follies, corrects its rudder, and drives the country out of dire straits. The worst democracy is better than the best dictatorship, goes the adage.

The political parties can establish their credentials as the redeemers of the nation and builders of a new Pakistan that could be prosperous, safe, strong, and with efficient institutions. The leaders of the respective fleet of parties should present their manifestos, vision and programs for the service of the nation and grandeur of Pakistan and to transform it into a stable and viable state.

They can do for so till May next year when the elections are scheduled to be held. The statement of PMNL chief Mian Nawaz Sharif connotes positive and conciliatory undertones in that he offered to have a working relationship with president Zardari because of his being the constitutional head of the state.

The belligerency, brinkmanship and mere inane sloganeering is not going to drive away the maladies and misfortunes that overcast Pakistan. With a new democratic set up, the country would be moving forward since it would be for the first time for a smooth and democratic transfer of power to the elected representatives of the people of Pakistan.

The example of Egypt is instructive for Pakistani leadership. Egypt has been blessed with an elected popular government after several decades of autocratic rule. Incumbent ruling party the Muslim brotherhood was banned in Egypt for decades. Not it is the legitimate choice of the Egyptian people to rule. Against all propaganda that it would bring theocracy have proven to be wrong. It is now acceptable even to its bitter enemies namely USA and Israel as the true and popularly elected party of Egyptian people.

Its role in bringing the Israeli-Palestinians conflict to a peaceful end has won her laurels and appreciation of the international community. Democratic credentials are the best weapon for internal and external goodwill.  Democracy mirrors the collective will of the people and thus emerges as an acceptable vehicle of peace, conciliation. It brings about progress and uplift of a state through people’s chosen representatives.

We would counsel the hawks in Pakistan’s political arena to tone down their aggressive rhetoric and join the quest, mission and journey for a better and democratic Pakistan and take part in the next elections with all the enthusiasm and sincerity they can muster.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The British Society is Decaying

December 1, 2012
By Saeed Qureshi

I have made several visits to the Great Britain in the recent and distant past. I could not convince myself all these years that this country could have been the ruler of more than half of the world. But irrespective of my belief, she was the dominant power of the world for over a hundred years or so or roughly until the Second World War.

In 90s, it was polluted and dirty and during my visit in December 2011, I found it much more environmentally squalid and unkempt. The degradation of the environment in UK is escalating without any tangible remedies to contain it. The atmospheric hygiene is poor. The streets remain littered for days and weeks together without being cleaned. It is a common scene to see water drains outside the houses choked by stray papers, odd trash items, causally thrown away plastic bags, bottles and wrappers. It might become a third world country in due course.

If one compares the civic upkeep elsewhere in Europe like in Germany and Austria, one would come across a bewildering contrast. Germany has been rebuilt after the colossal devastation during the Second World War. The autobahns (highways) between the major cities are modern, wide, properly lined up with gas or fuel stations all along. The face lifting and landscaping is all over the country. The zoning laws are in place and strictly enforced.

But in England one fails to find that sparkling touch and luminous spectacle in cities and on roads and highways on a huge scale. One would find the familiar sight of cows grazing along the inter-cities highways on lush green grassy landscape far away. But within the cities the traffic looks to be stuffy and. The traffic lights too are not as modern and plenteous as for instance in the United States.

The streets lights look to be dim and sparsely installed on roads in the cities. The cab and private drivers take liberty with traffic laws by jumping the signals or fast driving or parking at forbidden or no parking places. This kind of law breaking is not common but happens sparingly and at odd times.

The British society is essentially conservative and therefore, any change or transformation in the construction of buildings, remodeling the public traffic system and buses is not willingly undertaken or conceived. The outskirts of the cities are full of old taverns and restaurants with their primitive designs dating back to several centuries.

The lamp posts on historical roads in downtown look like relics and were perhaps erected with the discovery of electricity.  Since the skies in the United Kingdom remain overcast for better part of the year, there is a pervasive dampness. One feels a kind of depression for not seeing the skies for days together.

One would aspire that the underground mass transit system of local railway is updated and modernized. Also one would wish that the double-decked bus transportation system too is done away with and the normal sized buses with modern frame and latest internal gadgets are introduced. 

The phenomenal difference in the overall picture of the United States and the United kingdom is that USA looks all new with big shopping plazas and  housing constellations fast coming up. In United States, the businesses, the shopping centers and factory areas are separate from the residential areas. Barring the apartment complexes, every built house or living unit is separate from other houses.  
It would be impossible under the American laws to open a gift shop or small retail outlet in the parlor or garage of the house. In England the houses share wall with each other as part of block. In England, Scotland and other parts, the living or guest rooms can be converted into a kind of kiosk for selling grocery times.

In Britain, the dirt and filth and smut accumulated in lanes around the roads and on the walls of the buildings must be washed and erased through a nationwide sweeping campaign. England has to overhaul its municipal system drastically and radically to put on the grab of a modern society. In the past such huge buildings with Gothic spires and domes were the symbols of the imperial glory of a colonial power.
The House of Commons and also the House of Lords accommodated within the vast edifice of Palace of Westminster have almost the same internal format as at the time of their inception.
The seating arrangement in perpendicular shape is unchanged for centuries. The prime minister has to bend forward to speak and in four years may develop leaning shoulders. The seats are smaller and joined together in rows. The parliament buildings in other countries look like magnificent structures and striking architectural monuments. But British parliament has the same primitive space and set-up.

One would wonder if any British government ever would think of constructing a new building for the parliamentarians of both the houses with modern fittings, new seating arrangements, new tables, decorations, wall hangings, microphones and with more space. Yet despite being housed in a traditional old building, it still is one of the most powerful parliaments and pioneering symbol of democracy.

In Glasgow the main city of Scotland, the railway stations seems to be following the same system of collecting tickets from the disembarked passengers by the collector standing at the tip the platform. In this city I saw the building made of stone bearing the marks of soot, smoke and blackness caused perhaps by the bombing during the Second World War.

In the houses of several of my acquaintances both native British and immigrant Pakistanis, the bath tubs and water supply system with minor modifications is the same as was prevalent several decades ago. The residents in some houses collect the water from the tap in the basin. Unbelievably they use the same water for washing face and gurgling and shaving. I wonder if someone can bear me out on this phenomenon. At about 11 o’clock in the evening, a manual bell is rung in the pubs for the customers to leave by which one is reminded that this should have been the custom in olden days. This is yet another manifestation of British penchant for conservatism.

Of late, the crime is on the rise. Even such worthies as late jimmy Savile a former BBC television host had indulged for decades in molestation of teen age participants in his TV programs as well as his staffers The street crime is mostly motivated by the racial hatred for the immigrants, for sex or to rob for money. The sex crimes too are proliferating in which both immigrant communities and local citizens are involved. The fabled investigation agency Scotland Yard is shorn of their luster and renown of the past. Many high profile crimes are still shrouded in mystery and unresolved.

The nationals of the British Commonwealth countries had enjoyed special privileges and preferential treatment with regard to visit or immigration visas after the World War II. This practice continued for several decades till the streets of cities in UK were conspicuous with sizable presence of the foreigners.

The plight of most of the immigrants or expatriates is miserable. Big families live in small units with limited space. In some houses or the apartments, I have seen the bath tub fixed in the kitchen. The toilet is in the courtyard and one has to walk many steps to reach that isolated place.

The influx of foreign students has been quite heavy during the past two decades. It was pretty easy for the students to get an admission letter from genuine or private and mostly fake educational institutions in UK. The embassy or the high commission would readily grant visa. These young persons would pay heavy amounts to the schools and colleges run by crafty professional businessmen. The basic purpose of most of these students was however, to get a legal stay in UK for a good future. They would be associated with these schools but would in due course find job and marry with a local girl for permanent legal status.

Now these students are in big trouble. They are being deported or sent back home in droves without even fulfilling the legal formalities. Such is the decay and devaluation of the acclaimed justice system in England. There seems to be a drastic halt in granting student visas to educational applicants from Pakistan and other south “Asian countries whose citizens invariably aspire to move to the green pasture like Great Britain. Instead of punishing the crook bosses of these phony schools, the onus has fallen on the hoodwinked young aspirants who came to UK legally for education with underlying motive of a legal stay.

There are localities and neighborhoods in various cities of UK where there is exclusive and complete hold of the immigrants such as South Hall in London. No one would believe on the first glimpse that these are the parts of a western country. The sanitary conditions in such neighborhoods are appalling. With heaps of garbage accumulated all over, with noise and din, with strung dresses and utensils, and cooked food displayed openly with smell all round can remind visitors the similar conditions back home.

Even in politics the immigrants are now demographically in such numbers that they can elect their own member to the House of Commons. In local elections the naturalized citizens have been elected. That shows the grass-root and a genuine democratic culture embedded in the English society. The ceremonies of a new prime minister taking over and the former leaving the 10 Downing Street is very simple and is total contrast to the extravagant ceremonies witnessed in the third world countries.