Friday, June 28, 2013

The Curse of Debt Collection Agencies

By Saeed Qureshi

In the United State, the networks of debt collection agencies operate like an oppressive mafia or ruthless cult that robs citizens of their peace of mind. Most of these operate as agents of creditors and charge a fee for collecting debts. These agencies buy the defaulted amount from the banks and other institutions on much cheaper price and make huge profits by retrieving these from the defaulters.

They employ various tactics to identify their victims and somehow reach the debtors or the defaulter even if his or her whereabouts would not be known. Without any compunction, they employ all the bullying and intimidating tactics to extract the defaulted money. 

Through regular telephones and unremitting flow of letters, they keep on harassing their targets to such an extent that finally they are forced to borrow money to get rid of the perpetual torment inflicted by the rogue operatives of these agencies.

Perhaps their mechanism of discovering the names and telephone numbers of their targets is by first compiling a list of all the names starting with the first common syllable. They then call everyone one by one. They ask queer or intriguing question finally figuring out that the addressed person was the right one or someone else.

These agencies even find out the latest addresses and one may find a stinker all of sudden in the mail box. The language used in the letter is usually very menacing. The ordinary folks usually submit to their bludgeoning jargon and tough tactics and agree to pay the debt by installments.

By law there is a limit for every defaulted account to be cleared after mandatory period of seven years. So thereafter he can reopen his credit accounts with a clean slate. Such a person should be confident that onward he or she would not only be immune from repaying the debt but was now once again in a position to use the credit line.Although the hapless defaulter may have already paid the price by virtue of waiting for seven long years and stand cleared legally, yet the collection agencies keep pestering him or her for payment.

Instead of waiting for seven years, if the defaulter has paid the money in affordable installments to one agency he is still pressed by so many other collection agencies for clearance of the debts. He remains caught up in the vicious spiral of witch-hunting from the collection agencies who would be least concerned about clearance of the defaulter after completion of the mandatory waiting period. His peace of mind remains on the tenterhooks and he continues to face bullying calls and threatening letters from the collection agencies whose indecency and vulgarity is always boundless.

Instead of using the collection agencies for recovery of the unpaid money a complainant should take the defaulted person to the court and it should be at such legal venue that the matter should be decided. In case the decision goes against the defaulter, the court can fix a reasonable and affordable amount for the person concerned to pay and when the total amount is paid off, his or her name should be cleared and he should be able to restart his business or maintaining the credit accounts with an unblemished record.

A credit collection agency should not have unbounded audacity and free license to encroach upon the liberties and integrity of the citizens of this country. This system of bullying the defaulters is prevalent only in the United States. It has assumed most diabolic dimensions as countless individuals and families remain hard-pressed and know not how to escape from the constant chasing and hounding of these notorious outfits.

The officialdom in this country must be well aware of the horrific coercion that these collection agencies use to cow down the defaulters. These ruthless networks are allowed to work brazenly, although they should not have any legal standing or legitimacy for making the lives of the people hell and nightmarish.

It is imperative that here in the United States, the administration should enact laws to save the citizens from the merciless onslaughts of these so called debt collection agencies owned or manned by roughest, heartless and the most uncouth individuals.

As already pointed out if at all a bank or organization would want to collect their debt, they should initiate the legal cases against the defaulters themselves. If the person concerned proves his genuine ineligibility to pay the debt or pay in affordable installments, he should be allowed to do so and resume his business or job with a clear record.

Like HUD houses system the government can also pay for the outstanding debt of a defaulter but should keep him or her in the loop so that after getting a job or restarting his business he can honorably and conveniently pay off their debts.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Hidden Treasures of Taxila

June 22, 2013

By Saeed Qureshi

I belong to Taxila, one of the cities in Pakistan with immense historical significance. During my childhood period till the age of adolescence, I had been roaming in the scenic outskirts, vales, dales and the ruins of Taxila that spread over a vast area along the mountains. The valley of Khanpur situated between the two high walls of mountains is breathtakingly enchanting with a river flowing called Haro.

Taxila is famous for the Gandhara Art that dates back to the period between first millennium BC and 11th century AD.  Those were the peak times for the Hindu, Buddhist and Greek civilizations. During the rule of King Asoka who was the grandson of Hindu king Chandragupta Maurya and converted to Buddhism, Taxila became a great Buddhist center of learning.

The Eastern side of Taxila is a plateau situated in the foothill of the Himalayan Mountains. The Western part of the lofty Himalayan ranges start from the captivating valleys of Taxila and Khanpur. It was here that Aryans, white Huns, Greek and waves of other invaders and conquerors arrived from the North to the subcontinent. They stopped here to settle as the mountains would block them to move further.

Besides the main river Haro there is another small rivulet known as Dhamrah. It winds around the mountains’ ridges.  Most of the ancient settlements, monasteries and military barracks were built around the curved slops of mountains or just adjacent to the lap of these beautiful ranges.

 It was in these valleys partly excavated and partly covered that I along with my friends would walk mostly after school hours. To look yonder at the vastness of the place as far as the Silhouetted Mountains, we would be nourished and filled with a new vibrancy and inner serenity. This place was hardly a mile away from my residence and therefore was easy to visit whenever we would find time.

After crossing over the railway line laid out by the British in between the Taxila city and the Museum and its surroundings, we would witness the first dazzling spectacle. It was the majestic building of the museum built on a higher ground and surrounded by a variety of flower plants, fragrant bushes, tall mulberry, and pine and walnut trees. It is fenced. The surroundings of the museum looks like an emerald for its lush green, well maintained grassy plots and flower beds.

The British viceroy Lord Curzon appointed the famous British archaeologist Sir Johan Marshall as the Director-General of Archaeology in 1902. In 1913 John Marshall started the excavations at Taxila. It lasted for twenty years. He laid the foundation stone for the Taxila museum in 1918.The museum was however inaugurated in 1930.

The museum hosts a few thousands artifacts from statues to gold ornaments and antiques taken out from various sites. The museum is built within a vast area better to be portrayed like a big garden meticulously maintained with fruit and ornamental bushes, trees and flowers beds all around.

There are about a dozen ancient cities and settlements spread over an areas of thirty to fifty sq. miles built with meticulous planning However, only six sites have been excavated and that was mostly done by Sir John Marshall. The antiques and artifacts were also preserved and catalogued by him. Thereafter no meaningful effort has ever been made to explore as to what more lies in Taxila. However in 1998 another wing named the “Northern Gallery” was added to the museum by Pakistan government.

 These sites are spread over a vast area that circulate and wind up around the hills and turning sharply towards the east at Sirkap. Then along the mountains it further extends up to the small valleys in the mountains that stretch on the right side of the river Haro and the road that runs in between the river and the mountains.

The walls of the compounds, buildings and stupas are minutely engraved, carved, and studded with various images and postures of Lord Buddha or Hindu deities. It is ever a breath-taking spectacle to see the old houses, wells, baths, stupas, sidewalks and main paths made of symmetrical sized stones and the walls in perfect harmony and neatly and smoothly laid-out. 

One wonders that in those primitive times, there were great builders, artisans, masons, iron-smiths, the designers and the mural makers. During our time the engraved statues of various sizes were still intact on the wall.

  Taxila used to be an outstanding Buddhists University whose ruins and old structures have been unearthed and offer great attraction for tourists all over the world. Barring roofs, their walls and rooms appear to be intact and holding on. There are niches for the statues to be placed.  

The Taxila museum displays a huge collection of artifacts ranging from earthen pottery, statues, idols beads, rosaries, coins, make-up things, utensils to jewelry and weapons and so on. All these invaluable objects encompass various periods and civilizations from 600 BC to 500 AD.

In fact all the sites, old temples on the mountains, the Buddhist University, the magnificent stupas are located on the periphery of the mountains. Within these mountains, there are also paths and passages linking them. For instance the Dharamrajika Stupa which is situated on the right of the same mountain near the village of Shahpur is connected with the Sirkap ruins from a narrow passage through a gorge.  From the main road it comes like a curve and should be not less than 15 miles.

In the far away valley of Khanpur, there is a large meticulously laid-out city of Sirkap with wide lanes and passages. This city was built by the Greco-Bactrian king Demetrius after he invaded India around 180 BC. 

Adjacent to that there are several layers of high walls and huge barracks perhaps made for the armies in successive periods. Here, while walking we would find old coins, toys, weapons, statues, household articles, and even gold jewelry. A few miles further in the mountain lap is located the world famous Buddhist university at the Julian site.

Now let me come to my actual purpose of writing this article. While walking and looking down on the ground, we would find old coins, neatly rounded stones for grinding purpose and similar relics. I had collected a good number of old coins some bearing the images of the old kings, deities and also the later times Greek administrators.

In my assessment Taxila is unearthed only by a small part and most of its old ruins are still buried underneath the debris and soil. It is my firm understanding after having seen and traveled these places for countess times that there are still hidden archaeological sites full of past relics ranging from gold and silver jewelry to precious statues, weapons and household objects But if discovered another huge museum building would be needed for their preservation.

As already narrated, I have seen many pavements, earthen pots, ovens and chiseled stones etc. half exposed and half buried in the ground. While walking on the plowed land one may, all of sudden, see a coin or piece of an ornament or earthen pottery, a precious tone, a bead, a pitcher or a barrel.

At Sirkap there is a huge mass of earth with long walls of hostels or military barracks of the Greek army extends up to the small river Dharma. Only a portion of it has been excavated. Here I found several coins that were later put up in an exhibition at my school and these were never returned to me. 

I am sure that a huge trough of treasures and antiques are buried in this huge landmass that if recovered, can shed light over the lifestyle and culture prevailing in those times.

The land between the museum and Dharma River that flows along the mountains ridges and Taxila Museum is yet to be excavated. It was here that we have been also collecting old coins, toys, beads and small artifacts that would surface after the plowing of the land by the peasants who sparsely live here. 

The flat ground that exists between the museum and the two adjacent disappearing Bhir Mound ruins can be excavated for marvelous discoveries of the antiquities.

Similarly there are caves in the mountains that are unexplored in order to find out what was hidden inside. There are sites near the city of Usman Khattar that show signs of underneath settlements of the past. The stupa of Balartope is a marvel of the ancient times and with its fine roundness and smooth construction takes us back into the past. 

That round pillar is erected on the western end of the “Sarhra mountain” .This is the same mountain, along which flows river Haro. The entire zone stretching for several miles is full of orange gardens.

Ever since the evocation in Taxila early 20th century and creation of the Museum the relic robbers and vandals have made several attempts to steal the artifacts particularly original Gandhara art statues from the museum. And they have succeeded in many instances. They sell these in the international markets on huge prices.

While the museum is well guarded, the ruin sites and temple especially the Buddhist University is unprotected .The guard stay for day time. They can also be prevailed upon by money or force to cooperate with the antique robbers and that has been happening uninhibited.

From time to time, they are caught and even some of the precious treasures are recovered by them. But they do not relent in their profitable business. It is said that as a result of collusion between the staff and the antique dealers, quite a few things in the museum have been replaced with fake artifacts. This is an alarming situation and needs to be checked once and for all.

The local residents living in nearby villages sell both fake and real statues and other artifacts to the tourists. They roam about the archaeological sites and show both the original and replicas to the visitors and charge money accordingly.

As for further excavation and extension of museum, while it would not be financially possible for Pakistan to spend a sizable amount of money on these projects, the UNESCO may move forward to allocate funds for such interesting missions that can connect the antiquity with the present and find out how our ancestors differed from us.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Turkey’s Turmoil

June 16, 2013
By Saeed Qureshi

Turkey in seized by unrelenting countrywide protests and rallies against the government of incumbent Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. These unprecedented sit-ins, rallies and demonstrations were set off on May 28, against the government’s plan to demolish the historic Gezi Park in the Taksim Square for creating more shopping venues, besides rebuilding the Ottoman era Taksim military barracks. 

These mammoth protest meetings and rallies were initiated by a group of 50 environmentalists against this decision which swelled in due course after the riot police went on the rampage and brutal punitive measures to dislodge and evict the protesters from the camping sites. The protests in Turkey can be exemplified like a spark that ignites the prairie fire.

The paramount question is that what went wrong, all of a sudden, in Turkey that a segment of population has turned against a thus far very popular prime minister whose momentous services to rebuild a modern state have been overlooked? 

If Kamal Ataturk was the father and founder of a modern Turkey, Erdoğan can be termed as the architect of a new Turkey, that merely in a matter of a decade, has shaped up as an advanced country by way of spectacular social uplift and economic miracle.

In various opinion columns and news analyses there is a general consensus that the demolition of the park and the government’s brutal reprisal have given a feel to the people that the Erdoğan government was turning oppressive. That it was out to curb or curtail the right of freedom of assembly, freedom of expression besides, encroaching upon secularism.

The incumbent Prime Minister Erdoğan has been laudably looked upon as the builder of a modern turkey as well as being a revivalist of the Islamist ideology. He has tried to blend the secularism of Kamal Ataturk with the traditions of Islam. Thus he wanted to please the Islamists and the secularists simultaneously. 

However, the Islamist have gained the impression that he was pushing Turkey too much towards secularism. On the contrary the secular and libertarians feel that he was trying to promote neo-Ottomansim or a kind caliphate.

During his ten years in office, there is a long litany of sparkling accomplishments to his credit. He revived and strengthened Turkey’s ailing economy. He crafted a model of government that is worth emulation for other Muslim states. In his tenure in office, there has been a vertical boost of Turkey in socio-economic fields. He has tried to maintain a respectable relationship with Europe and the United State.

Making peace with Kurds and perennially hostile Armenians are the landmark achievements that have normalized relations with these die-hard belligerents after decades of mutual hostilities and bloodshed.
Prime Minister Erdogan’s government has built up strong economic and political relations with Arab countries. 

One such example is the signing of 48 trade agreements alone with Iraq in sectors ranging from defense to education. Evidently “Under his premiership, the country continued to grow economically and consolidate its position as a regional power with global ambitions”.

The flurry of far-reaching reforms that Erdoğan launched in an economically impoverished and socially backward Turkey has been dazzling. The awesome and amazing economic upturn can be gauged from the fact that in 2002, the Turkish Central Bank had $26.5 billion in reserves. 

This amount soared to $92.2 billion in 2011. Erdoğan inherited a debt of $23.5 billion to the IMF, which will be completely paid off in 2013.

The statistics given in various search sites such as Wikipedia tell us about the economic stability and modicum of prosperity that have set in Turkey during Erdogan’s decade in power.  The inflation dropped from 34.9% to 5.7%: the lowest in 39 years. 

The public debt in relation to GDP dropped from 74% in 2002 to 39% in 2009. By 2012 Turkey had a lower ratio of public debt to GDP than 21 of 27 members of the European Union and a lower budget deficit to GDP ratio than 23 of them.

He increased the number of universities from 96 in 2002 to 186 by October 2012.The budget on education was enhanced from 7.5 billion lira in 2002 to 34 billion lira in 2011, which is more than the Turkey’s defense budget. 

The number of airports was increased from 26 to 50. In 2002 there existed in Turkey only 6000 km long  dual carriageway  which has presently gone up to 19500 km. In 8 years, 1076 km of high speed railway was built and 5449 km of railway was renewed.

As the Mayor of Istanbul (1994-2002) Erdoğan effectively tackled such chronic civic problems as the water, shortage,pollution, and traffic chaos. “The water shortage problem was solved with the laying of hundreds of kilometers of new pipelines. 

The garbage problem was overcome with the establishment of state-of-the-art recycling facilities; air pollution was reduced through a plan by switching to the  natural gas. He changed the public buses with environmentally friendly buses. The city's traffic and transportation jams were ameliorated by creating more than fifty bridges, viaducts, and highways”.

He subdued the military power that was always intrusive in the political affairs of Turkey. At one point of time in Turkey’s checkered history an enlightened Prime Minister Adnan Menderes was hanged by the then military junta. He was a great deal similar to Erdoğan. In the modern times the people had a deep urge to get rid of the general’s influence and that feat was meritorious accomplished by Tayyab Erdoğan.

Israel could have never forgotten the stout and unflinching response from Erdoğan to the "Gaza Freedom Flotilla” incident of May 31, 2010 when six ships carrying humanitarian aid and construction materials to the beleaguered inhabitants of Gaza were attacked by Israel army, killing 8 Turkish citizens and one American Turkish American.

For the first time, it was a demonstration of exceptional courage by Erdoğan that not only exposed Israel’s brutality but mounted a defiance to break the stifling blockade imposed by Israel on Gaza. 

Prime Minister Erdoğan called it “Israeli state terrorism”. Not forgetting that under Erdoğan Israel would always be on the receiving end, Israeli government might have clandestinely added fuel to the fire.

Yet despite all these historic achievements he stands at the crossroad of history where Turkish people seem to be disgruntled with him for his perceived authoritarianism. The sit in at Taksim Square has given them an excuse to profess their disaffection for their once popular prime minister. Losing such a lofty leader would be an irreparable loss for Turkey its people and the Islamic world as well

But somehow the celebrated and popular rulers at some stage start taking the things for granted. The arrogance of power captivates their minds and they start believing that their position was unassailable. Of late this kind of syndrome was witnessed in Erdoğan who self-assuredly believed that whatever he does would be welcomed and accepted by the people of Turkey.

Understandably the people hold divergent views and different perceptions. At a certain point people get restive or saturated even with the best of leaders if they try to overstep the mandate given to them by the people. But perhaps like most of the successful and failed leaders, Erdoğan too has a self-satisfying perception of being invincibly popular. 

Erdogan’s first reaction to the protesters’ sit-in at Taksim Square has been indifferent, bitter and deriding. His plan to remodel Taksim Square apparently looked like rezoning a congested place. He might have not had the slightest idea that the erasing Gezi Park and building a huge building here would assume volcanic eruptions against his government.

Perhaps he also forgot in a trance of immense confidence that the forces inimical to Turkey’s emerging as a gubernatorial economic and military power could conspire to dislodge him. The Taksim Square provided them a rare opportunity to whip a turmoil that he did not face thus far.

He should  also have  known that the army that has been ruling the roost for seven decades would retaliate on an opportune time and could foment a popular upsurge against him. After all despite being sidetracked, the army’s former and serving cadres have influence in various elitist and aristocratic circles that cannot be quashed.

Also in a bid to build a bridge between the conflicting ideologies of Islamism and secularism, he has annoyed both the sides. The transition of Islamic societies from a radical Islam to an enlightened one by blending best of both Islam and secularism has always remained elusive. Hence the doctrinal and sectarian feuding in most of the Islamic countries!

Turkey has been in perpetual conflict with Arabs led by Saudi Arabia that have been historically averse to a non-Arab Ottoman rulers to don the mantle of Khilafat, which Turkey did for four centuries( 1517-1909). As a spillover from the past, Turkey’s image as a model Islamic country and in a way assuming the leadership of the Islamic world could be irksome to the Arabs. 

Saudi Arabia for one would not like a non-Arab Erdoğan spreading its tentacles and influence in Arab lands. Saudi Arabia would rather swing in favor of Israel against Turkey if such a choice is placed before the Royal Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

History is a witness that Turkish defeat in the WWII was due also to Amir of Mecca Sharif Hussein decision to support the British in the WWII against Turkey. That opposition to Turkey by Saudi Arabia proved to be a roller coaster not only for Turkey but for also for other Islamic countries that went into the colonial lap one after another.

The youth all over the globe are becoming one strong fraternity in spearheading such sublime goals as civil liberties, humanitarian causes, freedom of expression and assembly. They are becoming the vanguards for human emancipation from the oppressive regimes, stifling ideologies, brutal authoritarianism, enslavement of societies and family dynasties. 

The social media, Internet and communication channels like twitter are the weapons that come handy for advancement of these noble objectives. It surmises that the path to a promised “Kingdom of God” on earth would be paved by the world youth and media.

Of late, Erdoğan has toned down his inflexible and derisive rhetoric for the protesters whose number is bulging by the day and the entire country is coming under the sway of protest rallies and demonstrations. 

His offer to hold referendum is a saner approach to elicit the people’s opinion either for or against remodeling the Taksim Square. Hopefully the Erdoğan government rides out of this fierce storm that if prolonged could erode his influence as a redeemer and architect of a new glorious Turkey. 

Sunday, June 9, 2013

What can Happen to Pervez Musharraf!

By Saeed Qureshi

 Musharraf will go to jail, sent to gallows or exiled? It is indeed a million dollar question. There can be varied and multifarious answers and speculations as to the fate of former president of Pakistan General Pervez Musharraf. 

One thing might be very clear that Nawaz Sharif would prefer to refrain from using his personal intervention or the clout of his government for his arch rival to receive a hair-raising nemesis. He would rather not want Musharraf at all to be severely punished. Mian Sahib may not like to be remembered in history as the executioner of Pervez Musharraf.

Mian Nawaz Sharif’s preference would be to let the courts punish Musharraf if convicted.   He may also agree to the exile of the former military head of Pakistan who was catapulted into the orbit of power more due to the fallacious and faulty scheming of Mian Nawaz Sharif to sack Musharraf than any studied or premeditated role from Musharraf. But despite his being unconcerned Mian Sahib is well aware that the judicial cases would not let Musharraf go off the hook.

Former chief executive and the president of Pakistan and now a captive Musharraf is faced with a host of serious charges. These are inter-alia, the detention of dozens of members of superior judiciary and imposition of emergency rule in 2007. For imposition of emergency rule and suspension of the constitution, he faces treason charge under clause 6 of the constitution.

A case is also pending against him for conspiracy to kill former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto as well as the Baluch leader Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti. Besides he is accused of permitting the siege of Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) and the religious school in Islamabad resulting in scores of deaths.

Mian Nawaz Sharif now the prime minister of Pakistan would come under strong solicitation and burgeoning pressure from the Pakistan-friendly stakeholders to let Musharraf slip out of Pakistan under the pledge of never returning to Pakistan. Amazingly this is what was done by Musharraf in his hay days to Nawaz Sharif. These stakeholders mainly are Saudi Arabia, and the United States. Musharraf has been a handyman of United States till his ouster from power. It would not be possible for the United States to ditch or abandon him in a very difficult situation.

Pakistan’s army might be endeavoring behind the curtains to plead and obtain a lenient treatment for Musharraf from the present government whose leader was deprived of the power and even could have met a fate similar to Bhutto. There were several Arab countries and United States that rescued Mian Sahib from a situation that could become horrifying in due course.

But let us also admit that Pervez Musharraf, nevertheless, showed large-heartedness and a spirit of magnanimity to let the Sharif family go in exile. That self-chosen fate by Nawaz Sharif and his family was accepted by Musharraf who thought it was a good riddance. He was not as vindictive and ferocious as General Ziaul Haq had proven to be against Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

We shall not entangle ourselves in the unnecessary debate that why Musharraf committed an historic blunder by returning to Pakistan. It was like a lamb entering the lions’ den. How could he obviate the stark reality that he had several enemies and perils in Pakistan and that his chances for political campaigning, what to speak of winning some seats or scoring a victory, were as remote as the farthest galaxy in the space?

The incumbent COAS, General Kiani in his meeting with Mian Nawaz Sharif, prior to the oath taking ceremony might have broached the possibility of exile for the besieged Musharraf. But apparently even if Mian Sahib would accept such a plea, Musharraf faces two other formidable odds that could hamper his safe passage out of Pakistan. 

One could be the legal proceedings that would forestall any pressure from the government to rule in favor of Musharraf for going in exile. It would be rather a miracle if a chief justice like Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry would give any legal reprieve to Musharraf who in the eyes of law is guilty and criminal unless proven otherwise.

There could be another possibility. Once the incumbent chief justice proceeds on retirement sometime towards the end of the current year, his successor may have lenient view of Musharraf’s cases and accept an appeal or suggestion by the government to let him leave Pakistan. But this is ridiculous, far-fetched and looks as if we are talking like children.

But if Musharraf gets jail sentence, his future would be sealed for ever because such a term would not be confined to a few months or years. It could be a life term. Now the suspension of constitution is punishable as a treasonable act and its punishment could be either life term or gallows. But if former presidents’ legal team some-how manages to establish that it was not a sedition, he could be saved from a horrific penalty.

Now let us suppose that Musharraf comes clean on all issues. He did not per-se commit treason under clause 6. He did not usurp power by scuttling a democratic process and removing a legitimate government. He was neither an accomplice in Benazir’s murder nor did he order to kill Bugti. Then what?

Thereafter he stands three massive and over-bulging threats. One is from the Bugti clan of Baluchistan who are on the hunt for Musharraf’s extermination and for that they have offered a bounty reward as well. So Baluchistan is out for Musharraf. He cannot roam about freely like other bureaucrats and politicians and military top-notches in Islamabad. The overriding reason is that he could be targeted by the cadres of Islamabad Lal Masjid and its affiliated religious institution.'

Musharraf is blamed for the death of   a few score students and inmates killed during an army assault on Islamabad’s Lal Mosque and the adjacent religious seminary Jamia Hafsa Madrassa.
But the most serious and egregious threat to his life would be from Taliban who would try to hunt him down and thus take revenge for his permission of drone attacks in tribal belt entailing liquidation of a large number of al-Qaida and Taliban militants.

As such Musharraf is simultaneously one of the luckiest and the unluckiest persons not only in Pakistan but elsewhere in the world. He got the power like a windfall and as a result of most unpredictable chain of favorable developments. But in equal measure he lost that galore, glamour and rather unassailable power and prestige through another quirk of fast gathering adverse circumstances. 

What a rise and what a fall! His steep fall from power in August 2008 is more stunning and bewildering than his meteoric rise to become the most powerful person in Pakistan way back in the autumn of 1999.

If Musharraf is punished in any form it would be for the first time in Pakistan that an army general, who though by default, usurped power, would pay for his chauvinism. Would such an eventuality deter army from grabbing power in future? It is again a million dollars question.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Pakistan Wears a promising Look

June 5, 2013
By Saeed Qureshi
Finally the fairy of democracy has descended on the blessed soil of Pakistan “fluttering its luminous wings”, exuberant charm and splendor. It is indeed an unforgettable moment in the checkered history of Pakistan that remained bedeviled by one crisis after another. This marvelous country has been under military sway for more than half of its total life of 66 years.

This great country in the modern era is back on tracks. For the first time perhaps national and provincial assemblies have been chosen in a veritable democratic manner. The return of Mian Nawaz Sharif back to Prime Minister House after a grueling interregnum of 14 years has seasoned this leader beyond any shadow of doubt. He talks with lot of sense, acumen and sobriety that he marginally lacked in his previous tenures and that were cut short by the respective presidents.

His unceremonious departure from the power in October 1999 was yet another blow to the fledgling democracy at that time. That unfortunate episode happened because of the aggressive posture of Mian Nawaz Sharif and his propensity to browbeat the non-challant and strong headed chiefs of Pakistan army.

That was perhaps the final sordid chapter written by the hands of destiny throwing an elected prime minister out and ushering a military chief of army staff (COAS) in power. The COAS Pervez Musharraf might have never imagined that he would be ruling Pakistan as one of the most powerful despot for almost 9 years.

That situation has now reversed and one is flabbergasted to see that powerful military potentate is now in extreme misery and his rival Mian Nawaz Sharif is basking in the glory of a well deserved electoral victory based upon democratic tradition.By the time this column reaches my readers, Mian Nawaz Sharif would have taken oath as the prime minister of Pakistan. 

With that momentous ceremony, Pakistan would begin marching on the most coveted tracks of democracy. Hopefully there would not be any possibility in future for any military chauvinist to ambush the historic mandate of the people of Pakistan or subvert the democratic process.

Mian Nawaz Sharif and his associates are very well aware of the sufferings and miseries of the people of Pakistan. It is hoped that the new regime would stand by its promises and pledges to rebuild Pakistan as a modern state. 

Pakistan is caught in the cobwebs of diverse and intractable problems ranging from provision of clean water to cubing the unrelenting culture of violence and complete breakdown of law and order.

In between there is a sea of grave problems that the new federal and provincial governments will  have to address and address effectively .The curse of corruption that makes the elite and rich classes further rich and the people further impoverished and demeaning has to be uprooted once and for all.

The tradition of inviting the minority party in Baluchistan to form the government is a monumental and giant step that would lead to a modicum of harmony and amity between the provinces especially earning the goodwill of the Baloch people for Punjab. 

There is a stream of laudatory statements emerging from Baluchistan for this demonstration of statesmanship by Mian Nawaz Sharif.  The bolstering the patriotic political forces in that troubled province would marginalize the separatist movements.

But what one would expect and suggest is that the army and para military forces should be withdrawn from Baluchistan and let the elected leadership work towards the uplift, unity, peace and solidarity of that crucial province. If more devolution of powers to Baluchistan and other provinces is needed for national unity and appeasement, let it be done without delay.

The leadership both in power and out of power should put their heads together and in spirit of camaraderie take stock of the problems that have kept Pakistan poor, backward and unstable. The charter of reforms to be unfurled by the PMLN government must be implemented like an article of faith. 

The religious animosity and fanaticism, the menace of sectarianism has to be dealt with iron hands and there should be no reprieve and sympathy with any group.

The economic revolution and for flowering of civil liberties with delegation of independence to the institutions for creation of the civil society is indispensable for a Pakistan that possesses the enormous potential to become the envy of the world. 

The virtues of democracy must not be sacrificed or compromised for short term gains and for the sake of staying in power. Any temptation in this regard must be resisted by the elected representatives and the newly installed governments at the federal and provincial levels.

It is time to take all the political and social forces together whether in power or in opposition to redesign and remodel a Pakistan that we all wish and pray for. The good and hilarious news is that the Karachi stock market has soared to 22274 points for the first time in the history of Pakistan. 

Doesn't that augurs well for a glorious Pakistan and this has come about although the government has yet to be sworn in.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Creation of Heavens and the Earth in Six Days

June 1, 2013
By Saeed Qureshi

The book of Genesis in Old Testament or Hebrew scripture Bible has narrated the six days creation saga of the world (not universe). The unknown writer narrates step by step the actions of God in creating heavens and earth, followed by light, day and night, then water, then grass and herbs, then living creatures in the water and dry land and air, and finally man in his own image.

The writer as witness is watching this unfolding process of creation by remaining with God for six days. After creating man God rests on the seventh day. The creation of man is described in Bible in the following words,” And the lord God formed man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being”. 

Amazingly God does not create a female separately but converts one of the ribs of Adam into woman. The story of serpent misguiding Eve is ridiculous and interesting as well.

A serpent is living in Garden of Eden (supposed to be Yemen) and he is able to mislead and prevail upon Eve to eat the forbidden fruit. Till that time an all knowing God was unaware as to what was going on in the paradise. He asks Adam how he knew that he was naked and Adam tells God the whole story. God is annoyed over the fact that Adam had become knowledgeable. 

As a punishment both Adam and Eve are plunged into a life of toil and hard work to survive. They produce two sons: Cain and Abel. Cain kills Abel. The apprehension of angels that man would be troublesome proves to be true.

Islam's story is different. As a punishment for disobeying God’s commandment not to eat the forbidden fruit, God sends them to earth to become a perpetual target of Satan whose job is to derail him from the divine path. The conversation between God, the arch angel Satan and angels is given in the holy Quran. 

God punishes Adam for a minor mistake but gives limitless powers and freedom to Satan to prey upon the humans. Can God be that much unjust or making such visibly faulty decisions?

Don’t these two versions look contradictory and at the same time a fairy tale? Contradictory in the sense that instead empowering Adam, he bestows his bounties on Satan to be his competitor in disobedience. 

After reading these stories the profile of God that comes before us is a simple and ignorant creator who willingly creates a rival and unleashes him upon his choice creation.

Now in Islam there is an undeniable logical rationale for creation of the cosmos, one may interpret as world or the universe. The God almighty uttered the world Kun (Be) and it became or came into being (Fayakun). 

That command or God’s creative powers do not beg any supplementary question or query because God as the supreme creator of the universe is capable of creating anything on the spur of fraction of a second and even in lesser time. The theory of Big Bang comes closer to this postulation.

What look suspicious or rather frivolous is that an all powerful God remained busy for six days to create the world. Incidentally when God started the process of creation there were no days or nights. The days and nights were created on the third day and therefore the first three days were practically nonexistent. 

The creation process is spawned over a week or so and at the end God takes a rest as if he is tired and wanted a respite. The writer forgot that when the days and nights were created on the fourth day, how we could count for the non-existent three days in the beginning.

That seventh day in Judaism is Sabbath (from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday) and to follow the tradition of God’s taking rest on the seventh day, the Jews too lay off on Saturday and do nothing. So much so that when Jesus Christ was to be buried in a tomb, it was done hastily on Friday as Sabbath time was about to start.

The Genesis story suggests that besides God there was someone who was all the time present there and watching and recording the process of creation taking place. Unless there is s foolproof evidence that someone was there, how can we accept such a version of creation of the world unless God himself revealed it to someone?

The Bible both old (Hebrew scripture) and New Testament (Christian Greek Scripture) were written over a period of 1600 years( 1513 B.C.E. to 98 C.E.) by some 40 writers in various ages. The Old Testament consists of 39 books and the new 27 books. 

It is therefore, an anthology of 66 books altogether. Perhaps the first writer was Prophet Moses (born 1593 B.C.E.) who passed on the oral laws and written commandments given to him by God on the Mount Sinai while the Jewish nation was stuck in Sinai desert for 40 years. 

After the destruction of the Jerusalem temple by Romans in 70 C.E., the Jews dispersed and most of them settled in Greece and around Mediterranean. The Jewish literature and religious books were also destroyed with the destruction of the temple built by Prophet Solomon the son of Prophet David.

During the next four centuries, under influence of Greek thought and mythology, the Old Testament was recast and rewritten from memory or traditions, by Jewish Rabbis and scholars with countless additions and deletions of the original texts. 

The tradition of temple and priesthood were overshadowed by the oral elucidation, commentaries and explanations of the Old Testament. The commentaries and complex explanations by rabbis were compiled into a book that is called Talmud. It is akin to Muslims’ kind of Tafseer or Hadith.

The Diaspora Jews were enormously influenced by Greek philosophy and culture and is reflected in Talmud. One such influence was the belief in immortal soul. It means that when an individual dies his soul should still live in another place. But the collective resurrection of the dead is also part of the Bible. 

So there seems to be a contradiction between the collection resurrection on the final day and the concept of immortality of individual soul. In Bible there is a mention of collective resurrection. The addition of immortal soul was added in Judaism under the influence of Greek mythology.

Islam has resolved this tangle by espousing that the dead man’s soul rests in purgatory (Barzakh) and would come back to each person and they would come to life again. There is a strong possibility that during their interaction with Greek culture, religious dogmas and philosophy, the Genesis and other chapters were rewritten by Jewish scholars. The first five books in the Old Testament including Genesis are called Torah.

 On the face, the creation of the world in six days and making of Adam with bare hands looks to be the invention of a fictional and fanciful mind without realizing that it derides and belittles a God, who in all faiths is and ought to be omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent. 

How could he soil his hands in the dust? How is God supposed to be using hands and breathing like a human? How the lord of the world gets tired and rests on the 7th day? These are some critical questions that come to a curious mind?

The Genesis can best be described as a fable written for the children or the credulous, colored with suspense and fantasy. It is utterly hard for the people of this age to accept it as a rational and absolute truth. It is funny, frivolous and untenable. It underlines the limited human traits of a creator who otherwise is managing this amazing universe with absolutely flawless scientific principles. 

The evolution is central to this universe and that can be the true explanation for an ever changing world. How the existence or creation started, through a big bang or some other way: we do not know. But certainly the story of Genesis in Torah is not an answer to that gigantic question.