Saturday, July 25, 2015

The Legal Gamble of PTI didn’t Payoff

July 24, 2015
By Saeed Qureshi
The petition of Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf(PTI) to the Judicial Commission to determine if the 2013 general elections in Pakistan were rigged, ought to be viewed not an aimless or self-damaging fluke but an earnest initiative for the attainment of a right objective. The verdict of the Judicial Commission constituted at the persistent behest of PTI may be utterly repugnant to the party’s top brass yet there is no need or justification for them to criticize this legal decision. 

The lower rank party echelons of PTI were seen bursting out in various manners on TV channels over the judicial commission’s decision and alleging its presumed complicity with the ruling party. Yet the party chairman has done well to accept this decision which he, at the outset, had categorically committed to abide by.

Admittedly, in the backdrop of a culture of manipulation and rigging of elections, the demand of PTI sets a new justified tradition for sifting the corn from the chaff. It augurs well for the future elections and indeed kicks off a healthy and fruitful tradition and paves way for holding of fair and free elections which could be again challenged if they would be deemed as tainted or controversial.

The formation of the judicial commission to determine the fairness of elections is a monumental milestone and serves as a check on the political parties and individual contestants to refrain from using underhand tactics to win their respective seats either for the provincial or federal assemblies.

The ruling PMLN that was actually in the eye of the storm and mainly on the hit list of the PTI, has been vindicated and therefore can complete their constitutional term ending in 2018. It could be taken for granted that had the verdict been in consonance with the petition of the PTI, the ruling party was left with no option but to resign. 

That would have inflicted a devastating blow to the future image and standing of PMLN and only time would have determined when its stalwarts could stage a comeback in the power corridors of Pakistan.  

Nevertheless, a report favorable to the claim of PTI could have opened a Pandora box of further legal intricacies including a review appeal by the government. The country would have lurched back into a spell of new elections thus stalling or hampering the nation building development projects started by the PMLN government and are presently underway.  Apart from holding mid-term elections, the interim set up could not be in a position to take vital decisions with regard to socio economic domains, foreign affairs and so on.

How far the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) a giant plan could have been hampered is only a matter of conjecture. The ongoing full blown and highly successful army’s anti-crime onslaught could be postponed or slowed down.  In such muddled up situation there could have been a sneaking chance for the army to take over the reins of the government.

Yet intentions matter if translated into concrete realities on the ground. It would be naive to believe or expect that in the fresh elections only sinless angels in the grab of humans would have been elected. It would be fallacious to believe that PTI consists of the people with blot-less profiles or all of them are not prone to making mistakes.

We have seen the PTI’s government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province lurching from one debacle to another despite their best intentions. The sacking of some of the ministers in PTI’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government on corruption and graft charges reflects the internal lacunae bedeviling this new party otherwise commanding sizable popular support particularly among the disgruntled yet zealous youth of Pakistan.

In the aftermath of this verdict, a better and more reasonable course for the political parties in Pakistan would be to prepare and wait for the next elections due in 2018. They should start forthwith, canvassing and presenting their goals and programs to the people of Pakistan.

They should galvanize the people of Pakistan and the electorate by dishing out their future plans and manifestos. There is plenty of time for the political parties to play a constructive role in the national as well as provincial assemblies. 

They should focus on the passage of laws and decisions that can lead to good governance, inject oversight and accountability into a mauled system, ameliorate abysmal living conditions, bring about improvement in the working of the national institutions like judiciary, police local bodies, election commission of Pakistan and rooting out abominable feudalism et el. 
The Commission in its 237 pages inquiry report admonished the Election Commission of Pakistan for the poor planning of the 2013 elections and pointed out nine major lapses and flaws committed by the ECP. Besides the chief justice of the supreme court of Pakistan Nasirul Mulk who headed the judicial commission, the other two members were Justice Amir Hani Muslim and Justice Ejaz Afzal.

The ECP should earnestly heed this observation of the Judicial Commission and rectify those lapses in order to make the 2018 elections foolproof, transparent and free from administrative glitches.  That would be a redeeming outcome of this entire distasteful hullabaloo.  Let us also watch how the elected representatives behave when the government presents the report before the parliament.


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Iran’s Redemption after 9 years

July 15, 2015
By Saeed Qureshi
Iran’s nuclear deal with P5+1 group is repugnant to both Saudi Arabia and Israel. But mercifully it has finally come through. Saudi Arabia is opposed to this deal because Iran is her religious and regional contender in the Middle East. Contrary to Saudi Arabia’s Sunni Islam, Iran professes Shia faith and both are phenomenally divergent.

Iran is also an economic rival of Saudi dynasty for its nearly matching oil output. Israel is bitterly averse to this deal because rightly or wrongly it considers Iran as a potent threat to her security. Israel and Saudis have common perception and policy towards Iran though for different reasons. 

If Saudis have to choose friendship between Iran and Israel they will go for Israel. Such is the level of contention and hostility between two Islamic states which in fact is a spillover of the past fourteen centuries.

Since 2006, Iran due to its nuclear program has remained under severe embargoes and harsh sanctions that have nearly crippled its economy in all these 9 years. Presumably during this time Iran has attained the level of expertise needed for making a nuclear bomb which she may not fabricate for obvious reasons.

But that blueprint would remain preserved under a thick layer of secrecy as long as Iran doesn’t feel any major threat to its security. My hunch is that Iran could fabricate bomb within the shortest period of time which it cannot use as after Hiroshima and Nagasaki no country has ever used the atomic weapons even in the worst of conditions.

So the world is safe even if Iran possesses the know how to make a crude bomb  because there are many other countries that in fact have that capability many times more than Iran. For Iran, such device would remain simply a symbol of self-assuring prestige and protection like other countries with nuclear potential such as India and Pakistan.

The JCPOA (The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) was inked in the city of Vienna (Austria) on 14 July 2015 between Iran and the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the United Nations Security CouncilUnited States, Russia, China, France, United Kingdom—plus Germany and the European Union). The agreement lifts a package of stifling sanctions on Iran in return for drastically curtailing her ongoing nuclear development program.

Briefly, the agreement stipulates that Iran will reduce its current stockpile of low-enriched uranium by 98 percent, reduce by two third of its centrifuges and  curtail enriching uranium to 3.67%, enough  for civilian nuclear power and research and not for making a nuclear weapon.

Iran's Fordow facility will be made dysfunctional with stoppage of any new uranium-enrichment facilities at that location for fifteen years.  However Iran can continue research and development work on enrichment only at the Natanz facility for eight years.The fulfillment of these conditions would be closely watched by IAEC and in case of violation the sanctions would be re-imposed for which the term used is “snap back”.

Understandably the Republicans in United States and Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu are extremely frustrated over this landmark agreement finalized after 20 months of intensive negotiations between the parties. President Obama has achieved another laurel for himself as but for his consistent support this landmark accord would not have seen the light of the day. 

This agreement would benefit Iran in a huge way. Yet she will have to wait for the rest of the current year for a full blown implementation and lifting of sanctions. The most outstanding fallout would be that Iran’s isolation spanning over a decade would be over.

In the meantime Iran can warm herself for resumption of  its economic and diplomatic relations with many countries which were vary of  not going near it because of  Iran being projected as some kind of Pariah state thanks to the thundering propaganda of Israel, the anti Iran Lobbyists in United States as well as Saudis and their cohorts.

As pointed out above, as a matter of fact Iran doesn’t need a nuclear bomb and even it could make one it would be impossible for her to use. And now when it has been given a limited mandate to pursue its research and enrichment of uranium, it would be pacified as this mandate carries the IAEC and world powers ascent.

Because of shrunken oil sale and limited business opportunities all these years, Iran has suffered a colossal backlash in economic terms. Now after the melting of ice, she would give precedent to full bloom promotion of trade and mutual interactions to catch up with the financial losses it had suffered on account of embargoes on free trade.

Iran has 10 percent of global oil reserves and 18 percent of natural gas reserves.  The oil and gas once again coming to the international markets openly, the prices of both these commodities will reasonably scale down. With an unchained Iran, the super duper enterprises of oil and gas are already on the lookout of resuming the commercial links with that country. 

For instance senior executives from oil giants “Royal Dutch Shell, Total S.A, and Eni met with the Iranian oil minister in Vienna in June, the month before the announcement of JCPOA to explore business opportunities in Iran”.

Iran can be extremely useful for warring parties fighting against the ISIS in Middle East and Taliban in Afghanistan and may be able to turn the tide in favor of Syria and Iraq. Iran has a trained army of over million fighters and that asset can be used by Unites states and other anti-ISIS and al-Qaida militants to bring peace by defeating the radical militants.

It is to be seen if Iran would be willing to join the fray and utilize its military potential at the behest of Syria, United States and other anti ISIS warring groups.

Nevertheless, with Iran joining the rest of the international community without fetters in an historic and watershed development as it brings back a very important country into the fold of the world community with dignity and honor.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Which Islam are we talking about?

July 14, 2015
By Saeed Qureshi

I am not an Islamic scholar but I can quote three Suras from Quran that explicitly emphasize Muslims all over the world as one united and monolithic fraternity. In one Sura it is stated that “all the Muslim believers are brothers)”

In another Ayah it is ordained to “hold fast to the rope of Allah and not to fall into divisions or sects”. Yet in another Ayah it is decreed that to kill a human being is to kill the entire humanity. There should be another one that stipulates that a Muslim cannot kill a fellow Muslim believer.

The above quoted Suras and their contents look frivolous and useless when we delve into the history of Muslims and also look around us in the present times. Ever since the demise of the holy prophet Muhammad (SAWS) some 1380 years ago, the Muslims have been killing fellow Muslims on racial, regional and sectarian grounds. Banu Hashim the clans of Prophet Muhammad were sidelined by the more shrewd Omayyad who took the reins of the caliphate barely after 30 years or so. Three caliphs died at the hand of the assassins.

Two wars were fought between the son-in-law of the prophet and the third caliph Hazrat Ali and prophet’s youngest wife Hazrat Aisha (RA) on one hand and the other between Hazrat Ali and the governor of Syria Amir Muawiya entailing a huge number of causalities. The Omayyad snatched power from Banu Hashim Clan and the Abbasid did the same to Omayyad.

In between the tragic massacre of Imam Hussain, the grandson of prophet and his companions happened at Karbala. The Omayyad dynasty in Spain and that of Abbasid in Iraq and Syria were bitter and irreconcilable enemies although both professed the same faith. Scores of governors appointed by Abbasid in the Berber areas were killed by the Omayyad of Spain and their heads returned.

The successive Islamic dynasties were not even remotely models of the state or society as Islam ordains. From Omayyad to Ottomans in the Middle East and Central Asia, Africa, Maghreb and India the more ruthless powerful Muslim invaders occupied the land and territories already being ruled by Muslim rulers.

The Tulunid, Fatimid, Ayubids, Mamluk, Seljuk and Ottoman dynasties were all Islamic yet they seized the power from their Muslim predecessors by sword and bloodshed.
In India the Muslim invaders from the north deposed the already established Islamic states use of force and intrigues.

Did you ever ponder that the Muslims are the most rigid in observance of their religious rituals yet they are the most backward and downgraded. Presently the Muslims are the most miserable people on earth. All over in Islamic world, there is an unrelenting turmoil with raging civil wars prompted by race, region and divergent faiths. 

Is this the way of God or observance of the injunctions given in Muslims guiding book holy Quran? The argument by the religious zealots that the Muslims will have good life in paradise is least convincing. Why can’t Muslims have a happy life here in this world?

I am also not ready to buy the argument that God is annoyed with Muslims for their sins and negligence toward observance of religious obligations and thus the Muslims are suffering. 

If we Muslims believe that our God is beneficent and merciful  and we are his preferred people in comparison to non-Muslims then God with infinite compassion and mercy can shower his blessings on the Muslims and they should be the most prosperous and dignified nations. But the tormenting fact is that the Muslims are primitive and poor while the bounties of God descend preferably on non-Muslims.

As stated above it is a convoluted logic that since we are sinful therefore, God is not kind to us and that the devout Muslims would be rewarded in the hereafter and not in this material world. According to our faith man with innumerable drawbacks and infirmities is like a lamb for the Satan to prey upon. According to scriptures has infinite powers to misguide us every moment while God simply watches from the heavens and does not stop him to save the poor humans especially Muslims from his wicked machinations.

If Satan can defy and argue with God at the time of the creation of Adam, is he not in a position to hoodwink and misguide the weak humans? Even if the humans ward off the Satan’s evil intrigues with constant praying, fasting and fulfilling other religious obligations, no one is still certain if we would still earn the reward on the Day of Judgment unless the watchful angels sitting on out two shoulders as well as our limbs would not favorably testify for our righteousness.

Would a God who runs the atoms at a terrific speed of 196000 miles per second and keeps the earth rotating in its track around the Sun at 66000 miles per hour and not to move a fraction of a centimeter from its orbit would need physical witnesses to reward or punish a faithful who would already be roasted in the sweltering heat of the dooms day. 

On that horrific day each person would be handed over judgment by God himself. Isn’t like the court of a king although the courts of the worldly kings have always been cozy, comfortable and cool. There should be billions awardees till the judgment day arrives.

Yet God would administer his indictment or reward while sitting on a couch in an open ground while the sun would be above only by the length of a pole. Scientifically, if the sun comes down by a fraction of a millimeter the earth and all the heavenly bodies revolving around it would burn. 

A lord of the universe administering the universe on immaculate scientific principles could have devised a system by which the good or bad deeds would be automatically recorded and a person after the death immediately goes to heavens or the hell. The humans have devised computers that store the limitless information and data in seconds.

The fact is that the religions were evolved at time in the human history when societies were very primitive and lacking in rational or scientific explanations for this huge phenomenon that is mind boggling and is an eloquent testimony to the power and intelligence of its creator or the system. 

Yet our religious demagogues want us to believe god in the image of a human being who is extremely sensitive and gets annoyed or pleased every moment by our each and every action or movement and maintains a record of that through two angels sitting on our shoulders.

The stark fact is that Islam as an enlightened religion has always been a captive in the hands of biased and ignorant religious guides and preachers. They keep emphasizing the fear and enticement dimensions of religion and binding the ordinary Muslims in more suffocating rituals and obligations.

It all depends on the nature of the interpretations of Islamic injunctions according to one’s liking to inculcate fear or allurement as personified by hell and heaven. And that has led to the divisions of Islam into countless sects hampering and undermining its doctrinal unity. One such glaring division is between Sunnis and Shias.

The Shia- Sunni conflict has cost the Muslims grievous harm, incurable instability and persistent chaos down the centuries and which unfortunately is still wrecking the Muslims societies. This conflict can be resolved if all the Shias die or all the Sunnis become non- existent which either way is not possible. So coexistence is the only way-out.

The western societies have separated the role of religion from the state and society. Religion in those societies is now a personal obligation of an individual which a citizen may fulfill or not. 

The Muslims societies should follow the way the western societies brought about a rapprochement and reconciliation between the irreconcilable Catholics and Protestants. The Church with countless denominations is independent in religious domain but remains out of the state affairs.

Let us take a look at the Muslim Spain (756-1492) where there has been laudable peaceful coexistence not only among the Muslims sects but between Muslims, Christians, Jews and other minorities. They all contributed towards shaping Spain into one of the most progressive and civilized Islamic state in those times.

Instead of fighting for a radical Islamic system in Islamic lands and also throwing challenges to the non-Muslim societies through a kind of crusade as ISIS and Al-Qaeda are waging, the Muslims should give utmost priority to excel and delve in scientific and technological fields.

They should follow the advanced societies in matters of good governance, galore of civic and social amenities and establishment of democratic order, secular culture, freedom and openness for building up modern and progressive states with tolerant Islam as its religion.

By sticking to the past and reviving it in the primitive and orthodox form cannot work or succeed in an enlightened world of today that is drastically different from those of the past. Islam allows modifications and changes as needed by the changing times.

The American constitution drafted in 1776 is a beacon of guidance for countries like Pakistan towards ensuring human rights, personal liberties and human dignity. It incorporates a solid system of checks and balance and accountability and separation of powers.

It is time for a giant leap for Pakistan and other Muslim polities to emerge as nation states so that our coming generations can stand side by side with the people of modern, prosperous and intellectually advanced societies. We have a lot of human talent that needs to be unfurled. 

I wonder if this miracle can happen. For that the initial breakthrough would be tolerance, secular outlook, equality and eliminating the religious fanaticism which is a recipe for disaster for any country worth the name.