Monday, April 25, 2016

Monarchy in Saudi Arabia is Unislamic

April 25, 2016
By Saeed Qureshi

Those who believe that Saudi Arabia has an Islamic system of government are either mistaken or ill-informed. It is outright a monarchy or kingdom that runs counter to the concept of an Islamic state. Even its name is “Kingdom of Saudi Arabia” missing the world Islamic as we can find in the official name of Pakistan and some other countries. Islam ordains that a caliph as head of an Islamic government is to be chosen by the pious community notables.

A caliph or head of Islamic state is obligated to administer the state affairs with a group of consultants having immaculate character. That system if magnified comes closer to the democratic form of governance of the present times.  Religiously, Saudi government is a family dynasty and professes a typical Wahabi or Salafi brand of Islam founded by an eighteenth-century preacher and scholar Muhammad Abdal Wahhab.

The Islamic State of Medina (622 A. C.) founded by prophet Hazrat Muhammad (SAW) and later carried forward by four of his illustrious successors or caliphs offers a veritable and original model of Islam. It survived only for 29 years (632-661 C. E.) Thereafter, it was converted into hereditary monarchy although the head of state was still called a Caliph.

The personal lives of prophet and his associates were austere, simple and pious. They wore simple dresses, ate simple food and did not amass money. They dispensed justice in true sense. They were accountable to the community. They drew stipend from the Baitul-Maul (Islamic treasury) hardly enough for their barest minimum living.

The Islamic authoritarian empire that began with the assassination of the fourth Rashideen caliph Hazrat Ali in 621 C. E, cleared the way for the rival Amir Muawiyah to lay the foundation of the dynasty of Umayyad clan(662-743 C.E. ). The Omayyad were succeeded by Abbasid (750-861 C. E.) and later by a string of other similar Islamic empires (868-1924 C. E.). But essentially most of these regimes professing to be Islamic were oppressive brutal, family dynasties that survived as long they could hold on to power by sword and military muscle.

The Omayyad converted the pristine Khilafat-e- Rashida into hereditary succession or a form of government that was akin to the Byzantine, Roman or Persian empires. Such autocratic Islamic empires continued for several hundred years in some form or another.

The Ottoman Islamic Empire (1299-1924 C. E.) also ruled over most of the Arab lands including Saudi Arabia. In March 1924, Kamal Ataturk ended the Ottoman Empire, abolished the caliphate and exiled the last Ottoman caliph Abdul Majid- II (second) and founded modern Turkey.  It was a defining phase of Turkish history as it marked the end of the religio-political Islamic empires that had begun with the establishment of the Umayyad absolutist Islamic dynasty in 622 C. E.

The story of Saudi Arabia, however, is different and needs elaboration. The first Saudi state was established in the year 1744 C. E. (1157 A.H.) following an alliance between Imam Muhammad ibn Abdal-Wahab (religious reformer of Salafi or Wahabi sect) and the ruler Prince Muhammad ibn Saud. Thereafter the Saudi dynasty decreed the observance of Wahabi or Salafi creed of Islam in Saudi Arabia.

As mentioned above under this Islamic system, such practices believed to be anti-Tauhid (oneness of God) were abolished and that abolishment is still rigidly enforced in Saudi Arabia. These practices inter alia seek solicitation of saints both dead and alive against sufferings and bad luck etc. The Wahabi religious doctrine prohibits various customs and beliefs such as visiting and venerating tombs, monuments, graveyards, saints, mystics, deities and spirits. It also decrees as sin to sanctify trees, caves, stones and similar other places.

In line with the Wahabi theology, the Saudi government has leveled off ancient graveyards where the companions of the prophets and other Islamic icons were buried. The kissing or touching of the outer wall or grill of the prophet’s tomb is forbidden. The diverse customs and traditions that are observed by various Sunni sects as Brelvis Chishtia, Qadria, Naqshbandia etc. and also the mainstream Shia sect are sternly disallowed as being Unislamic.

Implementing the Wahhabi Islam may not be objectionable because, paradoxically, in Iran there is Shia faith that is markedly opposed to the beliefs of various denominations falling under the Sunni category. Rather to uphold the concept of Tauhid is plausible and that is what Islam stands for against idolatry and human shamans (spiritual healers).

Islam exhorts that the Muslims around the world, irrespective of their region, color or ethnicity are one nation with God as the head. In Saudi Arabia there is acute distrust and discrimination about the Muslims from other countries. No external Muslim can settle in Saudi Arabia. The prevailing Saudi political system manifests violation of Islamic faith in terms of being dictatorial and authoritarian. This system suppresses human rights and dignity and discards a civil society.

It concentrates power and wealth in a few hands. In this system there is no accountability through courts and national institutions. In Saudi Arabia, the royal family, sheikhs or heads of tribes are above law. The caliph was answerable in the state of Medina. Now he is a monarch and to criticize him or the royal family is a crime. The freedom of expression is unheard in Saudi Arabia and it is stifled forcefully.

The House of Saud is the ruling royal family of Saudi Arabia for nearly three centuries. The major portion of oil income that runs into billions every year is distributed among the royal family members. Almost all the royal members are literally sitting on mounds of wealth. They have their private banks, their private jets, luxury villas and palaces in fun cities around the world. Their lavish, regal and extravagant life style defies description and looks like a sheer mockery of the sublime teachings of Islam as practiced by the founder and early disciples.

Saudi Arabia, the abode of Islam has been turned into feudal, tribal and family fiefdom. No one can oppose this loathsome system of monarchy that survives on the accumulation of national wealth in private hands and servitude of its citizens. The land, wealth and resources of Saudi Arabia belong to the people and not 15000 members of the royal family with 2000 as the elite and notables among them.

The religious scholars in other Muslim countries decry the Unislamic practices and sinful way of life in their societies but do not censure the Saudi rulers who have usurped power, pelf and wealth and at the same time call themselves as the custodians of Islam or the two holiest mosques: one in Mecca (Kaaba) and the other in Medina. It is a sheer travesty of Islam that judges the faithful by the level of piety and rectitude and not by their social, political and financial standing. Saudi imperial lords have kept the society backward and enslaved so that there is no challenge to their dynastic hold on power.

The Saudi people live under an orthodox and oppressive system that stifles freedom of expression, blocks modern education and emancipation of women.  The conservatism and obscurantism has engulfed that society. The people cannot agitate or protest due to fear of state brutality or else because of lack of realization that they live in subjugation. They cannot form associations for the protections of their rights.

Mutaween or the religious police is the most dreaded outfit whose task is to enforcing Sharia as defined by the government, specifically by the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (CPVPV). They had the authority to flog the violators. Mercifully in April this year the Saudi Arabian cabinet removed the Mutaween power to arrest and limited their power to the role of reporting violators to police or drug squad officers.
During Khilafat-e-Rashida the ordinary Muslims were free to question the caliphs for their anomalies. Such a question was asked from the second caliph Hazrat Umar by a commoner about the larger size of sheet he was wearing. The ruling royal Saudi family is above any censure of their policies and ownership of national assets and oil revenues.
I shall reproduce below a compelling quotation from Wikipedia that so vividly portrays the mammoth wealth owned by the Royal family members.
“The sharing of family wealth has been a critical component in maintaining the semblance of a united front within the royal family. An essential part of family wealth is the Kingdom in its physical entirety, which the Al Saud view as a totally owned family asset. Whether through the co-mingling of personal and state funds from lucrative government positions, huge land allocations, direct allotments of crude oil to sell in the open market, segmental controls in the economy, special preferences for the award of major contracts, outright cash handouts, and astronomical monthly allowances—all billed to the national exchequer—all told, the financial impact may have exceeded 40% of the Kingdom's annual budget during the reign of King Fahd.”
“Over decades of oil revenue-generated expansion, estimates of royal net worth is at well over $1.4 trillion. This method of wealth distribution has allowed many of the senior princes and princesses to accumulate largely unauditable wealth and, in turn, pay out, in cash or kind, to lesser royals and commoners, and thereby gaining political influence through their own largesse”.

In a nutshell the Saudi kingdom is Islamic in name but in practice is clannish dictatorship. The Saudi rulers are averse to democratic institutions, detest religious pluralism, abhor civil society, bar mass education, suppress dissent and keep the society socially and intellectually retrogressive. It is patriarchal government that is at the helm without elections, parliament, independent judiciary and free media.

As Islam enjoins, in Saudi Arabia there is no elected Majlis-e-Shoora consisting of acknowledged pious and austere people. It looks like a medieval dynasty still embedded in the tribal mold. Saudi Arabia is alienated from it s own people and the rest of the world for not being an enlightened modern Islamic state.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

General Raheel Sharif is a true Patriot

April 22, 2016
By Saeed Qureshi
In the aftermath of Panama Leaks, General Raheel Sharif the incumbent Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff has made one very important announcement as well as took a landmark decision. In his momentous address delivered on April 19 at the military’s Signal Regimental Center in Kohat, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa he pleaded that the on-going war against extremism and terrorism cannot bring enduring peace and stability in the country unless the menace of corruption is uprooted”. General Sharif who will retire in November 2016 has declined his extension of service.

There cannot be a more truthful and poignant analysis of the malaise of deep-rooted corruption and its ominous impact on the war on terrorism and uprooting of crime violence in Pakistan. General Raheel further emphasized the “need for across the board accountability to secure a better future for generations to come and also for the integrity, solidarity and prosperity of Pakistan”.

His unprecedented and most applauded decision is to send 12 army officers on forced retirement against charges of corruption and misuse of power. Among these 12 officers are six high-ranking military officers, including a lieutenant general and a major general. The forcibly retired army officers have been asked to return all earnings accumulated through corruption and unfair means.

This action is being admired by the civil society, politicians, business circles, media and the people at large. The army thus far has been considered as a holy cow not to be touched for probe or for any legal action whatsoever. But this taboo has been broken by the current COAS who has brought both the civilians and the army at one plank which sets a watershed and splendid tradition of the “across the board accountability” of the corrupt individuals whether in Khaki or the civilian attires.

Pakistan is known to be one of those countries where corruption has always been endemic and widespread in public and private department and institutions. All along the Islamic Republic of Pakistan has been infected with “Bribery, Cronyism, Kleptocracy, Economics of corruption, Electoral fraud, Legal plunder, Nepotism, Slush fund, Plutocracy, Political scandals etc.
In 2012, Transparency International (TI) calculated that Pakistan had lost more than Rs 8.5 trillion (US$ 94 billion) in corruption, tax evasion and bad governance in the PPP-led coalition government from 2008 to 2013 (Wikipedia).

There has never been an effective and unassailable accountability mechanism that could make headway in rooting out this diabolic curse of corruption keeping Pakistan governed badly, economically poor and socially backward. Now the ball is in the court of our civilian leadership. 

The government should follow the shining example set up by inimitable General Sharif to unfurl a comprehensive plan and strategy for catching and punishing the corrupt elements in all spheres of society who robbed the national exchequer, got the huge loans written off , who opened offshore accounts to conceal their assets and income and amassed wealth through foul and dishonest means.

The prime minister’s announcement to constitute an accountability commission under the chief justice of Pakistan for probing corruption is the first step in the right direction. But catching of the bull of corruption by horn is not that much simple. There are countless powerful lobbies and influential individuals involved in persistent corruption for decades. 

There has to be a nationwide gigantic effort and unrelenting drive to uncover and punish the delinquents of all shades involved in the wholesale and uninhibited corruption, bribery and misuse of power.

In this regard the judicial system has to be strengthened because judiciary is infested with black sheep that sell their honor and professional integrity and dish out verdicts for the highest bidders on the basis of their relations and friendship or under the political pressure.

 In a 2011 survey, TI Pakistan identified judiciary as “the most corrupt institution in Pakistan alongside police where the highest amounts of bribery were spent on people affiliated with the judiciary and police”. In the domain of education the ghost schools and absentee teachers have robbed the provincial and federal governments of billions of rupees.

The bureaucracy in Pakistan has been in the forefront in misusing their authority and administrative clout and power for kickbacks and huge grafts.  The people and the public should be encouraged and protected to come forward and reveal the scams, cases of corruption and bribery and illicit deals and show of favoritism by officials and departments at the cost of the national or public interests.
Similarly the cadres of police have to be strengthened, retrained and mobilized to catch the culprits with professionalism, courage and without any fear of being sacked or harmed in any way.
In fact it is a colossal and gigantic national mission and crusade to be launched for cleaning the society of gross malpractices, highhandedness of bureaucracy, of politicians, and members of parliament, influential feudals, senators and bigwigs in Pakistan.

This is a lifetime chance for cleansing the stables and dens of corruption, the violation of law and rules and endemic despicable culture of favoritism and vested interests. If no cue is taken from General Raheel’s milestone and historical initiative, there cannot be another chance to cure the diseased society of Pakistan assailed by opportunists, bounty hunters, bribe takers and agents of sleazy character.

The national accountability Bureau or to be newly established judicial commission or both jointly should, first of all, probe the following mega cases of financial fraud, misconduct and robbing the national exchequer of billions and trillions of rupees.

 Some of these cases are OGRA Scam, Rental Power Projects (RPP) scam (former PPP Prime Minister Raja Ashraf is the main culprit), NATO containers case, Pakistan Steel Mills scam, NICL (National Insurance Company Limited) corruption case, Ephedrine quota case (70 billion rupees fraud in which former Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gillani in implicated), the Media-gate scandal, the PMDC’s fake registration and Hajj corruption case. 

The financial losses due to corruption in PIA alone have been around $ 500 million.  Massive financial losses due to mismanagement and embezzlement of funds have also been reported in Pakistan Railways.
Also the usurpation of millions of acres of official land including that of Railways, illegal and out of turn allotments of plots, sale of water by PPP ministers in Karachi, the patronage by politicians of extortionists, target killers, criminal gangs and mafias need probe and punishment.  Those found guilty of fraud, and corruption should be punished with confiscation of their assets, properties, and lands and long jail terms.

The guidelines, reforms and road-map should be handed out by commissions manned by experts for good governance, to ensure accountability and to ward off re-occurrence of misuse of power, sway of crime and financial scams.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Why People Believe in Religions!

April 21, 2016
By Saeed Qureshi

Despite knowing the ambiguities and flaws in religions why the people still believe in religions? This is an extremely important and critical question that merits a detailed answer. The belief in religions even by those who otherwise know its flaws and its human formation is due to the fear and reverence of the unknown forces. Religions are primarily related to and concerned with God, deities, invisible forces and spirits.

The reverence for religion is born out of fear. Or we can say that it is the combination of both fear and reverence. Notwithstanding their credibility or veracity the religions strike awe, wonder and fear in the hearts of the people. 

Even if someone doesn’t believe in religion, the concept and awareness about the presence of the forces beyond this world still haunt, allure and frighten the human beings who he believes can wreak havoc or bring good fortune to the people. There are also physical fears from animals, natural disasters, enemies, diseases, poverty, hunger, death and destruction.

Man lives in a world that is mostly problematic. For most of the people living on planet earth, life is not that much easy as for the few. For that multitudinous humanity that suffers from poverty, hunger, health hazards, dis-empowerment, and lead a life of deprivation, religion is the only hope that at least gives them chance to pray to an invisible power for alleviation of their sufferings.

Prayer has, therefore, assumed a pivotal role for all such people who can revert to God and spirits for help and blessings as the case may be. So it is the fright from the fearsome and appeasement and alignment with the benign forces.

It would be difficult to meet a king, a ruler or someone sitting on high pedestals of power and presiding over the destinies of the people. But it is much easier and so handy to raise hands and solicit or implore the help and kindness of the powers that are supposed to be exceedingly and decidedly powerful and overwhelmingly strong than the worldly power wielders. 

It is another matter that if the prayers are answered or not or if God or other powers that govern the world start listening to everyone raising his or her hands, there would be a complete chaos in this world. God cannot be party to anyone and take sides to favor one and disfavor another.

The people keep holding on to their faith despite undergoing sufferings like the non- believers undergo. The natural calamities, the social injustices, the atrocities and brutalities perpetrated by human beings against their fellows continue unabated. The torments, the day to day problems, the accidents, the death and diseases, the deformities, the deprivations still keep haunting both the faithful and unfaithful in equal measure. 

Yet people still consider them as a test for the faithful or at least the religious demagogues hammer this belief in the minds of the people that God puts his favorites and chosen people to test and therefore one should not deter from these setbacks.

The people take this as truthful and valid because still in face of the worldly troubles, they harbor the fervent hope that in the world that would be coming after death would bring to them the absolute pleasure and enjoyment from which he has been deprived wholly or partially in this world. 

This is a good self-satisfying explanation that can keep one’s hope alive even in the face of heavy and devastating adversities. One, therefore, tends to ignore the difficulties of this world as the will of God. The more severe the test is the more rewarding would be the life in the next world in the gardens of paradise.

The undeniable fact is that the people tend to follow and imbibe the faith that their parents or forefathers have been practicing. It is seldom that a man can willingly change or convert to another religion. 

The religious bias and adherence is so deep and hard that one would mostly not like to swap his faith for another one unless pushed to do so. Since the stage of infancy and childhood is impressionistic, the elements and teachings of faith are indelibly hammered into the minds of the children which cannot be erased for all time to come unless one is very strongly convinced of the falsity of his previous religion.

Usually the change is accepted or embracing of a faith is performed by those who are either secular or profess no religion. Since these people have no respect or fear of any religion or the ecclesiastical or supernatural powers that are associated with the faith, they can easily accept the faith either voluntarily or on some one’s bidding. But for a staunch faithful it would be pretty hard to abandon his faith first and take over another one.

It should, therefore, be understood that whatever ideological moorings one holds on or receives at the early stage of his life remain with him although he may have developed doubts in  due course due to his acquisition of knowledge and broadening of his intellect, awareness and vision. One would still like to stick to the religion because it doesn’t cost anything except following certain methods of worshiping and practicing certain rituals and rites that are there in every religion.

People generally look at religions and God from rituals and worship angle and not from rules and regulations that affect the daily life. Man basically is alone. He comes into this world alone and goes from here alone. Man follows religion to the extent it suits him and serves his interests, and not beyond that. He justifies his actions and interprets religious injunctions in his own way, whether on individual or sectarian level.

The Social and environmental factors affect and influence man more than the religion. Social reprisal for wrong doing is immediate, religious punishment would be in the hereafter. Religion is in-congruent with politics and business because they cannot be run on ideal and conflicting moral principles.

If the society turns into a complete religious mold, life would be difficult as it would lead to sectarian conflicts, theocratic schisms and the ensuing chaos. An interest free business as ordained in Islam would be an anathema to the profit hungry business classes.

These people generally solicit the support of a divine figure, spirit or the saint dead or alive to ward off loss, fear or ensure safety from the perceived or real threat or danger to their lives and property. The basic question is whether the system in our world and elsewhere in the space is based on morality and ethics, or else it was based upon absolute scientific principles which have nothing to do with emotions or likes or dislikes of the superhuman lord, cosmic power or God.

God’s existence is a perennial mystery, which is beyond the human beings to unravel. It is only God himself (God is believed to be a male) who can lift the curtain from his real self and nature of existence. We are prone to interpreting God as having human manners and habits.

We interpret God in the image of human being implying that he gets happy on good deeds and unhappy on bad deeds. The messengers of God or Prophets have their own perceptions of God by saying that God communicated with them directly or through an intermediary supposed to be the archangel Gabriel.

Other than the prophets, no other human being can claim to have seen God or conversed with him. As for talking or communicating with the prophets through an angel, it is simply a negation of the infinite power of Almighty God who doesn’t need any intermediary between him and his creation especially humans as he is everywhere and can talk or reveal his commandants or messages to all by himself.

The claim that the angels bring messages of God is open to various interpretations. These cannot be physical beings as the angels have no physical form or constitution. One can say that the ideas or thoughts are born in the mind to make one believe as if revelations have taken place. This in fact is the pinnacle of a state of mind and thinking where one is capable of creating another being with an absolute conviction that the being was addressing him or her.

It could be an alter ego. It happens mostly in a state of continued isolation, deep solitude or intensive meditation. Why do the angels always meet the recipients in loneliness and without anyone else seeing them? God almighty cannot do his business of imparting his messages for the mankind in secrecy.

 Rather on the contrary when the angels come down to earth, these holy men should introduce these heavenly figures to the followers sitting around them as having been sent by God with a message to them. That would really clear the doubts about the beliefs and every one would readily believe in the divine messages along with bona-fide of the person receiving the message. Don’t the ordinary human beings have the right to question about the veracity of the religious beliefs they were told to imbibe?

The difference between the religion’s teachings  handed out by the divine figures or prophets on behalf of God to the humanity and the social contract prevalent in the society is that while the former remains rigid, the latter  is pragmatic and open to change or revision with the  changing times and situations.

The societal code is basically an intrinsic aspect of the culture that remains responsive to the changing needs and aspirations of the societies and the people. It is practical and practicable. The people have to practically follow the societal contract in their daily lives while the religious code remains unresponsive to the needed changes.

It remains rigidly confined to the social conditions of the times in which it was created. Moreover, more than addressing the socio- economic and political issues of relevant and respective times, it remains focused mostly upon observance of the rituals and rites. Religions have nothing to do with technology and scientific research. They exhort only to be ethical and to be a dutiful worshipper of God.

Those religious tenets are out of sync with components of a modern state or society, such as form of government, law, economy etc, democracy etc. Democracy could not evolve in olden times because of the logistic handicaps also for the reason that it is a new concept after the creation of modern state. 

The subject of technology is out of the pale and parameters of the religions because during the times when these came into being, the societies were mostly primitive and agrarian. No one could think of the breath taking technological and scientific revolution that has completely changed the human society.

The codes of respective religions on the whole have been ideal but complex and confusing, contradictory, redundant, superfluous and repetitive while the society consists of the established customs, traditions, folklore, the unwritten social taboos and norms and above all the law of the land.

The religion draws its strength from the reward and punishment to be given on the Day of Judgment or for more credulous in shape of bad or good fortune or good or bad circumstances in this life. In Christianity it is the love of Jesus and his acceptance as son of God that guarantees a place in paradise.

While God is supposed to be the ruler of the universe and creator of all human beings and whatever exists, the followers of every religion have monopolized God by claiming that the religion they belong to was the real divine religion and therefore absolutely and incontrovertibly true. In the name of God there are countless religions, denominations and cults, every one of them professing to be true while branding others as man - made or false.

The religious beliefs are rigid and unbending within a sect or cult or specific school of theology but in case of multiplicity of sects and religions, these differ from each. Their teachings may overlap or correspond or differ, but as a matter of fact all claim to be linked with the supreme divine force or God.

 The main religions and their denominations have many teachings and tenets common but still they would stubbornly oppose each other. The cults and denominations that branch off from the main religions do so because of the feelings that the main religions had been corrupted or polluted with the passage of time and therefore a new code or body of teachings and beliefs had become necessary.

All the main religions both Abrahamic and non Abrahamic have been divided into countless branches in subsequent times after their birth. The Islam, Judaism, the Christianity, Buddhism and Hinduism are all fragmented into numerous denominations and sub religions. Some denominations have become cults.

Now the new denominations were brought into being by the reformers or self styled prophets who believed that the purging or the purification of the main religions was imperative. But these reformatory endeavors dealt a severe blow to the integrity and monolithic strength of the principal religion.

 The reformatory movements were necessary, as the pristine teachings had become redundant or outdated in due course of time. But if a religion is from God then its teachings should be applicable for all times and to all the nations. 

If religious teachings fall short of the requirements of the changing times then there must be some basic flaw with their original form. God almighty who can see through the future must reveal teachings and codes for humanity that should be relevant to all times and generations without the slightest change.

If he can create a universe and our own earth that are run on absolutely flawless principles that remain unaltered after billions of years, he can also enforce or pass on a religion that should be the same from the moment of its implementation to the last day of judgment.

 Even if some changes may be necessary because of the changing times and generations, still the basic teachings and principles should remain the same. Such a code can be given to the mankind in a way that everyone gets and believes it without any hesitation. Why should God choose a whole class of messengers to convey his message to their countless fellow beings with divergent and often contradictory teachings and doctrines?

Should we then infer that religions are man-made and man-made creations must have flaws? But the fundamental question is that can God run this world without a religious code as he has been doing for billions of years? Why a religion is necessary for the human beings?

The Religions make one believe that there was a life after death.  Not only that every religion preaches this but that humans own wishes and desires correspond to that belief. He wants a life where there is neither want nor dearth, neither disease nor sufferings as he is exposed to in this transitory world. In paradise, he would enjoy perennially blissful life.  

The physical pleasures would be infinitely available to him. The paradise is believed to be created only for enjoyment and attainment of luxuries. Food and sex would be plentiful to such an extent that he could indulge into such carnal activities for any length and number of times and still he would not be physically weakened nor his desire would wane.

No one realizes that these pleasures are all for the males and even in the paradise the females would be at the receiving end. They would be transformed into incredibly beautiful Houris and their only job would be to provide sexual pleasure and satisfaction to the males. It is, therefore, quite clear that women in Islam don’t value much and even in the paradise they would not be equally treated with the males. Paradise would also be a male dominated abode.

But the superiority or upper hand of the males in paradise is characteristic of the fact that the hidden intention or purpose was to please men instead of women. Women are guinea pigs in this world and they would remain so in the paradise. But that raises another question: would there be issues or children from the contact between males and females?

By nature, whenever, male and female meet there should be issues if all goes well. But if there won’t be any children or families then it means that primarily paradise would be like a club for drinking and for sexual pleasure and eating delicious and nutritious food of which so many people are deprived in this imperfect world.

As a matter of fact the environment in the paradise is like the garden of a medieval king. In this garden which would be limitless, all mundane and sensual pleasures as attributed with the life in paradise would be available. 

Beyond that, the kinds of comforts that are available in the modern world have no mention in the life in the paradise. The travel marvels in the present day world, the sports and games and movie and internet and soaring in the air ,the palatial buildings with all wonderful  facilities, are completely absent in the description of paradise.

Is it so because those who conceived the concept of paradise as an ideal pleasurable place had no idea and perception of an extraordinary easy and comfortable life that would be available to even a common man in the future? As such the picture of paradise as found in the scriptures was primitive and confined to the pleasures and enjoyments that were exclusive to the life of kings in the olden times.

As per religious tenants, the reward of living in paradise would be given on the basis of one’s’ good deeds done in this world of temporary sojourn. Now it is possible that a wife goes to the paradise and the husband was sent to hell. Clearly this is going to divide the families. Those women who would be in the hell would remain as women while those residing in the heaven would be transformed into the beautiful Houris.

What about the children? Would all under age kids which means below the age of 18 would become adults and lead an independent life as adults? But to say that the kids would join the families and would remain as kids is another version that is in sharp contrast to the first version of becoming an adult.

It means that those adults whether men or women who at the time of their death tell their surviving sons and daughters that they would all join in paradise was logically and factually untrue. Same is the case with the kids who die at an early age but promise and profess that they would now meet their parents on the Day of Judgment. They would all be adults. Is it to be conjectured that a teenage girl would become a woman. If not then what would be her status or physical formation?

The evaluation and award of hell and heaven would be done on the individual to individual basis so the family based decisions by the almighty and his angels are simply ruled out. From the glimpse of the paradise that is available in the scriptures one gets a picture that everyone would be on his own. There won’t be any clubs or meeting venues for joint congregations and cultural or social interactions.

It wouldn’t look a bad bargain for professing a faith and then earn an eternal blissful life in the next world. The ordinary common folks who have no higher social or educational awakening or level would not care for the miseries of this world for the sake of a promised living that is more glamorous and ideal than their wildest dreams.

The general picture that one can sketch in one’s mind about the paradise is that this would be place for the sole purpose of luxurious enjoyment and merry making. The host for such an everlasting fantasized hospitality would be God himself along with angels, charming women and beautiful boys serving the winners of paradise.

As stated earlier, the sex part of enjoyment would be confined only to the pleasure and there won’t be any issues or family rearing from that. What type of interaction would be there between a galore of beautiful women and their single master is any body’s guess because the fanciful life in paradise is still far away.

The humanity would be totally engaged in pleasure making and women only to serve the men. According to Islamic dogma there would be wine and intoxicants abundantly available at all times. There will be  rivers of honey and milk flowing under the verdant fruit laden and lush green trees .In the lawns and grassy gardens, the faithful will sit on silky couches along the flower beds with charming fragrance all around. 

It reminds one of worldly king of yester years who can be seen sitting in their palaces or in gardens like Shalimar of Lahore, drinking and eating in the company of their courtiers and charming girls serving and dancing.

 It is not known that as to why so much emphasis has been laid on milk and honey. This could be due to the fact that in Arab countries these two commodities were scarce and costly and confined mostly to those who could afford. Other than the milk and honey a variety of fruits are mentioned which again are delicacies and privileged food out of the reach of the poor and for those who cannot buy them frequently in this world.

But in paradise there shouldn’t be any food that is relevant to this world. The food is at all not necessary in the paradise because even without food and drinks one could remain in a state of perpetual ecstasy. 

But perhaps the authors of these ideas wanted to give feelings to the faithful that what was scarce in this world would be available to the practitioners of religions in paradise and that would be beyond their wildest imagination.

The Woeful Legacy of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto

On April 4 this year was Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s 37th death anniversary. This article written earlier is reproduced with some additions.

January 15, 2015
By Saeed Qureshi

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto didn’t leave any worthwhile legacy except  that he took power from a military chief and barely after six years it went back  to another army chief General Ziaul Haq, a heartless religious fanatic. On 5 July 1977 General Zia-ul-Haq deposed Bhutto in a bloodless coup. Bhutto was tried patently by a biased judicial court for a murder case and was executed by hanging on April 4 1979.

Had Yahya Khan not delayed or refused to transfer power under pressure from Bhutto to Awami league that won the majority seats. Had Bhutto not refused to attend the national assembly session called after the 1970 elections in Dacca? Had Bhutto not threatened the PPP elected National Assembly members not to go the Dacca to participate in the inaugural session and if they did their legs to be broken.

Had he not raised the bogey of “tum udhar ham ither” (you on that side we on this) Pakistan would not have dismembered. The civil war had not erupted with horrific atrocities and the humiliating defeat and surrender of Pakistani army before the Indian army in Dacca on December 16, 1971, had not happened.

Even if the six points were accepted on the face, Federation of Pakistan would still have remained intact. But Bhutto preferred the separation of East Pakistan to have power at least in West Pakistan.

With the defeat of Pakistan army in East Pakistan, the possibility of continuation of power in the hands of army was also removed. By killing two birds with one stone Bhutto assumed power in West Pakistan. But this power was short lived and what happened in the aftermath has been explained in the foregoing.

The paramount question intriguing the discerning students of history has been that why an iconic, revolutionary and charismatic leader Zulfikar Ali Bhutto met with a tragic end. He took the political realm of Pakistan by storm and assailed the minds and hearts of people within a short span of time.

He soared to the political horizon of Pakistan like a meteorite yet plummeted with the same speed and intensity. The charm and magic of Bhutto’s personality and his rhetorical style and revolutionary mandate bewitched the people of Pakistan who looked up to him as a redeemer and the  architect of a new Pakistan that he vowed to “built from ashes”  and by “picking the pieces” of a colossally mauled left-over Pakistan after December 1971 war with India.

It would not be in vain to adjudge him a leader who touched the zenith of people’s love and approbation after the founder of Pakistan Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Had he not committed egregious blunders due to his personal weaknesses he could have been equated with Kamal Ataturk of Turkey and Jamal Abdul Nasir of Egypt and similar iconic leaders? Yet despite a dazzling and unprecedented popularity, within six years, he was desperately fighting for his political survival as well as for his life.

He was endowed with the frame of a firebrand revolutionary that performed exceedingly fast and furious to uproot a debased system of governance and initiated instead one premised on parliamentary democracy.  He was the proponent of the Muslim unity and deserves the credit for convening the OIC 1974 conference in Pakistan.

He liberalized the society from official strait jackets, cumbersome rules and bureaucratic tangles. People were greatly relieved and motivated about a monumental change in the offing. He has the glorious distinction of being the father of Pakistan’s Nuclear Weapons program. A flurry of reforms including land reforms promised a new era of hope and progress.  A new Pakistan as pledge by Mr. Bhutto started emerging.

Although the release of Pakistan’s prisoners of war and reclaiming captured territory by India were considered as Bhutto’s spectacular achievements through Simla Accord, yet I am of the opinion that India could not keep such a huge captured army for long, nor could she hold on to the occupied territory indefinitely.

Bhutto’s overwhelming weakness was that he was loyal to no one: not even to his lofty ideals. He possessed a voracious obsession for power. What I want to point out that Bhutto would go to any extent for retaining power. He ruled like a dictator in the garb of a civilian head of government. 

During his dwindling fortunes after 1977 elections, he sacrificed his cosmopolitan and secular principles by lobbying with ultra conservative forces and courting discredited feudal classes in order to stick to power.

His letter written in April 1958 to the then president of Pakistan general Iskander Mirza extolling him as more exalted that the founder of Pakistan was a sordid display of rank flattery. His exploitation of Tashkent Pact (10 January 1966) was a smart tactical move that swept away a powerful military dictator with a bruised and demonized image.

 Bhutto was genetically averse to anyone’s popularity. His companions, who stood with him through thick and thin and faced extreme persecution and oppression during Ayub Khan’s time, were disgraced and sacked one after another on such flimsy grounds as someone getting popular in public view or opposing some of his policies. Alas! His weaknesses overshadowed his watershed achievements and that resulted in his tragic end.

Presently, in order to highlight Bhutto suspicious nature and his morbid proclivity to tame and frighten his ministers and party leaders, I have to refer to some of the observations made by Baloch leader Sher Baz Mazari in his book, “The Journey to Disillusionment”

“If any of his subordinates showed even a modicum of independence, he would be swiftly punished...“Even Bhutto’s close associates and cabinet ministers now lived in dread and fear of the unpredictability of their master’s temper”…”Bhutto would not brook any criticism…”Bhutto’s obsession with maintaining a aura of invincibility was so strong that he would spare no one, not even those who had done him valuable and devoted service over the years”.

About Bhutto’s devious machinations that were part of his politicking style, Mr. Mazari wrote, “I had known Bhutto for some 23 years. To him lying, double-dealing and deceit were normal means of attaining and keeping power”

His FSF was a Gestapo type dreaded outfit, created to terrorize and tyrannize his colleagues and political rivals. In his book, Mr Mazari provides an account of many erstwhile colleagues of PPP who suffered enormously at the hands of Bhutto’s FSF that brooked no mercy for anyone if ordered by Bhutto to be fixed physically and brutalized. J. A. Rahim is one example who was mercilessly beaten up.

But let us thrash out the events then took place prior to the Bhutto’s ascension to power, first as the president and then as prime minister of Pakistan. The foremost question is that who was primarily responsible for the historic blunder of igniting a civil war in formerly East Pakistan? A political leader of the genius of Bhutto could have never supported deployment of military in East Pakistan knowing well it would entrap Pakistan army.

Yet by a clever ruse not only did he refuse to sit with a majority party but convinced debauch Yahya Khan to take the fatal army action in East Pakistan. Pakistan army was not only defeated but earned a lasting ignominy of surrender. There was a tacit or studied collusion between the then president Yahya Khan and Mr. Bhutto for an army operation in East Pakistan for the reason no one can justify.

If the democratic process was to be honored then why was it necessary for Mr. Bhutto to warn the elected parliament members that their legs would be broken if they go to East Pakistan to attend the National Assembly session in the aftermath of the elections. That was a blatant denial of a majority party’s right to form the government.

Were the army top brass and Mr. Bhutto not cognizant that sending of army to subdue a whole province was immoral, unconscionable, illegal and suicidal? Were they not aware of a stark reality that in-between was an inveterate hostile country and the supply line of army personnel, weapons, food and medicines could not be carried on either by air or by sea.

Bhutto’s tenure could be portrayed as a kind of a fa├žade of democracy that cloaked his authoritarianism and was the most dominant reason for his downfall. As already stated that  all his aides and colleagues who remained with him through thick and thin and were ideological bulwark of his revolution, were forced to leave through gross intimidation, witch-hunting, physical tortures, humiliation and through every brutal means carried out through the FSF and personally by Mr. Bhutto by foul mouthing and abusing. 

As such when the army intervened on July 5, 1977, the PPP was depleted of the committed and loyal hardcore cadres to stand by him. He fought a lonely legal war in front of the prosecutors who were his sworn enemies for other reasons.

Bhutto’s penchant for power was so chronic and deep-rooted that contrary to his lofty ideals of making Pakistan a democratic, modern, secular, liberal country with civil society abandoned these cherished goals and dashed these on the rock of expediency. 

The Pakistan National Alliance (right wing political alliance of 9 parties against PPP) launched an earth shaking countryside agitation against the rigging of the 7 March 1977 and for Nizam-e- Mustafa. The PPP unbelievably won 155 out of 200 seats in the Parliament. 

He frantically tried to win the support of the religious right to stay in power. He compromised his treasured credentials of an enlightened leader by accepting all the demands of PNA and downgrading him to the level of a religious fanatic or zealot.

What a volte-face that he sold his lofty status of the architect of a new modern Pakistan and auctioned his revolutionary mandate for the sake of power. Now such perfunctory measures as making Friday a holiday, declaring Ahmadis as non Muslims, banning liquor and horse races would not make Pakistan an Islamic state. 

But in order to deflate the hurricane of commotion for his ouster, he bargained his secular credentials, his conscience and political integrity. From that moment Pakistan has been irredeemably sinking into the abyss of religious fanaticism, lethal sectarianism and unremitting bigotry. But even that historic betrayal couldn’t keep him in the power saddle.

The outcome was irretrievably disastrous for his future. The religious lot got their piece of pie and then hastened to move for his downfall. The anti-Bhutto outburst was mounted by all sections of society: the betrayed and disillusioned people, friend and foes, bureaucracy, army, rival politicians, traders, students. Bhutto looked a desolate and forlorn person “fluttering his luminous wings in vain”. The whole scene seemed to be the replay of what Bhutto did against Ayub Khan.

In his twilight days of power, Mr. Bhutto prolonged the process of holding talks for a rapprochement with the opposition. When he finally agreed on the contentious issues between him and PNA it was too late and much water had flown down the political rivers. It clearly means that he lacked a kind of political acumen and discerning ability to see the direction of the wind. Thus Ziaul Haq took the reins of the government on July 5, 1977 and ruled with an iron hand till he met his tragic fate also.

Now there is very little logic in maligning or hating Ziaul Haq who seized power from Mr. Bhutto. Ziaul Haq was not a politician. He was outright a dictator. He was a rigid, bigoted religious practicing Muslim.  He was an army chief and the country was drifting towards a total chaos and breakdown. Ziaul Haq, in addition to the army and a host of politicians and perhaps external abettors, enjoyed full support of the Islamic parties, Imams of mosques, religious seminaries and madrasas.

Ziaul Haq because not an ideal moralist although he was a practicing Muslim. He did not amass wealth, nor made mansions but decidedly lived simple and austere life. This is for his person character. But in politics and in power all is fair: all the more when the religious sections of all hue and cries were behind him and the power fell in his lap like the ripened fruit. He had the abetment of certain foreign countries as well

Let us give credit to Ziaul Haq for a proxy war in Afghanistan, though at the behest of America and the west that forced Soviet Union to leave Afghanistan with an historic disgrace. As a result of Soviet Union’s defeat in Afghanistan, the Muslim caucuses that the czars of Russia had forcibly annexed became independent. 

During the Afghanistan war, in a brief conversation with journalists including this scribe, Ziaul Haq obliquely made a revealing statement to the effect that a miracle was about to happen in Afghanistan. By that he meant the Soviet defeat and liberation of Afghanistan for the communist stranglehold. That proved to be true.
 I am not an admirer of Ziaul haq but I believe that he was more prudent, crafty and skillful than Mr. Bhutto.  

He never claimed that he was a political wizard or that he favored democracy and fundamental rights. He crushed the freedom of expression, curbed independence of media, and maimed the organs of civil society including judiciary and parliament. But he did these things because these were wrong. In simple words it was not his mandate. The dictators around the world have been doing obnoxious things and oppress their people to stay in power corridors.

Zia was not a lone dictator who suppressed the social freedom and further Islamized the society by more stringent Islamic injunctions. But he was seldom apologetic about what he was doing. He was the votary and spokesperson of a rigid, orthodox Islamic regime that he served well even employing extreme tyranny. Bhutto was people’s chosen representative yet he used the same coercive methods and intrigues that bring them at par.

Ziaul Haq and later General Musharraf assumed power by default and because of the peculiar conditions that surfaced by the wrong doings and inept policies of their predecessors. Bhutto’s grave mistakes of curbing Baluchistan insurgency by use of brute military force, his amendments in the constitution for accumulation of more powers, his maltreatment of the opposition leaders, the massive rigging of 1977 elections, behaving as a merciless and intolerant lord to his peers and devoted colleagues, betrayal of his revolutionary mandate and finally using excessive force before and after 1977 elections to curb the agitations whipped up by PNA and other groups, were all catalysts for his downfall.

But tacitly dismembering Pakistan by raising the slogan, “you on that side and we on this side” was proverbially the final nail in the coffin. It clearly meant you rule there (former East Pakistan) and we rule here (West Pakistan) as two independent parties.

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was right in forming a political party. He was justified in challenging two military dictators. But he was wrong in boycotting a democratic process based upon popular vote which could have saved Pakistan from dismemberment and unerasable ignominy of defeat and surrender of Pakistan army vis a vis Indian army.