Saturday, July 16, 2016

An Historic Moment for Turkey

July 16, 2016

By Saeed Qureshi


The Turkish nation deserves heartfelt and sincere congratulations on saving their great country and democracy from plunging into the abyss of military rule or dictatorship. The military coup engineered against the incumbent Turkish president Recep Erdogan and his government by a rebel military faction has fizzled out. Erdogan and his ruling party AKP (Justice and Development Party) have prevailed. In this bloody power tussle, the casualties were 265 dead including 104 rebel soldiers. Besides some 1440 people were injured.

Since 1919 there have been six attempts from the Turkish army to takeover of power in Turkey. Excepting the one led by Kamal Ataturk the others derailed Turkey and inflicted deep scars on the political landscape of that great country. The army takeover led by Kamal Ataturk was the need of the time as the foreign enemy forces were slaughtering the Turkish people and the then king caliph Abdul Majid-II was in league with invading forces rather than siding with his own people. That was a turning point in the chequered history of Turkey which until 1919 was a caliphate for centuries.

No one is perfect in this imperfect world. Rajab Tayyab Erdogan (In Turkish language it is written Recep Tayyip Erdoğan) spent his early youth by selling lemonade and sesame buns on the streets of Istanbul for a living. He began his political career as the Mayor of Istanbul city from March 1994 to November 1998. After founding his political party AKP Erdogan has served Turkey brilliantly to such an extent that now Turkey is not only militarily strong but also economically a robust country.  AKP is the incumbent ruling party. From 14 March 2003 to 28 August 2014 Erdogan had been the prime minister of Turkey. Since 28 August 2014 he is the president of Turkish Republic.

The revolution of Kamal Ataturk laid down the foundations of a modern Turkey. Turkey is a land of unique nature. It joins both the European continent as well Asia. But the most enchanting dimension of Turkey is that it is an enlightened Islamic country where religious dogmatism has been buried for all time to come. Turkey offers Brilliant example of modern Islamic state that is what all Islamic state ought to be in the present era of clash of civilizations with a mission to march shoulder to shoulder with the developed nations.

History is made and nations are built by the individuals with extraordinary traits and exceptional qualities. Some of these qualities are unflinching courage, bounteous talent, sagacity, genius, blotless character and the ability to take right decisions in face of stupendous crises. In Turkey’s context; it was Mustafa Kamal Ataturk who in 1924 created the modern Turkey with secularism as its paramount anchor and armed forces as its defenders.

After 85 years, the pendulum is swinging towards the other side with Prime Minister Rajab Tayyab Erdoğan (in Turkish language it is Recep Tayyab Erdoğan), reinventing Turkey to conform it to the imperatives of the present day world with Islamic identity. Both these heroes represent two ends of the fulcrum but essentially serve the same glorious purpose of turning Turkey into a modern state.

Kamal Ataturk knocked down the orthodox caliphate to replace it with a state based upon liberal Islam, modernism and secularism. Erdoğan is engaged in an historic task of embracing Islam with the essentials of the modern societies. As a teenager, this most illustrious icon, revolutionary, progressive, truly Muslim and a popular prime minister of Turkey, sold lemonade and sesame buns on the streets of Istanbul for a living.

Ever since his advent in politics and as the prime minister of Turkey and now as the president, Tayyab Erdogan has been waging a multi-dimensional war at home and aboard, in order to bring Turkey into the comity of developed nations, while retaining its Islamic image, spirit and ethos.

The unscathed emergence of Erdogan and his defiant reaction to July 15 military coup speaks for his courage and tenacity and even popularity among the Turkish people. Upon his call the crowds swarmed on the streets and roads of main cities including Istanbul and Ankara and blocked the movement of the rebel soldiers and their military vehicles and tanks.

In a hastily pre-arranged news conference at the Istanbul airport after landing from his holidaying Erdogan said that “The uprising was an "act of treason", and those responsible would pay a heavy price.” The prime minister Yildrim sounded the same tough warning at a news conference in Ankara. He alleged that “The members of the "parallel structure" , government shorthand for the followers of U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen - were in the hands of Turkish justice.”

One can imagine the retaliation of the incumbent government of both prime minister Bin Ali Yildrim and president Erdogan announcing to hold criminal investigations against the captured rebel soldiers and officers whose number is estimated to be nearly 3000.

Beautifying Pakistan

 July 15, 2016
By Saeed Qureshi

Throughout its existence since August 14, 1947; Pakistan has perennially remained in troubled waters. From the anarchy of the initial years to the interspersing of democratic stints, to military dictatorships, it has been overshadowed by a constant threat of disintegration as a state. This disintegration came off in 1971 when its eastern part then known as East Pakistan was truncated.

While East Pakistan changed her nomenclature to Bangladesh, the West wing came to be known as Pakistan. It was a cataclysmic event that happened in contemporary history when a state dismembered barely 24 years after its birth and independence from the colonial rule.

All these years, Pakistan earned strictures such as a failed state, a country not viable to stay on the world map and a nation moving towards eventual extinction or another disintegration a la East Pakistan. Pakistani society is infested with myriad chronic problems that range from poor social and utility services to unstable or dysfunctional institutions as well as sway of reactionary cutthroat religious militants. The competent, efficacious, egalitarian and public welfare oriented governance has ever remained elusive.

The mutual bickering and intolerance of the politicians kept the functioning of democratic form of government fragile and vulnerable to army intervention that always stepped in as an interim arrangement. Yet in due course the army would consolidate its hold on power as long as it could hang on.  As such a stable democratic culture could not take roots.

The state governance and power wielding alternated between a non-representative military set up and the political power grabbers who were more concerned with their power and pelf than the national interests. In this pernicious musical chairs game, the welfare of the people and development of the country was always kept on back burners.

The incumbent PMLN government has been embarking on the same track that was being traversed by Musharraf and later by the PPP dispensation in combating the religious militants. Pakistan army has been braced for over a decade now against the radical religious bands to honor Pakistan’s commitment with the international community to annihilate terrorists. Pakistan has been reaffirming her role as an unflinching ally of US in latter’s war against Islamic extremists.

In such a bleak and murky scenario, the amelioration of the appalling socio economic problems of the people cannot be effectively addressed with the urgency and seriousness that it merits. The economy of Pakistan has always been in doldrums and seriously impaired to an alarming extent as evidenced by an all-time high inflation and parity rate between dollar and Pak rupee. Apart from other countless maladies we have seen that a whole panic stricken nation waits in long queues for a bag of flour or else buy food items at an exorbitant price. The other commodities are so expensive as to reach out of the poor sections of society to buy.

A nation is decaying and dying on account of hunger, disease, deprivation, poverty adulteration lawlessness, and rotten civic life. All these afflictions have fallen on a Muslim nation of 200 million still struggling for its survival. These distortions are the consequences of the wrong doings of the leaders, lacking vision and sincerity. The motives and agendas of successive leaders have been to capture power and milk the national exchequer.

Every year loans of billions of rupees are conveniently written off. These loans are granted to robber barons whose bellies and bank accounts are already bulging like swelling balloons. There is the least accountability for rapacious robbing of the national wealth which must be spent on people’s welfare and country’s advancement. Panama Leaks speak volumes the way the ill-gotten wealth of this poor country has been dumped abroad by top notches in politics, business and in service.

Pakistan is in emergent need of a new revolutionary social contract that should encompass radical remedial changes in every domain and discipline of our society. It should start from abolition of feudalism and Sardari system to abundant and adequate availability of civic facilities namely electricity, water, transportation, good roads, railways, jobs etc. Social and legal justice should be liberated from the onslaughts of the pressure groups and influential individuals and bribery.

There is an appalling mess all over in Pakistan that instead of diminishing is accentuating. Democracy is the finest system of government provided it can ensure social justice and equality of opportunities and basic services. We need dedicated, visionary, and honest leadership that can put Pakistan on the way to economic and institutional stability and civic galore, as we witness in the Western countries.

It all depends upon the quality, sincerity, and caliber of the leaders whether they make or break a nation. We in Pakistani have been having gangsters, thugs, custodians and savior of an exploitative system with such despicable manifestations as feudalism, elitism, untouchable military and civil bureaucracy and so on.

It is therefore; absolutely imperative that Pakistan’s socio- economic and political landscape must be completely reoriented and refurbished. The status quo must be quashed, and new vigorous radical and revolutionary agenda should be evolved. A new social contract must be written that brings about structural and institutional changes in all spheres of society.

The change in attitudes, social behaviors, the modernization of civic facilities and social services should be accorded the utmost and top priority to ensure a decent and worthwhile quality of life of the citizens. The Pakistan nation is mired in a primitive mode of life with rampant superstitions, myths of mystical healings, graves and tombs worshipping, power of the voodoos and fanciful stories of the past beguiling the people to remain mentally backward.

Pakistan is stuck up in a morass of abysmal degradations of all kinds: open sewage lanes, cattle stalking, pollution of smoke and noise, human and animal excretion blanketing the entire country, pervading stink in the air, narrow roads, heaps of rotting garbage, traffic madness and overstuffed public vehicles, life threatening adulteration of food and medicines, vermin infested water, power cuts et el. The officialdom and the departmental network are corrupt, too ill trained, too myopic, too ill equipped, too poorly financed and too outdated to take the bull of these stupendous challenges by horn.

Here are a few broad outlines of a social contract or an agenda that can be instrumental in initiating the much and long coveted transformation in Pakistan. As already stated only a leadership that is genuinely sincere and dedicated to making Pakistan a civically neat, environmentally modern and politically progressive, prosperous, democratic and egalitarian state can enforce it. There might not be immediate and forthcoming results but a direction and course would be set in motion and the first momentous steps could gradually change the whole dismal scenario into the resplendent one with hope and a will to move forward.

The galloping growth of population must be restrained both by persuasion and official caveats. Two children recipe is certainly desirable and ought to be made binding.

For devolution of powers, rapid and optimum progress, Pakistan needs to have more provinces. The existing administrative divisions should be changed into province. Besides creating more provinces out of existing four provinces, the FATA, Kashmir and Northern Regions should also be designated as provinces with maximum autonomy, permissible under the constitution.  

The constitution should be re-written with necessary additions and subtractions. All those caveats should be expunged that bar Pakistan from being a true federation, a genuine democracy and modern polity. During the past few years a few meaningful amendments have been injected in the constitution but more are needed such as abolition of feudalism and separating religion and state.

While the Feudalism, Sardari and clannish over-lordship in all shades must at once be abolished, the taken over lands should be effectively and veritably distributed among landless peasants. People should be freed and liberated from the centuries old vestiges of land-based fiefdoms and indigenous colonialism by taking away the privileged positions and royal status of super land lords against their tillers and bonded labor.  The divisions and discriminations of being high and low between citizens should be replaced with equality for all. This is what our religion warrants and this is what a modern civil society demands.

The pivotal role of judiciary must be ensured and strengthened at all costs by creating an independent judicial system consisting of intrepid, clean, conscientious and upright individuals who cannot be influenced by any trickery of bribe, pressure, political influence or similar other questionable and dirty means. The deposit of court and other fees through stamp papers (in local term it is called Ashtam) and should be deposited in banks. The Accountability courts should form part of the judicial system. Pakistan can take a cue from other modern societies for establishing a strong and transparent judiciary. The ramshackle and old court buildings need to be redesigned as most of the existing edifices look like cattle stables. These have mostly broken furniture and lack heating or air-conditioning facilities. The judges and their staff is exposed to violence and intrusion.  In the open place one can see all around make shift cabins of stamp paper venders, advocates and their agents. If someone wants I can send the design of one of the district or county court buildings in Texas to see a sea difference between those in Pakistan and here in the United States.  

The entire civic and municipal system should be completely revamped. The civic problems are directly related to the people’s lives and their mental and social awareness and quality of life. People are desperate to have their pressing and local and civic issues such as orderly traffic, trash collection, encroachment and cattle free footpaths, streets and roads and so on to be addressed effectively and regularly. For these fundamental reforms the “City and County” system of local governance should be adopted whose blueprints can be borrowed from the United States or any western society.

It would be an epic milestone if the people in the coming elections vote for the candidates and parties that relatively have a clean record and a fair name in the public service. If the same chronically corrupt leaders and highway robbers return to the assemblies, Pakistanis will forfeit a unique chance for a big leap forward and a rare choice for a better future and good governance, although physically it may still remain on the world map.

Solutions for Pakistan

April 12, 2014

By Saeed Qureshi

Unlike Saudi Arabia and Iran Pakistan is not a religious but a nation state. It should be liberated from socio-religious taboos that hinder its progress and development like other developed nations around the world. It was Mr. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who switched Pakistan then relatively a secular state towards a theocratic state. It was the unbelievable mind boggling somersault that came from a highly modernized, secular leader and proponent of democracy, human rights, equality and liberty. 

The submission of ZAB under pressure from the religious right and theocratic forces to Islamize Pakistan was the most grievous debacle that plunged Pakistani into a morass of religious fanaticism that has ever been swelling and, of late, has assumed monstrous proportions. Thereafter, the society, the state and the institutions in Pakistan have remained subservient to the burgeoning religious militancy. The predominant role of Muslim crusaders in anti-Russian war in Afghanistan gave a kind of cart-blanche and brazen leeway to further push Pakistan into the lap of theocracy and unhindered mushrooming of religious dogmatism.

Mr. Bhutto spoke in favor of downtrodden sections of society and by taking shelter under Islamic socialism nationalized banks and industries. But these steps were taken at a time when socialism was on the decline for being a failed economic system. For the time being there was a bubble of economic boom and the people believed here was a liberator and redeemer who will take the country to new dazzling heights of glory and dignity.

But alas by two disastrous decisions, he watered down his achievements of liberalizing society, endearing Pakistan to the whole world particularly the Islamic bloc. One was to block Awami League from forming the government and also to spur Pakistan army and the morally bankrupt president for triggering civil war in East Pakistan culminating into dismemberment of Pakistan. 

The second devastating decision was the amendment in the constitution that became a stepping stone for the clergy and religio-political parties with Jamaat-i-Islami in the lead to hold and spread their obscurantist agenda in Pakistan. He declared Ahmadis as non- non-Muslims. He banned liquor first in 1974 in the army mess halls. After the PNA movements for Nizam-i-Mustafa and against rigging of election in 1977, he again budged and as a political ploy, declared prohibition on the sale of alcohol and closure of liquor bars in Pakistan in April the same year. Ironically while the opposition forced ZAB to go back on his previous agenda of opening up society, they supported the advent of military rule under General Ziaul Haq in whose tenure Bhutto was hanged.

 Ever-since those blighted, indiscreet and self-serving decision just to placate the religious parties and to stay in power became lasting millstones around the neck of Pakistan as well as the society. Pakistan has been paying a heavy price for Mr Bhutto’s egregious blunders made for the sake of personal aggrandizement. Had it been done for the sake of Islam one could take it as justified. But sacrificing his lofty agenda of building a new Pakistan on the altar of expediency and as a bargaining chip for hanging on to power was outright rank and loathsome opportunism.

His successor Gen. Ziaul Haq was hundreds times more focused on Islamizing Pakistan and one shudders to see in the hindsight how he forced his religious idealism by using naked and brute force and state power in crushing the opponents and those who spoke for fundamental rights and democracy. The Afghan anti-communism war gave an enormous fillip to his myopic agenda and what was missing in the Islamic impulse of Bhutto was irretrievably furthered and hammered by Ziaul Haq. The passion of Bhutto for Islamizing Pakistan was a spurious ploy while that of Zia was in right earnest, although both pushed Pakistan into a dreadful religious paradigm whose latest manifestation are Taliban and Al-Qaida.

It is indispensable that some visionary, courageous and progressive leader can reverse that retrogressive trend set in motion by Mr. Bhutto and later by Gen Ziaul Haq. Towards that goal, the following reforms are of utmost importance:

-The nomenclature of Islamic Republic of Pakistan should be changed to the Democratic Republic of Pakistan.

-Liquor and similar beverages should be allowed in Pakistan under state rules for sale and use. -That would prevent illegal and underground trade of liquor, forcing the people to use injurious and toxic drugs such as heroine and pot. The people were free to use these delights in undivided India and for several years after the birth of Pakistan. This fundamental right should be restored to them.
-The religious seminaries should be integrated with the main schooling system in Pakistan. The subject of Islamic teachings and jurisprudence can be made a part of the academic syllabus.
The number of mosques should be fixed for a certain number of residents in a locality.
-The Imams and clerics (who lead prayer) should be appointed by the local governments or administration. There should be some required qualifications and knowledge of Islam for every Imam to be appointed.

-Religious fanaticism and militancy should be curbed with full might by the state.
-The Shamanism (Peeri and Mureedi and fake sainthood) should be curbed at all costs. The worship and idolizing the dead as redeemers of human problems has to be banned.
-Feudalism in all forms should be eradicated.

-The rewards to the military officers by way of huge tracts of lands should be discontinued. That was a colonial practice to create loyalists in the army. The military top brass thus becoming landlords and big landholders try to protect this anti-human institution.
The sectarian outfits, the religious militancy, the groups involved in destabilizing Pakistan on their own or at the behest of the foreign inimical powers should be eliminated so that the people feel safe and resume their normal life.

-For trial of the terrorists, extortionists, killer gangs, saboteurs and arsonists now spread all over Pakistan making a mockery of the Law enforcement and legal system have to be killed on the spot or tried summarily to be executed through summary trials. When peace prevails the traditional legal and police system can be restored.

-The separatist movements and insurgents like the BLA should be handled the way Sri-Lankan government dealt with the Tamil Tigers. The armed skirmishes with BLA would not yield any desired results so soon. The army can launch a quick and brutal blitz for debilitating and stamping out this network that purportedly is fighting a proxy war for some foreign anti –Pakistan powers. If parleys can bring some kind of pacification, then that option may be tried before launching a full scale army operation. Same treatment should be meted out to the Taliban and those elements that want to turn Pakistan into medieval theocratic state.

-The FATA region should be declared a province of Pakistan like other provinces. The frontier regulations and special status in regard to FATA should be done away with. The FATA once joining as a part of Pakistan without being administered under special status would end it as the hub of countless criminal activities emanating from this region.