Friday, December 7, 2018

The State of Pakistan and Religious Fanaticism

December 6, 2018

By Saeed Qureshi
Islam is the state religion in Pakistan but of which sect? If the answer is pure Islam then what could be the interpretation of this pure Islam keeping in view the various sects and religious denominations that dot Islam. The Sunnis and Shia interpretation of Islamic Shariah is divergently different from each other.
During the last fourteen centuries, there has never been any convergence or consensus on an agreed, unanimous or unified code of Islam that should be acceptable to both the mainstream Islamic sects as well as the fringe denominations. Instead, these sects have been exterminating each other in horrendous massacres and bloody bids for conquering each other’s lands.
This cleavage is glaringly manifest even in the present ages when Islamic fraternity is distinctly divided into two blocs: one headed by the radical Sunni Saudi Arabia and the other by Iran as the main citadel for the Shia branch of Islam. There is no way these two blocs can hammer out a format of faith that can eliminate their ideological rivalry and bring them on one common agreed platform of Islamic Shariah. The division of the Islam into two contrasting and confronting ideological blocs, has given birth to the regional conflicts and a frantic race for political or leadership ascendency in Middle East and elsewhere in the world.
In the ongoing upheavals in the Middle East, in states like Bahrain and Syria, the popular uprising is being interpreted in terms of Shia and Sunni majority areas and demographic proportions. Alongside with the popular wish for liberalization of these societies with civil rights and democratic forms of governments, the underlying tussle boils down to the question as to the which sect is going to wield political power within the respective countries now steaming with the urge for a change.
The same ideological conflict is rampant in Pakistan that is attributed to be an Islamic state. The animosity and hatred between divergent sects are manifest in the unremitting terrorist attacks and bombing of each other’s’ holy places and during religious festivals.
The Muslim societies where the religion is the driving force behind their nationalism or is the raison d’ĂȘtre of their existence such as Pakistan, have remained vulnerable to the sectarian bad blood and ideological pulls and pressures. It would be an ideal situation if Pakistan turns a liberal state where all shades of religious faith are free to practice and worship in accordance with their religious traditions and teachings.
In Pakistan with an Islamic nomenclature, while the majority sect is free to prevail the minority sects and denominations feel themselves fettered and under pressure in regard to the unhindered performance of their religious customs and traditions.
The cardinal cause of the religious discord in Pakistan is the lack of tolerance between sects and because of treating each other as infidels, heretic and out of the pale of Islam. The sects such as Deobandi, Wahabi, Ahle-Hadith, Qadria, Chishtia Naqshbandi and a whole lot of mystical bands, in fact, blur the fair and original face of Islam that was in vogue during the period of first four heads of Islamic states; called caliphs.
The conflict and tussle for power that started between the governor of Syria Amir Muawiyaha and the fourth Caliph Hazrat Ali (656-661 A. D.) laid down the foundations of fissures in Islam that has never been bridged nor can it be removed ever in the future. The accession to power after the demise of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) divided the Muslims into Shias and Sunnis.
This ideological division is so hard and trenchant that both these sects do not pray in one mosque, say the same Azan (call for prayer). They observe different timings for payers, fasting and use different words in prayers. The Shias do not pay the Islamic tax (Zakat). Above all they consider that the first three caliphs usurped the rights of blood relations of the Prophet to succeed him in caliphate or Imamate.
As such both these sects are poles part and can never agree on one Islamic code. They kill each other and deem it as a religious obligation to be sacrificing their lives for the sake of upholding their religious ascendency.
The other myriad sects that abound in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan simply help in shredding the monolithic ideological fabric of Islam with their diverse concepts and explanations of Islamic Sharia and by their violent feuding.
For instance, three conservative sects Qadria, Chishtia and Naqshbandi believe and promote the culture of shrines, the worshipping of tombs and graves. They sing hymns for eulogizing the saints and holy figures for their supernatural powers to heal and remove problems. Their opponents, the Wahabi discard all these practices as un-Islamic and sacrilegious.
The Christians, the Hindus, the Ahmadis and other similar non-Muslim sects cannot feel themselves at par or equal citizens of Pakistan because the majority sects would not treat them as such. The orthodox and radicals from the Sunni faith attack and harass and kill, at will, the faithful of other sects within Islam and the non-Muslims alike as a sacred duty. The rival sects when get chance pay back in the same coin.
Therefore, to declare Pakistan as an Islamic state with so much sectarian animosity looks like a mockery because the tolerance and justice, the two pain pillars of Islam, are seldom practiced in any Islamic State all the more in Pakistan. The Islamic Republic of Pakistan is now clandestinely ruled and governed by the Islamic militants who brook no mercy nor tolerance for the dissenters or followers of diverse and divergent faiths.
Wherever, the state and religions have mingled or blended by the writ of the state or under the force of the mighty and dominant religious sects, the state affairs and the good and peaceful governance have remained in a limbo.
First of all, in the absence of a unanimous or agreed format of Islam, the faith-based dissention or strife would always remain a lurking hindrance for the unity and peace of a society. The attacks on shrines in Pakistan have gained momentum. The destruction of Sunni and Shia places of worships are testament to the gory fact that it was impossible to eradicate the discords of creed between these colliding sects.
It is, therefore, necessary that state affairs should be detached and made free from the religious domain as far as possible. The interference of religions in state affairs is detrimental to the overall advancement of a society and for the unhindered socioeconomic progress, political stability and democratic culture to flower.
There should be freedom of religion for all sects within the confines of the law and the constitution. Europe went through the turmoil between Catholicism and Protestantism and finally confined religions to the individuals to follow. The European societies have ever since been in peace.
Pakistan is a geographical entity. Islam was here in these lands when Pakistan has not been carved out. Pakistan as a country is meant to serve and cater its citizens irrespective of their cast, color, creed, gender, religious inclinations, or being low or high, rich or poor.
A country cannot be called an egalitarian state or a free society, if it remains hostage to the overbearing dictates of particular cults or sects. It would be a theocracy as Pakistan is. Absolute theocracies have never prospered as evidenced by history.
For a theocracy, the citizens of a country have to be in vast majority with the same faith in order to maintain their hold on power as we can see in Iran and Saudi Arabia. Otherwise only brute power can keep the opposing sects or ethnic segments together as seen in Iraq during Saddam Hussain or presently in Bahrain.
In the modern times when the nation states have emerged, the theocracy is unthinkable and to impose it would be sure recipe for sectarian war and social disharmony and dysfunctional political governments.
During the British colonial occupation of 200 years and even during the 1000 years of Muslim rule in the united India, the society, by and large, presented a harmonious blend of religious pursuits for all sects and their peaceful cohabitation. The Shia-Sunni and Wahabi-Naqshbandi discord that in Pakistan has reached frightening dimensions was seldom on display during the British rule in India. The mushrooming of sectarian civil war began after the creation of Pakistan which is getting more violent and deadly with the time passage.
It is indispensable to curb and rein in the religious extremism that may now be called religious militancy as it is becoming a constant threat to the writ of state and does not allow the society to be transformed into a civil pattern. The strident religious extremism hinders judiciary, press, executive and legislature to be free and independently play their respective roles for the benefit of the people.
The religious extremism poses a constant challenge to the people and state so much so that the false cases of blasphemy cannot be adjudicated that merit release of the accused person. If someone is released by the court he or she is later killed.
Moreover, these violent, hate-filled, rancorous and bigoted religious entities are exploited by the political forces and special interest groups to promote their respective agendas. The religiously motivated individuals are always ready to kill and create panic. General Ziaul-Haq cleverly and adequately manipulated the religious right in Pakistan to douse the spirit of social freedom and keep his opponents under control.
His lurid legacy remains vibrant with every successive regime following the same tactic that is creating perpetual disorder and turmoil in Pakistan. The creation of Taliban for occupation of Afghanistan is now back lashing as this Frankenstein is now swallowing Pakistan with atrocious and disastrous ramifications happening every day by suicide bombing and sectarian clashes.
The Islamabad religious seminary’s deadly episode with state troops demolishing that place with brutal force is a testimony as to how strong and defiant the religious outfits have become to create a state within a state.
If some can come up with a practicable model of an Islamic state in clear terms, which can fulfill the demands of the modern civil society, a nation state and with complete sectarian ethnic and communal peace in Pakistan, then he should hasten to unfurl it so that Pakistan can move forward as a stable and strong nation. The models of Saudi Arabia or Iran will not work in Pakistan as they have complete majority of their respective branches of Islam in their lands. Otherwise let Pakistan be a secular Islamic state.

This religious and sectarian frenzy poses a great challenge to the incumbent PTI government. The latest demonstration of that distasteful bigotry has been witnessed in case of a Christian girl Asia Bibi who was convicted of  blasphemy by a Pakistani court and was sentenced to death by hanging in 2010. She was acquitted In October 2018 by the Supreme Court of Pakistan on the basis of insufficient evidence.

That verdict was rejected by the fanatic religious leaders led by Khadim Hussain Rizvi a Barelvi preacher and the founding chairman of the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan, a fast-growing religious political party.

On their command the whole country was paralyzed under the pretext of blasphemy committed by that young Christian girl who had already been punished for a sin which she has denied of committing and had even asked for forgiveness. The main cities including Karachi and Lahore were gridlocked by the fanatic religious crowds. That show off of bigotry caused enormous financial loss as well as termination of mobility of the people and the transportation. Threats were hurled by Rizvi and other demagogues at the government, law enforcement agencies and the judiciary. That was a kind of a kind of religious coup against the state of Pakistan. Now such gory incidents can also happen in the future which need to be forestalled.

Monday, November 26, 2018


November 25, 2018

By Saeed Qureshi

 The people of Pakistan ought to be grateful to the incumbent Chief Justice of Pakistan, Honorable Mian Saqib Nisar on his historic mission of raising funds in UK and USA for building dams that are indispensable for both the people and crops. He has proven to be a true and patriotic son of the soil and a thoroughly honest dispenser of justice. In Manchester’s (UK) gathering the honorable chief justice expressed his views on the rapid and huge collection of the funds for the much needed Bhasha and Diamir dams in these words, “all Pakistanis were taking the lead in contributing funds for construction of dams and he only witnessed this passion during the 1965 War.”

We are aware that the primary responsibility and mandate of the incumbent Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar is to dispense legal justice to the aggrieved. However, his latest undertaking and mission focused on raising funds for building the stalled “Dam Diamir Bhasha and Mohmand Dam” is sublime. He announced that several dams would-be built-in Pakistan to overcome the scarcity of water for both drinking and agricultural purposes.

 He emphatically pledged that no one can stop the national objective of attaining prosperity and overcoming the water scarcity all over Pakistan. Is pledge would go down in the history of Pakistan as momentous in nation building.

Diamir Bhasha and Mohmand Dam is essential for agricultural output, household use and drinking for the people of Pakistan. This project has been stalled and remained on the tenterhooks for a variety of reasons one of which is the lack and non-availability of huge funds.

The countrywide contribution to the fund stood at Rs 7.09 billion while the remaining Rs 880.23 million were contributed by the expatriate Pakistanis, according to an update issued by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP). In due course more, funds and donations would be coming in. This money has been transferred to the Dam’s fund. The pouring of donations indeed is a show of trust in the person of the chief justice and his absolute honesty and personal integrity.

It surmises that any other person of significance both morally and financially uprightness would not have achieved such a brilliant milestone as the chief justice Mian Saqib Nisar has done. This hallmark is also blissful and a feather in the cap of the PTI government more so for the prime minister of Pakistan Imran Khan.

Imran Khans’ deadline of hundred days for unfurling an agenda of reconstructing Pakistan is about to expire. One can feel that the gigantic undertaking of Imran Khan could have been looked upon as an unachievable goal if the illustrious chief justice would not have jumped into fray with a mission of the same nature.

The redeeming feature of the ongoing sublime mission is that the funds collected by the incumbent government through Chief Justice honorable Mian Saqib Nisar would be sufficient to convince the international donors and loan giving agencies such as IMF to open their coffers as well to Pakistan and dole out credits on agreeable terms and interest for Pakistan. Per say if that doesn’t happen the chief justice and other patriotic stalwarts may again jump into the fray and fulfil the monumental cost through loans from the friendly countries as well as from the contributions of the people of Pakistan living both within Pakistan and in foreign countries.

One can admire the bubbling spirit of patriotism and enormous national aspiration and sacrifice of the Pakistanis domestically and living abroad. The only thing that is needed is for them to be convinced that the cause for such donation of money was nation-building, prosperity and progress of the people and advancement of the country.

In the past such fund raising and collection of funds for various causes were mounted but ultimately those were left halfway or entirely abandoned as the money was gobbled or miscarried to the other projects or simply pocked by the collectors.

The water level for both agricultural and human consumption is dwindling and receding to the level 400 ft to 1500 in various lands mostly prominently in Quetta the capital of Balochistan.  It has reached the lowest level causing draught for the crops as well as scarcity for the human consumption.

After Quaid e Azam, here is another leader though non-political who has undertaken with courage, dedication and conviction, a national cause so essential and indispensable for the prosperity and economic viability of the country. Hopefully after his retirement Chief Justice Honorable Mian Saqib Nisar would keep serving as the head of a new political party to be in power and thus to bring Pakistan in the comity of advanced and developed nations.

What is Diamer-Bhasha Dam

Diamer-Bhasha Dam is a concrete-filled gravity dam, in the preliminary stages of construction, on the River Indus in Gilgit-Baltistan in Pakistan. Its foundation stone was laid by the then Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani of Pakistan on 18 October 2011. Upon completion, Diamer-Bhasha Dam would be the highest roller-compacted concrete (RCC) dam in the world.[3] The dam site is situated near a place called "Bhasha" in Gilgit-Baltistan's Diamer District, hence the name.

Upon completion, Diamer-Bhasha Dam would (i) produce 4,500 megawatts of electricity through environmentally clean hydropower generation; (ii) store an extra 8,500,000 acre feet (10.5 km3) of water for Pakistan that would be used for irrigation and drinking; (iii) extend the life of Tarbela Dam located downstream by 35 years; and (iv) control flood damage by the River Indus downstream during high floods.

However, in response to using Basha Dam to sideline the Kalabagh Dam, Engineer Anwar Khurshid has stated that "Bhasha dam is no substitute for Kalabagh dam not because of its altitude which is high enough, but because no irrigation canals can be taken out from it because of the hilly terrain. No canals can be taken out from any dam on the Indus except from Kalabagh Dam.

It will have a height of 272 meters spillway with fourteen gates each 11.5 m x 16.24 m. The gross capacity of the reservoir will be 8,100,000-acre feet (10.0 km3), with a live storage of 6,400,000-acre feet (7.9 km3). Two underground powerhouses are being proposed, one on each side of the main dam having six turbines on each side with a total installed capacity of 4500 MW. (Wikipedia)

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Asia Bibi Case and Backlash from Islamic Parties

November 14, 2018
By Saeed Qureshi

 After the creation of Pakistan in 1947 there have been countless protests and strikes by the Religious parties and denominations to Islamize Pakistan with their line of faith. The majority religious groups under the fold of Sunnism have not only been fighting against the other denominations such as Shias but also blocking the right of religious freedom to the minorities within Islam and out of it.

It should be noted that the creation of Pakistan was opposed tooth and nail by the religious groups. The founder of Pakistan Quaid-e- Azam was dubbed as infidel by the religious right. But after the creation of Pakistan the major religious Sunni outfits have been endeavoring to hijack the state and change it into an orthodox Sunni State.  

The latest demonstration of that distasteful bigotry has been witnessed in case of a Christian girl Asia Bibi who was convicted of  blasphemy by a Pakistani court and was sentenced to death by hanging in 2010. In October 2018, the Supreme Court of Pakistan acquitted her on the basis of insufficient evidence. However, she was not allowed to leave Pakistan until the verdict has been reviewed.

The Supreme Court’s decision sparked prolonged and mammoth protests staged in big cities including Lahore, Islamabad, Peshawar Multan and Karachi for three days by the so called religious outfit Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) headed by Khadim Hussain Rizvi  a fanatic and firs spitting religious rabble rouser. It was also joined by Jamaat-e-Ahle-Hadees, another religious extremist party.     Many cities in Pakistan remained in standstill causing untold sufferings to the people including the movements, traveling and buying foodstuff and other dailies necessities. The PTI government had to broker a compromise by conceding to almost all the conditions and demands of Tehrik-i-Labbaik Pakistan. While calling for  "peaceful" protests, the JUI-F chief Fazalur Rehman said that  Asia Bibi's release was "not acceptable at any cost".

One is reminded of the victory of the city of Mecca by Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) on 11 December 629 AD. Those people who tormented him, plotted to kill him and forced his sudden and clandestine departure to Median lined up before him. He asked them, "O Quraysh, what do you think of the treatment that I should accord you?" They said, "Mercy, O Prophet of Allah. We expect nothing but good from you." Thereupon Hazrat Muhammad declared: "I speak to you in the same words as Yusuf spoke to his brothers. This day there is no reproof against you; Go your way, for you are free.” Why Asia Bibi is not forgiven for his utterance that he has apologized and eve negated of uttering it.

In his latest address to the nation, Pakistan’s incumbent prime minister Imran Khan Niazi has vowed to run Pakistan in accordance with the Quran (holy book of Muslims) and Sunna (Islamic jurisprudence). He has been making this commitment even on earlier occasions. At the same time, he has been pledging to put Pakistan on the road to an advanced and modern country. He has vehemently expressed his resolve to bestow religious and civic liberties as well as social order that one can witness in the advanced and developed countries around the world. When the legal, political and social system would be the replica of the Islamic state of Medina, the pristine purpose and goal of a modern Islamic state would be achieved.

First of all, it would be utterly difficult that such a milestone can be achieved in five years that the PTI government would remain in place. It might be a challenging task to absolutely recast the state of Medina in the modern times. There is a time gap of 1500 years between now and the pristine state of Medina. The early rule and laws that served the society and the people fifteen centuries ago may not work properly except the elements of faith and certain religious obligations that are five in number. These are faith in God, angels, prophets, the difference between the principles of good and evil and the belief in the life after death. We are aware that the devout Muslims have unshakeable belief in these injunctions.

In Saudi Arabi particularly and other Islamic countries including Malaysia and Indonesia generally, a model of the pristine Islam state of Medina can be witnessed. But beyond that these are far behind and primitive in various domains of modern state such as respect for law, prosperity, scientific advancement, material progress, societal peace, equality, impregnable justice system, a well-entrenched democratic culture and so on that these states are blessed with. Pakistan and many third world religious states are far behind the United States and the European states in good governance, a truly democratic order, societal peace and rule of law. The fusion of the socio- cultural freedom and galore of human rights and democratic political culture are not seen anywhere in the present Islamic states.

One would certainly be doubtful if the existing Islamic countries are the replica of the State of Medina and being run on true pattern of an Islamic polity. Islamic system of government is basically based upon choice of head of state due to his piety and Islamic fervor.  But in the modern state the vote and opinion of the people are basic yardsticks for choosing a head of state. Islam allows Ijtihad which means modifications according to the needs and imperative of times. As such the State of Medina and the rule of Quran and Sunna will have to be modified to conform to the needs and contours of a modern Islamic state. So, let us see and watch as to how these huge millstones could be achieved. The ultraright and fanatic Muslim believers would not allow a secular person or someone from the minority parties and denominations to be the head of state although administratively he or she might be the best.   

I feel that orthodox Muslims in Pakistan can shake up the entire Pakistan with demonstrations and sits-in even after the release of Christian female Asia Bibi for blasphemy. Although she served years in prison which was harsh and longish, yet fanatic Muslims want her to be hanged and at the same time not to be sent abroad. Then how come that the un-islamic minorities and dissident religious sects would be tolerated and live peacefully with equal rights in the state of Medina s envisioned by Imran Khan and orthodox Muslims. The division between the sects within Islam and also between the Muslims and non-Muslims, would keep Pakistan on the tenterhooks of such hooliganism, lawlessness, processions and boycotts by the diehard believers of respective sects within the fold of Islam.

Create Ten Lakes on Indus River

August 30, 2018
By Saeed Qureshi
Pakistan has three large dams and 85 small dams. Besides there are 20 barrages that control the water of the rivers and flooding. The water to the agricultural lands is carried through 57 canals. The biggest barrages Guddu, Kotri and Sukkar are in Sindh. Among the dams Mangla and Tarbela are the largest dams in Pakistan that also produce hydroelectric power. There are 42 natural and 9 artificial lakes in Pakistan.
In 1850 the British East India Company created a modern irrigation system by building several barrages and canals mostly in Punjab and Sindh provinces. the famous Barrage Sukkar was built in Sindh in 1932.According to the 1960 Water Control Treaty between India and Pakistan, three rivers namely Indus, Jhelum and Chenab were exclusively allocated to Pakistan. India got Sutlej, Bias and Ravi.
Despite having one of the best irrigations and water control systems a huge portion of water flows down in the ocean. Moreover, during the rainy or monsoon season the crops are destroyed and the villages are inundated. The cattle and livestock perish. 
The overflowing water causes death toll of a large number of inhabitants living in rural areas. In 2010 floods 1.4 million acres of crops were destroyed. In 2011 this loss was 1.7 million acres of agricultural land and crops.
Besides, every year during the rainy and monsoon seasons there happens a colossal displacement of the people, loss of cattle, houses and human beings. Pakistan’s major crops are sugarcane, wheat and cotton. The loss of these crops because of flooding and inundation is inestimable.
Punjab and Sindh are the food baskets of Pakistan. These food baskets are sustained and watered by the mighty Indus river that starts from the Tibet Plateau and after traveling a distance of 3180 kilometers (1980 miles) falls at two places: one in the Arabian Sea and the other at the Ran of Kutch. In plains its tributaries are rivers Chenab, Sutlej, Ravi, Jhelum, Kabul, Kurram, and Gomel. The rain water also flows into this world’s 21st largest river. It is a key water resource and backbone of the agriculture in Pakistan.
However, despite well-managed and vast system of barrages and dams, the bulk of water during the rainy periods flows in the ocean mainly through the Indus river as the barrages and dams have to be opened due to flooding and overflowing of rivers. Thus, this precious additional water that accumulates because of the monsoon or heavy rains is wasted away besides causing damage to the crops, fatalities of the people and loss of agricultural output.
The interlinked canals too get choked and cannot carry surplus water to the agricultural lands. The water spreads all over the land and finally joins the flooded Indus or other rivers. The flooded tributaries carry their water into Indus river that swells beyond its banks.  
The best solution of such natural recurring natural disaster and wastage of precious water is if several lakes are created over the mighty Indus between Naushehracity and the Persian Gulf. Since the distance of Indus from Naushehra to Karachi is around 1000 miles, at least ten vast lakes can be built after every 100 miles’ distance. The size of the lakes can be determined by the experts.
We have such a large lake in Sindh province. It is called Manchar Lake. Lake Manchar is the largest freshwater lake in Pakistan and one of the largest in Asia. Since 1930 when this lake was created by the British government, it has remained the source of income and living for thousands of families mostly engaged in fishing. Currently it is faced with environmental degradation problem.
The high and low season of rains is a double- edged sword. When the rains are plentiful the flooding and overflowing is caused that disrupts life, causes displacement of the population and destruction of the crops. But on the contrary when there is a drought, the flow of the water in Indus and other tributary rivers diminishes as to not be adequately available for agriculture.
As such the creation of lakes like the Manchar lake can be useful in both ways. When the rivers are flooded in monsoon season these lakes can become reservoir for the excess water that can be stored for the subsequent use. When in rivers the water level comes down in drought conditions, these lakes can continue supplying water to the seasonal crops. Thus, the level of agricultural output can remain stable throughout the year.
The lakes thus created can also be a source of living for the local population by way of fishing and rowing for the tourists. These can also facilitate the movement of the local residents and merchandise between the banks. These lakes can be another form of the barrages for accumulation of water although these would only store water but would not have the gates to be shut or closed depending upon the quantity of water.   
These lakes would be instrumental in enhancing and stabilizing the principle crops for domestic use and for exports. One can imagine the prosperity and enhancement of foreign exchange for Pakistan. The poverty in our rural areas can be rooted out or at least minimized by creating these lakes.
It is up to the experts and engineers of WAPDA as well as the government to chart out a plan of action and envisage the number of lakes to be created and their locations. Digging of lakes would not be a big problem as the local population can be engaged to work on these projects.
Thus, they would benefit financially. In our villages and countryside there are countless landless and jobless tillers and peasants who can run their households by working on the creation of these lakes which might take a few years.