Friday, March 30, 2018

President Trump Zeroes-in on Pakistan

By Saeed Qureshi

After announcing an unpredictable list of sanctions and issuing threats to a host of countries both friendly and unfriendly, President Trump is on the move to wreck the long-standing relationship between USA and Pakistan. President Trump’s attitude towards Pakistan has been hostile for many years even before assuming the presidency of the United States
The Trump Administration is considering to revoke Pakistan's status of a major non-NATO ally and imposing political penalties on Islamabad for allegedly harboring Afghan extremist elements”, the US Foreign Policy magazine said in its report.
"Amid growing frustration on Capitol Hill, the Trump’s deputies are weighing unprecedented political penalties on Islamabad for harboring Afghan militants waging war on the US-backed government in Afghanistan," the report claimed.  
"We are prepared to do whatever is necessary to protect US personnel and interests in the region," the magazine quoted a senior administration official, who requested anonymity, as saying.”
Lately the US imposed sanctions on seven Pakistani companies over suspicion of having links to the nuclear trade, potentially hurting Pakistan’s ambitions to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).
The companies had been "determined by the US government to be acting contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States," the US Bureau of Industry and Security, Commerce said in its report.
“The Trump administration is also considering to permanently cutting off the US military aid to Pakistan that was suspended two months ago.  besides imposing of visa bans or other sanctions on Pakistani government individuals in on the table. The Trump Administration has already temporarily withheld the $255 million aid, which was part of a $1.1 billion aid package authorized in 2016 by Congress.”
This harsh and hostile attitude towards Pakistan has come up despite Pakistan’ long standing multi-pronged cooperation with USA.  According to available figures “at least 60,000 people have been killed in Pakistan due to terror attacks since the beginning of the war on terror, while the economic losses have been measured at $120 billion. Since 2001, the country has also hosted millions of Afghan refugees who fled the war in Afghanistan.
If America ditches Pakistan unceremoniously, the vacuum is likely to be filled by China and Russia and other friendly countries in favor of Pakistan. Without involvement of the regional countries specifically Pakistan, America cannot attain its goals, if any, in Afghanistan. Pakistan’s logistic support is essential for any military operation against the Taliban and other similar factions. Thus, Afghanistan would again turn into a battlefield destroying the internal and the regional peace. Without any retaliation from Pakistan, the Taliban and other militant groups would revive their insurgency freely, ferociously and unsparingly against both the American forces and the sitting dispensation in Afghanistan.
Pakistan in any case should not delve in Afghanistan internal affairs or be a party anymore to fight the Taliban. This turn of events and America’s anti- Pakistan attitude and policies would be a blessing in disguise for Pakistan. Pakistan would be under no obligation to act as a mercenary for USA. At the same time the Taliban may get closer to Pakistan and discontinue or abandon their ruinous mayhem within Pakistan.
It has been seen that at the end of day, Pakistan gets a bad name as President Trump has hurled at Pakistan forgetting and overlooking what Pakistan did in Afghanistan and how much it suffered and how it is being humiliated under the new administration with Donald Trump as the president. Pakistan is a sovereign country and has the right to refuse to become the part and pawn in international rivalry between the bigger states.
Pakistan's role in the War on Terror is a widely discussed topic among policy-makers of various countries, political analysts and international delegates around the world. Pakistan has simultaneously received terrorists and commendation for its anti-terror efforts”.
If president Trump wants to put sanctions on Pakistan like he is doing with regard to many other countries including China and Soviet Union, let him go ahead with that decision. If such a tactic is to please India and pressure Pakistan to play the same role in Afghanistan as it has been doing in the past, let this counterproductive role be discarded for all time to come.
Pakistan is one country which has been playing as the second fiddle to America in curbing the terrorism in Afghanistan. I might differ with the term terrorism used for the religious bands and conglomerations fighting for the establishment and revival of the orthodox genre of Islam that was prevalent during the time of Prophet Muhammad and followed by his four pious successors or caliphs.
If hard conditions are imposed by President Trump then in that case, Pakistan can move towards the friendly Islamic countries and particularly China as well Soviet Union for a new relationship which would be more promising and profitable. I would suggest that notwithstanding the disliking and hostility of prime minister Modi, Pakistan should enhance its relations with India in the fields of cultural exchanges, mutual trade and business.  Kashmir is a thorny issue but that can be resolved mutually and amicably by both the neighboring countries and not with the intervention of the third party.
Lately as part of her itinerary, the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Ambassador Alice G. Wells is in Pakistan. After her meeting with Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua, it was emphasized that the US and Pakistan had a long track record of cooperation. Ambassador Wells emphasized the importance of working together to achieve the common objectives of peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region. The two sides agreed to continue bilateral engagements at all levels. Hopefully, the ambassador Alice’s aspirations can also be shared by the Trump administration.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Being Rich and Poor

March 21, 2018

Sometime back I read an interesting column posted at Yahoo news under the caption, “Rags to Riches: Self-Made CEOs Who Started with nothing.” Among these fabulously rich persons there are some self- made wealthy individuals who were previously homeless. One of them, when he was homeless, even a penny was precious for him. Now with over 10 billion in his kitty, he can buy any material comfort under the sun. Even that desire must have reached a saturation point. With a mountain load of money, the only drive that remains with him is to swell the wealth further.
There is gainsaying that beyond a certain benchmark the wealth loses charm even for the gubernatorial wealthy people. Yet the only penchant that remains with them is to enhance the volume of their opulence. It could be portrayed as a sort of situation to be diagnosed as the wealth fatigue or disenchantment except an unflinching urge to add more wealth.
The wealth or money, in simple terms, is a great vehicle and instrument to make the best out of this limited and ephemeral life. The poverty simply is a curse that deprives a man even of the easy attainment of basic needs or comforts that are essential to lead a normal life. The disparity and disequilibrium in possession of wealth or means of buying in various societies  are so glaringly poles apart that one feels aghast at the yawning gap between the haves and have-nots or the poorest and the wealthiest in the society.
This should be the dream for a person like me living on a paltry monthly income of $ 1000 as to own personal jet aircrafts, or fly in first class, reside in palatial mansions, own the costliest cars, rub shoulders with top aristocracy and elite classes, oblige politicians with hefty donations and lord over a huge network of business and an army of subordinates.
For countless humans around the globe to come home at dusk with some basic food items to feed his children besides himself and his wife is a tall order. He or she has to jump out of their rickety beds the next morning, set off for the work that is as monotonous, and as dull and low as dish -washing and sweeping the streets or to guard a property of a rich person. This insipid yet forced routine continues for decades until he retires and starts a new phase of life with wrinkles on his face, aging frame of body and aimlessly brooding and waiting for the monthly stipend checks to come. In essence, the life pattern remains the same except the passage of time that has sapped his energies and freshness of youth and he is gradually drifting to his end.
There are many billionaires who were born in extremely poor families and had to go through very harsh, humiliating and trying conditions for survival. Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blank Féin, Howard Schultz, John Paul Dejoria, Li Ka-Shing, Lloyd Blank Féin, Roman Abramovich, Sheldon Adelson, Slide pollajax, Ursula Burns, are some of the names of the persons who are known as self-made billionaire CEOs and who started with nothing.
For instance Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, grew up in a cramped two-bedroom apartment in New York City, saw his father lose his delivery job after breaking his ankle. Lloyd Blankfein, the head of one of Wall Street's most profitable firms, Goldman Sachs, is a Brooklyn native, who learnt the value of a dollar "three cents at a time carrying trays of soda at Yankee Stadium."
The CEO of the multi-billion-dollar software empire, Oracle, Larry Ellison the sixth wealthiest person in the world at the outset ended up going from one odd job to another, with just enough to survive on fast food and buy gas. Li Ka-Shing the wealthiest self-made billionaire in Asia with a net worth of $21 billion, was forced to quit school after his father died of tuberculosis, eventually finding work in a plastics factory where he worked 16 hours a day.
Take John Paul Dejoria, the co-founder and CEO of John Paul Mitchell Systems, for example. Dejoria twice found himself homeless. Finally, he pulled himself out of homelessness to have his products land in almost every top hair salon in the world.
All these people were paupers to begin with. However, with a mix of innovative mind, unwavering determination, and good luck, they finally became billionaires. There are innumerable stories of such persons who in their early life were starving, were homeless, or possessed very meager means of sustenance. However, today they not only roll in money but also are increasing their wealth by leaps and bounds.
But these are the stories of a few individuals. The countless millions on the planet sleep hungry or without a proper meal. The luxuries of life as enjoyed by others with abundant or modest means are far away from these wretched or scum of the earth. Clean water, cool air and cozy and private environ of a home are simply unachievable fantasies for them. Such is the paradoxical cleavage of inequality of wealth among the human being.
I have seen even in America, otherwise a leading affluent country, the human scavengers waiting outside the restaurants and eateries for the surplus of waste food to be thrown into the dumpster. They pick it up and eat without ever thinking these could be contaminated or would pose health hazard to them. This practice of finding wasted and discarded food for filling the furnace of belly is common phenomena all over the world.
If you have to see its fullest view, then go to any third world country, where food and jobs are scarce and hunger and starvation are rampant. This saddening spectacle is seen even in rich societies despite the fact that there are countless food banks and emergency food centers that cater to the helpless hungry human beings. In every city of America, there are agencies that distribute food to the hungry and indigents round the year.
There have been innumerable famines in the known history of humankind. These famines ravaged and killed millions of human beings. To survive desperately, hungry people ate the dead animals, stubs, and stock of the plants, the reptiles, and even the dead humans. The French Revolution took place because of hunger and high cost of bread and food. During one of the Pharaohs times the enslaved people ransacked the palace, forced the king to run away and the stocks of the grains were looted. Such is the power and compulsion of hunger.
In the Indian sub-continent alone 60 million people had died due to 15 famines from 1770- 1944. African continent has always remained in the grip of famines from ancient to the present times. However, even in such sullen societies the wealthy and rich people still survived and enjoyed life while the common people died because of starvation. The extravagant lifestyle of French nobility before the “French Revolution” in comparison to the impoverished and downtrodden people offers the glimpse of that contrast.
Third world countries like Pakistan, India and Bangladesh and also the entire African content have wealthiest families and individuals. Most of them are in business and some have been holding prestigious and powerful executive positions which they exploited to enhance their wealth and opulence. Now these people would rather have seen the wealth being put in their accounts or kept in their personal custody. But they would not restore that wealth to the national exchequer or give away a part of that for the uplift of the poor and financially backward classes and sections. Such is the deep-seated aversion by the rich for the dispossessed and demonstration of a despicable tendency to not donate it or part of it to the needy and deprived sections of the society.
In Pakistan the wealthiest families have amassed their wealth through devious or questionable channels. But they invest that money into such ventures that brings them more wealth astronomically. The political power wielders such as Sharif Family, Zardari and others keep accumulating their wealth by hook and crook and use that for winning votes and remaining in power as long as they wish to. The political stalwarts remain hand and glove with the industrialist, mill owners, the business tycoons, the property and land czars and keep hoarding money perpetually.
The laws and taxation system and accountability are the weakest institutions in Pakistan as well as in the other third world countries. These people pay meagre taxes. Since they would be in power and institutions are vulnerable they escape and no one can catch them and force them to pay the taxes and duties which a low-level trader or a shop owner does.
The problem with the developed countries such as USA and the west Europe is such that the law there doesn’t give leeway to the wealthy to escape from the back-doors and violate the rules and caveats. The payment of taxes is incumbent upon everyone. If someone would be found manipulating or concealing taxes and duties he or she can face heaviest fines and terms in jails. That is why those countries are running on firm footing and going ahead on the road to further advancement in all domains of national development and reconstruction.
There are 34 richest families in Pakistan. The wealth of some these families ranges between Rs, 50 billion to 200 billion. Among these Mian Mansha is on top with Rs. 200 billion (1.9 billion U.S. dollars) He is followed by Asif Zardari with Rs. 189 billion (1.8 billion US dollars) stashed in businesses, ownership of properties and solid cash in banks in Pakistan and abroad.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Sunnis and Shias: Two Irreconcilable Factions in Islam

March 15, 2018

By Saeed Qureshi
The succession issue of Prophet Muhammad(pbuh) after his demise in 632 A.D., is the most crucial and paramount irreconcilable dispute in Islam. The Muslims were exposed to the dilemma as to who would succeed Prophet Muhammad to lead the nascent Islamic fraternity or the nation. Primarily it was a tussle or conflict between the two powerful tribes namely Ommyads and Banu-Hashim. Their tribal rivalry was in fact a spillover from their mutual conflict even before the advent of Islam and carried forward after the declaration of Prophet Muhammad to be the appointed Prophet of God. The Ommyads was one of the most prominent and powerful tribes in Mecca.
When Hazrat Muhammad declared his being the divinely ordained Prophet, the Umayyads were the leading among the other desert tribes to oppose this claim tooth and nail. The Umayyads were led by Abu Sufiyan who was one of the most noted and prominent tribal chiefs. His clan that he lorded over was not only materially well-off but was the custodian of the most reverend and respected shrine of house of God in Mecca(Baitullah).
That house had the white stone (later became black) that was believed to be brought on earth by Adam, the first human being and the prophet sent by God to earth. Their rivalry was so intense and vigorous that under the threat to his life and termination of his divine mission, that Prophet Muhammad had to clandestinely migrate to the city of Madian where the enjoyed enormous goodwill in absentia. He was accompanied by his closest companion Hazrat Abu Bakr who later turned to be his father-in-law and first successor of the Caliphate.
The city of Mecca was considered as a sacred place for a variety of reasons. But the most compelling reason was that it had idols that were worshipped by the people in the Arab peninsula. It was also associated with prophet Abraham and his son Ismael and their stay and emergence of water fountain by angel Gabriel. There were reported to be 360 idols ascribed with various powers. There used to be a yearly assemblage when the people from adjoining cities and village would throng to Mecca and celebrate a festival for several days.
But not only that Mecca city was a spiritually rallying place for the Bedouins and city dwellers but it was also a junction for the trade caravans and the travelers from the South to North and vice versa. The Banu Ommyads being the controllers and administrators of this most sacred stopover in the heart of desert would make all the arrangements for the stay of the travelers and visitors that would include from food, residence and other socio-cultural festivities. Thus, they would reap huge financial benefits besides enjoying a cultural clout and ascendancy and prominence.
With the declaration of Prophet Muhammad to believe in one God and abandon idolatry the rivalry turned into enmity and thus the Prophet had to secretly leave Mecca for Medina where he had quite a sizable number of the followers who were ready to host him and support him both by way of spreading his faith which was named Islam and also to stand by him.
The Prophet was quite safe in Madina. Islam started spreading and the number of new Muslims increased rapidly. Thereafter with a large army of volunteers and the fighters he marched towards Mecca and conquered it. The Ommyads were dislodged, defeated and subdued but they were not demoralized. They waited for an opportune time to take the leadership of Muslims and to rule the lands conquered by the Islamic army.   
After Prophet Muhammad’s demise, the rivalry for his succession became the main issue of contention between the clans of Ummayd and Banu Hashim to which the Prophet belonged. The Prophet had obliquely hinted many a time Ali’s brotherhood and closeness to him.  Those utterances gave Hazrat Ali and his wife Fatima (the daughter of prophet) the indication that Ali being Prophets’ cousin brother and closer to him since childhood would be the Caliph after him.
It didn’t happen and the three Caliphs who succeeded the Prophet one after other were all out of Prophets’ blood family. Ali assumed the Caliphate after the murder of the fourth Caliph Usman who was the most prominent scion and leader of Banu Ummayd clan. The second caliph was Hazrat Umar.
Ali was proclaimed the fourth Caliph in 656 AD. But his nomination was challenged by Amir Muawiyya, the son of Abu Sufiyan and the governor of Syria who also claimed to be the Caliph. Muawiyya was appointed governor of Syria by Usman, the third caliph. Amir Muawiyya was also a relative of caliph Usman and a prominent scion of the Ummayd clan. The conflict between these two stalwarts of Islam namely Muawiyya and Ali entailed battles for six years. Finally, it was decided to hold a kind of referendum of the prominent members and notable Muslims, in a mosque, to vote for one or the other claimant.
The verdict though called a ruse and deception by the pro-Ali Muslims went in favor of Amir Muawiyya. Thus, the conflict for imamate between the Umayyads and Banu Hashim further intensified. Later Ali was also killed by an assassin in 661 AD.  and this conflict for the Caliphate continued that entailed the martyrdom of Hasan and Hussain, the two sons of Hazrat Ali.
In 750 A.D. the Abbasids replaced Ommyads and ruled for about 110 years. They killed all the royal members of the Ummayd family. But one of them a young boy Abdur Rehman managed to escape and after great deal of hardships reached Morocco.  In subsequent time, he established a magnificent Ummayd empire in Spain that remained in place from 756 -1002 AD.
Later the Caliphate in Kufa was snatched by Abbasid who inflicted heavy losses on the scions of Ummayd family to the extent that even the last child of that family was killed. Only one person was able to flee to where he founded a magnificent islamic empire though under the nomenclature of Caliphate. The conflict between the pro ali and Banu Hashim clan and that of Ummayd resulted into two bitterly rival Caliphates: one in Hijaz and the other in Iraq, Syria and even Persia. The Abbasid caliphate disintegrated in 861 AD. The Kharijites and Shias and Persians brought the Abbasids in power.
Unfortunately, that religious and power tussle continues to this day. Iran is the citadel of the followers of the Shia’ism or the Banu Hashim. The other regimes in the middle east are partly the Sunnis and partly run by the Shias. Apart from the regional conflict between Iran(Shia) and Saudi Arabia(Sunni) this conflict is spread to other countries such as Pakistan where their doctrinal rivalry continues and their mutual hatred caused unabated clashes and casualties. As such the Islamic fraternity is dived into two rival relgions that stand no hope to reconcile. There cannot be a compromise and give and take in matter of faith between the Sunnis and Shias for all time to come.  
Ali the son of Abu Talib (the Prophet’s uncle) and the son-in-law of Prophet who was also his cousin brother had been, under the firm impression that since Prophet had been throwing hints about his extraordinary kinship and closeness, he was the best one and the most competent to don the noble mantle of Caliph after the demise of the Prophet of Islam.
Hazrat Abu Bakar or the first Caliph was not from the clan of Prophet Muhammad although he was very pious and also having the exalted status of being Prophet’s father-in-law. Ali was not pleased with the appointment of Abu Bakar. Thus, Ali remained indignant with this decision and didn’t take the oath of fealty to the new Caliph for a few months. He was again by-passed when Abu Bakar died and the second Caliph Hazrat Umar was chosen. Upon Umar’s tragic death at the hands of an assassin, Usman was chosen who was also from the Umayyad clan.
Finally, upon the death of the third Caliph, Ali also became Caliph but it was too late and by that time the Islamic fraternity living in Arab peninsula had been markedly divided into two groups: one with the Hashemite tribe or the so called the blood family of the Prophet comprising Prophet Muhammad, Ali the son-in-law and cousin brother of Prophet Muhammad, Ali’s wife Fatima and daughter of the Prophet and two sons Hasan and Hussein.
Politically and regionally Saudi Arabia professes Sunni brand of Islam based upon the Wahabi faith. On the contrary majority of Iranian population and the government follow the Shia creed. For several centuries, Saudi Arabia has been and still is the spiritual and religious center for the Sunnis while Iran is for the Shias. They are regional foes politically and also by virtue of unbridgeable religious discord.
The third Caliph Usman had appointed many of his kinsmen and relatives to prominent positions including the governors in various conquered territories. The proclaiming of Ali as the fourth Caliph, brought one of Othman’s relative Muawiyya, the governor of Syria in open revolt. The fighting between Muawiyya who also laid claim to be the Caliphate continued for 6 six years. Finally, it was decided to place this claim to an arbitration by a group of pious people to decide who enjoys more support by the notable Muslims. Ali agreed. But it was a trick by Muawiyya to deflate the heightening position of Ali as the probable Caliph.
By a ruse through a preconceived arbitration in the Shirjeel mosque, the legality of Ali was nullified against Muawiyya. Ali was deposed and Amir Muawiyya the governor of Syria was proclaimed as the Caliph of the Muslims.
The contrived pro-Muawiyya verdict was tremendously resented by the followers of Ali and supporters of the Hashemite tribe. The supporters of Ali were named as Kharijites. So, while Ali and his supporters didn’t accept that verdict, Muawiyya the governor of Syria became the elected Caliph of the Muslims. As such there were two Caliphs simultaneously of the Muslims.
The murder of Hazrat Ali by a Kharijite in 661, led to the end of the period of the orthodoxy and a peaceful transition of the successors of Prophet Muhammad. Thereafter the eligibility on the basis of good conduct and Islamic fervor, was set aside in nomination or the selection of the Islamic successor or the founder of Islam Prophet Muhammad. Instead from Muawiyya onwards the system of hereditary succession was established. As such Yazid the son of Muawiyya became the Caliph after his father’s death.
After Ali’s death two attempts were made by his two sons Hasan and Hussain to recapture the Caliphate from Ommyads. First attempt was made by Hasan the elder son of Ali against Muawiyya. Muawiyya routed the small contingent of Hasan and later through an offer of solicitation sent Hasan back to Medina with the offer of big monetary stipend where he led a life luxury until he died at the age of 41 because of the poisoning.
The second attempt of insurgency or rebellion was made by Ali’s second son Hussain who marched to Kufa with his family members and a contingent of around 200 fighters or supporters. At that time the Umayyads” Caliph was Yazid the son of Muawiyya. In the field of Karbala near Kufa, Hussain and his male supporters were brutally massacred. Thus, the Ummayd dynasty was firmed up and remained in power from 661-750 AD.
The Ommyads dynasty came to its end when Abbasids under the banner of a scion of the Hashemite clan Abul-al-Abbas captured the capitol Kufa in 749 AD. Abbasids took a barbaric revenge from the Ommyads. Abu Abbas, the leader of the Shiites was proclaimed the Caliph in 749 AD. The last ruler of the Ummayd dynasty Marwan 2nd was beheaded in Egypt outside a church in Egypt. Kufa situated on the Persian border became the center of power of the Shiites which it still is for these centuries.
With the movement of the Islamic capitol from Madina to Kufa, the influence of the Persians mostly fire worshippers turned Muslims grew dominant. Although these Persians embraced Islam but their ritualistic culture started influencing the Islamic polity. However, the reign of Ommyads marked the end of the Arab dominated period. Under the Abbasids, the image and contours of the Islamic Caliphate assumed an international character rather than remaining confined to Arab nationalism. However initially it was supported by Kharjis and Shias.
Saudi Arabia and most of the Arabian states profess the Sunni brand of Islam. On the contrary Iran is the spiritual center of the Shias around the world and looked upon as the second spiritual and religious center after Saudi Arabia. The discord between Shias and Sunnis is almost 1400 years old.  Besides the global friction between the Sunnis and Shias, the regional rivalry between these two Islamic states has divided the Middle East into two powerful rival colliding blocks within the fold of Islam.
The Shia and Sunnis ratio in number is roughly counted to be ten per cent of the Shias and 90 per cent of the Sunnis. The Shia’s main spiritual center is Iran. They follow the Shia theology and discard a great portion of the Sunni Islamic teachings and theology. Ali after his death in the mosque of Kufa was proclaimed as incarnated manifestation of God and an embodiment of Mysticism and divinity. Ali’s followers came to be known as the Shiites. The Shias still hold on to that belief and Ali is believed by a section of Shias to be a kind of an incarnate God. Shias believe that Ali is divine and his divinity is shared by his two sons.
The writer is a senior journalist, former editor of Diplomatic Times and a former diplomat.
This and other articles by the writer can also be read at his blog
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Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The Rise and Fall of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto

Note: This article is being posted on the eve of 89th birth anniversary of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto observed every year on January 5. Mr. Bhutto served as the Prime Minister of Pakistan from 1973 to 1977, and prior to that as the fourth President of Pakistan from 1971 to 1973.
March 4,2018
By Saeed Qureshi
The paramount question intriguing the discerning students of history has been as to why an iconic, revolutionary and charismatic leader Zulfikar Ali Bhutto met with a tragic end. He took the political citadel 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.
Mr. Bhutto entered the power corridors in 1963 as the minister of Foreign Affairs with president Ayub Khan. He was deposed in July 1977 by General Ziaul Haq following a military coup. Later he was imprisoned for ordering the murdering of a political opponent. A case of murder was initiated against him and he was hanged by the military government on April 4, 1979. As such he lived for 51 years and remained in power in various positions for 14 years.
His most outstanding achievement was the convening of The Second Islamic Summit Conference (OIC countries) held from February 22-24, 1974 at Lahore. It is also called the Lahore Summit. The Second Islamic Summit Conference was called to discuss the Middle East situation in the wake of Arab Israel war of October 1973 and the oil embargo imposed by Arabs. It was attended by the heads of states, foreign ministers and dignitaries from almost all the Islamic countries.
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 the 1971 war with India and the cessation of Eastern part of Pakistan now called Bangladesh.
It would not be in vain to adjudge him as a leader who touched the zenith of people’s intense love and deep 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 five years, he was desperately fighting for his political as well as personal survival.
He was endowed with the frame of a firebrand revolutionary that performed exceedingly fast and furious to uproot a debased system of governance and premised that on parliamentary democracy.  He was the proponent of the Muslim unity around the world and he deserve the credit for convening the OIC 1974 Conference in Pakistan.
He liberalized the society from the straight jackets of cumbersome rules and dismantled the bureaucratic tangles. The people were greatly relieved and motivated about a monumental change that was 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 forbade a new era of hope and progress.  The journey towards a new promising destiny began with a nation rejuvenated after country’s truncation. The release of Pakistan’s prisoners of war and retaking captured territory from India were considered as Bhutto’s spectacular achievements through Shimla 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.
Nevertheless, 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 Sikander 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 an 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 (Federal Security Force) was a Gestapo type dreaded outfit, created to terrorize and tyrannize both 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.
But let us thrash out the events then took place prior to the Bhutto’s ascension to power, first as the foreign minister, then president and as the 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 never support use of military in East Pakistan knowing well, it would entrap Pakistan army by the Indian forces as well a Mukti Bahni.
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 before the Indian armed forces. 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 from West Pakistan that their legs would be broken if they go to East Pakistan to attend the inaugural session and to from the government by the majority party which was Awami League led by Mujibur Rehman. 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 whole province thousands of miles away, 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 façade 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 intimidated through, 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. Thus, the ideological core of the PPP was weakened.
 As such when the army intervened on July 5, 1977, the PPP was depleted of the committed and loyal cadres to stand by him. He fought a lonely legal war based upon a murder case 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, he abandoned these cherished goals and dashed these on the rock of expediency. During the earth-shaking countryside agitation spear-headed by Pakistan National Alliance (PNA) he frantically tried to win the support of the religious right to stay in power.
One Such party was Jamaat-e- Islami that opposed the creation of Pakistan and wanted the new state to be an Islamic emirate. He compromised his treasured credentials of an enlightened leader by downgrading himself to the level of a religious fanatic or zealot.
What a sordid 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 as a holiday, declaring Ahmadis as non-Muslims, banning liquor and horse races would not make Pakistan an Islamic state.
Yet in order to deflate the hurricane of commotion by the religious right groups and politicians 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 (alliance of nine political parties), it was too late and much water had flown down the political rivers. The opposition parties got everything what they wanted and didn’t relent in blowing up their street power that led to his ouster. 
It clearly means that he lacked also a kind of political acumen and discerning ability to see the direction of the wind. Thus, the army chief Gen. Ziaul Haq (appointed by Mr. Bhutto) took the reins of the government and ruled with an iron hand till he also met his tragic fate.
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 support from 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.
Now I would not apportion much of blame to Ziaul Haq because he was 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.
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 Union’s 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, duplicitous, 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 he near thought these were wrong or 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 included curbing Baluchistan insurgency by use of coercive military force and his amendments in the constitution for accumulation of more powers. Bhutto’s 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 were all catalysts for his downfall.
 He tacitly dismembered Pakistan by raising the slogan, “you on that side and we on this side”. He warned the elected members from West Pakistan not to attend the inaugural session of the assembly and if they did their legs would be broken. It clearly meant that Awami League should form the government in former East Pakistan (now Bangladesh and the PPP in West Pakistan like the two independent states. Had he honored the right of majority to rule and let the political process move forward, Pakistan would have remained intact with its East and West wings together.
Nevertheless, Bhutto’s greatest achievement was to unite the Muslims by convening the Lahore OIC Summit in 1971. That was an historic milestone although that unity couldn’t last long. The Middle East is still going through a prolonged war.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

The Element of Glorification in Religions

March 1, 2018
By Saeed Qureshi

One of the most glaring and striking element in religions is the glorification of the founders or stalwarts of those respective religions. This image building or attribution of super human powers and closeness to an omnipotent or the creator of the universe is to show that the deity that these believers follow or believe in, was an extraordinary being and that he could do anything by way of blessing or harming anyone.
Supplemented with this is the doctrine of hell and heaven and the peculiar powers to wreak havoc by way of vengeance and conferment of blessing by way of pleasure. Such allurements and fears serve as irresistible trappings for all those who have some kind of needful to be done such as harming the enemy and getting rich and popular.  
Naturally everyone wants money, power, popularity, clout and pelf. Those who have these privileges already, want more besides protecting those possessions and belongings. If there is a power that can be pleased and appeased by performing certain rituals and by clinging to certain fundamental beliefs to retain or get such privileges then it is not a bad bargain for the solicitors.
But God has been introduced by the individuals to the people like them. These individuals had been outstanding in intellect and wisdom. They have extraordinary qualities to guide and express themselves. They are highly eloquent and possess the inborn qualities to impress others. They are very sensitive and can conceive into deep thought process as to unravel in their minds such elements of understanding and knowledge that an ordinary person cannot conceive. These are the people who act as link between the creator and the human beings for favors or disfavors. All that the followers have to do is to demonstrate obedience,6 observance and compliance of the guidelines given by these torch-bearers, holy figures or apostles. Thus, a faith comes into being.
These intermediaries have to be pleased and appeased first so that they can give good recommendation to the almighty for favoring of disfavoring someone. Since God doesn’t come himself on earth to tell or convey, by some other medium, to everyone that he was their creator or God.  As such the creator of the universe has been made known to the human beings through these intermediaries. As such they expect from their followers and believers to accept them as close to God and his appointed messengers on earth. They expect to be revered as the holy figures and receive the accolades, esteem and reverence of the believers and others to follow their advice and recommendation.  
Thus, we see that the founders of all the religions are considered to be close to God and sinless. Jesus Christ is believed by the Christians to be the Son of God. The belief of the people in their divinity and sainthood or prophethood is believed to be a prerequisite and the stepping stone for earning God’s favor and mercy. So, the followers of these saints, prophets and the holy figures can go to any extent in eulogizing their spiritual powers and nearness to God.  
They are looked upon by the common people as the repositories of such attributes that can resolve the problems and the afflictions that the humans encounter. Moreover, the blessings and    the approval of the holy figures (prophets and saints) can get them a ticket to paradise and their displeasure can land them in hell.
But hell, and heavens are not readily available in this world. They are in the next world for which one has to remain loyal both to God and his apostles. A slight error or deviation from the given path can earn them the wrath of and displeasure of these holy people and through that of God as well. Most of the people don’t analyze or question as to why God can be so near to a few individuals and appoint them as his nominees and representatives on this earth to guide others. God, with all the powers, can turn everyone obedient in a fraction of second or they all can be born as staunch believers, entirely chaste and immune or pure of all the sins and wrong doings. As such these apostles are not needed to convey messages and beliefs that God wants the humans to adhere to.
The spiritual superiority or nearness to God by the prophets, the apostles or the holy men divides the humanity into two groups: those who are blessed by God on the recommendation of the prophets and those who remain unbridled from the shackles of beliefs and religious restrictions. Such divisions and beliefs also create fear and a preponderance for the credulous to follow the intermediaries and holy figures lest God gets furious and they suffer as a consequence in this world and in the next world which religions goad would come. As to when the system would come to an end and all the dead people would rise and become alive no one has any clue or proof of that.
In the first instance why, there should be a division between goodness and the wickedness in this world. If it has been created by God to sift between the believers and non- believers in his existence then such an option should not be left to human beings all the more when a powerful enemy in the form of Satan and devil has been let loose on them.
A creator of the universe cannot play such pursuits with the human beings and watch being misled by his arch rival Satan. If human beings are given as much and as strong powers that Satan is believed to possess then such a match and tussle or competition would look logical. Human beings with limited powers cannot stand firm or resist the temptations coming from the Satan to commit sinful acts and adopt anti- religious and anti-God behavior. Even if he or she remains steadfast and resists the Satan’s evil temptations then the reward for good deeds and punishment for bad deeds would be decided when the world would come to an end (the Doom’s Day)
It would look plausible that instead of reexamining the resurrected people on the day of judgment in a huge ground and decide their fat one by one, they can be sent directly from the earth either to paradise or the hell after they die.   
It is uncertain as to when world (our earth only) would end and God would sit on the throne besides the prophet Muhammad (Islamic belief) as no definite date or the time frame has been given in the scriptures or revealed by the apostles. But again, logically why God should play such games with his own creation and let the devil prey upon them till the Dooms’ day and then the people would be rewarded or punished. This look so illogical for a God and in a universe, which is absolutely logical and based upon the immutable scientific principles to the extent of a billionth of a second. The Christians have resolved that enigma by pleading that anyone who believes in Jesus Christ as the son of god would straight-away go to the paradise after the death.  Christians’ belief in paradise doesn’t mention about the Houris (pretty women) or wine etc. in paradise.