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....the accounts portray a man who, while zealously preaching jihad and suffering from bad kidneys, was very mobile, followed a diet of three meals a day, and travelled with Islamic scholars, including one who could interpret dreams.” -- A. Srivathsan

 

…can this 'turning point' become an opportunity for Pakistan to address the roots of its malaise and explore the possibilities for reform? If so, in these grave times, what is the way forward? Nothing short of a leap of imagination and a concerted move to resolve, once and for all, the enduring uncertainty over the role of Islam in the definition of Pakistan's constitutional identity will do. For that, Pakistan must now consider a fresh constitutional settlement that unequivocally rejects empowering the state and its citizens on the basis of their perceived relationship to Islam. It is this that has nurtured the state's fatal attraction to the language of holy war, which has exacted so heavy a price from the people of Pakistan. Their loss has been the military's gain. Its futile quest to 'match' India abroad has not only deepened Pakistan's dependence on the United States, but left the country dangerously vulnerable to Islamist groups at home.-- Farzana Shaikh

While Bin Laden's death will undoubtedly be seen as a major setback in ideological and material terms to the radical Islamic movement in the region, for India it will not alter substantially the threat that it faces from elements involved in cross-border fomenting of terror against it. Neither should this incident be allowed to engender any romantic notions about emulating a super power's efficient agencies/ special forces in thinking of or talking about taking out personalities inimical to India in similar manner. Instead, vigilance should be enhanced and efforts should continue, to monitor whether this huge embarrassment leads to even minuscule introspection within Pakistan about changing the thrust of policies which have proved counter-productive. -- R Banerji

 

Simply because one of its several Vice-Presidents was a Catholic priest who recited the Gayatri Mantra at the inauguration of the party, it did not make it secular, he insisted. ‘The Welfare Party of India, spawned from the Jamaat-e Islami Hind, reminds one of the BJP, the offspring of the mother RSS. Its Christian Vice-President Father Abraham Joseph brings back memories of the BJP’s almost permanent Vice-President, a Muslim Sikandar Bakht. -- Yoginder Sikand, NewAgeIslam.com

Understanding functioning of godmen requires understanding sociological, psychological and political factors. Human behaviour is of very complex nature and all these factors play important role. The entire phenomenon cannot be explained with reference to ‘blind faith’ alone as rationalists tend to do. ,,, Thus, as against rationalists, I believe, human behaviour as it is, needs godmen very much even in 21st century (though I myself do not approve of it). Asghar Ali Engineer

This year has seen a dramatic acceleration of history in the Arab world, the falling apart of a rotten order; an unraveling that has birthed the “rough beast” of new societies where people will have a say in how they are governed rather than being trampled by Paleolithic tyrants. Just what the embryonic beasts will turn into – whither they slouch – is impossible to say for now. But no foul volley of bullets from Syria’s Bashar Al Assad can stop the convulsive movement of the gyres. Technology and demography have ushered Arab societies into a new age as the once vast information gap between ruler and ruled has narrowed. -- Roger Cohen

 

The country which in the mid-1960s was heralded as a role model for other developing countries, where the international press had praised its military-led development model no end, stating that it might just reach the levels of development achieved only by the United States, has just appeared as the world`s 10th most failed, or failing, state. On the course towards reaching this rather ignominious distinction, this country has also been called “the most dangerous place in the world”, and a “rogue state with a nuclear arsenal”. S. Akbar Zaidi

 

I think since Hazare is being described as Gandhian and his struggle as Gandhian, we must first briefly reiterate what Gandhian values are and what strictly speaking, Gandhian struggle ought to be. To begin with there are three essential elements of Gandhian struggle which cannot be compromised: truth, non-violence and utterly simple life style. Of all the three one element was surely present in Hazare’s struggle i.e. non-violence. It is really debatable whether the other two were present or not. Non-violence in long run is possible if, and only if the struggle is based on truth and nothing but truth. -- Asghar Ali Engineer

"I saw people's nails being ripped out and people hung from the ceiling by their arms or legs," said Adel Reda, 39, trembling as he recounted his nine months inside the complex. "They would throw our food in sand before giving it to us and splash us with cold water day and night. Sometimes it was so dark you couldn't see your hands." When asked whether he was ever allowed access to an attorney, Reda raised his hands heavenward and replied: "My lawyer was God." Egyptian military tanks were positioned outside the security structure and the army's elite Thunder Squad pleaded with protesters not to enter the forbidding complex. Egyptians chanting "Down with State Security!" stormed past them and flooded into the building. They lingered even as military police fired warning shots into the air. Outside, several families of detainees gazed at the scene in disbelief, mumbling prayers and shouting the names of the disappeared. They cornered army commanders, demanding to know whether the military had apprehended the agents who'd apparently escaped before the crowds arrived. "Did you arrest them? Did they come out as prisoners?" a protester asked. -- Hannah Allam 

In General Musharraf’s case, there were two radical new elements of the initiative: Pakistan closed the tap of jihad in Kashmir and offered out-of-the-box-thinking on Kashmir that buried the UN Resolutions for good. This was carried forward by way of a back channel dialogue that went quite far. In Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s case, there are also two new elements of the Indian initiative: India has agreed to share details of the Samjhota Express case which exonerates state or non-state elements in Pakistan and indicts Hindu extremists instead; and it relents pressure on the ISI to crack down on Hafiz Saeed, the leader of the Lashkar e Tayba, following the acquittal of two Indian Muslims in the case of Ajmal Kasab who were alleged to have confessed to direct links with Mr Saeed. One factor seems to have been in common between the initiatives taken by General Musharraf and Dr Singh – that of time. General Musharraf cut the ice midway through his term. Dr Singh is doing much the same, a year into his second term when he doesn’t have to worry about too many coalition partners tugging at his sleeves. The Indian initiative is based on the notion of ‘permanent peace’ articulated by Dr Singh. For tactical reasons South Block isn’t talking about the ‘composite dialogue’ which is a red rag to the Indian media in the wake of Dr Singh’s abject backtracking after Sharm el-Sheikh last year. -- Najam Sethi

 

The Bush administration went into Iraq with a multitude of objectives, from finding and destroying weapons of mass destruction to building a new democratic country in the heart of the Middle East. But even at the highest levels, US officials disagreed over how central the creation of a democratic Iraq was to American ambitions and interests. This ambiguity of purpose helped create a serious dilemma: The United States undertook a complicated, multifaceted occupation and nation-building project without the planning and resources required for it to succeed.  Yet, even after Obama’s speech Monday at the National Defence University, it remains unclear what the president considers an acceptable outcome in Libya. Engaging in military action and claiming a desire for regime change, yet expressing unwillingness to use force to achieve that aim, even while providing support to those seeking to oust Qaddafi — this is a recipe for confusion, both within the administration and among the public. -- Meghan O’Sullivan

And as I apply the last touches to this piece, Pakistani hearts were broken and we vowed vengeance -- the vengeance of supporting Sri Lanka, and the vengeance of "next time!" We supported and support still our team of ragtag misfits and sports pariahs, and especially our impossibly good natured and charismatic captain, Shahid Khan Afridi, who fulfilled his incredible promise of bringing a battered team to the semi-finals. All in good fun, and not in bad taste. Sometimes serious, never deadly. No fights, no broken ties. Millions across the border -- and thousands across the stands in Mohali, split into blazing green and sky blue -- had their hearts in their mouths for the best part of a day. A victory, and a loss. No harm, no foul. We make for tragic enemies, but excellent rivals. Cricket diplomacy works because it plugs into what we have in common, what is a mad everyday passion for us. And indeed, what we have in common in our daily existence is not nearly so split as the far chasm of our abstract grievances. -- Zaair Hussain

 

After witnessing enormous death and destruction during World War II, the United Nations (UN) was established to resolve all disputes between nations in a peaceful manner. But, over time, the UN has become a forum where the US and the West — neo-cons and neo-colonialists respectively — manipulate the decisions to invade countries like Iraq and Afghanistan either on the pretext of a threat against the West, or, in the case of Libya, to protect the citizens from atrocities perpetrated by the state. One would not hold a brief for Libya’s President Gaddafi despite the fact that the country had performed the rituals of elections, and for the fact that, till recently, he was a popular dictator. Having said that, the US and the West have no right to decide as to who should be in the saddle in developing countries. One could rue the fact that Gaddafi’s failure to resolve contradictions and his stubbornness provided an opportunity to the adventurists to destroy Libya by creating civil war-like conditions, as the Libyan polity is so sharply divided into eastern and western parts on tribal lines. -- Mohammad Jamil

Yes, yes, I know the standard mantra that we are God’s chosen people and Pakistan was created as a special gift from heaven (there is no shortage of Pakistanis who actually believe this). Still, it would improve the tone of things in Pakistan if we learnt to shout less about matters of faith. Why don’t we take a page from Bangladesh’s book? It is now not the Islamic Republic but the People’s Republic of Bangladesh but its Muslims are no less Islamic for this change of name. The people of Pakistan, left to their own devices, for the most part are perfectly sensible in these matters, firm in their religious beliefs but going about their everyday lives without paying too much heed to the usual ranting of the clerical crowd. Indeed, throughout the history of Islam in the sub-continent, the role of the mullah has been largely confined to two functions: performing the nikah at marriage ceremonies and leading funeral prayers. The saint or the qalandar commanded popular respect and even adulation, not, alas, the fire-breathing maulvi. The names of how many traditional mullahs have stuck in the popular imagination? But the names of Ali Hajveri, Lal Shahbaz and Moinuddin Chishti, to name only these three, are on everyone’s lips. And, such was the force of their example, not only on the lips of Muslims but Hindus as well. -- Ayaz Amir

A whole range of self appointed guardians of Muslims were at the forefront of a campaign to turn Jamia into a minority institution. Some of these stalwarts include the current custodian of Munger Khanqah, the beleaguered and besieged Arshad Madani of whatever is left of the Jamiat Ulama e Hind, retired bureaucrats tangentially connected to Muslim education, out of job Muslim politicians and an alumni network of Jamia who think that Muslims are best served by organizing occasional educational seminars in places like Jeddah. In the best feudal tradition of Muslim politics, none of these players even for a moment thought that the minority issue was a contested one within the teaching community of Jamia. Thus the move to turn Jamia into a minority institution is first and foremost an undemocratic one as it has not been thoroughly debated neither have its implications been discussed within the teaching or the student community. -- Arshad Alam, NewAgeIslam.com

 

The offer of Arab nations to participate in the military operation against the regime of Col Muammar Gaddafi has taken many experts by surprise. The United Arab Emirates is sending at least 24 fighter jets to help enforce the UN-mandated no-fly zone over Libya, while Qatar has pledged six. I’ve heard from sources that Egypt plans to supply Libyan rebel forces with small arms, and that Jordan and Saudi Arabia have offered logistical and intelligence support. There are also unconfirmed reports that elite fighting units from several more Arab countries have arrived in eastern Libya to assist the rebel forces. Saudi Arabia, whose Air Force is among the strongest in the region, could play an even more active role if needed. During Desert Storm, General Khaled bin Sultan, the eldest son of the Saudi king, explained that it was easy to integrate his country’s air units with the main coalition force as Saudi Arabia’s military doctrine, training methods, weapons and combat capabilities are compatible with those of the United States and UK. He was also impressed by the coalition’s “brilliant array of modern aircraft weapons, some of which have never been used in combat before.”-- Yelena Suponina

 

As for cricket diplomacy, we may recall that it was initially the initiative of General Zia-ul-Haq, who went to Jaipur to watch an India-Pakistan cricket match in 1987. A couple of years later, of course, events in Kashmir totally spoiled the pitch on which the two countries were playing their diplomatic games. And since relations between out two countries have been a roller-coaster, there was this spectacle in 2004 when Rahul Gandhi, possibly a future prime minister of India, and his sister Priyanka came to Karachi in March 2004 to watch a cricket match. During the same Indian tour, Lahore presented a show of love and friendship between cricket lovers of the two countries that is truly memorable. Then, General Pervez Musharraf was in New Delhi in April 2005 to watch Pakistan rout India in a one-day played at the Feroze Shah Kotla ground. And his visit was marked by some unprecedented declarations of friendship. I was there at that time and it was a very festive occasion. Manmohan and Musharraf went so far as to talk about borders eventually becoming irrelevant. There were hints that the Kashmir puzzle was about to be solved. -- Ghazi Salahuddin

 

What a country, Pakistan is? The Chief Minister of Punjab remains absent from funeral services of Chief Executive of his province on threats of Islamic elements who issued decree that Governor Salman Taseer is “Murtid” after commenting on blasphemy law and Muslims should not participate in funeral of Murtid. The head of Pakistan Peoples Party and President of Pakistan Asif Zardari not bothered to attend last rituals of his dedicated party leader. It seems as “Stay in Rule” is only motive of political parties and Pakistani leaders, for which humanity is on sale also.

The Pakistani Christians were surprised on silence of Federal Minority Minister Shahbaz Bhatti after his appointment from Pakistan People’s Party PPP. There were always directives from President House in print and electronic media for Federal Minister Shahbaz Bhatti like “Go to Gojra” “Go to Sialkot to visit family of martyr Danish Robert” “Go to Lahore to help murdered housemaid Shazia” “Go to Karachi to meet raped Christian Student Nurse” which created impression that Federal Minority Ministry is run from President House not by Shahbaz Bhatti. We see a big change in statements of Shahbaz Bhatti now, he is put on helm to face blasphemy law saviors while Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani has openly announced not to amend or revise blasphemy laws. -- Nazir S Bhatti

 

Libya’s government announced an immediate cease-fire on March 18, a day after the U.N. Security Council approved a no-fly zone over the North African country. The move complicates European efforts to spearhead a campaign against Libyan government troops. Assuming Tripoli follows through on its declaration, the effect on operations against the Libyan rebels remains in question. -- Stratfor

 

The collapse of the democratic revolution in Libya will also gravely damage the prospects of the ‘Arab uprising’ elsewhere. Rulers in other Arab countries where the Army is also largely made up of foreign mercenaries (Bahrain and several other Gulf states, for example), will conclude that they can safely kill enough of their own protesters to ‘restore order’. How can this disaster be prevented? Condemnation from abroad, including from the Arab League, will not stop Col Gaddafi. An arms embargo is too slow-acting, as are economic boycotts and freezing Libyan Government assets overseas. Col Gaddafi is fighting for his life, probably literally, and he knows that if he wins, the embargoes, boycotts and asset freezes will eventually be lifted. Libya has oil, after all. -- Gwynne Dyer

 

We debated the Davis incident and challenged each other’s understanding of who betrayed whom over the past 30 years. Then we stepped back and found that we agreed on a set of clear, urgent priorities: bring more honesty to the security dialogue between our governments, broaden and deepen the ties among our people, and build new partnerships in sectors where we have complementary strengths and needs. We focused first on education, agriculture and governance. Pakistan’s public education system needs reform, but it has exceptionally innovative leadership and success in charter and independent schools. Independent and quasi-charter schools across the country are serving more than six million students. Our Pakistani and US educators plan to work together in both countries to improve and expand public-private partnerships, while maintaining teaching quality. -- Syed Babar Ali and Wendy Chamberlin

There is something new and fascinating underway here -- a phenomenon of popular action that renders any historical comparisons inadequate. Western stereotypes have long served an important (and often violent) purpose: reducing the Arabs while propping up Israeli, British and American invasions in the name of "democracy", "freedom" and "liberation". Those who held the "torch of civilisation" and allegedly commanded uncontested moral superiority gave themselves unhindered access to the lands of the Arabs, their resources, their history, and most of all their very dignity. Yet those who chartered the prejudiced discourses, defining the Arabs to suit their colonial objectives -- from Napoleon Bonaparte to George W Bush -- only showed themselves to be bad students of history. -- Ramzy Baroud

 

Registered initially as a society, Jamia became a deemed university in 1962. All these years it retained its status as a minority institution. In 1988, it became a central university by which time it had established its major faculties and departments including engineering, education, history, social work, fine arts, natural sciences, and its famous mass communication school. At that time it had roughly 50% Muslim students. Today, 23 years after becoming a central university, it still has roughly the same number of Muslim students. Therefore, it is firstly important to grasp that the ruling does not change anything: it formalises the status quo. In an educational context where Muslims are worryingly under-represented, Jamia has historically provided a path to secular higher education to thousands of young, underprivileged provincial Muslims who receive their school education in the traditional style, in maktabs and madrassas. It has also made singular contribution to the education of Muslim girls in whose case parents would be reluctant to send them elsewhere. Today, one of the glorious achievements of the university is that within its campus one frequently sees groups where girls in hijab mix easily with all others. -- Najeeb Jung

 

Indeed, as Cohen points out, Pakistan’s proliferation record was not good in the past. But that was the past; today it is as good as that of any other country. In fact, it is better considering that the other day an American bomber flew across the US with an unsecured nuclear weapon in its hold undetected by those meant to monitor such weapon movements.  In any case, Washington has on numerous occasions said it was satisfied that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are adequately secured. If Cohen believed his own government he would presumably not list the safety and security of our nuclear weapons among the foremost reasons for his prognosis of Pakistan’s eventual collapse. And if he does not believe Washington, the good news is that others do.  The other factors listed by Cohen for Pakistan’s fast accelerating decay are more plausible, such as the consequences that lie in store lest we fail to address our economic woes and, of course, the demographic ‘time bomb’. -- Zafar Hilaly

The Iranians clearly benefit from an uprising in Bahrain. It places the U.S. 5th Fleet’s basing in jeopardy, puts the United States in a difficult position and threatens the stability of other Persian Gulf Arab states. For the Iranians, the uprisings in North Africa and their spread to the Arabian Peninsula represent a golden opportunity for pursuing their long-standing interest (going back to the Shah and beyond) of dominating the Gulf.  The Iranians are accustomed to being able to use their covert capabilities to shape the political realities in countries. They did this effectively in Iraq and are doing it in Afghanistan. They regarded this as low risk and high reward. The Saudis, recognizing that this posed a fundamental risk to their regime and consulting with the Americans, have led a coalition force into Bahrain to halt the uprising and save the regime. Pressed by covert forces, they were forced into an overt action they were clearly reluctant to take. --- George Friedman

 
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