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IF there is one country on earth where the cry “Death to England” still carries weight — where people still harbor the white-hot hatred of British colonialism that once inflamed millions from South Africa to China — that country would be Iran. And that is what the leaders of Iran must have been counting on when screaming militiamen, unhindered by the police, poured into the British Embassy in Tehran to vandalize it on Tuesday. Most Iranians, like most people anywhere, would deplore the idea of thugs storming into a foreign embassy. Nonetheless, some may have felt a flicker of satisfaction. Even an outrage like this, they might have said, is a trifle compared with the generations of torment Britain inflicted on their country. So Iran’s mullahs — they, not President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, are reported to have been behind the attack — were not gambling in ordering, or at least tolerating, it. They presumably realized that the world would denounce their flagrant violation of international law. But they also knew it would resonate with the narrative Iranians have heard for so long about their own history. -- Stephen Kinzer

Some liberal causes - notably among them the fight against military trials of civilians and highlighting of police abuses - are indeed popular with the Egyptian public. But the acceptance of these causes has little to do with openness to liberal politics and everything to do with the anti-authoritarian mindset that emerged on the streets during the 18-day uprising against Mubarak. As one Muslim Brotherhood youth observed in retrospect, "The liberals started the revolution, but then all of the Egyptian people continued it." Liberal youths are far from making up a majority of the Egyptian population, which meant that Islamists young and old, Nasserists, far-left communists, and many others of varying political tendencies were needed to push the anti-Mubarak protests to critical mass. The election results confirm that the Egyptian public has no desire to see liberals running the new government. This does not mean liberals should give up; added time and resources may allow them to eventually build a more robust and popular movement. But abandoning the country's democratic process now, at its most crucial moment, will only undermine liberals' commitment to the democracy for which they have so fiercely struggled. -- Jake Meth

Pakistan urgently needs to make friends who understand its legitimate interests in the wider security set-up of South and Central Asia. But that needs communication, in fact, a lot of it. My own organisation is constantly engaged in bringing Pakistani speakers to Germany. But much more needs to be done. If Pakistan feels misunderstood by almost everybody, it needs to review its own communication strategy. The Bonn conference would have provided an opportunity to Pakistan to explain its position on Afghanistan to the world. It is not that there are no arguments. A political process means explaining one’s own position over and over again and sometimes even reviewing it. This holds true for the US as well. But if we increasingly trust the power of weapons more than the power of words, only war can be the result.-- Britta Petersen

We need cheap energy and Iran is the easiest route. The US officially opposes it but has privately said it understands Pakistan''s needs and will look away. Pakistan''s ties with Iran have been less than ideal since the 1990s. The two countries disagreed over Taliban rule in Afghanistan, a large number of Shias including Irani diplomats have been killed in terrorist attacks in Pakistan, and Iran suspect’s terrorist infiltration from Pakistani side of the border. But Pakistan has also played a mediating role between the US and Iran and Saudi Arabia and Iran. "No matter how hostile Pakistan-US relations appear on face value, Islamabad, and to an extent Riyadh, will not make any policy decisions without consulting their American friends."-- Kiran Nazish

As a Pakistani it is difficult for me to talk about the ghastly attacks on Mumbai three years ago and the response of its vibrant citizens. This is not simply due to the nationality of Ajmal Kasab, the lone terrorist captured after the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks. What happened in Mumbai was a sad reminder of how easy it has become for a handful of militants to wreak havoc, to hold an entire city hostage and undermine humanity. At the outset, let me state it very clearly: a vast majority of Pakistanis felt the pain and condemned the Mumbai attacks; targeting innocent civilians is heinous and unacceptable. For Pakistan’s constituency of peace, this was the worst of times. Hopes of meaningful engagement with India were dashed to the ground. A consensus Prime Minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, a powerful presidency and a political consensus on making peace with India was scuttled within 72 hours after the attacks. The attacks achieved the exact objective with which they were enacted. -- Raza Rumi

Pakistan’s ambassador to Papua New Guinea, Mr. Husain Luckani has been accused by a Papua New Guinean columnist and businessman, Mr. Manzooro Otto Otanga, of giving him a secret memo and asking him to deliver it to the chief of the Papua New Guinean Navy, Admiral Tropico Melon. Manzooro Otto Otanga claims that the memo had pleaded that Admiral Melon put pressure on the Pakistan army, its intelligence agency, the ISI, and on Mr. Luckani’s mother-in-law because these forces were planning to undermine and maybe even topple the country’s current civilian government of President Ghadari. -- Nadeem F Paracha

 

Whoever in the history of Pakistan mistook the military establishment as subservient to the civilian set up ultimately suffered at the hands of those in uniform. During Musharraf’s regime Mr. Haqqani had written articles against the army. He had also written a book titled “Pakistan: Mullah military nexus”. He is also perceived to have facilitated the inclusion of certain clauses in the Kerry-Lugar Bill which tended to establish the supremacy of the civilian authority over the military junta. He is also looked upon by the military as unfriendly as he demanded an impartial and public probe into OBL affair at Abbotabad on May 1, 2011. Mr. Zardari abandoned Haqqani the way he abandoned Salman Taseer for political considerations. -- Waseem Altaf

 

The recent sudden angelic desire on part of the Pakistani establishment to make peace with India has nothing to do with any major shift in Pakistan’s foreign policy written in the Pakistani military headquarters popularly known as the GHQ. The Pakistani apparent shift is merely a tactical response to extreme confrontation with the US over perceived US view that Pakistan is playing a double game in Afghanistan. This is similar to Musharraf’s flirtation with India from 2000 to 2007 which in reality was a gambit to prevent a two front war with Afghanistan occupied by the USA and a hostile India in the east. The real picture of true intentions of the Pakistani military will emerge when the US withdraws from Afghanistan. Pakistan will remain embroiled in an ever continuous civil unrest. Baloch will be gunned down by the Pakistani military while Pakistan’s politicians will remain the puppets of the military that they have been since 1977. Terrorism will remain a tool of foreign policy while the Pakistani military runs the Pakistani state under a facade of PPP or PML or Tehrik e Insaaf. -- Major (Retired) Agha Amin

We’ve been through this path before with Libya. The suspension of Tripoli’s membership in the Arab League earlier this year was the harbinger of foreign military intervention and the internationalisation of the conflict. It ended badly for Muammar Gaddafi and his clique. It also set a precedent for the pan-Arab organization, which has been lambasted by Damascus for being in breach of its charter. The Arab League has accused the Syrian regime of failing to honour its commitment to an Arab working plan aimed at defusing the seven-month-old crisis in which more than 4000 people have been killed. Just like in Libya’s case the main force behind Arab intervention in Syria is the protection of civilians. The Arab Spring has changed the geopolitical realties of the entire region. Syria is in a state of transition and President Assad holds the key to the future, but only ephemerally. To believe that his military and mercenaries can stem the tide of popular protests and take the country back to the old days of oligarchic one-party rule is both naïve and dangerous. -- Osama Al Sharif

 

In Saudi Arabia, Egyptians, Jordanians, Syrians and many others seek employment to forge a brighter future for the next generation. Talking to the Arab youth one always encountered a profound a rage and deep sadness. Emotions run high when the discussion shifts towards the political situation at home – but always accompanying the problems were fond memories of their homeland and wondering about what could have been if their own countries were free from the clutches of tyranny. For all the despondency about the political situation, the Arab youth always maintained an enthusiastic sense of patriotism – a deep spiritual connection with the soil of the homeland always existed. And as the Arab world wakes up slowly but surely to a new dawn another epic is waiting to be written. The epic of Arab democracy is waiting to be written by a generation that for long has been crushed by a history of humiliation and tragedy.  Many commentators, in the West particularly, are starting to suggest the Arab Spring has run its course but they don’t know. -- Ahmad Ali Khalid

 

“God's acts are never irrational,” wrote Ziauddin Najam, commander of a Pakistani strategic forces division, in a 2008 essay: an essay remarkable for both the Major-General's unwavering belief in a divine project and his evident loss of faith in the doctrinal credo that the nation's nuclear weapons would ensure its survival. “Pakistan was created on the night of the 27th Ramadan”, the General went on, “and is [therefore] there to stay forever: we must have faith in it.” Dr. Singh later addressed his critics at home: “I did discuss with Prime Minister [Yousuf Raza] Gilani whether the Pakistan Army is fully on board to carry forward the peace process. The sense I got was that after a long time, Pakistan's armed forces are fully on board.” The claim, if true, is remarkable. Pakistan's peace cheque is post-dated, and issued on a bank in dubious health — but with else nothing in hand, New Delhi has little to lose by accepting the promise that is being held out. -- Praveen Swami  

One needs to question whether under the garb of spirituality a particular type of politics is being strengthened. Sri Sri had a phenomenonal rise during last three decades. To beat the stress of today’s working youth, Sri Sri has devised Sudarshan Kriya, based on the breathing exercises from the past traditions of India. Today, he is in league with many a God-men, people like late Bhagwan Satya Sai, Asaram Bapu, Baba Ramdev, propagating values of a particular type. While these god men are selling tranquilising therapies, ‘keep fit regimes’ on one side, on the other they also support the prevalent social dynamics in the society. The ‘deeper changes’ to ensure the rights of weaker sections of society is what we should strive for. On the contrary the type of politics, which comes in the garb of religion, propagates the values which are opposed to the politics of affirmative action for weaker sections of society. The god men are rubbing shoulders with the Nitin Gadkaris. Narendra Modis, Ram Madhavs and the like. Such type of politics, laced in color of religion, is tied to the apron strings of a Hindu Rashtra, which in turn is being spearheaded by RSS. -- Ram Puniyani

What happens to a generation of educated young people who are brought up on fantastic tales of swords and sorcery (in the name of ‘Pakistan Studies’) and at the same time on those so-called ‘building self-esteem’/self-improvement corporate seminars and books that are basically the yuppie absorption of the late 1970s/’80s ‘New Age’ nonsense about personal aura, positive vibes, et al? One should be positive. Especially about his country, the military, our nuclear arsenal and especially the fact that we are ready to eat grass for our precious big bomb. Or rather, the poor are ready to eat grass for it. So it is our duty to sympathise with the poor grass eaters and hang a few politicians, eliminate a few cricketers, censor a few journalists and make peace with extremists so as to at least keep the price of grass affordable for the masses who, inshallah, will vote in hoards for Mr. Positive par excellence Imran Khan in the next elections, even though positive thinking dictates democracy is a sham and only a modern-day caliphate is the answer to all our problems. That felt good. Yea, man, check out my positive vibes. Like, groovy, in a Muhammad bin Qasim kind of a way. -- Nadeem F. Paracha

 

Whatever Pakistan’s compulsions ~ its army, mainly ~ it is a bold step which can lead to normalisation of relations between New Delhi and Islamabad. Mr. Manmohan Singh’s decision not to link trade with an appropriate sentence for terrorists being tried in Pakistan for the attack on Mumbai three years ago is courageous at a time when his own stock is not high. The Indian media is mostly critical and the hawks are even abusive. But they represent a minority that examines everything about Pakistan from a negative point of view. They do not want Pakistan to fall apart but they continue talking about punishing Islamabad. Their outlook tallies with India’s main Opposition party, the BJP. Civil society in Pakistan appears to have given up all kinds of resistance. The murder of former Punjab Governor Salman Taseer at the hands of fanatics has silenced even the boldest liberals who don’t realise that they are targets as well. -- Kuldip Nayar

THE decision of Delhi University's Academic Council to drop eminent literary scholar A.K. Ramanujan's essay “Three Hundred Ramayanas: Five examples and three thoughts on translation” from the reading list of an undergraduate course in history has drawn severe criticism from the academic community. Through discussions on multiple texts that emerged in different time periods and traditions, it concludes that there is no fixed Ramayana story. In support of this theory, Ramanujan narrates passages from Valmiki's Ramayana, Thai Ramakien, Kamban's Iramavataram or Ramayanam, Jaina Ramayana of Vimalasuri, known as Paumacariya, and the oral Rama Katha of the Santhal tribe and shows how the Rama story and its characters are portrayed variously in them. For example, Ravana is the main focus of the Jain story, where he is shown to have fallen in love with Sita and tries to win her over in vain. It is a story of unconsummated love, and the readers are moved by admiration and sympathy for Ravana. Ramanujan gives examples of other stories about Rama and shows that they are rendered so differently in various cultures that it will be incorrect to call all these as mere retellings of Valmiki's Ramayana, a text which in India has a big religious, and now political, appeal. -- Ajoy Ashirwad 

One can understand the euphoria that penetrated the ranks of many young Pakistanis who are seeing Imran’s long-drawn arrival on the country’s mainstream political scene as some kind of a revolutionary movement in the making. Of course, one should bear in mind we are talking about a generation that gets its history lessons and learns politics not from academically sound books, research papers or even from good old-fashioned discourses between differing ideological poles but from finger-wagging orators masquerading as talk-show hosts, ‘security analysts’ and televangelists, or worse, from those dramatic documentaries that claim to unearth everything from modern Freemasons, to 9/11 conspiracies to the ‘al-dajjal’ (anti-Christ) on YouTube! Imran’s rally had absolutely nothing to do with any sort of a revolution. Or, to put it in the context of what I am about to launch into, the rally was certainly miles away from the conventional understanding of revolution that exists between the French Revolution (1789) and Russian, Chinese, Cuban and even Iranian revolutions of the 20th century. That’s why journalist and publisher, Najam Sethi, is correct to describe Khan’s rally in Lahore as largely pro-establishment. -- Nadeem F. Paracha

 

What people don't recognise is that the story of Ram, what we call the Ram Katha, extends over a huge historical period. There's a distance of almost a thousand years between the first composition of the Valmiki Ramayana and Kamban's. There are also gradually regional studies... So, inevitably there will be variants. The moment somebody sets out to write a new version of the story, however dependent that person is may be on a particular version, there will be additions as indeed there were even to the original Ramayana. And this is the inevitable structure of an epic. When an epic captures public attention, bits and pieces are always added on and bits and pieces are subtracted. It's a growing kind of rolling stone, gathering and dropping as it goes along. Now at the time when the Valmiki Ramayana was written, there were two other versions current, which were, in one case, entirely different, and in another case, very substantially different. There were the Buddhist Jataka, the Dasarath Jataka as it is called, where Ram and Sita are brother and sister...and rule as consorts. Now this is very much within the Buddhist tradition of origin myths and is really making a statement about the superior status of Ram and Sita, which has been completely misinterpreted by the uneducated, who go around screaming and shouting at all of us who mention this version because it talks about Ram and Sita ruling as consorts. -- Romila Thapar in an interview with Priscilla Jebaraj (Photo: Romila Thapar)

While numerous kings have come and gone in the oil-rich desert kingdom since its foundation in 1932, this time there appears to be a sense of urgency to formalise the process of succession as both King Abdullah (in his late 80s) and Prince Nayef (in his late 70s) are of an advanced age and not enjoying the best of health. Pictures of Abdullah attending Sultan’s funeral showed a frail, pale-looking king wearing a surgical mask. From the Muslim world’s point of view, the fact that Makkah and Madina, Islam’s two holiest sites, are located within Saudi Arabia gives the country additional prestige. The House of Saud was effectively founded by a central Arabian chieftain called Mohammad bin Saud in the 18th century. This was the man who gave refuge to cleric Mohammad bin Abdul Wahhab, thus cementing the Saudi-Wahhabi relationship which has endured for over two-and-a-half centuries. According to this pact the Al Saud have been the lords temporal, while the Aal As Shaikh, or descendents of Ibn Abdul Wahhab, have been the lords spiritual. -- Qasim A. Moini

The call for international protection, made by protesters, around 30 of whom were killed on Friday in what was the deadliest day in weeks in the country’s seven-month-old uprising, is a demand based on hopeful expectation. NATO warplanes played a central role in the overthrow of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi. In Libya, NATO aircraft attacked government facilities and forces, giving a boost to rebels who eventually took power. Now, Syrian protesters want the same cavalry to come to their rescue from violence which the UN says has killed 3,000 people since March. The problem is that the Western alliance has shown no appetite to intervene in Syria to halt the bloodshed. And President Bashar Assad has not used warplanes against protesters; the government crackdown has largely been accomplished by troops on the ground, a place where NATO is loathe to send troops. Thus NATO intervention is highly improbable unless perhaps the Syrian regime starts attacking protesters from above. -- Arab News

The Afghans have been in a war now for the last three decades, with a testing period of Taliban rule in between. They deserve their share of sanity and normalcy. They have been mauled by history and by the ‘Great Game’ players. This should equally be what both America and Pakistan must seek. America is now suffering the consequences of involvement in a prolonged war. Pakistan is in worse straits. Having been declared a ‘front line ally’ in this war against terror it has gotten mired deeper and deeper in the war. In that role, she has suffered some telling adversity. America would like Pakistan to militarily reduce the Haqqanis so that it can save grace when it exits Afghanistan. Pakistan considers it entirely imprudent to initiate hostilities with Afghan Taliban groups when the war is coming to a closure and any such action can only infuse abiding hostilities with tribal Pashtun groups across the border. America can kill its way out of Afghanistan, Pakistan cannot.-- Shahzad Chaudhry

Despite the manner in which the Muammar Gaddafi era was brought to a bloody end, Libya has a fighting chance to become something approaching a modern state. But immense difficulties lie ahead and the West’s military assistance on the ground and in the air under the fig leaf of a United Nations resolution ostensibly to protect civilians decisively to tip the scales in favour of the hopelessly outclassed rebel fighters will come to haunt the new Libyan rulers. Libya has many advantages over Yemen and Syria. It has a small population, an immense area and oil wealth. But its disadvantages are great as well. It is riven by tribal divisions, used by Gaddafi for his own purposes. There is also the traditional east-west division; significantly, the revolt started in the main eastern city of Benghazi, and Gaddafi had conducted his coup against King Idris who came from the east. The biggest immediate task of the National Transitional Council (NTC) will be to form an inclusive administration. -- S. Nihal Singh

 

Dear Mr. President,

We, the following social activists and members of the web-based online forum The Moderates, have come to know about a dastardly incident that has taken place in your country through a news release of the Asian Human Rights Commission. Here is the link to the report:http://www.humanrights.asia/news/urgent-appeals/AHRC-UAC-199-2011

Attention: A 12 year-old Christian girl has been gang-raped, detained for eight months, forcibly converted and 'married' to her Muslim attacker. – Indian Muslims

Most academicians at Delhi University are feeling betrayed by their own fraternity, the reason — the Academic Council's recent decision to drop from the history syllabus a celebrated essay by the late scholar and linguist A. K. Ramanujan on the Ramayana, despite intense opposition from the history department. “This is definitely not an academic decision but a glaring example of an academic institution succumbing to pressure from the Right wing. The council has severely compromised on its standards and has conveyed to our students the message that only the ideology that is supported by the majority will be accepted,”… “The essay says things like Ravana was Sita's father and that Rama and Sita were siblings, so obviously we don't want to teach such things to our students,” said a university official not wishing to be named. -- Vijetha S. N

The story of why Pakistan denied this status to India for two decades and why it has relented today is worth telling because it sheds light on a critical dimension of Pakistan’s “national security doctrine”. The Pakistani military has always spurned the notion that trade with India could be beneficial in any way to Pakistan. “Trading with the enemy” was taboo because India stood to benefit more from it than Pakistan by running huge trading surpluses. That could not be allowed until the Kashmir issue was resolved to Pakistan’s satisfaction. So after the 1965 war with India, all trade was banned, except a short list of necessary items. But China entered Pakistan’s national security equation in the 1990s as the most favoured nation in the world. It seized the Pakistani market for consumer goods and destroyed its small-scale domestic manufacturing industry. Questions now began to be asked why India should be kept out especially since transport costs were lower across the borders and also because certain Pakistani exporters stood to benefit from reciprocal trade facilities with India. India seized on this political environment change to grant MFN status to Pakistan but Pakistan didn’t return the compliment because the military was actually promoting jihad in Kashmir. -- Najam Sethi

 

According to media reports, Pakistan is contemplating granting the Most Favoured Nation status to India — a move that is being described as “dramatic”. Realising that it cannot afford hostility simultaneously on its western and eastern borders, Pakistan’s move for an improved relationship with India is understandable. But, in Pakistan, there is an influential lobby, including religious political parties like Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) and Jamiat-ul-Ulema Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) that holds that instead of accepting US hegemony to counter the security threat from India, it is better to improve relations with the latter to avoid being a surrogate to the former. In India, as well, there are certain circles that are of the opinion that if Pakistan and India join hands, they can keep the region free of the influence of extra-regional powers. A widening row between Pakistan and the US, therefore, may come as a blessing in disguise for peace and reconciliation between the two archrivals, Pakistan and India. -- Dr Rashid Ahmad Khan

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