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Books and Documents

The War Within Islam

This was an astonishing performance, an act of uncommon generosity coming from a poor man. A deeper probe revealed the extent of his dilemma. Gangsters of the local powerful had put him on a short fuse for a forced sale or else he had to face dire consequences. He was a poor man, had small children and was resource-less at that, and therefore in danger of losing his meagre property entirely. The under-privileged and the weak have an endless capacity to endure injustice and adversity but can be extremely ferocious in retaliation once pressed absolutely against the wall. They have nothing to live for nor will they die with a heart full of sorrow. Such men can wreak unimaginable destruction once provoked. -- Mehboob Qadir

 

In an interview with Oriana Fallaci, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto said that when he was awakened by the sound of gunfire in Dacca on March 25, 1971 and saw the army sweeping through the city, he wept and said “My country is finished!” Today, Pakistan stands at the same threshold of history. The circumstances and the players on the stage are different. The poisoned chalice we hold to our lips is different. But the country is being pushed towards the same outcome. It is Pakistan’s present generations’ greatest misfortune that they are eye-witnesses to the systematic dismemberment of their country. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was right; independence was indeed a myth. But the myth has now become a nightmare. The government has turned us into a nation of beggars. -- Ameer Bhutto

The Saudis had dispatched troops to the small kingdom of Bahrain to suppress a revolt against the Sunni rule of the Khalifas. And when the Yemeni revolution erupted, they moved to bolster Ali Abdullah Saleh's reign, pumping millions into his coffers to buy off tribal allegiances, and providing his army with equipment, intelligence and logistical support. Although Riyadh's rulers despise Saleh for dragging them into a messy conflict with the Houthis at their southern border in 2009, they have stood by him. But as the revolution raged on, winning the support of most tribes and causing wide defections in the army, the Saudi regime had no choice but to let go of its man in Sana'a — as long as this is perceived not as the fruit of popular pressure, but a smooth power transition within the framework of its own Gulf Co-operation Council proposal. With Saleh's forced exit after Friday's (June 3) attack on his presidential compound, Riyadh is again seeking to wrest the initiative from the street and act as the chief powerbroker in Yemen. -- Soumaya Ghannoushi

 

Several Urdu newspapers use Quranic verses in their texts somewhere or the other. Is it not exploitation to sanctify a commercial daily newspaper by sticking in Quranic verses? We all know the use these newspapers are put to later on. Mostly trampled, made into envelopes for eatables and then thrown into the wastepaper basket. Is it okay to let the name of the Almighty or a part of his message be treated in this way? The only thing achieved by the publisher is perhaps commercial advantage by appearing ‘acceptable’ to a public that holds religion dear to its heart. In a quiet way, such newspapers or magazines try to add ‘sanctity’ to their publications and influence the reader’s mindset. I have also seen posters carrying the ‘Bismillah’ phrase and lying on roadsides being trampled. -- Naeem Tahir

 

More significantly, the civilian opposition is up in arms, asking why the military’s national security doctrines — particularly with reference to the obsession with, and fear of, “arch- enemy India” — that have spawned such self- serving budgetary outlays and an arms race at the expense of the social welfare of the have- nots for six decades should not be scrutinised for reform and accountability like other institutions. The indignant argument that any criticism of the military is “unpatriotic” or serves the interests of the “enemy” doesn’t wash any more. -- Najam Sethi

 

The return of democracy has not stopped our descent into barbarism; in fact, violence against media people has noticeably increased. No longer confined to the murky world of tribal badlands it has established itself all across the country. As the distinguished novelist Mohsin Hamid notes, Pakistan is being silenced. Vaclav Havel, the dissident intellectual who became Czechoslovakia’s president, once wrote that in every one there is some longing for humanity’s rightful dignity, for moral integrity, for free expression of being and a sense of transcendence over the world of existence. -- Tanvir Ahmad Khan

Over decades, Pakistan has adapted to its changing strategic circumstances by renting itself out to powerful states. Territory and men are part of the services provided. Payment comes not just from the US, but Arab countries as well. Pakistan's supposedly vibrant press has chosen to steer off such controversial issues. But post bin-Laden, the clatter of skeletons tumbling out of Pakistan's strategic closet has forced some secrets out into the open. ... Why was Pakistan's warrior class never tamed by civilian rule? The answer must be sought in the foundation of Pakistan and the state of confusion into which it was born. Beyond the simplistic notion that Hindus and Muslims were incapable of living together, the idea of Pakistan was unclear from the outset. ... Pakistan's military rulers are certainly attracted to wads of cash, but so are those who kill Pakistani soldiers and generals in the name of religion. This is suggested by the bizarre absence of jihadist reaction to bin Laden's killing. -- Pervez Hoodbhoy

For every ten people that blame the ISI, there are twenty that raise the question of foreign intelligence services, trying to malign Pakistan. Neither side has incontrovertible evidence. The lack of accountability within the overarching national framework of Pakistan is deeply rooted, extremely well-constructed and even more vociferously defended. The military is at the apex of this Mt Zion of unaccountability, but it is not alone. -- Mosharraf Zaidi

 

Caught up in the thrilling world of espionage, the media and the authorities seem to have forgotten that somewhere, a woman is still being held in custody under a controversial blasphemy law. Apparently we have forgotten about Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti’s assassination. Collective silence over these killings showed government incompetence to tackle these issues and it also exhibit their intolerance and inability to understand fully and recognized the importance of freedom of speech, moral values and deprivation of basic human rights which has lead the common people to compromise even with the moderate opinions. The Governor’s murderer was formally indicted on February 15 but nothing has been done to curb the sentiments that caused him to act out in the first place. The government is silent, failing to acknowledge that anyone suggesting amendments to the law has been threatened into submission. Self-professed ‘activists,’ prominent media persons and the exalted judiciary, too, seem to be focusing on ‘less controversial’ issues. -- Xavier William

 
The Widening Gulf
Irfan Husain

We have absolutely no idea about how much the ISI or Military Intelligence (MI) spend, and nor do our MNAs seem very concerned. This total lack of accountability has led to the perception that these agencies can run rogue operations of the kind the ISI has been accused of at the Chicago trial of Tahawwur Rana. Here, the chief (and not wholly reliable) witness, David Headley, has charged that he was instructed by a ‘Major Iqbal’ of the ISI. Even though the agency’s top leaders have not been accused of complicity, it appears that the Lashkar-i-Taiba was not alone in planning and executing the 2008 attacks on Mumbai. Over the last few years, hundreds of suspected Baloch nationalists have been picked up, tortured and killed, allegedly by intelligence agencies. Indeed, the modus operandi of these crimes is disturbingly similar to Saleem Shahzad’s murder. Time and again, human rights activists and organisations have accused the state of being behind these ‘black ops’. -- Irfan Husain

 

To say that our security czars and assorted knights have been caught with their pants down would be the understatement of the century. This is the mother of all embarrassments, showing us either to be incompetent – it can’t get any worse than this, Osama living in a sprawling compound a short walk from that nursery school of the army, the Pakistan Military Academy and, if we are to believe this, our ever-vigilant eyes and ears knowing nothing about it – or, heaven forbid, complicit. I would settle for incompetence anytime because the implications of complicity are too dreadful to contemplate. -- Ayaz Amir

More than a decade before the attacks in New York, the emerging Samuel Huntington idea that a civilisational “clash” was central to all conflicts in the world did find supporters. But as the debate sharpened between the “free” world and the world of the “terrorists”, Muslim scholars of all hues knew what were absolutely the wrong things to do: entering the debate from a point in which one was offering clarifications about the faith — or telling those who don’t know that Islam is a religion of “peace” (Islam itself, literally stems from the root “salam”, or peace). It is, however, precisely for this reason — for taking up the gauntlet of “defence” — that those like Pakistan-based scholar-cleric, Dr Muhammed Tahir-ul-Qadri deserve to be lauded. He has gone out and developed a large body of detailed notes from the Quran to denounce the view that many hold of some sort of link between Islam and those who claim to kill in its name. -- Seema Chishti

Who could have abducted a journalist from one of the most fortified areas of Islamabad? If all this was the handiwork of Al-Qaeda/Taliban, why did they not make demands in return for his release, as they often do? If they didn’t abduct him for ransom or barter, why did they not claim credit for his assassination? Why did they not hold him out as an example for others they see as enemies or double agents, rather than silently dumping his tortured body, followed by an anonymous burial in Mandi Bahhauddin? Was the local representative of Human Rights Watch conspiring with Al-Qaeda and their “foreign” patrons when (according to reported conversations with interlocutors) he disclosed that Shahzad was being held by the ISI and would be released soon? Shahzad feared for his life and had pointed fingers. Should we simply disregard his account now that he is dead? -- Babar Sattar

 

Shahzad said in the first part of his investigative report: “Asia Times Online contacts confirm that the attackers were from Ilyas Kashmiri’s 313 Brigade, the operational arm of Al Qaeda.” He alleged that “Al Qaeda carried out the brazen attack on PNS Mehran naval air station in Karachi on May 22 after talks failed between the navy and Al Qaeda over the release of naval officials arrested on suspicion of Al Qaeda links.” He had also indicated at the end of the first part of his dispatch that the second part would cover “the recruitment and training of militants”. He was the only Pakistani journalist to have visited the headquarters of the 313 Brigade in October 2009 at the invitation of Ilyas Kashmiri. -- B Raman

The JI tried flaunting the populist aspects of political Islam during the 1977 and 1993 elections, but failed. Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N did so throughout the 1990s and somewhat did succeed but only with the help of the military-establishment. Political Islam’s historical drubbling in elections in Pakistan has increasingly made this philosophy the vocation of certain powerful sections of Pakistan’s military and its many mouthpieces in the popular Urdu media and in so-called Islamic evangelist movements. Pakistan and democracy are not compatible; democratic pluralism promotes ethnocentricity; secularism is akin to atheism; religious extremism and violence are the handiwork of the ‘anti-Pakistan’ and ‘anti-Islam’ elements (mainly foreign), and the state and intelligence agencies of Pakistan have nothing to with it. -- Nadeem F Paracha

There was a “reverse swing” to the parliamentary inquisition, Contrary to the well-planned humiliation of the uniform, the “elected” members, albeit with 44 percent bogus votes, found soon after the joint session that they were not in sync with those (the 56 percent genuine voters) they “represented.” The Pakistani populace may have been demoralised and disappointed because of May 2, but they still believe in their soldiers.  The frustration displayed by Mian Nawaz Sharif was more pathetic. He declared India was not an “enemy.”-- Ikram Sehgal

There’s nothing new about bad news coming out of Pakistan. But the past few weeks have been truly scary. Every passing day at the 26/11 trial in Chicago brings with it fresh revelations of the infamous ISI’s murderous role in the Mumbai attack and its very close link with the terror network- it didn’t just support Kasab and his friends in LeT, it pretty much masterminded the operation. Simultaneously, the Taliban assault on the Mehran air base has added to fears of growing radicalisation of the army and raised serious questions over the security (or Vulnerability) of Pakistan’s nuclear  arsenal, which is now estimated by some to be the fourth-largest in the World. And, of course, there’s the cold and disturbing fact that Osama for years lived comfortably in the garrison town of Abbottabad near Islamabad, just down the road from the military academy. Put all this together and what you have is a deadly double game that the men who rule Pakistan can no longer control. Call it a ‘failed state’, a ‘rouge nation’, call it What you will, the bottom line is that Pakistan is spinning out of control while America tries very hard to shut its eyes and ears to its culpability. So where does that leave India? – A Times of India Crest cover story on the state of Pakistan today

In the Shia villages of the island’s north-west, it felt much the same, as troops shot at a few token demonstrators. While Shia villagers cower, an air of Sunni triumphalism reigns over the island. A minority of some 40%, Bahraini Sunnis wave the flags of friendly Gulf states alongside their own. Teachers arrange “thank you, Saudi” days in schools. The Bahraini king’s men have razed dozens of Shia shrines and put up billboards on main roads near Sunni-populated suburbs, depicting nooses dangled over the heads of Shia leaders. Hundreds of public-sector Shias have been suspended, to the delight of Sunni immigrants from such places as Pakistan and Bangladesh seeking promotion. The Labour Market Regulatory Authority has purged the private sector of Shias suspected of sympathy with the protesters. Bank managers have been asked for employees’ attendance records and told to sack Shias who were absent during protests in February and March. Parliament has been stripped of many of its Shia representatives. Sunni MPs have voted to accept the resignation of the Shia group, Wefaq, which was the largest in parliament. -- The Economist

 

There was a “reverse swing” to the parliamentary inquisition, Contrary to the well-planned humiliation of the uniform, the “elected” members, albeit with 44 percent bogus votes, found soon after the joint session that they were not in sync with those (the 56 percent genuine voters) they “represented.” The Pakistani populace may have been demoralised and disappointed because of May 2, but they still believe in their soldiers.  The frustration displayed by Mian Nawaz Sharif was more pathetic. He declared India was not an “enemy.”-- Ikram Sehgal

Beyond some basic identification documents required for foreigners, there are no checks. Every day thousands of people come in, “says Urfi Obaid, one of the members of the Jamaat.  It is this lack of screening, says Niaz Farooqui, an official of the Jamiat-ulama-I-Hind, that has often made the Jamaat vulnerable to criticisms of fostering terror ties. "But it has never been proved and I am very well versed with their ideology;there is nothing extremist about them. In fact, with the kind of following they have, if Tablighi Jamaat really had terror ties, the world would have been blasted away by now. “As an indication of its influence, Farooqui says the Jamaat's book, Fazail Amal (Virtues of Good Deeds), is the second most widely read book in the Islamic world after the Koran. -- Abantika Ghosh

Having got an FIR registered against Delhi publication Diamond pocket books for having published two imaginary images of the Prophet (pbuh), Muslim ulema (religious scholars) are now pressing for the arrest of the publisher Gulshan Rai. His action is seen as part of the “West’s enmity of Islam” and “an anti-Islam conspiracy to inflame Muslim sentiments.” In a typical write-up, published in practically every Delhi Urdu newspaper, Maulana Nadeemul Wajidi of Deoband expresses his regret for not living in a country like Pakistan where somebody would have killed the man by now. He cites with approval the recent killing of Pakistani Punjab’s Governor Salman Taseer for showing sympathy for “the accursed blasphemer Asaia Bibi” and that of the author of Rangeela Rasool in Lahore in undivided India.  A blasphemer can only be punished with death, says the Maulana. Not resident of Pakistan, unfortunately, however, he cannot demand death for Gulshan Rai. “Living in India, as we do, we are merely demanding,” he says, “action according to the laws of the land. But even that is not coming, as Muslims are not united even on an issue of such paramount importance.’ He regrets that even liberal Hindus are completely silent on this issue, though they often support Muslims on several issues of concern to them. Muslims respect all religious personalities and cannot tolerate blasphemy against the Prophet. 

Excerpts from the article follow. Translated from Urdu by Arman Neyazi, NewAgeIslam.com

The Wahabis bless the Saudi regime with legitimacy in the absence of any election, and the regime blesses them with money and a free hand on religion. The only downside is that this system ensures a steady supply of “sitting around guys” — young Saudi males who have nothing other than religious education and no skills to compete — who then get recruited to become 9/11-style hijackers and suicide bombers in Iraq. No one explains it better than Saudi writer Mai Yamani, author of Cradle of Islam and the daughter of Saudi Arabia’s former oil minister. “Despite the decade of the West’s war on terror and Saudi Arabia’s long-term alliance with the United States, the kingdom’s Wahabi religious establishment has continued to bankroll Islamic extremist ideologies around the world”, wrote Yamani in the Daily Star of Beirut, Lebanon, this week. “Bin Laden, born, raised and educated in Saudi Arabia, is a product of this pervasive ideology”, Yamani added. “He was no religious innovator; he was a product of Wahabism, and later was exported by the Wahabi regime as a jihadist. – Thomas L. Friedman

Bin Laden, born, raised and educated in Saudi Arabia, is a product of this pervasive ideology. He was no religious innovator; he was a product of Wahhabism, and later was exported by the Wahhabi regime as a jihadist. During the 1980s, Saudi Arabia spent some $75 billion for the propagation of Wahhabism, funding schools, mosques, and charities throughout the Islamic world, from Pakistan to Afghanistan, Yemen, Algeria and beyond. The Saudis continued such programs after the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, and even after they discovered that “the Call” is uncontrollable, owing to the technologies of globalization. Not surprisingly, the creation of a transnational Islamic political movement, boosted by thousands of underground jihadist websites, has blown back into the kingdom. Like the hijackers of 9/11, who were also Saudi-Wahhabi ideological exports (15 of the 19 men who carried out those terror attacks were chosen by bin Laden because they shared the same Saudi descent and education as he), Saudi Arabia’s reserve army of potential terrorists remains, because the Wahhabi factory of fanatical ideas remains intact. -- Mai Yamani

An official of the Special Branch told The Express Tribune on the condition of anonymity that Special Branch men used to be deployed at post offices to monitor who was subscribing to hate literature, but they were withdrawn about four years ago “for reasons best known to the high-ups”. He said that the withdrawal happened after they did an operation in which they sent money and other valuable material through the mail as a test of post office officials. Several officials were suspended after much of the cash and valuables went missing. -- Rana Tanveer

 

Interestingly, religious parties like Jamaat-i-Islami, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam and some banned sectarian organisations, along with Imran Khan’s Pakistan Thereek-i-Insaf which had originally called a joint Press conference to condemn the raid, changed their stance half-way through the conference when told that the raid was by Saudi forces and not the Americans. Munawar Hussain, JI, chief, was first heard lambasting Pakistan’s PPP-led civilian Government for letting the country’s sovereignty be violated by the Americans, but after a reporter confirmed that the raid was executed by Saudi forces, Munawar turned to Imran Khan and embraced him. ‘Mahshallah!’ he exclaimed. “Today is a glorious day for our Islamic republic!”-- Nadeem F Paracha

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