New Age Islam Edit Bureau
27 August 2015
Punjab Government Has Been Busy Cleaning up the Seminaries — But Away from Public View
'The US Is Making Pakistani Wives Divorce Their Husbands'
By Murtaza Haider
Democracy By Stay Order
By Ikram Sehgal
Hamid Gul And The Saga Of Jihad
By Adnan Falak
Saadat Hasan Manto, The Man Remains An Enigma
By Mohammad Farooq
Punjab Government Has Been Busy Cleaning up the Seminaries — But Away from Public View
August 27th, 2015
IT appears that the Punjab government has been busy cleaning up the seminaries — but away from public view.
Rana Sanaullah, the provincial law minister, says the madressahs in Punjab have somehow been purged of militant elements. He did, as a prelude to his claim, ‘admit’ to the presence earlier of 20 such seminaries whose students or faculty had been involved in terrorism, even if ‘only’ as facilitators.
What magic wand the administration waved to get such surprising results has yet to be disclosed.
now more: No militancy in Punjab seminaries: Rana Sanaullah
For the moment, those informed of the figures, intended to be reassuring no doubt, must deal with the mini-surprise of learning that, long identified as a hotbed of extremism, Punjab only had 20 seminaries that, presumably, required a little bit of fixing here and there.
The minister did come up with figures: 532 seminaries raided; 1,100 suspects taken into custody from them; 13,787 madressahs geo-tagged. But then, according to his remarks, the record of each and every student on the roll of these 13,000-odd tagged seminaries was being looked into.
So how is he so sure that the militant element has been uprooted?
There may be some credible evidence that shows the Shahbaz Sharif government’s commitment to targeting the nurseries of militancy, a commitment dictated by the National Action Plan. But unfortunately, the absence of substance in Mr Sanaullah’s claim does not make it part of the clinching evidence that would put Punjab ahead of the other provinces. On the same day the claim was made, in Sindh surfaced a list of 49 madressahs against which action had been ordered for their links to militancy. Just as it was unclear as to what the action in Sindh would be, it was difficult to assess whether Sindh had been sufficiently inspired by the big brother in the federation, or if both these bigger provinces were equally guilty of many airy-fairy boasts with little achieved on the ground. Sindh has repeatedly been criticised for lethargy and lack of purpose in recent years. In this case, it could justifiably look for some appreciation for having been able to identify 49 suspect madressahs whereas the much larger and, by many estimates, far more suspicious Punjab stopped at 20. Much more significantly, both these provinces — in fact, the whole country — need to come up with a transparent system where they are actually seen to be cleansing their respective territories of the dangers that are nurtured inside seminaries.
'The US is making Pakistani wives divorce their husbands'
By Murtaza Haider
August 27th, 2015
“The United States is behind the increase in divorce rates in Pakistan.”
If you live in Pakistan, you must be used to hearing – and perhaps making – such and even more outrageous statements. But not I.
I arrived in Pakistan last week. Even before PIA’s plane took off from Toronto airport, my fellow passengers had already resorted to what I know now was their favourite pastime: America bashing.
“Shuja Khanzada was assassinated because he was about to expose America’s involvement in terrorism in Pakistan,” whispered my fellow passenger, while we were delayed by an hour at the tarmac.
With hundreds of millions spent on PR, and billions more in humanitarian aid, America continues to struggle to build a positive image in Muslim countries. With extremist mullahs on one hand and Socialists and Marxists on the other, the anti-American propaganda in Pakistan thrives in madrassahs and universities alike.
What distinguishes Pakistan from the rest is how readily willing its educated class is to fall for propaganda. I was surprised, to put it mildly, when I heard a rather distinguished group of Islamabad-based male professionals nodding in agreement to the claim that the US was behind the sudden increase in divorce rates in Pakistan.
I couldn’t resist to probe, “How so?”
“Well, Americans are awarding thousands of scholarships for higher education to Pakistani women. On their return, these women are more in tune with the American values than they are with those of their homeland. They ultimately leave their husbands,” explained one.
That this statement is factually untrue is a minor concern to me. I am alarmed about the fact that it is virtually impossible for a few hundred urban women to influence the divorce rates in the largely rural Pakistan.
Let’s look at this in a systematic way. First, has there been a dramatic increase in divorce rates in Pakistan? I believe the statistics are not available to make a conclusive statement. The published research is rather shoddy.
Lawyers interviewed for recent news reports did not attempt to hide the misogyny-laden twisted logic and argued that education has led to financial independence for women, who are now increasingly asking for divorce instead of “compromising”.
It is strange that those who hold such an opinion do not question the practice where Muslim men can arbitrarily divorce their wives and are not bound to any communal or legal arbitration.
“I divorce thee” times three is the trump card Muslim men have used to break off marriages instantaneously. However, when women request for arbitration on divorce, these men see red.
Let’s analyse the claim about the Americans exclusively funding Pakistani women for higher education, which the conspiracy theorists believe is causing the surge in divorces in Pakistan.
The Fulbright program in Pakistan, for instance, provides scholarships for doctoral and Masters studies abroad. In 2015, the Fulbright program in Pakistan enrolled 180 students. A survey of 86 of the 180 revealed that a mere 27 per cent of the 2015 class were women. So from a total of 180, I expect fewer than 60 to be women.
Even if the entire lot of Fulbright women – who will eventually graduate a few years down the road – divorce their spouses, they still cannot possibly influence the 90 million Pakistani women on the matter of divorce.
Aisi Taisi Hypocrisy
An even stronger strand of anti-American sentiment comes from certain members of the military. Senior decorated army officers may be equally gullible or biased. Confidential diplomatic dispatches from the US embassy in Islamabad revealed that Anne Patterson, the US Ambassador to Pakistan in 2008, “received astonishingly naive and biased questions about America” when she addressed Army’s National Defence University in Islamabad.
“The elite of this crop of colonels and brigadiers are receiving biased NDU training, with no chance to hear alternative views of the US,” the dispatch quoted the ambassador.
Not much has changed since then. The tit-for-tat song, Aisi Taisi Hypocrisy, written in response to the Indian Aisi Taisi Democracy is yet another example of the flourishing anti-West sentiments in Pakistan. Written by Hassan Miraj, a major in Pakistan Army, and sung by my younger cousin, Mujtaba Ali, the song draws a contrast between the ills in India and Pakistan. However, the song squarely puts the blame for Pakistan’s ills on the white race (a euphemism for Americans), Arabs and the news media. Scapegoating at its best.
America should not be judged only for the misdeeds of CIA and Pentagon. The same goes for Pakistanis, who should not be seen in the narrow context of martial laws or the intelligence intrigues.
American universities may be expensive, but they are the best in the world. That Pakistani students are welcomed in the US is no intrigue. Pakistanis should welcome people-to-people contacts with the rest of the globe and resist narcissist xenophobia that feeds conspiracy theories.
As for the surge in divorce rates, maybe, just maybe, it is time for Pakistani men who beat their wives to stop doing so.
Murtaza Haider is a Toronto-based academic and the director of Regionomics.com.
Democracy by stay order
By Ikram Sehgal
August 27, 2015
On an election petition filed by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI), alleging poll rigging in NA-125 in Lahore, an election tribunal decided in May of this year that the irregularities were serious enough to cancel the constituency’s 2013 election results. Terming it null and void, the tribunal de-seated PML-N’s Khawaja Saad Rafique, the Federal Minister for Railways. Challenging this decision, Saad Rafique petitioned the SC for a “Stay Order” because the election tribunal did not prove that he was involved in the rigging. Suspending the tribunal’s verdict for re-elections, the SC instructed the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to restore Saad Rafique’s status as the Member National Assembly (MNA) for NA-125. After this stay order, he not only continues to be an MNA but also a Federal Minister.
In line with the August 22 judgement of the Election Tribunal in Lahore, the ECP recently unseated National Assembly (NA) Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq by nullifying his election from NA-122. Ayaz Sadiq, who had defeated the PTI Chairman Imran Khan, accepted the tribunal’s verdict but said that he would challenge this decision in the apex court on various legal grounds. What was really appalling was the manner in which Pervez Rashid, Rana Sanaullah and other PML-N stalwarts went after Justice (retired) Kazim Ali Malik personally. What a democracy, where a supposedly elected government cannot tolerate a judicial verdict without resorting to character assassination of the worst kind. Why can the ECP not protect the sanctity of its Election Tribunals by taking action against this scandalous defamation?
As in the case of Saad Rafique, the primary focus of the tribunal’s verdict was on the glaring irregularities caused by the incompetence and inefficiencies of the polling staff, both during and after the electoral process. Unfortunately, the same holds more or less true for almost every constituency in the country. For the record, other than Khawaja Saad Rafique’s NA-125 and Sardar Ayaz Sadiq’s NA-122, the SC has also seen fit to issue stay orders to Khawaja Asif’s (Minister) NA-110, Attock Sheikh Aftab’s (Minister) NA-57, Attock Malik Intikhab’s NA-58, Malik Riaz’s NA-118 and Sadique Khan’s NA-154. The ECP has shown an inherent incapability to hold general elections in a truly fair and free manner. While the PML-N’s involvement any deliberate manipulation was not conclusive, the Judicial Commission (JC) gave a sab accha (all is well) report in the face of a host of glaring irregularities that it had recorded.
Heading the NA-122 Election Tribunal, Justice (retired) Kazim said in his detailed decision, “No evidence though is available on record that the returned candidate or any other candidate was responsible for the missing record or even for invalid statements of count... But what is apparent, it reflects manifestly clear that serious lapses and negligence was evident at every stage of conduct of elections.” His judgement recorded that many of the complaints and objections that cropped up might well have been avoided with better planning, more professionalism and better devotion to duty. Re-polling was ordered on the clearly drawn conclusion that the election was materially affected. The PML-N should be more than willing to contest a by-election, the popularity of which is not in doubt, given the results of the recently held cantonment local body’s elections. In the Rawalpindi Cantonment and Chaklala Cantonment Board local bodies’ polls, PML-N candidates made a clean sweep, winning in all 20 wards. Retaining massive popularity in the province, the PML-N should not have resorted to the higher courts to obtain stay orders but should have showed its strength by going for re-elections.
Stay orders by courts are meant to give temporary relief to either party, which is followed by detailed proceedings to establish guilt or innocence. The spirit behind the stay orders is excellent but the system is being manipulated to provide relief to only a handful. This safeguards the interests of the innocent party; this is not the case in the majority of instances because the SC workload causes a delay in dispensing justice. The liberal recourse for stay orders is systematically and cynically being exploited by the guilty, at times for an unjustified end. Restraining the misuse of these laws falls squarely not only upon the government’s shoulders but on the higher courts, who must formulate a mechanism to ensure that such abuse of laws does not take place. Such mechanisms must also have provisions for the punishment of those who misuse these laws to shield themselves.
What is worrying is the tendency of whosoever is frustrated to turn to our higher courts. What then becomes the rationale for a democratic dispensation? After all, democracy is meant to empower the ordinary citizens and promote as well as protect individual freedoms, not to be misused for the interests of a handful of people. If election tribunals continue to declare elections in each constituency irregular without pinning the blame on any party, the entire electoral process will be seen as a farce. Given the fact that judgment by the SC is not expected anytime soon because of its workload, decisions made by the Election Tribunals are challenged in every case, making the whole rationale behind setting up the Election Tribunals to reinforce the process of democracy null and void.
Though the situation is far better than a year ago, Pakistan is struggling to strengthen its democratic governance. Terrorism, domestic insurgencies, sectarian and communal violence have taken a huge toll on the morale and economy of the country. Our external challenges are two-fold i.e. our relations with India and Afghanistan, which have continued to pose enduring security dilemmas for Pakistan. As for the domestic front, it is ironic that despite the fact that both major political parties are quite moderate, they have failed to modernise, industrialise, educate or develop Pakistan’s society for decades. Our principal challenge lies in the revival of the economy and the crisis of corruption has become endemic. Because of its nexus with organised crime and terrorism, the process of democracy is being hurt badly. India takes advantage of the situation that our politicians have created and does not miss an opportunity to pressurise us, internally or externally.
With the politics of stay orders being played out so liberally, can we be faulted for believing that we live in a stay order style of democracy? There is considerable frustration at out the lack of governance. How long before the mounting frustration because of the lack of speedy justice in the electoral process forces a stay order (pun intended) on democracy?
Ikram Sehgal is a defence analyst and security expert
Hamid Gul and the saga of Jihad
By Adnan Falak
August 27, 2015
The demise of General Hamid Gul roused rebuke from many members of civil society. In their eyes, General’s role in fostering Afghan Jihad, and later for extending “moral support” to the Taliban, made him a symbol of establishment’s defunct and discredited policy of proxy militarism. It is convenient to analyse geopolitical imperatives from the comfort of our homes, forgetting that policies are not shaped in ivory towers of idealism but forged by harsh realities. The role of General Hamid Gul should also be analysed in this context.
The first misconception is to place entire onus of state sanctioned Jihad on the shoulders of General Hamid Gul. He was a vocal proponents of that policy but he didn’t initiate it. The roots of state sanctioned jihad goes back to the immediate aftermath of country’s independence, when our founding fathers backed tribal incursion into Kashmir. Since, most leaders have supported proxy war, finding it a convenient tool of geopolitical strategy.
Secondly, Pakistan is not the first state to employ violent non-state actors (VNSAs) to further its foreign policy or national security goals. Though this form of militarism violates the Westphalian concept of sovereignty, modern history is replete with examples, where bigger and smaller states used indirect warfare to further their interests.
Even in post 9/11 Islamic world, the United States is still supporting some militant groups, arming rebels in Libya and Syria. Likewise, Iran and Saudi Arabia have been waging proxy war in Middle East, and in some parts of Pakistan, India is fomenting trouble through VNSAs. We might condemn proxy wars, but factually when situation demands, states employ this kind of warfare. In our case, it was the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan that forced us to play our hand.
Afghan Jihad was not an invention of Pakistan. It was a product of the Cold War, a by product of a bipolar world, where superpowers settled scores by engaging in indirect warfare. Soviet intervention and paroxysmal in Afghanistan, raised serious security concerns about Pakistan. As we could not face the Soviet might, it was prudent to trap the red empire in the Afghan quagmire. With American blessings, we recruited, financed and supported Afghan jihad.
After the Soviet retreat, the United States deserted, leaving Afghanistan in the throes of a civil war. The Afghan civil war had its own dynamics and consequences, perhaps the Taliban were the natural corollary of Afghan turmoil.
The blowback of that policy came after 9/11. The events transpiring in its wake has nothing to do with Pakistan. Nineteen Arab hijackers crashed passenger jets into WTC and pentagon bringing American wrath onto Afghanistan. US President George Bush set the tone of post 9/11 foreign policy by stating “either you are with us or against us.” Once again, we found ourselves in the eye of the storm. Buckling under US pressure, we had to turn away from our old allies. Our change of hearts invited the ire of Jihadists, plunging Pakistan into the jaws terrorism.
The role of General Hamid Gul has to be taken in the above-mentioned context. He took over ISI when war in Afghanistan was raging. His later support for Afghan Taliban depicted the fragility of Afghan situation. The future of Afghan government is still uncertain, and Taliban have once again established themselves as an important power broker.
Commenting on public policy and its consequences, Henry Kissinger wrote, “Whatever one’s conception about the necessity of events, at the moment of their performance their inevitability could offer no guide to action.” The same can be said of Afghan Jihad. It had a geopolitical rationale, bearing fruit by evicting Soviets from Afghanistan. Thirty years ago, no one could predict today’s mayhem. Laying it squarely on General Hamid Gul would be unfair. Among other things, current militancy has roots in historical contingencies and weak state institutions. Therefore, we should give the old General the benefit of the doubt.
Adnan Falak is a freelance columnist and has worked as a broadcast journalist.
Saadat Hasan Manto, the man remains an enigma
By Mohammad Farooq
August 27, 2015
Six decades after the demise of Saadat Hasan Manto, the man remains an enigma, loved by some but hated by the vast majority. Some dub him a literary genius, a wizard extraordinaire, while others label him a misogynist and a pornographer for his portrayals of prostitutes in his writings. Manto produced a wide array of works over the course of almost 20 years. There was no denying his prodigious talent, with the earth-shattering events surrounding Partition leaving a permanent imprint on his mind, soul and writings. As a person, he was very sensitive to his surroundings, a keen observer and one who possessed a very sharp eye. His pen acted as a lens which captured the most ordinary of moments with remarkable accuracy. He had his share of critics during his lifetime, and while he may have suffered at a personal level because of their criticism, his writings never suffered as a result. They always reflected a humanistic perspective, irrespective of the religion or creed that was being followed by the protagonistsManto was labelled a cynic, a reactionary by the progressive writers’ movement. Much to the dismay of his contemporaries, they failed to dent his psyche. He often admonished the intelligentsia, including the progressive writers’ movement, whom he felt had deviated from its ideals and lacked any level of creativity. The crux of the matter is Manto took up topics that were bold for his times and mastered his craft with devastating ruthlessness. The diversity at display in his writings was particularly striking, which made him go a notch above his contemporaries. He refused to be discouraged by those who opposed him and who treaded on the lines of hypocrisy and outright jealousy for his works. His ingenuity, brash nature and straight talking did not make him a very likeable man.
At a personal level, Manto had his fair share of flaws. Alcoholism was a chronic issue and a source of immense embarrassment and pain for his family. His addiction for alcohol forced him to sell his stories for a pittance. Instead of providing for his wife and children, he failed at many levels to fulfill his responsibilities and practically drank himself to death. Facing intense pressure from his family and friends alike, he was persuaded to enter the mental asylum in Lahore, in a bid to be cured of his alcoholism. Amazingly, even in rehabilitation mode he was able to muster some iconic works of literature, which is quite baffling.
Manto was panned by critics, censored on a massive scale and his avenues to earn a decent livelihood narrowed as time passed. The various vicissitudes he underwent during the course of his life did not lend him many flexible options. He was always up against the odds, whether it was in the face of incumbent authorities, critics or haters. The breathing space for a person like him was severely limited in those times and if he had been alive today, the level of persecution would have largely been the same.
Manto was known to possess a profound love for some of the best fountain pens in existence and was an avid collector. He is said to have told his wife once that he could narrate four separate stories at any given moment of time. He harboured a severe distaste for people who made any edits to his stories. Whatever he wrote was considered full and final, not open to any kind of changes at all. At a personal level, accounts from his family members suggest that he was an affectionate father to his daughters, a family man, and a private one. His wife, Safia, although simple in nature and taste, complemented him in every respect. Intellect-wise, though, she was not his equal. Still, Manto used to narrate most of his works to her after finishing them, even though at times she was unable to comprehend the depth of his writings.
Manto’s intellect was beyond question, his corpus of works over his lifetime a testimony to the ingenuity he possessed. He left behind a rich, profound legacy, which will continue to enrich future generations for many years to come.