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Islam and Politics ( 18 Aug 2015, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Revisiting Religious Discourse, Remembering Shuja Khanzada: New Age Islam’s Selection From Pakistan Press, 18 August 2015

New Age Islam Edit Bureau

18 August 2015

 Living In a Shell of Patriotism

By Rai Ghulam Mustafa

 Revisiting Religious Discourse

By Farman Kakar

 Parenting Terror

By Owen Bennett-Jones

 Afghanistan after Mullah Omar

By Javid Husain

 Pakistan’s Big Question

By Ayaz Amir

 Remembering Shuja Khanzada, the True Patriot of Pakistan

By Zafar Zulqurnain Sahi


There Is a Great Essence to Being Patriotic but Pakistanis Overdo It And, Realistically, Not Do It At All: Living in a Shell of Patriotism

By Rai Ghulam Mustafa

August 18, 2015

Being raised to the tunes and mantras of Mitti Ki Muhabbat (love for my homeland), every Pakistani inculcates a strong association towards his homeland. Undoubtedly, there is a great essence to being patriotic but Pakistanis overdo it and, realistically, not do it at all. They have built a strong misty shell around themselves. While Pakistanis think and aim for favouring their nation, they are unable to look through this shell, an inability that deprives them from assessing the bigger picture, leaving them disconnected from the dots that run across our globe, dots that are well connected and well routed. From individuals to governments, Pakistan’s history is full of short laps of self-defined success that are eventually, as the bubble bursts, thrashed! Only then do they discover in the race they thought they were once winning, how far behind they actually were.

The arena is now global; the match is international. However, Pakistan chooses to neither adopt globally acclaimed measures of success nor chase globally set targets. Not only is there a physical border guarding its area there are also huge ideological and mental barriers shielding its identity. Pakistan has surrounded itself with massively tall walls and shut gates. Unquestionably, Pakistan’s region is politically unstable and sensitive. Pakistanis will have to bring down two walls on their eastern side, one that belongs to them and the second built by the folks on the other side. What may be ideological or strategic, a pending resolution does not allow for self-destruction. In fact, it requires protection of self-interests in the presence of active interaction and diplomacy. History questions the amount of time Pakistan has taken in opening up to its neighbours. A student hardly ever considers the option of travelling to Iran, China, Afghanistan or India for education. A Pakistani tourist cannot find well-connected routes and provident services for travel into these countries. Pakistani labour faces restrictions in accessing markets of the same. Visa procedures and restraints further intensify their segregation. Do these countries differ from Pakistan to such an extent that they stand invaluable and inferior to Pakistan? Certainly not. Then why block routes, why stop cultural exchange, why create trade barriers and, most importantly, why never educate its youth that these options exist and have not been explored due to diplomatic and governmental failures, instead of brainwashing their minds terming these options as net-destructive and unpatriotic? Clearly, Pakistanis are living in a shell of patriotism that perpetuates their seclusion.

Apna Watn Tau Apna Hota Hai (no place is comparable to my homeland)! Indeed. However, global interaction does not come at the expense of identity compromise. Instead, it provides a chance to promote and strengthen individual and collective identities at the global level. From an economics front, discouraging labour immigration while praising the influx of remittances is principally contradictory. Brain drain is more of an effect than a cause. Lack of research, business and technological exchange restricts innovation. The urge and will to excel compels talented Pakistanis to explore foreign markets. The majority of the few Pakistanis who manage to do so ultimately benefit Pakistan through their monetary and innovative contributions. As they become a global resource, Pakistan gains global representation and, with that, a platform for exploring innovative ideas and resolving its issues.

Zooming within Pakistan, we see different actors but the story continues. Pakistanis develop even stronger ethnic, regional and religious associations. Per se, this is not problematic but terming the rest as wrong, delusive, immoral and yourself as the only right, real and moral is. This is what breeds isolation. Undoubtedly, teachers and trainers deserve respect and esteem but not at the cost of defying logic. The process through which teachers become teachers and vaderas (feudal landlords) become vaderas must be logical and if illogical, then questionable and accountable. Sadly, Pakistanis observe forced and blind following of teachers who are self-created and fake. The idea of logical choice is non-existent as political followers are tied up to their party heads’ agendas, religious followers are blindly practicing their preacher’s sermons and villagers are bonded to their vaderas for bread and butter. It is about time that Pakistanis realise these managers are only manipulators and dishonest, and no longer sacred. This will shatter barriers of immense intolerance and extremist associations currently running in Pakistan. With enhanced interaction and sectorial intermingling, internal isolation can stand dissolute.

Pakistan is haunted by terrorism but its isolation paints the picture whereby Pakistan is both a victim and oppressor, and concurrently responsible for creating the bomb that not only results in its own demise but also extends the insurgency across the globe. Is global terrorism this straightforward? Not really. However, when the paintbrush is handed over to others to freely operate on the canvas and sketch Pakistan’s image, it becomes inevitable to be depicted as the sole culprit. Worse, the silence from Pakistanis that surface as a result of their isolation is equivalent to acknowledging the same. Boycotting global summits and exchanges while boasting about self-righteousness within its self-imposed shell only harms Pakistan’s image. The globe is as much Pakistan’s as it is others’. Perceptions are built and earned otherwise they are distorted to your enemy’s benefits. This proposes a question: who is Pakistan’s enemy? Every being, internal or external, Pakistani or non-Pakistani, Islamic or non-Islamic, black or white, Sunni or Shia, that blows up Pakistan through their speech, pen or bombs is Pakistan’s enemy. Convincing them, facing them, targeting them, defeating them is the only way forward but, sadly, Pakistan has been boycotting its external enemy and ignoring its internal enemy, leading to instability and insecurity.

The beauty and tolerance of Pakistani culture and heritage can gain recognition. Pakistan can compete with the world, without compromising its identity. Pakistanis have the resources, capacity and talent. However, for this to happen, Pakistan needs to enter the competition and face the world. The clock is ticking, past being sketched, future unveiling; it is the present moment that deserves Pakistan more, not a tick before not a tick after. Closing eyes when struck with danger only intensifies it, as does the shell layered around Pakistan. An aggressive resolve can break this shell, end Pakistan’s isolation and assign it a globally acknowledged and admired identity.

Rai Ghulam Mustafa is a freelance contributor



Revisiting Religious Discourse

By Farman Kakar

August 18, 2015

Maulana Tariq Jamil is probably Pakistan’s best-known religious ideologue. He is welcome almost everywhere, from mosques to madrasas (seminaries), from colleges and universities to the corridors of power, cutting across sects and ideologies. Resultantly, what he says is what matters.

While listening to one of his old speeches delivered on Independence Day, aired by the state-run television channel, the Maulana claimed that in his study of world nations, two countries came into being in the name of Islam. These were the state of Medina and the state of Pakistan respectively. He added a special religious significance to the fact that Pakistan came into being on August 14, 1947, which according to him was not a mere coincidence as it concurred with the 27th of Ramzan, the most sacred day of the most sacred month according to the Islamic calendar. “The intention of Allah was involved,” Maulana Tariq Jamil claimed.

There are some serious objections to Maulana Jamil’s assertion. Contrary to popular misconception, Pakistan and India came into being on one and the same day: August 15, 1947. The Indian Independence Act, 1947 is instructive in this regard. Clause One of Article One, titled “The new dominions”, of the act reads: “As from the 15th day of August, 1947, two independent dominions shall be set up in India, to be known respectively as India and Pakistan.” What lay bare was the fact that the Maulana’s statement is in serious want of authenticity. Put differently, if we were the first state to be created on the 27th of Ramzan, it does not make us unique because India also obtained independence on the same day. However, if the 27th of Ramzan did not coincide with August 15, 1947, then none of the two states was founded on Islam’s most sacred day of the most sacred month. To the confession of the Maulana, 27th of Ramzan was on August 14. In order words, Pakistan did not come into being on the 27th of Ramzan. My contention is that Pakistan’s emergence before the 27th of Ramzan does in no way discredit our existence! The clergy’s association of Pakistan with Ramzan is meant to give a religious colour to the country’s existence.

It is the knock-on effects of Maulana Tariq Jamil’s speech that merit serious considerations. Associating Pakistan’s creation with the 27th of Ramzan gives a purely religious connotation to the country’s otherwise mundane independence. In fact, religion was a rallying cry to mobilise a diverse lot of Muslims to found a country where Muslims would constitute numerical majority and where the community’s socio-economic and political interests — supposedly threatened in united India from Hindu domination — would be secured. The Maulana’s assertion harks back to age-old debate: was Pakistan meant to be either an Islamic polity or a Muslim majority state? For the religious right, Pakistan was meant to be an Islamic state with Sharia being the supreme law of the land. Even if the claim is accepted for the time being, then the question arises of whose sharia will prevail. The flip side of Maulana Tariq Jamil’s claim is that it impinges upon the liberties of religious minorities. A religious Pakistan means excluding the official three percent of non-Muslims in the first place. Being exclusionary, the cleric’s notion of religious polity excludes Pakistan’s 20 percent Shia population. Of the remaining 77 percent Sunni Muslims, the majority is of the Barelvi persuasion followed closely by the Deobandis. These two sects of Sunni Islam have further divisions along various sub sects.

Nevertheless, since the said Maulana subscribes to the Deobandi school of thought, his notion of religious Pakistan means that the clerics representing some 30 percent or so of the Deobandis would dictate the country’s religious discourse. Such a precarious scenario imposes perpetual minority status on the 70 percent majority, an irony of staggering proportions! What one figures from this is that the relationship between politics and religion is problematic. Our near seven decades of existence stand as a testimony to this effect.

On this Independence Day, revisiting the whole religious discourse surrounding Pakistan’s emergence is of immense importance. The misuse of religious imagery with active official patronage and connivance has cost us more than any other issue in our 68-year-old history. May we prove Friedrich Hegel - “We learn from history that we do not learn from history” - wrong by understanding that in our case the politicisation of religion has not provided for a viable state. Making religion an affair between the infallible Allah and the fallible individual instead of the fallible government and fallible individual remedies men from the wrongs they commit in the latter case. This is the essence of secularism, which we erroneously call as ladeeniyat or no religion at all.

Farman Kakaris a freelance journalist based in Quetta.


Parenting Terror

By Owen Bennett-Jones

August 18, 2015

Parenting terrorWith Britain exporting young jihadis to front lines all over the world, TV viewers in the UK have become used to seeing the parents of these young men and women appear on their screens. It generally occurs when journalists, using social media and other sources, manage to name a young Brit who has either killed himself in a suicide attack or gone to Syria to join Islamic State. Inevitably the parents are then asked to comment.

Many of the parents seem to be in denial. It is simply not possible, they say, that their child carried out the act they are accused of. Even in the face of indisputable evidence, they simply repeat the forlorn idea that, surely, there must be some mistake.

Take, for example, Mahmood Husain, the father of Hasib Hussain, the youngest of the 7/7 bombers who together killed 52 people on the London underground system in 2005. Even after the release of CCTV pictures showing his son and the other three attackers with their bomb laden rucksacks on their backs, he denied it: “no-one has shown me any evidence that he did it,” he told the BBC.

It was much the same with Omar Saeed Sheikh who was convicted in the kidnapping and beheading of Daniel Pearl in 2002. His father, Saeed Sheikh, a clothes retailer in East London, insisted that his son was a caring human being. In relation to his son’s previous offences, which included the 1994 kidnapping of three Britons and an American in India, Saeed Sheikh said his son was: “tried and acquitted of everything…there is no case of abduction; it’s all propaganda”. So he denied not just his son’s involvement but even the crime itself.

More recently the father of Mohamed Emwazi otherwise known as the IS executioner ‘Jihadi John’ had a similar reaction. “There is nothing that proves what is being circulated in the media, especially through video clips and footage, that the accused is my son Mohammed”, he said.

As Islamist violence has become ever more widespread some parents have started giving a different response. Their child might have been responsible, they say, but the family had no idea that he or she was even thinking along these lines. The whole thing, they typically say, has come as a total shock.

Earlier this year, for example, the family of Talha Asmal, Britain’s youngest suicide bomber, accepted that he had indeed done what he was accused of. However, they said in a family statement that: “Talha was a loving, kind, caring and affable teenager. He never harboured any ill will against anybody nor did he ever exhibit any violent, extreme or radical views of any kind.” Not denial then but it seems Talha Asmal’s family was missing some rather important developments in his character and thinking.

The case of three British schoolgirls, Shamima Begum, Kadiza Sultana and Amira Abase, who went to Syria in February, highlights another point about these reactions: the families seem reluctant to accept any responsibility for what happened. For example Halima Khanon, Sultana’s sister, told the BBC that if the family had known about an investigation into the radicalisation of one of Sultan’s schoolmates, the family would have “taken precautions” and prevented the girls gong to Syria. There was no suggestion that they should have taken precautions anyway, on their own initiative.

Of course allowance must be made for the fact that these families are grieving for their lost children. Confused, shocked and unused to handling the media, they find themselves in a terrible situation. But as the number of cases increases it is increasingly difficult to accept some of the statements the relatives make without raising some questions.

All parents know that their children face dangers. For many British mothers and fathers the greatest fears are probably that their child could be killed in a car accident or take a drug overdose. Back in the 1970s many parents tried to limit such dangers by placing physical restrictions on their children. Today most think it is better to educate their offspring in the hope that they will make good decisions for themselves.

With hundreds of terrorism convictions now having gone through the UK courts, British Muslim families must surely be aware that their children face the risk of being radicalised. And yet many seem to find it a very difficult issue to confront. Perhaps, religion is such a central part of their lives that it is all but impossible for them to see that as a potential source of problems.

Pious children are seen as more virtuous than vulnerable. But it is now clear that allowing British Muslim children to mix freely with charismatic local influencers and to roam the internet unchecked is putting them – and, for that matter, many other people – at risk. Many British Pakistanis are shocked that other British parents could let their daughters out of sight long enough for them to be sexually abused. But many of those other Brits are equally shocked that Pakistani families could be paying so little attention that their youngsters become prey to radical Islamist recruiters.

The perils are now so obvious that parents must surely start to act. The remedy seems pretty obvious. Find out who your children are mixing with, switch off the router and encourage open discussion. No doubt such actions will provoke adolescent tantrums. But as too many families are finding out, there are worse things than that.

Owen Bennett-Jones is a freelance British journalist, one of the hosts of BBC’s Newshour and the author of the new political thriller, Target Britain.


Afghanistan after Mullah Omar

By Javid Husain

August 18, 2015

The announcement of the death of Mullah Omar, the Taliban supreme leader, on 29 July was like a geopolitical earthquake which sent tremors throughout the region, particularly across Afghanistan. The report was significant because of the way it was made public, its likely repercussions on the unity and effectiveness of the Taliban, its impact on the Afghan peace process, and its implications for Pakistan-Afghan relations and the security environment in the region.

It was the Afghan presidential palace, not the Taliban leadership nor Pakistan’s intelligence agency which was supposedly in close contact with the Taliban, which claimed that Mullah Omar had died in Pakistan in April 2013. A spokesman of Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS) stated separately that Omar had died in a Karachi hospital “under mysterious circumstances.” It was further claimed by the Afghan side that after his death, Mullah Omar was buried in Zabul province in southern Afghanistan. The Afghan claim that Mullah Umar had died in Pakistan was not rejected by Defence Minister Khwaja Asif who told the National Assembly on 7 August that Mullah Omar had died in Pakistan nor had he been buried there. However, he did not issue any clarification about the time of Mullah Omar’s death.

The time of Mullah Omar’s death does raise interesting questions. If he had indeed died over two years ago as alleged by the Afghan government and as confirmed later by Tayeb Agha, it would mean that all the statements issued in his name since then, including the one issued on 15 July supporting the Pakistan-brokered peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government, were fictitious. It would also cast serious aspersions on the legitimacy of his announced successor, Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansoor who used to deputise for Mullah Omar during his life. Among other things, it would mean that Mullah Mansoor must have kept the news of Mullah Omar’s death secret even from senior Taliban commanders for more than two years while exercising all the powers in his name. It also reflects the failure of Pakistan’s intelligence set-up in not getting the information about Mullah Omar’s death before the Afghan NDS got wind of it. On the other hand, if our intelligence establishment knew about Mullah Omar’s death and kept quiet about it, it would be considered guilty of complicity in whatever Mullah Mansoor had done over the past two years in the name of his predecessor.

As was to be expected, the report about Mullah Omar’s death has created divisions among the Taliban ranks. According to the statement issued by the Taliban spokesman, the group’s Supreme Council in a meeting held on 31 July had chosen Mullah Mansoor as its new supreme leader. Other reports, however, suggested that several key Taliban commanders had opposed his nomination and boycotted the meeting. The dissidents wanted Mullah Omar’s son, Maulvi Muhammad Yaqub, elected as the new Taliban leader. Though Mullah Mansoor has been able to secure the support of the powerful Haqqani group, it would be premature to claim that the succession struggle has been finally resolved in his favour. The resignation of Tayeb Agha as the head of the Taliban’s Qatar-based political office, announced on 4 August, was an important indicator of the divisions within the Taliban movement. According to Tayeb Agha, the decision to keep Mullah Omar’s death secret for two years was “a historical mistake.” His charge would have the effect of weakening Mullah Mansoor’s position within the Taliban ranks.

The immediate casualty of the report about Mullah Omar’s death was the second round of the Afghan peace talks which was scheduled to take place on 31 July in Pakistan. A statement issued by the Pakistan Foreign Office announced the postponement of the talks at the request of the Taliban. Until the dust settles down following the death of Mullah Omar and the new Taliban leadership is able to consolidate its grip over the movement, it is highly unlikely that the next round of the peace talks would take place. This is particularly so because there are hardliners within the Taliban movement who are opposed to the peace talks with the Afghan government which is viewed by them as an American puppet. Therefore, what one can expect in the near future is the intensification of attacks by the Taliban as Mullah Mansoor tries to consolidate his grip on power by rallying the Taliban rank and file, especially those elements which are opposed to peace talks with the Afghan government. This is precisely what has happened. The Taliban launched a number of major attacks in different parts of Afghanistan from 6 to 9 August causing the death of over 100 and wounding hundreds others. On the other hand, the Afghan government would also be reluctant to continue the process of peace talks until the new Taliban leadership is in a secure position to represent the Taliban movement as a whole.

The latest Taliban attacks prompted Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to charge at a press conference on 10 August in Kabul that whereas Afghanistan had hoped for peace, war had been declared on it from the Pakistani territory. While pointing out that the Afghan intelligence agency had confirmed the death of Mullah Omar, Ashraf Ghani stressed that this development had “reaffirmed the fact that the war in Afghanistan is fought for and by others and that the so-called Amir-ul-Momenin, who apparently led and commanded the war, might not have existed.” He expressed the hope that the Pakistan leadership would take necessary steps to expand relations with Afghanistan rather than damaging them. At the same time, he warned that Afghanistan could no longer “tolerate to see our people bleeding in a war exported and imposed on us from outside.” The remarks by President Ashraf Ghani should be seen against the background of the uncertainty caused by Mullah Omar’s death, the unsubstantiated charges of ISI’s complicity with the new Taliban leadership, the domestic opposition that he faces mainly from the elements associated with the Northern Alliance, and his consequent need to sound strong in the face of the Taliban’s renewed attacks. Pakistan, therefore, would be well advised not to over-react to Ashraf Ghani’s press statement.

Mullah Omar’s death and the subsequent developments have indeed derailed the process of Pakistan-brokered Afghan peace talks to which a great deal of expectations had been attached as shown by the presence of the representatives of the US and China at the first round. Going by President Ashraf Ghani’s above mentioned remarks, these events have also had a negative impact on Pakistan-Afghanistan relations, thus, providing greater scope to India to fish in troubled waters at Islamabad’s expense. Islamabad must be sensitive to President Ashraf Ghani’s delicate position in launching the initiatives last year for the improvement of relations with Pakistan and a peace settlement with the Taliban, despite strong domestic opposition. Therefore, while encouraging both the Afghan government and the Taliban to resume the peace talks within the framework of an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process, we should take all possible steps to allay President Ashraf Ghani’s legitimate concerns. Simultaneously, we should reiterate our own concerns regarding the support extended to terrorist activities in Pakistan by the remnants of TTP who have taken refuge on the Afghan soil and by the Indian agents operating from the Afghanistan territory. We also need to understand that Iran’s cooperation with Pakistan would be invaluable and indispensable in restoring durable peace and stability in Afghanistan.

Javid Husain is a retired ambassador and the president of the Lahore Council for World Affairs.


Pakistan’s Big Question

By Ayaz Amir

August 18, 2015

The occasional setback like the assassination of the Punjab home minister, Shuja Khanzada, notwithstanding – although I can’t help adding snidely that if he’d had one-fortieth the security of the chief minister this would not have happened – Pakistan over the past one year, since the beginning of the ongoing military operation to be precise, has managed to roll back the tide of terrorism which was threatening to overwhelm it.

Terrorism has not been totally defeated, the outposts of the support network sustaining it are yet to be seen on the national radar, Islamic radicalism remains a problem, as does ‘secular’ militancy in Karachi, but even the firmest cynics are finding it hard to deny that the terrorism situation has vastly improved. The level of fear and uncertainty across the country – as far as such nebulous things can be measured – has gone down. Most Karachiites would agree, as would people of Peshawar, a city that not long ago was in the crosshairs of terrorism.

The question agitating some if not all sections of Pakistani public opinion is whether this momentum, this forward thrust, can be maintained past Gen Raheel Sharif’s retirement in November 2016. The army differently led might not have opted for the course he chose. So it’s pertinent to ask: what happens once he is no longer there?

The army command previous to him was vacillating and double-minded. After decisive action in Swat and South Waziristan, it folded its hands and rested on its laurels. It couldn’t summon up the resolution to go into North Waziristan, the command headquarters of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) which under its successive chiefs – Baitullah, Hakeemullah, Fazlullah – was unabashedly waging war against Pakistan.

Military irresolution was matched, if not exceeded, by civilian lack of spine. Even as the TTP was carrying out killings and bombings at will, paladins from Nawaz Sharif to Imran Khan held up negotiations as the best way to combat terror.

Gen Raheel Sharif’s assumption of command signalled an end to this dithering.

The army, backed closely by the PAF, went into North Waziristan, gradually extending its operation to other parts of Fata. This was no painless exercise because the army suffered appreciable losses, as it continues to do until today. If anything, these sacrifices have only stiffened its resolve.

The politicians, most of them, kept their fingers crossed. Then occurred the attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar, causing a wave of revulsion and anger across the country, leaving even the weak-minded amongst the political class little choice but to climb aboard the military’s wagon and shout support for the ongoing operation.

Politicians who had shed tears at the killing (by an American drone) of Hakeemullah Mehsud, the ruthless TTP chief, quickly changed tack and started singing a different tune. Their military-support rhetoric today almost conveys the impression that they rather than the army started Zarb-e-Azb…Badalta Hai Rung Aasman Kaise Kaise.

The operation was soon extended to Karachi, its across-the-board nature attested by the fact that everyone connected to Karachi’s loot and plunder has been squealing: Lyari kingpins, Mr Zardari himself – prompting from him the memorable threat ‘eent se eent baja den ge’, a threat no sooner delivered than he thought it best to head for safer climes – and now the MQM Rehbar who is seeing his world, or rather his remote-controlled kingdom, coming apart.

The army has not only changed the situation on the ground. It has, to a large extent, changed the national mood and altered the terms of national debate and discussion.

It’s fair to say that the role of personality should not be over-stressed, other factors too weighing in when it comes to the making of history. But neither does it do to undersell the role of personality. Any number of examples can be quoted from our own history.

When Gen Kayani was to step down the Sharifs thought long and hard about his replacement. Their all-time favourite, the model they hoped to replicate, was of course Gen Ziauddin Butt, the luckless general they wanted to make army chief in place of Gen Musharraf. Their attempt, as we know all too well, bungled but that’s another story.

As an aside let me say that after October 12 Musharraf picked a carpetbagger, who had come to try his luck in the new dispensation, as first his finance minister and then prime minister. That adventurer gave us consumer financing, which in turn gave us the surfeit of cars on our roads. So next time you curse the traffic in Lahore or even Islamabad think back to Ziauddin Butt, October 12, carpetbaggers, consumer finance, and dolled-up young ladies in banks offering you the quickest car loan on record. The whole sequence gives one a sense of the inter-connectedness of history.

As a further aside, let me add that traffic jams came to Moscow because of the break-up of the Soviet Union, and they came to Baghdad because of the American invasion…and they can be seen in Kabul as a consequence of another invasion. One of the lessons of recent history: wherever the American Empire strikes, the motor car, as symbol of prosperity, and traffic jams, as more signs of progress, are bound to follow…not to mention McDonalds and French fries (one of the most inedible things on the planet) and shopping malls, and flyovers and underpasses and signal-free corridors, the latest shenanigan. And this is our idea of civilisation.

The Sharifovs got it wrong with Musharraf. They thought as a Mohajir, without a support base of his own, he would be their creature. Behind this clever thinking were people close to them. This time, doing their own homework, after long and careful thought they settled on Raheel Sharif. How they came to this conclusion we will perhaps never know but they thought that in the then line-up of generals he would be their man, the closest to their model, Gen Butt. (In the army’s hall of fame, Gen Butt deserves a place of honour.)

It was Pakistan’s good luck that they got it wrong again. No-nonsense Gen Tariq, I am told, would have mounted a coup in six months which would have been another disaster for the country. Someone else might have turned out to be another knight in appeasement armour. Raheel has struck just the right balance: his own man, with a mind of his own, but at the same time no trigger-happy cowboy…otherwise the umpire’s finger would have been raised last August, leading to unpredictable consequences.

So the key, the big question is: what happens when his time is up? We have turned a leaf as far as terrorism is concerned. Look at the rest of the Islamic world. We look a picture of stability compared to that. But this is a task only half done. And so much more needs to be done on the mis-governance and corruption fronts.

There’s much to be said for ‘democratic continuity’. Zardari would not have been consigned to the museum of has-beens but for ‘democratic continuity’. We had our full dose of him and that is what cured us of his malady. Maybe this is what Pakistan needs…although the evidence of the past 20 years suggests otherwise: that the more so-called democracy we’ve had the more loot and plunder there has been. Yeltsinian democracy did Russia no good. Nehruvian democracy has created an Indian middle class but hasn’t managed the poverty-reduction we have seen in totalitarian China.

Maybe we should not hunt after false external analogies and instead we should stick to our own circumstances. Maybe the best thing for Pakistan is not a successful generalissimo seizing power, or brought to power by a coterie of his subordinates, but someone who despite popular acclamation follows the rules, for once, and steps down when his term is up.

Gen Raheel is by far the most popular man in the country today. Should he want it power will be his for the taking next year. But suppose he desists. Suppose he restrains himself. Can you imagine the delirium of a populace always prone to emotional excess? People will go mad and hail him as a saviour.

Ataturk and de Gaulle did not seize power. They set no 111 Brigade in motion. Power came to them out of the iron law of national necessity. What lies in store for us?


Remembering Shuja Khanzada, the True Patriot of Pakistan

By Zafar Zulqurnain Sahi

August 17, 2015

Patriotic, graceful, sharply dressed, eloquent, polite, and charming, this was my first impression of the Punjab Home Minister Colonel (retd) Shuja Khanzada. I first met him as a colleague in the Provincial Assembly of Punjab in 2008. I was 27-years-old and Khanzada became an inspiration at first sight.

His careful selection of words, composure, integrity, and infectious optimism were something to look up to for newcomers in the infamous field of politics.

Khanzada was one of the politicians whose presence made me believe, and repeatedly assert that there are several sincere, patriotic, and honest people in our assemblies, only they fail to get much public attention owing to lack of scandals and being devoid of moral or ethical turpitude.

Khanzada was not an alien imported from another planet or another country. He was as Pakistani as the corrupt elements of our society. His life and death is a reminder for us voters to send more people like him to the assemblies.

In the wake of terrorism and our country’s effective engagement in the war thereupon, Khanzada held the most significant responsibility in the Punjab cabinet. A responsibility he fulfilled to the best of his ability. His death is a testament to his sincere efforts.

He was neither sitting behind a bullet proof glass, nor 50 feet away from the people who elected him and whom he served. He lived among them and died among them. He was the home minister of Punjab, law enforcement agencies were under his command, yet he did not surround himself with armed public servants. He was aware of the threats to his life, and no, he was not callous. He put the lives of his people before his own. He was brave, courageous, and sincere to the people who depended on him for eradicating the animals that we know as terrorists.

The cowards responsible for his death may be celebrating this as a victory. But in Khanzada’s death, resonates a loud and clear message from the peace loving people of Pakistan; we still have some Safwat Ghayyurs, Fayyaz Sumbals, Chaudhry Aslams, Bashir Bilours and Shuja Khanzadas amongst us.

They don’t hide behind brainwashed suicide bombers; they stand tall in the open as a display of their faith in God, calling you out from your holes where you hide. Your last will have been long sent to hell before our last patriot becomes a victim of your shameless cowardice and barbarity.

Khanzada was leading the fight being fought for us. He risked and lost his life so that we could live in peace. His death will not be forgotten, but more than that, it needs to be remembered. The terrorists need to know that they may have killed one more patriot, but have reinvigorated patriotism in thousands of us.

After many years, I felt an air of optimism and patriotism on this August 14. I may be wrong, but the fire of national spirit seems to have been reignited after all these years. Let this attack on our patriot brother be fuel to this fire. Let’s stand behind those who continue to fight this menace, and push forward those who show any reluctance.

Let not all the Khanzadas have died in vain. Above all, let’s stand firm and united against any and all forms of extremism.

May God bless Khanzada’s soul.

God bless Pakistan.

Zafar Zulqurnain Sahi is a Lawyer by profession. A Gold Medalist in LLB from Punjab University and has a LLM degree from University of Warwick, UK. He is also a former Member Provincial Assembly of Punjab (2008-2013).