New Age Islam Edit Bureau
January 15, 2016
What Do Saudis Want From Pakistan?
Syed Kamran Hashmi
ISIS in Pakistan?
Muhammad Akbar Notezai
Democracy, Religion and Pakistan
Raja Qaiser Ahmed
The Unheard Victims
By Mehr Tarar
What Do Saudis Want From Pakistan?
By Syed Kamran Hashmi
15 Jan. 16
In a highly provocative undertaking, the Saudi regime executed Shia cleric NimrBaqr Al Nimr last week, a vocal critic of the royal family demanding nationwide free and fair elections, and political rights to minorities.
In response to his death, protests erupted in Iran. A large crowd — shocked and angry — poured into the streets and torched the Saudi embassy. Suspecting the Iranian authorities of being behind the incident, the Saudis cut diplomatic ties with Tehran whose embassy in Riyadh was instructed to shut down, its staff to leave the Kingdom. Following the footsteps of the ‘regional lord,’ Sudan and Bahrain have also severed their relationship with the Persian state while the UAE has downgraded its diplomatic connections.
As tensions grow between Iran and Saudi Arabia, grandiose ideas of self importance emerge in Pakistan, its political leaders meeting with the ambassadors of the Islamic states ‘advising’ them to show grace and stay patient. This response is neither new, unusual nor unexpected. Many scholars and politicians religiously believe in a renaissance of Islam through Pakistan, which has somehow integrated as part of their faith. With this in mind, you can understand why they think Pakistan can deescalate the tension between the two oil rich, theocratic rivals that it can help bring them closer to each other or forge a peace agreement between them.
Seriously, how naïve do you have to be to say such things? Do you not look at the poverty in Pakistan? The illiteracy, the corruption or the nationwide insurgency? It is like a five-year-old who wants to arbitrate the distribution of assets on his parents’ divorce. Or like a rat dying to play role in a fight between two cats. However, the recent visit of the royal princes, the Saudi foreign minister followed by the defence minister, the deputy crown prince confirms some of our importance. The question is: what does a rich country like Saudi Arabia want or expect from us? What do they do not have that we have and how can we help them in winning their war?
It is not oil; we all know that. On the contrary, it is us who have begged the Saudis for decades to supply free, low cost or low interest energy resources. It is not money either; they have a lot of it in their American bank accounts and New York stock exchange, whereas we stand almost bankrupt. We know it is not about Islamic education or Wahhabi literature;the Saudis have their own echelon of enthusiastic scholars who can build up the Arab morale against Iran. Besides, they do not think our understanding of religion can match their level because we do not speak Arabic as our fist language. Is it weapons then? Of course not.If they needed weapons they would have gone to the US. The west would line up to provide them with whatever they want. And, under no circumstances, can Pakistan sell them nuclear bombs to use against Iran. It will be detrimental for both Saudi Arabia and Iran but a suicidal mission for Pakistan.
Then what is it? What do they want from us? The only thing that we all know — the elephant in the room — is that they do not have a well-trained, cheap but reliable mercenary force, dispensable human lives that can be jettisoned in the name of Islam for a few hundred dollars, a force that is not available in the free market but can be leased at a very low cost in Pakistan to restore the honour of Islam. Why would any other country (Muslim or not) send its sons to die for cash if there is no devotion, no commitment and no guarantee of paradise after death? Think about it.
In short, what makes Pakistan so uniquely important is not hard to figure out: we have got a population close to 200 million whose poor, uneducated youth thinks they can save the future of religion through their commitment to die for its honour, a state with a large army of 600,000 men on active duty and a long list of retired commissioned and non-commissioned officers, most of them Sunni who would be happy to go and fight, and get killed if the compensation is attractive enough. It would have been one thing had the Kingdom been attacked by an alien force and they needed Pakistan’s help to protect Mecca and Medina, but it is not. The Kingdom is not fighting a war with aliens; instead it is the aggressor waging wars against fellow believers who do not follow the same narrow Wahhabi interpretation of Islam. In addition, their hatred towards Shia Islam is as obvious as their repulsion towards the freedom of women, if not more. Indeed, the world faces such extreme religious views because of their narrow-minded interpretation and application of Islam, a tragedy that has reduced the religion of Averos to Osama bin Laden and Avecena to Mullah Omer.
Pakistan’s own its relationship with Saudi Arabia has damaged society ripping its culture apart. Whether it was the decision to accept Saudi money to finance the Mujahideen against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan or send Pakistani workers for jobs where they are treated worse than slaves, it has encouraged rigidity in religion, unleashed the habit of belittling the faith of others, calling their devotion Bidah and has upgraded extremism from vice to virtue. The results will not be any different in the current standoff if Pakistan decides to join them. Hate literature would flourish, minorities would become further marginalised and sectarian organisations would spring up. Just imagine what would happen after that.
The ultimate decision to provide the Saudis manpower is not Mian Nawaz Sahrif’s to make, even if he thinks it is his or even if he wants it to be his. It is a decision to be made by the Pakistan army and General Raheel Sharif. So, let us see what he decides.
Syed Kamran Hashmi is a US-based freelance columnist.
ISIS in Pakistan?
By Muhammad Akbar Notezai
January 15, 2016
On January 13, 2016, two masked men reportedly threw a grenade and fired gunshots at the office of ARY News Channel in Islamabad, injuring one media person. The self-styled Islamic State’s (IS) Afghanistan chapter claimed responsibility for the attack in pamphlets and stated it was in reaction to the coverage the channel is giving to Operation Zarb-e-Azb.
Besides this, in late December, the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) claimed that it had busted a cell of the militants, belonging to the IS group operating in Sialkot. Accordingly, they arrested eight suspects and seized weapons, explosives and laptops, as well as a large number of compact discs containing publicity material. Moreover, media reports stated that the suspects had taken an oath of overthrowing democracy and introducing Khilafat in Pakistan through armed struggle, and the suspects, who were arrested by CTD, are said to be belonging to different districts of the Punjab province of Pakistan. But Sialkot, according to media reports, served as the base of their operations.
“The suspects dislike democracy in Pakistan while they hate police and Pakistan Army,” official documents said, further stating, “In order to persuade other people to join their organisation, they would show them some video clips in which the Rangers were seen shooting a young man in Karachi. The prime objective of the [IS] men was to fan hatred against the country’s law enforcement agencies (LEAs).” According to CTD investigations, the suspects were indoctrinated and recruited by two brothers — Babar Butt aka Abu Akasha and Nadeem Butt. They also told reporters that the suspects had sworn allegiance to al Baghdadi and joined IS in Daska tehsil of Sialkot district in June last year.
Talking to media persons in Islamabad after an event, the Adviser to the Prime Minister (PM) on Foreign Affairs, Sartaj Aziz, said that the rise of IS in Afghanistan was a point of concern for Pakistan, and he went on to add that certain elements trying to associate with IS were arrested from Sialkot.
After the arrest of eight suspects in Sialkot, it is reported that a Lahore based women called Bushra Bibi along with her four children left for Syria to join the IS in Syria, and a civilian intelligence agency has reported that around 20 men, women and children connected with Bushra’s network also left to join IS.
A week after the CTD claim of busting a cell of IS in Sialkot, Punjab Law Minister Rana Sana Ullah said that those who were arrested had been tasked with setting up sleeper cells for IS, and that those arrested include the purported IS Islamabad chief Amir Mansoor, his deputy Abdullah Mansoori and the group's chief for Sindh province, Umer Kathio. He further stated in the statement, the arrests were the result of raids in four Punjab cities over the weekend.
Meanwhile, an Interior Ministry report revealed that youngsters from Pakistan are being sent to Afghanistan to join IS. According to the report, the total number of people sent from Pakistan to Afghanistan is between 40 and 50, and that they were also paid a salary between Rs 30,000 and Rs 50,000 each. It was also stated in the report that several banned organisations and Taliban commanders were merging with IS.
Tashfeen Malik, the 29 year old Pakistani woman, involved in the San Bernardino shooting had also reportedly pledged allegiance to IS. In Pakistan, Tafsheen’s family comes from Layyah District of the Punjab province, and it comes into Southern areas of the Punjab, a hotbed of extremism in the country. From 2007 to 2012, Tashfeen studied in Bahauddin Zakariya University in Multan, the biggest city in Southern Punjab. A national newspaper reports that southern Punjab, with thousands of seminaries and a history of having provided foot soldiers to militant and sectarian outfits for decades, now offers a promising opportunity for IS to strengthen its network in the region. On the other hand, analysts believe that Tashfeen, before moving to the United States, was in Saudi Arabia where she was radicalised.
According to a poll by the Pew Research Center, IS has potential to make significant inroads in Pakistan. According to the poll, nine percent of Pakistanis held a favourable view of the IS, while 28 percent had a negative view. But very surprisingly, the 62 per cent had no opinion regarding the group, which raises concerns.
In recent months, IS launched an anti-government radio-station called “Voice of the Caliphate” in Nangarhar, Afghanistan. IS’ militants use it to promote themselves and attract new recruits. This station can also be clearly heard in Pakistan’s bordering tribal areas called FATA, which is likely to increase militancy in FATA, as it borders Afghanistan.
In 2014, three months after IS announced a global Islamic caliphate, IS propaganda pamphlets were found in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and FATA in the Pashto and Dari languages. The 12-page booklet called "Fatah" (Victory) was being mainly distributed in Afghan refugee camps on the outskirts of Peshawar, the provincial capital of KP. The logo of the pamphlet had the Kalma, the historical stamp of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and a Kalashnikov assault rifle. Moreover, some copies were also reportedly sent to journalists working in Peshawar.
In May last year, 46 Ismaili Shias were killed in an attack on a bus near Safoora Chowrangi, Karachi. The Jundullah, which had pledged allegiance to IS, claimed responsibility for the attack. In 2015 the same year, the IS also announced its Khorasan chapter, which includes parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
It is reportedly said that eight suspects who were arrested in Sialkot and had pledged allegiance to IS originally belonged to Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD). The JuD is listed by the UN as a terror organisation, and its chief Hafiz Mohammad Saeed has a $10 million US government bounty against him. After 2008 Mumbai attacks which killed 166 people, the UN declared JuD to be a front for Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) (which was blamed for the attack). Following 9/11, former Pervez Musharraf proscribed LeT due to its involvement in some high profile attacks in Indian administered Kashmir and Indian cities. Subsequently, the name ‘Lashkar-e-Taiba’ was replaced with that of ‘Jamaat-ud-Dawa’ on the signboards of the group's offices and recruiting centres all over Pakistan. Ahmed Rashid, a noted Pakistan author, said in an interview, “There is no evidence to suggest that the LeT is a part of the [IS]. But I think as a tactic of war, they are very impressed [with Let]. Of course, such attacks are very complicated. You have got to get explosives, guns, bomb makers and trained personnel to use those weapons. For IS, to do all this in the heart of Europe is complicated. It is not like training someone in Iraq’s desert which is very easy to do, compared to this.” Nevertheless, it is obvious that ISIS is gaining a foothold in the country, and hardliners, who are from JuD, are joining the group. Therefore the government should take strict actions against them.
Muhammad Akbar Notezai is a freelance journalist and researcher based in Quetta.
Democracy, Religion and Pakistan
By Raja Qaiser Ahmed
Muslim tradition in India was highly heterogonous and syncretic. The rapprochement between Hindus and Muslims was an elusive idea given the oppositional character of identity embedded in the social setting of the Indian subcontinent. In this peculiar situation, the pioneering role of Muslims in the movement led to the creation of Pakistan.
The transfusion of politico religiosity started with the adoption of the Lahore Resolution when Islam was picked up as an instrumental symbol to gather Muslims under one flag of the Muslim League to raise the homogenous cause for a separate homeland. The inherent contradiction in Pakistan’s movement is that the idea of a separate state, in the name of religion, was opposed — rather out rightly — rejected by the majority of the religious clergy at that time. It was a movement of the elite, deeply motivated with the rationale of economics, a class scared of competition with the Hindus.
The Objective Resolution of 1949 was a successful manifestation tantamount to the takeover of religiosity in the newly independent state. The slogan of religion that was taken up to motivate and maximise the support base had turned sluggish. The ruling elite was western educated, liberal in cognitive disposition and moderate in thinking, and was ready to take the country ahead in concordance with the modern republics of that time given that Jinnah himself had a confused secular view of Pakistan.
The religious clergy, which opposed the creation of Pakistan, moved to Pakistan on the pretext of partition and became clarion trumpeters for the implementation of sharia in Pakistan. The mindset of this religious clergy can be observed from the draft of the Constitution, which Maulana Maududi, the leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) sent to the constitutional committee that was based on purely Islamic traditions and practices, and called for the head of the state to be addressed as amir or khalifa and be the most pious man on the land, hence never to be a practicing politician. The lack of legitimacy to the Islamists was a determining factor that commenced the avenues of oppositional and confrontationist rhetorical politics.
The sloganeering done in the name of religion now appeared as a tormenting factor. The street mobilisations and road agitation of the Islamists in calling for a strict system of sharia served as a raison d’étre to procrastinate constitution making, resultantly hampering the constitutional and political development in Pakistan.
States in their statecraft co-opt some actors and collateralise with them, and deliberately attempt to contain some of the processes. In Pakistan’s history of democracy, religion has been a prominent factor that has been co-opted by most of the regimes chasing of their real political interests. The advent of martial law in 1958 and the democratic roll back somehow receded the role of religion but again Yahya Khan’s desire to cling to power impelled him to join hands with Islamists with the view that Islamists would bag tremendous votes and would enable him to rule the country unconditionally in alliance with the religious political parties, which proved to be an utter disillusionment. Military dictatorships and religious political parties have always been in collaboration with one another. The JI had an alliance with Ziaul Haq and the MMA with Musharraf. The core argument of these parties has always been religion along with politics, whether it is religious politics that stops these forces supporting democratic processes or that religion in itself needs an authoritative regime for its execution and implementation, both in social and political forms. This is the core argument for Islam and politics.
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was considered a charismatic leader in the political landscape of Pakistan but the adoption of policies in his tenure led to the surrender of the state before religious clerics. The draft of 1973’s Constitution corroborates this phenomenon, which not only empowered Islamists but earned them tremendous constitutional legitimacy given the state stood up in defining Muslims and non-Muslims, subsequently ruining the societal fabric. This naivety made Islamists a robust voice without electoral mandate. The state’s arrogation to the right to define a Muslim was wrested to the people from varying sects, beliefs and ideas. Throughout the history of Pakistan, the religious political parties have manoeuvred in the name of religion and have emerged as a challenge to the theoretical annotation of democracy notwithstanding seemingly working under constitutional parameters.
The worst crises Pakistan experienced in the post-Zia time were the notions of jihad and militancy combined together affecting Pakistan with the worst kind of extremism, terrorism and sectarian outbreak. Democracy in a society denotes the representation of the people and is meant for the welfare of the masses but this vertical stream of religiosity persistently contradicted democracy and the absence of normative acceptance of democracy as a rhetoric is embedded in religiously motivated definitions of the political system.
The trio of predicaments Pakistan apparently is facing is the exacerbated role religious political parties, policy of militarisation and an attempted de-constitutional structure. The normative discourse of democracy is under a contested ideological scaffold. This is the very same rationale for dysfunctional democracy in Pakistan.
Raja Qaiser Ahmed is a faculty member in the School of Politics and International Relations at Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad, Pakistan. He is the author of Democracy in Pakistan: From Rhetoric to Reality
The Unheard Victims
By Mehr Tarar
January 14, 2016
Amidst the noise of the warmongering media in India, and fiery rebuttals of the morally indignant media in Pakistan; amidst the loud statements of politicians, and hash-tagging of betrayal and wrath on social media, there is that one sound that stands apart. It is the sound of the wailing of mothers on losing their beloved sons, of fathers trying to make sense of what happened, of siblings sitting frozen next to their dead brother’s body, of wives lamenting their husbands’ deaths, of teenagers trying to sound brave, of children asking questions to which there are no satisfactory answers. Of all the chaotic din enveloping the Pathankot coverage on Indian channels that I managed to watch online, the sound of families crying for the seven victims of this latest incident of terror lingers in my mind. I have heard it too many times in Pakistan.
An act of terror is simply that. An act of terror. There are no ifs and buts about an act that targets innocent human beings for one reason or another. Whether it is to prove a point, to avenge real or imagined injustices, to make a cause noticeable, to further an agenda, or to highlight violations of human rights, there is no — and I repeat no — pretext under which an act of terror becomes justified. Whether it is in Pakistan, India, Thailand, Turkey, Malaysia, Indonesia, France, the UK, the US, Kenya, Iraq, Iran or Saudi Arabia, an act of terror is gender-ideology-ethnicity-religion-nation-less, as it kills without discrimination, severing bodies and destroying lives beyond the attacks. The pain of losing a loved one is identical in all who go by the connotation of being human, and so is the anger of losing a loved one to an act of terror. Beyond the pain, and beyond the wails are questions, of accountability, of retribution.
The theatrical reality of the Pakistan-India dynamic is an overwhelming expression that nothing seems to give. While the two prime ministers have a brilliant photo-op of a warm hug, hand-holding, friendly chat over chai, the scepticism is all too real. What now looms large is the ghost of the past that is darkened by a history of paranoia, bloodshed, broken promises and justified mistrust. As the December 25, 2015 visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi marked a new phase of the Pakistan-India relationship, the January 2, 2016, Pathankot attack, allegedly by the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) of Pakistan, is a brutal reminder of the inherent weaknesses of the country’s fight against terror. There are some questions that Pakistan needs to ask itself. Simply and honestly. I do not hold my breath for answers.
Contrary to predictable reactions, the Pakistan government has offered its assistance to the Indian government, promising its cooperation in bringing the perpetrators of the Pathankot attack to justice. Unlike the blanket denials post the Mumbai and other terror attacks, Pakistan has shown the willingness to investigate the alleged role of the JeM, the banned organisation run by Masood Azhar, brother of the hijacker of the Indian Airlines Flight 814, with the event ending in the release of Azhar from an Indian prison in exchange of four hostages. The JeM is also alleged to be behind the December 25, 2003 suicide attack on General (retd) Pervez Musharraf, which makes its recent resurgence in Pakistan all the more incomprehensible, and a glaring failure of security and governance protocol.
Notwithstanding the absence of any proof to link Pakistan’s government, military and security establishment to the Pathankot attack, the onus is on Pakistan to do the right thing. It is the Pakistan government’s responsibility to ensure no terror attack is planned and executed from its soil. That no Pakistani is involved in acts of terrorism within the country and outside. That no Pakistani carries out an act of mayhem in another country without any fear of accountability. It is also the responsibility of our military courts to ensure due dispensation of justice, without any compartmentalisation. It is the duty of our security and intelligence agencies to ascertain facts and cooperate with their Indian counterparts to investigate the attack. Mere tokenism will not suffice: proper cases and the penalisation of perpetrators is required to show Pakistan means business. And it is every Pakistani’s obligation to raise concern about why banned militant organisations are allowed to operate in the country without any fear, and accountability.
No war on terror succeeds in the elimination of terror. Until and unless the eradication of root causes, mindsets, indoctrination, and radicalisation takes place, nothing will change. And the wails of pain will go on. On both sides of the border.
Mehr Tarar is a former op-ed editor of The Daily Times and a freelance columnist. She is author of the book Leaves from Lahore.
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