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Pakistan Press on India-Pakistan Conundrum, Feminists before Partition and FATF: New Age Islam's Selection, 28 October 2020

By New Age Islam Edit Desk

28 October 2020

• The India-Pakistan Conundrum

By Akbar Ahmed

• Feminists Before Partition

By Rafia Zakaria

• Fatf: Facts, Diplomacy And Public Narrative

By Hasaan Khawar

• Banking On Biden

By Abdul Sattar


The India-Pakistan Conundrum

By Akbar Ahmed

OCTOBER 28, 2020

The modern Indian writer commenting on affairs between India and Pakistan has an acute dilemma: every time he or she is objective about Pakistan, his compatriots tend to see him as soft on the enemy and may direct suspicion and accusations towards him. Any hint of empathy challenges the “us” versus “them” paradigm. An Indian Muslim author has the same problem, except it is even more exaggerated. In the present climate, anything that any Muslim does is easily misunderstood. Prominent actors, superstars in their contributions to Indian cinema, who mildly commented that their community felt threatened with the widespread religious violence, were attacked for being anti-Indian. Believing that discretion is the better part of valor, most Indian Muslims either stay away from commenting on their community and its problems or are aggressively chauvinistic and show their loyalty to the Indian state over the problems of their own community. An example is Fareed Zakaria, who, with his CNN platform, is in a position to improve relations and understanding between India and Pakistan, yet hefeels compelled to slight Pakistan or invite guests on his show who do it for him. I enjoy his programs and his commentary as he is an outstanding intellectual. But I deplore his moral ambiguity in avoiding a role that he could potentially play.

This is where Sameer Arshad Khatlani deserves credit for his recent book, The Other Side of the Divide: A Journey into the Heart of Pakistan. As a loyal Indian and a Muslim, he has written an objective and penetrating account of Pakistan after visiting the country. He has not shied away from describing what he sees as the warts and all. He has also not shied away from praising what is to be praised. For example, he speaks highly of the contributions and role of the Christian Pakistanis to the building of the nation. He mentions the heroic deeds of Christian leaders in the defense of Pakistan in the wars against India: “Christian officers have made their mark the most in Pakistan Air force (PAF); many of them feature in the galaxy of the country’s celebrated war heroes. Group Captain Cecil Chaudhry, a Catholic, remains at the top of this pile” (p. 152). The author points out that in spite of being a Pakistani war hero, Cecil Chaudhry’s promotion was blocked by Zia ul-Haq which left him disillusioned.

There are some marvelous vignettes in Khatlani’s book. He writes of Ayub Khan inviting Jacqueline Kennedy to Pakistan and the warm reception she received throughout the country. He points out that Ayub gifted her the Karakuli cap after she complimented him for it. He also gifted her a horse, Sardar, which was shipped to the US. Jacqueline called her visit to Pakistan “a great success” where she spent some of her “happiest days” (p. 186).

Khatlani describes a visit to the Dera Sahib Gurdwara, dedicated to the fifth Guru Arjan Dev, in Lahore’s walled city. The Gurdwara stands juxtaposed alongside the Badshahi Mosque. He points to the history that is associated with the killing of the Sikh Guru by the Emperor Jahangir for supporting Prince Khusrau. That event led to the open conflict between Sikhs and Mughals. Khatlani points out that the Gurdwara survived intact in the destruction that accompanied the Partition in 1947. He ends on a hopeful note: “Its presence next to the Badshahi Mosque is a symbol of hope for a better future of coexistence” (p. 89).

It is a pity that this kind of analysis which underlines the contributions of the Indian Muslims is not made prominent by Indian authors. These are complicated subjects made more complicated by the Hindu-Muslim rivalries and their passions. But the widespread hatred in his land which has created lynch mobs and daylight mob murders of Muslims-and other minorities-is against the very spirit of Shanti and Ahimsa that are at the heart of the great Hindu religion. The Indian state at some stage soon must decide that enough is enough and step in to stop the victimization of the minorities. It is a good time to step back and attempt to re-create the great idealism and hopes that accompanied the formation of the Indian nation when it gave to the world a genuine pluralist vision of what was possible in a newly independent state. In the process they are in danger of abandoning what was their greatest achievement and the envy of the developing world in the 1950s-the idea of a liberal, inclusive state that was made up of diverse castes, religions and communities. That part of Indian history is being recklessly rewritten, and those seen to be promoting friendship, dialogue or understanding with the minorities are viewed with suspicion. We know that the great Mahatma Gandhi was shot dead because his critics saw him as too sympathetic to the Muslims. The writing about the “other” in India can be not only an exercise in academic understanding but actually dangerous to the health. That is why the Indian “liberal,” mostly Hindus, are heroic in their efforts to preserve something of the inclusive legacy of India. Khatlani deserves to be recognized in their ranks.

The so-called Indian liberal and so-called right-wing individual both react in the same way to the Muslim/Pakistan test. Just mention Muslim/Pakistan or Kashmir and even the most charming, amiable and genuine intellectual individual will likely become a fire-breathing, narrow-minded Islamophobe. This mental block against Muslim/Pakistan is an intellectual tragedy that most Indian authors find difficult to overcome. Hatred is never a good prism through which to look at any subject. It ends up compromising the writer as much as it does the reader.

In his attempt to understand Pakistan, Khatlani ends the book by quoting a Pakistani bureaucrat who described the Taliban as “Kharijites.” Not many Pakistani bureaucrats are known for their scholarship nor their grasp of Muslim history. By describing the Taliban as warriors who are continuing the Muslim battles of early seventh century Islam the bureaucrat is echoing theories that circulate in the think-tanks of Washington and London. As I have explained in my book, The Thistle and the Drone: How America’s War on Terror Became a Global War on Tribal Islam (2013), the Taliban represented tribal societies and the tribal code of behavior. Their cruel actions such as the killing of over a hundred students in the Peshawar Army Public School had more to do with the tribal codes of revenge than Islamic theology: the Prophet of Islam had admonished his followers to show mercy at all times and avoid tribalism with its notions of revenge.

Khatlani has a sharp eye for detail, a pen that can turn neat phrases and a heart that yearns for peace in the subcontinent. Khatlani has a role to play in bringing peace and understanding to South Asia. The book is dedicated to Khatlani’s young son Orhan and the young generation: “For my son, Orhan Ahmed Khatlani, and his generation. May they grow up to live in a peaceful and prosperous South Asia free of bigotry and conflict.” To this sentiment I would say Ameen.


Feminists Before Partition

By Rafia Zakaria

28 Oct 2020

SUCH is the weight of colonial and post-colonial erasure that the girls and women living in Pakistan today have very little idea about the very early feminists who have come before them. Current nationalist intoxications wish to divide all things and everything along the lines of a border drawn by the British and incongruous to the actual groupings of the subcontinent’s multitudinous identities. There are persistent efforts, on both the Indian and Pakistani sides, to read current divisions and delusions in the historical past. The consequence has been a history full of holes, large omissions and boisterous erasures where the stories of people should be.

Given that India and Pakistan and Bangladesh are all patriarchal societies, it follows that the histories of these lands that have been resuscitated from the past, and presented to populations that do not have much of an idea of the past, have been male histories. There are many male heroes and leaders, poets and writers, men who gave memorable speeches and men who stood up to the British; the stories of women are harder to find.

Women, however, were present and they were busy. In her essay ‘Feminist Inheritances and Foremothers: The Beginnings of Feminism in Modern India’, the historian Padma Anagol turns her attention to the women of Maharashtra in India. It is fascinating to consider these intrepid women of the late 1800s who refused to bow to the patriarchal societies in which they found themselves. It is notable that their activities for reform took place in the context of severe criticism from their Western rulers, who saw India as backward and uncivilised. Some of the struggles took place under the larger umbrella of social reform movements in which individuals of all religions participated and engaged. In Anagol’s view, it is these reform societies that were the precursors of contemporary feminisms that exist in the subcontinent today.

In the late 1930s, a woman named Lakshmibai Tilak became one of the first Indian women to write her autobiography. The book, which tells the story of Tilak’s life, includes the story of her grandfather who was hanged in 1857 owing to his participation in the uprising against the British. Born in 1868, she was married off at an early age to a Marathi-language poet who was subject to many whims and eccentricities and often just got up and left, leaving his family behind. It is quite likely that it was owing to these events that Tilak advocated for women’s financial and economic independence. In an effort to do just this, she began training as a nurse, an endeavour she sadly had to abandon owing to family responsibilities.

There are many male heroes and leaders, poets and writers, who stood up to the British; the stories of women are harder to find.

Similarly spirited was Rakhmabai Raut, a woman who had been married early, but who refused to leave her father’s home to live with her husband. The husband sued in court when Rakhmabai was 19 years old. She still refused to join him, pointing out his lack of education and his dishonest lifestyle. The British judge ruled in favour of Rakhmabai, saying that she did not have to go and live with her husband because the marriage had been arranged when she was a minor and had never been consummated. The decision caused a huge outcry in India, where marriages of minors were often arranged and where asking for the consent of the parties was unheard of. Hindus were particularly incensed by the judge’s application of these concepts of consent and consummation because they imagined marriage as a sacrament for eternity rather than a contract lasting a single life.

The tumult from this case and the continuing agitation by women against abuse, child marriage and other cultural and religious customs that demeaned their existence led to vehement debates in the local press across India. Men and religious figures felt that women had become very rebellious and had overstepped their boundaries. Women on the other hand felt that these issues had remained in the dark for a long time and it was time there was public debate on them.

In a similar manner to the feminists of today, those very early feminists were accused of being puppets of the British. It was the emergence of the nationalist Quit India movement against the British that ended up uniting reform-minded men and women. Ruttie Jinnah, the wife of Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, was also said to have been active in these movements.

British women who were busy advocating for the right to vote in Britain were eager to have Indian women join their fight for suffrage. They were startled when many Indian feminists from the time expressed no interest in getting the right to vote, alleging that they did not wish to be equal to Indian men because both the men and they would still be under the thumb of the British rulers. When we are free, they said, we will have the right to vote in our free nations. This was correct; when India and Pakistan were created in 1947, Indian and Pakistani women had the right to vote alongside the men.

The blurring of boundaries between nationalism and feminist reform has proven to be a burden. In both India and Pakistan, women who should be feminists are instead subsumed into expressions of ‘patriotism’ that are based on intellectual and religious obscurantism. They are eager to wave flags but not hold up banners and to denounce those women who do organise and march as ‘bad’ women. It is an old recipe of divide and rule, of creating useless definitions where a ‘good’ woman is just one who kowtows to the toxic masculinity of the state and domestic violence. One wishes that the sheer unoriginality of the critiques of women who wish to control their own would convince women to discard theme. If women in the 1800s could rebel, then so can the women of 2020.


FATF: Facts, Diplomacy And Public Narrative

By Hasaan Khawar

October 26, 2020

FATF’s plenary session concluded last week and as expected Pakistan stays on the grey list. However, a lot has changed since the last session in February, as manifested by a much more supportive tone of the forum, appreciating Pakistan’s significant progress against the action plan agreed in 2018. Pakistan is now fully or largely compliant with 21 out of a total of 27 action items, as opposed to merely 14 a few months ago.

Yet, during the last few weeks, the international media was full of baseless news items about the risks of Pakistan being blacklisted. Although Pakistan achieved significant progress on ground and undertook significant diplomatic efforts, it did not shape the public narrative, which was completely hijacked by baseless Indian propaganda.

Let’s first see what all we have done so far to improve our anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing (AML/CFT) regime. Over the last few months, Pakistan amended scores of laws, both at national and provincial level, including the Anti-Money Laundering Act, Foreign Exchange Regulations Act, Anti-Terrorism Act, Companies Act and Waqf, Trusts and Cooperative acts. A new legislation on mutual legal assistance was enacted to improve international cooperation on money laundering and terrorism financing. Multiple working groups were formed to ensure inter-agency cooperation, regulations for designated non-finance business professions (DNFBPs) were made, and AML/CFT measures were introduced in Pakistan Post and Central Directorate of National Savings. Thousands of accounts were frozen, and transactions were rejected for positive matches with designated persons. AML/CFT penalties to the tune of Rs1.5+ billion were imposed on banks. The offenses regarding hawala/hundi were made cognizable and their imprisonment was increased. Systematic improvements in the FIA were introduced and an AML/CFT cell was established, leading to registration of cases, arrests and seizures. Cross-border currency movement was controlled and enforcement against terrorism finance cases was intensified and most importantly, 49,000 non-profit organisations (NPOs) were de-registered.

The country now needs to focus on a few remaining areas such as demonstrating that law enforcement agencies are identifying and investigating the TF activity and prosecutions, resulting in effective proportionate and dissuasive sanctions; showing effective implementation of targeted financial sanctions against all designated terrorists and their associates; and further strengthening our enforcement against NPOs, in relation to TF cases.

On the diplomatic front, the country also did a decent job. A group of diplomats from important countries were invited to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in September and were briefed about Pakistan’s progress to date. Other back-channel efforts also helped in creating goodwill for Pakistan leading to a consensus decision by the FATF. The outgoing Chinese ambassador last month already indicated that the upcoming FATF review would have a positive outcome for the country. Such diplomatic efforts are essential to garner international support and should continue till the next session in February 2021.

But despite all these efforts, there was no media strategy in place to shape the public narrative and inform the world about Pakistan’s commitment to AML/CFT agenda. Indian media outlets relentlessly spewed venom and the global media happily picked it up in the absence of any counter-narrative from Pakistan. Last month, I got in touch with a senior Pakistan official working on FATF and he was not willing to share a single word, not even to counter what has been baselessly alleged against Pakistan in international media. We need to not let this happen again. Let’s tell our side of the story to the world.

Pakistan stands a good chance to come out of the grey list by February 2021. The key is to keep the foot on the pedal on enforcement, continue the diplomatic efforts and shape the public narrative by proudly showing what we have achieved and not hiding it under covers.


Banking on Biden

By Abdul Sattar

October 28, 2020

Democratic-minded people all over the world are pinning hopes on American presidential candidate Joe Biden who has vowed to defend democracy, human rights, freedom of the press and independence of the judiciary.

The veteran politician has also hinted at respecting international laws, reviving the Iran nuclear deal, ending Washington’s support for Saudi Arabia on the war in Yemen, pledging to work for the protection of the environment, forging a close alliance with the European Union to prop up the rule-based system evolved in the aftermath of World War II and make efforts to restore the prestige of the sole superpower at the international level by cooperating with the World Health Organization and other global bodies.

These promises have created a ripple of excitement among democratic forces across the world and freedom-loving people in third world countries that are fed up with dictatorial regimes, autocratic monarchs and proponents of controlled democracy. For them, Trump does not want to see anything beyond American borders unless it benefits those whose business interests prompt the whimsical populist leader to unleash a torrent of criticism against countries like China. In international affairs, the rich chief executive of the second largest democracy has only tried to appease the Zionist state of Israel granting it carte blanche to continue its oppressive rule over the Palestinians. His blanket support for Israel encouraged the war-mongers sitting in the power corridors of Tel Aviv to openly flout international laws and trample global norms of diplomacy and decency. Such abetment greatly undermined the rules-based global order that was authored by American rule elites and their European counterparts.

But this optimism is creating an impression that the Democratic Party has an impeccable record of defending democracy, promoting human rights, speaking for freedom of the press, making efforts for protecting the independence of judiciary in developing countries, opposing America’s illegal wars and challenging big corporations that played havoc with the lives of millions through their reckless policies.

Those who want to repose blind faith in the Democratic leadership should remember that Biden is also for containing the Chinese influence. Perhaps the only difference between him and Trump is that the former wants to do it in a botched and crude manner while the latter is interested in achieving this by forging an alliance with European powers. Both leaders seek US hegemony and are ready to sacrifice everything for the sake of this goal.

Remember the sage Obama, the champion of human rights and international laws who turned out to be a war-monger as well. He also came up with a policy of containment though in a sophisticated style. He also sought the US hegemony behind the veneer of internationalism and global norms. It was during pacifist Obama's time that a large number of illegal drone strikes were carried out in countries like Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Civilians continued to suffer under his rule in Afghanistan because of the military operations conducted under the occupying forces in the war-torn country. Yemen continued to witness death and destruction imposed by American allies and Washington’s war machinery. Guantanamo Bay kept flying in the face of Obama’s tall claims of respecting human rights. So, it is naive to believe that Democrats could herald a new era of peace, democracy, human rights and internationalism.

It may be surprising for many that in matters of wars and conflicts both Democrats and Republicans have the same approach. Who can deny that wars and conflicts are the greatest enemies of democracy that trample every freedom under their ruthless oppression. According to some estimates, since the year 1900, reportedly 35 conflicts have been launched by Republican administrations compared to 23 by Democrats. The Korean War began and was fought under a Democrat. It was ended by a Republican.

Ironically, there have been some major conflicts in American history that were initiated by the Democrats, who have a reputation of being peace-makers and ended by the Republican that are considered hawkish. For instance the Vietnam War was imposed by a Democrat, escalated and spread beyond the invaded country under his Democratic successor, and then under a Republican. It was ended by another Republican. The Bosnian war and the bombing of Serbia were overseen by a Democrat. The 'war on terror' was unleashed by a Republican who invaded Afghanistan and Iraq and continued for nearly eight more years under a Democrat. It is interesting to note that a Republican is trying to put an end to this lengthy war of the American history. Harry Truman, a Democrat, is still the only world leader to use a nuclear bomb on a population.

It is true that after the September 11 attacks, the Republican Party’s government came up with what George W Bush’s critics called repressive measures. However, these measures were not only a property of the hawkish Republicans but dove Democrats also imposed such repressive policies. The supporters of the Democratic Party only present right-wing nationalist cold warriors as evil who curbed civil liberties of Americans. We remember Senator Joseph McCarthy’s sneering at Hollywood screenwriters or Reagan yelling at Gorbachev in absentia but tend to forget that McCarthyism’s founding political act was an executive order by Harry Truman creating “loyalty review boards” for federal employees. Under the review boards’ auspices, mere suspicion of any communist leaning was grounds for firing and blacklisting. And it was Democrats who founded and first staffed the infamous House Committee of Un-American Activities (HUAC). These organizations were the legal backbone of McCarthyism.

The purpose of this long history is to clarify that no matter which party rules America, corporate interests and the whims of war-mongers reign supreme in the land of freedom. The US has toppled elected governments, sowed chaos, orchestrated plans to mobilise public opinion against popular democratic leaders in the Global South and lent a blanket support to autocratic monarchs, dictatorial regimes and brutal military juntas. So, if people believe that things might be different under a Democratic Party dispensation, they might be mistaken. Biden’s idea of US dominance and his policy to contain China and confront Russia will prompt his administration to do the bidding of a deep state that has dominated American foreign policy and is ready to hobnob with anyone who is ready to ally with them and work against their supposed enemies.

Therefore, it is important that Pakistani democratic forces pin hopes on their people, mobilizing them against what they call the anti-people policies of the government and win the battle through democratic means. This battle for democracy and true civilian rule cannot be won without addressing the core issues of inflation, massive unemployment, extreme poverty and the rising gap between the rich and the poor. Countries like Iran, Bolivia and Venezuela got rid of their unpopular leaders through popular struggle. They used the power of their people to dislodge governments bent on appeasing the lords of capital. Allende in Chile, Arbenz in Guatemala and many other political personalities also banked on their people to liberate the country from the clutches of those rulers that made anti-people policies. So, countries in the Global South should not wait for a change of government in Washington. If they think that the economic policies of their rulers are against the interests of the people, if they believe that such policies are playing havoc with the lives of tens of millions people, they should mobilise the people and restore true popular sovereignty instead of imagining a miracle from distant lands.



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