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Pakistan Press ( 20 March 2021, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Pakistan Press on Islamic Golden Age, FATA, And Women’s Rights: New Age Islam's Selection, 20 March 2021

By New Age Islam Edit Desk

20 March 2021

• The Islamic Golden Age and Medical Science

By Dr Imran Syed

• Reforms for Fata

By Mona Naseer

• Women’s Rights In Jammu And Kashmir

By Dr Shagufta Ashraf

• ‘Sarah Everard’s Murder: No Justice for Us without Radical Change’

By Marienna Pope-Wiedemann

• Crisis of the Left

By Khalid Bhatti

• The Baton Passes On…

By S M Hali

• Nervously Waiting For Signals from Washington

By M Alam Brohi

• Another Round of Lost Decades?

By M Ziauddin


The Islamic Golden Age and Medical Science

By Dr Imran Syed

March 20, 2021

The debilitating effects of a pandemic that refuses to go away can make just remaining safe and healthy seem like accomplishment enough. The public policy aspiration in such times should be to navigate through the pressing challenges of the present and concurrently chart a course for a healthful and prosperous future.

As Covid-19 extends into 2021, vaccines and vaccinations are providing a glimmer of hope and optimism. Building on this optimism, now is a good time to reflect on specific areas where we need to place some of our future public resources, in view of the lessons that have been learnt in dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic.

One immensely important area of development is strengthening our technical and scientific expertise in handling pandemics. In terms of developing professional expertise, we need to realize that along with the focus on acquiring knowledge in digital technology and the physical sciences we also need to educate and train experts in epidemiology and in pandemic-relevant medical science.

To help us progress forward with the right measure of confidence, it may be useful to look back in history to gauge if Pakistan, and other predominantly Muslim developing countries, can hope to rise to play a more meaningful international role in epidemiology and the medical sciences. Here, it is heartening to see that there was a time in world history, during the Middle Ages, when Muslim scientists excelled in the fields of medicine, astronomy, mathematics, and physics, among others.

The Middle Ages are a period of history that span from the fifth to the fifteenth century. This period is also divided further into sub-categories by regions and sub-periods. The first half of the Middle Ages in Europe is sometimes classified as the Dark Ages. This classification reflects the widespread lack of interest in the sciences and philosophy that prevailed in Europe during that time. Interestingly, the period of the Dark Ages in Europe overlaps with a period that was classified as the Islamic Golden Age. This period, roughly from the eighth to the thirteenth century, saw a flourishing of culture, science and the economy in some predominantly Muslim areas of the world.

In this Golden Age, there were many Muslim scientists who contributed significantly to development and progress. These scientists included Ibn Sina, Ibn Tufail, Omar Khayyam, Ibn Al Haytham, Ibn Khaldun, and many others. An area of science where the Muslims of the Golden Age excelled was medicine. Also, traditionally, the physician or ‘Hakeem’ has been accorded importance in Islamic culture, and medicine during the Golden Age was closely allied with the other sciences, especially philosophy, and many noted physicians were polymaths.

One influential medieval Muslim scientist in the field of medicine was Al Razi (also known as Rhazes in Latin). Al Razi, whose full name was Abu Bakr Muhammed ibn Zakariya Al-Razi, was one of the renowned Muslim physicians of the Golden Age. He was born in Ray and is reported to have lived from 854 to 930 AD. Al Razi held an influential position as head of the hospital in Baghdad and is known to have written over 200 works; almost half of which were on medicine, and the others were works on philosophy, mathematics and astronomy.

In the fifteenth century, Europe started improving its cultural, economic and scientific conditions and these changes then led to the Enlightenment. It would seem plausible to reason that the Muslim, given their level of progress compared to Europe, would in some way have contributed to the Enlightenment. This is not hard to imagine because such sorts of flows of ideas and innovations have been taking place between regions and civilizations throughout history. In fact, important sources of knowledge during the Islamic Golden Age were the works of Greek philosophers and scientists of classic Antiquity, such as Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, etc.

To see how Al Razi contributed to the development of medical sciences, we need to see how he developed on the work of Galen, who is regarded as one of the most accomplished physicians of Antiquity.

Claudius Galenus or Galen lived in the second century, in some accounts from 130 AD to 204 AD. He is considered the most accomplished of the physicians of the classical Antiquity period and served as the physician to the emperors of his time. In addition to medical science, Galen also contributed to philosophy and logic. One deficiency of Galen’s anatomical research was that it was primarily based on the dissection of animals. Nonetheless, Galen’s views, to varying extents, were influential in medical science for almost a thousand years.

The distinguishing characteristic of Al Razi was his emphasis on observational diagnosis and therapy rather than on the theory of illness. He also advocated empiricism and questioned the existing medical knowledge of his time and would not accept prevailing knowledge about medicines and cures without personally investigating it. The most important of Al Razi’s works is ‘The Comprehensive Book of Medicine’. The original Arabic version of this lengthy book consisted of twenty-four volumes. Al Razi’s work on smallpox and measles was translated in Western languages and was considered an important text in Western medicine.

Al Razi also wrote a book titled, ‘Doubts Concerning Galen’. He believed that medical knowledge should be open to criticism, as this critique would help medical knowledge improve with time. Due to his reputation and influence, Al Razi has sometimes been referred to as the Second Galen.

The contribution of Al Razi helped develop on the work of existing medical knowledge by emphasizing the importance of empirical observation and experimentation. The works of this physician significantly improved medical knowledge and eventually contributed towards establishing the scientific method of inquiry and knowledge gathering. This approach to knowledge contributed to the development of the West during the Renaissance and led to the Age of Enlightenment. Enlightenment, in the seventeenth and eighteenth century, propelled progress and development in Europe and one aspect of Enlightenment was the use of the scientific method and empirical knowledge.

For Pakistan to forge forward towards attaining excellence in epidemiology and the pandemic-relevant medical sciences, we need to cultivate the right mix of confidence and vision by remembering that at one juncture in history, Muslim scientists led the world in making contributions to medical science.

We also need to lay down public policies and provide resources to encourage Pakistanis to pursue and achieve excellence in epidemiology and pandemic-relevant medical sciences in the future.


Reforms for Fata

By Mona Naseer

March 20, 2021




It is a fact that two decades of militancy have devastated the country's erstwhile tribal areas. If they are continued to be poorly governed, they can again easily fall into the vicious cycle of violence and anarchy, even though in North Waziristan, a very high-profile military operation was carried out against militants. Besides the operation, military forces and police are present and active in the area.

It has been nearly two years to the 25th Amendment under which Fata reforms were initiated; however, it has yet to see any tangible results. The implementation of reforms in the former tribal districts is either being carried out in a very unprofessional manner or by incompetent people. Like the old system of political agents, merit in the appointment of local administration has been trampled upon, and the old practice of bribes and manipulation is in practice.

Those deputed in these areas consider themselves de-facto political agents with no social responsibility and beyond any accountability. They usually also have no knowledge of how to distribute land or deal with land distribution; most of them rely on the lower staff (legacy of the old corrupt structure) such as tehsildars, patwaris and girdawars. And poor people have to bribe the lower staff even for distribution of property and land among families.

Blue-eyed officers have no knowledge of collective land (shamilaat) and land disputes, and are thus unable to carry out the job. Therefore, due to this incompetence, we are witnessing land disputes developing into skirmishes between tribes in almost every tribal district. During these clashes over land, there is a display of ammunition despite claims of mass deweaponization in the region.

The newly-merged tribal areas need competent officers and administration that can understand the Shamilaat system and can address the thorny land issues. Otherwise, these skirmishes can escalate into larger disputes and culminate into a kind of civil war. And let us not forget that this could have a trickledown effect on Islamabad and Karachi too, which have the largest Pashtun tribal settlements. It is important to form a revenue and land record, which continues to be missing from the former tribal districts. For that, competent officers are needed with a better understanding of the revenue and land system. Deliberately ignoring the persistent complex issues is also a form of structural violence. Moreover, the state's inability to mediate between competing interests is hurting the people of the tribal areas too.

Many people fail to realise that conflict-hit areas need to be prioritised in terms of developing just governance structures, a viable legal apparatus and accessible justice system. If that doesn't happen, peace will remain an elusive goal not just for the border areas but for the rest of Pakistan too. Developmental intervention and progress provides a foundation for sustainable peace, but it depends on how institutional capacity and line departments are established and built in the merged tribal districts.

The justice system is the mainstay of any state contract with its citizens; however, it is lagging in a most unfortunate manner in the former tribal districts, where it looks as if the extension of the judiciary to the newly-merged tribal districts is nominal. In many areas, the judicial setup is in the adjacent settled areas and inaccessible to local people – thus, forcing many people to go back to the outdated jirga system. In many areas, the number of courts and its benches are insufficient and without support, and also lack the infrastructure and logistics needed.

Economic policies and developmental work are important means of building peace, but are effective only in the longer term. Therefore, they need to be complemented by other policies such as strengthening of line departments and the police department for the merged districts and can be instrumental in maintaining the peace. The absorption of existing Levy and kKasaddar forces into the police department is a commendable effort in the reforms, however it also needs trained officials who have the capacity of writing an FIR (first information report properly). The capacity building of the existing institutions needs to be updated on an urgent basis.

Post-conflict societies face an alarmingly high risk of reversion to conflict. And for peace, the economy is most important. The promised three percent from the NFC Award is yet to be delivered, and unfortunately the collection of taxes from the merged districts is contrary to the government’s commitment towards development of erstwhile Fata. The border areas facilitate two billion rupees trade annually so it deserves to be treated better than what is currently accorded to the region and its people.

The contract which was offered by the state seems to be failing the inhabitants of the tribal areas, particularly the young who were more than ready to embrace the change in shape of constitutional reforms and citizenship of the Pakistani state.

This region has been brewing with so much discontent for the last two decades. If it continues, we could see another sub-conflict between the state and the people of the tribes. The peace and prosperity of Pakistan lies in the successful implementation of reforms, and in the social contract deliverance by the state to the former tribal areas.

Security concerns are slowly and gradually being replaced by economic concerns in the international system, so the Pakistani state should start thinking about transforming the border areas into a trade and commercial hub with the idea of a duty-free zone.


Women’s Rights in Jammu And Kashmir

By Dr Shagufta Ashraf

MARCH 20, 2021

Kashmiri women are the biggest victims of the ongoing conflict. They have suffered human rights abuses under the impunity of the suffocating Indian military presence in Indian administered Kashmir. According to statistics from Jammu and Kashmir state commission from women, a now defunct government institution is established to protect women and children rights to ensure quick prosecutions. Cases of domestic violence and general violence have been rising more than three thousand a year during the previous clampdowns in 2016 and 2017.

Let us view this problem, in the light of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948. Since the founding of the United Nations, gender equality is the foremost agenda and has been among the most fundamental guarantees of human rights. Adopted in 1945, the Charter of the United Nations sets out as one of its goals “to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, [and] in the equal rights of men and women”. Furthermore, Article 1 of the Charter stipulates that one of the purposes of the United Nations is to promote respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms “without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion”. This prohibition of discrimination based on sex is repeated in its Articles 13 (mandate of the General Assembly) and 55 (promotion of universal human rights).

In 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted. It, too, proclaimed the equal entitlements of women and men to the rights contained in it, “without distinction of any kind, such as … sex,”. In drafting the Declaration, there was considerable discussion about the use of Women’s Rights Are Human Rights of the term “all men” rather than a gender-neutral term. The Declaration was eventually adopted using the terms “all human beings” and “everyone” in order to leave no doubt that the Universal Declaration was intended for everyone, men and women alike.

I would like to discuss the status of women rights in conflicts, different Indian governments during the past seventy three years have architected the present disturbing scenario in Indian Administered Kashmir. The situation has worsened ever since the present government has assumed office in Delhi since 2014. This government systematically implemented a muscular policy and a doctrine of state is quelling the rebellion by force. This policy change has dangerous implications.

On 5th August India launched its intended assault to fracture the state of Jammu and Kashmir in two union territories. This scenario should be kept in mind when we are discussing women rights in Indian Administered Kashmir.

Widows and half widows

Ever increasing number of widows and half widows in Indian Administered Kashmir is a matter of great trauma as it reduces the grace and color of life of a woman. There is a long way to get freedom for women from the clutches of suppression and humiliation committed against them. Women of Indian Administered Kashmir die in silence. The economic, social and psychological status of widows devastates under the social patriarchy and inequality. In most of the cases she loses the property rights. There is no existence of initialization and rehabilitation. Most of the widows and half widows are from poor families. Half widows are such women whose husbands are subjected to enforced disappearances but have not been declared dead. These half widows live in isolation with little or no social or financial support. Most of the half widows have not remarried due to doubt about their husband’s fate and lack of consensus among Muslim scholars from this issue. According to a Kashmiri sociologist, Dr. Bashir Ahmed Dabla, the conflict has affected women and children more than any other group or class especially widows and orphans.

United Nations Security Council has stressed the need to survey and compensate women in Indian Administered Kashmir, whose husbands have been killed or maimed. The situation of widows and half widows is an eye opener for the world if it realizes that more needs to be done rather than observing an international day for widows.

People of Indian Administered Kashmir are frequently facing human rights violations. India as a party to the dispute has failed to protect human rights. The right to live a respectful life without external interference is a dream for all, especially women, but this right has not been granted to the women of Indian Administered Kashmir. Indian army denied, distorted and buried all evidence and suppressed the truth.

Kunan and Poshpora in the India-administered Kashmir was such an incident that had changed the social and mental life of our women when 150 girls and women were raped that night; nearly 200 men were tortured. Barns became torture chambers. The next morning, as one can well imagine, was marked by immense horror and paralyzing pain. And yet, justice is elusive over all these years, as the Indian army has continued to exercise brutality and has enjoyed complete impunity, thanks to the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). The controversial law lets Indian Army personnel enter any premise at any time in the Valley, without a search warrant, and use lethal force, if they deem it necessary. The Indian state has continuously avoided responsibility for abuses at the hands of the Army. Human rights groups have repeatedly condemned extrajudicial killings by Indian forces [BBC report].

The Shopian rape and murder case is the abduction, rape and murder of two young women allegedly by local Indian army, in mysterious circumstances between 29 and 30 May 2009 at Bongam, Shopian district in the Indian administered state of Jammu and Kashmir. Two women who were sisters-in-law went missing from their orchard on the way home on 29 May 2009. The next morning, their bodies were found both one kilometer apart. Local police rejected the allegations saying that the women appeared to have drowned in a stream.

There has been no justice since and that is what they mean when they say justice denied. “The killers, the rapists are the ones who are doing the investigation,” says the father of one. How can you trust a system that is run by the very people who are part of the society that questions the integrity of a woman who has been raped?,

Eight year A. was kidnapped and gang raped and then murdered by the priest and government servants in a temple in Kathua, in Indian-administered Kashmir. On the morning of 17 January, Muhammad Yusuf Pujwala was sitting outside his home in Kathua when one of his neighbors came running towards him. He stopped in front of Me Pujwala and broke the news: they had found his eight-year-old daughter, A. B.. Her body lay in bushes in the forest, a few hundred meters away. The Indian Administered Kashmir valley has a turmoiled relationship with India – the way women and children have been targeted.

I demand an impartial investigation of all these cases by international organizations. The way women and children are used as weapons of war is alarming. Indian rule from 1989 to 2020 has increased pain among women and their families by arresting their only bread earners and kept in different Indian jails. Despite the fact that 187 countries have ratified the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), discrimination against widows has been ignored. Before conclusion it needs to be emphasized that every conflict has many consequences. Oppression and state sponsored terrorism are responsible for increasing the population of widows, half widows and rape victims. Enlightened opinion of the world must converge to resolve the conflict by redeeming their democratic right to choose their future as per United Nations Charter and United Nations resolutions.


‘Sarah Everard’s Murder: No Justice for Us without Radical Change’

By Marienna Pope-Wiedemann

March 20, 2021

I know what it’s like to take your missing person posters down because your girl’s never coming home, so Sarah Everard’s story cut deep. But a lot of our demons are coming out of the shadows this week. Most people and almost all the women reading this will have endured something that means Sarah’s story, the victim blaming and the police brutality that followed, really hit you where you live.

I really started feeling it – the horror – on Saturday, when I read that despite a High Court ruling to allow the Clapham common vigil for Sarah to proceed safely, the Metropolitan Police were refusing to cooperate. Knowing this groundswell of grief and outrage was unstoppable, many predicted what was to come. That doesn’t mean the footage of mass brutalisation was any easier to watch, or the Met statement basically saying they had it coming any easier to read.

What some outside of this experience looking in have criticised as the ‘politicisation’ of Sarah’s death is something much deeper than that. This is gut and heart politics. This is our survival instinct. This is mass mobilisation in response to a shared experience of existential threat. Sarah Everard, like George Floyd, was a spark – but our lives were already littered with kindling.

My cousin Gaia was 19 when she disappeared on November 7, 2017. Our search lasted 11 days. We battled through a bogus murder investigation and tensions with the police even before her body was found. Gaia had already been let down once when Dorset Police failed to properly prosecute the known sex offender she told us raped her. Dorset Police have one of the United Kingdom’s worst records on sexual violence. We learned from a Freedom of Information request that in 2020 just 29 of the 2,058 offences recorded were taken to charges and court summons.

I had a front-row seat to how women reporting abuse are treated by the police because I sat with her through her interviews. She was brave beyond the telling of it. Like many, Gaia deserved justice. Like many, she deserved appropriate support when she developed life-changing post-traumatic stress. She was denied both and I believe it killed her.

Though we have to wait for it until April 2022, we have won a full inquest with a jury because our senior Dorset coroner, Rachel Griffin, believes “actions or omissions” by Dorset Police may have contributed to Gaia’s death. But I don’t need an inquest to tell me what I and everyone who gathered at Clapham Common already know: the state is failing survivors and it’s costing lives.

I read an article by a friend of Sarah Everard’s who believes Sarah would be “unsettled by how her death has been politicised”. I wouldn’t presume to know how Sarah would feel and as someone intimately familiar with the complexities and horrors of losing and grieving someone in the public eye, I know “unsettling” is a mild word for that nightmare.

But we need to recognise this upsurge of protest for what it is. It is not, as we do sometimes see, an opportunistic hijacking of one tragedy for political ends. This is real rage, real terror, real pain given voice by a generation of us who feel unsafe because we are unsafe.

Eight years ago the UK government signed the Istanbul Convention for the prevention of violence against women and girls and has failed every day since to implement it. Instead we see a rising epidemic of domestic and sexual violence, amplified by the pandemic and still basically ignored by the government.

Life-saving support services have been slashed for a decade straight, with survivors waiting months and years for support and many Rape Crisis Centres forced to close their waiting lists or shut completely. Meanwhile conviction rates for rape have fallen so far through the floor, you’re less likely to get a conviction today than you were in the 1970s. We are routinely denied justice through the courts, support through the NHS, and respect from the police.

Excerpted: ‘Sarah Everard’s Murder: No Justice For Us Without Radical Change’



Crisis of the Left

By Khalid Bhatti

March 20, 2021

There are very few people on the Left who are ready to accept the fact that the Left movement has been facing a crisis of ideology since the collapse of the Soviet Bloc and Social Democracy since the 1990s. With the collapse of Social Democracy and the Soviet Union in the 1990s, the Left lost its ideology and its way.

The failure of the Left to develop a new ideology in the last thirty years is the underlying reason for its weakness today. A huge credibility gap exists about socialism and the Left in the minds of the working class. And that is not surprising at all.

The Left failed to respond when its ideology faced a deep crisis in the early 1990s. By then it had become obvious that the Left’s 19th Century socialist ideology had failed when put into practice in the 20th Century.

The collapse of social democracy represented the failure of the reformist wing of the socialist movement. The collapse of the Soviet Bloc (the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe) represented the failure of the more radical wing of the socialist movement. These two wings represented the whole socialist project in the eyes of the world's population. The failure of the socialist project raised serious questions on the credibility of the socialist ideology.

Tragically, this momentous defeat was not recognised as such by almost all socialists. And thus, they failed to take the steps needed to reconsider and renew their ideology.

The main challenge before the Left movement was to develop a democratic model of socialism after the failure of the top-down bureaucratic and authoritarian model. But the Left movement failed to develop a democratic model of socialism which guarantees democratic and political rights, freedoms and liberties.

In particular, the Left was unable to see that its old ideology had been missing the vital ingredient of democratic control by the working class. The Left’s emphasis on planning, public ownership and public services had left out the key question of how these institutions were going to be run. How they would be made accountable to their workers, service users, customers etc.

In the absence of any clear programme for participatory democracy in the state and the public sector, these institutions had ended up under the control of bureaucrats or elites. As a result, each attempt at socialist reform or revolution has produced top-down, bureaucratic and inefficient systems. In all the experiments of implementing socialism, there was a common feature – the working people were alienated from power.

Experience has shown time and time again that democratic control of society by working people will not emerge automatically. It must be specifically planned for and campaigned on if we are to see it arrive and flourish. Because of this, popular control has to be at the heart of any new democratic socialist ideology for the 21st Century. Not added on as an afterthought. The lack of this is the root cause of the failure of the old socialist ideology.

Before the collapse of the Soviet Union and right-wing turn of social democracy, socialism was a viable alternative to capitalism. It was part of the political consciousness of the wider layers of working people around the world. Socialism was a credible alternate in the eyes of millions of working and young people. The Left was a credible political force in society.

But today’s reality is different. Even though capitalism discredited itself in the eyes of millions of people around the world in the last three decades, the Left has failed to emerge as a viable alternative. Socialism is no more on the agenda and the Left is not a credible political force in society. The Left has been pushed aside since the rise of the neoliberal capitalist ideology.

Millions of young people, workers, unemployed, small traders, farmers, peasants and women are angry with the existing socioeconomic conditions in which they are forced to live in. They wanted to get rid of inequality, poverty, exploitation, alienation and unemployment. The anger against authoritarian neoliberal capitalism is growing in many countries – both rich and poor.

Under neoliberal capitalism, there is a growing level of discontent. The decades of austerity, cuts on social spending, privatization, deregulation, pro-market reforms and attacks on the welfare state have fueled anger against neoliberal policies. Life meanwhile gets harder and more uncertain for most of the working class. Thus, increasingly obscene wealth for a shrinking, super-rich minority starkly contrasts with the falling living standards for the rest of the population. Under modern capitalism, each new generation is increasingly worse off than the one before.

In response to these worsening conditions, we see increasing anger and prejudice, political polarization and degenerating public debate. All reflected in the rising racial, ethnic and religious conflicts that sometimes break into civil war. Looming over everything there is the threat of climate change – and the wider destruction of our animals, forests and habitat forced on us by the incessant drive for profit.

But the lack of any alternative to capitalism constantly undermines the consciousness of working people and cripples their struggles. Who can really resist an attack when they can't see an alternative or even the hope of success?

Many people asked why the Left has failed to capitalize on the failures of capitalism. The main reason is the failure of the left movement to develop a new ideology of socialism since the collapse of the Soviet Bloc and social democracy.

In the absence of a new credible ideology, the Left is badly fractured. Ideology often acts as the glue that holds a movement together. In its absence, the Left is repeatedly torn by disunity – constantly sidelined into potentially disunifying struggles such as identity politics, rather than able to integrate such struggles into the central need to create a democratic socialist society.

In society more generally, the collapse of the Left’s old ideology has left a vacuum into which has rushed not only neoliberalism, but nationalism, racism, sectarianism – and all sorts of divisive movements.


The Baton Passes On…

By S M Hali

March 20, 2021

Change of command in any service is a serious affair and Pakistan Air Force (PAF) is no different. At a solemn but impressive ceremony, the passing of the baton is symbolized by handing over the command sword by the outgoing air chief to his successor.

It seems only yesterday that Air Chief Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan took up the mantle of the office of the chief of air staff from then outgoing Chief of Air Staff Sohail Aman on March 19, 2018.

Every air chief has faced some element of trial and tribulation, be it wars, natural disasters, political upheavals, pestilence attacks or heightened tensions with hostile neighbours. Since 2007, a new adversary, terrorism was introduced into the threat paradigm against which fresh doctrines, rules of engagement and even operational platforms to detect, decapitate and destroy capabilities were developed.

Mujahid’s tenure started right from where he had left before he was anointed as the air chief, because he had served as Deputy Chief of the Air Staff (Operations), Director General C4I as well as the Deputy Chief of the Air Staff (Support) and Director General Air Force Strategic Command at Air Headquarters, Islamabad. While these prestigious and sensitive appointments may have honed his skills but what he was to face 2019 onwards was unprecedented.

2018 was consolidation of the operations in the war against terror but 2019 started with a twist where our eastern neighbour unveiled false flag operations using it as a plea to launch surgical strikes against Pakistan. Mujahid and his op-intel team read the situation correctly and were fully geared to meet the threat and had briefed the highest civilian leadership, obtaining clearance to retaliate with a hard hitting punch. The balloon went up on February 26, when using the February 14 Pulwama false flag operation as an excuse, Indian Air Force (IAF) fighter aircraft crossed the international boundary and targeted an alleged terror training camp at Balakot. The intruders were detected and air defence interceptors were dispatched thus in their panic, the IAF dropped its munitions hastily beating a retreat, without causing any damage. Mujahid’s team chose to launch Operation Swift Retort in broad daylight and came out on top inflicting severe damage to the enemy and its morale.

My article ‘Operation Swift Retort & beyond’ published in the same space on the second anniversary of the bold move provided ample details so they will not be repeated here. The downside of Operation Swift Retort is that PAF think-tanks have had to evolve fresh tactics and employment of air power doctrines, because of the enemy’s exposure to the previous ones on February 27, 2019.

Mujahid’s real challenge came with the advent of COVID-19. Shutting down the country as a preventive measure may work for the nation, but what about the armed forces, especially the air force, where the threat from the enemy posed a clear and present danger and guard could not be let down. Maintaining vigilance while keeping the personnel safe must have been an uphill task, because a number of personnel reside in civil areas outside the bases and could not be insulated totally. Some workforce did contract the dreaded pandemic thus imposing quarantine was another challenge and a logistic nightmare. Preserving and protecting the capability as well as the capacity of the human resource element of PAF presented an unprecedented challenge.

Despite these vicissitudes, Air Chief Marshal Mujahid leaves behind a rich legacy, which will be a hard act for his successor to follow.

On Independence Day 2018, only six months after taking up the command of PAF, ACM Mujahid gave the concept of Clean, Green and Compassionate Air Force. He visualized that steps should be taken to conserve the scarce resources of water and energy while endeavouring to preserve the environment and wildlife. He outlined compassion as the qualities of a leader, who maintains discipline yet ensures the welfare of those under his command.

The very next year—again on Independence Day—Mujahid gave the concept of “Building the Next Generation of PAF by 2047, when the nation will be celebrating its 100th birthday. Steps have been taken and plans put in place for PAF to become self-reliant in developing state-of-the art technology, which is an uphill but noble task, which his successors will build upon.

As part of PAF Resolve 2020, he envisioned the strategy of Recollect (past achievements), Recalibrate (strategies and tactics), Reorganize, Replenish, Reinvigorate and Resolve to achieve excellence.

One notable initiative taken by Mujahid has been the establishment of PAF Airmen Academy Korangi Creek now known as the “Home of Airmen”. Earlier, recruits selected to become airmen in various trades, were imparted general service and technical training at PAF Kohat, from where they were sent to other bases for deployment or on the job training. ACM Mujahid envisaged that PAF needed to revamp the existing training model of the airmen, who are considered to be the backbone of PAF human resource; train all Airmen at one place and bring the PAF Airmen Training Academy at par with PAF Academy Asghar Khan, which is a premier training institution of the officers’ cadre.

Having taught Mujahid at the PAF Academy, when he was a Flight Cadet, I have followed his growth in the PAF with pride and admiration. He was the recipient of the coveted Sword of Honour, Best Pilot Trophy and Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee Gold Medal from PAF Academy Asghar Khan. His various command and staff appointments have held him in good stead but more importantly it has been his qualities of head heart that have turned to good account. In one of his first addresses after assuming command of PAF, he humbly acknowledged the contribution of his teachers to his achievements. The very first Eid after becoming the Air Chief, Mujahid traced me out in Birmingham, where I was visiting my daughter to wish me “Eid Greetings”.

Eagles who soar high but have their feet planted firmly in the ground too; earn the respect and prayers of their peers and subordinates alike. You have played a good innings Mujahid, May Allah be with you.


Nervously Waiting For Signals from Washington

By M Alam Brohi

MARCH 20, 2021

We have written many columns on Pakistan’s place in the priorities of the Biden Administration. All these writings by finer minds have spared no factor- economic, political or strategic, no issue –regional or international, and no condition – internal or external – that may likely impact the future relations between the two countries. There were some overlapping arguments, repetitions in the analysis of the country’s internal and external weaknesses and strengths, all ending at the final advice we should concentrate on resetting our house and expect less generosity – economic, political and strategic – from our erstwhile uneasy patron.

This advice is pragmatic. Scratch my back, I shall scratch yours is the maxim followed in the global power politics or interstate relations delicately founded on the bedrock of national interests with no exception whatsoever. We have always scratched the back of the US for economic and strategic advantages. Ironically, this arrangement was always preceded by big incidents of international concern including our sudden importance to the US in the War against Communism; the Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan; the counterterrorism.

In these phases of our relationship, our approach was transactional and short term grabbing economic aid, strategic assistance and political legitimacy than seeking long term friendship founded on shared economic, political, strategic and technological interests. The political and institutional objectives of the rulers were prioritized over the country’s interests. The economic aid received in 1980s and 2000s was not utilized to found the economy of the country on sound structural basis, and to bring about any improvement in the social and economic life of the masses. The subsequent civilian regimes also continued to have an aid-dependent and sick economy run on borrowings and grants.

We fought the Americans’ war in this region plunging the country into a messy security situation. The people of Pakistan, who never felt stakeholders in these two wars, suffered enormous losses in life and treasure from the terrorism. We behaved as a client than the strategic partner of the US in the counterterrorism war. We knew our partnership with the US in these wars would be transactional leaving us high and dry at the end. Consequently, we have had the biggest disappointments in our diplomatic history. The economic and military aid to Pakistan was conveniently discontinued as the situation in Afghanistan afforded the Americans an opportunity.

Do we have something to offer to the US for an advantageous relationship based on geo- economics? Is our economic position strong enough to lure American investments; the relocation of the labour intensive American industrial enterprises? We do not have an investment friendly atmosphere; the law and order situation is bad, the bureaucratic procedure cumbersome and the judicial system un-inspiring. We do not have steady supply of energy for our people and industry. Our exports have revolved around $20-22billion. We are short of finances for increased imports. No quick relief from these conditions.

Do we have some diplomatic leverage to exercise on Taliban in Afghan issue? The resolution of the Afghan conundrum, as signals show, is going to be a multilateral affair involving all the regional countries and Russia. Moscow talks have resurfaced. These countries would expect us to play a wise role in the multilateral peace process. We are conscious the Ashraf Ghani regime and the Northern Afghan leaders, being closer to India, do not trust Pakistan. India is very much present in the multilateral approach. It would be critically important how we balance our divergences with India in this multilateral game.

The Afghanis particularly the Taliban would not accede to any peace plan imposed from outside. The Taliban, as the US leaders warn, are credibly poised to take over Kabul militarily. They would loath to squander the gains they have made in the battle fields on Pakistan’s bidding or any other country, or for any power-sharing formula falling short of their expectations. The Ghani regime and the Northern leaders with India and Iran at their back would not easily accept to give Taliban a lion’s share in power. Thus, our importance in connection with the Afghan issue stands diluted in the new scheme of peace process. If we are to play a role, the demand for that would come from the countries to be involved in the peace process along with the US officials.

However, Pakistan – a nuclear state of a vibrant population of 220 million people, has an important strategic location to count on. It could be an economic hub hosting north-south energy pipelines along with Iran and Afghanistan competing with Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, and joining the Russian sponsored North-South Transport corridor along with 20 member states, linking Russian Volga/Caspian port of Astrakhan with Chabahar seaport raising the interests of the energy hungry Western countries. We can strengthen our position in economic connectivity within the economic and energy projects like TAP, TAPI, CASAREM, and the potential South-West energy pipelines.

But again, this depends on political and strategic stability in the Gulf region and return of peace to Afghanistan, and improvement of law and order situation in the country including reduction in political polarization and a negotiated end to the Baloch insurgency. We need to make a start towards improving the things within our control. We can only make a modest contribution towards peace in the Gulf and Afghanistan. We should recalibrate our relations with Iran and Afghanistan commensurate with the promising economic connectivity in the region.

We have new diplomatic vistas to take advantage of within the gradually firming up partnership among the regional countries including China and Russia to open a window for multipolar system. There is a new-found trust and vigour in our carefully advancing political and strategic relations with Russia – probably tempered only by our concern to the sensitivities of China. Under the surface of friendly relations, there are undercurrents of competition and rivalry between two powers. We cannot sacrifice our friendship with China at any altar.

So, options are limited and challenges daunting. We need to play our cards wisely.


Another Round of Lost Decades?

By M Ziauddin

March 20, 2021

The opposition chooses to call Imran Khan the ‘selected’ Prime Minister. The epithet clearly carries the stigma of having been helped into the position presumably by the so-called establishment. But then, none of the PMs that occupied the exalted office since ZA Bhutto, except for Benazir Bhutto when she became the PM for the first time, could claim to have had no clandestine help from the ‘selectors’ in their journey to the top.

In the case of ZAB, the army had him sworn in as the president, the commander-in-chief, and the first civilian chief martial law administrator (CMLA) in December 1971. PM Mohammad Khan Junejo was hand-picked by then president General Ziaul Haq in 1985. In 1988, the establishment tried its worst to keep Benazir Bhutto from getting elected but failed. But the ‘elected’ executives that followed her, Nawaz Sharif (1990), Benazir Bhutto (1993), Nawaz Sharif (1997 and 2013) and the ‘all powerful’ president Asif Ali Zardari (2008) — were all, in fact, selected.

Like in the 1990s, currently as well the government of the day and the opposition are not on talking terms. In fact, like in those highly hostile political settings, the government and opposition are enjoined today in a bitter contest bordering on a race to completely annihilate each other. The language they use against each other is as harsh, if not more, as the then government and opposition had used to attack each other. And today’s opposition, ironically, is threatening to use the same tactics — long march, sit-ins, resignations — that the PTI had used when in opposition to force the government of the day to resign, and which the then PML-N government had termed undemocratic.

It was only when both the PPP and PML-N were out of power and in exile with the military dictator General Musharraf ruling the roost in Islamabad, that the two realised that they had been pitted against each other by the establishment to keep the reins of power firmly in its control while the two political parties conveniently provided the democratic façade. So, the two signed the Charter of Democracy in 2006. The document guaranteed that whenever any of the two came to power in future, the other would not join hands with the establishment to bring the other down. The journey after 2008 when PPP came to power was full of pitfalls and slippages but the two finally managed to get the 18th Amendment passed which restored the 1973 Constitution almost in its original form making it almost impossible for the establishment to take full control of the ruling enterprise. Because of this amendment, the establishment had to seek the help of superior courts to get rid of the ‘unwanted’ PMs as the Constitution barred sending entire governments home. That is perhaps why both the PPP and PML-N could complete their tenures losing, however, one PM each to court verdicts rather than being subjected to constitutional ouster. 

But instead of realising that the establishment was only trying to repeat the game it had played to the hilt during the 1990s, the 11-party opposition conglomerate, the PDM led by PML-N, PPP and JUI-F, seems to be futilely trying to remove PM Imran using the same undemocratic tactics that he had but vainly used to oust the elected government of PML-N. So far, the PDM has neither marched on Islamabad, nor tendered resignations. It has, however, kept the government under constant pressure, especially since September 2020. Its success in getting Yousaf Raza Gilani elected as a senator has certainly dealt a severe blow to the government’s scheme of things. But Sadiq Sanjrani’s election to the office of the Senate chairman in a House in which the opposition is in majority, however, seems to have restored its faith in the one-page mantra. And now instead of seeking the PDM’s cooperation in running the government as per the Constitution, it seems all set to resume its witch-hunt against the opposition with reinforced vigour. So, we seem to be regressing into the politically unsettled period of the 1990s, beckoning the resumption of another round of lost decades.



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