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Pakistan Press ( 19 Oct 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Pakistan Press on Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Dr Abdus Salam and Pakistan Military – Civilian Divide: New Age Islam's Selection, 19 October 2020

By New Age Islam Edit Bureau

19 October 2020

• Maulana Fazlur Rehman and His Myopic Approach

By Huma Yusuf

• Dr Abdus Salam: Bigotry Continues

By Yasser Latif Hamdani

• The Military – Civilian Divide And “The Mafia” Fights Back

By Syed Haider Raza Mehdi

• America’s Absence from the Global Scene

By Shahid Javed Burki


Maulana Fazlur Rehman and His Myopic Approach

By Huma Yusuf

19 Oct 2020


Maulana Fazlur Rehman


THE sun of democracy will rise soon. Maulana Fazlur Rehman made this poetic promise at the Pakistan Democratic Move­ment’s first rally in Gujranwala last week. His rhetoric, though lofty, is not yet sufficient to address the ambivalence of liberal watchers of the PDM, whose stance is considerably more prosaic: short-term pain for long-term gain.

The PDM is hitting the right notes for those concerned about Pakistan’s drift toward authoritarianism. Its 26-point charter touch­­es on key issues such as the transparency and sanctity of the electoral process, non-interference by the military in politics, protection of the 18th Amendment and NFC award, and the need for media freedom. Its leaders’ speeches last week touched on an additional smorgasbord of public grievances: soaring food prices, persistent corruption, lack of low-income housing, and even the administration’s poor response to locust attacks.

But conspicuous by its absence was the defence of women’s and minorities’ rights, which are increasingly under threat. What hope can there be for a democratic movement that does not prioritise representation for all?

Few expect a movement led by Maulana Fazl to centralise women’s and minorities’ issues. But those who believe in democracy are holding their nose and championing the opposition alliance for daring to take on the establishment. They argue that the maulana’s ability to mobilise the madressah constituency is essential for the PDM to present a credible threat to the government and its backers, particularly given how mainstream opposition parties have been successfully weakened. The thinking is that it’s more important to claw back space for the opposition and reinstate the democratic façade than fuss over its substance. We have drifted so far off the democratic course, that merely to critique the involvement of the military in politics is seen as triumph enough.

Where do women and minority rights figure in the PDM agenda?

The virulence of anti-minority rhetoric at recent rallies by religious and religio-political groups highlights the short-sightedness of this approach. Attempts by mainstream parties to deploy the maulana as he has previously been deployed by the powers that be will pave the way for regressive religious politics — the rightward shift in our political spectrum will be turbo-charged. Concerns about resulting sectarian strife provoke the greatest amount of discomfort with the PDM’s composition and current leadership, and scrutiny on this point will likely lead the PDM to avoid such topics while it builds momentum.

Maryam Nawaz’s prominent position among PDM leaders means that the gendered aspect of the PDM is less frequently addressed. But her presence at the podium is not a sign of genuine female representation. She is there in her capacity as heir apparent, her gender a tangent to the dynamics of dynastic politics in Pakistan. Take Maryam out of the picture, and the PDM seems an attempt to pit revolutionary religio-politics against militaristic nationalism, and there is little room for women anywhere on this spectrum.

PDM supporters will point to the presence of some women at the Gujranwala rally. This is an improvement from last November, when the Maulana marched on Islamabad, calling for azadi, but only after his party distributed pamphlets directing women not to participate in the march. That march was also marred by reports of women journalists being harassed and prevented from covering the event.

The involvement of women this time around is more optics than good politics. For it was only in February that the maulana was exhorting his party followers to block the Aurat March. He had also backed the Hasba bill, which called for religious ombudsmen to police religious obs­ervance, and more re­­­cently criticised the Protection of Women Against Vio­lence Act.

The fact that female enfranchisement is not a priority for the PDM was also revealed by Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari’s misogynist barb against the prime minister’s wife. This coming from the party leader with the strongest track record on women’s rights bodes poorly for gender inclusion.

The fact is, the PDM cannot raise the democratic flag without meaningfully defending women’s and minorities’ rights. Pakistan last year ranked 151 out of 153 countries on the Global Gender Index Report, scoring poorly on women’s economic participation, educational attainment, health and political empowerment — all factors that a democratic movement cannot ignore. The PDM’s calls for economic stabilisation also ring hollow without accompanying calls for gender equality, given that parity would add more than $30bn (or 7.1 per cent of GDP) to the economy.

If this movement is to gain traction, it must add the defence of women’s and minorities’ rights to its charter. It may not be able to implement this promise immediately, as it fights more urgent battles, but it will provide reassurance that the pro-democracy stance is not merely a political ploy.


Huma Yusuf is a freelance journalist.


Dr Abdus Salam: Bigotry Continues

By Yasser Latif Hamdani

October 19, 2020


Dr Abdus Salam


Dr Abdus Salam was possibly the greatest Pakistani since 1947. Not only was he one of the greatest physicists in the world, hewas alsothe founder of SUPARCO and PAEC. While he was much bigger than the idea of an atomic bomb, his contribution to Pakistan’s nuclear program was certainly much greater than the metallurgist who takes credit for the bomb. The metallurgist, Qadeer Khan, had about as much contribution to the bomb as a painter does for a car after coming out of the assembly line. Qadeer Khan, the self styled Mohsin-e-Pakistan, is no Mohsin of Pakistan. Qadeer Khan is someone who sold nuclear secrets to other nations and thereby put Pakistan’s deterrence policy under threat, bringing ignominy to our nuclear program. Yet he is hailed as a hero while Dr. Salam is slandered by the right wing.

Stories are concocted against Dr. Salam by Khadim Rizvi types and transmitted to the populace, attributed to Sahibzada Yaqub Khan but there is no evidence of the Sahibzada ever having said anything like that during his life. It is a wild story, which is so unbelievable that one wonders what kind of idiot believes it. According to this hilarious tale, Sahibzada visited the CIA headquarters and was shown the location of Pakistan’s Kahuta nuclear facility on a map. When he was coming out, he saw Dr Abdus Salam coming out of another room and laughing. First of all Dr. Salam’s association was withPAEC and not the metallurgist’s Kahuta facility. Secondly one wonders how stupid CIA people have to be to have Dr Salam in the next room and then have him come out at the precise time that Pakistan’s foreign minister was coming out. I mean if you are going to spin a yarn at least spin one that is believable.

The bigotry against the Ahmadi community has blinded the people of Pakistan. Despite their admirable role in Pakistan’s founding and their many contributions, they are abused as being traitors to Pakistan

There is a foul mouthed bigot from Chakwal and the head of the so called Youth State Parliament of Pakistan who recently encouraged a group of stupid boys to go and blacken the portrait of Dr. Salam in Gujranwala. In reality they only blackened their faces because Pakistan needs Salam more than Salam needs Pakistan. It is a matter of great honour that Pakistan produced a Physicist who could talk back to Einstein and whose research in Electroweak Theory laid the foundations for important work in Physics. He is also the father of Pakistan’s space program and under his watch Pakistan became one of the first countries in Asia to launch a satellite into orbit ahead of China and India. How many satellites has Pakistan launched since then and what has our space program achieved is a question that I leave to the reader.

The bigotry against the Ahmadi community has blinded the people of Pakistan. Despite their admirable role in Pakistan’s founding and their many contributions, they are abused as being traitors to Pakistan. They were declared Non-Muslim through a spurious amendment despite the fact that the founder of Pakistan, Mahomed Ali Jinnah, considered them Muslims and relied on their support. Jinnah’s right hand man, Zafarullah Khan, was an Ahmadi. Instead Iqbal, who had nothing to do with Pakistan, is elevated to the status of ideological founding father of Pakistan. This is because, unlike Jinnah, Iqbal was in favour of excluding Ahmadis. This was borne out of personal animus after the Kashmir Committee where he was supported by Majlis-e-Ahrar, a bigoted fascist party. Even Nehru had come to the defence of Ahmadis though later he would prop Majlis-e-Ahrar because of its antipathy to Jinnah. Jinnah was the only politician in the subcontinent who had the courage to unequivocally state that Ahmadis were Muslims if they professed to be Muslims; earning the undying hatred of Majlis-e-Ahrar and other religious parties on the payroll of the Congress Party. The man of principle that the founder of this country was, he refused to back down from his position. In the early days of Pakistan, he could already see the direction that the country was taken causing him to wonder if he had done the right thing by founding the country. We still have time to redeem ourselves but we would have to follow Jinnah’s vision, as expressed in the 11 August speech, to letter and spirit. This means we have to jettison the excess baggage of Allama Iqbal’s thought and ideas.

Meanwhile we have the likes of Dr Ishtiaq Ahmed, the scion of Majlis-e-Ahrar, writing against Jinnah and the Ahmadis, misleading the country about the clear and unequivocal vision that the founder of this country had. The country has ceased to be Pakistan and has become Ahraristan where the enemies of the founding father populate both the right and left. We must change Ahraristan back to Pakistan if we are to survive as a nation state in the 21st Century.


Yasser Latif Hamdaniis an Advocate of the High Courts of Pakistan


The Military – Civilian Divide and “The Mafia” Fights Back

By Syed Haider Raza Mehdi

OCTOBER 19, 2020

First, a bit of historical context! At partition, our civilian institutions couldn’t develop as strongly as India’s because they inherited the entire institutional infrastructure of pre partition India, whilst we inherited broken remnants. We had to build everything afresh, except the military! A fundamental differentiating factor.

Our political leadership, came predominantly from the Western part, agrarian, feudal, tribal, jagirdari. Most pre partition public service administrators were Hindu (70%). The number was higher in East Pakistan.

Muslims civil servants, predominantly Urdu speakers, came from UP and CP Provinces in India and not from regions comprising then West Pakistan. Very few from these regions joined the civil services, but dominated the military. These factors were to greatly influence our subsequent politics.

The Pakistan Army was the only institution which, like most professional armies anywhere, had and has an inherent ability and training to quickly reorganize from disparate parts into a whole, rapidly regaining its efficacy. Hence the bits and pieces of those units that were to become the nucleus of our Army, became a whole, homogenous entity very quickly, after partition.

And civilian institutions, weak and nascent to begin with, were dealt the first deathly blow by Ayub’s Martial Law. One can argue that had Ayub not taken over, our civilian institutions would have been stronger. Perhaps! But seeing the vast cultural difference between the military and the civilians it can be deduced that had Ayub not taken over, another Army chief would have done the deed sooner or later. This was quite on the cards since our first failed military coup attempt known as the Rawalpindi conspiracy of 1951.

Despite all its acts of commission and omission, the Army as an institution, has retained its relatively meritocratic ethos and hence saved itself from becoming another failed Pakistani institution

I say this, because a seemingly efficient, disciplined institution, the Army, with strong colonial and elitist ethos, was eyeing, in their minds, a squabbling pack of incompetent, power hungry, corrupt politicians fighting to preserve their status quo. This sentiment has dominated the thinking of our subsequent military leaders, leading to the inevitable Martial Laws!

Thus from 1971 on we witnessed a series of civilian administrations, actively weakening our civilian institutions to preserve their own power and influence, misgovern, loot and plunder and avoid accountability! A system further strengthened by Gen. Zia and Gen. Musharraf, who co-opted, by and large, the same corrupt elements they had overthrown, in their attempt to prolong and legitimize their take overs.

Post 1971, our first big opportunity, for reform came under Bhutto who swept to power on a wave of popular support, his demagoguery and a defeated nation. But he failed because at heart he was a dictator & not a democrat, despite his democratic trappings and pretensions. Very quickly, he dislodged the democrats and socialists in his party, welcoming feudals and traditional corrupt politicians, who as always, joined the rising sun, Military or Civilian!

And that is why Martial Law or a quasi military dispensation will never work as it will result in the same tragic outcomes as the previous attempts!

So what now?

Our only hope and future lies in a system that will break the stranglehold of this strange combination of a status quo political mafia, and ensure strengthening of civilian institutions and supremacy of civilian rule. This is the only path to sustained and long term progress and development for Pakistan.

But till that happens, the political mafia will try its best to recapture power, taking us back again into the quicksand of corruption, misgovernance and exploitation, making us even weaker. Their only fear, as we all know, stems from the Army which has been a constant threat to their loot and plunder. This has been our unfortunate and sad reality.

Having said that, let’s also not forget that despite all its acts of commission and omission, the Army as an institution, has retained its relatively meritocratic ethos and hence saved itself from becoming another failed Pakistani institution.

Imagine a Pakistan Army where Generals, Brigadiers, Lt. Cols, Majors etc were promoted, posted and transferred with the same impunity, as we witnessed in the police and bureaucracy, where IG’s, DIG’S, SSP’S, SP’S, SHO’s and bureaucrats were tossed about on the whims of an Asif Zardari, a Nawaz Sharif or a Shahbaz Sharif. And sadly we see this continue, even today under the present administration, especially in Punjab.

But with one major caveat and difference!

Compromised as PM Imran is with traditional politicians within his own party and coalition partners and inexperience, the lack of genuine options is the other much bigger factor. The quality of people, by and large, in all our destroyed and devastated public sector institutions, is abysmally poor, corrupt and incompetent, which greatly limits the choices of an administration or a leader like Imran, in seeking good people!

One can however argue, that much more could have been done by the current PTI administration in initiating significant police and bureaucratic reform then we’ve seen in these two years.

Developing and reforming civilian institutions weakened and destroyed by decades of misrule and misgovernance, is our biggest challenge and a massive undertaking!

While smaller tactical and operational interventions may have some positive impact, till we do not reform and restructure our entire electoral and governance system from scratch allowing people of integrity and competence to reach powerful policy making roles, the change and reform, we need and require, will not happen. We cannot find new solutions with the same minds who are the source of our problems!

Today, Nawaz Sharif and Zardari with supposedly diametrically opposing political platforms, have joined forces with the ultra right wing obscurantist forces of FazlurRehman and the supposedly secular nationalists like Asfandyar and Achakzai to form a strange new “Urban- Feudal – Religious – Secular” front to recapture political power.

Their objective. To dislodge an administration, which despite all its weaknesses and inexperience, is a major departure from the rampant loot and plunder of the past and their biggest obstacle to regaining political power. In that effort they also want to bring into disrepute the Army, the other barrier in their attempts to regain power.

They hope to do this by creating civil unrest, widespread violence and strangely enough, even hoping to invite extra constitutional interventions, hoping to co-opt the Army, as they did in the past.

In their desperate attempt, under the pretext of “saving democracy” they are targeting both PM Imran and the Army, today our strongest force in keeping our enemies at bay and helping dysfunctional civilian institutions in performing their roles.

This is playing with fire, putting at stake the very existence of our country and playing directly into the hands of our enemies, by targeting the military, dividing people’s loyalties, our national unity and cohesion.

The recent price hike smells of a major conspiracy as well! The sudden increase in terror attacks signals how our enemies are taking advantage of this madness orchestrated by the PDM

It is extremely critical at this juncture for the people of Pakistan to not fall prey to the machinations of this political mafia in creating discord and confusion. It is the people who must not be misled and come out and play their role in ensuring that these corrupt elements do not succeed, and we are able to create sufficient time and space for a cleaner, more effective political system to take root. The People MUST stand and be counted or continue to be exploited and whipped!

So where does this leave us?

Our current governance model has completely failed in delivering good governance. The 1973 Constitution is practically dead, except for the lip service we pay to it.

Today, Pakistan needs a completely new political and social contract which provides for:

1) A new governance model and a new Constitution.

2) More provinces.

3) Empowered local government.

4) Complete revamp of our electoral laws to bring in elements like proportional representation, majority win and not first past the post.

5) A complete restructuring of our police, bureaucracy and judiciary.

6) Perhaps even a Presidential system.

This transformation cannot happen under the current system and requires a recourse to the people through a public referendum. There is no other way to dislodge and remove the corrupt and the powerful from our political process. The stale argument of repeated elections under the same rules will not work but only bring the same corrupt lot back in and compromise the ability of people like PM Imran or others, to initiate major reform. We cannot expect change using the same people who caused our devastation!

Pakistan has a great future under stable, honest, capable, democratic civilian leadership. But this will never happen under the corrupt political mafia status quo, represented by the likes of Nawaz Sharif, Zardari, FazlurRehman, Asfandyar, Achakzai and embarrassingly by biological consequences like BilawalZardari or Maryam Safdar. Nor under military rule!

We must uproot the current system and rebuild! There is no other choice! A recourse to the people, via a referendum is our only choice!

Or, as I always say, its back to the stench and vomit of the Sharifs, Bhuttos, Zardari, FazlurRehmanetc and what they stand for!

Or Military rule.

Both with inevitable tragic consequences!


Haider Mehdi is a Geo political commentator / blogger on National and International affairs. Formerly a media anchor, corporate leader, management consultant, start up entrepreneur and military officer.


America’s Absence from the Global Scene

By Shahid Javed Burki

October 18, 2020

Some of what we are witnessing right now on the global scene need not have happened. Strong post-war leadership had crafted a rule-based system that all nations, big and small, strong and weak accepted. In this global order, America was the leader but not the ruler. It allowed countries to participate even when its own strategic interests were not directly or fully served. For instance, it allowed the United Nations Security Council to block moves Washington wished to make. The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 left the field widely open to the United States. Even then American leadership showed restraint.

Those who held the reins of power in Washington had correctly concluded that accepting the rights and strategic interests of other nations would not weaken it; it would only make it stronger. At times collective action was the most effective way of addressing some problems that had a global reach. But this was disturbed with the coming to power in Washington of Donald J Trump as America’s 45th president. His ambition he said in his inaugural address delivered on January 20, 2017, was to “make America great again.” MAGA became the slogan that Trump’s ardent followers had inscribed on their red hats. Along with MAGA, Trump said he would pursue the “America first” approach in crafting the way he preferred to deal with the outside world. This left the world to its devices.

David Ignatius, a highly respected columnist who writes for The Washington Post and speacialises in the Middle East, recently provided a list of events most of which were occurring in the geographic space from which Trump’s Washington was largely absent. “A bloody war erupts between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and both sides look to Russia for a solution,” he wrote in a column published on October 7 under the title: “A Distracted US only Enables our Rivals”. His list included the rise of militias, most of them funded by Iran, that were active in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. Given the space the militias had created for themselves, Ignatius was surprised that the US response was to prepare to close down the embassy in Baghdad for protecting its own people from harm.

The Middle East was not the only place that left space to be occupied by other nations. China drew red lines to assert dominance over Taiwan and several islands in East Pacific. US military experts privately conceded that Chinese power in the area outmatched that of the US. In a tweet — the form of communication the American President often used to announce major policy initiatives or personnel changes — surprised his military commanders by announcing that he was planning to bring back the 4,500 American troops who remained in Afghanistan. They would be home to celebrate the 2020 Christmas with their families. If this space was vacated there was no doubt that it would be filled by extremist groups, in particular the Taliban.

These were not the only developments that cried for active American involvement. A pandemic that at the time of this writing had taken more than a million lives across the world, 215,000 in the US alone, called for an international approach. Instead Trump withdrew from the World Health Organization and spurned international cooperation on developing a vaccine. Continued Ignatius: “He promoted ‘America First’ with a vengeance.” The move against the WHO was ill-conceived and ill-timed. It reflected politics rather than science. An organisation such as the WHO was needed to monitor and determine public policy priorities as the pandemic showed no signs of abating.

An international organisation was needed not only to guide the world to adopt the most effective approaches of dealing with an exceptionally lethal virus but also of using science to develop medical initiatives that would contain its impact. There were 36 million cases around the world in the middle of October and the nature of its geographic spread was changing. In fact, focusing on the geography of the disease suggested that we were looking at two very different ailments, one urban and the other rural. India now with 6.8 million cases compared to 7.6 million in the US was expected to overtake the latter in a few weeks.

With 30,000 cases reported each day, India outpaced the US by a wide margin. At 1,000 a day, the death rate was also tickling up. Rural areas were not well-positioned to cope with the spreading disease. About two-thirds of all hospital beds were in urban areas that have one-third of the country’s population. Not only was there a marked difference in the availability of medical facilities. There was a vast difference in urban and rural cultures. Fearing government intervention that would hurt them economically, rural Indians were hiding their sick and not revealing the number of people they have lost to the disease. Bhramar Mukherjee, an epidemiologist of Indian origin at the University of Michigan, attributed the spread of the virus in India to “habituation, desensitisation, fatigue and denial.” Families in what was once her country “are living in fear, grief, sadness, depression, anxiety and food insecurity, delaying their care from other health conditions.”

In writing Rage, his second book in three years on the Trump presidency, Bob Woodard talked to Trump 17 times and recorded the conversations with the President. The book revealed that the President was fully aware of the intensity of the Covid-19 pandemic and how it was likely to take a heavy toll on the US. But the message that went out from the White House was very different: that the pandemic was not a big deal. The Woodward book appeared a few days before President Trump landed in a military hospital in Washington having picked up the coronavirus.

The Covid-19 pandemic was not the only crisis the world faced that required international action. The other was the availability of adequate amounts of food needed in several troubled world spots. That food-shortages would not result in famines was the primary function of the World Food Program, the WFP, whose financial situation was under stress as a result of the Trump administration’s decision not to fund it to the needed extent. It was ironical that the WFP was created at the suggestion of US president Dwight D Eisenhower in 1961. On October 9, 2020, the organisation was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for the year. This prize had been coveted by President Trump. He thought he deserved it because of the work he had done in the Middle East that had resulted in peace agreements between Israel and the Arab states of Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.

“The world is in danger of experiencing a hunger crisis of inconceivable proportions if the WFP and other food assistance organisations do not receive the financial support they have requested,” the Nobel committee said in selecting the WFP for the reward. “The women and men of the WFP. brave danger and distance to deliver lifesaving sustenance to those devastated by conflict, suffering because of disaster, to children and families uncertain about their next meal,” said Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary-General after learning of the award. The US presidential election might bring Joe Biden to the White House. In that case, the US would return to the world.



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