Islam Edit Bureau
Non-Muslim Public Holidays Debate
Yaqoob Khan Bangash
Mohammad Ali Babakhel
Not To Stop Trump
Farrukh Khan Pitafi
By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
past couple of days there has been a lot of media reporting on the resolution
passed by the National Assembly of Pakistan, tabled by Dr Ramesh Kumar
Vankwani. This has been reported as far and wide as the Huffington Post and
Time. While the resolution is a good effort, in reality nothing has changed in
Pakistan. Let me explain why.
is simply a resolution and not an act of parliament. Hence, it is not legally
binding on anyone. It is just a statement of intent — good intent, but that is about
and most importantly, it seems that in the excitement over this ‘dramatic’
change, no one has actually read the resolution itself. The resolution as
tabled by Dr Vankwani on March 15, 2016 read: ‘This House is of the opinion
that the Government should take steps to declare Holi, Dewali and Easter as
closed holidays for minorities.’ Every single commentator ignored the part
where it said ‘for minorities’ only. So this resolution never even asked for
these festivals to be declared national (for all) holidays. It merely opined
that the minorities should be given these holidays.
and ironically, these holidays already exist for minorities, so the resolution
itself was redundant and there was no point in passing it in any case. Every year
the Interior Ministry of the Government of Pakistan publishes a list of
‘gazetted holidays’ which includes public as well as optional holidays. The
public holidays are for everyone while the optional list includes about twenty
holidays which can be availed by minorities and different Muslim denominations.
The notification further says that minorities can avail up to three optional
holidays a year, which is exactly the same number this resolution was calling
for. While the optional list is primarily for government offices, most private
sector employers also follow it and therefore, there was always provision for
such holidays for minorities. In fact, the current optional list allows the
minorities a wide range of dates on which these three holidays can be taken,
hence giving them more room to manoeuvre from year to year.
issue of the redundant resolution cleared, let me make one further point. This
is not the ‘first’ time Pakistan had approved holidays for the minorities. In
the first decade after independence, Pakistan did observe religious days of
Hindus and Christians as national public holidays. For example in 1955, Good
Friday, Janamashtami and Dussehra were national holidays, while Durga Puja and
Sri Panchami were holidays in East Pakistan only. By 1958, only Good Friday and
Dussehra had survived, to be dropped completely by the ‘revolutionary’
government of General Ayub Khan which removed all non-Muslim holidays (and some
Muslim ones too) from the official calendar. Since then, they have been on the
optional holidays list, to be availed by non-Muslims only according to
resolution has now garnered enough good press — even in India — perhaps it is
time for the Government of Pakistan to seriously think about making at least
one or two of them national public holidays. One each from Christianity and
Hinduism will give a positive signal to the world, as well as to other
Pakistanis, that Pakistan respects and celebrates the festivals of all of its
citizens, not just Muslims. This year has bided well for Pakistan generally; so
let us take this additional step in realising the dream of our Quaid and treat
all our citizens equally.
Yaqoob Khan Bangash teaches at IT University
Lahore and is the author of A Princely Affair: The Accession and Integration of
the Princely States of Pakistan, 1947-55.
out a suicide attack outside a court’s premises in Shabqadar, militants once
again registered their presence in Charsadda. Through an attack such as this,
the militants not only wanted to inflict damages but also send out certain
clear-cut messages. In the backdrop of the Army Public School (APS) and Bacha
Khan University (BKU) attacks, law-enforcement agencies primarily invested
their energies in the enhancement of security of educational institutions.
Consequently, an over-reactive approach was witnessed. On the part of militants,
a change of target from schools to courts seems a cunning move. This time
round, the unfortunate target of the wrath of extremists was the premises of a
court, where victims of crimes seek justice. Therefore, the attack was also an
attempt to erode the trust of citizens in the justice system. Although the
courts are an integral component of the criminal justice system, hitting such a
target also affects its equation with the police.
also known as Pushkalawati and Hashtnagar, is spread over 996 square kilometres
and divided, administratively, into three tehsils with a total population of
1.62 million inhabitants. It is surrounded by Mardan, Nowshera, Peshawar,
Malakand Agency and Mohmand Agency. Being adjacent to defacto tribal areas and
Mohmand Agency, Charsadda is an easy target for militants. For decades, the
area remained a hub for Pashtun nationalists. Thus, by targeting BKU, they not
only challenged the writ of state but also Pashtun nationalism and the right to
also carries imprints of suicide attacks. At a public meeting in April 2007 and
during Eid prayers in December, the same year, the chief of the Qaumi Watan
Party (QWP) was targeted. Though he remained unhurt, a total of 91 innocent
souls in both incidents fell prey to the onslaught of suicide attackers. In
2008, four suicide attacks were registered and in 2009, the police post in
Harichand was attacked with a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device,
resulting in the death of 18 people. In March, 2011, the cavalcade of the
Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam — Fazl chief was attacked by a suicide bomber, killing 12
people, the prime target remaining unhurt. In May, 2011, in a twin-suicide
attack, the cadets of the Frontier Constabulary (FC) were targeted, leading to
the loss of 90 lives, including 73 recruits of the FC. In March, 2012, in the
Shabqadar area, a motorcade of the QWP’s chief was targeted .Though he managed
to get away unhurt, two people were killed. In April, 2015, the fourth attempt
of a suicide attack on the QWP’s chief failed, but resulted in the loss of
recent past, the motorcades of two heads of Pashtun nationalist parties and one
of a religious political party were targeted by suicide bombers. Luckily, in
all such attacks, the principal targets remained unhurt. The situation warrants
a modification in security arrangements catering to the protection of national
the presence of extremists in the area, no one views the situation from
socio-economic and demographic perspectives. In the backdrop of Operation
Rah-e-Rast and Operation Brekhna, Charsadda went through a silent transition.
Migration from certain areas of Malakand Division, Mohmand and Bajaur Agencies,
challenged the socio-cultural values and demographic balance of Hashtnagar.
Charsadda was once known for big landholdings; but in the 1970’s, the landlords
of Shabqadar and Tangi tehsils were confronted with the challenging factor of a
peasant-led Mazdoor Kisan movement.
waves of the 1970’s and the Afghan jihad of 1980’s infused democratic and
religious fervour, hence both are instrumental in making a crystal clear divide
between the haves and have-nots.
Kisan Tehreek (a workers’ and peasants’ movement), inspired by Marxist and
Maoist passions, infused thrill among the peasants and posed a challenge to the
Khans of Charsadda. Such a challenge not only weakened the Khans, but also
strengthened the clergy. The movement advocated that excess land be taken from
big landlords and be distributed among landless peasants. Such elements not
only prevailed on the political landscape, but also claimed the ownership of
land they had been cultivating since decades.
Agency shares borders with Kunar and Nangarhar provinces. Turbulence in Afghanistan
and the Mohmand Agency causes ripples that impact the stability in Charsadda.
The killing of nine personnel of the Khasadar Force in two separate incidents
last month in Mohmand Agency, was an indicator of the extent to which the
aggressive intentions of the militants were underestimated.
It was not
the first-ever attack on a court. Prior to the recent attempted attack on a
Shabqadar court, judicial complexes in Islamabad and Peshawar were also
attacked. In 2008, in a suicide attack outside the Lahore High Court, 25
people, including 17 policemen, were killed. In 2014, the Additional Sessions
Judge, Shabqadar, narrowly escaped an attempt on his life. Since 9/11,
militants hit at all the components and actors of the criminal justice system,
including police stations, police lines, police training centres, courts,
prisons, policemen, judges, jail staff, prosecutors and lawyers. But there
seems to be no realisation that dealing with such a menace requires
synchronised endeavours. Instead, after every such incident, a game of
apportioning blame and discrediting others ensues. Such attacks also warrant
the redesigning of the security infrastructure of courts and the security
apparatus of judges.
post-APS attack scenario, in the presence of apex committees’ coordination with
the police, administration and intelligence agencies improved tremendously.
However, coordination between the political district administrations and its
translation at police station-level requires more effort.
numerous transit routes connect Charsadda with settled and tribal areas, there
must be an intensified presence of the police and the FC in the outer-most
parts of Charsadda. On the operational front, intelligence-led operations in
Prang Ghar, Munda Headworks, Shakoor, Sarki, Mandani and defacto areas, are
and perpetrators would not be successful if they were not facilitated by the
community. Therefore, the inability to identify the facilitators is a major
failure on the part of the community and law-enforcement apparatus. The
identification and arrest of facilitators is not possible unless the community
is provided with an education. Such preparedness can be achieved with the
effective inclusion of clergy and elected local government representatives.
Mohammad Ali Babakhel is a senior police officer
posted to Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
To Stop Trump
is haunting the United States of America and it is not Hillary Clinton. Donald
J Trump’s unbelievable rise as the most probable Republican nominee for the
presidential race has many worried. The Economist Intelligence Unit has dubbed
his potential presidency as a global threat (http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/trump-presidency-global-threat-economist-intelligence-unit-warns-n540416).
On a scale of one to 25, it has awarded a President Trump a 12, the same number
given to the possibility of a terrorist destruction of world economy.
throughout the country and elsewhere, are also in panic mode. CNN’s website
repeatedly reminds us that Trump cannot, but should be stopped. The Economist
dedicated a cover to Mr Trump dressed in Uncle Sam’s costume with the caption:
“Really?” The leader in the very edition was titled: “Time to fire Trump”
But all this is not helping and Mr Trump still keeps rising the ladders of
success. This actually reminds me of a Pakistani apocryphal story about
negative political advertising that was once narrated to me by a senior
journalist. A leading politician in the time of Ayub Khan went to the owner
editor of a leading publication with the complaint that his mammoth-sized
rallies were not being covered. After a long debate, the editor confessed that
if he even tried doing that the dictator would ban the publication and cancel
its declaration. The far-sighted politician then wrote a huge cheque and asked
the editor to ensure that any negative story about him should be carried as
lead or super-lead. The man eventually became ruler of the country until he was
hanged. I could not independently verify the veracity of the story but it
drives home a basic point. More attempts to stop Mr Trump in this fashion only
gives him what he desires — more attention.
a better and cleverer way still exists to stop him. But more of that a bit
later. First let me tell you why I also think he needs to be stopped. Mr Trump
has a certain celebrity, owing to his very successful TV show and I too once
was his fan. I even developed a blind spot for his birther controversy just
because of that. But then he started his campaign, opened his mouth and brought
me out from denial. He has the uncanny gift of bringing out the worst in people
including, as we recently witnessed, in an otherwise admirably cool and suave
Bernie Sanders. His campaign image is far worse than his potential presidency and
threatens to destroy the very core of American society. In a previous piece
(http://tribune.com.pk/story/1041093/americas-hobsons-choice/) I pointed out
that if it turns out to be a race between Sanders and Trump America will
fracture into two irreconcilable halves, something the country cannot afford.
solution is one word: Hillary. In a striking contrast to Mr Trump, former
secretary of state has brought out the best even among the neocons, who we knew
unlike the people at Fox and in the Tea Party movement, were always smart. But
democrats don’t need to worry about them. Sane people are rallying around her
because her centrist position unites America.
Now only an
investigation against her stands in her way to the White House. A 400 men
strong National Security Division at the Department of Justice created by Bush
junior and vestiges of his rule in the security apparatus, including
intelligence agencies, seem hell-bent to stop her. They need to be convinced to
stand down before the country melts down and loses its soft power. But what if
democratic response, instinctively, has come in the shape of Bernie Sanders.
While there is nothing wrong with him, that is not the solution you are looking
for. There is an undisclosed bias among voters, against every form of socialism
that is not accessible to pollsters but will backfire on election day. In my
view, Clinton beats Trump easily and Trump beats Sanders with comfort. An early
nomination and a stable running mate like Vice President Joe Biden or Secretary
John Kerry, is the answer.
Farrukh Khan Pitafi is an Islamabad-based TV
word my nephew Nadir uttered as a child over 25 years ago was ‘tanker’. Hardly
surprising as the arrival of the vehicle carrying water to his home was a
quarter of a century later, things have only got worse. While having lunch with
two friends the other day, one of them remarked that he was being forced to
spend around Rs50, 000 a month for tankers; the other one said she had to spend
in Karachi’s Defence Society, one of the country’s most expensive localities.
majority of houses here, buying tankers is the only means of getting water. But
while residents in the more exclusive areas of the city can afford this, many
who live in poorer districts have to queue up at public taps to fill containers
to take home.
summer, there were water riots when the temperature soared to lethal levels.
Luckily, our family home is in an older part of the city, and is still supplied
through the main pipeline. But over decades now, as Karachi has grown
exponentially, many of its residents have had to buy water from the tanker
nobody actually dies of thirst. The lawns of the rich are well-watered, and
their swimming pools remain full. So clearly, enough water is reaching the
city; the question is why the city can’t and provincial authorities supply it
to homes? The answer lies in the vast amounts collected by the owners of the
numerous tankers that ferry water around the city.
graveyards are a perfect metaphor for the chaos here.
The word on
the street is that many of these belong to powerful bureaucrats and
politicians, and they certainly will not deliver water through our taps. Rumour
also has it that control over many of the hydrants used to fill these tankers
is with the Rangers, and they extract their share from the profits.
have liked to blame the PPP and the MQM for this state of affairs, but military
governments have come and gone as well without addressing the problem. So
accustomed have we become to this state of affairs that we don’t even complain
about it, considering it as normal as our filth-ridden streets.
garbage collection has been assigned to private companies, and as a result, you
don’t see piles of rubbish everywhere. I am told by a town planner who has gone
deeply into the matter that two mafia dons control the city’s garbage, and pay
off the relevant officials for this duopoly.
hundreds of young scavengers to go through the rubbish and separate items that
can be recycled. Crows, kites and stray dogs account for anything even remotely
was at the Defence Society graveyard to lay a beloved aunt to rest. Even though
this cemetery is relatively better organised, I still found myself clambering
over graves on my way out. But the Tariq Road graveyard, where my parents and
brother are buried, is a ghoulish nightmare by comparison: graves jostle each
other, and many new ones are created by emptying out old ones.
Each time I
go, the topography has changed and I risk life and limb, scrambling over
tombstones to make my way. What should be a quiet, contemplative experience as
you remember the dead becomes an obstacle course. Although this graveyard was
declared full many years ago, the staff there manages to find a spot for a
our graveyards are a perfect metaphor for the confusion and chaos in Pakistan
today. To this day, we continue to argue about the so-called ideology of
Pakistan. Sectarian and ethnic strife has engulfed our society, and
politicians, generals and judges all march to the beat of their respective
else would you see huge posters of Mumtaz Qadri plastered all over the city?
Here is a convicted murderer, hanged after due process and the rejection of his
mercy petition, being lionised after death. His face on the posters, surrounded
by a sea of rose petals, was a sickening reminder of the mindset shared by many
mullahs and their followers in the country.
And let us
not forget the lawyers who showered Qadri with flowers whenever he appeared in
the PPP is in power in Sindh, and the man Qadri assassinated was Salmaan
Taseer, a party stalwart and governor of Punjab, one would have expected the
provincial government to crack down on those demonstrating in favour of the
hanged convict. But rallies were permitted, and mullahs ranted undisturbed
against the government for carrying out the death sentence.
only some of the trials and tribulations the people of Karachi go through every
day. Yet somehow, almost miraculously, life in the city goes on. And if I am
honest, there are few other places I’d rather be.
Kamal’s open challenge to MQM leader Altaf Hussain a repeat of the 1992
formation of the Haqiqi faction and will it meet the same fate is a question
many political commentators have been trying to answer for more than a week
similarities no doubt as in essence both were rebellions. There are many
dissimilarities too the foremost being that in 1992 Altaf Hussain was present
at Nine Zero in Karachi and his stranglehold over the party’s rank and file was
argue that the loss of Afaq Ahmad who, till then, used to run the enforcement
arm of the party was far more debilitating. However, within a matter of weeks
then senior leader Saleem Shahzad (who too is currently out of favour with the
leadership) reportedly recruited and trained a force of highly motivated young
men, said to be mostly teenagers from Orangi numbering around 300, to take on
was besieged in his Landhi stronghold. A journalist who rode in a police
armoured vehicle into the area gave a vivid description of the noise when
dozens of bullets rained on the vehicle as it came under fire by Altaf
loyalists shooting from multiple directions near Afaq’s headquarters, the
later, I also remember leaving The News office one day, where I worked then as
a reporter, when a colleague stopped me on the pavement outside and introduced
a well-built moustached man of medium height as Afaq Ahmad.
for the 10 minutes we stood chatting and discussing the city’s politics I
remained quite tense, fearing a hit squad of the people Afaq Ahmad had
challenged would try to take him out, and us in the process, as he had exposed
himself on the street totally unarmed.
is known to have had the support of the military’s intelligence agencies as
also that of the paramilitary Rangers. Thus, he managed to survive the
onslaught on his stronghold and was also able to hit back at Altaf loyalists in
areas under his control.
But, at no
point, did this translate into political support as subsequent elections
demonstrated in even his strongholds of Landhi, Korangi and Lines Area. The
Altaf-led MQM was soon able to create alternative structures to replace the
loss of the Afaq-led militant wing and establish its physical domination once
again. This was consolidated during the carte blanche the party got during the
who follows Karachi’s politics it is clear that Mustafa Kamal & Co do not
pose a serious threat to Altaf Hussain.
look at the challenge of Mustafa Kamal & Co. They demonstrably did not
return to stake a claim to the city riding the Rangers APCs (armoured personnel
carriers) but the fact that MQM insider Anis Kaimkhani is backing the former
mayor indicates that the dissidents have muscle on their side too.
few days after the duo’s announcement have seen some known MQM faces joining
them and if this were to continue party leader Altaf Hussain, or those who run
the party from London on his behalf, will have a serious headache.
that needs attention is Mustafa Kamal’s call that an amnesty be considered for
the party activists who are in custody or whose arrest is being sought by the
authorities. Side by side with reports (though entirely speculative in nature
as we speak) that some key members of the former Karachi Tanzeemi Committee are
also likely to join, that makes for interesting reading.
It was only
last year when Karachi Tanzeemi Committee-backed militants had taken on the
armed wing of the party loyal to Altaf Hussain. It seemed to have lost ground
and disappeared from the scene. Nonetheless the challenge in itself was
significant and seen as the direct consequence of running the party by remote
people like Hammad Siddiqui of the former KTC are currently in Dubai and poised
to return. This despite Siddiqui being cited in the so-called JIT of the Baldia
Town garment factory fire where it was alleged that the incident was the result
of arson after attempts at extortion failed.
the Rangers seemed to have defanged the militant wing of the party and
neutralised it how would an attempt to rope in former militants make any sense?
Well, the only scenario in which it would make sense is if the exercise at
creating or engineering a new leadership to take over from the current MQM top
guns is different from such exercises in the past.
if the national security architects are trying to apply the same argument that
they seem to be applying to Lashkar-e-Taiba and certain similar organisations:
encouraging them to morph from their terrorist ethos into more acceptable
democratic entities. Experts call it mainstreaming.
evidence of any success of this mainstreaming project is hard to come by, what
has happened in the case of the religious-based militant parties is that while
some of their leaders may agree to be mainstreamed after appeals to their
patriotism, their rank and file doesn’t readily abandon the path of jihad as
they see it.
of mainstreaming on more secular yet equally tightly run militant cadres is an
experiment whose results at least I will keenly await if it is actually being
attempted. It would make an interesting case study.
who follows Karachi’s politics it should be clear that Mustafa Kamal & Co
do not pose a serious threat to Altaf Hussain as no matter how accurate their
charges may be against their former leader, the multitudes in urban Sindh won’t
suppose the success of Project Mustafa Kamal has to be predicated on the
removal from scene, whether on health grounds or because of legal reasons, of
Altaf Hussain. If that condition is not met the challenge will fizzle out soon.