New Age Islam
Mon Oct 25 2021, 07:50 PM

The War Within Islam ( 21 Sept 2015, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Comment | Comment

The Paradox Of Mohajirism: New Age Islam’s Selection From Pakistan Press, 22 September 2015

New Age Islam Edit Bureau

22 September 2015

 The Paradox Of Mohajirism

By Tariq Mahmud

 Liberalism And Patriotism

By Ali Afzal Sahi

 Standing For All

By Muhammad Hamid Zaman

 August 14 Or 15?

By Yaqoob Khan Bangash

 Reflections On Fata Reforms

By Ejaz A. Qureshi



The paradox of Mohajirism

By Tariq Mahmud

September 21, 2015

Recent events in urban Sindh have once again pushed the MQM towards the politics of ‘Mohajirism’. The consequences of the move are still to be seen, but the phenomenon will have a far-reaching impact as so many other social groups are in the process of searching for their roots as well. Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, in a recent talk show, discussed the Mohajir antecedents of the president and prime minister, and also put forward his case as a scion of a Kashmiri family, which had migrated from the valley. For a while, even I did not feel insulated from all the heat generated by this debate, as a fifth-generation migrant to the plains of Punjab. I reflected on my antecedents who had migrated here 80 years before MQM chief Altaf Hussain’s elders migrated to Sindh. My elders, however, lost their ethnic trappings in the urbanity and melting pot of Punjab in due course, and I, along with my children, owe every bit to this soil.

Migrants, as a special social group, are distinguishable from the rest of the population in many ways — a union of people that rallies around a linguistic pattern, religion, geographical proximity, familial and racial connections. Such a union is rooted in a collective consciousness, giving birth to group loyalty, which is strengthened through cultural and political means. Such a consciousness separates the group from the rest.

In this process of change, migratory movements across political boundaries are fuelled by a feeling of insecurity and inadequacy at the original setting of the migrant. Circumstances force the migrant to make a move to the promised land to secure his future. While relocating to his new abode, he passes through a process of re-socialisation. His dilemma compounds as he does not find the new place in consonance with what he had left behind. He is constantly at war for a share in the pie and is trying to adjust to the changed ecology.

The partition of India threw up interesting patterns of hijrat. The migration of Muslims from east Punjab to west Punjab consisted of movement to a familiar social and cultural ecology, but this process for these migrants was more violent and traumatic than for those in other parts of India, and is viewed by many historians as retributive genocide. The whole of Punjab was up in flames, with the complete severing of ties with roots. Migrants from other parts of the subcontinent did not face problems of such magnitude as in many cases, if not all, they migrated as a matter of choice, with a much stronger connect to their places of birth as a sizeable swathe of Muslims stayed back in these parts of India. Punjab went through a bloody ethnic cleansing with Sikh princely states of Patiala, Nabha and Faridkot acting as staging posts for attacks on Muslims in adjoining districts.

With regards to Punjab, there has not been enough research on migratory patterns in the wake of Partition. The general impression is that it was the Punjabi-speaking migrant who made a move to Punjab. However, a sizeable Urdu-speaking population from Delhi, Rohtak, Hisar, Karnal, Alwar, Bharatpur, Jodhpur, Mewat and UP also migrated to Punjab. The urban and peri-urban life, especially in south Punjab, is dominated by Urdu-speaking migrants and Punjabi settlers controlling the levers of business, trade, commerce and local municipal politics.

Sindh, today, presents an interesting picture. The MQM represents the mohajir vote bank, a social group that in many ways is ethnically diverse internally, represented through Urdu-speaking Kashmiri Mirs and Khawajas, Ghauri and Durrani Pathans, Rao and Qaimkhani Rajputs, Mirza and Baig Mughals, and Sayeds. The community does not represent a single geography either as its members came from all over India. The MQM leadership is generally not inclined to give allowance to a mohajir from east Punjab because of a lack of cultural affinity. This line of argument does not explain why an Urdu-speaking third-generation settler in Punjab is fluent in Punjabi and is involved in mainstream politics, but his sibling in Pannu Aqil prefers to call himself a mohajir. This question regarding the lack of assimilation stares both the Sindhi and mohajir leaderships in the face. What conscious and deliberate efforts were made in this regard by their leaderships, besides donning the Ajrak? Does this state of affairs mean that Sindh as a province did not provide an assimilative framework for mohajirs? Why do Urdu-speaking migrants living in Sant Nagar, Lahore speak fluent ‘majhe ki Punjabi’ and are part of mainstream Punjabi chores? It is pertinent to note here that the mohajir population that settled in interior Sindh, in places like Mithi, Diplo and Mirpur Khas enjoyed a seamless existence and spoke fluent Sindhi, but with the arrival of the MQM on the political scene, this process slowed down. One also observes that renowned Sindhi writers like Sheikh Ayaz and Amar Jaleel produced some of their finest creative works in Urdu. Ayaz’s poetry and Amar Jaleel’s astounding short stories are a treat to read. I cannot recall any well-known Urdu-speaking writer, with proven credentials, venturing into creative writing in Sindhi.

The Urdu-speaking community for the past 150 years or so has held the mantle of cerebral leadership. This has been its forte. Playing number games and engaging in electoral flexing was never its cup of tea. The cerebral narrative put it at the vanguard of the Aligarh and Pakistan movements. This was also the case with major clerical movements that originated in Nadwa, Bareilly and Deoband, and left deep imprints throughout the subcontinent. Then there is the progressive writers’ movement, which transformed the literary and political landscape. After independence, Urdu-speaking civil servants performed yeoman’s service in consolidating the newly independent state. With the realisation regarding the number game, the narrative underwent a change. The cerebral narrative was relegated to the background, and in many ways, abandoned by the new leadership, which felt that the future lied in the reckoning of their numbers if they wanted to realise their political and economic rights. There is no denying that the MQM leadership had a genuine grievance against the quota system, but in the dispensation of this system, it is easily forgotten that it was actually Punjab that was hit the hardest. Having said that, I would still speak in favour of affirmative action for under-privileged regions and groups. The biggest challenge for the Urdu-speaking leadership living in Sindh is to revert to its original cerebral narrative, and make use of it along with its relatively recently gained political strength. There are some brilliant individual examples of this within the Urdu-speaking community, but my allusion is towards overall institutional failure. Can the community rise to the role which, historically, belonged to it? Considering the current frame of thought that occupies the mohajir leadership, one does not have a clear answer to this question.

Tariq Mahmud is an author, a public policy analyst and a former interior secretary. He teaches at LUMS


Liberalism and patriotism

By Ali Afzal Sahi

September 22, 2015

September 6, the Defence Day of Pakistan, has always been an important day for the populace of this country. It has been associated with paying tribute to the martyrs of the war that took place in 1965, those who sacrificed with their blood and lives rather than bowing down to the enemy. This year, the celebrations for Defence Day were of paramount glamour and scale on behalf of the government, armed forces, civil society and the media. However, a lot of ambiguity and criticism was also garnered towards the day regarding the credibility of historical facts regarding the victor of the war. It might not be the first time that such views have seen the light but it has surely been the first time it was given fuel in local newspapers and social media.

The very act of celebrating Defence Day is misconstrued by the various upper echelons in our society or the ‘liberals’ as a celebration of war. For some, it is merely a gruesome reminder of the blood spilled and casualties borne by this land, which is not a healthy reminder. However, the celebration is not for the suffering that consumed people on both sides of the border, rather a celebration of standing tall against all odds to defend the nation from the enemy. It is a festive way to honour those who died defending our motherland fiercely against an enemy that outnumbered us five to one. It is a day meant for us to pay tribute to the heroes of the battle and an opportunity to tell the families of the martyrs that we do own the brave and courageous acts of our heroes and feel indebted to them. It is a chance to give a strong and clear message to our enemies that we stand united against any foreign invasion and to boost the morale of our armed forces that are currently fighting a battle against foreign and local terrorists.

Moreover, I have several reservations on this questioning of the Pakistan army’s success in the 1965 war against India. Who decides victory in a war? There are seldom any clear indications for deducing any one country’s victory or loss, as a war inevitably brings losses to both sides. It is merely a hazy grey area that depends on how one perceives it. We might have lost the chance to claim the coveted land of Kashmir but, at the same time, we also prevented India from burning its fuel on our homeland. If signing the Tashkent Pact is construed as Pakistan’s defeat, then why is India’s coming to the table not considered theirs? Wars are not one sided and certainly the 1965 one was not one-sided either. The fact that Pakistan was able to fight off the Indian army, one that was not only overpowering but also outnumbered the Pakistan army, speaks volumes about the outcome of this war. I am at a dearth for words and deeply saddened by our liberals. However patriotic they might be in reality, their recent conduct is damaging to the cause of patriotism and reflects their nonchalance towards the very idea of patriotism.

The need of the hour is that our liberals and intellectuals take some time out for introspection. A reasonable person can easily deduce that movies like Phantom, Agent Vinod or even Ek Tha Tiger, which bring nothing but financial crisis to the industry, are made with an ulterior motive in mind. Five minutes into any of the aforementioned movies can easily unfold the motive behind its production.

Being a conservative and a pacifist at the same time are not mutually exclusive. Conservatives are not war mongering citizens who relish the thought of bloodshed. No matter how much we advocate against war, ignoring the war by compromising the dignity and self-respect of our nation is no solution in any case. A war, if imposed, should be fought with bravery, dignity and ultimate commitment. Let us not advocate the war but, at the same time, let us not allow our enemies to walk all over our principles and our homeland. As an example, let us not ignore the Modi government's attitude and his past role in the Gujarat killings. Do not let his speech during his recent tour of Bangladesh slip our minds. Last but not least, let us not be forgetful of the fact that we have received dead bodies in exchange for mangoes. Some deliberation and debate might help us understand the implications of these historical incidents and take our cue from there.

Ali Afzal Sahi is a student at LUMS and freelance columnist


Standing for all

By Muhammad Hamid Zaman

September 21, 2015

The #IStandWithAhmed campaign brought out the best amongst people all over the world. As a group, we made clear that in no society should creativity and curiosity be suppressed. The sense of wonder is what drives us to achieve the greatest feats, and it should be preserved and protected at all costs. In the end, it was not paranoia or an impulse driven by racial and ethnic suspicion, but the unifying theme of fairness and encouragement for creativity that carried the day. It was heartening to see so many people, including many in Pakistan, support Ahmed and his creativity. This is how it ought to be.

Yet, standing with Ahmed should be driven neither by politics nor race. As I followed the overwhelmingly positive social media activity in Pakistan, I asked myself, what would have happened if a similar incident had taken place in our country? How would we deal with a situation like this? To illustrate, let us do a hypothetical experiment: how would we react if the law-enforcement authorities pick up a kid and assume guilt automatically, even when the child repeats that he is not guilty of anything? Would we stand up for him or her? What if that child belonged to a minority, one that elicits strong reactions and suspicions from the majority, then what? What if the child happened to be in a region where suspicions are particularly high? What if this youngster happened to be from the ‘wrong’ religion or tribe or is the child of an Afghan refugee? Would we rally behind him? Would we support him or her and admonish the school authorities for stifling creativity? Would we automatically side with the law-enforcement authorities?

Let us take this experiment further and ask ourselves, what would the rich, mighty and powerful do in our society? Would the prime minister stand up for the rights of the child? What would the various chief ministers and their cabinets do? Would they go against the law-enforcement groups, or their core constituents? Many may argue that this is a hypothetical experiment and our realities are different. But if we pay attention to events in the recent past, we will recognise that unfairness towards minorities and marginalised groups is actually quite prevalent in major cities and small towns, in all provinces. How often do we question the overreach of the law-enforcement groups? How often do we invite those who are mistreated to the palaces of power and give them the dignity that they deserve?

If we pay attention, we all can find an Ahmed amongst us who does not get our deserved support. Amongst us are plenty of real champions who are suspected of ill intentions that are based on nothing but innate suspicion, insecurity, conspiracy theories, paranoia and a twisted sense of reality. It is one thing to jump on the bandwagon of fairness and high moral ground in a far-off land, quite another to embrace it when it is closer to home. Standing up for the rights of an individual is great, but equally important is to stand up for everyone who has had his or her fundamental rights violated. For us, the #IStandWithAhmed campaign should not just be about the fundamental right to curiosity and right to discovery of a brilliant, Muslim kid; it should be indifferent to race, ethnicity or sect. Perhaps, this episode should lead us to a soul-searching campaign that looks at our own actions and our lack of support for those who are marginalised. I hope one day, the #IStandwithAhmed campaign will become #IStandCorrected campaign — where we recognise that we need to stand up for curiosity, creativity, the pursuit of knowledge and, above all, dignity of everyone, particularly those who carry a heavy burden of suspicion. Perhaps, one day, we will choose to be on the right side of history and be proud to say to the naysayers that #IStandWithMalala.


August 14 or 15?

By Yaqoob Khan Bangash

September 21, 2015

Over the last month, several newspaper stories have discussed the actual date of Pakistan’s independence. While some have argued that it is, in fact, August 15, 1947, with surprise and shock, others have found ways to vociferously defend the presently celebrated date of August 14, 1947. So what is the ‘real’ story, as they say? Pakistan was created via an act of the Westminster parliament called the Indian Independence Act, promulgated on July 18, 1947. The first clause of the act stated: “As from the fifteenth day of August, nineteen hundred and forty-seven, two independent Dominions shall be set up in India, to be known respectively as India and Pakistan.” Hence, legally, Pakistan came into existence on August 15, 1947. So why the confusion?

The confusion — at least for people now — is because we believe that the speech to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan by Viceroy and Governor General Lord Mountbatten was on August 15, 1947 and the dinner afterwards, as the official birth of the country. However, in doing so we forget that this event only took place on August 14, as India had decided to hold its independence day celebration on the midnight of August 15, and so it would not have been possible for Lord Mountbatten — who was still Viceroy — to be present in both Karachi and New Delhi on the same day. This explained why both Lord Mountbatten and Mr Jinnah sat right next to each other while addressing the Constituent Assembly on August 14, since Mountbatten was still the Viceroy and Jinnah had yet to assume office as governor general — a fact the cousin of the King-Emperor was quick to remind Jinnah of. Hence, August 14, 1947 was the day when the Independence Day ceremonies began in Pakistan, but Pakistan had not legally become independent as yet.

In fact, the founder of the country, the Quaid-e-Azam, never doubted that August 15, 1947 was the date of independence for Pakistan. The first document of the officially published Jinnah Papers, Vol. 5, quotes him in his broadcast to the nation, stating: “August 15 is the birthday of the independent and sovereign State of Pakistan.” The Quaid-e-Azam, as well as the Pakistan cabinet, took their oaths of office on the morning of August 15, 1947. Furthermore, in the Jinnah papers there are messages from all the governors of provinces in Pakistan reporting that they unfurled the Pakistan flag on the morning of August 15, 1947 — Independence Day. (As an aside, if one argues that Pakistan was born on the 27th of Ramazan, even then Pakistan was born on August 15, as August 14 was the 26th of Ramazan).

By 1948, Pakistan was celebrating its independence from the 14th to the 15th of August, and it was only in about 1950 that a decision was taken to formally drop the celebrations on August 15. Why was this decision taken? Well, while the official documents are inconclusive, one can only surmise that the change was done to effect independence before India — our eternal rival.

Two points here: first, we must break our umbilical cord with India — it prevents us from emerging as a mature and self-confident nation. While Pakistan will always be tied to India through various things, eternally doing things a particular way just because India does it another way is no way to run a country or develop a nation. After August 15, 1947, Pakistan became a reality and does not need India to validate its existence. The sooner Pakistan internalises this, the faster it will mature as a nation and develop its own polity rather than harnessing an anti-Indian or ‘not-India’ rhetoric.

Secondly, at a certain level, it does not matter what date a country celebrates its independence. What matters is that its people know the truth and understand it. In our case, it is not a big deal that we changed the date to August 14. The important thing is to work towards mitigating the sense of insecurity and uneasiness which it subliminally portrays. Pakistan can celebrate its Independence Day on any day it chooses, but let us be an assured and confident nation in doing that.

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. He tweets at @BangashYK


Reflections on Fata reforms

By Ejaz A. Qureshi

THE Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) have been in turmoil for quite some time but the military operations have added to people’s woes. Almost two million people ­— one-third of its total population — have been displaced. The Fata Reforms Commission (FRC) was tasked with coming up with recommendations to restore the people’s trust in the state. Its deliberations resulted in a report, presented to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governor a few months ago, containing suggestions for reforms that could pave the way for improved governance structures in Fata.

The proposed reforms cover areas on which there is broad consensus among the people, especially parliamentarians, tribal elders and ulema. For contentious issues, a mechanism is proposed whereby tribal people themselves would work towards a resolution within a limited time span. The purpose behind this approach was to work on common desirable objectives immediately, while allowing time and wider consultation for thorny issues. Any hasty, kneejerk action would be extremely counterproductive. We have many examples of the latter in our recent history; eg One Unit, merger of states comprising the Provincially Administered Tribal Areas without a well-thought-out plan, etc.

The proposals in the report cover several areas — prioritised and identified by the stakeholders — including peace and security, temporarily dislocated persons, the justice system and legal framework in Fata, local governance, quick impact projects for socio-economic revival and institutional frameworks.

Post 9/11, the situation in Fata deteriorated so much that there was no option but to carry out military operations to curb militancy in the region. Without restoring peace, however, no reforms can be long-lasting and fruitful. The Commission has proposed that 500 levies personnel be trained in each of the seven agencies that comprise Fata, and 200 in each Frontier Region (FR), as well as new Frontier Corps (FC) wings for border security and to support the political administration in maintaining law and order. It has recommended that a coordination cell should be set up in the Fata Secretariat to institutionalise the levies’ capacity building in Fata on a regular basis under the auspices of retired military or police officers.

The reforms aim to institute representative governance with mechanisms for accountability and transparency.

Similarly, for better coordination in the maintenance of law and order in each agency, the Commission has proposed the establishment of an agency security and intelligence committee under the political agent concerned, which would comprise the FC commandant, the heads of the ISI, MI and IB along with a representative of the army. At the macro level, to ensure that it is a fully empowered body, it is suggested that the existing apex committee, headed by the KP governor, be further expanded to include the inspector general FC, the heads of the KP ISI, MI and IB and the ACS Fata with the chief secretary of KP as its secretary.

With respect to temporarily displaced persons, an issue that did not directly fall within the Commission’s terms of reference but was taken up because it is a matter of immense human hardship, the reform body recommended the provision of immediate funding by the federal government until their safe return and rehabilitation. For the long term, a revolving fund of Rs10 billion is proposed to be maintained in the Fata Disaster Management Authority whose institutional restructuring should be undertaken along the lines of the KP Provincial Disaster Management Authority.

As for the justice system and legal framework in Fata, there was no convergence of opinion among the stakeholders about how to address the shortcomings. Their views varied from extending the authority of the superior courts to Fata to more traditional ideas about streamlining the local jirga system. Opinion about the Frontier Crimes Regulation was also divided, ranging from abolishing it completely to retaining it with major reforms. Ultimately, the Commission recommended that the handling of the FCR and access to the superior judiciary in Fata be linked with the area’s future status, an issue that has far-reaching implications, and therefore any decision regarding this should be taken by the people of Fata themselves. To enable this, the Commission recommended the establishment of a representative council for constitutional reforms in Fata.

Additionally, the Commission proposed the expansion of the Fata Tribunal and the abolition of the existing appellate process of appeal to the commissioner. The Tribunal should be headed by a retired high court judge and assisted by another member from the legal fraternity, a retired civil servant having served in Fata and a person of knowledge and integrity from the civil society. Moreover, an additional political agent (judiciary) post is recommended in each agency to cater to all judicial matters. This set-up is recommended for the interim period, after which an independent judicial hierarchy may be put in place headed by judicial officers independent of the political agent.

Further, in the existing system, there is no institutional framework at the agency level that involves local people in identifying their development needs and to ensure transparency in implementing the development initiatives as per these requirements. To embark on establishing a local governance system in Fata, the Commission proposed an agency council/FR council to provide a platform for local participation that would consequently squeeze the space for non-state actors. Moreover, it would revive the state-citizen relationship and strengthen the writ of the state by engaging local people and restoring their confidence in state institutions.

The Commission also urges that a representative form of governance be provided in Fata by expanding the local governance structure to the level of governor in the form of a governor’s advisory council that would include women and a minority member from Fata. Such an institutional set-up would help overcome the disconnect between the KP governor, the Fata Secretariat and the people of Fata. The proposed structure of the governor’s council would be for an interim two-year period. Once the local governance system is expanded in Fata, and a census held, 90pc of the council members would be elected while the remaining would be nominated by the KP governor.

The Commission has thus recommended an appropriate institutional framework to address the administrative and governance related weaknesses in Fata. The underlying objective is to enhance organisational efficiency through leaner structures and develop a cost-effective institutional set-up in order to gain greater value for public money in public service delivery at the grass-roots level in Fata.

Ejaz A. Qureshi was chairman Fata Reforms Commission, and is former chief secretary KP and Sindh.