Supreme Court, Sharia and Sufi

By Yasser Latif Hamdani

16th March 2009 was a great day in Pakistan’s history.  We managed to defeat the forces of status quo and established for ourselves an independent judiciary.  It seems like a life time ago though- and it is only 20th of April, 2009.

  Now that the judiciary is threatened by a mad man called Sufi Muhammad of the “BANNED” TSNM, it is time for Chief Justice of Pakistan to take stern action against this clown and bring his position to bear upon our cowardly government and those “Conquerors of Islamabad” in Rawalpindi to take action against this brigand and enemy of the state soon!   The first step would be to strike down the unconstitutional nizam-e-batil masquerading as “Nizam-e-Adl” right now!  There is nothing Islamic about this law.   Islam does not stand for tribal warlords of dubious origin, crooks, cranks and mad men really  becoming “ulema-e-deen” and riding over our heads in this shameful manner while the state- whose social contract it is to protect all its citizens-  sits idly by.

The present scheme of the constitution says – and ladies and gentlemen of our legislature -provincial and national- you have sworn by this constitution-  make no mistake about it :  Pakistan is a federal and democratic state to be known as the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.   Therefore any conception of an Islamic state that is either not federal or is undemocratic is by letter of the law which all of you chaps have hailed as the “Islamic constitution” of Pakistan unconstitutional.   This is the overriding nature and fundamental structure which cannot be altered (unless ofcourse a new constituent assembly sits down) .   Therefore some rabid cleric’s pronouncement that the Supreme Court – the ultimate federal arbiter of people’s rights in this federal state is unIslamic,   is in of itself a declaration of war on this state, especially when this fellow leads a group of armed thugs.   Ofcourse the fact that some cleric can get up and say that the constitution says nothing will be against Quran and Sunnah and then call Supreme Court and democracy as it is practised under the present constitution “unconstitutional”,  it is a poignant commentary on the insistence of people like Bhutto in making “Islamic provisions” a part of the constitution instead of practically implementing universal and Islamic ideals of justice and equality in reality.  (If Pakistan falls to the Taliban god forbid,  I do hope that Abdul Hafeez Pirzada- the self proclaimed author/father of Pakistan’s Islamic constitution and the host of many a hedonistic party  on his lavish farmhouse in Islamabad’s outskirts-  is made  to clean the streets till he grows a beard and repents for all that he ought to repent for).  

The  current president of Pakistan,  the symbol of our federation, is a self seeking,  manipulative and characterless fellow. I for one repent for ever having put my faith in him and that party that claims to be the party of Benazir Bhutto- who for all her faults was a liberal at heart (I too am ready to clean the streets till I grow a beard provided I get to hurl choicest abuses at Pirzada in his earshot).   Apparently the fascists of this “peoples” party can’t do the right thing in Swat but they are up in arms in Karachi when crushing the right to freedom of expression of the civil society as they did at the Shanakht festival.  Oh I know-  it is easier to beat up the artists, photographers and women.    This abject surrender to a militant force is going to tear asunder what is left of this country.   You can tell how strange a time we live in, when the only party making sense is MQM and the only leader with any clarity is Altaf Hussain. 

So stand up now.  Stand up before it is too late – before our state is gobbled up by these crazies.   Let us not squander the benefits of our great revolution of 16th March.  Let us now fight to defend it.   And first and foremost,  this requires the Chief Judge of this country to rise to the occasion.

POST SCRIPT: Is Pakistan worth preserving?   I tell you it is and history will bear me out either way.    We stand against this threat today – if we fall,  the stakes are much higher for all you who are cheering on our gradual fall.   People in India especially don’t understand what it is in store for them if Pakistan falls.  We are- whether you like it or not or whether you feel Pakistan is a nuisance-  your first line of defence.   Pakistan – whatever its flaws-  is a state with a government and economy which you have often used as leverage.   If we fall,  you will have to face these gureilla groups and non-state actors without any check or balance.  Those who plot Pakistan’s disintegration, especially in India,  or express glee  better think again.   What is bad for us, is worse for you!


Filed under Pakistan

169 responses to “Supreme Court, Sharia and Sufi

  1. YLH,

    I have been following this blog and your writings for some time now. What’s happening in Pakistan is truly disconcerting, events that can only be condoned by an Indian as stupid and irrational as those who are the willing players in this game of death. Such people exist everywhere, even in India. I guess what I’m trying to say then is that for a rational thinking human being, such heinous acts of religious fanaticism, subjugation of human rights, and fatal hypocrisy are universally condemnable.

  2. lal

    by all means,indians right wing,left wing,islamists,hijadas or any group dont want pakistan to be taken over by taliban….everyone realises it is worse for us….unfortunately we realise that if we oppose them too loudly,it will only increase there support in pakistan……s keeping away from the whole plot and wishing the very best for u

  3. Gorki


    Very true. The only Indian group which can actively support the Pakistan liberals and still be able to say it out loud without risking an opposite effect is that of the Indian Muslims.

    This group can (and perhaps should) make a common cause with the Pakistani moderates and categorically take a stand against this obscure ideology.

  4. Majumdar

    Yasser mian,

    The main article is quite OK. But I have a few comments on the postscript.

    #1 Pakistan is worth preserving provided it does not act as a host for terror groups attacking India and Kashmir.

    #2 You suggest that Indians shud take interest in Pak affairs. But on another website we are told that Indians shud concentrate on how to build potties for India’s teeming millions.


  5. SV

    Its interesting how Zardari’s brilliant phrase – ‘non state actors’ has become common currency now.

  6. Adnann Syed

    I cannot help but read Jinnah’s first speech to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan. Jinnah was fully aware that history may judge him harshly for creating a volatile state based upon Muslim Nationalism. However in my opinion, Jinnah also prescribed the correct route for Pakistan to emerge as successful nation. Jinnah was candid in his address, ready to let history decide whether partition was correct or not. Jinnah knew perfectly well that the state had to unshackle from castes and creed monopoly to operate as a viable state.

    Sadly, his words fell on deaf ears of the feeble leaders that followed him one after another.

    He words from that address sixty years ago were:

    “Any idea of a united India could never have worked and in my judgement it would have led us to terrific disaster. Maybe that view is correct; maybe it is not; that remains to be seen. All the same, in this division it was impossible to avoid the question of minorities being in one Dominion or the other. Now that was unavoidable. There is no other solution. Now what shall we do? Now, if we want to make this great State of Pakistan happy and prosperous, we should wholly and solely concentrate on the well-being of the people, and especially of the masses and the poor. If you will work in co-operation, forgetting the past, burying the hatchet, you are bound to succeed. If you change your past and work together in a spirit that everyone of you, no matter to what community he belongs, no matter what relations he had with you in the past, no matter what is his colour, caste or creed, is first, second and last a citizen of this State with equal rights, privileges, and obligations, there will be on end to the progress you will make.”

    Is Pakistan worth preserving? Hell yes. This country got hijacked right away by the Islamic right; the same right that called this still-born country Naa-Pakistan, and Jinnah a Godless Kafir-e-Azam.

    This country has limped for most of its existence, trying desperately to establish its raison d’être. In between, the country was repeatedly wooed by Islamic right. In its utopian version of a pure Islamicized state, the fundamentalists blackmailed every feeble minded self-serving ruler they can find, or supported every calamitous action that befell this nation in the name of Islam.

    I am heartened as Pakistan responds to the extremism challenge. It is awakening to the mortal threat of the poison of political Islam. Yet a nation can only survive its mistakes for so long. Pakistan has had its shameful episodes; where it lost its bigger half, where its misguided policies in Afghanistan brought a lot more death and destruction.

    But this is the same country that has said emphatic No to religious parties time and time again. This country has leaned left for most part of its life, and is still inhabited by good people who treat religion as a guidebook to their lives, but also want to live peacefully and exist in peace with their neighbours.

    This country has governance (as weak as it may be), ruled by a constitution, and despite repeated stumbles, still is one of the better examples of a working democracy in the Muslim world. Pakistani Diasporas around the globe hints at the potential of its population that can scale new heights. Yes, this is the Pakistan that we have tantalizingly seen glimpses of, but never saw in full. And yes, this is the Pakistan worth preserving and worth fighting for.

  7. stuka

    “. But on another website we are told that Indians shud concentrate on how to build potties for India’s teeming millions. ”

    India has already built the potties. They are known as railway tracks.

  8. yasserlatifhamdani

    Majumdar, others,

    I am not seeking active support… but let us not kid ourselves… there are people in India who

    a. are very happy with Pakistan’s predicament

    b. feel that India should covertly aid in Pakistan’s predicament in going from bad to worse.


  9. Majumdar

    Yasser mian,

    I agree with both your assertion wrt Indians praying for a) and b).

    But let us not forget Islamist insurgency in the region whether in A’stan or Kashmir has been fomented by the Pakistani state and endorsed by liberaloons (like Benazir), not the mullahs themselves, who are merely tools (who may or may not have mutated to Frankensteins).

    From the POV of these Indians, it makes sense to destabilise Pakistan and turn the attentions of some Pakis towards other Pakis (incidentally some Paki nutcases on another website actually justify suicide bombing in Pak itself as a natural by product of US/Indian “occupation” of A’stan/Kashmir). In these Indians’ opinion, such a Talibanisation wud actually be favourable. It wud lead to a surgical US operation to steal away Pak’s nukes, degrade the Pak army and leave rump Pak with little options against India.

    Time will only tell whether these Indians are right or not. In any case, I dont subscribe to the notion that Pak is facing a collapse. It isnt a pleasant situation but there are signs that some political consensus is being built against Taliboon- the NeAdl resolution was blocked in Senate, if I understand correct.


  10. yasserlatifhamdani

    Yes… the Nizam-e-Adl resolution has been blocked in the senate by MQM and PML-N… but I don’t know what good that’ll do.

  11. Majumdar

    Yasser mian,

    What is the legal position of NEA now? Is it legally valid now or only if Senate approves? Can SCP strike it down? I understand that Swat and FATA areas are not exactly Pakistan (some constt provisions of that sort) and you can have a parallel system. Is that correct?

    Can Altafbhai take Sufi Md to SC for contempt of court?


  12. Majumdar

    By the way, it is flattering that MQM is leading the political resistance to Taliboon. As some shuddh/khalis Pakis on another website keep reminding us that MQM and its voters are actually “Indian agents”


  13. yasserlatifhamdani

    “What is the legal position of NEA now? Is it legally valid now or only if Senate approves?”

    Senate’s approval and NA’s approval both have only symbolic importance. NEA unless declared unconstitutional is now “legally valid”

    “Can SCP strike it down?”


    “I understand that Swat and FATA areas are not exactly Pakistan (some constt provisions of that sort) and you can have a parallel system. Is that correct?”

    Well they are Pakistan but do they have a special status? Swat is part of NWFP… and is as such provincial responsibility in that respect. However these are legal issues that the SC needs to consider.

  14. bonobashi

    @YLH, Majumdar

    Of course there are those two lunatic fringe elements in India who are either happy to sit and watch Pakistan in trouble, and who actually want to contribute to increasing it. And they are matched by those other lunatics in Pakistan and in Bangladesh who wish the same, in mirror reverse for the other two countries.

    Surely the point is that we need to brush them aside and keep them from doing all of us any harm, each in our own countries first, and ensure the success of secular democrats in our own countries as well as in our neighbouring countries.

    We can’t – actually, shouldn’t – try to support each other actively in public at the moment, as this will set up a bunch of crazed jingoes who will waste enormous amounts of political and human energy slavering at us and our counterparts. This is a very good time to understand and appreciate each other’s points of view, and leave each other to get on with our primary missions, which must first be to set ourselves right and make ourselves fighting fit.

  15. yasserlatifhamdani

    Action on Contempt of Court atleast in my understanding would be Court’s own prerogative.

  16. bonobashi

    I’ve known instances of a senior lawyer drawing the attention of the court to some egregious action. But of course it is up to the court to decide whether it deserves follow-up or action for contempt.

  17. hayyer48

    Plotting against Pakistan is a long time occupation of some Indian players but the present danger threatening your country is not to India’s account.
    Whether or not some Indians enjoy Pakistan’s discomfiture is not really to the point: there is nothing that India or Indians can do about the situation in Pakistan.
    It will certainly be a bigger danger for India if the Taliban types take over Pakistan, but that is mainly because your army will, I suspect, be standing squarely with the Taliban on the eastern border.
    The Pak army has no problem fighting Baluch separatists even if they are Muslim because they threaten the territorial integrity of Pakistan, quite unlike the TTP who would rather come to Pakistan’s aid against India, as they threatened to after 26/11.
    PTH put out that Peter Preston story in the Guardian of Indian help for Pakistan in the current crisis. How is that to be done short of resuming talks on Kashmir, and concluding them in a manner satisfactory to Pakistan. We hear that is the Pak government’s plea to the Americans too-bring India to the negotiating table!
    So there is a connection between Afghanistan, Taliban, Al-Qaeda and Kashmir as Pakistan maintains but it is a connection created by Pakistan with its search for strategic depth, and by the Pakistan Army’s continuin belief that the TTP may be an asset.
    In such a situation can India really do anything? Sure, as the strategy blows up in Pakistan’s face India will face a blow back, but what can be done about it. India has faced 20 years of fundamentalist types infiltrated in from Pakistan across the Line of Control: now, at worst India will be facing the Pak Army and the TTP together.
    As you in Pakistan blame RAW for all the bombings and stuff, India too blames ISI for the IEDs and bomb blasts. Should the TTP come to its borders India can only fear of more of the same medicine.
    Even if by some miracle India were to return to the negotiating table and make credible concessions to Pak sentiment over Kashmir do you believe it would suffice to douse the fires being lit by the TTP in Pakistan. Will it motivate the Pak Army to stand up to these barbarians.
    The situation is pretty hopeless. If your Army takes on these fanatics it will probably mean a prolonged civil war as well as auto destruct of Pakistan’s India strategy. If it does not it means the end of all hopes for a liberal Pakistan, and probably the start of a border skirmishes with India, provoked by the TTP types. And then there is the question of what the Americans will do over Pakistan’s nuclear assets.

  18. Bloody Civilian

    So Indians showing solidarity with Pakistanis against the Taliban would make some Pakistanis actually start supporting the Taliban.

    I doubt an Indian muslim can support liberals in Pakistan when they have to denounce Pakistan, Al-Qaeda, Hurriyat and Pakistan again before and after each greeting in order to be in with a chance of being seen as loyal Indians with nothing to do with terrorism.

    Amongst those Indians who are happy at Pakistan’s troubles are also those who attack women and minorities and, therefore, what India and her constitution stand for. At the extreme end, these are a bunch of uncircumcised Taliban cheering for the circumcised ones.

    BB endorsed the Taliban/strategic depth policy as one more of her desperate attempts to be accepted as one of ‘us’, and not be seen as the enemy of the establishment. Her agreeing to come to Musharraf’s rescue was part of the same endeavour. She failed. Zardari might succeed in cosying up to the establishment since he is no popular leader in his own right and therefore no threat.

    Senate only refused to consider the NeA because it termed it an insult that a done deal, already sanctioned and approved by the State, was brought before the House. It wouldn’t have had any legal effect any way.

    Pak Army owns the country, so it will decide her fate. Whether Pakistanis, in the face of this advancing barbarianism, ask enough questions of themselves and who they are, what they have become and what they want to be, the Army has no need to reconsider its strategy. One thing the Army does not want is to be unpopular. The people of Pakistan don’t seem to be asking the more fundamental questions yet, let alone take the Army to task. We simply don’t have the quality of men any more to do that. decades of despotism – civil and military – have seen to that.

    Jinnah said on 11 Aug 1947: “Any idea of a united India could never have worked and in my judgement it would have led us to terrific disaster. Maybe that view is correct; maybe it is not; that remains to be seen.” That is the question, the moment of doubt, that Pakistanis need to address and answer. I don’t think they even understand that question.

    Things will get much worse before they get any better. Whether Pakistan recovers, Balkanises or never was… the 170 million people who live here will still be here. They will still have to come up with answers to fundamental questions. India will still have to deal with that.

  19. Majumdar

    Yasser mian,

    An Islamist gentleman on chowk whom I respect very much argues that N-e-A is very much in line with the Paki Constt. Here is the proof of what he offers:

    246. Tribal Areas.
    In the Constitution,

    (a) “Tribal Areas” means the areas in Pakistan which, immediately before the commencing day, were Tribal Areas, and includes

    (i) the Tribal Areas of Baluchistan and the North-West Frontier Province; and
    (ii) the former States of Amb, Chitral, Dir and Swat;

    (b) “Provincially Administered Tribal Areas” means

    (i) The districts of Chitral, Dir and Swat (which includes Kalam), [260][the Tribal Area in Kohistan district,] Malakand Protected Area, the Tribal Area adjoining [261][Mansehra] district and the former State of Amb;

    (4) Notwithstanding anything contained in the Constitution, the President may, with respect to any matter within the legislative competence of [263][Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament)], and the Governor of a Province, with the prior approval of the President, may, with respect to any matter within the legislative competence of the Provincial Assembly make regulations for the peace and good government of a Provincially Administered Tribal Area or any part thereof, situated in the Province.

    Is this gentleman correct?


  20. yasserlatifhamdani

    “legislative competence of the Provincial Assembly”

    Is the matter of ideology and sharia a provincial subject… I don’t think so.

  21. PMA

    Just dropped by to see what was brewing at Pak Tea House. Unfortunately SOS as usual–few wise and know all Indians obsessed with Pakistan commenting on Affairs of Pakistan. “Vultures on the walls.”

  22. D_a_n


    just a question….do you use Paki because it’s easier to type out or is it used because you think it’s cute?

    It’s bloody insufferable to be honest….and if you’d have had the good fortune to travel to the UK…you’d know that Paki is a ‘general purpose’ term and those that came up with it…use for you guys too…

  23. Majumdar


    Both reasons. Btw, feel free to call me a Paki or a Bhindi(oo) if u feel like. I wont mind.

    Yasser mian,

    But if the National Assembly approves it, then this is legally valid, right?


  24. Bloody Civilian

    But if the National Assembly approves it, then this is legally valid, right?

    The vote was a resolution, AFAIK, a mere display of emotion, so has no legal effect. Leaving aside the question of whether it is a provincial subject or not.. or that it is against the constitution to make it so. The President’s power in article 246 derives from and wholly within that of the provincial assembly and government, and does not and cannot go beyond, without both the National Assembly (both in terms of law and constitution) and Supreme Court coming in to play.

  25. Bloody Civilian

    i.e the powers of 246 are defined and demarcated in 263.

  26. Bloody Civilian

    Ignore the numbers!! I have obviously mixed them up (e.g. it’s article 247, not 246. and 263 is a mistake.. it is a reference to an endnote! please ignore.) 😮

  27. mazHur

    Which Constitution? The one which Zia ul Haq termed as a piece of paper? The Consrtitution which has been ‘raped’ so many times in the name of ‘doctrine of necessity’?
    National character goes in the building of a Constitution-any Constitution, and a nation. Are we one?

    Let us refrain from going too far in condemnation of others just because we don’t like someone to take the lead in some direction and at the same time not to go overboard in praising someone against whom you can’t dare to speak!

  28. Bloody Civilian

    and sorry for not seeing that YLH has already highlighted the province’s competence issue.

    just wanted to do say that the national assembly passed a reoslution and not a law. irrelevant that the House may be within the context of 247.

    next time i’d take more time to read, check and then write.

  29. As a matter of interest, what are the legal ramifications of the fact that Mian Nawaz Shareef (PML-N), the then PM of Pakistan made a similar agreement with Sufi Muhammad in 1994… was that ever abrogated or was it merely allowed to die by the wayside?
    Isnt this the same “Sufi Muhammad” who led an ‘army’ to Afghanistan in 2002 (for Jehad)?
    if my memory serves me right, didnt he return to Malakand (with his sons) while leaving the others there to fight their way to a place in heaven?
    How does he gain the respect and confidence of the people of Malakand and Swat after such behaviour? or does everyone suffer from Amnesia in the land of the Pure?

  30. hayyer48

    Gorki/BC: Indian Muslims bear no responsibility for the TTP and the Pak establishment’s pusillanimous response. Sayid Ahmad and his cohort did their best to infuse Islamic spirit into the Pakhtuns against Ranjit Singh nearly two centuries ago and were martyred at Balakote for their pains quite near Swat.
    Representatives of the same Indian Muslims fought for Pakistan and sent their best and brightest led by Jinnah to the promised land. But that is history. Indian Muslims cannot be held hostage to the bad behaviour of the frontier types of Pakistan. The MQM’s recent record shows that notwithstanding their thuggish behaviour in the past.
    Indian Muslims, whatever their grouse against the nature of Indian Secularism, are not going to fall for the mea culpaism that the Hindu right might want to impose on them for the sins of Frontier fundamentalists.

  31. PMA

    Azamgarh Muslims fight suspicion
    By Geeta Pandey
    BBC News, Azamgarh, Uttar Pradesh

    More than six months after two young men from this village in India’s Uttar Pradesh state were shot dead by Delhi police for being alleged terrorists, a deep distrust of the outsider still prevails here.
    It’s as if the people of Sanjarpur, a village of about 10,000 residents in Azamgarh district, have withdrawn into a shell.
    “Every time there is a terrorist incident anywhere in the country, people here begin to worry that their names may crop up. That they may get arrested,” says Mohammad Asif, a resident.
    Their fear is not unfounded. In the last two years, police have picked up nearly 20 men from Azamgarh, linking them to various militant attacks around the country.
    “We are looked upon with suspicion everywhere. We get harassed at the airport and the railway station. They say, ‘Oh you’re from Azamgarh!’ Sometimes they call us a terrorist, to our face,” says Rizwan Ahmad.
    “We think twice before we say we’re from Azamgarh.”
    As Azamgarh gets ready to vote on Thursday, the only election issue here seems to be justice for Azamgarh’s youth.
    Azamgarh’s ordeal began on 19 September when Delhi police killed two men in a shoot-out at Batla House in the capital’s Muslim district of Jamia Nagar.
    Police said the dead men were militants from the Indian Mujahideen – a militant group which had claimed responsibility for a series of bombings in the capital a week before.
    The residents of Sanjarpur say the men were students who had gone to Delhi to study.
    Mohd Zahid’s brother, Sajid, was one of the men killed.
    “He had gone to Delhi for the first time. He appeared for an entrance test in Jamia Milia university, but failed. So he joined a three-month English-speaking course. And they killed him! He was only 16. How could he be a terrorist?” asks a distraught Zahid.
    Zahid says he first heard of his brother’s death when reporters descended on his home.
    “The encounter took place in the morning. I heard about it at 4pm when reporters came to our village. I broke the news to my parents at 6pm. My mother fainted. My father didn’t say a word but he has been unwell since then. My mother is trying to cope; she has to live, so she lives.”
    ‘Nursery of terrorism’
    It’s not just Sanjarpur – the taint has spread to the town of Azamgarh and surrounding villages too.
    “After the encounter, there was such terror here that the young men were afraid to even go out,” says Dr Shahnawaz, vice-president of the Indian Minorities’ Youth Association.
    Many of our boys were thrown out of their jobs under the excuse of recession. Many landlords in Indian cities shut the door on them simply because they were from Azamgarh.”
    And to make matters worse, the media dubbed Azamgarh, Atankgarh – the nursery of terrorism.
    The area’s MP, Akbar Ahmad Dumpy of the Bahujan Samaj Party, is seeking re-election and is going around the district canvassing for support.
    He stops to address a roadside gathering of about 200 supporters.
    “After the Batla House encounter, I was the first one to visit the area. The police were painting all of us – Hindus and Muslims – as terrorists,” he says.
    After some of the arrested men were produced in court wearing the Arabic keffiyah scarves, he turned up at parliament in a similar scarf.
    ‘Different rules’
    “I wore a keffiyah to parliament house and I challenged the authorities to come arrest me,” he tells me afterwards.
    Mr Ahmad says the authorities have two sets of rules, one for the Hindus and another for Muslims.
    “You can’t have two sets of laws. Two Hindus arrested for blasts in Malegaon [Maharashtra] are sent to judicial custody, whereas our boys are still languishing. Obviously, the boys feel they are being done in.”
    Fighting for the votes in Azamgarh along with the mainstream political parties is the newly-formed Ulema Council which has put up 10 candidates in the state.
    Maulana Amir Rashadi, the council’s convenor, says: “In the last few months, the anti-terrorism forces, in contravention of all laws and norms, began raiding each and every house here, picking up our boys and taking them away for interrogation.
    “So I gathered the Islamic scholars. I told them that we Muslims had played a role in India’s first war of independence in 1857. Can’t we fight again?”
    Hence, the council was born in October last year.
    “Our aim was to make people aware of their rights. Fighting the election was not our aim, but it became a necessity for us.”
    Maulana Rashadi says: “For us, this is a practice match, we want to tread softly and expand gradually.”
    The party has put up Dr Javed Akhtar, a respected orthopaedic surgeon, as its candidate in Azamgarh.
    ‘Moral duty’
    “I wasn’t convinced with the policies of the mainstream political parties for some time now, but for all these years, we kept our distance. Politicians have the policy of divide and rule,” he says.
    “But it’s the moral duty of every citizen to raise the voices of those who are being tortured,” he says.
    Azamgarh has a large Muslim population and the Ulema Council says it’s banking on their support in the elections.
    In Sanjarpur, however, the mood is still downcast, although there is appreciation for the Ulema Council’s work.
    “Ever since the Ulema Council was formed, we have got some relief – now the police don’t come here and make random arrests,” says Zahid.
    “It will take years to wash off the taint, but we don’t ask for any favours, just let us live in peace,” says Rizwan Ahmad.
    The Ulema Council says the situation will improve after the elections if their candidates win.
    “We are 25 to 30% Muslims in this area. We voted for the Congress for 27 years. Then we voted for the Samajwadi Party and then the Bahujan Samaj Party, but no one stood up for us when we needed them.
    “Now we have formed our own party and will contest the polls. When we are strong politically, our work will get done easily.
    “So far our vote has been divided, and that’s why we have not been in the reckoning, but now if we’re all united, we will do much better,” he says.

    Story from BBC NEWS:
    Published: 2009/04/15 15:43:13 GMT

  32. Gorki


    Perhaps you misunderstood my comments.

    Indian muslims do not in any way what so ever need to give a proof of their Indianness. I have mentioned in these posts several times in the past that they are as Indian as any Parivar representatives, with exact equal rights of protest, and can complain against the Indian state without any fear if they feel like it.

    Moreover their right does not come from either the Hindus or the Sangh Parivar’s magnanimity or even the patronising INC saying so; but is a birth right, to be enjoyed as every other Indian.

    I would find it abhorrent if anyone suggested they are in any way responsible for the TTP.

    Having said that, this is the only Indian group who IMHO can comment on Pakistan and condemn the TTP openly without weakening the moderates inside Pakistan.

  33. ylh

    Zeenath if memory serves BB was
    PM in 1994

    More later

  34. Gorki


    I understand the cold logic and scenario that you outline is in the realm of possiblity. Here is a sobering thought though.

    Israel (pop 7.1 million) is a military superpower and is flanked by a weak state Lebanon (pop 4 million) with a non state militia (Hezbollah) opposed to it. This militia is opposed by every western nation and entity and yet the conflict it threatens Israel with, promises to destabilize the world at times.

    Now consider this in the India (pop 1,200 million) and Pakistan (pop 170 million, with nukes) scenario. It truely can make the world a very interesting place if Taliban takes over Pakistan and sets up shop, threatening to anihilate India like the gentlemen from the ‘party of God’.

    What then?

  35. yasserlatifhamdani


    You are a delusional fellow… not to mention an ignorant person. We don’t allow hate-mongers like you to have a voice on this forum atleast.

    Read some history… only an ignorant fool or a dishonest crook will claim the things you do… especially vis a vis the Taliban and their role in Pakistan.

    I don’t want to start another tangent here, but Taliban are the historical continuation of the same religious fundamentalists GANDHI brought into politics deliberately and against good counsel in the Khilafat Movement. Indeed the father of the Taliban is Maulana Fazlurrahman is the son of none other than Maulana Mufti Mahmood, an Islamic fanatic and a leading supporter of the Indian National Congress in NWFP.

    And I don’t mean to piss off the ANP types either but historical fact remains that the first such “ESTABLISH SHARIA” militant movement in Pakistan after 1947 was by Faqir of Ippi who was supported and aided and abetted by none other than Frontier Congress, the KK and the frontier Gandhi Bacha Khan.

    It is therefore no surprise that ANP is so vociferous today in supporting the Nizam-e-Adl … and it is no surprise that ANP is actively supporting Talibanization of Karachi if not ideologically but certainly tactically. When last year all the freaks around the world were celebrating the victory of “Secular” Pushtun Nationalists, I asked for caution and I suggested that these Pushtun Nationalists will lead NWFP down the wrong path …. which they have. People poked fun at me… abused me… people with narrow visions and lack of depth and people like Ali Arqams and Shaheryar Alis- claimants of divinely revealed intellectual prowess and superiority…. well it is all come to pass ladies and gentlemen. The PHONY left – the ANP has sold Pakhtunkhwa and Pakistan to the Islamists. of course my argument then was that these fellows are not left by any stretch of imaginaton… that Pushtun Nationalism is “secular” only technically being a product of a sort of racial consciousness … but the fine print of Pushtun Nationalism is tribalism and a puritan straitjacket Islam. In response I was abused as a creature of the same establishment I have stood against consistently.

    I find the Indian attitude strange and ironic… when it comes to claiming Bacha Khan’s non-violent struggle in conferences in Washington Indians jump to the fray… but the by-product of the politics that Bacha Khan and his progeny have waged on Pakistan …. is something you want to put in the lap of Pakistan exclusively (ofcourse we are cognizant of our role in form of our Khakis) … take credit wholly or don’t take credit at all. Either Bacha Khan, ANP and their followers are Pakistanis warts and all, or they are your boys … in which case even the taliban and sufi muhammads etc are your boys given the illustrious Gandhian pedigree that gave birth to this violent Islamic movement.

  36. yasserlatifhamdani


    I share your concern for hate-mongers who tend to de-rail discussions on Pakistani boards. One such fellow – Bowman- has been deleted here for example.

    However the gentlemen here- Bonobashi, Gorki and Hayyer- are not those people. These are genuine friends of Pakistan who are interested in honest dialogue. I vouch for them and I beseech you not to shun the hand of friendship that is extended towards us.

  37. D_a_n

    @ Majumdar…

    my apologies as this does not relate to the topic….

    but I have no desire to call you a Bhindi(oo) or Aloo or Gajar or any such thing… nursey days are far far behind me….

    Just wanted to point out that Paki is indeed offensive even if not used in that context…Rest if the moderator allows it…so be it…but I felt the need to point it out…

  38. bonobashi


    Dada: a very personal request, and one you should not misunderstand. I recognise where you’re coming from, and can relate to the casual scurrilousness of usage from coffee-house conversations of my youth, but it does seem to me that if it is found irksome or objectionable, no very large effort is required on our part to abjure such usage.

    Is it too much of a sacrifice? In exchange for what you will no doubt agree is most engrossing conversation; I, for one, have not found its match elsewhere, although you keep quoting chowki.

    A humble request for your consideration, as I too am beginning to find it distracting. I have respect for your independence of mind and do not seek to force you into the strait-jacket of customary manners.

  39. Majumdar


    OK. Typing in 6 extra letters is no gr8 sacrifice.


  40. bonobashi

    And I have an essay for you, ready by tomorrow. Hope you’ll find it interesting.

  41. D_a_n

    @ Bonobashi….

    your always…. leaves me in awe Good Sir… 🙂

  42. bonobashi


    Dear Sir, I am delighted to see you here. This is a fascinating forum, but frankly, some of the discussions are at a level which is beyond me. Still, I try to run and keep up with these young lions. You must be enjoying their conversation, which is so illuminating. I am, for sure. It makes me regret the way I wasted my opportunities.

    I am always happy to be of any small service to an officer and a gentleman. My friend is a good chap, but shares with me our common racial habit of being Bolshie, sometimes with no proximate cause, and is thereby given to causing uproar. Which, by the way, he is wicked enough to delight in. Although he is conservative and I am liberal, we share a lot of views, and I would hate to have these obscured due to a solecism.

    He will undoubtedly now proceed to wallop me for this.

    I read ATP end to end, of course, but do not just now have the heart to be active. Your terse advice to a certain young nitwit to reclaim his fees did give me a lot of pleasure. It was good advice.

  43. PMA

    “These are genuine friends of Pakistan who are interested in honest dialogue. I vouch for them and I beseech you not to shun the hand of friendship that is extended towards us.”

    Hamadani: You seek love at the wrong places. Good cop, bad cop, is still a cop. Invest in those who are vested in Pakistan. People like you and me and our millions compatriots will rise and sink with Pakistan. The way Pakistan is important to Pakistanis could not be to outsiders. I visit Pak Tea House to see what Pakistani intellectuals like yourself are thinking and saying. Unfortunately every Pakistan-centric Internet site is infested and sometimes attacked by Hindus of India who could not and do not have best interest of Pakistan in their heart. But I give a damn to what they think or say about my beloved homeland. I concern myself with what Pakistanis think and say about their country. What is going on in Pakistan today is not unique to Pakistan. The entire Muslim World, to which we are a big part of, is going through a transition. There is an internal conflict within Muslim world to which we are not immune. Unfortunately our enemies are misreading our current situation. They are discussing among themselves imaginary scenarios of demise of Pakistan. Friends do not rejoice at the troubles of their friends. We Pakistanis and Muslims are not going to vanish and disappear any time soon regardless what these “tamashbeen” wish and say. God willing we will go through these crisis as we have done throughout our history and bounce back even stronger. Invest in yourself my friend.

  44. hayyer48

    PMA: We have had this discussion before.
    Investing in your neighbours is also investing in yourself. No man is an island entire in itself and surely no nation either.
    Discussions between one’s own kind on matters that refer to or involve neighbours can usually gain in breadth and scope by involving the Other’s perspective.
    Indians do ‘infest’ (as you put it) Pakistani web sites. They are often brash, impolite and sometimes quite boorish. Many tend to talk down, and they make no effort to hide their prejudices. Such Indians usually lose interest after some time or are edited out so they do no real damage.
    PTH is one of the two Pak sites I visit. The other one is juvenile-a hate site actually, and I do not even try to post there. I do read ‘Dawn’ on the net.
    Let me say outright that Dawn at least is far more objective than any Indian newspaper. Similar PTH far exceeds any Indian site or forum that I know of in the objectivity of its discussions. If Indians persist in coming here it is a tribute to those who run it and write for it.
    It can do you no harm to listen to some of us at least. If Pakistan is facing the slippery slope, India is not all that securely placed either. Our democracy keeps us going. We have less homogeneity than Pakistan does.
    The scenarios of the demise of Pakistan are not invented in India. They are the product of western think tanks. It would be dishonest to deny that the prospect gives many Indians a sense of satisfaction which some can ill conceal, but few of those come on to comment here.
    Most of the Indian contribution here is to try and understand what intelligent Pakistanis think. Who knows what synergies may emerge from similarities in thought. By talking to you we gain a greater understanding of our own selves and our motivations. It can do you no harm to talk. What would you rather do? Ignore us. What would that acheive?
    I can assure you that most intelligent Indians do not want re-union with areas that are now Pakistan. They realize the advantages to them of India as it is. Personally, I think it may be even better if it were to hive off areas like Nagaland if they want to leave.
    Nor do thinking Indians want Pakistan to descend into chaos. As far as I am aware there is no plan nor an anticipation of a Pakistani breakdown. The ‘benefits’ or disadvantages of such a breakdown are more likely to be to the account of your western neighbours than India. We are still primarily in a defensive mode, notwithstanding our posturing.
    Consider; if Kashmir had not got in the way and the partition riots, the two countries could have been friends.
    One should talk to ones neighbours. It is normal. Not to talk is abnormal- and may I add, unhealthy. Indians and Pakistanis cannot spend the rest of eternity hating each other. We have to grow beyond that.

  45. Karaya

    Ofcourse the fact that some cleric can get up and say that the constitution says nothing will be against Quran and Sunnah and then call Supreme Court and democracy as it is practised under the present constitution “unconstitutional”, it is a poignant commentary on the insistence of people like Bhutto in making “Islamic provisions” a part of the constitution instead of practically implementing universal and Islamic ideals of justice and equality in reality.


    Overall well argued but I do have one problem. Why must we get into this competing religion thing?

    To prove Bhutto wrong must you try and paint him as man who has betrayed “Islamic ideals”? Can’t a purely secular argument be made instead of competing for whose version of Islam is better?

    If even people like you will start using religious symbolism to make your point I see no hope for Pakistan.

  46. Reggie

    @SV and PMA
    “This Hindu infestation is getting out of hand. I think we need some beef spray to get rid of these ‘ tamashbeen”

    I don’t claim any birthright to visit Pakistani websites like PTH. If you feel Hindu infestation is getting out of hand, then you can state it as a matter of policy that PTH is meant for internal discussion of Pakistanis only (or Indians should not post any comment). I think it will be broadly respected – and your moderators will take care of the rest.

    However, if your policy states that everybody including the Indians are allowed, then clearly understand that you will have all kinds of visitors. Pakistan is not viewed positively in India – and there will be people who will be genuinely anti-Pakistan.

    Pakistan is frequently in news today – in all international newspapers. A lot of events happening in Pakistan are noticed, commented and followed in all countries. And while the reasons for being in the news are all wrong, still it arouses a great deal of curiosity about Pakistan. People want to know what is happening there. We in India, for obvious reasons, are more interested than others. I have been reading Pakistani newspapers for some time now to get a sense of events there. While newspapers are an important window to Pakistan, I have never really had a chance to have a face to face dialogue with Pakistanis themselves.
    I want to know what Pakistanis think in extra-ordinary times like these? What is their view about India, Taliban, Mumbai attacks, their economy, history etc etc.
    That is all the reason that we have in interacting with people on the other side of border. PTH addresses that issue – and so do the other sites.

    If you have a problem with that, please petition PTH to change its policy vis-à-vis Indians. However, should Indians visit, one thing is for sure. The comments will not be always nice, diplomatic, sugarcoated, romantic, eloquent or whatever. You will always have to live with that. So, deal with it.

  47. YLH


    On the contrary my argument is purely secular in so far as the constitution is concerned and that is all I am concerned about… as for the rest… I just don’t see secularism and Islamic ideals as a zero-sum game … especially in a country where most people are religious and seek their morality from religion.

    This “purely secular” argument might brand me a liberal – I might have a purely secular argument but do you think it would be enough if I had it or would you like ordinary believing religious people also joining us in saying that religion should be kept separate from the state because mixing of religion and constitution degrades the constitution and destroys religion.

    Surely you can see why I think your distinction is counter-productive. I had the same discussion with someone called “rws” on my article “Pakistan must be a secular or it will perish”.

  48. YLH


    SV is an Indian Hindu. FYI.

  49. Reggie


    Then ask him what he is doing on PTH.

  50. YLH


    Having interacted with Indians (especially of the kind you mention) on the internet for a very long time, I think you can appreciate that I can tell good cop bad cop approach from genuine attempts at bridge building.

    Hayyer, Bonobashi, Majumdar and Gorki are free of malice and bigotry. Their contribution is genuine and so completely free of all that we are apprehensive about. SV is another story …which is why I continuously closely follow and edit his nonsensical bs all the time.

  51. SV

    @ Reggie

    YLH is right, I’m Indian Hindu

    @ YLH

    I’m free of malice and bigotry as well.

  52. PMA

    Hamadani: Thanks for the response to my previous comment. Moving along. I fully appreciate your ideological disagreements with Taliban, Jamat Islami and all other religious parties of Pakistan. I also understand your stand on historic role of Pashtun Nationalists and their past affiliation with Indian Congress. I too do not condone the violent approach of Taliban. They are acting like ‘foolish friend’ which is worst than a ‘clever enemy’. But they are Pakistani too like you and I. They have as much right to their politics as you and I do. We should all object to their violence and disagree with their politics and religiosity if that is what we disagree with. But we must provide them the political space that we all ask for.

  53. AK


    I totally agree with you. Taliban are foolish friends of Pakistan. They MUST be given every chance to showcase their political opinion and since they have been denied space they are fighting to create it. Right now though, these poor guys have moved to Buner from Swat as they did not get enough space in Swat.

  54. yasserlatifhamdani


    What are you guys talking about? Taliban are the only one who have had space in this country for the last 25 years.

    And who stopped them from making their party and putting up their agenda up in elections. Every Mullah and his mother in law has a party …the truth is that Taliban took up arms because that is the only way they can impose their will on us… because in elections they would be rejected.

    “They have political rights as you and I”

    Despite the fact that I completely disagree with the Islamic provisions of the constitution of 1973 and with the crazy and idiotic amendments .. I have never taken up arms against the state.

    How can any one in their right mind say that a tax paying law abiding citizen of the country should have the same rights as militant rebels. How are they as Pakistani as any law abiding citizen when they have declared war on this state and its people?

    All this I suppose is easier to say once you are living in the comforts and securities of your homes abroad… but when some expats turn around and say something like this to people like me… barely 2 hours from Swat …. all I can wonder is what you are mixing with your tobacco.

  55. AK


    “Every Mullah and his mother in law has a party”

    Reminds me of the 4manshow episode where Inzamam-ul-haq declares that he will start a political party after the world cup. On asked why? He replies If any guy with two stooges can play politics then insha-allah he has 11 strong guys behind him.

    I do not support Talibs or their brand of whatever. Was just trying to pull PM’s leg. Sorry for spiking your blood pressure, promise will not do it again.

  56. yasserlatifhamdani

    Well thanks for the clarification AK. I find it ironic that a group of thugs and common criminals take up arms against the state and we are being asked to “make political space” for them.

    It is we don’t have any political space… and what little space was left is being usurped by an armed gang… and PMA is trying to create political space for them… as if they didn’t have that space and voluntary left it.

  57. Gorki


    I appreciate you vouching for some of us Indians on the PTH. Your words demonstrate that you have put a lot of faith in our intentions. I feel that by your gesture you have placed an added burden on us all to be extra careful so as not to abuse your hospitality.
    Thus I assure you that I personally may have a genuine disagreement with some one once in a while but will try to do my best to be aware of the trust you have placed in us so as not to let you down in front of your countrymen.


    I can not put it any better words than hayyer48, but reading his sentiments, I would say they accurately reflect my position as well.

    I might add that what you say is also easy to understand; the kind of scrutiny that Pakistan and its citizens are undergoing in the recent months by international pundits, media and sound bite makers of all kinds would make anyone uncomfortable. Your caution is like YLH say, unnecessary but not out of place.
    Yet you have understand that underneath the divisions imposed upon like minded people by creation of nation states, (that my friend Bonobashi often points out is only a few hundred year old western concept in formed in the aftermath of the treaty of Westphalia) there is a commonality of ideas and sense of purposes that transcends international borders.

    Thus I am certain that there are people in the geographic boundaries of Pakistan who hold ideas similar to those that say, I or people like Bonobashi and hayyer48 hold more dear than life itself; on the other hand the geographical boundaries of India holds despicable specimens of homo sapiens with whom I would not care to share a room with.

    Once one understands the above, argument it becomes clear that this is a new kind of a war that has been imposed by ideology on South Asia. Here the battle lines are not the traditional nation versus nation but rather of liberal ideas of tolerance versus those of rigidity and intolerant conformity couched in religion.

    In such a battle, people like Bonobashi and hayyer48 are soldiers who fight not as Indians who fight the nation of Pakistan but are individuals who oppose the Taliban like obscurantist both inside India and outside (Bloody Civilian called them rather pointedly, the circumcised and the un-circumcised Talibs).

    It is very important for all of us to:

    First understand that it is a generational battle we have on our hands here, not unlike the European wars of the 20th century against ideologies of fascism or communism.

    Second, be clear who is a friend and who is an enemy. I think we all are on the same side.

    It may sound news to some Pakistani friends here but you are not alone, worrying for the future of your country.

    The new found prominence of the religious far right ideology in India is giving a lot of us Indians, sleepless nights too. We Indians too have to fight this alone and you all can not do much to help but your sympathy support and understanding would certainly be welcome to us.

  58. yasserlatifhamdani


    Please don’t be unnecessarily cautious. We are hoping to make the partition series a great virtual seminar in perpetuity and if you watch what you say with this particular intention, it would do no one good.

  59. PMA

    Now Yassar calm down and listen to what I have just said:

    “I too do not condone the violent approach of Taliban……We should all object to their violence and disagree with their politics and religiosity if that is what we disagree with.”

    That puts you and me on the same side of the argument. Like you I too disagree with the Islamic provisions of the constitution of 1973….. and its crazy and idiotic amendments. I was very much disappointed when ZAB introduced laws against the Ahmadi sect. Also no one must be allowed to take law in their own hand may that be the Jihadists of Punjab, The Baloch Sardars and their private armies, MQM street heavies or Talibans and their supporters. But as you know breaking law does not forfeit ones right to citizenship. The fact these groups exist in Pakistan speaks about the weakness of the federal as well as provincial governments. In my opinion Sardari System in Balochistan must be abolished and FATA must be absorbed in to NWFP. Tribals must be given full citizen rights and allowed to form political parties to compete in provincial elections. For too long the Baloch and Pashtun tribal people have been left at the mercy of tribal sardars. And yes Taliban and clerics must be given full political space to take part in the national mainstream.

    And about your comment regarding ‘comfort abroad’ and ‘smoke mix’. Well, I will not get personal. There is no room for such comments in intellectual discourse.

  60. yasserlatifhamdani

    Tell me what is stopping Taliban and Sufi Muhammad from making their political parties around their agenda and contesting elections? And who took their right of citizen?

    “Breaking the law doesn’t forfeit the right of citizenship”

    It is not a traffic signal we are talking about. Constitutionally anyone who takes up arms against the state is an enemy of the state. If he surrenders, then such a “citizen” is tried for treason under court of law.

    Let us deal with one issue at a time. This cannot be an intellectual discussion if you think that a rebel militant carrying out terror attacks against Pakistan should be placed on the same footing as a law abiding tax paying citizen of Pakistan. Indeed I’d say this is the root cause of the problem. This is what this god forsaken government has done… while it beat up Lawyers and civil society members and destroyed shanakht festival… it has made awful “peace” deals with those who’ve dictated their terms with a gun. This state cannot protect loyal citizens … but goes around passing laws referring to the high and mighty authority of Sufi Muhammad, the leader of the BANNED TSNM.

    Don’t make us forge a pistol too … maybe it is not about giving them “political space” which they had and forfeited on their own account… may it is the other way around.

  61. PMA

    OK then tell me what is FATA? What is Sardari System? Do tribal people under FATA and Sardari System have full right to the citizenship of Republic of Pakistan like a lawyer does in Islamabad or Lahore? Could a tribal girl from Wana appeal to the Peshawar High Court for justice? Could a man evicted by Bugti, or Mari or Mengal Sardar go to Quetta High Court for justice? A system which fails to provide equal rights to all of its citizens may that be religious rights or civil, is not a fair system. That is what I mean by giving political space. Bring them in to mainstream of the nation and then punish them under the law if they break one. As it stands now a tribal man does not think that he is fully vested in the state of Pakistan. In his mind he is not breaking any law of the land. He is operating within his tribal laws.

  62. yasserlatifhamdani

    That FATA needs political reform and that Balochistan’s Sardari nizam should be brought to end are issues that no one can have two opinions about.
    How does that have anything to do with giving Taliban- who have taken up arms against Pakistan- political space??

    Your equation of all tribal Pushtuns with Taliban makes me wonder if you’ve ever met these people you speak so authoritatively about. I interact on a daily basis with people from Bajaur, Waziristan, Swat etc… they are NOT Taliban.

    Furthermore… you’ve gotten your understanding of citizenship etc as well as the nature of taliban insurgency all mixed up. For your information –
    other than personal law, all laws are territorial.

    For example… if Waziri or a Mehsud travels to the settled areas of Pakistan the law applicable on him is mainstream Pakistani Law. He is bound by Pakistani law like any other citizen of Pakistan and has the same rights and obligations.

    Even if we accept your argument that some of these Taliban are merely from tribal agencies … that does not change the situation that he is a rebel.

    I am very sorry to hear of your views…

    “Could a tribal girl from Wana appeal to Peshawar High Court for justice?”

    And so we should give political space to those who say High Courts are unIslamic. Wonderful.

  63. Bloody Civilian

    It’s hard to tell the difference between a malik and his servant in FATA and much of NWFP. It is at least equally hard to tell whether any of a Baloch sardar’s countless servants is even human. To bracket Baluchistan and NWP together.. shows lack of knowledge about either. It is because Baluchistan has a very few big Sardars that you don’t need political agents. It works in FATA because with no big sardars and lots of small mailks, the system is self-limiting/regulating. WEll, it used to work.. until the maliks (masharaan) were decimated, eliminated. Slowly through the ’80’s… exponentially accelarated by the TTP.

    The mullahs who opposed Pakistan and Jinnah were allowed to resurrect themselves and reclaim ‘political space’ (even a voice in the Basic Principles Committee report), as well as being gifted choice real estate in Karachi and elsewhere to build madrassahs, through their illegal and despicable anti-Qadiani agitation.

    KK’s (Congressies), equally opposed to Pakistan and aligned to Congress, were put in prison, on the other hand, for at least 5 of the 7 years before Faqir Ippi’s military mastermind gave himself up to DC Bannu.

    Can you imagine Fazlullah doing that? To say the latter he is a ‘successor’ of Ippi’s is to ignore the whole of the Afghan War, to say the least. The other side of the coin: Can you imagine the predecessors of the present Pak Army surrendering to the Faqir? Or even taking him seriously? They thought him a joke and dealt with him with the contempt he deserved.

    It’s the same Pakistan Army with the same heritage and institutional experience of the British Indian Army fighting the tribals. Don’t tell me they need to be retrained. That they have no experience of guerilla tactics. Why do they claim credit for ‘trapping the russian bear’ then?

    The Chief-of-Army muscled his way in to a cabinet position in a civilian government (Bogra’s), but no law was broken. That was not considered claiming ‘political space’ at gunpoint. And how many times has that particular method of claiming ‘political space’ has been repeated in Pakistan!

    NAP opposed every military dictatorship. Whatever vitriol Wali Khan came up with against Jinnah, and the laughably conspiratorial quality of such stories in his book, he came to Ms Fatima Jinnah’s support, as part of NAP (it was Bhashani who played dirty). He even told Kabul to back-off and warned off a backlash from Pakistani pashtoons, around the same time.

    Those who break the law do not forfeit their right to citizenship, but dependeing on how serious the breach of law, they do and should lose their right to freedom or even life. Nothing – expediency nor politics nor ‘mere aziz hum watno’ – comes before the law.

    ‘Political space’ is squeezed for all except those who usurp it with the gun – standard issue or not – when the political process is arbitrarily and illegally aborted, indefinitely.

  64. PMA

    Yasser I will not let this discussion get personal no matter how hard you try. You draw your authority from your law books and your clientele and I respect that, but please never question my authority. I hope you respect that. You and I both know that not ALL tribal Pashtun are part of TTP and not ALL Taliban are tribal. But you do realize that most Taliban are tribal Pashtun from the Agencies. If so then ask yourself question that could there be a connection here. I am not justifying the armed rebellion that is going on in various parts of Pakistan. I am far from it. But what I am trying to impress upon you is this: If for sixty years the government of Pakistan has kept these tribal areas outside the law of the land that applies to every other part of the country but the agencies, then how all of sudden these agencies could be asked to behave under your law. First grant them full citizenship of Pakistan and then ask them to obey the laws of Pakistan. Government of Pakistan for sixty years has ignored the needs and rights of Pashtun and Baloch tribal areas. Now that there is trouble in the land all of sudden city dwellers are jamming the print and electronic media and demanding that these ‘animals’ should behave civilized. Where were they when tribals were killing each other over silly family disputes. You have consistently argued in favor of equal citizenship for all religion communities of Pakistan. Why do you stop short of equal citizenship for the tribals?

  65. PMA

    That Balochistan is inhabited by ethnic Balochs alone is a fallacy. Northwest of the province along Afghan border all the way up to outside Quetta is inhabited by Pashtun tribes with social order similar to Waziristan. Today Quetta is hub of Taliban. British ruled that area through political agents. Only under One Unit that practise was stopped and later on Ayub Khan restored sovereignty of pro-government Sardars. Had Pakistan government possess the political will to– a) eliminate Sardari System in Balochistan and– b) absorb FATA into NWFP, the political, economical and social conditions of these areas might have been different. Taliban is the result of years of neglect of our own people. Blame ruling elites of Pakistan if you wish.

  66. Bloody Civilian

    Blame ruling elites of Pakistan if you wish

    Who are they? That the Pak Army sits at the head of this particular table was proven with Gen Ayub Khan becoming minister of defence in 1954. The Army has directly ruled Pak for 33(?) of its 61 years. ZAB was a servant of a military dictator. ‘Leader’ of the King’s Party. NS was Zia’s ‘son’. BB could not return to Pak without a deal with Mush. Who pulls the strings? The bureaucracy, feudels and mullahs are and have been very much the junior partners (with the short exception between the fall of dhaka and Tikka Khan being sent to Baluchistan, when ZAB was no junior partner.. and that went to his already fat head). The mullahs are the least reliable and the most able to play the religion card (that is their only card). The state of Pakistan, in it’s 61 years history, has done nothing but increase the value of this card, increment after huge increment, to the mullahs’ advantage.

    Even when the Taliban were in power, we never asked them to recognise the Durand Line.. for whatever it was worth. Why? If FATA is absorbed in to Pakistan, where will the Pak Army have the space and right environment to launch in to the ‘Strategi Depth’ that was/is Afghanistan? They can’t have it reduced to the Jehlum to Khushab corridor!

    What happened to the Bush administration offer of $750 million aid to FATA? First the Pak Govt had the Economic Opportunity Zones changed to Reconstruction Opportunity Zones. Then demanded that earthquake hit Kashmir be incuded in the ROZs. Once it was no longer a green field development project, they skewed it even further by saying that industry would have to be in the Punjab for lack of infrastructure and skilled resource in FATA. They pledged that 50% of the unskilled workforce will be sourced from FATA. That has been happening in SITE and other areas of Karachi for decades, anyway!

    Why have we had four Army operations in Baluchistan, with the latest one continuing? But the Army needs ‘public/political support’ if it is to fight in FATA and Swat? Why aren’t there ever any qualms about civilian deaths as a result of military action in Baluchistan? Why are ‘deals’ made and territory and autonomy yielded in FATA (remember Nek Muhammad), and Swat, but never in Baluchistan?

    Now if I were to say that without Swat and FATA being the way they are, there would be no Kerry-Luger Bill.. would that be too cynical? Zardari’s sales pitch at Tokyo recently was ‘save yourselves by helping us’! It got him $5+ billion in pledges.

  67. Bloody Civilian

    Today Quetta is hub of Taliban

    And what has the Pak Army done about it? Fired a single shot? They are not even in the vicinity. Yet Americans have been talking of expanding the Drone target area to Quetta and surroundings. Khoratabad, ‘Pahtoonabad and several others are no-go areas. What has the state done about it? Are we not playing Good Taliban/Bad Taliban?

    What is Lashkar e Jhangvi doing there? How come, only recently, did it occur to LeJ to set up shop in Quetta? Isn’t it a banned outfit? What happened to the state and its writ?

  68. yasserlatifhamdani

    Dear bloody civilian,

    My comments about Bacha Khan etc were in a particular context…despite whatever crticism I have of their politics I feel we would all have to put a united front in order to get out of this tight corner.

    There is no question that the Afghan War has greatly exacerbated the problem by a multiple of 10.

  69. Karaya


    On the contrary my argument is purely secular in so far as the constitution is concerned and that is all I am concerned about

    I agree. That is why I have commended your overall argument. It’s just that I saw this side religious argument which I found very disconcerting.

    I just don’t see secularism and Islamic ideals as a zero-sum game … especially in a country where most people are religious and seek their morality from religion.

    The second part of your sentence is very dangerous, sir. And in fact, so is the first part.

    You must chose between secular ideals and religious (be they of whichever religion) ones–irrespective of the religiosity of your population.

    There are enough historical figures on the sub-continent who have adopted precisely the kind of argument that you have made above and led it, and especially the people who now constitute Pakistan, to doom.

    If we learn from history we will not be condemned to repeat it.

    This “purely secular” argument might brand me a liberal – I might have a purely secular argument but do you think it would be enough if I had it or would you like ordinary believing religious people also joining us in saying that religion should be kept separate from the state because mixing of religion and constitution degrades the constitution and destroys religion.

    So you are going to use an argument which uses religious symbolism (to try and attract “ordinary believing religious people”) to try and achieve a secularism?

    In one word-impossible.

  70. yasserlatifhamdani


    Well I disagree because of history.

    The origin of state secularism (as opposed to secular humanism which is not my concern at the moment nor do I wish to make people irreligious) in Europe and elsewhere lies in separating church and state in societies where religion is important so that the Church:

    1. does not manipulate religious people for its own ends and objectives.

    2. does not persecute people who disagree with the Church by using state power.

    Pakistan is a nation state based on European model of dominant and distinct religio-cultural majority … therefore, the need for secularism arises from religious people choosing an impartial state as ultimate arbiter without prejudice on religious or other lines.

    It is not the question of religious symbolism but religious idealism. John Locke, the father of modern secular society, was inspired by and used Christian principles for his treatises on government.

    Leaving the subcontinent aside, where people on all sides of the border associate varying things to this word, in the Islamic world the most successful secular experiment was carried out by Mustapha Kemal Ataturk.

    If you read his speeches on key occasions in his movement – the Erzurum Conference 1919 (“Islam is the most rational religion. Science and technology are not in conflict with Islam”) …. 1924 “Reason and progress are not in contradiction to Islam. But this Turkish nation has a second religion – a religion of superstition” … or his argument that Ottoman Empire was not a valid Islamic Caliphate … but that Ottoman Empire had usurped Islam … when abolishing the Caliphate… right up to the point that he got the constitution of the Republic amended in 1928 to exclude state religion where he declared that it was being done to save Islam from degradation… Kemal Ataturk deployed Islam again and again to justify his secularization of the state. Given that his model worked…. I for one believe that the real battle is to not cede ground on Islam to religious crazies…

    The path you are asking me to follow is impossible for any society, let alone an Islamic one. If the people are convinced that Islam and secularism are mutually exclusive in a Muslim majority state (this is a distinction because even the most rabid Islamists hide behind secularism in constitutionally secular Non-muslim majority states), they will choose Islam any day of the week. But I for one am not going to concede that Islam and secularism are incompatible… no matter what doctrine anyone produces because Islam’s history contains as many instances of pluralism and tolerance as of intolerance and bigotry.

    So I am afraid it is your method that is an impossibility… and it is the insistence on this method that has led to the virtual disappearance of Muslim secularists.

  71. Majumdar

    Yasser mian,

    The villain of the piece may be Iqbal who translated secularism as ladeeniyat or lack of faith (My apologies, if I wrong on facts). Secularism must not be interpreted thru the OED defintion of the term but simply as:

    1.Treating all citizens equally irrespective of faith. Treating all faiths with equal respect and toleration.
    2.Conducting affairs of the state with impartiality to faith related matters.


  72. Bloody Civilian


    I agree about the united front. I think I mixed up my arguments about ANP, ‘political space’ and those who use the gun at the cost of loss of clarity in reply to your thesis. This was mainly with a view to save time.

    Part of my argument is already in my previous post: how the ‘pak opposing’ KK’s and the mullahs have been treated completely (180 deg) differently. How the NAP have spent most of their lives either in prison or in exile, while the mullahs have been nurtured, sponsored and worse. NWFP is not just ANP, and ANP not just Bacha Khan and his progeny. NAP certainly was not. Azam Khan to (Late) Nasromminallah have been part of it.

    Returning to the need for a united front, what chance that there could be an enquiry in to the causes of military failure, upon failure, in two years of the operations in Swat? The least accountable are always the most powerful. Yet without them, all the political forces put together are just so many unarmed people facing an armed group.

    The MMA is/was mostly a non-pashtoon movement. It was the old agencies’ routine of upgrading the lowly mullah to his own astonishment more than anybody else’s. Yet, Asfandyar had to resign as head of the party after the engineered elections of 2002. That’s the reality of politics.

    After her return, BB at least went to Peshawar (so did Zardari). I don’t think NS has gone west of Abottabad (?).. since his return from exile. Which one of either PPP or PML(N), if in power in NWFP, do you think would have been more steadfast and upright in the face of the Talibans’ armed and bloody onslaught, with the army doing nothing?

    I don’t mind ANP taking the bigger share of the criticism, but they are certainly not alone. The fact is that their electorate wants their lives to be spared. If the Army and state has abdicated, then they would rather live at the mercy of the TTP. It’s simply the survival instinct kicking in.

    It is false hope, and the ANP must realise that… but how can they tell that to the electorate without being returned to prisons or exile, since it will involve some bitter truths about the military and the history of last 30 years.

    I agree with you about Bacha Khan’s ‘non-politics’. But, perhaps, he did not remain that intransigent post ’47. Since he was never allowed to participate in the non-existent political process.. who kows. The following is for the interest of others, since we already agree on this.

    Bacha Khan was and remained non-violent. While Gandhi’s other lieutenants chose not to be Gandhian, sometimes, when it didn’t suit them, Bacha Khan remained a religious person, taught at a mosque (and then at Qadian), not very highly educated, preaching and practising non-violence.

    The ‘suspicion’ one has of the success and following the Gandhian creed had in the sub-continent is:

    As a brand, in the South Asian context, it’s a bestseller. It’s the typical politics of the personality cult.

    Non-violence is deceptively close to the other best selling brand – the creed of the sufi and the mystic (the mullah – Faqir of Ipi, was one).

    It works well as a form of resistance, e.g. the colonialists – with a degree of respect for due process – could put you in to preventative detention but not send you to kala pani (although they would have loved to), if you haven’t actually taken up arms.

    But when deployed in domestic politics, against those who may happen to disagree with you, it prevents and precludes compromise. It even allows the democratic process itself to be bypassed and overarched, in subtle ways that make meaningful dialogue frustratingly elusive.

  73. D_a_n


    Yes…the discussion here excellent…although the discussion does center around the current maladies that have cursed my home for a while….it is painful at a personal level for me to look at…hear and discuss ad nauseum these things….but Im grateful to be able to read and absorb what people much more intelligent than me have to say….

    (i do hope they allow this post as it’s not adding to the discussion)

    ….as for your rabble rouser Sir,…I know the sort well and have spent many freezing nights in ‘limited’ attire doing all sorts of strange things due to some of my own coursemates….. 🙂

    My apologies for not commenting back on what you said regarding the Wagah Post back at ATP…but for some reason for a few days I did not have it in me to give my 2 cents worth…..

    Warmed my heart to know that you read out my comments to your father….I have actually met a few officers who interacted with Air Marshall Cariappa while he was a guest…seems like stories from an entirely different era….what I liked about his account when I read it also was how matter of fact it was….(a style of re counting moments of battle from Burma….to Chamb and Kasur and the skies over India that I have heard from my elders and one that is almost exticnt…replaced by a hyper ventilating blow by blow account of machismo)…….his deciding on a target…getting hit…etc…

    Something I loved that you said that I must repeat…may lightning strike the ‘B*****d’ who thought up Siachin…(tells me you truly wish the Indian Jawan well)….I believe that would be someone from your side sir 🙂 but he’s made a lot of good men pay very very dearly and made them endure hell…if it were an Icy Hell that Dante would have flown over…surely it would have been Siachin……I often find it strange that fist pumpers on both sides who talk about with pride how slugging it out on the worlds highest battle ground is glorious. should have the following tattooed on thier forheads…

    Dulce Bellum Inexpertis …. (War is sweet to the inexperienced)…from Erasmus..

    (my Thanks to the mods if they allow this post)

  74. Bloody Civilian


    “judaa ho deen siyaasat se tu reh jaati hai chengezi”

    Is mixing politics and religion the same as mixing state (i.e. law) and religion? Perhaps, Iqbal took the two to mean different things. But he did create a confusion. May be he was approving of BJP – secular constituion, religous politics.


    In other words, separation of church and state, or religion and politics, is not about annihilation of religion or uprooting of culture. It never was. Human (individual or group) values and sensibilities, and ideas, will come from religion, culture, parents, and all sorts of processes of thought and its expression and advances thereof.

    Secularism is simply about ensuring that equality before law and freedom to choose both come before religion or culture (it is not there to replace either). And that no one (even a democratic majority) can ever use this same freedom to deny it to their own or future generations. Equality before law is non-negotiable.

    In case you’re advocating the superiority of atheism and expressing your preference for it. That’s just another religion, and it’s exclusive imposition by law just another theocracy.

  75. Bloody Civilian

    “it’s exclusive imposition by law” i.e. of the fascisitc ‘all religions are banned’ kind

  76. Majumdar

    In the din of Swat, another thing seems to have escaped the radar. The SCP has upheld the death penalty for blasphemers.


  77. bonobashi


    I would like to point out, if it makes you feel better, that it is increasingly clear that there is nothing the matter with Pakistan at the moment which cannot be set right given a reasonable run of luck.

    First, the basic premises hold valid still today; in a very peculiar, space- and time-warping kind of way, without invalidating the idea of India. In this connection, there is an electrifying article : Partition of India – Pakistan and Islam, which puts the whole matter straight and sweeps away a mansion-full of cobwebs.

    It isn’t an easy piece – I suspect only YLH and Bloody Civilian actually have a full grip over it – but I have copied it into my system and propose to chew it thoroughly once I am over my present personal complications.

    Second, it emerges clearly from this and other sites that the natural character and tendency of a typical Pakistani citizen, male or female, is a very humane, civilised and right-minded one. Their religion is a characteristic among others. I hope I do not have to beg you to accept that there is no condescension whatsoever involved, only a very matter-of-fact ‘appreciation’.

    Third, people are aroused at the state of affairs, and there is a lot of energy building up. This cannot go to waste.

    So the foundations are good, the people are fine and they are getting worked up enough to set things right. I believe, dear Sir, there is space for cautious optimism for outsiders; for citizens, naturally, the prescription is not to let up.

    Now all we need is a protracted spell of good luck. From an elementary study of what has happened already, this is overdue (I strongly believe, and can give you lots of evidence, that your country has had far more than its fair share of bad luck); maybe now is the moment for this long run of good luck to happen. Statistically it is overdue.

    Regarding the character and temper of people who faced each other, and heard guns fired in anger, I am afraid for the future. What I see on this side does not encourage me. I know I sound like an old fart when I say this, but the younger people are getting terribly fanatic about things; it isn’t healthy, somehow. They are very brave, fearless to a fault, extremely well-mannered when I meet them in their own messes, but their intransigence truly unnerves me. I’m not talking about civilians.

    Regarding your shrewd observation about the weather (thunder and lightning), I could hardly say it out aloud, could I? I know the chaps responsible (not personally, thank God), and that makes it worse. There are factors that I won’t discuss on an open forum.

  78. Karaya

    It is not the question of religious symbolism but religious idealism.

    Ah! Then we might be arguing at cross-purposes. I for one feel that there is little idealism in religion, much less basing a system for millions of people on religious idealism.

    But, of course, I ask you not to adopt my religious values, just to keep yours out of any political discourse.

    John Locke, the father of modern secular society, was inspired by and used Christian principles for his treatises on government.

    To the best of my limited knowledge, Locke did not dabble much in what is called secularism, or the separation of the church and the state. He was largely a proponent of liberalism et al, refuting stuff like the divine right of kings (a commie might paint him in colours a bit darker but with your harping on religion for our ideals I’ll safely assume you’re not:). For example, the founding fathers of the US of A were much influenced by him but the US, when it was founded was, what would be called today, a theocratic state.

    If the people are convinced that Islam and secularism are mutually exclusive in a Muslim majority state (this is a distinction because even the most rabid Islamists hide behind secularism in constitutionally secular Non-Muslim majority states), they will choose Islam any day of the week.

    That is a mis-representation of my point. If the people of one Abraham religion could develop secular societies of such a high calibre, then I’m sure another can–after all both believe in the same non-existent Deity.

    My point is that religion is your personal matter. Do what you want with it in your personal life. The moment it comes into the political sphere–let’s say its used to demonise a former PM–then we are treading on very thin ice. You seem to not agree with me here.

    So I am afraid it is your method that is an impossibility… and it is the insistence on this method that has led to the virtual disappearance of Muslim secularists.

    I’m afraid there is no other method for a secularist. Religion HAS to be kept out of public affairs, especially politics. Politics must only be based on cold logic, and a system founded thousands of years ago by men who claimed to talk to non-existent supernatural entities cannot be called logical.

  79. Karaya

    Boody civ,

    In other words, separation of church and state, or religion and politics, is not about annihilation of religion or uprooting of culture. It never was. Human (individual or group) values and sensibilities, and ideas, will come from religion, culture, parents, and all sorts of processes of thought and its expression and advances thereof.

    There are many arguments that could be made which show that human values and sensibilities DO NOT come from religion but that’s not my point.

    Secularism is simply about ensuring that equality before law and freedom to choose both come before religion or culture (it is not there to replace either).

    Wrong. Secularism (political) is about the running of the state using nothing but logic. By its very definition, all religions at some level or the other, try and suppress our abilities to think logically–because all religions are about belief, which, unlike logic, is unencumbered by prosaic matters such as, say, proof.

    Of course, using religion to harness the political energies of people is a very tempting option and many have done it too. But it’s like playing with fire–one wrong move and the monsters out of control.

  80. bonobashi


    Would it be correct to assume that your Point of View with regard to these issues that you have discussed in your last three posts is philosophical, or perhaps based on political science concepts, and not historical?

    It seems so to me, and I wanted to confirm it before commenting.

    As you will appreciate, there will be some differences in point of view, depending on which of the three approaches is the basis or foundation.

  81. hayyer48

    Karaya: YLH was talking about the reality of it; not of the potential ideal, but of the realistic ideal, confusing though it may seem. You cannot pursue an idea to its ideal purist perfection in the real world- except in the text books of western academia. Even in India, or rather, equally in India an academic stating bald facts about, say Sivaji, or beef eating by ancient Hindus, or the Sikh Gure Gobind Singh’s compromises with Aurangzeb, gets threats to his life. It must be worse in Pakistan at the moment.
    D-A-N. The Siachen fiasco was the handiwork of two Indian generals-the corps commander in Sringar and the Northern Army Commander in Udhampur. The fault was partly Pakistan’s. These local commanders would not let western tourists cross a self imposed ‘inner line’ for certain areas in the Nubra Valley north of Leh, even when cleared by the Delhi authorities. Some of the more resourceful of these tourists would then go over to Islamabad where the Pak Army would facilitate their visits to the same areas. Siachen was of particular fascination to these tourists. Later these tourists would go back and write about the comparative treatment by the two armies and show the area as Pak dominated.
    This must have happened once too often. Early one year, 1984, it was, India occupied the heights of the Siachen glacier vacated by the Pakistani soldiers for the winter. Ever since your army has been trying to get them back.
    Why they bother I dont know. It is of no strategic significance whatsoever.
    Musharraf played a similar trick on India in 1998. He occupied the ridges along the LOC in Kargil which the Indian Army vacated for the winter at heights of 15000 ft and above. So we had the Kargil war.
    Both Siachen and Kargil are costs the two countries pay for giving generals their head in matters beyond their understanding.

  82. PMA

    Yasser: Please read this. It will only take few minutes of your time.

    Islamic Revolution of Pakistan

    April 17, 2009
    Taliban Exploit Class Rifts in Pakistan

    The Taliban have advanced deeper into Pakistan by engineering a class revolt that
    exploits profound fissures between a small group of wealthy landlords and their landless tenants, according to government officials and analysts here. The strategy cleared a path to power for the Taliban in the Swat Valley, where the government allowed Islamic law to be imposed this week, and it carries broad dangers for the rest of Pakistan, particularly the militants’ main goal, the populous heartland of Punjab Province. In Swat, accounts from those who have fled now make clear that the Taliban seized control by pushing out about four dozen landlords who held the most power. To do so, the militants organized peasants into armed gangs that became their shock troops, the residents, government officials and analysts said. The approach allowed the Taliban to offer economic spoils to people frustrated with lax and corrupt government even as the militants imposed a strict form of Islam through terror and intimidation. “This was a bloody revolution in Swat,” said a senior Pakistani official who oversees Swat, speaking on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation by the Taliban. “I wouldn’t be surprised if it sweeps the established order of Pakistan.” The Taliban’s ability to exploit class divisions adds a new dimension to the insurgency and is raising alarm about the risks to Pakistan, which remains largely feudal. Unlike India after independence in 1947, Pakistan maintained a narrow landed upper class that kept its vast holdings while its workers remained subservient, the officials and analysts said. Successive Pakistani governments have since failed to provide land reform and even the most basic forms of education and health care. Avenues to advancement for the vast majority of rural poor do not exist. Analysts and other government officials warn that the strategy executed in Swat is easily transferable to Punjab, saying that the province, where militant groups are already showing strength, is ripe for the same social upheavals that have convulsed Swat and the tribal areas. Mahboob Mahmoob, a Pakistani-American lawyer and former classmate of President Obama’s, said, “The people of Pakistan are psychologically ready for a revolution.” Sunni militancy is taking advantage of deep class divisions that have long festered in Pakistan, he said. “The militants, for their part, are promising more than just proscriptions on music and schooling,” he said. “They are also promising Islamic justice, effective government and economic redistribution.” The Taliban strategy in Swat, an area of 1.3 million people with fertile orchards, vast plots of timber and valuable emerald mines, unfolded in stages over five years, analysts said. The momentum of the insurgency built in the past two years, when the Taliban, reinforced by seasoned fighters from the tribal areas with links to Al Qaeda, fought the Pakistani Army to a standstill, said a Pakistani intelligence agent who works in the Swat region. The insurgents struck at any competing point of power: landlords and elected leaders — who were usually the same people — and an underpaid and unmotivated police force, said Khadim Hussain, a linguistics and communications professor at Bahria University in Islamabad, the capital. At the same time, the Taliban exploited the resentments of the landless tenants, particularly the fact that they had many unresolved cases against their bosses in a slow-moving and corrupt justice system, Mr. Hussain and residents who fled the area said. Their grievances were stoked by a young militant, Maulana Fazlullah, who set up an FM radio station in 2004 to appeal to the disenfranchised. The broadcasts featured easy-to-understand examples using goats, cows, milk and grass. By 2006, Mr. Fazlullah had formed a ragtag force of landless peasants armed by the Taliban, said Mr. Hussain and former residents of Swat. At first, the pressure on the landlords was subtle. One landowner was pressed to take his son out of an English-speaking school offensive to the Taliban. Others were forced to make donations to the Taliban.Then, in late 2007, Shujaat Ali Khan, the richest of the landowners, his brothers and his son, Jamal Nasir, the mayor of Swat, became targets. After Shujaat Ali Khan, a senior politician in the Pakistan Muslim League-Q, narrowly missed being killed by a roadside bomb, he fled to London. A brother, Fateh Ali Mohammed, a former senator, left, too, and now lives in Islamabad. Mr. Nasir also fled. Later, the Taliban published a “most wanted” list of 43 prominent names, said Muhammad Sher Khan, a landlord who is a politician with the Pakistan Peoples Party, and whose name was on the list. All those named were ordered to present themselves to the Taliban courts or risk being killed, he said. “When you know that they will hang and kill you, how will you dare go back there?” Mr. Khan, hiding in Punjab, said in a telephone interview. “Being on the list meant ‘Don’t come back to Swat.’ ” One of the main enforcers of the new order was Ibn-e-Amin, a Taliban commander from the same area as the landowners, called Matta. The fact that Mr. Amin came from Matta, and knew who was who there, put even more pressure on the landowners, Mr. Hussain said. According to Pakistani news reports, Mr. Amin was arrested in August 2004 on suspicion of having links to Al Qaeda and was released in November 2006. Another Pakistani intelligence agent said Mr. Amin often visited a madrasa in North Waziristan, the stronghold of Al Qaeda in the tribal areas, where he apparently received guidance. Each time the landlords fled, their tenants were rewarded. They were encouraged to cut down the orchard trees and sell the wood for their own profit, the former residents said. Or they were told to pay the rent to the Taliban instead of their now absentee bosses. Two dormant emerald mines have reopened under Taliban control. The militants have announced that they will receive one-third of the revenues. Since the Taliban fought the military to a truce in Swat in February, the militants have deepened their approach and made clear who is in charge. When provincial bureaucrats visit Mingora, Swat’s capital, they must now follow the Taliban’s orders and sit on the floor, surrounded by Taliban bearing weapons, and in some cases wearing suicide bomber vests, the senior provincial official said. In many areas of Swat the Taliban have demanded that each family give up one son for training as a Taliban fighter, said Mohammad Amad, executive director of a nongovernmental group, the Initiative for Development and Empowerment Axis. A landlord who fled with his family last year said he received a chilling message last week. His tenants called him in Peshawar, the capital of North-West Frontier Province, which includes Swat, to tell him his huge house was being demolished, he said in an interview here. The most crushing news was about his finances. He had sold his fruit crop in advance, though at a quarter of last year’s price. But even that smaller yield would not be his, his tenants said, relaying the Taliban message. The buyer had been ordered to give the money to the Taliban instead.

  83. Karaya


    Let me assume that you were asking me whether my views exist only in the realm of the theoretical or have they any uses practically.

    Well, swapnavasavdutta has provided a bit of an answer, although the poor chap has, to some extent, caught the wrong end of the stick. In my opinion, secularism has many practical applications and benefits.

    It is a rule of thumb that societies which are more secular do better, on almost all fronts other than sorcery, than those which are not–it can’t get more practical than that

  84. yasserlatifhamdani


    We discussed this article from New York Times. It just re-affirmed a position I have taken many times- that NYT is lacking when it comes to understanding Pakistan.

  85. Bloody Civilian


    This move from ‘sorcery’ to ‘logic’, do you wish it done at the evolutionary pace that the secular states of today’s europe and the west did it, not infrequently involving genocide over a few centuries, or at stalin’s or mao’s pace, or something more moderate? Much faster than the pioneers but slower and more organic (and therefore more meaningful/lasting) than the fascists (disguised as communists)?

  86. Bloody Civilian


    Mian Ifitkhar Hussain’s despicable slandering of Samar Minallah – his own erstwhile comrade’s daughter – is how low the ANP has stooped.

    But I felt that others who share the blame must also be named. Used up much bandwidth. Well, I’ve done it now. 🙂

  87. yasserlatifhamdani

    Dutta sb,

    We’ve discussed Jinnah/Gandhi else where. Needless to say you are absolutely wrong in your view … and Gandhi use of religion only divided the people -you should read some impartial history instead of the repeating the same myths that have been taught on both sides of the border … and as for your claim that Jinnah divided the people with it, it is not borne out with fact. If anything, Jinnah united Hindus and Muslims in 1916 (the only time Hindus and Muslims were united on political platform- where as Gandhi’s khilafat movement united them on an artificial ground of religious unity which was to break and Gandhi knew it would break) and then a deeply theologically divided Muslim community by keeping theology and religious questions out of the discourse. In both instances, Jinnah’s personal secular outlook was his greatest political advantage… had he been a more observant Muslim in the first instance, he would have joined the Muslim reactionaries instead of being the first rate Congressman that he was… and had he been a more observant Muslim in the second instance, he would be rejected by some sect or the other in the Muslim community.

    Achyuth Patwardhan, one of the Socialist stalwarts in the Congress, has given a remarkably candid and self critical analysis of the Congress Party vis-a-vis Khilafat:

    ‘It is, however, useful to recognise our share of this error of misdirection. To begin with, I am convinced that looking back upon the course of development of the freedom movement, THE ‘HIMALAYAN ERROR’ of Gandhiji’s leadership was the support he extended on behalf of the Congress and the Indian people to the Khilafat Movement at the end of the World War I. This has proved to be a disastrous error which has brought in its wake a series of harmful consequences. On merits, it was a thoroughly reactionary step. The Khilafat was totally unworthy of support of the Progressive Muslims. Kemel Pasha established this solid fact by abolition of the Khilafat. The abolition of the Khilafat was widely welcomed by enlightened Muslim opinion the world over and Kemel was an undoubted hero of all young Muslims straining against Imperialist domination. But apart from the fact that Khilafat was an unworthy reactionary cause, Mahatma Gandhi had to align himself with a sectarian revivalist Muslim Leadership of clerics and maulvis. He was thus unwittingly responsible for jettisoning sane, secular, modernistleadership among the Muslims of India and foisting upon the Indian Muslims a theocratic orthodoxy of the Maulvis. Maulana Mohammed Ali’s speeches read today appear strangely incoherent and out of tune with the spirit of secular political freedom. The Congress Movement which released the forces of religious liberalism and reform among the Hindus, and evoked a rational scientific outlook, placed the Muslimsof India under the spell of orthodoxy and religious superstition by their support to the Khilafat leadership. Rationalist leaders like Jinnah were rebuffed by this attitude of Congress and Gandhi. This is the background of the psychological rift between Congress and the Muslim League’

    This made the religious identities non-negotiable. So let us not be naive as to suggest something as simplistic and historically inaccurate as Gandhi “united” and Jinnah “divided”. That view has long been discarded by historians.

  88. PMA

    “NYT is lacking when it comes to understanding Pakistan.”

    Of course. Thanks for the time though. After all Aabeseen would be the new border between Pakistan and Pashtunistan as Sarhadi Gandhi wanted all along. Only this time under Taliban control. Wonder what blood sucking Khans and Sardars have to say about that.

  89. Karaya

    Bloody Civ,

    This move from ’sorcery’ to ‘logic’, do you wish it done at the evolutionary pace that the secular states of today’s europe and the west did it, not infrequently involving genocide over a few centuries, or at stalin’s or mao’s pace, or something more moderate?

    Do you think by avoiding secularism you will avoid ‘gencocides’? The Indian sub-continent has avoided secularism for much of the twentieth century, both during British rule and after 1947–did it help? The place has seen more mass killing, often encouraged by the State in the name of religion, than almost any other place on Earth.

    Compare the death toll of the godless Chinese with the religion loving Indians, Pakistanis and of course the Bangladeshis. If this ‘slower’ and ‘more organic’ way of introducing secularism is causing these many deaths, surely you’d feel there’s something wrong? That’s not to say that I condone the totalitarian nature of the Chinese state. It’s just that by pandering to religion you are encouraging even worse forms of totalitarianism to take root. If tomorrow the Chinese state falls, within a generation people would forget about communism. But because of the utter and irrational grip that religion often has on people, it’s much more difficult to root out than other forms of outdated thought. Thus I say, nip it in the bud–shut it out of politics and let it not be called at the high-table of power.

    I am sorry if my words chafe, but even if now Pakistan does not turn to secularism there might not be a next time.

  90. yasserlatifhamdani

    Bloody civilian,

    Ha ha… apparently you are trying to “avoid” secularism yaar. Somebody please send this memo to Kashif Hafeez Siddiqui of Ummat who is denouncing us as “secularist left leaning liberal extremist taliban”. Ofcourse he won’t attack this fellow… this fellow is merely confirming what those guys have been saying.

    Vis a vis Karaya… It is an absolute waste of time, especially when he has asked me to keep my “religious views out of public discourse”. Maybe he too is recipient of some divine revelation to know what they are… frankly I don’t – maybe he can tell me.

    The point that I tried to make was that people of Pakistan are religious… and most secular states have emerged out of religious necessity. Furthermore in the Islamic world the most successful secular example is Turkey… and I have already quoted Ataturk’s appeals to Islam at every critical juncture where he sought to secularize Turkey.

    The history of separation of church and state in Europe and the US has emerged directly out of religious necessity. He says that John Locke didn’t write much about “secularism” … but forgets that when John Locke extracted from Christian concepts the “true end of government” as being a social contract, he essentially laid the foundation for state’s impartiality towards faith… that the state of Rhode Island in US was founded by a break away clergyman who escaped persecution in Boston … and that clergyman was amongst the first to coin the phrase separation of church and state… that in France, it was Cardinal Richelieu – a man of religion- who founded secularism as a state principle by saying “nation is mortal- its salvation is here and now”.

    The point that people like Karaya etc don’t understand is that secular humanists don’t create secular states…. secular states create secular humanists- perhaps.

    Ironically at the end of the day, the the religious fanatics writing against this website are going to abuse me as a “liberal extremist”… because of my views. They are likely to ignore people like Karaya altogether… why? Because they know that the approach that these people put up is not even an ineffectual threat to their religious hegemony. Infact, it is akin to leaving the field open to them… My objective is separation of church and state. I will not shy away from telling my countrymen that Islam says so…

    And what I find ironic is his reference “ex-pm” who I have allegedly attacked “using religion”. That ex-PM brought Islam into the constitution. He made it the state religion. He apostasized an entire sect. He all but abrogated religious freedom in Pakistan. He laid the foundation for Zia’s Islamization. Apparently it is using “Religion” if I say that all this is against the spirit of Islam itself but what Bhutto sb did was secular.

    Then Karaya says:
    If the people of one Abraham religion could develop secular societies of such a high calibre, then I’m sure another can–after all both believe in the same non-existent Deity

    But he doesn’t want to us to follow the example of those secular societies of high calibre formed by people of the Abrahamic religion. Maybe he thinks they woke up one day and bam became “Secular societies” of “high calibre”. I have already quoted example above from Western History on how secularism came about. But suffice to say… the word secular itself was first used for “secular clergy”… clergymen/priests without a church… or who had broken away from the church.

    People like Karaya do more harm to the cause of secularism than all Taliban combined. Their absolutism – without taking into account – is either on account of genuine lack of interest in actually seeing the idea to fruition… or because of some sort of desire to prove themselves “liberal” and “secular”. Unlike these people – some of us actually want to work towards the objective of a modern secular state with equal rights for all… that is the difference.

  91. yasserlatifhamdani

    “even if now Pakistan does not turn to secularism there might not be a next time”

    Yes. And that is what we’ve been harping about. However how you want to go about it will not get us to that stage in a million years…

    I thank you for your comments. Now please don’t bother writing more because I don’t intend to allow this pointless discussion to go on when we ostensibly all stand for a secular state.

  92. Bloody Civilian


    With what has been lately happening in Pakistan – I want to stand 10 paces even further to the left of Mr Hoddhbhoy (let alone Ataturk). I would rather throw the baby out with the bath water and start all over again, from scratch. 😉


    Religion and secularism kill and have killed people. Religion is much older than secularism, so it has a lead, and an advantage of being around in more wonderfully barbaric times. Although, he 20th century they say was the bloodiest so far. Were the two world wars about religion? The 21st doesn’t look to be any better. Humans kill humans. They’ll find one excuse or another. They won’t be left wondering if religion is no more.

    You are free to call religion sorcery or hocus pocus, that’s your right under secular law. That’s exactly what the rest of us here are advocating including YLH. We stand for your right to say that. And our own too, by the way. That none of it is any business of the state. To keep religion out of the public domain.

    However, private domain does not mean underground. YLH has the same right to say, completely as an aside, ‘by the way’ kind of way, that in his understanding of the specific religion, secularism in public law (or the public domain) is ‘enjoined’ by that religion. Even if it weren’t, it won’t change the freedom and equality before law argument. Like I said, the observation he made about religion was over and above that.

    It is not a crime to say that. And it can be said from an academic or rational point of view based on the texts and body of religion. Whether you consider it hocus pocus or not, should make no difference to being able to make a rational study of one or more religions. To believe it to be hocus pocus is as bad for objectivity as it is to believe it is not. Neither make any difference, really, to a good, objective scholar.

    Not that YLH made no declaration of personal belief, one way or another. As indeed he has reiterated. It shouldn’t matter, one way or the other. Nevertheless, From your reasonable argument of keeping religion out of the public domain, I didn’t gather that you were claiming that those who privately believe in religion are inferior beings not capable of objectivity or rationality thus incapable of academic debate, research or knowledge. What will be next? For those who happen to believe in a religion to be excluded from all ‘sensitive’ jobs and academic pursuits? I really don’t see what is it that we are arguing about here.

  93. Bloody Civilian

    “no declaration” = any declaration

  94. bonobashi


    About your assumption: no, not at all. I meant it literally.

    The reason is that each of these points of departure will have led to different nuances in the point of view held finally.

    My question was as removed from practicality as one can get; it was about the theoretical springs of your stated views.

    For the purpose of argument, after looking at several of your posts, might I assume that of the three possible starting points I have suggested, you have philosophy as your base ground?

  95. bonobashi

    @Bloody Civilian

    Karaya, I’m so sorry; I hadn’t read these three last posts by YLH and Bloody Civilian. They have effectively said all that I wished to say, placed it in (historical) context and summed it up more or less as I had in mind. Anything more I say might waste time all around.

    One was amused to observe that one may set aside one’s atheistic views for the moment and with the utmost gravity and composure defend the rights of the religious. Very correct! :-)>

  96. Karaya

    Bloody Civ,

    Nevertheless, From your reasonable argument of keeping religion out of the public domain, I didn’t gather that you were claiming that those who privately believe in religion are inferior beings not capable of objectivity or rationality thus incapable of academic debate, research or knowledge

    Incorrect and not exactly my argument. Because religion is not the only thing that influences human though, although it is one of the more powerful factors if allowed space to grow.

    However, all things remaining equal, a rational human being would be superior, more objective and more knowledgeable than a man who panders to superstitions. Of that, there is little doubt.

  97. Karaya

    Maybe he too is recipient of some divine revelation to know what they are… frankly I don’t

    Your view which I don’t agree with and, more pertinantly, think that should not be there in any political discussion is: Islamic ideals are universal.

    He says that John Locke didn’t write much about “secularism” … but forgets that when John Locke extracted from Christian concepts the “true end of government” as being a social contract, he essentially laid the foundation for state’s impartiality towards faith…

    I’m afraid social contract theory is not directly related to secularism. You’ll also be surprised to know, that as Locke, specifically envisaged it, SCT did not even require democracy. In fact, it predates state secularism by quite some time. Howevrer, I am in agreement if you feel that secularism could be taken as a corollary of the theory–that, in my opinion would not be incorrect.

    Apparently it is using “Religion” if I say that all this is against the spirit of Islam itself but what Bhutto sb did was secular.

    A straw man, sir. I never did say that Bhutto was secular. I said your argument about the universality of Islamic values, and its introduction to (correctly) castigate the man was not.

    However, against the backdrop of your (largely correct) criticism of Gandhi’s use of religious identity in the public shpere it is this that I find this to be most dichotomous:

    My objective is separation of church and state. I will not shy away from telling my countrymen that Islam says so…

    As I’ve said earlier, in politics, use justifications or arguments which involve rleigion with great care. Gandhi, as you’ve correctly identified, couldn’t handle it.

    Also, since you’ve expressed you’re unwillingness to continue, let me take your leave with this post. Thank you for your time and patience and forgive me my argument seemed to centred on you personally, sir. That was not my intention. I hope to be able to partake of other discussions on this blog if allowed to by the writers/moderators.

  98. Karaya

    The last post was addressed to yasserlatifhamdani

  99. Bloody Civilian

    However, all things remaining equal, a rational human being would be superior, more objective and more knowledgeable than a man who panders to superstitions. Of that, there is little doubt.

    As long as you don’t make that ‘superiority’ a legal fact, fine. And is there no value in studying superstitions? And if the body of such superstitions include texts, literature, thought or (human) history.. are they to be considered worthless in their entirety? I am not talking of belief, since you have told us that it is private business.

    Is spirituality just another form of superstition? Does belief necessarily mean dogma? If to be liberal is to have doubt, then is agnosticism more liberal than atheism? Just like spirituality and belief is private, their definitions are also ultimately private and individual. Controlling others and vested interest is something else.

    In Britain they did a survey recently, I think 20% claimed to be Christian but almost 80% claimed to be ‘spiritual’ (whatever each respodent took the word to mean). But you can keep elucidating and ellaborating your thoughts and lobbying for what you believe.

    In the Third World there are two distinct debates

    1. secularism vs theocracy

    2. atheism vs religion

    The first is a matter of survival. The second may be about further progress but, right now, is likely to make the first much more difficult.

    Moreover, to an agnostic, especially, the second may not be any different than a religion A vs religion B debate. An agnostics keeps an open mind about not just the future but also the scope of science. On the other hand, to an atheist agnosticism may be no better than religion. But at least agnosticism does not have the ‘controlling others’, ‘vested interest’ and ‘superior than others’ that you can see not just amongst many followers of various religions.

    The above is just an academic debate. This is not the place to have a fuller debate no.2. But I think a few of the people here have already mentioned the urgency of having debate no.1.

  100. Gorki

    Karaya, you wrote:
    “For example, the founding fathers of the US of A were much influenced by him (Locke) but the US, when it was founded was, what would be called today, a theocratic state”.

    I am not sure I agree with the above statement.
    Unless you mean that in practice, parts of the US were non-secular; I think you may be too harsh in describing the US as a theocracy, because that was not what the founding fathers felt their nation was to be. In fact they went to a great length to specify that the nation they were founding would have a decidedly neutral character in regards to matters of the faith.

    For example the issue of religion was specifically addressed by James Madison in a speech on June 8, 1789, when the debating the First Amendment as follows:

    “The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in any manner, or on any pretext, infringed”.

    Madison was not alone in his thoughts. His speech followed proposals made by delegates from several states regarding religious freedom as follows:

    New Hampshire: Congress shall make no laws touching religion, or to infringe the rights of conscience.
    Virginia: That religion, or the duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence, and therefore all men have an equal, natural and unalienable right to the exercise of religion according to the dictates of conscience, and that no particular sect or society ought to be favored or established by law in preference to others.
    New York: That the people have an equal, natural, and unalienable right freely and peaceably to exercise their religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and that no religious sect or society ought to be favored or established by law in preference to others.

    After the debate these proposals were whittled down to the religion clauses of the 1st Amendment as follows:

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”.

    After the amendment was passed Thomas Jefferson, (he was in France when these proceedings were taking place) wrote these memorable words is a letter to an associate:

    “Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his god, [the people, in the 1st Amendment,] declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state”.

    Thus what part of the US constitution do you interpret to be in support a theocracy?

    (Personally I believe, this is exactly the kind of a separation of the religion and state Jinnah had in his mind when he gave an extempore speech to its constituent assembly on August 11th 1947.
    It is one of the great tragedies of the 20th century that he died before he could spell out these thoughts in the constitution of Pakistan.)

  101. yasserlatifhamdani


    Your problem is that in your bid to prove yourself secular, liberal and what not, you are willing to blind yourself to the reality… which is that it is NOT my argument that Islamic ideals are universal, it is the absolute belief of the people who we wish to convince of the usefulness of a secular democracy.

    Your description of the United States of America during the generation of the founding fathers as a “theocratic” state has ended the argument because this is historically untrue and Gorki has already shown you why.

    I do concur that Gandhi’s introduction of religion to mobilize the people was the original sin (and I have criticized this more than anyone else)… and made religious identity non-negotiable. However this was the only way masses could have been stirred… Gandhi used Khilafat and Hindu religious symbolism to stir up Hindus and Muslims. This made religious identity non-negotiable.

    Pakistan was a moderate Muslim society till 1977’s PNA movement (which ironically included secular nationalists like the ANP and ex-Congress supporters like Maulana Mufti Mahmood) and the Zia regime, it has slowly evolved into a society unable to accept criticism of Islam… So there is no other way.

  102. Bloody Civilian

    “not just the future but also the scope of science” = not just the future but also the present scope of science.

    This, again, is about the less necessary debate. But what I was trying to say was: Are there things tagential or even orthogonal to science, within the realm of human experience, thought and emotion? This does not affect the more important debate since we agree that the public domain belongs to science and reason only.

    In any case, the question is as good as rhetorical, since, if the answer were to be ‘No’, that would require having to prove a negative. ‘Yes’, would require proof which is not quite scientific. So, as far as science is concerned, the question does not exist. Yet, is it really that important for Dawkin or Sagan to claim ‘superiority’ over the Dalai Lama? Or, to try and prove the reverse claim? I am not talking of any one’s view of Dawkin’s argument being valid or superior. I don’t know if the Dalai Lama even claims to have an argument. Does that belittle him or his contribution? He isn’t perfect. Stalin wasn’t either. The human experience is richer than just our capacity for scientific argument at any given point in time.

    There are many a human inspiration that science may be better able to explain than provide. If a thing other than science can inspire, and allow a contribution to be made, why insist so singularly and vehemently on rejecting and rubbishing it? Rejecting blind faith does not have to mean rubbishing the whole value and belief system and the culture and history associated with it. To assume that any association with religion can only be through submission to blind faith is a rather sweeping assumption.

    Ok, I’ll admit that I write this, and the last post, during breaks from a rather intense work routine at present, in an attempt to completely distract my mind from my work.. so that I can return to it with a fresh mind. I apologise for using up bandwidth for such a selfish reason. So I promise to desist in future. 🙂

  103. SV

    “Yet, is it really that important for Dawkin or Sagan to claim ’superiority’ over the Dalai Lama?”

    Sir , religious dogma has long gone unchallenged. Dickie Dawkins and Carl Sagan (pbuh) have the right, nay, the duty to take on religion and psuedo-science, whether it is from a taliban nutjob or a benign old Nobel laureate.

    Science does not claim to have the answers for everything, but it teaches you to think. I can not think of any religion that does that.

  104. Karaya


    I am in agreement with quite a bit of your post. However, it must be understood that at the time of its formation the US was not a secular state in the modern sense of the term, although with people like Jefferson at the helm it would ascend very quickly on the path to becoming one.

    For example, for till even after the death of Jefferson, quite few US States has their own state churches. I wasn’t until much later that the secularism that Jefferson spoke of was made somewhat of a legal right in the states where it really mattered (under, I think, the 14th amendment). Also, at the time of Independence, quite a few states had clauses which explicitly forbade people of certain denominations from holding public office.

    P.S: In all probability, the letter of Jefferson that you speak of is an extremely famous one. It was written in 1802 to to the Danbury Baptists association. If there is some other letter that was written after the 1st amendment to an associate could you please provide me with some sources? I’d be very interested.

  105. Karaya


    Your problem is that in your bid to prove yourself secular, liberal and what not, you are willing to blind yourself to the reality… which is that it is NOT my argument that Islamic ideals are universal, it is the absolute belief of the people who we wish to convince of the usefulness of a secular democracy.

    I apologise if I misread the sentence which talks about ‘universal and Islamic ideals’.

    Your defence of the Gandhian use of religious symbolism is where, I think, we majorly differ: “However this was the only way masses could have been stirred” is your opinion of the the use of religions symbolism in politics. I feel it must not be so.

    As you have correctly pointed out we share a common aim (in spite of a disagreement of how to get there), of a secular state. Let us hope our aims and, in the process, the people of Pakistan, succeed.

  106. yasserlatifhamdani

    Oh my my … did you just accuse me of defending Gandhi ?

    I’ll like the record to reflect that I have been accused of defending Gandhi.

  107. Karaya


    Well, if you think that Gandhi was faced with a Hobson’s choice when trying to stir India’s masses then, yes, I would construe that as a defence of Gandhi’s methods.

    Because that immediately makes Gandhi’s method the only method.

    In my opinion using religion to achieve your aims or even buttress it by claiming validation from religion (Islam in the critique of Bhutto, Hinduism to drive out the British) would lead to “complete disorganistaion and chaos”.

  108. yasserlatifhamdani

    No. That is not my point. It is a pointless exercise now.

  109. Bloody Civilian

    would lead to “complete disorganistaion and chaos”.

    And we used to use such a long winded way of saying the same thing. Recounting every single major event that doomed all chances of good sense, accomodation of the other and co-existence to prevail in India, starting from Jinnah being forced to draw a line in the sand in 1920 and warning that what Gandhi had unleashed was going to touch the lives of every single individual Indian. It did. Complete disorganisation and chaos.

    But how it touched YLH’s life at 3:38pm today, was priceless 😉

  110. hayyer 48

    Karaya:Can you think of anything that moves the mass sentiments of the people of this benighted sub-continent apart from religion. Marx may work in Bengal and Kerala. Elsewhere, there are no issues of a genuine political identity except those of religion and language. The identity problem of the sub-continent continues to linger. Only the Bengalis in Bangladesh seem to have solved it; and the Kashmiri Muslims of the valley think they have. What moves the states of India and their residents nowadays is not even religion so much as how large a share of central grants they can lay claim to and spend on, ostensibly, provisioning of public goods.
    Gandhi lectured about the ends not justifying the means. So, if he was using religion for political mobilization he was either being ethically blind or ethically challenged. If the latter then YLH’s reputation is safe.
    If politics is the art of the possible, which I think it is, then Gandhi was a consummate politician, for some of the time anyway. As a wise man once said-you cant fool all the people all the time. Gandhi nearly did. He was playing it both ways right till the end. The old hypocrite made the razmatazz about ethics his life long career.
    However, your concern was I think that only those innocent of religion, not even agnostics but genuine atheists can be honest secularists. If so, then your view is an extreme one. People can believe in a deity without wanting public life to be affected by it. We are not concerned in this context with the logical purity of the life one is living; only what is practicable. Some believers find their beliefs incomplete unless they carry them, by force, if necessary, into the public domain. That applies surely to atheists as well as to deists.
    Many years ago, as a student, hearing a debate in my college in Calcutta we wildly cheered a lawyer, later a leading political figure, arguing that was politically right need not be morally wrong. Probably not, but too often it is. On the other hand what is morally right is not necessarily politically right.
    We are far afield from YLH’s original post. But the gist that we can arrive at is that ethical imperatives of a modern state, irrespective of nationality and identity issues are not derived necessarily from religion, and that one can and one should, separate state and church, or churches.

  111. Bloody Civilian

    religious dogma has long gone unchallenged

    Absolutely. Hence the lines immediately after the one you quote from my post.

    I can not think of any religion that does that

    You might be thinking ‘religious dogma’ again. ‘Religion’ is nothing simpler or higher than the complex plurality of the history of millions of humans over thousands of years. Prof Hoodhbhoy’s article is one articulation of that fact.

    I have already stated my position on ‘blind faith’.

  112. Bloody Civilian

    Karaya, Hayyer 48

    Since you might be new to PTH: YLH was criticising Gandhi for being, at best, a well-meaning opportunist who failed to see the consequences of his actions. It might or might not have helped his anti-imperialist objectives, but it certainly made India’s problems worse.

    I happen to share that view. So it seems do you two.

  113. bonobashi

    @Bloody Civilian

    Never before have I dwelt so lovingly on every syllable of your nickname.

    Don’t think you are going unnoticed.

    Whatever YLH’s state of mind at 3:38, your sly little poniard thrust at 6:37 is noted.

    Does the phrase ‘agent provocateur’ mean anything to you? 😉


    Please, please tell me you are not from the missionary college.

  114. yasserlatifhamdani

    🙂 … I think Majumdar is going to have a fit when he reads this on Monday.

  115. saran


    What you say about Gandhi is absurd….its impossible to keep religion out of pollitics in india (and pakistan) and that is a fact. You might criticise gandhiji for it academically but at the end of the day anyone who has to make a political statement in the sub-continent would have to keep religion as part of his message. It doesn’t matter who it is. Whether it s staunch secularist like YLH who would always be careful to point that his vision of a secualr state is endorsed by Islam or an out and out communalist in India who would make sure that Hinduism backs up his agends. Say what you’d like but as people have already said on this board the only way to bring the masses into India’s politics was to use Gandhi’s method of using religion.

  116. hayyer 48

    BC: I don’t take as generous a view of Gandhi as YLH does. My comment on Gandhi’s ethics was in the same vein as yours.
    Despite the propaganda of the Indian government from 1947 of the holiness of Gandhi and their constant propagation of his sanctity there are not may buyers of his methodology in India. And this means not just the far right Hindus. Non violence apart there are other aspects of his praxis that does not appeal.
    Bacha Khan on a longish visit to India in 1969 remarked famously ‘you have forgotten Gandhi’. Thank God we have!It would be a shame to produce an unending line of pretentious moralists.
    The far right never liked Gandhi. The genuine liberals never owned him. Post 47′ he was and is, though decreasingly so, an iconic figure; but his initial splendour, AD, owes more to Congress government propaganda than the merit of his politics.
    He is responsible, with his maudlin religiosity for much of the present evil. The line that the Congress was following before Gandhi set foot in India, with Jinnah in the vanguard could conceivably, have led to a better future for the peoples of the sub-continent.
    Indian secularists should note. How and when did that arch secularist and prime disciple of Gandhi’s religious mumbo-jumbo, schooled in Harrow and with a Tripos from Cambridge become ‘Pandit’ Nehru. Who decided to prefix that honorific to his name. Was it his father, Motilal? And, if Nehru was such a genuine modernist why did he never ask to be referred to as plain old Jawaharlal. Was he in competition with other with other Brahmins like Pandit Gobind Ballabh Pant of the Hindu right?

  117. Bloody Civilian

    Does the phrase ‘agent provocateur’ mean anything to you?

    A well-meaning opportunist? 😉

  118. yasserlatifhamdani

    “I don’t take as generous a view of Gandhi as YLH does.”

    lol Hayyer are you being naughty 🙂 if you don’t mind my saying so? Or are you planning on giving Majumdar a heart attack from shock ? I agree with everything you’ve written ofcourse. It is a great tragedy that it could not come about.

  119. PMA

    hayyer 48: I was just going to read the comments without making one till this one line of yours jumped out:

    “Only the Bengalis in Bangladesh seem to have solved [national identity problem] it; and the Kashmiri Muslims of the valley think they have.”

    So ‘One-Nation India’ in case of each ethnic group must be divided twice before the sub-continental nationality problems could be solved. Perhaps Indian involvement in Balochistan is another exercise in ‘solving’ these nasty nationality problems. And under that logic please explain how the problem of Kashmiri Muslims has been solved. After all Kashmir Valley is still an ‘attoot ang’ of the Indian Union. Unless the principal applies only to India’s neighbors and not herself.

  120. PMA

    hayyer 48: I used to wonder why Gandhi ran around as half naked faqir. He was trying to pretend as a Hindu Holy man (sadhu) of course. The father of Indian secularism was above religion and its divisive nature!

  121. Karaya

    Bloody civ,

    Since you might be new to PTH: YLH was criticising Gandhi for being, at best, a well-meaning opportunist who failed to see the consequences of his actions.

    Yes, I am new here. That is maybe why I don’t get the reason for people on this board are castigating Gandhi for his religiosity in the freedom struggle while simultaneously condoning religious arguments to enforce secularism in Pakistan today. In the second instance, everything from the piety of Pakistan’s people to the compatibility of Islam with secularism is bought out, with a purely secular argument being decried as being impractical. I assume the people of united India weren’t religious of there is a special trait that exists in the religion of Islam that is absent from the other forms of faith prevalent around the sub-continent.

    Either ways, it’s all quite odd.

  122. Bloody Civilian


    I am suitably ashamed.


    That is why I tried to differentiate between religion and dogma, irrationality and intolerance, rationality and the abstract world, freedom of expression and freedom to choose, secularism and tolerance.. etc. I guess I was splitting hairs. But perhaps you can see examples here of the difference between argument and vitriol, criticism of an act and condemnation of a person, disagreement and hate. That is what I was trying to guard against. The very worthy, necessary and long overdue challenege and battle that you suggested degenerating in to this. Again, perhaps I was wrong.

  123. bonobashi

    @Bloody Civilian

    Ashamedness noted and approved. Carry on.

    Actually, don’t.

    A couple of posts later, you were pursing your lips and noting that AK47 was getting sarcastic. That is because it seems that a perfectly legitimate intellectual enquiry, of some rigour and severity, not very flattering in effect, is beginning to tip over into the personal, into, in fact, ad hominem attacks. I note that King George VI is now a suitable and approved authority for personal attacks on freedom fighters. That shows clearly the quality of invective that is seeking to intrude itself.

    My request is that you stand apart from this utterly deplorable, Neanderthal approach.

  124. bonobashi

    I am sorry: ‘King George VI’ should read ‘Winston Churchill’ above.

    To be precise:

    “It is alarming and also nauseating to see Mr. Gandhi, a seditious middle temple lawyer, now posing as a fakir of a type well known in the east, striding half-naked up the steps of the viceregal palace, while he is still organizing and conducting a defiant campaign of civil disobedience, to parley on equal terms with the representative of the king-emperor.”

    Comment is superfluous.

  125. SV

    @ B.Civilian,

    I get your point (although I was a little slow).

  126. yasserlatifhamdani


    What kind of logic is that? Charles Darwin did his part to liberate humanity from religious dogma by giving the theory of evolution. Gandhi on the other hand was a social conservative and a religious fellow whose impact was the exact opposite to that of Charles Darwin. Gandhi represents the sum of all unscientific attitudes.

    While Darwin has thrived in secular schools and institutions of academic learning, Gandhi has been adopted by Christianity as some sort of a saint like figure.

    I am afraid I can’t allow such idiotic arguments as you’ve put up equating someone like Charles Darwin to his exact opposite – i.e. Gandhi. Hence I am deleting your pointless, idiotic and utterly ridiculous post and putting you on spam.

  127. yasserlatifhamdani


    ref: AK-47

    It was typical obfuscation.


    It seems that you are unable to appreciate or apply your mind to what is being said. Gandhi’s religiousity (which you rightly condemned) set up the stage for non-negotiability of religious question in South Asian politics. How do you turn that clock back? You want us to employ what you call “purely secular arguments” to promote secularism and not the compatibility of it with religion, whereas once the masses were involved (rightly or wrongly) and street power became an issue in Subcontinental politics…. secularists are forced to argue on the religious plain.

    In any event, frankly only some one blind would be unable to see the difference between the argument that is being made here (which you call “non-secular” argument) and Gandhi’s religiousity.

    Gandhi used theological arguments from within religion i.e. the issue of Khilafat for Muslims, the veneration of Cow for the Hindus… the ancient religious philosophy… Gandhi used religious arguments … and declared that he was experimenting with introducing religion into politics. Gandhi’s Objective was to stir the masses and mobilize them. It was not to secularize them or convince them of secularism. Infact it was to rouse them against the “godless secular” western civilization (which Gandhi called “Ravanna Raj”) that the British represented. He used religion as a weapon of the East against the West . A similar argument is being employed – in an infinitely MORE exclusive and violent manner- by Sufi Muhammad.

    The argument that BC and I have made here is quite different. Speaking for myself, I have argued that since Islam stands for equality, fraternity and justice for all people, these universal principles (universal here means not limited to Islam) will only be implemented if all theocratic and theological points of view (Islam or otherwise) are left out of the constitution. There is absolutely NO reference to any theological issue- Khilafat, cow, etc etc The Objective – in contrast to the above- is to convince a religious population of the necessity of Secularism from their religious point of view. The argument here is that the principle of the separation of church and state and the pillars of western civilization are in no way a contravention to Islamic ideals that most of this population believes in. It is not a weapon nor is some argument rooted in superiority of Islam etc etc… but the Universality of Western Secularism and its compatibility with all people – religious or otherwise

    The argument here is purely secular. It has not even the remotest similarity to Gandhi’s use of religion(s) to mobilize the masses. If you can’t see that then I pity you and your understanding.

  128. yasserlatifhamdani


    Hayyer is an Indian- a secular, liberal and presumably left-leaning… I have not paid him or coordinated with him. He and I have profound disagreements on many issues.

    Your comment (which has now been deleted) is malafide and unfair because I didn’t blame Gandhi for anything here… infact I was accused of defending him (because I said that the only way masses could be stirred was what Gandhi did)

    I am not going to let you hijack this discussion as is your wont and turn it into some sort of an idiotic sparring match on the issue. Either grow up and read the discussion in its proper context or refrain from arguing like a crazed maniac.

  129. Bloody Civilian


    I’ll try, fully aware that my effort is unlikely to be any more worthy or any less hopeless than Gulliver’s in the country of the Houyhnhnms. Like him, I too carry baggage that will take at least a lifetime to shed. But it’s a worthy effort to try and keep pushing the baggage out of sight, and, simultaneously, keep trying to spot and narrow down the blindspots.

  130. Bloody Civilian


    If you can kindly edit out the quote or delete my post from 2:11am, I’d be very grateful. Thanks.

  131. bonobashi

    @Bloody Civilian

    That is why I tried to differentiate between religion and dogma, irrationality and intolerance, rationality and the abstract world, freedom of expression and freedom to choose, secularism and tolerance.. etc. I guess I was splitting hairs. But perhaps you can see examples here of the difference between argument and vitriol, criticism of an act and condemnation of a person, disagreement and hate. That is what I was trying to guard against. The very worthy, necessary and long overdue challenege and battle that you suggested degenerating in to this. Again, perhaps I was wrong.

    You were not splitting hairs. You were articulating in very clear terms the position of all of us who are of good intention on this forum, led by YLH. This really sums it up.

    Even in my ramshackle state of mind, I have a long post on secularism, its origins (contra Karaya), its impact on Pakistan (pro Jinnah) and its disposition and propagation in India. If I am able to summon up the mental strength, I shall, perhaps by evening.

  132. Karaya


    Thank you for that well elucidated post.

    Let us hope that people such as yourself will one day, be able to “turn the clock back” and secularists will not be “forced to argue on the religious plain[sic]”.


  133. Gorki

    I too want to add a few words regarding Gandhi who has been criticized rather severely by almost everyone in the above discussion.

    First I admit like YLH (when he was accused of supporting Gandhi) that Gandhi was non secular and used religion as a weapon of choice for a fight back against a superior power of the advanced and industrialized world power of the day; Britain.

    I want to clarify that I do not consider him holy or anything more than a brilliant (but ethical) politician.

    I also want to furhter state that I find his personal beliefs regarding health, social issues, marriage, sex, economic policies etc. (which he insisted upon his hapless family members and his close followers) maddening and completely absurd.

    So why do I want to defend him?

    Perhaps because like Mark Antony, I feel that:
    “The evil that men do lives after them;
    The good is oft interred with their bones” 😉

    Seriously I think I need to stand up a little for the man who may have been criticized much more in the above discussion than he deserved.
    Also because I think we have to be objective and try to stand back an analyze the reasons why he became an icon, not only in India but in places as far off as Mandela’s South Africa and ML King’s America.

    Above all, IMHO Gandhian methods may still be relevant today when a helpless people find themselves facing oppression and racism from another who have a disproportionately superior military force but are bent on crushing all spirit and hope; like say in modern Palestine.

    So here we go:

    1. Gandhi led his impoverished countrymen in a struggle against a racist regime under very difficult circumstances with very little going for him. He had to lead a mostly illiterate population which spoke several languages. All means of communications and propaganda; radio, wireless, press, postal service and railways, were controlled by a hostile government. His people had very little experience of thinking together as one, as a united nation; ever before. Religious traditions were one of the few things that most of them could relate to.
    2. The nation was very poor and divisions were further compounded by caste, religious divisions etc. Under these circumstances, any secular non violent message had little chance of getting any traction.
    Even formulating such a secular argument and a message would have been near impossible. Thus religion by default became one of the few vehicles available to him to spread his vision with. It was a miracle that he could not only formulate a clear message but also line up so many behind that simple message.
    3. While he did indeed use religion; he nevertheless tried to bring out the best from all religious traditions (rather than Hinduism alone). Further he brought out the best rather than the worst out of these others and from his own.
    Thus Gandhi very successfully transplanted\grafted the non violent aspects of Judeo Christian tradition into an Indian setting; and then tried to make it a dominant and enduring creed of his own people.
    4. By challenging the technological superiority of the British with a moral argument, he placed his followers essentially as equals with the British and he forced the enemy; to fight the battle of Gandhi’s choosing.
    5. Gandhi went to great lengths to avoid demagoguery and to not demonize the enemy; his inner circle and keen followers instinctively knew that it was the British Empire rather than the white man who was the enemy.
    6. In the immediate aftermath of an untidy partition and hostilities of Kashmir, he alone of all the Indian leaders, refused to demonize Pakistan.

    For all his failings, and his sins of omission and commission against people and issues (Jinnah, Dalits, Ambedkar, use of religion) one (unconfirmed) anecdote about him make me bow my head to him still.

    In the fifties, Nehru went to England and met Churchill, who by then had become quite a fan of Nehru’s. Churchill asked Nehru how long had he been in the British jails.
    Nehru counted a dozen odd years. Churchill was quiet for about a minute and then said rather humbly, “You Indians must really hate us then.”
    Nehru is said to have said “No, I do not since when we were fighting the British Empire, we were led by a man who taught us two things.
    Don’t be afraid of anybody and don’t hate anybody. Thus we (Indians) were not afraid of you British then, and we do not hate you now”.

    Any one man, who can inspire such an answer, deserves my respect.

    Thus I can declare unashamedly that If I could meet Gandhi, I would ask him to keep his theories on religion; on the sacred cow;, on the healing powers of mud etc. all to himself, I don’t want to hear them.
    But then I would touch his feet. (And no I am not a Hindu or even very religious person).

    So YLH, Bonobashi, BC, Majumdar and others.
    This is a short version of my post; the long version is available for a private discussion for any masochist willing to engage in one. ;-).

  134. bonobashi


    Oh, I too; let there be no ambiguity about that.

    His methods are repugnant today; that they stirred India into unprecedented mobilisation around a popular cause and in a manner which the overlords could not combat very gracefully, without looking like absolute idiots, is undeniable.

    The historical context is important. We are talking about a period not more than 80 years from the time that our overlords were blowing mutineers from the mouths of cannon, and hanging entire villages for the crime of having been on their line of march. At this time, Subhash Bose would not have succeeded; Anushilan and Jugantar, and Bagha Jatin tried and did not succeed. We needed to mobilise, but without allowing the British a grip on us.

    This was Gandhi’s political contribution: to convert a soporific annual gathering into a mass movement. Surely the political and mobilisational skills deserve respect.

    In case these matters seem distant from Pakistan and its roots, on the contrary, it seems to me to be of immediate and direct relevance; this mobilisation is what showed the way to countless other movements, some before, more after independence.

    Regarding Gandhi’s religiosity, this seems, again, bizarre and outrageous to us today. It was certainly not bizarre and outrageous yesterday, three generations ago. What it shows us is that we are unhistorical; we are judging people of that time by the hugely different standards of today.

    Because we all find Jinnah a far more modern figure, one with whom we can empathise readily and who appeals to our sensitised awareness of what we now call ‘civil society’, because of our post-facto awareness of the huge risks that Gandhi’s extra-legal methods carried with them, risks almost as deadly as the opposite end of the spectrum represented with its unbridled violence and refusal to listen to any voice but its own, we tend to reject Gandhi wholesale. This is unhistorical, I repeat; each age has to be judged by its own standards. Ironically, this is the argument used by Romila Thapar when refuting the Hindu revisionists on the subject of the nature of Muslim interaction with India in pre-Mughal times. How delicious that the same argument should prove to be useful to defend a votary of non-violence who made the mistake of seeking to co-opt fundamentalists from another religion, in the vain hope of unity, and without taking into consideration the consequences of such an alliance.

    I believe that constructive criticism of Gandhi’s role and methods is not only possible, but desirable. For too long have we abdicated our own capacity to judge for ourselves, and swallowed the conventional wisdom handed out to us without question. My personal journey in search of an authentic Jinnah started with my father’s memoirs, where he described from the point of view of an Imperial policeman how the extra-legal methods of the Gandhian movement effectively gave rise to a multitude of similar movements in later years, which could not be stopped because of their resonance with the methods with which the fathers of our country won independence for us. But this inevitably frayed the fabric of law-abiding practice thin, and the destruction that followed was the greatest threat that India faces today.

    Having said that, the good elements of Gandhi’s tactics, for the times prevailing, for the degree of political maturity prevailing, for the nature of corporatised politics as it was then, for the sake of harmony in a dangerously quick-tempered and violent land have to be acknowledged.

    A balanced account of Gandhi and his times, his works and his deeds is still to be written, and is required. This should stand by the side of a revisited biography of Jinnah.

  135. yasserlatifhamdani

    Dear Gorki,

    We have a fundamental disagreement on Points 3, 4 and 5. But I’ll let that be discussion for another time and another place. What is important is that I agree with 1, 2 and 6.

    You know… I grew up admiring Jinnah and Gandhi equally…. or almost equally… I have said it before but doesn’t hurt repeating… the last two chapters of my first history book “First Steps in Our History” – printed and published by Kakul Academy no less for English medium schools of Pakistan and reprinted by Ferozesons- were “Mahatma Gandhi- the non-violent soul” and “Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah- who won us Pakistan”… atleast then I would not have guessed that they were antithetical or opponents.

    The problem is the zero-sum game of Jinnah v. Gandhi. In this it is seldom Pakistanis or Indians who have made this a zero sum game. It is these occam’s razor wallahs… the Attenboroughs, the Mountbattens, Lapierres, Collins, the Louis Fischer The Time magazine, New York Times etc… My own issues with Gandhi began after I saw Gandhi the movie.

    In a personal message to Devdas Gandhi, Jinnah wrote “your loss is the loss of humanity”- note not Hindus (which he mentioned in his official . Now what if Gandhi had not died and come to Pakistan? Would Jinnah and Gandhi still have been “principal rivals”?

    Yet the goras said that they were… and we accepted that as such. Both men are often described as “exact opposites” by writers writing about them… as one such writer wrote : Gandhi was cheerful in austere surroundings and Jinnah was austere in cheerful surroundings… whatever the hell that meant.

    No one emphasizes the commonalities… their love for India, their passion for Hindu Muslim Unity, their desire to see India free of British rule..
    and how their own actions hurt these causes… or the fact that both these titans were murderously attacked by extremists in their own communities for agreeing to 3rd June plan… and how neither men had wanted to accept the 3rd June plan..

    Anyway enough said.

  136. bonobashi


    Your post made me look closely at what I had written. On closer re-examination, I found myself agreeing with you (and naturally with Gorki, propounding these arguments originally) on points 1, 2 and 6. On point 3, I had originally defended Gandhi’s use of religion as appropriate in the context of mobilisation and in the state of political consciousness of the citizenry at the time. While it is difficult to see what else would have aroused common people, the village and the city alike, religion as a tool of politics is a very dangerous weapon. It has had a deeply corroding effect on our polity thereafter, and for that reason, although it may have been the only way to arouse consciousness and build consensus on the subject of seeking freedom from an alien power, I agree with you on point 3. It really is a progression to the use of nuclear devices, in the framework of politics.

    On the other hand, I didn’t see much wrong with points 5 and 6. What am I missing? Please comment on this a little more at length, whenever convenient.

    Your point about the situation not being a zero-sum game between the two is true enough, but to be honest, it was never that in my personal case; your statement of course applies to the general case, and there it may well be true. For the general case, it is an excellent corrective to view it as you have done, a literary device created by authors in search of the ancestor of a ‘sound bite’, which we have foolishly taken on board with far more seriousness than we should have given it. It is quite apparent that the two mutually respected each other, although from published remarks, Gandhi’s regard for Jinnah was very, very low around the time of the CMP and its rejection. I can only ascribe this charitably to the stress that the old man was under, and to prefer to believe that this was not his normal invariably courteous self.

  137. bonobashi


    Your post made me look closely at what I had written. On closer re-examination, I found myself agreeing with you (and naturally with Gorki, propounding these arguments originally) on points 1, 2 and 6. On point 3, I had originally defended Gandhi’s use of religion as appropriate in the context of mobilisation and in the state of political consciousness of the citizenry at the time. While it is difficult to see what else would have aroused common people, the village and the city alike, religion as a tool of politics is a very dangerous weapon. It has had a deeply corroding effect on our polity thereafter, and for that reason, although it may have been the only way to arouse consciousness and build consensus on the subject of seeking freedom from an alien power, I agree with you on point 3. It really is a progression to the use of nuclear devices, in the framework of politics.

    On the other hand, I didn’t see much wrong with points 5 and 6. What am I missing? Please comment on this a little more at length, whenever convenient.

    Your point about the situation not being a zero-sum game between the two is true enough, but to be honest, it was never that in my personal case; your statement of course applies to the general case, and there it may well be true. For the general case, it is an excellent corrective to view it as you have done, a literary device created by authors in search of the ancestor of a ‘sound bite’, which we have foolishly taken on board with far more seriousness than we should have given it. It is quite apparent that the two mutually respected each other, although from published remarks, Gandhi’s regard for Jinnah was very, very low around the time of the CMP and its rejection. I can only ascribe this charitably to the stress that the old man was under, and to prefer to believe that this was not his normal invariably courteous self.


    Yes, I would like the long version please.

  138. Bloody Civilian

    Just a (very) quick nod to what Gorki, Bonobashi, YLH have said:

    Just as an example: I have no time for Abdus Sattar Edhi’s views (and, indeed, practice) on polygamy, and I suspect other matters too. But that does not in any way at all affect my full agreement with Prof Hoodhbhoy that the Noble Peace Prize for this most wonderful man is long overdue.

    I think each of us can almost picture what Gandhi’s response might have been to some of the despicable demonisation attempted here which was treated with the disdain it deserved by the moderator.

    What I heard from my elders, in terms of their personal experience, albeit anecdotal, brought out his humanity, i.e. compassion and altruism. And even those of my elders who did not mention it to me, I suspect (from other discussions) had a bone to pick with him.

    Of course, these leaders were only men. they made mistakes, errors of judgement and wrong decisions. and had shortcomings too. they met both success and failure at the very interesting and difficult juncture and (shared) role that history had chosen for them….. and had chosen them for it for their exceptional qualities.

  139. Bloody Civilian


    This is just to extend the debate that is very intersting, if nothing else. As for the ahistorical view, you’re right about India.. but not necessarily about the INC or the political or intellectual elite. There were Nairoji and Gokhale, and their disciple Jinnah. For 20 years, from 1900 to 1920, they had represented as well as demonstrated what was possible, and how it could make progress. Yes, it was an ongoing work and project (but after 20 years, no longer just an experiement… or a mere debating society).

    Did the common man need to be stirred at all? Ambedker (another one of the gokhale ilk, when it came to shunning religiosity, like Rajagopalchari[?], others[?]) obviously felt that it was for the political and intellectual elite to deliver, to make the leap of faith (i.e. show true leadership) and not for the people to have to disrupt their lives. Yet, I realise politics is about mobilisation. But I also agree with the belief that had India been able to present a (more) united front to the imperialists, there was no way they could have held on for long. We are not talking of the logical end that was Bahadar shah II’s fate to live as a symbol of, and the picture India presented at that time through mere accidents of its own history, but the movement and realisation that spawned the INC and what it had already developed in to when a very able young man arrived, having done great work in South Africa.

    Returning to the role, if necessary, of the common man, I might be wrong but my impression is that Bhagat Singh was staunchly if not harshly secular. Indeed an atheist. No way typical of popular India. Not entirely comparable with gokhale or Nairoji either, for his choice of method. But whether he himself was an exception or not, he did capture the imagination of a great many young Punjabis (and I mean those living there, not just of that ethnicity), and others further afield. Several of these bhagatis went on to become the communists, socialists, Progressive Movement of authors/poets practically based in Lahore’s Pak Tea House.

    From the above, which is based on my very limited information, I wonder if the view taken of that one particular decision of Gandhi’s is that ahistorical.

  140. Bloody Civilian

    just to clarify: when i said ‘my elders’… i took ‘my’ to mean people who i personally met, or met people sufficiently close to them. and when i said their ‘personal experience’ i was referring to the two or three that invloved either an actual meeting or reasonable proximity to Gandhiji’s presence… i.e. ‘actual’ witness accounts and not merely of those who just ‘lived through the times’.

  141. hayyer48

    BC. From what little I know about Bhagat Singh he was a Marxist. His intellectual development must have been rather tortuous. Born in a family of Jat Sikhs who had become followers of the Arya Samaj he himself was a confirmed atheist. Gandhi was allergic not only to violence, but also to possible rivals in public esteem, so we dont hear of too much intervention by him with Lord Irwin to pardon Bhagat Singh. Ofcourse Bhagat Singh’s recourse to violence was anathema to his n0n-violent creed.
    Bhagat Singh has an interesting iconography. He was portrayed soon after independence in the pantheon of heroes of the Indian independence movement as a clean shaven young man. The Akali government later claimed as one of their own, Marxism, atheism, Arya Samaj and all. He is now portrayed with turban and beard, something he discarded in early youth.
    To return however to the main topic:
    Bonobashi: I could not agree more with what your father wrote about the use of methods by post-independence agitators in India using Gandhi’s methods. I presume the name Ranjit Gupta means something to you.
    Gorki: No man is entirely without faults. Gandhi was a great man, undoubtedly-but what is the good that lives after him.
    Despite the poverty and the ignorance of the Indian masses the freedom movement was proceeding well enough without the dose of religion that Gandhi inserted into it. The slow and reluctant constitutional process that the British were putting into place gained no speed from Gandhi’s tactics. He commandeered the movement and diverted into the barren course of religion. He ‘brought out the best from all religions traditions’ you say of Gandhi. India was not engaged in a discourse of comparitive religion at that time. No one till he arrived on the scene had enunciated the need for a Mahatma or Fakir to lead India to salvation. His methods while innovative fulfilled his own urges not a national goal. And what I said of Nehru applies to him. If he was not posturing as a faqir ‘of a type well known in the east’ why did he not ever decline to be called a Mahatma. As you know the title is normally used for the deceased even when they were pretty ordinary souls. A living Mahatma! That is something else.
    Gandhi’s moral arguments got him nowhere. Politically he was a failure. He wasn’t a demagogue because he lacked the skills of demagogic skills. Everyone can’t be a demagogue.
    He certainly created the concept of mass mobilization. But is that too difficult in the subcontinent. Every two bit religious charlatan in India can mobilize thousands of people if he can fake a connection to God.
    His political battles were all failures. Salt, swadeshi, non-cooperation, Cripps, CMP and Jinnah. Everytime he failed. And he deliberately mixed up his own soterial needs with the purely secular ones of the independence movement.
    Nehru’s comment to Churchill is a good soundbite. This is not to say that Nehru or Gandhi had no dislikes. I dont think I hate anyone myself. That hardly makes me a Mahatma.
    Gandhi wanted to exercise power and he used religion and his faux sainthood to exercise it. This is just humbug.
    Nor was he such a democrat. Look at his subversion of Subhash Chandra Bose’s election as Congress President. If he couldn’t have things way he blackmailed his way through his hypocritcal self purifacatory fasts.
    Karaya: We have to agree that one can be a deist or theist and still push for a secular public discourse whether one believes it founded in ones religion or not. Further there is nothing that says one cannot interpret ones faith as permitting, indeed allowing a secular governance what ever others might think.
    Finally for PMA:
    I don’t quite follow your argument or perhaps you don’t follow mine.
    India may well be supporting the BLA, militarily or financially; I cannot say. But what does that have to do with the nationalities problem of the subcontinent?
    I don’t call the problem of nationalities a nasty one. It is a fact of the sub-continental situation.
    Bangladeshis are largely Muslim and Bengali speaking. They have the same homogenous ethnicity. Hindu Bangladeshis differ from them only in religion, not culturally, linguistically or ethnically. Apart from the tribal regions around Chittagong and the hill tracts Bangladesh is as close as anyone can be in South Asia to being a nation state.
    Now about Kashmir. The Kashmir Valley could be a nation state in ideal circumstances. It is ethnically linguistically and religiously homogenous. The small Kashmiri Pandit community mostly driven out of the valley now, is of the same stock more of less as the Muslims and there is little difference between the two groups in language, culture, and ethnicity; most Muslims being converts from Kashmiri Hindus. Only the small community of Kashmiri Sikhs stands out but even they are distinguishable only because of their attire and because Kashmiri is a second language to them.
    Why did I say that Kashmiri Muslims think they have solved the nationality problem?
    Because Kashmiris have grown overly fond of the political power they gained after 1947 over the whole of the Indian portion of the state of J&K. The JKLF is a great votary of the composite state of J&K which is as we all know only the rump of the Sikh empire bought by Gulab Singh from the British for 75 lakhs of rupees. The denizens of these bits of empire that Gulab Singh purchased do not have one composite identity, culture, language religion topography, ethnicity or geography. Yet the JKLF (JK Liberation Front) and other sundry freedom fighters organizations are all adamant that ‘we are all Kashmiris’, and must all stay together.
    Now it should be common knowledge that the parts called PAK, or POK are not actually Kashmir. Similarly only the valley of Kashmir is actually Kashmir in Indian J&K, (what you call IOK or IAK if you do not want to call it J&K). There are large pockets of migrant Muslim Kashmiris living in the Poonch and Doda districts of Jammu division, and in PAK (POK or Azad Kashmir if you prefer) and elsewhere.
    So the Kashmiris have not solved their nationality problem. They are looking for continuing Kashmiri Muslim political domination over the former Maharaja’s state. If the valley of Kashmir were to be one day entirely a separate political unit it could be said to have solved its nationality problem. Unfortunately most Kashmiris are confused about the implications and facts of their argument that Gulab Singh’s J&K should now be one independent unit, peopled by these various races who they believe should accept being called ‘Kashmiris’ and being ruled from Srinagar by ethnic Muslim Kashmiris. Kashmiri Muslims are actually a minority in the composite pre 1947 J&K. Why do you think Sheikh Abdullah asked Nehru in 1948 to change the axis of advance of Indian troops at Uri from east west to north south. He did not want any Punjabi Pahari muslims in his fief.
    I hope that clarifies my position.

  142. PMA

    hayyer48: Thanks for a rather detailed reply (April 27, 2009 at 11:36 pm). Mine (April 25, 2009 at 11:39 pm) was not an argument. Just wonderment arising from your statement about ‘solving nationality identity problem’. Bengali Muslims first broke away from Bengali Hindus and joined Muslims of North-West. Then broke away from Pakistan to become a Bengali-Muslim Nation. In the face of competing ‘One-Nation’ theory of Congress and ‘Two-Nation’ theory of Muslim League that is a division twice. I was wondering from your logic if it takes a two way cris-cross division to solve ethnic-nationality problems of the Sub-continent. Also if that principal applies to Bengal, Kashmir and Balochistan, then does it apply to all remaining ethnic states within Indian Union as well? Should South, West and North-East of Indian Union be allowed to become separate independent nation-states? Do Sikhs deserve their own country? How would you slice up present day India to solve her ‘national identity’ problems?

  143. Bloody Civilian

    “like Rajagopalchari[?], others[?]” = pl. ignore. i was going to say something, which was not that important, but forgot to edit the words out.

  144. Gorki

    Thank you, Bonobashi, YLH, BC and Hayyer 48 for taking the time to reply courteously to me.
    I think I can understand your arguments even when I disagree with them.
    Bonobashi wrote, we (S. Asians) have to develop a capacity to judge history for ourselves and for too long we have failed to do that. Hopefully the above discussion is a small objective step in the right direction.

    Rather than reply individually, I will write my clarifications addressed to you all jointly.

    1. I agree that Gandhi was not actively teaching a comparative religion class but look what he did; he took the pacifist elements not only from the local Buddhist and Jain traditions but also adopted this element of Christianity and then supplanted it firmly in the middle of Hinduism that it self had no such traditions. He then made it a cornerstone of his strategy.

    2. He did not preach hatred of the white man, or any other kind of a man. It is unique because while exceptional individuals like Hayyer 48 may exist who do not hate anyone but look around us in the real world, such people are an exception.

    Words like ‘wanted dead or alive’ and ‘you are either with us or against us’ are the first order of any leader girding for struggle. In a propaganda war, the first step is to dehumanize the enemy and this requires teaching your followers to hate the enemy. (Just listen to Varun Gandhi in his recent speeches or to Advani before and after Ram Janambhoomi campaign and you will see my point). Gandhi not only resisted this easy option but also took the trouble to bring it to home to the masses.

    2. While the success of the freedom struggle appears a logical historical progression now, it was not always so.
    As Bonobashi said, the context of time is important. Consider Gandhi’s times. Rampant racism was hip. Even the most liberal people in Europe were convinced of the white man’s superiority. The Jallianwalla bagh tragedy was opposed only by a handful few in England.
    It was a time of Nazi inspired theories of eugenics and even the ‘liberal’ bastion of USA found no problem with the Jim Crow South and an occasional lynching.
    While the post war labor election victory in Britain made the freedom from colonialism and its implied racism easy for us, it was not a foregone conclusion then. Consider the French mess in Indo-Chine and Algeria. It could easily have been us.

    3. Gandhi’s genius IMHO was the way he framed the question of racism and the way he asked for freedom. It was neither as a supplicant, standing hat in hand, petitioning serf-like to the Lord Master nor as an unruly savage destroying civilization in a slave rebellion of Spartacus but as a matter of fact restoration of a natural order of things; between two dignified equals.

    It was as if Jefferson’s self evident truth of “All men are created equal” were neatly transplanted from the Potomac to the Ganges and the Indus yet in a language which was clearly understood by both the white and the brown man.

    A freedom won by humble petitions would still have left one with a lingering inferiority complex. Gandhi understood this. His means were indeed as important as his goals.

    4. Hayyer 48 points out that all Gandhi’s campaigns were failures. I think he misses the point. Gandhi never wanted any tactical success; only a victory for his grand strategy in the overall war.
    The difference is crucial.
    For example neo-cons and right wing military historians in the US never tire of pointing out that during the entire Vietnam War US forces never once lost an engagement of more than a platoon level and how the Tet Offensive was a communist tactical blunder.
    Yet they still do not understand that America lost the war precisely for failing to see that the communist grand plan was to tire out the US.
    It was the same in India.
    Gandhi always had the initiative and the British were always reacting; all the while, he kept on making his argument stronger among those whom it mattered.

    5. Finally look at how Gandhian ideas worked and could have worked in different settings. The Black American struggle was won the moment MLK chose Gandhian tactics. White establishment knew that no argument, no strategy no bluster could deny them this.
    Thus like a chess Grandmaster; they worked all the strategies silently in their head and gave up once the writing was clear that MLK could not lose.

    Compare this with the 60 year old Palestinian armed struggle. The more valiantly the oppressed Palestinians struggled the more forceful the Israelis became till the territories became no more than a large prison camp and the Palestinians today stand condemned (wrongly) as terrorists by many.
    If only they had a Gandhian eccentric amongst them, things may have been a lot different and perhaps the price would have been a lot less!

    6. I close my long post with a passage from a book written by a BBC reporter named Mark Tully called ‘Amritsar’ in the aftermath of the 1984 attack on the Golden Temple.

    He introduced the Sikh people as a brave and upright brotherhood who never shied away from a just battle. As an example he quoted not the Sikh struggles of the 18th century or the Sikh soldiers of the two World Wars but an eye witness account of an American reporter covering the Dandi March in 1931.

    The reporter he quoted wrote that he saw:
    “Row upon row of elderly Sikhs, white bearded, smartly dressed also in all white, walking with a quiet determination, towards the police men on horses with lathis guarding the government depots.
    Their heads were slightly bowed as they marched, each reading a prayer from a small prayer book that he held in his hand. Once they reached the policemen, they were beaten to the ground, many fell bleeding, others passed out. Once they fell they were dragged away till the next row approached to the similar treatment.
    Soon the police were exhausted but the old men kept coming.
    The reporter wrote that people wept at such courage.
    He then added that these men were not pacifists all their lives, in fact many had retired from a lifetime of service as soldiers in the British Indian army.
    Yet he added, these men had now summoned up the courage to confront their erstwhile masters, not with guns, but with a force more powerful than that; the moral force!

    In the entire passage, the name Gandhi was never mentioned even once; yet his presence loomed large like a silent Bamiyan Buddha, visible just over the horizon.

  145. hayyer48

    PMA: I have no desire to solve any nationality problem. I am quite content with my multiple identities as an Indian, Punjabi and agnostic as long as I have my space and these multiple identities do not conflict.
    I recommend that people learn to live with mutliple identities. This applies to all Indians and of Pakistanis but is particularly to be recommended to migrants to the west who seem unable to reconcile themselves to the predominant culture of their adopted countries.
    I was not referring to Bangladesh in the sense of disparaging Pakistan’s role or celebrating its breakup. Simply that Bangladeshis do not have identity problems. Kashmiris like Pakistanis know for a certainity what they are not i.e. they are not Indian; beyond that they are confused but have the potential to solve their problem if the Valley became a separate political identity. I have posted my views on identity at length elsewhere on this site with reference to Aitzaz Ahsan .
    I dont recommend any breaking up of India or Pakistan into separate countries even if distint potential nation states existed within them. I recommend that we all learn to live together and give each other space. We are moving to a globalized world. Multiple identities are the way forward. As usual the Anglo Saxon nations, UK, Canada Australia and the US (with its WASP origins) are showing the way. Did not Jinnah try till the very end to find some way of keeping India together?
    Tolerance is the hallmark that will determine future happiness and prosperity. Many tens of thousands of years ago we all came out of Africa and began differentiating and multiplying. Now the process of coming together again has begun thanks to modern technology. It will be painful adjusting to each otherin a shared environment. But what alternative is there?

  146. bonobashi


    I am unable to reply at length because of awkward personal circumstances.

    Yes, the name you have mentioned means something to me. He is the Imperial Policeman to whom I had referred. He was intrigued to hear of your reference to him by name.

    It would be nice if I could hear from you on mail. I have a great deal written up on what we have been discussing but it seems inappropriate for a Pakistan-centric forum. However, it is not intended to intrude on your privacy.

    Respectful regards.

  147. Bloody Civilian

    Hayyer 48

    Indeed we can and do have concentric identities, with different, sometimes overlapping loci.

    I can appreciate identity-related anxieties (real or perceived) becoming a political issue, since a loss of ‘heritage’ is or could be linked to loss of rights (danger thereof, that is). But even then, those making it a political issue have to handle it very carefully and wisely. Or the problems or whatever threat they fear could actually become worse. Indeed, there is the danger of the negative effect of unwise politics on the vulnerable group itself, e.g. victim mentality, anxieties strangely distorting national pride etc.

    But in the absence of anxities, I don’t see how identity-based pride, for its own sake, could be a political issue (e.g. what legitimate identity-based anxieties could the BJP’s really have?).

    Generally, I can see why an Indian ought to be an Indian first. Just that I don’t see why he/she cannot be another thing first too, alongside being Indian, at the same time. I don’t see why anything else has to be ‘second’. As for an Indian insisting they are somthing else first and Indian second, I can see why that could create problems. But there is no reason to pounce on that kind of view of national identity or citizenship, unless and until it leads to some tangible damage that needs to be addressed.

    Canada, Switzerland, Belgium etc. are examples of political compromise not ‘forced’ assimilation. The trick is to have a compromise which addresses mutual anxieties but does not lock in a separation… but allow, and if possible, encourage, greater integration as anxieties reduce over time. For united India, sadly, such a compromise could not come forth.


    I think non-violence was a big improvement on the Tilanga-ism of 1857. It is a brilliant method of resistance. Also, not demonising the usurpers (is almost part and parcel of it). But the issue is the introduction of religious symbolism, albeit opportunistically. As for Gandhi’s tolerance and his insistence on that as a hallmark of hinduism might well have been why he was killed, more than anything else. The extremists of course require a convenient and essential (drastic) reduction of religion. But that too is besides the point I hope to make here.

    The crowd that was gathered at Jalianwala included Indians of all religions. How much nationalistic fervor was there, and how many of them were there just out of couriosity, is not the issue here, for the cruelty unleashed there aroused nationalistic fervor, subsequently, any way. The point was, the gathering itself and the emotions that followed, did not include nor require religiosity. Nor the Gaddaris before them. And we are talking about ordinary Indians. Why was there any need for any of the leadership to stir the wasps’ nest that is religion (albeit opportunistically)?

  148. Bloody Civilian

    “e.g. victim mentality, anxieties strangely distorting national pride etc.” = becoming further obstacles to integration.

    “As for an Indian insisting they are somthing else first and Indian second” could indeed be extended to the situation in the vale of kashmir. Where there are a signficant number who do not see themselves as Indians at all. However, ignoring external interference (which is never the primary driver), starting from the end of Sheikh Abdullah’s ministry, there is a lot of legitimate grievance and worse. Baluchistan is no different. speaking of Baluchistan, I have witnessed anxieties turning in to anger.

    In case of BDesh, it was, in relative terms, more a case of being pushed away rather than pulling away. Of course, on 25 March 1971, the final push convinced the BDeshis that a decision had been made, it could not be reveresed, and it was the right decision.

    I think short of the whirlwind of a revolution overwhelming the state and resulting in secession, is more a failure of the state due to lack of both pragmatism and imagination (not necessarily in equal proportions) on its part. Democracy reduces anxities in a pluralistic society. Denial of democracy exasperates them. Kashmir, Baluchistan and East Pakistan all demonstrate that to different extents. In the Pakistani examples, of course, the lack of democracy at the centre makes things many times worse than just denying the relevant peoples democracy within their own regions.

  149. Bloody Civilian

    “that a decision had been made” = that a decision had to be made (by the people)

  150. PMA

    hayyer48: You have said some very nice things in your remarks (April 28, 2009 at 1:47 pm). On times you even sound like MK Gandhi. But don’t you think that you are contradicting yourself. On one hand you are saying that by reducing to the ‘Muslim-Bengali’ denominator the Muslims of Bengal have resolved their national identity problem and Kashmiri Muslims could do the same if Kashmir Valley was allowed to become an independent state like Bangladesh. In the case of these two ‘sub-nations’ you seem to be approving the process of division upon division. But then you turn around and say, “I don’t recommend any breaking up of India or Pakistan into separate countries even if distinct potential nation states existed within them.” You also say that Pakistanis are confused as they do not know what they are. Then by extending the logic of Muslim-Bengal and Muslim-Kashmir as separate nation-states why don’t you come out and say that the national identity problem of Pakistan could be solved if all ethnic groups within Pakistan formed their own countries. And then would you extend that logic to Indian Union as well. A cop-out would be if you say that, “I have no desire to solve any nationality problem.” Either you take a consistent stand on issues or you don’t take any stand at all. You can’t have both ways sir.

  151. Gorki

    Thanks for the post. I can not agree with you more that by dragging in religion; Gandhi muddied the public debate (and perhaps was the big reason why Jinnah felt he had no option but to leave the Congress).
    My post was never about making Gandhi a saint; I only wanted an objective appreciation of his contribution to humanity along with his numerous public and private failings. I believe that objective has been met.

    A word about Jallianwala bagh heroes, the Ghaddarites and Bhagat Singh and his associates; You are one hundred percent right that these people showed how one could be an Indian first and foremost; can ignite the fire of nationalism and fight a racist foreign rule without resorting to religion.

    This point is often lost when the objective historians try to analyse the effects of these people on the larger Independance struggle.
    I personally am of the view that while their efforts against the British may have been a but minor skirmish in the larger war, their impact upon the forging the national Indian identity went beyond their numbers.

    Thus these three group of martyrs captured the national imagination in a way that no one else even could come to matching.
    Here they were, as you alluded to; Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus, Indians all; first and foremost, waging a war for their country. (In the case of Bhagat Singh, it was as an Indian, first and last that he fought. Hayyer 48 is right on the mark on that one)
    They waged a very pure and a noble struggle, fed and nutured with their own blood.

    Their impact is felt even more so today, thus when the various subnationalities in the Indian Union try to assert themselves and try to break away from time to time; the blood and sacrifices of these men and women still act as sinews of the Union and beckons them back into the common larger Indian nation.

  152. PMA

    “thus when the various sub nationalities in the Indian Union try to assert themselves and try to break away from time to time; the blood and sacrifices of these men and women still act as sinews of the Union and beckons them back into the common larger Indian nation.”

    Gorki (April 28, 2009 at 8:14 pm):
    You truly make some interesting comments. I am just curious to know which “various sub-nationalities in the Indian Union” you speak of that from time to time try to break away from the Indian Union. A direct answer will be highly appreciated.

  153. Gorki

    I am surprised you had to ask this question but am glad to answer.
    I will give you one particular example. In the 1980s an obscure Sikh cleric named Bhindranwale among others, raised a demand for a Sikh homeland; Khalistan.

    Over the next 15 years, Indian Punjab fought a bloody insurgency with these religous extremists. They let loose a reign of terror (think the current day Swat) and killed anyone, Hindus or Sikhs, in their way. Nothing was sacred.
    After the govt. attack on the Golden temple and the riots in 1984, quite a few Sikhs too sympathized with the extremists and the Indian nation became an oppressor in their eyes.

    The local Sikhs who opposed them, were termed traitors to the cause. To these extremist and their sympathizers, no national leader; be it Gandhi, Nehru, or even the Akali Dal leaders mattered. All were attacked as ant-Sikh. For a while it appeared that Khalistan may indeed become a reality.

    The only nationalist symbols no one dared criticize even in those dark days were boys like Bhagat Singh or the old INA veterans of Bose. The inheritors of Bhagat Singh, the CPM members vigorously countered the terrorist propaganda, lost quite a few members to the terrorists in the process.
    These men held Punjab together. In fact, the Sikh Akali Dal appropriated his name (as mentioned by Hayyer 48).
    Today, India has a Sikh Prime Minister and the Sikh Akali Dal is a coalition partner of the Hindu BJP in Punjab.
    Punjab had pulled back from the brink.

    I think that among other things, the memories of Bhagat Singh, Jallianwala Bagh, Ghaddarites etc. had somehow made the Sikhs believe that leaving India would be letting these people down. They could not do it.

  154. Karaya

    Somebody above, I forget who, mentioned that all of Gandhi’s movements failed. non-cooperation, Dandi, Quit India. That person was correct. The British left, not because G drove them out but due to reasons largely of their own convenience.

    However, to think that all that political mobilisation went to waste would not be correct.

    I refer to ‘Democracy and Authoritarianism in S. Asia’ by Jalal. She mentions that one reason for the lack of Democracy in Pakistan would be the that those areas that formed Pakistan had never seen widespread political mobilisation. The AIML had very shallow roots in that part of the sub-continent. Whatever had been done had been done by the Congress which affected mainly the Hs and, to some extent, the Sikhs who were largely driven out or killed in 1947.

    Similarly, the persistence of Democracy in India does largely owe itself to the activities of the Congress and, by extension, to Gandhi. Before Gandhi, of course, the organisation was largely a talking shop. It is he who inculcated a sense of political ownership, if you will, with the common man–an invaluable asset for any democracy to develop.

    However, with the good comes the bad. Much of what’s wrong with Indian democracy could also be traced back to Him. Be it the rise of parties with explicit communal agendas for whom building temples is part of their manifesto, parties which use the Muslims as little more than vote banks fostering the most regressive interpretations of their laws on them or a shocking level of disrespect for the law in the face of, ahem, ‘morals’. Examples of the third abound–maybe Mamata Bannerjee’s violence to stop old (and therefore polluting) auto rickshaws from going of the roads in Calcutta would be an appropriate one.

  155. Gorki

    Excellent points.
    I agree with most of your points, with a few exceptions.
    Thus the words “The British left, not because G drove them out but due to reasons largely of their own convenience” may not be entirely true although Gandhi and his non violence was only one factor, among others that forced them to quit.

    One must remember the world (and the world view of various nations) in 1940s was very different from the world today. Then rasicm was accepted and conventional wisdom held the non whites to be inferior races, unable to rule themselves well.

    Winston Churchill was the PM in Britain during the war and he had famously declared “I have not become the King’s First Minister in order to preside over the liquidation of the British Empire” in a speech in November 10, 1942.

    Colonialism was prestigious even after the war for many nations. (French in Indo China, Algeria, Dutch in Indonesia).

    For India, it helped that the socialist minded labor won the election in Britian after the war but it could have been ugly if this had not happened.

    Regardless, never forget that the battle for the Independence of India was as much a battle against racism as it was for freedom of individual colonies; for the Anglo-saxon colonies like Canada and Australia never needed a freedom struggle it was only Asia and Africa.

    For these reasons, it would be too narrow minded to see the the Indian freedom movement merely as a quest to sending the British out of India. In an international sense it was a part of a world wide struggle against racism. Asia, Africa, and the Black America share this movement as a common heritage.

    It is another thing that Gandhi alone, somewhat unfairly, became a visible icon in this battle waged by millions besides him; many of them who shared perhaps his visions but not his political leanings.

  156. bonobashi


    I find it difficult to agree with your summation of the reasons for the sub-continent gaining independence, and find it equally difficult to disagree with your diagnosis of the effects of political mobilisation on the different polities.

    Whether it was the unnerving nature of repeated waves of non-violent assault on the administration, in a series of movements each of which failed, but whose cumulative impact can only be appreciated or understood by the thin line of people standing up to it for forty years or so; whether it was the rising of sections of the armed forces on which the overlords depended for their military domination of India, spreading in unexpected fashion to the senior service of the British, which they prized in some ways above the Army; whether it was the social change in Britain which swept out Churchill and brought in Labour with a pent-up thirst for change, which directly expressed itself in actions for the working classes, and in a turning away from the Imperial interests of the middle and upper classes: these are calculations of coefficients in an equation which can be refined at leisure. The situation was essentially complex and the decision to leave India was born out of the interplay of many different factors, of which three over-riding ones have been cited above. That is why it is difficult to agree with those who have in their anxiety to set the balance right, and do justice to those wrongly arraigned for decades, put in the dock those who contributed positively. Our personal likes and dislikes are beginning to make themselves heard excessively loudly.

    I agree, and perhaps have explicitly stated so, that mass mobilisation had its good and its bad effects. Without mass mobilisation, the British administration would have paid no attention to the talk-shop that was Congress in its early years.

    Mass mobilisation meant, on the other hand, a wilful destruction of the rule of law, at the hands of the rule of higher laws. This appeal to values transcending the social contract had terrible bad effects in India, in Pakistan and in Bangladesh alike; once religion was invoked, there was no way to entice the jinni back into the lamp.

    And yet, it had its good effects also. When, Karaya, you mention the politicising impact of such mobilisation, I draw your attention to the effects of such mobilisation in Bengal, which was historically the first region where this was demonstrated (there is no need to fling the movement against plague measures into the breach, as that was fairly limited in scope, in my opinion, compared to the scope of the movement against the partition of Bengal). It is clear that your formulation of the deep and lasting good effects of mobilisation is valid, as long as we bear in mind the weakening of the rule of law which this involved.

  157. hayyer48

    PMA: Sorry for the delay in replying. I am sometimes in far flung rural areas off the net.
    As I said earlier, we are far afield from YLH’s original post but now that we are on the subject let me clarify once again. And then perhaps we can continue the discussion if necessary on that other post where YLH has threatened to write a lengthy refutation of my views, i.e. the Aitzaz Ahsan Indus Saga.
    There is no contradiction in my complete satisfaction with my multiple identity as a South Asian and my quoting the example of Bangladeshis or even Kashmiris. You will recall that my reference to the subject of identity arose out of Karayas post of how to promote secularism.
    Well then; for those dying to live in a nation state with an homogenous religious, ethnic and linguistic identity there is a way to go about it. It is the way of violence. Language and religion excite us; we hardly ever riot about anything else. Look at Northern Ireland even today, despite the peace accord: for the same Jesus and the same Bible!
    You can fight each other ever your differences or you can live peacefully together. Bangla desh had a violent birth and Kashmir is in the throes of a violent conflict which will worsen if the rump state begins to break up into its constituent parts.
    Nehru with his usual internationalist outlook used to talk about his fear about the Balkanization of India. The peace treaties after WW1 sorted out the problem for three generations. But Balkanization when it did happen was not pretty. The birth of Pakistan was not pretty either and the ugliness continues till today. YLH I know regards the death of a million people as a pretty ordinary event in human history. But my stomach turns at the thought of a few million more dead and the continuing violent instability that such struggles bring.
    When I say that Bangladeshis have solved their identity problem, I say it with a sense of irony. I am sorry that you should think I am gloating over it. Similarly Kashmiris have no idea what the eventual cost will be of their desire to have an independent state (they are not so keen on Pakistan these days). I made no positivist recommendation on the national identity issue. In South Asia you have to get along with others not entirely like you. And why not. I don’t see demurrers making a fuss when they migrate to the west.
    I hope that I do not sound like MK Gandhi when I recall what that poor black guy said in LA after the riots over the police beating, ‘Can’t we all just get along?’
    There are any number of young people wanting to die for the ’cause’. They should remember that the gentlemen who reaped the rewards of independence did not give their lives for the cause.
    Which brings me to BC:
    You are absolutely right that those making identity a political issue must handle it very wisely and carefully.
    There need not be a hierarchy of identities ofcourse, and I never said that there should be. In certain circumstances a hierarchy imposes itself when you are constrained to make choices, but those are always extreme cases.This is not the same thing as rooting for your country at cricket.
    The BJP you must understand along with all the groups that constitute the Sangh Parivar (family) do feel more keenly than other Hindus the loss of political power under Muslim rule as a result of the discourse of a colonial historiography. Post colonialism they are at a loss, and concerned with enrolling more Hindu groups in their manufactured narratives. They cannot understand why all Hindus don’t think the way they do. The BJP manages about 25% of the vote, not always for religious reasons, and not every where in India. They seem to have reached the limit of their support. Any further gains seem unlikely unless they can show better governance as may be happening in Gujarat under Modi despite his awful record.
    What comes first depends upon circumstances. To some the family is all. Some like Bhagat Singh are prepared to risk their lives for an idea, that of India in his case. Others are prepared to die for other ideas. What ideas are worth dying for? Can anyone suggest any? Apart from one’s faith that most people might answer; or one’s country, which is also a thoughtless answer. Why is it worth dying for an idea unless it is true. So certainly true that no reason can be found to deny it and is of such vital importance that one must give up one’s life for it. A current theory of evolution says that the sacrifice of life for the group is inbred. In which case it is just self preservation. There is no ultimate truth that one gets killed for. It is specially stupid if you are sacrificing yourself at the behest and for the power of someone who would never dream of sacrificing his own life for the group.
    Bonobashi: Sorry for the delay. I hope your father is well. A missionary college certainly, as you once suggested.

  158. Karaya

    The situation was essentially complex and the decision to leave India was born out of the interplay of many different factors, of which three over-riding ones have been cited above

    IMO, a very major reason has been left out–by the mid-1930s or so, the British were actually losing money running their Empire. Thus, by the 1950s the British had more or less vacated all their colonies. It mattered little whether those colonies had non-violent freedom movements or not.

    Also, Gandhi, till Quit India took great care not to harm British economic interests too much. Whenever things got out of hand, a Chauri-chaura or a Gandhi-Irwin pact invariably popped up. 1942 would be an exception but that could be explained using two theories:

    a) Gandhi never expected to be arrested so soon. The movement actually did go out of hand and there was very little than G could do from the AKP.
    b) Gandhi expected a German victory so he bet against the British and tried for one last and final push. He expected the Congress to inherit the position of the British when the British deserted the ship, like they had done for Singapore. This, of course, alarmed Jinnah which is one reason why Quit India was disastrous for Hindu-Muslim relations in India. The communal situation deteriorated alarmingly after 1942.

    So, it could be argued that Gandhi contrubuted very little to the main reason of the British leaving–the pecuniary reason.

    It is clear that your formulation of the deep and lasting good effects of mobilisation is valid, as long as we bear in mind the weakening of the rule of law which this involved.

    Agreed. In fact, I’ve mentioned a few of the major ills which have resulted from Gandhi’s methods of mass mobilisation, in the last para of my post of April 28, 2009 at 11:02 pm .

  159. Karaya

    That previous was to our dweller of the forests, bonobashi.

  160. Karaya


    Regardless, never forget that the battle for the Independence of India was as much a battle against racism as it was for freedom of individual colonies; for the Anglo-saxon colonies like Canada and Australia never needed a freedom struggle it was only Asia and Africa.

    That’s a fair point and the examples that you’ve produces can’t be ignored too.

    There’s no doubt about the fact that what G did was very close to what could be called extraordinary. But maybe, just maybe it could have been done in a different way. Of course, all this is easier said than done. Religion is often treated as a sacred cow in the sub-continent no matter how damaging it is. We can see its ill effects in India today, where in spite of the heroic efforts of Nehru and Ambekdar post 1947 to reform the Hindu religion, faith is very much a factor.

    Of course, its even more so across the Radcliffe line, where at no cost must Islam be criticised in spite of some of its glaring faults.

  161. bonobashi


    Perfectly fair observation, about increasing British economic disinterest being one of the major factors behind their giving us independence and leaving us to stew in our own juices.

    My point is that it may not be useful to refine the matter further than pointing out that several factors were involved.

    Your ‘last para.’ warning was delicious! are you in Calcutta? We should meet and discuss PTH.

  162. Bloody Civilian

    Of course, its even more so across the Radcliffe line

    As long as you can identify the correct history and origins of that up to ’47, and the increasing disconnect after ’47. The history of the authoritarian state and the military autocracy, and, contrast the attitudes towards mullah-ism – personal, political and strategic – between Ayub, Yahya, Zia and Musharraf. Superficiality will not do.

  163. YLH

    I don’t know why Hayyer continues to distort my position on partition massacre in such a fashion.

    First of all, what I said was a million people is an exaggeration but 200, 000 which is probably the real number (most of them in East Punjab in the districtof Gurdaspur and by implication Muslims) if you read through details of partition massacre. 200, 000 is a dreadful number. Even 1000 would be a dreadful price to pay for any thing… even the noblest of causes.

    However when compared to the holocaust, the deaths in the world wars, Rwanda, the horrible and tremendous violence at partition becomes an ordinary event in human history… this is more a commentary on the nature of bloodletting in the 20th century, than my allegedly callous disregard for huma life.

    I am frankly sick of Hayyer repeatedly lying the way he does… and I am not going to tolerate this nonsense any further. Any repetition of this rather idiotic display of self righteousness despite my clarification on several occasions.

  164. YLH

    I don’t know why Hayyer continues to distort my position on partition massacre in such a fashion.

    First of all, what I said was a million people is an exaggeration but 200, 000 which is probably the real number (most of them in East Punjab in the districtof Gurdaspur and by implication Muslims) if you read through details of partition massacre. 200, 000 is a dreadful number. Even 1000 would be a dreadful price to pay for any thing… even the noblest of causes.

    However when compared to the holocaust, the deaths in the world wars, Rwanda, the horrible and tremendous violence at partition becomes an ordinary event in human history… this is more a commentary on the nature of bloodletting in the 20th century, than my allegedly callous disregard for human life.

    I am frankly sick of Hayyer repeatedly lying the way he does… and I am not going to tolerate this nonsense any further. Any repetition of this rather idiotic display of self righteousness despite my clarification on several occasions.

  165. YLH

    PS: Ironically it was the government of India that played down partition massacres and is on the record in the UN as saying that these were “ordinary disturbances”.

    It was the Government of Pakistan that described the violence at partition as nothing less than genocide and a crisis of unparalleled proportions.
    Read VP Menon and Zafrullah Khan’s speechs on the issue.

    Now I am travelling right now and I don’t have the time or the patience to indulge anyone in this inane and idiotic argument where words are being put in my mouth that I did not use or say. It is therefore requested all of you gentlemen leave my name out of your correspondence.

  166. Karaya


    most of them in East Punjab in the districtof Gurdaspur and by implication Muslims

    And today, by law, non-muslims.


    I think that’s an excellent idea. But it’ll be some time before I can visit the city. But if and when I do, I’ll be sure to drop you a line.

  167. Bloody Civilian

    And today, by law, non-muslims.

    And what is the relevance of this to the CONTEXT within which the point that you quote was raised? Or shouting ‘your fly is undone’ like a 10 year old is to you, Karaya, a relevant argument?

  168. Karaya

    Bloody Civ,

    Apologise if that comment was out of context.

    On a totally unrelated note, it’s amazing the amount of hypocrisy that exists in India and Pak with regard to Partition. India (here, in a way, synonymous with the Congress) amazingly blames Jinnah for Partition and, by implication, the massacres. On the other side, Partition is seen as a sort of deliverance for the South Asian Muslim—this when that very state has prolly killed more Bengali Muslims in a few months than the Brits could in 190 years. And let us not even get into the fate of the Indian Muslim.

  169. Bloody Civilian

    The criminal killing was done by the military who had illegally captured the state, since many years earlier. They were aided by the anti-Jinnah, anti-AIML and anti-Pakistan Jamaat e Islami through the likes of al-shams and al-badr.

    Amongst the Bengali leadership were Jinnah’s close associates, and the people not only voted AIML before partition but for Miss Jinnah in 1964. The Awami League was the true successor of the AIML, not the military junta or the PPP. It was to appease the erstwhile Congress allies – the Jamiat Ulema e Islam (and Jamaat e Islami etc.) – that ZAB declared the Ahmedis non-muslim and Pakistan, thereby, non-secular.

    The fate of the Indian muslim is tied almost as much to a democratic, secular, peaceful Pakistan as it is to a more truly democractic and secular India. That, of course, ties their fate to the rest of the peoples of South Asia. Muslims of South Asia, whichever country they find themselves in, must contribute and participate fully towards this goal. That, in essence, was Jinnah’s vision, purpose and message for the muslims of South Asia, once the Cabinet Mission Plan had failed.