Daily Archives: May 11, 2009

Adroit Envoy States Case for Pakistan

WASHINGTON — On May 4, 1999, Husain Haqqani was yanked off a Pakistani street and bundled into a car, a blanket thrown over his head. He managed to keep his cellphone hidden in his pocket, and surreptitiously dialed a friend’s number to let her know he was in trouble.

That may have saved his skin, said Mr. Haqqani, now Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States. The news of his detention made it harder for his captors, Pakistani intelligence agents, to hurt him, Mr. Haqqani said, though he was roughed up and kept in jail for two months until a court ordered his release. Continue reading

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Internally Displaced In The War On Terror ..

Aadil Shah

I wrote the poem below sometimes back to try and express the feelings of those who are displaced from their homes by the beast of terror and war. In March, the situation of the IDP’s wasn’t as grim as it is now as they’re pouring into the city of Mardan with each the passing hour.

Our house, the mixture of

mud and stones,
was feeble, yet it homed
our aspirations
in all the moods of life;
when the sun smiled, Continue reading

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Balochistan is the ultimate prize

By Pepe Escobar

It’s a classic case of calm before the storm. The AfPak chapter of Obama’s brand new OCO (“Overseas Contingency Operations”), formerly GWOT (“global war on terror”) does not imply only a surge in the Pashtun Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). A surge in Balochistan as well may be virtually inevitable.

Balochistan is totally under the radar of Western corporate media. But not the Pentagon’s. An immense desert comprising almost 48% of Pakistan’s area, rich in uranium and copper, potentially very rich in oil, and producing more than one-third of Pakistan’s natural gas, it accounts for less than 4% of Pakistan’s 173 million citizens. Balochs are the majority, followed by Pashtuns. Quetta, the provincial capital, is considered Taliban Central by the Pentagon, which for all its high-tech wizardry mysteriously has not been able to locate Quetta resident “The Shadow”, historic Taliban emir Mullah Omar himself. Continue reading

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The Mothers Of The Lashkar

Web| Dec 15, 2008

A Review Essay byC.M. NAIM published by Outlook


Lashkar’s jihad is claimed to be almost exclusively on behalf of Kashmiri mothers and daughters. For they know they must have the mothers in Punjab and Sindh on their side in order to succeed in their recruiting efforts, as we learn from these propaganda books

The book is titled Ham Ma’en Lashkar-e-Taiba Ki (‘We, the Mothers of Lashkar-e-Taiba’); its compiler styles herself Umm-e-Hammad; and it is published by Dar-al-Andulus, Lahore. Its three volumes have the same garish cover, showing a large pink rose, blood dripping from it, superimposed on a landscape of mountains and pine trees The first volume, running to 381 pages, Continue reading

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Legends of the fail

Manan Ahmed examines the decades-old tradition of experts predicting that Pakistan is sure to collapse any day now.

Times are bleak for the state of Pakistan, if the international media is to be believed. For the past six weeks, the world’s newspapers have charted the apparently unstoppable march of the Taliban toward Islamabad – with daily reminders that their forces are “only 100 miles” and then “only 80 miles” and then “only 60 miles” from the capital. That Pakistan is a “failed state” or “on the brink” no longer even requires elaboration: it is the universal consensus among pundits and “area experts” alike.

In the United States, the news articles have begun to game out the fall of the regime: the New York Times, hardly alone in its hyperventilating, has run two stories in as many weeks about America courting the opposition leader Nawaz Sharif as a replacement for Pakistan’s prime minister, Asif Ali Zardari. The counterinsurgency guru David Kilcullen, a former adviser to General David Petraeus, has suggested in print that the state could fail within six months, while Petraeus himself warns that the next two weeks will be decisive, and that the army may have to return to power to prevent a total collapse.

The notion of Pakistan as a “failed state” has roots far deeper than the last few years; it was first deemed to have “failed” in the early 1960s, and this framework has dominated discussion of Pakistan in America from the days of the Cold War to the War on Terror. The surprisingly long history of the rhetoric of failure reveals that America’s engagement with Pakistan has rarely, if ever, transcended narrow strategic aims – and that, for the United States, the solution to Pakistan’s problems has always been, and will always be, the strong hand of a military ruler.

It was that under the rule of the military usurper Field Marshal Muhammad Ayub Khan that Pakistan was adopted as a Cold War ally and held up as a model “developing nation”. During Khan’s tenure, Pakistan was said to enjoy the benefits of a so-called “developmental dictatorship” – many dams were built and much cement was poured.

The US even helped Ayub Khan engineer an election victory in 1965. But shortly thereafter, he foolishly went to war with India; his popularity plummeted, and his flashy foreign minister, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, began a national campaign for a democracy based on socialist principles. Bhutto’s rise ran afoul of the “domino theory” intended to check the spread of Communism; it was in this context that Pakistan was first crowned a “failed state” – giving rise to decades worth of books and studies with titles like The Failure of Democracy in Pakistan (1962), The Failure of Parliamentary Politics in Pakistan, 1953-1958 (1967), Pakistan: Failure in National Integration (1968), Ethnic Conflict and the Failure of Political Integration in Pakistan (1973), Pakistan, Failure in Nation Building (1977) and Pakistan On the Brink (2004).

By 1979, when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, another military dictator, Zia ul-Haq, ruled Pakistan, and the country once again became a pivotal US ally, funnelling arms and funds to the mujahideen across the border. The billions in US military aid during that decade of armed conflict had two direct consequences for the present situation. First, the Pakistani army became a monster on steroids, stacked against the fragile civil and bureaucratic state. And second, the guerrilla-trained militias that ejected the Russians found themselves in charge of the country next door. But Zia’s demise in 1988, and Pakistan’s return to democracy, rendered it a “failed state” all over again.

The “failed state” rubric dominated the 1990s, as Pakistan became a nuclear power while stagnating economically under the burden of crippling foreign debt. But the attacks of September 11 brought Pakistan back into the American fold as a “close ally in the War on Terror”, under the leadership of Pervez Musharraf, who took power in a 1999 coup. If Pakistan was on the brink of failure, few in America wanted to talk about it – at least until 2007, when Musharraf’s firing of the chief justice sparked street protests that eventually led to his resignation. The exiled leaders Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif returned to contest the state’s first democratic elections in more than a decade. Now the floodgates opened: a Newsweek cover story in October 2007 dubbed Pakistan “the most dangerous place in the world”, nicely setting the tone for everything we’ve heard since.

This decades-long tendency to reduce Pakistan’s complexity to either “failure” or “stability” reflects, above all, a glaring poverty of knowledge about the real lives of 175 million Pakistanis today. Since 2007 alone, they removed a dictator from military and civilian power without firing a single shot, held the first national election since 1997 – in which right-wing radical parties were soundly rejected – and launched a secular movement for justice.

None of this matters, we are told, because Pakistan is facing “an existential threat” from “violent extremists”, as a State Department spokesman said on Monday. US generals and media commentators are hinting that a military takeover may be the only way to arrest the imminent “failure” – to combat the “Talibanisation” of Pakistan and keep the dreaded nukes from “falling into the hands” of terrorist groups.

A comically exaggerated version of reality underpins such concerns. There are roughly 400 to 500 Pakistani Taliban fighters in the Buner region (the area deemed to threateningly close to Islamabad) and 15,000 to 20,000 operating in the region between Peshawar and the north-west borders of Pakistan. Meanwhile, the number of active Pakistani army personnel ranges around 500,000, supported by an annual budget of approximately $4 billion. In comparison, the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan make an estimated yearly revenue of around $400 million from the heroin trade – only a fraction of which makes it to the Pakistani wing in the rural north-west of the country. As a threat to a large and diverse nation-state, 40 per cent of whose population lives in urban centres like Karachi (with its 18 million residents) the rural Taliban fighters are not terribly intimidating.

Pakistan is neither Somalia nor Sudan, nor even Iraq or Afghanistan. It is a thoroughly modern state with vast infrastructure, a fiercely critical and diverse media, an active, global economy and strong ties with regional powers such as China and Iran. It is not a “failed state” – it even has met its debt payments to the World Bank and IMF at the expense of providing electricity to its citizens. It has a deeply entrenched civil bureaucracy. The “failed state” rhetoric obscures these realities. It hides the fact that religious-based parties have never garnered more than 10 per cent of the seats in any election. According to its 1973 constitution Pakistan is an Islamic state, but it is home to multiple forms of religious expression, and the majority of Muslims in Pakistan embrace a model of Islam more syncretic than the Deobandi Salafism of the Taliban. The majority province of Punjab is ethnically, linguistically, politically and economically far more diverse than the northwestern valley of Swat – and it is home to a well-entrenched landed elite unlikely to cede authority to the Taliban. Sindh has its own landed elite – as well as a powerful urban political party, MQM – neither of whom show any inclination to welcome the Taliban.

Even if Pakistan is not going to capitulate to the Taliban, it does face grave dangers, and the “failed state” rhetoric – dangerous in its own right – forces our attention away from them. In Baluchistan, as a direct result of Musharraf’s heavy-handed military policies, a civil war has been brewing since 2005, and there is no military solution to that unrest. At the same time, anti-Americanism is rising across the country in reaction to the campaign of missile strikes from unmanned US drones, which have killed nearly 1000 civilians since August 2008. The drones have emboldened religious conservatives who decry “US imperialism” at work in Pakistan, and they are gaining strength with every tally of civilian casualties. The Tehrik Taliban-e Pakistan control in Swat is less a victory for that ragtag militia than a demonstration of the Army’s unwillingness to fully engage them.

The monotonous drone of “failure” implies that the fragile democracy currently in place is not worth preserving. It encourages the marginalisation of the civilian government and boosts the claims of both the military and the militants. Pakistan’s salvation has never been and will never be in the military’s hands. The country’s future lies with the millions of Pakistanis who are working to sustain democracy – and what must be defended is their resilience and strength, to prevent the self-fulfilling prophecies of failure.

Manan Ahmed, a historian of Islam in South Asia at the University of Chicago, blogs at Chapati Mystery.

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History’s Hostages (Sikhs,Jizya and the Taliban)

Outlook Magazine| May 04, 2009


Held to a huge ransom by the Taliban, NWFP’s Sikhs have nowhere to go

BEHROZ KHAN
Jazia And Sikhs

  • In Orakzai, Taliban have imposed a sum of Rs 12 million as jazia on Sikhs
  • Contrary to media reports, the amount is not paid yet. Sikh families remain in the custody of Taliban.
  • In medieval times, jazia was levied on non-Muslims in an Islamic state
  • Those who paid jazia could follow their religion, provided protection
  • Since Muslims paid zakat or alms for the poor to the state, which was spent on welfare, non-Muslims had to contribute their share through jazia
  • But jazia was unpopular. Akbar removed it; Aurangzeb reimposed it. Continue reading

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Is Sharia’h Possible (I): Definition and Scope

By Aasem Bakhshi

The Shari’a is all justice, kindness, common good and wisdom. Any rule that departs from justice to injustice […] or departs from common good (maslaha) to harm (mafsada) […] is not part of Sharia’h, even if it is arrived at by literal interpretation. [Ibn Qayyim]

Philosophically speaking, I tend to identify religion as a subcategory quite down the ladder in the hierarchy of categories we have in our beloved Puristan. Therefore, whatever has gone wrong with how religion had been perceived academically, politically and sociologically in last 62 years has, perhaps, as much to do with a lot of other things as it is with religion itself. Moreover, regardless of whether it was right or wrong, the state has already adopted a religious nomenclature which is not likely to be Continue reading

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