They say in Africa that when elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers. To this Julius Nyerere had once added that when elephants make love, the grass still suffers. Nyerere had made this witty remark at a summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in the 1970’s. The organisation had been formed to extricate as much of the world from suffering the same fate as the grass in this African proverb, during the Cold War. Yet, it failed Afghanistan as most of NAM’s members were anything but non-aligned. Unfortunately, this included its leading lights.
The US decided to give the USSR a bloody nose in Afghanistan. It seemed no one cared for the poor country caught in the crossfire. Washington found Gen Zia ul Haq’s Pakistan to be a more than willing partner. For the Pakistani dictator, this was an unbelievably lucky opportunity to gain international ‘legitimacy’, even recognition. But for Afghanistan and her people this superpower showdown meant the worst misfortune, misery, death and destruction in the country’s history. The misery continues even two decades after one of the superpowers is no more.
The following article is a short trip down memory lane by an Afghan expat, Muhammad Qayoumi, for Foreign Policy (May 27, 2010). It is one glimpse, through a particular little window, of how three decades of war can push a country six centuries back in time. It is not claimed that Afghanistan did not have large areas which were, as it were, centuries behind parts of Kabul, Herat and Mazar e Sharif, even 30 years ago. But what is most saddening about this little window on the past is the realisation of the damage that has been done to the psyche of the Afghan people, regardless of who they were, where they lived and in which ‘century’. To regain self-confidence, and to let go of anxieties of more than one sort, would perhaps be the most difficult task faced by the Afghans in their efforts to try and rebuild their country. They will have to relearn to be Afghans, rediscover their own history and not only find hope and security, but once again get used to feeling hopeful and secure. They will have to learn to smile again. (bciv)
Once Upon a Time in Afghanistan…
Record stores, Mad Men furniture, and pencil skirts — when Kabul had rock ‘n’ roll, not rockets
On a recent trip to Afghanistan, British Defense Secretary Liam Fox drew fire for calling it “a broken 13th-century country.” The most common objection was not that he was wrong, but that he was overly blunt. He’s hardly the first Westerner to label Afghanistan as medieval. Former Blackwater CEO Erik Prince recently described the country as inhabited by “barbarians” with “a 1200 A.D. mentality.” Many assume that’s all Afghanistan has ever been — an ungovernable land where chaos is carved into the hills. Given the images people see on TV and the headlines written about Afghanistan over the past three decades of war, many conclude the country never made it out of the Middle Ages. Continue reading
by Amaar Ahmad
In the aftermath of the carnage in Lahore against Ahmadis, life returned to normal. Our prime minister gazed at the wonders on display at another art gallery, our law minister spoke to TV channels highlighting the great efforts of Punjab police in striking down the terror cells, our mullahs ranted fatwas against infidels and the hosts of our television shows switched to their favorite topic of the failings of the PPP government.
The scale of the tragedy in Lahore on May 28 must have been enormous. After all, how can you explain why our television anchors felt obliged to parade Allama after Allama for delivering words of condemnation that night. No sooner did the Ulema utter words of commiseration than sermons on the context and pretext of why and how a terrorist does what he does were offered. Never mind that some of the erudite scholars also consider the Ahmadis (Qadiyanis) to be ‘wajib-ul-qatal’ who deserve to be either put down or put out. The soothing words of our Ulema are indeed a nice combination of what should really be done to these infidels as well as a condolence for the infidels when it is actually done.
The TV hosts also wanted to quickly move on to discussing the hopeless inefficiency of the Punjab police in protecting the life of citizens. The anchors decided to analyze this issue ad nauseam – a valuable use of public airtime. The citizens need to be constantly reminded of the fact that they should not be expecting any protection and ought to make alternative arrangements.
Our anchors also bring people on their shows who analyze social evils through slogans. One such slogan is ‘terrorists have no religion’. That members of religious groups are committing these acts of violence should not be a concern. That with indoctrination so many of our madressas are mass producing murderers is not worrisome. That pamphlets are being distributed which declare open season on the life and property of Kafirs (read Ahmadis, Shias and Christians) should not disturb our sleep. That banners are openly displayed even now advertising the famous convert-or-be-killed option for Ahmadis should not make us anxious either. After all, terrorists have no religion.//
Our anchors love humanity. Oppression of fellow Muslims disturbs them even if the event happens on Pluto. When Israelis hunt down humanitarian workers on the flotilla, our hosts lose their peace of mind and grant their entire airtime to the atrocity. These troubling events also agitate our religious parties so much that they start running amok on the streets and screaming cries of anguish. Surely, our national generosity demands that Pakistan’s problems should wait.
This brings us back to the carnage in Lahore. When our TV hosts devote their valuable time to discuss the troubles of our country, they must never commit one folly. They must never allow the Ahmadis on their show. Otherwise the world would know a dirty little secret kept hidden from public since 1974. Pakistani public must never discover about the deliberate police inaction at the killings of Ahmadis in broad daylight, the government prohibition on their public gatherings, the regular imprisonment for their crimes such as declaring the Muslim Kalima, for saying the Azaan and for the cardinal sin of considering themselves Muslims.
Anchors of Pakistan! You must never let the Ahmadi explain his position on your show even if a hundred members of his community are murdered during the act of worship before Allah. Put Ulema of all breeds on your shows instead.
Margaret Atwood, one of the most prominent poets, essayist, author and critic of modern times penned this touching piece for the left wing Israeli newspaper Haaretz. Margaret postulates the most glaring injustices of modern times; Palestinians have been ejected and displaced from their own homes. They have been made homeless in their own ancestral lands. Israel, in its paranoia to keep itself established, has increasingly dehumanized and mistreated the already hapless Palestinians. In order to ensure its survival at any cost, Israel is dehumanizing the people who have lived on the land for centuries that constitute modern day Israel. For Israel to exist, an independent Palestine must exist. Otherwise Israeli paranoia will likely consume itself.
There are signs that world opinion is shifting against the state of Israel. Even many thoughtful Jews are aghast at the heavy handed attitude that Israel has demonstrated by collectively debasing Palestinians and Arabs to a sub-human level. We say enough of the blockade of Gaza; this blockade is killing children and leaving a beleaguered community nothing to hope or live for. Israel must stop the humanitarian crisis that is in play at Gaza for the last few years.
As Margaret puts it eloquently: “Child-killing in Gaza? Killing aid-bringers on ships in international waters? Civilians malnourished thanks to the blockade? Forbidding writing paper? Forbidding pizza? How petty and vindictive! Is pizza is a tool of terrorists? Would most Canadians agree? And am I a tool of terrorists for saying this? I think not”.
Until Palestine has its own ‘legitimized’ state within its internationally recognized borders, the Shadow will remain.
By Margaret Atwood
Published on June 02, 2010
The moment when, after many years
of hard work and a long voyage,
you stand in the centre of your room,
house, half-acre, square mile, island, country,
knowing at last how you got there,
and say, I own this,
Raza Habib Raja has authored this exclusive post for PTH. We welcome his original thoughts and courage to express them. Raza Rumi
I have often been much more amazed not at the religious fanaticism of the few, but at passivity of the moderate majority. And although skeptics will cast their doubt but the fact is that Pakistan on the whole has a moderate population, particularly when compared to countries like Iran, Saudi Arabia etc, where large sections of population are thoroughly radicalized. In Pakistan comparable fervour is dominant only in pockets. Yes this is a country which has Taliban but it is also a country where people have largely voted for PPP and PML (N) (which is a moderate conservative political party). This is a country which despite being conservative has never voted clergy into power. It has a relatively independent media and entertainment avenues are more eclectic compared to aforementioned Islamic countries.
And yet this is the also the same country which through legislation declared Ahmadis Non Muslims and that too during the tenor of ZAB, arguably the most intelligent and liberal Prime Minister. And mind you PPP did not originally have any such agenda item in its manifesto. Moreover, Hadood and blasphemy laws are solidly entrenched despite the fact that these were not enacted through a proper legislative procedure. Today parties are reluctant to even debate these controversial legislation[s] despite the obvious fact that these are in contravention of the modern day ideals of human rights. Due to these black laws, the religious extremism and discrimination have been institutionalized and Pakistan has become extremely controversial in the international arena. Despite the enormous negative publicity and being in the watch list of various human rights organizations, there is hardly any concrete debate in Pakistan on the mainstream media and legislative forums to repeal these laws. No political party wants to be the political casualty even if it can muster the two third majority. And this is happening in a country where clergy are regularly outvoted by huge margins. Continue reading