Category Archives: Citizens

A Vicious Circle

By Adnan Syed

Pakistan is passing through a vicious negative feedback loop that is beginning to gather momentum. The vicious circle is a result of country’s inability to provide for the basic individual rights of its citizens. Combine that with a burgeoning population, and the rampant nationalist tensions within the society that have been suppressed in the name of religious identity, Pakistan is staring at a nightmarish scenario in the coming decade. Pakistan needs to realize that the existential threat is coming from the failure of its society and not due to the external influences that consume majority of the resources of our nation. Unless we start spending on providing for the four basic rights to our citizens, the chaos will just feed on itself in the years to come.

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Filed under Citizens, Constitution, human rights, Identity, Islam, Islamabad, musings, Pak Tea House, Pakistan, Rights, state

Guardian: Sectarianism has poisoned Pakistan

By Basim Usmani

Cross Post from The Guardian

The violence seen in Lahore last week was aided by a bigoted constitution. How has stock in our nationhood plummeted so?

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/jul/05/pakistan-terrorism

The recent attacks on a prominent shrine in Lahore demonstrate how the unrest in Pakistan is caused by a minority of few who cannot tolerate the plurality of beliefs in Pakistan. The Tehrik-e-Taliban are lying through their teeth when they claim that they do not attack public places. It’s becoming more and more apparent that these militants aren’t resisting American hegemony; this a war to determine Pakistan’s future and, by proxy, the future of Islam.

Whether the Tehrik-e-Taliban actually arranged the bombers’ suicide belts is irrelevant; they have created a domino effect that’s likely to spread from commercial capitals such as Lahore to cities with historic shrines and Pakistani historical sites, such as Multan, or Taxila.

Unlike Baghdad, where violence between Islamic sects is a product of the war America is waging, the onus of last Thursday’s blasts falls squarely on us, the citizens of Pakistan. We have been complacent about sectarianism for too long.

A good friend who works for a transportation company told me in 2007 that in villages along the highways to Waziristan where the Taliban had seized control were the bodies of butchered Shia Muslims. That year, Lahore’s public was too busy mobilising about the judiciary and President Musharraf to pay the violence any mind.

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Filed under Al Qaeda, Citizens, culture, Islam, Islamabad, Islamism, minorities, Pakistan, Punjab, Taliban

Fear and silence

By Mohsin Hamid     Dawn, 27 Jun, 2010

Why are Ahmadis persecuted so ferociously in Pakistan?

 A victim of attack on Jinnah Hospital, Lahore

The reason can’t be that their large numbers pose some sort of ‘threat from within’. After all, Ahmadis are a relatively small minority in Pakistan. They make up somewhere between 0.25 per cent (according to the last census) and 2.5 per cent (according to the Economist) of our population.

Nor can the reason be that Ahmadis are non-Muslims. Pakistani Christians and Pakistani Hindus are non-Muslims, and similar in numbers to Pakistani Ahmadis. Yet Christians and Hindus, while undeniably discriminated against, face nothing like the vitriol directed towards Ahmadis in our country.

To understand what the persecution of Ahmadis achieves, we have to see how it works. Its first step is to say that Ahmadis are non-Muslims. And its second is to say that Ahmadis are not just non-Muslims, but apostates: non-Muslims who claim to be Muslims. These two steps are easy to take: any individual Pakistani citizen has the right to believe whatever they want about Ahmadis and their faith. Continue reading

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Filed under Citizens, Constitution, human rights, Islamism, minorities, Pakistan, Religion, Rights, secularism, state, Terrorism, violence

From the Frying Pan into the Fire

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

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Filed under Afghanistan, Books, Citizens, History, Images, Photos, war, War On Terror

Guardian: Ahmadi massacre silence is dispiriting

By Declan Walsh

Reproduced from www.guardian.co.uk

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2010/jun/07/ahmadi-massacre-silence-pakistan

I often find myself defending Pakistan against the unbidden prejudices of the outside world. No, Islam is not the cause of terrorism. Yes, the Taliban is a complex phenomenon. No, Imran Khan is not a major political figure.

This past week, though, I am silent. The massacre of 94 members of the minority Ahmadi community on May 28 has exposed something ugly at the heart of Pakistan – its laws, its rulers, its society.

It’s not the violence that disturbs most, gut-churning as it was. During Friday prayers two teams of attackers stormed Ahmadi mosques in the eastern city of Lahore. They fired Kalashnikovs from minarets, chucked grenades into the crowds, exploded their suicide vests.

As the massacre unfolded, a friend called – his father-in-law, a devout Ahmadi, was inside one of the besieged mosques. The family, glued to live television coverage, were sick with worry.

Two hours later, my friend’s relative emerged alive. But many of his friends – old men, including a retired general and former judge – were dead.

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Filed under Citizens, human rights, Islam, Islamabad, Islamism, Jinnah's Pakistan, minorities, Punjab, Religion, Taliban, Terrorism, violence

The Journey of a Pakistani Muslim

I was born into a Sunni Muslim family in a northern city in the UK. The city is home to a large Muslim minority from Pakistan. I come from an educated and broad minded family with middle of the road type of values. Religion was never really a huge issue but I did the usual cultural thing of learning how to read the Quran in Arabic till I was 10 years old.

 At around the age of 14, I became interested in Islam and joined the Young Muslims UK. This was my first real exposure to practical Islam. We would attend camps and have weekly meetings usually to discuss the Quran and the Hadith of Muhammad. For all intents and purposes everything was going well and my family was happy that I had decided to take it upon my own back to learn about the religion of my ancestors. I remember walking two miles to a shop from school to hire Ahmed Deedat debates and shouting “Allah-hu-Akbar” whilst watching other less worthy opponents beaten to a pulp.

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Filed under Activism, Afghanistan, Al Qaeda, Citizens, culture, Democracy, Egalitarian Pakistan, Europe, human rights, India, Iran, Iraq, Islam, Islamism, Pakistan, Philosophy, Religion, Rights, violence, war, Women, youth

Acting upon the Freedom of Information Act

By Naeem Sadiq

In September 2009 I wrote to two  Sindh  government departments seeking harmless information on matters of education and pollution that should anyway be available to all citizens. I was confident that a formal request under the much trumpeted and much ‘seminar’ed  Freedom of Information Act will do the trick.  The law requires a response within 21 days.   When nothing happened for 4 months, in Jan 2010,  I approached the Sindh Ombudsman (as suggested in the law) to ask the concerned departments to do the needful.

After digesting my request for 3 months, the Sindh Ombudsman finally asked the concerned departments (Education and Environmental Protection Agency) to appear and explain why they did not provide the information that had been asked for.  I too was asked to appear.

So I spent the 1st of April (like a fool)  in the Ombudsman’s office, hoping that the real culprits would make an appearance.  Nobody turned up and the helpless  Ombudsman gave a new date of April 6, for all parties to appear again.

On 6th April I wasted  another day waiting in the Ombudsman’s office, but again neither department put in an appearance.

Clearly I was now being given a taste of my own medicine.  The Ombudsman could keep calling.  I could keep appearing.  The departments violating the freedom of information Act could keep not turning up.  Life could keep going on as normal. Continue reading

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Filed under Citizens, civil service, Conservation, Democracy, Education, Environment, executive, Law, Pakistan, Rights, Sindh