Pakistan in 68 years

BY

Owning diversity is the key to unity

It has been sixty-eight years since the birth of Pakistan. Pakistan’s successive governments have failed to ingrain the concept of ‘unity in diversity’ among Pakistanis by developing policies whether educational, related to economic development, preservation and enhancement of culture, or any other. This diversity in unity is confirmed by many articles of the Constitution of Pakistan 1973 whether it is Article 19 that awards freedom of expression and speech to all its citizens or the chapter of Fundamental Rights or many, many others all of which cannot be recounted in this limited space.

Where is Jinnah’s Pakistan? The shape and form of which he declared in his speech of 11th August, 1947, “You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques, or to any other place of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed — that has nothing to do with the business of the State. Even now there are some states in existence where there discriminations are made and bars imposed against a particular class. Thank God, we are not starting in those days. We are starting in the days when there is no discrimination, no discrimination between one community and another, no discrimination between one caste or creed and another. We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one State.”

Why does then Pakistan lie today riddled with hatred, sectarian and religious violence eating away at its innards? Is this the work of common people like you and me or a certain group of people within? One Facebook user commented thus, “This is not the mindset of general Pakistani population… look around you… how many among you are inter-community hating people? But there are a few present in all societies and communities. When exploited by enemies of this nation, then these things happened irrespective of community… Christians are also part of this nation.” (March 16, 2015)

The above quoted comment came on the heels of a recent ugly incident. Reportedly, 17 people were killed and over 70 sustained injuries when two Taliban suicide bombers targeted churches in Lahore on March 15, 2015. The area chosen was Youhanabad, a neighborhood housing roughly 100,000 Christians. The question posed is: Is this to be seen as Christian persecution per se? I think not. How can then one describe “the killing of 61 people in a suicide bombing at an imambargah, as southern Pakistan shut down to mourn the nation’s worst sectarian attack in nearly two years.” (The Newsweek, January 31, 2015) How does one describe the Peshawar attack on APS on December 16, 2014? How does one describe innumerable similar incidents on people of different ethnicities and religious beliefs?

According to SATP, figures of fatalities in violence in Pakistan from January 1, 2015, till March 8, 2015, are 732 in number and from 2003 till March 8, 2015, a colossal 567,44. A horrifyingly painful article in The Times of India titled “Terror attacks drive Pakistan coffin boom” states, “Coffins are not part of traditional Islamic death rites in Pakistan where corpses are normally bound in a funeral shroud and laid upon a rope-cord bed at the time of burial. But when it comes to the mutilated victims of gun, suicide bomb and IED attacks, whose bodies are often in pieces, there is often little choice but to gather the remains in a box.” (January 20, 2015)

The question that one is faced with is: Are we misguided into thinking that these attacks are persecution of one particular sect/religion? It is a mixed palette of ethic terrorism, religious terrorism, domestic terrorism, global terrorism, jihadist terrorism so on and so forth. One overlaps with the other at some point and sometimes it does not.

A very brief mention of some more recent events mentioned make it clear that this is not the case though it may seem so at times. However, these terrorist attacks point towards one thing: undermining the writ of the state. The reasons of terrorism in Pakistan are briefly touched upon by Muhammad Irshad in his essay “Terrorism in Pakistan: Causes and Remedies”: “Issues like poverty, unemployment, lack of health related facilities, illiteracy and lack of justice are considered to be some of the major causes of militancy in Pakistan and elsewhere. According to a World Food Programme study, around 89 of Pakistan’s 112 districts are facing many problems including food insecurity and diseases. The diminishing public expenditures on education and health have forced a sizable population to seek the services of Islamic charities for their basic needs which make them extremely vulnerable to the various forms of vicious terrorist propaganda. Internally, Pakistan’s complex socio-cultural makeup presents a conducive environment for ethnic and religious/sectarian polarisation greatly eroding national cohesion, where each group enjoys transnational affiliations and sponsorship to flex its muscle at home. Due to the slow moving judicial system, anti-state forces feel encouraged to undermine the writ of the government. Similarly, Pakistan inherited a weak political structure. The problem was further compounded when Pakistan’s founding father died before a political structure could get some maturity. In the absence of mature/visionary leadership after the Quaid’s death, Pakistani nation lost their true direction. Inefficient and highly corrupt successive administrations ruined the basic foundations of the country.”

How does one overcome this state of affairs? Obviously military handling of the issue itself is not enough. Addressing issues at grass root level can no longer be avoided. What we also need to understand as a nation is that ‘Pakistan Ideology’ is a fusion of different religions and the multi-ethnicities that form Pakistan. USA, according to a map by the Census Bureau, has Germans as by far the largest ethnic group with 49,206,934 in number. This is followed by others like Africans, the Irish, the English and others. Yet this did not stop them from thinking and acting as Americans first and foremost. We have been Pakistanis since 1947 yet we have allowed ourselves to continue, constitutionally and effectively, being anything but Pakistanis. The Act of India 1935 divided the area today known as Pakistan into various ethnic regions. To this division we have subscribed with each succeeding constitution. What is needed to understand diversity is our unity. I believe we are different on a cultural level; we have no reason to be the same. Like many other countries we are a fusion of different cultures. The beauty of us Pakistanis is the divergent cultures that converge to make Pakistan. Let us celebrate our differences, enjoy them and respect them. As we should respect the different religions within.

The State must nurture and honour cultural programmes, and develop love and appreciation between different cultures via its policies. Simultaneously, it should handle terrorism with an iron hand.

Was it not Pope Francis who said, “Human rights are not only violated by terrorism, repression or assassinations, but also by unfair economic structures that create huge inequalities”?

Moving beyond 1947

Article originally published in Weekly Pulse on 23rd March 2015

ArticleYAAYasmeen Aftab Ali

Trains upon trains pulled in the Lahore Railways Station with mutilated bodies of old men and women, children, women pregnant and young men and girls. No one was spared. A few lucky ones who were spared were those who were taken as dead; bathed in blood of those killed around them, buried in the pile of dead bodies, pretending to be as dead as their fellow passengers.  This was the standard scene of post Pakistan creation trains heading from India. Unfortunately, instead of moving forward beyond this hatred in 1947, India has chosen to stay stuck in this familiar zone. How has this choice been made, one may ask? Firstly, by illegally occupying Kashmir.  This disputed area holds great strategic importance for both India and Pakistan. The Indus and the tributaries flowing from Indus are the source of fresh water for a largely agricultural economy of Pakistan.  Controlling water by increasing or decreasing the flow can damage crops in Pakistan. This is exactly what happened soon after Independence, India had shut off the canals of Central Bari Doab. The result was damage to crops it being the sowing season. Historian Naveed Tajammal  in an article states, “The article lll of the Indus Water Treaty  binds the Government of India not to hinder the flow of the western rivers, i.e. Indus, Jhelum and Chenab, to Pakistan, and India cannot store any water or construct any storage works, on the above cited rivers, having been given total rights since march 1973, of Ravi, Beas and Sutlej. We get flood surplus of these rivers which is released in case of excessive rains, which helps in recharging our ground waters levels, but that too will cease after the second Ravi-Beas Link is made. Today while we slumber,  India has started works on, the following projects; Pakal Dul 1000MW, Kiru 600 MW,Karwar 520 MW, Baglihar (eventual 900 MW),Sawalkot 1200MW (two 600mw units),Salal 390 MW, Sewa-ll 120 MW, and finally the Bursur project on the Marusudar river, which, is a major tributary of Chenab river, here the Foxland intends to build a massive water storage dam, which will control and regulate the flow to maintain levels of Pakal dul, Dul Hasti, Rattle, Baglihar, Sawalkot and Salal Hydro-projects, on the Chenab. Jhelum will be blessed by the foxland with Kishanganga 330 MW and Uri-ll 240 MW.” (Published March 6, 2012)

Kashmir has another significance for both countries and this is the existence of Silk Route. The main land connection between Pakistan and China that passes through Kashmir.   Kashmir has led both countries to war. It represents the main bone of contention between both.  No amount of superficial handling of relationships between both and by both nations can lead to continuing peace between both nations. Only an intelligent settlement of the dispute can deliver this result. In light of the existing government in India, any such settlement is unlikely. In fact, to expect any government togive away a territory it has occupied, albeit illegally will be political suicide.

Perhaps Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru, gave the solution to this issue in his statement in the Indian Parliament on 7th August, 1952; “Pandit Nehru said, “Let me say clearly that we accept the basic proposition that the future of Kashmir is going to be decided finally by the goodwill and pleasure of her people. The goodwill and pleasure of this Parliament is of no importance in this matter, not because this Parliament does not have the strength to decide the question of Kashmir but because any kind of imposition would be against the principles that this Parliament holds. Kashmir is very close to our minds and hearts and if by some decree or adverse fortune, ceases to be a part of India, it will be a wrench and a pain and torment for us. If, however, the people of Kashmir do not wish to remain with us, let them go by all means. We will not keep them against their will, however painful it may be to us. I want to stress that it is only the people of Kashmir who can decide the future of Kashmir. It is not that we have merely said that to the United Nations and to the people of Kashmir, it is our conviction and one that is borne out by the policy that we have pursued, not only in Kashmir but everywhere. Though these five years have meant a lot of trouble and expense and in spite of all we have done, we would willingly leave if it was made clear to us that the people of Kashmir wanted us to go. However sad we may feel about leaving we are not going to stay against the wishes of the people. We are not going to impose ourselves on them on the point of the bayonet.” (Arundhati Roy inThe Hindu November 28, 2010) And this by the way was neither the first nor the last time he opined on the issue.

This main cause has led to a cascading fountain of negativity that has given birth to more actions and reactions that one can recount. A deep distrust of each other, nurtured and watered by the continuing existence of the dispute has stopped both India and Pakistan to move forward confidently into the future developing programmes that focus on their people not upon fear of each other.

This very fear has led India to fear that “with the “official end” of war in terror in Afghanistan heralded by the departure of US combat forces, Pakistan shall launch the jihadists in India-occupied Kashmir. Nothing can be further from the truth. One; Pakistan does not “own” the jihadists as claimed by India and two; Pakistan is facing terrorism within its borders.” (My op-ed September 24, 2013) This very fear has led to focus on the Ayni Air Base also called as ‘Gissar Air Base’ located 10 km west of the capital of Tajikistan-Dushanbe. Between years 2002-2010, India invested approximately $70 million in renovations, installing state-of-the-art air defense navigational facilities. The runway was further extended. This access offers immediate strategic depth in the region to India. This very fear has also led to India’s decision to maintain a strong foothold at the Farkhor Air Base; a military air base located near the town of Farkhor in Tajikistan. To be noted; aircrafts taking off from Farkhor could be over the Pakistani skies within minutes.

This very fear has led to spending of funds from both sides in equipping their armies, their fleets and air forces with bigger, better machines and equipment in case needed against each other. If not anything else; to be viewed as a deterrent towards each other.  The question here would be; why must this money be spent based on the fear of each other? Why should not this money be spent on the development of facilities, healthcare and education of its people?  According to a U.N research study, “Far more people in India have access to a cell phone than to a toilet and improved sanitation. Says Zafar Adeel, Director of United Nations University’s Canada-based think-tank for water, the Institute for Water, Environment and Health: “It is a tragic irony to think that in India, a country now wealthy enough that roughly half of the people own phones, about half cannot afford the basic necessity and dignity of a toilet.” (United Nations University 2010)

India being the one occupying Kashmir must bear greater responsibility for this climate of distrust and hostility between both nations. It has been sixty-eight years to the birth of both nations being free from the yolk of their colonial masters. Yet they continue to live with the legacy that has only created hatred. Is that wise?

Time to take stock.

The writer is a lawyer, academic and political analyst. She has authored a book titled ‘A Comparative Analysis of Media & Media Laws in Pakistan.’ She can be contacted at: yasmeenali62@gmail.com and tweets at @yasmeen_9

The Pakistani Identity

Article published originally in The Dawn (Supplement 23rd March 2015)
This is a cross post.

ArticleYAAYasmeen Aftab Ali
Pakistan continues to suffer from its birth convulsions since 1947, unable to determine a common bond of identity, with other Pakistanis, across the board. To understand the dilemma, one must have a clear understanding of terms involved. The simplest meaning of identity can be defined as a distinctive character marking an individual, group of individuals, an ethnic group, a nation. Most Pakistanis however, remain confused to this date regarding their identity. Some measure it by religion, others by culture, yet some use other varied markers.  Each of these markers are used in exclusion of other elements involved; a fatal mistake.
The first seed of the split was sown when the speech of Quaid-e-Azam for 11th August 1947 was censored by Chowdhery Muhammad Ali. The only paper to publish it uncensored was The Dawn. Chowdhery probably did not agree with the Quaid when he stated, “You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques, or to any other place of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed-that has nothing to do with the business of the State…. Even now there are some states in existence, where there are discriminations, made and bars imposed against a particular class. Thank God, we are not starting in those days. We are starting in the days  when there is no discrimination, no discrimination between one community and another, no discrimination between one caste or creed and another. We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one State.”
Little did Jinnah know that the identity that had emerged as a strength in the  pre-partition era would be damaged, molested and torn apart by divisions created by different vested interest groups. It was this understanding of a pluralistic society that gave birth to Pakistan; yet today we stand, in 2015, trying to piece together what exactly that identity is. The identity is not based upon religion to the exclusion of rights of those not following the religion of the majority. The excerpt shared above of Jinnah’s speech stands testimony to that.  Also standing testimony to this thought process is the Chapter of Fundamental Rights of the Constitution of Pakistan 1973, as does Article 19 that deals with Freedom of Expression and Speech and states thus:
“Every citizen shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression, and there shall be freedom of the press, subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of the glory of Islam or the integrity, security or defence of Pakistan or any part thereof, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, [commission of] or incitement to an offence.”
The term citizen denotes every person holding the citizenship of Pakistan irrespective of the caste, creed or religion. If I may add: exactly as promised by Jinnah.  Freedom of expression is deemed to be a basic human right, that includes; freedom of thought, freedom of press, freedom to express oneself in arts, poetry, architecture, crafts, lifestyles, dressing, eating, culture, music, sculptures, professing one’s faith,  so on and so forth. Every citizen of Pakistan has the right to freedom of expression; also an integral part of the constitution, in line with Jinnah’s philosophy. Pakistani identity therefore, does not offer this gift to members of one religion while excluding others. Nor does it offer an advantage to one sect within the religion to the exclusion of another.
Some promote the theory that there are at least six distinct ethnic races in Pakistan ie the Pathans, the Punjabis, the Baluchis, the Sindhis, Kashmiris  and the Urdu Speaking. They opine that since these ethnic races have a cultural heritage spanning centuries, therefore the Pakistani Identity (whatever it may be) takes a back- bench and has thereby failed to develop. This, as put forth by them; includes not only cultural differences but also difference in language spoken by them. Lack of a common language base is promoted as a major dividing factor by these theorists.
Let me submit here, that nations geographically and demographically bigger than us, have had more cultural diversity in terms of ethnicity than we can imagine, yet they have managed to emerge as one nation. One such example is the US. The US Census Bureau map shows the ancestry of its 317 million people of which Germans are by far the largest with 49,206,934 people. This is followed by the African-Americans. Then there are roughly 4.5 million Irish people settled in the larger cities of the US including New York, Boston and Chicago to name a few. The English-Americans are also sizeable in number. Those claiming a Mexican ancestry are said to be at 31,789,483 in number. Yet, this does not stop any one of them from thinking and acting only as Americans.
In countries having served time under colonial rule, English has more often than not been given a legislative status. Most African states for example, had English as their national and official language to curb ethnic disputes, which would otherwise arise from existence of multi-tribes and ethnicities.
We made the mistake of trying to impose one uniform language; Urdu from top down ignoring the multitude of local languages especially Bengali. A region where few spoke or understood Urdu. The result dear readers, was the 1971 episode. Among other reasons, effort at imposition of Urdu on a Bengali speaking ethnic race led to disastrous results. The educational policies followed by successive governments to create different classes based on language preferences namely the elite and regular (English language being mandatory for good jobs) has undoubtedly created a deep schism within the Pakistani society. We must move towards a solution, as it is high time, not remain bogged down by deterrents preventing us from achieving greatness.
To move towards that solution, we must first address the question posed; what is then a Pakistani Identity?
I believe the Pakistani Identity must be seen in a bigger context as opposed to being relegated to religious, linguistic, or similar levels to the exclusion of other elements at play.
Pakistani Identity evolved in 1947 as a political statement. It is composed of different ethnic groups and different religious groups; further sub-divided into different sects within these different religious groups. Pakistan was and is created for each one of these groups as clearly enunciated in Jinnah’s speech of 11th 1947.
No country can develop as a nation if it negates its component parts. Translated, it means, a Pakistani Identity cannot establish and entrench itself in the psyche of its people minus the identity of being a composition of all its multi-cultural and multi-religious roots. To deny the uniformity leads to a national identity. Acknowledgement and nurturing of sub- cultures making up these layers; does. Imposition of any form that is alien will not create an identity; it will only destroy the existing one leaving one groping in the dark in confusion.  Subscribing to the thought expounded above,  Hywel Coleman, an Honorary Research Fellow of Leeds, did a research paper for the British Council in 2010 addressing the weightage awarded to English Language competency in the Civil Service Exams in Pakistan. He suggested that applicants should need to demonstrate not only competency in English language but also the language generally understood by all; Urdu as well as competency in at least one regional language.  In one stroke of brilliance, Hywel told us that though English is necessary in today’s world based on inter-linking of nations, important too is to link Pakistanis across board under the ‘umbrella’ of Urdu understood by all. He has at the same time awarded equality to regional languages as well thereby emphasizing upon the importance of one’s roots.
The Pakistani Identity is not based on one aspect alone to the exclusion of every other component involved; it is multidimensional and multilayered. It is many things rolled in one.  The objective never was that once the goal of creation of Pakistan was achieved, Pakistanis would meet out the exact same treatment to their minorities as meted out to them in undivided India. At least, that was not Jinnah’s vision. Pakistan is essentially pluralistic in its identity; a society composed of different ethnicities, religions and cultures and as such must be given the environment to nourish, gain strength and grow, learning in the process to love and celebrate their differences. Belittling or nullifying these varieties of flavor will only damage the fabric of our combined identity. Yet at the same time, one needs to understand that all are intertwined as one under the umbrella of ‘Pakistan’ and this; defines each of us!
Multiculturalism is the underlying thread that weaves the Pakistani Identity and holds it together. Emphasizing on the citizenship alone will fail to gel people from different faiths and cultures as one. Accepting and celebrating the differences, initiating serious inter-faith dialogues and appreciation of cultural flavors will create a bonding.
Endnote: In any case Pakistan is not going to be a theocratic State — to be ruled by priests with a divine mission. We have many non- Muslims — Hindus, Christians, and Parsis — but they are all Pakistanis. They will enjoy the same rights and privileges as any other citizens and will play their rightful part in the affairs of Pakistan.”(Jinnah  in February 1948 address in US)
The writer is a lawyer, academic and political analyst. She has authored a book titled ‘A Comparative Analysis of Media & Media Laws in Pakistan.’ Her mail ID is yasmeenali62@gmail.com and tweets at @yasmeen_9

The Pakistani Identity

This article appeared in The Dawn Newspaper Supplement on 23rd March 2013:

It is a cross post:

 ArticleYAAYasmeen Aftab Ali

Pakistan continues to suffer from its birth convulsions since 1947, unable to determine a common bond of identity, with other Pakistanis, across the board. To understand the dilemma, one must have a clear understanding of terms involved. The simplest meaning of identity can be defined as a distinctive character marking an individual, group of individuals, an ethnic group, a nation. Most Pakistanis however, remain confused to this date regarding their identity. Some measure it by religion, others by culture, yet some use other varied markers.  Each of these markers are used in exclusion of other elements involved; a fatal mistake.

The first seed of the split was sown when the speech of Quaid-e-Azam for 11th August 1947 was censored by Chowdhery Muhammad Ali. The only paper to publish it uncensored was The Dawn. Chowdhery probably did not agree with the Quaid when he stated, “You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques, or to any other place of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed-that has nothing to do with the business of the State…. Even now there are some states in existence, where there are discriminations, made and bars imposed against a particular class. Thank God, we are not starting in those days. We are starting in the days  when there is no discrimination, no discrimination between one community and another, no discrimination between one caste or creed and another. We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one State.”

Little did Jinnah know that the identity that had emerged as a strength in the  pre-partition era would be damaged, molested and torn apart by divisions created by different vested interest groups. It was this understanding of a pluralistic society that gave birth to Pakistan; yet today we stand, in 2015, trying to piece together what exactly that identity is. The identity is not based upon religion to the exclusion of rights of those not following the religion of the majority. The excerpt shared above of Jinnah’s speech stands testimony to that.  Also standing testimony to this thought process is the Chapter of Fundamental Rights of the Constitution of Pakistan 1973, as does Article 19 that deals with Freedom of Expression and Speech and states thus:

“Every citizen shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression, and there shall be freedom of the press, subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of the glory of Islam or the integrity, security or defence of Pakistan or any part thereof, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, [commission of] or incitement to an offence.”

The term citizen denotes every person holding the citizenship of Pakistan irrespective of the caste, creed or religion. If I may add: exactly as promised by Jinnah.  Freedom of expression is deemed to be a basic human right, that includes; freedom of thought, freedom of press, freedom to express oneself in arts, poetry, architecture, crafts, lifestyles, dressing, eating, culture, music, sculptures, professing one’s faith,  so on and so forth. Every citizen of Pakistan has the right to freedom of expression; also an integral part of the constitution, in line with Jinnah’s philosophy. Pakistani identity therefore, does not offer this gift to members of one religion while excluding others. Nor does it offer an advantage to one sect within the religion to the exclusion of another.

Some promote the theory that there are at least six distinct ethnic races in Pakistan ie the Pathans, the Punjabis, the Baluchis, the Sindhis, Kashmiris  and the Urdu Speaking. They opine that since these ethnic races have a cultural heritage spanning centuries, therefore the Pakistani Identity (whatever it may be) takes a back- bench and has thereby failed to develop. This, as put forth by them; includes not only cultural differences but also difference in language spoken by them. Lack of a common language base is promoted as a major dividing factor by these theorists.

Let me submit here, that nations geographically and demographically bigger than us, have had more cultural diversity in terms of ethnicity than we can imagine, yet they have managed to emerge as one nation. One such example is the US. The US Census Bureau map shows the ancestry of its 317 million people of which Germans are by far the largest with 49,206,934 people. This is followed by the African-Americans. Then there are roughly 4.5 million Irish people settled in the larger cities of the US including New York, Boston and Chicago to name a few. The English-Americans are also sizeable in number. Those claiming a Mexican ancestry are said to be at 31,789,483 in number. Yet, this does not stop any one of them from thinking and acting only as Americans.

In countries having served time under colonial rule, English has more often than not been given a legislative status. Most African states for example, had English as their national and official language to curb ethnic disputes, which would otherwise arise from existence of multi-tribes and ethnicities.

We made the mistake of trying to impose one uniform language; Urdu from top down ignoring the multitude of local languages especially Bengali. A region where few spoke or understood Urdu. The result dear readers, was the 1971 episode. Among other reasons, effort at imposition of Urdu on a Bengali speaking ethnic race led to disastrous results. The educational policies followed by successive governments to create different classes based on language preferences namely the elite and regular (English language being mandatory for good jobs) has undoubtedly created a deep schism within the Pakistani society. We must move towards a solution, as it is high time, not remain bogged down by deterrents preventing us from achieving greatness.

To move towards that solution, we must first address the question posed; what is then a Pakistani Identity?

I believe the Pakistani Identity must be seen in a bigger context as opposed to being relegated to religious, linguistic, or similar levels to the exclusion of other elements at play.

Pakistani Identity evolved in 1947 as a political statement. It is composed of different ethnic groups and different religious groups; further sub-divided into different sects within these different religious groups. Pakistan was and is created for each one of these groups as clearly enunciated in Jinnah’s speech of 11th 1947.

No country can develop as a nation if it negates its component parts. Translated, it means, a Pakistani Identity cannot establish and entrench itself in the psyche of its people minus the identity of being a composition of all its multi-cultural and multi-religious roots. To deny the uniformity leads to a national identity. Acknowledgement and nurturing of sub- cultures making up these layers; does. Imposition of any form that is alien will not create an identity; it will only destroy the existing one leaving one groping in the dark in confusion.  Subscribing to the thought expounded above,  Hywel Coleman, an Honorary Research Fellow of Leeds, did a research paper for the British Council in 2010 addressing the weightage awarded to English Language competency in the Civil Service Exams in Pakistan. He suggested that applicants should need to demonstrate not only competency in English language but also the language generally understood by all; Urdu as well as competency in at least one regional language.  In one stroke of brilliance, Hywel told us that though English is necessary in today’s world based on inter-linking of nations, important too is to link Pakistanis across board under the ‘umbrella’ of Urdu understood by all. He has at the same time awarded equality to regional languages as well thereby emphasizing upon the importance of one’s roots.

The Pakistani Identity is not based on one aspect alone to the exclusion of every other component involved; it is multidimensional and multilayered. It is many things rolled in one.  The objective never was that once the goal of creation of Pakistan was achieved, Pakistanis would meet out the exact same treatment to their minorities as meted out to them in undivided India. At least, that was not Jinnah’s vision. Pakistan is essentially pluralistic in its identity; a society composed of different ethnicities, religions and cultures and as such must be given the environment to nourish, gain strength and grow, learning in the process to love and celebrate their differences. Belittling or nullifying these varieties of flavor will only damage the fabric of our combined identity. Yet at the same time, one needs to understand that all are intertwined as one under the umbrella of ‘Pakistan’ and this; defines each of us!

Multiculturalism is the underlying thread that weaves the Pakistani Identity and holds it together. Emphasizing on the citizenship alone will fail to gel people from different faiths and cultures as one. Accepting and celebrating the differences, initiating serious inter-faith dialogues and appreciation of cultural flavors will create a bonding.

Endnote: In any case Pakistan is not going to be a theocratic State — to be ruled by priests with a divine mission. We have many non- Muslims — Hindus, Christians, and Parsis — but they are all Pakistanis. They will enjoy the same rights and privileges as any other citizens and will play their rightful part in the affairs of Pakistan.”(Jinnah  in February 1948 address in US)

The writer is a lawyer, academic and political analyst. She has authored a book titled ‘A Comparative Analysis of Media & Media Laws in Pakistan.’ Her mail ID is yasmeenali62@gmail.com and tweets at @yasmeen_9

Pakistan in 68 years!

This article appeared in Pakistan Today on 23rd March 2015

This is a cross post.

ArticleYAAYasmeen Aftab Ali

It has been sixty-eight years to the birth of Pakistan.  Pakistan’s successive governments have failed to ingrain ‘unity in diversity’ concept in Pakistanis by developing policies whether educational, related to economic development, preservation and enhancement of culture, or any other.  This diversity in unity is confirmed by many Articles of the Constitution of Pakistan 1973 whether it is Article 19 that awards freedom of expression and speech to all its citizens or the chapter of Fundamental Rights or many, many others all of which cannot be recounted in this limited space.

Where is Jinnah’s Pakistan?  The shape and form of which he declared in his speech of 11th August 1947, ““You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques, or to any other place of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed-that has nothing to do with the business of the State…. Even now there are some states in existence, where there are discriminations, made and bars imposed against a particular class. Thank God, we are not starting in those days. We are starting in the days when there is no discrimination, no discrimination between one community and another, no discrimination between one caste or creed and another. We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one State.”

Why then Pakistan lie today riddled with hatred, sectarian and religious violence eating away at its innards? Is this the work of common people like you and me or a certain group of people within? One face book user commented thus, “This is not the mindset of general Pakistani population…look around you…how many among you are inter-community hating people? But there  are a few  present in all societies and communities, when exploited by enemies of this nation, then these things happened irrespective of community…..Christians are also part of this nation.” (March 16, 2015)

The above quoted comment came on heels of a recent ugly incident. Reportedly, 15 people were killed and over 70 sustained injuries when two Taliban suicide bombers targeted churches in Lahore on March 15, 2015.  The area chosen was Youhanabad neighborhood housing roughly 100,000 Christians. The question posed is; is this to be seen as Christian persecution per se? I think not.  How can then one describe; “The killing of 61 people in a suicide bombing at an imambargah, as southern Pakistan shut down to mourn the nation’s worst sectarian attack in nearly two years.” (The Newsweek January 31, 2015) How does one describe the Peshawar attack on APS on December 16, 2014? How does one describe innumerable similar incidents on people of different ethnicities and religious beliefs?

According to Satp figures of fatalities in violence in Pakistan from January 1, 2015 till March 8, 2015 are 732 in number and from 2003 till March 8, 2015 is a colossal 567,44. A horrifyingly painful article in The Times of India titled, “Terror attacks drive Pakistan coffin boom” states, “Coffins are not part of traditional Islamic death rites in Pakistan, where corpses are normally bound in a funeral shroud and laid upon a rope-cord bed at the time of burial. But when it comes to the mutilated victims of gun, suicide bomb and IED attacks, whose bodies are often in pieces, there is often little choice but to gather the remains in a box.” (January 20, 2015)

The question that one is faced with is; are we misguided into thinking that these attacks are persecution of one particular sect/religion? It is a mixed palette of ethic terrorism, religious terrorism, domestic terrorism, global terrorism, Jihadist terrorism so on and so forth. One overlaps with the other at some point and sometimes it does not.

A very brief mention of some more recent events mentioned make it clear that this is not the case though it may seem so at times. However, these terrorist attacks point towards one thing: undermining the writ of the state. The reasons of terrorism in Pakistan are briefly touched upon by Muhammad Irshad in his essay “Terrorism in Pakistan: Causes and Remedies, “Issues like poverty, unemployment, lack of health related facilities, illiteracy and lack of justice are considered to be some of the major causes of militancy in Pakistan and elsewhere. According to a World Food Program study, around 89 of Pakistan’s 112 districts are facing many problems including
food insecurity and diseases. The diminishing public expenditures on education and health have forced a sizable population to seek the services of Islamic charities  for their basic needs which make them extremely vulnerable to the various forms of vicious terrorist propaganda. Internally, Pakistan’s  complex socio-cultural makeup presents a conducive environment for  ethnic and religious/sectarian polarization greatly eroding national cohesion, where each group enjoys trans-national affiliations and
sponsorship to flex its muscle at home. Due to the slow moving judicial system, anti-state forces feel encouraged to undermine the writ of the government. Similarly, Pakistan inherited a weak political structure. The problem was further compounded when Pakistan’s founding father died before a political structure could get some maturity. In the absence of mature/visionary leadership after the Quaid’s death, Pakistani nation lost their true direction. Inefficient and highly corrupt successive administrations ruined the basic foundations of the country.”

How does one overcome this state of affairs? Obviously military handling of the issue itself is not enough. Addressing issues at grass root level can no longer be avoided.  What we also need to understand as a nation is that Pakistan Ideology is a fusion of different religions and the multi-ethnicities that form Pakistan. USA, according to a map by the Census Bureau has Germans as by far the largest ethnic group with 49,206,934 in number. This is followed by others like Africans, the Irish, the English and others. Yet this did not stop them from thinking and acting as Americans first and foremost.  We have been Pakistanis since 1947 yet we have allowed ourselves to continue, constitutionally and effectively being anything but Pakistanis. The Act of India 1935  divided the area today known as Pakistan into various ethnic regions. To this division we have subscribed with each succeeding constitution. What is needed to understand  diversity  is our unity. I believe, we are different on a cultural level. We have no reason to be the same. Like many countries are a fusion of different cultures. The beauty of us Pakistanis is the divergent cultures that converge to make Pakistan. Let us celebrate our differences, enjoy them, respect them. As we should respect the different religions within.

The State must nurture and honor cultural programmes. Develop love and appreciation between different cultures via its policies. Simultaneously, handle terrorism with an iron hand.

Was it not Pope Francis who said, “Human Right are not only violated by terrorism, repression or assassinations, but also by unfair economic structures that create huge inequalities”?

The writer is a lawyer, academic and political analyst. She has authored a book, ‘A Comparative Analysis of Media and Media Laws in Pakistan.’ Her mail ID is yasmeenali62@gmail.com she tweets at @yasmeen_9

Addressing FATA

CROSS POST: http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2015/03/16/comment/addressing-fata/

ArticleYAAGenuine redressal of grievances is a must, at once

 

A leading newspaper carried news that Sarah Sewall, the US Undersecretary for Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights, argues: “In the Pak-Afghan region, Tehreek-e-Taliban has long exploited local grievances in the tribal belt in order to sustain itself.” (March 12, 2015) She makes a lot of sense, common yet not so common in her submission. She is quoted thus by the paper, “Weak, illegitimate, and repressive governments inadvertently created opportunities for terrorists to capitalise on popular resentment.” She is correct in assessing that the drivers of extremism leading to terrorism can spring from varied reasons. While fighting terrorism militarily, it is equally important to assess and address these drivers, failing which new heads will spring in place of old ones, much like the proverbial hydra.

An interesting study by USAID on “Development Assistance & Counter Extremism” conducted in 2009 also uses the tribal areas of Pakistan as a model. It says, “Ungoverned or poorly governed spaces (e.g., Pakistan’s tribal agencies) may enable VEs to establish sanctuaries or safe havens. At the very least, they may provide room within which violent groups can operate more easily. They may offer pools of recruits, create conditions conducive to arms trafficking and smuggling, and allow for the establishment of headquarters, training camps, and communications facilities.”(Page 22 of quoted research)

The research correctly goes on to state, “Protracted, violent local conflicts of sufficient scale can create chaos, incapacitate government institutions, and result in a power vacuum that VE organisations can exploit. They may facilitate access to weapons, combat experience, and potential recruits. Global jihadists and participants in a local conflict may join efforts in what amounts to a marriage of convenience. Global jihadists may attempt to expand their operations and audience by portraying themselves as the champions of one of the parties involved. They may endeavour to weave local and international agendas together. While in reality they are largely indifferent to the narrow grievances and territorial dynamics that drive local struggles, they seek to graft the jihad onto them.”

This brings us back to Sarah Sewall and her very sensible paper.

It is not enough to combat terrorism militarily. The other side of the coin must be seen and analysed. How are the issues in FATA to be addressed?

In another piece, I had highlighted that on June 25, 2013, on the front page of a local daily English newspaper an advertisement was placed by the FATA Grand Assembly, Peshawar, titled as “FATA Declaration”. This advertisement by the tribal elders, religious clerics, political and social activists, students, women activists, lawyers, journalists, teachers and other citizens from FATA claimed to have come together from all seven agencies and adopted the Declaration. Under Article 247 of the Constitution of Pakistan 1973, special status is granted to FATA, whereby no act of Parliament or the jurisdiction of the High/Supreme Judiciary is extendable to the region. The said advertisement beseeched implementation of the Constitutional Fundamental Rights to FATA that includes right to fair trial, right to freedom of speech, right to access to information, liberty, dignity, equal protection under law, privacy of the home, so on and so forth. Similarly, laws must deal with the principle of double jeopardy, detention without legal counsel, retrospective punishment among others.

Separation of Judiciary from the Executive as another request makes imminent sense as opposed to the de facto judges running the daily administration in FATA. The separation of powers in a democracy is to prevent abuse of power and to safeguard freedom for all. Interconnected is the demand that the jurisdiction of the High Court and the Supreme Court may be extended to FATA. This division of tasks ensures institutions as a check and balance thereby strengthening democracy and ensuring better justice in the society.

Setting up educational institutions, vocational training centres, separate universities for men and women so that both genders can avail good education and progress as an individual and a society is another need quoted in the advertisement.

Infrastructure development in a phase by phase basis is another demand of the Declaration. FATA is a much ignored and backward area in Pakistan, it needs more institutions that offer better education, healthcare, and encourage more micro-investment and generally an improved quality of life for its people.

Press and Publications Ordinance and PEMRA Ordinance too were demanded to be extended to FATA. Others include women seats from tribal belt reserved in National Assembly and Senate, substantial amendment or annulment of FCR to recognise the fundamental rights of the people of FATA, local governments to be established under FATA Local Government Regulation 2002 and so on.

Sarah Sewall’s excellent paper carried on the site of US Department of State hits the nail on the head, “The adaptation of terror organisations highlights the need for us to continue adapting our approach to violent extremism. These realities demand thinking about violent extremism not simply in terms of individual radicalisation but also in the context of dynamics that make entire communities vulnerable to radicalisation, co-optation, or exploitation.”

In case of Pakistan’s tribal belt, an untenable border between Afghanistan and FATA does not help either. Pakistan Today, in a news report, states, “Pakistan plans to register 1.4 million Afghan refugees currently living in the country illegally by July 2015.” Minister for State and Frontier Regions Lt General (retd) Abdul Qadir Baloch is quoted stating that there were 1.6 million registered Afghan refugees and another 1.4 million unregistered Afghan refugees in the country.

FATA is looking towards political and administrative reforms. “It is the demand of the hour,” said Amir Haider Khan Hoti (February 20, 2012), the then Chief Minister of KP.

These much awaited and delayed changes must be based on a well-developed plan and time based strategy. There must be a marriage between short-term and long-term goals. The approach must be a genuine redress of issues involved, not steps taken in haste and upon whims of those in the corridors of power.

Back to Pak-India equation

CROSS POST: http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2015/03/10/comment/back-to-pak-india-equation/

ArticleYAAMARCH 10, 2015 BY

Resolving core issues is necessary

 

India’s Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar recently visited Pakistan. The first such meeting since 2012. Hailed as a step in the right direction by the doves, the baggage between both neighbours is too heavy for one visit to be off-loaded. The issues involved would require a will to resolve the questions and a time-regulated strategy to address the task. Something that has yet eluded those in power.

Handling of issues on a superficial level is neither the answer nor the solution to bridging of the schism. Without doubt, the relationship between Islamabad and New Delhi is of crucial importance in terms of maintaining long lasting peace. However, this equation cannot be achieved without facing and settling the problems that irk both nations, leading as a result to a series of actions and counter-actions that continue making muddy waters muddier.

The chief of the army staff had issued a warning ahead of Mr Jaishankar’s visit, promising a “befitting response” to the provocation alleged at LoC. Or LooC (Line out of Control), as dubbed by a friend of mine. It will be pertinent to keep in mind that the foreign secretary’s visit was not restricted to Pakistan but was a part of a series of visits to the capitals of SAARC countries.

The violations at LoC and issue of International Border of Jammu and Kashmir were part of discussions held. Quoting from The Hindu; the violations at the LoC numbered more than 685, claiming 24 lives in the past eight months alone. The report states, “Pakistan has also accused India of “unprovoked and indiscriminate” firing during the same period, and claims Indian troops have killed several civilians as well as troops along the border.” (March 3, 2015)

In my opinion, the issue of Kashmir will not be resolved by India on its own. No government in India can commit political suicide by giving away part of its territory; even if occupied; to any other nation, least of all its arch-enemy Pakistan. One only needs to consider the fact that as late as 2010, Booker Prize winner, “The God of Small Things” Arundhati Roy in a piece in The Hindu raised a pertinent question upon hearing that a Delhi court had directed the Delhi police to file an FIR against her for waging war against the state. The question involved was Kashmir. Roy states, “Perhaps they should posthumously file a charge against Jawaharlal Nehru too.” She gives a list of quotes by Jawaharlal Nehru to support her stance. Only one is being reproduced below:

“In a letter dated 11th September, 1951, to the UN representative, Pandit Nehru wrote, “The government of India not only reaffirms its acceptance of the principle that the question of the continuing accession of the state of Jammu and Kashmir to India shall be decided through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite under the auspices of the United Nations but is anxious that the conditions necessary for such a plebiscite should be created as quickly as possible.”

The importance of Kashmir is intrinsic to Pakistan’s survival. The dispute over water is inextricably interlinked with Kashmir. If one recalls, soon after Independence, India had shut off the canals of Central Bari Doab. The result was damage to crops it being the sowing season. I quote from an article by historian Naveed Tajammal, “Two sets of laws govern the water disputes, first is the Harmon Doctrine, named after ”Judson Harmon”, the Attorney General of USA in 1895,when dispute arose between Mexico and USA over the usage of Rio Grande waters. Mexico was a lower riparian, the doctrine above cited gives ”absolute territorial sovereignty” to the upper riparian, as goes the usage of water resources passing through its lands. Though the matter was resolved by a convention held between USA and Mexico on May 21, 1906, by which Mexico got its share of waters… Indus valley river system is an ‘International Drainage Basin’, as the geographical area extends and covers the administrative boundaries of more than two states, from Afghanistan to Chinese administered Tibet, in the North East and to Indian occupied Kashmir. Technically India cannot claim sovereignty over Kashmir as it remains a disputed state, and matter in reference before the world courts, having over a million troops holding it.” (March 6, 2012)

In my recent talk on Voice of America upon the visit of the Indian foreign secretary to Pakistan I had stated that for peace in the region removing the thorns that cause the bleed between both countries is vital for any normalcy of relationship. In light of the fact that US supports India as a card to be used to deter China’s rise in the region; China’s closeness to Pakistan, an unmanageable border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, India’s expansion of Ayni Air Base and the presence at Farkhor Air Base, support of Afghan Northern Alliance are just some of the irritants causing distrust. Of course, this does not mean to state that India does not have her own reservations. She does.

In my op-ed dated September 23, 2013, I had written, “Pakistan and India’s relationship is a factor that will require particular attention owing to its grave impact upon the region especially post 2014 Afghanistan. The recent coming-to-near-blows on the “Line out of control” between Pakistan and India reasserted once again the real issue of Kashmir and water-war simmers just under the surface, waiting to blow up in our faces at any given excuse. Many other grievances have gained roots sprouting from the main ones. These will be resurrected with fresh vengeance in a not-so-new playground; Afghanistan. An inevitable happening for which India is prepared having honed her tools well while Pakistan has been embroiled in the “war on terror” and her multidimensional internal problems. Kashmir has been the point of focus of conflict as the result of British imperialism’s divide-and-rule partition of the subcontinent when it relinquished direct rule in 1947. This issue stands ignored by international forums; a dangerous approach. The only solution is holding of a referendum, also supported by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif; in his address at a news conference in September 2010.”

Regional peace is necessary. This will not happen without addressing core issues. In addition; resolving them. QED.

The writer is a lawyer, academic and political analyst. She has authored a book titled ‘A Comparative Analysis of Media & Media Laws in Pakistan.’ She can be contacted at: yasmeenali62@gmail.com and tweets at @yasmeen_9.

Over a cup of tea

Reminiscing the rich culture we have

 ArticleYAA

Reminiscing was an activity of our elders, or so I thought. It seems, however, that places change, not the reminiscing.

Browsing through wedding pictures of a friend’s son over on the Facebook, I saw the bride dressed in a neck to ankle heavily worked upon dress. The edge of flaring patloon just peeping from under it. It took me back in time when the bride would wear nothing but thegharara. I have always loved the gharara, as I have stated that earlier in one of my blog posts. A traditionally Lucknowi dress, made up of a loose pant. At the knee it flares into cascading swirl of fabric stitched to the straight pants in pleats and pleats of gorgeously rich fabric. Brocades, Chinese brocades, ‘poat silks’, another one known as the ‘patta-patti’ consists of vertically cut six-inch silks in vibrant colors stitched together to form the swirling ‘skirt’ of the pants and resplendent to behold. All 12 metres of it. It is worn with either a short kurti or a long shirt and a long, trailing duppata (or veil). It is often worked over with traditional zari, dabka, and zardozi.

Once they were worn as a daily wear. The dress would be simpler to suit a daily comfortable wear, plain satins for gharara with a white chicken-fabric shirt and a dupatta(veil) of white malmal (a soft lawn). The duppata would more often than not be of ‘chunnat’. Often, the ghararas themselves would be made of cotton, crisp and fresh to behold.

When I was younger, a lot younger, girls of all ages and aunts all wore this timelessly graceful outfit not only for special occasions but also at the ‘milad’ held at houses, a regular feature. A milad is traditionally a gathering of women, reciting events from the lives of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) coupled with the recitation of ‘naats’. Guests turned up in theirghararas, and the lady of the house, of course, would also be dressed in one. It was a special occasion. White sheets were spread on carpets for seating and to ease an aching back, round traditional cushions known as ‘gao takyas’ were put against the wall.

A low wood stool would hold the books that the ladies would recite. Placed also on the table would be two ‘agar battis’ or incense. On another low wood stool stood a silver ‘gulab pash’. This was used to sprinkle rose water on the guests. The gulab pash has been used since the Mughal Empire (1526-1857). They were used in the Mughal court to sprinkle rose water on the guests upon their arrival. With the gulab pash would be a silver platter containing sweet and ‘saada pan’ (beetle nut leaves) with an alcove holding ‘ilaichi’ and ‘misri ki dali’. This would be passed around to all to sweeten the mouth.

The first formal function of a wedding, started with the ‘mayoun’. The milad would always precede the rasm-e-mayoun itself. The two Eids were other occasions we would look forward to. We all got a new gharara, of course with the accompanying kurti and veil. In those days, all my maternal aunts would work with my maternal grandmother to prepareghararas for girls of the family. They were, of course, identical. Hours of fabric cutting and whirring away on sewing machines, family chitchat and snacks marked the happy occasion of their preparation. One I particularly loved was when I was eight or nine-year-old, maybe. A pale pink taffeta with silver ‘gota’ at the knee of the joining pant-flare with a pink lace and silk kurti and a silk duppata of coordinating color.

It seems gone are the days of the graceful gharara. New fads have taken over. Even the brides seem to wear new-fangled dresses instead of the graceful gharara. As I opened my cabin trunk today to air the gorgeous ghararas I have, I could not but heave a sigh of regret, unwrapping each piece lovingly wrapped individually in a delicate white ‘malmal’ with a silver gota running around it.

Putting down my cup of green tea with a flower of bada’aan khatai, unground black pepper and a squeeze of lemon, I mused over the changing times. Our culture, Punjabi, Sindhi, Balochi, Seraiki, Pashtun and so on, needs nurturing and transferring to the younger generation. The awareness of the roots of the tree we have sprung. Stories and folklore are an excellent source of transmitting culture. Customs, festivals, foods are all mediums of being a part of the circle called heritage. So overshadowed we have become by the cultural invasion that our own seems to have receded in the past.

‘Sassi Punno’ is a famous folklore of Pakistan, loved equally by people hailing from all provinces, lovingly touched upon by leading Sufi poets like Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai and Sachal Sarmast. The former dedicated five surs to Sassi Punno. These were based on different phases of her life. Allan Faqir has sung about Sassi in unparalleled performances for connoisseurs of great music.

Foods and drinks are another manner of preserving and sharing culture. I love Punjabi food made of sarson ka saag with makai ki roti and a helping of melting butter. Top it off with a glass of refreshing lassi. A recipe for a long noon nap.

As for dresses, who can beat the grace and timeless beauty of the ajrak? Renowned designer and one of my favorites, Noorjehan Bilgrami, has discussed at length the making of ajrak in her book, Sindh Jo Ajrak (The Ajrak of Sindh)”. Unique block prints are used to design shawls both for men and women. A later trend has been to use it also in tea tray mats, cushion covers, bed covers etcetera.

The Baloch embroidery is exquisite and distinctive. Their folklore honours their heroes in their songs. Doda, a young Baloch, sacrificed his life in pursuing a thief who had stolen a cow of a rich widow who had sought protection of young Doda’s village. His death made him immortal.

I have particular admiration for the woolen carpets known as ‘kady’. Woven by hand, each piece is individual and in rich, vibrant colours. Reds, turquoise, rich dark browns. The Pashtuns have perfected carpet weaving to an art. Absolutely nothing beats the delicious taste of chappali kebabs of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, with Peshawar being particularly famous for this food. Made from minced beef, chappali kebab is a popular food originating from Afghanistan.

A day cannot begin, nor progress nor end without tea in Pakistan. Whether it’s the start of the day or work time, a cup of tea can refresh one. A day is just not complete without tea. What better than the ‘Kashmiri Chai’, also known as ‘Pink Tea’ owing to its color. I would like to share an interesting extract from a blog site on ‘Kashmiri Chai’, “Traditionally, tea makers also add a pinch of baking soda which turns the tea a pinkish color.” This tea can either be taken with salt or sugar, catering to both tastes. Heavy in drinking owing to quantities of milk added, it is a beautiful beverage, especially for winters.

Over a cup of tea one’s thoughts wander to many an interesting subject. For me, today, it was culture and cultural symbols. Chuck Palahniuk said, “The first step — especially for young people with energy and drive and talent, but not money — the first step to controlling your world is to control your culture. To model and demonstrate the kind of world you demand to live in. To write the books. Make the music. Shoot the films. Paint the art.”

VIP culture and inefficiency

BY  ArticleYAA

CROSS POST http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2015/02/23/comment/the-vip-culture-and-inefficiency/

How traffic rules are violated and public put through agony

 

According to a report by Duniya News (Feb 6, 2013) seven thousand flights were delayed, both domestic and international, during the five months prior to the report. The main reason has been owing to the VIPs boarding flights.

It may be reminded here that a woman gave birth to her baby girl in an auto-rickshaw stuck in a traffic jam when police closed roads to let President Asif Ali Zardari’s motorcade drive by during his visit to Quetta in early 2010. The President had the grace to apologise and announced a compensation of Rs500,000 for the family for the distress it went through. The baby came into this world in a rickshaw surrounded by vehicles.

Amir Latif states that VIP movement has caused traffic jams claiming lives. “Last week, a student of the University of Karachi died of an appendix rupture after being stranded in a traffic jam due to presence of General Pervez Musharraf in the city.”(Published PakTribune April 27, 2006)

According to another news report in May 2013, with the arrival of the Chinese premier, residents of the twin cities were once again at the receiving end as mobile phone services were suspended for three hours and roads were sealed.

Incidents like these abound around here. Many go unreported. Yet none of the governments in Pakistan, after having come into power, has tried to address the issue. Ambulances are also among the vehicles that are irrespective of the fact that there can be cases where the sick are being transported in a public or a private transport.

And it’s not only the patients in ambulances that suffer owing to the VIP movement but also the students going to their institutions or exams, and other people hurrying to their places of work. Each and every one is delayed, sometime for an hour or more to allow passage to the VIP.

This “VIP culture” is reflective of a deeper malaise that afflicts our country. It allows those in position special privileges at an extraordinary cost to lesser mortals. Laws applicable to the general people skip steps while being implemented on the VIPs. It pushes the ‘ordinary’ citizens in the ‘Economy Class’ of life, allowing first rights to those in the ‘First Class’. Although a certain protocol may be awarded to the government officials for security reasons, is it fair to do at the cost of a complete disregard to the civilian population? Should the roads be turned into a veritable red carpet for the VIP?

Imran Khan, after heavy criticism levelled against him for arriving at APS School with a 21-car motorcade (an allegation he denied), claimed that only six cars were used for his protocol and that he would no longer travel with heavy security protocol in the future. Six cars is not “only”, Mr Khan, for a nation like Pakistan.

Civilised nations make civilised, workable rules for their people. Such bias in the favour of certain privileged few must be deemed undemocratic.

Muhamad Faisal Ali in a report on protocol states hat 60 per cent of police wastes its energies on protocol duties. Quoting numbers can take up most part but they are mind-boggling. (Dawn Jan 02, 2012)

Then there is the allowance for mushrooming of plazas and malls with absolutely inadequate parking space causing vehicles to spill onto the roads or blocking areas used to park vehicles for such plazas. This inadequacy inevitably causes cars unable to get out due to some other vehicle blocking its way. Mehwish Ahmed, writing in Pakistan Today,says, “The area for parking vehicles, especially in metros, is constantly shrinking under pressure from the rising number of cars and bikes. People don’t have traffic sense. Traffic police and media should play their role in creating traffic sense amongst the people.” (April 11, 2011)

Then there is the issue of a lack of traffic monitoring which has become a nuisance. Most of the times, traffic lights/signals at main crossings fail to work, yet there is no one managing the crossings owing to terrible jams that ensue. Such blockage reportedly caused forty students appear late in a CSS 2015 paper of Pakistan Affairs set for 9am to 12pm. A student of mine, who was also affected, wrote to me, “Coming from Wapda Town, I had to reach BISE Lahore Lawrence Road. Due to traffic jam and no diversion given by city traffic police, I got stuck in traffic for three hours which delayed me in reaching the exam centre. As we reached late for the exam, the invigilator did not allow us to sit in the exam. The traffic police did not provide any diversion before coming up on Canal Road. They did not allow the traffic to pass from the as well. A container had stuck in the Campus Underpass which caused all this mess.”

A TV report states that the container struck in the underpass was from Swat and was being driven by one Qudratullah. One could ask if there was a signboard at a reasonable distance to let the driver know which lane he had to take. But even if there was one (the report claims there was none), was the driver literate to have read the message? Are there any rules to ensure a minimum literacy rate for drivers of such vehicles or a methodology (i.e., signs put up etc) whereby they can understand that they cannot use underpasses with heavy transport vehicles? Being an educationist, this incident has caused me deep sadness as this boy was one of the brightest in my class. I am sure there must be others that day that had much to offer to our civil services but for the inefficiency caused that day.

Should not the government make concession for these students and set another date for their paper instead of allowing them to be victimised for a delay the cause of which is now publically known? The cause is certainly not of their making and I fail to see why their future be put on stake for it. Through this space I make a special appeal to the concerned authorities to do what is just and not let the efforts of these bright candidates go to waste.

Are we trying to convey a message to our youngsters that the world in Pakistan will stop for VIP movement but no one would care if their world stops at an underpass?

Muslim lives matter

CROSS POST:  http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2015/02/16/comment/muslim-lives-matter/

All lives matter

 

Three Muslim students were shot dead in North Carolina a few days ago. Craig Stephen Hicks has been charged on three accounts with first-degree murder. Those dead are Deah Barakat, 23, his wife Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21, and her sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19. Although an idea has been put forth that the killings may have been due to a dispute over parking as suggested by Chapel Hill Police in a report by The Guardian, to my lawyer mind it seems very strange that, if true, Hicks would choose not to kill one person responsible allegedly in a dispute but all three of the family. The second question this theory raises in my mind is why did he have a loaded weapon on his person in the first place? Third, why were the victims shot in the head which is as cold blooded as it gets? “To have him come in here and shoot three different innocent people in their heads — I don’t know what kind of person that is,” said Namee Barakat, the father of the male victim, Deah Shaddy Barakat.” (NYT, February 11, 20015)

However, the police had not confirmed that the shots were in the head. The same report states the victims were shot inside the apartment. “One 911 caller, at 5:11pm Tuesday, said she had heard five to 10 shots and “kids screaming”. Another, calling a minute later, said she had heard about eight shots and multiple people screaming, then a pause, and then three more shots. The victims were shot inside an apartment, according to one of the calls, and family members said the police told them they had been shot in the head.”

Todd Shea, a musician and humanitarian, founded Comprehensive Disaster Response Services (CDRS) to help the affected people of the northern region in 2005. This organisation and Shea’s personal efforts went a long way in helping the internally displaced persons. He wrote on his Facebook status on February 12, 2015, and I reproduce with his permission:

“’When his son-in-law lived alone in the condominium complex, the family never had any problems. But once his daughter moved in wearing a headscarf, that clearly identified her as Muslim, the trouble started, Abu-Salha said.’

“Daddy, I think he hates us for who we are,” Abu-Salha said his daughter Yusor Mohammad told him.

“I don’t need any media or police or prosecutors or politicians or experts to tell me what to think and how to think and convince me whether or not this was a hate crime. The above information is all I need to come to my conclusion. These are the eyewitness statements of the compassionate, selfless and exemplary Human Beings who looked into the eyes of a terrorist who eagerly and publicly espoused a radical atheist ideology. These are the eyewitness testimonies of the Human Beings who felt the unmistakable burn of the laser-like hatred, derision and disdain this disgusting man held in his heart for anyone who believes that a higher power created us all.

“I trust their impressions a million times more than I would trust anyone else’s. Apparently Craig Stephen Hicks had disputes and run-ins with other neighbours, but it’s quite revealing that in the time and the place he picked to strike with bullets, the neighbours he aimed and fired his prized weapon at were three Muslims — three of the kindest, most gentle and full of life Human Beings one could ever have the good fortune to know and love. Their only ‘offense’ was that they were easily identifiable as the believers he so radically opposed in his incessant online rants against.

“This climate of hate and acute division — which produces the various incarnations of Demons such as Craig Stephen Hicks in our World — is being fueled… the only way to defeat them is with a revolution. Not a violent one, but a revolution of the heart — a transformation of Humanity where ALL good people who want a peaceful future for everyone’s children say NO to the sociopathic policies we allow our so-called elite to pursue and NO to hate and say YES to teaching their children empathy and not to hate ANYONE because of the colour of their skin or who they love or how they dress or where they are from or what higher power they believe in or don’t believe in. And we need to build a World for our children where money and political power and indifferent ruthlessness towards fellow Human Beings are not the most influential aspects ruling over our systems of life, justice, health, education and opportunity.

We all need to be more like Yusor, Deah and Razan and their Family. We all need to be more like Kayla Mueller and her Family. Then together we would make it out of the darkness of these dark times.”

Yahoo News states, “The killings are fuelling outrage among people who blame anti-Muslim rhetoric for hate crimes. A Muslim advocacy organisation pressed authorities to investigate possible religious bias. Many posted social media updates with the hashtags #MuslimLivesMatter.” (February 13, 2015)

Norman Baker, Minister of State for Crime Prevention, has written a beautiful document titled “Challenge it, Report it, Stop it”, a government’s hate crime action plan. The ‘ministerial foreword’ states, “Addressing anti-Muslim hatred remains a central theme and our dialogue with local communities is already underway through the roll out of a number of regional roadshows.” Well done, Minister! Acceptance of the malaise is the first step towards its remedy. (Norman Baker is a British politician who has been a Member of Parliament for Lewes in East Sussex)

“What is extremely important in a world bombarded with hate material spewed on a regular basis by media, both mainstream and non-mainstream, is an immediate assurance by the country head to address the concerns of the community wounded. Now this is the truly sad part. If Obama has not spoken because the investigation is not yet concluded, this stance is at variance with the stance taken at the Fergusan killings, way before any investigation were completed. An excerpt of his address is reproduced, “Ours is a nation of laws: of citizens who live under them and for the citizens who enforce them. So, to a community in Ferguson that is rightly hurting and looking for answers, let me call once again for us to seek some understanding rather than simply holler at each other. Let’s seek to heal rather than to wound each other.

“As Americans, we’ve got to use this moment to seek out our shared humanity that’s been laid bare by this moment. The potential of a young man and the sorrows of parents, the frustrations of a community, the ideals that we hold as one united American family.” (WSJ,August 18, 2014)

What Obama sought to do then was to reassure the affected community of the continued support of his government to apply justice and fairness. This is what was expected from the leader of a superpower that is the United States of America. Yet this expectation was met with silence — until he received flak from “the likes of Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan for his ‘silence’ on the Chapel Hill shootings”, reports a local newspaper on February 14th, 2014. Belated, the statement from the White House read, “No one in the United States of America should ever be targeted because of who they are, what they look like, or how they worship.”

In the meanwhile, soon after the incident, the campus of UNC, a local plaza, was flooded with thousands to express solidarity with the family. Remembrances were offered by those who knew those slain. One ended her speech with, “Muslim lives matter. All lives matter.”

I borrow the title of my piece from the speech.

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