Will the sanity ever return?

At his best, man is the noblest of all animals; separated from law and justice he is the worst. If any proof is needed, examine this proverb in the light of the protests taken to the roads of this country to vent our disgust and dismay against the anti-Islamic movie made in the USA. We defied the law and did not do justice to ourselves. The result is that we stand exposed to the world as lunatics to whom the sanity has said good-bye for ever. Where we stand now morally? What message did we convey to the world? Before answering the call of the leaders, did we do some heart-searching to check that our religious affections were purified enough that would enable us to make our feelings known to the world with a mind unaffected by any corporeal defilement which may possibly compel us to do things contrary to the purpose we stood for? The call for this massive turnout of people was given by every single religious and non-religious party and their followers took out separate processions with their banners held high. The unity was missing and we failed to present ourselves in accord. It clearly looked that every party was out to make a political mileage for itself out of the collective agitation. The result was disastrous because of the rioting that followed. We will keep regretting it the rest of our life.

In the olden times it was the deluge, flood or conflagration which were considered a sign of visitation of the divine wrath as a punishing tool against iniquity of the people. Now our transgressions far outweigh those of the primitive people but it appears that the divine calculus to suggest the enormity of punishment for us has gone on a holiday. In some areas of the country people are suffering from heavy floods. As if it was not enough, we rushed to cause conflagrations by setting the private property alight. We did this, perhaps, to send out a general reminder that some invisible celestial forces were at work to punish the people of God who were disobeying His commands. In addition, the loot and plunder was done only to reward ourselves for the day long toil, so no need to take it seriously. What a way to register our protest against the offensive movie! The damage is incalculable and to do the body count of those who died for no fault of theirs is simply repellent. The man always forgets that when he kills a man he has already killed his potential descendants as well.

Who bears the responsibility? Obviously, those who gave the call. In the eventual concourse that filled the streets and open space alike, the banners of the parties were swarming the air but the leaders were missing. The people went berserk instead of remaining calm, disciplined and dignified. Even a church in Mardan was torched. The other day Hanif Qureshi in a talk show was admiring the people, responding so fervently to the call, but fell short of speaking about the madness which had rocked the country. A month earlier these incidents could have been attributed to midsummer madness but in a rather friendly weather it was a madness of our own making. Hanif Qureshi is known for his provocative speeches and he was the first to admire the lunatic murderer of the late Salman Taseer. Why should these people be called to TV talk shows needs to be justified?

When the passions rule the mind, an undesirable fallout is only a foregone conclusion. A couple of days before this disastrous D-Day given for the protests, two articles each written by Javed Chaudhry and Hamid Mir were definitely incendiary. These two persons consider themselves the vanguard of Pakistan media and how much they know about religion can be anybody’s guess. Some leaders are blaming the Government. This is politics readily understood. If the Government declared a holiday to facilitate the people to find a way to temper their feelings brimming with anger, what was wrong about it? Why were the party flags allowed to be taken out and if they were taken out under instructions of the elders or as a policy to outdo each other why did not the leaders come out themselves to lead and direct the people to remain within the bounds of modesty in such a charged atmosphere? To say that miscreants did all the sabotage under the cover of this huge demonstration is not acceptable and we should not try to hide our own failure to rise to the occasion and control the situation, which had become explosive. The allegations that police in civilian clothes was also involved in vandalizing has to be proven and measures taken to discipline those found guilty to make them an example for future.

In the western world we have hundreds of mosques and seminaries and are allowed to preach our religion freely, though at the cost of not hurting anyone. Pray, tell me if the Christians have the same freedom in this country to preach their precepts and build churches as freely as we build mosques in Europe and Americas. We have many a time ransacked Christian villages, killed Christians and razed their churches but there has not been a single instance of Christians retaliating in the countries where they are in clear majority. Suppose someday they react violently to our bizarre behavior, what do you guess would happen? On a couple of times, it has been noted, when Muslims were unable to get a place to build a mosque in a certain city, the church fathers came forward sparing a space in their churches to allow Muslims to say their prayers with such humane words and courtesy as ”we all worship the same God in our different ways“. I wish that God will help us to grow one day to be as caring for others as the others are for us so readily and without conditions. It is not difficult because all we need to do is to follow the path of heart and the unconditional love for others will lace itself within us.

The damage has been done and the game is on to pass on the responsibility to others bashing the Government to account for the damage done to our reputation and giving the impression to the nations of the world that we are savages who have no respect or regard for the human dignity. We are self-righteous and always criticize others without doing any homework for self-appraisal. Simply saying that Government did not do enough to avert the damage will not absolve the parties of failing to control their people. The task to rebuke the slight intended against our religion was sacred, no doubt, but the people failed to prove equal to the task. If the situation has been exploited by the opposition to bring down the Government they have done so at the cost of human lives and public property and they should be ashamed of themselves. If they have gone by the age old axiom that end justifies the means then they have done no service to the people or the country. As for the people, do they still need guidance after over 3 score years to separate good from the evil? The entire show was arranged to convey to the world that how very devoted we are to the love of our holy prophet (PBUH) but could not suppress our inner passions which otherwise look clearly made to suit the street crimes only.

I have one solution in mind to the whole problem. Every other day, we have a grouse against the imperialist countries, especially America. So, why don’t we declare it once and for all that we do not like them and should ask our people living in Europe and USA to surrender their nationalities and work permits and return home to glorify ourselves? We should sever all diplomatic ties with them and live as a secluded nation to prosper or dissipate. Let us be another recluse like North Korea and live of our own as a forsaken nation. Tell the world that we will die but shall accept no aid or assistance – monetary or otherwise – from anyone. As a reborn nation, hermits though we may be, we must cease to live on any subsidy. Let us not dither to do it in order to hold our head high. Any takers? It’s time now to act than indulge in empty rhetoric. If we can’t do it, let us keep our mouths shut and be resigned to our fate.

In the fewest possible words, all the evidence leads to indicate that we have come full circle after 6 decades and a half which shows that we will never learn. We may scale the unsurpassed heights to reach the moon but will the sanity ever return to prove that we are decent people to talk to and be with? Sorry, it cannot be said with any measure of conviction at the moment.

 

The writer is in his mid 70s and has to his credit a vast experience of working with national and international business executives. He can be reached at qadirs38@yahoo.com

Shamat-e-a’mal-e-ma soorat-e-nadir grift

She was precocious.  She raised the voice for education and peace at a time when everybody else was afraid even to speak out and chose to keep a low key stance in order to avoid a stray bullet of the so called God’s soldiers hitting his neck or even going past grazing it.  Gifted and talented as Malala was, she had a great future ahead of her.  But all this did not sit well with the heavenly curse clamped on our society called Talibans.  I don’t blame Talibans as they have appeared in the form of divine scourge to punish us for our innumerable misdeeds heaping up from the past.  Alternately, I can recount the agony of Muhammad Shah Rangeela after Delhi was sacked and pools of human blood, formed as an aftermath of the pogrom, were at places said to be knee-deep to the horses of the invading warriors.  The unfortunate Mughal king then tried to mitigate his failings by hiding behind the cliché “Shamat-e-a’mal-e-ma soorat-e-nadir grift”.  Our position vis-a-vis Talibans is no better than that of the hapless Mughal king.  So, whatever the Talibans are inflicting on us are the just deserts of our own deeds.

The man who trained his gun on Malala and fired the almost fatal shot must have been a barbarian who never saw in his life the light of the civilized world and ipso facto could not possibly have been expected to do anything better that would be worth the human dignity.  After all, this is how they have been trained and convinced to indiscriminately kill the young and old alike and then gatecrash into the paradise and enjoy the company of extraterrestrial damsels.

Malala has become a living legend in such a tender age.  The entire country had a vigil praying for her immediate recovery.  God has answered their prayers and, at the time of writing these lines, she is responding well to the treatment showing encouraging signs on her way back to recovery. She has, in fact, been evacuated from Peshawar and moved to Rawalpindi.  Readers, imagine, how hard it is to heal and how easy to kill!  However, what disappoints me is the vacillation of Imran Khan to denounce outright the blatant murder attempt on the life of an innocent girl still in her teens.  His journey to the promised-land and his cries in the wilderness on the way to South Waziristan have gone unnoticed  when he chose to go soft on clearly denouncing the Talibans who are a group of uninformed and untaught religious fanatics hell-bent on militancy which is helping no one.  They don’t realize that if the shedding of human blood comes so naturally to them, why do they undergo the training to kill?  Whenever they feel like enjoying, they can just take potshots and kill the people.

In summary, this was precisely the time when Imran and the religious leaders must have spliced together and come out categorically declaring the impious elements of Taliban insurgency as social evils.  Alas, this was not to be.  If they can storm the roads and streets of this country on a minor political issue why can’t they do so over such a horrendous crime?

I don’t think any trek to Waziristan by anyone is of any major value when it is intended to score points politically in order to enhance the chances of a swelling ballot during the course of the elections very much on the horizon already.  It has become imperative now for everybody, especially Imran Khan and religious leaders, to lay their cards on the table and declare where their sympathies lie – with the Talibans or with the people who are being butchered without remorse.   As for the tough time the Talibans are facing because of the reversals in their fortunes, it should be understood that they have been fighting a proxy war for long and were rewarded well for their efforts and if the tide has turned against them because of the change in the priorities of their former masters they should live with it.  Does not the situation look pathetic?  Just imagine a teenager returning from school with her schoolmates and surprised by an activist of the religious hooligans in such a cruel way?  The would-be  killer was, by all means, a human being and not a junkyard dog and he must, therefore, have shown due regard to the innocent child.  Are we living in a human society or it is a wasteland where criminals have taken roots?

Notwithstanding the above, the time has come that the great Khan and the religious patriarchs like Fazal-ur-Rehman, Sami-ul-Haq, Tahir Ashrafi etc. should clarify their position as to where they stand – with the killers on the rampage or with the society of civilized people who want peace and education for the children to flourish?   If they are pro-life supporters and have no hangover of an erstwhile implicit and think-alike association with these insurgents they should tell the people of Pakistan without mincing the words.  Do not use the drone attacks to justify the killing of innocent people and attempting to lynch a teenager who dreams of nothing but a better future for the children of her clime.

Targeting the child named Malala was a murder attempt by a human being on a human being and should not be let pass.  Or, we can say, it was an atrocity in the name of God.  People kill others in the name of religion only when they are unsure of their own dogma and dispensation being correct and standing to reason.  Those who resort to violence are people of low intelligence and are nurturing uncalled for notions.    Their defective knowledge can be seen where they try to draw parallel between the attempt on Malala’s life and the story of Moses and Khidhar in which the later killed a child and stopped Moses from asking questions.  Are not they too self-righteous and elevating themselves to the level of prophets?  They also monopolize to interpret the faith to fit their own vague ideas.

Where has General Hamid Gul gone by the way?  He has always subsisted over the achievements of Talibans.  Why has he not offered any comments?  May be he took to the safety of his dugout to avoid the public notice instead of getting involved in the raging controversy.  The time has come that he must weigh in decisively on either side i.e. either laud the crime perpetrated by Talibans or censure them for their reckless behavior.  He cannot get away with a detached position.  As for Qazi Hussain Ahmad and Hafiz Saeed, they can be excused for being people of the primus aevum.  Hafiz Saeed will be better advised to stick to taking over mosques by force and posting his gunmen to scare away the people whose religious views run counter to his perceptions.

In the end, let me advance my own opinion.  We can not let our resolve against militants be limited to TTP alone and no change can ever take place nor there will be an apocalypse to hold the evil-doers to account unless the people come out to bring the revolution or the drastic change themselves.  People are power and if they decide to bring the change, and cleanse the society of the unruly elements, they can do it otherwise we will always remain at the mercy of the ruthless and wanton killers.

The writer is in his mid 70s and has to his credit a vast experience of working with national and international business executives. He can be reached at qadirs38@yahoo.com

Jaahils and Jihadis

Following the barbaric attack against 14-year-old Malala Yousufzai, Taliban apologists have been working extra hard to split hairs and convince people that we should not unite against the jihadi elements that continue to carry out such attacks against innocents. The Taliban’s most vocal defender is Imran Khan, who likes to condemn specific acts, while at the same time defending the groups who perpetuate these attacks by pretending that there are no jihadis, there are only jaahils who are misunderstood. But two events this week prove him wrong.

1. A tribal jirga traded girls to settle blood feud. This represents the jihaalat mindset and must be addressed.

2. A young man stopped a bus and asked for someone to identify Malala Yousufzai. He then proceeded to shoot Malala to stop her political work. This represents the jihadi mindset and must be stopped before the jihaalat mindset can be addressed.

Imran Khan likes to say that liberals are mistakenly equating the Taliban and the tribal mindset. This is not true. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Liberals who call for a strong defence against the Taliban by shutting down jihadi militant groups are not equating the Taliban’s political violence with outdated tribal customs, Imran Khan is.

Tribal customs do not include bombing Sufi shrines, murdering Shia pilgrims, killing schoolgirls, and attacking military and police posts. Suicide bombing is not a tribal custom. These are the legacy of a twisted interpretation of religion that goes as far back as the medieval era when Ibn Taymiyyah introduced the takfiri ideology as a justification for carrying out jihad against Mongols even though they had converted to Islam. To get around this problem, Ibn Taymiyyah appointed himself as God and pronounced his enemies as fake Muslims, arguing that they can’t be real Muslims, ironically, because they have a jihaalat mindset. This jihadi ideology was reintroduced in Egypt by Sayyid Qutb in the early 20th century when he began preaching violent jihad against Muslim governments that he believed were too subservient to Western powers, and has been propagated by later writers like Jamaat-e-Islami founder Maulana Mawdudi and al Qaeda’s Ayman Zawahiri. These men do not preach any tribal customs – actually they are against tribal customs and the jihaalat mindset. Imran Khan thinks they are the same because both have roots in medieval thinking. But there is a big difference.

Taliban and other jihadi militants hide behind the language of religion, but their real interest is politics and power. They want to be unquestioned rulers, not saints. Like their ideological ancestor Ibn Taymiyyah, they are simply twisting religion to justify violence as means of consolidating their power. Actually, the tribal jirga is a perfect example of how the tribal leaders and the Taliban are fundamentally different. A jirga is based in reason and compromise. The tribal elders who sit on the jirga might have jihaalat mindset, but they are at least willing to sit and discuss the situation and try to work out a solution that fits all parties. With jihadis, on the other hand, there is no room for discussion. You either accept their rule, or you are declared as wajib-ul-qatl.

People with a jihaalat mindset can be reasoned with. They can be educated. And, over time, tribal customs and thinking can be brought into the modern era of reason. This does not mean that they will lose their way of life or religion. It just means that certain customs – like trading girls to resolve blood feuds – will be replaced with more humane ways of resolving conflicts.

People with a jihadi mindset cannot be reasoned with. Ironically, many of them are already very educated. Certainly the jihadi mindset is spread through some madrassas, but these are mostly educating the poor who accept these lessons in exchange for food and shelter. But what is the excuse of people like Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh – an Aitchisonian with links to militant groups including Jaish-e-Mohammad, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen and the Taliban? What is the excuse of Osama bin Laden who had everything handed to him, only to turn into a mass murdering maniac? Or our own young who attend English medium schools, travel the world, live urban, Western lifestyles…and support militant jihadi groups?

Imran Khan thinks that, to change the jihaalat mindset, we should first let the jihadis take power over the tribal areas. This makes no sense. If jaahils are living under the threat of jihadi violence, there will be no room for cultural evolution. The tribal areas will not just be frozen in time, under the jihadi regime, they will be transported backwards even further. This was demonstrated by the Afghan Taliban who, far from being a force reacting to the US invasion in 2001, had controlled Afghanistan in a reign of terror since 1996. When the Soviets left Afghanistan, the Taliban didn’t go back to being simple tribal villagers, they carried out a murderous reign of terror against their own people.

This time, as the Americans are preparing to leave, the Taliban see an opportunity to not only re-take Afghanistan, but to expand their control over Pakistan also. Will we defend ourselves or continue to hide our heads in the sand? Only time will tell who is the real jaahil.

Ombudsman of Tax Evaders

If his party is elected, Nawaz Sharif has a plan for the economy – reduced taxes for the rich. No, I’m not joking. This is what he actually told Hamid Mir. Listen as two of the most privileged in our society discuss how they think the rich should do even less to support our country.

According to Nawaz Sharif, the problem is that the rich are being to asked to contribute too much to their country, and so instead they contribute nothing. The solution is to ask them to contribute less to society in the hopes that they will be willing to do so. In other words, keep cutting taxes on the rich until you find their limit. But the rich have already set the limit on what they’re willing to pay, haven’t they? And it’s not 10 percent, or even 5 percent – it’s zero percent. Nothing.

NADRA recently announced the results of its latest study on tax evasion: over 2 million of the richest people in the country pay exactly zero in income taxes.

Even more interesting is the fact that there are 1.611 million people who frequently embark on international tours but do not pay a single penny as income tax.

About 584,730 Pakistanis have multiple accounts in domestic and multinational banks, but do not possess NTNs.

The FBR has bound banks to deduct a meagre amount of less than one per cent at source less tax on cash withdrawals of more than Rs50,000 in a day, but it doesn’t issue notices to bring them under the tax net.

Over 56,000 people live in posh areas and more than 20,000 people own luxury cars, but pay no income tax.

The solution to this crime – because that’s what tax evasion really is, isn’t it? Stealing from the national treasury? – is not to ask the thief what he is willing to pay, it is to make improvements in enforcement and collection so that the thief learns that stealing is not profitable.

It is these reforms that have finally started to improve tax collection in the country. Tax authorities increased revenue generation 28 per cent in the first five months of fiscal year 2011, and earlier this year, improvements in enforcement of the tax laws netted an additional Rs1 billion every month. That doesn’t mean that more doesn’t need to be done, obviously it does. But it means that the current efforts to reforming the systems of tax collection and improving enforcement of tax laws are making an actual difference. They should be allowed – and encouraged – to continue.

Giving a tax policy of begging the rich to pay whatever they feel like is a blatant expression of the feudalistic thinking that has dragged the country down and kept us from achieving our full economic potential. Federal Tax Ombudsman (FTO) Dr Shoaib Suddle told the media, “I am the ombudsman of taxpayers and not of tax evaders.” So what does that make Nawaz Sharif?

Pakistan’s Real Heroines

Imran Khan’s latest publicity stunt is, ironically, to increase the number of Americans operating in Pakistan’s tribal areas. Imran won’t risk being called a traitor, though, because the Americans he’s importing are anti-drone activists. Actually, I have no problem with Imran inviting Americans to Pakistan. I wish more Americans were able to come and see the Pakistan I know – one that I think has very little in common with what they see on CNN. But I’ll leave aside for the moment the blatant hypocrisy of Imran Khan chanting ‘Go America Go’ on one day and ‘Come Americans Come’ when it suits his politics. What has really upset me is the way these American activist are being treated by the media, and what it says about how much we value (or don’t) our own brave women.

Picking up a copy of Dawn on Wednesday, my attention was grabbed by the headline, ‘Pakistan’s Rachel Corrie’. Rachel Corrie, in case you don’t remember, was an American woman who was killed in Gaza trying to prevent the demolition of Palestinian homes. It is a tragic story of someone who is willing to sacrifice her own life to defend the rights of the oppressed. So who was this woman that Dawn declared as ‘Pakistan’s Rachel Corrie’?

Suzie Gilbert, a tall American woman with endless strands of curly long hair, immediately recognises the reference — the importance and its history. She informs that a lot of American delegates that have come to Pakistan have also been involved in peace activities in Gaza and Iraq.

Suzie Gilbert adds to the diversity of the delegation visiting Pakistan. She lives in Los Angeles and works in Hollywood. She has worked in various anti-war movies and knows the famous movie director Oliver Stone quite well.

So ‘Pakistan’s Rachel Corrie’ is a wealthy American woman? I disagree. Actually, Pakistan has not one, but many ‘Rachel Corries’, and none of them are from Hollywood. Here are just a few:

Farida Afridi

A woman, who anxiously awaited to be posted in a no-go area to serve those women and children of her community who have no access to basic rights and do not know how to raise their voices for these rights, was killed on the road in broad daylight.

The assassination of Farida Afridi, who was a member of an organisation working for women’s welfare in Jamrud, Khyber Agency, is one brutal example of this mindset which does not accept women out of the boundaries of their homes.

Sherry Rehman

All Sherry Rehman wants is to go out – for a coffee, a stroll, lunch, anything. But that’s not possible. Death threats flood her email inbox and mobile phone; armed police are squatted at the gate of her Karachi mansion; government ministers advise her to flee.

“I get two types of advice about leaving,” says the steely politician. “One from concerned friends, the other from those who want me out so I’ll stop making trouble. But I’m going nowhere.” She pauses, then adds quietly: “At least for now.”

It’s been almost three weeks since Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer was gunned down outside an Islamabad cafe. As the country plunged into crisis, Rehman became a prisoner in her own home. Having championed the same issue that caused Taseer’s death – reform of Pakistan’s draconian blasphemy laws – she is, by popular consensus, next on the extremists’ list.

Benazir Bhutto

I welcome Suzie Gilbert and her colleagues to Pakistan, and I hope that they are permitted to see beyond the narrow view they are certain to get from Imran Khan and his Taliban security. But, please, don’t call them ‘Rachel Corrie’. We have our own heroines who have really risked everything to stand up for the oppressed, and they can never be replaced.