Hate speech has no place

Sindh Senior Minister Zulfikar Mirza’s recent statement against mohajirs this week was beyond the pale and has no place in politics. But rather than react in anger, we should take this opportunity to reflect on a poison that plagues politics and hold us back from realising our potential. The poison I’m speaking of is, of course, the prejudice and bigotry that continues to divide us against ourselves.

To his credit, President Zardari is taking the member of his party to task, summoning him to the presidency and publicly scolding him in the press.

“The president has asked Mr Mirza to suspend his political engagements in Sindh and immediately come to the presidency,” presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar said.

President Zardari is reported to have been annoyed by the statement in which Mr Mirza made derogatory remarks against MQM chief Altaf Hussain.

“The Pakistan People`s Party has already disowned the statement and called upon its ranks to show restraint in public statements,” the spokesman said.

Unfortunately, Mirza’s act is not unusual. Who can forget Altaf Hussain’s speech making fun of Punjabis?

Or can we forget PML-N politicians objecting to cabinet member Kamran Michael presenting the budget on grounds that he is Christian?

No, it is not one politician or one political party. Sadly, it has become a weapon to be pulled out when the speaker has no ideas worth giving. It is then that he can only resort to the lowest forms of attack against his fellow countrymen. It is a strategy of divide and conquer, and it has no place. Politics should be a battle of ideas, not a war of words.

After his outburst, Zulfiqar Mirza has given an apology which was published in the media. This is a good step, but it does not excuse his behaviour. The most important point is that such hate speech should never exist in the first place. The differences between us are not our weakness, but our strength. Diversity is what holds the name of our great nation together. Or have we forgotten the words of Chaudhry Rahmat Ali who was one of the earliest proponents of the creation of the state of Pakistan. He is credited with creating the name “Pakistan” for a separate Muslim homeland in South Asia:

At this solemn hour in the history of India, when British and Indian statesmen are laying the foundations of a Federal Constitution for that land, we address this appeal to you, in the name of our common heritage, on behalf of our thirty million Muslim brethren who live in PAKSTAN – by which we mean the five Northern units of India, Viz: Punjab, North-West Frontier Province (Afghan Province), Kashmir, Sind and Baluchistan.

Pakistan Declaration

Baloch, Pakhtun, Punjabi, Mohajir, Sindhi, Sufi, Shia, Barlevi, Deobandi, Christian – We are all Pakistanis.
Pakistani diversity

Military Accountability: The Role of Political Parties

The presence of Osama Bin Laden in Abbotabad has led to an opening of a Pandora’s box. The Pakistani military has had to pick and choose from limited options; that is either complicity or incompetence. The civilian government, already incapable of influencing any foreign policy, has once again chosen to side with the military and the intelligence agencies. On the surface, however, they have tried to act tough by establishing an “independent” commission in charge of analyzing the Osama Bin Laden mishap. The likes of Najam Sethi, Nawaz Sharif and Asma Jehangir have already called the commission useless. Nawaz Sharif was upfront about labeling the Osama Bin Laden a “security lapse.” He also criticized the PPP for not trying hard enough to ensure accountability within the military.

It is fair to assume that Nawaz Sharif has been bitter with the military since he was ousted in October 1999. His second tenure as the prime minister was marked with him trying to decentralize the military’s power in the political sphere. General Jehangir Karamat was nice enough to resign in face of civilian aggression, but Musharraf pounched on Sharif’s ego and ultimately ousted him. Sharif finally has seen an opportunity to once again engage in a verbal war with the military( and the election campaign of 2013). This time, the military may have found a more schrewd Sharif, and a public that is more aware of the military’s alleged incompetence. This situation is much similar to 1972, when army dictatorship collapsed.

The creation of East Pakistan sent shockwaves across Pakistan, as it lost 52% of its population within a matter of months. Martial law ended with Zulfikar Bhutto becoming both the Chief Martial Law Administrator and the President of the nation. While the public raised furor over the military’s policies, it was not fully aware of its atrocites in East Pakistan. Zulfikar Bhutto chose to keep it that way. In order to appease the military and ensure his future Presidency, Bhutto decided to conceal the “Hamoodur Rehman Commission Report” from the public. The report was also questionable in nature, as it did not indict General Tikka Khan, a military figure complicit in the army’s lawless actions in East Pakistan. General Tikka Khan went on to serve as the chief of army staff for four years under Zulfiqar Bhutto. The military, after a brief interruption in politics due to unpopularity, reinserted itself back into politics in 1978. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto missed the chance as Chief Martial Law administrator by not conducting a thorough investigation into the incompetence of the army. The result was the reinsertion of Martial Law in 1977.

Today, the PPP has once again allegedly decided to take the easy route by protecting the incompetence of the military. In fear of retaliation and possible aid withdrawal from foreign nations, it has decided to conduct an investigation in accords with the military’s wishes. Now, it would be foolish to assert that the military’s present blunders are remotely comparable to the atrocities of East Pakistan. Similarly, it is also unwise to assume that today’s PPP government is as strong as Zulfikar Bhutto’s government in 1972. Far from it, actually.

The morals of these two situations remain the same though. Public perception of the military is changing, just as it did in 1972. The PPP needs to act together with other civilian parties in order to ensure accountability in the military. It similarly needs to establish a proper independent commission in accord with the consent of the opposition parties. Najam Sethi, a distinguished Pakistani scholar, has critiqued the commission for catering towards the military’s needs. A commission needs to be established for ensuring justice within the military, not one that should be used by a party for political security from the military.

Three years ago, political parties were able to join together to restore the Chief Justice from a military dictator through unity. MQM President Altaf Hussain has already critiqued the alleged extremism within the army, and has demanded swift action within the military. Nawaz Sharif has called for a proper investigation into the blatant “security lapse” of Abbotabad. Imran Khan also wants a re-evaluation of military policy on the war against terror. This is the time for political parties to join together for a cause. Otherwise, public frustration with the military will frustrate itself to passiveness, and parliamentary democracy might once again meets its deadliest foe; martial law.


Real Political Parties Unite To Address Economy

Pakistan Business Council

Earlier this week I wrote that “Meeting the needs of the people requires compromise. It requires the willingness to work with other people – even those you don’t agree with. It requires the organizational capacity of a political party, not cheap publicity stunts and sound bites. It’s always easiest to say ‘no’. Finding a way to get to ‘yes’ takes real leadership.”

Thankfully, it looks like some people are showing some real leadership by working together to find common ground from which to formulate a national economic agenda that focuses on the welfare of the citizens.

Dr, Farooq Sattar from MQM said that the balance of economic power is shifting from West to East and if we could not correct our fundamental economic wrongs we would left far behind in the regional economic race.

“We need to design a charter of economy which may be formulated with mutual consensus. Moreover there should be no injustice in tax system. Tax should be levied on every type of income. Tax net should be enhanced including bringing agriculture sector into the tax net,” he suggested the recommendations and added that agriculture of the country contributes 23 per cent of national GDP but unfortunately its contribution in tax is only one per cent.

Raja Pervez Ashraf from Pakistan Peoples’ Party stressed the need for sustainable economic policies and said that country can only prosper if the sustainable economic policies evolved with mutual agreement.

Ahsan Iqbal from PML-N said that the main problem in our economic system is lack of implementation. He said that if we implement all the policies made for the economic strength of the country, our economy would be strengthen to a great deal.

Regarding recent Pakistan-India trade agreement, Farooq Sattar said that his party fully supports the enhancing of trade between Pakistan and India.

Similarly Ahsan Iqbal said that regional trade is very important for the country’s economic growth and there should be no harm in starting trade relations with India.

Former Minister for Information Sherry Rehman said that agreement between the two countries was of great importance for both the countries as it would help improve the trade and as well as political relations between the two countries.

This is the hard work of politics. This is the type of coming together and reaching compromises and consensus that will improve the lives of the poor and desperate. Anyone can put on a simple latha shalwar kameez and sleep under open sky. Play acting politics is fine for some. But moving the country forward requires more. When MQM, PPP, PML-N can come together and reach agreement, that is when things get done.

Bilawal: We must dedicate our lives to democracy in Pakistan

The following is a transcript of the speech delivered by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari at the Central Executive Committee PPP meeting on the occasion of the death anniversary of his grandfather, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Accuracy of the transcript has been confirmed.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and President Asif Ali Zardari visit ancestral graveyard of the Bhutto family

Bismillah Rehman Raheem
Assalaam alaykum

We gather yet again to mark the martyrdom of our great leader Quaid-i-Awam Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

My mother Shaheed Benazir Bhutto taught us that democracy was the greatest revenge. The day she took oath as the first female prime minister of Pakistan was the day she took her revenge.

When she too was martyred I fought against my natural instincts as a son who’s mother was assassinated. My heart, my entire being pulsed with rage demanding violent vengeance.

Revenge against the dictatorial regime that purposely sabotaged the security arrangements, provided purposely inadequate resources, purposely flawed equipments,  purposely designed to leave her vulnerable.

All the while having the complete knowledge, supported by unquestionable evidence that the extremists lay in wait at that exact spot ready to attack.

I believe my mother’s spirit and her teachings cooled the tempers of a hot headed 19yr old. Allowing me to convince a party ready for all out civil-war and a traumatized nation that democracy is the best revenge.

This remains our mantra. Be it the judicial murder of Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto or the forces of extremism and dictatorship that assassinated his daughter: Democracy is and always will be the best revenge.

We know our great martyrs lives will not be avenged if any insignificant man alone is held responsible. For us to have our revenge we must insure that the circumstances that allowed for Shaheed Bhutto’s Judicial murder never arise again. For us to take revenge of Shaheed BB’s assassination we must defeat the forces of violent extremism and dictatorship that together assassinated my mother. To do this we must dedicate our lives to the establishment of a fully functioning democracy in Pakistan.

However, democracy is not our only revenge. There is a matter of Justice. The rule of law must be allowed to take its course. This after all is also an important component of democracy. It is our responsibility to history to ensure the full and complete facts – the truth – of these crimes are known to the world.

Thus, I fully support the party’s decision to revisit the case of the Judicial murder of Shaheed Bhutto. It is not just a question of law, it is also a question for history. It is right for us to finally set the record straight and ensure that such an autocracy never ever again takes place in our nations courts.

On my mothers assassination the circumstances are far more complicated. As her son and heir I am the only person to have received a complete briefing of the investigation into her assassination. I would like to thank our  investigation team. In taking on this responsibility they have risked their lives.  They have worked tirelessly for 3 years to come to the truth.

I would also like to thank the United Nations. They honored my mother by passing a resolution condemning her assassination. They also obeyed the wishes of the people of Pakistan, who demanded through unanimous resolutions passed by all 4 provincial assemblies, our national assembly and the senate, that the United Nations investigate her assassination.  There detailed and invaluable report is of the utmost importance to history. It did the best it could in the confines of the parameters set. Both reports combined lead us towards the answers we seek.

Our national report identifies the individuals involved in the criminal act its self. It also follows the trail they left behind in an attempt to expose the financiers, orchestrators and co-conspirators involved. Everyone directly involved, who could be arrested and are still alive have been taken into custody.

The report also raises many questions. Having read everything it is easy to conclude that this was a grand conspiracy. A conspiracy to rid the world of its best weapon to combat international violent extremism. A conspiracy to rob Pakistan of its best hope to establish a fully functional democracy.

We must therefore proceed with caution. The premature release of the entire investigation report could legally sabotage the case currently in progress. It could also allow the conspirators – who may not be confined to our borders – to permanently deprive the people of Pakistan and the citizens of the world of the truth they deserve.

Therefore I advise the members of the CEC to appoint a limited number of its most senior members to have a full and complete briefing of the entire investigation report.

Given the complexities of this conspiracy this committee of senior members can advise us on how to proceed with the publication of the report. It will decide what information can responsibly be released to satisfy the desire of our supporters for information. While also ensuring we do not hamper the legal proceedings already in progress in our national courts. We cannot allow those that conspired to rid the world of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto to sabotage our desire for justice and our search for the truth.

I would like to conclude by saluting our martyrs all of whom deserve justice for their sacrifice. I salute our martyred founder who choose the gallows but refused to be silenced by tyranny. I salute his martyred daughter who refused to be silenced by fear. I also salute our party’s newest martyrs who have joined their leaders in the afterlife. I salute our martyred minorities minister – Pakistan’s modern day equivalent to Martin Luther King.  I salute our martyred Governor – the real lion of Punjab. I salute all the martyrs of the PPP who have given their lives for our party, our country and our democracy.

Jiay Bhutto.


Dictatorship vs. Democracy

From Huffington Post, the following article by Aparna Pande provides an excellent examination of competing political perspectives. We have often made the argument that debates should focus on reason, and the following piece gives some important historical context to the struggle between the preference for rational thinking which can be quite messy and the preference for order which is tidier. The author is a Research Fellow at The Hudson Institute in Washington, DC.

Aparna PandeWhile discussing the current Middle East situation in a recent interview, former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf asserted that “good dictatorship is better than bad democracy.” Mr Musharraf’s quote is reminiscent of the traditional Asharite/Al Ghazzali view that “a bad ruler is preferable to anarchy.”

During the early centuries of Islam there were two broad views on political theory and philosophy — the Asharite and the Mu’tazilite. The Mu’tazilites, influenced by Greek philosophy and thought, emphasized reason and rational thinking (ijtihad), whereas the Asharites were more traditional and asserted imitation (taqlid). With the need for complete control desired by monarchs it was the Asharites who eventually won the debate and gained political blessing. The main reason was that every political system needs legitimacy and the Asharite view of taqlid was more likely to approve of the existing system than the Mu’tazilite view of reason and questioning.

While these views and names are rarely mentioned today, their basic conflict still remains. Across the Greater Middle East, this view has been prevalent for decades that autocracy or dictatorship is preferable to the anarchy or chaos associated with democracy. The Saudi dynasty’s legitimacy derives from an alliance with the Wahhabi clergy where the latter have consistently overlooked the personal indiscretions of the ruling family on grounds of avoiding anarchy. Al Ghazzali, a prominent Islamic theologian of the 12th century, often stated the need to avoid fitna (strife) and anarchy.

All of Pakistan’s military rulers, from General Ayub through Yahya and Zia till Musharraf, have held similar views on the need for order and avoidance of anarchy under democracy. General Ayub Khan (1958-69) believed that the people of the subcontinent were not suited either by temperament or by experience to the Westminster system of parliamentary democracy. General Ayub also believed that democracy was best suited to cold climates and not to the tropical climate of Pakistan. That the same conditions prevailed in India did not seem like an anachronism to the general. General Ayub attempted to impose his form of autocratic rule under a system of ‘Basic Democracy’ which excluded political parties and instead installed an indirectly elected presidential system. Ayub’s failure in the end lay in his inability to gain legitimacy and the prevalence and popularity of local political parties despite attempts to get rid of the latter.

General Zia ul Haq (1977-88) sought legitimacy in religion, for him Pakistan had been created in the name of Islam and the reason for the 1971 break up as well as any problems to date had been because his predecessors had moved away from Islam. The Islamization of Pakistani society, education, politics and law struck deep roots under Zia’s era. Zia was fearful of democracy because it would show the strength of parties like his nemesis Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP). Zia repeatedly asserted that it was his rule that had prevented anarchy, corruption and further break up of Pakistan by its eternal enemy India, helped by Soviet Union, Israel and other allies.

General Musharraf believed that he was the messiah who saved Pakistan from the corrupt, inefficient and constantly bickering rule of politicians. Thus he ended anarchy and brought efficient rule under a dictatorship. Musharraf’s policy of ‘Enlightened Moderation’ was very similar to Ayub’s ‘Basic Democracy’ — an attempt to build legitimacy outside of the political system. Musharraf’s views have not changed, as evident from his memoirs and speeches given after he resigned as President in 2008. He still believes he is the messiah who will save Pakistan from its chaotic democracy. Musharraf’s recent statements are reminiscent of his predecessors not just in his condescending views of democracy but also in his worldview. Just recently in an interview Musharraf stated that Pakistan is faced with an existential threat — not from the Taliban and jihadi groups who are eating up Pakistan internally — but from the eternal enemy, India.

The view that the Pakistanis masses are illiterate and do not know what is right for them and given the choice would choose inefficient, corrupt and self-serving politicians is a view held deeply by the military-civilian establishment. From this it follows that the military and technocratic elite are by education and temperament best suited to guide and lead Pakistan and protect it from its external and internal enemies. The Pakistani army strongly believes it is the guardian of Pakistan’s territorial and ideological frontiers.

The notion that “good dictatorship is better than bad democracy” arises from the need to have order and predictability. However, for any multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multi-lingual country like Pakistan, any attempt to impose one view will have long-term repercussions. As discussed in my book, Aparna Pande Explaining Pakistan’s Foreign Policy: Escaping India, Pakistan’s founding fathers constructed an ideological identity for the country, which subsumed and denied the religio-ethno-linguistic differences. The various internal challenges facing Pakistan today are a blowback of this basic challenge of identity.

While order and conformity suit the people in power, they rarely ever benefit the masses. The irony of Musharraf’s statement seems to be lost on him — the only way Musharraf can return to power is if he contests elections under democracy!