The Problem With Using Religion in Politics

Imran Khan has built his political party largely on the basis of establishing a ‘truly Islamic’ Paksitan. While his party communications are careful to say comforting things like, ‘a truly Islamic society advocates tolerance, moderation and freedom to practice the religion of one’s choice without fear’, when Imran Khan speaks to the people it looks more like this.

Imran Khan supports sharia

But what happens when PTI officers find themselves faced with sharia restrictions? Recently Shireen Mazari was not allowed to renew her ID card because she appeared at the NADRA office in F-8 without a mehram.

Two prominent citizens of Islamabad, Tahira Abdullah, a human right activist, and Dr Shireen Mazari, CEO of Strategic Technology Resource, were both denied fresh ID cards because they did not bring their male members or their ID cards to provide to Nadra.

Obviously this is ridiculous and Shireen Mazari was right to protest. She is no teenage girl and she should be able to get her ID card renewed without being accompanied. But this just proves a larger point which is that when religion gets dragged into politics, it is bound to create problems. After all, if Shireen Mazari is a PTI officer and PTI supports implementing sharia…shouldn’t Mazari have thanked the NADRA workers for denying her?

Imran Khan likes to play the religion card to make up for his lack of political support. But it’s easy to say that you support shariat – when you get into trouble is when it comes time to define what that actually means. Unfortunately, extremists have the upper hand by terming anything they don’t like as bid’ah or shirk and manipulating people’s emotions so they will accept their own interpretations.

Shireen Mazari should not need a mehram to renew her ID card. If a woman wants to take a man to accompany her that should be her right, but if she wants to go by herself to the NADRA office that should be her right also. Let her decide based on her own faith, not the orders of the state.

The vision for Pakistan laid out by Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah was for a Pakistan that exemplified the beauty of Islam found in the names of Allah from the very first words of Qur’an: ar-Rahman (Compassionate), ar-Rahim (Merciful). Jinnah did not want to create an Islamic version of the intolerance that he saw in India, but sought to create a nation where all could be free from religion persecution – both Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

Part the dark clouds, let the sun shine in

Light Shining Through CloudsPM has convened an independent commission to investigate the Abbottabad incident and ascertain the full facts regarding the presence of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. This is a commendable decision and one that should be fully backed by those whose primary concern is truth and justice. It is time that we part the dark clouds hanging over the nation and let the sun shine in.

The 2/5 operation may have come at the first of the month, but the past few weeks have been a string of incidents. After Abbottabad we saw the terrorist attack on PNS Mehran. We saw suicide bombings almost daily. Yesterday the sad news was announced that the body of another journalist was found tortured to death. Surrounding each of these incidents has been an aura of suspicion, doubt, and conspiracy. This is not unusual and may even be considered as ‘status quo’. When tragedy strikes, it is hard to part the dark clouds to see clearly.

But these tragic events are not the only events that have caused confusion. There continue to be questions about visas issued to American nationals, even after the Embassy in Washington has made multiple press statements including providing access to the data on these visas to show that there has been nothing out of the ordinary.

Najam Sethi got the memo and corrected the record on Aapas Ki Baat recently, but obviously this information is not being made widely available since Javed Chaudhry and Shireen Mazari continued to perpetuate the conspiracy on Kal Tak that 7,000 Americans were issued visas without proper security checks.

Drones is another issue that is surrounded by dark clouds of confusion and misinformation. Listening to Imran Khan and others talk about drone attacks, it is easy to come away with the belief that 30,000 innocent Pakistanis have been killed by drones and not one single terrorist. But actually none other than the terrorist leader Baitullah Mehsud was killed by drones. Actually, according to data confirmed by independent news reports, maximum number of drone deaths are militants. This fact was also confirmed by GHQ when General Officer Commanding 7-Division Maj-Gen Ghayur Mehmood said in a briefing earlier this year:

“Myths and rumours about US predator strikes and the casualty figures are many, but it’s a reality that many of those being killed in these strikes are hardcore elements, a sizeable number of them foreigners.

“Yes there are a few civilian casualties in such precision strikes, but a majority of those eliminated are terrorists, including foreign terrorist elements.”

Never the less, incorrect statements and conspiracies continue about both visa policy and drone strikes. Now we have talking heads on TV telling that Osama bin Laden was not killed at Abbottabad, PNS Mehran attack was a CIA-RAW-al Qaeda conspiracy, and now there are even those saying Saleem Shahzad’s murder was a conspiracy to harm the image of the farishtas in our agencies.

We all know that good Muslisms cannot lie, therefore the people who are perpetuating these statements must be like so many people mistaken due to not having the facts. The only solution to this problem is to have an independent commission verify the facts so that the confusion can be resolved and we can move forward to solve the grave issues facing the nation. Abbottabad is a good place to start since it was the first incident in the past weeks (though surely not the first incident in history).

But we should also convene independent commissions to investigate the other issues also – PNS Mehran, Saleem Shahzad murder, visas, drones etc – and take the nation into confidence so that myths, conspiracies, and confusion can be buried for good. In order to ensure that there is no doubt about the results of these findings, the independent commissions should be open and transparent for all citizens to inspect.

We have been living for too long under the weight of dark clouds. It is time to let the light shine upon the truth. Only then will we fund real justice.

Accentuate the Positive

2011 has been a difficult year, filled with grief for those who love the country and want to see a free and prosperous people. We have all found ourselves angry. We have all cried and yelled and stared at the street and been on the verge of giving up. But we must never give up. We must hold our heads high, not out of some false sense of pride, but in our real accomplishments and our real potential.

The ghairat brigades think that they have to lie make Pakistan look good. That’s so wrong in so many ways. And all it really demonstrates is how little respect they have for themselves and their own country. We don’t have to pretend that everything is a Hindu-Zionist conspiracy or that no Muslims can possibly do bad things. The fact is that a lot of society’s problems are precisely because there are Pakistani Muslims doing bad things.

But the fact is also that these Pakistanis make up the smallest percentage. We mistakenly amplify their importance, though, by pretending they don’t exist. Everyone knows they exist, but by protecting them and defending them we end up smearing the 179,998,000 Pakistani Muslims who every day are doing GOOD things.

Consider this, which you didn’t see on the front page of the newspaper or headlining a talk show.

Exports exceed $2 billion mark in Feb FY11

Pakistan’s exports registered a phenomenal growth of 42 percent during the month of February this fiscal over the same month of last year.

Pakistan has kept the momentum of export achievement of over $2 billion mark for the last three months, which continues in February 2011 also, Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP) announced on Wednesday.

Pakistan’s exports during February 2011 were valued at $2.16 billion, which was 42.1 percent higher than the level of $1.52 billion during February 2010.

But what about religious extremism?

250 clerics declare suicide attacks haram.

250 clerics from around 18 countries have declared suicide attacks as haram, a private TV channel reported on Wednesday. They issued the declaration on the occasion of the three-day-long Seerat-ul-Nabi conference, which was also attended by several Pakistani clerics belonging to different schools of thought. The clerics issued a joint statement at the end of the conference, in which they termed the terrorist attacks as “a plan to destroy the state’s infrastructure” and a “well planned conspiracy against Islam”. The clerics also pointed out the need of establishing a committee, consisting of clerics and scholars, to review the 1961 laws. They also emphasised on the selection of academic syllabus of the madrassas according to the demands of the modern era, the channel reported.

While there’s no doubt that extremism and militancy is a problem, hundreds of religious scholars declaring that suicide attacks and terrorists are against Islam should be shouted from the roof top. There should be loud speakers circling the streets and announcing this news.

Or what about the news that drone attacks are largely killing terrorists and not civilians?

Most of those killed in drone attacks were terrorists: military

General Officer Commanding 7-Division Maj-Gen Ghayur Mehmood said in a briefing here: “Myths and rumours about US predator strikes and the casualty figures are many, but it’s a reality that many of those being killed in these strikes are hardcore elements, a sizeable number of them foreigners.

“Yes there are a few civilian casualties in such precision strikes, but a majority of those eliminated are terrorists, including foreign terrorist elements.”

The Military’s 7-Dvision’s official paper on the attacks till Monday said that between 2007 and 2011 about 164 predator strikes had been carried out and over 964 terrorists had been killed.

Of those killed, 793 were locals and 171 foreigners, including Arabs, Uzbeks, Tajiks, Chechens, Filipinos and Moroccans.

In 2007, one missile strike left one militant dead while the year 2010 was the deadliest when the attacks had left more than 423 terrorists dead.

In 2008, 23 drone strikes killed 152 militants, 12 of them were foreigners or affiliated with Al Qaeda.

In 2009, around 20 predator strikes were carried out, killing 179 militants, including 20 foreigners, and in the following year 423 militants, including 133 foreigners, were killed in 103 strikes.

In attacks till March 7 this year, 39 militants, including five foreigners, were killed.

This should all be encouraging. The fact that hundreds of clerics are denouncing militancy, that drone strikes are not killing civilians as jihadhi propaganda says, that the economy is improving – it should be cause for relief and pride.

We need to stop protecting the small number of fundos and crazies who are causing problems for the rest of us. People ask me why I get so mad at people like Shireen Mazari. Let me tell you why. It is because I know that she is smarter than the things that she is saying. When I watch TV, I know that the people saying the stupidest things are really smarter than that, and they know it. But for some reason, maybe a misplaced sense of duty, maybe they just don’t care, they are defending people who don’t deserve it and dragging the hundreds of millions of good people down, too.

I’m not saying that we should pretend that everything is fine. It’s not. But it’s not going to get better as long as we hide from the truth. If you have a rotten tooth, it is better to pull it out than to let it fester and cause more pain. And pulling that tooth doesn’t mean that you hate yourself. Actually, it means that you care enough to save yourself. Before we can stop suffering, we’re going to have to pull some teeth. Maybe it’s not going to be pleasant, but it’s a lot better than the alternative. We need to accentuate the positive.

Latest Victim of CIA/Blackwater Assassins?

We don’t know for certain, but it appears that the CIA/Blackwater assassins have taken their latest victim. Mohammad Imran was sitting at a bus stop in Danda Village when three foreign agents approached him and gunned him down for passing ‘insulting’ remarks against the holy prophet (PBUH) during a discussion at a village café.

I say that we don’t know for certain only because there is absolutely no actual evidence of CIA/Blackwater involvement in this case. But based on what we have learned from such luminaries as Hafiz Saeed, Maulana Hasan, and Hamid Gul, we are able to know that CIA/Blackwater agents are responsible for killing those such as Salmaan Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti who are against the blasphemy law.

This is obviously due to the intense Muslim piety of CIA/Blackwater agents who cannot stand to hear any insults passed against our Prophet (PBUH). It also explains why, despite the country crawling with Raymond Davis’s out hunting blasphemers and their sympathizers, the leaders and supporters of groups like Jamaat-i-Islami, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, and Jamaat-ud-Dawa can walk the streets safely. They know they will never be touched by the CIA/Blackwater assassins who share their beliefs.

Thanks to these wise men, we know that CIA/Blackwater only targets Pakistani liberals. When those liberals get too out of hand and become ‘liberal extremists’, then the CIA/Blackwater assassins take out their Glocks and their masks and set out to kill them in cold blood.

I know there has been some confusion about this thanks to the propaganda of these ‘liberal extremists’ in the media. Thankfully, some brave souls in media are willing to tell the truth. Shireen Mazari speaks out against the “so-called ‘westernised elite’ [who come] out to protest and hold vigils for those murdered by alleged religious extremists but fails to act in a similar fashion to protest the killing of innocent people by drones in Fata, or the regular kidnappings and abuse of Hindus in Sindh.”

Exactly right, Dr Mazari. Thank you for having the courage to recognize in black and white that it is ridiculous to accuse religious extremists for murdering people. We all know that religious extremists in Pakistan would never murder anyone, it is only CIA/Blackwater that murders innocent people. Lashkar-e-Taiba and Sipah-e-Sahaba are merely youth development clubs for practising English and good manners! Hindus are truly lucky to have such a bold defender as Shireen Mazari looking out for them.

It also explains why certain ‘intelligence sources‘ have been able to see the foreign hand at work at in the assassination of Minister Shahbaz Bhatti. As it was explained in Jang, these foreign agents made a fatal mistake by using the name Tehrik-e-Taliban Punjab. First of all, everyone knows that there are no killers in Punjab which is populated only by angels. Besides, the intelligence sources looked through their contact list of militant groups and could find no Tehrik-e-Taliban Punjab registered.

The excellent evidence was also given that Shahbaz Bhatti’s killers “threw on the road the pamphlets with Kalma-e-Tayyaba printed on them and also the name of the holy Prophet Mohammad (Peace Be Upon Him) after killing Shahbaz Bhatti. No Muslim can ever think of dropping on ground such sacred material however”.

This is clearly true. No Muslim can ever think of dropping on the ground such sacred material. Hizb-ut-Tahrir spokesman Imran Yousafzai was clearly mistaken when we sent a press release saying,

Hizb ut-Tahrir has distributed hundreds of thousands of pamphlets in its campaign for Khilafat rallies, thousands of stickers, posters and poll cards have been pasted; thus this message has been already delivered to thousands of people.

No, it must be a mistake. Or a CIA/Blackwater plant. Or RAW. Certainly RAW is involved.

What is not a mistake, though, is that it has become unsafe to sit at the bus stop because you never know when a CIA/Blackwater assassin is going to shoot you for insulting the Prophet (PBUH). It has become unsafe to attend a Shia procession because CIA/Blackwater suicide bombers can not stand for partisans in their midst.

In fact, the safest thing for any Pakistani to do is to grow a beard, join your local lashkar, and support the establishment of a new caliphate. Because it seems this is the only way to stay out of the sights of the CIA/Blackwater terrorists who so much hate Pakistani liberals.

Right Fazlur Rehman?

Shireen Mazari’s Latest Column: India, Anti-Americanism, and an Ideology of the Past

Shireen MazariShireen Mazari’s latest column, published in Express Tribune, reads like she’s not even trying anymore. A mix of unintended irony, conspiracy theories, and outdated ideology leftover from the Zia years, it is a perfect example of where we were in the past, and why it’s time to move on.

Shireen starts off by pointing out the irony in American concerns about whether Davis can receive a fair trial when some here had similar concerns about the fairness of the trial of Aafia Siddiqui. She asks “are we to try murderers based on how the US views these trials and condemn the credibility of our judiciary proactively?”

This may seem like a fair point at first, but note that Shireen Mazari fails to notice the irony in her own suggestion that Davis can receive a fair trial only moments after she declares him a ‘murderer’ who ‘did kill in cold blood!’ The court is not set to formally charge Mr Davis until March 3, yet Shireen Mazari has him already guilty in her own mind. And even if we are to accept that Aafia Siddiqui did not receive a fair trial in the US, is Shireen Mazari suggesting that we should throw injustice after injustice? Or are we supposed to believe that a court could find Mr Davis ‘not guilty’ and Shireen Mazari would gladly accept such an outcome?

Perhaps this is what she means when she says we should not ‘condemn the credibility of our judiciary proactively’: That she can only rate the credibility of the court once she knows that it agrees with her own opinion. It is certainly worth asking if a fair trial is possible before an injustice takes place rather than afterwards. If we are going to demand impartial justice for our own countrymen, should we not be willing to demand impartial justice for others?

And this is not the only example of Shireen’s confusion on the issues. For that perhaps we should consider her repeating the conspiracy theory that Davis has links to attacks on the security establishment. This assertion is ridiculous as it contradicts what the security establishment itself is saying.

Consider how CIA and ISI officials described the relationship of these agencies to a real journalist, Mr Declan Walsh of The Guardian

“They need to come clean, tell us who they are and what they are doing. They need to stop doing things behind our back,” he said. There are “two or three score” covert US operatives roaming Pakistan, “if not more”, he said.

CIA spokesman George Little said that agency ties to the ISI “have been strong over the years, and when there are issues to sort out, we work through them. That’s the sign of a healthy partnership”.

The ISI official agreed that future co-operation was vital. “They need us; we need them,” he said. “But we need to move forward in the right direction, based on equality and respect.”

The intelligence agencies are merely asking that the CIA cooperate more openly with them. So why is Mazari trying to create some suspicion between the two by suggesting that Davis was involved in conspiracies to attack Pakistan’s security?

To answer that question we may look to the conclusion of her piece which lays clear the out-of-date ideology that obsesses Shireen Mazari and the rest of the Ghairat Brigade – India. Yes, only a senior official of the Ghairat Brigade could analyse a situation in which a US Embassy employee shoots two armed men at Mozang Chowk and somehow find a link to India.

One issue has become evident: the US agenda for Pakistan has growing question marks to it. The appointment of Marc Grossman as Holbrooke’s successor is a case in point. A known critic of the ICC, as vice-chairman of the Cohen Group, he has been closely associated with furthering US-India relations, including in the aerospace and defence fields. The Cohen Group was in the forefront of lobbying for the US-India nuclear deal. Earlier, as undersecretary of state for political affairs, Grossman was the main architect of the “Next Steps in Strategic Partnership between the United States and India” initiative. An active Indophile will now be dealing with Pakistan on behalf of the US. This really says it all about US intent in Pakistan.

This is an old and discredited way of thinking. China signed trade deals worth billions with India, and nobody pretends that this means China has nefarious intentions towards Pakistan. Actually, nations like the US and China don’t view their relations with us and India as a zero-sum game in which they can only be friends with one or the other. They want good relations with both, and they prefer that our two nations are also in good relations.

Of course we need a better and more balanced relationship with the US. But the correct approach to this is not explained by Shireen Mazari, but by Shafqat Mahmood’s column for The News.

Pakistan and the US are interlinked in myriad of ways. It is not just the Kerry-Lugar aid money that we desperately need or the American acquiescence to IMF or other international donors aid packages. Our defence and security needs also dictate a continuing relationship with the United States.

We do not have to be subservient to it, and I do not think we have been. There are many issues on which the US has been pushing us for a long time but, we have not given in. In particular, we have stoutly resisted the American demand for an attack on North Waziristan or its interference with our nuclear programme.

Having said that, there is also no need to get into an adversarial relationship with it. It is true that the Americans should not let the Davis case impact the entire relationship. But this argument cuts both ways. We also should not let it affect our relationship with the United States.

But worst is the way that Shireen Mazari tries to smear the name of the American diplomat Marc Grossman by accusing him of being “an active Indophile” because he had a job at an American firm that performed business consulting in India. In a glaring act of omission that has become typical for Shireen Mazari, she did not mention that Marc Grossman served at the US Embassy in Islamabad from 1976-1983. She did not note that he served as US Ambassador to Turkey from 1989-1992. She did not note that in 1999 Mr Grossman helped direct US participation in NATO’s military campaign in Kosovo that saved the lives of countless Muslims. All of this information is readily available – I learned it from his Wikipedia page. But such facts are not of interest to Shireen Mazari. With such a history, why does Shireen Mazari not term him ‘an active Islamophile’?

Shireen Mazari represents an ideology leftover from the Zia years. It is an outdated way of thinking about national security that places India as the ultimate threat, even while religious militants are attacking within our own borders. It uses anti-Americanism as an excuse for internal problems and provides a scapegoat for political pied pipers who promise that we will live in paradise if we can only get rid of the ‘foreign hand’.

The truth is, it is Zia leftovers like Shireen Mazari – not the Americans – that are holding us back. They want to keep us tied down to a Cold War mentality because they know that in the 21st century, their ideology is as irrelevant as their phony ‘think tanks’.