"A man's ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties; no religious basis is necessary.Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death."
--Albert Einstein !!!
NEWS,ARTICLES,EDITORIALS,MUSIC... Ze chi pe mayeen yum da agha pukhtunistan de.....(Liberal,Progressive,Secular World.)''Secularism is not against religion; it is the message of humanity.''
تل ده وی پثتونستآن
The wave of bomb blasts and suicide attacks in Peshawar city might have stopped but the damage extremism and terrorism have caused to the people of this city continues as another bookstore is closing down due to ‘intellectual bankruptcy’ in the city.
Despite offering 50 per cent discount on books on sale, there is hardly any buyer around in the two-storey Shaheen Books Peshawar, located on University Road.
In a city where shoppers throng the market the moment sale opens on branded clothes, shoes and other items, it is ironic that no one bothers to peep into the bookstore. No one even bothers to look at a heart-wrenching dark-coloured poster message by the owner displayed on its entrance.
“The entire society collectively is in grasp of moral degradation, senselessness, extremism and terrorism because of their ignorance. People don’t have the habit of reading anymore. So libraries and bookstores have no meaning for such society. Under such circumstances, we are forced to close down our bookstore,” says the ominous looking black-poster on the entrance of Shaheen Books Peshawar.
Owner of bookstore says he can’t sell even a single magazine as there are no buyers
The bookstore opened in 1992 by a book-lover Mustafa Kamal from Karak is now in the hands of his son and nephews. Riaz Gul, his son, still remembers how foreigners residing in University Town and local literati used to throng the bookstore.
Women used to buy fashion magazines. But with the passing of time as extremism forced educated and literate families to move to other cities, the number of book buyers dropped around 2005. After that it was a gradual decrease in the number of visitors to the bookstore.
In 2007, as the law and order situation aggravated, Saeed Book Bank, one of the most popular bookstores in Peshawar Sadder, closed down business and moved to Islamabad.
“I think bomb blasts may have caused damage to the city but closure of the bookstores like Saeed Book Bank and now Shaheen Books is a severe blow to the intellectual life of this city,” says Saima Munir, a rights activist.
Saeed Book Bank was forced to move out of city due to kidnapping for ransom threats. London Book Agency, another bookstore in Saddar, is also just selling course books. Shaheen is also going to shrink its business to stationery. These are all after effects of terrorism and extremism that engulfed this city for the last decade or so. Those, who could afford to buy books or hailed from educated class, have left the city long ago. Now people might afford books but they have no liking or habit of reading books. “As a result, bookstores are not doing any business,” explains Riaz Gul.
Riaz Gul recalls how once the bookstore had thousands of books of all genres. Now he is forced to sell the remaining books on half price due to bad business. He has also returned a huge bulk of books to the publishers. “I used to sell 200 to 300 magazines back in 90s. Now I can’t sell even one,” he adds.
Riaz Gul while narrating how he has been trying hard to sell books on discount and still unable to attract booklovers to the store, has tears in his eyes. It is quite visible that he is not as much concerned about business as much about the senselessness and intellectual poverty of the people in the city.
“I am amazed how people take their children to eat at international food chains and restaurants but fail to get them good books,” says Riaz Gul with a heavy heart.
The textbooks taught in schools don’t tell them history. The youth need to know history and read other books so that they could learn manners, share ideas and hold intellectual discourse.
“Unfortunately parents like to buy their children Tablets and cellular phones than buying a good book,” says Riaz Gul, who is also going to convert his bookstore into a stationery shop since he has to earn a living.
Senator Aitzaz Ahsan on Tuesday strongly criticised Altaf Hussain’s comments to attack three TV channels
Blaming Altaf Hussain for everything that happened in Karachi, on Monday evening, Pakistan People’s Party’s (PPP) Aitzaz urged the use of Article 6 of the constitution thoughtfully this time.
“Altaf also threatened to shut-down the Sindh Secretariat, which is as serious a matter as an attack on the Supreme Court,” he said. Calling Urdu-speaking people humble and patriotic, the senator asked them to distance themselves from Altaf Hussain.
“The videos of the people who attacked the media were present and they could be identified,” he said and added that they should be arrested and stern action should be taken against them.
Erdogan’s power grab recalls Pakistan’s military dictator, Zia ul-Haq.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s oppressive response to July’s failed coup attempt – in which he sacked thousands of government officials and journalists in a sweeping purge – threatens to drive the nominally secular Turkish state further down the path of Islamist totalitarianism. To observers of international affairs, the path is reminiscent of the one traversed almost 40 years ago by another key U.S. ally and strategic partner in the war against terror: Pakistan.
Striking similarities are revealing themselves between the growing authoritarian behavior – bordering on paranoia – of Erdogan and Pakistan’s military dictator General Zia-ul-Haq, who ruled the country for 11 years, from his declaration of martial law in 1977 to his death in 1988.
Zia turned Pakistan into a hub for political Islam. Turkey today has become a regional center for the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. Similar to how Zia’s Islamization program set the stage for Pakistan’s currentatmosphere of jihad, Ankara’s “good terrorist, bad terrorist” double game now haunts Turkey as jihadists have killed more than 250 people in the past year. Erdogan continues to push for enhanced power under an executive presidency; under Zia’s rule, Pakistan passed its historic eighth amendment that changed the country from a parliamentary democracy to a more presidential system of government with greater authority vested in the executive.
Still, one critical difference separates the two countries. Voters democratically elected Erdogan as president and former prime minister of Turkey, while Zia assumed power in Pakistan after he overthrew the legitimate government of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and imposed martial law following a bloodless coup in 1977.
Turkey’s constitutionally-mandated secular system, established in 1924 by the republic’s founding president, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, faces an increasing threat from the Erdogan-led Justice and Development Party (AKP). The AKP intends to replace country’s existing governance with an Islamist authority that demands adherence to strict religious tenets in the public sphere.
The 2015 election campaign witnessed an uptick in religious symbolism and rhetoric that included Erdogan brandishing a copy of the Quran at a rally to attract votes from the country’s minority Kurdish population. The government earlier removed a decades-old ban on women wearing headscarves in state institutions, schools, and universities, which pits Turkey’s formerly powerful secular elite against more religiously observant Turks. The AKP’s rule has also seen an increase in religious schools called imam hatip, meaning one who delivers the Friday sermon. Islamic banking has also gained ground, with experts foreseeing the country as a future “interest-free financial hub.”
This process looks familiar to Pakistani observers. As part of Zia’s Islamization efforts in Pakistan, state-sponsored religious schools known as madrassas grew exponentially, in large part fueled by a U.S.-backed policy in the 1980s to mobilize mujahideen (holy warriors) fighting Soviet forces in Afghanistan. Zia co-opted the Islamist Jamaat-e-Islami into the judiciary, the civil service, and other state institutions. Moreover, Ziainvited Maulana Abu Ala Maududi, the founder and spiritual leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami, “to help him shape policies to help make Pakistan a “true Islamic country” run on “‘Nizam-e-Mustafa,’ [‘Establishment of Mustafa’s (Muhammad) Law’],” writes Nadeem Paracha in the Pakistani newspaper Dawn.
Zia also made zakat (alms giving) mandatory and sought to abolish interest on all bank accounts. His government instituted the Hudood and Zina Ordinances that supported punishments such as amputation and stoning, as well as treating women as unequal to men.
Global Centers for Political Islam
In 2014, Erdogan invited exiled leaders of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood into Turkey and allowed Hamas leaders to set up their international headquarters in Istanbul. During the AKP’s tenure, Turkey also hostedseveral conferences in support of the Muslim Brotherhood and its Palestinian offshoot, Hamas. An August 2015 Brotherhood conference hosted in Istanbul denounced Egyptian President Fattah El-Sisi’s government as “illegitimate” and condemned death sentences against Egyptian Brotherhood members, including former President Mohamed Morsi.
Zia, like Erdogan, played an pivotal role in “turning Pakistan into a global center for political Islam” and advocated global Islamic issues from his presidential pulpit, writes Husain Haqqani in Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military. As secretary general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Zia representedcommittees that dealt with issues such as the status of Jerusalem and resolution of the Iran-Iraq War. The Pakistani general pressed for the readmission of Egypt to the OIC at the organization’s 1984 summit in Casablanca.
Playing a Double Game
Erdogan fallaciously distinguishes “good” from “bad” terrorists. His opposition to Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad prompted him to let Turkey’s border serve as a “jihadist highway” for foreign fighters to cross into Syria to join forces with the Islamic State. That slowed in August 2015, when Turkey joined the U.S.-led coalition strikes against the Islamic State. In addition to providing refuge to exiled leaders of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, Ankara also offered shelter to members of the Egyptian Islamic Group, or Gama’a al-Islamiyya (IG), a jihadist organization that plotted attacks against Western tourists in Egypt. Reports indicate that the AKP government supported the formerly al-Qaeda-connected Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist group – which has recently changed its name to Jabhat Fateh al-Sham – until the United States pressured it to stop in June 2014.
Turkey’s lax Syrian border policy returned to haunt it. Ankara’s decision in 2015 to allow U.S. aircraft to launch strikes from the Incirlik airbase against ISIS targets in Syria and Iraq led to a spate of retribution attacks. The breakdown of a two-year ceasefire with the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) has further increased terror strikes by Kurdish separatists.
Islamabad also differentiates between “good” and “bad” terrorists as politically expedient to further its goals in the region. U.S.-backed support for mujahideen (holy warriors) battling Soviet forces in Afghanistan under Zia in the 1980s contributed in large part to turning Pakistan into an epicenter of terror. “Zia insisted that Islamabad would decide who in Afghanistan received American aid, and the arbiters of this policy ultimately became Pakistan’s spy agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), and the Pakistani Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami, which supported Zia’s dictatorship,” a report by the Institute for the Study of War found.
Furthermore ,the Pakistani intelligence service’s historic alliance with Kashmiri jihadi groups to engage in a proxy war with India, such as Lakshar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), remains a key impediment to peace in the subcontinent. Further, Pakistan’s attempts to gain “strategic depth” in Afghanistan and deny India influence in the region has led it to support the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network, notes Bill Roggio in recent testimony before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
Turkey and Pakistan remain strategically important allies of the United States and critical to its regional security interests. Yet Pakistan’s Islamization, combined with its support of jihadists, turned the country into a near-failed state and among the world’s most dangerous nations.
Turkey could learn from Pakistan’s experience. However, Erdogan’s recent endeavors to stifle dissent by purging his military and academia, as well as shuttering news outlets, further transforms Turkey into an authoritarian one-party state and suggests that he prefers to follow in the footsteps of Pakistan. This analysis is confirmed by Hillel Fradkin, a top Middle East policy expert at the Hudson Institute.
“I do not think that Erdogan will learn from Pakistan’s mistakes,” Fradkin said. “He hardly seems to learn from his own. Domestically, he seems never to forget past objectives of his will and if temporarily stymied will return to them when conditions seem to him ready.”
Rediscovering Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s vision for a secular, liberal Pakistan.
On August 14, Pakistan marked its 69th year of independence. Though there was much to celebrate of historical significance, the years since independence have brought Pakistanis little to celebrate. Instead there has been much soul searching, with a feeling of lost focus and purpose. The country finds itself gripped by a militant insurgency that has claimed the lives of thousands, with politicians too scared to speak against blasphemy laws that persecute minorities for fear of their lives and widespread sectarian killings, too name just a few of the issues Pakistan has to contend with. Rewind the clock 69 years and you find that Pakistan has become the polar opposite of the country envisaged by its founding father, Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Where did it all go so wrong?
“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”: On August 11, 1947, in unequivocal terms, Jinnah set out the foundations of Pakistan, which was to be a secular and liberal democracy guaranteeing freedom of religion. This speech provided the clearest indication of what shape Jinnah wanted his country to take. In the same speech he went further and claimed that “you may belong to any religion, caste or creed, that has nothing to do with the business of the state.” Yet Jinnah’s death, only a year after the birth of Pakistan, meant that he had no time to implement his vision for the new country.
After Jinnah’s death, with no national leader holding the country together, and with a threadbare state, a void opened up in Pakistan. This void has been filled by both civilian and military rulers who, in the absence of a national identity, have advanced their own competing visions of the state ever since. Religious groups along with civilian and military governments have sought to repackage Jinnah as an Islamic leader in order to increase support and legitimacy amongst Pakistani society and to match their anti-India rhetoric. Not only has there been an attempt to create a new identity, but there has been a concerted effort to downplay and distort Pakistan’s history and Jinnah’s vision. As the New York Times reported from Islamabad in the 1970s, Islamization and appeals to Islam are “a form of therapy to resolve a longstanding national crisis of identity.”
This “therapy” received its fullest expression during the 1970s under the military rule of General Zia-ul-Haq. General Zia, who had come to power after overthrowing Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto of the Pakistan People’s Party in a military coup, settled Pakistan’s ideological direction firmly in favor of Islamization, the consequences of which are still being felt today. Take the murders in 2011 of Shahbaz Bhatti, first federal minister for minority affairs, and Salmaan Taseer, governor of Punjab. Both were fierce opponents of the country’s blasphemy laws, which are a source of discrimination against minorities; these laws were enacted under the rule of Zia-ul-Haq during the 1980s.
Yet it was not simply the passing of laws that would define Pakistan’s identity along religious lines. Zia recognized that in order to undercut opposition to his rule by the mainstream political parties in Pakistan he needed the support of the religious far right. He thus embarked on a wholesale program of Islamization, telling a BBC reporter in an interview in April 1978 that he had a mission to “purify and cleanse Pakistan.”
The late 1970s saw a concerted push toward Islamization with the Hudood Ordinances, which replaced the Pakistani Penal code with new offenses of adultery and fornication along with the establishment of Shariat Appellate Benches. Legal cases were now to be judged using interpretations of the Quran and Sunnah, and bought into line with religious sharia law. Islamization was so entrenched that any incoming government that wished to reverse such a process not only had an enormous task on its hands but would also have to contend with the newfound strength of the religious right. For long after Zia’s death, his Islamist agenda lived on through religious groups in Pakistan. Any subsequent confrontation carried with it the charge of going against the new distorted identity of Pakistan.
Any assessment of why liberal democracy has not taken root in Pakistan cannot go without mention of the overall role played by the powerful military in Pakistan. Pakistan has been ruled by its powerful military for half of its 69 years. The seeds of democracy in this fragile state never really had the chance to grow. Unlike its neighbor India, where the army has confined itself to a strictly military role, the Pakistani generals have been far too eager to depose elected governments at will, imposing martial law and shoring up their own position.
Part of the reason for the dominance of the military lies in the fractured nature of the country. Pakistan’s regions are ethnically and linguistically diverse; from its inception the country has had to deal with regional pulls. In Balochistan, which has on occasion been dubbed the site of Pakistan’s secret war, successive governments have had to contend with a separatist insurgency. The government’s writ has barely ever extended to the tribal areas, where at present a militant insurgency rages and Karachi, a city the size of Cairo, finds itself under the clutches of Altaf Hussain’s MQM, with sectarian killings common place.
Historically, given the ethnic diversity within Pakistan, where provinces asserted their own authority and political identities against what they perceived as an encroaching center following the death of Jinnah, the army, as the strongest and most organized institution following independence, was able to step in and fill the void. Not only has it sought to stamp its own authority over the different regions of Pakistan, it has also sought more broadly to define Pakistan’s identity through the prism of security. In order to shore up its position, the military has sought to overplay the threat from India, to ensure the government continues to provide it support both politically and financially. This has further contributed to a Pakistan that has disowned its previous identity in favor of one that is anti-India and stresses the Islamic identity of Pakistan to the detriment of its liberal principles.
Civilian governments in Pakistan have not fared much better. Their failure to fulfill basic state functions, such as providing a decent education and law and order to its citizens, has allowed hardline religious groups to step in with madrassas (religious schools) providing a free education to Pakistan’s poor. Politics in Pakistan is very much like a family business with parties revolving around an iconic leader and their offspring. In more recent decades rule has alternated between Nawaz Sharif’s family and his party, the Pakistan Muslim League (N), and the Bhutto family’s Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), interrupted by frequent bouts of military rule.
The irony of the name PPP is all too clear, with the leadership of the party being passed on like some hereditary mantelpiece. The party has long been mired in corruption. Although the Bhuttos were never convicted of corruption, many Pakistanis looked upon Bhutto administrations with disdain. The family increased their own personal wealth, holding millions in foreign bank accounts, whilst millions struggled under rising inflation and 24-hour power cuts and poverty.
The Sharif family hasn’t fared any better since Nawaz Sharif’s first stint in office in 1990. When Sharif was removed from power in 1999, many Pakistanis expressed great relief, describing him as corrupt and incompetent. He subverted the judiciary and undermined the press. Many Pakistanis simply do not trust the democratically elected governments, which are tainted with corruption.
The above factors have all contributed to a move away from Jinnah’s original vision for Pakistan. Yet Pakistan as a country is still deciding its fate. Until the nation decides whether it wishes to operate as a Muslim theocracy or as a liberal and progressive state, it will remain gripped in a battle between various forces that seek to advance their own competing visions of what Pakistan should become.
There is, however, cause for optimism. We can draw comfort from the fact that no hardline religious party has ever come close to winning an election in Pakistan. The government and military are united, for the time being at least, on the need to confront the militant insurgency across the country. Democracy is beginning to take root, as one civilian government replaced another for the first time in Pakistan’s history; however, the army must remain in the barracks. It should be welcomed that the current army chief, General Raheel Sharif, intends to step down as planned for November this year. We can only hope his successor follows his footsteps in not playing an active part in politics.
Yet if we are to fully realize the vision of Jinnah’s Pakistan, then the country’s elites must fully embrace the vision that Jinnah set out as opposed to forging new identities to fulfill political agendas and distorting the country’s history. I hope Pakistan’s leaders take heed of Jinnah’s advice: “With faith, discipline, and selfless devotion to duty, there is nothing worthwhile that you cannot achieve.”