Friday, March 10, 2017

Pakistan's God's Will - Blind Faith & Ignorance.


  • Blind Faith

I HAVE often wondered why the people of Pakistan put up with all the awful stuff they endure on a daily basis.
Why don’t they rise up in protest against the incompetence and corruption rampant in the country? The state provides virtually nothing in the way of basic education and health; 84pc of Pakistanis have no access to clean drinking water; and the populace is at constant risk from terrorists and criminals.
So why aren’t people out on the streets to demand decent governance? I suspect our bovine acceptance of whatever our leaders dish out is due largely to the fatalism that has long held the subcontinent in its iron grip.
When a child dies in a hospital due to a botched procedure or sloppy nursing, its parents console themselves by looking towards heaven, saying, “Allah ki marzi” or “It was God’s will”. Thus, rotten medical care remains the norm as doctors and nurses know their blunders will go unremarked on and unpunished.
By contrast, they would have been sued for similar professional malpractice in other countries.
This fatalistic attitude permeates society, allowing policymakers, politicians, bureaucrats, cops and professionals an easy way out whenever they fail in their duties, something they do with depressing frequency. And when there’s no price to pay for incompetence, there is little incentive for reform and improvement.
Our acceptance of whatever our leaders dish out is due to fatalism.
After all, if we ascribe all our misfortunes to the Maker, how can any human agency be blamed? How much easier to pass the buck to the very top than to accept personal responsibility for having goofed up. When a beggar asks for money to feed his six children, and you ask him why he has such a large family, the reply invariably is: “It was God’s will”.
When politicians visit those maimed in a terrorist attack in a hospital, they invariably invoke the Maker as consolation. This no-cost formula lets them off the hook as they pose for TV cameras. And, of course, nothing changes in the aftermath of successive deadly attacks as the public also puts the murder of loved ones down to Divine will, thereby absolving the government and its security agencies of any blame.
While stoicism helps us to bear pain and sorrow, fatalism reduces the sense of outrage that should accompany needless suffering. Thus, instead of calling a lawyer or launching a street protest after yet another disaster caused by personal or public incompetence, we seek solace by saying to ourselves that it was God’s will.
At the Battle of Lepanto in 1571, the Ottoman fleet was defeated by the Holy League. This was a key naval engagement, and the outcome signalled the end of the Ottoman push into the Mediterranean. The contemporary Ottoman chronicle of this hinge moment in history explained the defeat thus: “… the Imperial Fleet encountered the fleet of the wretched infidels and the will of God turned another way…”
So instead of analysing the reasons for this defeat when the Ottoman fleet outnumbered the opposing side, God’s will was cited as the cause. As a result, when replacement ships were being built, they incorporated the same weaknesses as the galleons that had been captured or sunk by the Holy Alliance.
When an oil tanker blew up in Gadani last November, killing and maiming scores of workers, the cause was clear: the owner of this vessel brought ashore to have its steel stripped off had allegedly smuggled in a certain amount of oil in the holds. The workers wielding oxy-acetylene cutting torches were unaware of this hazard, and set off the devastating blast.
Many officials and politicians turned up at the site of the disaster. The media criticised the administration for its failure to inspect the tanker, but at the end of the day, all concerned shook their heads and muttered: “Allah ki marzi.” The same thing happens with regularity in mines and factories across the country but, after each accident, nothing changes and it is business as usual.
This fatalism retards progress and lets the guilty off the hook. If only Divine action guides us, then clearly, mere humans cannot be held accountable for their errors of omission and commission.
By forgetting the maxim ‘God helps those who help themselves’, we have fallen into the trap set by ignorant clerics. In their worldview, everything is preordained, so we don’t control what happens to us and around us. The true purpose of life on earth is to prepare for the afterlife. If you are born poor and powerless, you will be compensated in the next life.
Until we take responsibility for our own actions, we will continue to languish at the bottom of the pile.

Pakistan: More On Indus Water Treaty – OpEd

 By Dr. S. Chandrasekharan

Media reports indicate that India has agreed to attend the next session of Indus Water Commission on March 20-21 2017 to be held at Lahore. This will be the 113th session of the Commission and the meeting is being held in Pakistan this time as mandated in the Treaty.
The Indian media has started reading too much into the meeting and the change of mind of India. This change is presumed to be the result of the softening of stand in Pakistan and of all things invitation to Indian Artists to the two art and cultural festivals at Karachi and Lahore is being cited as one of the reasons. Nothing could be farther from truth than this. Worse, the media has even speculated that this will pave the way for the two Prime Ministers to meet on the sidelines during the Shanghai Cooperation meeting in June this year!
Following the September Terror strike at Uri last year, India had decided to suspend the talks and also declared that it would review the Indus Water Treaty. Article VIII of the Indus Water Treaty states that the Indus Water Commission must meet once a year alternatively in India and Pakistan.
The Indian announcement was only about suspension of the talks and not the abrogation of the treaty as such. Yet while a review of the treaty internally was welcome and justified, the suspension of talks was wrong and against the rules laid down in the treaty. To say now that “India is always open to settling issues relating to the pact with Pakistan bilaterally” makes no sense as the pact is purely bilateral and the World Bank was only a facilitator and not a guarantor.
In a way it was good that the Indus Water Treaty came into focus once again after the terror strikes in Uri. Pakistan appears to have been rattled by the Indian decision after the review that India would fully utilise the rivers flowing through Jammu and Kashmir and exercise India’s full rights under the pact. This statement was long over due and instead of making empty threats, what is needed is to go ahead in building the infra structure necessary to implement the pact to the full. The pact is not flawless as it totally ignores the needs of Jammu and Kashmir. Yet this was the only way that the Indus Waters could have been shared and what was lacking was India’s failure to fully utilise what is legitimately her’s.
Pakistan cannot export terror on one hand and expect India to reciprocate by being generous. It is time to sensitize both the Indian public and the strategic analysts of the importance of the treaty.
One is not surprised by the vehemence of protests from Pakistan both at official and unofficial levels. It may be recalled that Pakistan had arranged in the past protests by the Pak. sponsored Jihadists at the time of the visits of Indian delegation during the meetings of the Indus Water Commission that India was “stealing the waters” that should legitimately go to Pakistan!
Pakistan has been systematically and some times frivolously raising series of technical objections on every project that is being planned on the Indian side. Besides the two projects Kishenganga and Ratle (refer our paper 6226), objections have also been raised on three other projects- Pakal Dul (1000MW), Miyar (120 MW) and Lower Kalnai (48 MW) all on Chenab river. In the disputes already settled by the neutral experts on the Baglihar and Kishenganga, it has been established that India is entitled to exploit the “western rivers” flowing into Pakistan for generation of hydro power.
It is suspected that Pakistan’s regular objections to the Indian build schemes under the pact is more to hide and divert their people’s attention from the mismanagement of the dwindling water resources and more seriously the unequal sharing of waters among the provinces. The lower riparian Sind Province is said to be not getting its legitimate quota of water while Punjab the upper riparian takes the major share!
It is in this connection that one should welcome the book “Indus Divided” by Prof. Daniel Haines of Bristol University who appears to have done considerable research on the Indus Water Treaty. Prof. Haines focusses on modern environmental history.
The author maintains that the Indus Water Treaty was a boldly unique solution and this could not be replicated anywhere else, although for a while the US toyed with the idea of applying the same principle of dividing the rivers than the waters in the dispute of sharing Ganga waters with the then East Pakistan.
One should recall that David Lilenthal of Tennesse Valley Authority who was instrumental in getting Indus Treaty hoped that solving Indus Water Sharing “was a necessary first step on the way to a Kashmiri settlement.” It was too simplistic a view and was not perhaps aware of many deep-rooted layers of conflicts between the two countries. Prof. Haines has also disabused the theory that Kashmir dispute is all about Pakistan trying to get control of the head waters of the rivers flowing into Pakistan.
One of the comments from the Pakistan on the book was that the book “highlights the fundamental place that Indus Waters have had in Pakistan and Indian politics since 1947″.
I wish it had been so but it was not. At least now, it should be-So that Pakistan is made to realise as PM Modi had said that Blood and Water do not go together.


Vice President PPPP, Senator Sherry Rehman led the opposition on a walkout over the shameful negligence shown by the government in the Senate. The Ministry of National Health Services Regulation and Coordination was unable to give a proper answer to Rehman’s concern regarding the health crisis caused by the wide prevalence of substandard blood testing kits in public hospitals.on a walkout over the shameful negligence shown by the government in the Senate. The Ministry of National Health Services Regulation and Coordination was unable to give a proper answer to Rehman’s concern regarding the health crisis caused by the wide prevalence of substandard blood testing kits in public hospitals.
“With its typical arrogance and negligence, the government is refusing to focus attention in parliament, let alone on the ground of such a critical humanitarian challenge. They are literally trifling with the blood of innocent civilians,” Rehman said in her address before the Senate.
Dismayed over the Ministry’s response, Rehman said, “It is shocking that the government was unable to give a satisfactory answer on such a vital issue of public importance in the Senate. It seems as if they were neither prepared nor bothered when I called their attention to the scandalous prevalence of substandard blood testing kits even in Islamabad Capital Territory”.
The Ministry’s casual response prompted uproar in the joint opposition which then chose to walk out.
Citing the case of the young siblings who were believed to have contracted HIV through contaminated blood used for their transfusion, she said, “It’s a national tragedy that the lives of innocent civilians are jeopardized because of the government’s negligence,” reiterated Rehman.the young siblings who were believed to have contracted HIV through contaminated blood used for their transfusion, she said, “It’s a national tragedy that the lives of innocent civilians are jeopardized because of the government’s negligence,” reiterated Rehman.
Rehman further stated, “The fact that 15 million or every 13th Pakistani is infected with Hepatitis B and C is of no worry to them. The government is showing its criminal negligence by ignoring the crisis even in parliament when the question is raised”.
It is believed that 60-70% of approximately 3.5 million blood donations in Pakistan are screened through substandard blood testing kits.
On the importance of regulating the quality of kits used by health facilities across the country, Rehman said, “The substandard Rs.6-7 garage-made blood screening kits are putting millions of Pakistanis in danger. WHO approved kits should be used. It is unfortunate that such basic form of regulation is missed by the concerned authorities”.
“I cannot further emphasize the importance of having comprehensive health policies to ensure the safety of civilians. The opposition’s bill on posing penal liabilities to those responsible for causing death or injury caused by unsafe transfusion is still pending, causing shocking loss of lives as a result,” argued Rehman.

Pakistan activist Waqass Goraya: The state tortured me

A liberal Pakistani activist who went missing earlier this year has said a "government institution" with links to the military held him and tortured him.
Waqass Goraya, one of five activists who disappeared in early January, told the BBC he was tortured "for pleasure".
The activists were freed after several weeks - but until now none of them has said who was behind their mistreatment.
Pakistan's army has previously denied any involvement in the case. There were vocal protests seeking their release.
Pakistan is one of the the world's most dangerous countries for reporters and human rights activists, and critics of the powerful military have been detained, beaten or killed.
Waqass Goraya - who now lives in the Netherlands - told the BBC he had been tortured "beyond limits".
He described being punched, slapped and forced into stress positions during the three weeks he was held. He worried he would never be released.
"We knew it was over… We will die under torture," he told the BBC.
He also spoke at a side event at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva about his experiences.
Mr Goraya believes he was detained because he ran a satirical Facebook page critical of the influence of the Pakistani military in the country's political system.
The page has also criticised military policy in Pakistan's restive Balochistan province. Mr Goraya strongly denies breaking any laws.
"I hadn't done anything criminal - otherwise I would've been in a court not in illegal detention," he told the BBC.
Pakistani human rights activists hold images of bloggers who have gone missing during a protest in Islamabad on January 10, 2017.Image copyrightAFP
At a press conference in January, a spokesman for Pakistan's powerful military said it had had nothing to do with the disappearance of the bloggers.
Pakistan's interior minister had previously said the government did not tolerate "enforced disappearances".
After Waqass Goraya and the other activists disappeared, a campaign demanding their release sprang up around the hashtag #recoverallactivists. But a counter-campaign both online - and backed by a number of TV anchors - accusing them of blasphemy also began.
Blasphemy is an emotive issue in Pakistan - and can legally be punishable by death.
Mr Goraya says the allegations of blasphemy are false, and that alleged blasphemous postings have been fabricated.
Following a court petition by an Islamist leader, on 8 March legal proceedings were begun calling for the prosecution of those behind a number of social media pages allegedly run by the missing activists.
All of them are now believed to be outside Pakistan. Pakistan's Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan has previously raised concern about the blasphemy allegations against the activists - but following the court ruling threatened to block "all social media websites" that had blasphemous content.
Mr Goraya believes the blasphemy allegations are an attempt "to shut us down - to threaten our families - to build pressure on us".
A protest was held in Islamabad on 8 March by religious groups calling for action against the activists and criticising the government for letting them leave the country.
Activists of Pakistan civil society rally to condemn the missing human rights activist Salman Haider, in Karachi, Pakistan, Monday, Jan. 9, 2017.Image copyrightAP
Image captionActivists saw the disappearance of the bloggers as a worrying sign
Mr Goraya says he believes that by speaking to the UN, he can help build pressure in Pakistan to pass a bill currently before parliament that would force the security services to provide information on a "missing person" in their detention within three days of a request.
He also wants accountability for what happened to him.
"The government should investigate it. We have evidence - strong evidence - it will directly lead to the persons responsible."
Mr Goraya still has nerve damage in his hands and feet, as well as problems with his hearing - but says he is determined to continue activist work.
"They are still picking people, more and more people are being harmed - our friends, our colleagues - so how can we stop? Someone has to stand up."

Pakistan's War on Atheism

On Tuesday a High Court Judge in Pakistan’s capital Islamabad reiterated in a hearing that “blasphemers are terrorists,” as a petitioner sought a ban on social media pages allegedly uploading derogatory posts against Islam and Prophet Muhammad.
Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui, who has broken down in tears in every single one of the three hearings on the case this week, on Wednesday asked the government to put “blasphemers” on the Exit Control List (ECL).
On Thursday, Siddiqui, who has represented Islamic State-sympathizing Lal Masjid cleric Abdul Aziz in the past, said he would summon the prime minister if no action is taken against social media pages that post “blasphemous” content.
Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
The Islamabad police have since registered a case against the owners of these pages. The Senate has approved a resolution demanding strict action against “blasphemous content” online. Meanwhile, the Federal Investigation Agency has published ads in national dailies asking citizens to “help identify blasphemers on Facebook.”
During the hearing this week, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) judge, implied that murder would be inevitable if the pages aren’t blocked. He went on to add that “liberal secular extremism” is a bigger threat than Islamic extremism.
Pakistan’s interior secretary assured Justice Siddiqui that the “entire government machinery would be set in motion” to address the issue. This was followed by the interior minister vowing to block social media completely if the issue isn’t resolved.
Meanwhile, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) Chairman, in his defense, said that similar social media pages have recently been blocked and that it takes time to convince the Facebook administration to take action.
These blocked pages include Bhensa, Mochi, and Roshni, which have either been blocked or taken over by the Elite Cyber Force of Pakistan.
In January, secular bloggers and activists, many of whom were accused of being affiliated with these pages, were abducted from various parts of the country, with the well-coordinated maneuver accused of being a state-backed operation by many quarters.
While many were subsequently recovered, some fled the country immediately. One of these activists revealed on Thursday how the state had tortured him “beyond limits.”
Almost parallel to the activists’ release, the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) Chief Hafiz Saeed, accused of masterminding the Mumbai Attacks, was put under house arrest. Many believe the state’s long overdue action against Kashmir-bound jihadists is being pushed by China, as it seeks security for the much touted economic corridor.
With the current ruling party forging political alliances with many of these jihadist groups, and the Army using them as “strategic assets” for proxy wars in Kashmir and Afghanistan, only external pressure can lead to decisive counterterror action.
But what this has meant is that both the civilian and military leaders now have to appease their heretofore Islamist allies to avoid collective backlash, as action against jihadist groups becomes inevitable. Pakistan’s overt war against freethinkers might just give the state the respite that it needs.
Last year, Pakistan also passed its cybercrime law, which upholds identical punishments for Penal Code violations in the cyber-sphere. This means that “blasphemy” would be punishable by death,  even if committed online.
The immediate impact of January’s abductions was a mass exodus of anonymous secular bloggers from the web. Satirical publication Khabaristan Times was also banned by the PTA, while a shift in editorial policies has been visible in many online and mainstream liberal publications.
This is why Justice Siddiqui’s juxtaposition of “liberal secular extremists” and radical Islamists is critical. All state institutions echoing apologia for Islamists, and slamming secularists, is menacing for an already endangered species: the Pakistani atheist.
Delineating the ideological divide, which would result in any liberal ideals being thrown to the wolves, could’ve instigated Bangladesh-like violence had Pakistani freethinkers been a quasi-significant demographic. As it is, a few abductions, and banned web pages, were enough to silence many of us.
Ironically, it is the state’s appeasement of radical Islam that has caused an upsurge in the number of atheists in Pakistan. This is why an official discourse on atheism has been going on in Pakistan, resulting in many expressing non-belief online, most doing so anonymously.
While one still can’t officially register as an atheist, or opt for “No Religion” as identity for the national database, the number of atheists is believed to have increased following the advent of Internet and social media allowing isolated nonbelievers to connect.
Muslims abandoning Islam – even if not their Muslim identity – is a global phenomenon, and the apostasy wave is upsetting the Islamist cart in Pakistan as well.
In 2015, the hashtag #ایک_کروڑ_پاکستانی_ملحد  or “Aik crore Pakistani mulhid” (10 million Pakistani atheists) trended around Darwin Day, with thousands of Twitter users tweeting both for and against atheism. It trended around February 12 last year again. But we didn’t see a repeat last month.
While 10 million might be significant exaggeration, a Gallup poll of 50,000 people found that 2 percent of Pakistanis self-identified atheists in 2012, which had doubled from the 1 percent in 2005.
Pakistani atheists – a broad term encompassing agonistics, the irreligious, deists, and humanists alike – have been lazily painted by the Islamists as “liberals and seculars,” despite the fact that many believing and practicing Muslims identify as such as well.
Muslims openly identifying as atheist in Pakistan would be an open invitation to violence, considering the state’s blasphemy laws are interpreted to outlaw apostasy, coupled with the National Database and Registration Authority’s (NADRA) refusal to let citizens officially change Islam as their religion. Hence, the aforementioned “secular liberal” label also provides refuge to the atheists.
Even so, in websites and social media pages that are critical of Islamic theology, the Islamists at the helm of state institutions have found the filter to sift atheists. Justice Siddiqui himself was quick to clarify that non-Muslims shouldn’t be considered in the ongoing case against blasphemers, clearly underscoring apostates as the intended target.
And while these atheists of Muslim heritage aren’t an organized political entity – as is the case in Bangladesh – the IHC’s verdict, and the capital police registering a case weeks after action against secular activists had already been taken, smacks of a thirst for blood.
Whether the episode is being staged to mollify Islamists amidst the crackdown on jihadists, or if there’s a genuine clampdown against free-thought, remains to be seen. But the state seems more than willing to sacrifice its nonbelievers at the altar of its security failures.