The First Column to appear as  Quantum Note   

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Dr. Muzaffar Iqbal

May 14, 1998

 

Pakistan: 1998

Published as Painful National realities

 

            "I love it here--the fresh fruits and vegetables, abundant sunshine, glorious weather, friendly people and no parking meters, where else can you find it all?" This is how an American acquaintance, who has spent a year in Islamabad, described Pakistan in our recent meeting. "But, I don't know," he added, "if the place will hold together for long."

            This caveat is neither new nor surprising. A large number of Pakistanis share this uncertainty with the outside observer. This is one of the most striking elements which has emerged in our recent history--this strange and painful question mark about the future of the country. High officials of the government, mill owners, teachers, intellectuals, writers and a majority of citizens harbour this unhealthy and bitter doubt about the future existence of the country. Those who are more cautious believe that the country would hold on, but they are worried about the state of its society. Would it be a place worth living if one had to constantly live under the threat of gunmen, robbers and dacoits? What about their children? Do they want them to grow up in a society which has lost all sense of direction and which is heading toward anarchy?

            The most glaring fact about Pakistan toward the close of the century is that it is in a state of explosive instability and no measures are being taken to correct the situation. The government if merely trying to cope with the day to day business. Policy planners have lost all faith in planning. Adhoc decisions, quick-fix solutions, inefficiency and sycophancy are the governing principles in the corridors of power and each new tick of the clock brings us closer to a catastrophe from which there would be no escape.

            Drive around the capital and see the long queues in front of the foreign missions. These unending queues speak of the anguish and the hopelessness of a citizenry which has lost all hope of ever living an honourable existence in the land which their fathers obtained after unimaginable sufferings just fifty years ago. For a young nation to lose its sense of hope and direction in just one generation is an indication of some fundamental flaw at the very base of the whole edifice. But no one is interested in going so deep into the core of our haphazard existence during the last fifty years. Where did we go wrong? What happened to the great ideal, to the lofty ambitions an^d immense hope which impelled millions of Muslims in the subcontinent to wage a war against the British and Hindu dominance. What went wrong and where?

            The most distressing element of our existence which stands out today is none other than the agonizing fact that in fifty years we have made mockery of all high principles, ideals and goals upon which nations are built. So much so that we have not even spared the most fundamental element of our ideological existence: Islam. During a recent visit to Jabal al-Noor, I was stupefied when an Indian Muslim said to me: If someone kills a Muslim in India, we  start rioting and set the whole country on a collision path. But what do you say to the killings of Muslims by Muslims in Pakistan and that too inside the mosques?

            But let us not forget that the most glaring failures have been at the level of political institutions. The lack of a stable political existence and accompanying corruption has eaten up the social fabric with the result that honesty, pride in being a Pakistani and importance of higher values of existence have just disappeared from our society. The unstable political situation has been so pervasive that it has penetrated all other spheres of life. Civil institutions which could have prevented this corrosion, or at least curtailed its effects, did not emerge and whatever thin veneer was present from the pre-partition period has been destroyed. One seldom hears about endowment funds anymore--something which has been the hallmark of Muslim civilization throughout centuries. Thousands of waqfs and charitable foundations ran schools, hospices and social welfare centers throughout the Muslim world; these existed as late as the nineteenth century.

            The fundamental crisis of our polity today is not the immediate problems of debt financing and the short term borrowing: these are the painful realities of our existence which will force their solutions on us whether we like them or not. The nation will keep on paying for the luxurious existence of its past and present rulers, willnilly. The pattern has been set, the die has been cast: the donor agencies will keep on sending their missions for us to host them in five star hotels. We will continue to give splendid dinners in their honour. The aid workers will keep on coming to suck even the last drop of blood from our deprived and plundered nation. No, these are not the basic questions.

            The fundamental crisis has to deal with the basic malady--the cancer which has been spread throughout the body. Where did we go wrong? What was that fundamental flaw in the very conception of our existence as a nation which became the spring board of perpetual tragedies: the massacres during the partition; the abortive attempt at regaining Kashmir, the sudden inversion of values in the newly created country; the large scale corruption and dishonesty in Partition claims; the loss of a sense of direction for the nation in its infancy; the factors responsible for the lack of emergence of an honourable political culture; the factors responsible for the emergence of one man's rule and the debacle of East Pakistan. Then, closer to the present political culture, one needs to go into the roots of the failure of the only political party which really reached out to the masses in the post-independent period the PPP.

            What was it that stirred the masses at such a fundamental level that the late Z. A. Bhutto could boast of an inseparable bond with the masses and what was it that made the same people so indifferent that no one came out when he was hanged except for a handful of diehards who were quickly forced to retreat into oblivion by the cruel hand of the General who was going to become the longest ruler of the country--the one who profaned the last fresh water spring of the national existence: the religion. In one of the official meetings during the General's rule, a proposal was presented by one of his ministers that before Islamizing the whole country, the government should make a model Islamic city. The General reportedly laughed at this proposal and his laughter, which by then had become a language in itself, silenced the propagator of the idea, once and for all.

            The cosmetic veneer of Islam which was forced on our nation during the eighties has left deep scars on the collective psyche of the nation. It has alienated a large portion of the society from Islam itself and it has, forever, discredited all those who flout the banner of Islamization. This does not mean that Islam is any danger in this society. It will never be in danger, for its roots are so deep in the psyche of our people that they know of no other existence but the one fashioned by Islam. At the individual level, Islam will always remain a source of guidance for our people. The tragedy is that this everlasting spring of fresh water has been despoiled by politicians and by its self-proclaimed defenders to the extent that the nation, as a collective body, can no more draw inspiration and guidance from it.

            Whether one sees the picture in religious context or not, has become immaterial. A few years ago, it was not so. Then, it was not unusual for conversations on domestic issues to end on the hopeful note that God will send someone to rescue us. Because then the vision which had given birth to the country was still lucid in the collective memory. But now, no one bothers about such fanciful thoughts. Even the apocalyptic versions which warned of a great calamity if we did not mend our ways have disappeared. The profane reality of everyday life has itself become a metaphor of destruction and terrible punishment.

            What is needed is a serious national debate on these fundamental questions. But those who are in charge of state institutions today are totally unaware of such a need. Their concerns are merely with the effects of the maladies which appear way down the cause and effect chain; they only see the fever and try to cure it with fever-suppressing drugs. We do not have a single statesman among us today; just politicians for whom pragmatism, expediency and apparent writ on the wall is the sum total of political and social reality. But those who are really concerned with the future of our country need to come forward with an iron resolve to take charge of the situation and initiate a serious and thorough analysis of the past failures-- a debate which would, hopefully, lead to certain solid and permanent solutions.

 

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Dr. Muzaffar Iqbal

June 5, 1998

 

 

Living with the Reality of the Bomb

Published as The bomb Factor in Life

 

 

            Within the short span of two and a half weeks, life has forever changed for 132 million Pakistanis, 967 million Indians and 125 million people in Bangladesh. May 1998 will always be remembered as a dramatic month of extra-ordinary nature in the history of South Asia. Because nuclear bombs are not capable of recognizing borders, the possibility of a fallout from an accidental or intentional explosion is no more a distant reality for over one billion people living in South Asia.

 

            By conducting nuclear tests, India took certain calculated risks. The tests were conducted with the clear realization that they will be condemned by the world community. But the Indian leadership knew very well that the furor over the tests would soon vanish and though the sanctions will remain for a while, these, too, will not last long. They must have also assumed that all these passing reactions will eventually lead to an international realization that India now possesses nuclear weapons which are as lethal as those possessed by the other five nuclear powers and that there is nothing any one can do about it any more.

 

            The Indian leadership has had experience of the power of fait accompli. No one speaks of Hyderabad Deccan, Junagadh, Manavadh, Sikkum and Goa any more and though the Kashmir remains a sour spot, there is no (*BOLD*) real (*END BOLD*) international pressure on India to find a solution for the issue. The UN resolutions on the issue are, in reality, no more than trash in the dustbin of history. We may wish to believe otherwise but the fact remains unchanged, despite our wishes. The mute and almost insignificant response of the international community over the Indian blasts is an indication that the Indian leadership was not too far off the mark in their calculations.

 

            The flow of events, once again, brought Nawaz Sharif's government to an important threshold. Last time, it was the Gulf war. Then, the Nawaz Government had failed miserably to play an active role in the conflict; it merely followed the American agenda against the wishes of its people. Instead of making an all out effort to mobilize Muslim countries and OIC to effectively intervene in the conflict between Iraq and Kuwait before the US led coalition could jump in to harvest the riches, the Nawaz Government then played a passive role. It waited and let the events take a course which led to the destruction of two Muslim countries, millions of dollars of contracts for the American and European companies and long term misery and deprivation for the Iraqi population.

 

            This time around, the decision making process concerned us directly. The government had to decide and decide quickly. Unlike the last time, the decision came swiftly and in accordance with the wishes of the majority of people. The fact that Pakistan was forced to test its nuclear devices is so obvious that even those who were quick to condemn the tests were left with no choice but to acknowledge this reality. Had Pakistan not taken the decisive step, there was a real danger to its whole nuclear program from both India and Israel. So, in essence, Pakistan had no choice but to do what it did.

 

            The folly committed by India has definitely put the whole of South Asia in a totally new zone of destructive possibilities. There is nothing left for all those peace idealists who are still clamouring about the tests but to learn to live with the new reality or leave the subcontinent all together. The one liner in last week's Economist sums it up: "What has been tested can be detested but cannot be de-tested."

 

            Now that the dramatic events of the fateful May are fast becoming an old tale and the headlines reporting the reaction of various countries to the Indian and then Pakistani tests are gradually being replaced by other, more gripping events, the people of South Asia have to wake up to the reality of the nuclear bombs and be ready to pay the price.

 

            At present, it is hard to imagine any admirable futures for South Asia. The region as a whole has tremendous potential but the only images that crop up in the imagination are those of a famished populace, devoid of hope and now living under the threat of nuclear war. It is hard to imagine futures which will ensure adequate health care, education, roads, clean water, just distribution of wealth and resources and a pollution-free environment worthy of breathing.

 

            So much has changed in the recent weeks for both India and Pakistan that one has to talk about the future with certain caveats. Until these tests were conducted, the focus was on the economic scenarios for the future. Major problems faced by both India and Pakistan were, and remain, their unstable economies, underdeveloped infrastructures, overpopulation, lack of adequate resources for education, health and other social sector programs, the widening gap between the rich and the poor and corruption at the highest levels of society. The sudden explosions have pushed all these stark realities to the background and because both nations have a parchment for high drama and emotional outbursts, the uproar over the bombs have been so loud that it seems that the atomic explosions have also wiped out all those real and long term problems. But surely, the reality will hit and in a much harder way for the new arms race between India and Pakistan is bound to swallow much more and consume those precious resources which were needed by the social sector. Both governments have to make major policy shifts in order to pay the price of a new category of hardware.

 

            But the glimmer of hope has not died completely for behind the loud commotion and deafening slogans, there are muffled voices on both sides of the border, calling for a renewed effort for peaceful co-existence. Now that both countries have demonstrated their ability to annihilate each other, it has become even more important to settle the scores at the negotiation table rather than have no scores at all. One whole generation has already lived with the horrors of bloodshed, hatred and fear created by the horrendous mistakes committed during the process of Partition. The next generations need not live in the shadow of a nuclear cloud. There has to be a mature realization that both countries need a space of their own to come out of the shadows of their past and reconstruct new futures.

 

            For those in the position of leadership on both sides of the border, time has come to seriously think about the collective future of the South Asian people. There is no escape from the reality that their geographical location has bound them to a common future. The May explosions have further integrated their common fate and one can no more think of destruction of one country without the imminent destruction of the other. On both sides of the border, enough voices are needed which can bring to the forefront images of a healthy future toward which the population can aspire to move. The political leadership on both sides of the border has harvested a rich bounty of instant popularity but as soon as the collective body of both nations exhausts itself through shouting slogans it is bound to look for clean drinking water and finding none, it will either perish or become limp. Then the economic realities will hit, and harder than ever.

 

            It is high time that leaders on both sides of the border realize that the bombs have not changed the stark economic and social realities faced by their people; if anything, they have further reduced the possibility of an economic and social transformation which alone can guarantee an era of peace, prosperity and honourable existence. By conducting the tests, India has forced its way to the sixth and Pakistan to the seventh position on the list of nuclear "powers" but the most important question for both countries remains: What else do they have in common with the other five?

 

July 3, 1998

The News

 

The overseas Pakistani

 

Recent events and their economic impact has once again made the overseas Pakistani a precious living entity for economic planners of the Nawaz

government. The prime minister's recent foreign tour was especially designed to tap the resources of overseas Pakistanis. Torn between two different worlds, unhappy about the situation "back home" and in conflict with the inner self, the typical overseas Pakistani is used to such occasions when passionate appeals are made to him. All of these appeals are meant to entice him to send his hard earned money back home to help resolve a crisis which is not of his making. This time around the lure of plots, especially designated for the overseas community, has been added to the emotional content of the appeal.

 

Whether or not such an appeal would find a response is yet to be seen but this column is not about the immediate effect of the Prime Minister's appeal; it is an attempt to create a living metaphor out of  the dilemmas and travail of an overseas Pakistani living in North America whose life represents thousands of others in the same situation.

 

Unable to live with the agonising realities of his native land, our protagonist left his country in search of a professional career. He is highly educated and dedicated to his profession but he could not survive in Pakistan because of the intrigues and snobbish mentality prevalent in the research and academic institutions. Once out of the daily brawls and intrigues, he could devote his energies to creative thinking, research and professional excellence. As a result, he has been highly successful

in a very competitive environment. His successes have earned him an enviable reputation and it has provided a high level of material

comfort; but there is something missing in his life.

 

Because of the years he spent in Pakistan, he is unable to forget the land, the people, the fragrance, the fruits, the language and all those small things that go into making life meaningful. It is a fact that in spite of the terrible mistakes which have been made during the last 50 years, Pakistan remains a living force in the lives of its citizens. It is this strange living force which produces a nostalgic sadness and a void in the life of overseas Pakistanis. As a result of this void, the overseas Pakistani professional is perpetually living in two worlds: the world of his ancestors and the world his children are going to inherent.

 

The world of the ancestors carries with it a fragrance of the bygone centuries bringing into sharp relief the rich mosaic of the civilisations and cultures which have gone into the making of Pakistani society. This splendid world is made up of middle eastern folklore, Indian myths and customs, rituals and rites of Islam and the living sufi

traditions which have flowered in the subcontinent. It is a world composed of the elements of human experiences spread over centuries and lived in a land in which people have employed some of the most enchanting forms of creative expression in poetry to articulate their hopes and desires, sorrows and joys: the 'ghazal', the 'qasida' and the 'marthia'.

 

The hues and shades of the civilisation inherited by Pakistan carry with them the ancient rituals of life, steeped in a religious tradition which has infused the whole experience with the divine presence. This is a unique blend produced by the mixing of Islam's civilisational aspects with the local cultures and languages. Punjabi, Pashto, Sindhi, Balochi and other regional languages of Pakistan have been enriched by their interaction with Arabic and Persian. The ancient land routes that pass

through this region have further helped in the synthesis of a civilisation which blended the Middle Eastern and South Asian folklore, legends, myths and tales.

 

The overseas Pakistani carries all this in their blood. But his world also contains the memories of a colonial past and the humiliations and terrible suffering of his own life which forced him to abandon his homeland. However, time has blunted his own agonising experiences and whatever is left is enormously important to him; without his personal history, memories and experiences, he is prone to lose his identity. He is also keen to transfer all or some of this to his children. Therefore,

his attachment to his native land has a strong emotional content.

 

The thought of going "back home" is constantly present in his mind like the cosmic background radiation. He is always thinking of the ways in which he can help his country and community on the other side of the ocean. He has seen how the system works in North America; he has analysed the reasons for the failure of the civil society to evolve respectable forms of life, functional infrastructures and equitable distribution of resources in his own country. In his own way, he has found solutions to all the apparent problems of the country. He is full of resources, enthusiasm and energy. He knows that small things matter because he has seen how small steps are appreciated in the society where he lives and how these small steps make a huge difference in the lives of people.

 

His dilemma is the fact that he lacks a viable means to put into practice all these schemes he has dreamt up over the years. He knows that what he has learned in North America can be of service to his country but he also knows those who have tried to replant themselves "back home" and who have returned with bitter experiences. He is aware of the huge emotional, psychological and economic cost of such a move.

 

But in spite of this knowledge and information about the experiences of fellow expatriates, he cannot stop making plans about the day he will return to Pakistan. This insistent, almost obsessive, preoccupation with the country of his birth cultivates an emotional state which is very responsive to any appeal made on behalf Pakistan.

 

But over the years, the overseas Pakistani has also learned that the sacrifices he would make in response to any appeal would amount to nothing. Hence his dilemma is irresolvable. He shares this with millions other Pakistanis who have abandoned their homeland for various reasons. Pakistan has suffered tremendously from this flight of talented people but so far no government has realised the long-term impact of this drain. The shortsighted policy planners are merely interested in the

green dollar; they have little or no concern with the terrible price overseas Pakistanis have to pay for earning these dollars. This attitude of the policy planners and economists in Pakistan has reduced the overseas Pakistani into a commodity. This commodity figures prominently in the budget calculations; it is relied upon for payment of debt and the rulers go on tours to tap this resource when in trouble. This is perhaps the most dehumanising aspect of the dilemma of the overseas

Pakistani. He was not treated like a human being when he lived among his people and he is not being treated like one even in his absence.

 

 

Friday: July 17, 1998

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Dr. Muzaffar Iqbal

 

                                                The Legacy of Betrayals (I)

 

           [The recent freezing of the Foreign Currency Accounts is a betrayal of the trust posed by the citizens in the State. Unlike the Cooperative scam and the Taj Company fraud, this time around, citizens have been deprived of their savings by the state in a move which has no legal or moral justification. This betrayal is, however, only one more in a series of betrayals which the citizens of Pakistan have experienced during the last fifty years. The Legacy of Betrayals (I) is the first part of an article devoted to the exploration of various dimensions of this sad legacy.]

 

            Sitting around a candle, which was quietly melting down from all sides as if silently weeping, hardly anyone noticed the effects of excessive alcohol in the habitually drunken voice that announced over the transistor radio that the nation will fight to the end.

 

            "The soldiers on the war front, the peasants in their fields, the workers in their factories and the students in their schoolsCeveryone will fight until the last enemy soldier has been driven out of the sacred land," the voice announced. The volunteers in the civil defence post heard the announcement with a mixture of exhilaration and zeal and went out to guard the streets. The voice was that of the President of Pakistan, General Muhammad Yahya Khan. The listeners in that civil defence post in Lahore in that dark night of December 1971 were a group of college and university students who had spent the previous weeks patrolling the streets at night and getting first aid training during the day-time, all the time praying for the victory of their army which was fighting to save the country from dismemberment.

 

            The announcement was heard with a sigh of relief; rumors about the fall of Dhaka were, after all, just rumors. The nation, according to the President, was ready to fight until the last soldier and that was enough for those who listened to his words on that cold December night; they were young and enthusiastic men whose patriotic feelings had been aroused by the fiery speeches of one Zulfikar Ali Bhutto during the formative period of their lives in the late sixties. To hear the President speak of fighting to the last man was all that mattered to them; they were not concerned with the price they would have to pay. They went out of the darkened room to guard the streets against Indian infiltrators who were rumoured to have landed in various places around the city.

 

            Less than twenty-four hours later, most of them were shattered with the news of surrender of their army to the Indian forces. The taste of betrayal was new to this generation. Born after the Partition and raised in the relatively stable environment of the early sixties, this generation had no personal memory of betrayals of another kind, which had shocked and shattered a previous generation.

 

            Most of these young people were also unaware of the travail of the man who had conceived the name of their country and who had spent all his life in a doomed struggle to go against the current of his times. That man was to write the first account of the betrayals in that agonizing book, "The Greatest Betrayal" which no one reads today. Perhaps no one among that group even knew that having given the name to the un-named dream held by millions of Muslims of the subcontinent, Chaudhri Rahmat Ali was not even granted six feet of land for burial in his dreamland;  he died in a nursing home in England and was buried in a nameless grave number B8330 in the New Market Road cemetery in Cambridge. Today, no one celebrates his birth or death anniversaries; no one cares to remember him. No, that extraordinary life and the bitter taste of betrayal he tasted was only shared by a few of his own generation. The sweep of political events quickly buried that first betrayal deep in the collective consciousness of the nation and no one has time for digging up that ghost.

 

            Those who tasted the bitter taste of betrayal on that December night belonged to a different generation. They were to be heirs to a "new Pakistan" created from the debris of what was left behind by the drunkard general. They had no personal memories of a united India where their fathers and grandfathers had to struggle to keep their Muslim identity. The uncertain fifties, the long and painful process of evolution of a Constitution for the federation and even the first Martial Law were just distant events for them. This generation had gained political consciousness during the autumn of the Patriarch who had snatched power from the inept civilians through a double betrayal: he violated the sacred oath he had sworn under the '56 Constitution and betrayed Sikandar Mirza who himself had betrayed the elected representatives. The Patriarch gave birth to the legacy of the military rule and opened up the corridors of power to those who were paid to defend the frontiers of the country. After a decade the Patriarch handed over the reigns of the country to the drunkard general perhaps as a punishment for what he himself felt was a two-fold betrayal: by his own "adopted son" and by the nation as a whole.

 

            The "adopted son" had stirred up a social revolution with his fiery speeches and with his cat-in-the-bag tricks; and the nation had shown no appreciation of almost ten years of steady progress and social stability.

 

            During the sad autumn of the Patriarch, the streets of the pure land had become filled with angry rioters, the plunder of national wealth by twenty-two families had become a hot topic on every tongue and the ungrateful nation had no time for the old, upright man who had outlived his times. He wept bitterly on the eve they brought out a dog with his name hung around its neck. Having seen that dog, he called it a day and as a punishment to the ungrateful nation handed over the reigns to the man whose passion for wine and women was to hasten the dismemberment of the country in an agonizing, death-like process during the next thousand and one nights.

 

            Shattered but not broken, this generation was to see the emergence of a "new Pakistan" after the drunk general left the debris to the adopted son of the Patriarch. They witnessed the signing of the 1973 Constitution, the repatriation of Prisoners of War and the short-lived optimism of the early seventies. Their hopes were still alive. They had the zeal and the energy and the Charismatic leader was in power, so things could be put back to order.

 

            But the rising prices of the oil and the new found wealth in the Middle East soon allured the Charismatic leader and his close companions and they came up with the plan of exporting a whole generation of young men much before their maturity. The created a new ministry for this purpose. Thus economic necessities, social pressures and sheer sense of adventure drove thousands of young men out of their country. They went everywhere: from the sun-burned deserts of Saudi Arabia to the snowbound polar regions of Greenland. A sense of hope and adventure accompanied them.

 

            Those who were left behind, saw the rapid and shocking transformation of civil society. They were subjected to successive experiments by rulers who could not think beyond the outdated paradigm of nationalization. As a result, this generation witnessed a sweeping and chaotic process of nationalization of the economy at a time when the nations of the Far East were opening up their countries to privatization of state enterprises and to heavy foreign investment--a strategy which would produce economic boom in the late eighties and early nineties.

 

            Those who stayed behind during the early seventies also saw the rapid deterioration of the social norms and values which had kept the moral fabric of the society intact during the first quarter century of the country's existence. The institutional structure, which still had a flavour of that long and terrible legacy of colonial rule, started to breakdown. Nationalization of banks, industry and educational institutions gave birth to one white elephant after another. Instead of the notorious twenty-two families, now a gang of upstarts started to play havoc with the lives of millions of people who had deposited their trust in the hands of a charismatic leader who could not stand any opposition to his self-assured ways of doing things. This was the beginning of a betrayal of another kind.

 

            Instead of rotti kapra aur makan, those who had been in the forefront of the new wave found themselves face to face with state terrorism. The new social contract which some had dreamt during the struggle of late sixties turned out to be just a daydream. Dreamers like, Miraj Muhammad Khan and J. A. Rahim, were soon removed from the scene; one paid the price for dreaming with his eyesight which was brutally snatched from him during a long solitary confinement, the other escaped with a few scars. Those who were left behind had nothing but flattering words for the ears of the charismatic leader who now could not stand any opposition to his self-created designs for the "new Pakistan".

 

            Soon the crowd of sycophants whose hats could be pulled down any time, in public or in private, confounded the charismatic leader with their chorus of sycophancy. This chorus was also a double betrayal of yet another kind: at one level to their own inner selves and another against the nation.

            This betrayal was to lead the charismatic leader to death but during those heady days, no one dared to stand up to him and no one could stand in the way of the man who had stirred the hopes and aspiration of a generation which had tasted the first personal taste of betrayal on that cold December night when the country was dismembered.

 

(to be continued)

 

 

For Friday: July 24, 1998

Published on july 23, 1998

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Dr. Muzaffar Iqbal

 

                         The Trail of Betrayals (II)

 

[First 3 sentences changed a bit, look carefully to decide which one to keep]

 

      Not everyone believed the charismatic man from Larkana. But those who believed him were ready to die for him. He had appeared on the national scene with a potpourri of tricks which enthralled millions of people who had never before had a voice in the national affairs: peasants, labourers, unskilled and semi-skilled workers of industrial units owned and operated by a handful of industrialists.

 

He had a message for everyone. They opened their hearts to his voice. In a short span of time, he traversed the whole length and breadth of the country and reached out to millions of human beings in such a personal way that those who heard him speak felt that he was directly talking to them.

     He spoke that universal language of the heart which binds human beings in a bond stronger than death. He had learned this

language of the heart by abandoning the comfort and indulgence of the life of a rich landowner. He had given up the life of luxury for a grandeur far beyond his own reach. But those who heard him speak for hours under the burning sun had no idea of the complexity of emotions he experienced during those extempore speeches which carried thousands to ecstatic states of complete abandonment. The citizens of Pakistan had never experienced anything like it. He created a bond with them which he thought would last until the end of history.

      But he was not destined to attain an untainted glory; the country had to be dismembered before he could enter the corridors

of power. But as luck would have it, he entered the corridors of power by creating history: he was the first civilian to become

Chief Martial Law Administrator. But that was not all; he was also to be the first to hold the high offices of the President and Prime Minister of the country. But he was not interested in titles, not yet. He had the Herculean task of re-building a new Pakistan from the debris left behind by the drunkard general.

      He embarked upon this task with a zeal and commitment which was unheard of in the history of the country. He worked sixteen to eighteen hours a day. Everything had to be done in a new fashion and he could not entrust tasks to others; he had to oversee

everything himself. His passion for grandeur drove him to insomnia.

 

But the long, sleepless nights were the best for work and he could summon his ministers and friends at anytime of the night; they all came with tired bodies and sleepy eyes but as soon as they entered the sphere of his passionate creativity, further heightened by the heavy intake of hard liquor, they would warm up to the grand schemes which his mind churned out at an astonishing speed.

      These were the initial years of his reign; the grand dream was still alive, his vision was sharp and he was pushing bills through the parliament legislating reform after reform: education, industry, agriculture, science and technology... everything needed urgent attention. He created new institutions, addressed meetings of the high officials of the government, fired and hired senior bureaucrats as he pleased, kept a watch on international affairs, established trade and cooperation with countries of the eastern block of the now defunct Soviet Union, went to those countries where no Pakistani leader had ever gone.

      Amidst all this, he did not forget the peasants and the workers, students and clerks, lawyers and haris who had brought him to power. He continuously kept a close relationship with them, going to places in the country where no head of state had ever set foot. He knew the old peasant, Allah Bukhsh of Vehari, who needed treatment for his failing eyesight as well as he knew chairman Moa and Gamal Nasir.

      His opponents stood back and watched him as he moved from one glory to another. They could not resist him. He charmed them. They all came and signed on the document which was to add a new feather to the crown of achievements he was wearing: The signing of the 1973 Constitution in a remarkably short time gave a solid constitutional foundation to new country which was being carved out of the debris of the post-dismemberment period.

      But the ink was hardly dry on this historic document when the dream started to turn sour. Those who had been watching him from the side lines could not wait any longer. He was moving fast but steps he had taken so far had not produced the results he had promised. The sudden rise in the oil prices and the resultant inflation in the country, failure of the nationalized units to produce economically beneficial outputs and a strong opposition to his brand of "socialism" started to worry him. There was something fundamentally wrong with the country. He had put all his efforts and energy in creating a new Pakistan but his efforts were being wasted. He could not stand any opposition. Those pygmies, he thought, had neither the intellectual resources nor the vision to see his grand schemes. He lost patience and used all the power and might of State to crush the opposition.

      He invented crimes to implicate his opponents in unending trials. He sent men in khaki to fight against their own people and he bombarded his own country with bullets and bombs bought with the blood and sweat of his own people. This betrayal of the trust and faith posed in his being was violated because he wanted more power than the poor people of the country could give him.

      Those who did not believe in him found themselves in the terrible stone buildings of the Lahore Fort where the sadistic

Goeblers of his regime subjected them to electric shocks, pulled their nails and put their naked bodies on slabs of ice. They were forced to confess crimes they had not even dreamt about. The new apparatus of oppression set up by the cronies of the charismatic leader broke all past records and produced the legacy of state crimes which no one had time to document. The untold suffering of the young men who disagreed with the charismatic leader echoed in the stone corridors of the Lahore Fort and then disappeared into oblivion.

      Amidst the crumbling dream and unsatisfied with what he had attained, the charismatic leader looked out, first toward the third world and then toward the Muslim world. He wanted to lead a greater entity than the truncated state of Pakistan. In the process, he found new markets and started to export human beings; this was a ludicrous scheme which produced instant riches for those who dealt in this trade. The harsh working conditions for thousands of workers who went out to the Middle East and the paltry sums they earned did not disturb the conscience of those who had invented a modern form of slave labour; they were merely interested in their own share from the black trade. Those who sent thousands of Pakistanis to the Gulf were also not concerned about the drain of a valuable human resource which was needed for reconstruction of

the country; they only looked at the quick money which could be made. The charismatic leader himself found the new avenue alluring.

There was glory in the vast, uncharted territory of the Muslim world's leadership.

      But before his dreams of a glory beyond his reach could materialize, he fell victim to a betrayal which ranks equal to the Shakespearean tragedies: the humble man with black eyes and white teeth struck during the summer night of July fourth. This betrayal was to be the beginning of yet another era for the nation. The man who chose to depose the charismatic leader from Larkana was under oath to abide by the Constitution which had been signed by even

those who were outside the influence of his charisma.

      This betrayal of the sacred oath was the beginning of a new era for the country which was to fundamentally transform the social, political and economic structures of the country through a series of betrayals.

                               (to be continued)

 

 

[The Trail of Betrayl part III, was not published by The News; this remains the only Quantum Note denied publication by the News due to “the critique of military”; it is presented here for general reading for the first time.]

 

 

 

----------------------

Dr. Muzaffar Iqbal

 

12 August 1998

 

The Unfulfilled Dream

 

 

Homeland, a footloose darkness

On the banks of brooks--

racing down from craggy uplands--

has become the smoke

rising from the roof

 

                        (Majeed Amjad)

 

 

Looking back at the dream-like euphoria which accompanied millions of people during that historic summer of 1947 to their new homeland, one wonders what happened to that dream. August 14th, 1947 was meant to mark the beginning of the fulfilment of the dream which had enthraled a whole generation of Muslims living in the Indian Subcontinent; fifty-one years later, the process still awaits a beginning.

 

The creation of a separate homeland for the Muslims was a historic necessity. The main argument forwarded for the establishment of Pakistan by the founding fathers was based on the historic situation which had arisen in the Indian subcontinent over the course of centuries.

Writing in 1933, Chaudhry Rahmat Ali had elucidated this argument in his pamphlet "Now or Never". He wrote: "Our culture, our history, our traditions, modes of social interactions, rituals of marriage and death are fundamentally different from other nations living in the Indian subcontinent." He emphasized this uniqueness by historic facts: "In order to help you understand the full importance of the question, we wish to remind you that thirty million Muslims comprise one tenth of the Muslim population of the world. The combined area of our five units is four times that of Italy, three times that of Germany and twice as much as France... these are historic facts which no one can challenge... Pakistani Muslims are a different entity than the Hindus of India and on this basis we demand recognition as a nation..."

 

The same argument was used by the Muslim League in its historic resolution of March 1940. Delivering his presidential address, Quaid-e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah had forcefully refuted the notion that Muslims are merely one more minority in India. "But Muslims are not a minority," he had emphasized, "they are a nation by any definition of the term... Hindus and Muslims belong to two different religions, social customs and civilizations. They do not inter-marry nor eat together; they belong to two different, almost opposing civilizations. Their beliefs about life and death are different. Their heroes and folklore are different and often one's hero is other's enemy..."

 

Addressing a gathering of Muslim students at Aligarh, on March 10, 1944, the Quaid was to repeat the same argument even more clearly: "Pakistan came into existence on the very day when the first person became a Muslim in India... when he became a Muslim, he ceased to be part of the old nation and became part of a new nation."

 

 

This clear elucidation of the basis for Pakistan's existence has been echoed over and over during the last fifty-one years. Pakistan exists because a historic process had given birth to a group of people whose spiritual and religious orientation was distinctly different from other groups in the Indian subcontinent. The main difference between this group and other groups of India was religious in nature.

 

Given this historical background, it is not surprising that the first generation of Pakistanis dreamed of a country where they would be able to live according to the dictates of their religion. What is surprising, however, is the fact that no one among the leaders in those early days had a clear notion of how to go about creating an Islamic state.

 

The blood bath which accompanied the Partition and displacement of millions of people made it impossible to concentrate on the fundamental issues. By the time, these pressing problems lost their intensity, there was already a crisis of leadership in the newly created homeland. Those who took charge of the affairs of the country after the death of the first rank of leadership did not have the intellectual resources to resusicate the faltering dream; they were merely politicians who were struggling to form or destroy governments.

 

This crisis of leadership which became apparent in the early fifties persists even to this day. Without a leadership, which could translate that profound dream into reality, the dream itself started to become a nightmare. This is not to say that the people of Pakistan have lost faith in the basis of their national existence. Far from it. The dream has remained unfulfilled primarily because it has never been given a chance. The establishment of an institutional structure which could have helped to define the practical aspects of this dream has remained an elusive reality.

 

At the end of this troubled fifty-first year of our national existence, when we are faced with the possibility of an internal collapse, it may seem Quixotic to talk about the dream of a bygone era but unless we reconstruct a higher principle and motive for existence as a nation, we are doomed. In order to recreate the echo of that bygone dream, we need to relearn that the historic process which had given birth to the notion of a separate homeland was multi-cultural, multi-racial and a multi-linguistic. It envisioned an entity which would adhered together on the basis of loyalty to a supreme worldview based on the concept of Towhid. Unlike the monolithic tendencies of contemporary political and cultural scene, all documents pertaining to the original concept of Pakistan recognize the diversity of constituting components. This linguistic, cultural and racial diversity was not seen as a threat to the federation; rather it was construed as the foundation of a rich motif which could bring into sharp relief centuries of human achievements in literature, arts and crafts.

 

We have lost the sense of beauty in this diversity. Intolerance and narrow mindedness has beget fear which forces us to see diversity as a threat to national unity. This myopic view has created tension and mistrust and there is open talk of bigger province trying to rule the smaller units.

 

Another aspect of our national life today is a total lack of Hope. No matter where one goes in the country, one finds the same attitude at all levels of society. This hopelessness has turned most thinking individuals into cynics and the minds and energies which could have been devoted for the realization of the dream are merely struggling to survive in a suffocating atmosphere where fear, hatred and violence reign supreme. Stark contemporary national realities have pushed the historic process which had given birth to Pakistan into background. As a result, we have lost our relationship with a long historic tradition.

 

In order to revive that sense of belonging to a rich past, the contemporary scene has to be re-enacted in a historic setting where the constituting components of the State are not seen as a constant threat to the elusive Centre which is struggling to hold the federation intact. This can only be achieved if we are able to re-instill a sense of hope and dignity at a level and scale which would fundamentally transform the morbid present. Realism teaches us that this cannot be done overnight. But it also tells us that shattered and broken as it is, the dream is not dead. Despite everything, the word Pakistan still harks back to that original dream which saw a State based on the highest model human beings have ever created.

 

 

 

 

[Islam’s many battles, published on august 28, 1998,not found on the hard drive]

 

Published on Sept 25, 1998

 

Are we doomed?
Dr. Muzaffar Iqbal

The Nawaz government has now reached the pinnacle of power. With the parliament being what it is, it is clear that real national issues will never be debated in any public forum worth its name. In the absence of a sustained discourse, the government is left with its own short-sighted policy makers to evolve strategies to deal with the problems which multiply daily. Those who have watched our successive governments fail would vouch that these policy makers have no idea of the enormity of the task at hand; they have never been successful in formulation of policies and there is no reason to believe that they can come up with viable solutions for the current set of problems.

This bleak scenario points toward an internal collapse, which would produce a society where no one will be safe and only a small percentage of population will have the means to afford quality education, health care and housing. This is tragic because in public opinion, the Nawaz government was the last hope.

Far from being Islamic, today Pakistan is a state which has failed to provide the bare minimum necessities to its citizens and it is being ruled by a small number of people who have no regard for the Islamic values of consultation or "un-Islamic" value of democratic rights of the citizens or even parliamentarians. The Kasuri episode has merely brought to light what was already known to every one.

The agonizing visuals being shown on the state run PTV, showing the Prime Minister in Ihram in the sanctified Haram, only confirm the observation that a team of sycophants has gathered around him who leave no opportunity to project him as a pious man with a mission.

But those who create illusionary fancies and those who perpetuate these fantasies forget that they are actually playing with the lives of millions of people and that a heavy responsibility has fallen on their shoulders for which they are accountable to history as well as to their Creator.

The Pandora's box which has been opened during the last few weeks in the name of Islamisation is the limit; now Mr. Muhammad Nawaz Sharif has entered an arena where he has touched the most sacred zones. Now he is playing with issues which have serious moral and spiritual implications for him, both as a man as well as head of a state.

Everyone knows how Islamic teachings became a norm in the city state of Madinah during the time of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him). The first and the most important element in Islamisation of the tribal society of Madinah was the example of the Prophet (SAW). And his conduct was that of a man who had the highest regard for others--even for those who opposed him. Remember the incident of his standing up in respect when the bier of a Jew was being carried in front. He was told that this is the body of a Jew, and he replied: was he not a living soul?

Also recall the details of the meeting which was held to evolve a strategy for the battle of Ouhad. The Holy Prophet (SAW) did not want to go out of Madinah to fight but some of his young companions advised otherwise. he did not say to them "why are you opposing me here and there?"; he accepted the decision of the majority, put on his war gear and headed for the battlefield. Later when the companions realised what had happened, they tried to persuade him to set aside the decision but the Prophet declined on the principal that it is not befitting a prophet to take off his war gear once he has set out in Allah's cause. Compare this with the self-centered righteousness of our leaders

Those who have authored the Shariah Bill know very well that it is very difficult to implement it. If they were serious and sincere, they would have started implementing Shariah in their own spheres before drafting the Bill. Even a child knows that example is the best guide. Every one knows that to head an Islamic state, the ruler must first of all implement Sunnah in his own mode of action. As head of an Islamic state, the Prophet of Islam gave complete freedom to his consultative group. On all important occasions when the Prophet (SAW) made a decision or expressed his opinion, the companions first asked whether that was from Allah or the opinion of the Prophet himself. If it was the opinion of the Prophet, they did not hesitate to voice their own opinions. Who among the Prime Minister's close aides can express his opinion freely?

The writing on the wall is clear: the state has failed to evolve effective and equitable mechanisms of governance. The long lines in front of the foreign missions, the mushrooming business of private security companies, huge black market of foreign currencies, newspaper headlines describing the gory tales of murders, robberies and other heinous crimes--all depict the state of a society heading toward an internal collapse.

 At this juncture, the most important question for all thinking Pakistani citizens is: Are we doomed? Large scale emigration of all those who have the means to do so is a clear answer to this question which keeps haunting us day and night.

----------------------

Dr. Muzaffar Iqbal

 

8 September 1998

 

Issues in Islamization

 

Published on sept 11, 1998 as

Islam’s City State Model

 

 

 

     Enough has been said about the way Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif has committed

one blunder after another during his turbulent reign but let us grant him the benefit of doubt

in his latest venture. Let us assume that his intention to Islamize Pakistan is sincere and let

us grant that this latest plan is not an attempt to put yet another cosmetic Islamic veneer a

la Z. A. Bhutto and Ziaul Haq style. With these assumptions, let us proceed to the actual

steps needed to Islamize a society which has drifted so far away from Islam.

 

     From the outset, it is clear that there is no need for yet another amendment in the

Constitution to achieve this goal; there are already provisions for this goal in the constitution.

But if it needs to be re-iterated that the Qur'an and Sunnah are, indeed, the supreme laws of

Pakistan, then the proposed amendment should be limited to just this declaration and it should

not contain clauses regarding the procedure for amendment of constitution which has been

rightly perceived as an attempt to gain more power.

 

     Once this irritant has been removed, the government faces the difficult task of

evolving a practical procedure through which the goals would be achieved. Fortunately there

is an excellent example available for this task.

 

     On September 24, 622, when the Prophet of Islam arrived in Madinah, he proceeded

to do exactly this in a society which was multi-racial, multi-religious and multi-lingual. His

was a successful attempt which should serve as a model for any sincere replication. For any

one taking the task seriously and sincerely, it is imperative to work with scientific precision,

using the same guidelines.

 

     In laying the foundation of an Islamic state, the Prophet, upon whom be peace, had

proceeded with the establishment of a city state. There is wisdom in this. A successful

experiment done on a small scale provides ideal conditions for working through various

parameters without causing irreparable damage to the larger system. Even in modern times

we have several examples of this approach producing excellent results. The Findhorn

community in Scotland is one such example.

 

     So, instead of attempting the impossible task of Islamizing the whole country, Mr.

Sharif should start with the establishment of an Islamic City State. If he is successful in doing

so, this City State would then act as a model for the larger task of creation of an Islamic

country.

 

     In order to succeed with the task of Islamization, even on this small scale, it is

imperative to remember that all previously attempts have failed because those who proceeded

to do so, did not have clearly defined methodology. They were either not sincere or were not

competent. In their haste, they merely resorted to the imposition of Hadood laws which

should come at the end of the process if we are to follow the tradition of the Prophet of

Islam and his successors. Recall that Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, had dispensed

with the prescribed punishment for theft during a time of famine.

 

     If the government is serious in its intention, it should not be a difficult task to erect

the structure of a model Islamic City State within the limits defined by the present

constitution. After all we were going to have a high tech "New City" under the thumb of Mr.

Zardari and his cronies right next to the capital without any constitutional change.

 

     All that is required to start this noble experiment is a piece of land large enough for

a city state, a local government with rights to frame its own administrative, judicial, financial

and educational policies. Defense and foreign relations of this model Islamic City State can

remain in the domain of the federation.

 

     Once this physical structure is present, all Mr. Sharif has to do is to follow the

example of the Prophet (SAW) step by step and there is no reason that he would fail. One

of the first things, Prophet (SAW) did after his arrival was the construction of a mosque with

provision for Ashab-us-Suffah, the first residential university in Islam. Within a short span

of time, nine other mosques were built in Madinah, all with provision for Madaris; this was

the begining of the establishment of an educational infra-structure at a time when the State

had no resources. Later, this was to expand greatly.

 

     The Prophet, may Allah's peace and blessings be upon him, himself attended to the

administrative tasks of the city state in Madinah with the help of secretaries. He consulted

often. He had a team of learned and experienced companions who gave opinion on all

important matters. In addition, any one could come to the mosque and express his opinion

on the matters related to the administration and running of the city state.

 

     Regarding the urban structure, one of the reported orders of the Prophet (SAW) which

has been preserved for us states that the streets of Madinah should be wide enough so that

at least two loaded camels could pass each other. We also know that there were inspectors

for the markets. Ibn Hajjar has also mentioned lady inspectors during the time of the

Prophet. Dumping and other abuses were forbidden with sanctions. The state revenue came

from duties, taxes and through Baitul Maal. We know for sure that there were import duties

on certain items and Umar, the great administrator, had reduced duties on certain items

during the time of Prophet to combat the rising prices.

 

     Administration of justice was entrusted to nominated Qadis. During the time of the

Prophet, Islamic law was in the process of being revealed. But even then, we have an

authentic report which gives us the principles of justice in Islam. Mu`adh ibn Jabal was

appointed judge for Yemen. He came to take leave of the Prophet (SAW) who asked him:

 

"How would you judge?"

"According to the Book of God."

"If you do not find a precision there in?"

"Then according to the conduct of the Messenger of God."

"If you do not find it even there?"

"Then I shall make an effort of my opinion and shall spare no pains (to deduce good law)."

 

     Fortunately, we also have an authentic document from the time of the Prophet (SAW)

which gives a detailed account of the prerogatives and obligations of the ruler and the ruled

in the City State of Madinah. The reference here is to the document which has been called

the "First Written Constitution in the World" by no less a scholar than Dr. Hamidullah-- a

document which has impressed such noted western historians as Wensinck, Spregler and

Caetani. It has been preserved by Ibn Ishaq and Abu `Ubaid and contains fifty-two clauses.

The opening clause states: "This is a prescript (kitab) of the Messenger of God to operate

among the Faithful Believers and the submissive to God (Muslimun) from among the Quraish

and [the people of] Yathrib and those who may be under them and join them and take part

in wars in their company."

 

     This important document goes on to state, in precise details, the rights and duties of

non-Muslims within this city state. For example, Article 25 states: "And verily the Jews of

the Banu `Awf shall be considered as a community (Ummah) along with the Believers, for

the Jews being their religion and for the Muslims their religion, be one client or original

member of the tribe, but whosoever shall be guilty of oppression or violation [of the treaty],

shall put to trouble none but his own person and the members of his house."

 

     This is the bare outline of the beginning of a model Islamic City State which was to

wield enormous influence in later years and which was to rapidly expand within a short

period of twenty years to the farthest corners of the world. We are fortunate to have access

to detailed accounts of various administrative, financial, educational and judicial structures

which evolved during the first decade of establishment of this model state. Because this

model was established by Prophet (SAW) himself, we have an excellent example to follow.

 

     If Mr. Sharif were to succeed in establishing a model Islamic City State, it would be

an achievement with historic implications. All over the world, Muslims are desperately

looking for models. If successful, this experiment can be repeated in many other places. If

Mr. Sharif succeeds in doing so, he would carve a niche for himself in history which would be beyond reproach, beyond the fleeting gains based on political expediency.

 

  Quantum Note    

----------------------

Dr. Muzaffar Iqbal

 

21 September 1998

 

 

Are We Doomed?

 

 

Most kind messenger,

Say to great Caesar this in deputation:

I kiss his conqu'ring hand. Tell him I am prompt

To lay my crown at 's feet, and there to kneel

Till from his all‑obeying breath I hear

The doom of Egypt

 

Shakespeare

 

 

 

The Nawaz government has now reached the pinnacle of power. With the parliament being what it is, it is clear that real national issues will never be debated in any public forum worth its name. In the absence of a sustained discourse, the government is left with its own short sighted policy makers to evolve strategies to deal with the problems which  multiply daily. Those who have watched our successive governments fail would vouch that these policy makers have no idea of the enormity of the task at hand; they have never been successful in formulation of policies and there is no reason to believe that they can come up with viable solutions for the current set of problems.

 

This bleak scenario points toward an internal collapse, which would produce a society where no one will be safe and only a small percentage of population will have the means to afford quality education, health care and housing. This is tragic because in public opinion, the Nawaz government was the last hope; now that hope has been extinguished and even those who voted for him are left with no choice but to silently nurse their wounds.

 

Far from being Islamic, today Pakistan is a state which has failed to provide the bare minimum necessities to its citizens and it is being ruled by a small number of people who have no regard for the Islamic values of consultation or "un-Islamic" value of democratic rights of the citizens or even parliamentarians. The Kasuri episode has merely brought to light what was already known to every one: Nawaz Sharif is neither a democrat nor an Amirul Mumineen; he is merely a man obsessed with power who operates on the level of "us" and "them".

 

The agonizing visuals being telecast through the state run TV, showing the Prime Minister in Ihram in the sanctified Haram, only confirm the observation that a team of sycophants has gathered around him who leave no opportunity to project what his own self-delusions have created: a pious man with a mission.

 

But those who create illusionary fancies and those who perpetuate these fantasies forget that they are actually playing with the lives of millions of people and that a heavy responsibility has fallen on their shoulders for which they are accountable to history as well as to their Creator.

 

The Pandora box which has been opened during the last few weeks in the name of Islamization is the limit; now Mr. Muhammad Nawaz Sharif has entered an arena where he has touched the most sacred zones. Now he is playing with issues which have serious moral and spiritual implications for him, both as a man as well as head of a state.

 

Everyone knows how Islamic teachings became a norm in the city state of Madinah during the time of the Prophet of Islam (may Allah be pleased with him). The first and the most important element in Islamization of the tribal society of Madinah was the example of the Prophet (SAW). And his conduct was that of a man who had the highest regard for others--even for those who opposed him. Remember the incident of his standing up in respect when the bier of a Jew was being carried in front. He was told that this is the body of a Jew and he replied was he not a living soul?

 

Also recall the details of the meeting which was held to evolve a strategy for the battle of Ouhad. Prophet (SAW) did not want to go out of Madinah to fight but his opinion was opposed by some young companions; he did not say to them Awhy are you opposing me here and there?@; he accepted the decision of the majority, put on his war gear and headed for the battlefield. Later when the companions realized what had happened, they tried to persuade him to set aside the decision but the Prophet declined on the principal that it is not befitting to the station of a prophet to take off his war gear once he has set out in Allah's cause. Compare this with the self-centered righteousness of our Prime Minister!

 

Those who have fabricated the Shariah Bill know very well that they do not want to implement it. If they were serious and sincere, they would have started implementing Shariah in their own spheres before writing the Bill. Even a child knows that example is the best guide. If Mr. Sharif were sincere in following the Sunnah of the Prophet (SAW) he would not try to stifle the mumbled voices of his opponents. He surely knows that his pictures in Ihram on TV screens make no sense at all to a populace concerned with the safety of their lives. If he were sincere, he would know that to head an Islamic State, he must first of all implement Sunnah in his own mode of action. As head of an Islamic State, the Prophet of Islam gave complete freedom to his consultative group. On all important occasions when the Prophet (SAW) made a decision or expressed his opinion, the companions first asked whether that was from Allah or the opinion of the Prophet himself. If it was the opinion of the Prophet, they did not hesitate to voice their own opinions. Who among Mr. Sharif's kitchen group has the gut to express his opinions freely if they happen to be opposed to Mr. Sharif's desire?

 

The writing on the wall is clear: the state has failed to evolve effective and equitable mechanisms of governance. The long lines in front of the foreign missions, the mushrooming business of private security companies, huge black market of foreign currencies, newspaper headlines describing the gory tales of murders, robberies and other heinous crimes--all depict the state of a society heading toward an internal collapse.

 

The state has not only failed to protect the security of its citizens at home, it has also miserably failed to help its citizens in foreign countries. A case in point is that of Dr. Munawar Ahmad Anees who was arrested, under the Internal Security Act, on Monday 14th September in Kuala Lumpur. He was kept in detention in the Bukit Aman prison, where political prisoners are interrogated, and tortured. No one, even his lawyer, was allowed to see him. Under torture he confessed to having a homosexual affair with Anwar Ibrahim, the former deputy prime minister of Malaysia. A week later, in a summary trial lasting minutes, Dr. Anees was sentenced to six months imprisonment.

 

Dr. Anees is a respected intellectual and scholar who has written a number of books and who was, until recently, Editor-in-Chief of Periodica Islamica, a quarterly current awareness journal which specialized in Islamic topics. He is a close friend of Anwar Ibrahim. The arrest and sentence of Dr. Anees, who is married with two children, is clearly connected with producing `evidence' to implicate Anwar Ibrahim; he has no political ambition himself. The charges against Dr. Anees are totally fabricated and his `confession' is a product of torture. The Pakistan embassy in Kuala Lumpur has been dragging its feet and has not even taken up Dr. Anees' case. Compare this with the incident in Saudi Arabia in which a British nurse was sentenced to death for actually committing a heinous crime. Any self-respecting state would have come to rescue  one of its bright citizens but not the State of Pakistan.

 

 

At this juncture, the most important question for all thinking Pakistani citizens is: Are we doomed? Large scale emigration of all those who have the means to do so is a clear answer to this question which keeps haunting us day and night.

 

A Pakistani in distress

Dr Muzaffar Iqbal

On Monday, 14 September , a Pakistani citizen was arrested in Kuala Lumpur under the Internal Security Act. He was kept in detention in the Bukit Aman prison where political prisoners are interrogated. No one, not even his lawyer, was allowed to see him. Under torture, he confessed to having a homosexual affair with Anwar Ibrahim, the deposed deputy prime minister of Malaysia. His name is Dr. Munawar Anees, a famous scholar and author of Islam and Biological Futures: Ethics, Gender, and Technology, (London: Mansell Publishing Limited, 1989).

After being held incommunicado for six days under Malaysia's Internal Security Act, Dr. Munawar was produced in a Kuala Lumpur court on Saturday, 19 September. He was charged with permitting himself to be sodomised by Anwar Ibrahim. His own lawyer was brushed aside and a police lawyer appointed by the court entered a plea of guilty on his behalf. He was sentenced to six months in prison.

Anees' wife, alerted by friends that her husband was being charged, arrived only after the sentence was pronounced. At first she failed to recognise her husband as his head was shaved. Mrs. Anees was forcibly restrained by the police from speaking to the lawyers.

The trial lasted 40 minutes. Seven of these minutes were taken by Dr. Anees going to the toilet. Throughout the trial, he was shaking uncontrollably as though suffering from pneumonia. A policeman was asked to cover him with a blanket.

Even though he was sentenced under penal code, the Malaysian authorities continued to detain Dr. Anees under the ISA. He was not allowed to see his wife or anyone else.

On September 23, Dr. Anees was rushed to Kajan Hospital. Later that day, he was transferred to the cardiac care unit of the General Hospital. His wife was allowed to see him for a few minutes in the presence of security people.

On September 28, Dr. Anees' original lawyers filed an appeal, withdrawing the guilty plea, which they say was not made 'under willing circumstances'. Dr. Anees had gone to Malaysia in the early nineties. He taught biology at Mara Institute of Technology, Bangi, near Kuala Lumpur. Later, he joined Brita Publishing and was appointed as the founding editor-in-chief of the quarterly, Periodica Islamica: An International Contents Journal. Before moving to Malaysia, Dr. Anees lived and worked in the US. He is a member of the editorial advisory board of Islamic Studies, associate editor of Eubios Journal of Asian and International Bioethics and a former section editor of Islamic and Arabic Studies, quarterly journal of University of Toronto.

Dr. Anees' intellectual pursuits soon made him a well-know figure in Malaysia and many high ranking officials became his friends, Anwar Ibrahim _ then deputy prime minister and author of The Asian Renaissance, probably one of the most widely distributed books in Malaysia in recent times _ being one of them. In time, Dr. Anees became Anwar's speech writer. In this capacity, he was respected by the government until Anwar Ibrahim fell out of favour. Dr. Anees' arrest came as a prelude to Anwar Ibrahim's arrest and his forced confession has been used to implicate Anwar Ibrahim.  

On Wednesday, 23 September, Mrs. Anees and her 13 year-old daughter presented themselves at Bukit Aman. After some difficulty they met two officers involved in Dr. Anees' case who asked: "Why have you come here?" Being held incommunicado is supposed to be taken passively in Malaysia. The officers told Mrs. Anees her husband was being looked after well, given rest, proper food and medical attention. "We are humane, we are civilised people" they said. They explained to Mrs. Anees that her husband was being held as part of 'the investigation' into Anwar. The only explanation they offered on why Dr Anees was detained: "he happened to be here [in Malaysia] at this time."

On Friday, 25 September, Mrs. Anees again went to Bukit Aman. She was told she might be allowed to see her husband in a few days time, provided she agreed that the lawyer she had instructed did not attempt to see Dr Anees. The police officers referred to Uthayakumar, whom Mrs. Anees had retained as "one of Anwar's lawyers." The detention of Dr. Anees has shocked every body.

The detailed report about Dr Anees that appeared in the newspapers used subtle innuendo to suggest the problem was Dr Anees' American connections. He had in fact taken his Ph.D. at Indiana University and resided in the United States, as a green card holder, for some years thereafter.

Dr. Anees has become victim of a power struggle in Malaysia. The details of mud slinging in Malaysian politics which have appeared in the world press since Prime Minister Mahathir's troubles began, are enough to put all Muslims to shame. Once hailed as a model, progressive Islamic state, Malaysia today is in the grip of a dirty game where all ethical values are being trampled.

 In a cover story, Asiaweek magazine has reported, "a smiling, newly confident Mahathir's pledge that his one time heir-apparent would not be denied his rights under Malaysian law. Generously, Mahathir even allowed that he appreciated Azizah's loyalty to her husband. "When the truth is known," he predicted calmly, "everyone, even his friends, will reject him."

Reporting from Kuala Lumpur, John Colmey and David Liebhold wrote in the cover story, the "`truth', however, seems drawn from some overheated tropical potboiler. Several acquaintances--including Ibrahim Ali, who shared a detention camp with Anwar in the mid-1970s--say that, until recently, they saw no signs of Anwar's alleged sexual proclivities. Many more worry that the case against him has already been so muddied that no verdict is likely to be credible."

 This pervert political drama can take whatever turn it may, the immediate question for the concerned citizens of Pakistan is whether our state is going to help one of its brilliant citizens or merely remain a spectator in the ongoing drama. Had Dr. Anees been a citizen of a Western country, tough talk of economic sanctions would have forced his captors to submission.

 Now that Anwar Ibrahim has been brought to court (September 29), the game is more clear: Dr. Anees was arrested to implicate Anwar Ibrahim who had become a threat to the 17-year old rule of Dr. Muhathir. Malaysian politics being what it is, it is no wonder Dr. Anees has to pay the price of his friendship with Anwar. But the international law, human rights and fundamental decency require that people should not be tortured and humiliated the way they are being tortured in Malaysia. Isn't it time for the Pakistani government to demand that a fair, honest and open trial be held for one of  its citizens and that his fundamental rights to defend himself  be granted?

----------------------

Dr. Muzaffar Iqbal

published on oct 9, as Politics of non-Issues

 

A Nation at the end of Hope

Politics of "Non-issues" demands that an endless array of transient but highly sensational non-issues be paraded through the media and national forums. It is a time-tested formula to deflect public attention from the real issues. For the last several years political leadership in Pakistan has been busy in this game. As a result, serious issues have been pushed to the background. The compound effect of this strategy has produced a state of confusion and anarchy and has left the nation in a cul-de-sec.

Some times, the game is played by deliberately using real issues as pawns. In this technique, unilateral and unpractical decisions are suddenly announced which create a wave of instant reactions and soon the players are divided into two camps: those who oppose the announcement and those who defend it. But both groups know that there is nothing substantial behind the facade. The recent announcements regarding the construction of Kalabagh Dam and the Sharia Bill are examples of this technique. Both, the man who made the announcements (PM) and the horde of ministers who sang their chorus to support the announcements, knew very well that the words spoken by the PM carry no weight, that there are no funds available to construct the Dam and that the Sharia Bill is a flimsy piece of legislature, which will never help in implementing the noble tradition of the Prophet of Islam. They also knew very well that the opposition will fall prey to their bluff and play to the tune set by them, at least for a while.

Another variation on the game may be called "dragging". This technique is used when an issue has to be "deflated". The way the government and the opposition has handled the "Observer Story" is a classic example of the apt use of this technique. A week after the publication of the story and in spite of a debate in the upper house, the nation still does not know the simple facts though the questions are very clear: Mr. PM do you or don't you own the said flats? Do you or don't you hold foreign currency accounts abroad? Instead of a categorical, one second, "yes/no" answer, hundreds of hours of national time and thousands of rupees have been wasted. A minister was specially sent to UK, on Pakistan's poor people's expense, to find a way to control further damage. The result is quite obvious: those who have willfully chosen this dubious path have been beating around the bush and those who are in the opposition camp are following them while the whole nation waits in despair.

The long term consequences of this game are so frightening that one shudders to enumerate them. But the immediate and the obvious are also equally horrific: Karachi continues to bleed while the politicians play their little "cock and bull story" games, target killings, robberies, murders, kidnapings and rapes undermine the moral fabric of the society while high government officials and political leadership of the country continues to waste enormous national resources on trifles.

With each murder a whole family is ruined. Each death of a young man, who had potential to contribute to the regeneration of national health and wealth, brings an un-revokable damage

to the nation's future. With the rapid increase in the number of families which have seen tragedies, the vital energy of the society--which alone can regenerate a moral and healthy national life--continues to wither.

These are serious consequences of a dangerous game being played with the destiny of our nation. But those who are busy in this game have had their day. The game has now trapped them in its own web from where there is no escape. The silent majority has intuitively perceived the game. A clear sign of this maturity is reflected in the tacit withdrawal of the "historical mandate" given to the present government. Every one knows that the government has lost its moral right to govern. The nation has not articulated its decision but the man in the street has clearly passed his verdict.

The recent statement of the COAS at the Pakistan Navy War College is nothing but an articulation of what is on the mind of the silent majority. The solution he has proposed may not be the answer to the problem but his diagnosis is surely sound: the present mode of governance has resulted in serious problems and has compounded the problems the present government inherited. Three notable fresh problems are: (i) a renewed confrontation between the Center and the smaller provinces created by a number of unilateral decisions by the government, (ii) a near collapse of the economy and (iii) institutional destablization due to the "king-style" governance of the Prime Minister.

The last mentioned problem is not entirely new; successive rulers have contributed to the destruction of institutional structure which was inherited by the people of Pakistan at the time of Independence. The new element is a near total personalization of decision making by the Prime Minister. Ironically, this element has been introduced into the old pattern of undermining the institutions on the strength of the "historic mandate" translated into clipping of the presidential powers followed by a successful randevous with the judiciary and through the presence of a spineless parliament.

These "achievements" have been accomplished through master strokes with an obsessive adherence to the goal of attaining more and more power. But the irony is that this concentration of power has now reached its ultimate limit without fulfilling the appetite and without producing the results for which it was attained. At this point, the protagonist in search of more power simply does not know what to do with all that power except making unsound grand declarations which are never followed--national agendas which are neither national nor agendas per se; Vision 2010 which no one remembers anymore; Qarz utaro mulk sanwaro slogan which has remained an empty chatter; Ehtesab Commission which has invented new names for political victimization.

The old problems which have become grave are the sectarian violence and the situation in Karachi--both examples of the failure of the government to comprehend the complexity of the issues at hand. In the past, Presidents have dismissed governments on account of these failures but that possibility does not exist anymore.

Today Pakistan faces a serious crisis of leadership. A handful of politicians have stifled the normal channels through which fresh leadership emerges in a polity. The long process of intimidation and suffocation of talent has resulted in a situation where the nation has become trapped in a vicious circle. National goals are poorly defined. The future path has become totally eclipsed by the immediate trifles. There are only a handful of players in the arena and the ball keeps rolling from one to the other without ever reaching its goal.

Eighteen months ago, a small hope was born. Emerging from a crisis of confidence and trust, a small percentage of citizens posed their trust in the person of Nawaz Sharif while the majority watched silently and hoped that this new trust will not be violated.

Eighteen months later, the trust posed in the person of Nawaz Sharif has been shattered. Those who breathed a sigh of relief after the end of Benazir's government and those who walked out of the polling booths with a sense of hope, both have realized that their predicament has not changed.

At this juncture, it is no more a question of siding with one or the other or the "third force"; it is a state of total despair so clear in the nation's life that no proof is needed to prove it. When and how Nawaz Sharif meets his exit is not the concern of prime importance at present. Surely, history will one day pass its verdict on his second term in office. But the gravity of the situation demands an immediate solution to the predicament of a nation which has arrived at the end of hope. The burning question on nation's mind is: Where do we go from here?

 

 

----------------------

Dr. Muzaffar Iqbal

 6? October 1998

 

A Nation at the end of Hope

Politics of "Non-issues" demands that an endless array of transient but highly sensational non-issues be paraded through the media and national forums. It is a time-tested formula to deflect public attention from the real issues. For the last several years political leadership in Pakistan has been busy in this game. As a result, serious issues have been pushed to the background. The compound effect of this strategy has produced a state of confusion and anarchy and has left the nation in a cul-de-sec.

Some times, the game is played by deliberately using real issues as pawns. In this technique, unilateral and unpractical decisions are suddenly announced which create a wave of instant reactions and soon the players are divided into two camps: those who oppose the announcement and those who defend it. But both groups know that there is nothing substantial behind the facade. The recent announcements regarding the construction of Kalabagh Dam and the Sharia Bill are examples of this technique. Both, the man who made the announcements (PM) and the horde of ministers who sang their chorus to support the announcements, knew very well that the words spoken by the PM carry no weight, that there are no funds available to construct the Dam and that the Sharia Bill is a flimsy piece of legislature, which will never help in implementing the noble tradition of the Prophet of Islam. They also knew very well that the opposition will fall prey to their bluff and play to the tune set by them, at least for a while.

Another variation on the game may be called "dragging". This technique is used when an issue has to be "deflated". The way the government and the opposition has handled the "Observer Story" is a classic example of the apt use of this technique. A week after the publication of the story and in spite of a debate in the upper house, the nation still does not know the simple facts though the questions are very clear: Mr. PM do you or don't you own the said flats? Do you or don't you hold foreign currency accounts abroad? Instead of a categorical, one second, "yes/no" answer, hundreds of hours of national time and thousands of rupees have been wasted. A minister was specially sent to UK, on Pakistan's poor people's expense, to find a way to control further damage. The result is quite obvious: those who have willfully chosen this dubious path have been beating around the bush and those who are in the opposition camp are following them while the whole nation waits in despair.

The long term consequences of this game are so frightening that one shudders to enumerate them. But the immediate and the obvious are also equally horrific: Karachi continues to bleed while the politicians play their little "cock and bull story" games, target killings, robberies, murders, kidnapings and rapes undermine the moral fabric of the society while high government officials and political leadership of the country continues to waste enormous national resources on trifles.

With each murder a whole family is ruined. Each death of a young man, who had potential to contribute to the regeneration of national health and wealth, brings an un-revokable damage

to the nation's future. With the rapid increase in the number of families which have seen tragedies, the vital energy of the society--which alone can regenerate a moral and healthy national life--continues to wither.

These are serious consequences of a dangerous game being played with the destiny of our nation. But those who are busy in this game have had their day. The game has now trapped them in its own web from where there is no escape. The silent majority has intuitively perceived the game. A clear sign of this maturity is reflected in the tacit withdrawal of the "historical mandate" given to the present government. Every one knows that the government has lost its moral right to govern. The nation has not articulated its decision but the man in the street has clearly passed his verdict.

The recent statement of the COAS at the Pakistan Navy War College is nothing but an articulation of what is on the mind of the silent majority. The solution he has proposed may not be the answer to the problem but his diagnosis is surely sound: the present mode of governance has resulted in serious problems and has compounded the problems the present government inherited. Three notable fresh problems are: (i) a renewed confrontation between the Center and the smaller provinces created by a number of unilateral decisions by the government, (ii) a near collapse of the economy and (iii) institutional destablization due to the "king-style" governance of the Prime Minister.

The last mentioned problem is not entirely new; successive rulers have contributed to the destruction of institutional structure which was inherited by the people of Pakistan at the time of Independence. The new element is a near total personalization of decision making by the Prime Minister. Ironically, this element has been introduced into the old pattern of undermining the institutions on the strength of the "historic mandate" translated into clipping of the presidential powers followed by a successful randevous with the judiciary and through the presence of a spineless parliament.

These "achievements" have been accomplished through master strokes with an obsessive adherence to the goal of attaining more and more power. But the irony is that this concentration of power has now reached its ultimate limit without fulfilling the appetite and without producing the results for which it was attained. At this point, the protagonist in search of more power simply does not know what to do with all that power except making unsound grand declarations which are never followed--national agendas which are neither national nor agendas per se; Vision 2010 which no one remembers anymore; Qarz utaro mulk sanwaro slogan which has remained an empty chatter; Ehtesab Commission which has invented new names for political victimization.

The old problems which have become grave are the sectarian violence and the situation in Karachi--both examples of the failure of the government to comprehend the complexity of the issues at hand. In the past, Presidents have dismissed governments on account of these failures but that possibility does not exist anymore.

Today Pakistan faces a serious crisis of leadership. A handful of politicians have stifled the normal channels through which fresh leadership emerges in a polity. The long process of intimidation and suffocation of talent has resulted in a situation where the nation has become trapped in a vicious circle. National goals are poorly defined. The future path has become totally eclipsed by the immediate trifles. There are only a handful of players in the arena and the ball keeps rolling from one to the other without ever reaching its goal.

Eighteen months ago, a small hope was born. Emerging from a crisis of confidence and trust, a small percentage of citizens posed their trust in the person of Nawaz Sharif while the majority watched silently and hoped that this new trust will not be violated.

Eighteen months later, the trust posed in the person of Nawaz Sharif has been shattered. Those who breathed a sigh of relief after the end of Benazir's government and those who walked out of the polling booths with a sense of hope, both have realized that their predicament has not changed.

At this juncture, it is no more a question of siding with one or the other or the "third force"; it is a state of total despair so clear in the nation's life that no proof is needed to prove it. When and how Nawaz Sharif meets his exit is not the concern of prime importance at present. Surely, history will one day pass its verdict on his second term in office. But the gravity of the situation demands an immediate solution to the predicament of a nation which has arrived at the end of hope. The burning question on nation's mind is: Where do we go from here?

 

October 23, 1998 

Withered hopes

Dr Muzaffar Iqbal

Last week, when I saw Dr Habib Ahmad at Itwar Bazar, I could not believe my eyes. He was holding two cloth bags and a straw basket in his hands. Behind him walked his wife, a middle-aged woman who looked tired and depressed.

More than 20 years ago, Dr Habib Ahmad had walked into our classroom on a bright winter morning. He had just returned from America after doing his PhD with a Nobel laureate. Beaming with energy and ideas, he told us about his research work on some new chemical complexes which had great potential for space research. He had plans to set up a similar research programme in Pakistan.

But ours was a rowdy lot. No one really cared for the impressive credentials of not so young a man who had published more research papers in four years than anybody else in the department had done in their lifetime.

As soon as he turned toward the blackboard in a lecture hall in Lahore, hissing and rubbing of feet against the floor started from the backbenches. This was the usual treatment meted out to every new teacher by the Class of 76. But unlike others, Dr Habib did not pay any attention to this rowdiness; he kept on writing complex chemical equations on the blackboard. He had come back to his native country with plans no one ever dreamed about and the loud noise coming from the backbenches had no effect on him.

But those who had become heroes by inventing ingenious means of creating scenes were not ready to give up. The tussle between Dr Habib and the unruly bunch went on for the rest of the year. At the end of the year, the inevitable came to pass and eighty per cent of our class was fleshed out of the education system.

Dr Habib left Lahore to become a full professor at what was once a prestigious university in the capital. My own destiny took me to North America and I lost contact with a teacher who had been instrumental in opening a number of thus far unknown vistas for me during the short span of ten months. When I returned to Pakistan after more than 15 years, I had forgotten Dr Habib and did not know where he was.

But seeing him so unexpectedly in the bazar, everything came back to my mind: his dynamic personality, his extraordinary way of solving complex equations and his novel ideas about the future of research in Pakistan.

I followed the couple through the lanes of Itwar bazar, filled with the unbearable stench of rotten fruit. They did their weekly shopping in a manner which was unbearably painful. They walked around the filthy place with a stoic resolve and once Dr Habib went to offload his bags while his wife waited amidst the stinking smell which permeated the bazar.

The next day I went to Quaid-i-Azam University, found his office and introduced myself. Dr Habib looked at me with eyes which reflected deep pain and anguish. Obviously, I had reminded him of a period in his life which held great promise now irrecoverably lost. I learned that his three children had done exceptionally well in their educational careers and had all moved to North America. He himself had decided not to leave the country for reasons best known to him.

Then an orderly came with a thick file, placed it in front of Dr Habib and left the room. Dr Habib opened the file, looked at the top most paper and silently passed the file to me. It was a promotion case which had been taken to courts; Dr Habib was to go to the court next week to record his statement. A few minutes later, another orderly came and told him that he was unable to get his telephone restored because the person concerned was not available in the office. His telephone was disconnected three weeks ago despite the fact that he had been paying his monthly bills regularly. A little later,  a student walked in with a file in his hand; he needed his signature for something. Dr Habib signed quietly.

A middle-aged man brought us tea. I wanted to ask him about his life, about his dreams and about his plans for space research in Pakistan. But I could not muster enough strength to ask any questions: everything was so obvious. A life gone to waste. I thought of my professors in Canada, their daily routines, energy and zeal and their research projects and imagined this gifted man to be like them; he could have easily been like them in any centre of higher learning in the West.

Instead he had returned to his native land with goals and plans and dreams and had devoted himself to a lost cause. I hoped he would complain; I wished he would talk. But he did not. Somehow, he knew there was no point in complaining or talking about what had been lost. He asked me questions about my life. About what I had been doing and what my plans were.

At eleven, he had to go and deliver his lecture. I asked his permission to sit in his lecture. He looked at me with surprise and then nodded. I chose a back seat in the classroom. Sitting there, behind twenty students who listened attentively to his lecture, I saw a dim reflection of the man who lived in my memory: a vibrant, mentally alert, highly creative teacher who knows what is passing through the minds of his students as he explains complex theories. But it was merely a reflection, a watered down, almost forced persona that he was braving perhaps just because I was there.

When we returned to his office, two of his colleagues walked in. They were much younger than him and they were both very agitated. Their life savings and dreams were at stake: someone had allured them into buying plots in a housing scheme and they had discovered that it was a total fraud.

"What could be done?" One of them asked to no one in particular. "Nothing." The other responded. "Nothing can be done. We are really doomed. There is no recourse to law. I know someone who had similar experience and he has spent a fortune in court cases without any result. I never thought it would happen to me."

After they left, Dr Habib invited me to his home for lunch. He lived on campus. It was a very simple place, with old furniture which had been kept in good order but which had seen its better days. He introduced me to his wife. She was a woman of few words. As if gripped by an unfathomable grief, she walked through the house like a ghost. She brought food and we ate quietly.

Past images of another Dr Habib flashed like lightning: A man dressed in immaculate clothes, full of energy, ideas, plans and vision of a future which seemed just around the corner.

What had gone wrong? How the flower had withered? I wanted to ask disparately but Dr Habib gave no opportunity; his silent and serene figure was an answer in itself -- more eloquent than words.

 

--------------------------------------------

Dr. Muzaffar Iqbal

 

 

Sent on November 2, 1998 for

Friday, November 6, 1998

 

Portraits of a Nation--(1)

 

 

He sits outside an office. He is a human being, above forty, father of seven children. A harsh bell rings, bringing him to his feet. He rushes to the office from where the push of a small button had issued the command for his hurried movements. "Chai," another human being orders. The man returns without uttering a single word, goes to the kitchen and starts making tea.

 

He is Sharafat Khan. He has served in this government department for twenty years. He is still in Grade 3, drawing a monthly salary of rupees 3,000. He is at the bottom of a huge bureaucracy and like everyone at the bottom of hierarchies, he is the lowest paid worker doing the maximum amount of manual work.

 

He comes to the office half an hour before everyone else. This is the quietest time of the day. He dusts all the furniture, turns on heaters or air conditioners, depending on the season of the year, puts newspapers on the desks of "sahibs", taking care that the right paper goes to the right sahib. This is done according to their ranks. He also cleans the kitchen and puts water on the burner for tea.

 

When the sahibs arrive, he has to respond to three different bells and if they all ring at the same time, he obeys them according to the seniority of the caller, much to the annoyance of the others. Each ring means an order ranging from tea, cigarettes, payment of utility bills to bringing or taking files from one office to another.

 

He had arrived in the capital from the mountains where his family lived off a small piece of land. He was the youngest of the eight children who grew up in a one room house which had a small veranda adjacent to their ancestral land which had shrunk over the period of time through inheritance divisions. Compared to his brothers and sisters, he was lucky to be able to go to the school but his education came to an abrupt end in grade 3 when his father died. He was eleven. That was also the end of his childhood.

 

His village was on the outskirts of a tourist resort. During the summers, when the plains became hot, hordes of people came to the hill station where all kinds of jobs opened up for an eleven-year-old orphan whose father had died the previous winter and whose mother was too sick and too grief-stricken to remember anything anymore. She had lived a life of perpetual poverty ever since she was born. After the death of her husband, she had lost all hope and was to die within six months.

 

From the age of eleven to eighteen, Sharafat Khan worked in restaurants, washing dishes, replacing dirty linen, cleaning ash-trays, serving tea and doing hundred and one different errands. Being the youngest in the family had advantages. His elder brothers were already off to a rough start in their lives, with worries to get the three sisters married. He had no idea of what that meant.

 

It was in the hill station, working as a dishwasher, that he first came across the man who gave him the consciousness that there is something called a government which is supposed to take care of people, whose responsibility it was to provide Roti, Kaprah aur Makan. That was Sharafat Khan's first lesson in politics.

 

It was the dawn of a new era, the beginning of the seventies. Z.A. Bhutto had walked into the wayside cafe where he worked and within minutes, he had electrified the crowd which had spontaneously gathered around him. On that day, his charisma--which scholars and professors would later to investigate through their erudition--was at its best. For the first time in his life, Sharafat Khan experienced what it meant to be the citizen of a country.

 

That was also the beginning of his struggle to break the chain of poverty. With time, his consciousness grew and he became part of the active political drama which was unfolding in the midst of evolution of a new social and political order.

 

He came to know some one in the hill station who knew some one in the capital and one day Sharafat Khan picked up his old trunk and came to the capital. Coming to the big city was like dream-walking; he had lived so close to it all his life but had never ventured to come to the city which was filled with big houses, new cars, posh buildings, open, wide roads lined with trees.

 

He worked at various odd jobs until he ended up in a department of the central government as orderly. He was recruited in grade 1, with a monthly salary of three hundred and fifty rupees. His annual increment was fifteen rupees. But he did not know any of this. All he knew was that he was now a government servant and three hundred and fifty rupees was a big amount.

 

He got married and a rapid succession of children quickly filled the small quarter where he lived and his pay cheques started to become inadequate. Time passed.

 

Now he has served in the same office for twenty years. Many sahibs have come and gone. He has heard about sahibs who made lakhs of rupees by just sitting in their offices--the very places where he brought tea and files. He has a dim consciousness that something is not right. His  pay cheques have been increasing but their buying power has been decreasing. Things cost much more and they do not last as long as they used to. His children go to government school and he has dim hopes that one day they too would become sahibs.

 

But for himself, that brief light which had suddenly sparked in the darkness of his childhood, had proved to be transitory flash. He would never know what it was about the man who came to that wayside cafe and gathered a crowd around himself and within minutes gave them a new consciousness of Being. He would never know from where that sublime light had come which had given him a feeling that he, too, mattered. That he was as good as any one else. That he had a voice which needed to be heard. Later, he had registered himself as a voter and had gone to the polls. The very first time he did it, he had a great sense of empowerment; after all, it was he who was forming the government. His opinion counted. He could decide. He felt thrilled by the sense of power.

 

But that feeling did not last. Somehow, things did not go in the direction he had thought they were going and it was beyond his reach to find why and how he lost it all.

 

In the course of his life, serving tea, bringing and taking files and sometimes listening to the bursts of rash words from sahibs, he had, somehow, lost the grand vision of his integration in an identity much bigger than himself: the nation. That brief feeling of empowerment he had felt in his youth did not translate into anything. He had only managed to become an orderly who served tea and brought files whereas the man who had come to that wayside cafe had actually promised something far greater. He was promising him to become a partner in building a nation where he and his children would be able to live as respectable human beings with rights and duties--a society where he would be respected as a human being. That vision had never actualized.

 

Now Sharafat Khan spends his days in the government office and his time away from the office is taken up by the part-time jobs at other places. His children are going to school and he hopes that one day at least one of them will make to the office from where the bell rings, bringing him to his feet.

 

 

----------------------

Dr. Muzaffar Iqbal

Published on Nov. 20, 1998

 

 

 

The Aid Worker

 

 

It was a hot May day. The phone rang. "This is Peter Bonokovsky calling," the voice was totally unfamiliar. "I am from Canada. David Hallman gave me your number." It started to make sense. "Can we meet some time?" he asked.

"Sure," I said.

 

He came over to my house on Saturday. It was his third week in Pakistan. He had come on a World Bank project. With a quarter century of experience in polytechnic institutes, he was hired by M & F Holdings, which had won the contract in an international competition. His job was to revamp and enlarge polytechnic institutes in Punjab.

 

With the avid curiosity of a newcomer who had never been in this part of the world, Peter was enthusiastic about almost everything: he had been to the Itwar Bazaar and was thrilled by the fantastic sight of fresh vegetables and fruits as much as by the display of items being sold on the other side of the bazaar. "It has been the learning experience of a lifetime," he said, referring to his two weeks. "Those items are simply superb," he said, "the carpets, the Russian antiques, the Afghan handicrafts--what a collection! And so cheap!"

 

After the preliminaries, we quickly got down to serious discussion. He had been to Lahore and had met the high-ups of the education department. "Everyone is excited about the project," he said. "But I have been warned that most projects in Pakistan start to disintegrate after the vehicles have been purchased and the tenders for equipment have been opened," he said almost apologetically. "But I don't see this happening to this project. The Chief Minister is really keen in getting this done," he said. He had not met him yet but a meeting was on the cards. He was also going to meet the governor in a few days.

 

Peter had come to Pakistan on a two-year contract. His family was going to join him in September, after the hot season was over. He was in the process of finding a house in Lahore. In the meanwhile, he was being lodged in a posh hotel. An office had been set up in Islamabad to liaise with the Federal government; Peter commuted between Lahore and Islamabad, flying to the Capital once a week.

 

Six months later, when Peter came over for his second visit, he was wearing a shalwar qameez. "As-sa-la-mo alai-kum," he said, as he came into the living room. His family had arrived in September, as planned, but his two children could not adjust to the city and had returned to Canada. His wife was here. She had taken a year off her job. "We looked for schools in Lahore," he explained, "but it was not worth entering into a new system for a couple of years. The American school was good and we had them going there but they just could not live here,"  he said. "But with email, and net2phone, we're daily in contact with them." His wife stayed home or went out shopping. "We have an excellent cook," he said. His wife had learned to cook a few Pakistani dishes.

 

This time Peter was less enthusiastic about his project. He missed his children and although his wife was doing alright, he knew that there was not much for her to do in Lahore and she was missing her children more than him. But it was only five more months until they both went home to spend a month of paid leave.

 

In the meanwhile, they lived in this luxurious bungalow in one of the choicest localities of the city. They had a cook, a mali, a laundryman, a chawkidar and a driver--all ready to do whatever they were told to. Peter had never dreamt of such royal treatment. In Canada, he shared household tasks with his wife. He earned a reasonable salary but twenty-five percent of it went to the government as taxes and whatever was left was sufficient for a decent but not a royal living.

 

"There are problems," he said referring to his project, "unnecessary problems. System is very corrupt and very slow. I cannot get things done the way I want to and if I did the way they want me to do it, I would have to sacrifice a lot of what I cherish."

 

"But the Chief Minister," I reminded him.

 

"Yes," he said with a tinge of sadness, "yes, he is keen but he has too many things on his plate and when it comes down to getting things done, you have to deal with the section officers who know it all. Eventually, you end up spending a lot of time in unnecessary issues. But we are moving ahead and hopefully it will all work out."

 

He was still hopeful. Genuinely so. But the grand vision he had presented to me in his first meeting and the enthusiasm and the force of conviction was absent. Also gone was the lofty purpose behind the well-paid job which had given it a noble character: He had come to a third world country with plans to provide a solid base for the development of manpower which would be useful in the twenty-first century. After twenty-five years of experience as an educator, he was finally going to apply what he had learned in text books about education in third world.

 

He had been sick twice. The usual water-born diseases. His wife had gone through even more severe sickness but all was well now except that he had started to miss Canadian winters and his parents' small farm where he had grown up and where he went at least twice every year.

 

Our next and final meeting happened a week before Peter was returning to Canada after completion of his contract. His last year was shortened to eleven months because according to the terms of his employment, he was entitled to a month of holidays every year and by then was ready to leave.

Peter was sad and extremely perturbed. He had spent twenty-three months of his life on a project which did not go anywhere. He had made a lot of money. His contract was ending and he had a job to return to but something was not right. His conscience was not clear. On that night, he was ready to talk for he knew it was our last meeting.

 

"I don't know why," he said, "but I have been just running in circles. I feel bad about it. I have been paid well and I think I have tried my best but we just could not get things going."

 

His wife had left after a year. His children had already returned to Canada before she went and since then he had lived alone in the four bedroom bungalow he had set up for his family. The strain on family relations was obvious but that was not what perturbed Peter. There was something deeper.

 

He knew the money he had earned would galvanize whatever strains had appeared in the family life. He also knew that he would go back to what he had missed but there was a sense of irreparable damage which nagged him.

 

"I have talked to a lot of foreigners here," he said, "most of them spend the first quarter of their two years in settling and adjusting, the second in absorbing shocks, the third in trying to preserve their sanity and the fourth in preparing to leave."

 

He looked into the air, trying to find answers. "What is the point of all this?" he finally asked. "That is what I don't understand."

 

Peter returned to Canada. We stayed in touch for a few months, then the frequency of messages decreased and finally we stopped writing to each other. He now lives in his familiar surroundings perhaps still with unresolved questions about his twenty-three month sojourn in Pakistan while the economic managers of our country negotiate with the World Bank to bring more Peters who would add to the debt burden of the coming generations.

 

 

Published on dec 4, 1998

 

Viewing Pakistan from abroad

Dr Muzaffar Iqbal

Seen from the bottom of the mountain, they looked like signposts stationed at strategic positions all along the path to the top. In fact, they were Pakistani men, women and children who had come to Saudi Arabia on Umrah visas and who were now sitting on the way to the top of Jabal al-Noor, the mountain which has the cave of Hira at its top where the last Prophet (peace be upon him) received his first revelation in 610 AD. "One riyal," they ask as pilgrims to the cave pass by them, "One riyal, May Allah accept your Umrah."

I stop by a ten year old girl and ask her questions. She is shy and reluctant to answer but in a few minutes warms up. She was there with her father, mother and two brothers. They had come from interior Sindh. Her mother sat a few feet away with a baby in her lap and looked at us uneasily. "Some times 40, some times 50," she said in answer to my question about how many riyals she made every day. She was a fair coloured girl with long black hair and intelligent eyes but when she raised her voice to the passing pilgrims, it was pathetic. She contrived to make it as pitiable as possible.

Her name was Samina, a ten-year-old Pakistani who became a metaphor for the country during my recent trip to the Gulf states.

Samina was not alone. There were hundreds of them. They sit on the tracks going up the sacred sites or roam around the streets of Makkah, playing hide and seek with the local police. All around the Haram area and other sites where pilgrims go, one finds them begging for riyals. They represent the plight of a nation which has lost all self-respect and whose citizens have been forced to live in abject poverty and self-denial. But it is not just poverty that has made these Pakistanis lose their self esteem. There are other nations far poorer than ours but one does not find their citizens begging in foreign lands.

It takes more than poverty to produce a sizeable body of citizens who would flee their native country at whatever cost and do all kinds of menial jobs in their new places of residence. In the Gulf countries, Pakistanis are sweeping floors, cleaning toilets and collecting garbage. These are mostly young men. They earn paltry sums. Most of them manage to go there by borrowing money and then become hostage to their circumstances which do not allow them to return nor let them earn enough to save for a future business. They merely struggle to survive. Born in a country whose Prime Minister boasts of being the seventh atomic power, hundreds of Saminas are wasting their childhoods in the oil rich countries where their parents do menial jobs, beg or languish in jails.

 

These children do not have a chance. Their fates were sealed right at the time of their birth. Their parents were not only poor, they were also men and women who had lost their self respect in a feudal system which has remained intact even in the post-independence period. The reconstruction of Pakistan's identity as a nation has never been attempted. The independence has been merely a change of command from the hands of fair skinned rulers to the ones with darker skins.

What is the cause of this phenomenon? Why have we failed to prevent Samina and her little brother to sit on the rocky path to Hira, the holy cave, and raise their piteous voices to the passing pilgrims? These children of misfortune deserve a national response to their pathetic existence.

Viewed from outside, Pakistan appears to be a failed state whose only response to its crisis is to beg. The state begs, its citizens beg, its institutions beg and its leaders beg. There are different names for begging but they all amount to the same thing. A country where no one has the courage to spell out the exact dimensions of the national misfortune cannot be expected to come out of it.

Girls like Samina are living metaphors of a reality so painful that in any civilized society it would immediately initiate a process of inquiry at the highest level. They are children without a childhood. They are products of a society which is full of contradictions and internal conflicts. A country whose leadership never tires of talking about Islam and Shariah but where the most fundamental teachings of Islam are being trampled with disdain.

The real tragedy of contemporary Pakistani society is its failure to evolve effective means of reconstruction of a national identity which could produce self respect and dignity. Everywhere outside Pakistan, one comes across degrading incidents which are a direct result of the low esteem in which the country is held by others: the immigration officer who double checks your passport to make sure the visa is not forged; the custom officer who goes through your luggage meticulously to look for concealed drugs and the average citizen of the foreign country who looks down on you because of the image he or she has of your country.

All these are painful reminders of a much greater tragedy which no one is willing to acknowledge: as a nation, we have failed to develop an identity which would make us respectable citizen of the world community.

Pakistan from abroad seems to be immersed in a state of chaos and confusion. National goals are not sufficiently clear. Various groups, which hold political power, are engrossed in issues which are merely on the surface. Deep rooted problems of the country are not even being mentioned. Only the most apparent signs of cancer, which is spreading rapidly, are being viewed as the whole malady.

 

The society which is producing Samina and her little brothers is surely bound to disintegrate if corrective measures are not taken. But those who have been entrusted with the task of steering the country seem to be totally unaware of the ground realities. The fundamental issues confronting the nation are simply being ignored and the peripherals have been pushed to the centre stage.

At this time of our national life, what is needed is a long-term plan of national reconstruction which can be agreed upon by all the major parties. This developmental plan should be evolved as a national priority. (As expected, the government's vision 2010 has proved to be mere slogan and it is apparent that there is no real vision behind the farce.) The need to evolve a national agenda through a process of consultation among the representatives of all segments of society has never been so urgent as it is now. This national agenda can then be implemented through an institutional setup which should be independent of politics.

Samina and her little brothers are still sitting on the path to the top of the mountain where the first verses of the Qur'aan were revealed which commanded the Prophet to read. They are children of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan where the government has avowed to enforce Shariah. They are children without a childhood, human beings without human dignity, Muslims without the benefit of fraternity of believers.

Only a visionary process of nation building can bring an end to this humiliating sight of small children going off to foreign lands to beg.

--------

Dr. Muzaffar Iqbal

 

December 14, 1998

Published on Dec. 19, 1998 as

An inexorable legacy

 

 

Why the has State Failed?

 

On July 18, 1947, the King of England gave his ascent to an Act of British Parliament which amended the Government of India Act 1935, providing the legal framework for the creation of two states in the subcontinent. Twenty-seven days later, the State of Pakistan came into existence. It inherited all the state institutions which were established by the British to rule over the vast native population. The governing principle of this hierarchical structure was to de-franchise the natives and concentrate power in the hands of the few who were selected and trained through a rigorous process which confirmed their loyalty to the Raj. The Viceroy was at the apex of this hierarchy. He held authority and power over the whole machinery which successfully ruled India for ninety years.

 

It took Pakistan more than eight years to frame its first constitution but this long and tedious process, which culminated in the form of the 1956 Constitution, proved to be a total loss because it was never given a chance. The first Martial Law was declared in 1958 and the questions relating to the nature of constitution, the form of government and the division of power between the centre and the provinces, which had dominated national life for more than eight years, were thrown overboard within hours. One man had decided to impose his Law on the whole nation.

 

But this process was only at one level. At another level, the state machinery which had been inherited from the Raj had remained operative. In some cases, names were changed (like ICS to CSP) but the nature of state institutions and the philosophy behind their functioning remained unchanged.

 

The Raj controlled the country through an intricate establishment which relied on the loyalty of Commissioners and Deputy Commissioners, SP's and SSp's, collectors of customs and Patwaris. These were there not to serve the natives but to serve the Raj. Those who were obliged to take oath, did so by pledging their loyalty to the Raj. The same institutions remained operative after the so-called Independence with the same mentality, only the white skins were replaced by darker skins.

 

The Northwest Railways, for example, was a state department which was established to facilitate better control of the country by the British officers by providing them luxurious means of travel. The boggies were equipped with commodes, first class salons provided private compartments to the officers of the royal bureaucracy and, as a side benefit, natives were also allowed to travel but it was not considered to be their right. Travelling by rail was a privilege, not a right.

Pakistan Railways not only inherited the tracks and locomotive sheds, it also inherited the mentality and the operating philosophy of the Raj. While all over the world, railways became the most important means of public transport, providing clients services with an aim to serve and do business, railway travel in Pakistan remained and still remains at the mercy of black skin Babus who would not sell you a ticket if they don't feel like it. A good example is the railcar plying between Rawalpindi and Lahore. A customer who pays the fare should be able to reserve a seat and it should be simple business transaction. But the Raj mentality prevents that. There are regulations which allow for ticket sales only up to fifteen days before the travel; tickets can only be purchased from the place where the journey begins and one cannot buy a round trip ticket. In short, travelling by rail is not a business transaction where one pays money to buy a service; it is looked upon as a privilege at the mercy of the Babus. Only a Raj mentality can devise such rules.

 

It is hard to believe that scores of ministers, highly educated secretaries of railway and hordes of officers have come and gone but they did not know how to devise a system which would work in an efficient manner, providing citizens a respectable means of travel. No, it is not that. It is simply the continuity of an attitude which treats citizens as if they are less than human beings.

 

From telephone department to the land titles' offices, there is no state institution in Pakistan which is based on the philosophy of serving people. So while politicians have made mockery of the very concept of an independent state, the institutions of the British Raj have quietly continue to operate.

 

It is not so much due to the lack of enough intelligence in those who head state corporations that a significant number of human beings have to stand in long queues under the scorching sun to pay utility bills; it is the Raj mentality which has prevented the emergence of simple solutions which would make the payment of these bills a dignified and efficient exercise. The officers of the state corporations which are responsible for providing citizens with essential services such as the supply of water, electricity and gas do not see themselves as public servants, drawing salaries and perks out of public funds; they have inherited the Raj mentality which ensures them that they are somehow superior to the natives and need not bother with finding solutions for the problems they are causing to the public.

 

A direct consequence of this situation is waste of enormous amount of national time. Those who sit in the offices of the state institutions are there not to serve but to create hurdles and play gods. Those who are unfortunate to get trapped, waste away their lives running between ketcheries and thanas.

 

The underlying cause of this barbaric treatment of citizenry is the fact that no one in the State of Pakistan has ever tried to change the operating principles of state machinery. The ICS officers of the Raj saw themselves as an extension of the Raj; the state functionaries of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan see themselves as superior to the rest of humanity; even the nomenclature smacks of this inhuman and barbaric mentality: the superior services of Pakistan.

 

The state machinery operates on a hierarchical principle with the concentration of power in few hands. As a result what is done by one person in most offices of western countries, requires several persons in Pakistan. Banks, utility corporations, customs offices, land revenue departments and scores of other client services are based on the principle that the lower ranks cannot be trusted and at each and every step, a higher "officer" has to verify documents and counter sign. (Ironically, it is generally the higher ranks where the corruption is most prevalent.)

 

During the Raj, access to information, higher education and entertainment were considered to be privileges of a select group of the population. The same mentality persists in the state governed institutions of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. During the British Raj, all radio sets had to be licensed by the state. The advent of transistors made a mockery of this law for now every citizen had access to affordable pocket-size transistor sets, but the law to obtain license has remained on the books. When television arrived, the State of Pakistan passed an ordinance which made it compulsory for every owner to get a license from the state corporation. This law is still in existence at the dawn of the twenty-first century, which  promises to be a century of information. In fact, while you read this column, inspectors are going door to door, checking TV licenses. During the previous weeks, the state of Pakistan has spent thousands of rupees on newspaper advertisements warning the citizens of the dire consequences of not having a license. The salaries of the employees, the expenses on maintaining huge offices with records of TV licenses and the cost of newspaper advertisements must be more than what the government would get from license fees. But it is not money, not even common sense that matters; it is the mentality behind such archaic regulations which has contributed toward the presence of a state machinery totally out of synch with time.

 

The same is true for the postal service. The British left an excellent system but they also put certain mechanisms in place which ensured that the ruling elite had control over what goes through the postal system and how. One such mechanism required that all parcels had to be wrapped in cloth, sewed and sealed with sealing wax. In 1998, parcel post still requires that packages be sewed in fabric and stamped with sealing wax!

 

The monarch loved to send messages to the subjects. Festivals and significant religious occasions were the best times to do so. As the month of Ramadan approaches, section officers in the Prime Minister's Secretariat and at the Presidency are digging out old files to copy messages of greetings to the nation which would repeat clichés and worn out phrases. These messages were drafted decades ago. They will make headlines, one more time and then go back to their dusty old files. Repeated year after year, they have lost every single iota of the spirit of the blessed month but they would continue to be the burden of the collective consciousness of the nation.

 

The state has failed not only because of the politicians; it has failed because the operating principles behind the state machinery have never been devised to work in an independent state in which citizens have some rights and privileges. The state institutions have been performing scores of routines which first made their appearance during the Raj. There are literally hundreds of statutes which go back to the previous century. As a result, a suffocating atmosphere prevails in the country which is devoid of intellectual creativity. The society is breathing an air which has no oxygen left and the petrified collective body is decaying in the absence of fresh ideas which sustain societies and nations.