The decisive year
Dr Muzaffar Iqbal
Sixteen months later, the writing on the wall clearly shows a grand failure of the first order on all seven counts. National morale is at its lowest, federation is under tremendous pressure as more and more voices are being heard about provincial autonomy and Punjabi-Sindhi differences have become a rallying point in the background of the comparisons being made about the treatment meted out to a Sindhi and a Punjabi prime minister.
As for the revival of economy, the proverbial common man knows more than anyone else what that means. The recent hike in petroleum prices not withstanding, the economy has been going down at a steady pace.
The fourth point on the General Musharraf's agenda was law and order and speedy justice. Even if we attribute the recent series of bomb blasts over Eid holidays to RAW, a simple count of the number of people killed during the last sixteen months in terrorist acts would suffice to prove that the fabric of Pakistani society is tearing apart.
The fifth point was depoliticisation of state institutions. A simple glance at the appointments made during the last sixteen months would show that this agenda item should be read as: filling of state institutions by serving and ex-military personnel.
The sixth point on the list was the famous devolution of power to the grassroots level and that is where he has kept his promise. The grand plan is unfolding right in front of our eyes and the results of the recently held elections for the local bodies are indicative of the direction in which the country is being pushed. Even if we disregard the pathetic voter turn out, it is obvious that no one is buying this sham democracy. The plan is flawed to the core and all it can do is erect cardboard caricatures in the name of grassroots democracy--caricatures which would crumble with the first blows of a mass reaction.
But perhaps nothing is more telling about the state of affairs during the last sixteen months than what has been made of the last point on the agenda: the promise of swift and across the board accountability.
mockery of accountability reached its peak in the deal made by the generals
with the man who was allowed to leave the country with 22 crates of his
possessions, including the prized stuffed lions. This was the final blow to all
who have been pointing out basic flaws in the accountability process all along could have been ignored had this sham not reached its limits in that departure of the man who was overthrown on October 12.
What is most painful in this deal is that no court of law was consulted, no moral principles were observed. What is more, the act was "legitimised" by the state institutions after it had been accomplished. The hand-picked ministers put their seal of approval on this mockery and the president signed whatever was placed before him. What was achieved was a shattering blow to the sanctity of institutions.
his address to the nation about the Nawaz Sharif affair, General Musharraf
seemed to be making a claim that God has appointed him to correct
these events make the year 2000 a decisive year for
Without institutions in which people have faith, the only alternative is anarchy. A rapidly deteriorating economy, lack of any institutional support for the emergence of a civil society and rule by decrees issued by a few individuals are the most glaring realities of contemporary
This ploy has often been used to gain short-term personal benefits. If they were really serious in their programmes, these parties would have established modern religious educational institutions from where a new generation of religious scholars would have emerged with the requisite qualifications for implementation of Islamic code of life in the contemporary life. Instead of taking that positive road, all that the religious leadership has done is create fear and hence alienation.
image of the gun-totting bearded youth has become synonymous with
implementation of Islam. This image, a far cry from Islamic teachings, has
taken a permanent position in the overall picture of contemporary
Friday, January 19, 2001 -- Shawal 23,1421
The battle for Islam
Dr Muzaffar Iqbal
Unless the government enforces Islam by such and such date, we will march on to Islamabad" is the usual rhetoric one hears in popular press these days. But to be exact, this or similar rhetoric has been making headlines off and on throughout Pakistan's existence as a sovereign state.
The fact that no one takes these claims seriously is also an open secret. There is always a last minute postponement of the march (as it happened again this past Ramadan) and there is always a last minute reassurance by one or the other minister which serves to save face for all concerned.
The net result is that now no one takes these threats seriously--neither the government, nor the masses nor those who make these claims. By now, everyone has realised that behind these threats, there is always another agenda. One recalls painfully the statement of retired General Naseerullah Babar, shortly after the fall of Benazir's last government, about a certain Maulana's visits to Islamabad. This Maulana was in the habit of making loud statements about women's rule being against Islam. After a few public meetings, he would dash off to Islamabad for a personal visit with BB who would pay him his price. According to General Babar, one day he went to BB in exasperation and told her to hand over the keys of the State Bank to the Maulana.
But this is merely a side issue. The serious question for our deliberation is the grand failure of Islamists in formulating a workable plan for Islamisation of Pakistani society. In global terms, this is a question that most Muslim countries face today. How is Islam relevant in the contemporary world and how do we translate the vision of Islam into a practical reality across the whole range of Muslim societies?
Let us start with Pakistan. Historically speaking, Pakistan represents a unique synthesis of the dynamic civilizational currents that had flown into the subcontinent over more than a millennium. These currents were the product of the interaction of the Islamic civilization with the local Indian traditions. They gave birth to a new language (Urdu), transformed existing languages such as Sindhi, Pashto and Baluchi and produced an intricate system of symbolism and metrical rules for the expression of human emotions in these languages.
Thus in the process of Islamisation of the subcontinent over a long period of time, a natural process of cultural evolution produced a new culture which was distinct from the Indian culture. This was an argument used by Iqbal and subsequently by many other leaders for their demand of a separated homeland for Muslims of the subcontinent.
The ancient land routes that passed through this region served as an important medium in the cultivation of a tradition that emerged from the rich and enchanting world of Middle Eastern and South Asian folklore, legends, myths and tales. This historical development is unique in many respects and can only be understood in its proper context. Its uniqueness highlights the fact that the cultural heritage of Pakistani people is not necessarily defined by the geographical boundaries of the present day Pakistan.
Instead, like the ideological basis of the state, the Pakistani culture reaches out to its ancestral roots for its nourishment and growth. Its sources of inspiration not only lie in the immediate surroundings but also in the geographically remote regions from where it has incorporated a rich blend of Mesopotamian and Mediterranean traditions.
As the product of a dramatic encounter of major civilizations, Pakistan is a unique experiment in world history. Its geographical setting is also as unique as its cultural ethos: vast plains, deserts filled with glaring solitude and snow-capped mountains enveloped with ice from the prehistoric times.
But all of these marvelous facts about Pakistan have been overshadowed by a grand failure which involves everyone: politicians, intellectuals, institutions and religious groups. At the root of this grand failure lies the dilemma of implementation of a plan that would produce that grand society which many envisioned at the time of country's turbulent birth but which none could translate into reality.
And it is at this level that Pakistan's continuous struggle with the issue of Islamisation has a global element; the failure to translate wide-spread emotional and spiritual yearnings of millions of Muslims into viable and effective institutional structures is a dilemma faced by all fifty-six Muslim States. There are many reasons for this. But to keep the question in manageable proportions, let us concentrate on Pakistan for now.
Pakistan came into existence through a movement that was dominated by personalities rather than ideologies. This is not to belittle the fact that there were strong ideological undercurrents in the independence movement. Iqbal had given an eloquent expression to these underpinnings in his 1930 presidential address. What is being said is simply this: at the time of country's independence, there was no practical plan to translate these broad ideologies into reality.
No one thought beyond the moment when a line would appear on the world map, dividing India into two sovereign states. No one developed an institutional map of the new country, no one charted the course of the new state or its polity. Everyone involved in the Pakistan Movement was concerned with only one question: independence. No doubt, it was a question of tremendous and fatal proportion but had the Independence Movement been grounded in solid ideological foundations, there would have been a group of thinkers and planners who would have charted the course of events beyond August 14th, 1947.
In the absence of a well thought out plan, the journey toward Pakistan became a highly idealised and utopian journey. At the level of masses, it was taken as a journey to the promised land. The underlying assumption was that once we get the promised land, everything will be fine.
At the level of political leadership, there was a similar trend and the whirlwind of events that shook the Indian subcontinent between the end of second World War and August 1947, totally obscured the practical realities of the post-independence period.
As a result, Pakistan came into existence in an atmosphere filled with utopian hopes and idealism. But once the line had been drawn and the Indian subcontinent had been partitioned, there arose a huge vacuum in the newly independent state of Pakistan--a vacuum of tremendous proportions which demanded a quick response. This was the vacuum created by the need for establishment of state institutions which run contemporary nation states.
In the absence of a pre-conceived and well-planned structure, this vacuum was filled with the pre-Partition structures which quickly took over and having re-established themselves in the new state, became the defining character of the country whose ideological aspirations required a fundamentally different institutional setup. This gave birth to an impasse which has not been resolved during the last fifty-two years.
Thus, at the heart of contemporary battle for Islam lies a historical reality which needs to be seriously explored before any headway can be made.
But that is only one aspect of the current dilemma. Another, and perhaps far more serious dilemma lies in the fact that not a single religious party or group in Pakistan has been able to present a practical plan for the establishment of an Islamic state in the twenty-first century. This grand failure of Pakistan's religious leadership requires a thorough analysis which will be looked into in another article.
The author is Regional Director for the Muslim World, CTNS and President, Centre for Islam and Science
Islam, Pakistan and Muslims
Dr Muzaffar Iqbal
On August 14, 1947, when the state of Pakistan formally came into existence, there were no blueprints or plans for the establishment of new institutions which would be responsible for translating the grand vision of Islam into a practical reality. There was not even a theoretical framework for such institutions.
The state came into existence through a chaotic process that had reached its enormously unmanageable pace during the few months leading up to the deadline of August 14th. As a result of riots, massacres and mass movement of population, the government of the nascent Republic of Pakistan was immediately inundated by a task beyond its capacity. Millions of refugees were coming, each with his or her tale of sorrow. The immediate task required emergency measures; no one had time for anything but to look after the basic needs of food, shelter and other provisions.
It was somewhere in that initial phase of Pakistan's existence, that the ideal of an Islamic State was lost. During those initial months, in the midst of tremendous human sacrifices, there appeared the specter of land claims, appropriation of properties left behind by Hindus and Sikhs and the vice of greed that would make many into instant millionaires. Perhaps it was inevitable.
The time between 1940 and 1947 was the most precious time for the formulation of a cohesive plan for the establishment of Islamic institutions in the new state. But there was neither the leadership, nor the human resources needed to spell out a clear plan for this process. The reasons are obvious. Those who were at the forefront of political struggle, had neither the qualifications nor the desire to establish an Islamic state. As a result of this situation, the borderline that appeared on the world map on the 14th of August was merely a physical border.
Contrary to emotionally held belief, we must ascertain that Pakistan was not an ideological state at birth, at least not in any concrete sense; it was merely a state carved out on the basis of a vague but popular formulation of an ideal which was never spelled out in concrete terms. At the level of masses, there was the desire and tremendous sacrifices were made to establish an Islamic state, but that was all there was. The greatest failure at that decisive time lay in the nature and quality of religious education in the subcontinent. A close look at these foundational problems would be helpful.
Organised Islamic education system in the Indian subcontinent was introduced at a time when the golden age of learning had already passed. One of the most influential curricula of Islamic education, the famous Dars-e-Nizami, was issued by Mulla Nizam al-Din (d. 1747) of the Firangi Mahal madrassa in Lucknow. This nine to ten year syllabus of middle to higher education included sixteen different subjects and eighty-four works in all. This curriculum included Arabic grammar (12 works); rhetoric (3 works); prosody (1); logic (10 works); philosophy (4 works); Arabic literature (prose and poetry, 7 works); theology (5 works); history of Islam (3 works); medicine (4 works); astronomy (2 works); geometry (twenty chapters of Euclid); art of disputation (1); law (8); jurisprudence (96); law of inheritance (1); principles of Hadith (1); Hadith (10); principles of Qur'aan interpretation (1) and four commentaries of the Qur'aan.
The second syllabus of religious education was the one developed by Shah Wali Allah of Delhi (d. 1762). This leaned toward traditional Islamic studies and included law, theology and Hadith and surprisingly, Sufism. These two syllabi form the basis of practically all madrassa syllabi until today. Of course there are various combinations and modifications but the core has remained the same with one notable exception: the study of Hadith in the subcontinent had received a new impulse thanks to the works of Abd al-Haqq of Delhi, who was to be honored with the title of Muhadith. Under the influence of Shah Wali Allah and his sons, Hadith literature received more importance.
The scholars who descended from the school of Shah Wali Allah, established the famous Deoband seminary in UP in northern India in the latter half of the nineteenth century. In marked contrast to this school of thought, there arose another school, located in the town of Bareli and hence generally known as Barelvi school which emphasised popular beliefs in the power of saints and mythification of the Prophet of Islam. A third school that emerged in time was that of Ahl-e-Hadith.
Thus at the time of establishment of Pakistan, there existed 137 madrassas belonging to three dominate Sunni religious schools: the Deobandi, the Ahl-e-Hadith and the Barelavi. In addition, there were some Shia madrassas. This number was to increase dramatically in the following decades, but without any serious changes to the central core of the syllabi taught, with a few notable exceptions, mostly based in big cities. The students who come out of these madrassas have become a symbol in the form of Taliban of Afghanistan. And those elements in Pakistan who dread them, never tire of raising the specter of Pakistani Taliban but no one is particularly serious about looking at the deeper roots of this phenomenon. Neither the government, nor the religious parties.
At the root of emergence of Taliban, lies the educational curricula which is characteristically static. Those who suffer this curricula for ten to fifteen years of the most formative period of their lives, cannot be expected to behave in any other way.
The reality is simply this: Education remains the most neglected and most abused area of Pakistan's state policies. In the recent decades, private educational institutions of all kinds have sprung up, in response to market demand. This situation arose through the failure of state educational system which remained static and neglected throughout Pakistan's history.
With the rise of private educational institutions, education has become a big business in which the name of the game is money. A close look at what is being taught in schools shows that in spite of Pakistan's avowed Islamic ideology, parents and students gravitate toward those educational institutions that are established on the western models. With few exceptions, only those students who cannot afford to go to these new schools go to madrassas.
Madrassa education also remains a dead end. Those who come out of madrassas can neither speak Arabic nor English. Their knowledge of the contemporary world and its complexities is often rudimentary and they cannot find jobs except in mosques and madrassas. For all practical purposes, they remain a subclass of society. Their services are utilised on occasions of marriage or death but they do not form the mainstream of urban society -- people who go to offices and run state institutions.
This brief sketch leads us to pose serious questions: Do Pakistanis really aspire to become citizens of an Islamic state? Where are the scholars and institutions that are required to establish an Islamic state in the twenty-first century? Is there any real and substantive foundation on which the contemporary religious leadership can demand implementation of Islam from the government?
The author is Regional Director for the Muslim World, CTNS and President, Centre for Islam and Science
Friday, February 16, 2001 -- Ziqa'ad 21,1421
The custodians of power
Dr Muzaffar Iqbal
Politicians, army, judiciary and the bureaucracy are the four custodians of power in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Between them, they have appropriated the right to rule over a population whose existence has always been in peril. But all four institutions of state power now stand at a point where public confidence in them is at its lowest ebb. In the absence of public trust and confidence, institutions cannot hold any legitimate authority.
Among the four, it is the politicians who share the burden of failure because it is their failure that brought the other institutions into the high drama. But why did the politicians fail and who are these people? Politics in Pakistan came into the hands of landowners because they claimed to be the representatives of people during the British Raj. Apart from Jinnah and a handful of his associates, the Muslim League was nothing but nawabs and nawab zadas. Thus, it was the zamindars and waderas of the British Raj who controlled the assemblies in the early years of Pakistan. They had emerged on the power scene over centuries in a society where education was held back from people and economic strength and brute force determined the claims to power.
Nothing changed with the creation of a separate state. Nothing could because soon after the establishment of Pakistan, political leadership was involved in an infighting which had nothing higher than petty interests at stake. After the death of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Khwaja Nazimuddin became the Governor General with Liaqat Ali Khan as the prime minister. But Nazimuddin could not fit the role of Jinnah, nor could he be the ceremonial head of the state that he should have been under the parliamentary system of government. The infighting was centered around the game of constitution making which was basically a struggle for control. The Objectives Resolution had led to the creation of the Basic Principles Committee (BPC) which was supposed to draft the constitution. But it could not.
This failure brought a new player in the game: Pakistan's elite Civil Service, the "Black Goras". The Civil Service of Pakistan (CSP) had been chosen from among the Indian Civil Service (ICS) and it consisted of people who ran state institutions on a day to day basis. In the absence of a strong political leadership, these civil servants became increasingly more powerful and eventually they became the kingmakers. The fate of the country was sealed in October 1951 when Liaqat Ali Khan was assassinated while addressing a public meeting in Rawalpindi. His assassin was instantaneously killed by a police officer who was himself murdered several years later in what remains an enigmatic case. Scotland Yard was brought in to assist in the investigation but nothing was ever uncovered.
The vacuum of political leadership thus created quickly brought in the third player: the army. After Liaqat Ali's assassination, Nazimuddin, who was considered a weak and docile man from Bengal quickly stepped down from the Governor Generalship to become the prime minister while the finance minister, Ghulam Muhammad, assumed the post of Governor General. Ghulam Muhammad had no political constituency; he was not even a Leaguer. He was sick but his ill-health did not deter him to strike at his enemies.
But the biggest blunder was committed by Nazimuddin himself. While addressing a public meeting in Dhaka, he carelessly announced the intention of his government to declare Urdu the national language of Pakistan. This was seen as the final coup de grace by the already feverish Bengali population. Rioting broke out all over the city and the army had to be brought in to stifle demonstrations. This was followed by riots in Karachi where force was again needed.
But this was just the beginning. The 1953 rioting in the wake of the Ahmadiya movement controversy engulfed the Punjab and within a span of a few days the whole province was ablaze. Nazimuddin had neither the ability, nor the backing to deal with this situation; the army was again called but just when matters seemed to be resolving, Ghulam Mohammad dispatched the government of Nazimuddin in what became the first of several civil coups in the history of Pakistan.
But the worst was still to come. In the first provincial elections held in East Pakistan, the Muslim League was dealt its death knell: it won a grand total of 10 seats as opposed to 223 seats by the combined opposition parties, the United Front. But the United Front did not prove to be united when it came to harvest the spoils and though Fazlul Haq formed the government, he was never a leader.
Within months, his government proved to be totally ineffective when rioting broke out in and around Chittagong and in the industrial areas south of Dhaka. Several non-Bengali managers were killed and Ghulam Muhammad found it convenient to sack the government of Fazlul Haq. This time, the army received its first official seal of approval: Martial law was imposed and Iskander Mirza, a former Army officer, political agent in the Frontier Province and Pakistan's first Defence Secretary, became the ruler of East Pakistan.
The fourth player in Pakistan's power politics, the judiciary, was brought in when the other three brought the whole state to a standstill. This is how this drama unfolded: By now, the central administration of the country had been seized by the bureaucrats and through Ghulam Muhammad's leadership, they had become organized to rule the country. Muhammad Ali Bogra had succeeded Nazimuddin as Prime Minister but the real power remained in the hands of Ghulam Muhammad and his technocrats.
A plan was devised by the Muslim leaguers to pass a series of enactments in the Constituents Assembly (which also substituted for the National Assembly), to limit the powers of the Governor-General. Ghulam Muhammad was not the one to suffer such tactics, he joined hands with General Muhammad Ayub Khan, the commander-in-chief of the Pakistan Army and dissolved the Constituent Assembly. It was the beginning of the end: the country would henceforth be ruled through executive orders. This also gave chance to the fourth player to step in. The decision was challenged and the Supreme Court of Pakistan upheld the dissolution of the Assembly and sealed the fate of the nascent democracy.
Then Ghulam Muhammad had a stroke and Iskander Mirza returned from his eastern sojourn, ready to take charge. The die had been cast. The second Constitution Assembly was elected, even a constitution was adopted but between 1956 and the autumn of 1958, Pakistan's state system collapsed from a decade of incessant fighting and the grand vision of the country was pushed under the blanket of a nightmare which imposed one man's rule over the entire populace.
In October 1958, when General Ayub Khan brought the curtain down on Pakistan's short-lived affair with democracy, he not only abrogated the Constitution and banished Mirza, he also enacted the last Act of the tragic drama in which the final words would be spoken by one of his successors in Khaki on another October day. But between these two Octobers, lie ashes of hopes and dreams of millions of men and women, whose suffering and sacrifices will remain unsung.
The author is the President of the Centre for Islam and Science
Friday, March 02, 2001 -- ZilHaj 06,1421
The spirit of sacrifice
Dr Muzaffar Iqbal
Once again the pilgrims are gathering in the inviolable city of Makkah. Once again, more than two million human beings are preparing to stand before their Lord on the Day of Arafah in response to an invitation which has been extended to all of us: "And proclaim unto all people, the Pilgrimage: they will come unto thee on foot and on every (kind of) fast mount, coming from every faraway point (on earth)."
The Haj is the oldest continuous rite in the human history. It celebrates the covenant which God established with his chosen friend, Ibrahim (may Allah's blessings be upon him), the one whom Allah honoured with intimate communication and called him Hanif and Khalil. He commanded Ibrahim to build a house of worship and to keep it pure for those who stand, bend and prostrate and He told Ibrahim to proclaim Haj and told him that people will come to the house from far and near, on foot and on lean camels so that they may benefit and remember Allah.
Ibrahim (may Allah's peace and blessings be upon him) obeyed his Lord and built the house. Then he left his son and wife near the house and thus prayed: "O my Lord: May this city be city of peace and security and preserve me and my offsprings from serving idols. My Lord, these idols have indeed led astray many among mankind. O my Lord! I have made some of my offspring to dwell in a valley without cultivation, by the sacred house, in order, My Lord, that they may establish regular prayer. So fill the hearts of some among men with love towards them and feed them with fruits so that they may give thanks."
"O Lord, truly you know what we conceal and what we reveal for nothing is hidden from Allah, whether on earth or in heaven. Praise be to Allah, who granted me in old age Ismai'l and Ishaq, truly my Lord is He, the Hearer of prayer.
"O my Lord! make me and my offspring steadfast in prayer. O my Lord! accept my prayer and cover me and my parents and all believers with thy forgiveness on the Day of Reckoning."
Hundreds of years after these events, thousands of Muslims are once again gathering in the blessed city. They will follow the rites of Haj, just as these have been followed for centuries. They will remember the Sa'i of Ismail's mother (may Allah bless her) when she ran between al-Safa and al-Marwah and praise and thank Allah for Zamzam which flew out of a barren ground.
Ibrahim (pbuh) was prepared for the supreme test that his Lord had reserved for him so that He may leave it as a sign and a lesson for generations to come. When he received a vision regarding this ultimate test of his loyalty and steadfastness, he said to his son: "O my son! I see, in a vision, that I offer thee in sacrifice. Now see what is thy view!"
The son said: "O my father, Do as thou art commanded, Thou will find me, if God wills, among those who are steadfast."
When they had both submitted their wills Ibrahim (SA) had laid his son prostrate on his forehead, Allah called out to Ibrahim:
"O Ibrahim! Thou has already fulfilled the vision! Thus indeed We reward those who do right. For this was a trial and We ransomed him with a momentous sacrifice. And We left this blessing for him among generations to come in later times. Peace and Salutation to Ibrahim."
The pilgrims will remember this supreme act of faith and, following the rites, will sacrifice after the day of Arafah. They will be joined in this action by millions of other Muslims all around the world. But beyond these rituals, the Haj has another, much deeper, significance. It presents a unique opportunity of an inner transformation of the human soul, an opportunity to turn toward God, to realign oneself and to re-establish the primordial covenant.
The Haj also has a historical significance for it was on the day of Arafah, that the Prophet of Islam had delivered that historic sermon which had proclaimed that all humans are equal. On that day, the Prophet (may Allah's peace and blessings be upon him) was mounted on his camel as he proceeded to the Mount of Arafah; he was followed by all the pilgrims. On the east side of the mountain, at a spot called Namirah, he pitched his tent and stayed there until the sun passed the zenith. Then he rode his camel until he reached the valley of Uranah. There, sitting on his camel, he had addressed his companions:
"O people, listen well to my words for I do not know whether I shall meet you again on such an occasion in the future. O people, your lives and your property shall be inviolate until you meet your Lord. The safety of your lives and of your property shall be inviolate as this holy day and holy month. Remember that you will indeed meet your Lord, and that He will indeed reckon your deeds. Thus do I warn you. Whoever of you is keeping a trust of someone else shall return that trust to its rightful owner. All interest obligations shall henceforth be waived. Your capital, however, is yours to keep. You will neither inflict nor suffer inequity. God has judged that there shall be no interest and that all the interest due to Abbas ibn Abdal Muttalib shall henceforth be waived. Every right arising out of homicide in pre-Islamic days is henceforth waived. And the first such right that I waive is that arising from the murder of Rabiah ibn al Harith ibn Abd al Muttalib.
O people, today the claims of Shaitaan for ever being worshipped in this land of yours have been reduced to naught. Nevertheless he is still anxious to determine the lesser of your deeds. Beware of him, therefore, for the safety of your Din....
O people! I have conveyed to you Allah's message. Those who are present should convey this message to those who are not present..."
Then the prophet (may Allah's peace and blessings be upon him) asked people to bear witness that he has indeed conveyed to them the message he received and all through the great steppe, people said in unison: "Indeed so!" "O Allah," said the Prophet, "be witness."
After this historical sermon, the prophet (may Allah's peace and blessings be upon him) dismounted and waited until mid-afternoon, at which time he performed both the Zohar and the Asr prayers. He then mounted his camel and proceeded to al Sakharat where he recited to the people the following Divine revelation which had been just received: "Today I have completed for you your Din and granted you the last of my blessings. Today I have chosen Islam as your Din."
The author is the President, Centre for Islam and Science
Friday, March 16, 2001 -- ZilHaj 20,1421 A.H
Man in the dock
Dr Muzaffar Iqbal
Strange things happen in our land. But none is stranger than the persistence of a pattern that repeats itself, ruler after ruler. In a land where stability is as scarce as water, it is indeed strange to see this pattern of delusion chasing every ruler.
The broad outline of this pattern can be sketched in a few words: Following a few dramatic events, a face emerges on the national TV and solemnly announces the grave situation which had forced him to assume powers of this unfortunate land. He summarises the grand failures of his predecessors along with a long list of their corruption and inefficiency. Then he goes on to promise a miracle: he has decided to overhaul the whole system and root out corruption. In this task, he needs all the help he can get from his nation. This marks the first phase of a new rule.
For a few weeks, there is the struggle of legitimising the rule. Those who oppose it on various grounds are either silenced or their voices are drowned in the rush of new events. The opposition, if there happens to be any, is targeted and a number of cases are launched to keep them busy. To be sure, there is always a court case about the new setup but none of this bothers the new ruler because he is the ruler, ipso facto and no matter what is said, the down to earth reality is that he is there, with all his might. He has carved a place for himself and none can turn the clock back.
Often the new ruler is welcomed by the nation for it had become sick and tired of its previous ruler; everyone needs a change. But this new romance between the ruler and the nation does not last; the spring is always short and soon the promises of the new ruler, his grand plans and the possibility of a miraculous transformation start to lose luster. The hard realities of water shortage, price hikes and the daily hardships start to make their presence felt with increasing force.
By now the new ruler has firmly established himself. He has surrounded himself with people who become his spokesmen. He is not alone any more. He has a score of new ministers and advisors who become their master's voice and the initial chorus of reform, transformation and miraculous recovery achieves a grand new dimension: within the first six months of the new rule, an amazing number of new reforms and new policies are announced. Each new minister comes with his plans and promises to deliver goods that would transform Pakistan.
This phase of the new rule ushers the ruler into a comfort zone. There are the foreign trips, these visits bring much needed distraction and each trip adds to the chorus of reform by promising foreign investment and successes at nebulous international fronts. By now, some of the ministers also start to announce their own successes in laying the foundations of a new era in the nation's life. These are quick results that are supposed to have been achieved by them in a short time because of their genius. These often include some real projects which were actually started by their predecessors a few years previous to his rule but they happen to be completed just when the new minister took over. Hence he feels perfectly justified in taking credit.
But generally speaking, these successes are often virtual; they only exist in some nebulous realm of cyber space. Such successes often include hundreds of new schools, roads, provision of electricity, virtual IT universities and the like. Increasingly, this phase of the rule of the new ruler has attained a degree of sophistication in credit claims. There has been a trend in the recent years to use numbers beyond anyone's comprehension. These numbers often tell the story of GDP growth and other economic factors that allude to the prosperity of the nation. This phase can be called the summer of the new ruler for it is accompanied by a lot of sound and fury and of course, sweat. The summer of the new rule is also the time when the disillusionment of the nation starts to become obvious. In spite of the grand chorus of success, in spite of the new policies and new plans, the nation lives in the same old bleak and hopeless state as before the commencement of the new rule. There is the same daily doze of terrorist attacks, late trains, scarcity of water, daily suffering associated with pollution, the same corruption, the same pain.
The new ruler knows all this. But by now, he has become very confident and invariably, a sacrosanct element is now added to his speeches: none other than the Almighty had brought him to power and he has a mission to accomplish. Of course there are those who do not see this Divine wisdom but he is not to be deterred by such short-sighted people. He has convinced himself that he was, indeed, chosen by God Almighty to take this nation out of its crisis. A few Umrah trips and a Hajj (on state expenses) further reinforce this conviction.
But sadly, this over confidence produces a veil of deception which removes the ruler from everyday realities and although he increasingly talks about his divinely ordained mission, he fails to see that the autumn of his rule has arrived. In the autumn of his rule, the rulers complain about the press and the daily reports; some even try to stifle the dissident voices, more benevolent one's merely state their displeasure but they all fail to see the writing on the wall.
This is the most dangerous time for the ruler and history shows that none of our rulers have been able to see their autumn. Ayub Khan was celebrating the tenth anniversary of his rule and the green revolution when his autumn was in full view, ZA Bhutto was oblivious to his impending fall and the recent memory of the two rules of BB and Nawaz Sharif supply ample evidence to their blindness to their failures. Now, the autumn of our honorable CE has also arrived. All the signs are appearing once more. While he believes that he has turned the tide, the print media keeps depicting another picture. In his recent address at the 16th annual lunch of the Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE), he complained about negative reporting and demoralisation. "The looking-glass that we see every morning does not reflect the reality, and the mirror sometimes reflects uncrystalised, pessimistic and one-sided view. That is what bothers me as a Pakistani, and not head of the government.''
Clearly, our beloved CE does not see the reality that 156 million Pakistanis see everyday. But never mind. The desire of the honorable CE is that henceforth the killing of the innocent namazis should not occupy the front pages of our print media. But he did not specify what shall be befitting in such circumstances. Would his desire be that the print media help to cheer up the nation by placing a picture of a smiling child beside the details of the gory act?
In this repetition of the scene, each autumn brings more despair. Since the present government came to power, the law and order situation has not improved, the disparity between the rich and the poor has been increasing and the proverbial common man is finding it harder and harder to make ends meet. And yet, our honorable CE would have us believe that he has turned the tide!
The writer is the President of Center for Islam and Science (CIS)
Friday, March 30, 2001 -- Moharram Ul Harram 04,1422 A.H
Need of the hour
Dr Muzaffar Iqbal
Against all historical evidence, let us assume that General Musharraf really means what he has said repeatedly regarding the deadline set by the Supreme Court for holding general elections before October 2002. What would be Pakistan like after the elections? Would the new political set up make any difference? Would these elections prove to be a real turning point in Pakistan's history? Or would it be just change of faces leading to another military takeover?
It is not hard to discern that both BB and Nawaz Sharif would not be candidates in elections to be held in 2002. Their disqualification means that their parties would be led by others. It is also a foregone conclusion that if their parties win elections, they would bounce back on to the national scene and all charges against them would vanish in thin air.
But this is unlikely to happen. General Musharraf would need to block their way, it is essential for his own survival in the post-election era. But how would he ensure this? He would have to come up with some drastic changes in the constitution or modalities of elections. On this, the government has not revealed any plans so far. But something is bound to come up within the next few months. The main question for the government is how to achieve this without invalidating the whole process of democratisation.
However, more important for the future of the country is the level of preparedness of the political parties. Unfortunately, so far not a single party has shown any level of preparedness. This reflects the lack of grounding of the political process in Pakistan. In true democratic systems, political parties have standing policies on national affairs. In Pakistan, there exists neither a political culture, nor political parties in the real sense of the words. All we have is person-oriented politics that plays havoc with the lives of millions of people. In order to evolve positive and sustainable political order, someone needs to take lead and force major political parties into doing their home work before the next elections. Media can do this in the most constructive manner. The road map to a new political setup can also benefit from this exercise.
In case this challenge is taken up by the media, it can become a major turning point in Pakistan's history. What is needed is not so complex. There are very basic and obvious national problems that can be divided into various categories such as economy, educational system, foreign policy and the like.
What is needed is a two step process. The first step involves formulation of basic problems of the country in very clear terms. This formulation is needed to present a clear picture of where we stand. Each area of national concern needs to be studied by a team of experts in that particular area. For example, a team of independent economists can be assembled and given the task of presenting to the nation a true picture of Pakistan's economy. There are hundreds of Pakistanis in and outside Pakistan who would gladly join such a team if there is a foundation, institution or even a newspaper group that wants to initiate this process.
Likewise, a team of educators can come up with a white paper on the sad state of Pakistan's educational system. But in order to build a new social and political order, the focus of this work has to be on constructive and objective assessment of the present situation rather than on putting blame on various institutions.
Once a range of basic problems has been clearly defined and stated, the foundation, institution or the newspaper group in charge of this exercise can then place these national issues before various political parties and ask them to come up with comprehensive strategies for solving these problems. Each party should be required to deal with the specifics, rather than generalities of the problems. This would achieve an immediate positive result; instead of a repetition of previous elections based on personality cults. Elections 2002 would become an issue oriented election in which people can vote on the basis of soundness of the solutions presented by political parties. This is a massive exercise in public education. This is also an approach that has the potential of establishing a truly solid foundation for the future of Pakistan.
Once the issues are framed, problems are stated in statistical terms, a clear picture of Pakistani society would emerge. On the basis of familiarity with the problems, one can easily say that these problems cannot be solved in a short time. Hence, what would be needed is a long-term map, with a short-term strategic plan. Each contesting party should be asked to develop these long and short-term plans in each of the major areas.
Thus people would know what a certain party intends to do for specific problems such as education, health, etc. This would also force political parties to form small teams of their own in each area of national importance and come up with plans that can be debated and discussed within their own membership. If carried out with the right spirit and in a proper way, this exercise would also produce national consensus on major issues. Out of various possible solutions of each problem, one or two would emerge as more suitable. By the tend of this process, the nation would have achieved two things.
It would know where it stands and where it is heading and it would know who among the contesting parties has a road map for their future. The new government would also benefit from this exercise. Even before coming to power, it would have devised its policies and methodologies. This is particularly beneficial in a society where coming to power immediately cuts connections with the grassroots. There is not much time left. If our initial assumption is right, and if elections to be held in year 2002 are to produce any significant change, it is high time that such an exercise is undertaken. Are there any NGOs out there who would like to take up this challenge? Are there any institutions (including the print media) that is interested in this nation-building exercise?
There are thousands of overseas Pakistanis who would like to do something for their country. Can they come forward and initiate the process by setting up a Foundation for Reconstruction of Pakistan? If the government is sincere in its plans and if there is a real will to bring about a major transformation of the society, government can also initiate this effort by forming a national reconstruction bureau which is totally independent and which has access to all the information needed to lay the foundations of such an effort.
The writer is the President of Center for Islam and Science (CIS)
Friday, April 13, 2001 -- Moharram Ul Harram 18, 1422 A.H
Role of religious parties
Dr Muzaffar Iqbal
The late Dr MA Kazi liked to narrate episodes of his life from the time when he was Advisor to General Ziaul Haq on science and technology. On one occasion, he told a story that runs like this: General Ziaul Haq had a series of meetings with the religious leaders. To each one of them, he expressed his desire to enforce Islam and asked the way to do so. As usual, he posed himself as a very humble man who had good intentions but who lacked the wisdom to accomplish the task.
The venerable religious leaders were his guides and he wanted to get their guidance in this noble task. At the end of the series of meetings, he gathered them all and tried to evolve a working plan. The religious leaders of Pakistan could not agree on a common plan. They could not even pray together in the presidency behind one Imam. Each sect had their own Imam and their own plan. At the end of the exercise, the General gathered his inner circle in one of those post-midnight gatherings that used to keep him protected from the bouts of insomnia. And he told them all that had happened. He laughed in a mixture of happiness and despair. The religious leadership had no plan. They had no idea of how to implement Islam although they had been clamouring for it for the last forty years. Dr Kazi was part of that inner circle and the General had developed a liking for him. On this occasion, Dr Kazi said to the General, "Sir I have a plan."
"What is your plan?" asked the General. "Sir, I am a scientist. I like to do control experiments. I suggest that before implementing Islam in the whole country, you establish an Islamic city as a model. That would help us to understand the practical difficulties which would arise." According to Dr Kazi, the General laughed at this idea and changed the conversation. That was an indication for his inner circle that Dr Kazi had taken the matter too seriously and that the General was only interested in mocking the religious elite of the country. But lately, I have been thinking about the suggestion of late Dr MA Kazi. If one really thinks about the merits of this suggestion, the idea is extremely valuable. If Pakistan is really interested in becoming an Islamic country, it should first experiment with the establishment of a truly Islamic city. The road to Islamisation of the whole system is neither easy nor clear.
Our economic, educational and state systems are based on secular models and without a major revolution, there is no possibility of changing their foundational principles. Such a revolution is not in sight. Like the mainstream political parties, Pakistan's religious parties have no plan, no concrete methodology and no substantial in-house study of the ways to implement Islam. Like all the other political parties, all they want is power and assure us that once in power, they will be able to enforce Islam. But time has run out for such empty promises. No one believes it any more. Pakistan's religious parties are deeply entrenched in a sectarian divide. They all have their narrow definitions of Islam. They do not pray together; they do not agree upon a unified plan and they are ill-equipped to deal with contemporary complex realities. Yet all of them never tire of demanding the enforcement of Islam.
They never tire of castigating others and passing verdicts against all who disagree with them. Given the unifying aspects of Islam, the universality of the Qur'aan and Sunnah, it is most surprising that the religious parties cannot form a unified stand on the process of Islamisation. Instead of the grand vision of Islam, they are stuck with minor details and their dogmatic positions have marginalised their own role in national affairs. If there is going to be a major change in the country, it has to come through solid planning and sustained efforts.
If the religious parties wish to have any say in national affairs, they have to first start an in-house process of building models and strategies. This requires that teams of Islamic scholars work together on specific issues and evolve effective methodologies that would lead to the emergence of new institutions based on Islamic teachings. A model Islamic city can be a good start. Such a city can come into existence by implementing the model in one of the cities now existing or by founding a new city. Just like Islamabad was established as a brand new city with a master plan, one can think of a new Islamic city with a master plan. Such a city would have to be located within the boundaries of Pakistan but it can given a special status by completing the required legal formalities.
What would be the essential features of an Islamic model city? What could life be like in a city that runs on Islamic principles? Apart from its outward manifestations, such as the abundance of mosques, what would be the major features that would distinguish it from any other city? What would its financial institutions be like? What would be taught in its schools? How would the courts function in this city? What would be the role of women in this city? Let us imagine that this idea is taken seriously and with sincerity. Would there be peace and harmony among all sects in our model Islamic city? Would they be willing to live and let live? Would they be able to devote their energies toward the establishment of the Qur'aan and the Sunnah?
These are serious questions and challenges for the religious parties. Time has come for them to do something more than the empty rhetoric and demands for the enforcement of Islam. Everyone knows that there is much more to the enforcement of Islam than mere demands. If Islam is really the ideal and the desired goal of Pakistanis, there is a need to devise a strategic plan that would work. Such a plan will not come from the mainstream political parties; they neither have the desire nor the means to evolve it. It has to come from the religious leadership. But is Pakistan's religious leadership equipped to draw up such a plan? Are there enough religious scholars who understand the dynamics of contemporary statecraft and who have the necessary intellectual and academic resources to translate the vision of Islam to a twenty-first century city?
A simple glance at the structure and working of the existing religious parties is enough to provide a negative answer. None of the existing religious parties is based upon a manifesto that outlines positive approach to the stated goal of Islamisation. They have never developed solid plans in any area of national life. They do not have teams of experts who can come up with working models of educational, economic, judicial and other institutions. The most likely party that can make the leap required to meet the needs is Jamaat-e-Islami. But since the death of its founder, it has not found a leader who has the vision to formulate a practical strategy. Its politics remains that of negative reactions, demands and threats.
It is considered to be one of the most organised parties in the country, yet it has not used its considerable organisational structure for the development of model institutions that can prove to the masses that if they vote for the Jamaat, it would deliver. The path of a constructive role for the religious parties in national affairs remains a deserted road, the journey has not even begun.
The writer is the President of Center for Islam and Science
Friday, May 04, 2001-- Safar 09,1422 A.H
Second wave of colonisation
Dr Muzaffar Iqbal
Out of one billion Muslims now living on planet earth, only some 15 per cent are Arabs. The rest do not speak Arabic, though all practicing Muslims have some ability to read the Qur'aan in Arabic original, often without understanding it. This simple fact can be taken as a starting point in an understanding of dilemmas and challenges faced by contemporary Muslims. Spread in a geographical region that is by far the most underdeveloped part of the globe, contemporary Muslims are neither a dominant voice in the international affairs nor an economic power, though among them are some of the world's richest countries. In spite of this bleak picture, Islam as the fastest growing religion in the world and Muslim presence looms large in world media.
The challenges faced by Muslims today are unique; there has never been a time in their history that has presented such threats. In a world that is rapidly moving towards globalisation of economic activity, Muslim societies are in fact faced with the threat of extinction as distinct cultural and economic entities. For all practical purposes, these threats constitute a second colonisation.
As a matter of fact, this second colonisation of the Muslim world is already well underway. From Africa to the Malayan archipelago, Muslim cities and societies are rapidly losing that distinct characteristic that has remained their outward mark for centuries. This characteristic mark emerges from a grand synthesis of cultural and religious manifestations of Islamic civilisation. It makes its presence felt at various levels: from the sound of the call for prayer to the most mundane affairs of everyday life. It is present in the fragrance of a freshly baked bread in a clay oven just as it is present in the aroma of spices.
With the spread of this second wave of colonisation, Muslim societies are rapidly emulating western models. Their ideals are based on a lifestyle and culture that is not their own. If the rate of new colonisation remains unchecked, these societies will soon lose all that makes them distinct. The force that propels this new wave of colonisation is economics and technology is its vehicle and means.
Except for a handful of states, all Muslim countries are crippled in an economic sense. They are heavily shackled in chains that grow thicker every day. This debt trap (or shall we say death trap) is wrapped around their necks with the help of corrupt rulers, direct and indirect intervention and through aid programmes that foster dependence and long-term disability of local institutions. IMF and the World Bank remain the chief institutional support for this new colonisation.
In real terms, no Muslim country has actually gained independence; before leaving physically, the colonising powers made sure that their interests would be protected and for all practical purposes, the struggle for independence only produced a change of rulers. The effective mechanisms left behind by the departing colonisers worked and ensured their continued presence, dominance and control.
But the most distressing part of the second wave of colonisation is the fact Muslims are embracing this second colonisation willingly and whole-heartedly. There is hardly any resistance to this process. In many countries, the arrival of an IMF team is welcomed in more or less the same manner as the old viceroys were treated in the colonies. The economic packages sought by Muslim governments are actually welcomed and considered to be a sign of success for the government.
No doubt these bailouts provide a short-term relief for the government in power but in reality, they just add more weight to the chains. In the end, the country loses its ability to make its own decisions even on matters such as gas and electricity tariffs. This neo-colonial economic trap is now firmly wrapped around the necks of all Muslim countries except for a handful of oil-rich states. But those countries have shackles of a different kind.
Soon after their independence, the oil-rich countries had to fight for their rights to control their own mineral resources. After a decade or so of intense struggle, when they finally won the battles, they found out that they have neither the technological resources, nor the manpower to run the operations and they went back to the western multinational corporations for joint drilling and exploration agreements. In the end, they had to settle for a share rather than the complete rights in their own God-given wealth! Hence instead of direct control by foreign governments, revenues from the oil and gas reserves are now being shared by the Muslim countries with western multinationals.
No doubt, this influx of new money has created an unprecedented affluence in these countries but just because of that sudden windfall, these societies have lost their moorings and traditional lifestyles have disappeared within the course of one generation. In addition to economic colonisation, the Muslim world is rapidly coming under what may be called technological colonisation.
This new form of colonisation knows no borders. It is capable of penetrating the remotest corners of the globe and its reach is eradicating traditional societies just as effectively as is being done in big cities. I recall with painful memories the destruction of peace and tranquility of the idyllic Kareemabad, nestled as it is among some of the highest mountain peaks in the world. Until the late 1980s it was a place where life came to a gradual standstill by sunset and all that remained after dark were the silently moving stars in the stillness that reminded one of primordial peace and calm. It was a place where a steady stream of tourists came silently and where the spirit experienced an exaltation of the most profound kind. But within the last decade, the place has been transformed through technological penetration. Now this remote village is filled with dish antennas, the harsh noise of generators, motorbikes and the activities related to the construction of modern hotels. The silence is no more.
This is just one example. One can cite hundreds of others, ranging from the much advertised sun-beaches and desert resorts of UAE to the newly established coastal resorts of Brunei, which is ironically named Dar-essalam. All of these places have transformed through aspirations of emulating the western lifestyle. This deep-rooted mental colonisation not only manifests itself in the rapid destruction of traditional lifestyles; it is also accompanied by the erosion of values, arts and crafts and hundreds of other outward signs of Islamic cultures which evolved over a millennium.
The fundamental unit of the traditional Muslim societies was the family. At this level, these societies were organised in a manner that made the process of aging a graceful realisation of one's potentials. One moved up the scale, so to speak, as one grew older. With age, one's social position elevated and if one happened to be a craft person, age not only brought maturity in one's profession, it also brought honours and responsibility of passing on the trade to the next generation. The new economic colonisation has made all traditional crafts out of place. As a result, Muslim families which had inherited the traditional crafts, have lost their place in the over all scheme of things and they have either become distinct or are on their way out. The dying of these crafts is silently eradicating a rich layer of Islamic art.
These are some of the transforming currents of the second wave of colonisation being faced by Muslim societies. In the next column, we will explore other facets of this development.
May 18, 2001 ????
The colonial cut
Dr Muzaffar Iqbal
In the previous "Quantum Note" (The News, May 4, 2001), I had presented the idea that the Muslim world is now under the second wave of colonisation. Mention was made of some of the transforming currents that accompany the second wave of colonisation. In this, I wish to explore how Muslims succumbed to this process of colonisation.
The first thing to note is that it was during the period of the first colonisation that the West encountered Islam and Muslims in Dar al-Islam for the first time in history in a situation in which it had an unquestionable material superiority. This period was contemporaneous with certain scientific and technological developments in the West which were used to subjugate a vast territory and people who had never before lived under such degrading conditions. But the roots of this development go back to the European Renaissance that opened a vast, hitherto uncharted territory for the emergence of a civilisation which was to dominate the rest of the world in the coming centuries.
Ironically, the last flowering of Islamic civilisation prior to colonisation overlapped with the emergence of the early fruits of a new spirit in Europe but the two had no contact with each other except for some isolated travel accounts which were not taken seriously in Europe. Ibn al-Baytar (1200-1248), Nasir al-Din (1201-1274) and Roger Bacon (1214-1294) were contemporaries, and so were Jalal al-Din Rumi (d 1273) and Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274). Hafiz (1320-1389) was born one year before Dante Alighieri's death and seven years before Meister Eckhart's death in 1327. Another important aspect of the relationship between the two sides at this time is the fact that whatever was being produced in the Muslim world was really the dwindling melody of a music soon to fade away, whereas Europe was awakening to embrace a revolutionary period. So while modern universities were being founded at Pisa (1338), Grenoble (1339) and Oxford (1340), most of the Muslim world was in the grip of a medieval madrassah system that had lost all vitality.
In 1453, when the Ottomans captured Constantinople after overpowering Emperor Constantine XI, Johann Gutenberg (c 1396-1468) was busy printing his 42-line (Mazarin) Bible at Mainz, using metal plates. Although printing was introduced into the Ottoman Empire during the reign of Bayezid II (1481-1512), its use remained mainly in the hands of Christians and Jews and its influence on the society was hardly worth mentioning compared to what this invention did for Europe. Within fifty years of the invention of printing press in Europe, a full grown book industry had emerged with three distinct professions: the type founder, the printer and the bookseller. By 1501, more than 1,000 printing presses had produced approximately 35,000 titles with approximately 10 million copies.
The Mogul and Persian empires remained uninterested in this important invention for almost four more centuries. We should also note that all important scientific discoveries and inventions (which were to play an important role in redefining the nature of relationship between Muslims and the West in subsequent centuries) occurred in Europe and not in the Muslim lands in spite of the Persian, Mogul and Ottoman Empires having control over vast lands and resources.
Some scholars have attributed the lack of scientific developments in the Muslim societies to the internal wars of the ruling elite which supposedly did not allow them to patronise discoverers and inventors. However, a close look at the European history of this period reveals that Europe was not free from internal strife. In 1521, Edward Stafford, Duke of Buckingham and potential claimant to the English throne was executed by the order of Henry VIII; three years later, the French were driven out of Italy; in 1525 German and Spanish forces joined to defeat French and Swiss at Pavia; in 1527 Rome was sacked; imperial troops pillaged the city, killing 4,000 inhabitants; in the same year Pope Clement VII was imprisoned in Castel Sant Angelo. Likewise in 1531 there was war between Protestant Zurich and Catholic Cantons; in 1536 Queen Anne Boleyn was sent to the Tower of London and executed, and the list goes on.
Towards the end of the fifteenth century, navigating into the uncharted seas, European travellers, supported by rulers, started to discover new routes, lands and riches which generated the earliest impulses for colonisation. Soon missionaries were on the march, reversing the roles between Muslims and the West. Emperor Akbar (1542-1605) was born in the same year in which St Francis Xavier arrived at Goa as a Jesuit missionary. Akbar lived to rule the Mogul Empire at its zenith but failed to perceive the dangers inherent in the advances of the West.
The period of first colonisation also coincided with an important development within the Muslim world. The worldwide Muslim societies, which had come into existence by the eighteenth century, were at the brink of devastation. Surrender of Baghdad which was the capital and seat of the Caliphate from 750 to 1258 had ended the centralised nature of Muslim rule. Prior to 1258, Muslim societies had been built around a central ideological framework. The concept of ummah, the community of believers, rather than that of state, held a prime position in this framework. The unifying factors were the common belief in the oneness of God and common practices such as prayers, fasting and pilgrimage. Within this framework, there was considerable divergence and a cosmopolitan society had emerged. But the period of large empires, ruled by single families, was coming to an end. The great imperial and state-systems, which had established themselves in the late medieval era, were showing signs of inner weakness though these had yet to take an outward form.
At the dawn of the eighteenth century, the Ottoman Empire still controlled much of the Balkan Peninsula, most of the Mediterranean coast of Africa and virtually all of the Arab lands in the eastern Mediterranean basin. The Mogul empire continued to be the largest political unit in South Asia and the Safavid Empire ruled Persia. Outside this clearly defined state-system was a wide periphery of Muslim area. In Central Asia, there were long established Khanates which stretched from eastern Europe to China. In Southeast Asia, new sultanates were emerging due to the influence of Muslim teachers and merchants. In West Africa, new states were emerging as a result of major changes in the tribal structure and medieval empires.
At this time, the world around these societies was also going through a major change. In Central Asia, the Russian and the Chinese expansion was putting pressure on the old Khanates, in Southeast Asia European commercial interests were coming into conflict with the local societies, the Ottoman forces were losing battles to European armies and the inner weakness of the Safavid state had reached such an extent that the empire crumbled in 1736.
Woven into this complex pattern of inner changes and external pressures was a significant reformation movement, which emerged throughout the Muslim world during the eighteenth century. In West Africa, a number of reform-renewal movements emerged during this century out of a slow process of conversion and brought political changes. In the second half of the eighteenth century, Sidi al-Mukhtar al-Kunti (c 1750-1811) led a reform movement in the Sahara and its influence extended deep into West Africa as far as Kankan on the upper Niger. The leaders of two West African movements, Uthman Dan Fodio and Shaykh Aumad of Massina were influenced by Sidi al-Mukhtar. Shaykh Uthman b Fudi started his public career in the 1770s as a wandering teacher and preacher in north-western Hausaland, commanding the right and forbidding the wrong according to the Islamic law. His efforts succeeded in establishing a Muslim community that adhered to the precepts of Islam.
This process of inner struggle and reform was, however, cut short by the invasion and colonisation of these societies by the European powers. The Dutch completed the conquest of Indonesia; the Russians and the Chinese absorbed Inner Asia; the British claimed India, Malaya, parts of the Middle East, East Africa, Nigeria and other parts of West Africa; France seized North Africa, much of West Africa and parts of the Middle East.
Thus at the dawn of the twentieth century, the European powers had completed their conquest of almost all the Muslim world; at this time independent Muslim states existed only in Central Arabia, Iran, Turkey and Afghanistan and they too were weak and under the influence of the European powers.
This brief survey brings us to the threshold of the modern period. The map of the world was redrawn by the European powers in the nineteenth century. Their expansion and colonisation of the Muslim societies not only cut short the process of inner evolution in these societies, but also produced a startling transformation of the most basic institutions, completely changing the nature of relationship between Muslims and the West. We need to see this change clearly because therein lie the roots of the present perceptions of Islam in the West and Muslim perceptions of the West.
(To be concluded)
The author is the President of Centre for Islam and Science
Friday, June 01, 2001-- Rabi-Ul-Awall 08,1422 A.H
Routes of re-colonisation
Dr Muzaffar Iqbal
Nineteen months ago, when General Musharraf proclaimed that henceforth he would be the CE of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, he was following a beaten track. Many a military general has done that in various former colonies since their so-called independence. This is because army, as we know it today, was a creation of the colonising powers which had that ambition built into the very structure of this institution.
Army, the civil service and the judiciary were the three institutions used by the colonising powers to control the vast territories they had acquired during the nineteenth century. In laying this structure of governance, these powers ensured that their grip on these colonies would not diminish after their physical departure. It is no wonder that all three institutions have continued to play the role assigned to them. Almost all former colonies are being ruled by these three institutions which draw their members from a small segment of population.
It is an historical irony that these three institutions are branded as the backbone of national existence while in fact, they are the direct descendants of the ruling structure erected during the colonial era. Those who were inducted in the Civil Service of the former colonies were trained in the art of administration as demi-gods who stood a step higher than the masses. The judges were trained to follow the examples of their worthy white colleagues and the generals were trained in the military academies of the colonising powers or, since the second World War, to the military academies in the land of freedom and opportunities. But in all three cases, the common denominator is the vast gap that separates members of these three institutions from the multitude of poorly educated masses which they rule.
This built-in mechanism of re-colonisation has worked wonders. There is not a single former colony where economic conditions have not worsened, not a single country that does not bear the shackles of poverty, under-education, malnutrition, internal strife and a fractured national existence. There is not a single country where the great multitude of people has been allowed to exercise full rights as citizens and where any degree of stability has been achieved. All former colonies have been re-colonised through routes that are amazingly similar.
The structural foundation of re-colonisation lies in the continuity of institutions that were set up during the colonial rule. In addition to the three frontline institutions mentioned above, there is the second line of institutions that provides manpower to the frontline institutions. This second line consists of educational and research institutions. Education in the former colonies was seen as the most effective means of perpetuation of the European worldview. Institutions set up for education replaced the traditional institutions and in doing so, they effectively erased the worldview that had been cherished by millions of human beings for centuries. Instead, they created a new vision of life whose ideals were based on the European models.
Thus, during the late fifties and early sixties, when all across Africa and Asia new countries were popping up on the world map, a great undercurrent was running through these societies which ensured that the new rulers would not upset the institutions established by the colonising powers. In all cases, this undercurrent succeeded in achieving a remarkable feat. All that happened was re-christening of the old names: the Indian Civil Service (ICS), the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and many other institutions set up by the colonising powers just changed names but remained the same in their vision and goals.
The structural transformation of the colonies was not limited to these institutions. Social fabric was also radically changed to suit the long-term goals. In time, a new class of citizens was produced that looked up to their colonial masters in all areas of life and tried to live a life that would be a carbon copy of their masters'. In doing so, the colonial rulers created a local model for the masses which acquired currency and became the chief propagating force in the post-independence period.
A clear sign of the success of this model building strategy can be seen in contemporary past colonies. When a Macdonald's opens in Lahore or Karachi, it becomes an immediate success not because it offers food that is extraordinarily delicious or healthy but because the general public flocks to buy its burgers to emulate their models. The same is true for the immediate popularity of a various electronic gadgets ranging from cell phones to pocket electronic address books. In emulating these foreign models, the masses are merely doing what they have learned through education and social rituals. There is no conscious effort to discern and examine these emulations.
At another level, re-colonisation has been provided institutional base through the establishment of certain international institutions such as the IMF and the World Bank. These institutions have succeeded in providing a means to effectively control past colonies by creating an economic dependence on loans. It is no wonder that when an IMF delegation arrives in one of the former colonies, it is given a royal reception similar to what a viceroy would have received. These new viceroys come with bailout packages and provide cushions to the rulers. But a simple glance at what they demand in return is enough to shatter all illusion of independence. Their demands range from raising the postal rates to the price of natural gas and from the imposition of general sales tax (GST) to establishment of full-scale revenue and tax systems on the patterns that exist in the United States of America. These demands are often met and with each new acceptance of these demands, the suffering of general population increases, a small segment of population becomes more privileged the country becomes more dependant on the vicious loan-interest cycle.
A more recent version of IMF-World Bank route is the process of globalisation. This new version of economic colonisation comes in various brands but the goal is the same: to achieve more control of the economic and human resources of the former colonies by means of free trade agreements that favour the Western economies. Globalisation has several flavours that encompass a vast arena of contemporary life: from cultural to economic globalisation.
But in all cases, the goal is to produce societies which will look like the western societies with a smattering of local flavouring. These new societies will also provide huge markets to the ever-increasing range of consumer goods which are now being mass-produced in China by all major western companies. These new consumer markets are also effective means of replacing all traditional lifestyles through an incisive process that will painlessly uproot old values and worldviews and in time give birth to a global civilisation in which the dominant paradigm will be an extraordinary attention to material wealth and physical pleasures.
The author is the President of Centre for Islam and Science
Friday, June 15, 2001-- Rabi-Ul-Awall 22,1422 A.H
Roots of violence
Dr Muzaffar Iqbal
The author is the president of Centre for Islam and Science (CIS).
The latest round of violence in Karachi has once again brought home the message: no government, not even a military government, can ensure law and order when the fabric of civil society has fractured. Had there been a democratically elected government, the latest round of violence in Karachi would have provided an occasion to an adventure-seeking general for a mid-night operation.
The details are simply horrifying: A series of bomb blasts paralyses the whole city, takes it toll on life and property and leaves an impression that no one is really in charge of the country. That may, in fact, be the case. An unrepresentative government and a one-man rule without any moral legitimacy is the ground reality that has been over-shadowed by the rush of events. But no matter how much time lapses between that October day when one man decided to proclaim himself king, the fact remains that the present government has no moral right to rule.
In the absence of a participatory and representative government, all avenues for a healthy growth of civil society are closed and it starts to fracture at its very core. This kind of inner breakdown is like cancer that grows silently and then bursts out. Pakistan has had a long festering wound and over the years, the infrastructure and institutions that hold civil society together have been destroyed.
This is not to justify violence. But when a series of bomb blasts rocks the city and takes its toll on life and property of innocent citizens, it is a clear sign of things to come. In the midst of this violence, there will be an attempt to blame it on this or that faction but that would be a poor remedy for something that has taken deep roots. It would solve nothing.
A thorough analysis of the situation would not take the province-wide protest strike following a night of bloody violence as merely an isolated incident. True, the strike was called by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and Jiye Sindh Qaumi Mahaz (JSQM) to protest against alleged police brutality and water shortage in Sindh. It is also true that the strike was forced on people through violence. But it is equally true that the hundreds of troops that were deployed across the city on this occasion failed to do anything to prevent the violence just as squads of special anti-riot police failed to prevent anarchy Tuesday night.
The mere facts of the situation warrant a deeper analysis and a far-reaching solution. This is what happened: The roads of Karachi were deserted; all markets and commercial centres remained closed, a major portion of the public transport stayed off the roads after a night of violence that saw at least 22 buses torched. All businesses and schools remained closed. An ASI was killed and three police constables critically injured when a bomb planted in a helmet went off in police mobile near the Iranian Cultural Centre in Clifton area of the city. (The police had discovered helmet from Two Talwar area and had put it in their van to transport it to police station!)
In addition, an Afghani scavenger boy was seriously injured when a bomb blasted in garbage dump near a residential apartment in Clifton area of the city. Two people were injured early in the morning when a bomb went off in Tower area damaging nearby buildings and vehicles. The device was simply sitting on the sidewalk! At least twenty-two vehicles were torched and twenty other snatched all around the city by unknown armed and masked arsonists overnight.
These chilling facts are a reminder to the gravity of the situation. They also show how the law enforcing agencies have utterly failed. But what they do not say is the writing on the wall: the cancer that has been quietly penetrating, has burst. It would be self-defeating to blame the situation on this or that organisation, round up a few hundred people and forget about it. It would serve no purpose; it would neither heal the wounds nor cure the disease.
What is needed is a major and honest effort to involve largest possible number of Pakistanis in a constructive process of rebuilding, a process that would restore their sense of belonging and participation in national life. At the root of violence lies the fact that no one in Pakistan feels that he or she has any say in national life. The politicians who came to power through popular vote made mockery of that trust and in response to that situation, one man took over the reigns with the help of army. This process, that has been repeated four times, has choked the natural growth of civil society.
This rather simplified analysis of the situation raises a number of questions: How do we stop the vicious cycle in which misdeeds of the political leadership is followed by military takeover that leaves the society more fractured and broken and that builds dangerous extremist tendencies? How do we restore, rather initiate, a process of slow but consistent participatory political and social growth that would ensure the emergence of a healthy and stable civil society that can withstand pressures?
The answers to these basic problems of Pakistan that have plagued its existence throughout the last half century are not simple; their implementation is even more difficult. But no matter how difficult this process may be, there is no other solution. The country's survival depends on it.
Like all fractured societies, the rebuilding needed in Pakistan has to be a massive process involving millions of people. It can happen either through the rise of a charismatic leader or through a political process that would germinate over time. The former is mere wishful thinking, though not an impossibility; the latter is within our reach and can be achieved by a team of capable individuals who organise themselves for this purpose.
But how does such a group come into existence in a society that suppresses t his possibility through various means? The answer to this question would provide the solution to our dilemmas. For such a group to come into existence, there has to be a visionary and dedicated core that would attract a large number of people to it. Such a visionary and dedicated core group can only arise out of a solid commitment to an ideology. In our particular circumstances, that ideology can only be an ideology based on Islam. This last requirement is the one that fosters hope because as soon as one thinks of such an ideology, one has the resources of fourteen hundred years of Islamic history from which one can draw certain guidelines for such a group. The most obvious are the fidelity to the Qur'aan and the Sunnah. Such a core group also needs to be fully cognisant of the contemporary realities and modern political, social and economic challenges.
Imagine a dedicated team of highly determined and devoted people, a team guided by a vision and an historical understanding of Pakistan's peculiar dilemmas. Such a team would be able to generate enough momentum for that transforming process which is needed to rebuild the society on firm principles. The fact that this possibility exists provides hope for the future.
Dr Muzaffar Iqbal
Friday, June 29, 2001-- Rabi-us-Sani 06,1422 A.H
The IMF connection
The author is the president of Centre for Islam and Science (CIS)
On June 26, 2001, a news item in the national press said: "a three-member team of international donor agencies (IMF, World Bank, Asian Bank) is supervising the preparation of the new Sindh budget in the provincial secretariat in Karachi, expected to be announced on June 29, sources said. Sitting in the Finance Department, the team is going through each and every part of the Sindh budget for the year 2001-02."
This short but vital piece of information was buried under the overload of General Musharraf's recent conquest of the presidency. But according to the news, all budget proposals were being finalised after clearance by the team. Moreover, similar exercises were in operation in Lahore, Peshawar and Quetta and the federal budget was also finalised in the light of the "advice" of the World Bank and IMF experts, on the "pre-audit" technique, already in vogue in various government departments all over the country.
In any self-respecting country, this would have caused an uproar. National autonomy, after all, is the essence of independence. But not in Pakistan; no religious or political party paid attention to this news and soon it will be forgotten.
But as one starts to dig deeper, the situation becomes even more frightening and one discovers certain strange facts. The October 1999 take over by military was condemned by all "democracy loving" countries but it is a strange fact that the same countries soon turned around and the financial institutions they control started to extend all kinds of loans to Pakistan. These loans, as everyone knows, add to the national debt that is increasing as you read these lines.
According to News Brief (No 00/23) of IMF, issued on April 28, 2000 (and available at www.imf.org), "The Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) reviewed today data revisions and misreporting by Pakistan, along with the authorities' commitment to promptly repurchase SDR18.95 million in outstanding debt to the IMF, and to voluntarily repurchase another SDR 22 million by May 31, 2000."
The following facts can be gleaned from this official News Brief:
Fact No 1: Military rulers tell IMF that financial discrepancies exist and the Executive Directors express concerns over the misreporting of fiscal data to the IMF between 1997 and 1999. Soon after the military take over, discrepancies in the fiscal data were discovered. The military authorities informed IMF staff and requested technical assistance to help with the data revision process. In response, a mission from the IMF's Fiscal Affairs Department came to Islamabad in January 2000 to assess the magnitude of the discrepancies, and the factors responsible for the discrepancies. As a result of subsequent data revisions, Pakistan's budget deficit for 1997/98 was revised upward by 2 percent of GDP to 7.5 percent of GDP, and the deficit for 1998/99 was raised by 1.4 percent of GDP to 5.9 percent of GDP. The technical assistance mission, with the full cooperation of the authorities, found that the discrepancies had arisen principally in the domestic non-bank financing data, where the amount of sales of National Savings Schemes (NSS) instruments had been erroneously recorded in the fiscal reports.
Fact No 2: IMF directors express serious concern: Here is what the news brief says: "In their discussion of the issue, the directors expressed serious concern that the erroneous data had misled IMF staff and the Executive Board about economic performance; prevented the formulation and implementation of timely corrective measures; and resulted in the design of an adjustment program that was partly based on inaccurate information. They also noted that the provision of inaccurate data had allowed Pakistan to make substantial purchases under the extended arrangement and the Compensatory and Contingency Financing Facility, and under the Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility, that otherwise may not have been available."
Fact No 3: IMF commends Military rulers for providing information. The news brief states: "Observing that the discrepancies in the fiscal data had been discovered by the current authorities themselves and had immediately been brought to the attention of the IMF staff, Directors commended the current authorities for their prompt and full cooperation with the staff in the data revision process. They noted that the misreporting of fiscal data had in part resulted from negligence in compiling and reconciling the fiscal reports for 1997/98 and 1998/99. In addition, weaknesses in the fiscal accounting, reporting, and audit procedures - including the absence of systematic data reconciliation processes and a mechanism to fully involve the Accountant General Pakistan Revenue (AGPR) in the preparation of fiscal reports - contributed to the discrepancies in the fiscal data."
Fact No 4: IMF welcomes steps taken by the military government. The news brief states: "Nevertheless, directors welcomed the steps being taken by the authorities with the help of technical assistance from the IMF to strengthen fiscal reporting and to ensure the accurate and timely production of fiscal reports, particularly the recent establishment of the inter-agency Fiscal Monitoring Committee, clear delineation of data compilation and reconciliation responsibilities, and formulation of a new reporting format and procedures. They felt strongly that the credibility of fiscal reports would be enhanced if the AGPR were required to verify the accuracy of the reports. They also urged the authorities to finalise the data reconciliation process for the years prior to 1997/98 before the next Article IV consultation, which is tentatively scheduled for July 2000, and expeditiously to complete a special audit consistent with international auditing standards of the operations of the Central Directorate of National Savings, which should be published."
Fact No 5: IMF receives commitment "from the highest level". The news brief describes this as follows: "Directors also welcomed the authorities' commitment at the highest level to take additional steps over the medium term to further strengthen data reporting and reconciliation. They urged the authorities to accelerate the implementation of the Pakistan Improvement to Financial Report and Audit project with the World Bank, and to rationalise and streamline government debt and aid management operations under the newly created debt management committee. Fiscal policy management would also be aided by the development of a medium-term fiscal framework and by enhanced fiscal transparency..."
Fact No 6: Military Rulers accepts demands to repurchase SDRS. The news brief reports: "In light of the serious nature of the misreporting case, the directors noted the authorities' indication to promptly make a repurchase corresponding to a non-complying purchase of March 1998 that is subject to misreporting under the General Resources Account (GRA) Guidelines, and to make a voluntarily repurchase by May 31, 2000. In view of the authorities' expression of regret over the misreporting episode, their full cooperation during the data revision process, and their prompt implementation of measures to subsequently strengthen fiscal reporting, the directors felt that the proposed repurchases constituted remedial action that was consistent with practices on misreporting that were in effect at the time the inaccurate fiscal data were provided. Many Directors expressed the hope that, following these actions in response to the data misreporting episode, the authorities could move forward with a bold and wide-ranging reform program designed to achieve a high and sustainable growth path that could be supported by resources from the IMF. In this connection, a mission to Islamabad is envisaged in the near future."
The Last Fact: Not stated by the news brief issued by the IMF External Relations department, Washington DC: Pakistan has now become a state owned by one man and his cronies in close cooperation with IMF.
July 13, 2001
Road to Agra
The writer is the president of Centre for Islam and Science (CIS).
Gen Pervez Musharraf seems a remarkable person," says an unsigned editorial column in the July 10th issue of the Times of India. "He appears neither as rigid as his old uniform might warrant nor as diplomatic as his new position might demand. His arguments are invariably tempered by realism rather than rhetoric." The newspaper went on.
The General has won applause from many for his "exceptional performance at the National Seerat Conference held in Islamabad on June 6. His speech has been seen as a bold step "to call a spade a spade in front of the self-appointed guardians of Islam and self-righteous defenders of the identity of Pakistan," as the Times of India called it.
Indeed, the time is just right for the General. He has buckled under the conditions imposed by IMF and his trip to Agra is exactly what everyone who matters wants: a peaceful subcontinent, free of the so-called Islamic threat and open to the commercial needs of the booming economy of the United States of America. General Musharraf has clearly shown that he knows what he is doing. By stating the obvious facts in a religious gathering, he has become a darling of those who see Talibanism of Pakistan as the next biggest danger for their designs. His straight talk to the maulanas has been widely reported in the West. His questions have been repeated with triumphal notes.
Recall, he had asked the maulanas: "What is so Islamic about our country when Sunnis and Shias, and now Deobandis and Brelvis, are killing each other so wantonly, when we are so devoid of a sense of brotherhood and tolerance, when there is no justice for the poor and destitute, when our women are relegated to second-class citizenship? Who can blame the international community for calling us an irresponsible or failed or terrorist state when our religious leaders are quick to hurl outlandish threats? Who will invest in our country if it is constantly rocked by senseless religious strife and violence? Since no nation is an island, how can Pakistan survive in hostility to the global community?"
The recent events have changed certain fundamental ground realities. The General is not on a weak wicket any more. He has made room for himself and his visit to India promises to make his position even more snug. This is so because in the world of hard realities, those who matter think in terms of alternatives and they see that the alternates to a budding Bonaparte are all bearded quackish men in their medieval attires. So while they cannot publicly accept and encourage modern-day Bonapartism, they see nothing wrong in stretching their double standards a bit more to include Pakistan.
Hence, while the White House publicly shows displeasure at the assumption of Presidency, it selects a well-known admirer of generals and dictators as its new ambassador and IMF quietly opens its coffers to make yet another concession. The new game plan is now obvious: While the present regime is required to control those who talk of jihad in exchange for IMF funding, it is also expected to squeeze masses for greater revenues and pursue a goal of liberalisation of society. That this goal is couched in sweet terms makes no difference to the actual deed and those who can discern know the hidden connections between the general agenda and the new IT policy.
One recalls with pain the last resounding words of ZA Bhutto when he made a desperate dash to a popular bazaar of Rawalpindi and warned of angels and Bonapartes descending on Pakistan. One recalls his enigmatic statement from his death cell, which read like the script that is being recited on stage now. These final words of a man who stands head and shoulders above any post-independent public figure in Pakistan warned about the nature of things to come.
But regardless of these ground realities, there is no denying the fact that a peaceful subcontinent is the most desirable goal for both India and Pakistan. And permanent peace is attached with a just resolution of Kashmir dispute. But how would a self-proclaimed president deal with an elected leader who heads the largest democracy in the world? What are the issues and what are the solutions?
Clearly the main issue is Kashmir. Everyone recognizes this. Whether or not one states this publicly is merely a matter of detail. The second most important fact is that the Indian willingness for talks is not merely an act of charity: the armed struggle in Kashmir has made the status quo too costly for it. And this has not been achieved over night. The armed uprising in Kashmir has been slow but firm and steady. It has progressed to the point of evolving a visible leadership of its own.
This situation has dramatically altered the ground realities. Now, there is a definite and powerful voice of the Kashmiri leadership that cannot be ignored. This is a reality that both Pakistan and India have to take into account. The second most important ground reality is the public support for the peace process. Such a support is a sine qua non for any durable peace in the subcontinent. In the case of India, there are stable political institutions which can be used to ascertain public support for any agreement. The Pakistani situation is very different and complex. The public opinion in Pakistan is fractured; there are no institutions and a lot of dissenting voices ranging from Jihadi slogans to those who propound the idea of a confederation. And no one can be rightly called a representative of Pakistanis. The only viable alternative for General Musharraf would be to seek approval of the agreement through a referendum.
This option provides a distinct possibility of peace in the subcontinent. Whatever agreement is reached in Agra has to be very transparent and clear. Given the gravity and long-standing nature of the dispute, both teams would need to take their formula to their respective people for a final approval. In the case of Pakistan, the peace formula will have to be taken to the people. The most obvious mechanism for this would be a fair referendum that would validate and make it binding on all successive governments.
But the danger here is the temptation to attach the peace formula and the referendum with a much-needed validation of the General's rule. If the regime succumbs to this temptation, it would make the whole exercise meaningless. Once the peace process is initiated at Agra, it needs to build momentum and gain support at several levels. The Agra talks will not produce any magical formula; the road to peace has to be built brick by brick, taking all sides along. Only a just solution will be lasting.
A just solution is the one which identifies, recognizes and incorporates the political, military and psychological positions of all parties. The parties in this situation are the people of Pakistan, India and Kashmir. Without giving the people of Kashmir a seat at the negotiating table, there cannot be any peace. Whatever peace formula emerges from Agra has to recognize these basic facts because only on the basis of these basic facts can a solid and durable peace be built.
Sunday August 12, 2001-- Jamadi-Ul-Awall 21,1422 A.H
Are we still independent?
The writer is the president of
Centre for Islam and Science (CIS)
Within a week of Pakistan's fifty-fourth Independence Day, two events painfully reminded the nation that the celebrations might have been more a ritual than celebration of an actual reality. The fact that not many in Pakistan took note of these two events does not nullify their existence.
The first event happened on August 21, 2001. On that day, US Assistant Defence Secretary Peter W Rodman was responding to a reporter's question about US-Pakistan-India relations during a media roundtable at the Pentagon. Regarding the impression that US is pursuing its relationship with India at the expense of Pakistan, he said: "And I don't think we, as a great power, should be dispensing with allies when, you know, we think conditions have changed. It's an Islamic country in a very complicated region of the world. I think it is useful for the United States to have a friend in that part of the world... the (Pakistan) military is an institution that we have had contacts with, and it would seem useful to us to maintain a relationship."
Note the arrogance and the outright reference to supremacy of US interests in the statement. Rodman continued, "Well, I think this administration, from the President on down, sees India as an opportunity. But I think it's important to characterise it in the right way. India is not going to become an ally of the United States. I think India values its independence. It values its non-alignment. So I don't think anyone should suspect that India is going to become - you know, going to collude with us."
Mark the words: "India values its independence!" Stripped of diplomatic necessities in the comfort of Pentagon's tight security, Pakistan is seen as a country that does not value its independence. However painful, this is not merely perception; it is a reality that all except Pakistanis themselves know. From the very first day of its independence, Pakistan has suffered a reverse process that intensifies with every new aid package and with every new bi-lateral agreement.
Two days later, the second event that brought home the realisation that Pakistan's independence has become more of an illusion than reality was the visit of the Commonwealth's Secretary-General Don McKinnon to Islamabad on August 23. McKinnon had a one-to-one meeting with General Pervez Musharraf and met the Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar and the ARD leaders Nawabzada Nasrullah and Javed Hashmi. McKinnon, who is New Zealand's ex-foreign minister, known for his cordial manners, then held a press conference. He behaved like a viceroy. Mark his words regarding the devolution plan: "the Commonwealth will judge on deeds rather than words."
But this was only the prelude. Like a school teacher pats the back of a student, McKinnon said that the military general gets good marks on promises kept. Musharraf had promised to hold local elections and he has. He promised to decentralise power and it looks like he has done that as well. Next will be Musharraf's progress in carrying out electoral reforms, ensuring an independent and honest election commission to decide candidates and see the country through provincial and federal elections scheduled for October 2002. It seems that McKinnon's visit has confirmed for the military rulers the green signal that was issued by Rodman two days earlier, for McKinnon said that the army-led National Security Council, which currently is the real decision-maker in Pakistan, is certain to become a permanent feature of Pakistani politics as per Musharraf. However, he made it clear that the Commonwealth would want the majority of its members to be elected officials, not appointees. He said that it also seems clear that the military would have a supervisory role in any future set-up.
This is a real disaster: The decisions for Pakistan are being made in Washington and London and there is a reason for this. For the West in general, and the USA in particular, Pakistan holds special importance due to its nuclear weapons. But this is not because Pakistan has potential as an independent country; but because of the US nightmare that these nuclear weapons will come into the hands of those whom they call Islamic fundamentalists. This is their worse fear. And they have now concluded that Pakistan's military is the institution that can best protect their interests.
Read what McKinnon said in the light of Rodman's frank admission that "the (Pakistan) military is an institution that we have had contacts with, and it would seem useful to us to maintain a relationship" and you will immediately perceive the game plan. McKinnon left no doubt that he had come to sanctify the military's role in Pakistan's future. In the same press conference, he said, "The military is very much a part of Pakistani politics. No one can deny that. Pakistan has been part of the Commonwealth for more than 50 years and half of that has been under military rule." This is the most blatant violation of international law and yet another example of double standards for which the West has become notorious. The Commonwealth Secretary-General is justifying a military coup on the strength of previous military coups. This is like making a law that sanctifies theft on the basis that in a given time period so many thefts have occurred, therefore it is lawful to steal.
Pakistan's military rulers must be pleased. But for the country, this is nothing but sheer disaster and a roadmap to further internal disintegration. What the Secretary-General did not see is the debris left by military rule. He did not see the terrible price of these adventures. He did not see the flagrant violation of all internationally accepted and morally justified foundations of governance in his eagerness to approve the role of military in the political life of Pakistan. He merely found it convenient to cite our history as justification.
The absurdity of the current devolution plan is obvious. First, the plan envisions party-based elections but the military rulers will only allow political activity 90 days prior to the general elections. It is like growing democracy in 90 days. Even potatoes don't grow that fast! Isn't it obvious that democracy cannot be ordered to grow; that it is a system that takes roots in the soil of a polity slowly and it takes generations to become rooted in the thinking of the people?
The second absurdity is that Pakistanis can only choose candidates of the two major political parties of the country because no third party holds national importance. The heads of both parties are in exile, barred from elections on charges of corruption. Now, whichever of these two parties wins elections, it will have to do one of two things: Either, it elects a prime minister other than its party head, splitting party ranks, or it gets dropped all charges and convictions and brings its party head back. In both cases, there is no moral justification for the action. But imagine Nawaz Sharif coming back to the country because his party has a majority in the parliament and has forgiven and forgotten all his past deeds! Or the ever-changing Benazir-in-waiting becomes the prime minister again on the strength of her party. What would happen to her mantra of political freedom and democracy in a situation where the whole army brass is sitting in the National Security Council, watching her moves?
It seems that a Turkish-style solution has been chosen for Pakistan. The military will be firmly placed in the saddle through dubious constitutional changes with the clear goal of keeping the fundos out. But those who have come up with this solution forget that Pakistan is not Turkey. Thus, instead of a Turkish style watershed, Pakistan will resemble Algeria. In both cases, it would have compromised the last remains of its independence.
Friday September 28, 2001-- Rajab 10,1422 A.H
Justice or revenge?
Dr Muzaffar Iqbal
writer is the president of Centre for Islam and
Enough has been said about the tragic events of September 11, 2001. This "crime against humanity" has been universally condemned. Those who actually committed this crime died on the spot; they cannot be punished by humans any more. True, there must be those who helped to orchestrate this tragedy and who are still alive. They must be punished for their part in the crime.
Thus the task is to identify and punish the helpers. There are certain norms that are observed in all such cases. These norms require that identification of the culprits should be established beyond doubt and that the punishment should be according to the crime. In other words, we are dealing with the process of justice.
But so far, we have not heard about justice; instead what the Bush administration has been calling for is revenge. In order to do justice to the task, we must understand that revenge and justice are two totally different concepts. Revenge often gives birth to a cycle of violence, each based on revenge whereas justice stops violence and brings peace.
If we are serious about rooting out terrorism, we must see the September 11 events in their proper perspective. These events are truly tragic; the scale at which they were enacted makes them stand out in the history of terrorism. But after granting these basic facts, let us also note that they are not the only events of terrorism that the world has witnessed. In fact, the newspapers carry reports of terrorism from around the world on daily basis. The difference is, as already stated, in the scale, the number of casualties and the locale of these events.
Thus seen in the proper context, the tragic events of September 11 become part of other tragedies that visit us humans every day. Those that stand out in this series include the three-day carnage that started on September 16, 1982 in the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila by Israel's Phalangist militia allies in which hundreds of women were raped and 1,800 human beings were killed in cold blood. But this carnage was part of a bigger tragedy which started with the Israeli invasion of Lebanon; in the course of this act of terrorism, 17,500 Lebanese and Palestinians, almost all of them civilians, were killed.
If we wish to make the world safer, the problem of terrorism has to be understood in its totality, not merely as a single act committed on September 11 by nineteen individuals. Terrorism is an end-product of a longer process; it is not an independent entity. It is a reaction, not an action. It is not normal for humans to kill other innocent humans. It is an action that cannot be the work of a healthy mind. But revenge is likewise. Revenge means violence. It is just like terrorism but with a layer of justification imposed on the deed. However, the initial action also has a layer of justification in the minds of those who commit that action. In contrast, justice punishes the criminals without any element of revenge.
The goal of justice is to produce a better world; revenge has no goal but a blind passion as a driving force. Justice is aimed at stopping the future occurrence of the crime; revenge perpetuates the crime. Justice is universally accepted; revenge splits humankind into various camps. Justice helps in the evolution of a better society; revenge does the opposite. Justice is based on universal and indisputable moral values; revenge is an aberration of all values.
Thus, in spite of the gravity of the situation and its tremendous impact on us, let us not forget that, in the final analysis, it is justice that can produce a better society. Revenge would take us nowhere. Those who are obsessed with the idea of revenge, are merely hurling us in a blind ally from which nothing but more violence will emerge. It is very obvious that the United States of America has the military might to destroy any country in the world. But it is also obvious that this might cannot prevent future acts of violence on its own territory. And if our concern is with safety of our children and our own beings, then we must be concerned with the process of justice, not revenge.
The need of the time dictates that the United States of America take lead in the establishment of an International Court of Justice solely for cases of terrorism. In order to make this court globally acceptable, it must have creditable representatives from all over the world. Its logistics should include ability to quickly respond to the needs. It should be a court that can establish branches in various parts of the world by constituting mobile units. And its decisions should be binding on all nations, irrespective of their mutual alliances and interests. Anything short of total and impartial justice will be a recipe for further violence.
Quantum Note October 19, 2001
Faces of Terrorism
Dr. Muzaffar Iqbal
The Writer is the President of Center for Islam and Science (CIS).
The dreadful has already happened. As I write these words, American and US planes are flying over Pakistan on their way to Afghanistan where they are about to throw lethal weapons. These bombs thrown from high will not kill civilians, we are told. They are only meant to kill terrorists. These are in deed, smart bombs.
The steady drumbeat of the first war of the twenty-first century is now reverberating throughout the world. A new world order is in the making. The call to arms has two versions. If you hear it from Washington, it is called a crusade against terrorism; if you listen to the waves that emerge from the rocks of a ravaged land, it is called a crusade against Islam and Muslims. If you hear the battle cry knowing the historical path that has led to its emergence, you draw one conclusion; if you wish to ignore history, you reach a different assessment.
The death of 6,729 humans in New York is one face of terrorism. But this is not the only face that we see. While the political philosophers of European Union debate the dictionary definition of terrorism, let us focus on Chaman, the border town between Pakistan and Afghanistan, the immediate destination of thousands of un-welcomed Afghan men, woman and children. Here, just a few miles outside the city limits, on the threshold of the border between two Muslim countries, amidst thousands of refugees, a woman is squatting on a piece of old rug. She is about to give birth to a child. There is terror on her face, the kind which no one can ever describe.
If you wish to see another face of terror, look at the child who has been just pushed back by the guards at the border with a baton. If you could hear his scream, you will know what terror really is.
Faces of terrorism grow as we cross regions and frontiers. Within a week of the September 11 attacks, 300 cases of hate crimes were reported in America. Mosques were attacked. A child was beaten to unconsciousness in Ottawa, Canada and Molotov cocktail bombs were thrown at several Islamic centers across north America. This muffled face of terrorism is accompanied by yet another form.
I recall the face of an 11-year old boy who had asked me a question after I gave a talk about the concept of knowledge in Islam. The venue was the Iman School in the occupied Jerusalem. The question was: “When my brother’s head is crushed in front of my eyes, what is my duty? Come to school or prepare for Jihad?” By the time he finished asking his question, his voice had cracked, as if he had re-lived that moment of terror in which he saw the Israeli soldier crushing his brother’s head.
It is an irony of our times that the loudest voices in the current war-cry belong to those who have cobbled a massive destructive force in the name of combating terrorism. They wish us to believe that the death and destruction of Afghanistan is neither a crime nor a war against Islam and Muslims. Yet, their war-cry is couched in terms that evoke nothing but that: they have called it a crusade. The day they started their bombing was called “the day of reckoning”. Yet, we are not to associate this war with religion! We are supposed to forget that they have already profaned the sacredness of Islam in associating the crime of a few individuals with Islam, without showing an iota of evidence.
Another face of terrorism can be seen in the violence being committed by governments of Muslim countries against their own citizens. From Egypt to Indonesia, literally millions of human beings are living a life of fear and anguish because their governments have devised means to terrorize them on a daily basis. These governments have been directly or indirectly installed by those who never tire of singing songs of virtue of human rights, democracy and freedom of expression. They control these puppet governments through an elaborate system that involves secret agents, economic and political blackmail and outright aggression. Recall the agony and terror of millions of Iraqi children who have starved to death during the last eight years because of economic sanctions that have been the effective cause of destruction of a country with enormous oil reserves.
Hundreds of examples of this facet of terrorism can be cited. The most recent being the opening of IMF coffers to Indonesia after President Wahid’s ouster. As soon as a new puppet regime was installed, IMF quickly signed on a fresh package of “economic reform” and cleared the way to resume its $5 billion lending program to Indonesia. The same IMF had withheld under an agreed and formally sanctioned $400 million load from the previous administration of Abdurrahman Wahid. Does this not explain why Megawati Sukarnoputri, the new President of the most populated Muslim country, rushed to Washington to lend her support to the coming terror while thousands of her countrymen were protesting on the streets of Jakarta against that support.
But perhaps nothing is more despicable than the farcical self-righteousness of the perpetuators of this terrorism. The recent G-8 meeting in Genoa, Italy, was a public expression of their vulgarized stage show. Held amidst the most vicious and disgusting treatment of protesters by a violent, ill-trained and vengeful police, these leaders of the free-world congratulated themselves for their misdeeds, signed a worthless document which they could not cite minutes after signing and left after planning to meet next year in the secretive and remote recesses of Kananaskis in the Canadian rockies.
What we are about to witness in the first war of the twenty-first century is none other than a ruthless show of power, a calamity of global proportions that would leave thousands dead, millions as refugees and will securely tighten the noose around all the traditional Muslim lands. Just a simple glace at the world map would show us that after controlling the oil-rich lands of the Middle East, the only part left out of the traditional Muslim lands was that ancient home of Muslims that stretches north from Pakistan, right into the heart of Central Asia, to Samaqand where Qasm bin Abbas, the cousin of the Prophet (SAW) was martyred in 57 AH.
That serene tomb in the Shah-e Zinda complex of Samarqand is only a few miles away from the shrine of Imam Bukhari, the most revered scholars of the Prophetic tradition. And if you know that the most recent estimates of oil reserves in Central Asia far exceed those of Middle East, you will know why the wind is blowing that way.
If the new wind carries in its wake unimaginable human suffering, millions of refugees, broken families, destroyed houses, smoked and charred bodies, that is not terrorism, we are told, but a battle against it.
Quantum Note unpublished??
Combating Tony Blair
Dr. Muzaffar Iqbal
The Writer is the President of Center for Islam and Science (CIS).
Tony Blair, the British Prime minister has emerged as the most articulate crusader in the quickly formed Western alliance against “terrorism”. His whirlwind tours of the Muslim countries, hard hitting words against certain individuals and his unbound hatred for the Taliban and particularly against Osama bin Laden are no secret. But what is most instructive is a certain Napoleonic strand in his words and gestures which smacks of a hypocrisy at best and willful deceit at worst.
Recall when Napoleon arrived in Egypt at the head of a strong French army, he went to a mosque and was ready to pronounce himself a Muslim in an effort to win the loyalty of Egyptian masses. “I read the Qur’aan,” Tony Blair tells us, “I find no sanction of terrorism in it.” In his recent article in the News (October 13, 2001), he has a variation on this theme: “Everyone I have met has told me that these attacks were contrary to all the tenets of Islam and the teachings of the Qur’aan. Everyone wants to see those who carried out the wholesale murder of the innocent men, women and children, brought to justice.”
Of course, every believing Muslim knows this. The Qur’aan sanctifies life, not death. It provides a strong moral code for everything ranging from the daily lives to the warfare. The life of the Prophet of Islam, may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him, exemplified this code throughout his life, a life that remains the most documented life in history. One incidence from this life is enough to explain what it means to be human and gracious. During the battle of Uhud, the Prophet’s beloved cousin Hamza (RA), was martyred. Hind, the wife of Abu Sufyan had enticed Wahshi to find and kill him. Wahshi did his job. Hind and other members of her tribe then mutilated the body. After they left, the Prophet sent Harith ibn as-Simmah (RA) to look for Hamza. When he found him, he was so appalled at the sight that he could bring himself to go back and report the incident to the Prophet (SAW). The Prophet (SAW) then sent Ali (RA) and he found Harith standing aghast by the mutilated body. They both returned to the Prophet (SAW) and took him to the place where the body was lying. When the Prophet saw what had been done, he said, “Never yet have I felt more anger than I feel now; and when God grants me a victory over Quraysh, I will mutilate thirty of their dead.”
But soon after this, there came the revelation, “If ye inflict punishment, then inflict only so much as ye have suffered; but if ye endure patintly, that is better for the patient.” (Q. 16:126) And the Prophet never took his revenge; he commanded Muslims to respect human face as being the most Godlike part of the body. “When one of you strike a blow,” he is reported to have said, “let him avoid striking the face… for God created Adam in His image.”
This, then, is the message of Islam. Even in war, it restrains Muslims. It enshrines certain rules and it asks its followers to be gracious, kind and forgiving. But we Muslims do not need Tony Blair to teach us our Islam. Our sources are what they have always been: the Qur’aan and Sunnah. And it is on the basis of the Qur’aan and Sunnah that Muslims have condemned the attacks in New York.
In the aftermath of the tragedy in New York, what was the most rightful thing to do was to bring the culprits to justice. But instead of following a juristic process that the US had followed in case of the Oklahoma bombing, it immediately pointed toward Osama bin Laden and after a few days of furious verbal diatribe, fixed the blame squarely on him and a little later on Taliban. At that point, the whole world was asking the US to produce evidence. The NATO meeting in which the US faced the strongest demand for evidence was quickly adjourned. The next day, the US came up with “evidence”. Tony Blair took that “evidence” to various capitals and extracted lukewarm support for it. And then came the attacks which continue to kill innocent Afghans and devastate an already devastated land.
These attacks have been accompanied by a media war against Islam and Muslims. Three hundred incidents of attacks on Islamic centers and properties of Muslims have been reported in the US alone. Not a single person was brought to court for these crimes. Not a single person was arrested. No one came to the help of twelve-year-old boy who was beaten to unconsciousness in Ottawa, Canada. Instead, the whole print and electronic media of the Western world has joined hands in a chorus against Muslims in general and Osama bin Laden and the Taliban in particular.
The evidence is confidential, we are told. But think about it for a moment. A man has been charged for a crime but the evidence cannot be made public! What a mockery of the idea of justice. A report issued by the UN, just before the New York incidents, praised the Talibans for eradicating the cultivation of poppy. But Tony Blair in his recent speech in the British Parliament incites his countrymen by saying that the 90% heroine sold in the streets of London comes from Afghanistan. In his blind hatred against the Taliban, he sees nothing but darkness. He does not have the moral strength to stand up to the devastating bombing of innocent men, women and children. Instead, in his article in the News, he depicts a black picture of the state of Afghanistan.
Instead, he claims that it is Osama who is “willing to murder innocent women and children, including Muslims.” He warns us about the Taliban: “let us make no mistake about the sort of people they are. Public administration is chaotic and getting worse. The country is desperately poor and getting poorer because of the regime's policies. Teachers, doctors and other educated Afghans have been forced to flee or live in terror. Because the Kabul regime has so badly mismanaged the economy, the Afghan people are starving.”
What a vile assertion! The Afghanistan is in a mess, Mr. Blair, not because of the misrule of the Taliban government during the last three years; it is in this sorry state because of a devastating war followed by a civil war that has been going on for the last twenty-two years. Please do not distort history. Face the facts squarely. It was the cold war between the US and the Russians that brought the first torrent of international politics and destruction of that calm peaceful land, nestled in the beauty of an ancient culture and civilization. It was the US war fought in that country that left it mined to such an extent that thousands of innocent men, women and children have lost their lives and parts of their bodies. And these mines, let us face it, Mr. Blair, came from the ammunition factories operating in your and your allies’ countries.
Making of another Spain?
Dr. Muzaffar Iqbal
The Writer is the President of Center for Islam and Science (CIS).
Friday, October 26, 2001 has become a historical day in the history of the United States and Muslims living there. The fact that it has remained relatively unnoticed by a vast majority does not reduce its importance. On that fateful day, the United States of America embarked upon a long journey which may eventually make it another Spain for Muslims.
The day began like any normal day. But shortly after noon, when President Bush signed the anti-terrorism bill H.R. 3162, he had turned the tide of history. This bill was sponsored by Rep. Sensenbrenner, F. James, Jr. on October 23 and it became Public Law (No. 107-56) on October 26! Never in the history of a nation like the United States of America, any bill of such far-reaching implications has gone through such summary hearing.
On the day it was introduced in the House, it went was simultaneously referred to the Committee on the Judiciary, as well as to the Committees on Intelligence (Permanent Select), Financial Services, International Relations, Energy and Commerce, Education and the Workforce, Transportation and Infrastructure, and Armed Services. On the same day (Oct. 23), at 7:15 pm, Mr. Sensenbrenner moved to suspend the rules and pass the bill. The bill was considered under suspension of the rules. At 8:27 pm, at the conclusion of debate, the Yeas and Nays were demanded and ordered. Pursuant to the provisions of clause 8, rule XX, the Chair announced that further proceedings on the motion would be postponed.
The next day, (Oct. 24, 2001), the bill was considered to be as unfinished business at 10:37 am but at 11:03, the motion to suspend the rules and pass the bill was agreed to by the Yeas and Nays: (2/3 required) by a vote of 357 - 66 (re: roll no. 398). At 11:03, a motion to reconsider the bill laid on the table and was agreed to without objection. Then began a short hearing. On October 25, 2001, the bill had been passed by the Senate by Yea-Nay Vote. 98 – 1 (US Senate Record Vote no. 313). Senator Landrieu (D-LA) did not vote and Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) voted against it. Within minutes, the bill was cleared for the White House and it was presented to President on October 26, who signed it and urged the law enforcement agencies to use it immediately. Within the next two days, many Muslims had been arrested under the new Public Law No: 107-56!
The sole voice of reason that opposed the bill in the Senate said that “the Administration’s proposed bill contains vast new powers for law enforcement, some seemingly drafted in haste and others that came from the FBI’s wish list that Congress has rejected in the past. You may remember that the Attorney General announced his intention to introduce a bill shortly after the September 11 attacks. He provided the text of the bill the following Wednesday, and urged Congress to enact it by the end of the week. That was plainly impossible, but the pressure to move on this bill quickly, without deliberation and debate, has been relentless ever since. It is one thing to shortcut the legislative process in order to get federal financial aid to the cities hit by terrorism. We did that, and no one complained that we moved too quickly. It is quite another to press for the enactment of sweeping new powers for law enforcement that directly affect the civil liberties of the American people without due deliberation by the peoples’ elected representatives.”
However, even this voice of reason did not address the main flaw of the bill: its apartheid nature. The new law only applies to the residents of the US who are not yet its citizens. For example the J-1 Visa holders, a vast majority of whom are Muslims, the students and the immigrants with permanent status.
Senator Russ did, however, said, that “the bill contains some very significant changes in criminal procedure that will apply to every federal criminal investigation in this country, not just those involving terrorism. One provision would greatly expand the circumstances in which law enforcement agencies can search homes and offices without notifying the owner prior to the search. The longstanding practice under the Fourth Amendment of serving a warrant prior to executing a search could be easily avoided in virtually every case, because the government would simply have to show that it has reasonable cause to believe that providing notice may seriously jeopardize an investigation." This is a significant infringement on personal liberty.”
The new law allows law enforcement to monitor computers, open e-mails, wiretap telephones, it breaks down the distinction between intelligence and criminal investigation and it permits the government under FISA to compel the production of records from any business regarding any person, if that information is sought in connection with an investigation of terrorism or espionage. Senator Russ found this very troubling because, he said, that “under this bill [now law], the government can compel the disclosure of the personal records of anyone – perhaps someone who worked with, or lived next door to, or went to school with, or sat on an airplane with, or has been seen in the company of, or whose phone number was called by -- the target of the investigation…under this provision, the government can apparently go on a fishing expedition and collect information on virtually anyone. All it has to allege in order to get an order for these records from the court is that the information is sought for an investigation of international terrorism or clandestine intelligence gathering. That’s it. On that minimal showing in an ex parte application to a secret court, with no showing even that the information is relevant to the investigation, the government can lawfully compel a doctor or hospital to release medical records, or a library to release circulation records. This is a truly breathtaking expansion of police power.”
According to the new law, the Attorney General can detain immigrants, including legal permanent residents, for seven days merely on the suspicion that the person is engaged in terrorism. The bill also denies detained persons a trial or hearing where the government would be required to prove that the person is, in fact, engaged in terrorist activity. The bill also allows the detention and deportation of people engaging in innocent associational activity. It would allow for the detention and deportation of individuals who provide lawful assistance to groups that are not even designated by the Secretary of State as terrorist organizations, but instead have engaged in vaguely defined "terrorist activity" sometime in the past. To avoid deportation, the immigrant is required to prove a negative: that he or she did not know, and should not have known, that the assistance would further terrorist activity.
Under the new law, a lawful permanent resident who makes a controversial speech that the government deems to be supportive of terrorism might be barred from returning to his or her family after taking a trip abroad. Senator Russ asked in the Senate: “Who do we think is most likely to bear the brunt of this abuse? It won’t be immigrants from Ireland, it won’t be immigrants from El Salvador or Nicaragua, it won’t even be immigrants from Haiti or Africa. It will be immigrants from Arab, Muslim, and South Asian countries. In the wake of these terrible events, our government has been given vast new powers and they may fall most heavily on a minority of our population who already feel particularly acutely the pain of this disaster.”
A similar, albeit more draconian, law is under discussion in the Canadian Parliament. It is likely to be passed with only cosmetic changes. This really means the opening of a new chapter in the history of Muslims living in North American. They are poorly organized. While some of them have made their millions in the new lands, all of them remain millions without rights, without a broad defense mechanism against state sponsored discrimination. They are also without popular public support and now without legal protection. This is, indeed, the beginning of the making of another Spain for them.
Friday November 09, 2001-- Sha'baan 22,1422 A.H
The News International
The tightening noose
The writer is the president of Centre for Islam and Science (CIS)
Even an elementary student of history knows that all that September 11 did was to increase the rate at which the noose around the Muslim world was being tightened. The die had already been cast. There had been loud rumblings of “madrassas breeding terrorists”. The western media had already prepared the ground by extensive coverage of “terrorist training camps”. The spectre of nukes going into the hands of “Islamic fundamentalists” had been hammered into the consciousness of a population that lives on the edge of despair; even the word bio-terrorism had become a daily commodity much before anthrax made its appearance.
September 11 hastened the unrolling of the script. It did not create the necessity of writing new war plans; it merely advanced them in quick order. Those who are thinking in terms of cause and effect relationships have been duped; they are ignoring history which is never forgiven by history. Even a cursory glace at the newspaper headlines of this past summer will be enough to see the direction in which the wind was blowing.
The Palestinian intifada was about to mark the completion of its first year. The pressure on Israel had become unbearable. The Kashmir struggle was threatening Indian control with increasing force and even the Chechen front had started to recover from the heavy losses it had suffered in the brute massacre of the past year.
At the home front, the United States and Canada were facing a huge a bleak winter. With the fuel prices soaring, the economy had all but fallen into that dreadful mode: recession. Air Canada had reported losses, major US airlines were in trouble and the increasing fuel prices had started to take their toll on consumer spending. Everything was geared toward a mega act; September 11 conveniently provided the opening lines of the new script; the rest followed naturally.
Now, in the fifth week of bombing, the United States has decidedly shown its political, military and technological might to the rest of the world. The first war of the twenty-first century is unlike any other war humanity has seen. It remotely resembles the Gulf War but it is being fought in a fundamentally different way: The Gulf War had a very defined goal; it had a visible “target” and though it carried the hidden agenda with it, that agenda was neither so hidden nor so incisive: everyone knew that the Shaikhdom of Kuwait will remain indebted to its saviours forever and that once on the soil, the American troops will not leave the Gulf. Defeat of Iraq but continuation of rule of Saddam Hussein were also more or less obvious. The most painful aspect of that war was, however, not obvious. No one expected the United States to use depleted uranium and contaminate the soil and water of Iraq.
One recalls Collin Powel’s boastful statement after the Gulf War that in the next war, the United States will be able to use real time, soldier-to-command level communication. The plans for the next generation of weapons and communication equipment were already in place. But the United States needed to use and sell off its older hardware. The Gulf War provided that windfall and shortly after the War reached its stalemate (it has never ended), the United States (and UK) were able to sell most of what they wanted to sell. The scene was now set for the next generation of weapons to go into production.
Ten years later, the new weapons in place, the rope firmly stretched around the Muslim world, the United States and its Western allies were eagerly looking for an opportunity to start tightening their knots which will bind the Muslim world into another century of economic, cultural and political colonialism. After years of ruthless killings, Algeria had been subdued. The rest of Africa, steeped in its terrible poverty was “polite and moderate”; the Gulf states were happy in their new found American-style desert resorts; the bridge from Dahran to Bahrain was seeing bumper-to-bumper weekend traffic and the prostitute dens, casinos and bars of Bahrain were doing roaring business.
The Indonesians and Malaysians were towing line. The only troubled spots were Palestine, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the mild rumblings in the Central Asia. Palestine has been considered to be a back burner; a red hot spike, pierced right in the heart of the Muslim world, so that it to remains forever in a state of convulsant agony. But it is also considered to be a manageable “problem”. With the never-ending resolutions of “O I SEE” (sic. OIC) coming forth at rapid pace with each new gathering of the heads of states and kings and the advanced military hardware going to Israel, all that the stone-throwing children waging war against tanks and a few desperate suicide bombers could hope to do was to steal the headlines once in a while. The state of Israel is expanding slowing but surely and the economic deprivation of Palestinians was supposed to take care of the rest.
Iran had started to come in line. There has been high level contacts. The opening of new informal channels and the slow emergence of a “moderate” faction were good signs. There the future did not look so bleak to actively engage in an overt operation. But Pakistan and Afghanistan were a different story.
With the two major parties discredited, Pakistan was the number one spot on the US map. With its huge population, somewhat advanced education (compared to other Muslim countries) and of course, the nukes, it had become the number one worry. And the fact that it sat right at the foot of the road that leads to the huge oil reservoirs of Central Asia, made it even more desirable target. But Pakistan was, at least, a place where the US could do business: there were enough leads to pursue, enough horses to bet on and enough players to move. Afghanistan, on the other hand, was a complete dark spot.
Ever since the Taliban takeover of Kabul, the Western analysts had been increasing becoming aware of the emergence a new system which was called Islamic. And unlike the Shia brand Iranian Revolution, which could not be exported to the Sunni world, the Afghan-style government, if successful, could become a model for a vast majority of Muslims, most of all for Pakistanis. Thus, intense efforts were made during the last two years to discredit Taliban.
This homework was being done systematically. The gradual increase in the media coverage, the highly evocative commentary on the destruction of statues, the ever-present rhetoric of drug trade, the never-ending stories of “mistreatment of Afghan women” and the long list of other accusations would flood the media headlines and then there would be silence. This was the slow building up; it was the deliberate scheme which would lead to the eventual stepping into that dark spot where one of the most wanted man could be found.
And of course, the Taliban were prone to make mistakes. After all they are neither trained administrators, nor historians; they are merely madrassa-trained students who are learning everything from their own experience. But they dared to reject the aid that came tainted with western women-lib advocates, they were “totally unreasonable” when it came to defend their faith; the West could simply not converse with them. They are a different breed altogether. And their worse sin was that they were hosting a man who has made it his life mission to awaken Muslims out of their lethargy. Such dangerous men could not be tolerated to walk on earth. Hence, the noose had to be rapidly tightened and September 11 provided a golden opportunity which could not be lost.
Friday November 23, 2001-- Ramadan 07,1422 A.H
Dr Muzaffar Iqbal
US designs for the Muslim world
The writer is a freelance journalist
The marines have landed and we now own a piece of Afghanistan," said General James Mattis of the US marines on November 26th. The marines on the USS Peleliu had been well-trained for the task. Prior to their iconic journey into the wasteland of Kandahar, they had been indoctrinated through a meticulously planned psychological strategy that would turn any human into a fierce beast. An Associated Press reporter on USS Peleliu reported that they had been asked to stencil their vehicles and weapon systems with silhouettes of the World Trade Centre and the figures 9/11, denoting September 11. Then there were the daily lectures against their foe and before their departure, there was a prayer, a firing practice and a pep talk from their commander, Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Bourne. He told them that "eleven weeks ago, our country was attacked again. They started this fight and you are going to finish it."
Lieutenant Bourne was merely echoing what President Bush had said in September: "There's been a war declared. We will find who did it, we'll smoke them out of their holes. We'll get them running and we'll bring them to justice." And when asked if he would like to have a live or dead Osama, Donald Rumsfeld, who behaves like a Pharaoh, said, "O my goodness gracious, I prefer the dead."
But the American war in Afghanistan cannot be explained away through these pale descriptions of revenge. It is not even enough to evoke scenes of brutal massacre at Qala Jhangi or the elimination of entire villages by American B-52 bombers. Any fair judgment would admit that the events of September 11 are merely miniscule in comparison to what is happening in Afghanistan. But these gruesome acts of terrorism cannot be viewed in isolation. The first war of the twenty-first century is merely the first step in the larger American design for the Muslim world. While the havoc being wrought in Afghanistan is still smouldering, the next targets are already being placed on the drawing board. Richard Perle, the most visible and forceful advocate of action against Iraq outside of government, believes that success in Afghanistan means that the US can move "from one liberation to another".
This is, indeed, going to be a long war. Americans have learned a wonderful new technique in Afghanistan: Go find a "northern alliance", provide them money, weapons, information and whatever else they demand, then start pounding the entire region with 2,000 pound bombs until the surrogate soldiers are ready to do the dirty job. In the meanwhile, prepare marines, psyche them up and then unleash them when it is safe to do so. This will ensure that no gummy bags arrive home. There will be a small outcry, mostly from Noam Chomskys of a previous generation but that means nothing; CNN and the other mainstream press will manufacture public opinion to drown the dissident voices in its uproar.
But this is only one aspect of the new war. The other aspect involves "reconstruction". While the first step is designed to push certain countries back to the Stone Age, the second step is meant to enacting a fast forward step that will bring them back into the very heart of twenty-first century, equipped with satellite phones. This will be accomplished in such a masterful way that all gruesome acts will be obliterated from history. No one will be able to remember the days when B-52 bombers rained fire, death and destruction from the skies, obliterating whole villages. A new history will be quickly manufactured in the new schools both at home as well as in the newly reconstructed lands, previously owned by tribal lords.
This new history will recall the war and all acts of brutality and terror in such confused accounts that no one will be able to distinguish facts from fiction, except for cases which would have been meticulously preserved: the twin towers now etched on the very weapons which will soon be used to obliterate the ancient bazaars of Kandahar. For example, it has been ensured that no one should ever find out how the handcuffed prisoners were able to start a "revolt" that would end up in a mass killing that recalls the most savage acts of barbarism ever recorded in human history. At present, there remains some imperfection in this mechanism of total control and hence a few British reporters who have been able to etch a lasting image of that carnage at Qala Jhangi in our memory. The finale of that gruesome deed runs like this: a tank rolls-in over the dead bodies of hundreds of "foreign Talibans", it fires three bursts of bullets and then there is complete silence. But these are increasingly rare and soon Robert Fisks of this world will be an extinct species.
What will remain will be a universal chorus repeating ad infinitum: "This conflict is a fight to save the civilised world" (Bush) or an attack on states that "have placed themselves outside the family of civilised nations" (Iain Duncan Smith). This chorus attempts to make us forget that their version of civilisation includes carpet-bombing, destruction of whole villages, use of weapons of mass destruction, daisy-cutters and all. But this is only detail. The grand American plan for the Muslim world sees these terrible acts merely as a prelude. The main act has a different script altogether: It attempts to establish a made-in-America Islam throughout the traditional lands of Islam. The official line that this is not a war against Islam, repeated ad nauseam, is indeed true. Only, by Islam, they mean a made-in-America Islam which has been produced in many versions to suit the needs of various regions. But all versions have one thing in common: they are designed to produce a polity in which the religion will be restricted to the personal sphere. Islam will be totally de-politicised, its pristine sources will be shorn of their vitality and in time, a new generation of "Muslims" would be produced that will be eager to join ranks with the secularised Christians and Jews of the "civilised" world.
There is no place for words like Jihad, martyrdom and Ummah in this made-in-America Islam. Each and every member of the community will be a free agent, independent from the rest of believers, minding his or her own business and often making his or her own rules. Likewise, the social aspects of the message of the Qur'aan have no place in this new version of Islam. It rejects the Qur'aanic call for the existence of group of believers in each community that guides it towards righteous deeds (amr bil maaruf) and leads it away from the apprehensive actions (nahi an'il munkar). This American made Islam considers all such commands anachronistic. This Islam has no room for the Qur'aanic notion that all believers constitute a fraternity and the Prophetic declaration that likens Muslims to a single body so that when one part hurts, the whole body suffers.
But why? One may ask. Why does America want to enact a new version of Islam? The answer is not oil which is now selling at its rock bottom price in decades. What is at the heart of this new war is an American obsession to "own" the rest of the world and to "civilise" it. It is an obsession that is no different than its nineteenth century version that produced British and French colonies in what was mainly the heartland of Muslim people. And this is not something that has been dreamt up following September 11. The new Pharaohs of this world have been at work on this project for decades.
They tried a test-tube version in Beirut; and it worked. Next, they tried a slightly modified version in the Gulf states and it was enthusiastically received. Bahrain, Qatar, Dubai Kuwait, all eagerly opted for bars, pleasure resorts, chains of five star hotels with casinos, drinking and prostitution. Confirmed reports from Saudi Arabia tell us of the presence of non-Muslims
in the Haram area in complete violation of the Qur'aanic commands. Drugs and drinking have become epidemic problems and a whole hospital in Jeddah is devoted to the treatment of drug addicts. These are not individual aberrations; these are cases of a state sponsored culture which has nothing Islamic about it.
Of course, one cannot blame the United States for manufacturing this new version of Islam. It is the acceptors of this new version who are to be blamed. The United States can only be held responsible for brutally imposing its writ on millions of people. From one end of the Muslim world to the other, the United States supports puppet regimes that maim, kill and imprison their citizens. Thus they have been able to create millions of dispossessed Muslims who are poorly placed in life and who are struggling to survive. This subsistence level living does not give them any opportunity to even understand the true dimensions of this new conflict, let alone do something about it. But there is a small minority of Muslims who can do something about this onslaught against Islam. Their role will be discussed in the next column.
Friday December 21, 2001-- Shawaal 05,1422 A.H
The facets of 'New War'
The writer is a freelance journalist
At the beginning of their campaign against Afghanistan, the US leadership took a lot of trouble to claim that it is not a war against Islam. Canadian, French, German and British leaders followed suit. They went to mosques, they invited Muslim "leaders" to their offices and they trotted the globe with their new gospel of war, insisting that it was not a war against Islam. And there is some truth to this.
The American attack on Afghanistan started when its rulers asked for proof against Osama bin Laden in response to the US demand for handing him over. It was a natural act for any self-respecting Pashtun; no Pashtun would hand over his guest to his enemies without any valid reason. It was their asking that infuriated the American government; the right to decide who is guilty and who is not was a propriety right of the American government and no one was supposed to question it. Hence, the Taliban demand for proof became the immediate cause of the appearance of B252 bombers over Afghan cities and towns. They came with their lethal bombs and the rest is history now.
The fact that the United States has killed more than twenty-five thousand human beings in revenge of less than four thousand lives lost in New York is never going to be forgotten. Added to this is the suffering of approximately five hundred thousand refugees, devastation and complete disappearance of several villages, destruction of the pristine forests and destabilisation of mountain ranges. All of these constitute horrendous crimes against humanity which have been recorded in the tablet which no one can erase.
But this was not war against Islam; only against innocent civilians who happened to be Muslims, living a helpless existence in a ravaged country. The real war against Islam is being waged elsewhere. And the arsenal of that war is not daisy cutters; it involves far more sophisticated and lethal weapons. But before we go on that aspect of the latest crusade, let us also remember the fate of thousands of protesters who had come out on the streets of Lahore, Karachi, Jakarta, Amman and other major cities of the Muslim world. They were being led by a few firebrand leaders who had appropriated the right to lead masses in the name of Islam. The governments of these countries, on the other hand, had thrown their lot with the United States of America, willingly or under pressure. This caused a split which remains an obvious reminder of a deep malaise that exists in the contemporary Muslim polity.
The role played by the so-called Islamic leadership is also important to note. After initial uncertain and often violent encounters, the agitation on the streets died down. Most of the self-appointed leaders were removed from the scene through house arrests or detention. There was no second in command. This leadership had done no planning for this obvious first step by the governments. Hence those who had come out in thousands to agitate against the war were left hanging in the air, without any leadership. Hundreds of ordinary citizens were jailed. Many were killed, maimed or injured. Left leaderless, the masses convulsed in helpless agony, waiting for a messiah.
This leadership is often labeled as "fundamentalist" or more recently "Jihadi". During the last fifty years, it has never been able to win enough seats in any election anywhere in the Muslim world to form a government. There is only one exception to this: Algeria. The Islamic party did win an election in Algeria but the army stepped in and denied them the opportunity to form a government. A bloody civil war followed. It took its toll and in the end, the secular minded military generals were able to dominate. The case of Turkey is more complicated, hence its population has to endure an even more torturous path. The rest of the traditional Muslim lands are now being ruled by self-appointed kings, military generals or presidents "elected by 98% votes", this last category being a most recent version of dictatorship invented by Western governments to install their Hosni Mubaraks. All of these categories of rulers have one thing in common: they are all supported by the United States. Most of them receive economic support from the new colonising institutions such as the World Bank and the IMF, others are kept in power through an elaborate chain of security networks which operates with the help of arms, ammunition and technology directly supplied by the United States.
This general state of the Muslim world has emerged during the post-World War II period. During this period, the United States of America has very aggressively replaced the old colonial powers. Thus it has become an heir to lands previously held by Britain and France. Note that the Soviet Union was never really a match for the United States though the specter of Cold War did hang over the world for a while. However, those who knew the internal situation of the communist regime, knew all along that it was a paper tiger.
With the formal demise of the Soviet power, the sole arbitrator of world affairs would naturally find it extremely irritating to be challenged by anyone. Thus the desire to own the rest of the world and implement a grand design that would render all other civilisations obsolete is borne out of a historical process that has left no other economic or military power on the world scene. But there is one major irritant in this grand design: a bunch of "fundamentalists" who have an equally global vision of their religion. They lack the technological or economic clout but make up for this with their lives. These irritants are found everywhere and in spite of their wholesale massacres, they have not become an extinct species. Quite the contrary; they keep popping up everywhere. What is really disturbing, from the point of view of the new coloniser, is the fact that this bunch has no defined location or nationality or other defining factors. But they do have one thing in common: Islam.
Hence, there is a natural reason for the perception that the current crusade is, in fact, against Islam. However, let us be very clear. The war against Islam cannot be fought with daisy cutters and tomahawk missiles. The war against Islam is being fought at other frontiers: the spiritual and the intellectual. It is this incisive war that is quietly ripping the very fabric of Muslim societies that deserve our attention. But because there is so much noise, violence and clamour at the forefront, not many Muslims are paying attention to this other front.
The war at this other front has been taken up from where the orientalists of the previous two centuries had left it. Goldziher, Schacht and their twentieth century followers had not burned the midnight oil for nothing. Thus when the American evangelist Franklin Graham recently wrote in the Wall Street Journal that "The (Qur'aan) provides ample evidence that Islam encourages violence in order to win converts and to reach the ultimate goal of an Islamic world..." and when Rabbi Marvin Hier accused on CNN's Larry King Weekend that that the Qur'aan, Islam's revealed text, holds "extremist" views, they were not making isolated personal remarks about the Qur'aan. They were following a well-structured plan which has come to a point where it must attack the very heart of Islam: the Qur'aan.
Recall, Goldziher and Schacht had restricted their attacks to the Hadith literature. They had spent all their "scholarly" abilities to demonstrate that Hadith literature is not reliable. Their work has not gone to waste. Today, one can find many Muslims who eagerly believe in their assertions. The fact that these Muslims have no idea of the tremendous scholarship that has gone into the making of this Hadith tradition, tells us where the Islamic leadership has failed.
Educated in the western institutions or their local verities, these Muslims have breathed the very air in which Goldziher-type scholarship flourishes. Secularised to the very basic and fundamental patterns of thought processes, they are easy prey to the incisive tools that work silently. It is this "silent war" against Islam that is the main cause of the emergence of a schizophrenic culture in all Muslim lands. It is this underground, behind the scene, war that is of crucial importance for this century. And, unfortunately, the firebrand Muslim leadership does not understand these hidden facets of the new war.