The News International Pakistan


Friday January 04, 2002-- Shawaal 19,1422 A.H.
ISSN 1563-9479

Editor: Shaheen Sehbai





Dr Muzaffar Iqbal



Realities of our time


The writer is a freelance  journalist



With the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9,1989, the West entered a new phase of its history. Ten years earlier, the Muslim world had entered its most crucial phase of the twentieth century with two defining events: the Iranian revolution and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. But whereas the fall of the Berlin Wall accelerated the process of integration of Europe during the nineties, the Muslim world witnessed further inner disintegration first through the Iran-Iraq war and then because of the fatal invasion of Kuwait by Iraq. The end result of this invasion produced a sea-change in the political realities of our times through the Gulf War that witnessed several new kinds of weapons and military techniques.

But the Gulf War was only a prelude. The real transforming event began on the morning of September 11, 2001, when a commercial aircraft on a scheduled flight was turned into a deadly weapon. This criminal act of hyper-terrorism opened the floodgates of violence against innocent civilians that has since consumed thousands of lives. This iconic act which attacked the symbols of US economic (the World Trade Centre), military (the Pentagon) and political (the White House) power triggered the United States to overturn the status quo of international politics. In a clear display of power, no choice was given to other nation states. The world was warned that those who are not with the US, are against it. President Bush was insistent in his demands for a yes/no answer; "we would remember anyone who chose to sit on the fence," he said.

Within a few days, allegiance had been extracted which encompassed both the United Nations and Nato and a grand total of 36 other countries, which included all Western countries as well as Japan along with a handful of Muslim countries whose support was sought for symbolic or operational reasons. Once the coalition was set up, the United States took lead in defining the parameters of the new war; the others silently watched and rushed to help in whatever measure they were asked. No one knew the exact strategy. All other partners of the grand coalition, including France, Germany, Japan, Italy and even the UK seemed Lilliputian by comparison.

The bombing of Afghanistan began on October 9. By then, thousands of US dollars had already gone into patching together a small army on the northern border of Afghanistan. These foot soldiers were employed through local warlords with the going rate of 250,000 US dollars per warlord. During the Gulf War, Iraq had withstood only three days of carpet-bombing. The US military commanders had expected a similar time span here but it took much longer and exasperated everyone involved. But those who knew what was being done, knew that Taliban were being hollowed from within. When the incessant bombing and the buying power of the US dollars produced visible results, they were swift. It is important to recall that before the bombing started, the US gave warnings to the Taliban: hand over Osama Bin Laden or face the consequences. Had they accepted the demand, they could have saved themselves. Perhaps. But they had the courage to ask the United States for evidence for meeting the demand of extradition and that proved to be their fatal mistake.

But a more important result of this war is the apparent demoralisation of millions of Muslims. Joking references to the concept of Ummah are not uncommon these days. The language being used in the media in the Muslim world is full of characteristic western categories and adjectives. Even the applicability of Shariah in the twenty-first century is being questioned. Under innocent questions such as "who represents Islam?", there is a new crop of self-styled thinkers who are spreading the gospel of a new, modified version of Islam that would take us away from the dictates of Madrassa-educated bearded relics of a previous era. They talk of the touch of enlightenment and the light of education required to free Muslims from the meaningless mumbo jumbo of rituals and to recognise the real spirit of Islam.

While this intellectual northern alliance is spreading its discontent with full force in the traditional Muslim lands and a new army of Islam-haters is doing a similar job in the West, millions of Muslims are quietly seeking to redress the situation. They know that Islam was not sent to become outdated. Their faith in the Qur'aan, the divine Word, protected forever from all kinds of corruption, is unshakable. Likewise, the Sunnah of the Prophet remains a shining example for them. But their voices are drowned in the clamour of victorious shouts. The stark reality of a disproportionate power equation has never been so painfully felt. The two most important questions are: What is to be done? How can the vision of Islam be translated into reality in the contemporary world?

I do not pretend to hold the answers to these questions. I also think no single person has such answers, because they do not exist in any ready-made format. But I do wish to clarify a few basic precepts.

(1) The human condition (historical as well as contemporary) can either be viewed through secular lenses or it can be seen through a faith tradition. In the latter case, one cannot eliminate God from the equation. Viewed from within Islam, it is clear that the absence of an existing example does not obliterate divine decree. The concept of Ummah is a Qur'aanic concept and no matter how fractured various groups of Muslims become, the divinely ordained relationship cannot be abrogated by humans.

(2) This concept does not require the support of the heads of Muslim states; it exists at a much more fundamental level and hence the policies of contemporary governments, or some fake institutions such as the OIC, cannot be a measuring stick for the existence or absence of this relationship.

(3) The present situation is merely a continuity of the larger historical scheme. Islam and Muslims have weathered far graver situations. Recall the Mongol invasion in the middle of the thirteenth century, which devastated the whole of the Muslim world. Recall that at the beginning of the twentieth century, except for Turkey and Iran, the whole of Muslim world was under colonial rule.

(4) There is no easy and quick way back to glory and power. Nations are not built overnight. Those who understand Islam know that the vision of Islam is not a man-made ephemeral vision that can be taken away by the next wave of fashion or politics. They also understand the historical process that produces and destroys power. Their aims demand long-term, patient planning and they are at work. The slow but continuous increase in the number of Muslims who understand this is a sign of the growing power of this movement. (This has nothing to do with the media hype: Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world.)

(5) There is no doubt that terrible mistakes have been made in this difficult process of re-emergence of Islam as a vibrant, living entity, guiding the lives of its adherents. This is not unavoidable. There is no prophet among us; we are all humans. But what is more important is the fact that lessons learned from these mistakes have not been lost; Muslims are learning in this process. Those who lost sight of the long-term goals in Egypt and Algeria taught something to their Turkish brothers in faith. The path of Islam is, indeed, a path that transforms the hearts; this is the path of the Prophet of Islam, which produced a state within twelve years of his prophetic mission.

(6) There is a clear lack of trustable leadership among the Muslims but the Qur'aan and the life of the Prophet of Islam are increasingly becoming the focus of a much deeper reflection in the lives of the contemporary Muslims. There are early signs of the emergence of a new generation of Muslim scholars and community leaders who are as much at home with their laptops as they are with their al-Ghazali and Ibn Hisham.

These are some of the fundamental realities of our times. We must also understand that we are all bound within the universal history of mankind. There is, indeed, an end to all things, save the face of God, as the Qur'aan so poignantly attests: "All things [that exist] shall perish, save the Face of thy Lord, Full of Majesty."


Friday January 18, 2002-- Zeqa'ad 03,1422 A.H.
ISSN 1563-9479


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Dr Muzaffar Iqbal

Madaris reform

The writer is a freelance


Reforming the madrassa educational system is a long overdue process. Even though "we are not doing this under advice or pressure from anyone," as General Pervez Musharraf assured the nation in his recent speech, it is a step that is already several centuries late. But they say better late than never and we must submit to this age-old axiom.

However, before launching this arduous task, let us note that contrary to what the General told the nation, historically, madrassa have never taught "every discipline of learning e.g., mathematics, science, medicine, astronomy and jurisprudence". In fact, this is one of the most important charges that the non-Muslim scholars of Islamic scientific tradition have brought against the madras. These waqf institutions were exclusively set up for teaching religious sciences and there was a reason for it.

Also, for the sake of record, let it be known that three "great Muslim luminaries", the General has mentioned in his speech, Al-Bruini, Ibn-e-Sina (Avicenna) and Ibn Khaldun" were not the product of these same madaris; far from it. Born in 980 to the governor of a village near Bukhara, Ibn-e Sina, our very dear Prince of the Physicians, was taught by private tutors. He himself tells us in his short autobiography that he learned arithmetic from a vegetable seller until the famous mathematician Abu Abdullah al-Natili came to Bukhara who was then invited to stay with his family. Thus it was al-Natili who taught Ibn-e Sina higher math.

Likewise, Abu Rayhan al-Beruni, born in 973 in modern Khiva, studied astronomy with one of the best astronomers of his region, Abu Nasr al-Mansur and not in any madrassa. And as for Ibn Khaldun, who was born in Tunis on May 27, 1332, let us note that he too was from an aristocratic family, which had enjoyed great prestige for centuries in the political life of his region, and he, too, was taught by private tutors.

What all these remarkable men have in common is not the madrassa education but a common universe of discourse which allowed them to share the fruits of their scientific investigations within a worldview that permitted diversity and plurality, now so lacking in the contemporary Muslim world.

Again, for the sake of historical record, let us also note that General's assertion that "if we study history, we see that from the 7th to 15th century AD, transfer of technology took place from the Muslims to the rest of the world" is incorrect. On the contrary, scientific works, and not technology, was transferred to the Muslim world from the middle of the eighth to the middle of the eleventh century. This was a social revolution, which helped the nascent Islamic scientific tradition to incorporate into its body almost all extent works of the Persian and Hellenic science through one of the most startling translation movements in history.

These corrections are needed because we are about to launch a historic step of reform under the leadership of our very dear General who tells us: "I would also like to say that I have projected madaris internationally and with various heads of states time and again. I think no one else in Pakistan has done so much for their cause."

But how are we going to bring about this reform? Shall we look at the history of the establishment of the prototypes of our present-day madaris in the eleventh century Baghdad where they were set up in response to the arrival of a huge amount of scientific and philosophical data from non-Islamic sources that challenged the fundamental tenants of Islam? Shall we look at that wonderful process of naturalisation of Greek science at the hands of madrassa-taught scholars who were rooted in their religion? Shall we look at the intellectual reservoirs, which had given birth to the sciences of the Qur'aan and Hadith, which were taught in the madaris in such a manner that generations of scholars could draw nourishment from these sources?

No. There is no need for any such grand efforts. The agenda for reform, a new strategy for madaris, we are told, has already been formulated: "We have developed a new syllabi for them providing for teaching of Pakistan studies, mathematics, science and English along with religious subjects."

So, here is the grand solution: bring natural sciences, English and mathematics to the poor children who are stuck within the confines of mud walls, say Presto and we have it. The madaris have finally found their Luther! Hail the grand General. Something that could not be done for centuries, has been tackled in a matter of one speech. Now, the outlaws of the religious schools can look forward to be "brought in to the mainstream of society and what's more, and if anyone of them opts to join college or university, he would have the option being equipped with the modern education."

What a quick fix! Even our grand schemer who instantaneously brought thousands of yellow cabs on our roads could not have thought of such a quick fix. Now, "any child studying at a madrassa, who does not wish to be a prayer leader and wants to be a bank official or seek employment elsewhere", can do so; he has been facilitated. "This is the crux of the madrassa strategy," the General concluded. All of this is being done with a noble aim. The General's "only aim is to help these institutions in overcoming their weaknesses and providing them with better facilities and more avenues to the poor children at these institutions."

But what would be the difference between these madaris and the state-run schools that are producing thousands of half-literate graduates every year? After all, the state-run institutions teach religious studies as well as mathematics, English and natural sciences. And what about those high class private institutions which, ironically, mushroomed all over the land during the reign of another General who held the custodians of Islam in his two little fingers? Aren't they producing high-class graduates who have mastered all there is to master in modern science and don't they speak English in an accent that would put the Brits to shame? Is this crop not enough to bring about the grand revolution that our Ataturk is dreaming?

The reform we have been promised is, indeed, needed. But it is needed from an entirely different angle and for an entirely different purpose. And it is needed for the whole educational system, not just the madaris system. At present, there are three different worldviews being taught in three different kinds of educational systems: the madaris, the state-run schools and the private schools. All of these are producing future adults who would have to live in the same country but who would not understand each other's language. This is the greatest danger that Pakistan faces. And this is the danger that needs to be addressed immediately.

But such long-term reforms can only be undertaken by a representative government that has been duly elected by the free expression of people's will and that is answerable to the electorate. These reforms are not a magical wand that can be waved in the air to produce results; they require years of patient cultivation and nurturing. Above all, they require stable institutional support that can only come from legitimate authorities which hold office in compliance with the Constitution of the land, not through its abeyance.





Friday February 01, 2002-- Zeqa'ad 17,1422 A.H.

ISSN 1563-9479




The old script

The writer is a freelance columnist

It would seem absurd, even outrageous, to claim that the fundamental drift of history has not changed after September 11. But a sober reflection proves just that. Nothing has changed in the essential nature of the post Second World War era; only the pace of unfolding of events has accelerated and that, too, seems to be in accordance with the nature of things.

The new world order that emerged after World War II was geared towards a rapid expansion of the Western civilisation. The enormous resources spent on the reconstruction of Europe, a quick recovery of Japan and the emergence of a powerful institutional base for this expansion were all meant to move the world towards globalisation. Moreover, this globalisation was the one in which the most powerful and dominant process was the westernisation of all cultures and societies.

The nation states, which were carved out of the traditional Muslim lands, were inherently weak and structurally unstable. Even an elementary knowledge of statistics and economics is enough to realize that they were "structured" to keep them in a constant state of dependence on the former colonial masters. For hundreds of years, they had been part of a larger entity, which made it possible for them to exist without any reliance on the West. They were mutually linked, as constituting units of a larger entity. They had never existed as independent states. They could not. The resources of these states, the level and nature of their skilled manpower, their social and economic structures were all built on mutual reliance.

For example, the region from which the colonial powers carved out the contemporary states of Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the occupied Palestine was, for centuries, one unified region, called al-Shaam. Even now, there are thousands of families in this region who live across these artificial borders, which were established in the most arbitrary manner by the colonial powers.

Likewise, Central Asia, which was colonised by Russia, and which is now witnessing a reign of terror under the rule of former communists-turned Muslims, was always a distinct unity within the larger Islamic system of communities. This vast region, with its fabled seats of learning at Marv, Samarqand, and Bukhara, prospered because it could draw upon the resources of lands further east, just as those eastern lands could complement their needs from this arid region. Similarly, what are now the Gulf states used to be one single region which was part of a much larger entity?

These regions had evolved as cohesive units in the larger framework of a concept that has now become the scorn of cynics: Ummah. But let us note that this is not a man-made concept; it is a bond among the believers that the Qur'aan has established, and the Sunnah has sanctified. "All believers are brothers [unto each other]", declares the Qur'aan in an unequivocal way. The aberration produced by human follies cannot abrogate this divine rule.

The social, political and cultural patterns that had emerged in these Muslim lands over centuries were violently disrupted by colonisation. And they were eventually replaced with new patterns that had no sanctity in the civilisation upon which they were imposed with violent force. Embedded within the post-World War II world order was the scheme through which all of this order and natural growth of the Islamic polity was disrupted.

The new nation states, that appeared on the world map, were cut on a model which ensured their continuous dependence on the West. The mechanism was simple enough. The government of the new nations states was passed on to a small elite, consisting of Westernised military and civil "rulers" who served as proxies. These were the first "northern alliance" founded by the colonising powers. To be sure, there were many versions of these proxy rulers so that they could be rotated once in a while. This was the most effective way of creating an impression of choice. While, in actual fact, there was no difference between one and the other ruler, they fought with each other to allure masses and to hide the real agenda.

In time, the personal interests of these rulers were deeply wedded with the Western civilisation. They amassed wealth and stacked it in Western banks, their children studied in the Western universities and their personal fortunes grew in New York and London stock exchanges. In order to enjoy a Western lifestyle, they created western enclaves in their own countries: Islamabad, Dubai, Istanbul, Tehran, Kabul, Amman and many other such cities were created on the Western models to allow a small segment of population to enjoy the benefits of western civilisation while almost one billion other human beings lived under degrading conditions, without the most basic civic necessities.

What is common to all these rulers is that they have no allegiance to the religious, cultural and intellectual traditions of these lands. In a handful of oil-rich countries, the rulers live a despicable life of debauchery. Their faces turned westward, their hands extended to snatch the most vile aspects of the western civilisation, they aspire for nothing but their own luxury and survival. The rest is a sorry lot, which continuously look toward the coffers of IMF and World Bank for their monthly rations. But these bounties do not come free. Those who dole out millions to their chosen proxy rulers, know very well where the money lands, how it is used and by whom. They also know that their millions are not going to make any substantial difference in the lives of the people of these lands. These modern instruments of colonisation are not interested in any development.

The proof of the failure of IMF-enslaved states is obvious: there is not a single country in the world where all the collective wisdom and genius of IMF and the World Bank has produced a successful and sustainable economy. It should be clear by now that these institutions only dole out millions for a reason. Their interest is only in "buying" rights for their clients: rights for drilling oil wells, for use air space, and for band widths.

This mechanism, that came into existence after the Second World War, has only needed minor fine tuning during the last half century. The collapse of the Soviet Union has made no difference to the unfolding of this scheme, except to consolidate it in fewer hands. The United States of America remains the major player and with the former colonisers, England and France, standing behind, ready to come to help, whenever needed. The proxy rulers also continue to read the script handed to them.

Many commentators in the Muslim world as well as in the West, have garnered a great deal of ingenuity since September 11 to explain the current events as if a new historical situation has arisen. In fact, nothing has changed except the pace of events.

On the other hand, those who have resisted this old script and who strive to establish a society according to the teachings of the twin sources of Islam, the Qur'aan and the Sunnah, are also not fault. Their failures and follies provide reasons to their detractor for scorning the very idea behind these efforts. For example, there is no lack of "Muslim intellectuals" who make fun of the idea of an Islamic state because of what the Taliban did. They fall into two errors.

Their first error is to assume that there is a readymade model of an Islamic state that can be taken out of a box and imposed on a society. They think of Islam as some kind of a magic formula that should automatically produce a society where they can see Islam's social justice, moral values as well as great material progress. Their second error manifests when they do not see this happening. This error leads them to scorn the very idea of such a society where the hearts and minds of individuals and the collective will of the people are imbued with an unearthly spirit based on the precepts of Islam.

The old script had found Jafar of Bengal and Sadiqs of Deccan, its new incarnation has "northern alliance". The price in both cases is paid by innocent victims of this grand drama which is churning out violence, poverty and terror in the Muslim lands. But in spite of this, the scenario is not completely bleak. Those who have remained steadfast in opposing this war, which is now entering its third century, are learning and maturing. The real task for such people is to clearly realize the stages through which such struggles have always gone before victory. They should not fall prey to the temptation of quick fix solutions. An Islamic society cannot come into existence unless there are enough individuals who have realized the ideals of Islam in their own lives. Islam cannot be enforced by promulgations by governments; it grows organically, in a single heart at a time. Then these hearts multiply, slowly and almost imperceptibly. And one day, the whole society becomes Islamic



The News International Pakistan

Friday February 15,  2002

ISSN 1563-9479

Editor: Shaheen Sehbai





Dr. Muzaffar Iqbal

The Writer is a freelance columnist.


 They have come once again and have been lodged at the best hotels available in the Capital. They are being hosted by the Ministry of Science and Technology whose coffers have been filled by the benevolent General. They are all honorable ministers and high officials of the ministries of science and technology. The occasion is the tenth General Assembly meeting of COMSTECH, the committee on scientific and technological cooperation, Organization of Islamic Conference.

COMSTECH originated in the sacred city of Makkah in 1983, through a resolution passed by all the heads of states, kings and prime ministers who had gathered at the OIC gathering, as the body par excellence for jumpstarting science in the Muslim world. It was the brain child of a few old and retired scientists who had gathered around exceedingly cheerful Muslim rulers of the 1970’s whose pockets were swelling with oil money. These scientists organized conferences on the scientific miracles of the Qur’aan and Sunnah and sought explanation of the Prophet’s ascension to heaven in Einstein’s theory of relativity.

Just a few days before his fatal crash over Bahawalpur, General Zia ul-Haq, who was also the Chairman of COMSTECH, signed a piece of paper, drafted by his advisor for science and technology, the late Dr. M. A. Kazi, which made Dr. Kazi the Coordinator General of COMSTECH for four years for a paltry sum of two thousand American dollars per month. But there was only one minor irritant in these first beginnings. Dr. Kazi lived in Karachi whereas the office of COMSTECH was established in Islamabad. But such trifles could never stand in the way of those who are well-versed in these games. COMSTECH rules of procedure, once again drafted by Dr. Kazi, allowed the Coordinator General to travel by first class air and obtain a handsome TA/DA for his travels. Thus, he lived in Karachi and coordinated the activities of this Ummah-level organization through remote control and a monthly visits to Islamabad.

By the time the COMSTECH office was established in a forsaken building on the Constitution Avenue, around three million dollars had been collected. A clerk was hired on deputation from the Ministry of Science, a retired ex-official of PCSIR was appointed as Advisor (technical), and the white washed building of the Pakistan Academy of Sciences, which had not seen much activity for years, was bejeweled with a blue sign that read: COMSTECH

By 1991, the office had acquired two telephone lines, a computer, a fax machine, and a printer. It had already held five meetings of the ministers of science and technology. These meetings were of the same kind as the one now being held. The rented clerk from the Ministry of Science and Technology had become extremely adept at jump starting the grand dream of science all over the Muslim world. The office bustled with life whenever the Coordinator General arrived in Islamabad from Karachi. After his departure, it will blend in with the stale air of the building which was populated with people who lived in another era.

In 1992, Dr. Kazi’s contract was renewed for a second four year term by Ghulam Hussein Khan, who had known him through their common benefactor, General Zia. Thus COMSTECH lived happily, urging the Muslim Ummah to wake up to the reality of science. Every two years, it would gather all the ministers of science and technology and do exactly what its mother organization does: pass resolutions. These resolutions always started with “Whereas the member states of COMSTECH call upon Muslim men and women to acquire and assimilate scientific knowledge to re-kindle the flame of inquiry and innovation in the Muslim Ummah” and always ended with “therefore we urge all Muslims to work for the transformation of the Ummah into an enlightened, scientifically creative and innovative society”. The final word was, of course, an appeal to donate generously for COMSTECH.

After the grand affair, the ministers would return to their countries, the Ministry of Science and Technology would recoil into its own folds for another two years and the COMSTECH office would go back to its old slumber, only to awaken two years later for another “august gathering”, which renewed calls for innovation, creativity and donations.

All of this changed in 1996. Having spent four agonizing years with the organization, I approached Farooq Ahmad Khan Leghari, the then President of Pakistan and the Chairman of COMSTECH with a plan to restructure the organization. I believed that, in spite of its infertile mother (the OIC), COMSTECH could still play a vital role in many aspects of contemporary Muslim world. My plan called for a full-time, fully committed and dedicated Coordinator General who could lead a team of visionary and energetic scientists, thinkers and scholars from all over the Muslim world. This team was to include expatriate Muslim scientists and concentrate on some small but practical and real problems of the Muslim world that could be solved through available expertise in science and technology. These problems ranged from crop failures to water logging. The new plan envisioned direct economic gains for COMSTECH through these services.

 I was naively encouraged in my vision for the re-organization by Leghari’s consistent emphasis on science and technology. When I presented the plan, he heard me out patiently and with concern and then said, “Please write down your plan and we will revamp the whole organization in June 1996.” This was when the second four year term of Dr. Kazi was ending.

During the next five months of that fateful year, I contacted scientists in various parts of the world, collected data and wrote a plan which I gave to Leghari in April with the suggestion that he constitute a search committee for finding the next Coordinator General. When he asked who should be included in the Search Committee, I was hard pressed to find those who would not sabotage the plan but then suggested two names. The notification for the constitution of the Search Committee was, however, delayed until May 31, 1996 for reasons that I still do not know.

But I was happy that finally, the plan was being put in place. Leghari had included me in the Search Committee, as I was, by then, the senior most professional in COMSTECH. When the Search Committee met, its member from Karachi said that the work of this committee should be so transparent that it sets an example for the country. The three of us drafted an advertisement which was to be placed in international science journals and sent our recommendation to Leghari who accepted them on June 26, 1996, four days before the expiry of the term of the outgoing Coordinator General. The recommendation called for an interim arrangement for ninety days during which the charge of  COMSTECH would be in my hands.

Four days later, Dr. Kazi packed his belongings and left. But there was no word from the Presidency. On the fifth day, I received a phone call from Karachi: “Muzaffar Bhai, I have been asked to take over COMSTECH. I am coming tomorrow!” I was stunned. This man from Karachi had raised the loudest voice for a transparent process of selection. But the worse was still to come. When he came to Islamabad to take charge, the only thing in his briefcase was a document that was not a plan for COMSTECH; but a document that had a bold heading, in upper case: Achievements of Dr. Ata ur-Rahman. He ordered the secretary to fax those twelve pages to all the Muslim countries, signed a paper that allowed him to draw a salary of 3500 US dollars a month, and left after a few hours. But worse of all, he still retained his position as the head of HEJ Institute of Chemistry at Karachi. He was to come to Islamabad once a week, stay in a hotel, of course at COMSTECH’s expense, and jump start science in the fifty-seven Muslim countries that are now members of COMSTECH.

After this coup de grace, the next four weeks saw a lot of secret moves, a new appointment was made, once again a retired and old man was found who would be the Advisor to the new Coordinator General. The old structure was thus re-established. There was a lot of hyper talk and many cowardly actions. I knew my time had come. I wrote a letter to Leghari, expressing my dismay at his betrayal and resigned on a Thursday, then the last working day of the week, at 4:25 pm, five minutes before the end of office time. On Friday, when I went to office for some private errand, the new Coordinator General had left for Karachi. The stale air filled the building. On my desk was a short note, stating that the Coordinator General has been pleased to accept my resignation.

A Note: Since May 1998, when the first “Quantum Note” appeared in The News, I have never written a column with personal content; this one is forced by the circumstances and is meant to stand as my testimony to the rotten game being played with the Ummah.

The News International Pakistan

Friday March 01, 2002--
ISSN 1563-9479

Editor: Shaheen Sehbai






Defining the Islamic State

Dr. Muzaffar Iqbal

The Writer is a freelance columnist.



How would a contemporary Islamic state differ from non-Islamic states? Who would rule this state and how? What would it be like to live in such a state? What would such a state do with the enormous gap between the economic, scientific and technological status of Muslims and non-Muslims? These are some of the questions that need clear answers before any such state can come into existence. These are also the questions which should have been answered by Pakistan’s Islamic parties in this election year, if they are serious.

Muslims believe that the Qur’aan and the Sunnah of the Prophet of Islam are two living sources that are as relevant today as they were fourteen hundred years ago when they were first revealed. They also believe that these twin sources contain all the guiding principles that are needed by them now. At least this is the position of the normative Islamic tradition and it is held by all Muslims who have their spiritual and intellectual roots in the Islamic tradition.

The real question, then, is how to translate the guiding principles found in these two sources into a practical model that will work in our times. This is the task and challenge that Muslims have been actively pursuing for more than a century. When they woke up from their slumber and found themselves colonized, they realized that something has to be done. The most immediate challenge was to get rid of the colonizing powers. But in the very struggle for independence, there was something fundamentally wrong: no where in the Muslim world did people realize that this struggle for independence has to be based on Islam and not on nationalism.

This wrong footing was exactly what the French and the British colonizers had hoped for. They had actively sought to create an intellectual northern alliance which would call for a western-style government and demand independence on the model of Britain and France. And when the native resources had been drenched and the cost of maintaining direct control on the colonies was becoming more than what they were willing to pay, the colonizers departed, leaving behind the firm grip of an administrative, educational and ruling structure that was so deeply entrenched that it could be governed through remote control.

Thus, Muslims in their own traditional lands were randomly divided into contemporary states, each governed by a system which ensured their continuous enslavement. For centuries, these people had lived in mutual reliance, though not always in harmony. Between Hijaz and the great steppes of Central Asia, there was a vast territory that was and still remains the home of Muslims. But then it was linked together through a chain of great cities which were also centers of learning. And while certain rulers at certain times brought huge armies against other Muslim rulers, the Hajj and trade caravans traversed the Silk Road and continued to serve as the most important vehicle for the flow of ideas and goods.

All of this was shattered with the occupation of Muslim lands by Europeans. And none of this was restored after their departure. This is a fundamental point that needs to be understood in no uncertain terms. The nation states that have emerged in the post World War II era are inherently incapable of independent existence; this is also an economic impossibility. Thus no amount of reform would make it possible for these countries to be self-sufficient, truly independent states with enough human and material resources to be free of IMF bondage. One cannot make a circle out of a square, no matter how one bangs it around.

Given this fact, what is the route to real independence and an honorable existence? How can Muslims regain control of their destinies? How can they live a life that is not defined and dictated by the new Great Axis of Evil: the United States of America, Britain and Israel? This is the question on which all Muslim intellectuals and thinkers need to focus. Post-September 11 world events have hijacked all efforts from this most important task faced by Muslims; it is time to return to it.

Those who think that they can achieve this by forming some kind of underground network that kidnaps reporters and kills them are clearly working against this cause. Likewise, those who wish to take up arms against their own rulers, create nothing but chaos. Similarly, those who are busy in propagating a made in America version of Islam are also playing with fire. Islam, let us reiterate, is not merely a private affair that takes up public face on Fridays; Islam is a living tradition, defined by an all-encompassing code. Indeed, Allah has called Himself, al-Muheet, the all encompassing.

So, the task before Muslims is not really very clear. They need to devise a practical strategy to regain control of their destiny as a community of believers. The defining factor for their existence is neither sectarian, nor tribal or national identity, but an identity based on the Qur’aan. This is the unambiguous position of the Qur’aan itself. It declares in no uncertain terms that Allah has made different communities and the best of communities is the one which holds on to the rope of Allah. This is the community of believers: “You are the best community that has been sent forth to mankind [in that] you enjoin right and forbid wrong and have faith in Allah” (Q. 3:110).

In this task of regaining freedom, the very first thing to be understood is that Islam cannot be imposed by somehow gaining hold of the government and bringing out bands of militia. This is not the way of Islam. The struggle of so-called Islamic political parties to win elections and form governments to implement Islam is doomed. And so are those who demand imposition of Islam by state decrees. True, there are some injections of Islamic Law (the Shariah) that require state legislation. But most of Islam does not require state laws for its implementation.

An Islamic state emerges; it is not established. An Islamic state comes into existence through the most natural of ways, it is not a state that is established by decrees. An Islamic state is the end result of a long process of education, cultivation of Islamic ethos in private as well as public life. An Islamic state is like a beautiful tree that comes into existence because someone once planted a seed. An Islamic state is defined by the character of its inhabitants, not by the writ of law.

The character of the inhabitants of an Islamic state is the defining factor for the Islamic state. Given the current conditions of the Muslim world, the greatest missing element in the emergence of an Islamic state is none other than this defining factor. And this is what requires the greatest attention of all those who wish to establish an Islamic state.

In the simplest of terms, an Islamic state is a state in which the prime goal of the inhabitants of the land is to be a model of the Qur’aanic teachings. These are the people with whom Allah is pleased and who are pleased with Allah, as the Qur’aan tells us. This is the only route to an Islamic state. Its most important constituent is none other than the men, women and children who live in it.

Thus, any organization, political or non-political, which wants to contribute toward the emergence of an Islamic state, need to concentrate on its most important building block: individual human beings. But how? What are the ways to do so? The answer must be sought in another question: How did the Prophet of Islam do it? And that is the topic for the next column.






Dr Muzaffar Iqbal

Establishing a theocracy

The writer is a freelance columnist

I had barely started to write this column when a bearded man walked into my office, greeted me with the Islamic greetings and said: "We are working to establish an Islamic government. Would you like to join us?"

"What kind of government is an Islamic government?" I asked, "and why do you want to establish it? How would you do it?"

"An Islamic government is a government that is based on the message of the Qur'aan and the practices of the Prophet of Islam, may Allah's peace and blessings be upon him," he said sincerely.

"But," I protested, "as far as I know, neither the Qur'aan nor the Sunnah contain instructions for establishing governments in the twenty-first century."

"You are right," he said eagerly, "there only general guidelines in the Qur'aan and the Sunnah, not specific instructions. But that is just how these two primary sources are. That is their beauty and excellence. They provide general principles. Even in matters of religion, most of the instructions are general. For example, the Qur'aan does not tell us how to pray the obligatory prayers; it just say, `establish Salah'. It is Sunnah that tells us how to establish Salah. But there are matters in which even the Sunnah does not give precise instructions and the Islamic government in the twenty-first century is one of such things. But I have just come to ask whether or not you wish to be part of an effort to establish an Islamic government. How would we actually do so is the next question. But before we get to that stage, you need to confirm that you want to join an effort that aims at establishing an Islamic government. Only then we can proceed further."

I was intrigued by him. I invited him to sit down and asked: "What do you mean by an Islamic government? A theocracy?"

He looked at me with his thoughtful eyes and then said, "yes, a theocracy, if you will."

"A theocracy in this age of science and technology!" I exclaimed, "Are you serious"?

"Yes, we are very serious. In fact, there is no other way."

"What about democracy?"

"It has been rendered dysfunctional even in its place of birth," he said, "what to talk about its relevance to us. For a democratic system to function in the spirit in which it is of any worth, it is essential that the maximum number of people should have access to unbiased, free and objective sources of information from which they can deduce their own opinions. No such society exists in the contemporary world. In the West, all sources of information are highly controlled. But I am not interested in the West. I have come to seek your support for an Islamic government here in our own land. Do you or do not wish to establish a government that functions on the basis of the rules established by God?

"As a Muslim," I said, "I do wish to live in a country in which the rule of God exists, but where is such a country?"

"Join us," he said emphatically, "and together we will establish such a state. I know theocracy is the most dreaded word for the West, but for us, there is no other way. They dread it because for them, the word has an evocative power beyond its real meaning; it reminds them of 1979 when a man had emerged from his exile to overthrow their trusted ally, the self-appointed king of Iran. The memory of the Iranian revolution is also linked to the humiliation Americans felt in the hostage crisis. But beyond these recent images, theocracy is threatening for the West because it is diametrically opposed to their secular ideals. It reminds them of their medieval ages, which are indelibly linked to darkness, despondency, Church authority, lack of personal freedom, witchcraft, and a thousand and one other negative images. This weight of history is so heavy that even a well-educated Westerner is more likely to respond with an emphatic no to the idea of theocracy."

"But even a Westerner who is willing to look into the concept without preconceived fears may find some riches. As a start, let us note that European history is not universal history and the European experience of medieval ages is precisely what it is: a European experience. Thus to speak of the medieval era as a dark period is to universalise European history, which is absurd."

"Secondly, let us also note that the notions of democracy and personal freedom, as understood in the Western, have also evolved out of Western history and philosophy; they are not universal axioms."

"Third, know that a theocracy is a system based on eternal principles given by none other than the Creator Himself, may He be exalted. It is a system that is geared toward maximum benefits for the maximum number of people, not only in this world but also in the hereafter."

"Fourth, an Islamic government serves Muslims and non-Muslims through laws which are not manmade. The government is established and run through a process of consultation. The specific methodology of this process of consultation has not been given in the Qur'aan or the Sunnah but the general principles and the practice of the Prophet, may Allah be pleased with him, and of his companions are enough resources for us to cull a specified program of action which will work in the twenty-first century. And that is exactly what our group is doing."

"But how?" I asked.

"We follow the practice of the Prophet of Islam, our greatest leader, may Allah shower His mercy on him." He said in an animated manner. "He is our leader in the true sense of the word. His example is the noblest, the most perfect. He has taught us the middle way. We avoid extremes."

"Our goal is clear. We wish to gather together enough like-minded people who believe in the message of the Qur'aan and who practice in their everyday life the way of the Messenger of Islam, may Allah be pleased with him. Our Islam is not just prayers, fasting and worship; it is total Islam. It covers all aspects: social, political, economic, cultural, moral, ethical. We do not make decisions on the basis of majority but on the basis of truth."

"But how would you establish an Islamic government?" I asked, "Are you going to take part in the coming elections? Will you start a new party? Or join an existing party?"

"No, no," he said, "that is not how the Prophet of Islam established an Islamic government," he said, "as I said earlier, we follow his example. We do not make our own decisions where his example suffices."

"But he lived so long ago, times have changed."

"That is exactly the thing," he said, "that is exactly the objection they raise about Islam. It came so long ago. Times have changed. I have heard it from Muslims too. Can you imagine Muslims who think that Islam is something that becomes dated? Goes out of fashion! Can you imagine that? Did not Allah Himself say in the Qur'aan "today I have completed your religion for you and have it has been My pleasure to choose Islam as your religion?" Did not our Prophet, may Allah be pleased with him, say that he is leaving behind the Book of Allah and his example for us and if we followed it, we will never go astray? And now we say it came so long ago!"

"I did not mean in that sense," I protested, "I meant the conditions in which the Prophet established the state were very different from our present conditions."

"There are some fundamental constants in human affairs," he said, "they never change. They may appear to be different but in their essential nature, they remain the same. The way of the Prophet, may Allah's blessings be upon him, points to these fundamentals. He was not only dealing with the objective social and political conditions of his times, he was also addressing these fundamental constants. And what is more important is the fact that his way was not different from the ways of the previous prophets, may Allah's blessings be upon all of them. They all used one simple method, which was to call men and women of their times to join hands in establishing a just society based on the laws of God. Some succeeded, others did not. But success and failure are of no consequence in this affair. What is important is this: Do you or do you not want to play your role in this process. Are you or are you not willing to actively participate in this effort? Societies evolve, change, come into existence and disappear. But at the personal level, you should be at least conscious of the fact that if you are not actively working to establish an Islamic society, you are a passive accomplice of those who oppose an Islamic government."


The News International Pakistan


Friday March 29, 2002-- Muharram 14, 1423 A.H.
ISSN 1563-9479





The American calamity

Dr Muzaffar Iqbal

The writer is a freelance columnist

It was one of those fine Wednesday mornings when everything seems normal. But when Aysha Nudrat Unus, 62, of Herndon, VA, heard loud banging on the door of her residence at 9:30 am, she knew all is not well. Shortly afterwards, she saw a man in a black jacket and the barrel of a gun against the glass door. Her 19-year-old daughter picked the phone and dialled 911, the emergency number for police assistance. But she did not have to wait for the police to arrive; several men broke open the door. One pointed a gun at her daughter and asked her to put the phone down. These were not thieves or bandits, they were American officials who had raided their home. The officials did not present them with the warrant or even show an ID badge. Her daughter and she were handcuffed and held on their family room sofa for the next six hours.

On that Wednesday, March 20th, the American government crossed yet another limit; it attacked its own citizens because they happen to be Muslims. About 150 "law enforcement" officers from a group created by the Treasury Department after September 11, raided a number of Muslim homes and the offices of various American Muslim organizations. Those who suffered this infamy included the International Institute of Islamic Thought, the Graduate School of Islamic Social Sciences, the Muslim World League and the Fiqh Council of North America. All of these organizations belong to Muslims who have been very forthright in their vocal support for the American cause and who are called moderates.

The American crusade against Islam and Muslims is now definitely in its most aggressive phase. One can say with enough justification that this crusade is not going to stop in the near future. But the irony of the situation is that now the American government is attacking its own citizens who have been supportive of their government's actions after September 11. One woman whose home was raided asked: “where do we turn to? We used to think that we call police but now it is the police against us." A high school teacher from Fairfax Stations, Va said: "We feel the system has humiliated us. This is the most un-American thing I have ever seen."

But the raid was not only a violation of all civilised norms, it was a clear indicator of a deeply pathological state of the American system. When officials rifle through family photographs, throw the contents of drawers on the bed and take away the family's computer, credit cards, passports and bank account information, then we must ask some serious questions about the system that allows such atrocities against its own citizens. But note, these citizens are all Muslims. They have lived in America for decades and they have, technically speaking, the same rights as any other American citizen. But practically, "it seems like the government is declaring open season on Muslim American groups," said Abdul Wahab Alkebsi, executive director of the Islamic Institute. Louay Safi, director of research at IIIT, said the agents confined workers to a room without showing them a search warrant and tried to conduct interviews without any attorneys present.

But is this the only response that ought to emerge? Where are the mainstream champions of human rights? When it comes to Muslims, even American Muslims, one finds a strange impairment of all rational faculties. It is as if citizens of this most powerful state on earth have a collective defect in their psyche which impairs their sense of justice, values and decency in certain cases. Or is it a silent compliance to the Bush crusade? Is there something deeply flawed in the system? What would the founding fathers of America say to the degeneration of a state that was supposed to be harbinger of freedom, respect, equality and human dignity? Is the American system at the brink of degenerating into an apartheid system?

The recent raids should have opened the eyes of those Americans who still hold on to the great ideals of their forefathers. But, instead, there is an eerie silence; there are no voices audible over the vast network of public information system, no columns against this act of barbaric proportions. Just a few whimpers, mixed with unsubstantiated allusions to financial support by the organizations to certain other suspect groups.

Why? Why have the great majority of Americans turned their eyes away from the calamity that their state is inflicting on so many other nations and now on its own citizens? It would seem strange that a single event that happened on September 11 would hollow out the system and produce this blindness. There must have been something inherently flawed in the system before the September event. That inherent flaw of the system which disposes it toward acts of terrorism against its own citizens lies in the control of information that flows through the electronic media in North America. This is by far the only source of information for most Americans and Canadians. And this vital source, which forms their ideas and worldviews, is heavily controlled. This is where the power lies. This is where the money is. This is the Waterloo of the American system.

This control has suffocated all possibilities of a natural growth and has increasingly brought the American system to a state of pathological degeneration. But the strange thing is that because of a near total control, most Americans are not even aware that they are being controlled; this is George Orwell in action. This is the greatest blindness that even obliterates the consciousness of being blind.

Those few who know what is happening, have been coerced into silence. Dissent has been made meaningless. The high-pitch noise that fills the foreground has made serious reflection difficult, if not altogether impossible. This is why America has increasingly become a society which has no great writers, artists, philosophers and thinkers. It is impossible to think of another Melville or Faulkner coming out of the present malaise. It is even impossible to think of another Thomas Jefferson, eating his dinner alone in the White House.

But this purely American malaise has serious consequences for the rest of the world. The global reach of America transfers its malaise to the rest of the world. And the most important question for other civilizations and states is: would the giant take them down when it reaches its logical end?

Given the American insatiable appetite for grandiose and the narcissism inherent in the system, it is likely that the collapse of America will be a catastrophic event for the rest of the world. Unlike the Soviet Union, it will not be a limited event. Already, the breakdown of the civil society in America has produced its counterparts in regions of the world. According to the latest report of the International Human Rights Commission, many governments are using the pretext of war on terrorism to imprison their opponents and crush religious freedom.

Given the economic and military leverage of America, it is likely that its current calamity will engulf the entire globe. However, the last six months have produced a certain degree of soul searching in Europe and perhaps, it will resist the American pressure for joining the next round of its crusade against Islam and Muslims. The American assault on its own citizens and its unabashed pursuit of double standards may serve as an eye-opener for many Europeans.

But in the final analysis, it is Muslims who must prepare themselves for a long and costly battle with the giant now deeply wounded and suffering an internal crisis of unimaginable proportions. When the final brunt will come, it is neither Europe, nor the puppet regimes in the Muslim lands who will face the weight of a crumbling civilization; it will be those who hold an alternate worldview who will have to fight the last battles at all fronts. The battlegrounds for this ultimate encounter are already visible. What happened in Virginia on March 20th was merely a small indication of how some complacent Muslims have dug their trenches on fragile foundations; in the coming weeks and months, these moderate Muslims will find out that their loyalty to the state they have chosen to be their home, will never be accepted by that system because the system is inherently flawed and malevolent toward Islam.


The News International, Pakistan






The News International Pakistan

Friday April 12, 2002-- Muharram 28, 1423 A.H.
ISSN 1563-9479





Palestine bleeds

Dr Muzaffar Iqbal

The writer is a freelance columnist


When the shelling started, ten-year-old Isra Ziedan screamed. She wanted to run, but she was blind. Her teacher rushed to her and took her to the staircase where other students of the National School for Blind Girls were being brought hurriedly. For the next three hours, seventy-five disabled students of this school, all between 4 and 9 years of age, stood under the staircase, crying and trembling with fear. The National School for Blind Girls was established in 1978 in al-Bireh under the initiative of the Friends of the Blind Association in Palestine.

The shells and the helicopters used to fire the shells on this school were both made in America. The state of Israel had received them as military aid from America. This aid, which is not restricted to military equipment, amounts to approximately $3 billion per year. This money comes from American taxpayers. Israel has received more than US $66 billion in grants and US $15 billion in loans since 1949 (Washington Times, 20 September 2000). Israel is the only country in the world that is supported by the United States in this manner. US aid to Israel has for years consumed nearly one quarter of all bilateral US foreign Aid, more than all of sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America combined. Why?

The American military aid to Israel includes the latest weapons which it does not sell to any other country. For example, on 19 January, 2001, despite reluctance from some on Capitol Hill to start full-scale production, President Clinton promised Israel that it would be the first country to purchase the United States' most advanced fighter aircraft, the F-22 Raptor. Why?

The Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense, the government of the United States announced on 22 September 2000, that the Israeli Government has requested the sale of 14 non-MDE Beech King Air B200CT/T fixed wing aircraft along with spare parts and logistics personnel services from the United States. The proposed sale would cost an estimated US $125 million. All of this money came from the United States' taxpayers. Why?

As I write these lines, the Israeli soldiers are gathering all young men they can find in the ancient town of Nablus. The reports tell of several hundred Palestinians being taken to unspecified detention centres. And the whole world is watching, dumbfounded, as if this massacre is already history, as if these men are not human beings. Why?

When President Bush asked the Prime Minister of Israel to withdraw from the Palestinian territory, Sharon said, he will, but he will take his own time. "I do not interpret that call as a request for an immediate withdrawal," he said. The message was mutually understood to have been a whitewash and the carnage continued. Why?

Amidst the most devastating attacks on Muslims in the Palestine, the foreign ministers of the OIC states were meeting in Kuala Lumpur. They were debating the academic definition of "terrorism"! They were totally callous to the suffering of their brethren in faith. Why?

There can be many answers to these questions but I wish to find the most fundamental and the most basic reason. This quest of such a fundamental answer is not only dictated by the nature of this piece of writing, it is also guided by an objective search for understanding the tragic fate of the Palestinians who are being massacred by hundreds in the broad light of day, in full view of the planet's six billion habitants who are silent spectators of this crime.

They all know that Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza is illegal (UN resolutions 242 and 338). That Israeli refusal to return refugees is illegal (UN resolution 194 and Universal Declaration of Human Rights). That Israeli violence and use of deadly force against civilians violates the fourth Geneva Convention and has been condemned by Amnesty International, the UN, and numerous Israeli human rights groups.

But this knowledge does not convert into any action. There are only mute voices, here and there. Or thousands of protesters marching on the streets of Paris, Rabat and Cairo. But these are dispossessed voices; they do not make decisions; they do not stop the carnage. They are not even listened to; they are merely a minor irritant. Those who have planned this carnage, already knew that there will be these protests and they had already calculated how to respond to these impotent voices. They know very well what they are doing and why.

What is their motive force? Israel's security? Presumably. But why? Why is the United States of America so concerned about the security of Israel? What is the real connection between its own interests and the Jewish state? After all there are many other states in the world which desperately require assistance for survival but the United States does not rush to their need. Why does it do so for the state of Israel?

No rational answer can be found for America's unquestionable solidarity with Israel. There are no economic interests of the United States at stake. There are no territorial interests involved. The only valid answer that can be found comes from the historical situation. The United States of America has assumed the role of the new world coloniser and in doing so, it has assumed all liabilities and pledges of the former colonisers, Britain and France. The state of Israel was established in the heart of Muslim lands with a reason and a design. That design and reason, apart from the so-called European guilt, is based on a policy to keep the Muslim world in a state of bondage.

The era of direct colonisation is over but the Muslim world is still colonised. The new instruments of colonisation require the existence of the state of Israel. Without such a state, without the holy places of Islam in perpetual control, these places may become the harbinger of a new pan-Islamic unity. The hold of Jerusalem, Makkah and Madinah on Muslim minds and hearts is well-understood by the new coloniser, just as it was well-understood by Britain and France who made every effort of have their own puppets installed in these places. They know that any call that comes from these places would be irresistible for Muslims.

Just as they know that they need to support puppet regimes and organisations in the Muslim world. And they do so, in violation of their own moral and ethical norms. They support tyrants and dictators but claim the high moral ground of being democracies. But one cannot blame America and its allies for doing what they are doing. The Muslim world is watching its own destruction.

The colonisation of the Muslim world is now more than two centuries old. It was achieved by the creation of puppets in the Muslim world who supported the colonisers in their goals. It was achieved by giving rise to nationalism as the most dominating force. It pitted Turks against Arabs and Muslims against Muslims. This piecemeal approach to colonisation is still in practice. The greatest fear of the colonisers is unity among Muslims on any one point.

But imagine the situation of the world if only five Muslim countries announce today that they are establishing a Muslim peace-keeping force of five hundred thousand troops. Imagine the voluntary donations that would pour into a fund established for such a force. Imagine the impact of such a military presence on world politics. Imagine the situation of besieged Muslims all over the world. Imagine the joy of blind Palestinian students who would then see a ray of light.

This is not an impossibility. But it can only become a reality if the puppet regimes in the Muslim world are replaced with genuine, representative governments. To avoid this, the United States keeps supporting 98% vote presidents and self-appointed kings in the Muslim world. But more and more Muslims are realising this game plan and that day may not be far when this idea will be taken up. Once there is an international Muslim force, supported by the planet's 1.3 billion Muslims, the American military might may not be of much advantage to it.


The News International Pakistan

Friday April 26, 2002-- Safar 12, 1423 A.H.
ISSN 1563-9479



Dr Muzaffar Iqbal

Lessons from Jenin

The writer is a freelance columnist

No flags flew at half-mast for those who were massacred in Jenin. No one counted those who are still lying under the rubble. It was a massacre carried out before the whole world, with full compliance of the President of the United States who helped in numerous ways in allowing the Israeli defence forces (IDF) to kill Palestinian men, women and children as they pleased. But most of all, the Jenin massacre once again proved that Muslims can be massacred in any numbers, anywhere, any time without the fear of any joint action by the fifty-seven so-called independent Muslim states.

As millions of Muslims helplessly watched, the carnage continued for days. There were voices, even large demonstrations, all over the world. But those who were carrying out the massacre remained focused in their inhuman task, knowing fully that these protests are mere words that would not translate into any action. This massacre also proved, once more, the abysmal state of the Muslims.

But consider the following proposal: Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Sudan declare the formation of a multi-national Muslim army that operates within the gambit of International Law under a central command. Each country donates 100,000 soldiers and shares the cost of equipping the peacekeeping force. Then these countries announce a public fund for the support of this army whose mandate will be to protect Muslims all over the world, wherever they happen to be in danger.

Within days, the public fund will swell. There will be support all over the Muslim world. It will be a move that would change the dynamics of international politics in a very short time. It will be an army that will be supported by the material and non-material resources of 1.3 billion Muslims. Such an army would be a force of an unprecedented nature. Its mission would be defined as a peacekeeping force, but the fundamental charter of this organisation would state, in non-equivocal terms, that henceforth, it would not allow anyone to massacre Muslims. Having drawn this fundamental line, it will then work to find just solutions of various oppressed Muslims by taking a pro-active role. But it will establish a clear line: henceforth, no one will be able to massacre Muslims.

There is no doubt that there would be a number of objections to this proposal. But all of these can be adequately answered if there is a clear understanding that this is a Muslim peacekeeping force charged with the clear duty to protect Muslims from Jenin-like situations. It is a justifiable action because the existing international organisations have failed to carry out their responsibilities. Moreover, it is justifiable on moral and legal grounds because all international laws recognise sanctity of human life.

But the most powerful objection to this idea would be that such an army would have to physically go into another country to carry out its task and this would amount to the invasion of that country. But this is only an objection that ignores existing factors in the present situation. One of the most obvious of these factors is the absence of any other means of protection of lives. This is an overriding fact which has been abundantly made clear in Jenin.

Second, the Muslim peace-keeping army would be just that: a peace-keeping force that would arrive on the scene to protect Muslim lives; it will not be an occupying army but it will force the killers to retreat and allow the international organisations to play their role in finding a just solution. It will remain in the troubled spot and work with other international organisations in ensuring the presence of adequate food, water, and medical supplies. It will not engage in combat unless attacked.

Third, the existing world situation is clearly built upon alliances. It is another matter that most of these alliances are merely a cover for one country's agenda. But these alliances exist, nevertheless, and are recognised internationally. Hence, an alliance of five Muslim countries is not an oddity.

Fourth, the state of Israel owes its existence to approximately ten million US dollars that America gives to it every day. (The 2002 foreign aid program that President Bush signed into law in January provides Israel with $2.04 billion in military aid and $730 million in financial assistance, nearly one-fifth of total US aid to the world.) Without this massive infusion of funds, it would not exist. But it is not its existence that is the argument for the creation of a Muslim army; it is its occupation that sets the precedent. This occupation of Palestine by the state of Israel is a well-established international fact, recognised by the United Nations and even by the United States. So, if one state, supported by another state, can occupy a land, then five other states can send an army to prevent massacre of civilians.

Fifth, in the absence of an "official" army of such a nature, the burden of protection of Muslims has fallen on "un-official" armies which are often termed as "terrorist" organisations. The creation of an "official" force would provide an alternative to this situation while ensuring the protection of lives and properties.


There are other grounds for the creation of such an army. The most important of these is religious. Even a nominal Muslim would grant that the Qur'aan is the supreme code and the ultimate arbitrator of affairs for a Muslim and the Sunnah of the Prophet of Islam is the example that ought to be followed. Both of these prime sources of Islam call for and support this idea. The Qur'aan, for instance, establishes the concept of Jihad in no uncertain terms. It calls for readiness and preparation for defensive war, it proclaims that "those who are martyred in Allah's cause are not dead." (Q. 3:169).

Likewise, the Sunnah of the Prophet of Islam establishes the obligatory duty of one Muslim to protect the life and property of another. This is a collective duty that is obligatory and in the Jenin massacre, all Muslims have failed to absolve themselves of this duty, especially those who live close to Palestine. "Muslims are like a body," the Prophet of Islam has said, "if one part is hurt, the whole body is wounded."

This idea seems to be so compelling that one wonders why there is not already such an army. One answer is obvious: Muslims are being ruled by those who do not recognise this need. At a deeper level, this brings us to one of the most glaring ironies of our times.

When the Jenin massacre was being carried out, OIC and the Arab League did not intervene to stop it, just like all other international organisations, including the United Nations. In certain Muslim countries, even the news of the massacre was not allowed on state control media; in others, it was only a passing news because the ruling elite feared mass protests. But why? Why do the rulers of the so-called independent Muslim countries become complacent allies in such inhuman barbarity?

The answer to this glaring and cruel irony must be sought in history. After the Second World War, a drama was enacted that created the illusion of the emergence of fifty-seven nation states in the traditional Muslim lands. But for all practical purposes, the Muslim world remains colonised. Britain and France have conveniently passed on the reins of colonisation to the United States of America and together, they have changed the mechanism of ruling. The presence of US soldiers in a number of Muslim countries and the puppet regimes in the rest is the new colonising force that keeps Muslims in bondage.

In order to liberate themselves, Muslims first need to recognise that they are still colonised. This can only happen through a mass awareness campaign by leading intellectuals, religious scholars and grassroots activists. If there is one lesson of Jenin, it should be this: Muslims have to establish an effective mechanism for their own protection; no one else will do so.


The News International Pakistan

Friday May 10, 2002-- Safar 26, 1423 A.H.
ISSN 1563-9479


The inverted reality

The writer is a freelance


Why don't you give up your fundamentalism," wrote an irate reader in response to the last "Quantum Note" published in the News, April 26. That column, "Lessons from Jenin", had called for the establishment of a Muslim peace keeping force. "Of which Ummah do you talk about?" he asked. Another reader asked: "What would your army do to stop Muslims from killing fellow Muslims?" There were many other email messages, all asking pointed questions. This was in addition to the usual hate mail that fills my inbox every second Saturday, following the publication of these columns.

The unusual response provoked by the last column cannot be ignored because the writers of these responses have Muslim names. This means that there are Muslims who do not think that there is any entity which can be called "the Ummah". The content of the emails also expresses a desperation and helplessness, a state of surrender and defeat.

All of these are serious issues which cannot be tackled in one column, but let me first clarify my own position, which has been labelled as "fundamentalist". I asked the reader to tell me what he meant by this label. He said that you see the world consisting of Muslims and non-Muslims and that my writings smack of a phobia and bias against the West. I reminded him of a recent incarnation of West's own attitude toward Islam and Muslims -- this time expressed by none other than the President of the United States of America: "You are either with us or against us." I also mentioned a number of Qur'aanic verses that clearly state that there are people, nations and tribes who are adherents of Truth (al-Haqq) and those who are against the Truth. In fact, the Qur'aan also mentions a party of Allah and a party against Allah. I quoted several ahadith of the Prophet of Islam in which he has mentioned that those who follow the non-believers in their ways are, in fact, among them.

This was too much for him. He retorted by stating: "here you go again. You are un-curable." My next question to him was: "Do you believe in the two prime sources of Islam from which I derive my worldview?" He said, "as a Muslim, I do believe in the Qur'aan and Sunnah but not in your interpretation." I told him that I was not even interpreting these sources; I was just quoting them. This brought us to a dead end. Because in response to my specific question about his own reading of these verses and ahadith, he acknowledged that he does not understand the Qur'aan because he does not know Arabic and he has never opened a book of ahadith. "But," he insisted, "I know my Islam and don't you dare call me a kaafir." I was not going to.

The other reader, who had questioned the very concept of Ummah, had a similar response. When I pointed out that I did not invent the concept of Ummah and that is a Qur'aanic concept, he referred to the statement of the Punjab Governor, Khalid Maqbool, who had said that his government had and would in future take action against al-Qaeda members who have slipped into Pakistan after the coalition forces campaign in Afghanistan. The governor had also called the recent war in Afghanistan "an internal strife for power among the warlords and ethnic groups". And he had given the verdict that "no jihad was being waged in Afghanistan".

This brings us to a very basic issue. Here we have a retired army general issuing a religious decree (fatwa). Everyone with a minimum knowledge of Islam knows that issuing a fatwa is a very serious matter. Moreover, it can only be issued by someone who has a sound knowledge of Fiqh, the queen of Islamic learning, as well as that of the Qur'aan and Hadith. According to my knowledge, our military academies do not teach any of these subjects. But what is worse, while expressing his complete adherence to the teachings of Islam, the governor said, "it wouldn't be a wise idea to wage jihad in far off places. It is not the right thing to send our youth to Chechnya or Eritrea for participating in jihad. We have a lot of frontiers to defend back home. Instead, the youth should be educated and engaged in more constructive and rewarding jobs, which, in turn, contribute to the progress of the country."

Here we have a retired general, negating all Islamic teachings and history, issuing a religious decree without any qualifications, preaching things totally foreign to Islam. The Prophet of Islam had waged a relentless jihad against the Arab tribes who lived far away from Madinah. Just a day after the death of the Prophet of Islam, Abu Bakr (RA) sent out the Muslim army under the command of Usama bin Zayd to a place that was far away from Madina and he did this at a time when several false prophets were emerging and there was a great danger of tribal revolt against the nascent Islamic state. But a retired army general negates all of this and wishes to turn the "youth toward more rewarding jobs". And all of this in a state that still claims to be the "Islamic Republic of Pakistan"!

What is ironic is that just next door, there is a "coalition army" made up of British, American, Australian and Canadian soldiers, thousands of miles away from their homes, busy killing Muslims, digging up graves, and destroying the sanctity of homes and mosques. Within the US, there are scores of people deemed ìothersî (Arabs and South Asians and Central Asians, almost all Muslims) have been xenophobically harassed and attacked by the US government during the last few months. There have been approximately 2,000 people held in secret detention, mostly held in solitary confinement and incommunicado, most likely with no connection to terrorism, all of whose names and charges are unknown to us. Additionally, there are possibly 5,000 or more people, primarily Middle Eastern men, though anyone may be considered "fair" game-to be ìquestionedî by Ashcroft's deputies.

But this terrorism is deemed to be a fight against terrorism. This is precisely the inversion of reality. This is a case of a fabricated reality being constructed with such a force that truth is totally obliterated. This is George Orwell in action.

But the retired general, who issued the decree, ignores all of this. The youth of Pakistan, he says, should be employed in more rewarding jobs while their brethren in faith are being killed and their dead bodies are being savagely treated next door.

These new muftis are the victims of self-delusion. They have become prey to an engineered version of Islam that is being relentlessly forced on the Muslim world. In this new construction, most of the basic truths of Islam have been inverted. Along with this corruption, there has emerged a fabricated social reality, equally skewed.

In this fabricated reality, when Muslim civilians are massacred in Jenin, Khost, Kabul, and just about anywhere in the world, they are almost always labelled as terrorists. And when those who are killed are women and children or old and weak, they are disposed of as collateral damage. On the other hand, when an Israeli, American, British or Canadian is killed anywhere, no matter how, he is labelled as a hero. He is honoured, flags are lowered for his sake and his name enters the list of those who have given their life for a worthy cause.

The new fabrication also comes with a new lexicon. And the most painful aspect of this new situation is that many in the Muslim world have adopted this new terminology. The "suicide bombers" in Palestine, the "rebels" in Chechnya, the "extremists" in Indonesia would be heroes and brave freedom fighters if they were French fighting the Nazis occupiers of France. When the United States bombs the UN minesweepers, the Red Cross, ancient mosques, villages, homes, and many other civilian sites of everyday life for ordinary people, destroying their lives, families, and communities, no one dares call it a terrorist state. This is, indeed, a new world order, a new moral code. No wonder, in this new fabrication, army generals can act as muftis and issue fatwas.



Friday May 24, 2002-- Rabi-ul-Awal 11, 1423 A.H.
ISSN 1563-9479


Dr Muzaffar Iqbal

Mechanism of change

The writer is a freelance


One of the cruellest jokes late General Ziaul Haq played was to gather leaders of all the religious parties of the country in the Presidency for a meeting. When it was time for prayer, he asked one of them to lead the prayer. But others objected and said they would not pray behind that imam. "Why?" the General pretended to be surprised. "Our prayer would not be valid behind him," came the reply. Then he asked them to suggest the name of one person among them who could lead the prayer. They could not agree. The General was outraged. "And you want me to implement Islam!" he exclaimed.

This joke is cruel because the General knew in advance what he was doing and his intentions were not to find a solution to the problem of religious disunity. But the joke is also cruel in another, more critical, way. It points to certain fundamental flaws in the makeup of Pakistan's religious parties. It is also critical at this stage of history because these parties have now formed a coalition that faces the burden of representing Islam in a country on an accelerated path to self-destruction.

Having passed through the misrule of generals and politicians without building any institutional structure of endurable quality, the country is now virtually hostage to the dictates of self-appointed charlatans who face no institutional challenge to their rule. People have lost faith in all and their survival instinct has forced them to become passive observers of the great drama that is wrecking their lives. Gone are the days when a Z A Bhutto could fill them with hope, desire and passion.

Thus, for any perceptive mind, it is no secret that the coming years will see cataclysmic changes in the social, economic and political make up of Pakistani society. The question at this stage is: what kind of new configuration will emerge from this reorientation? Would the society regenerate itself or would it simply disintegrate into smaller factions, constantly at war with each other? A crucial deciding factor in the outcome is 59 million boys and girls under age 15 who currently constitute 42% of the present population of 140 million. Nothing else contributes so significantly to the direction this youth will take in the next ten years of their lives. They are the key factor in the outcome of the future of the country, as well as of the whole region.

Within the next ten to fifteen years, this large youth population would have crossed the threshold. Between now and the year 2015, lies the greatest potential for a quantum leap. But this leap can only be a positive leap if the potential of this youth is harnessed; otherwise, it would be a descent into total disaster.

But how can one hope to have a positive outcome when the institutions that can produce such a change are dysfunctional? Even a cursory glance at Pakistan's universities, research institutions and religious madaris is enough to show that they are an intellectual and spiritual wasteland. Had it not been so, Pakistan could have generated a historic synthesis of various civilisational currents that have gone into its making.

But the question for all those who are serious about the future of Pakistan, and indeed, of the whole region extending north and northwest up to the heart of Central Asia, is not the frightening level of decay, lethargy and the lack of creativity but the remedy. How can one hope to correct this cancerous growth? How can one reverse the tide?

It is obvious that the solution does not lie in the outcome of the October elections. At least not in any realistic way. Even in the unlikely scenario of the emergence of a genuinely elected government, the existing state and civil structure cannot correct the malady. No amount of small-scale correction can reverse the tidal wave that has corrupted the very core of the society.

The solution truly lies in harnessing the potential of the 59 million boys and girls who are now under the age of 15. If this is understood, then the solution is neither impossible, nor impractical. In spite of all the past experiences, the history of Pakistani society suggests that it can still respond to a genuine effort of revival. Such a response will be slow but once enough trust has been established, it will be overwhelming.

What is needed is a large-scale effort to educate these 59 million boys and girls on a completely new model. This new model of education has to make a clear break with the current educational institutions and curricula. This new effort needs to be rooted in the social, political and economic realities of the twenty-first century. But by necessity, it has to be linked to the Islamic tradition of learning.

In a nutshell, this educational effort should not be based on the colonial models now prevalent in the society. Rather, it should be geared toward the cultivation of a new worldview in the minds and the hearts of these boys and girls so that when they leave these new institutions, they are equally at home with their laptops and their Qur'anic commentaries.

But this is not a call for reform of madaris. Rather, this is a call for the creation of a new consciousness, a new centre of focus, a new worldview through a well-organised, large scale collective effort that would produce a cohesive, but not monolithic social fabric in which an Abu Bakr Zakaria al-Razi can live with his quaint and fiercely independent ideas without being a threat to the social fabric. And yet, it is not a call for anything new. In a way, it is a call for return to that creative process that had created the formidable Islamic scientific tradition which had produced al-Birunis, Ibn Sinas and al-Ghazalis.

But who can do it? The state? The private educational institutions? None of these normal avenues are available anymore. The scale and extent of the required effort demand a totally different mechanism. Such a mechanism requires revolutionary procedures. The current situation calls for the emergence of a new institution that is independent of all current institutional constraints.

The only possible entity that can produce this large-scale change is a small group of individuals who understand the need, mechanism and end goal of this effort. This small group of visionary reformers must be cognizant of history and must understand the requirements of historical processes which produce foundational changes in the society. But how would such a group come into existence?

The only possibility for the emergence of this core group is through a conscious effort aimed at bringing together such a group; this can only be made by an existing entity. But this existing entity is not the agent of change; merely an initiator. The only requirement for this existing entity is to understand the need for the fundamental change and provide the initial conditions for a group of dedicated men and women to come together.

But which existing entity can serve this purpose? Now that Pakistan's religious parties have formed one platform, they are poised to act as this entity. They have representation from all parts of the country. They have an extensive social structure and a network that is effective in mobilising resources for the creation of this core group.

By necessity, this core group will be heterogeneous at first. But that should not be an impediment. In time, it will evolve into a cohesive group. The effort itself will be of educational nature but of an unprecedented scale and intent. This will involve the creation of a vast chain of institutions spread throughout the country. These will include vocational training centres, institutes of languages, schools for technical and scientific training as well as specialised centres for producing trained men and women to accomplish specific tasks needed for building the new society. All of these must be based on a set of core values and goals which must be very clearly understood, though in a general way.

This is the challenge that the religious parties must accept. They must understand that more than the outcome of the October elections, it is the next decade that is important for any real change in the country and at the heart of this change is the untapped energy of Pakistan's 59 million young boys and girls.




Friday June 07, 2002-- Rabi-ul-Awal 25, 1423 A.H.

Dr Muzaffar Iqbal

Aspects of new war

Dr Muzaffar Iqbal

The writer is a freelance columnist

Like everything else, wars have assumed new dimensions in the twenty-first century. Gone are the days when men fought each other in well-defined territories. Gone are the days when armies faced each other in trenches or even in tanks. The new wars of the twenty-first century destroyed all boundaries and are virtually borderless; though physical borders continue to exist between states. But wars are no more confined to encounter of armies and they are fought and lost on virtually all fronts simultaneously.

More than mere encounter of armies, the new wars of the twenty-first century involve a vast majority of the planet's inhabitants in ways that were unthinkable even two decades ago. This incisive aspect of the new war means that everyone is part of wars now. There are no neutral observers, least of all the journalists who are supposed to convey news to the rest of the world. The media is a key component of the new war. No wonder the United States of America has decided to spend millions of dollars to set-up an Arabic language television network in one of its puppet states to counter Al-Jazeera. No wonder the new Arabic language version of Voice of America is already at work, targeting Arab youth under 30.

The October 2001 attack on Afghanistan was a classic case of the new war. Between September 11 and October 7, when the massive bombing started, the war was already being waged; the not-so-sudden air attack on October 7 was merely the culmination of the first phase of war. During this three-week period, the United States of America had put in place a vast network of war machines. This included public mobilisation in America as well as in the rest of the world. It was this crucial period when most of the Muslim world passively waited for the dreadful to happen, that the American military operation was filling the hearts and minds of hundreds of young men and women with hatred for their enemy. This hatred would later be translated into devastating attacks on villages and innocents without a question being asked. An American gunner in Operation Anaconda in eastern Afghanistan reports, "We were told specifically that if there were women and children to kill them... If there was anybody there, they were the enemy."

At another front, a large number of "journalists" became the advanced front of the Afghan war. These journalists were brought to Afghanistan through the cooperation of the Northern Alliance. But these were people who knew no language spoken in Afghanistan and who knew very little about the country. So, they received "training" provided by ex-M-16 Brits. This training included the use of light weapons, emergency medical treatment and techniques of disguising oneself. Then arrangements were made with the Northern Alliance to bring these "Journalist-soldiers" to the front. The going rate was 100 US dollar per day for a translator and 100 US dollar for a guard. This was a big bonanza for the Afghans who lined up for this service. Some of these translators were university professors. They served the foreign journalists by providing local context, translation services and often by sheltering them in their own houses.

In turn, these "journalist-soldiers" did what they were supposed to do: they created a virtual reality which transformed the distant war in Afghanistan into an intimate affair for millions of viewers and listeners. They were not simply reporting what was happening; they were the eyes, the tongues and the brains through which virtually everyone in the West saw and heard what was going on in Afghanistan.

These journalist-soldiers were the workers in the war machinery whose impact on the final outcome and the continuous support of the people for the decisions made by a handful of Americans was as crucial as the air power. And this is something in which Americans excelled. The buying power of the American dollar and the existing media network were major factors in the success on this front.

The only disturbing element in an otherwise smooth operation was the irritating Al-Jazeera and, to a lesser extent, the internet. But Al-Jazeera was bombed into silence and the swift march into Kabul changed the balance of ground realities soon enough for this media war to attain a degree of success never achieved before.

This was a total victory. This was a grand performance. Much more than the Gulf War. This time around, the American media was able to capitalise on the post-September 11 wave of sympathy and create a virtual reality which painted the Taliban and the Al-Qaeeda in most intense shades of black and the war of terror was portrayed so successfully as "the war of terrorism" that those who wanted to ask questions about who was being bombed and why were simply shouted into silence.

There were a few Robert Jensons and Robert Fisks who would persist and ask questions about "collateral damage", but in general such voices could be ignored because the uproar of continuously changing war cries was so loud and the groundwork done during the three weeks between September 11 and October 7 was so thorough that there were very few who would question the indiscriminate bombing of villages and destruction of innocent lives.

Another aspect of the new war involves the establishment of a "curtain" around the country which is going to be attacked. This strategy had already been in operation during the Gulf War but in the case of Afghanistan, it was implemented with a swiftness and force that is simply astonishing. The land links to the country were blocked. The sea was filled with powerful ships and the airspace was totally controlled. The country was under a powerful and continuous surveillance and it was totally isolated, physically as well as economically. At another level, it was completely isolated diplomatically.

This powerful and devastating technique of putting a curtain around the country also ensured that the rest of the world would not know what was being done inside except through the highly controlled channels. This meant that the Northern Alliance would do whatever they pleased to the captives; this meant there were no mechanisms left for stopping brutalities at any recognised level.

This incisive nature of the new war comes with a price. The cost of the Gulf War was borne by the Gulf but the Afghan War has been paid for by Americans and, to a lesser extent, by the British taxpayers. This has had a crippling impact on their economies which has not been easy either. But more than the price in dollars, it is the psychological price that Americans have paid that is significant.

Eight months and millions of dollars later, ask any American the crucial question: do you feel more secure? The answer will be a clear no. The media war has had a negative fallout. Everyone feels threatened. Everyone knows that they are at risk. The next attack could come from anywhere and in any form. The unresolved mystery of anthrax and the continuous warnings by the Bush administration about an "imminent terrorist attack" have left a deep scar in the American psyche.

Even an observant traveller can sense this. There is fear in America. The land and the air is filled with anguish. One cannot travel in America without sensing this fear. Thus no wonder that a group of four middle eastern looking men saying their evening prayer mobilises a huge mechanism: FBI, fire brigade, police, paramedics jump into action, only to discover that the men were simply shopping in the Mall when the time for prayer came. And this is not an isolated incident.

The last Afghan War is not over yet. Although the Americans have proclaimed victory months ago, the coalition forces are going to remain in this devastated land for a long time. And time is against them. They will never know the direction from which the next rocket will be fired at them. They have already started asking questions: When will we go home? What are we doing here? Soon, they will realise the truth of an old Afghan saying: soldiers come to our land on their own but they are not allowed to leave at their will.



Friday June 21, 2002-- Rabi-uss-Sani 09, 1423 A.H.
ISSN 1563-9479






Power of symbols

Dr Muzaffar Iqbal

The writer is a freelance columnist

Are you the brother of Usama bin Laden?” a young man asked in loud voice. He was sitting behind a heap of nuts in the crowded bazaar of the old city of Fez. “I do not like Usama bin Laden,” he continued, “he has created so many problems for us, no tourists, no dollars, I love dollars.”

I stopped. He was about 25, he was smiling and had these wonderful shining eyes in which there was a tinge of mischief. “Aslamo Alaikum,” another young man came to me, “how are you sir? Don’t worry, he is joking,” he said.

“No, I am not joking,” he said, “I love dollars. No tourists, no dollars.”

“Where are you from sir,” the other man asked. When I said Pakistan, there was a visible change in their attitude, “Marhaba, Marhaba,” they both said. By now, several young boys had gathered around us.

“We all like Usama,” one of them said, “he is our hero.”

“Why?” I asked.

They all had different things to say but more than any single act or deed, it was the image of Usama bin Laden that counted. He stood for something which no one could define. It was that unsaid, unstateable power of symbols that was working behind the deeply felt emotions of these young men. When I left, they gave me a handful of nuts and one of them accompanied me to the Qarawin Mosque.

I had gone to Morocco to take part in a conference in which several American and European scholars were also participating. The topic of the conference was: “Faith and Reason: Convergence and Complementarity”.

This was not the first such gathering for me; in fact, many faces were familiar. But what set apart this conference from all the previous conferences was the shadow of September 11. For the first time in almost a decade, I felt a strange undertone of hostility in the American scholars. This hostility was not directed toward anyone in general but I felt its presence throughout the three days. Islam and its scientific tradition was no more a past glorious heritage that could be praised for its achievements. “We are very afraid of the bio-weapons,” one of the participants said, “think of a small band of terrorists, developing a deadly virus which can wipe out two-thirds of humanity in less than a week. If we have to kill a few thousand to protect ourselves from such an attack, we will do that and I think we will be justified.”

I was shocked. This was a conference which was supposed to build bridges and establish trust but suddenly fear and distrust was the dominant theme. “Kill them, before they kill you,” seemed to be the modus operandi.

But more than anything, it was the clear and deliberate effort to promote “moderate” Muslims that dominated the agenda of the conference. At least that is what I felt. These “Muslims” would speak about the Qur’aan and the Prophet and the message of peace of Islam but they would chose to ignore the part that calls for Jihad against oppression. But more than their ideological stand, it was their character that gave them away. “How can anyone claim to represent Islam if he speaks about the Qur’aan and the Prophet and then goes in that room to drink?” a Moroccan student asked me during dinner. “The professor who was just sitting here, talking to you about the Qur’aan is now in that room over there, drinking.”

I looked at him. He had this indescribable sad but resolute look in his eyes. “They think we are fools, they think they can fool us with all these conferences. This is the third in a month that this university has hosted. And all these conferences have the same agenda: promote moderate Islam.”

“Why do you say that?” I asked him.

“Because I have seen them in backrooms where they speak of reforming Islam. Where Americans speak their minds because they get drunk. Where they talk about destroying the old Madina of Fez to pave way for a modern city where the roads are big enough for their cars.”

“But why? Why would they want to destroy such an old city?” I asked.

Modernisation,” the young man said in anguish. “They want McDonalds to come to the old city. They do not stop praising the mosque in Rabat which has been build by our blood, but they see no beauty in the 1200-year-old Qarawin mosque.”

“But isn’t that mosque in Rabat beautiful?” I asked.

“No, it is Masjid al-Darrar, we call it Masjid al-Darrar because it has been built with our blood. If an old peasant came to the city to sell his two chickens, one was taken away as mosque tax. And have you not seen the inside of that mosque? It is built like a church. The relief, the spatial arrangement, the darkness, all reminds me of a church, rather than a mosque. A mosque is a bright, open spatial place where no narrow corridor-like space leads to the pulpit. But here, everything is like a church; in fact, it was designed by a Christian.”

The next day, there were more overtones. I realised that there was an overwhelming number of “moderate Muslims” who had been invited to the conference and they all had the same message: Islam is a religion of peace and there is no divergence between science and religion. This was accompanied by a deconstruction methodology applied to Islam. One speaker even said that no one can represent Islam. Islam could only be represented by its Prophet and he is dead. In other words, he said, there is no such thing as a normative Islamic tradition. Another version of the same deconstruction method was played out in statements like this: there is no such thing as an Absolute Truth, truth is what each individual define it to be.

A saying of the Prophet of Islam was quoted in which he said that a Muslim is the one from whose hands and deeds others are safe. This partial representation of Islam was taken to its logical extreme by yet another speaker who derided Usama bin Laden for issuing a fatwa. He said, a fatwa can only be issued by a Mufti and Usama is not a Mufti. What he did not tell the audience is that it is not Usama who has issued the fatwa, Usama was simply quoting it.

But this remark, like many others, was made “on the side”; the topic of the conference had nothing to do with these matters. But these matters had become the very background of the academic discourse. The dominant thrust of the American academicians is now to find, promote and cultivate “moderate Islam”; this version of Islam would have all the verses about Jihad taken out of the Qur’aan and the Prophetic tradition, or at least ignored. In fact, this is what Enver Sadaat had done after Camp David; he had made it “illegal” to recite such verses in public places.

The unfortunate fact that this effort is being supported by American academicians means that universities and other academic institutions have now become tools for the Bush administration’s “war of terror”. This means that there are no independent scholars who can look at the world objectively. This means that the September 11 now stands as a symbol which would continue to colour the vision of academic research.

But all of this has a deeper meaning for the Americans whether they are academics or not. The events of September 11 have attacked their deepest sense of being secure in their homeland. This feeling of security, which lies deep in the American consciousness, was shattered and eight months and 20 billion dollars later, it has not been restored. In fact, it will never be restored now.

For the first time in their history, the Americans have had experiential taste of what the rest of the world knows as a daily reality. This is not to say that the act of killing civilians is to be lauded, far from it. But the fact is that this event could have served as a wake up call. It could have reminded Americans of that age-old saying: injustice and peace cannot prevail together. But instead of listening to the voice of history, American administration has chosen to ignore it. But the power of symbols cannot be ignored, as a short stroll in Fez can reveal.


Friday July 05, 2002-- Rabi-uss-Sani 23, 1423 A.H.

Three Clubs

Dr Muzaffar Iqbal

The writer is a freelance columnist

Three clubs rule the world. The first is the Club of the 98 Percent Vote Presidents. All of these presidents begin with a coup, go through a referendum and end their careers disgracefully. They come in many different packages but they all have one thing in common: They love to be called the elected President. But no matter how many times they get "elected", their desire is never satiated. They remain hostage to a perpetual crisis of legitimacy. They want the whole world to recognise them as Mr President so they invite foreign journalists to cover their referendums and elections, but no matter how much money they spend on these efforts, no one seems to give them any title other than the one they deserve: usurpers.

But the 98 percent vote presidents are getting tired of this farcical exercise. This is evident from what Mr Zine Al-Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia did last May. He produced a fantastic version of election farce: He got himself elected with 99.52 percent vote, along with a "constitutional package of changes" which makes him "president" of Tunisia until 2014!

Not only is the number, 99.5 percent, fantastic, it also beats all records. I do not know if the club of 98 percent presidents had pre-approved this number or not but he has certainly put Hosni Mubarak in a difficult position because he had struggled so hard to pull up 98 percent votes, one whole percent in front of Saddam Hussein's outrageous 97 percent. If the club of 98 percent presidents has not pre-approved this new number, Mr Ben Ali must face serious difficulties as Souhair Belhassen, the vice-president of the Tunisian Human Rights League, has bravely said: "The masquerade became indecent because even in the craziest dictatorial regimes, one dares not announce such figures."

But chances are that this new number must have been pre-approved because, after all, Tunisia is a partner in Bush's new "war of terror" and Algeria, its neighbour, has not begrudged the grand victory. In fact, the Algerians followed on the heels of their neighbour and went to elect their own 98 percent president on their own "day of shame".

All of this is, of course, for the sake of democracy. In the words of Algerian foreign minister, Abdelaziz Belkhadem, the recent election will "allow the emergence of a democratic system respectful of human rights, freedom of speech and political pluralism". But let us recall that Algeria, like a large number of other 98 percent regimes has also signed up for the American "war of terror" and the United States is now silent about the appalling events that have taken place, and continue to take place, in Algeria.

These two latest elections have not added new members to the club of 98 percent presidents. But the club does not need new members. Already, the 98 percent club rules more than half of the world's nation-states. Whatever is not ruled by them is ruled by the Gang of Eight, the infamous G8 and the King and Queen Club (KQC). Of course there are honourable exceptions to these three clubs: a tiny fraction of European states like Switzerland and the Scandinavian countries which fall outside the pale of these "civilized" clubs but that is their loss.

Just like the 98 percent presidents have many common features, so does the G8 and KQC. Common to all three is a self-proclaimed righteousness that often makes the sermons of the Pope pale. For example, in their recently held summit at Kananaskis in the Canadian Rockies, the members of G8 club vowed to haul Africa from the abyss by pledging $6bn extra aid a year to Africa in a new programme called Nepad (the New Partnership for Africa's Development). But this pledge is just that: a pledge which no one plans to keep. (Have they not already forgotten the pledges they made to their Afghani puppet!) But farcical as it may sound, this pledge has been made at the estimated cost of 400 million dollars: the price tag for the wilderness resort summit.

Granted that there are some structural problems with the Gang of Eight (G8), but who cares for such details. We all know that it started in November 1975 when Valery Giscard d'Estaing of France invited the leaders of Britain, the US, Japan and Germany to an informal "fireside meeting" at the old royal hunting chateau in the forest of Rambouillet, far from any pestering journalists back in Paris. The club expanded later to include Italy and Canada. When Russia was invited to join, G7 became G8.

The June 2002 summit, held at the Delta Lodge in a luxurious resort in the pine forests of the Rockies, had to be literally isolated from the rest of the world. The media pack was confined to Calgary, 60 miles to the east. A 150 km no-fly-zone was imposed around the site; on the ground, no one was permitted within four miles of the Delta Lodge. There was even a roadblock outside Calgary's commercial airport, though the arriving club members spent barely five minutes on the ground, just long enough for the mayor of Calgary to present them with white cowboy hats (Junichiro Koizumi of Japan seemed to love his; Tony Blair and Jacques Chirac hurriedly passed theirs to aides), before they were whisked off to Kananaskis by helicopter. At Kananaskis, the "great men's" well-being was assured by laser-guided anti-aircraft, tanks and helicopters. Thousands of Canadian Mounties and military personnel were lurking behind almost every tree in what was the greatest peace-time security operation in the country's history, more than nine months in the planning.

This year, no protestors could get close to the Gang but there were supplicants. Kofi Annan of Ghana and Olesegun Obasanjo of Nigeria came begging. But even before the meeting had ended, Oxfam called it "a wasted opportunity". What was being on offer was "peanuts, and repackaged peanuts at that", said the relief agency's director, Phil Twyford.

The last club that holds the key to the present unjust world order is Kings and Queens Club. These are the people who are appointed by none other than Almighty Himself; or so they think. Many among them control billions of oil revenue, but some are mere relics of the past, with no effective power. These are the "seniors" of KQC: the kings and queens of constitutional monarchies. Then there are puppet-kings, with no oil money and no real power of any sort other than what is granted to them by the Gang of Eight. They do not deserve our attention.

So, the only real members of the KQC are the ones who control so much plundered wealth of their lands that even if half of this is put to work, no one will remain uneducated, hungry, and homeless on this planet. But KQC is not interested in such mundane affairs. It is only interested in amassing wealth and living a life of debauchery.

These three clubs work hand in glove. Together, they have imposed a thoroughly corrupt and oppressive world order on this earth. Those who understand this profound tragedy, have so far found no effective way of stopping this inhuman drama. All they can do is to organise protest rallies, get imprisoned or killed.


Friday July 19, 2002-- Jamadi-ul-Awwal 08, 1423 A.H.

No-cure remedies

Dr Muzaffar Iqbal

The writer is a freelance columnist

The recipe has certainly improved. Now, they are told to let the wind out, pretend to be democratic, stay out of limelight as much as possible, change tactics when necessary and, when all else fails, seek legitimacy from the courts. Compare this new and improved recipe with the one used in the sixties when every coup was followed by extensive military presence in the streets, harsh announcements from the khaki and threats to all and sundry. Now, they do not even call it Martial Law.

This new disguise is certainly the creation of those who are intoxicated by power, self-righteousness or greed or all three. A large majority of the planet's six billion people are being ruthlessly "ruled" by those who follow this recipe. In Pakistan, the latest constitutional package is the most logical next step in the script. It is now open for public input, we are told. What a grand performance. The public is entitled to a fair, open and critical debate!

So, we have newspapers full of debate now. In a few weeks, when the next act is enacted, the same newspapers will be discussing the power distribution among the newly elected ministers and after that is over, we will be ushered into yet another phase. And acts will follow hard upon one another, all queued for a grand performance.

In this new script, the real issues have been so cleverly shoved away that no one even remembers them anymore. For Pakistan, these real issues are so grave that the sham being orchestrated looks benign compared to the actual malaise of the society, hopelessly shackled and chained. The state runs on IMF largesse; the society exists in a primitive state of daily subsistence, while a small, extremely small, elite holds the resources of the land in its control and lives like kings.

The real issues for Pakistan are not the sharing of power between one or the other person. The real problems are far more basic. Anyone who knows the amount of money being paid as debt servicing, anyone who knows the grim daily realities of millions of rural Pakistanis, so painfully brought out in certain recent incidents, has a slight idea of what the country faces.

Of course, the politicians and the state institutions have failed. But the individuals who have held power in the past were the corrupt incarnations of what the society lives by on a daily basis. One cannot forgive them because they were corrupt to the core and because their goal was plunder and personal glory, nor can one hope that a clean political leadership could have emerged from a society where there are no moral values left. The current malaise is not the result of one person's deeds, nor the product of last year's events; it goes back to the very beginning of Pakistan.

The struggle for Pakistan's independence had a distinctive religious character and an over-whelming majority of the masses understood it in religious terms. Pakistan was supposed to be a country where they would be able to freely practice their religion and build a society that would reflect the ideals and realities of Islam.

But ironically, this foremost consideration for establishing the state was never seriously thought through. Had it been a serious formulation, with enough momentum, there would have come into existence a set of new institutions for the implementation of this new vision. There was no such effort. In fact, all institutions of the colonial era continued to exist and function. The only change was in the quality of their functioning, which dropped rapidly.

It is futile to expect that the educational system that was created to produce low-level functionaries of the British bureaucracy could produce thinkers, scientists and scholars. It is equally futile to expect that the state bureaucracy that was designed to rule, rather than serve, would change its outlandish demeanour just because the viceroy had left. It is also unrealistic to expect that the millions of rural Pakistanis would automatically become independent of the hold of the feudal system just because the faces of rulers had changed.

It was this fundamental failure to develop a new set of institutions that generated a cancerous growth. But behind this failure, lurks the greater failure of the leadership. One cannot expect millions of poor, illiterate and disempowered people who had been enslaved, physically and mentally, for several generations to produce leadership endowed with critical thinking and empowered to take bold actions. It was the task of the leaders of the Muslim community of India to devise a mechanism for the emergence of a new social order, a new vision and a new leadership endowed with critical thinking and empowered to make bold decisions.

But no such effort was made. No one was interested in harnessing the potential of thousands of young men and women whose imagination had been fired by the desire to acquire a new homeland. These young men and women were the most precious resource of the new land. But as soon as the state came into existence, they were forgotten. No one established institutions to train these young minds in the art of governing their new land.

It is of no use to relate the sorry tale of corruption and despotism that followed. The stark realities of contemporary Pakistani society stare at us. The repeated failures of the political leadership, the non-existent intellectual tradition, the dysfunctional state system and the growing violence and intolerance are all too pronounced to need any further mention. What we have is exactly what was sowed.

This failure has created multiple layers of problems but all of these have to be traced back to the very origin of the state. The basis of the state was well-defined: Pakistan was carved out of the Indian Subcontinent on the basis of two nation theory -- a formulation in which religion played a key role. It was argued that Muslims constitute a distinct community and on the basis of their religion, deserves a separate homeland. With the emergence of the most recent military rule, even this foundation has eroded.

The greatest failure in Pakistan's uphill task of survival has been its inability to form a cohesive polity with well-defined goals. The political turmoil, repeated coups and the failure of the state institutions are merely the end results of the greater malaise that has inflicted the society, almost right from its inception as a nation state.

The most important question now is how to break the vicious circle. The cancer has spread so far that there seems to be no remedy left. The state continues to incur debt, the dysfunctional institutions continue to devour resources of the land and the power politics keeps the individual members of the society totally oblivious of the real issues.

With the largest amount of national resources going to IMF debt servicing, and with the current levels of production, nature and extent of education, intolerance and division within the society, the best hope for Pakistan is to delay an internal collapse for another decade or so. This is not a prophecy; it is a logical conclusion of the current situation.

Anyone seriously concerned about Pakistan cannot remain aloof to this situation. But that is precisely the state of our people; they have become totally aloof from their own reality. They do not seem to have the strength to be concerned with their own present and future. This is the depth of despair. This is the final straw.

In the absence of this will to survive, all kinds of referendums and constitutional packages can be ordered and approved. But all they would do is further weaken the fabric that somehow still holds the society. They will be a failure, just like the Basic Democracy System and the great Islamisation shams of the other two generals were failures. They will fail, not because of any inherent flaw but because they originate in the desire to prolong one man's rule and because they are totally non-participatory ventures.


Thursday August 01, 2002-- Jamadi-ul-Awwal 21, 1423 A.H.


What went wrong

Dr Muzaffar Iqbal


The writer is a freelance columnist

Once more the month of August brings the remembrance of things past. Stirring dull souls, evoking memories. Was it not just 52 years ago that a young nation started its journey with so much hope and enthusiasm that nothing seemed impossible? Was it not supposed to be a unique synthesis of the historical currents that had flown through the ancient civilisation of India for over a millennium which had created two nations in the Indian subcontinent? One of these two was distinct from the other on the basis of religion, culture, rituals, and language. This was the basis for the two-nation theory so cogently articulated by Iqbal? Then what went wrong? Whatever happened to that dream?

No, it is not going to be yet another litany of the sorry state of affairs that engulfs us today; this column is to search the roots of what went wrong. Hence, there is no need to list the failure; there is no need to trace the cancerous growth. In any case, it is all too apparent.

What is intended in this, and the next column, is to search for the roots of the failure that seems to have sealed the fate of the young state right at the time of its inception. It is true that the political battles of the first decade of the existence of Pakistan contributed to the rapid political, economic and social decay, but what gave rise to those battles?

The most obvious starting observation is that what went wrong must have been a fundamental, and not a peripheral, matter. The second important observation is that Pakistan did not come into existence in vacuum; it came into existence within a social and historical context. The historical context was the post-World War II global climate in which the colonising powers were hastening to leave the colonised world. It was in the wake of this global retreat that Pakistan came into existence, along with scores of other nation-states.

Next, a quick glance at the state of these new nation-states shows that there is hardly a state that emerged from the colonial yoke with any distinction. From Somalia to Ghana and from Libya to Indonesia, there lies a string of "third world" countries, all sharing a common pattern of internal collapse. Unstable social orders, defunct political system, military coups, failed economies, over-burdened infrastructures and fast decaying social fabric are the most obvious common features of these societies.

In order to survive, these states have become hostage to a most cunning mechanism which allows them to survive but merely. This life-support system comes in the form of international aid-cum-loans and makes it possible for a small ruling elite to continue to keep its shackles. Pakistan is no exception to this mechanism. In fact, Pakistan is better than many other nation states that emerged from the colonial era.

Yet, the voiceless millions of human beings struggling to survive in subhuman conditions, suffering from the consequences of failed states and living in horrible conditions of health, poverty, and lack of education, cannot be ignored as a necessary historical outcome.

Hence, what went wrong must be traced to the very birth of these states. What was the condition of the society at the time of the birth of these nation states? Were there enough human and material resources for these states to emerge as prosperous, developing states? Or was there something chronically wrong in the state of these societies when the colonising powers departed?

The answer is obvious. These societies were not equipped to emerge as strong nation states, capable of producing enough resources to ensure a rapid growth of infrastructure that would respond to the growing needs. Because had it been so, there would have been at least some exceptions to the trend.

This leads us to conclude that the root of malady must lie in the colonial era. But the danger here is to fall into the trap of a post-modern debunking of colonisation. Of course, there is no moral justification for the subjugation of millions of human beings by France and Britain or, to a lesser extent, by the Dutch. But a blanket condemnation of these states would lead us nowhere.

It is equally true that these societies allowed themselves to be colonised. History is witness to the fact that only strong and vibrant societies survive; others are colonised, even forced into extinction. So, our search takes us beyond the murky waters of blaming the western imperialism for all the ills of contemporary third world states. We must look for answers in the very fabric of these societies that became so weak that a few thousand British or French soldiers could enslave whole nations.

The majority of these colonised societies were traditional Muslim lands. These lands had had a glorious past, a civilisation that had produced the longest known scientific tradition. It was also a civilisation based on a unique idea which had come into existence on the basis of a Book. The Book was revealed, not written and it brought with itself a call to action, not a passive observance of its laws. This call to action was exemplified by the Prophet of Islam.

This emergence of Islam's message in history gave birth to a civilisation that demanded from its adherents an ever-present consciousness of the Creator. This was the most dynamic aspect of Islam. This allowed the Islamic civilisation to dispense with the religious institutions such as the Church and ecclesiastical authorities; it allowed all believers to be equally responsible for their deeds and their judgment was left to God.

This dynamic relationship between the individual and the Creator on the one hand, and the individual and the society on the other, gave rise to the growth of a society in which no one could claim complete hold on power. This was a most effective system of checks and balance. There were no divisions of religion and politics, economics and morals; all domains of human existence were meshed together and all citizens of state had equal share in the making and unmaking of the society.

In concrete historical terms, this meant that there was no centre of power; the state functioned through multiple centres of power, each serving as a nexus of internal checks and balances. Thus the executive authority had to function in deference to the religious leadership and the religious leadership had to exercise its power without any office, merely through the moral strength of its own authority.

Thus, there existed an amazing array of religious scholars who held no official position but whose words were so powerful that they moved millions of human beings into action. This was the internal mechanism of dynamic growth, common to all Muslim societies, which produced the Islamic civilisation in which Ibn Sina could learn his mathematics from a grocer and Imam Bukhari could refuse the call of the ruler to come teach his children in the palace.

But there was another element common to this civilisation. It was its untiring commitment to learning. "Those who know and those who don't are not equal," the Qur'aan had stated in clear terms. "The blind and the seeing are not equal." And the Prophet of Islam had said, "The learned are the inheritors of the Prophets". He had also said, "Anyone who walks on the path of knowledge, walks on the paths of paradise." This inherent characteristic of the Islamic civilisation, this raison d'etre of its excellence, was the main driving force behind the society that produced Ibn al-Haythams and al-Berunis for eight hundred years.

But something went wrong in the sixteenth and the seventeenth centuries. This dynamic force, which had sustained Muslim societies for centuries, started to become weak. Although there were three powerful empires at that time, the inner force of the Islamic civilisation had started to weaken in the lavish and pompous Mughal, Safavid and Ottoman empires. This would then give rise to a grand collapse that would first result in the colonisation of these lands and then to stillborn states, unable to sustain themselves. It is in this grand failure that the roots of our failed state have to be traced. This will be the subject of the next "Quantum Note", God willing.





The News International Pakistan


Friday August 16, 2002-- Jamadi-us-Sani 06, 1423 A.H.
ISSN 1563-9479





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The unfinished agenda

Dr Muzaffar Iqbal

The writer is a freelance columnist

Independence day celebrations are over but the unfinished agenda remains. The dream that went sour needs to be restored. Arising from the ruins of a devastating colonial era, Pakistan came into being through a unique synthesis of diverse cultural and historical currents. But Pakistan also came into existence amidst a host of other nation states that were being created around the globe in the post-World War II era, almost in a frenzy.

It was a time of great reawakening. Millions of human beings were reclaiming their rights as free, equal and honourable citizens. After a century or more of colonised existence, millions of human beings were demanding their own states, governed by their own people, chosen by their own volition.

But the case of Pakistan was unique because it came into existence on the basis of an idea that was different from other foundational ideas. It was the idea of a polity existing on the basis of a shared belief in a particular religion. Ironically, the state of Israel would also share with Pakistan this unique distinction but the state of Israel came into existence through a violent act of occupation that continues to oppress millions of Palestinians. Pakistan, on the other hand, came into existence in a land where Muslims had lived for more than a millennium.

In any case, the idea that gave birth to Pakistan was itself the product of a long historical evolution. But the tragedy with this idea is that it was robbed of its vitality in the very process of its actualisation. Almost right from the birth of Pakistan, this idea and those who carried it forward merged into one entity and a tacit censorship made it impossible for anyone to analyse the role of the political leadership that steered the Indian Muslims in the struggle for independence.

This merger of the two identities has meant that no one can critically examine the role of the political leadership without somehow tainting the idea that stands behind the state. This merger of identities has had tremendous consequences for the state of Pakistan. This has been the main reason for the absence of any critical evaluation of political leadership during the first decade of its independence. In the absence of such evaluation, all ills of contemporary Pakistan are traced back to a post-1950 period. Such a treatment inevitably leads one to a vicious circle: The political leadership failed, the military intervened, military failed, political leadership came back and then back to the same cycle three more times.

The only way to break this vicious cycle is to look beyond the 1948 period and try to trace the roots of the problems in the historical process that have led to this sorry situation. True, the idea of a separate homeland for Muslims of the subcontinent was a great historical development but what was supposed to be different in this new homeland? What institutions were needed to make that difference? How would these institutions come into existence? Who would create them? If Pakistan was truly going to be a new state based on a unique idea, how would it differ from other nation states?

Two Nation Theory was cogently articulated by a poet but it had to be enunciated, developed and put into a concrete work plan by those who had an aptitude for concrete details. It was a great leap of imagination but it needed a practical plan of action. However, no such plan evolved in the seven years between 1940 and 1947. Perhaps one cannot blame anyone for this lack of foresight because the struggle to gain independence was such an uphill task that every iota of energy went into it. But one cannot escape from the consequences of this great lapse either.

After all, it was the absence of any strategy that forced the new nation state to start on a wrong footing. Jinnah chose to become Governor General, he chose the British parliamentary system for a country where literacy rate was a fraction of what it was in Britain and where millions of people lived in bondage.

Just like the British, who had adopted the appalling feudal system that had enslaved millions of human beings for centuries, the political leadership of the new state did nothing to destroy this cruel bondage. Worse, it inherited and adopted a bureaucratic-military institutional hierarchy that found the new opportunities simply lucrative.

Hence, instead of leaping forth with a great new vision, soon after August 1947, millions of citizens of the new state found that the only change that had come in their lives was the change of rulers. By the time these nameless, poor, uneducated millions discovered this, it was too late. The great wave of joy, exhilaration and hope on which they had been riding until August 14th, 1947, had already departed from the land leaving in its wake an unfinished agenda.

This unfinished agenda was the emergence of a completely new social order, development of a new governing system and the creation of a new institutional structure, commensurate with the great idea which had created the new nation state. This task was never even started.

True, abortive attempts were made by some individuals to articulate the new path. But these were individuals who had neither the qualities of a charismatic leader nor the powers to implement their thoughts. As a result, the dream turned sour. Nothing changed in the lives of millions of people who gave tremendous sacrifices to create the new state.

The agenda for change has not even been articulated in any coherent manner. In the absence of this formulation, the only thing that rules the land is whimsical trends, personal agendas of those who can usurp power or simple lethargy.

In order to conceive, formulate and bring to the forefront a concrete action plan for the emergence of a new polity that can rightly be associated with the great idea that had given birth to Pakistan, there has to be a sound understanding of the civilisational currents that gave birth to the state of Pakistan. But these currents are so steeply intertwined with the greater currents of Islamic thought that one cannot separate the local conditions from the great calamity that has fallen on planet's one billion Muslims. This calamity is the drying up of the kinetic force that drove the Islamic civilisation.

This calamity is rooted in the breakdown of a civilisation whose only claim to survival was through the Book and when it left the Book and the love of books, its nourishing reservoirs dried up. The civilisation was thus rendered dysfunctional. Its social, political, and economic institutions collapsed and, finally, it was colonised. This collapse meant that the intellectual tradition that had evolved over a millennium had become stilted. The languages, customs, rites, patterns of social interaction, commerce, almost everything that had sustained great centres of learning in the Islamic civilisation suffered and finally, the flow of new energy completely stopped.

The three great empires of the fifteenth to seventeenth century failed to see what was happening in Europe. The Mughals, the Safavids and the Ottomans were busy in the construction of great monuments, public squares and huge palaces. They did not develop new scientific knowledge to cope with the demands of changing times. They did not develop military resources to match the rising European powers. It was in those three centuries that the seeds of the great calamity were planted; we are only reaping the bitter harvest of those seeds. In the absence of a living intellectual tradition that is capable of producing institutions, scientific advancement and is internally disposed to continually renewing itself through, all that was left was a passive receptivity to the foreign currents.

This resulted in the imposition of mental, political, economic and social colonisation. After this, it was only a matter of time for the three empires to suffer their final humiliation and breakdown. This final collapse resulted in the subjugation of millions of people to the European powers. When the struggle for independence started, it did not aim at restoring the foundations of the society; it merely aimed at political independence which it did achieve. But this was a meaningless independence because it meant no or very little change in the actual living conditions. But what is more painful is the fact that even after half a century of "independence", there are no signs of any real effort to regain the lost foundational principles that had once given birth to a glorious civilisation.



The News International Pakistan


Friday August 30, 2002-- Jamadi-us-Sani 20, 1423 A.H.


Who rules Pakistan?

Dr Muzaffar Iqbal

The writer is a freelance columnist

Anyone who knows the most basic facts about Pakistan would think that the question, "who rules Pakistan" is simply outrageous. Such a person would argue that the answer to this question should be obvious to everyone. After all, how can one even ask such a question in a country where the illiteracy rate is 54 percent, and where the agriculture sector is shrinking, and 35 percent people live below the national poverty line? With an outstanding debt of 31,099 million dollars, no one but those who pay for the daily survival of Pakistan, rule the country.

Facts are frightening. Numbers convey a reality that is simply appalling. From a country which used to produce its own food and where there was an abundance of clean water, Pakistan has now become a country where famine will strike if the donor agencies withhold their dole outs. Clean water is increasingly becoming scarce and poverty is rampant. Health care is becoming unaffordable for a vast majority of people and most of the resources of the land are going to debt servicing.

Given these facts, it seems totally unrealistic to think that the next government will be able to bring any improvement in the condition of Pakistan's 140 million people. It is unrealistic because no matter who comes to power, the real rulers of the country will remain the same. This is so because the next government will inherit the same ruling mechanism that the current or the previous government had and this mechanism revolves around a cash flow that comes from the World Bank and keeps the country going. Without this cash flow, the first sectors to be hit would be food, fuel and energy.

In 2000, Pakistan spent 2,793 million dollars on fuel and energy imports and 896 million dollars on food imports. Capital goods consumed 2,705 million dollars. Against a total bill of imports of goods and services (11,762 million), the exports of goods and services was only 9,575 million, leaving a negative net resource balance of 2,187 million.

What do these figures tell us? These numbers represent nothing for millions of Pakistanis. For the average person now living in Pakistan, the daily fatigue of living is so great that these abstract numbers mean nothing to him or her. The greatest tasks faced by millions of this unfortunate country is how to make ends meet, how to take care of the sick and how to pay for the education of their children.

Education and healthcare are the two most important and most daunting challenges faced by ordinary Pakistanis. And though there is scarcity of clean water and food is increasingly becoming expensive, these are not the main concerns of the average Pakistani who can subsist on roti and daal. But most people want their children to receive education and anyone who falls sick, needs medical care.

Behind these two pressing needs stands an array of problems which are only visible to those who understand how societies function and what contributes toward their growth. Health is intimately linked to what people eat and drink as well as to hygiene and the general state of germs and viruses in the living and working places. And these are connected with education, understanding of functioning of the human body and hundreds of other related things.

But these facts and figures also say something else which is very loud and clear: Unless something is done, the country will simply collapse from its internal burden. The debt, diminishing resources and the crushing weight of poverty and disease will simply make it impossible for the society to continue.

Then what should be done? How can Pakistan avert the fast approaching calamity? How can it hope to recover from the burdensome debt it has incurred?

It seems that no small measures can now cure the malady. The present institutional structure has to be completely replaced by a totally new structure for any positive change. Otherwise, an unending supply of short-term bandages would keep the country intact for some time to come and then even these remedies would become insufficient.

But what is this fundamental change? How can it be accomplished? Who can bring it? How?

These are mighty questions. These are the questions that every Pakistani should be asking. These are the questions that should be constantly debated on the basis of facts and figures. These are the questions all the contesting political entities should address. Most of all, these are the questions that Pakistan's universities, academics, intellectuals, and writers should ask.

But our tragedy is that even the questions are not being asked. No one seems to have the courage of looking at these cold, unfriendly and menacing numbers. Most hope that somehow a messiah will emerge and take us out of this terrible situation. We pin our hopes on individuals and forget that no individual can reverse the condition of our polluted waters, depleting food production and the rising cost of healthcare. These fundamental realities of our times demand immediate attention but the nation is busy with other concerns.

This column is the not the place to present a blueprint for the significant change that is needed to reverse the tide. No such thing exists. There is no ready-made solution for these complex issues. But what is needed, and what the rightful function of this piece of writing can be, is to raise the awareness that something is urgently needed. That it is the duty of those who control the resources of the land, to tell the people of this country that they stand on the brink of a disaster. And they should state this over and over, until this sinks into the collective consciousness and an action plan comes into existence.

Likewise, those who claim the role of leadership at various levels, should either fulfil that role by first understanding these cold facts and then formulating strategies for recovery or else they should step aside for more informed and dedicated individuals who can produce solutions to these problems.

Education, healthcare, food and water are the four most basic needs of any society. For Pakistan, the fulfilment of these basic needs should be understood in revolutionary terms. There are examples in recent past where nations have risen to such tasks with extraordinary energy and dedication and they have succeeded. The case of China is an obvious example. There is no reason that Pakistanis cannot achieve what the Chinese achieved in the course of a generation.

There is no dearth of sincere people in the country. There is no lack of desire. There is ample dedication. What is missing is the leadership. What is needed is the vision of a state that can generate its own resources for survival. A crash programme is needed for now a live or die situation exists. There are no other choices left.

But no change can come through the existing institutional structure. It is time for a revolutionary change. All revolutions require the greatest participation by greatest number of people. No basic change can come through ordinances, constitutional packages and referendums. Even elections are no more a solution. What is needed is a great wave of focused energy that would sweep through the length and breadth of the country, stirring masses, raising an awareness that we need to wake up, stand up and accomplish a task without which our children have no future.


The News International Pakistan

September 13, 2002

Quantum Note

Victims of September 11

Dr. Muzaffar Iqbal

The Writer is a freelance columnist.



The remembrance was made graphic by the reading of 2,823 names, one by one. These were the victims of September 11 attack on the World Trade Centre. Rudolph Giuliani, the former mayor of New York, began the tribute at a day of observance, marked by a minute's silence and a bagpipe procession to ground zero.

Hundreds of miles away, in the bombed desert village of Hajibirgit, there was no ceremony, no reading of names, just an eerie silence. At dawn, a young man walked to a small grave, just as he has done this ever since that terrible night of May 22, 2002 when Haji Birgit Khan, the 85-year-old village leader was seen running from his little lawn towards the white-walled village mosque. He had barely set foot inside the mosque when a burst of gunfire was heard. Haji Baba, as Birgit Khan was lovingly called, fell on the floor of the mosque. Several men from the Special American Forces rushed toward him. But before their arrival, Haji Baba had gone beyond their reach. The men from the Special Force took his body with them.

The Americans had arrived in this remote village by helicopter, accompanied by local Afghan soldiers. They tied up the women, then lifted their burqas to look at their faces to confirm their identities. Three-year-old Zarguna, the daughter of Abdul Shakour, became so frightened that she ran from her house and toppled into the village's 60 foot deep well on the other side of the mosque. During that terrible night, she was to drown there, alone. Her body was found the next day.

On September 11, 2002, no one read out Zarguna’s name. She was ignored just as she was ignored on that terrible night of May 22, 2002 when President Bush’s “War of Terror” reached her village. The Special Forces men and women were not interested in such details as the life of an innocent child.These 150 soldiers from the US 101st Airborne, whose home base is at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, were in hot pursuit of Al-Qaeeda men, or so they claimed.

But the victims of the village of Hajibirgit, 50 miles into the desert from Kandahar, were not just the 85-year old Haji Birgit or the 3-year old Zarguna. On that night of terror, all the women and children were ordered to gather at one end of Hajibirgit. Men were forced to lie down and were handcuffed. Then they were blindfolded and pushed toward helicopters and taken to Kandahar where they were herded together into a container. Their legs were tied and then their handcuffs and the manacle of one leg of each prisoner were separately attached to stakes driven into the floor of the container. Thick sacks were put over their heads. Then their clothes were torn and beards were shaved. While they stood naked, they were questioned by Americans through Afghan interpreters. None was found guilty of any association with Al-Qaeeda.

They were later released. It was yet another mistake, the world was told; the US army had bombed another village “by mistake”. When the men returned to their village, they found that it had been plundered by a group of men from Helmand province, under the command of Abdul Rahman Khan, a Karzai government police commander. After the Americans left, all but ten of the 105 families had fled into the hills, leaving their mud homes to be pillaged.

After the plunder was over, men of the village came back to find a single bullet hole in the concrete floor of the mosque and the dried bloodstain beside it. They also found bits of Haji Baba’s brain on the wall. These victims of President Bush’s War are not the only ones not remembered on September 11, 2002. There are twenty thousand more civilians who have paid with their lives, property or both.

Another American gift for the people of Afghanistan that should also be remembered along with the victims of September 11: thousands of cluster bombs, 20 per cent of whose "bomblets" have burried themselves in the ground, turning themselves into mines. These bomblets have killed and maimed thousands of Afghans and they continue to do so. One only has to pay a visit to the Mirwais hospital in Kandahar to see the crippled men, women and children sitting in long ques for artificial legs. No rememberance for them either.

“In Afghanistan, it is possible to go from hell to hell,” Robert Fisk recently wrote after a visit to a refugee camp near the Pakistan border. “The first circle of hell is the Waiting Area, the faeces-encrusted dustbowl in which 60,000 Afghans rot along their frontier with Pakistan at Chaman.” This graphic description of the lives of thousands of Afghans is a chilling reminder to the world that victims of September 11 do not only lay buried at ground zero. They also exist in the “bone-dry, sand-blasted patched tents” along with their “skinny camels, infested blankets and skin diseases”. These “laughing children with terrible facial sores, old women of 30, white-bearded, dark-turbaned men” who sit in their “huts of dry twigs” do not even have the words to ask us: “What was our fault? Why were we attacked?”

There are no ceremonies to be held, no candles to be lit for these silent victims of September 11. They have no way of asking any questions. They sit silently, day after day, and wait for the next turn of events. They are completely at the mercy of others. But those who can still raise voices include six million Muslims living in the United States. Between September and December 2001, at least 1200 were rounded up by various agencies in the United States. These raids were conducted with wartime urgency and uncommon secrecy. Although most of the detainees have since been released or deported, some 200 are still being held, without charges, without trials.

Since September 11, 2001, Muslims in North America have lost all sense of security; they are no longer equal citizens.  They are anxious and increasingly angry at what is happening to their lives, careers and businesses. At airports, they are “randomly selected” for extra-search; at public places, they are seen as potential danger and they have been called in for interviews by police. There is a widespread perception that few non-Muslim Americans understand -- or care -- what they're going through.

Particularly chilling and telling are the comments (made on July 19, 2002 by a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and since then rejected by the full panel)
that raised the specter of internment camps for American Muslims if there was
another attack on U.S. soil. These comments by a Bush appointee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights only inflamed the situation. At the hearing, held in downtown Detroit, Commissioner Peter Kirsanow said that "if there's another terrorist attack and if it's from a certain ethnic community or certain ethnicities that the  terrorists are from, you can forget about civil rights in this country."

A Cleveland lawyer, Kirsanow later added that another attack could lead to internment camps such as those built to hold Japanese Americans in World War II. "Not too many people will be crying in their beer if there are more detentions, more stops, more profiling. There will be a groundswell of public opinion to banish civil rights," Kirsanow said.

The events of September 11 have produced one of the worst responses by a country that sees itself as the only superpower on earth. True, America was attacked, but the response to this attack has been an immoral unjust war against Islam and Muslims that continues to enlarge its sphere. How many more victims would this war claim? Where would it lead us?

The News International

Friday September 27, 2002-- Rajab 19, 1423 A.H

US designs for the Muslim world

Dr Muzaffar Iqbal

The writer is a freelance


“Many Americans tend to stereotype Muslims as uncivilised, unwashed, barbaric, and irrational people who command our attention only because some of their leaders have the good fortune to rule territory containing over two-thirds of the world's proven oil reserves." This is how Richard Nixon begins his chapter "The Muslim World" in his 1992 book, Seize the Moment.

Nixon's own description of the Muslim World is not without stereotyping, albeit of a different kind. The thirty-seventh President (1969-74) of the United States saw the Muslim world as consisting of "thirty-seven countries, 190 ethnic groups who speak hundreds of distinct languages and dialects and who belong to three main religious sects: the Sunnis, the Shias and the Sufis."

What the California-born Nixon (b 1913) had to say about this "diverse community of 850 million people" is important because it reflects the broad features of American policy for the Muslim world. But before proceeding further, let us recall that Nixon was not Reagan or Bush; he had a brilliant record at Whittier College and Duke University Law School, he had won a Senate seat in 1950 and two years later, General Eisenhower hd selected him to be his running mate; he was only 39. His election to the presidency was delayed until 1968 by the charismatic John F Kennedy to whom he lost by a narrow margin in 1960.

But once he became the President of the United States, he moved quickly on many fronts. His dramatic 1972 visit to Beijing drastically changed the US policy toward China and his summit meetings with Russian leader Leonid I Brezhnev produced a treaty to limit strategic nuclear weapons. In 1974, his Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, negotiated disengagement agreements between Israel and Egypt and Syria. In his 1972 bid for office, Nixon defeated Democratic candidate George McGovern by one of the widest margins on record.

But within a few months, his administration was embattled over the so-called "Watergate" scandal. Faced with what seemed almost certain impeachment, Nixon announced on August 8, 1974, that he would resign the next day to begin "that process of healing which is so desperately needed in America." By the time of his death on April 22, 1994, he had written numerous books on his experiences in public life and on foreign policy.

Nixon's ideas about the Muslim world are also important in another context. Whatever he wrote seems to have been taken seriously by successive American administrations. "In charting our course," wrote Nixon, "we must know who are our friends and who are our enemies... The key to a US policy of discriminating engagement is to undertake strategic cooperation only with modernist regimes and to limit our ties with extreme fundamentalist and radical regimes to tactical cooperation."

This characterisation of the regimes in the Muslim world completely ignores the question of legitimacy. Many "moderate" regimes in the Muslim world are, in fact, oppressive dictatorships. But this is not the only moral lacuna in the script.

Nixon provides a rare insight into American designs for the Muslim world when he says "many observers in retrospect condemn US policy toward the Iran-Iraq war. They express shock that we alternately helped one side and then the other depending on the tide of battle. They are only partly right. Our interests demanded that neither side emerge as a clear-cut victor, and the Reagan administration acted correctly in playing both sides. In allowing arms sales to Iraq, the mistake was to exceed the amounts needed to check Iran's offensive capabilities, thereby enabling Saddam Hussein to become a military menace after the cost $100 billion and 148 American lives to reverse the error."

What a shocking statement by a man who is called a statesman and a deep thinker! This is American leadership at its best. There is no mention of the thousands of human beings killed in the war fuelled by the supply of arms to both sides, there is no mention of the enormous devastation caused by carpet bombing by the American air force, there is even no admission of the "war-booty" received by America during the Gulf War in which it spent $100 billions of Arab money; what matters is only the lives of 148 Americans!

Nixon goes on to openly state that "to affect the historical evolution of the Muslim world, we should not fashion a grand `Muslimpolitik' that applies one policy to all these countries. Instead, we should identify key pivot points for our presence." He specifies four countries "that stand out as the most logical US partners": Turkey, Pakistan, Egypt and Indonesia.

What is even more shocking is that this "statesman" tells us that "this does not mean that we should place on the back burner our relations with other modernists and pro-Western regimes. King Hussan, one of the Muslim world's most enlightened rulers, has instituted progressive policies in Morocco and has worked with closely with the United States on strategic issues. The Saudi monarchy has also forged important ties with the West, despite its authoritarian domestic system... We must not embrace the modernist states so tightly that our relationship becomes a target for their domestic critics."

There is more: "We must accept the fact that at times it does not serve our interests for our friends in the Muslim world to support our positions on issues that are highly sensitive politically in their countries. When the United States bombed Libya in April 1986, many leaders in the region denounced us in public but cheered us in private. We should learn to look the other way when circumstances force our friends to give lip service to our foes."

Nixon states that "the Muslim world poses one of the greatest challenges to US foreign policy in the twenty-first century. Nixon advocates that US policy should avoid "three fatal illusions": (1) the illusion of a comprehensive security framework, (2) the illusion of regional arms control, and (3) the illusion of redistributing regional wealth. He states that Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states only appear to be rich "because of their tiny combined population of 20 million. The perception that these states have endless cash reserves is based on the image of jet-setting Arab princes, not the reality of their significant but not limitless wealth. The entire Saudi GNP, $82 billion, represents less than what the US government spends on Medicare in a single year."

Nixon honestly states that America's "two immediate interests in the Middle East, oil and Israel are not always fully compatible... Our commitment to the survival and security of Israel runs deep. We are not formal allies, but we are bound together by something much stronger than a piece of paper: a moral commitment. No American President or Congress will ever allow the destruction of the state of Israel."

Nixon favoured the peace process for three reasons. First, the Arab-Israeli conflict was a constant drain on American budget. "In 1991," he states, "the 60 million people of Israel and Egypt received more than 40 percent of the almost $15 billion the United States allocated to foreign aid, while the over 4 billion people in the rest of the underdeveloped world competed for the leftovers. Since the mid-1970, the United States has given Israel $49 billion in direct and indirect foreign aid. In addition, Israel received $16.4 billion in loans between 1974 and 1989 that were subsequently converted into grants." Second, the Arab-Israeli conflict "poisons our relations with the Muslim world and undercuts our ability to cooperate with countries with modernist, pro-Western leaders." Third, there is the danger of American involvement in a war that may involve nuclear arms. Nixon tells us of how America saved Israel during the 1973 War when the tide of battle had run against Israel. "I ordered a massive airlift to prevent Israel's defeat and later put US nuclear forces on alert to forestall a threatened unilateral Soviet intervention."

Nixon's prescription for the Muslim world is not his personal script; it comes from the stronghold of the American ruling elite which has successfully practiced a sustained and uniform policy toward the Muslim world for decades. This is perhaps one of the most important areas where both the democrats and the republicans have always shown broad similarities. This policy also shows another characteristic of the official American attitude: a complete lack of morality in dealing with other human beings, especially if they happen to be Muslim. All that counts is the American interests and an unflinching support for Israel.

Friday October 11, 2002-- Sha'aban 04, 1423 A.H.
ISSN 1563-9479


Re-colonising the colonised

Dr Muzaffar Iqbal

The writer is a freelance columnist

A new law allows foreign multinationals to buy any amount of land in Pakistan, a new ordinance allows these companies to buy all coffee grown in Brazil, a new treaty gives eight oil companies rights to drill in Kazakhstan's northern oil reserves. These are all recent events which open up the way for a new round of colonization.

Of course, nothing is static in history or life. A society is a living organism. No one really controls it but all who live in it or have an impact on it, contribute to its evolution. A web of inter-related and complex events shapes outcomes which remain, in an ultimate sense, outside human providence.

Hence, all events that contribute toward a healthy and more humane society make it healthier and humane without any one of these having a complete claim to be the only factor. Likewise, all disruptive influences do the opposite. They are like a cancerous organism injected into the bloodstream which grows and makes its presence felt at various levels.

The colonisation of a vast region in Asia, Africa and the Middle East in the nineteenth century was a process that had injected a cancerous organism into the bloodstream of these societies. The so-called independence of these societies created an illusion of culmination of colonisation but it would be absurd to take the emergence of contemporary nation states as the end of the role colonization played in the making and unmaking of these societies.

It would be absurd because during in the very process of colonisation and during the long span of its firm hold, these societies were fundamentally transformed. From educational institutions to the infra-structure, from modes and patterns of life to rituals and customs, everything was deeply affected. Thus the post World War II world, the emergence of new nations states and the new international platforms that accompanied this process, all formed that complex web of inter-connected reality that defines contemporary world.

And these new nation states, the new cultural patterns and new ruling classes and institutions are all now in the second wave of colonization. Of course this new phase of colonisation has emerged with a new mechanism. Direct rule is not desirable anymore: it is too costly. This has meant that a new, elaborate and incisive mechanism was needed. And this mechanism had to be so complex and diffused that the only a small minority of people could understand it. Thus at the public level, the realisation that a new process of colonisation is underway remains dim.

But this dim realisation has produced enough clarity to be taken seriously and although it is still too early for a mass movement to emerge against this process, it is not altogether a hidden process. However, like all other things, it is an organic process that can only be controlled through constant and diverse modes of intervention. Hence, the never-ending chain of events in world history, each contributing or opposing the new phase of colonisation.

The new modes of colonisation require, first of all, puppet regimes. But no regime can be a complete puppet. After all, each regime is made up of men and women who have their interests, goals, and ambitions and thus the establishment of these regimes is not something written in stone; it always remains a living and growing process, requiring new inputs, meeting new demands. But the bottom line is always the same: regimes with which the colonizers can work. When the going gets difficult and it is cost effective to remove these regimes, then they have to be replaced.


These puppet regimes are the corner stone of the new process; without them, nothing can be achieved. The main instrument in the creation and perpetuation of these regimes is money. But again, this is not a iron-clad rule; there are regimes which do not need money to remain in power; they need military presence; hence the spread of US military bases in countries as diverse as Uzbekistan and Saudi Arabia.

Where money is the major factor in controlling the regimes, it has to be a country that pays off enough dividends to justify the flow of that amount of money. Hence it is not surprising that Egypt "enjoys" the unique distinction of being the second country after Israel to receive the largest share of all US foreign aid. Pakistan has been a country that has been on and off the money chain. Depending on the immediate need and utility, it receives largesse and is left to face scenarios where bankruptcy looms large.

The process of establishment and maintenance of puppet regimes is also not a simple and uniform process. Each country requires a totally unique strategy and various regions which share certain common features, also require an overall plan and strategy. Hence there is a constant need to actively engage a vast array of instruments to keep these mechanisms of control in a working condition.

Of course the new colonising power is the United States of America which has taken over all old colonies from France and England. This new colonizer is, in turn, not a single centre of control and command. It does not work like the nineteenth century colonising empires. It is a large mechanism, built through many institutions, sub-mechanisms of control and multiple layers of diverse nature. From the secretive IMF and World Bank to professors at respectable educational institutions, from multiple levels of media to the well-organised FBI, it is a huge machine. But all levers and controls of this huge machine have a remarkable unity of purpose and although the machine does not always work in accordance with the plan, it does perform and yield results.

This new mechanism of recolonisation of the colonised is money driven. It is a process that is based on same old desire of control and exploitation of material resources of the colonised land but in this new phase, it has also created new numerous new commodities for its control: from bandwidths for telecommunication to the physical possession of vast reserves of oil and gas and from the need to control the flow of skilled humans to that of technologies.

This vast new mechanism of colonisation is also interested in controlling minds, ideas, thoughts, religious and artistic expressions, design, modes of living and the physical and cultural environment in which other societies live. This is, in fact, a craving for a total control that leaves out nothing. It is interested in everything: from selling the genetically modified seeds to the deconstruction of the sacred traditions; from the control and possession of peasants lands and machinery to the control and possession of minds in the urban intellectuals.

This insatiable hunger for colonisation is qualitatively different from the nineteenth century version. It is on a much grander scale and it is geared toward building a new empire that human history has never seen before. In this new process of colonisation, nothing is beyond limits. Not even the graves of dead men, places which have become shrines for the poor Afghans who silently go to these resting places of their Arab brothers to pray and seek help, only to find out that they have been dug for a DNA analysis.

(To be continued)


Friday October 25, 2002-- Sha'aban 18, 1423 A.H.

Transformations During Colonisation

Dr Muzaffar Iqbal

The writer is a freelance

columnist #

What is wrong with Muslims," asked an American participant of a recent conference I happened to attend in the United States, "look at the map. Look at the middle belt from Libya to Indonesia. All those countries are in a mess, feeding on the largess of the West. And yet so ungrateful."

I was stunned by the condescending tone and the arrogance but could not dispute the facts. From one corner of the Muslim world to the other, all societies are non-knowledge producing, all have fundamental problems related to their political, social and economic institutions. But even a cursory knowledge of these societies is enough to know that all of these countries are ruled by non-representative governments. And because it is the government of the nation-state that claims all rights to the resources of the land, social and economic fibre of these societies has no foundation.

"But how did these nation-states come to this sorry state?" I asked my co-participant. He looked at me with his blue eyes and shrugged his shoulders. He was not interested in knowing any details. All he knew for sure was that these countries are the hotbed of terrorists. He had watched too much CNN.

But I did not want to loose the opportunity so I repeated my question in a slightly different form: "Do you know who rules these countries?" He blurted out a long list of military dictators and kings with adjectives not suitable for any scholar. "And how did they come to power?" I asked. He was once again lost. This was too much for him, he excused himself and joined another group in the hallway.

It is true that the middle belt of the globe, containing more than one billion Muslims is currently suffering from multiple problems that seem to have no cure. But these problems have deep historical roots and unless those roots are understood, the problems would remain un-resolved.

At the root of these problems lies the deep colonial cut that carved out these nation-states in such a manner that they emerged on the world scene without any solid foundation which could provide a base for the reconstruction of their social, political and economic institutions. The old institutions, which were weak but which had worked for centuries for these people, were totally destroyed by the colonising powers.

A number of complex, interconnected and diverse forces operated on the Muslim world between 1700 and 1950 to produce changes that destroyed old institutions, disrupted centuries-old social patterns of life, and replaced old languages of discourse with new and alien languages which could be understood by only a small percentage of the population.

These changes were the product of historical forces that were reshaping the map of the world during this era. From being major players in world history, the three powerful Muslim empires that had emerged in the traditional Muslim lands after the destruction of Baghdad were rapidly becoming a backwater. And this was happening not only due to the internal weakness of these empires, but also due to the fact that, precisely at this time, Europe was taking a dynamic lead in the events that would eventually transform the world.

It was a dramatic and fateful reversal that took place through a highly complex interplay between diverse factors including international commerce, politics, military techniques, science, technology, social customs, fashions and arts. The most dominating feature of this period is an inner vacuum that characterised the Islamic civilisation at all levels. As if it had been hollowed from within, the civilisation that had created a grand infrastructure of legal, administrative and social organisational systems appeared to be suspended in the air without any support. It was this great inner vacuum that made it possible for any maverick general with finesse to rise and conquer large regions merely on the basis of his personal abilities, without any institutional structure.

Likewise, stray ideas, fashions, cultural symbols, and ad hoc power structures seem to float through this vacuous era. It was a civilisation that had been hollowed from inside and left with no immune system to resist the onslaught of foreign aggression and infiltration. In the course of this period of two and a half centuries, vast regions of the traditional Muslim lands were colonised by foreign powers. The Safavi and the Mughal empires totally disappeared and the Ottomans lost their past glory, their vast empire shrunk drastically, and finally dissolved, giving birth to modern Turkey. In all three empires, it was a combination of internal and external causes that led to the collapse.

Nothing is more significant for the understanding of the present state of the Muslim world than this period of colonisation. There were several transformations that occurred during this period. The first and the most important was the political transformation. During this time, the concept of nation-states emerged with tremendous force. The spirit of nationalism is based on cultural and linguistic grounds. In the West, this concept gave birth to distinct political units that were, by and large, defined on the basis of language, culture and geographical boundaries. These states demanded loyalty from their citizens in the name of patriotism. For instance, the foremost duty of a Russian was defined as loyalty to Russia, and for a German it was loyalty to Germany. Islam does not recognise any fragmentation of humanity on the basis of culture and language. The emergence of nationalism in the Muslim world during the colonial rule produced, for the first time in their history, an idea that divided the umma on national and regional grounds -- a division from which they are still suffering. This division gave rise to numerous countries in the Muslim world and created nations and states, divided and at war with each other.

The second change which affected the Muslim world deeply was the position of the Arabic language. Being the language of the Qur'aan, Arabic had achieved the status of lingua franca in the Muslim world. In countries where it was not the usual spoken language, it was commonly taught at the elementary level and those who continued their studies beyond the basic level invariably learned it as the language of scholarship. This shared language was the single most important vehicle of communication in the Muslim world. Thus it was possible for an Indian Muslim, for instance, to communicate with his Egyptian trade partner or fellow student in a language that was not foreign to either of them but had centuries of shared terminology, metaphors and parables. The wisdom and teachings of the ancestors were preserved for all generations and for all regions in this language.

The colonial rulers replaced this with their own languages and, within a short span of time, in countries where Arabic was not the usual language of people, it became a foreign language. This change produced two effects: it destroyed the vehicle of communication among various Muslim communities and, in those countries where Arabic was not used as a spoken language, it made the Qur'aan and the vast corpus of traditional knowledge inaccessible even to the educated class. Thus removed from the language of the divine revelation, Muslims in these countries were left defenceless against the onslaught of Western ideology.

The third significant change in the colonised societies was the replacement of the traditional system of education by the Western educational system. This system first produced clerks and other low ranking workers in the vast colonial machine and eventually the ruling elite of the nation-states that were carved out from the colonial land. These transformations form the backbone of the contemporary Muslim world and they provide the necessary background for understanding the current malaise.


Friday November 08, 2002-- Ramadan 02, 1423 A.H.

The road to recovery

Dr Muzaffar Iqbal

The writer is a freelance columnist

No one can believe that in this era of a widespread outcry for democracy, the reading of a poem can lead to election disqualification. But that is exactly the reason for disqualification of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the leader of the Justice and Development Party of Turkey that won a large majority in recent Turkish elections. He is not allowed to sit in the Parliament because he had read a poem in a public gathering which contained "objectionable material". The objection comes from the guardians of Turkey's secular constitution: the Generals.

Perhaps this is the limit of absurdity or of the fantastical realism so dear to the Latin American novelists. But this is also an indicator of the great split that has occurred in the Muslim world since the direct colonial rule ended. There is a small ruling elite that has imbibed heavily at the fountainhead of secularism and there are the teeming millions who have refused to drink from that fountain which promises great material progress at the expense of all that is fundamental to a religious and moral way of life. This is the great divide, the frontline of the road to recovery.

The great drama being played out all over the Muslim world since the emergence of some fifty-seven Muslim countries during the middle decade of the twentieth century is choreographed to a resounding theme in which Islam is portrayed as the most retrograde force that is responsible for the backwardness of the Muslim world. In the West, this assertion is made in bold terms by respectable historians and intellectuals as well as by the fundamentalist Christian TV evangelists. They call for reformation of Islam. The secular elite in the Muslim world is not so bold. It merely states that it is the wrong interpretation of Islam that has caused the downfall and it seeks to lead the way to recovery by containing Islam within the private life of the individuals.

This is exactly what Mustafa Kemal and his followers did in Turkey. They tried to erase all public expression of Islam from Turkey. Obviously, veils, beards and hats do not pose any threat to tanks and bullets but veils were torn and beards were shaved because they expressed a spiritual, intellectual and emotional alignment to Islam. In many ways, Turkey leads the way in the recovery from five centuries of humiliation that the Muslims have suffered.

At the heart of this dilemma lies the failure of the Muslim intelligentsia which suffered a near total collapse in the three powerful, rich and enormously resourceful empires: the Mughal, the Safavid and the Ottoman. Apart from the short-lived caliphate of the Rashidun (the first four Caliphs), Muslim history has been fraught with a singular failure: ability to devise a mechanism for succession. This has led to hereditary rule, so alien to the spirit of Islam. But what is more amazing is the fact that throughout these long centuries, this

failure had been counteracted by a fiercely independent religious intelligentsia that could not be bought or silenced by the rulers.

Thus in its very making, the Islamic civilisation gave birth to a singular corrective institution which would continuously reinvent itself in various regions: the institution of the fiercely independent religiously committed intellectual. This "parallel rule", which was sometime embodied in the form of a single intellectual giant, such as Imam Muhammad Ismail al-Bukhari or Imam Ibn Hanbal, provided the most flexible but sustained corrective force against the misrule of the ruling elite. It was the collapse of this intellectual force which paved the way for the rampant decadence of the three empires in the heartland of Islam during the fifteenth to the seventeenth centuries, a period during which Europe went through the Scientific Revolution and emerged on the world scene to colonise most of the Muslim world.

This singular collapse also led to the gradual eclipse of the Islamic intellectual tradition which, in turn, led to the emergence of various brands of religiously myopic and socially disruptive forms of intolerance in the Muslim religious circles. This intolerant and often violent expression of religiosity has been the cause of recent violent sectarian strife in many Muslim countries. But apart from this self-lacerating aspect, the failure of the religious leadership is characterised by a moral decay, a consuming passion for worldly gains and greed for material prosperity, all of which is in clear contrast to their peers who stood for moral principles, for gains of another worldly nature and who often lived austere lives.

It was their passion and love for knowledge and gnosis that ruled their lives. It was their disregard for the goods of this world that made them fiercely independent of the ruling elite who held the strings of the purse. Their main goals in life were the shared ground on which they established a fraternity with other scholars and leaders and together they formed the moral conscience of the Muslim society. But all of this was lost in the decadence that characterised the Mughal, the Safavid and the Ottoman empires at the peak of their rule and prosperity.

The demise of these three empires, subsequent colonisation of the planet's one billion Muslims and the emergence of a vastly changed world has transformed the nature of power, ruling elites and the battle lines. Now, instead of a succession of hereditary rulers, most of the Muslim world is being ruled by the most powerful institution created during the colonial era: the military. Out of the fifty-seven Muslim countries, only Iran and Malaysia can be said to be independent of direct or indirect rule by this institution which once served as the most useful tools for the colonial masters. This singular characteristic is only augmented by a handful of "kingdoms" but, ultimately, those too depend on the military for their existence.

But in spite of the dominance of one institution, the Muslim world does show signs of recovery. However, these should not be confused with the recent election victory of the so-called Islamic parties. These are not yet the true heirs of the great tradition that suffered collapse. They only represent a passing trend in the road to recovery. The true recovery of Islamic civilisation is a long process that requires a sustained effort by the religiously committed intellectuals to re-establish their roots with the tradition that remained independent of the palace and the purse and acted as the moral conscience of the society.

The road to recovery is fraught with dangers and no one has the road map. It is also a dynamic process, requiring constant and unflagging commitment by a fraternity of scholars who can correct one another and act as guides. But this path need not pass through an Algeria-like scenario. At this stage of its emergence, the recovery process needs a much greater collaboration among those who are committed to a truly Islamic polity and a great deal of caution. Above all, no one should assume that the road to recovery has any shortcuts


Friday November 22, 2002-- Ramadan 16, 1423 A.H.


Dr Muzaffar Iqbal

The writer is a freelance


It was one of those early fall days in Vienna when everything seemed dull and gloomy. But for Hans Blix, the Executive Chairman of United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), it was a perfect day. By the end of the day, General al-Saadi of Iraq had agreed to everything Blix wanted. "During our recent meeting in Vienna," he would write to General al-Saadi on October 8, 2002, "we agreed on a statement which listed some of the principal results achieved, particularly Iraq's acceptance of all the rights of inspection provided for in all of the relevant Security Council resolutions. This acceptance was stated to be without any conditions attached. This letter lists those conclusions and seeks your confirmation thereof. We shall report accordingly to the Security Council."

This letter, attached to the Security Council Resolution 1441 as an annex, provides a chilling inside story of what lies ahead for Iraq. The agreement reached on that gloomy fall day in Vienna has granted Hans Blix and Mohamed El Baradei, the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), immediate, unconditional and unrestricted access to sites, including what were termed sensitive sites in the past.

The letter states that UNMOVIC and the IAEA have been assured the right to determine the number of inspectors required for access to any particular site. Iraq will ensure that no proscribed material, equipment, records or other relevant items will be destroyed except in the presence of UNMOVIC and/or IAEA inspectors, as appropriate, and at their request. UNMOVIC and the IAEA may conduct interviews with any person in Iraq whom they believe may have information relevant to their mandate. Iraq will facilitate such interviews. UNMOVIC and the IAEA will choose the mode and location for interviews.

It was also agreed that the National Monitoring Directorate (NMD) of Iraq will, as in the past, serve as the Iraqi counterpart for the inspectors. The Baghdad Ongoing Monitoring and Verification Centre (BOMVIC) will be maintained on the same premises and under the same conditions as was the former Baghdad Monitoring and Verification Centre. Under the agreement, the NMD will provide free of cost: (a) the refurbishment of the premises, as before; (b) escorts to facilitate access to sites to be inspected and communication with personnel to be interviewed; (c) a hotline for BOMVIC which will be staffed by an English speaking person on a 24 hour a day/seven days a week basis; (d) support in terms of personnel and ground transportation within the country, as requested; and (e) assistance in the movement of materials and equipment at inspectors' requests (construction, excavation equipment, etc). NMD will also ensure that escorts are available in the event of inspections outside normal working hours, including at night and on holidays.

Regional UNMOVIC/IAEA offices may be established, for example, in Basra and Mosul, for the use of their inspectors. For this purpose, Iraq will provide, without cost, adequate office buildings, staff accommodation, and appropriate escort personnel.

UNMOVIC and the IAEA may use any type of voice or data transmission, including satellite and/or inland networks, with or without encryption capability. UNMOVIC and the IAEA may also install equipment in the field with the capability for transmission of data directly to the BOMVIC, New York and Vienna (e.g. sensors, surveillance cameras). This will be facilitated by Iraq and there will be no interference by Iraq with UNMOVIC or IAEA communications.

Iraq will provide, without cost, physical protection of all surveillance equipment, and construct antennae for remote transmission of data, at the request of UNMOVIC and the IAEA. Upon request by UNMOVIC through the NMD, Iraq will allocate frequencies for communications equipment.

Iraq will provide security for all UNMOVIC and IAEA personnel. Secure and suitable accommodations will be designated at normal rates by Iraq for these personnel. For their part, UNMOVIC and the IAEA will require that their staff not stay at any accommodation other than those identified in consultation with Iraq.

On the use of fixed-wing aircraft for transport of personnel and equipment and for inspection purposes, it was clarified that aircraft used by UNMOVIC and IAEA staff arriving in Baghdad may land at Saddam International Airport. The points of departure of incoming aircraft will be decided by UNMOVIC. The Rasheed Airbase will continue to be used for UNMOVIC and IAEA helicopter operations. UNMOVIC and Iraq will establish air liaison offices at the airbase. At both Saddam International Airport and Rasheed Airbase, Iraq will provide the necessary support premises and facilities. Aircraft fuel will be provided by Iraq, as before, free of charge.

On the wider issue of air operations in Iraq, both fixed-wing and rotary, Iraq will guarantee the safety of air operations in its air space outside the no-fly zones. With regard to air operations in the no-fly zones, Iraq will take all steps within its control to ensure the safety of such operations.

Helicopter flights may be used, as needed, during inspections and for technical activities, such as gamma detection, without limitation in all parts of Iraq and without any area excluded. Helicopters may also be used for medical evacuation.

On the question of aerial imagery, UNMOVIC may wish to resume the use of U-2 or Mirage overflights. The relevant practical arrangements would be similar to those implemented in the past.

One of the most humiliating conditions to which Iraq has agreed states that, as in the past, visas for all arriving staff will be issued at the point of entry on the basis of the UN Laissez-Passer or UN Certificate; no other entry or exit formalities will be required. The aircraft passenger manifest will be provided one hour in advance of the arrival of the aircraft in Baghdad. There will be no searching of UNMOVIC or IAEA personnel or of official or personal baggage. UNMOVIC and the IAEA will ensure that their personnel respect the laws of Iraq restricting the export of certain items, for example, those related to Iraq's national cultural heritage. UNMOVIC and the IAEA may bring into, and remove from, Iraq all of the items and materials they require, including satellite phones and other equipment. With respect to samples, UNMOVIC and IAEA will, where feasible, split samples so that Iraq may receive a portion while another portion is kept for reference purposes. Where appropriate, the organisations will send the samples to more than one laboratory for analysis.

These are, indeed, humiliating conditions. But Iraq had been left with no choice. The noose around its neck has been tightening ever since it attacked Iran, that became one the most bloody wars of the twentieth century. A whole generation of Iraqis was killed on the battle grounds. Iranians were slaughtered in wave after wave of human fronts. For eight long years, a senseless war took terrible toll. As if this was not enough, the Iraqi leadership fell prey to yet another blunder in 1990 when it attacked Kuwait. The result was catastrophic: a near total collapse of its social, economic and civil infrastructure and a tight noose around its neck.

The most recent UN resolution is nothing but a continuation of the effort to reduce this oil-rich country to a state of total subjugation. This will ensure that its military infrastructure will be totally destroyed. Its economy is already ruined. Thus, in spite of having one of the richest oil reserves in the world, Iraqi people will continue to live below poverty levels. Iraqi children will continue to die of malnutrition and all of this will be sanctioned by a world body and no one in the Muslim world will raise a voice. One is reminded of the Qur'aanic decree: "Surely God does not change the state of a nation until they change themselves."



Friday November 22, 2002-- Ramadan 16, 1423 A.H.


Dr Muzaffar Iqbal

The writer is a freelance


It was one of those early fall days in Vienna when everything seemed dull and gloomy. But for Hans Blix, the Executive Chairman of United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), it was a perfect day. By the end of the day, General al-Saadi of Iraq had agreed to everything Blix wanted. "During our recent meeting in Vienna," he would write to General al-Saadi on October 8, 2002, "we agreed on a statement which listed some of the principal results achieved, particularly Iraq's acceptance of all the rights of inspection provided for in all of the relevant Security Council resolutions. This acceptance was stated to be without any conditions attached. This letter lists those conclusions and seeks your confirmation thereof. We shall report accordingly to the Security Council."

This letter, attached to the Security Council Resolution 1441 as an annex, provides a chilling inside story of what lies ahead for Iraq. The agreement reached on that gloomy fall day in Vienna has granted Hans Blix and Mohamed El Baradei, the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), immediate, unconditional and unrestricted access to sites, including what were termed sensitive sites in the past.

The letter states that UNMOVIC and the IAEA have been assured the right to determine the number of inspectors required for access to any particular site. Iraq will ensure that no proscribed material, equipment, records or other relevant items will be destroyed except in the presence of UNMOVIC and/or IAEA inspectors, as appropriate, and at their request. UNMOVIC and the IAEA may conduct interviews with any person in Iraq whom they believe may have information relevant to their mandate. Iraq will facilitate such interviews. UNMOVIC and the IAEA will choose the mode and location for interviews.

It was also agreed that the National Monitoring Directorate (NMD) of Iraq will, as in the past, serve as the Iraqi counterpart for the inspectors. The Baghdad Ongoing Monitoring and Verification Centre (BOMVIC) will be maintained on the same premises and under the same conditions as was the former Baghdad Monitoring and Verification Centre. Under the agreement, the NMD will provide free of cost: (a) the refurbishment of the premises, as before; (b) escorts to facilitate access to sites to be inspected and communication with personnel to be interviewed; (c) a hotline for BOMVIC which will be staffed by an English speaking person on a 24 hour a day/seven days a week basis; (d) support in terms of personnel and ground transportation within the country, as requested; and (e) assistance in the movement of materials and equipment at inspectors' requests (construction, excavation equipment, etc). NMD will also ensure that escorts are available in the event of inspections outside normal working hours, including at night and on holidays.

Regional UNMOVIC/IAEA offices may be established, for example, in Basra and Mosul, for the use of their inspectors. For this purpose, Iraq will provide, without cost, adequate office buildings, staff accommodation, and appropriate escort personnel.

UNMOVIC and the IAEA may use any type of voice or data transmission, including satellite and/or inland networks, with or without encryption capability. UNMOVIC and the IAEA may also install equipment in the field with the capability for transmission of data directly to the BOMVIC, New York and Vienna (e.g. sensors, surveillance cameras). This will be facilitated by Iraq and there will be no interference by Iraq with UNMOVIC or IAEA communications.

Iraq will provide, without cost, physical protection of all surveillance equipment, and construct antennae for remote transmission of data, at the request of UNMOVIC and the IAEA. Upon request by UNMOVIC through the NMD, Iraq will allocate frequencies for communications equipment.

Iraq will provide security for all UNMOVIC and IAEA personnel. Secure and suitable accommodations will be designated at normal rates by Iraq for these personnel. For their part, UNMOVIC and the IAEA will require that their staff not stay at any accommodation other than those identified in consultation with Iraq.

On the use of fixed-wing aircraft for transport of personnel and equipment and for inspection purposes, it was clarified that aircraft used by UNMOVIC and IAEA staff arriving in Baghdad may land at Saddam International Airport. The points of departure of incoming aircraft will be decided by UNMOVIC. The Rasheed Airbase will continue to be used for UNMOVIC and IAEA helicopter operations. UNMOVIC and Iraq will establish air liaison offices at the airbase. At both Saddam International Airport and Rasheed Airbase, Iraq will provide the necessary support premises and facilities. Aircraft fuel will be provided by Iraq, as before, free of charge.

On the wider issue of air operations in Iraq, both fixed-wing and rotary, Iraq will guarantee the safety of air operations in its air space outside the no-fly zones. With regard to air operations in the no-fly zones, Iraq will take all steps within its control to ensure the safety of such operations.

Helicopter flights may be used, as needed, during inspections and for technical activities, such as gamma detection, without limitation in all parts of Iraq and without any area excluded. Helicopters may also be used for medical evacuation.

On the question of aerial imagery, UNMOVIC may wish to resume the use of U-2 or Mirage overflights. The relevant practical arrangements would be similar to those implemented in the past.

One of the most humiliating conditions to which Iraq has agreed states that, as in the past, visas for all arriving staff will be issued at the point of entry on the basis of the UN Laissez-Passer or UN Certificate; no other entry or exit formalities will be required. The aircraft passenger manifest will be provided one hour in advance of the arrival of the aircraft in Baghdad. There will be no searching of UNMOVIC or IAEA personnel or of official or personal baggage. UNMOVIC and the IAEA will ensure that their personnel respect the laws of Iraq restricting the export of certain items, for example, those related to Iraq's national cultural heritage. UNMOVIC and the IAEA may bring into, and remove from, Iraq all of the items and materials they require, including satellite phones and other equipment. With respect to samples, UNMOVIC and IAEA will, where feasible, split samples so that Iraq may receive a portion while another portion is kept for reference purposes. Where appropriate, the organisations will send the samples to more than one laboratory for analysis.

These are, indeed, humiliating conditions. But Iraq had been left with no choice. The noose around its neck has been tightening ever since it attacked Iran, that became one the most bloody wars of the twentieth century. A whole generation of Iraqis was killed on the battle grounds. Iranians were slaughtered in wave after wave of human fronts. For eight long years, a senseless war took terrible toll. As if this was not enough, the Iraqi leadership fell prey to yet another blunder in 1990 when it attacked Kuwait. The result was catastrophic: a near total collapse of its social, economic and civil infrastructure and a tight noose around its neck.

The most recent UN resolution is nothing but a continuation of the effort to reduce this oil-rich country to a state of total subjugation. This will ensure that its military infrastructure will be totally destroyed. Its economy is already ruined. Thus, in spite of having one of the richest oil reserves in the world, Iraqi people will continue to live below poverty levels. Iraqi children will continue to die of malnutrition and all of this will be sanctioned by a world body and no one in the Muslim world will raise a voice. One is reminded of the Qur'aanic decree: "Surely God does not change the state of a nation until they change themselves."



Friday December 06, 2002-- Shawwal 01, 1423 A.H.

Thank you, Mr Bush


Dr Muzaffar Iqbal

For your Eid greetings, we are indeed greatly indebted. And thank you for telling us, one more time, that your new war is not against Islam and Muslims. It was time that you reminded us that we should not take the B-52 bombers showering bombs on our cities so personally. Indeed, the six Iraqis who died on the first day of December are not to be counted among the dead; they were illegal combatants, working in an oil factory.

As Muslims, we are grateful to you for all the food packages that were sent down from the Afghan skies during the last year. Had we been the children of Israel, it would have reminded us of our great past when Manna and Salva was sent down by God. Let me assure you, Mr President, American peanut butter tastes so good that our Afghan children became so keen to pick up the food packages that they could not even distinguish between the food packages and thousands of canister bombs that your B-52 bombers left behind in their wasteland. But, of course, it was their bad luck; we will just add them to the list of collateral damage. That way, we will not have to go through the tedious ritual of calculating the number of dead.

I am sorry to hear that things are not going well back home. Some unpatriotic Americans have started to ask questions about your war of terror, excuse me, war on terror. They ask for results for the 40 billion dollars you so graciously and hurriedly sanctioned for the great war. That little audio cassette that recently surfaced at the Al-Jazeera did not help much, I suppose. Although you have the Al-Jazeera's Kabul correspondent firmly locked up in a cage at camp X-ray (and thank God, the international union of journalists has not made a peep about him), this little island of a network keeps coming up with trouble after trouble.

You were, however, more successful with Frau Herta D‰ubler-Gmelin, the German Justice Minister who so rudely compared your new war policies to that of Adolf Hitler; thank goodness, she was quickly sacked by Chancellor Gerhard Schrˆder for poisoning the relations. I must also congratulate you on quickly getting rid of Mme. Francoise Ducros, the Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien's Director of Communications, who so ungratefully called you a moron despite all the soft lumber that American companies so cheaply buy from Canada in order to help their economy.

Mr President, it is heartening to know that the new Department of Homeland Security is finally off to a grand start. With an operational budget of $37.5 billion and nearly 170,000 federal employees, it should keep the homeland secure. Just let no American walk out of your great country without the protection of pilotless drones for streets of the world have become very dangerous for them.

I hope that with your ambassador in London so ardently standing behind you in your war after war, it should not be difficult to soon control all the unruly streets. Whatever happened the other day in Amman should never be allowed to happen again. I think it would not be a bad idea to send a little congratulatory note to your distant relative in Amman for taking care of the matter so promptly. I hear the little town of Mann is also grateful to you for bringing all the world attention to this tribal region. The price those little rabbles had to pay was not much, I suppose, compared to what the Afghans have paid. It was merely a double digit number that they lost. But we will not call it war against Muslims; after all, it was their own king whose army was doing the job.

Mr President, in your Eid greetings, you have rightly told us that the new year is full of promises. We look forward to the new ventures. Afghanistan is indeed becoming a little too dull and although great news is in store regarding Iraq, Hans Blix and his team of inspectors are taking too long. Please hurry up or else the current rating will start to go down and you know very well how difficult it is to whip up the hysteria once it has subsided.

You know that anthrax cannot be used again to create fear. (By the way, the little leak leading to the US military was plugged very well and I sincerely hope that all patriotic Americans will remember never to ask any questions about anthrax.) So, what are we going to do next time? How would you generate new waves of fear? I suppose those little Napoleons in thousands of homeland security offices would come up with something. Perhaps, you should ask them to start cooking something like the danger of a bio-engineered mosquito bringing a deadly virus. That would be something!

It is my sincere hope, Mr President, that in the new year, you will not be so lenient with men who keep bothering you with their silly questions about Afghanistan. I was shocked to read a report by one Robert Fisk who sketched a graphic picture of little children being blown up in the deserts of Khost. He also had the nerve to draw world attention to the endless queue of mutilated civilians sitting outside the hospital in Herat, hoping to get an artificial leg. Likewise, people who keep mentioning international laws, protocols and agreements should be stopped from reminding the world that in your war of terror (excuse my slip again, Mr President), you have not even spared ambassadors. No one has the right to remind the world that Ambassador Mullah Zaeef is still locked up in a cage in Camp X-ray.


I am glad to know that early in 2003, Germans will take charge of the Afghan ordeal. It would be their boys who would risk their lives for this grand show which, we all know, will only last for as long as money keeps coming. But I am afraid, Afghans are rather notorious for their tenacity. There is little hope that what the Soviet Union could not achieve with 140,000 men, we can achieve without large-scale disasters soon erupting all over this unruly land. Those who keep saying that the Afghan adventure is headed for disaster should all be locked up with the "illegal combatants". (By the way, that was an excellent invention for which its inventor should be amply rewarded.)

That reminds me to say that events like the appearance of those four pictures of C-130 planes carrying their human cargo to Camp X-ray should not be allowed to happen again. They do bring the specter of war crimes being launched in some court, somewhere in the world although you have rightly declined to sign the international charter which would put the American soldiers in risk. But the images of those shackled men, which recently flashed on millions of computer screens around the world, was not nice, to say the least.

I am also sad to know that some Edward Saids are still around. They keep talking about an impossible linkage: the suffering of Palestinians, so carefully crafted by a 2.1 billion dollar annual aid to Israel and numerous supplements. They have maps, numbers and pictures which they keep showing to the world. The appearance of a new great wall here, barbed fences there, burned olive orchards, destroyed homes, pieces of dead bodies scattered on streets, made-in-America gunships and helicopters bombing the refugee camps. Of course, your war is not against Muslims and certainly there is no link between the suffering of Palestinians and the catastrophes Americans continue to experience abroad. No, the world should accept the verdict of your "man of peace" who looks forward to his new term which will complete the task of fortification of Israel.

And finally, let me close by thanking you, once again, Mr President, for the opportunity you so graciously provided to some of our Muslim brothers and sisters to come and visit you and Laura at the White House at the beginning of the month of Ramadan. That great occasion will always be remembered by them and their children and their children. They are eternally grateful to you and Laura. I am sure you also value their friendship because they the harbingers of an intellectual northern alliance you so desperately need at this time. With all the best wishes for your new year adventures I am, yours sincerely.

Saturday December 21, 2002-- Shawwal 16, 1423 A.H.


Challenges for MMA

Dr Muzaffar Iqbal

Islam and modernity are usually pitched against each other as two opposite poles. Modernity is then defined as the epitome of freedom, progress, enlightenment, and scientific and technological knowledge. Islam, on the other hand, is judged by the actions of those who are obsessed with the size of the beards and length of the abayas. This radical construction is not only to be found in the Western media and academic circles but within the Muslim world as well. The so-called moderate Muslims subscribe to this worldview.

These two constructions are not merely theoretical; they are at the heart of a most devastating polarisation within Muslim societies. The "liberals" in Muslim societies are appalled by the behaviour of mullas who shout from the pulpits, issue fatwas of Kuffar indiscriminately and measure the faith of others by the length of their beards. These are, indeed, appalling actions. But instead of treating these and similar actions as a manifestation of ignorance, these "liberals" make an intellectual folly by confusing such actions with the teachings of Islam. In doing so, they accept the screaming men with beards as the only manifestation of Islam and forgo their own right to understand, implement and stand by their faith.

Those who see only Kuffar in these "liberal" men and women make a similar folly by passing judgments on the faith of other Muslims. In doing so, they fall into the abysmal and grave error of arrogating a right exclusively reserved for God. Their social position makes them representative of Islam. Hence by exceeding their bounds, they create nothing but negative feelings for their religion.

When seen in the broad historical view, this polarisation is not new to the Islamic community. Of course, it was absent in the early phase when every Muslim understood the Prophetic sayings that warned against judging others. It was only after the rise of clergy as a distinct social class to perform religious ceremonies, such as burials, wedding ceremonies and the like, that this polarisation appeared.

It was the breakdown of the educational tradition which resulted in the slow withering of excellence in sciences from the Islamic civilisation. This calamity has to be understood in its various aspects before we can understand the resulting tensions that appeared in the social fabric. Thus, the polarisation into various camps that has now become rampant in the Muslim societies, cannot be treated unless its causes are understood. And ultimately, the blame for the malady falls on the shoulders of those who failed to safeguard the Islamic educational system from falling into such a state of decay that it could not withstand the transforming currents of the new developments in sciences which provided the European powers a decisive edge over the three rich but decadent Muslim empires: the Ottomans, the Safavids and the Mughals.

It was in these three rich empires that the script of current disasters for the Muslim world was first written. The experience of colonisation and the resulting anarchy, devastation and massive destruction of the remaining institutions only unfolded the cancerous growth as it matured.

This long ordeal has created a great deal of resentment and anger among many segments of Muslim society. This anger is also fired by the policies adopted by US, UK, France, and Germany. Of course, these states have their own interests to guard but in the pursuit of their self-claimed national interests, they follow aggressive policies of exploitation of natural resources belonging to other people. Then there is the occupation of Palestine and the terrible atrocities being committed against Palestinians by the occupying forces which provide reason for extreme anger.

All of these are self-evident, historical and logical truths. Faced with this onslaught, Muslim societies have fractured from within. A small elite has decided to join the Western powers to safeguard its own interests and, having gained control of the resources belonging to people, it continues to rule and subjugate its own people with the help of foreign powers. This elite does so in the name of nationalism. The most consistent mechanism through which this small group gains control of resources is a military coup. Thus it is not surprising to see that most of the Muslim world is being ruled by men who gained control of power through military coups.

This situation leaves no room for any positive development that can provide hope that in a generation or two, Muslim societies will be able to shake away their burden of the past and move ahead with a new vision. Recent events have made matters worse. By forcefully imposing the doctrine of "you are with us or against us", the United States has further polarised the world, especially the Muslim world.

In this bleak situation, those who wish to see progress, need to understand the malady and pursue policies which will prepare these societies for fundamental changes; cosmetic solutions are not only not helpful, they are decidedly cause of further problems.

The recent election results in Pakistan and Turkey have provided the religiously committed individuals to play a decisive role toward the evolution of a mechanism that will heal the polarisation. But this privilege comes with enormous responsibility.

It must be obvious to the MMA leadership that their actions will be judged in the broader context of the political forces that are shaping the contemporary Muslim world. The case of NWFP will be of particular interest. There, the performance of MMA will be seen as a test for its abilities, moral strength and political acumen. Whatever it does in that province would not only condition the attitude of millions of Pakistanis toward a religious worldview, it would also have great relevance for numerous other situations around the world.

The most obvious pitfalls are those which would be splashed around the world in bold headlines: treatment of women, educational policy, and the enforcement of Sharia. All of these areas are the hotbed of sensational news that immediately produce a reaction to Islam itself, both in the West as well among the "moderate Muslims" whatever this strange term may mean. If the past can be any guide, MMA should make sure that the measure of Islam is not reduced to the length of beards and the veil.

In concrete terms, it would mean a great deal of caution and a very clear plan of action. This should not mean compromises on the fundamental principles but a judicious and careful plan for translating that the vision of Islam into reality. It should be clear to the MMA leadership that the very slogan of "enforcement of Sharia" is a flawed concept. The Prophet of Islam (may Allah's peace and blessings be upon him) did not enforce Sharia; he helped his fellow men and women to transform their lives so that they became living examples of that great model that Islam envisions for humanity.

To be sure, it was a slow, emerging and extremely hard process. Islam was not enforced by decrees and official promulgations which prescribed beard lengths; it emerged slowly and naturally and when most residents of that first Islamic state in Madinah had transformed their lives, an Islamic polity was established. Of course, there are some Qur'aanic injunctions, decrees and laws that need to be observed but when famine struck Madinah, Umar bin al-Khattab (RA) had the courage to suspend the punishment for stealing.

The high moral ground is dangerous for it intoxicates and makes us forget that as humans we are all fallible and that given the right circumstances, guidance and patience, human beings would rather live a life of virtue. Thus, instead of enforcing Islam from the pulpit, MMA should work for its natural emergence. Instead of passing decrees and making a show of Islamic punishments, it should strive to guide, educate and mould. Instead of looking for quick fixes, it should work toward a long-term and sustained re-orientation.

Of course, the most important area in this endeavour is education. If MMA could transform NWFP during the next five years into a province, which has the highest literacy in Pakistan, it would be a major achievement. This cannot be achieved by another educational policy or by establishing another commission on education. MMA already has one of the greatest institutions of the Islamic civilisation at its disposal: the mosque. What it can do is to set up a program that utilises mosques for a basic literacy program aimed at producing one hundred percent literacy rate for all children in the province during the next five years. Given the relatively small population of the province, this must not be a formidable task.

Finally, MMA can take leadership in establishing a much needed institution that has the potential to guide and correct its own path as it moves further. This is the institution of Shoora. Made up of dedicated and highly qualified individuals, this institution is to serve as a think tank as well as provide checks and balances for the governing body. By necessity, these individuals should not hold any office in the government. Such a consulting institution can only fulfil its purpose if it remains fiercely independent and ever watchful of the direction in which the government policies are moving. And it should be very clearly understood that fundamental changes cannot be accomplished in one generation.