From Muslim Khan to Faisal Shahzad: The Story of ‘Made In USA’ Pakistani Taliban.
I am perplexed, should I refer to ‘Made In USA’ Taliban, like the infamous USA returned FM radio Mullah Muslim Khan in Swat valley, Is the USA partly to blame for isolation ,racism and identity crisis engulfing Pakistani immigrants?
Now this Faisal Shahzad, the so called ‘lone terrorist’ of Times Square foiled bomb attack, are the American Pakistanis really going insane? I know the famous catchphrase that rightwing Fox News anchors love to use often,”All Muslims are not terrorists but all terrorists are Muslims”. I can add all Pakistanis are not terrorists but most of these so-called community leaders are ‘burying their heads in sand’ and wishing the sandstorm of Islamic terrorism to go else where, wishing is well and good, start facing the realities!!
It was a long afternoon, with cricket T20 in the background, and the location was a Lebanese restaurant in St. John’s wood, in the shadow of Lords cricket ground in central London and we were enjoying a long outdoor meal.
My guest was a childhood friend (alumni of “Physics under Hoodbhoy” and Islami Jamiat Talba), now an analyst with an American Bible-Belt Neo-Con Think-Tank, visiting London for a seminar on “Preventing Islamist Extremism” in the disenfranchised Muslim youth of U.K. He also ran a blog called “Friends of Pakistan” before the name was artfully stolen by President Zardari’s team (Allegedly by Ambassador Haqqani, who is rumoured to ghost-write Zardari articles in NYT, WP and WSJ).
The background of my friend and his father (still working for JI relief in N.W.F.P), like Hussain Haqqani (the current Neo-liberal Pakistani Ambassador to USA), is from the Islamist- Nationalist Jamaat-i- Islami(JI) of Pakistan. In his youth (student activism) he sent me few fiery emails, lamenting my Infidel, irreverent views and lifestyle.
It was good to reminisce about past memories after five years; a lot of water has passed under the bridges and it was an informative and candid chat. I was more interested in hearing his current world view, since those hot tempered university days.
Pakistani analysts are a highly sought commodity for American “War on Terror” policy makers. In the Scholastic Aptitude Test, if you can tell the difference between JI, JUP and JUI. You are In [Honestly, Mrs. Smith?].
I was more interested in understanding the Young Urban Professional JI, because the newly elected head of JI Mr. Munawar Hassan is a highly sophisticated English speaking born again Pan-Islamist, who in his previous life used to be a student activist for NSF (read Communist) in Karachi University. Mr.Hassan replaces the old guard of populist firebrand Qazi Hussein Ahmed who comes from hard-line N.W.F.P. While Qazi was a flamboyant champion of poor Islamists from the pashtun North(the area of Taliban and US drone attacks), Munawar Hassan’s cultural background is North Indian (steeped in Persian and Sufi poetry and influenced by Shia’ism of Lucknow).he is much more articulate (yet ideological and right wing) about his views on international Pan-Islamism. These subtle differences in styles will only become visible with the passage of time and policy change.
Coming back to the meeting, the food was delicious Lebanese variety of meat dishes ranging from lamb delicacies to beef regulars, the aroma and the taste encouraged my “selective” vegetarianism to sin towards the stray path of the Meat-Eaters (staple diet in my Pakistani Muslim background).
My childhood friend started off with a long monologue on Islamic moral values and Pakistani societal norms of joint family and tribal structure being the best in the world and that Pakistani Muslims will always be strangers in Europe and America.
On marital front, he said why you are so worried about the “Love of your life”, for as Muslims we are ordered by the religion to take risk and should at least have four chances. His wife is a stay at home, look after the babies, MBA finance. He quoted the example of Imran Khan’s failed marriage to a Jewish Heiress as a cautionary lesson for my benefit. Allah has created Muslim male for procreation and increasing the flock for paradise?
I started talking about poetry and Andalusia, my aim was to get views on Tariq Ali’s Islam Quintet. He advised me to read Iqbal(Goethe of Asia and philosopher poet) and read Quran cover to cover with English translation. My friend gets fresh intellectual stimulus, every time he reads Quran. I quoted Ahmed Faraz the left leaning romantic poet, “If we part our ways today, we will only meet again in pages of history”. I wanted to save this memorable interaction for posterity.
Meeting with Ann Coulter of Pakistan(a title given by great journalist late Khalid Hassan), Imran Khan’s policy guru and elocution coach, the Lady owns a right-wing Think-Tank. He was sympathetic in assessment of Imran Khan’s political failures, in his opinion there are no real policy differences in JI and Mr. Khan and that Imran khan does not want to talk about his genuine Islamist credentials in public because of fear of upsetting liberals and intellectuals within and outside his Justice movement.
He was critical of Arabs for their racist attitude towards Pakistanis; his stay with English News in Saudi Arabia was not particularly a pleasant one. The American and British expatriates get 10 times the salary he was getting. According to him the Palestinians living in Arab countries are lazy beggars, impotent to fight for the liberation of the holy Mosque in Jerusalem. He is also a member of a inter faith group for Muslims and Jews in America and he proudly eats kosher (Halal) meat with Jewish friends.
He is happy to be in Obama’s America, fully furnished accommodation and maintained car, although things stay the same for Pakistanis suffering American drone attacks and Muslim suicide bombers. About the Speech he said,” Obama is “His Masters’ Voice” and essentially an infidel because of his middle name Hussein, which I think is a betrayal of the faith of his ancestors”. At least my friend jokingly saw something common in my situation and Mr. Obama. I joked back, “I don’t know about the presidency, but the bestseller status has done wonders for Obama’s bank balance”.
He loves “American Pragmatism” because everyone has short, medium and long term goals and every thing is fair in achieving these goals. Pakistanis and Americans are religious and stubborn people and will do everything to defend their Faith and National (Kashmir and Iraq respectively) interest. Common man on the streets (of Pak and USA) is naïve and gullible. The middle class (Black, White liberals and Asians) university professors (Obama supporters) are isolated from White Evangelical working class and farmers. The Church (GOP) and the Mosque (JI) are the stepping stones to Politics and Power. What do you think of Rev. Jesse Jackson? Jackson who, Michael? Oh, he has converted to Islam, atoned for his sins and now lives in Bahrain, I was quiet.
Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the Founder of Pakistan gave the motto of Unity, Faith and Discipline and according to my mate, the Jewish Nation from Tel Aviv to AIPAC Washington and from Golders Green North London to the diamond traders of Antwerp is the best example of solidarity. Why in his view, is the Jewish Nation so successful? His idea was simple, because they own all the banks and monetary system and adhere to their tribal loyalties.
We need to keep “Pakistan First” when we are abroad. Pakistan is Islamic nuclear nation (like Israel is a state of the Jews, by the Jews and for the Jews) and we need to keep Pakistani expatriates together and not splinter into useless political parties. We are not right or left wing when we come outside Pakistan, we should only be Pakistani. I thought, who says that Pervez Musharraf‘s neo-liberal agenda, “In the Line of Fire”, has no friends in Pakistan.
Why is the west so successful? Simple he said, they live for Today and current time. We cannot separate our Religion from our Politics. Islam is a complete way of life and the Americans are “reverting” back to the only Natural religion, the Islam, in hundreds of thousands. Pakistani Muslims in USA are educated, professional middle class unlike the uneducated Mirpuri (Pakistani Kashmiri) immigrants to UK who can only drive taxis or run takeaways. You see! He said without any bitterness, the question is of loyalty. We east Punjab Muslims (JI was founded in Pathankot India in 1946) have always been loyal to Moughals, Sikhs, English, India and Pakistan. American Muslims are loyal to the stars and stripes and the American constitution. You Kashmiris (referring to my mother’s side of my family) have never trusted anyone; your loyalty is always in doubt whether Indians, Pakistan or United Kingdom. I thought of Lord Norman Tebbit.
The Muslim cultural centres of Islamic Mission (NGO linked with JI) are peacefully colonizing the vast areas of North America. Pakistani Association of Islamic M.Ds in America (PAIMDA is an affiliate of JI) is donating millions (earned from billing Medical Insurance Inc.) to build mosques for American salvation. Ah ah, where have I heard this one before? Yes this utopian vision was earlier on the “Peace TV” by Saudi inspired televangelist Dr Zakir Naik.I was amazed to find that his views on “American sex idol” were slowly becoming liberal, though not in Pakistani context, sorry but we are Muslims our sex is strictly after marriage.
I asked him, why was Pakistani politics in such a mess? Despite (because of) the fact that JI founder always worked with dictators and nearly all of the current 40-70 age range politicians, journalists, ambassadors and army generals were trained in student politics and through the Islamic study circles run by JI. His answer was simple,” Hussain Haqqani (the Ambassador),Javed Hashmi(rightwing Politician),Irshad Haqqani(Journalist) and Dr. Israr Ahmed(Televangelist and Theologian)were all traitors and turn coats and JI is still the Gold-standard on religious and moral indoctrination in the youth and student activists for Pakistani brand of Pan-Islamism.”
I came to the last issue still troubling me, why America? Why work with the “Great Satan”? I conveniently forgot that JI and America have worked together before and have shared guns and dollars in 1970s, 1980s Cold War and Afghan Jihad.
His Personal pragmatism (like Imran Khan’s) baffled me. He wants to stay in America long enough to claim his American passport, until his kids finish primary school and his family perfects their American accents. After that he can walk on the streets of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan with pride (American Citizen) and 10 times Salary.
Apparently the American society is decadent and ridden with sex and crime. USA is no proper place to raise kids (especially young Muslim girls) in Islamic moral and cultural values. Pakistan is the best place to give a right balance of eastern and western values to the young impressionable kids. He wants to earn as much as possible in the land of free opportunity before he turns 45 and then return to Pakistan to open an Islamic college for poor students .I joked, you mean like the “The Reluctant Fundamentalist”.
He hugged me and said, See You later brother! In my heart, I know probably not in a million years. I have also heard the rumour circulating in Pakistani circles that after the famous speech , President Obama is reopening American Green Card visa lottery and university scholarships for suitable liberal (minus beards and long fashionable Arabic kaftans) Pakistanis in 2010 as part of aid package.Land of oppotunity and plenty, The Great and Glorious America we are coming( reminds me of a poster in 1990s in his hostel room with Holy Quran in one hand and Gun in the other).Only Allah knows Best.
Certain brands define the love-hate relationship that Pakistan has had with the United States of America over the past 60 years. America has been the biggest and most advanced ‘Superpower’ of the world. American technology, capital markets and economy is the biggest in the world. Pakistan as a third world country needs investment and technology for development.
Pakistan needed allies and military hardware after its traumatic birth and found a willing patron in United States of America. I will not try and re-write Tariq Ali’s critically acclaimed book ‘Pakistan on the flight path of American Power’. Now the American and Pakistani right-wingers are having an acrimonious divorce over ‘Black Water’ and ‘Predator’ drones, ‘never wash your dirty laundry in public’ is the sane advice. Pakistani right-wingers love to hate Americans and the American right-wingers love to assume that all Pakistanis are ‘terrorists’.
The cotton export quotas in the Korean War helped Pakistan’s financial situation in 1950. 1960s were the ‘decade of controlled democracy and development’ under America’s beloved dictator ‘Friends, not masters’ famed Field Marshal Ayub Khan.1970s started with the disillusionment of American’s ‘Seventh fleet’ failing to show up in bay of Bengal to save East Pakistani Imperialism. In 1979 Henry Kissinger made ‘an example’ of elected prime minister for pursuing nuclear technology.
Pakistani and Arab ‘extremists’ and ‘terrorists’ were enjoying dinners and dollars on the lawns of White House and Pentagon in 1980s for their holy war against the ‘Godless’ Soviets. As a child of Vietnam ‘torch-bearing’ demonstrations, my first memory is a Red Flag of Labour Movement and a Painting which depicted a barbed wire, American flag and a pair of handcuffs. I had no doubts (unlike the bitter sweet ‘bed fellows’ Pakistan’s Jamaat Islami and American CIA) who my enemies were, needless to repeat the names of aforementioned entities.
The Pakistan America love affair, according to author Muhammad Hanif, exploded with the C-130 of Islamist dictator Zia-ul-Haq. By this time the civil and military elites and their children were well accustomed to the military and financial aid as well as ‘Second Homes’ and dubious ‘Scholarship’ grants from the great USA.
Not surprisingly, this love affair had an adverse effect on working and lower-middle class Pakistanis. Ever since the Ayub Khan’s ‘yellow and low grade’ Corn assistance by USA, the masses regarded USA as a donkey(symbol of disrespect and stupidity in Pakistan, not the symbol of American Democrat Party).
1990s were the wake up call for ‘romantic and confused’ Jamaat Islami student cadre when the grants dried up and their brand of ‘pan Islamic militancy’ was declared ‘Public Enemy No. 1’ by USA. The feudal and industrial elite were busy playing see-saw games with Bhutto’s Peoples Party and Mr Sharif’s Muslim League.
The kids were listening to Michael Jackson and Madonna and counting days to the official launch of American McDonalds and Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants in Pakistan. ‘Friends’, the promiscuous flatmates, is best watched English language Sit-com in Pakistan. The American ‘Green Card’ is considered a ‘Status Symbol’ in Pakistan.
Mid 90s saw the ‘American Visa Lottery’ become the biggest cultural craze in Pakistan and even the free application forms were sold for 200 rupees a piece on the streets of Pakistan. Pakistan has since 2001, been taken off the list of ‘Lottery Countries’.The Visa queues continue to get longer day by day while the Islamist ‘flag burning’ anti American demonstrations also continue to grow bigger.
The biggest terrorist attack on the American soil was carried out, by ‘Bin Laden Boys’ who were on student visas in USA, on 9/11 2001.These Arab volunteer were veterans Bin-Laden(former friend of Bush and Saud dynasties of America and Arabia) training camps in Afghanistan.
This cultural schizophrenia is widespread in Arab muslim world, where ‘Great Satan’ America is blamed for every evil yet every young man dreams of a American Visa.I say this on the basis of evidence and observations as management consultant in a oil rich Arab country, where friends who would normally be carrying copies of Koran and recite it undertone at every given opportunity, would curse and swear at their ‘impotent’ King ‘who is only interested in wealth of Royal family’ and ‘America is a heaven compared to these Arab countries’. unquote Some were patiently waiting for three years for Canadian immigration or any possibility of relocation to Dearborn Michigan(little Jeddah).
For Pakistan 9/11, in a perverted way, proved to be beneficial for military and financial aid of Pakistani elite and Pakistani dictator Musharraf became the ‘Darling’ of American elite. Think-tank and university scholarships were reopened for the ‘right’ candidates and the dictator admitted (in his autobiography) taking 5000 dollar a piece for head-hunting the terrorists. An estimated 40 billion dollars flowed into the pockets of elites in form of both direct aid and ex-pat remittances.
Now the new government of President Zardari is willing to submit its ‘Begging Bowl’ to the strict conditionalities of Kerry-Lugar financial package. The Islamists, Nationalist, Socialists are raising their voices on the sensationalist News talk shows against the supposed ‘anti state’ activities of American private security contractors working under the name of ‘Black Water’ or ‘XE’ in Pakistan and Afghanistan. These security contractors need a ‘safe playground’ for rest and recreation in Pakistan after hard and dangerous tours of Afghanistan.
The impression in general public on both sides is that, ‘We can’t live them but we can’t live without them’. Pakistan, Israel and Saudi Arabia are the three states based on religious ideology and can be described as the perfect examples of ‘Client States’ of USA.
Black Water is yet another brand is the long saga of Pakistani American Love (and hate) Story. How long this disposable relationship lasts depends on the needs of American ‘House Boy’ President and his rightwing handler Bob Gates, in the Afghanistani theatre of war. America will not be able to win the war (like other Imperial powers) in Afghanistan for the foreseeable future and Pakistan can hope to cash-in the long term financial aid packages, provided it ignores the human rights abuses(like in Iraq) by Black Water Security Contractors.
Wednesday, May 05, 2010
From Muslim Khan to Faisal Shahzad: The Story of ‘Made In USA’ Pakistani Taliban.
Saturday, April 10, 2010
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Saturday, March 27, 2010
The Call Centre Odyssey from Islamabad.
Mirpur city of Kashmir, situated 80 miles south east of Islamabad, is often called the ‘eastern most city of United Kingdom’ due to big population of British Kashmiris(Pakistanis or just Muslims, whatever they want to be known as).Jars of Marmite(a British peculiarity which I have never tasted) and tins of tuna fish and ‘baked beans in tomato sauce’ are easily available in local shops. The supermarkets from Mirpur, would not be out of place in streets of Bradford or Birmingham. Opening the Sunday edition of Pakistani English language newspaper, I saw this quarter page advertisement, British Call Centre Requires Manager and UK accent CSR (Customer Service Representatives).
After watching the film ‘Swades’, about an Indian born NASA scientist who after designing a satellite goes back to his birthplace in poor North Indian state of Uttar Pradesh and builds a water reservoir to generate electricity for poor villagers on self-help basis, I was also filled with a sense of patriotic altruism (slightly misplaced I must admit) and wanted to go back and ‘do something’ (yet not sure what, where and how).
Mostly British Pakistanis visit ‘Back Home’ in the summer school vacations from June to September , not a perfect time I must add as the temperature average is above 40 Celsius during this time, hardly comfortable for mild weathered British-Pakistanis.
I felt that the advertisement was a ‘God sent’ sign for my next venture(adventure more likely).The Call Centre was an ‘Out-bound’ facility, meaning that CSRs were making calls to British phone lines through Internet Voice Data Protocol and selling every thing from mobile phones to credit card deals to British customers. The savvy customers are able to detect the ‘Indian Accent’ coming from bigger and better IT firms in Bangalore India and come up with rebuttals like “why are you calling me from India?” to which the clueless CSR has no defence. More importantly Indian CSRs often don’t have the local British knowledge e.g. the geographical difference between Dundee and Dudley.
On the agreed day I arrived at the office for the interview, the CEO was the younger brother of a British businessman, he had visited his elder brother in Bradford a few times but never actually lived in UK for any long duration, while the ‘Big Brother’ controlled the nerve centre of his BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) remotely from his office in UK.
The management team which were supposed to interview me, were a ‘Robbie William’ (no not the Robbie Williams Singer but his Pakistani Christian name sake) who had acquired a shaky ‘American Accent’ due to his high school diploma from Texas where his father was once posted and the assistant manageress, a Hijab wearing student from one of the many Am-Anglo (not the Anglo American) Schools of capital Islamabad. The supervisor (and accent coach) was a Canadian born Pakistani whose favourite topics were alcohol and Canadian dollar exchange rate.
I was unanimously declared the ‘One-eyed King among the blind’. The first task was to round-up as many ‘British sounding’ recruits as possible. The Second, I was put in conference calls with our worried clients, assuring them that we do have genuine British Pakistani sounding CSR. Mind you, Asians living in UK do have certain differences from the ‘White’ English, but these small things are usually tolerated as ‘Asian Accent’ by my English neighbours, “Innit”. My challenge was to monitor the quality of the calls and equipping the CSRs (usually the Pakistani school-leavers from O-levels of Cambridge schools) with local knowledge. I showed them how to use on-line phone directories and maps to know the correct location and information and we could always say, “We are based in Pudsey Business Park” (not entirely incorrect, at least our CEO’s post box was).
We had a smooth-talking IT manager whose pseudonym was ‘Shane Mike’. What! , I protested “wrong way round, do you have any idea about first name and Surnames in UK?” It was Shane Mike’s idea that whenever we had Internet speed delays or bad voice quality on phone lines, he would calmly tell the complaining outsourcing companies in UK, “I apologise, but because of relief operations army helicopters are hovering too close to our satellite dishes”, we would all have stomach pain due to excessive laughing at his straight faced lies. The clueless English executives would buy the story of ‘War on Terror’ sympathetically.
I was lucky with the CVs and started dialling for prospective recruits, I would listen to people for couple of minutes, assessing their confidence and accent on the phone. Few of the really good CSRs were Samina from Birmingham and Sher Afgan from Manchester, both were re-christened as ‘Sam or Samantha’ and ‘Steve Anderson’ respectively. Sam was living with her Pakistani in-laws permanently and Steve was running away from his British in-laws, Zia (ex admin officer from UN Peace-keepers in South Lebanon) was waiting for visa from his British wife while Mark Darcy was heart-broken after his British girlfriend had to marry someone else due to family pressure. All of them were quick learners and were promoted to ‘British Speaking’ supervisors while Robbie and the American school leavers were given ‘less accent-sensitive’ assignments and could always say, “No Madam, I am from America”.
The six months have taught me that, Pakistani businesspeople, no matter if they are from Houston, Bradford or Karachi, are very resourceful (despite the Load-shedding ,Internet outage and War on Terror) and would not take no for an answer. Now the company has tied the knot with a big textile group in Islamabad and their new manager is Paul, a happy go-lucky English backpacker on gap-year from university who is not afraid of terrorism in Pakistan.
Some names have been changed to protect the identities of people concerned. Dil Nawaz is a blogger, a Metblogs reader from ‘Bradistan (little Pakistan) Bradford UK
Saturday, March 21, 2009
PIPFPD: Pakistan -Iran people’s forum for Progress and Democracy
The Pakistani-Indian people to people friendship society with the same initials started its work nearly two decades ago, when the Pak-Indian subcontinent was under dark clouds of war hysteria and animosity. Thinking back, those times seem a century rather than a decade back. Pakistani and Indian actors, musicians, journalists, business people and human rights activists made this venture such a resounding success that the politicians, on both sides, had to follow in their foot steps.
Pakistan and Iran, fortunately, have no history of war and hatred in conventional sense. Pakistani society and culture is at the junction of Middle East (Iran) and South Asia(India).Pashtun and Baloch and many in southern Punjab and sindh, trace back their ancestry to Arabian and Iranian tribes, who have been migrating to North West of India for centuries. Many prominent politicians and Generals, like premier Gillani, President Zardari, Bhutto family, Gen.Yahya Khan(Iran),Gen.Waheed Kakar(Afghan),Gen. Syed Musharraf and Gen. Pasha (the Turkish Connection) are descendants of Middle Eastern Muslim tribes who escaped ,the religious pogroms against Shia and Sufi Muslim minorities, to the relative safety of plural Indian plains.
Pakistan and Iran share common linguistic base and a written script with common vocabulary which links 30% of Urdu to Persian (in Iran) and Dari (in Afghanistan). Spoken Urdu-Hindi (in India and Pakistan) is the third largest language in world and Persian-Urdu and Arabic written script (used in 50 countries) is the fastest growing in cyber space and blog-sphere.Urdu and Persian were adopted by Mogul and Sikh Kings as the official language of the state for many centuries in India and Punjab in 18th century.
Despite the historic connections, the political and economic relations between Iran and Pakistan have, at best, been patchy since 1947 independence of Pakistan. Autocratic rule, military coups and wars with India and Iraq have destabilised Pakistan and Iran respectively.
American interference and financial aid had a love-hate relationship with the elite of Iran and Pakistan. In an effort to counter the balance of power within the muslim world, successive American administrations alternated their financial and political favouritism between the autocratic shah of Iran and military dictatorships of Pakistan.
This Great game ended with two near simultaneous Islamist coups in both the countries. Pakistani military dictator was pro-American Sunni fundamentalist taking his orders from anti-Iran regime in Saudi-Arabia while the Iranian shia clergy staged a kidnapper’s coup after the popular revolution against an American backed shah. The two countries took two very different paths to the destination of harsh Islamic shariah laws. While Pakistan basked in the glorious sunshine of American and Arabian dollars courtesy of afghan jihad, Iran was suffering under economic embargo and stagnant cultural and social life due to American hostility and Islamic regime. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq created drug trafficking, millions of refugees and bootleggers markets in anything classified illegal under strict Islamic laws.
The mistrust and mutual hatred, between the autocratic regimes, was highlighted by the attempts of Zia ul Haq to impose sunni law on the shia minority of Pakistan. Muslims who did not pray during office hours or did not fast and anyone caught eating during the fasting of Ramadan faced prosecution. Zakat was compulsorily deducted from Muslim account holders in all banks, this created the biggest Shia demonstration Pakistan has ever seen. Shia sect refused to comply with shariah being imposed by general Zia and his Saudi mentors.
Shias(20% in population) contemplated starting a civil disobedience, backing down after pressure from Shia clergy of Iranian revolution. Zia fearing a belligerent Iran and hostility from educated shias within military and civil bureaucracy exempted Shia from zakat deduction.Iran created the shia militants (movement for enforcing the laws of imam jaffar), Saudi Arabia and Iraq responded by arming the "soldiers of companions of Mohammed", an organisation openly calling shia as non Muslims and declaration of Sunni law in line with Saudi clergy.
While the sectarian killings continued by the two sides,In 1990s the Taliban henomenon in Afghanistan and their brutal treatment of Shia minorities in bamiyan, kept the Pakistan Iran friendship in cold storage. The election of a modern reformist president Muhammed Khatmi did little to improve the relations because the Iranian clergy and army did not see Pakistani links with America with kindness. Death to America and Israel is the chant religiously incorporated in shia Islamic prayers by the belligerent clerics of supreme leader of Islamic revolt. The women, religious minorities, journalists, human rights activists, musicians and actors regularly suffer abuse, torture, disappearance, kidnapping, imprisonment and hanging or firing squads by summary religious courts.
The Petroleum exports have filled the coffers of the newly rich elite which cling to the religious clergy and army in hope of trickle down effect of corruption and kickbacks. The Iranian government has spent money on education, health and scientific development in an effort to calm the youth of the country. Tehran is the only Muslim city with an underground transport system. Iranian nuclear development is causing concern in the western capitals. Iranian universities are hotbed of stand-alone scientific research in diverse fields ranging from genetics to aviation. Philosopher Emmaul Kant has been the most frequently translated foreigner into Persian language. Iranian bloggers and writers abroad are keeping the freedom of expression alive. Iranian cinema is one of the most vibrant in the world, culturally and socially albeit not in marketing and finance of Bollywood and Hollywood.
The educated youth, despite the recent improvements, remain in high unemployment and suffer mental and emotional torture due to ban on various harmless cultural and social activities. Iranian refugees number the highest in Western Europe and every year more than 250,000 young flee abroad in order break free from collective Berlin wall of religious orthodoxy.
Does Pakistan eye Iran as an opportunity or a threat? Newly crowned President Zardari took nearly a year to visit Iran, may be because of the bad press (read George Bush factor) relating to the hard-line extremist president Mahmoud Ahmedinajed. Herein lays the biggest problem of leadership, because both these presidents allegedly suffer from hyper-active attention deficiency when it comes to economic diplomacy.
Who will take the initiative? And how, is the million dollar question. I ,as an ordinary citizen with a Iranian ancestory of sufi muslim forefathers going back seven generations to the historic city of neshapour, famous for Poet Omar Khayyam and red wine, have humbly tried to suggested the solution for this paradoxical of love-hate relationship between the governments and people of Iran and Pakistan.
Diplomacy is an art of "the possible" and not always "the ideal". First step should be to Publish a comprehensive Urdu-Persian conversation Dictionary.Mutual opening of airwaves and cyberspace for TV, Radio and websites. Pakistani government granting tourist and business visas for Iranian youth and business people and Iran offering scholarships and exchange faculty places to research students and professors from minority shia community(Iranian government does not fully trust the motives of majority sunni parties).
The Iranian and Pakistani democrats and intellectuals in exile can meet and strategise in Europe, USA and Dubai about the future of these two estranged twin siblings.
Monday, February 09, 2009
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
Millions of people will think small man,blue collar and colored can make a difference. bill clinton said "we need the power of our example,not the example of our power" to defeat terrorists and al qaeda. bin laden can no longer say america is evil, 2000 florida hanging votes were the worst example of america democracy,2008 election can be the best regardless of the outcome.
in britain if muslims and ethnic minorities can trust vote and elections as a means of change,terrorist and islamist can be defeated.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
For Jihad ,"The World is Flat"
In order to understand the development of Shariah Law in Pakistan, we have to understand the different political forces present in pre partition North West India. It is prudent to restrict the analysis to right wing Muslim parties as, regardless of their stance on independent Pakistan; in post partition political spectrum ring wing became the mainstream. The left wing parties (nationalist and communists alike) were pushed to margins either banned from elections or went into collective involuntary underground to escape persecution and torture of their cadre by American backed civil and military dictatorships of the elite.
Pakistani left wing consisted of Muslim cadre of communist party of India, red shirt pushtun of afghan and Pakistani tribal North West frontier headed by "frontier Gandhi" Ghaffar khan a close ally of MK Gandhi of India.
Muslim right wing had three distinct groups:
Unionists: this was a lose grouping of Muslim feudal elite loyal to British crown.Post partition unionists amalgamated with Muslim league. Smaller grouping of Shia, ismaili and ahmediya Muslims from princely states of north India were associated with ML but in later decades they formed their separate religious entities.
Muslim league: a party formed in 1906 by Muslim nobility to counter the Hindu influence of Indian national congress of Gandhi. ML changed its stance from loyalist to separate homeland for Muslims in North West of India in1940s. ML was headed by MA Jinnah a British educated and whisky drinking secular ismaili Muslim barrister, although its worth pointing out that Jinnah was the defense counsel for a Punjabi Muslim fanatic ailmuddin who killed the Hindu publisher rajpal for publishing the biography of prophet Muhammad probably Jinnah wanted to use the sentiments of common Muslims for his religion-political cause of Muslim separatism in British India.
These parties were different in their character from Muslim nationalist leaders in congress who advocated for a secular united India. Jamal Islami (JI) and Jamiat Ulema Islam (JUI) were and still are the biggest Islamist parties in Pakistan. Pre partition they advocated pan Islamic caliphate of all countries under colonial rule. Labeling Pakistan as kafiristan and Jinnah kafir azam (great infidel). Post independence they captured the main ideological ground in the name of defending Islamic identity and statehood of country of pure (Pakistan in Persian language). Abu Ala Mududi the head of Jamat Islami was a theologian and ideologue not just for Indian Muslims but had strong influence and links with Egyptian Muslim brotherhood and salafi whaabi dynasty of al-Saud in Arabia, which helped jihad financially and in manpower in later history of Pakistan and Afghanistan. JUI had and still runs the biggest network of madrasah seminaries for Taliban (student in Arabic) in Pakistan .the main patrons of JUI were Saudi Arabia Libya and Iraq.
The history of shariah in Pakistan
1947 the independence of India was stained with blood and rape of millions of refugees trying to reach Muslim Pakistan or Hindu India. Gangs of Muslim and Hindu and Sikh fanatics killed and raped their own neighbours.
1948 saw the outbreak of Kashmir war, when Jinnah frustrated by non obedience of English officers order the fanatical pushtun tribesmen from Waziristan and Khyber to take Kashmir in the name of Islam, sadly Jinnah died of T.B without completing the Jihad. 1949 Pakistan legislative assembly amended the 1935 interim constitution to include Koran and Sunnah of prophet as the supreme law.
1951 saw the killing of the first prime minister in Rawalpindi at the hands of one of the tribesmen. Military officers, newspaper editors, communist leaders and frontier Gandhi were imprisoned and charged with treason, in order to curtail the politics of leftwing. Martial law was imposed in city of Lahore after the torture of followers of ahmadiyya (who believed in 19th century prophet Mahdi Messiah).
1950s was a period of disenfranchising the majority province of east Bengal where leftwing Hindu middleclass was 15% of the population and a Muslim cleric mullah bashahni was the head of political alliance of communists and Maoist peasants. The ruling elite was afraid of the majority. The martial law of Sandhurst educated dictator field marshal Ayub khan (the poster boy for American administrations in cold war era) banned independent newspapers and put left leaning politicians in jail and many communist sympathisers like hasan nasir were killed in torture cells of Lahore fort while the Islamists were free to preach and practice whatever they wanted.
Under pressure from Kennedy/Johnson administrations ayub khan introduced reforms in family laws of Muslim personal code, making it necessary for husband to seek written permission for a second marriage from the first wife. Women could sue for divorce and family inheritance in civil courts. Family planning was allowed. US aid was used to open girl's schools in rural areas. All this infuriated the clergy.
The proverbial last nail in the coffin was the presidential election of 1965, local government councilors were supposed to vote for president ayub khan without any serious challenge. The left and the secular parties in East and West Pakistan nominated Fatima Jinnah, a spinster elderly sister of late Jinnah, as a consensus compromise candidate because she had popular support. The mullahs declared woman candidate for presidency un-Islamic.
In referendums involving sitting military dictators, like Zia ulhaq in 1984 or musharaf in 2002 and 2007, vote rigging and horse-trading of the turncoat members are used to turn a unfavourable electorate into a best possible result. There was a massive protest but, like 1984 siachen and 1999 kargil operations, military started a misadventure in Kashmir to divert the attention.
September 1965 war left economy in total collapse and military in ruin. American help was at hand, but economic aid, much like the 1980s afghan jihad and 9/11 war on terror package, was directed at the industrial and feudal families rather then the poor. The Poor got "low grade" Mexican Corn (Folklore still remembers as "too hard to chew"), and donkey(a symbol of stupidity) carts with American flags in their necks. These dictators (Ayub, Zia and Musharaf) and their cronies are scornfully known in street lexicon as "Ali Baba and forty thieves". Every major crisis since then (be that burning of Al Aqsa mosque, siege of Mecca by militants or satanic verses and Danish Cartoons, and 2008 releasing soon Dutch films on Islam and American novel "The Jewel of Medina" on prophet muhammad's wife Aeisha) mobs charged with religious zeal always burn symbols of America (American Cultural Centres, Citi Bank, KFCs and McDonalds) in Pakistan. 1960s was a time of war in Vietnam, Socialist marches in European capitals while in American the civil rights movement was making big strides under the leadership of martin Luther king. Students, felt that they can take on the Mullahs and the Military, brought the country to a standstill.
The Great Game:
Politicians were divided on geographic/ethnic lines. Punjabis were led by charismatic Sindhi feudal zulfikar Ali Bhutto, educated in Eton oxford and Berkeley. Bhutto had invented the slogans of Islamic socialism and food shelter and clothing for all citizens. In Bengal mujeeb rehman an ex socialist was leading a campaign of autonomy from the feudal/bureaucratic structures of Pakistan. Parting shot of dictators is usually an autobiography ("friends, not masters" by Ayub, "In the line of fire" by musharaf, sadly Zia exploded before/due to "a case of exploding mangoes" ghost written by Muhammad Hanif 2008) lamenting the abortion of their "true" legacy for greater Pakistan. Election resulted in majority Bengali parliament. The Punjabi army killed and raped thousands in Bengal. In December 1971 India invaded to strike a humiliating defeat and Bangladesh declared independence. Bhutto became the leader of remaining Pakistan.
1970s saw the nationalization of industries and piece meal reforms. In 1973 Bhutto gave Pakistan its first consensus democratic constitution. compromises made with feudals and Islamists in cities (among small traders and armed student wing JI)forcibly marginalised the silent majority.
Islamisation measures initiated by Bhutto (secular, whisky loving, and playboy) were supported by Saudi Arabian king Faisal's generous visa policy for Pakistani labourers and military personnel who wanted to earn quick petro-dollars. Friday was declared weekly holiday, Sale/purchase of alcohol was banned to Muslims and restricted to Christian and Hindus via government permit only.Hotels with casinos clubs and discotheques were shut down.
The Law that declared ahmadiyya (sect of muslim messiah) as non Muslims. shifted the society from socialist reforms to demand for shariah. An agitation fueled by CIA dollars and Islamist manpower destabilised Bhutto . American administration was unhappy at the deal for French nuclear reprocessing plant and feared Bhutto was making "Islamic bomb" to avenge the humiliation by India.The martial law of 1977 was a copycat of the 1973 Chilean coup by General Augusto Pinochet at the behest of USA. Bhutto was hanged in 1979 by the Islamist military dictator Zia ul haq after a show trial which was termed as judicial murder ("If I am assassinated" by ZA Bhutto 1979)
Islamist General Zia unleashed state terror on politics. Hundreds of thousands of political activists, lawyers' students' leaders were imprisoned. Thousands were given Islamic punishment of flogging or hanged at the orders of military courts.1979 invasion of Afghanistan by soviet troops made Zia the most trusted ally of USA, Britain and Saudi Arabia. Billions of dollars in foreign exchange, latest military equipment and thousands of young fighters from Arab countries poured into Pakistan to fight the jihad against the evil soviet atheists.
The shariah began with the law of evidence where the testimony of two pious Muslim women was only considered equal to one male, thus declaring a woman only half a human in all matter of law. Hadood laws prescribed the Islamic justice of public flogging for consumption of Alcohol, cutting hands for robbery and most draconian of all was the stoning to death for adultery, even a victim of rape had to provide testimony of four pious male Muslim witnesses in order to prove her innocence. The case of a blind girl charged for adultery, who gave birth to "her sin" child while the rapist got Scot free due to lack of four male pious Muslim witnesses, got international publicity.
Muslims who did not pray during office hours or did not fast and anyone caught eating during the fasting of Ramadan faced prosecution. Zakat was compulsorily deducted from Muslim account holders in all banks, this created the biggest Shia demonstration Pakistan has ever seen. Shia sect refused to comply with shariah being imposed by general Zia and his Saudi mentors. Shias(20% in population) contemplated starting a civil disobedience, backing down after pressure from Shia clergy of Iranian revolution. Zia fearing a belligerent Iran and hostility from educated shias within military and civil bureaucracy exempted Shia from zakat deduction.
Iran created the shia militants (movement for enforcing the laws of imam jaffar), Saudi Arabia and Iraq responded by arming the "soldiers of companions of Mohammed", an organisation openly calling shia as non Muslims and declaration of Sunni law in line with Saudi clergy.
While the sectarian killings continued by the two sides, Zia turned his attention to minorities (Ahmedis, Christians,Hindus) and forced them to declare their faith on identity documents and separate election system was devised for them(a bit like apartheid). Ahmedis were banned from preaching or observe Islamic rituals of sermon prayers, fasting or even greeting each other by Muslim salutation. They were ordered to remove all Muslim signage from their mosques. Anyone who did not comply with these rules suffered prison, fines and public flogging. The Ahmedi caliph and his clergy fled to London to save their lives, while militant groups turned their guns toward common ahmedi and christian who were living intermingled with rural Punjabi peasants.
The blasphemy laws with punishment of death sentence for anyone accused of belittling or ridiculing prophet Muhammad by their speech or action and anyone found to be disrespectful to Koran by improper question/speaking or disposing of papers containing Koranic verses. Police complaint by local clergy was needed as proof of guilt. Blasphemy law was used indiscriminately against ahmedis and Christians in Punjab and against Hindus and Sikhs in Sindh and frontiers to settle petty property disputes, in which the accuser walked away with war booty and the non Muslim victim stood to loose everything. Even obtaining a bail from court sometimes meant being gunned down by militants within few meters of police stations.
Individuals stood up against tyranny by committing suicide in public protest Pervaiz messiah a lowly Christian cleaner burnt himself alive while demanding democracy. Bishop John Joseph Shot himself in protest against death sentences awarded to Christian teenagers in blasphemy cases.
Lawyers, journalists, teachers and others who came out protesting against oppression, faced tear gas beatings and imprisonment and torture at the hands of police and army security forces. Civil society organizations like women action forum, Human rights commission, voice against rape and Pakistan India peoples forum for peace and democracy emerged out of the dark days of Islamic dictatorship backed shamelessly by Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan.
Benazir, the daughter of martyr Bhutto, came back after years in jail and exile to lead several million men marches against dictatorship. In April 88 Pakistani intelligence blew up the ammunition depot storing missiles, explosives and state of the art stinger launchers, to hide the illegal sale to Iran and other bidders and to stop US military audit finding out the full extend of scam. The resulting inferno and projectiles killed nearly three thousand civilians in cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad. August 88 Zia's aero plane was blown up in mysterious circumstances. Rumours circulated that Zia's Coffin contained bones of American Arnold Raphael and Brigadier Wassem of US Army.
Benazir became the first female Muslim prime minister in the world despite Saudi grand mufti Shaikh Al Baz declaring her apostate from Islam.1990s was the see saw of power politics between right wing Nawaz Sharif(political heir to Saudis and Zia) and a compromised corrupt Benazir wife of Zardari(Mr 10%) .The notorious military Intelligence was busy creating the Frankenstein monsters we now know as Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda. Pre 9/11 Bin Laden gave money to Sharif MPs to oust Benazir and tried General Abbasi's Islamic coup plot to establish caliphate in Pakistan. But the proto type of Global Islamism was perfected in Afghanistan with Arab manpower, money from arms and drug trade and clandestine connections in Muslim populations world over with mafia like tentacles. The rest, as they say, is history. Kashmir, Chechnya, Palestine and 9/11 New York, Iraq and London Madrid and Bali the template of terrorism was implemented by Jihadists.
Political Islam's Globalisation
Tragically, Benazir (Book "Daughter of the East" 2007) died at the hands of a suicide bomber at the same spot where in 1951 the first prime minister was gunned down. Story of political Islam has completed the full circle with history repeating itself. The gains made by civil society in the struggle for democracy and freedom of judiciary ,achieved by street protest and activism are compromised in deal making and power brokering. Saudi Arabia, UAE and USA remain the guarantors and underwriters of power whether its the corrupt current president Mr 10% Zardari or the future (president in waiting) Mr Sharif of Mecca simpleton (sorry cannot write autobiography only reads phone directories) Tableeghi (Muslim Jehovah's witness). A foreign journalist once said Pakistan Owes its existence to Allah, America and Army. The Army "greatest defender of Muslim faith and Islamic Atom bomb", behaves like the band of mercenaries from "pirates of Arabian Sea", switching sides from Islamists to Bible bashing American fundamentalists whenever the pay is right. At other times paddling their nuclear ware to rogue states like Iran Libya and North Korea.
For Jihad ,"The World is Flat"
All this is important because the disintegration of Pakistan will unleash the forces of evil, ranging from nuclear brief cases to training manuals and kits for "dirty bombs". The civil society, the free media and satellite channels, human rights activist and professional middle class, is overwhelmed by the onslaught of Islamists which can result in balkanisation of Pakistan.UK can do well by strengthening the civil society and secular political parties because one million of British citizens/residents are of Pakistani origin coming from Kashmir and north west of Pakistan.7/7 suicide bomber mastermind Mohammed siddique khan prayed at Tableeghi(Mr Nawaz sharif 's mentors) Jamat's HQ in Dewsbury. Thomas Friedman's Theory "The World is Flat", I hasten to add "World is a small place", "what you sow, so shall you reap".