DAWN - Letters; November 15, 2001

Published November 15, 2001

Consequences of Afghan war

THIS refers to Irfan Husain’s column ‘Can lemmings be wrong’ (Nov 3). He believes that the phenomenon of hundreds of Britons of Pakistan origin fighting with the Taliban is a “sign of things to come in the West” only. Simple!

Then he is puzzled by the reaction of highly educated and sophisticated Pakistanis to recent events. “They had been complaining about rise of religiosity and the decline of the economy.’ And that Sept 11 incident, though tragic, has provided an opportunity where our task is likely to be carried out by the Americans i.e. halting the religious extremism (wiping out the Taliban) and boosting our economy (writing off debts or rescheduling). Simple!

He cannot comprehend as to why a class of intellectuals and activists are criticizing the bombing of Afghanistan.

By now the ground reality is pretty clear to the average Pakistani. The Taliban will be replaced by warlords (not the socially engineered outfit being prepared by many cooks). And the fallout on Pakistan will be hazardous (more later). Forget about the writing off of our debt. Our sovereignty has been written off for some time to come which is much worse than $39 billion loan.

Christina Amanpore, chief international reporter of CNN, asked a young man about his future plans. He wanted to go to an Ivy League University in the States. What do you think about Osama bin Laden? He said ‘I like him’ She cannot understand this logic. Has not one heard that he should educate himself even if he has to go to China? Ex-Mayor Julina returns a ten million dollar donation from an Arab prince, because he dared to offer an explanation why people do not like America (not Americans). Apart from the mental set created and fostered by the international media, let us consider an alternate world of thinking.

Ayaz Amir in his column “War on terror - my cow” (Nov 9), traces five decades of American ruthlessness. “One law for Rome, another for the barbarians vanquished by Rome - after 50 years of supporting the politics of terrorism in the Middle East and exporting CIA-led terror elsewhere across the globe, the US is alight with indignation because the unimaginable has occurred and it too has been struck by terrorism”.

In the Middle East, there are thinking people, people with pride and dignity. What option do they have? Even if there was an option - look what is happening in Palestine! Trapped in injustice and having no way out, they are led to a new way of thinking, which in fact is not new.

In Afghanistan the objective of the coalition against terrorism is to capture OBL (dead or alive) and dismantle Al-Qaeda. In this process the damage, death and destruction of Afghani people is called “collateral damage’. Thousands of civilians have been killed.

Consider this if only to understand the current phenomenon of terrorism and who hates whom and why?

Back home, the Afghan adventure by the US is going to be disastrous which will be difficult to reverse. A small minority of religious leaders preaching rituals rather than the moral teachings of Islam have not leverage to excite the emotions of Muslims. This class has been propped up and nurtured by successive governments in Pakistan. The Soviet intervention in Afghanistan gave them a leverage (with the help of the US).

The onslaught on Afghanistan by the US is causing much more collateral damage than expected. The fully armed religious parties having mysterious connection outside are stirring the delicate cord of 99% Muslims of Pakistan (and other Muslim countries).

Like it or not the images of civilian casualties have ignited the ‘Muslim identity’ in every Pakistani. In this process many moderate Muslims will regress to ritualistic Islam. And it is likely to stay for long.



Hard Talk on Palestine

WHEN Tim Sebastian keeps interrogating his Arab and Palestinian guests as to why Yasser Arafat does not stop the suicide bombings, do they think he has the power to do so?

What most of the guests fail to ask, and Sebastian is clever enough not to ask himself, is: what promises can Mr Arafat hold out to his people to get their support?

Can he tell them Israel will vacate Palestine territory, that the question of Jerusalem will be settled, that no more settlements will be raised on Palestinian land, that the existing settlements will be dismantled, that one million more Jews will not be foisted on them, that US support to Israel—monetary, military, diplomatic will be less blatant?

What small hope can Mr Arafat hold out to his people to make them desist from armed resistance to Israeli occupation?

Just the prospect of often held, futile ‘peace talks’ is not enough. What good are peace talks if Israel rejects even the Mitchell Report.

Knowing the British sense of ‘fair play’, I am sure Mr Sebastian will want to address my query in the next Hard Talk.



Hobson’s choice

EVERY thinking Pakistani acknowledges that General Musharraf’s decision to join the US-led campaign against the Taliban was not a matter of choice, it was a compulsion imposed by the geopolitical situation. We had no other rational choice in the given circumstances. General Musharraf himself frankly admitted that he had to choose a ‘lesser evil’.

But religious leaders are behaving as if they do not understand the currents of the international and regional situation. Actually, they do understand it very well. Only they wish to exploit this situation to gain some mileage for themselves. But by this, they are inflicting irreparable damage on the very structure of Pakistan.

Everyone has the right to express resentment over the US attacks on Afghanistan and on civilian casualties. But to give calls which amount to treason indicate some kind of hidden agenda. People of Pakistan should beware of this trap.


Toba Tek Singh

Taliban-imposed suffering

WITHOUT being judgmental on the US military campaign against the Taliban, I would like to differ with some of the views being propounded by certain local journalists regarding public opinion against the US actions. Widespread anti-Taliban sentiments prevail amongst the majority of educated Pakistani’s who carry enough vision not to fall prey to the obscurantist quarters over here, who find in the Taliban a reflection of themselves.

Reservations over the calamity befalling ordinary Afghans as a result of the bombings are not entirely unjustified. However, the Taliban-imposed suffering is far greater and it erodes the very psyche and liberty of the human mind.

If the Americans are successful in achieving their objectives, they would end up liberating Afghanistan from the Taliban and thereby atoning for some of the damage that has been caused by their bombings. Such riddance would be a longer-lasting boon that far outweighs the short-term bane of this current war.

In any case, the Afghans have been in war-like circumstances for long now; the current bombings might be a possible solution towards peace in the long run, for the biggest problem in Afghanistan today is the parochialism that the Taliban symbolize.

If Afghanistan achieves a stable government that ensures the rights of all Afghans and is able to maintain a lasting peace, ordinary Afghans would find it easier to forgive the Americans for the present destruction in their already devastated country. Pakistan has an equally important role in ensuring that this is made possible, for then the repatriation of Afghan refugees could be achieved. Meanwhile, Pakistan should take serious steps towards eradicating the Taliban-like elements from within its own frontiers.



Need for a just world order

THE time has come to concede to everyone his right and to eliminate imperialist rule in different parts of the world. We must also eliminate imperialism in the new form when big and prosperous countries exploit poor and small nations. If we want to save the world and live in peace, we should establish everlasting “justice” in the world. In this process we shall also have to democratise and reform the United Nations and rescue it from imperialist clutches.

We propose that an “international conference” be summoned under the aegis of the Organisation of Islamic Conference and the United Nations to focus attention on every “trouble spot” in the world and take decisions by simple majority to restore the rights/and lands to the legitimate owners even if the imperialists have ruled over those lands for centuries.

The conference should also take decisions in cases of self-determination and independence struggles by various nations of the world.

When just and equitable order will be established, all nations will live in peace and the international community will live as a big happy family.

When the international conference grants to the nations of the world, whether free or subjugated, their legitimate rights, real peace will dawn on the world.


Chairman, Muslim Commonwealth Movement,


Remittance through banks

I OFTEN hear that the Pakistan government wants to elminate the Hundi system and encourage the use of the banking channel for transferring money. However, very recently, when I transferred some money from Pakistan to the UK, I was charged so heavily that I shall never think of using the banking channel again.

I maintain a foreign currency account in the PICIC Commercial Bank, Blue Area Islamabad.

In the last week of September, I had to send some money to my brother in the UK. For sening 7,000 pounds abroad, I was asked to pay US $ 10,407. Out of this only US $ 10,161 were put in my account in the UK. Thus there was a difference of US $ 256.

On enquiry, I was informed that 32 pounds (around US $55) were deducted by the Bank in the UK.

What about the rest? I have repeatedly enquired the bank officials in writing, and to date I have not received any written explanation.

I understand that there is always a difference of “exchange rate” for buying and selling.

But, I do not believe that it could be so much! Surely, either there are some hidden charges, about which the client is kept in the dark or there was some mistake by the bank officials. On top of all this, the client is never given any “customer receipt” for these transactions.

Given this situation, I don’t think, I will ever try to use the banking system, neither to receive nor to send money. The money changer, just across the bank is much more polite, and quick and offers a better rate for such transfers of money.



Police harassment

WE, the residents of Gulistan-i-Jauhar, are presently facing a continuous torture and harassment from a Sub-Inspector of Police residing in our locality.

Several complaints have been lodged against him, which must be on the records of the Governor House, Army Monitoring Cell and the Naval Police.

His illegal and immoral activities have often been reported in the press as well. However, no action seems to have been taken against him so far.

I request the I.G. Sindh to take notice of this black sheep of his department and punish him for exploiting his official position to harass and intimidate the residents of the area where he lives.



Park in Sanghar

THE residents of Sanghar have no public park. The park previously maintained by the Municipal Committee, Sanghar, became completely ruined long ago.

The future of the plot reserved for a park at the Housing Society, Sanghar, is still uncertain as the amount reserved for it was not be utilized in the right manner.

I request the District Nazim and the DCO Sanghar to please intervene in the matter personally so that this basic facility can be provided to the inhabitants of this town at an early date.



Cambridge certificate

IN his letter, Dr Fred Burke (Nov 11) wittingly or unwittingly confirms all that I had to say on November 5. That the Cambridge Syndicate agrees to whatever the Pakistani system, Pakistani government and Pakistan schools require it to do apparently to prevent yet another examination market from escaping from its clutches.

Next door, India had the foreign examination systems packing home about 20 years ago and many other developing countries have followed suit. The country of erstwhile ‘merchant-mariners’ can ill afford to let go another lucrative education business, Pakistan.

This scribe has written about the enormous foreign exchange outgo from Pakistan in the form of O and A levels examination fees in the past and proposes to update the figures with pupils in Pakistan hankering after As, many of them ‘cowboy’ subjects, and the British Council doing everything possible to encourage this trend by adjusting the examination schedules. Pre-testing of students in preparatory classes, ostensibly to guide them but in reality to corner more money, has also started in right earnest.

With a (former) “centre of excellence” IBA in Pakistan showing signs of cracking up both in efficiency and integrity I would not worry if I was incharge of Cambridge’s examination system in South Asia, of which Pakistan is an important component!

As for reflecting ‘D’ grade for 89%, Dr Burke knows, the readers know and I confirm that it was, unfortunately, the printer’s devil!



West Wharf Road

MILLIONS of dollars were spent to construct the flyover on the West Wharf Road connecting Queens Road and all other important roads to the sea port, to ease the traffic congestion. But the West Wharf road itself and the ramp leading to the flyover from the West Wharf Road is in an extremely bad condition.

I appeal to the concerned department to repair this section of the road in the interest of general public. Also big trucks are often found parked on either side of the road effectively blocking it. Will the traffic police kindly discourage this in the interest of the public?



Library fund

RECENTLY while watching a movie, I came across a beautiful saying, ‘A room without books is like a body without a soul’.

As a nation it is pitiful that our reading habit is, well, poor.

A valid proof of this is the virtual absence of libraries. And it also goes to show where our priorities lie.

Can a nation progress if there is no art or literature in it?

There is a ray of hope now as we have elected representatives all over the country who should be working to set things right.

I would like to suggest that a ‘library fund’ may be set up in every tehsil and district council for the establishment of new libraries and the maintenance of the old ones.



Privatizing educational institutions

THIS is with reference to a news report that the City Nazim is requesting for the educational institutions not to be privatized. Please have a look at the results of the first year ( science group) this year. Out of 17000 students who appeared, 10000 were unable to clear all the 6 papers. So one can imagine the current state of teaching in the colleges where neither the students are interested in attending the classes nor the teachers are interested in teaching. It is just a wastage of money.

Privatizing these institutions will make the staff accountable.



Facts about Junagadh state

THIS refers to an article by Haji Qasim Suleman, “Reviving the Junagadh issue” (Dawn, Nov 9). It seems the author has only heard about the former princely state but has not actually been there.

Junagadh was, no doubt, a prosperous and developed state but not the “most prosperous and developed state in the sub-continent”. How does he forget Hyderabad Deccan?

Then he says that Kathiawar was on its north-west although Junagadh itself was situated in the area known as Kathiawar. Moreover, the coastline of the state was not 84 miles but a full 100 miles. He also refers to some 16 seaports although the only one worth mentioning was Veraval, earlier known as Bilawal. He also mentions some mountain in the state called Janar but I am sure he is referring to Girnar which had Jain temples.

Referring to the state’s army, he only mentions the Mahabatkhanji Infantry although Junagadh Lancers were also there and I happened to be a lieutenant with them.

While talking of the agricultural produce of the state, he forgets to mention linseed and groundnuts which fed the 90 oil mills operating there. Traders from as far as Lahore came there to export onions and chillies back to their province.

As regards Manavadar, it was not a state but only a principality. Its ruler was known as Khan Sahib. Similarly, the ruler of Mangrol was only called a Sheikh.

The author goes on to state that Junagadh acceeded to Pakistan on September 15, 1947, although its Instrument of Accession was published in the State Gazette (Dasturul Amal) on the night between August 14 and 15, 1947.

The state never asked Pakistan to send “5,000 army personnel” to defend it as contended by the author. It was I who went to the Pakistan Foreign office with a request for 800 rifles which was turned down.

It is not correct to say that the Nawab of Junagadh was in Karachi to sign the instrument of accession with Pakistan. It was long after the accord was signed that I evacuated the Nawab and his family from Junagadh to Karachi. The Nawab, constantly busy with his dogs, knew nothing about the affairs of his state as these were handled by the dewan, or prime minister, Sir Shahnawaz Bhutto, whose ADC I happened to be, and by my father, who was the commissioner of police.

My articles about the last days of Junagadh have been published in the English language newspapers as also a full fledged book in Urdu under the title, Junagadh kay Aakhri Ayyam. The author of that article had better read them.





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