DAWN - Features; July 20, 2002

July 20, 2002


Indian army chief’s war talk

By A.R. Siddiqi

IT is rare and quite a bit odd for an Indian army chief to indulge in war talk as offensively as Gen S. Padmanabhan has in a recent press statement. The one glaring exception had been the notorious statement of Gen J.N. Choudhuri (1962-63). On Sept 6-7, 1965, promising his men a victory bash (chhota pegs) at the Lahore Gymkhana within less than 48 hours of his invasion of Pakistan across the international border. But that was in the thick of a general war when an army chief can say anything he likes to boost up the morale of his troops and get away with it.

Two other relatively less glaring examples of the Indian army chief thinking loudly and talking louder still were attributed to Gen Sam Manekshaw (1969-72) and S.F. Rodrigues (1990-1993). Manekshaw (later Field Marshal), the victor of the 1971 war, blasted that but for him India could not have won the fateful war. Victory would have been Pakistan’s had he been in command of its army.

Gen Rodriguez, while arguing for the army’s role as a partner in national affairs, also made some rude remarks about China and Pakistan. The word he used was ‘bandicoots’ for both.

Manekshaw incurred the displeasure of prime minister Indira Gandhi for conduct unbecoming. Rodriguez made the Indian parliamentarians hit the ceiling of the house. While Manekshaw got the Queen’s pardon for his war performance, Rodriguez had to apologize even if he had been misreported.

Looking every inch a vintage officer and a gentleman in his media pictures, Gen Padmanabhan should be the last man to take the bit between his teeth and venture a singularly provocative and ill-timed statement amounting to an ultimatum to Pakistan. Provocative for its threatening tone and content and ill-timed for coming at a time when the clouds of war appeared to be thinning out.

In a language more befitting a warlord than a politically-led army chief, Padmanabhan told his Doordarshan TV interviewer: “My troops are there (at the border). Their troops are there on the border. New Delhi would be left with no option but take some action if Pakistan did not end cross-border infiltration into disputed Kashmir”. His pronounced accent on ‘My troops’ though not unusual for an army commander to use for his men ill-fitted his status as the chief of a national rather than a private army.

His blunt answer to the question, if ‘hostilities’ between India and Pakistan had ‘receded,’ was a thundering ‘Absolutely not’. It was ‘imperative’ for Pakistan, he said, to fulfil its commitment to end infiltration into Jammu and Kashmir. He would settle nothing less than the dismantlement by Pakistan of the entire terrorism infrastructure on its side of the LoC.

Padmanabhan’s somewhat impulsive statement raises two main questions. First, exactly what might be his own definition of ‘terrorism infrastructure’? Second, what role would he like to assign to his own men to stop whatever infiltration might have been allegedly taking place from the Pakistan side?

Would not the continuing cross-border (LoC) infiltration amount to an open confession of the failure of his own troops in securing their side of the fence?

A similar situation arising in the course of a real war would be absolutely alarming with one side pressing home its attacks and the other failing to throw the attackers (in this case infiltrators) back?

The inability of Padmanabhan’s army to stop the cross-border forays become all the more glaring in view of its massive deployment in terms of men and materials.

For the first time the Indian army has deployed land- based radars locating guns and men all the way up and down the battlefield and beyond. With such hi-tech equipment installed and tactically operationalized, there is little excuse for the Indian army chief, his field commanders and their men to accuse Pakistan of continuing cross-LoC violations and the movement — infiltration / exfiltration of the militants — back and forth.

The battlefield short-range surveillance radar can detect ‘multiple target’ such as a man walking or crawling and guns and light-combat vehicles.

Would it not then be yet another example — a la Kargil — or the incredible failure of Indian’s own intelligence and front- line troops in plugging the loopholes in their own operational plans? Accepting the Indian hypothesis that Kargil was launched about the time Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee made his bus yatra to Lahore on Feb 20, 2000, Indian intelligence would get their first source report of the episode as late as the first week of May, and that too from a herdsman espying some ‘strangers’ in the area.

While the Indian army chief would not hesitate to admit that infiltration had ‘reduced by a margin,’ he would ‘require a lot more on the part of the other side to dismantle the entire terrorism infrastructure before infiltration comes down to a trickle ....’.

The question finally is, what might have driven the gentle Gen Padmanabhan to raise the battle cry when the prospects of peace had begun to loom a little on the horizon? One could easily see the big hand and peremptory dictation of L.K. Advani after assuming the dual charge of deputy prime minister and home minister. Advani would hardly wait to pre-empt and sabotage anything coming closer to a peace initiative.

The author is a retired brigadier

Initiative for relief work

DEFUNCT Sargodha division comprised four districts, but it has only one hospital for women, set up by Mian Muhammad Anwar, a local philanthropist.

Maula Bakhsh Hospital has been placed under the control of the Health Department. This hospital cannot cater to the needs of the people. There was no such facility in rural areas. The mortality rate of women in villages during pregnancy is much higher than in urban areas as in rural areas people feel shy to bring their women to hospital.

Though some private hospitals and NGOs used to arrange free camps, it served no useful purpose as their campaign was usually meant to promote personal gain.

UK-based NGO Muslim Global Relief, engaged in relief work for the poor people of Sargodha, has decided to set up a gynae centre at Bhera, some 65 kilometres from here. It will be equipped with an ultra modern operation theatre, X-ray machine (200MM), ambulances (air-conditioned), ultrasound machinery and other equipment. Provincial Minister for Social Welfare Shaheen Attiqur Rahman inaugurated the MGR gynae centre last month. It will be constructed within a few months and provide free treatment to women and children.

MGR chairman Syed Farooq Shah told Dawn that the centre would be constructed at a cost of Rs7 million. He said MGR was a registered charity in the United Kingdom which stood for all the helpless and needy people around the globe.

He said MGR had initiated a project for the rehabilitation of drug addicts and a hospital would be constructed at Thokar Niaz Beg at a cost of Rs200 million.

Federal Minister for Law and Justice Dr Khalid Ranjha has set up a hospital in his native village near Chak 83-NB and allocated his entire land for the trust hospital named after his father, Haji Sardar Khan Ranjha. Seasonal eye camps are being arranged regularly in the hospital where eminent surgeons from all over the country operate upon the poor people.

This time during a camp, Dr. Ranjha announced the setting up of a model hospital and an industrialist, Muhammad Ali, promised to contribute over Rs5 million for its construction. He floated a suggestion that the area people should patronize this project, and that one family should take the burden of one patient and contribute Rs500 a year to the hospital. He said nothing would be charged from the poor. The well-to-do should not deprive the needy of their legitimate right.

Tehsil Nazim Rana Munawwar Ghaus, announcing a Rs0.1 million grant from the district Nazim, assured that he would provide expenses of five patients. PMA secretary Dr Sikandar Warraich and former PMA secretary Dr Zulfikar Bhatti assured that they would also attend this trust hospital once a week to provide proper treatment to the poor.

A Khwaja Ghulam Farid anniversary

IT IS becoming a wonder in the city: literary functions starting on time! Unbelievable. Till now I only gave credit to Muzaffar Ghaffar for starting his Lahore Arts Forum functions on time but now the local chapter of the Pakistan Academy of Letters seems to have caught the infection. Its last function about Faiz which I attended started bang on time and now it was the 101st urs celebrations of Khwaja Ghulam Farid arranged by the PAL which started exactly on time. However, credit for this goes to Imrana Parveen Baloch and Mahmood Gilani who were to speak on the occasion, and Musarrat Kalanchvie who had to preside, for not keeping Kazy Javed waiting.

In her lengthy discourse, Imrana Parveen spoke mostly about the life of Khwaja Sahib and his knowledge of various languages. Mahmood Gilani was of the view that Khwaja Farid was committed to a cause and transcended metaphysical heights. However, what I feel is that it was by his love of his motherland that Khwaja Sahib converted the barren and sandy desert of Cholistan into a heaven on earth through his poetry.

His use of simile, in particular, is noteworthy. He did not crave for cups of wine or the moon and the stars but regarding the desert as his paradise he describes the small ‘pilu’ with intense love.

The concept of Wahdatal Wajood in Khwaja Farid’s poetry is another thing which draw the reader’s attention. This concept, so far as my understanding goes, signifies that Reality is one and the physical world is the outward manifestation of the Real with love as the centrepiece of unity. Even in the use of similes Khwaja Farid is different from other poets of the same class. He regards beauty as a mirror from which rays are reflected which lead to God. The central idea of every kafi of Khwaja Farid is one, and that is love.

Khwaja Farid was also a connoisseur of music and his home was a haven for leading musicians. A believer in the philosophy of Wahdatal Wajood, he believed that music was a significant means of achieving divine unity.

It must be remembered that Baba Farid Shakarganj was the first major sufi poet who laid the foundations of a melodic facility based on the spoken idiom. This was further honed by Shah Husain. But what distinguishes Khwaja Sahib’s lyricism is his supreme sense of rhythm. His tone and imagery is different from the poets who have been under the influence of Persian poetry.

The function was well attended.

* * * * * * *

A DAY earlier last week Ashfaq Ahmad was invited by the Lahore Arts Forum to deliver a talk in the auditorium of the Model Town Library. The topic given to him was character building in fiction. Introducing the speaker, Muzaffar Ghaffar said that asking an author of 22 books and numerous plays to speak on the topic appeared rather odd. (I don’t know what was odd about it).

Anyway, Ashfaq forthwith came up with a lecture in his typical style. Referring straightaway to the teachings of some Babaji he said one should not try to outwit another person and even stop putting forward an argument if it is likely to render the other person speechless. Then he went on to quote his mother, which he has done so often, who advised him to speak the truth always but only about himself, not the others, as it could hurt them.

Coming to the topic the speaker said that a story could be complete without characters. I would prefer to say that a story, or a novel, I mean a good one, is built around characters. Ashfaq also had a word of advice for the writers. He said: “If you portray a character as one who is bold and fearless, you do not have to portray him as such till the end of the story as even a bold person can take fright at times. What he actually meant was that a character should be depicted as someone who has life in him. He was not quite happy with the writers who round up a story by showing an evil person becoming pious in the end. He said the character should act according to the spirit of the story.

As is typical about Ashfaq’s talks, he speaks less on the topic and devotes more time to parables and jokes. It was the same this time, — rapes karokari, experiences during his stay in Italy, and so on. But then he is interesting to listen to and people throng to his lectures. More and more people kept entering the hall that evening during his talk and stayed on till the end. After the talk, Ashfaq was flooded with questions, both relevant and irrelevant. But he is an expert at repartee and handled all questions well.

* * * * * * *

I HAVE been very close to Dr Waheed Qureshi, almost on family terms, but such are the vicissitudes of life that they throw people apart. It is not only well over a year that we have met but I was also not able to visit him even when he was hospitalized. Health has been a problem on both sides. I had my own reason for not being able to move around freely and Dr Waheed Qureshi suffered a double fracture of the leg by slipping on the floor of his new house and remained in hospital for a long time.

He is now back home and I managed to speak to him over the phone. He is still bed-ridden. Asthma, his old problem, has aggravated. Besides, his blood pressure keeps shooting up. The only improvement in his condition is that he can stand on his two feet for a while and take a few steps, of course with help. Yet he did not sound very sullen while talking to me. Besides his eminence in the field of literature and education, it is not much known that Dr Waheed Qureshi is also an excellent photographer and a poet. That evening he rounded off his conversation with me by reciting a fresh verse of his. He was probably referring to those who visit him and sit all the while with a grim face. Said Dr Qureshi:

Dostoan ke udas chehroan mein

Apna chehra dikhaee deta heh.

— Ashfaque Naqvi

Airing public hearings on TV

THE National Energy and Power Regulatory Authority has apparently “reserved” its decision on the KESC’s request to raise its tariff by 16 per cent. This happened after a public hearing lasting several days was held in Islamabad by the Nepra in which representatives of various stakeholders took part.

Going by what was reported in the newspapers, quite a few interesting things came to light. One of them was the contention by a military official representing General Headquarters who told Nepra that Pakistan Army was one of KESC’s largest consumers and completely against the proposed tariff hike. In fact, he went on to say that the army was very much capable of generating its own electricity and that it had done a feasibility study of this and that if given the permission it could do so at a considerably cheaper rate than the KESC’s.

An association representing consumers said that it was unfair that the KESC be allowed to raise its tariffs just because it was going into loss. Why should the consumers have to pay for the KESC’s inefficiency or for its inability, or unwillingness, to catch those who stole electricity, they rightly asked. In any case, they said, the way to improve the financial condition of the corporation was not by constantly letting it increase its tariffs but by forcing it to reduce costs and becoming more efficient. One wonders why the Nepra does not tell the corporation this. And that goes to the root of the problem which is: how independent really are the so-called independent regulators like the Nepra or the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority.

The latter has shown by its actions, since its creation by an act of parliament, to be quite a defender of the PTCL and not so much a protector of the interests of the consumers. Even the newly-formed PEMRA (the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority), in its first formal action, decided to needlessly crack down on cable operators, arresting many in the process, without a care that such an action would cause inconvenience to hundreds of thousands of cable viewers. The PTA, for example, is supposed to regulate Internet service providers but we know how good a job it actually does since ample proof of its inefficiency can be found in the dead-slow browsing speed of even some of the top ISPs (who meanwhile continuously claim in slick ads that they have amazing download speeds).

Coming back to the Nepra public hearing, the Privatization Commission was the only organization, other than the KESC of course, to argue in favour of the tariff increase, but then again we consumers should know by now where the interests of the Privatization Commission lie (in satisfying rich would-be investors and buyers and not the millions of Pakistani power consumers). Even the Planning Commission and the Sindh government opposed the KESC proposal saying that it would unnecessarily burden already burdened consumers and that approving it would basically reward the KESC’s inefficiency and mismanagement.

Perhaps, in their fervour to make PTV news more competitive and credible, the bosses at the information ministry (and this is addressed to the information minister himself) would be doing all of us a great service if they at least broadcast live all such public hearings in future, whether the Nepra or the PTA holds them. I know one reservation that is naturally to be expected would be, “oh what would ordinary people make of all the technicalities discussed at such hearings?” Well, let’s leave the comprehension of such matters to these ordinary people, because they have more brains than most educated and affluent people give them credit for. In the past, the broadcast of Question Hour at the Senate and the National Assembly was a good step, even though a recording was aired. In America, a whole channel — C-SPAN — is devoted to the live coverage of Congress and the US Senate and the hearings of their various sub-committees. The present government says that fighting corruption, greater accountability and better governance are some of its key objectives. Well, broadcasting public hearings like the one held by the Nepra would be a first step towards making government functionaries and agencies of the state more accountable to the people. — OMAR R. QURAISHI


Treaties in Islam

It would be cynical to suggest that treaties between nations are signed to conceal factors that would in future permit their violation and ultimately justify their abrogation. Worded dubiously by crafty lawmen after prolonged hairsplitting and nitpicking sessions, treaties are seldom observed in letter and spirit with the same precision and thoroughness as went into their making. The terms so laboriously settled are meekly referred to by the aggrieved side like promises made under starry skies are reminded to former flames by jilted lovers. Treaties are also made to buy time, to keep the other party in a state of disalert while some plan is under process. History is replete with examples of all kinds and varieties of subterfuges, dissimulation and quite often, stark treachery. To be not wary of solemn protestations, the written ones particularly, would be like living in a bygone century when men honoured rash vows.

The subject of Jamshed A. Hamid’s book is not how to make or break treaties. Having served as the legal adviser and head of the legal and treaties division in the ministry of foreign affairs and represented Pakistan at international conferences and been part of various legal commissions, his objective is more undiplomatic. It is to educate the international community about the Islamic legal principles governing relations between states that come under the definition of Siyar. His close and frequent interaction with non-Muslim counterparts motivated him to present this study entitled Status of Treaties in Islam —- A comparison with Contemporary Practice. Jamshed maintains that this aspect of Islamic law is not only compatible with contemporary norms but in many ways much more advanced in its conceptual clarity and aims of conflict resolution.

Misunderstood as rigid and obsolete, the rules of Siyar are adaptable and responsive to any given situation in the present international dispensation. Status of Treaties in Islam presents the Islamic legal framework that governs relations between states and identifies the ethic of maintaining peace between nations on the basis of equality and fair play. Jamshed Hamid does not simply take up the argument to remove misunderstandings and allay fears. His assessment derived from his participation in international conferences is that the countries following the “common law” or the “civil law” have no idea that Islamic law norms also exist and that they should be taken into account while drafting international conventions in order to make them universally acceptable.

His thesis that Islamic principles governing interstate relations have the necessary flexibility to adapt to standards developed over centuries and answer to any situation arising in the present day world is based on the Islamic provisions relating to Ijtihad, which, according to Imam Shatibi, “is that utmost effort which is made to discover the divine commandment and apply the same over newer situations”. In its widest sense it means the use of human reason in the elaboration and explanation of the Shariat. Jamshed is keenly aware of the reality however. He notes that despite claims that the door of Ijtihad was open there was no effective movement towards revitalization of the Islamic legal system of Siyar. It remains the most neglected branch of Islamic jurisprudence, which, if we take the example of Pakistan, is mainly and chiefly focussed on crime and punishment, and that too in the morbid area of sex and theft. Jamshed confining himself to inter state relations does not touch this very intriguing and near total fixation of our clergy on the revival of corporeal punishment regime, practiced in the early period of Muslim rule, to the exclusion of all else that Islam prescribes for society.

The customary international law of treaties is based on the doctrine of “pacta sunt servenda” that codified in the Vienna Convention states that every treaty in force is binding upon the parties to it and must be performed by them in good faith. The emphasis is on “good faith”. In Islamic law the binding force comes from religious and moral sanctions. Centuries before “pacta sunt servenda” was codified in 1969, the Quran had prescribed it in the concept of ‘Aqd’. The Prophet (PBUH) had said that “Muslims shall be bound by the conditions which they make in the light of the Quranic injunctions to fulfil the covenant of Allah when ye have covenanted and break not your oaths after the asseveration of them, and after ye have made Allah surety over you” and to “keep the covenants” as of the “covenants it will be asked”. In clear lucid words Quran commands people not to abuse treaties and refrain from practising deception and intrigues. For the faithful the binding nature of these injunctions is beyond dispute.

The basic legal principle of the law of Siyar can be summarized as:

— Once a treaty is concluded the Muslims should not break their oaths if the other party does not commit a breach of the treaty provisions.

— Muslims must fulfil their part of the treaty till the end of the term.

— Only an actual breach of the treaty provisions and not merely its fear can be invoked to terminate the treaty.

The religious sanctions against violations of treaty obligations draw strength from the fact that in all covenants and treaties Allah is presumed to be the Surety. As such any breach of a treaty obligation is an unforgivable sin since it is also a renouncement of an obligation towards Allah. Further every Muslim will have to render account on the Day of Judgment about the fulfilment of his obligations under a treaty. The violators are promised a “shameful doom.”

Jamshed has presented a very concise account of how treaties were formulated and implemented in the days of the Prophet (pbuh). In the Pact of Madinah it was provided that “no one shall go against this agreement. Allah and Muhammad, the Apostle of Allah, will protect those who observe and guarantee this agreement.” This is ‘pacta sunt servenda’ in essence. In this context Jamshed has analysed in detail the making and working of the famous treaty of Hudiabiyah.

It is observed that the Quran lays down only the basic principles for the guidance of the Ummah. As such there is a vast scope for development of detailed rules within the ambit prescribed by those principles. The scope for Ijtihad is vast in matters lacking mandatory injunctions.

Jamshed pleads for accommodation of Islamic principles in treaties as Muslims now inhabit 56 independent states and a kind of resurgence of religious spirit in many of these states can be seen to be asserting in important areas of governance. There is no fundamental difference between the Islamic legal principles and the system of treaty law presently in vogue. Neither a change in this situation is likely since the aim of the Islamic system is commitment to peace, justice and brotherhood in international relations. But this adherence to human fraternity concept is not acceptable to powers that control the world today. Their philosophy is hegemony and through it exploitation. They do not accept independent behaviour from any quarter. Chali hae rasm keh koi na sar utha ke chalay, as Faiz said.

Treaties have an inviolable corner in the legal culture of Islam. But the problem arises when this culture is brazenly flouted by the custodians of the so-called civilized world, as in Palestine where peace is being dictated to a captive population through forceful occupation of its ancestral land. Since the world community has accepted this behaviour as unobjectionable, what is needed is not accommodation of the Islamic law of Siyar that Jamshed wants, but a new codification of “pacta sunt servenda” in the existing Vienna Conventions.