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DAWN - Letters; December 9, 2002

December 09, 2002


Temple politics in India

THIS is with reference to the article by Ghayoor Ahmad about the Babri mosque (Dec 2). Since the mosque’s demolition and the controversy about its origins, new myths are created, and the net result is that Muslims are being killed. We hardly bother about the killing of Muslims and instead try to score points against India.

While Muslims had already stopped praying in the mosque, Hindu fanatics, with the connivance of deputy commissioner K. K. Nayer, put idols in its compound. Later on, the mosque was sealed.

It was Hindu nationalist Sardar Patel, and not Nehru, who wrote to Pandit Pant to settle the dispute amicably. No doubt it was Rajiv Gandhi’s opportunistic policy which resulted in removing the locks at the gate of the mosque, but the problem had started earlier, when he had amended the constitution after the Supreme Court judgment in the Shah Bano case to the satisfaction of the Muslims.

This amendment did not help anybody but increased communal tension. The Muslim intelligentsia was not happy with the amendment while the Hindu fanatics exploited it. A secular Muslim minister resigned from the Rajiv cabinet.

The Digambar Akhara in Gujarat is a compound where Ram Chandra Paramhans presides over meetings of his militant Sadhu sect. Ram Chandra directed the demolition of the Babri mosque and now heads the trust which will look after the construction of the Ram temple.

He says that his Sadhu sect is 400 years old and came into being to recover the temples which were converted into mosques by Muslim invaders.

The real story is different. The sect was started not to fight Muslims but Shiva worshippers. Ram is one of the many incarnations of Vishnu, one of the gods in the Hindu trinity in which Shiva is the most important. Shiva’s temples were all over Ayodhya. Temples devoted to Ram emerged only in the 18th century under the patronage of the Shia rulers of Oudh. The mosque, which is called Babri mosque, was in fact a Shia mosque, built by a Shia general, Baqi.

Ram Chandra Paramhans is more than 90 years old and he is in a great hurry. His impatience is understandable: offerings at the proposed Ram temple are likely to run into millions of dollars.

The Sadhus are jealous of him. There was an attack on him for which he blames Pakistan’s ISI.



New work ethos needed

‘IF wishes were horses, beggars would ride.’ So runs a telling proverb. Doubtlessly, those who only live in the past never learn from the lessons it seeks to teach and those who only live in the present without putting their shoulder to the wheel will fit this adage admirably. Indeed, it sends a clear signal to the nations lost in time.

Our chequered history undeniably suggests that our stewards have hardly taken notice of this amber light. The ungainly manoeuvrings witnessed in the weeks following the general election to cobble a government echoingly speak for themselves. The cues the electorate get even today are hardly promising in terms of serving the national interest.

Whoever still has the nerve to construct an all- optimistic scenario of things waiting round the corner must be sanguine, or else the gathering turbulence on the horizon has escaped him. Indeed, to the more perspicacious, it would be a service to call a spade a spade for it might yet spur us to change our attitudes before the complexity and rapidity of global change swallow us up. No less, the time also has come to move from the outmoded fissiparous centrifugal mode to a centripetal cohesive mould through inculcating in ourselves a practising sense of national comradeship.

My study of successful corporate leadership suggests a promising course. It is the one adopted by a newly-appointed CEO to pull a giant multinational out of destructive inertia. He called for and personally led an innovative crusade to change what he called the ‘genetic-code’ of doing things in his company.

His catching slogan was to creatively dismantle the existing fallow, if not counter-productive, work culture and put in its place an ethos consonant with modern concepts of performance-driven management which, concurrently, created conditions for the development of committed ‘transformational leader-managers’.

The problem of this CEO recedes into minuscule insignificance when juxtaposed to our own anachronistic ways and traditions of governing ourselves. Doubtlessly, negotiating the suggested course would be that much more daunting. But there is no short-cut.



Units of defence production

Whenever I pass through Taxila, where the Pakistan Ordnance Factory (POF) complex is located, I am reminded of the problem of the security of our defence production units. I suppose their concentrated location in the iron trapezium — Chaklala, Kahuta, Nilore, Havelian, Kamra, Sanjwal Chaklala — is mainly due to infrastructural convenience.

When we look at the Indian facilities, its vastness notwithstanding, we find that the Indians have very wisely located their defence production outfits at widely-scattered sites. For example, Avadi, where their tanks are refurbished or built, is located in the south, the Mazagoan Shipyard is much farther away, while the defence production units related to chemical weapons is far up north in Gwalior. Obviously, these targets are out of a single aerial or missile attack.

On the contrary, the POF’s 14 factories and other sensitive production units, like HIT and depleted uranium production, are located so near to each other that they present a coveted single target from both the air and the ground.

Only a few years ago, at the fag-end of the Soviet-Afghan War, a wayward Soviet Scud-B had landed at our Chinese-gifted explosives factory and caused a considerable rattle in the government circles. The missile was, perhaps, targeted at the POF, Wah, but had landed near Havelian.

I feel that the National Assembly should take up this problem as soon as they have the time for it.



‘In search of truth’

This is with reference to Roedad Khan’s article, ‘In search of truth’ (Nov 24). I do not have words to express my anger, indignation and frustration over the whole issue of Mir Aimal Kasi’s ‘abduction’ and execution.

I agree with Mr Khan that all self-respecting Pakistanis should hang their heads in shame for the role that our executive authorities played in this sordid and tragic drama.

It is true that we need to be on good terms with the US to survive in the post-9/11 scenario, but we should not compromise our national pride, integrity and sovereignty for this purpose.

Our government could have insisted on having Kasi’s trial in the International Court of Justice, but it just disowned him as if he had no rights as a Pakistani citizen.

As a patriotic young Pakistani, I have dreams and ambitions of working for the prosperity of my country and seeing its status rise in the world community, but it seems I am fighting for a lost cause.

Also, as a Muslim, it frustrates me to see that freedom-fighters in Kashmir and Palestine are termed ‘terrorists’ but the Indian and Israeli governments can go on committing barbarous crimes against Muslims without any fingers being pointed towards them.

I can understand the sane and educated Muslims’ desperation which drives them to resort to what the West terms ‘terrorism’.

I can only hope that someday we will find truth and justice, but what distresses me is the question as to how many more Muslim youths would have become victims of this injustice till then.



MMA and co-education

THIS is with reference to the letters by Lubna Hajj (Nov 28) and Dr Farhana Masud (Nov 21) on “MMA and co-education”.

Historically, all the semitic religions preceding Islam have differentiated between the domains of men and women.

Jewish women covered themselves 2,000 years before the advent of Islam. All men of spiritual wisdom believe that scriptural differentiation between men and women presupposes families as building blocks of society. And these should remain chaste if society is to be pure.

Dr Sigmund Freud holds the opinion that if totally strange men and women are allowed to come very close without any inhibitions and restrictions, they are bound to be enticed away to actions having baneful effects on community life.

Even today, complaints are often made in Pakistan by the working women about the advances made by male colleagues or bosses at their places of work. Fortunately, it is not as common here as it is in other countries where restrictions do not exist.




I READ with interest a news item about the priorities of the newly-elected NWFP chief minister, Akram Durrani. It would have been refreshing to hear what his plans are to promote business, create job opportunities, improve the standard of education and reduce poverty.

Instead, his goals are to ban music and VCR and to take the poor to the dark ages.

But what else can be expected when clerics are made to run the government?


Sugar Land, USA

Library development

THIS refers to Zubeida Mustafa’s article, ‘Where are our libraries?’ (Nov 27). It is heartening to see that, in our country, there are people who realize the need of libraries for our present and future generations.

A citizens’ body is engaged in the work concerning library development. The Society for the Promotion and Improvement of Libraries (SPIL) has arranged several conferences, seminars and school library workshops in this regard. It has also urged the authorities to improve libraries in academic institutions, specially at the school level.

The SPIL has presented a plan for library development in Pakistan. A proposal to develop a network of public libraries in Karachi has been presented to the city Nazim.

In a democratic society well-informed and educated people are the only hope to lead the country to progress. Now we have elected representatives. May Allah bless them with insight and wisdom to work for the development of libraries in the country.

In order to achieve this objective, the utmost need is to enact a library legislation in the country. As Ms Mustafa has pointed out, in India 11 states have already enforced library legislation and their libraries are prospering. Without legal support proper library development could not be achieved.

In the fourth five-year plan, it was announced that 50,000 people-oriented libraries will be established in the country. A handsome amount was also announced for libraries. Some libraries were established at union councils.

After the change of the government all these libraries disappeared. The actual need is to develop a national library system under library legislation.


Secretary, SPIL,


Artists and political subjects

THIS refers to M. M. Alam’s letter, ‘Exploiting art for political gains’ (Nov 30).

It seems the writer has little knowledge of art, possibly acquired through some stray reading of periodicals, but has enough misleading material on religion; hence his admiration for the Taliban and their exalted treatment of women and fine arts.

He abhors artists depicting political subjects, ignoring the role of preachers and their exploitation of religion in politics. Unlike mullas and their misuse of religion, no artist/group has ever “exploited art for political gains”, as alleged.

From Greek sculptures to Goya’s depiction of war in a series of etchings and paintings, art history is full of political statements, enlightening the masses through aesthetic expressions.

Picasso’s Guernica, regarded as the most monumental work of social and political expression in our time that inspired generation of artists, exposed treachery of a fascist regime and showed brutal killing of innocent men, women and children by a military dictator.

Outstanding works of Mexican painters, Riviera, Orozco and Siqueiros, depicted themes like poverty-stricken peasants under the yoke of authoritarian rulers. Their work caused revolution in Latin America. Guitarist Victor Jara, through his music, stirred the masses to protest against tyrants and their unjust rule, while Bertolt Brecht endeavoured to do the same through his writings.

This piece has been written for art students, in general, and “teen-aged girls”, in particular, whom Mr Alam considers misguided by “a Westernized woman of Pakistani origin who delivered a lecture at CIAC Art Council” and not to correct Mr Alam for his misplaced religious virtuosity, vis-a-vis his understanding of arts.



Detention of suspects

RECENTLY, Gen Pervez Musharraf made an amendment to the Anti-Terrorism Act, authorizing the law-enforcement agencies to detain a person for as long as a year on the mere ground of suspicion of involvement in terrorism.

Last year, the government of India introduced a law by the name of Prevention of Anti-terrorism Acts (Pota) in which such measures were also adopted. Pota was vehemently opposed by the human rights campaigners all over the world.

Pakistan was in the forefront of opposition to Pota, calling it harsh, draconian and meant to suppress political opponents and freedom-fighters. Now what has been introduced in Pakistan is a carbon copy of the same law that was strongly opposed by the general and his team.

Keeping in view the peculiar circumstances in the two countries, how can the government claim that what is bad for the people of India will be beneficial for the people of Pakistan?

As a member of the lawyers’ community and a human rights activist, I appeal to the members of parliament to scrap this draconian law.



Unemployed IT certificate holders

THE predicament of jobless certified IT professionals in Pakistan is pathetic, to say the least.

Pakistan was not left behind in the boom that seized the world during 1999-2001. A large number of authorized testing centres were set up in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad. These centres charged hefty fees for this certification. But the sad part of the story is that some of these centres took this as a golden opportunity to mint money by allowing all kinds of cheating during their tests.

At the same time, the ministry of science and technology, COMSATS, the skill development council and other groups were merrily training in Java thousands of candidates who were never to see a job come their way.

It was the duty of the authorities that were spearheading the IT hype to keep a track of what was happening.

At present, most of the testing centres have closed down and scores of professionals are just running hither and thither for a job.

Many of them, armed with their certificates, also landed in the US and Canada, but soon they were found to be lacking in the necessary skills and had to be deported back, bringing a bad name to the country and a loss of trust in the international IT job market.

After wasting millions of rupees on glamourized IT training courses for which no jobs ever existed, there has been a complete loss of interest in the IT sector on the part of both students and employers.

It is hoped that the new minister for science and technology would look into this affair and try to salvage whatever can be rescued.



In defence of Stalin

MAHIR Ali’s article, ‘Judging Josef and the jesters’ (Nov 6), has sparked a debate on Joseph Stalin. Mr Ali was unduly unkind to Stalin. Trotsky sealed his own doom for his “far-reaching confidence” and erratic policies.

Raza Mirza wrote in defence of Stalin (Nov 11) by recounting great achievements made by the USSR under Stalin. Then Duishon Uulu, a native of Kyrgyzstan, gave a fair account of the former USSR (Nov 20) and remarked that old people still remembered Stalin. Being from a younger generation he thought Stalin did not deserve a defence.

And now Tariq Sharif from some place in the USA has condemned Stalin for atrocities committed against his own people. He has not given any facts, nor has he given any source of his information. For what I know when I was in the USA in mid-1950s original books on the Soviet Union and its leaders had been banned, though colour-bar and segregation was order of the day.

To pass judgment in a perfunctory manner on a leader who defended his country and an emerging egalitarian system against the most devastating Nazi aggression is no service to poor humanity or world peace. One has to have some measures of judging the brutal experience of living under Nazi siege like that in Leningrad lasting over two years where more than half of its population was decimated. Under the Nazi aggression, about 20 million people died in the Soviet Union.

However, after defeating the Nazi armies, the Soviet Union under Stalin not only made good all those losses but rebuilt the country to become the second biggest industrial power of the world in a matter of less than a decade in Stalin’s lifetime.

Apart from the Nazi armies, two other greatest adversaries of the Soviet Union, i.e. harsh winter weather and long distances, were also conquered. Housing, education, medical aid were provided free to all citizens. Electricity, heating, water, telephone were also provided free. Cost of transportation, including air travel was negligible. Unfortunately, after the death of Stalin the misguided policies of ultramilitarization charted by Khrushchev and Brezhnev and interference in the matters of other states caused the downfall of the USSR.

Stalin was the greatest advocate of peaceful co-existence. He was hailed as the sun of the whole universe by the people of the Soviet Union. He was banished and sent to Siberia six times by the Czars for his revolutionary activities.

How could Stalin be cruel to his own people? Almost all great revolutionaries and strategists of the 20th century believe that Trotsky with his fickle mind and erratic behaviour could never have been able to repulse the Nazi aggression and reconstruct the Soviet Union like Stalin did.

Cultural advancement in the Soviet Union in a short span of Stalin era (after war) was breathtaking. One-time seeing is better than 100 times reading or listening. Let us ask those old folks who had a chance to see the Bolshoi theatre in Moscow or even Ali Novai theatre in Tashkent.



Victory at the ITU

Asian countries like India, Pakistan, Malaysia, Singapore, Korea after Japan and China, are vying with each other in promoting ICT channels with special emphasis on telecommunication as key determinant to revamp the pace of social, economic, commercial and corporate progress.

The market boom of computer and computer-based technology and services internet system, mobile phone, wire-line and wire-less transmissions, universal access, satellite communication, dish antenna, cable TV and, now the wonderful operation of ‘virtual universities’ is really something worth watching.

The 16th Plenipotentiary Conference of the 189-member International Telecommunication Union (ITU) — usually termed as PP-02, concluded at Morocco on October 18, 2002. During this meeting, Pakistan was elected to ITU Council by a thumping majority of 116 votes out of 147 members attending the contest. Pakistan’s victory has, vindicated the country’s determination to follow up the ITU principles.

One hopes that the event will cast positive impact on our telecom sector because the ITU operates like a central forum where experts from the member countries offer valuable assistance and cooperation to the poor and less-developed members of the Union. The development would prove a dew-drop to the PTA strategy for deregulation especially at a moment it has already projected the country’s telecom Industry as one of the most lucrative and potential fields to foreign investment.

With the growing pace of ICT, computer training, degree courses at the college/university levels and telecom service marketing throughout Pakistan, we are being recognized as an IT market fully competent not only to face the challenges being mounted up by our regional rivals, but also capable to feed the consumer market with the latest variety of telecom equipment, apparatus and services. Currently, there are about 71,000 engineers (including IT and Telecom) registered with different institutes in Pakistan. Out of them a lot of 10—15,000 are working abroad. Pakistan’s entry to the union will open new vistas for our engineer’s high-grade training abroad. After availing of such facilities, our engineers will be more comfortable to get international registration to meet the pressing demand of the WTO. Currently, some 1000 engineers have been registered for such training.

Another valuable contribution the PP-02 can render to the advantage of member states is that the ITU strategy can help improve rural telecommunication in the less developed areas of the member countries. It is generally presumed that the per capita use of telecom services in rural areas including Pakistan (where it is now being raised to 5 per cent) is far below the rate usually prevalent in urban areas.

New and renovated approach as per ITU requirements can also bring the deprived regions under priority focus. IT giants like Mobilink, Intel, Hitachi Maxell, Nortel, Siemens, Instaphone etc. are already operating in our market and they have doubtlessly brought the market to a bonanza of telecom facilities. Pakistan has been put on the fast track to progress and prosperity and the time does not seen so far off when the deserted areas of Pakistan will present the impression of a “Disney” across the land.

Sher Mohammed Akhtar