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DAWN - Letters; February 4, 2003

February 04, 2003


Jamali’s advice to MMA

ALTHOUGH Jinnah and Iqbal had referred to Islam as a progressive, democratic and dynamic force on a number of occasions, does it mean that their vision resembled the conservative and static view of Islam held by the mullahs (as Iqbal himself called them)?

Dr Javed Iqbal recently stated that his father never intended to have a state dominated by the ulema “with their savage recipe”. In this backdrop the prime minister’s advice to the MMA has provoked an emotive debate over the role of religion in politics.

It is ironic enough that those who opposed the creation of Pakistan on religious grounds have been at pains, on the very same ground, to ‘prove’ that Pakistan was achieved to enforce their version of Islam.

After the death of the Father of the Nation, the leadership of the Pakistan Muslim League, because of its own weaknesses, gave way to religious parties. It was a political bargain, not a meeting of the minds, between the religious and the political elite. This opened the door for doctoring history with the collaboration of the state apparatus.

Since the Objectives Resolution 1949, the rightist conservative groups have incrementally gained disproportionate leverage through manoeuvres in the name of Islam and the ideology of Pakistan. Zia years saw the culmination of the coalition between religious elements and the establishment. No post-Zia regime could dare reverse the process.

However, the aftermath of 9/11 has brought to us our moment of truth to make a fateful choice: whether we follow an enlightened and progressive course as per the vision of Jinnah and Iqbal, or take on a retrogressive way leading to self-destruction. Had we taken a wise course, we would have not been exposed to humiliating questions of the Americans: whether you are with us or against us? This situation was the direct fallout of our obsession with the romantic notions related to our identity, ideology and role in the world.

What is in store for us after Iraq? We are being ‘reminded’ of our ‘unfulfilled pledges’ by the US State Department. As a self-respecting nation, we should not have to be told by others about ‘the right path’. However, I am afraid we might be forced yet again to ‘rediscover’ Jinnah’s progressive and liberal vision — as a refuge.

Let us decide whether we want ‘Talibanism’ or the vision of our founding fathers. It’s better to come out with clear conscience than being perceived as taking a U-turn under external pressure. Let us put our own house in order before it is too late.


Toba Tek Singh

Prof Annemarie Schimmel

THE famous orientalist, Dr Annemarie Schimmel (1922-2003), was known for her friendship with Islam and Pakistan. She developed an interest in religion at the tender age of 15 and kept visiting this country since 1958.

Prof Schimmel was the most renowned and esteemed German scholar in the intellectual arena. At home she was given the Peace Prize of the German book trade, which is the most prestigious award for writers in the country, while here in Pakistan she was awarded the coveted awards of Hilal-i-Imtiaz, Sitara-i-Imtiaz and the International Presidential Iqbal Award. Besides naming a road after her, the government of Pakistan has also established the Annemarie Schimmel Scholarship to enable young Pakistanis to pursue studies in Europe.

I had the honour to listen to her lecture in 1996 at the Goethe Institute in Lahore. It was really amazing to hear her speaking her mind with eyes closed. Psychologically, it was a difficult relationship between the speaker and the audience, as obviously she used to disconnect her contacts with the audience — no eye-to-eye contact. It seemed as if she connected herself with a divine power and got her thoughts from it. As it is a common practice here in this society to ask someone’s faith, after the lecture, someone asked her if she had embraced Islam? After a scholarly lecture it was indeed a very difficult question, but she said neither ‘yes’ nor ‘no’. Thus, she handled the situation very successfully.

Today, though she is not in this material world of ours, she will be remembered for bridging the gap between the Christian and the Islamic faiths, furthering mutual understanding between the followers of the two religions and cultivating the seeds of tolerance.

After the tragic events of 9/11, cracks are felt in the traditional relationship of civilizations: specially between the Islamic and the Christian worlds. In such a situation we need liberal scholars like Prof Schimmel both in the East and in the West to bridge the gaps.

It is the need of the time because our religion says that we, the people of this small planet, are members of the same family that God has created. Therefore, we need tolerance and a complete understanding of each other for co-existence in this surging global village. Furthermore, we need such scholars who preach love and peace, and not hatred.



Pakistan squad & World Cup

IN spite of Pakistan team’s poor performance against Australia and South Africa, it is still one of the hot favourites in the forthcoming World Cup.

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has taken a prudent step by including Saeed Anwar, Azhar Mahmood and Shahid Afridi. Although it is hard for the players to acclimatize to the environment of South Africa, they can give their best performance under any condition.

Owing to unknown reasons, Saeed Anwar remained absent from the international cricket scenario for a couple of months. His re-induction is a good omen for the team as well as for the Pakistani supporters. He can change things in favour of his team at any moment, although his record is not so good against South Africa and Australia. Considering his vast experience on the bouncy wickets of South Africa, we can say that he can play a crucial role in the World Cup for Pakistan.

Pakistan’s strength lies in its bowling attack. The duo of Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis can get the reverse swing going and produce genuine bounce from the fast wickets of South Africa at any juncture. Besides, the bowling performance of Azhar Mahmood, Abdul Razzaq, Saqlain Mustaque and Shoaib Akhtar is not far behind that of Wasim and Waqar by any standards.

Although the Pakistani batting order is strong, it still demands more concentration and consistency by middle order batsmen. Inzamam-ul-Haq, Yonus Khan and Yousuf Youhana seem to be in form, but they need long innings to restore their confidence. There ought to be no excuse for senior players as the team heavily relies on them.

The situation of fielding is alarming. Currently, it is the main issue for the team to tackle. It was predicted that the induction of new players would automatically ameliorate the situation. That unfortunately does not seem to be in the right direction. The PCB has to think seriously to overcome this deficiency. While doing so, the PCB has to take into consideration not only the World Cup, but also the benefits of fielding in the long run.

It is imperative to establish cricket academies at the grassroots level, which can help chisel raw abilities of young players.


London, UK

What is more vulgar?

IN your editorial of Jan 30, you have rightly advised the NWFP government not to make the life of poor eunuchs more miserable just because music is considered to be obscene and vulgar.

I do not want to get involved in the debate if music is obscene and vulgar, but I would certainly like to know what is more vulgar and obscene: snatching one’s livelihood or music? Poverty (more than 50 per cent) or music? Illiteracy (more than 70 per cent) or music? Killing one another (Bugtis and Mazaris) in tribal feuds or music? Honour killings or music? Infant mortality rate (more than 20 per cent) or music?

In Mansehra when video and CD shops were being forcibly closed down, many protested against it, saying that the livelihood of about 10,000 people would be effected. They demanded alternative means of survival. That was a very legitimate demand.

The government should set its priorities right. It should first tackle major issues affecting large segments of population. There is a natural tendency to tackle minor problems, solve them easily and then live happily ever after. Let the politicians demonstrate how major problems like poverty, illiteracy, health care, housing, etc. can be solved. They can then rightly live happily ever after.



Where is our saviour?

WHILE going through a well-researched report, ‘Why are the tribal chiefs at daggers drawn?’ (Jan 27), on the gas pipeline crisis, I was reminded of the all-time saviour of my country.

It has been a normal practice of our successive governments to call the army in emergency situations such as a law and order situation, floods, earthquakes, during Moharram and elections, etc. Besides, this institution has also taken over power (without any request by the nation) many a time to resolve a crisis, and assumed the role of a saviour.

I cannot understand why in a warlike situation like this where RPGS and missiles are in common use in addition to the artillery the army has not yet been called.



Chief Justice

ACCORDING to one of your reports on judges extension (Jan 5), the Chief Justice of Pakistan is to retire on March 8.

There is still time for him and his colleagues to ponder and denounce this requital thrown to them by trespassing on parliament’s exclusive domain. The nation expects them to rise to the occasion and rid the country of its worst constitutional crisis.



356 per cent profit?

AS announced in the Business News on Jan 27 after ‘khabarnama’ on PTV, a multinational oil company has declared an increase of 356 per cent in its profit against the same period last year. This profit has enabled it now to declare a dividend of 95 per cent on its share, with a face value of Rs10 (but trading at Rs403 as of today).

The reason given by the management for this extraordinarily high profit was the encouraging policies of the government. How exciting for them! It needs to be investigated how much of such a heavy profit is due to the government policy of allowing oil companies themselves to decide changes in oil prices. How else are such exorbitant profits possible?

But what do the managers of the national economy have to say to the investors in the national savings schemes on which profit rates have been further slashed to a single-digit (around nine per cent) in the last three years, while showing magnanimity of an increase of only two per cent, and that, too, only for the benefit of the pensioners of federal, provincial, autonomous and semi-autonomous organizations? What about the retirees of the private sector and senior citizens who are rarely, if ever, entitled to pension?

There are instances that many retirees have been forced to invest in the speculation-infested environment of stock exchanges, and have lost heavy amounts. They also become victims of scam companies which rob gullible people; no doubt, sometimes greed being the reason for their being misled by crooks.

In the supposedly changed circumstances under the civilian government, let’s hope the newcomers will give a thought to the deserving people and not only increase the rates of return for a particular class of investors, but also allow those from the private sector and senior citizens to invest in the savings schemes.



Repeating history

IN a PTV World’s recent discussion programme, experts discussed as to how Iraq unleashed a war on Iran and another on Kuwait (without throwing light on the role of the US in these two wars), and how it used the weapons of mass destruction against its two neighbours. They were also of the opinion that the use of these weapons proved that Iraq possessed WMDs.

It was clearly an attempt at brainwashing the public and making it believe how evil Iraq is and how right America is. Also the experts also suggested why Pakistan or the Pakistanis should not criticize the US for taking on Iraq. There is indeed no dearth of publicity seekers in the country.

Why can’t we just say that Iraq is no threat to world peace and the US is not justified in doing what it has been doing for preparing itself for a war against Iraq whom it considers a threat to Israel?

We made this mistake in the case of Afghanistan and are paying heavily for it. We would be repeating the mistake if we sided with the US against Iraq.



INFO centre

THIS refers to the news item titled ‘INFO centre in capital’ (Jan 22). I think the vice-chancellor of the Punjab University should first concentrate on improving the working of the inquiry and info desk at the old campus of the university, Lahore, before establishing another one of the same kind in Islamabad.

The personnel performing their duty at the info desk at Lahore are not only unaware of most of the matters, but also they are indifferent and non-cooperative.



CM’s order

IT was delightful to learn through the news item titled ‘CM’s order’ (Jan 17) that the Lahore police chief had been asked to arrest the culprits involved in a robbery in the house of a former MNA, who happens to be the father-in-law of a deputy secretary posted at the Governor’s House.

The same issue of your daily also carried a news item about the snatching of Rs1.2 million by two gunmen from the wife of a former judge. This case, too, calls for the issuance of an order by the CM. The chief minister of Punjab is requested to see for himself the fate of similar orders issued in the past, at least in the last five years.

The Lahorites are yet to see the arrest of the killers of 13 people in Islampura. Their arrest was ordered by the Sharifs, simultaneously promoting the Lahore SSP to the post of DIG.

I failed to find any correlation between the orders of the arrest of murderers and the out-of-turn promotion of a police officer.



Quaid’s birthplace

THERE is no truth in the assertion that the Quaid-i-Azam was born in Jhirk, a town located at some distance from Thatta.

The first biography of the Quaid-i-Azam Jinnah the Creator of Pakistan by Hector Bolitho was published in 1954. The photograph of Wazir Mansion, Newnaham Road, Karachi, the birthplace of the Quaid is included in the book.

My Brother, a biography, written by his sister, Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah, and published by the Quaid-i-Azam Academy in 1987, mentions Karachi as his birthplace and the day when he was born was Sunday, Dec 25, 1876. Even Mr Jinnah’s passport gives the same particulars as given by his sister in her book.

Stanley Wolpert’s Jinnah of Pakistan, published by the Oxford University Press in 1989 and printed with the permission of the government of Pakistan, mentions the same place and the date of his birth.

Do we know better than the Quaid and his sister about the particulars of his life? Certainly not. Thus, this futile controversy must come to an end.



INS and US-Pakistan ties

GEN Musharraf has an overwhelming desire that the United States should consider Pakistan its sincere friend and have a “broad-based strategic vision”.

He expressed this desire while speaking at the inaugural session of the two-day symposium of National Defence College and the US National Defence Universities delegation, although traditionally all successive governments in Pakistan have been America’s ally like a poor man trying to be a friend with a rich man.

In such a relationship the poor man always sacrifices everything for his rich friend, never understanding that the rich man is, in fact, not his friend, but is only using him for his material interest and will even set aside all moral values for the sake of his material benefits.

Therefore, the government should understand that as long as Pakistan is a useful tool for the US, it will be used on payment for its services rendered to America.

Gen Musharraf should understand that by developing Pakistan economically and socially, its relationship with the US will then not be determined by event such as the 9-11 incidents.

Friendship between two countries depends on mutual trust and benefits. In the presence of a strong anti-Pakistan lobby in the Bush administration, Christian fundamentalists such as John Ashcroft and heavy weight Zionists in the US Congress who consider Pakistan a dangerous state, armed with nuclear weapons, the question is: how can Pakistan change the minds of those who matter in the Bush administration?




EVERY day we come across reports about the MMA leaders making explosive speeches on Iraq, Afghanistan and the INS registration in the US.

Saddam Hussein has been in power for over 30 years. His problem started when he invaded another Muslim country and killed many Muslims. It wasn’t the US or the UK but he who invaded Kuwait in 1991. How can we raise our voices in favour of Iraq, saying that the Iraqis are our Muslim brothers and they are under the cloud of a war?

Furthermore, Iraq never supported Pakistan in the last 54 years. It always sided with India which was its second largest trading partner. Why should we support Iraq and make more enemies? We should think in broader terms and do whatever is in the interest of Pakistan.

Our religious parties have always created problems for the country. They are only interested in grabbing power; hence this exploitation of Islam by them. Let’s take the example of Afghanistan which always opposed Pakistan until the Taliban came to power. What did the Taliban give us? Extremism, three million refugees, more debt and a gun and drug culture.

Now about the registration of Pakistani expatriates by the INS authorities. Why should we oppose this registration? Every day there are more anti-US processions and demonstrations in Pakistan than anywhere else in the world. We curse the Americans more than anyone else. There are more killings of foreigners in Pakistan in the name of religion than in any other country. We lost Bangladesh because of our follies. Now we are emotionally involved in Kashmir.

Our religious leaders have repeatedly said that in Islam a woman is not permitted to lead any nation. This is the height of ignorance and exploitation. If we do not change our attitude, we will be lagged behind India.


Calgary, Canada