DAWN - Letters; 06 June, 2004

June 06, 2004


'Enlightened moderation'

This refers to the article "Enlightened moderation" (Dawn, June 2) by President General Pervez Musharraf.

Hardly any reasonable mind will disagree that the thesis of 'enlightened moderation' advocated by General Musharraf is a sublime means to not only bridge the gulf between the West and the Muslims but also the embodiment of human morality and a complete code of social ethics. Islam embodies enlightenment and can transform the whole mankind into an organized system of world government.

If sectarianism, extremism and fundamentalism in the Islamic world are the logical corollaries of terrorism, then in no way can the West be exempted from the role it has actively played in promoting this terrorism. Its imperialist foreign policies towards Muslims have created much resentment and frustration.

A new cold war descended on the Islamic world in the 1990s. Its rules were clear. The United States would support Islamic despots - so long as they kept lid on political Islam. If any country dared to depart from the terms of this contract, it faced economic and military sanctions. And if these did not work, they would be followed by other devastating measures.

Iraq showed to the Islamic world the price to be paid for challenging this new contract. Similarly, Algeria stands as an example of what happens when the democratic process threatens to empower Islamists. An explanation of why the 'democratization' of the 1990s bypassed the Islamic world might be found in this new cold war.

Most western commentators think otherwise. They choose to blame Islam as obscurantist, anti-rationalist, fanatical, and misogynist. Their method is classic, i.e., damnation by accusation that Laden with consequences which threaten to spin out of control.

It has become fashionable in some circles after 9/11 to blame Islam as the source of all problems facing the Islamic world. It is time alienated Muslim intellectuals tore the Orientalist veil that obscures the face of Islam, and re-entered the historical currents they abandoned. This will help create a deeper understanding of the dynamics of contemporary Islamic societies.

The hypocritical advocates of the West too must give up the false notions of Islam as the irreconcilable 'other' that must forever be battled and besieged. If Islam is a greater threat to the West than India or China, that is because our actions, in large part, have succeeded in preventing it from reconstituting its centre, its wholeness and history.

More than a fifth of the world's population seeks its place in the world within a stream of history that flows from the holy Quran. They want to live by ethical ideals that in the past have produced nobility, magnanimity, sobriety, tolerance, science, mathematics, philosophy, architecture and poetry. Islam may do so again if only we lift the siege and allow the light, freshness and sweetness at its core to find expression again.



Discouraging smoking

It is encouraging that Pakistan has finally signed the International Tobacco Control Protocol (Dawn, May 21). Although a no-smoking law was promulgated more than two years ago, no effort has been made to enforce it. Even the decade-old ruling of the federal ombudsman's to ban cigarette advertisements in the print and electronic media has been ignored. The need, therefore, is to implement the existing laws.

The following should be done on high priority:

1. Advertisements: imposition of a complete ban on marketing of tobacco products through all forms of media, including billboards.

2. Ban smoking in enclosed areas: It must be made mandatory to display no-smoking signs prominently at all public places, especially offices, hospitals, banks and public transport. A complaint cell must also be set up at prominent places to check violations of this ban.

3. Increase in taxes: Taxes must be increased so that the price of even the cheapest pack of cigarettes is beyond the reach of the common man.

4. Restrict sale of cigarettes: Cigarette must not be sold to under-age smokers. Production of CNIC for the sale of cigarettes is the surest way of denying the sale of cigarettes to children.

5. Alternative crop: Reportedly, the production of tobacco in the country is more than twice its consumption. Like poppy growers, tobacco growers must be motivated to switch over to alternative cash crops. This will curtail the availability of cheap tobacco to the cigarette companies.

6. Anti-smoking campaigns: Medical associations and NGOs should launch anti-smoking campaigns through the media and educational institutions aimed at teenagers, students and young people in general. Not only should the dangers of smoking be highlighted, smoking must be shown in a bad light - a trait of drug addicts, criminals - so that the glamour portrayed by attractive TV commercials may be countered.

It is sad to note that although large no-smoking signs are present in the lounges of Karachi's Jinnah Terminal, the ban is openly flouted by passengers and airport employees alike. Smoking is also rampant in public transport, even inter-city air-conditioned coaches, in which non-smokers are exposed to the hazards of passive smoking.

It is hoped the government shall take appropriate measures to reduce the incidence of smoking in Pakistan.



'Time to stand up'

It is the voice of a lacerated heart. It is the voice of an ordinary citizen whose daily life is affected by criminal turmoil. People who are most affected by this routine killing are those who come from society's lower rungs. How does one exist when the administration is paralyzed, when life and property are unsafe? The police are clueless and interested only in head money, which sometimes the juniors share with their seniors.

What is left of governance? If the party in power is incapable of enforcing law and order, it must leave. The argument that it happens in most large cities does not cut ice. One doesn't know who is going to be the next target.

We talk of Muslims killing Muslims (the prime minister said bura hua), but what steps do we take? We talk of alleviating poverty, attracting capital, creating jobs - and we create insecurity. We talk with the barrel of a gun. Sixty-one lives were lost in four cases of violence in Karachi in the month of May. Upon the president's taking a serious view of the events in Karachi, a nervous statement that nothing should be done undemocratically in Sindh was issued from London.

To say that the government is interested in the welfare of the poor masses is a hoax. The bosses in Islamabad sit in ivory towers making decisions which they never implement. The home minister said everything would become normal. Unfortunately, there was no expression of remorse on the faces of the bigwigs while talking on PTV's news. But what about the ordinary citizen? Unless the government is seen to take action, law and order cannot improve. The police report from airconditioned rooms on the number of people that were killed. For them it's a game of numbers.

It is insane to think of peace. But in the whole scenario the poor man is at fault. He does not stand up and get counted. And as long as that remains, political parties will ride roughshod over the masses. Not only innocent lives have been lost and property damaged, the image of Pakistan has been badly tarnished. I know many companies whose French principals (partners) declined to visit Pakistan as soon as they learnt of the violence.



In the name of terrorism

The United Nations has not defined terrorism, but the United States has extensively destroyed and devastated Afghanistan on the basis of this undefined. The Bush administration and its allies have sent their troops to eliminate terrorism.

No solid proof has yet been provided by the US to substantiate the charge that Afghanistan's Taliban government had any link with 9/11. US President George Bush has not even revealed the findings of any inquiry to convince the just-minded people of the world and impartial institutions that the Muslims accused were in fact involved in these subversive acts.

But the western electronic and print media are continuously harping on these tune day and night. By exaggerating such claims, a UN Security Council resolution was passed to bring foreign troops into Afghanistan, to crush the Taliban-controlled regime.

The Taliban had no effective air power that could protect them from the allied powers' bombing raids and missile attacks. The US-led forces have killed, crippled and arrested hundreds of thousands of innocent people including women and children, by beating the drum of terrorism.

The main objective of the UN resolution - to end the Taliban regime - has been fulfilled since long. Then, why are the allied troops still in Afghanistan? Foreign troops should immediately leave the country. All construction and rehabilitation projects should be carried out and completed under UN auspices. The UN had not mandated that all the local people be killed before withdrawal of the foreign troops takes place.



Hepatitis B and C

Please refer to the news item "Doctors' advice" (Dawn, May 24) in which it has been mentioned that hepatitis B is transmitted through contaminated water. This is totally misleading and can confuse the readers.

Unfortunately, the rate of hepatitis B and hepatitis C in Pakistan is one of the highest in the world, though they can be prevented through health education in which the media can play an important role.

Newspapers like Dawn which enjoys the confidence of a great majority of people should be careful while publishing technical information.

There are several types of viral hepatitis, including A, E, B, C and O. Hepatitis A and E are transmitted through contaminated water and food and hepatitis B and C are transmitted through blood and body fluids.

Hepatitis A and E are usually self-limiting diseases and in a majority of cases do not cause serious complications. However, hepatitis B and C can cause serious complications including cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer.

Hepatitis A and E can be prevented by avoiding use of contaminated water and food products. While for prevention of hepatitis B and C one needs to avoid unnecessary injections. If necessary, disposable syringes should always be used and they should never be reused on other patients in any circumstances.

In case of blood transfusion, blood should always be screened for hepatitis B, hepatitis C, HIV/AIDS, syphilis and malaria before transfusion. Surgical instruments, including tools used by barbers and beauty parlours for hair cutting and nose and ear piercing, should be properly sterilized. Illegitimate/unsafe sex should be avoided.

The above precautions will not only prevent hepatitis B and hepatitis C but will also prevent HIV / AIDS which is transmitted in similar ways.

There is vaccine available for protection against hepatitis B but for hepatitis C and HIV/AIDS, there is still no vaccine available.


Enhanced HIV/AIDS Control Programme, Government of Sindh, Karachi

'A leaf from Israel's book'

This refers to the comment "A leaf from Israel's book" (June 1) by Mr Muhammad Ali Siddiqi.

I expected a wider-ranging, all-encompassing commentary on the current grim scenario. For starters, whether it is Al Qaeda, sectarian-terrorists or the non-representative coercive forces, it is not just a leaf they are taking out of Israel's book; they are following the whole tome, chapter and verse.

The law-enforcement agencies visible or not cannot prevent the lawless acts as lawlessness trickles down from the very top. Decades of forced misrule have turned this country into a happy hunting ground for all hues of ultras and contras. The battle of ideas has still to be won in this country.

The happenings in Wana, killing of innocent people (including women and children, bulldozing of houses, burning and driving people out of their houses, are reminiscent of what is going on in the West Bank and Gaza. On suicide bomb blasts in the country, General Musharraf's stock reply is that even the US with all its might and resources can't stop it in Iraq.

The corollary is wrong or am I missing out on something? Iraq is under occupation, but maybe the general is right after all. The US imposes sanctions against what it calls rogue countries like Libya, Iran and North Korea. We impose sanctions against our own people.

Appealing to Al Qaeda and the Taliban not to indulge in such acts can't be of much help, for in the first place they may not be involved in these bombings. Or even if they are, they have been partners of the state for such a long time that the parting cannot be a sweet affair after all.

For so long the people of Pakistan have been deprived of their birthright to rule themselves. What development has taken place in the rural Sindh, Fata and Balochistan regions? With no roads, no schools, no power and no gas, here is the 21st century for you. If people cannot share in development, they'd rather not have it. They are following Iqbal by burning the crops which cannot feed them. The ultimate irony is that the very feudals, the eternal partners of the ruling elite, have now become crusaders of the downtrodden masses.

This war, as Mr Siddiqi states, is not against Islam or the state; it is against the usurpation of the people's inalienable right to have a participatory government. They have been kept on lollipops for too long and they have to have their share of power and privileges in the shape of social uplift. Tanks, rockets and nukes we have had enough. How about a little education, clean drinking water, metalled roads, proper sewerage and employment?

The road to peace, progress and moderation lies through democracy and not through makeshift structures put up in a hurry to prolong the rule of an unelected and imposed elite.



Flaws in sport policy

This refers to the report "POA chief admits sports policy flawed" (May 23). General Arif, a noted army officer and an organizer, recently decided to take to the unchartered field of sports and was the chief organizer of the SAF Games. He had told the press that he would need one month after the SAF Games to sort out sports affairs in line with sports policy. He had also exhorted the sports organizers to implement the policy in letter and in spirit.

Lovers of sport have been disappointed to read his statement, terming the policy as flawed. The policy envisages development of sports and getting rid of monopolists from the associations and federations and making way for honest, sincere and energetic persons.

Gen Arif had promised change but appears to be comfortable in the existing selfish and ad hoc setup.

Sport fans have pinned their hopes on the new POA president. He may have his own long-term strategy to see the wretched days in sports are ended but this is not possible by terming the present policy as flawed. It should be implemented and sports bodies cleansed of lethargy, vested interests, dead-wood and dynasties.



Cutting trees

On the midnight of June 5-6, a grown up fruit-bearing coconut palm tree was partially chopped off. Residents of Bungalow No. 227. E. I. Lines at the junction of Dr Daud Pota Road and Sharea Faisal intervened and saved the tree. Reportedly, the site has been allotted by the CEO of the Karachi Cantonment Board to earn revenue.

Are people at the helms of affairs aware of the brutal slaughter of flora taking place right under the shadow of the corps and naval HQs? Justice Musheer Alam in Suit No 1109/02 reported in PLD (Pakistan Law Digest) 2003 took cognizance of the matter in a similar matter whereby the permission to raise signboards by the Clifton Cantonment Board was declared to be illegal.



Education and billboards

The Human Resource Development has come up with the bright idea of educating the masses through expensive billboards. There are small schools run by certain selfless organizations or individuals that are delivering quality education at less than the total cost of one billboard.

Please don't waste hard-collected donations and burden the exchequer on projecting your dream through expensive and meaningless advertising.



Traffic hazards

There is no respite from the surprises that confront drivers such as speed-breakers, potholes, and (almost jeepable) tracts. One has to look out for the yellow devils as well, and the beggars, some of whom ride go-carts and dangerously weave in and out of traffic.

Almost every day one VIP or the other happens to be is passing, resulting in manual signalling before and after the event. One can imagine the waste of precious and time for the convenience of a few individuals.

Now the traffic police have hatched a new idea of fleecing people by proposing fines of Rs500 for using mobile phones and Rs250 for seat belts. And, why is no action taken against buses belching smoke, heavy trailers violating peak hour restrictions or against tankers illegally parked on the kerb. Maybe the police are accomplices or simply scared of the transport mafia.

The traffic police have done a lot by streamlining busy intersections but have missed the allocation of shaded bus stops and safe parking zones.

A special task force is needed to monitor the traffic police. The force should have the authority to suspend police personnel who misuse their power.



Palestinian state

James Bond once said, "Once is an accident. Twice is a coincidence. But thrice is enemy action". Examine the following:

George Bush says he is committed to a state for Palestinians.

His father also committed, in 1991, to do everything for the establishment of a Palestinian state, to the Gulf countries' rulers if they allowed the use of their military bases for the bombardment of Iraq, which was granted.

Just before the Iraq war last year, Mr Bush unfolded with some fanfare the Palestinian peace roadmap but ultimately ate it too like his cake when he declared that Israel will retain some of the Palestinian occupied lands.