Showing posts from June, 2005

Madrassa Reforms going Nowhere

The News, July 1, 2005
Madrassah reforms?
Arif Jamal

Despite repeated public pledges to reform the madrassah education notwithstanding, little has been done to end the culture of hate that many madrassahs tend to inculcate in their students. The government had promised to end its culture of extremism and hate towards the nation and the international community, but has failed to bring about even cosmetic changes. Thus, many madrassahs continue to spread negative thoughts in society without any challenge from the state. With even the occasional official outbursts against madrassahs having become less frequent, madrassahs are likely to continue proliferating and pushing the society towards more extremism in years to come.

Resistance from this sector resulted in the government quietly abandoning its much-publicised package of reforms, the Deeni Madaris (Voluntary Registration and Regulation) Ordinance, 2002. It even backtracked from the single most important clause of the ordinance that requi…

Bluntly Speaking...

Book Review; Dawn, June 26, 2005
REVIEWS: Bluntly speaking

We’ve Learnt Nothing from History — Pakistan: Poliics and Military Power
By M. Asghar Khan
Oxford University Press

Reviewed by A.R. Siddiqi

Asghar Khan’s has been an autobiography that’s more than the work of a historian. It’s a personal narrative of his political life ever since his retirement as PAF chief in 1965 and resignation as PIA president a few years later. Thereafter, he threw himself headlong into power politics without yielding to the lure of power at any cost.

At a meeting of the Lahore High Court Bar Association where he had been invited as the guest speaker, a couple of young lawyers stood up to question his credentials as a politician even before he had started to speak.

The first questioner bluntly asked him: “Why should we listen to you? You are a failure in politics.”

The second question was: “Which Pakistani politician has been a success?”

Asghar Khan could see that his questioners would probably name Sheikh Mujib-u…

The Mukhtaran Mai Episode: Need for Introspection

The News, June 24, 2005
'What we need is introspection'
Ghazi Salahuddin

What should the present government do to repair the damage inflicted by the Mukhtaran Mai episode? This, certainly, is time for a reality check. Pakistan came in for a lot of flak from the international media when a courageous woman who had challenged the inhuman conventions of our feudal society was detained, harassed and prevented from proceeding to the United States. In the process, ambivalence about Pakistan's role in the war on terror and about the sense of direction of its polity has deepened.

In a crucial sense, it is President General Pervez Musharraf who has attracted some surprisingly virulent criticism. This criticism had surged even before Musharraf admitted that it was his decision to ban Mukhtaran Mai's travel abroad. Now, Musharraf also personifies the refurbished image of Pakistan as a moderate Muslim country, bravely struggling against religious extremism in the front line of war agai…

Are Pakistani Madrassas the root cause of trouble: An Insightful Analysis

New York Times
June 14, 2005
The Madrassa Myth

IT is one of the widespread assumptions of the war on terrorism that the Muslim religious schools known as madrassas, catering to families that are often poor, are graduating students who become terrorists. Last year, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell denounced madrassas in Pakistan and several other countries as breeding grounds for "fundamentalists and terrorists." A year earlier, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld had queried in a leaked memorandum, "Are we capturing, killing or deterring and dissuading more terrorists every day than the madrassas and the radical clerics are recruiting, training and deploying against us?"

While madrassas may breed fundamentalists who have learned to recite the Koran in Arabic by rote, such schools do not teach the technical or linguistic skills necessary to be an effective terrorist. Indeed, there is little or no evidence that madrassas …

Value of human rights in the eyes of Pakistan police

Daily Times, June 25, 2005
Police sew UTP’s lips in Multan jail

By our correspondent

MULTAN: The Vehari police sewed up the lips of an under-trial prisoner (UTP) with jute yarn when he protested the police torture and used foul language against the policemen who were torturing him.

The UTP, Muhammad Hussain, was taken to Vehari to produce him in a court. He was kept in judicial lockup where he quarrelled with another prisoner, Muhammad Imran. Then he tried to commit suicide by hitting his head against iron bars. He was taken to a hospital and brought back after first aid. He again quarrelled with the Moharrir and tore his shirt on which other policemen thrashed him and tied him to a post. Later, they sewed up his lips with jute yarn and shifted him to the Multan Central Jail.

When contacted, the jail officials said the lips of UTP Muhammad Hussain had been unstitched and that he had been admitted to the jail hospital for further treatment. Multan Range Police DIG Malik Muhammad Iqbal has o…

Cross border movement of militants into Central Asia

Daily Times, June 25, 2005
Pak-Afghan militants entering CARs: Lavrov

MOSCOW: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Friday that militants from Afghanistan and Pakistan were training for attacks against Russia and former Soviet Central Asia and that they periodically cross into Central Asian territory.

Terrorists, “with the participation of former Taliban and participants of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan,” were training in Afghanistan and across the border in Pakistan with the aim of “conducting terrorist attacks, including on the territory of the Russian Federation,” Lavrov claimed at a joint news conference with NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer.

He said the militants had penetrated into the Fergana Valley, shared between the former Soviet republics of Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, and he proposed that Russia and NATO work with those countries’ special services “to ensure that such activity is stopped.”

Lavrov made his allegations in response to a ques…

Nawaz Sharif and Osama Bin Laden

Daily Times, June 23, 2005
Nawaz Sharif met Osama three times: former ISI official
Daily Times Monitor

LAHORE: Khalid Khawaja, a former Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) official who was dismissed from the service by the late Gen Ziaul Haq because of his outspoken nature, has said former prime minister Nawaz Sharif met Al Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden thrice in Saudi Arabia.

In an interview to Asia Times Online on Wednesday, he said, “After Gen Zia’s death in a plane crash (1988), elections were announced and there was a possibility that the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) led by Benazir Bhutto would win, which would be a great setback for the cause of the Afghan jihad against the USSR. The situation was discussed and all the mujahideen thought that they should play a role in blocking the PPP from winning the elections. I joined my former DG Hamid Gul and played a role in forming the then Islamic Democratic Alliance consisting of the Pakistan Muslim League and the Jamaat-e-Islami. The PPP won…

Arithmetic of poor education system

Daily Times, June 23, 2005
Arithmetic of poor education system

ISLAMABAD: The report also reveled that around 16.75 percent children were shelter less, 32 percent in Sindh, 18 percent in Balochistan, nine percent in the NWFP and eight percent in Punjab. In Sindh, 5,612 schools are reported to be non-functional due to lack of teachers and infrastructure. Of the non-functional schools, 365 are in Larkana, 109 in Sukkur, 427 in Badin, 409 in Dadu, 394 in Hyderabad, 468 in Thatta 637 in Mirpurkhas, 605 in Mithi, 369 in Sanghar, 236 in Ghotki, 398 in Khairpur, 194 in Shikarpur, 48 in Karachi, 266 in Jacobabad, 194 in Noshehroferoz and 399 in Nawabshah. The report said the education sector faced a shortfall of Rs 200 billion to implement its national action plan to achieve an adult literacy rate that is 86 percent for both men and women by 2015. The report mentioned a statement by the Asian Development Bank that spending on the primary education in Pakistan had gone down significantly and ba…

The State of Affairs in Pakistan

Daily Times, June 23, 2005
VIEW: Kal lo jo kalnae —Kamran Shafi

A request to the Big General: Sir, please isolate those of your sycophants who misguided you and sack them out of hand. So that others are more careful in the future and not give our good country and, by default, us its hapless people, a worse name than we have already

Stop Press: Who does a black BMW SUV, registration No: IDS 555 belong to, can the Islamabad Capital Territory authorities please tell us? For, on Sunday, June 19, as I was driving home through Rawalpindi Cantonment (emphasis on the word ‘CANTONMENT’ please, sirs — you who rule Pakistan from Rawalpindi) after picking up a friend at the airport, my car was overtaken rudely by this vehicle which had its windows blacked out and had a bodyguard sitting in the front seat.

Fast in its wake came one of these Toyota Double-cabin jobs with a man sitting in the front seat, two in the back seat, and a further two in the open, truck part of the vehicle. They were all arme…

Khalid Ahmed at his best

Daily times, June 21, 2005
SECOND OPINION: How should we take external criticism? —Khaled Ahmed’s TV Review

Hafiz Hussain Ahmad denied authority to the ulema who did not belong to the Banuri mosque of Karachi, thus clearly pointing to a schism. (Banuri mosque fatwa of death against the Americans in the 1990s was ignored by the other clerics.) His only consolation was that he was addressing an audience that may believe that the trouble in Balochistan was being fomented by the Americans and the Indians

Standing up for your country also means fending off criticism against it. Democracy is bad because it relies on opposition and criticism. Rulers who identify themselves with the state are angered by criticism because they think it unpatriotic. How should one sustain patriotism if the conduct of the state is constantly exposed to objection? More painful is the criticism that comes from abroad. Should we be defensive or should we objectively examine it? The issue is further complicated by our…

A free women indeed

New York Times, July 19, 2005

June 19, 2005
A Free Woman
After the Pakistani government tired of kidnapping Mukhtaran Bibi, holding her hostage and lying about it, I finally got a call through to her.

Pakistani officials had just freed Ms. Mukhtaran and returned her to her village. She was exhausted, scared, relieved, giddy and sometimes giggly - and also deeply thankful to all the Pakistanis and Americans who spoke up for her.

"I'm so thankful to everyone that they keep a woman like me in mind," she said fervently. Told that lots of people around the world think she's a hero, she laughed and responded: "God is great. If some people think I'm a hero, it's only because of all those people who give me support."

President Pervez Musharraf's government is still lying about Ms. Mukhtaran, saying that she is now free to travel to the U.S. Well, it's true that government officials removed her name from the blacklist of those barred…

Kashmir Peace Disconnects Between India and Pakistan

South Asia Tribune, June 18, 2005
The Big Kashmir Peace Disconnects Between India and Pakistan
By Ammara Durrani

LOS ANGELES, June 18: The hapless bunch of Kashmiri leaders who visited Pakistan two weeks ago publicly stated they would now have to look at "other options" for the resolution of the Kashmir dispute, given the UN's failure to do so.

This puts the writing across the wall: For all their denouncement of the status quo of their disputed valley, Kashmiris realize they have no choice now but to negotiate with the Governments of India and Pakistan within the political parameters set and controlled by these two countries.

This could well be the epitaph of a nationalist dream succumbing to the machinations of two beleaguered countries ostensibly struggling for peace. Who really benefits from this peace, however, is a different question--one we have been asking since this 'process' first began.

In the spring of 2003, the then Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpa…

Jagan Nath Azad wrote Pakistan’s first national anthem

Daily Times, June 19, 2005
‘Jagan Nath Azad wrote Pakistan’s first anthem’
Daily Times Monitor

LAHORE: “Aey sarzameen-e-Pak zarrey terey hein aaj sitaron sey tabnak. Roshan hey kehkashan sey kahin aaj teri khak.”(O land of Pakistan, each particle of yours is being illuminated by stars. Even your dust has been brightened like a rainbow.”)

These are lines from Pakistan’s first national anthem — written by Jagan Nath Azad, well-known Indian writer and intellectual, acceding to the wishes of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, The Hindu newspaper reported.

Days before his death last year, Azad recalled, in an interview, the circumstances under which he was asked by Jinnah to write Pakistan’s national anthem: “In August 1947, when mayhem had struck the whole subcontinent, I was in Lahore working in a literary newspaper.

All my relatives had left for India and for me to think of leaving Lahore was painful. My Muslim friends requested me to stay. On August 9, 1947, there was a message from Jinnah Sahib throu…

Psychology of a suicide bomber

Daily Times, June 18, 2005
What makes a man a suicide bomber?
By Khalid Hasan

WASHINGTON: The growing incidents of suicide bombings in Pakistan has begun to worry the government, no less than the people, according to a report in the Christian Science Monitor.

Filed from Pakistan by the newspaper’s correspondent, Owais Tohid, the report says how suicide bombers are recruited and brainwashed into offering the ultimate sacrifice are now questions of “increasing urgency in Pakistan, which has seen a spate of suicide bombings in recent weeks. These attacks were carried out by splinter groups formed in the wake of the post-9/11 crackdown on militant organisations.

“Smaller and more isolated than their parent organisations, these splinter groups receive financial backing from Al Qaeda and draw their recruits from the ranks of the poor and enraged,” according to investigators. Fateh Mohammad Burfat of the University of Karachi is of the view that this is a new breed, made up of the unemployed and…

Uncle Sam, Manto and Bin Laden

The News, June 18, 2005
Day After Friday
Bin Laden living Manto’s dream

Malik Shahnawaz Khar

Bin Laden and Saadat Hasan Manto have many things in common. For starters, both have spent the most creative part of their career in hiding. Bin Laden is hiding because everybody is looking for him and Manto while he was alive remained hidden because nobody ever came looking for him.

Nobody gave him any lift. Close to his death, Manto was admitted in a hospital’s general ward, where he began composing his ‘Letters to Uncle Sam’. In these letters, he became a self-professed loyal nephew of the Americans. Although these letters never saw the sight of an envelope because Manto could never afford postage stamps.

In his third letter to Uncle Sam, Manto requested the Americans to coax Pakistan into handing him over to them and in case of refusal Americans should stop supplying weapons to Pakistan. Manto felt that once Pakistanis knew that he was important to the Americans, his social clout would exceed te…

Alleged Pakistani gun runner arrested in US!

Daily Times, June 17, 2005
Alleged Pakistani gun runner arrested in US

MEXICO CITY: Mexican authorities in Tijuana, a city near the US-Mexico border, detained and deported a Pakistani man who is under investigation by US prosecutors for alleged weapons trafficking, and US police took him into custody on Wednesday in Los Angeles.

Pakistani citizen Arif Durrani was detained as he left a restaurant in Playas de Rosarito, near Tijuana, by Mexican police acting on information from US authorities, the attorney general’s office said in a press statement.

Durrani was deported by Mexico on a flight to Pakistan, but he was taken into US custody during a layover in Los Angeles, said US consular spokeswoman Liza Davis in Tijuana. Another US official speaking on customary condition of anonymity confirmed that Durrani was currently the target of an ongoing arms trafficking investigation.

Durrani was convicted in the United States in 1987 of selling missile parts to Iran; a former US resident, he was dep…

From a Jihadi sponsor to be the spokesman for "Enlightened Moderation"

June 16, 2005
Ex-generals, politicians confirm Sheikh Rashid ran militant camp
By Shahzad Raza

ISLAMABAD: General (r) Mirza Aslam Baig, former chief of army staff, on Wednesday confirmed that Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed used to run a militant camp in Rawalpindi.

He told Daily Times that being the army chief, he had received information about the camp where militants used to receive training. “The abandoned camp still has the signboard of Freedom House,” he said.He said the camp was established during the rise of an armed struggle in Kashmir, but was closed down in 1991 when the then prime minister Nawaz Sharif found out about its existence. Asked to comment on the denials issued by the foreign office and Sheikh Rashid himself about the camp, the former army chief said: “I am telling you what I have in my knowledge.”

On June 13, Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) Chairman Yasin Malik made a pubic statement about the camp. The JKLF chief’s disclosure incurred a strong rea…

Al-Qaeda training centres

Daily Times, June 16, 2005
Al Qaeda has major training facility inside Pakistan, says Newsweek
Daily Times Monitor

LAHORE: The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s probe into a suspected Islamic jihad group in California produced evidence that Al Qaeda may have reconstituted a major terrorist training camp inside Pakistan after the 9/11 attacks, said Newsweek.

Newsweek said that an FBI affidavit released in connection with the arrests of US citizen Hamid Hayat (24) and his father Umer Hayat (47), asserts that Al Qaeda was still capable of operating a significant training facility inside Pakistan. The two men are accused of lying to the FBI about a two-year trip that Hamid made to Pakistan between April 2003 and 2005. Released on Tuesday night, the affidavit says that Hamid told FBI agents he spent six months at an Al Qaeda-backed training camp in Pakistan, where he saw “hundreds of people from all over the world.” He described the camp as a facility that provided “structured paramilitary tr…

Police performance!

Daily Times, June 16, 2005

Thursday, June 16, 2005
Man torches himself over missing family

LAHORE: A man set himself on fire on Wednesday to protest against what he claimed was the kidnapping of his wife and daughter by policeman Shah Muhammad Langah, witnesses and hospital officials said. Ghulam Asghar (50) poured kerosene over himself and set himself on fire outside the office of the governor of Punjab, after he was not allowed in to register a complaint. He was taken to a hospital in Lahore where his condition was critical. “Eighty percent of his body is burnt,” said a doctor at the Mayo Hospital. Police denied any involvement with Asghar’s missing family. Grievances against the police are common in Pakistan. Last month, President Pervez Musharraf ordered an inquiry into a compliant by a 17-year-old student who was raped by policemen after being rescued from 37 days in captivity during which she was repeatedly raped by a gang of kidnappers. The victim, Nazish, a student of the Gove…

Defence Budget: Security or Liability?

Dawn, June 15, 2005
Enigma of the defence budget
By Sherry Rehman

ONE of the issues that surfaces every year for budget-makers in Pakistan is the search for fiscal space. This year the trillion-plus budget continues to be squeezed on both sides by two large, seemingly fixed liabilities: debt servicing and defence spending. Despite defence absorbing more than a quarter of the national wealth, the subject, unlike debt servicing, has become inured from public debate and exempt from any parliamentary accountability.

A milestone, in fact, was crossed this year in the National Assembly as the young finance minister of state chose to ignore the inexplicable escalation in the defence budget and shied away from even mentioning the actual figure. Given the constant talk of transparency and good governance emanating from the government, it is not just surprising but shocking that the defence budget in Pakistan remains above public scrutiny as well as the law.

If lawmakers in Pakistan cannot discuss, …

Kristof is right on target

New York Times
June 14, 2005
Raped, Kidnapped and Silenced
No wonder the Pakistan government can't catch Osama bin Laden. It is too busy harassing, detaining - and now kidnapping - a gang-rape victim for daring to protest and for planning a visit to the United States.

Last fall I wrote about Mukhtaran Bibi, a woman who was sentenced by a tribal council in Pakistan to be gang-raped because of an infraction supposedly committed by her brother. Four men raped Ms. Mukhtaran, then village leaders forced her to walk home nearly naked in front of a jeering crowd of 300.

Ms. Mukhtaran was supposed to have committed suicide. Instead, with the backing of a local Islamic leader, she fought back and testified against her persecutors. Six were convicted.

Then Ms. Mukhtaran, who believed that the best way to overcome such abuses was through better education, used her compensation money to start two schools in her village, one for boys and the other for girls. She went out of he…

The Oil Politics in South Asia

South Asia Tribune, June 12, 2005

Iran Crisis Casts Shadow Over All Three Pipeline Projects in South Asia
By M B Naqvi

KARACHI, June 13: South Asia has decided to enter the Big League nations’ struggle to secure oil (and gas) supplies that are not (yet) under the sole superpower’s control.

The rate at which the US is acquiring control over the vast deposits of hydrocarbons (oil and gas) in former Soviet Central Asian Republics was highlighted by the recent commissioning of a new oil pipeline to take oil from Caucasus directly to Europe, bypassing the two older Russian-controlled pipelines: one in the north directly from Russia to Europe and the second from Baku to Turkey through Black Sea and busy Straits of Bosphorous. Needless to say all of ME oil is under tight US control, except that of Iran.

India, with a rapidly expanding economy, is anxious to conclude an agreement with Iran for assured gas supplies through an overland pipeline through Pakistan. The idea of this gas pipeline origin…