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 reluctance to accept a uniform standard of behaviour for states in their internal affairs.

GEO (May 22, 2005) Foreign Affairs programme discussed the latest US Senate report on instability in Pakistan with Ambassador Mansur Alam, Ikram Sehgal, General Talat Masood (retd) and JUI leader Hafiz Hussain Ahmad. Hafiz Hussain Ahmad attacked America and said that instability in Pakistan was caused by the US. He said Pakistan was neither politically unstable nor was there any insecurity in terms of law and order. He said both these problems in Pakistan were caused by the US and Israel. Ikram Sehgal said that the American report presented at the US Senate was correct but exaggerated. He said the report omitted to mention the improvement recently brought about in the situation. (Hafiz Hussain Ahmad butted in to disagree.) Talat Masood insisted that the report was not only correct it was also not hostile to Pakistan. He said Pakistanis must learn to be objective about themselves. Hafiz Hussain Ahmad said the report was false just as the report on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction was wrong and cooked up. The governor of Balochistan had said hat the terrorists were coming from Afghanistan and who is ruling in Afghanistan? In Wana the Americans ordered Pakistan to fire on its own people. India had consulates in Afghanistan. America was opposed to the projects in Gwadar and Saindak. America was engineering our instability and insecurity, he said. Talat Masood said that Mufti Munib’s fatwa from Islamabad that prohibition of suicide bombing was valid only in Pakistan was wrong. Mansur Alam said that not all clerics were in agreement with the fatwa. Sehgal said that if civilians were not killed suicide bombing was valid. He said suicide bombing as fidai action was right. He said there was no need of a fatwa. A young minister was allowed to organise a fatwa, which was not consensual. Only places like Banuri Town seminary could have issued a fatwa of this sort. Sehgal said America made the mistake of equating the Taliban with Al Qaeda. Pakistan was not against the Taliban. He said it was wrong to make a suicide bombing attack on 9/11 to which Hafiz Hussain Ahmad objected most vigorously. Host Nasir Beg ended by appealing to imperial powers to let the enslaved nations go free and return to the people the lands they had occupied.

The fatwa was a mere opinion. It was not a fatwa in the historical sense as that would negate the sovereignty of the state. It was not binding. 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.) The fact that the chief of the Banuri complex who issued the fatwa on the basis of years of militia-backed authority in the country was murdered, pointed to another anomaly. Authenticity of the Banuri mosque was established through the use of violence, which the state could not monopolise. Its fatwa had resulted only in mounting external pressure on Pakistan. In the end, Banuri mosque was destroyed by sectarianism. General Talat Masood was inclined to accept international criticism. The others were clearly not. But Hafiz Hussain Ahmad was isolated in the discussion. His only consolation was that he was addressing the TV audience, which may believe that the trouble in Balochistan was being fomented by the Americans and the Indians.

ARY (May 23, 2005) Dr Shahid Masood discussed desecration of the Quran with a Guantanamo Bay prisoner Qari Badruzzaman Badr. Badr said that the Holy Quran was thrown down and once even thrown on rubbish by Americans guards in jails located in Kandahar and Bagram. He was later in Guantanamo Bay where he did not see the desecration. In Kandahar or Bagram after the Quran had been desecrated the prisoners went on hunger strike for two days after which the American general came down and apologised to them. Badr said that the American soldiers treated the Bible in the same manner. (Bibles were inadvertently given as reading material.) He said at Bagram and Kandahar many Pakistani prisoners were killed during torture. He said those who tortured them were thought to be Jews. At Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, there were around 600 prisoners, most of them Arabs. Among the Arabs the majority were from Saudi Arabia. He said at first they were given the Quran and Hadith to read through Muslim priests but later after they feared that jihad could be imbibed from them, the copies were withdrawn. After that they were given only novels and stories. He said at Guantanamo Bay many Arabs had dreams in which the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) personally gave them news of their freedom and called them the People of Badr. The Prophet (PBUH) said that Christ will soon arrive. One Arab saw Jesus who took his hand and told him that Christians were now misled. Later the other prisoners could smell the sweet smell of Jesus from his hand. His hand was rubbed on all the prisoners. Badr said that he and his brother were sold to the Americans for money by enemies of their family in Pakistan. He revealed that many prisoners were simply handed over to Afghanistan for dollars.

Badr brings to light a number of factors. He saw desecration of the Quran in Kandahar and Bagram only, and it is a proof of his honesty that he mentioned the apology offered by the American officer there. However, desecration was repeated five times at Guantanamo Bay, too. The Arab prisoners were superior because the Prophet (PBUH) visited them in their dreams to announce the advent of Christ. It also reveals the nature of Saudi Islam bred in alienation from the ruling family. The Saudi creed is also a kind of mithridatic solution thought up by the rulers themselves and spread through clerics like late Bin Baz.

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