Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Sen. Rand Paul calls for Americans to boycott Saudi Arabia

By Katie Zezima

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) called for a boycott of Saudi Arabia on Saturday, saying Americans should shun the kingdom as it did the apartheid regime in South Africa.

Paul's comments came as he intensified his attack against Hillary Rodham Clinton, again calling on her to return gifts given to her family foundation by foreign countries, including Saudi Arabia. Paul singled out the kingdom for its treatment of women, citing the case of a woman who was gang-raped and later lashed for being in a car with a man who was not her husband.

"This is something that we shouldn’t tolerate. This is something we should be organizing a boycott of," the senator said.

Paul said Saudi Arabia should be shunned as South Africa was during apartheid.

"Remember when South Africa was misbehaving? We organized a boycott of South Africa. We should be boycotting Saudi Arabia and not taking money from Saudi Arabia’s government," Paul said.
At that time international sanctions were levied against the nation, along with a divestment campaign.
While the senator in his statements did not differentiate a government boycott from one by individuals, a spokesperson later said in a statement that Paul was "not calling for a governmental boycott, but rather options for private citizens and investors."
Paul escalated the attacks against Clinton that he started Friday, saying that there is a "war on women" in Saudi Arabia, but that despite that, Clinton, who has made women's rights a centerpiece of her political life, accepted the money.
"I don’t think you can be a champion of women's rights when you take money from a regime that punishes women who are raped," Paul said.
He also called for Clinton to return money the foundation received from the government of Brunei.
Holly Shulman, a spokeswoman for the Democratic National Committee, said in a statement, "If Rand Paul suddenly cares about women’s rights, then he needs to support equal pay, support the Violence Against Women Act, and support access to women’s health services."
But Paul, who is considering a 2016 presidential run, sees the Clinton foundation donations as a a vulnerability for the presumptive 2016 Democratic front-runner.
Speaking at a coffee shop here, he asked the crowd if anyone thought it was a "good idea" for Clinton to be taking money from Saudi Arabia.
"No, no!!" the crowd said.
"Does anyone think she should send it back to Saudi Arabia?" Paul asked.
"Yes, yes!" they replied.
The United States has extremely close ties with oil-rich Saudi Arabia, including military bases in the country. In January, President Obamavisited the kingdom to pay his respects to the royal family after the death of King Abdullah. Obama met with King Salman, who succeeded Abdullah. The men met for a little more than an hour and discussed terrorism, supporting partners in the region and Iran.
The Saudis are a crucial part of the international coalition battling the terrorist group that calls itself the Islamic State, and they have sent warplanes to attack the group in Iraq and Syria.
Paul was asked what he believes constitutes the greatest threat to the United States. (He has consistently been getting questions about foreign policy and asking why he signed a letter a group of lawmakers sent to the Iranian government over negotiations on its nuclear program.)
He responded "most people" would say the Islamic State constitutes the biggest threat, but while the group is a danger to the U.S. Consulate in Irbil and Embassy in Baghdad,  "I’m not so sure if you thought through it, though, they would actually be the biggest threat."
Paul cited potential threats from countries that have nuclear weapons, including North Korea, and the "dozens, if not hundreds" of terrorist threats that still lurk around the globe. Threats, he said, that must be addressed one at a time.

Sweden stood up for human rights in Saudi Arabia. This is how Saudi Arabia is punishing Sweden.


You'll find few people who will stick up for the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia. Religious minorities, women and homosexuals face repression. Tens of thousands of people are thought to languish in prison for political reasons. And capital or corporal punishment, sometimes even for crimes such as apostasy and blasphemy, is commonplace.
All told, the Saudi kingdom is not as absurdly horrific as the Islamic State – but sometimes, it's not so far off.
Yet for the past 70 years, Saudi Arabia has been a key U.S. ally in the Middle East. Official calls for the protection of human rights in the country have been muted, when they're heard at all.
One of the few countries to risk its relationship with Saudi Arabia is Sweden. As WorldViews previously reported, after Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom revealed that she was blocked from talking about democracy and women's rights at a gathering of the Arab League in Cairo, Sweden responded by scrapping a major arms deal with the kingdom.
Wallstrom, who promised a "feminist" foreign policy when she entered government, had previously criticized the flogging of Saudi blogger Raif Badawi on Twitter and called Saudi Arabia a dictatorship.
Now, Saudi Arabia seems determined to make things uncomfortable for Sweden. Since Wallstrom publicly criticized Saudi Arabia for blocking her talk March 9, there have been a number of notable diplomatic moves:
  • On March 10, Saudi Arabia recalled its ambassador to Stockholm, saying it was prompted by Sweden's "interference in its internal affairs."
  • On the same day, foreign ministers from Arab League states issued a joint statement condemning Wallstrom's statement.
  • On March 18, the United Arab Emirates recalled its ambassador to Stockholm, condemning the "strong statements made by the Foreign Minister of Sweden to the Swedish Parliament against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its judicial system."
  • On March 19, a Saudi official told the Associated Press that the kingdom would no longer issue business visas to Swedish citizens or renew the current visas of Swedish citizens inside Saudi Arabia.
These acts seem to be clearly designed to pressure Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven to distance himself from Wallstrom. And the diplomatic tactics being used by Saudi Arabia are lending themselves to an internal Swedish backlash.
Sweden exported $1.3 billion to Saudi Arabia last year, and Sweden's business community is deeply worried about the financial impact of the dispute with Saudi Arabia. The arms deal alone could be big – Saudi Arabia bought $39 million in Swedish military equipment last year alone. Before the spat had even begun, 31 Swedish business leaders published a statement in DN Debatt newspaper urging the government to maintain good ties with Saudi Arabia. "Sweden's reputation as a trade and business partner is at stake," the business leaders wrote.
Saudi Arabia's decision to block visas seems to show that it is aware of its financial clout. "This is going to have a vast negative impact for the companies with interest in the region," Andreas Astrom, communications director at Stockholm's Chamber of Commerce, told the Associated Press. "This is not good for Swedish business society and, in the long run, jobs in Sweden."
The fear of economic losses also follows a geopolitical line of reasoning. Saudi Arabia is an influential political power in the Middle East, as shown by the United Arab Emirates' decision to follow it in recalling its ambassador and by the backing from the Arab League. "In a very real way, this is about Sweden's credibility as a contractual partner," Carl Bildt, a former Swedish foreign minister and prime minister, told Defense News. "That credibility is important to a relatively small country like Sweden. This whole situation is unfortunate."
Sweden's foreign policy in the Middle East has been unusually strident since Wallstrom took charge. Sweden officially recognized Palestine as an independent state this year, sparking an awkward argument with the Israeli government. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu even alluded to this in the run-up to this week's Israeli election, claiming that "Scandinavian governments" were working to topple him.
For now, the hope seems to be that things will calm down. Sweden's ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Dag Yulin Danflet, has been telling the Saudi press that he is seeking to "contain the crisis." And on Friday, Wallstromtold reporters that it was important that Sweden and Saudi Arabia have "good diplomatic relations."

Gender clash: Why is Saudi Arabia so angry at Sweden?


"Probably, the situation would have been different, had those statements been presented by a male politician hailing from another state"

The recent diplomatic row between Saudi Arabia and Sweden has raised serious concerns about Swedish relations with the Arab world in general and the oil-rich Gulf country in particular. The controversy emerged after Riyadh blocked Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström’s speech at an Arab League summit in Cairo on 9 March, where she had been invited as a guest of honor to address the Arab foreign ministers on the rights of Palestinians, the threat of growing extremism and the need for development and democracy in the region. One day later, on 10 March, Sweden announced the termination of a controversial decade-long arms deal with the Kingdom.   
SUCH DISPUTES are not uncommon between Islamic governments in the Middle East and their liberal peers in the West, which often confront each other publicly on how issues like human rights, civil liberties, treatment of minorities, and respect for divine religions should be dealt with. 
What sets this diplomatic spat apart, however, is Riyadh’s unexpectedly harsh reaction first to an honorary talk, which it obstructed, and then to the scrapping of a commonplace arms deal. After all, Wallström’s undelivered speech did not single out any specific country over its putatively abusive human rights practices nor did it contain any strong word of criticism against Islam or Muslims at large. The most prominent part of the address is perhaps where she emphasizes the International Women’s Day (8 March) and its meaning: “This is a day to celebrate women's achievements, recognise challenges, and focus attention on women's rights, women's representation and their adequate resources. Our experience is that women's rights do not only benefit women, but society as a whole.”
"After all, Wallström’s undelivered speech did not single out any specific country"
In a similar vein, given Saudi Arabia’s close partnership with some of the world’s preeminent military powers, the Swedish refusal to renew the arms agreement could hardly be perceived to damage its national security or defense planning and thus was not expected to elicit an angry reaction. Yet, Saudis recalled their ambassador to Stockholm on the same day that the deal was scrapped citing Sweden’s “flagrant interference” in their internal affairs, and further on mobilized the 22-member Arab League (AL) as well as the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in vocal condemnation of the Swedish government, so much so that even the United Arab Emirates, a Saudi regional ally, summoned its ambassador to Sweden too. In a rare escalation shortly afterwards, the Kingdom declared on 19 March that it would no longer issue business visas for Swedes or extend the current visas of Swedish nationals staying in the country. 
A backlash of this intensity and magnitude is quite puzzling and unconventional in diplomatic practice and thus requires a different set of analytic lenses to understand.    
Far from being essentially a dispute over democratic governance or even human rights, the current Saudi-Swedish row basically represents a clash of state genders, pitting a “masculine” religious autocracy against a “feminine” social democracy. A combination of historical, religious and political forces has turned Saudi Arabia into “a most masculine state”, where women are trapped between a patriarchal push for piety and a modern aspiration for liberty. Notoriously, it is the sole state in the world that practically bans women from driving. Women in the Kingdom are also required to secure a “male guardian’s” permission to be able to work or travel. Along these lines, the inflated Saudi reaction to the Swedish foreign minister’s address is indeed the reaction of a masculinist state to a “woman” speaking on behalf of a feminine state and promoting a “feminist foreign policy”. For Saudi patriarchs ruling over such a state, the rub of the issue lies in the fact that they simply cannot “take it” from a “woman”. Probably, the situation would have been different, had those statements been presented by a male politician hailing from another state. 
“Striving toward gender equality”, in the words of Wallström, “is therefore not only a goal in itself, but also a precondition for achieving our wider foreign, development and security policy objectives”. With a “feminist” foreign policy thus formulated, Sweden is naturally expected to be on a collision course not only with practitioners of state “masculinism” in world politics, but also with those of state “militarism” as another face of aggressive corporate masculinity. Diplomatic dispute with Israel following the recognition by Sweden of a Palestinian state is one remarkable example of the latter clash. “Our decision to recognise Palestine”, according to her, “aims at making the parties of the conflict less unequal…They need to see that there is an alternative to violence”. 
OBVIOUSLY, implementing this gender- and equality-oriented foreign policy will come at a price in a world still dominated by masculine power relations and structures, and particularly if it marks a palpable break from the past. As a Stockholm-based writercontends, “(t)he truth is that Sweden’s ‘progressive’ foreign policy is a decades-long study in äta tortan och ha den kvar—having your cake and eating it (too). The self-described ‘humanitarian superpower’ is,per capita, simultaneously the EU’s most generous humanitarian-aid donor and its biggest arms exporter”. 
This is basically why the current diplomatic row makes for an historic litmus test for Sweden under Social Democrats. The Swedish government should stand its ground against Saudi business threats, as the way it deals with the situation will demonstrate the viability of a “feminist foreign policy” in practice. More significantly, however, resistance will earn Sweden the moral high ground in the community of nations as well as in the global public opinion, setting an important normative precedent other Western democracies may be encouraged to follow. It is only then we can start speaking of Sweden as a true “normative power” in the world.

FIFA President Slams Politicians Calling for Boycott of Russia's World Cup

FIFA President Sepp Blatter hit out at unnamed lawmakers for wanting boycotts of the 2018 World Cup in Russia and the 2022 event in Qatar.
"Football should be united, sport should be united when it comes to boycotts," Blatter said at the UEFA congress on Tuesday. "Boycotts have never had any results."
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko last week urged allies to boycott football's marquee event in Russia, and other politicians have also questioned the Qatar event amid allegations of corruption and poor labor conditions.
Blatter was stung when he last faced UEFA at a pre-World Cup meeting in June in Sao Paulo, but this time he was greeted with respectful applause by delegates from the 54 member states.
Blatter didn't spend a single word on the FIFA presidential election in May, when he stands for re-election for a fifth term.
Blatter turned down UEFA's invitation to make a campaign speech alongside his rivals, who include FIFA vice president Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan, Portuguese football great Luis Figo, and Dutch football federation president Michael van Praag.
The trio was scheduled to present their plans for FIFA's future later Tuesday.
Blatter praised IOC President Thomas Bach and the president of the German football federation, Wolfgang Niersbach, for voicing their outspoken rejection of any calls for World Cup boycotts.
"The autonomy of sports must be guaranteed," said Blatter, adding that football should not look away from political tensions but should try to help to find a solution. "We should do something for peace. Maybe we can help at least certain conflict situations."
Blatter called football "a symbol of unity."
"It has conquered the world and it's a treasure of diversity," he said. "Football not only brings positive emotions, but also the strength to help solving conflicts and building bridges between east and west."
Blatter also called for further action against the "evils of football," like doping and match-fixing.
"We have the will to fight against it," he said, urging UEFA to take a leading role in the process.

Video - Press Conference - President Obama meets with the President of Afghanistan

Laila khan - Pashto Song - Khaperay

Farkhunda ‘didn’t burn Koran’: Afghanistan mob killed innocent woman

SHE was beaten to death, burned and thrown in a river by an angry mob for burning a copy of Islam’s holiest book.
But the woman from Afghanistan known was Farkhunda was actually innocent all along and never committed any such offence.
As the number of arrests soar into her brutal death, which was captured on mobile phone and beamed across the world’s media, a sad picture is emerging of the woman whose innocent life was taken away.
Reports have also emerged of a woman with a psychological disability.
Her own parents revealed their daughter had suffered with a mental health condition for several years. They also said she was a religious scholar who would never burn such a holy book.
Last Thursday, the world reeled in horror after a mob of men beat the 27-year-old religious scholar to death.
They then threw her body off a roof, ran over it with a car, set it on fire and at the end, dragged 300m, threw it into the Kabul River near one of the Afghan capital’s most renowned mosques, the Shah Doshamshera.
The attack was captured by cameras and has been widely distributed on social media.
Farkhunda reportedly got into an argument with aa fortune teller at a small shrine next to the mosque.
The fortune teller accused her of burning the Koran, policeman Habid Shah said.
“She said, ‘I am a Muslim and Muslims do not burn the Koran,"’ Shah, who has not been suspended, told The Associated Press.
“As more people gathered, the police were trying to push them away, but it got out of control.”
“The people pulled her into a corner of the yard and beat her with sticks, and one man took a large stone and dropped it on her. That was the end.”
Her father, Mohammed Nadir, told CNN affiliate TOLOnews there was no way his daughter would ever burn pages of the Koran and she was innocent.
Kabul’s police chief Abdul Rahman Rahimi said 18 people had been arrested and all had confessed to their role in Farkhunda’s death.
However the number of arrests has now risen to 26 as the investigation grows, according to CNN.
“We have enough evidence” against the suspects, he announced at a press conference as 18 of the men were brought out before the media.
He said 13 policemen based in the area of the mosque had been suspended amid allegations they stood by and did nothing to stop the attack, and another four were under investigation.
One of the policemen who witnessed the attack, Sayed Habid Shah, said they were overwhelmed by the size of the crowd, which grew throughout the assault.
Afghanistan’s most senior detective said no evidence had been found to support the claims that Farkhunda burned the Koran.
The attack appeared to have grown out of a dispute between Farkhunda, a veiled woman who had just finished a degree in religious studies and was preparing to take a teaching post, and men who sold amulets at Shah-Do Shamshera shrine, where the killing happened.
She regarded the amulet sellers as parasites and told women not to waste their money on them, friends and family said. Her father said the men responded by making false accusations that she had torched a Koran.
“Based on their lies, people decided Farkhunda was not a Muslim and beat her to death,” he said. The Interior Ministry said it was providing extra protection for the family.
Hundreds marched yesterday in the Afghan capital, demanding justice over the vicious killing that shocked many across the country.
It also renewed calls for authorities to ensure women’s rights to equality and protection from violence.
The killing drew condemnation from Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani, now in Washington on his first state visit to the United States since taking office in September, who denounced it as a “heinous attack” and ordered an investigation.
Human rights groups called on the Afghan government to investigate the failure of police in Kabul to prevent the violent attack taking place.
Senior Afghanistan researcher at Human Rights Watch Patricia Gossman said police had failed in their job.
“The brutal murder of a vulnerable woman by a mob on Kabul’s streets might have been stopped if the police had done their job,” she said.
“The authorities need to prosecute those involved in this terrible crime and take action against any police officers who let the mob have its way.”
Human Rights Watch said authorities should not only prosecute those responsible for the killing, but also discipline or prosecute as appropriate police who failed to intervene and officials who have made statements justifying the murder.
The brutal killing prompted a wave of support and revulsion across social media.
People on Twitter were shocked by the brutal attack and called for an end to violence against women.
Meanwhile a Facebook page, Justice for Forkhunda, has already been set up calling for justice for the young woman.

Video - U.S. to keep 9,800 troops in Afghanistan through 2015

Video - Afghan President Arrives at White House

Pakistan - Minority protection

JAMAATUL AHRAR claimed responsibility for the recent terrorist attacks targeting two churches in Lahore, which resulted in several deaths. In retaliation, an angry mob lynched two innocent citizens (in police custody) they thought were involved. The state stood by as a silent observer. Episodes of attacks against religious and ethnic minorities have sadly become routine. While the government condemns such acts, it is unable to prevent them. The state has not owned up to its responsibility to proactively protect the minorities’ right to life.
The state argues it is not the state, but terrorist/non-state actors who violate this right. Disregarding for a moment the state’s failure to adequately prosecute the perpetrators, or its role in sowing the roots of such aggression, the question is: what level of positive (in which the state takes action) obligation is required from a government to protect the civil, political and socio-economic rights of vulnerable communities?
The Westphalian state has provided negative (where the state is passive) rights and freedoms to its population. Western tradition has valued civil and political over social, economic and cultural rights and has continued to view only the transgression of the former by the state as a true rights violation. In other words, there is little legal obligation on the state to positively protect human rights when it is not directly causing the violation itself.
Further, while the judicial system is available for violations of individually vested legal rights, this has not been so for the dispensation of group rights including minority freedoms. This was not always the case in Europe. In the pre-Second World War period, several states through treaties assumed the responsibility of protecting minorities as a group. Minorities were to be given special consideration so they could be equal in fact as well as in the eyes of the law. Such forms of protection did not work in the run-up to the Holocaust. Thus their subsequent absence in international conventions could partly be a result of the view that by demarcating a group of people as a minority, the state effectively ‘others’ them and alienates them from the majority of the population.

The state must set aside a budget for the realisation of rights.

Seminal international rights treaties retain this approach. There is no operational convention that thematically focuses on the protection of religion or minorities, while there exists one on the rights of the child, the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women, and the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination. Further, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights primarily focuses on negative rights and freedoms; the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment requires the involvement of a public official for acts to be classified as such; and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, while focusing on positive obligations attributable to a state, views these rights as aspirational, not legally vested and subject to progressive realisation. Pakistan is a signatory to these UN conventions.
Naturally, a number of developing and non-Western states including the communist bloc and Islamic states challenged the present understanding of state responsibility and the hierarchy and conceptualisation of international human rights. While at international fora, Pakistan has been a protagonist in this resistance movement, at the national level it starts to present contradictory arguments to shirk responsibility and obstruct accountability.
Rights become compromised when the state fails to expend public funding to enable them. Apart from legal reform, such as stren­gthening hate speech laws, the state’s duty to protect minority rights means it must set aside a budget aimed at providing the infrastructure for the realisation of such rights. The government must be held accountable and actively protect and promote minority rights. It needs to allocate public funds for effecting awareness drives promoting tolerance. Among other measures, the state media should be employed and the curricula revised to promote diversity and harmony.
The state needs to have a long-term sustainable policy aimed at protecting minority rights and religious freedoms. It is true that positive state duties in the West do not require as much expenditure as the provision of positive rights would in Pakistan. However, such an allocation of finite funds becomes a legislative prerogative, and once allocated the state can be held directly accountable via the judiciary for its spending and performance. There is precedent for such an approach — positive obligations have been monitored and dispensed with successfully in states like South Africa through active judicial involvement.
Sadly, in Pakistan in response to every major attack on minorities, political parties at best offer condemnations and the government sometimes provides monetary compensation to the families of the victims. These gestures are hardly solutions to an endemic problem.
The writer is the author of International Law and Drone Strikes in Pakistan: The Legal and Socio-political Aspects.

Pakistan - The Mad-ressah problem

IT was always going to be a difficult task — reforming the madressah sector and purging elements within who promote extremism, militancy and terrorism. But as a report in this newspaper yesterday indicates, the government appears to have all but given up already.
Three months on from the articulation of the National Action Plan, the federal government does not appear to have even decided which ministry should take the lead in dealing with the various madressah networks in the country.
Take a look: The madressah factor
Should it be the Ministry of Interior, with its basic responsibilities for law and order and hence identifying extremist- and militancy-supporting madressahs? Or should it be the Ministry of Religious Affairs, which coordinates with the madressah networks and in theory ought to have responsibility for determining the curricula taught?
Or should it be the Ministry of Finance, a unit of which is meant to supervise financial transactions in the country, that must be aware of the money flowing to the madressah networks?
Yet, unless all three are done, unless curricula reform, capturing militants and monitoring financial flows are pursued by the relevant ministries, a certain sub-section of the national madressah network will continue to pose a threat to the country’s security.
The problem, as ever, appears to be less about the difficulties in drafting a meaningful plan and implementing it with purpose, and more about the state — both the political and military arms — not really considering it a priority.
Perhaps the PML-N finds it easier to do nothing: taking on the religious right with its street power and other means to put pressure on the state is hardly something any elected government would relish doing.
Perhaps the army-led military establishment is preoccupied with fighting militants and extremists, or maybe it does not consider dealing with extremism its responsibility.
Whatever the reasons for the state sinking back into inaction against the nurseries of hate, intolerance and extremism in the country, the effect is predictable: the gains in the short term, via military operations, against militancy and terrorism will likely be squandered in the long term.
For there is little possibility of the state winning the fight against militancy if it does not also seek to address the root causes. Why are so many Pakistanis taught distorted religious ideas in centres funded by foreigners?
It must also not be forgotten that the madressahs are only one part of a much bigger mosque-madressah-social welfare network that is collectively used to spread distorted beliefs and, sometimes, preach violence and hate.
Just yesterday, the Jamaatud Dawa, perhaps the most well known of the so-called welfare networks, held a public event in Karachi to commemorate March 23 — this just a month after intense speculation about whether the group is to be banned or not. How serious, then, is the state in its promise to end militancy and terrorism of every stripe?

Video - Sherry Rehman discusses Pak-Afghan relations on Between Frontiers

Between Frontiers - 23rd March 2015 by sm_raza1

Rewriting the Pakistani script

Ayaz Amir

A few words about the parade...why must the accompanying commentary be so hysterical? I put on the TV at about a few minutes to eleven but the commentary, male and female, was just too much, going on and on without a moment’s rest, much too loud and indeed deadlier than any of the weaponry marching past. If the military can’t be made to learn the uses of brevity what hope for the rest of the nation? Thanks to the commentary, two minutes of the parade was all I could stand. There was also the charismatic visage of the president. On this subject what more is there to say?

I have no problem with patriotism but I do have a problem with the myths and fantasies surrounding Muslim power in the Subcontinent. This power reached its zenith under Shah Jahan. Aurangzeb was also a great emperor but by his time the empire had begun to show signs of exhaustion. Too much was spent on the wars in the Deccan and against the Marathas and the aged emperor spent his last years trying to douse these fires. 

It is worth remembering that when European armies had developed new battlefield tactics Mughal emperors were still riding to battle on elephant back. The great Babur was in step with his times but by the time of Aurangzeb it was clear that the modern age had bypassed the Mughal Empire – as indeed it was bypassing most of the Muslim world.

Aurangzeb died in 1707 and within a space of 32 years the Timurid Empire, mighty in its time, could not withstand the invasion of the Persian king, Nadir Shah, who ransacked Delhi and carried off its treasures, including the Peacock Throne and the Kohinoor diamond. A daughter of the Mughal emperor Muhammad Shah Rangila was taken by a son of Nadir Shah as his wife. Thousands of girls, both Muslim and Hindu, went as slave girls. Afghanistan and Punjab were detached from the Mughal Empire.

The Sikhs were a rising power in Punjab, there were rebellions elsewhere, and the British had established a foothold in Bengal. Muslim power in Hindustan was thus on the decline, the days of its glory over. Paradoxically, the arrival of the British and the establishment of their Raj helped to arrest the process of this decline. The Sikh kingdom of Lahore was not defeated by Muslims; it was crushed by the British. And it were the British who lent a ready ear to the very loyal and almost obsequious plea of the Muslim League, when a delegation of Muslim grandees waited on Lord Minto in Shimla in 1905, for consideration and special treatment.

The concern of the Muslim community, or its leading torch-bearers, in the years leading up to the Pakistan resolution in1940 was less freedom and liberation from foreign rule and more the fear of Hindu domination. It was not about kicking the British out of India. It was about the morning after, about what would happen once the British had gone. Not to put too fine a point on it, the Pakistan movement was thus born out of a sense of fear and foreboding. And that fear – despite our missiles, tanks and nuclear capability – seems not to have left Pakistan’s decision-making circles even after the passage of all these years.

Turkey under the great Ataturk made a clean break with its past. The Bolshevik revolution was a break with the Tsarist past. Mao and the Chinese communist party erased all the symbols of the past and created a new Chinese consciousness. If the leading lights of the Muslim community were at all interested in building a modern, progressive society then here too the effort should have been to leave the past behind, after reflecting on its weaknesses, and then laying the foundations of a new society.

The Chinese communists did away with such symbols of the old China as the pigtail and the clothes worn in the old days. Ataturk did away with the fez, that symbol of traditional Turkish society, and decreed that even the Turkish peasant tilling the land would wear western clothes. Look at any gathering of the 1947 Muslim League leadership. The paladins are the very pictures of caution and respectability, on their faces not a trace of boldness or anything out of the ordinary. 

We should have had a constitution within a year if not six months. Quaid-e-Azam should have realised the importance of the Bengali language and there should have been no language issue in the new state. Feudalism should have been abolished at once and land reforms undertaken – large estates broken up and land distributed among tenants and small farmers. In the new state there should have been no place for distinctions of caste and creed. Titles such as makhdooms, maliks, chaudrys, etc, should have been abolished at once. But the new leadership in West Pakistan was landlord-dominated. The concern of this leadership was to protect its privileges, not go about creating a progressive society.

The Kashmir war, once begun, should have been prosecuted with vigour. Srinagar was there for the taking, defenceless and open. But the tribesmen tarried and there weren’t enough officers with the requisite ability or audacity to grab that opportunity.

The distribution of evacuee property – admittedly not an easy task – could have been undertaken on different lines, each incoming migrant getting one small house or a portion of a house. But this became a scam, false claims being submitted and a race started for the grabbing and accumulation of property. Of all the legacies of independence and Partition this has proved to be the most enduring, the accumulation of property by fair means or foul the leading symbol of the new state.

And Pakistan entered into alliances with America and became a pawn, a stooge, in the emerging cold war. Pakistan’s leaders – the bureaucrats and feudalists sitting in its councils – did not have the imagination to steer an independent path for the new country. The achkan-wearing and poetry-spouting leaders of the Muslim community were afraid in undivided Hindustan. Fear and insecurity remained their defining hallmarks even when the new state was formed.

But all this is past and done. This is a country of 200 million souls. It deserves better. It deserves to step into the modern age. Granted that there is no Ataturk around and no Chinese communist party, and the political class just can’t free itself from its conservative and reactionary outlook. But are there no progressive elements left in this decrepit society? Is all hope lost? Is there no way forward? 

No, our prospects can’t be that bleak. Isn’t the army trying to follow new directions? It hasn’t discarded all its prejudices or pet theories but a beginning is being made. How long before the rest of the nation becomes serious about national renewal?

We can’t remain the inheritors of a dead civilisation. We can’t keep mouthing the old inanities. We can’t keep taking refuge behind Islam, raising its banner when stumped for answers.

On the political front we need greater vitality, greater imagination, and a better crop of leaders. Does our society have this capacity of throwing up something new? There are leaders claiming to be agents of change. On a bad morning one look at them is enough to make the heart sink. Still, there is no alternative. Pakistan renews itself or it keeps floundering.

New trends are slowly emerging and that is a positive sign. A year ago there was no possibility of serious action against extremism and terrorism. A month ago who could have imagined that the MQM would be bearded in its den? Small signs but they add up to something different.

But a greater shaking up is needed, something in the nature of upheavals that other nations have gone through. Question is whether that lucky moment will ever arrive or through some accident of fate or history we are condemned to those two greatest afflictions of human society, mediocrity and decline?

Pakistan’s Identity Problem

Pakistan's "establishment" has chosen to focus solely on the country's Muslim history, but that has done more harm than good in forging the nation's identity.
When you hear about Pakistan, what most often comes to mind? The place where schools, markets, and neighborhoods are routinely bombed? The terrorist haven where Osama bin Laden hid for almost a decade? The “Pak” in Af-Pak? The difficult ally America can’t drop because of its nuclear capabilities? The country where Malala Yousafzai was shot? All of this is true, but there is so much more to this country of 182 million people.
The common perception of Pakistan is more similar to its neighbor in the west (Afghanistan) than the one in the east (India), the country with which it shares its history. This is a direct result of how Pakistan’s “establishment” — its military and political elite — has defined its identity. This definition emphasizes Islam above all else, and pitches Pakistan as completely different from India.
In Pakistan’s history textbooks, Hindus and Muslims living on the Indian sub-continent during British colonial-era rule, and for centuries before, are described as two nations –distinct and separate. Yet the reality is that they intermingled and co-existed, sharing their customs and culture. In fact, until the British came and conducted a census in 1881, no one knew how many South Asians were Hindu and how many were Muslim.
The official version of Pakistan’s history only has room for Muslim heroes — no Sikhs, no Hindus — and only orthodox Muslims, at that. For instance, the Mughal Emperor Akbar, who ruled from 1556 until 1605, and espoused a tolerant version of Islam, giving Hindus prominent positions in his cabinet, is compared unfavorably to the orthodox but cruel Emperor Aurangzeb. (Aurangzeb ruled from 1658 to 1707, and had political opponents executed, including his own brother, Prince Dara Shikhoh.) Bhagat Singh, a Sikh revolutionary from now-Pakistani Punjab who fought for independence from the British, isn’t mentioned at all in Pakistani textbooks. He isn’t even remembered on the street: A move by activists to have a traffic circle in Lahore — where he was hanged to death in 1931 — named after him in 2012encountered intense opposition and was tabled.
Because Pakistan has disavowed large parts of its past and its identity, it is easier to define it in terms of its present struggle with terrorism. There is little else people know about it. Few people ask me about what Pakistan is really like, about life in my hometown, Lahore, the city of gardens.
No one knows about the city’s historic Sufi shrines, the grand Badshahi Mosque, or the Lahore Fort, which is next to a gorgeous Sikh gurdwara (a place of worship). Travel to the country is often discouraged, especially if one is not Pakistani, but even if the security situation were different, how many people would know about its rich heritage? And can one blame them, if Pakistan itself disowns large parts of it? Yet in erasing Pakistan’s past and creating an Islamic identity for the country, the establishment has, in fact, contributed to the worsening security situation.
Since the 1970s, Pakistan’s military and political elite have chosen religious fundamentalism over a democratic plurality. The establishment has emphasized a Sunni Muslim identity at the exclusion of all other ethnic, religious, and sectarian identities. Saudi-imported Wahhabism — an ultra-conservative version of Sunni Islam that lies at odds with South Asia’s tradition of Sufi-influenced Barelvi Islam — has been making in-roads in Pakistani society since the 1980s. The Ahmadi sect, which considers itself to be Muslim, was declared “non-Muslim” by Pakistan’s leaders in 1974. The colonial-era blasphemy laws were made particularly severe in the 1980s, and since 1987, 1,335 people have been accused of defaming Islam. Vigilantes have attacked many of those who have been accused, and militant groups are thriving in this shrinking space for diversity.
Yet this path wasn’t inevitable with the creation of a homeland for South Asia’s Muslims. In his August 11, 1947, address to the Constituent Assembly, Pakistan’s founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah was clear that he intended it to be a country for Muslims that welcomed all religions, not an Islamic country. Today, his vision has given way to a harsh, one-dimensional reality — to a country better known for harboring bin Laden than anything else.
But all is not lost. Pakistan’s creative, intellectual heart strives to be heard over the din of poor security. People are writing books, holding literature festivals, putting on plays, and creating wonderful music. In fact, they seem to be doing a better job than ever, given all of the odds stacked against them. Yet for the rest of the world, Pakistan’s image remains unchanged.
The West would do well to recognize Pakistan’s long history, its beautiful complexity, its many dimensions, and its South Asian-ness, but the final burden rests with Pakistan’s leaders. The country must preserve its glorious pre-Islamic heritage, such as the ancient city of Mohenjo Daro in Sindh province, which was built 4,500 years ago, but is threatened by the elements and mismanagement. It must embrace its full past, Islamic and non-Islamic. It must teach its complete history, which includes Hindu empires and Muslim rulers. It must celebrate all of the ethnicities living within its borders, and the richness of its South Asian culture. Imposing an identity that does away with this history and diversity has done Pakistan enough harm.