Pakistan: The civilian-military conundrum

by Lal Khan
The crisis is spiralling out of control at tremendous speed. The strategists of capital have no clue how to address and find a way out of this economic and social catastrophe.
In a country that is endlessly gripped with uncertainty and speculations, cynicism becomes part of the social realm. With almost half of its history under direct military rule and with the single exception of civilian rule in the early 1970s, the army has wielded immense influence. It is no wonder that the change of command in the Pakistan army is always an issue that exacerbates speculations, especially amongst the chattering classes and the petit bourgeois intelligentsia, with an ischemic outlook chained within the confines of the present system, now in a catastrophic crisis. The corporate media, with its vested interests integral to the survival of the decaying system and the state, is in a relentless crusade to divert and bury the real issues of the masses; it has had its heyday in this transition. The replacement of General Ashfaq Kayani by General Raheel Sharif as the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) has been in the headlines of the rambunctious broadcast media for such a long period of time that it would have been unthinkable in any advanced country.
The civilian-military ‘conflict’ and the alterations of military rule and civilian democracy is not about ‘good guys’, ‘bad guys’ or heroes and villains as our political elites try to make us believe. The real reason behind this ‘cat and mouse’ charade is the historical weaknesses of the Pakistani bourgeoisie. It is historically belated, economically debilitated, and so dependent, on the one hand, on the landed aristocracy instead of abolishing graft feudalism imposed by British colonialism and, on the other, due to its financial and technological weakness, it had to submit to the crushing domination of the world market under hegemonic imperialism and was forced to act as a comprador or commission agent to corporate capital with a minority share in the imperialist plunder. Its historic redundancy to carry out the tasks of the Industrial Revolution were exhibited in its evasion of taxes, robbing the treasury, defaulting on bank loans and plunging into rampant corruption. No wonder then that more than two-thirds of the economy is today in the informal sector or the ‘black economy’.
The state and its institutions were weak from inception but they became even more unstable due to the social and economic eruptions in a society utterly failing to develop a stable base and solve any of the tasks of the creation of a modern nation state and in the national democratic revolution. With the passage of time, these problems have worsened and have become festering wounds on the body politic of a nation unable to define itself and coalesce. Religion has become part of the state and is frequently injected into the social streams of society by the state and the political elite to divide and crush mass movements. Parliamentary democracy has been a farce, nothing but a rule of the rich, for the rich and by the rich. It was this character of the ruling elite that enabled the army to assume a dominant role rather than state saviour. In this, it has spread and deepened its influence into civilian institutions, the landed gentry, commerce, finance and business.
According to the latest issue of The Economist, “Lieutenant General Raheel Sharif will now control not only a vast army and the world’s fastest growing nuclear arsenal, but a business empire ranging from cornflakes to luxury housing.” The financial interests of the military elite have greatly influenced the policies of the armed forces and have veered into adventures and operations like the Afghan jihad of the 1980s that were prodigiously lucrative in this primitive accumulation of capital that has become a hallmark of today’s military. However, this was not the only reason for the successive military takeovers in spite of the condemnations so much in vogue today. The Economist comments, in the same article, “By meddling in elections and mounting coups, it has weakened the political classes, whose consequent ineptitude and corruption gives it a cause to meddle again.”
The army intervened not just to control the unravelling economy and political chaos that the bourgeois civilian governments brought about but also to crush and curb the mass discontent morphing into a social revolt, threatening the whole system. Ultimately, the fear of the military begins to evaporate and the working classes and the youth begin to enter the arena of struggle initially for overthrowing the brutal dictatorships, but the university of street power very rapidly moves the masses against the very system sustaining the exploitation that shadows their lives. It is no accident that every movement against dictatorship has been reflected through the PPP, resulting in replacement of the military with a weak PPP government. The imperialists and the serious strategists of the state understand far more than the so-called liberal and progressive civil society and the intelligentsia that the only way they can protect and sustain their decaying system is by co-opting the PPP leadership otherwise the masses will either force its leadership to the revolutionary left or alternatively will create a new revolutionary leadership. Due to the capitulation of the PPP leaders, it becomes a tool for the ruling class to subdue the very masses that hold illusions of the PPP as a vehicle for the socio-economic transformation for their salvation.
This vicious cycle of this mass deception to perpetuate the rule of despotic capitalism has now exhausted itself. The discipline and the priorities of the military today are a far cry from those of the army of the early 1950s. The enormity of the crisis makes it difficult for the military’s elite to intervene directly as it would be an existential threat to the armed forces. Nawaz Sharif dithered until the 11th hour to nominate the ‘right’ general. It is not a question of an individual but, on the contrary, it is all about continuing and sustaining the system. Faced with turmoil and revolt, the military will have no choice but to reluctantly step in to save capitalism. The crisis is spiralling out of control at tremendous speed. The strategists of capital have no clue how to address and find a way out of this economic and social catastrophe. This explains the total inertia of the Sharif regime and the writing is on the wall for this ‘civilian’ setup and its tenure. What has been made elusive is that the toiling masses are seething with revolt as this system further brutalises their lives with massive poverty, price hikes, unemployment, deprivation and misery.
With the eruption of a mass revolt on a class basis, the civilian and the military elites will unite to preserve their system of opulence and power. With a Marxist leadership and party to unite and organise the mass movement, this system can be overthrown and society emancipated.

The forgotten hero: Mohammad Zafrullah Khan

By Mohammad Ahmad
Mr Khan is the only person ever to become both president of the UN General Assembly and president of the International Court of Justice Today is the death anniversary of one of Pakistan’s greatest heroes. One can safely assume that there will be no mention of his services to Pakistan. It would be rare to find any expression of appreciation from a nation for whom he did so much. His memory has been wiped out from the minds of most Pakistanis because of his faith. His doctrinal difference as an Ahmadi makes him an outcast to the timid leaders of today despite his glorious contributions to Pakistan and its cause. The treatment of this hero by the leaders of today makes a mockery of the leadership and wisdom of Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah who held him in the highest regard. Sir Mohammad Zafrullah Khan’s contribution for the betterment of the Muslims of India and Pakistan as a jurist, a diplomat and a patriot are exceeded by only that of our revered leader Mohammad Ali Jinnah. By all counts Zafrullah Khan stands much above men who have made a mockery of our nation. Born in Sialkot in 1893, Mr Khan rose to be one of the most astute legal minds of British India. His early education was in his town of birth from where he proceeded to Lahore for his graduation. He received his law degree from King’s College London in 1914, where he excelled and topped his class. He was the first from the Indian subcontinent to do so. He was called to the Bar at Lincoln’s Inn, the same place where Mr Jinnah went earlier. As a practising lawyer, Mr Khan proved his abilities quickly and had many reported cases to his credit. Starting his career in his early 30s as a member of the Punjab legislative Council, he rose to prominence as an untiring campaigner for the Muslims of Punjab. Later, he represented the Muslims at the Round Table Conference. In 1931, he became the president of the All India Muslim League. At the Round Table Conference, he forced a committee to accept his point of view over someone no less than Churchill. Later, Mr Khan was offered a seat on the Viceroy’s permanent Council. He also served at varying times as the minister of railways, labour, law and public works under the Viceroy. For a brief period, he became British India’s representative to the League of Nations, just before it was dissolved. From 1942 onwards, he served as a federal judge of India. He took leave from this position to serve Pakistan’s cause before the Radcliffe Commission on Quaid-e-Azam’s personal request. Mr Khan’s greatest contribution to the cause of Indian Muslims is his drafting of the Lahore Resolution, which is the rallying point of our nationalism as our founding document. The Lahore Resolution was a broad-based solution leaving room for several solutions, all of which were meant to safeguard the interests of the Muslims of India. The 1946 elections failed to dislodge the Unionists from a position of dominance in the Punjab Legislative Assembly. This made Mr Khan come to Muslim League’s assistance. He induced Sardar Khizar Hayat Khan to dissolve his powerful Unionist Ministry and hand over the reins of government in Punjab to the League leaders. For this he came to Lahore and within 48 hours, the League was restored to its rightful place in the Punjab. History would bear testimony that this was the final act that made Pakistan possible and also avoided a dangerous division among Muslims on the eve of Independence. On December 25, 1947, Mr Jinnah appointed Zafrullah Khan the Foreign Minister of Pakistan. At the UN, Sir Zafrullah emerged as the most eloquent advocate of the Arabs, Africans, the Third World and Islamic issues. His efforts materialised into the UN Resolutions on Kashmir, which are the basis of the Pakistani stance on the issue. Mr Khan’s speech to the UN on the issue of Palestine is perhaps one of the immortal speeches delivered at the UN. The passion with which he advocated the Palestinian cause and the arguments that he laid against the partition of Palestine made him a hero in the eyes of the Arabs. In the context of the repatriation of the Jews to Palestine and the creation of Israel he says: “...Shall they be repatriated to their own countries? Australia says no; Canada says no; the United States says no. This was very encouraging from one point of view. Let these people, after their terrible experiences, even if they are willing to go back, not be asked to go back to their own countries. In this way, one would be sure that the second proposal would be adopted and that we should all give shelter to these people. Shall they be distributed among the Member States according to the capacity of the latter to receive them? Australia, an over-populated small country with congested areas, says no, no, no; Canada, equally congested and over-populated, says no; the United States, a great humanitarian country, a small area, with small resources, says no. That is their contribution to the humanitarian principle. But they state: let them go into Palestine, where there are vast areas, a large economy and no trouble; they can easily be taken in there. That is the contribution made by this august body to the settlement of the humanitarian principle involved...In the hearts of the populations of all the countries from the North African Atlantic Coast to the steppes of Central Asia, you sow doubt and mistrust of the designs and motives of the Western Powers. You take the gravest risk of impairing, beyond the possibility of repair, any chance of real cooperation between East and West, by thus forcibly driving what in effect amounts to a Western wedge into the heart of the Middle East.” Mr Khan’s selfless efforts to win freedom for Palestine, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria were unmatched. King Hussein of Jordan awarded him the Star of Jordan, the highest civil award of the country. The rulers of Morocco, Libya, Tunisia and Algeria followed suit and honoured Sir Zafrullah Khan with the highest civil awards of their countries. The communist victory on mainland China produced a distinct division among the member countries of the UN on the representation of China in the Security Council. In the debate on the issue, the US-led western countries openly opposed the People’s Republic of China’s seat. Representing Pakistan, Mr Khan opposed this western stance and demanded the seating of the Communists in place of the Nationalists. This laid the foundation of Sino-Pak friendship. Serving briefly as the president of the UN General Assembly, Zafrullah Khan later became the first Asian to be appointed the president of the International Court of Justice. This was a unique honour for anyone, as Mr Khan is the only person ever to become both president of the UN General Assembly and president of the International Court of Justice. Mr Khan was a great writer and he authored books and tracts on the history of Pakistan and religion. His famous book that is about the sad betrayal that took away the country from the hands of the patriots into the hands of those who were its ideological enemies and who had worked to the hilt to hinder its creation is aptly titled Agony of Pakistan. Although his adherence to the Ahmadi faith was known to all, in March 1958, Zafrullah Khan performed Umrah and visited the Prophet’s (PBUH) mausoleum. During the visit he met the King of Saudi Arabia Ibn Saud, and stayed at the Royal Palace as a personal guest of the king. In 1967, he returned to Saudi Arabia to perform Hajj. Having served his motherland to the best of his abilities this able son of the country and comrade of the Quaid passed away in September 1983 in Lahore. His death was condoled by eminent personalities from within the country and abroad. The text of the condolence telegram sent by the King of Jordan at his death sums up the deep gratitude and respect the Arabs had for the champion of their cause: “I was deeply grieved to learn of the passing away of my dear friend the late Sir Zafrullah Khan. He shall always be remembered for his great contributions to humanity and to just causes everywhere, especially the Palestinian cause. He was indeed a champion of the Arab cause and his ceaseless efforts whether among the Muslim and aligned countries or at the international court of justice will remain for ever a shining example of a great man truly dedicated to the noble principles of our faith and civilisation. Please accept my sincere condolences. May Almighty God bless his soul and may he rest in peace. Hussain — His Majesty King Hussain of Jordan.” The idea of Jinnah’s Pakistan lives as long as the memory of people like Zafrullah Khan is alive. The people of Pakistan yearn to reclaim their country as the progressive state envisioned by the Quaid-e-Azam. Being gracious, they are thankful to those who worked for the creation of their homeland and served it well. That Zafrullah Khan is not paid due homage is only because most of them are unaware of his services to the Arab cause and Pakistan The reason being that successive governments have deliberately fed them an incomplete history of Pakistan, telling them the story with Zafrullah Khan’s name wiped out. The day this distortion of history is corrected he would claim his rightful place in their memories as one of Pakistan’s founding heroes.

Crisis of modernity and secularism: the cases of Egypt, Turkey and Bangladesh

By: Lailufar Yasmin
Published in
Whenever democratic space has opened up, people have been eager to choose those who not only provide a better solution for their economic and social problems, but who can also offer them a recognition of the authenticity of their cultures. The idea that the West has a mission to civilize the rest of the world rests on a conventional view of modernity in which modernity is viewed as involving a separation between religion and the public sphere. This mission sets out to impose a singular and unidirectional conception of modernity on Islamic countries that overlooks the differentiated experiences and perceptions of non-western societies, as well as the differentiated experiences within the west towards modernity. Instead, religion becomes the decisive factor in determining who is modern and who is not, and, by extension, who is civilized and who is not. Such a viewpoint asserts that there is an “organic” linkage between modernization and secularization, of which the west has been the bearer for the past century and a half. This tends to create a dangerous binary that excludes the rest of the world, especially countries with Muslim majorities, as uncivilized members of the community of states. I argue here instead that the masses in Muslim majority countries have rejected such a view, instead supporting the Islamists who have an alternative prospect in view which involves blending modernity and Islam. It is elites in Turkey, Egypt and Bangladesh, who are opposed to such an understanding and are rather inclined to replicate the western construction of religion, i.e., Islam as a hindrance to modernity. This is only paving the way for more unproductive tension in these countries.
Secularism: the great invention
The modern west has made itself distinct from the rest of the world by separating the temporal and spiritual worlds from each other. This separation, according to Charles Taylor, is “the great invention of the West.” Reformations throughout the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries in Europe paved the way for the rise of humanism, and a modern understanding of the world that is distinctively secular. Secularism refers to the confining of religiosity to the private domain of life. The term was initially coined by George Jacob Hollyake in 1851 as a way of creating a conscious difference between a secular approach to religion in which religion was to be considered part on one’s private life, and atheism. The term was in frequent use for this purpose during the latter part of the nineteenth century. The distinction between atheism and secularism originated in the fear that endorsing a secular public sphere would be misunderstood as denoting the eradication of religion, which was quite the opposite of the Kantian agenda for the secular. Kant, a principle theorist of the secular, defined a clear boundary between a private and public sphere. He insisted that making the public sphere secular did not indicate the end of religion, and he certainly did not disapprove of the practice of religion in the private sphere of human beings. Rather Kant insisted that reliance on a transcendent God violated human autonomy and freedom. Modernity was thus perceived to diminish the role of religion in public life in favour of reason and science. This was a central assumption in the theories of John Locke, Emile Durkheim, Max Weber, and Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, to name but a few. In one way or the other, the proponents of this school of thought, with their varied backgrounds and ideological orientations, argued that religion was a private matter for citizens. Although few said so explicitly, one further implication of this argument was that religion would eventually disappear, as secularization was essentially progressive. By the beginning of the twentieth century there was a widespread assumption in the west that, as had been implied by the Enlightenment framework, religion was “a soon-to-disappear remnant of the “dark ages.” However, this view of the early twentieth century changed dramatically in the 1960s and 1970s with the beginning of the studies of “history from the below” in the west. The predicted eventual end of religion in modern societies was challenged, based on the evidence of thriving religious practices in everyday life. Since then, the increasing visibility of religion in the west has led to the late-twentieth century perception that there has been a ‘return’ of religion to the west.
The dilemma of the Muslim majority countries
The growth of the modern nation-state system and its continuation in its modern form is directly linked to keeping a separation between religion and public space. It is interesting to note that as the secularization thesis developed in the west, some major theorists, such as Durkheim or Weber, did not endorse the usual teleological view of modernity, and in particular did not support the imposition of such a modernity on non-western societies. Nevertheless, enlightenment theories in general predicted the eventual decline and death of religion wherever these theories were to be applied. As these theories served as the basis of modernity, they also served as the basis of westernization and extended beyond the west to form the basis of universalism. Secularisation came to essentialize religion as a hindrance to modern development universally. As the non-western countries formed their own nation-states, they blindly replicated the western notion of keeping religion ‘confined’ without reflecting on the cultural particularities of these societies. A glaring example of this orientalist perspective would be Turkey, where the founding fathers of the country branded Islam and decreed that Islam needed to be contained in order to build the modern state of Turkey. The Cold War period, dominated by superpower rivalry saw the non-western countries follow the path of industrialization, as Jawharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India proclaimed in parliament that ‘catching up’ with both the United States and Soviet Union was the main imperative, “These two types of development [the US and the Soviet Union], even though they might be in conflict, are branches of the same tree.” Identity issues assumed a backseat as nation-building took the route to being modern, which was considered as synonymous to being industrialized. One can of course argue that identity issues, although multi-layered, were always present as the newly developed countries attempted to establish their ‘distinct’ identity vis-à-vis the other through projecting a ‘national’ narrative. However, the end of the Cold War and particularly the ‘war on terror’, resurfaced the debates on identity—should all modern nations be ‘western’ in all senses or revive and retain their own cultural distinctiveness, often imbued with religious practices and symbols.
The rise of Islamism and the Arab Spring
The resurgence of Islam in the political arena is traced to the defeat of the Arabs by Israel in the Six Day War, the 1973 oil crisis and more infamously, the Iranian Revolution in 1979. The Arab Spring, which started to rock the Middle East from December 2010 onwards, was at first seen as revolt against long-standing Islamic autocrats in the Middle East. The subsequent fall of the regimes and return to democracy left the world amazed as governments in Tunisia and Egypt were formed by popularly elected Islamist groups. Many now asked what the Arab Spring was all about? The Arab Spring had been considered by many commentators as a way of rewesternizing the world through the embrace of western ideals of democracy; instead, those democratic options paved the way for Islamist political parties to come to power peacefully. Before the onset of Arab Spring, the same happened in Turkey where the AK Parti was re-elected by popular mandate twice, and consolidated its political hold on power. This re-emergence of Islamists and their popular support might instead suggest that the people of these countries, and maybe more generally, are interested in a gradual return to their ideological roots and an amalgamation of these with the modern forces unleashed by democratic ideals. In other words, modernization is not the exclusive preserve of westernization. In countries with Muslim majorities modernisation aspires to blend Islam and modernity together. We might not want to call this Islamic modernity. We might want to recognise both its dichotomous nature and its insistence that the relationship between the two is amenable to peaceful coexistence, by referring to it as ‘Muslim and Modernity’. For example, the projection of Malaysian identity in the wake of 9/11 by Dr Mahathir Mohammad, as Shanti Nair has commented, spelt out, “Malaysia's status as a powerful, disciplined and learned nation that could defend itself and Islam.” Malaysia’s active promotion of ‘Asian values’ also reflected the nationalist aspiration of postcolonial countries to project their cultural distinctiveness over and against that of the west. This process of modernisation allowed space for the creation of identity internally. As Stephanie Lawson has pointed out, the promotion of Asian values, “operates to produce a unified, nationalistic rallying point—and it differentiates the unified ‘us’ against the external ‘them’.” This call for a unified ‘us’ appears at a clear juncture in the career of Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, who developed from being a “charismatic fundamentalist” in the 1980s to a “globalist liberal advocating for reformasi (reform)” in the late 1990s. The responses that emerged especially from Southeast countries with Muslim majority populations in the wake of 9/11 championed this creation of commensurability between modernity and Islam, an important feature of which is embodied, as Lily Rahim has argued, in the demand for, “the equal treatment of all religions by the state and freedom of religion and conscience.” Such views reject orientalist perspectives on Islam as a hindrance to modern development. Lily Rahim argues that such a shift in the Islamic countries was much evident during the Arab Spring in the Middle East and has termed this unique assertion of post-Islamism a ‘refolution’—a mixture of reformist and revolutionary zeal. In her analysis of post-Arab Spring political developments, Rahim has argued as research seems to show, that these countries have equally rejected authoritarian Islamic state systems and authoritarian secular principles in the conscious effort to blend modernity with cultural specificities in Muslim societies.
The cases of Turkey, Egypt and Bangladesh
The elites in these three countries seem quite oblivious to the fact that Islam can co-exist in the public sphere as long as it is not used as a political weapon. What started out in Turkey as a protest against a proposed development project at Gezi Park soon escalated and turned towards blaming the Islamist government for hijacking Turkey’s secular identity. What began in Bangladesh as the trial of the war criminals soon turned ‘secular’ with the so-called progressive elites ridiculing Islam. A democratically elected government was ousted in Egypt on the grounds that it wanted to establish totalitarian control of the society. While the political situations existing in these three countries may seem politically unconnected, at the bottom of all three scenarios lies an intense desire to contain Islamists and thereby to gain ‘modern’ credentials by reorienting Islam according to an essentially western perspective. Marxist writers have attributed the recent political turmoil in Greece and Turkey to protest against the elimination of ‘public spaces’ by capitalist regimes. But the underlying cause remains related to the ‘recognition’ of identity. Whenever democratic space has opened up, people have been eager to choose those who not only provide a better solution for their economic and social problems, but who can also offer them a recognition of the authenticity of their cultures. In their response to this, the division between the masses and their political elites is not only widening, but the elites have opted to deploy repressive measures to quell the challengers. The recent moves [16] of the Bangladesh government against the Islamists was a glaring example of this, leading to the imprisonment of a renowned human rights activist, lawyer Adilur Rahman Khan, charged with fabricating the number of deaths that had occurred during these demonstrations. The actual death toll remains controversial after the Egyptian military’s crackdown on the Islamists this August. The basic understanding of secularism is perhaps ‘lost in translation’ worldwide, both in the west and the non-west, especially in the Muslim majority countries. Secularism emerged out of the internecine intolerance between the Catholics and the Protestants that led towards the mutual accommodation and toleration of religious differences. But as it has developed, it has turned out instead to identify religion itself as the problem for the development of modernity and reason. Such a politicization of secularism has led towards intolerance and religious feud, which needs to be rethought, not only in the Muslim majority countries, but also in those European countries where self-expression through religious attire has been banned in public institutions.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s sad south


This is our world, and it will not turn on us and rend us. But it’s the same sun that glitters over trenches on perfect June mornings before the obliteration of thousands in a couple of hours. Men who shave themselves in the morning, and put tissue paper over a shaving cut are blown to rags by noon. (‘Zennor in Darkness’ by Helen Dunmore) PESHAWAR: Evil forces are at work in several places at the same time. They do not appear to have a moment’s rest as one imagines them mumbling ceaselessly ‘We can do what we like to you, and you cannot stop us, for we have the power and you are powerless.’ On June 26, 2013, terrorists attacked a convoy escorting a judge of the Sindh High Court, killing and maiming many who had left their homes for their workplaces on high notes. While this was going on, the long arms of terror were also simultaneously at work in the little bucolic world of Bannu where the target was a former chairman of the local peace committee. Malik Hashim Khan was killed along with his son and nephew in a remote-controlled blast aimed at the car in which they were traveling in the Jani Khel area of Bannu. The slain leader had since long disbanded the peace committee and had occupied himself only with the settlement of petty disputes in his area, but the unforgiving terrorists refused to forgive him. The tragedy that befell the family of Malik Hashim on June 26 was to a large extent overshadowed by the high profile incident in Karachi. But such indeed is the tragedy of the entire southern region of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa that it has literally been left to the machinations of terrorists of all hues. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s southern region consists of seven districts, four tribal agencies and six semi tribal agencies. The so called Frontier Region of Darra Adam Khel is the gateway to the south as one travels from Peshawar. But for the consistent sound of gunfire echoing in its environs, the small sleepy tribal land of Darra Adam Khel, sandwiched between dark, grassless hills, was where people lived in peace until 2006. It was in Darra where the notorious car lifter ‘Charg’ lived and bargained with his hapless victims from his seat at a rickety string bed on the serene hilltop of ‘Tor Sappar.’ Little did people know what was in store for them when they rejoiced at the killing of ‘Charg’ by the Taliban? In hindsight ‘Charg’ is now remembered as a microscopic evil, and what followed consequently is history chronicled in blood. Passing through Darra these days to reach one of the seven districts of KP or the vastnesses of the tribal land is an exercise that requires an indomitable will. In addition to the ever present danger of the militants reemerging from their holes, there are check posts on either sides of the 1.8-kilometre long tunnel where one has to wait for hours before being allowed to proceed onward. One vividly remembers the construction of the long awaited tunnel at the turn of the millennium, and the excitement that it had generated all around among the travelers weary of crisscrossing the arduous hilly road in hostile climatic conditions. Back then, it must not have crossed anybody’s mind that soon after its opening the cherished tunnel would become the most sought after target of the militants in a seemingly endless conflict. Darra Adam Khel wears a sad look these days. Waiting for one’s meal of sheep meat being prepared on charcoal in the cool shadows of the grey mountains, evenings in Darra used to be inexpressibly refreshing. A cool breeze blowing on Darra’s serene hilltops even in the sweltering summers lend them an aura of veritable hill stations to which even several British soldiers turned writers have also testified in their wistful writings. Tourists, especially travel writers and journalists, would invariably include a visit to the arms factories of Darra in their itineraries. Countless suicide bomb blasts in mosques, hujras, marketplaces and playgrounds seem to have instilled permanent fear in the minds of the people that no amount of soothing official pronouncements appear to be putting to rest. Life beyond Darra in the districts of Hangu, and the tribal agencies of Orakzai and Kurram is even more pathetic. All these areas are blessed with unequalled beauty, particularly the highlands of Orakzai Agency with its limitless meadows, latent sources of water and salubrious climate and the snow covered mountains and orchards of Kurram Agency. Man seems to have done great harm to his being the best of all creations of God by disturbing the status quo in these areas as it prevailed there before the onset of the ongoing restlessness. Sunnis, Shias and Sikhs used to live in exemplary amity in the Orakzai Agency which was known to be so deeply immersed in its self imposed aura of peace and tranquility that unlike the other tribal areas it shied away even from petty disputes. Same was true of Hangu where intermarriages between Sunnis and Shias were common phenomenon. These days when the rest of the world is lolling in some brief moments of reprieve from violence, those looking for bad news can trust Hangu to produce one in little time. Hardly a day passes by when an incident of bomb blast or targeted killing is not reported from Hangu and its adjoining areas. People from all these areas have been forced to evacuate to the relative safety of camps at great discomfort to their well being but here too death, shamelessly clad in the all enveloping traditional Pakhtun burqa, keeps pursuing them. Luckily Karak, known for the best berries-made honey, is the only district in the southern region that has so far been spared by the suicide bombers. Lakki Marwat, bordering Karak, does not share this good fortune of its northern neighbour where not quite long ago nearly a hundred people were moved down by a suicide bomber during a volleyball match in a single incident of unrestrained terror. Since then life in the district is just a shadow of what it used to be when carefree Marwats would enjoy themselves in numerous ways, not the least dancing wildly to the beat of the drum. Bannu to the southwest of Lakki Marwat has borne the brunt of the conflict on account of being bordering the restive tribal agency of North Waziristan. Local and personal enmities resulting in senseless killings have long been the bane of life in the land of Bannuchis. But that aside, the constant beat of the drum echoing through its length and love for flowers would never allow a dull moment in Bannu. Some of that is still there including the miniscule procession on the 10th day of Muharram but by and large life in Bannu has been deeply impacted by terrorism which has petrified people as formidable as even the Bannuchis. Further south with the ubiquitous camps for the internally displaced persons, the insidious suicide bombers lurking in the shadows, targeted killings and kidnappings for ransom, the narrative in the districts of Dera Ismail Khan and Tank and the tribal agency of South Waziristan differs little. Unabated terrorism has forced mass exodus of people from the south to Peshawar increasing pressure on the capital city, which is bursting at the seams. One wonders where all this is taking us to. One cannot begrudge the southerners for their pain is too deep to be confused with trivial questions and observations, but when will it be that one could enjoy again the sight and sounds of the south uninhibited?

Pakistan’s Afghanistan

“Your eyes aren’t eyes, they’re bees I find no cure for their sting”
The above is a “landay,” or a folk couplet, common among the Pashtuns living on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. This particular one was written by one of the twenty million women. The creators and listeners of landay, which are meant to be sung aloud, do not have to be literate, and in Pashtu the landays rarely rhyme. The only formal property of a landay is that it consists of 22 syllables, nine in the first line and 13 in the second. The poem ends with the sound “ma” or “na.” The story of the landay, the above selection, and many others written by predominantly Afghan women, were compiled, collected, translated, and then published by Poetry Magazine in the United States. The author of the volume, Eliza Griswold, traveled across Afghanistan collecting them. The result is an evocative collection that allows a glimpse into the private world of Pashtun women, one largely unavailable for public consumption. There are landays about lost loves, landays about drones, landays about emotional misgivings, and personal ones. As Griswold narrates, collecting them was difficult; the women were often afraid. In one instance, when she tried to take a picture of the gathering with her iPhone, they took it from her and hid it. In Pakistan, everyone would know why; we bury women for transgressions caught on cell phones all the time. There is something sorrowful about reading the account in an American magazine, much like learning of a neighbor’s illness from the mouth of a distant, faraway acquaintance. But such is the reality of our estranged proximities. In the decade of fighting the Taliban, from the days when they were a mysterious faraway force marauding Kabul, to the present when their names, faces, and ravages are well known, Pakistanis have never really learned much about either Pashtun or Afghan culture. As the Tehreek-e-Taliban have usurped the rhetoric of religion – appointing themselves the arbiters of authenticity, of righteousness, and of faith – there has been protest. Many mourn and question this; Islam must not be lost to the Taliban. Fewer have mourned the loss of Pashtun culture, of poetic forms such as the landay, of traditional music, of storytelling. The politicisation of Pashtun identity has meant that the loss has been constructed in entirely political terms, cultural appreciation thus neatly equaling ethnic segregation. Pakistan’s aging but persisting ethnic enmities have dictated that any appreciation of cultural tropes associated with ethnic identity must be celebrated only by those who either ascribe to that identity or who have forgotten it completely. Add to this that the loudest, brashest, and most violent claimants of culture usually win, and you have a rout in which the Tehreek-e-Taliban own Pashtun culture. The dynamics above, the language of geopolitical maneuvering, and strategic balancing has dominated Pakistan’s understanding of its next door neighbor. Any remaining space has been filled by images of an encroaching refugee horde, in the 80’s and the 90’s and recently as a result of the Nato invasion. The dark grays and blues and beards and burqas of the men and women that live on the outskirts of our cities add to this stark and dehumanised palette. There is no room for culture here, no room for understanding. Humanising the Pashtun and the Afghan is thought to impose costs far too dear for us to bear. After all, our bloody cities, our bombed schools have given us enough to mourn and little left; looking to the pain in another’s poetry may impose still more costs, and we are all emotionally bankrupt. So it is left to others to celebrate the landay. In the Pakistani imagination, Afghanistan remains a black hole of mystery populated only by worn images of fighters perched on mountain promontories and nameless, faceless women in blue burkas. What we have in common, the Pashtuns that live here and there, has been understood only in terms of the political liabilities they impose or, on good days, the strategic gifts they can bestow. The state is dismal and it can best be captured by the landay that begins the essay published in Poetry magazine. Written by a teenage poet who goes by the name Rahila Muska, from Helmand in Afghanistan, it simply says:
“I call, You’re a stone,One day you will look,and I am gone

Why did a Pakistan army officer’s son kill Benazir Bhutto murder-case prosecutor?

Let Us Build Pakistan
by Amir Mir
Abdullah Umar Deobandi, the alleged assassin of a senior prosecutor Chaudhry Zulfiqar, who was handling sensitive cases, including the Benazir Bhutto assassination, had joined the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) as a reaction to avenge the alleged humiliation his father [Lt Col Khalid Mehmood Abbasi] had suffered after being arrested, court-martialed and convicted for his alleged involvement in the December 2003 unsuccessful bid to kill General Musharraf in Rawalpindi. Not many people know that some top TTP leaders – such as the late head of the suicide training squad, Qari Hussain, and the TTP’s current spokesman, Ehsanullah Ehsan – were all members of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi in Punjab at one time or another before they became part of the TTP. The boundaries between Sipah Sahaba (LeJ-ASWJ) and Taliban-TTP-AlQaida are amorphous. In the main they are Takfiri Deobandi and Takfiri Wahhabi-Salafist groups which do not represent majrity of peaceful Sunni Muslims. Abdullah Umar Deobandi, a student of the Saudi-funded International Islamic University (IIU) Islamabad, was arrested last week for killing Chaudhry Zulfiqar on May 3 in the federal capital with a view to save the alleged killers of Benazir Bhutto [belonging to the TTP] against whom the senior prosecutor had gathered credible evidence. Ch Zulfiqar was murdered while he was on his way to the anti terrorism court to attend the hearing of Benazir Bhutto’s murder case, when two men on a Mehran vehicle (GAL-1171) opened fire on his vehicle near G-9 Markaz. After the incident, Inspector General of Islamabad Police, Binyamin Khan while talking to the media revealed that police found a letter from the crime scene written by the banned TTP, which was containing threatening messages for Chaudhary Zulfiqar. Days before his death, Zulfiqar told reporters he had solid evidence to indict the arrested assassins of Benazir Bhutto. Following intense investigations, the Islamabad Police finally arrested Abdullah Umar from Islamabad who turned out to be the son of a former Army officer, Colonel Khalid Mahmood Abbasi, who was arrested, court-martialed and dismissed from service for allegedly colluding with a banned jehadi organization to assassinate Musharraf in 2003. The interrogation of two suspects, traced with the help of fingerprints found in a taxi used in the murder of Ch Zulfiqar, led the Islamabad police to Abdullah Umar [from a private hospital] who was paralysed below the waist due to a bullet fired by Farman, the bodyguard of the prosecutor, that had hit his spine. Abdullah has also been found involved in another attack on the Parade Lane Mosque in Rawalpindi. The Mosque attack, carried out in December 2009, killed nearly 40 people, including several khakis and their relatives. According to the police, the accomplices of Abdullah (who had received three bullets that had hit his spine), immediately removed him from the crime scene and took him to District Headquarters Hospital Rawalpindi where they told doctors that he was fired upon by dacoits. He was later shifted to a private hospital by none other than his father, Lt Col Khalid Mahmood Abbasi who also managed to lodge a false FIR with the Ratta Amral police station of Rawalpindi, saying Abdullah was fired upon by dacoits. The investigators found Abdullah’s clue from a pistol and a mobile phone which were dropped at the site when he was whisked away by his accomplices in a taxi. One of the eye witnesses noted the taxi number which was traced to be registered in Gujranwala. The owner of the car told police that he rented it to a person from Mandi Bahauddin whose identity card turned out to be forged. However, he incidentally left his thumb impression and signature on the deal signed with the taxi driver. The thumb impression was verified by Nadra and the police arrested a person from Mandi Bahauddin who later told police about Abdullah Umar as the mastermind of Zulfiqar’s assassination. Police finally arrested Abdullah from a private hospital in Rawalpindi on June 12, 2013 and shifted him to a government hospital under tight security. Police has already obtained Abdullah’s 14-day remand from an anti-terrorism court and are interrogating him. According to the police sources, during preliminary investigations, Abdullah Umar has confessed having killed Chaudhry Zulfiqar besides being an active member of the TTP. He told his interrogators that he was hardly 12 years old when his father, Lt Col Khaled Mahmood Abbasi was arrested, court martialed and dismissed from service. He had, therefore, developed hatred against the establishment and eventually joined the Tehrik-e-Taliban. Col Abbasi, who was posted in Kohat at the time of his arrest, was a religious-minded person who used to deliver daily lessons from the Quran to his junior officers, a practice General Zia had introduced in the army. Col Abbasi of the Signals Training Centre in Kohat (Pak Army No: PA-20082) had worked at various ranks as Communication Engineer. As a devoted soldier, Abbasi was deeply inspired by the Pakistan Army’s official motto “Eman, Taqwa, Jehad Fe Sabeelillaho” — Jehad, fear of Allah Almighty and Jehad in the cause of Allah. During the Kargil adventure of the 1999, he had made an official request to GHQ to post him at the war front, but the request was denied due to non-availability of a commanding post at the border. He had gone to the extent of making yet another request for his demotion in rank in order to facilitate his posting at the Kargil front. But his request was denied once again. Col Abbasi was finally arrested following the 2003 capture of Major Adil Qudoos [of 45 Signals] for facilitating the stay of the former chief operational commander of al-Qaeda, Khaled Sheikh Mohammad, in Rawalpindi. Khaled Sheikh was arrested in June 2003 from the Rawalpindi residence of Major Adil Qudoos’ brother, Ahmad Abdul Qudoos, who was an active member of the Jamaat-e-Islami. Several other khakis who were arrested for being linked to this web of jehadis included Lt Col Abdul Ghaffar of the Army Aviation Command Rawalpindi, Maj Ataullah Khan Mahmood from the Judge Advocate General (JAG) branch, Major Rohail Sarfraz of HQ II Corps and Capt Dr Usman Zafar. Abdul Islam Siddiqui, a low-ranking soldier of the Pakistan Army, was hanged in 2005 after an in camera military trial for his involvement in the December 2003 twin suicide attacks. Col Khalid Mahmood Abbasi was suspected when an al-Qaeda operative made a telephonic contact with him from Afghanistan and sought his consent for two people to stay with him at his Kohat residence for a few days. The call was intercepted by the American intelligence sleuths who had laid down a state-of-the-art espionage system in Pakistan at that time to monitor communications being carried out through the airwaves. After the suspicious phone call, the intelligence agencies moved swiftly to detain Col Khaled Abbasi and his alleged associates in the Pakistan Army who were subsequently court-martialed.

Pakistan: Economic Salvation - Privatisation or Expropriation

By Lal Khan
There has been an aggressive campaign in the media that the recipe for growth and the solution to the economic crisis is privatisation and not the nationalisation of industry, agriculture, finance capital and the economy. Nationalisation has been dubbed as a failure and an economic disaster. The burgeoning losses and corruption in the PIA, WAPDA, Railways, Steel Mills and other state institutions have been diagnosed as the products of nationalisation and public ownership. For most analysts and politicians dominating society, the solution of these economic woes is simply the ‘privatisation’ of these enterprises. Such brusque and absurd statements only lay bare the obtuseness and mediocrity of the experts of the elite who slavishly ape the western bourgeois economists who have plunged the economies of advanced capitalist countries into the deepest slump in memory. The reality is that the economic development in Europe, the USA, Japan and other advanced capitalist economies in the post war period was possible through the domination of state sectors in the economy that gave them a certain social advance and stability. The economic history of Pakistan also contradicts this approach of monetarist economics. In the 1960s under the Ayub regime there was a substantial expansion of industry and infrastructure and the main emphasis of the economic policy was not the present doctrine of trickle down and free market economics. On the contrary it was Keynesian economics that was pushing the growth rate and expanding the economy. Although it was the by-product of the spin off effects of the boom in western capitalism in that period, it was mainly through the intervention of the state that the economy surged forward. The state set up industries and dams and other infrastructure projects under the state institutions like the Pakistan Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC). Similarly, land reforms were introduced and the state invoked policies to expand and stimulate demand. But this model failed to carry out an equivalent social development which sharpened contradictions in society that exploded in the revolutionary upheaval of 1968-69. Despite defeat in a war, dismemberment of the country and massive destruction, the PPP government, under the influence of the mass upsurge, carried out some of the most radical reforms in the country’s history. Large chunks of the mainly domestic capital and industry were nationalised and massive land reforms were instituted. However, the capitalist state and the system were not overthrown under the utopian doctrine of a ‘mixed’ economy. The reforms were sabotaged by a bureaucracy that was in cahoots with the landlords, capitalists and the imperialist monopolies. The failure of these reforms to deliver laid bare the incapacity of carrying out of reforms within a capitalist setup. These nationalisations were in fact bureaucratisation of the industries and did not introduce workers management, control and collective ownership. It was a regime of state capitalism that tried to attack some sections of the ruling class without eliminating their system in its totality. As soon as they recovered from the initial blows, this elite hyped inflation and sabotaged the economy resulting in severe social and political instability. In connivance with the imperialists and the military generals they toppled the PPP government and assassinated Bhutto through the gallows in a venomous vengeance for the bruises they got from these expropriations. In the 1980s, when Keynesian economics started to collapse internationally after the oil shock and the first major post war slump of the mid seventies, the new mantra was trickledown economics under the synonyms of Reaganomics and Thatcherism. In reality, it was the same old monetarist capitalism of the 1860s. The collapse of a bureaucratic caricature of socialism in the Soviet Union and the capitalist degeneration of the Chinese bureaucracy further gave impetus to this aggressive neoliberal economics. However, these policies in the ex-colonial countries from Chile to Pakistan were a catastrophe for the teeming millions. The brutal but cowardly Zia dictatorship was afraid and cautious of implementing large scale privatisations as they were terrified of a massive workers backlash that could have overthrown the despotic regime. But with the advent of the democratic regimes of Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif the privatisation process was accelerated. Thatcherism became the role model. With the lull in the movement and the ideological betrayals of the left political and trade union leaders, who capitulated to Fukuyama’s theory of ‘the end of history’, the interests of the rulers were served. The disastrous impact on the workers and the impoverished masses was cynically ignored. Today, almost all of the mainstream political leaders in Pakistan subscribe to this doctrine of trickledown economics. Even in the present situation there are numerous examples which demonstrate the progressive impacts of expropriations for the oppressed masses. In its issue of 19th January this year the most ardent advocate of privatisation, The Economist, had this to write about the situation in Bolivia. “Since becoming Bolivia’s president in 2006, Evo Morales has brought ever more of the country’s economy into the hands of the state. In his first year in office he renationalised the oil industry. Telecoms, much of electricity generation and then zinc and tin mining followed. On December 29th Mr. Morales announced the expropriation of two electricity-distribution companies owned by Iberdrola, a Spanish company...Bolivia has overtaken its wealthier neighbour Peru in access to clean water, the World Bank reckons... average incomes have more than doubled in dollar terms...The government may now be able to expand electricity provision, as it has with water...”But to sustain this alleviation of poverty and the access of the basic amenities Evo Morales will have to go the whole hog and expropriate the commanding heights of the economy. Capitalism has to be overthrown and the socialist revolution completed for the emancipation of the masses in Bolivia. With the present catastrophic condition of Pakistan’s economy, privatisations only end up in worsening the plight of the toiling masses. What we can learn from the economic history of capitalism is that class interests are irreconcilable. For the ruling classes and their imperialist bosses these policies of privatisation and the intensification of exploitation are necessary to sustain their rates of profits. For the working masses it means exclusion from health, education, water, electricity and the other basic needs of life. But half hearted nationalisations within the constraints of capitalism are futile and end up in a disastrous economic crisis. The politics of the people’s emancipation need the expropriation of the banks, industry and agriculture. This can be only brought about by the creation and establishment of a democratically planned economy where all production, wealth and resources are not for the sake of profits but for fulfilment of human need and for putting an end to deprivation.

Killings of Shia in Pakistan now 'genocide'

Green Left Weekly
Najeeba Wazefadost came to Australia as a child refugee in September 2000 by a perilous journey by boat. She is now president of Hazara Women of Australia and I interviewed her for Green Left TV at a 500-strong Hazara community demonstration in the centre of Sydney on February 20 to protest the ongoing massacres of Shia in Pakistan. “Hazaras all over the world have been persecuted for so many years, especially in Pakistan. Lately we've had seen many Hazaras killed – slaughtered mercilessly. But unfortunately, the Pakistan government has been very quiet. It has been silent on all the targeted killings that have happened. “Actually it is no longer just targeted killings, it is a genocide. This needs to stop. “We need to condemn these targeted killings of Shia. It has happened many times in the last year. It has happened in the same city, Quetta, again. It has happened against the shame Shia community of Hazara again. “Where is the UN? Where is Human Rights Watch? Where is the Pakistan government raising its voice to bring some changes to give peace to our people? “The Australian government is very concerned about the number of refugee arrivals in Australia. But if it really wants to decrease this number then they need to put pressure on the Pakistan government about the way it treats the basic human rights of Hazaras. They should put pressure on the Pakistan government to provide safety and security for these people so they are not forced to flee to other countries like Australia.” Nick Reimer, a spokesperson for the Sydney Refugee Action Coalition told Green Left TV: “The Australian government is complicit with the Pakistani government in the outrages going on in cities like Quetta because Australian money is funding measures that are trapping Hazara people in Pakistan because our government is so desperate to prevent them coming here as refugees and making claims for our protection. “Australia should welcome Hazara refugees, as it should welcome all other refugees. We should process them in the community when they arrive here and apply for asylum. They should be able to live decently while their refugee applications are being processed. Which should give them the support and care that they desperately need.” Protests were held in major cities around Australia on February 20. Najeeba Wazefadost will be speaking at a forum on Voices from Afghanistan at Jubilee Room, NSW Parliament on February 27, 6-8.30pm. See Facebook event page here.