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The article below provides a good overview of the role played by Pakistani religious charities in funding and fueling domestic and international terrorism.

The author rightly notes that the process began in early 1980s with the onset of “jihad” (i.e. US-backed proxy war) against Soviet Union in Afghanistan. With full backing of Pakistani state and in consort with its Islamization policies, funds were collected ostensibly to build mosques and seminaries as well as finance fight against the Soviet “infidels.” A central tenet of teachings in these seminaries (i.e. madrassahs) was the notion of obligatory “jihad” against the “infidel” in the name of Islam. Small wonder following withdrawal of Soviet Union from Afghanistan, Pakistani charities wasted no time in finding new venues to wage their holy wars against “infidels”. Foremost among these venues was India – especially in Kashmir – followed by other famous global Muslim inter-faith flashpoints like Chechnya and Bosnia.

Given the Islamization of Pakistani society over the past thirty years and the highly organized fund raising, seminary recruiting, and martial training of jihadi outfits, I doubt if the state can dent their power even if it makes token attempts by denying some organizations public placement of charity boxes.

[Boxing the faith; Nadeem F. Paracha; DAWN: 8 Nov, 2009; Copy and Paste]

Once upon a time, charity boxes of so-called Islamic welfare organisations were a ubiquitous sight at shops in our cities. These boxes were claimed to have been put there by the shopkeepers and Islamic welfare groups to raise money for the building of mosques and madressahs. They started appearing in shops during Pakistan’s involvement in the so-called anti-Soviet Afghan Jihad in the 1980s — a decade that saw a proliferation of mosques and madressahs across the country, mostly funded by aid from the Gulf countries, and patronised by the Ziaul Haq dictatorship. By the 1990s, however, it became quite apparent that the funds collected through these boxes weren’t necessarily being used to build mosques and madressahs that were already thriving and in abundance.

The money in this case was largely ending up in the laps of various Kashmiri and Afghan Jihadi organisations, and from 1989 onwards, sectarian organisations too started to place their respective charity boxes at shops. Most of the charity boxes belonged to the Jamaatud Dawah Pakistan, a so-called charity organisation formed in Lahore in 1985 by a former university professor of Islamic Studies. The Dawah collected funds to provide healthcare to wounded Afghan and Kashmiri Jihadis, and also claimed to be providing financial support to the families of Islamist guerrillas killed in action. According to the celebrated investigative journalist, Amir Mir’s book ‘The Talibanisation of Pakistan,’ the Dawah became closely associated with the notorious Lashkar-i-Taiba (LeT) in 1990, an organisation that eventually became the ‘military wing’ of the Dawah.

After the tragic 9/11 episode when Pakistan became an ally in the West’s ‘War on Terror,’ the LeT was banned by the Musharraf regime, but the Dawah was allowed to continue with its ‘charity activities.’ Musharraf’s regime was constantly accused by American and Indian intelligence agencies of taking only selective action against Jihadi groups. According to Mir’s book, most of these groups were said to be the handiwork of Pakistani intelligence agencies to ‘wage low intensity insurgencies in Indian Kashmir and Afghanistan.’

After the deadly 2008 Mumbai attacks undertaken by Pakistani Jihadis that India says were trained by the LeT, the democratically elected government of Yousuf Raza Gilani finally banned the Dawah. The organisation was also accused by the United Nations for aiding LeT men in planning and conducting the Mumbai attacks. The Dawah chief, Hafiz Saeed — a former member of the Jamat-i-Islami’s student wing, the Islami Jamiat Taleba (IJT) — denied his group’s involvement in the Mumbai attacks.

The other prominent ‘charity organisation’ that fully utilised the services of the charity box, was the Al-Rashid Trust. Formed in 1996, the trust described itself as a ‘welfare organisation’, and one of its original charters was to carry out welfare projects within Pakistan, with financial resources provided by public donations. It then expanded its mandate to carry out ‘relief activities’ for Muslims in Chechnya, Kosovo and Afghanistan. It perceived the various non-governmental organisations (NGOs) currently working in Afghanistan as ‘enemies of Muslims.’ The trust also promoted the concept of Jihad. One of its numerous booklets states: ‘The holy war is an essential element of Islam’ and that ‘every Muslim must carry weapons if the need would be felt to fire on a non-Muslim.’ Suspected of raising funds for Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, the Al-Rashid Trust was also banned by the UN in December, 2008.

Earlier, the placing of charity boxes in shops by so-called Islamic charity organisations was finally banned by the Musharraf regime in 2003 when Pakistan cracked down on certain Islamist organisations. Shopkeepers defying the ban were heavily fined and some were arrested for having links with the banned organisations. The Jihadi charity box phenomenon across the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s was aided by three main factors associated with the shopkeepers. Firstly, a bulk of shop owners in urban Pakistan belongs to the conservative petty-bourgeois class that heartily supported Ziaul Haq’s ‘Islamisation process.’ Many shopkeepers actually believed the charity was being used to build mosques. Secondly, many shopkeepers could not decline to keep these boxes, because those who did were harassed by Islamist organisations and labelled as ‘American/Indian agents’ and ‘Quadianis.’ Lastly, some shopkeepers actually did have links with Jihadi organisations, and played a central role in raising funds through their business connections with some wealthy overseas Pakistanis residing in various Middle Eastern countries as businessmen, doctors and engineers.

Today, shops in Pakistan do not carry these charity boxes. Boxes having logos and pleas of various Islamic charity organisations and sectarian groups have now been replaced by boxes belonging to genuine charity organisations, such as the Edhi Foundation, The Shaukat Khanum Hospital Foundation, SUIT, The Kidney Centre, etc. But some congested shopping areas in Karachi and Lahore still have a few shops that have boxes pleading charity for mosques. Some believe these are harmless, while others claim that the presence of these few boxes proves that the ‘Islamist’ charity box menace is not fully taken care of and may continue to raise funds for organisations bent on creating havoc in the name of Islam.

The original article is available at: http://archives.dawn.com/archives/151997

Below are some revealing excerpts from Jaswant Singh’s interview regarding his book, Jinnah: India-Partition-Independence. They challenge the commonly held views about Jinnah in India. I agree with Jaswant’s central thesis that Partition was forced upon Jinnah by Nehru and Patel.

[ An unlikely Indian admirer; Jawed Naqvi ; DAWN; Monday, 17 Aug, 2009; Excerpts; Copy and Paste]


Did he see Jinnah as a nationalist?

“Oh yes. He fought the British for an independent India but also fought resolutely and relentlessly for the interest of the Muslims of India. The acme of his nationalistic achievement was the 1916 Lucknow Pact of Hindu-Muslim unity.”

What did he admire about Jinnah most?

“I admire certain aspects of his personality. His determination and the will to rise. He was a self-made man. Mahatma Gandhi was the son of a Diwan. All these (people) – Nehru and others – were born to wealth and position. Jinnah created for himself a position. He carved in Bombay, a metropolitan city, a position for himself. He was so poor he had to walk to work… he told one of his biographers there was always room at the top but there’s no lift. And he never sought a lift.”

Did he believe the common Indian lore that Jinnah hated Hindus?

“Wrong. Totally wrong. That certainly he was not… his principal disagreement was with the Congress Party. He had no problems whatsoever with Hindus. I think we have misunderstood him because we needed to create a demon. We needed a demon because in the 20th century the most telling event in the subcontinent was the partition of the country.”

Jaswant Singh said had Congress accepted a decentralised federal country then, in that event, a united India “was ours to attain.” The problem, he added, was Jawaharlal Nehru’s “highly centralised polity.” He said: “Nehru believed in a high centralised policy. That’s what he wanted India to be. Jinnah wanted a federal polity. That even Gandhi accepted. Nehru didn’t. Consistently he stood in the way of a federal India until 1947 when it became a partitioned India.”

Was it wrong to see Jinnah as the villain of partition as Indians are taught?

“It is. It is not borne out of the facts… we need to correct it.. Muslims saw that unless they had a voice in their own economic, political and social destiny they will be obliterated. That was the beginning (of their political demands)… For example, see the 1946 election. Jinnah’s Muslim League wins all the Muslim seats and yet they dont have sufficient numbers to be in office because the Congress Party has, without even a single Muslim, enough to form a government and they are outside of the government. So it was realised that simply contesting elections was not enough… All of this was a search for some kind of autonomy of decision making in their own social and economy destiny.”

Speaking about Jinnah’s call for Pakistan, Jaswant Singh said:

“From what I have written, I have found it was a negotiating tactic because he (Jinnah) wanted certain provinces to be with the Muslim League, he wanted a certain percentage of (seats) in the central legislature. If he had that there would not have been partition.”

Nehrus heirs and the Congress party could find his claims unacceptable, he was told.

Jaswant Singh said: “I am not blaming anybody. I am not assigning blame. I am simply recalling what I have found as the development of issues and events of that period.”

Had Mahatma Gandhi, Rajaji or Azad – rather than Nehru – taken the final decisions a united India would have been attained?

“Yes, I believe so. We could have (attained a united India).”

On Jinnah’s relationship with Mahatma Gandhi, he said:

“Jinnah was essentially a logician. He believed in the strength of logic. He was a parliamentarian. He believed in the efficacy of parliamentary politics. Gandhi, after testing the water, took to the trails of India and he took politics into the dusty villages of India.”

Jaswant Singh explained that Jinnah had two fears of Gandhi’s style of mass politics. First, “if mass movement was introduced into India than the minorities in India could be threatened and we could have Hindu-Muslim riots as a consequence.” Second, “this would result in bringing religion into Indian politics and he (Jinnah) didnt want that.”

Jaswant Singh pointed out that Jinnah’s fears were shared by Annie Besant and added that events had shown that both were correct.

At the end of their lives both Jinnah and Gandhi died failed men?

“Yes, I am afraid I have to say that.. I cannot treat this (the outcome of their lives) as a success either by Gandhi or Jinnah.. the partition of India and the Hindu-Muslim divide cannot really be called Gandhiji’s great success… Jinnah got a moth-eaten Pakistan but the philosophy that Muslims are a separate nation was completely rejected within years of Pakistan coming into being.”

The full article is available at:  http://archives.dawn.com/archives/19892

The following are some of my favorite quotes from Jaswant Singh’s book, Jinnah: India-Partition-Independence.

“The basic and structural fault in Jinnah’s notion remains a rejection of his origins; of being an Indian, having been shaped by the soil of India, tempered in the heat of Indian experience. Muslims in India were no doubt subscribers to a different faith but that is all; they were not any different stock or of alien origin.”

“It is in this, a false ‘minority syndrome’ that the dry rot of partition first set in, and then unstoppably it afflicted the entire structure, the magnificent edifice of an united India. The answer (cure?), Jinnah asserted, lay only in parting, and Nehru and Patel and others of the Congress also finally agreed. Thus was born Pakistan”.

“Religion in all this was entirely incidental; Pakistan alone gave him all that his personality and character demanded. If Mr. Jinnah was necessary for achieving Pakistan, Pakistan too was necessary for the fulfilment of Mr. Jinnah.”

“His opposition was not against the Hindus or Hinduism, it was the Congress that he considered as the true political rival of the Muslim League, and the League he considered as being just an extension of himself. During innumerable conversations with him I can rarely recall him attacking Hindus or Hinduism as such. His opposition, which later developed into almost hatred, remained focused upon the Congress leadership’ [M.R.A. Baig, Jinnah’s secretary].”

“As [Maulana Azad] wrote in his memoirs, he had come to the conclusion that Indian federation should deal with just three subjects: defence, foreign affairs and communications; thus granting the maximum possible autonomy to the provinces. According to the Maulana, Gandhi accepted this suggestion, while Sardar Patel did not.”

“For, along with several other there is one central difficulty that India, Pakistan, Bangladesh face: our ‘past’ has, in reality never gone into the ‘past’, it continues to reinvent itself, constantly becoming our ‘present’, thus preventing us from escaping the imprisonment of memories. To this we have to find an answer, who else can or will?”

Before I specifically address the potential of an Indo-Pak alliance, I would like to point out the following: (a) the Subcontinent has been a single entity for significant periods in history; (b) the “oneness” of the Subcontinent has been experienced (to varying degrees) under Hindu, Muslim, and British rule; (c) since the arrival of Muslim invaders, there has never been a Muslim-only state in the entire Subcontinent; (d) Pakistan and Bangladesh are artificial creations given the long history of religiously integrated India; (e) Partition’s “Two-Nation”  theory was considerably weakened by refusal of majority of Indian Muslims to physically relocate; and (f) the idea of Muslims as constituting a separate nation was demolished with formation of Bangladesh.

With the above points as background, I believe the prospects of an Indo-Pak alliance of some form will only become stronger over time. We could be even less than a decade away from a major deal. This is largely due to the failure of Pakistan to become a viable entity and the ongoing rise of India as a global economic power. Let me elaborate:

  1. Pakistan is financially bankrupt and its economy is on life support with American aid and loans
  2. US aid cannot be expected to continue indefinitely in the name of “war on terror”
  3. Pakistan’s high population growth rate will only intensify economic pressures and social strife in coming years
  4. The primary factors for Pak economic weakness are its anti-India policies of Islamization and high defense spending. (Former prevents introduction of modern education while latter takes away capital needed for development)
  5. US and European markets for even skilled Pakistani labor are closed while Gulf markets for unskilled Pak labor are shrinking on account of Pakistan’s association with terrorism
  6. India is the only entity that can play a critical role in staving off an economic collapse in Pakistan via trade and investment
  7. India has the capacity to absorb significant portion of Pak labor force on account of much bigger and better economy as well as common ethnic and cultural roots
  8. India stands to make significant geopolitical gains by helping Pakistan, such as: elimination of cross border terrorism, resolution of Kashmir problem, relatively free hand in Afghanistan, ability to project power in energy-rich Central Asia, and check on China’s Asian influence
  9. Indian leadership is well aware of development of economic regional blocs – with potential common currency and defense agreements – as an important global trend
  10. India has already floated the idea of a “loose” border with Pakistan. For example, PM Singh is on record for having told ex-President Musharraf that in Kashmir “borders can be made irrelevant, but they cannot be changed”
  11. The increasing social, ethnic, and religious strife in Pakistan coupled with the country’s steadily worsening economic and financial problems cannot be cured without a wholesale revision of longstanding state ideology and policies
  12. There is a growing public realization amongst Pakistani intelligentsia that “this time is different” and “something must be done” to “save” Pakistan
  13. Given Pak’s escalating troubles and India’s rising star, even members of Pakistani elite are publicly questioning for the first time if the country should have been created

The article below superbly describes the weakness of Pakistan as a concept and the serious problems arising from that weakness.

Pakistan cannot be regarded as a normal country with a strong, independent, historical identity. Rather, given its recent creation, artificial nature, ethnic frictions, and sectarian tensions, it is better understood as a space in search of an identity. An identity is being provided at present – albeit, on a temporary bases and with diminishing impact – by a negation of India and a concomitant promotion of Islam… which creates its own negative consequences. The former traps Pakistan into a confrontation with its neighbor that it can ill afford economically, militarily, or diplomatically. While the latter prevents Pakistan from confronting the very Islamic forces out to destroy the state itself.

[Pakistan’s Existential Challenge; Bret Stephens; Wall Street Journal; May 12, 2009; Excerpts; Copy and Paste]

About Iran, Henry Kissinger once asked whether the Islamic Republic was a country or a cause. About Pakistan, the question is whether it’s a country or merely a space.

Today, Somalia is a space not even pretending to be a country. The result is destitution, piracy and a sanctuary for Islamic jihadists, but little by way of ideas for how to change things. Historically Afghanistan has always been a space, defined mostly by its power to repel: The Obama administration would be smart to take this into account by keeping its expectations for nation-building low. Whether post-invasion Iraq is a country or a space remains a question, though it seems to be leaning in the former direction.

As for Pakistan, we’re about to find out.

The world took note… when a Taliban advance brought it to within 60 miles of Islamabad. But that offensive was less intrinsically distressing than the seeming nonchalance with which Pakistan’s rulers, current and former, surrendered sovereignty to Islamic extremists, first in the tribal hinterlands and then in the Swat Valley.

What kind of state simply accepts that its judicial and political writ doesn’t actually run to its internationally recognized boundaries? Three cases are typical. One is a weak state that lacks the capacity to enforce its law and ensure domestic tranquility – think of Congo. Another is an ethnic patchwork state that knows well enough not to bend restive or potentially restive minorities to its will – that would be present-day Lebanon. A third is a canny state that seeks to advance strategic aims by feigning powerlessness while deliberately ceding control to proxies – the Palestinian Authority under Yasser Arafat.

Pakistan’s odd distinction is that it fits all three descriptions at once. It is politically weak, ethnically riven, and a master of plausible deniability – an art it has practiced not only toward India, Afghanistan and the U.S. with its support for various “freedom fighting” groups but also, in the matter of the CIA drone attacks, toward its own people.

The roots of Pakistan’s problems go to its nature as a state. What is Pakistan? Even now, nearly 62 years after its founding, the best answer is “not India”: As with the Palestinians, Pakistani identity is defined negatively. What else is Pakistan? As with Iran, it is an Islamic Republic: Punjabis, Pashtuns, Kashmiris, Balochis, Sindhis and so on are only really knitted together in their state as Muslims.

No wonder the Pakistani army has been so reluctant to redeploy the bulk of its forces to the western front: To do so betrays Pakistan’s entire reason for being. Tellingly, the army only went on the offensive this month after the Taliban took aim at an army convoy.

Of course the “Islamic” state that Pakistani founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah foresaw wasn’t quite what the Taliban have in mind. “You will find,” he said in 1947, “that in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because this is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State.”

That vision still appeals to a majority of Pakistanis, who have repeatedly defeated radical religious parties at the polls. But rejecting clerical politics is not quite the same thing as accepting secular ideals. It’s also hard to sustain republican hopes when the practical results – in the persons of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and current President Asif Ali Zardari – have been so consistently dismaying.

We live in an age dominated by immodest ideas of personal, national or ideological destiny, to which Pakistan has not been immune. It might consider more modest aims, like simple countryhood. And since the threat it now faces is existential, let’s put the point existentially: The alternative to that kind of being is nothingness.

The full article is available at: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124208442748008601.html

In my opinion, the interview of noted Pakistani journalist Mohammed Hanif below accurately describes the five major realities in Pakistan:

  1. promotion of an image of Hindu leaders as cunning and deceitful “baniyas” by right-wing Urdu press
  2. rejection of Jinnah’s secularist ideals in favor of state Islamization and persecution of religious minorities
  3. increasing security threats faced by ordinary Muslims in an “Islamic” country from Talibanization and Shia-Sunni sectarianism
  4. bitterness among Pakistani ruling elite at India’s spectacular economic rise over the past decade or so
  5. horrific daily struggle of the masses to makes ends meet

Mr. Hanif is a former BBC correspondent as well as author of the award-winning book “A Case of Exploding Mangoes.”

[Jaswant has become a folk hero in Pakistan; Namita Devidayal; August 23rd, 2009; Time of India; Excerpts; Copy and Paste]

Q. Clearly, calling Jinnah a `great man’ did not go down well in India and Jaswant Singh was summarily booted out of the BJP. How does Pakistan view Gandhi and Nehru?

A. As you can probably tell, Jaswant Singh has become a bit of a folk hero in Pakistan. Not that anybody has read his book. But everybody remembers Allama Iqbal’s prophecy: Paasban mil gaiay Kaabay ko sanam khanay se. (Kaaba has found defenders in the house of idols).

In the popular imagination, which is basically fuelled by the right-wing Urdu press, Gandhi is some kind of a pervert Hindu fanatic who personifies the Muslim communalist’s idea of a cunning baniya. We are frequently reminded of `baghal mein churi, moonh pe raam raam’. Nehru is seen as a suave seducer who managed to usurp large chunks of the Punjab, Bengal and Kashmir that should have been part of Pakistan.

There is some objective history which portrays them as great statesmen caught up in troubled times but we are never taught that history in schools.

Q. How faithful has Pakistan remained to Jinnah’s vision, “you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques”, and how badly did General Zia-ul-Haq subvert it?

A. That quote comes from Jinnah’s first speech to Pakistan’s legislative assembly and they actually tried to expunge it from the records. So the subversion started way before Zia came on the scene. We haven’t been very nice to religious minorities: Bhutto declared Ahmedis kafir, Zia brought in bizarre blasphemy laws which made it very easy to hound Hindus and Christians. That should leave us to go to our mosques freely, but no. Because of the Shia-Sunni conflict, and lately because of the Taliban, we have had a lot of mosques blown up. So right now in our Islamic Republic (named not by Jinnah but another military dictator Ayub Khan) mosques are the most dangerous places.

Q. How do Pakistanis view India? The elite view? The mass view?

A. Pakistanis used to view India as a poor elder brother who would pick on the younger brother to feel good about himself. Now they see India as the newly rich older brother who hasn’t lost any of its old habits. The elite feel competitive and want to maintain a kind of status quo. They only violate it when they can manage to go to Bangalore for a cheap heart bypass. Our masses are too busy trying to make a living and trying to find a safe mosque to pray in [to have a view of India].

The full interview is available at: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/news/india/Jaswant-has-become-a-folk-hero-in-Pakistan/articleshow/4923304.cms

I am not surprised in the least by the ongoing exodus of Hindus from Pakistan due to escalating Talibanization of the country. When even upper and middle classes  in major urban centers in Pakistan are not safe from Taliban-inspired violence and terrorism, what hope can there be for poor members of religious minorities in rural areas? Surely, they would face the full brunt of religious bigotry and cruelty from Islamic zealots.

[Fearing Taliban, Pak Hindus take Thar Express to India; The Times of India; Vimal Bhatia; 10 September 2009; Excerpts; Copy and Paste]

In the past four years, some 5,000 Hindus may have crossed over from Pakistan, never to return. It has not been easy abandoning their homes, sometimes even their families, but they say they had no choice: they had to flee the Taliban.

It started as a trickle in 2006, the year the Thar Express was flagged off. The weekly train starts from Karachi, enters India at Munabao, a border town in Barmer, and runs up to Jodhpur. In the first year, 392 Hindus crossed over. This grew to 880 in 2007. The next year, the number was 1,240, and this year, till August, over 1,000 have crossed over. They just keep extending their visas and hope to become Indian citizens. Incidentally, these are official figures. Sources say there are many more who cross over and melt in the local milieu. And officials have a soft corner for these people, most of whom have harrowing stories to tell.

Ranaram, who used to live in the Rahimyar district of Pakistan’s Punjab, says he fell prey to the Taliban. His wife was kidnapped, raped and forcibly converted to Islam. His two daughters were also forcibly converted. Ranaram, too, had to accept Islam for fear of his life. He thought it best to flee with his two daughters; his wife was untraceable. Dungaram, another migrant, says atrocities against Hindus in Pakistan have increased in the past two years after the ouster of Musharraf. “We won’t get permanent jobs unless we convert to Islam.”

Hindu Singh Sodha, president of Seemant Lok Sangathan, a group working for the refugees in Barmer and Jaisalmer, says there’s unfortunately no proper refugee policy in India even though people from Pakistan reach here in large numbers. He said in 2004-05, over 135 families were given Indian citizenship but the rest are still living illegally in the country and are often tortured by police because they don’t have proper citizenship certificates. “In December 2008, over 200 Hindus were converted to Islam in Mirpur Khas town of Pakistan. But there are several others who want to stick to their religion but there’s no safety for them in Pakistan.”

Immigration officer at Munabao railway station, Hetudan Charan, says the arrival of Hindu migrants had suddenly increased as over 15 to 16 families were reaching India every week. “None of them admit they are to settle here but seeing their baggage, we easily understand,” he said. Ravi Kumar, who was Barmer collector till his transfer two days back, said the government in 2007 had given permanent citizenship to a few Pakistani immigrants.

The original article is available at: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/news/india/Fearing-Taliban-Pak-Hindus-take-Thar-Express-to-India/articleshow/4992774.cms