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Archive for the ‘Islamic Terrorism’ Category

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

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I agree with the article below on the gradual replacement of liberal, tolerant, and syncretic Sufi Islam with conservative, intolerant, and fascist Wahabi Islam in Pakistan over the past 30 years.

As I have remarked extensively, Wahabism (ie. Saudi Arabia’s official Islamic ideology) is nothing less than a virulent cancer that is slowly but surely devouring Pakistan. The irony, of course, is that Wahabism was imported into Pakistan by the state. What a pity that the state severely weakened – if not outright destroyed – its vastly superior native Indian Sufi Islam in favor of an alien fundamentalist ideology for short-term geopolitical gains and American financial and military largesse. Now the Pakistani state is engaged in an “all-out war” over virtually the entire province of NWFP with the very Wahabi monsters it created with Saudi funding and ideology.

[Sufism Threatened; Times of India; Omer Farooq Khan; 8 September 2009; Copy and Paste]

Like other parts of the country, “Sufism” or mysticism was followed for centuries in the north western Pakistan. The shrines of great mystics in the NWFP, like the 18th-century poet and mystic Rehman Baba and Pir Baba in Buner, used to attract many Sufi faithful from across the country. But with the spread of Saudi-funded “Wahabism” (a strict version of radical Islam that considers Sufism as close to Hinduism), Sufism is on the decline, especially in many areas of the northwestern Pakistan. To discourage Sufism among the masses, Wahabi preachers argue that many rituals of Sufism, like ‘Qawali’ and visit to shrines, are close to Hinduism.

“Shirk (worship someone other than one God) is strictly forbidden in Islam and its punishment is death penalty. These followers of Sufism are spreading shirk and mislead the ignorant people by making them believe that all their problems could be solved by Sufi saints”, said Maulana Jehanzeb of Wahabi school of thought in Charsadda town, which falls 25 kilometers north of Peshawar. Over a period of time, the rift between Sufism and Wahabism led to bloody clashes in different areas. The ongoing fighting between Lashkar-i-Islam (LI) and Ansar ul Islam in the restive Khyber agency, which killed hundreds of people, was started when the LI banned people from going to shrines in the tribal region.

Way back in the 1980s “Wahabism” which, now, holds sway in parts of the NWFP, came to this region with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. They established a network of madarsas (seminaries) across the country. These madarsas not only indoctrinated young minds with the spirit and passion for jihad but also launched a hate campaign against Sufism. They denounced the Sufi music and poetry as decadent and immoral.

“We are threatened by Wahabis from all over. They have launched a hate campaign against us in the public encouraging people in the area to oppose our way of life”, said Pir Azmat Ali of the Barelvi school of thought in Thana area of the war-torn Malakand region. Pir Azmat Ali who has a long chain of followers all over Pakistan left the area when Taliban took over control of Swat and other areas of Malakand. “They have desecrated shrines and tortured followers of great saints. Have you noticed what is now happening to Taliban?” Pir Azmat Ali asked, pointing towards the extra-judicial killings of Taliban in Swat.

Thanks to the Afghan “jihad” against the former Soviet Union and then the US war against terrorism, that also disturbed the traditional religious fabric of the land by challenging the prevalent Sufism in the area. Most Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan have embraced the puritanical and radical Wahabi brand of Islam. These new Wahabis with Saudi Arabia backing have not only waged a jihad against the western “infidels” but also against the Sufis. Now, it is very difficult for the different Bralvi schools of thought to confront the financial prowess of Saudi-funded Wahabism.

Over a period of time, Saudi-sponsored “Wahabis” spent billions of rupees on building mosques and seminaries in the NWFP. At an average, they spent three to four million rupees on building a mosque, said Saifullah, a local cleric in Mardan. “Initially people welcomed the Wahabists policy of construction of mosques but now they have made it conditional that a preacher or cleric of their brand of Islam would be in-charge of the mosque”, he said, adding: “This Saudi-financed Wahabi Islam has destroyed the indigenous Islam in our country.”

The original article is available at: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Sufism-threatened/articleshow/4986282.cms

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The article below is most welcome in its clear-eyed analysis of domestic terrorism as the primary threat to Pakistan and the critical need of the country’s elite to acknowledge it as such.

That being said, it is probably too much to hope for a radical change in people’s thinking regarding terrorism. So entrenched is Pakistan’s conspiracy theory culture that puts the blame on Hindus, Crusaders, and Zionists for the country’s misfortune. Equally guilty is Pakistan’s politico-religious culture that promotes fundamentalist, medieval Islam in a never-ending quest to become ever-better “Muslims” as a cure for all that ails us. Put differently, we Pakistanis are doomed as a population – I would dare not call ourselves a nation – on account of our collective failure to identify core issues and take appropriate action. Rest assured, barring a miracle, history will show us no mercy.

[Leaving sanity; DAWN; Nadeem F. Paracha; 9 Oct, 2009; Excerpts; Copy and Paste]

The question is, why in the face of such a threat and destruction [ie. the recent suicide bomb attack in Peshawar that claimed over 50 lives] do we casually steer away our intellectual and emotional energies towards abstract and rhetorical issues such as “sovereignty” and “self-reliance,” when we as a nation have exhibited such helplessness in addressing and arresting the more tangible threat and issue of mass terrorism? Debates about lofty ideals and desires of national autonomy and “ghairat” seem rather frivolous and hollow in a country imprisoned by its own delusional pretensions of being a “nuclear Islamic power;” always trapped and forcibly obliged to flex its withering muscles against big bad superpowers, while behaving like utter cowards and false supermen when it comes to the question of terrorism.

Over and over again, many Pakistanis, their politicians, their glorified media personalities and holy men have tried to ignore the issue, treating it as a secondary phenomenon compared to the “more pressing issue” of Asif Ali Zardari’s wealth, Altaf Hussain’s self-imposed exile and Meera’s domestic ordeal – as if trying their level best to obscure the issue of terrorism only because the bloodshed that takes place in the name of God might ridicule the already ridiculous notions of political Islam that the state of Pakistan has been flaunting for so many years now.

To defend all that started to socially and politically de-evolve in the spheres of religion, state and society during the Zia-ul-Haq dictatorship in the 1980s, a number of lunatics in the shape of discarded politicians, conspiracy theorists, TV anchors and maulvies can be heard loudly distracting the people’s attention from the threat that Pakistan faces from within. They either start blaming imagined intrigues plotted outside Pakistan or they shamelessly start defending murderers and barbarians as helpless and hapless consequences of poverty and injustice. Can’t we already see that it is these lunatics that continue to be given vital space in the mainstream media to go on glorifying the “brave deeds” of the barbarians, going as far as (rather audaciously) linking these deeds with us Pakistanis oh-so-noble cry for sovereignty?

With thousands that continue to die so harrowingly in bomb blasts and suicide attacks year after year, Pakistanis still consider terrorism to be a secondary problem? Are we mad? Thats what it seems. The gruesome insanity of sectarian clashes and terrorism in the fine name of God across the last three decades is bound to have impacted our collective sense of sanity. By tomorrow each one of us who is not apparently a bearded maniac, will forget about this attack and tragedy as well, and move back to our fixation with imagined enemies and the political soap operas that we love to create about famous politicians.

Within a matter of days, we will jump from silently watching the devastation of the blast on the TV, to cursing Zionists, Hindus and the Americans, to cracking jokes about Meera and eventually nodding in thoughtless appreciation the hatred and the accepted forms of psychosis spouted and exhibited by harebrained showmen whom we call “scholars,” “analysts” and “preachers.” We all know about the why’s and who’s of terrorism in Pakistan. And yet, those who were lucky to survive terrorist attacks, or those whose loved ones were maimed so mercilessly in these attacks, we will go on wagging our fingers telling them they died because we are not good Muslims, or they died because certain elusive enemies of Islam are out to destroy our country and religion.

Those willing to point out the real perpetrators will at once be denounced as being western puppets and agents of anti-Pakistan/Islam elements. It is as if the few who are ready to speak out the truth in this respect, loiter among a milieu of mass delusion and denial, and a society that has collapsed from being a neurotic mess to becoming an almost incurable bundle of noble-sounding psychosis. Couple this state of being with a collective love affair we have with nuclear devises, all I can say is God have mercy on us all.

The full article is available at: http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/news/pakistan/metropolitan/07-leaving-sanity-ha-07

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I have always believed that it is a mistake to appease Islamists. They will never be satisfied with any state concessions, will view any appeasement as a sign of weakness, will use any concessions to step up their demands, and will continue to work towards Sharia implementation. Such is the level of their fanaticism around the world. In their opinion, nothing except a total return to the conditions of an imaginary perfect Islamic state around the time of the Prophet will resolve the problems of the Muslim world.

The excerpts quoted below highlight the mistake of late Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in appeasing Islamists. His decision to co-opt Islamic clergy in early 1970s set in motion a chain of events that some forty years years is shaking Pakistan to its very foundations.

[Secular blunders; DAWN; Nadeem F. Paracha; 5 July, 2009; Excepts; Copy and Paste]

In the 1970 elections, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party had routed the Islamic parties. But by 1973 Bhutto was under pressure from the PPP’s leading ideologues, asking him to hasten the regime’s socialist agenda. In response, Bhutto purged the PPP of its radical founding members. He then came under the influence of the party’s “conservative wing” that encouraged him to appease his staunchest opponents, the Islamists, (especially the Jamat-i-Islami), which had declared the PPPs socialism as “un-Islamic.”

Bhutto, like Sadat, had ignored the Islamist challenge to his regime, and seemed more concerned about imaginary “Soviet/ Indian-backed groups.” His pragmatic indulgence in this regard had the reverse effect. Instead of containing the Islamist parties, his constitutional concessions only emboldened them. Not surprisingly, he was toppled by a reactionary general whom he had handpicked himself, shortly after the Islamist parties unleashed a countrywide movement against the PPP regime in 1976, calling for Sharia rule.

[This is just one brief example] of the blunders committed by certain leading secular Muslim leaders that annihilated the over-blown left-wing and secular challenges by regenerating and using Islamist forces against them. This created daunting political and ideological vacuums in societies that were eventually filled by reactionary military regimes, rejuvenated Islamist forces and, eventually, a new breed of extremism – the sort that now worked towards grabbing state power and carving out a theological hegemony, based on mythical and Utopian illusions about an eternal “Islamic State.”

Pakistan [is a prime example of] many Muslim republics now desperately trying to reinvigorate moderate and secular forces to open a consensual front against extremism that was once state-sanctioned, to bludgeon opposing secular forces. One wonders if it is already too late to do that; or if there are any worthwhile progressive sections in society today, in these countries, who can once again demonstrate the same boldness and imagination that they exhibited in the construction of their respective countries’ nationalism before their downfall.

The full article is available at: http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/the-newspaper/columnists/16-nadeem-f-paracha-secular-blunders-05

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Some blog readers may label me a cynic when it comes to Pakistani domestic and foreign policies, but as per the article below, I have always believed that Pakistani military and government never wanted to wage a war against Taliban. The war was forced on the ruling elite, not by America (whom it has learned to “manage” with élan), but by the stupidity of the Taliban themselves. That is, Pakistani Taliban overplayed their proverbial hand by declaring the entire national political, legal, cultural, and social system to be un-Islamic and opting for expansion of territories ceded to them for the purposes of imposition of Sharia. Put differently, under Pak military’s “national defense” doctrine, Taliban were viewed as “assets” that could be successfully leveraged in Afghanistan against Americans or in Kashmir against Indians. This thinking is till prevalent as Pakistan foolishly tries to differentiate “good” Taliban from the “bad” ones.

[The state that wouldn’t fail; DAWN; By Cyril Almeida; 22 May, 2009; Copy and Paste]

Pakistan is the country that just won’t fail. It threatens to, seemingly always on the brink, always giving the world a collective migraine, always on the verge of chaos, but just when you think we’re done for, when all hope is lost, when it seems nothing can save it from itself, somehow we end up doing just enough of the right thing to keep the country afloat, to live another day to drift into another crisis. And so it is this time with the operation in Malakand division. The government wants you to believe that it had a plan all along, that the Nizam-i-Adl was a way of stripping away the last vestiges of justification for the militancy in Swat, that the negotiations with the TNSM were a necessary charade to expose the motives of Maulana Fazlullah and his band of savages.

Would that the illusion of a government with a plan in hand were the truth. The fact is, the government, and us, the people, by extension, got lucky. If the ANP government in NWFP and the PPP government in Islamabad had their way, Sufi Mohammad would still quietly be rearranging society in Malakand to his liking, with the TTP the stick with which Sufi would enforce his law in his bailiwick. And thus, with one problem confined to one area, the governments in Peshawar and Islamabad could go about their business of pretending to govern the other areas under their control. But two things happened to spoil the plan, and while both were always likely to have occurred, it would be charitable in the extreme to argue that the provincial and federal governments anticipated them and had factored them into their plans for Malakand.

First, the militants in Swat, freed from fighting in the district, set forth and began to spread their seed in neighbouring districts. We can know the government didnt expect this because it installed a pro-Taliban commissioner in Malakand and didnt do anything to try and stop the militants from slipping into Buner, Lower Dir and Shangla and setting up shop for business. Fact is, if the governments plan always was to eventually fight the militants it would have acted to limit the theatre in which the militants were to be fought. But now, even weeks after trying to retake even a small mountain village like Pir Baba in Buner, the army is struggling. What could have been nipped in the bud by local police and administrative action, has become a full-fledged military operation.

Second, Sufi Mohammad reverted to his kooky ideas publicly. Neither the ANP nor the PPP expected it – in fact they planned for something quite the contrary. The massive gathering on that scenic grassy field in Mingora was arranged by the government to give Sufi a grand stage from which to denounce Fazlullah and declare a fatwa against his intransigent militants. But when Sufi got up on the stage, he became giddy at the sight of all those thousands gathered to listen to him and thought, “Heck with it, this is my moment. Ill speak from the heart.” And so he did, declaring everybody and everything in Pakistan un-Islamic. The cameras focused on the wild applause of the audience, but if they had looked elsewhere they would have captured the stricken faces of government officials. Things had most definitely not gone according to plan.

So, once the original plan – if it can even be called a plan – had failed, the government had to come up with something else; and by then the only option left was the military option. Criticism of the government at this stage may seem churlish, given that so rarely does a Pakistani government do the right thing even after all the wrong options have been exhausted.

But the story of how this government arrived at the military option in Malakand is important because it is not the final stop in the fight against militancy – there is a long road ahead, and it weaves through Fata and Punjab and Pakistans cities. The point is, if the road ahead is navigated with a similar mix of lucky breaks and nonsense planning, a fortuitous result is far more unlikely than likely.

Steering blindfolded may yet get the government around another bend or two and burnish the legend of Pakistan being the state that just wont fail, but it won’t affect the inexorable logic of failure in the long run – you can only get away with mismanagement of a country for so long in the face of a violent threat. If not tomorrow or next year, then five, 10, 15 years down the road, at some point our luck will run out. That isn’t abject cynicism, it is a logical certainty. But for all the sins of omission and commission, the failures of the government of today – or even the one of tomorrow – are only part of the problem. At the root of the problem of militancy is the security establishment – essentially the Pakistan Army high command with sections of the intelligence apparatus and retired officers as its instruments of policy implementation.

It is that group which sets the parameters of what the state can or cannot do against the militants, and it still cleaves to the distinction between good and bad militants. There is no reason to believe that it is not serious about eliminating the militants in Malakand this time. The militants there have proved intractable and of no utility to the state – in fact, they are a threat to it and therefore are being taken on. But there is every reason to believe that the security establishment is serious about maintaining that distinction elsewhere. And that is especially problematic when it comes to dealing with Ground Zero of militancy – the Waziristan agencies. Separating good from bad is tactically possible when the good and bad militants are spatially separated, in small numbers and not in control of territory.

So in Punjab and the cities the state can go after Al Qaeda militants – the bad ones – while turning a blind eye to the good ones, our home-grown jihadi networks. But in the Waziristan agencies the good and the bad are intertwined, exist in larger numbers and control the territory. Trying to whack the bad militants there while avoiding trampling the good ones is a non-starter. To succeed there – and there is no doubt that militancy in Pakistan cannot be defeated without success there – the good/bad distinction would need to be abandoned first. And if we dont drop that distinction soon, the legend of the state that just wouldnt fail may eventually prove untrue.

The original article is available at: http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/the-newspaper/columnists/cyril-almeida-the-state-that-wouldnt-fail-259

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As is quite clear from all the news emanating from Pakistan, the country is now firmly in a phase where the impact of the State’s historical Islamization and Jihadism policies is being firmly felt by ruling elite and masses alike. That is, for the first time since Islamization and Jihadism began, there is truly no escaping from the consequences of intolerance, bigotry, and narrow mindedness – nay, fascism – unleashed in the name of Islam.

The article below is an excellent case in point. Lahore, the renowned cultural capital of Pakistan and the city of my childhood and teens, is feeling the full brunt of Islamist threats against its hitherto myriad cultural offerings. The cultural life of the city is coming to a grinding halt under the threat of puritanical Islam. I guess all of us can now look to a better after-life!

[Culture takes a hit; DAWN; 23 Oct, 2009; Copy and Paste]

The theatre of war has expanded to South Waziristan. Meanwhile, it is far from business as usual in other parts of the country. In Lahore, amongst the prime victims of the deteriorating security situation, are the many cultural activities that were, in happier times, emblematic of the city. Since the recent spate of terror attacks in the city, cinema audiences have dropped by about 80 per cent. Commercial theatres have suffered similarly. The fear of a terror attack, particularly in view of the militants’ opposition to cultural activities, is a significant deterrent.

The Ajoka theatre’s Panj Pani festival had to be shifted abroad, and there are reports that the annual Rafi Peer Theatre Workshop Performing Arts Festival, which has for years acted as Pakistan’s ambassador to the world’s theatrical circuit, may not be held this time. The Lahore Arts Council has for similar reasons been forced to cancel the International Urdu Conference. Concerts have become a thing of the past. Private security has of course been beefed up at theatres and cinemas. But this has done little to assuage the fears of performing artists and their audiences. Such venues have, after all, been targeted in the recent past: explosive devices were detonated at the RPTW festival last year, while two theatres were targeted earlier this year.

As Lahore’s once-vibrant cultural scene fades, great damage is being done to the country’s emerging presence on the world,s literary and performing arts stages. More importantly, the decline represents a serious loss of income for thousands employed in the entertainment sector. The livelihoods of persons in the film, theatre and music industries are insecure even during ordinary times. The uncertain security situation is likely to push into poverty those who were formerly financially stable. The loss to the city’s cultural heritage, meanwhile, is incalculable.

The original article is available at: http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/news/pakistan/metropolitan/14-culture-takes-a-hit-zj-04

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Reference the article below, it comes as no surprise to me that Pakistani government’s fight against Islamic militants – which the state itself actively nurtured and supported as part of its “defense” policy – is beginning to take an increasingly grim social and economic toll on the general public. That is, the common man is beginning to feel the powerful impact of Pak government’s policy actions. Barring an unexpected U-turn in govt policies – Pak elite and the military is hooked on American aid and cannot choose a course of action independent of US-led “War on Terror” – I fear a social, economic, and political collapse of the country. Of course, the alternative to non-participation in “War on Terror” is equally grim: a victory for militant Islam and increasing Talibanization that is sure to result in massive financial and human capital flight, the bedrocks of economic vitality.

[Pakistanis too scared to leave home, many want to flee country; Omer Farooq Khan; Times of India; 27 October 2009; Copy and Paste]

Peshawar-based Mustafa Kamal has had enough: he has just got his12-year-old son freed from a band of criminals in the lawless tribal area of Khyber agency by paying a ransom. He has left a lucrative job with Pakistan’s telecommunication department and now has the immigartion papers for Canada ready for his entire family. “I’m lucky to have found my son alive. But I won’t take any more risk. Life has become extremely dangerous; it’s not worth living here. Enough’s enough,'” says Kamal.

For a country badly bloodied by a wave of suicide attacks (at least eight this month alone), the next tragedy appears to be collapse of governance. The Pakistani state is pitted against a wide array of militant groups across the country in a situation teetering on the brink of a civil war. And the chasm between the government and the people seems to be growing by the day. The popular perception is that Pakistan is fighting the US war against terror. Many people in the lawless North West Frontier Province say Pakistan has been sold to the US piece by piece. Under coercion, they argue, Pakistan has started a war that has consumed its economy, national security, and has torn apart its social fabric.

“Our national integrity is at risk. I wish not to see the end of Pakistan in my lifetime. It is not yet too late for Pakistan to return from the precipice of national suicide. Pakistan must take a u-turn and preempt the civil war. Pakistan must say an emphatic no to the US,” says Rabnawaz Khan, a former Pakistani diplomat, stressing that an internally torn Pakistan does not weaken but strengthens militants. The civil unrest has spilled into many parts, giving rise to fear psychosis among citizens. So much so that when twin blasts rocked Islamabad’s Islamic University on October 20, many did not believe that it was militants’ handiwork. Instead, they blamed “indistinct forces out to discredit Islam or weaken Pakistan”.

That attack led the authorities to take an unprecedented step of closing down all schools, colleges and other training institutions in the country. “The law and order situation has only worsened since the military operations against the Taliban started. How can we believe that things will normalize by carrying out a big operation in Waziristan? I think the repercussions are going to be more blasts and suicide attacks,” said Palwasha Zia, a third year student of Home Economics in Peshawar. “People are very scared. Every time I go to market, I worry about blasts. We are being targeted and our life has become very difficult. We are hoping the situation will get better. What else can we do?” says Shaheen Akhtar, a deputy provost of Peshawar University.

October has been the cruelest month. Militants have struck UN offices, police buildings, army headquarters in Rawalpindi and ambushed security forces. The government response has been on expected lines: it swiftly sent troops to battle the entrenched militants in trouble-torn South Waziristan and beefed up security in all major cities. Reportedly, there were at least 72 check posts at entry and exit points around sensitive installations in Islamabad before these attacks. Now, the check points have been increased up to 300 in the federal capital. Has it helped? Margalla Road, the most expensive and posh area of Islamabad, has almost been turned into a fortress, with concrete barricades, security pickets and barbed wires installed in most of the places.

The residents say driving inside the capital has become extremely difficult as they are checked several times a day during routine work. “Establishing security pickets in residential areas and check points have not resolved the issue of law and order; rather the situation has further deteriorated,” said a traffic police official in Islamabad’s Blue area, wishing not to be named. Just two days after the attack on Islamic university that killed seven people, suspected militants shot dead a senior Pakistani army officer of brigadier rank and a soldier in Islamabad on Wednesday, suggesting militants are shifting tactics in the face of a sweeping army drive in their South Waziristan stronghold.

“First, it was Peshawar. Then Islamabad and Karachi, and now Lahore and Rawalpindi. When you live in a place which is under threat of continuous attacks, you’ll have to think twice before you step out of your house. The scare among people is visible. There are fewer people out on streets,” says Mujeeb-ur Rehman, a news anchor in Islamabad-based TV station. The frequent terror attacks have greatly damaged the business climate. Nasir Dawood, who ran a boutique shop in Rawalpindi’s Raja Bazaar till last week has finally shut shop. “My business was badly damaged in the last one year. Scared customers don’t come for shopping. To avoid any further losses, I had no option,” Nasir said.

Habibullah Zahid, another businessman who owns four restaurants in Peshawar, has shifted his family to Islamabad to escape the constant threats of militants. “Though my business was affected, I left Peshawar due to threats to my life. A group of militants or criminals in the Khyber tribal area has made it a habit to make threatening calls, demanding money in millions. I could no more give in to their demands,” says Zahid.

The original article is available at: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/Pakistanis-too-scared-to-leave-home-many-want-to-flee-country/articleshow/5166427.cms

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