Thursday, September 24, 2020

Pakistan Press on Brutalised Society, Twin Tower Attack and Afghanistan: New Age Islam's Selection, 24 September 2020

 By New Age Islam Edit Bureau

24 September 2020

• Pakistan: A Brutalised Society

By I .A. Rehman

• Nineteen Years of 9/11

By Saleem Safi

• Fifty Years of Spilt Afghan Blood (Part 1)

By Hafeez Khan

• The Underlying Constants of Afghan Crisis

By Inam Ul Haque


Pakistan: A Brutalised Society

By I .A. Rehman

24 Sep 2020

“The dignity of man ... shall be inviolable.” —

 Article 14 (1) of the Constitution.

AMONG the facts highlighted in the wake of the motorway gang rape outrage is the extent to which the ruling elite has been brutalised and the way it is further brutalising ordinary citizens. The punishments suggested for assaults on women and children reveal not only a total disregard of civilisational values but also ignorance of the country’s Constitution and its obligations under international treaties.

The incidence of gang rape in Pakistan is quite high and such cases rarely cause public outrage. But the motorway gang rape hit a sensitive nerve and caused public revulsion on an unprecedented scale. However, the ruling elite went berserk while proposing punishments for the perpetrators of the heinous crime. The proposed punishments ranged from public hanging to chemical castration of the culprits. The lead was unfortunately taken by the prime minister who supported public hanging and chemical castration both.

All those backing the utterly barbaric punishments betrayed a stunning ignorance of Article 14 (1) of the Constitution, regarding the inviolability of the dignity of person. This guarantee of inviolability of the human person, the only right in absolute terms the citizens have, is not aimed at protecting the dignity of the privileged as much as it offers protection to underprivileged people who come into conflict with the law. All suggested punishments that violate the right to the dignity of person are inadmissible in a debate on the subject.

Besides, suggestions of chemical castration have already been overruled for being contrary to Islamic injunctions by the chairman of the Council of Islamic Ideology.

The experience of all nations shows that severe penalties do not cause a decline in crime.

Anyone in the administration could have informed the prime minister and other members of the government that Pakistan is a signatory to the Convention against Torture which also bars cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment.

The government should examine the final report of the committee on torture on Pakistan’s initial report in 2017 and assess the level of compliance with its recommendations that Islamabad has supported or noted before defending its performance in May next year.

The prime minister has blamed foreign governments for tying his hands and preventing him from moving mountains for the public good. It is time this bogey of foreign hands’ involvement in Pakistan’s affairs was laid to rest. There is much in the affairs of the state that is in violation of the Constitution and the laws and that cannot be attributed to foreign authorities. Besides, good governance is not demanded to please foreign governments. It is demanded as a fundamental right of the people. Let the government exercise its authority as much as it wants and in a manner of its choice. If the people are incapable of judging the government’s performance, history will.

The whole hankering for cruel, inhuman and degrading punishments is based on a misconception that severe penalties deter crime. The experience of all nations in the world shows that harsh punishments do not cause a decline in crime. Pakistan has been trying to control crime by increasing the severity of punishments. At independence, the death penalty was prescribed for only two offences; today it can be awarded for 27 crimes. Each year, the death penalty is awarded to several hundred persons. During 2015-2017, for instance, 385 persons on an average were sentenced to death each year. Has this reduced the number of murders per year? Did the murder rate in Pakistan come down during the Zia regime? There was a time when the punishment for stealing a mare in England was death. That didn’t stop the stealing of mares. What helped bring down crime in England was far-reaching reform in the system of criminal justice, industrialisation, greater prosperity and improved job security.

The key to crime management does not lie in raising the scale of punishments but in making the legal processes efficient by establishing what is called the majesty of law, and that is secured by ensuring that no criminal can escape being caught and punished. The government must investigate the causes that have brought the conviction rate to less than 20 per cent. This gives a criminal reason to believe that he will not be caught and if he is unlucky to be apprehended the chances of his being convicted are at most 20pc. Who doesn’t know about inefficiency and corruption in the investigation and prosecution of cases and the fact that at the level of subordinate courts there is nothing that money cannot buy?

A most fundamental flaw in official thinking is that serious crime, such as gang rape, is viewed selectively and treated entirely as a law-and-order matter. In an incident of gang rape, perhaps as shocking as the motorway incident, reported from Punjab the other day, a woman was gang raped by dacoits in front of her husband whose hands and feet had been tied up. No person in authority felt outraged because each and every gang rape is not denounced. There is, in fact, considerable acceptance of gang rape as something of an unfortunate occurrence about which nothing can be done.

Further, no evidence is on record that gang rape or any other heinous crime has been investigated or analysed from social and psychological perspectives. Very young girls are raped and killed with frightening regularity despite the hanging of a few culprits but apart from making laws to prescribe tougher penalties the government has not undertaken or sponsored any study of the causes of assaults on young girls or the methods of protecting the victims through their and their parents’ education.

A fact that is hardly ever taken note of is that much of the crime against women and girls has its roots in the patriarchal culture that has become stronger over the years, mainly as a result of the state’s deliberate failure to acknowledge women’s right to equality with the male species. Without affirmative state action to establish gender equality, all spasmodic efforts to protect women against sex fiends will prove in vain.


Nineteen Years of 9/11

By Saleem Safi

September 24, 2020

From the beginning of 2001, Osama bin Laden and his close aides had been talking about the 'Planes Operation' and the coming of the 'big day'. Abu Hafs al-Masri – Osama’s deputy and close friend – told Al Jazeera journalist Ahmad Zaidan in January 2001 during the wedding of Osama’s son in Kandahar that “the United States is going to be forced to invade Afghanistan and we are preparing for that. We want them to come”. However, Mullah Mohammad Omar – Afghanistan's ruler and Amir-ul-Momineen – had no idea what Osama was going to do right under his nose.

Adam Yahya Gadahn aka 'Azzam the American' – Al-Qaeda's audio and video lead – stated in a video that Osama bin Laden had kept the plan secret but shortly before 9/11 had informed his close aides in Kandahar that he was thinking of taking such action against the US which would force the latter to invade Afghanistan. Osama knew that his dangerous plan would change the world.

At last, the 'big day' arrived on September 11, 2001 when Al-Qaeda hijackers brought down the twin towers of the World Trade Center and hit the Pentagon with hijacked planes. This fateful day changed the world and led to the US invading Afghanistan – as predicted by Bin Laden and wished by Al-Masri. The US invasion of Afghanistan brought drastic consequences for both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

In 2001, the US seemed to have been moving towards becoming a strategic ally of India but the 9/11 incident and the strategic location of Pakistan forced Washington to engage Islamabad and give it the status of a major non-Nato ally. However, instead of Pakistan, General Pervez Musharraf became the main beneficiary of the forced alliance and got a strong lifeline for his rule. Consequently, Pakistan lost more than 70,000 precious lives and faced billions of dollars in economic losses. Though Musharraf sided with the US by angering the local jihadi and extremists' organizations, he still failed to win the trust of the US and of Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, the Americans invaded Iraq without consolidating and stabilizing Afghanistan. The Iraq invasion caused a sense of insecurity in Iran. In addition, the US also started giving space and role to India in Afghanistan despite Pakistan's strong reservations. As a result, Gen Musharraf changed his Afghan Taliban policy. The US started blaming Pakistan for playing a double game. In addition, the dramatic killing of Osama bin Laden on Pakistan’s soil also damaged the country's credibility.

However, the main brunt of war was borne by Afghanistan which was already devastated by decades-long chaos and instability brought by the Russian invasion and internal civil wars. The 19-year-long 'war on terror' played havoc with the lives and economy of Afghanistan.

After 19 years of bloodshed, the US and Taliban came on the negotiation table and signed a peace deal. Though both sides claim victory, in reality there is no winner. Victory comes when you win what you had intended to win. But here both sides have retreated from what they had wanted.

The US had earlier been reluctant to negotiate and had vowed to “disrupt, dismantle and defeat" the Taliban. However, now after 19 years of killing hundreds of thousands of people and spending billions of dollars, the Americans have come to the negotiation table with the Afghan Taliban. Similarly, the Taliban were at one time not ready to sever ties with Al-Qaeda. But now they have given a written assurance to the US that they will not keep any relations with Al-Qaeda.

Though the US and Taliban have signed a deal, peace in Afghanistan is still a distant dream. The war between the US and the Taliban is over, but the war between the Afghan government and the Afghan Taliban continues.

The ongoing negotiation in Qatar between the Afghan government and the Afghan Taliban is a good omen and a little ray of hope for durable peace in Afghanistan. But still, there are huge differences between both sides. The Taliban insist on the restoration of their Islamic Emirate in which they will accommodate the current political figures of the Afghan government. On the contrary, the Afghan government wants the Taliban to accept Afghanistan’s constitution and become part of the current political system.

Moreover, the Afghan government is not happy with the deal between the US and the Taliban, but they cannot oppose it openly due to American pressure. Some elements in the Afghan government do not want reconciliation with the Taliban due to the fear that the Taliban will replace them in the new setup. These elements are also convinced that the US’s exit plan could change if Trump loses the presidential election. In fact, these are those troublemakers who used delaying tactics in the commencement of the intra-Afghan negotiations. But now once the negotiations have started in Qatar, there is a possibility that these elements will try to sabotage the process by bringing such conditions that will not be acceptable to the Afghan Taliban.

On the other hand, the Taliban also seem to not be in a hurry about the success of the negotiation. They think that the Ashraf Ghani government is getting weaker with each passing day and that they can at some point soon capture Kabul and establish their rule with impunity. However, both sides harbour wishful thinking and misunderstanding which will bring no good to the future of Afghanistan. For the sake of Afghanistan's stability, both sides should find a middle way of reconciliation.

However, at this important stage, when the Afghan government and Taliban negotiate for a political solution, Pakistan also needs to give serious consideration to the threat of the TTP. Different factions of the TTP have reunited and they have pledged allegiance to its head – Mufti Noorwali. Their attacks in different parts of the country, especially in Waziristan, are also on the rise.

Though Pakistan is playing a decisive role in the intra-Afghan reconciliation process, unfortunately, it seems indifferent towards finding any political solution to the TTP problem at home. It is high time Pakistan found a political solution to the TTP and other extremist groups in the country. If a political solution is not possible, then Pakistan should ask the Afghan government and the Afghan Taliban to cooperate on the issue of the TTP. Though Pakistan believes that the TTP is receiving support from the Afghan government, it is also a fact that the Afghan Taliban do not consider the TTP as their enemy. Ideologically, the TTP seems almost like a franchise of the Afghan Taliban. Pakistan should continue its role in the Afghan reconciliation process but at the same time it should find a solution to the TTP problem with the help of the Afghan government and Afghan Taliban.


Saleem Safi works for Geo TV.


Fifty years of spilt Afghan blood (Part 1)

By Hafeez Khan

September 24, 2020

It was early 70’s and my friend, late Ajmal Malik, had landed a job with the information department in Peshawar. A brilliant mind, he was a successful journalist and a carefree loving soul. We communicated via booking trunk calls thanks to Ajmal’s access to official phones. We chatted regularly reminiscing our University days.

After the 71 war, Indian films were banned in Pakistan. One day Ajmal, “Malik sahib” for friends, invited me to Peshawar for an onward trip to Kabul. “The film Pakeezah is playing in theatres there” was enough to convince me. Not having a passport was overcome by Ajmal arranging a ‘Red Pass’. The same night I boarded Khyber Mail to Peshawar.

After a day in Peshawar we left for Kabul on a GTS bus. It was a fascinating journey weaving our way through the historical Khyber Pass. Passing through steep mountains and rugged terrain was a daunting experience. The journey ended when we entered the Kabul valley and skies opened up. It was autumn and evening air was crisp.

The peaceful Kabul that I witnessed degenerated into chaos. The Soviets knew one way to quell resistance; by crushing it

Our hotel was downtown Kabul. It was full of life with multiple young free spirited European tourists mulling around. The city seemed to permeate excitement. We were there for three days. We went to movies, toured the city, visited the Royal Palace areas open to public and visited Kabul University. My credentials as a student leader helped us interact with students and teachers.

Inter-Continental Hotel Kabul was located on higher grounds from where we were able to view the whole city with river Kabul meandering through it. Kabulis were friendly with many speaking Urdu and English. Ajmal met some journalists and we had wide ranging discussions. In our interactions I sensed underlying tensions between leftists and rightists, nationalists and Islamists.

Afghanistan has a proud heritage and history. It emerged in its modern form shaped by the 19th century competition between British, Russian and Persian empires. The 1907 Anglo-Russian Convention created the existing boundaries of Afghanistan as a buffer state between competing Empires. The eastern boundary was demarcated by Sir Henry M. Durand, a British official in 1893 known as Durand Line. It divided Pushtun tribes into two countries leading to a “Greater Pashtunistan” dispute.

The diversity of Afghans is quite complex based on ethnic, linguistic or tribal variations. Pushtuns are 38% in the East, Tajiks are 25% in the North, Hazaras 19% in the Centre. They comprise bulk of the population with Turkmans, Baluch, Uzbek and some others completing the count. Dari, a dialect of Persian, is spoken by half the population while Pashto is spoken by Pushtuns. Both are official languages. Roughly 70% are Sunni Muslims and 25 to 30% are Shias. Add to that the tribal mix and affiliations and you get the picture.

Afghanistan was ruled by King Zahir Shah from 1933 to 1973. He was largely pro West. I saw a peaceful and calm society. However, trouble was brewing. His restive cousin Daoud, who was Prime Minister for 10 years, overthrew him in 1973 declaring Afghanistan a republic. President Daoud leaned towards Soviet Union. He found an ally in Soviet Premier Breznev who believed in Third World activism. He chose to rely on Communist leaders rather than backing non-communist nationalists.

It was a Pandora’s Box. The underground movements that I had sensed came out in the open. On one side it was Soviet backed People’s Democratic Party (PDPA) with its Khalq and Parcham factions.On the other side Pakistan backed Islamists. Soviets had become bolder after USA’s Vietnam ouster.

In 1978 Conflict erupted after assassination of a Parcham leader. There were massive demonstrations led by PDPA. Army officers sympathetic to it staged a coup and ousted Daoud. Soviets welcomed the change through a massive influx of aid. President Hafizullah Amintried to implement his Khalq agenda through brute force.

He failed. Infighting between Khalqis and Parchamis disintegrated the state control and Afghan society. The Soviets in December 1979 removed the façade and rolled into Afghanistan. They stormed the Palace and executed President Amin.

Having lost their staunchest ally in Iran, USA sought to engage in Afghanistan. The Islamists who had attempted a failed coup a few years earlier were in exile in Pakistan. The nucleus for Mujahidin already existed. Resistance to Soviet occupation grew. It was a bloodbath in which millions of Afghans perished in the next decade. The peaceful Kabul that I witnessed degenerated into chaos. The Soviets knew one way to quell resistance; by crushing it.

They failed to realize that when an Afghan picks up a gun there are only two ways to resolve the situation. Kill or be killed, freedom or heaven. The rugged Mujahid once armed, needed very little to survive on. A bag of chick peas, a bottle of water and rags tied around their feet sufficed.

In the mid-eighties, my business partner Abdul Latif Al Sheikh and I flew to Islamabad from Riyadh. We had some Saudis in the business class. They were scions of notable families. He started to chat with them. They were headed to join the Afghan resistance with Attock as their destination. They invited us over. A couple of days later we visited their camp. Over a few hours what I saw is ingrained in my memory forever.

To be continued …


Hafeez Khan is the director of CERF, a non-profit, charitable organisation in Canada


The Underlying Constants Of Afghan Crisis

By Inam Ul Haque

September 24, 2020

Afghanistan remains one of the most widely covered crises of modern times. True to 21st-century fad, there is a mushrooming army of so-called 'Afghan experts'. These experts — to quote former Afghan cabinet minister Mohammed Ehsan Zai — "read ‘The Kite Runner’ on [the] plane and believe they are [an] expert on Afghanistan." There are desk officers with no ground experience who cobble together books from hearsay and claim greatness. These tenure-based bureaucrats tend to make faulty assumptions. There are military veterans with limited/sectoral exposure, who end up creating personality cults. Then there are freelance writers who tend to become outright racist and bigoted in their description of Afghans and Afghanistan.

It is strongly felt that in the absence of a multidisciplinary approach, cutting across political science/economy, international relations, sociology, and anthropology… for example; such analyses risk becoming personal experiences with limited universal applicability. Sociology strongly rebuffs sweeping generalisations about people and countries. Unless backed by rigorous analysis, academic adroitness, and fieldwork; Afghans and Afghanistan would remain an enigma.

The following Op-Eds continue my earlier work on Afghanistan and aim at distilling some 'constants' gleaned from some three centuries of Afghan history. These have helped shape attitudes and policy formulation in Afghanistan and are by no means exhaustive.

First, the nature of the Afghan monarchy. Unlike the contemporary monarchies, the Durrani monarchy created by Ahmed Shah Baba around 1747 was a 'tribal confederation' with the king deriving power from the tribes, and not the other way round. This shaped subsequent Afghan approaches towards authority and governance.

Second, and following from the above; modern state formation in Afghanistan has, therefore, remained a failed exercise, whether under the erstwhile farangi , later Shoravi (Russian) or modern Amreeki tutelage. Afghan political culture abhors a strong centre, especially if it is imposed.

Third, Afghans (the term by extension covers Pashtun tribes on both sides of the Durand Line) are almost entirely Muslim, converted en-bloc around the times of the pious caliphs. They did so, as they find no major deviations in Pukhtunwali/Pashtunwali — the operative code covering everyday life — and the teachings of Islam. Both reinforce each other in major areas. All Pathan tribes are Sunni except the Bangash tribe west of Kohat and Turi tribes in Parachinar, Pakistan. The latter are actually Turkic.

Interestingly, the Taliban worldview of Islam is essentially the rural Pashtun worldview... although interaction with the wider world, as refugees, has introduced reform and changes in this outlook.

Fourth, paradoxically if ever there is a conflict between code (riwaj) and Islam, Pukhtunwali would prevail. Literature aplenty to substantiate that major decrees of the Peoples' Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) — during the 1979 Saur Revolution — were reinforcing Islamic teachings; yet the society revolted. The white-bearded elderly cadre (spin-geeree masharan) scoffed at the clean-shaven, Moscow-educated young communists, who asked them to change the social status quo. They fumed at these young zealots telling them how to live.

Efforts to speed up societal change in riwaj-bound Afghan society would eventually fail, even if the change is good overall. The 'nation-building' plans of the US — launched with much fanfare later, lie in the dust. The world still doesn't seem to have learned any lesson. Outsize emphasis on women/minority rights, freedoms, and constitution, etc would complicate the ongoing intra-Afghan dialogue.

Fifth, it is interesting to see self-appointed experts criticising Afghans for being undemocratic. They need to know that Afghanistan had the representative Loya Jirga (Lower House) and Masharano Jirga (Upper House) since much earlier. Afghans are extremely egalitarian. It is only in the developed democracies that federating units enjoy greater autonomy like in the present political dispensation of Afghanistan. Therefore, the imposition of a strong centre in an intensely democratic Afghanistan has and would never succeed.

Sixth, despite inter and intra-tribe differences and conflicts, all Afghans (including the non-Pashtuns) subscribe to a unique sense of nationhood. This is the binding glue, preventing any touted division of Afghanistan along ethnic lines.

Seventh, like all tribal societies, Afghanistan has an inherent conflict resolution mechanism in the form of the jirga. This mechanism works effectively in the absence of foreign interlocutors, with no Afghan faction looking over the shoulder. Repeated interference has battered this system, hence the prolonged conflict and instability.

Eight, under the tenets of Pukhtunwali, khegara/shegara (doing favour/good to others) occupies a central place. But the favour has to be returned in order to re-establish the social equilibrium that is disturbed when an Afghan receives a favour. Having done so, the Afghan feels being on an equal footing, unencumbered by complexes. The Afghan does not feel to be perpetually indebted. Pakistan's hope of Afghanistan remaining grateful to us in eternity is, therefore, a misplaced over-expectation, based on lack of sociological understanding.

Ninth, following on from the above postulation, it is instructive to sometimes listen to the Afghans about our continued harping on hosting Afghan refugees and Pakistan's help in the Jihad since the Soviet times. They reckon, Afghans fought Pakistan's battle, as, without Afghanistan, the Soviet Bear would be sunbathing on the beaches of Karachi. And for refugees — they cite — it was Pakistan's religious obligation to provide refuge in line with our lofty claims of Muslim solidarity.

Lastly, massive migration and continued life under different social underpinnings have changed Afghan society marginally. The newer power elite have emerged, as during my fieldwork in a refugee camp in the 1980s; 'ration malik' was the emerging power elite, responsible for the camp's ration distribution. Afghans have otherwise tried to jealously guard their traditions. Dead bodies are still sent back as far as possible and there are negligible inter-marriages with locals.

The continued conflict has exacted a deadly cost in human and material terms from Afghanistan, yet to be accounted for. The hapless, ragtag but determined Afghans have forced two superpowers in our lifetime to bite the dust. Faith and commitment were central to their success, besides other reasons. The Afghans deserve empathy in the world, not disdain or racial-profiling.



New Age IslamIslam OnlineIslamic WebsiteAfrican Muslim NewsArab World NewsSouth Asia NewsIndian Muslim NewsWorld Muslim NewsWomen in IslamIslamic FeminismArab WomenWomen In ArabIslamophobia in AmericaMuslim Women in WestIslam Women and Feminism

No comments:

Post a Comment