Knowledge, Humanity, Religion, Culture, Tolerance, Peace

Taliban Threat

Clear & Present Danger from Taliban 

By Ikram Sehgal

The nine years' delay in agreeing upon a Constitution for Pakistan was because of ambiguity about what role Islam would play in governance, and how this role could be incorporated into the Constitution. Deciding this in a Muslim-majority state was unprecedented, complicated by 79 members forming the Constituent Assembly coming from different walks of life. Their understanding about what Islam was and how it should be practiced differed substantially.
Detailed discussions resulted in the "Objectives Resolution" being agreed to in 1949. This resolution never attracted criticism or rejection because its understanding of Islam is very broad and inclusive. It was later incorporated into successive Constitutions. It reads: "Whereas sovereignty over the entire universe belongs to Allah Almighty alone and authority which he has delegated to the State of Pakistan through its people for being exercised within the limits prescribed by Him is a sacred trust; This Constitution Assembly representing the people of Pakistan resolves to frame a Constitution wherein the State shall exercise its powers and authority through the chosen representatives of the people; Wherein the principles of democracy, freedom, equality, tolerance and social justice as enunciated by Islam shall be fully observed; Wherein the Muslims shall be fully enabled to order their lives in the individual and collective spheres in accordance with the teachings and requirements of Islam as set out in the Holy Quran and the Sunnah."
Unfortunately, the content and meaning of the resolution and its importance thereof was never explained to the people. If Maulana Sufi Mohammad had been educated about the spirit of that resolution in his younger years he probably would have avoided making insulting and false remarks about the Constitution of Pakistan, and about democracy and its institutions.
Composed of people with different ethnic, cultural, religious and social backgrounds, Pakistan is not a country in the European or Western sense. Among Sindhis, Baloch, Pashtuns and Punjabis are urban dwellers, rural and tribal populations, there are also Christians, Parsis and Hindus. Our lawmakers in 1949 obviously understood that fact much better than many of us do today.
The Holy Quran tells us we are not responsible for the beliefs and worship of others, all communities having been created by the same God differently for a reason: so that we may know each other and may recognise that underlying all our differences – religious, ethic and otherwise – we all have something in common which unites us: we are all children of the same Creator. Those who follow a wrong path, who deny the truth will be made responsible for their deeds individually when Judgement Day comes. But in this world God has ordained no compulsion in religion; not even if I think I am right and I know much better than everybody else what is right and what is wrong.
Mullah Sufi Muhammad thinks he alone is right and wants to impose his version of the Truth on everybody. That is wrong, it is un-Islamic, a sure recipe for disaster in a diverse society as the Pakistani one. With corruption a blight on their lives, bereft of inexpensive justice at their doorstep that the Wali of Swat gave them before 1969, worn out by conflict and missing protection from the Pakistani State, the people of Swat welcomed Sufi Muhammad's promise of honesty, elusive peace and justice.
Outside the valley, outside the Pashtun areas and outside the Taliban way of thinking there are millions of other Pakistanis, Muslim and non-Muslims, educated, uneducated, urban dwellers and rural population, rich and poor. They do disagree with the mullah's ideas and understanding. The Holy Quran and the Constitution of Pakistan gave them a right to be different, to think differently, and to live differently. While the Quran and our Constitution are inclusive documents of a diversified but united Islamic civilisation, Sufi Mohammad wants to be exclusive, that all others are wrong and need to be corrected, that he knows much better than all those who disagree. It is Sufi Mohammad who is acting against the spirit of the Quran and the spirit of our Constitution, it is time to tell him this in no uncertain terms.
By attempting the peace agreement in Swat, the ANP government showed real Islamic spirit by conceding that different interpretations of the Sharia have a right to be exercised. They gave Sufi Muhammad the opportunity to demonstrate his version of Islam in Swat, the condition being it should be a peaceful exercise, not a violent one. We are seeing the exact opposite. It exposed Sufi Muhammad camouflaged as a man of peace when he really is a convenient mouthpiece for his brutal son-in-law, Maulana Fazlullah. The Taliban kept their guns, have attacked the FC, looted and destroyed offices of the state and of NGOs, violating not only the peace agreement but also the spirit of the Pakistani Constitution and of Islam. We cannot and should not tolerate this.
The well–intentioned but ill-advised game plan for peace put the Army into a no-win Catch-22 situation, damned for not doing enough when they were in fact on the verge of success, damned as such by some for doing too much. The Army has to wake up as to who is badmouthing them, why, and more crucially, where? A national government can restore the credibility of the state with respect to governance, a democratic "doctrine of necessity" measuring those who govern to be symbols of honesty and integrity. Otherwise, we are playing hypocrisy with the destiny of the nation. Terrorism may be the present focus of our prime attention, priority must eliminate the root causes thereof, corruption and injustice. Anyone who says otherwise does so with ulterior motives.
The concept of a "clear and present danger" enunciated by US Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes involved the "freedom of spesech" and licence thereof. A man starts yelling "fire, fire" in a movie theatre, the stampede towards the exits results in injuries (even deaths) among the cinemagoers. Restraining the man or punishing him would technically violate his freedom of speech, allowing such "freedom" would result in injuries and deaths to innocent bystanders, what should be the logical course of justice? When any individual misuses any freedom (in this case of speech), endangering others in any manner, Judge Holmes maintained that the concept of application of justice must recognise the situation as a "clear and present danger" and the individual must be restrained, relying more on the tenets of logic rather than the pure letter of the law.
The Taliban in Swat constitute a "clear and present danger" to the state of Pakistan. That danger needs to be eliminated. (Acknowledging with gratitude research by Dr Bettina Robotka (IBA), Karachi.)
The writer is a defence and political analyst. Email:
Courtesy:The News, April 30, 2009,]


By Abira Ashfaq
The picture is sobering. The two powers that hate democracy the most are in cahoots with each other. The military and its hideous offspring -- the Taliban. The business of warfare is at a particularly lucrative point; the Taliban get funding from money through ransoms, drugs and arms sales and donations from people living in the Gulf states, while the army gets billions of dollars of military assistance from the US. As for Asif Zardari, the current situation provides an opportune moment for his government to make a 'sales pitch' for the war against terror. He is not asking for money for universal primary education and healthcare which Pakistani people desperately need – but money for more terror and tragedy, and the further degradation of the lives of people caught in the crossfire of a highly militarized region. The narrative one wishes were purely medievalist fiction, is as follows: "The government is losing territory to the Taliban. Swat is gone. The Taliban are always creeping closer the federal capital. Liberties are at stake. Pakistan is to become a cauldron of human rights violations. Women will be housebound. Pour in your money."
The thirty-year-old ties between the ISI and the Taliban seem to be far from severed – and this according to several experts who have covered this region for years. The ISI possibly maintains a connection, perhaps loose and indirect, with the Taliban, a wretched, but useful fighting force. As Ahmed Rashid documents in "Descent into Chaos", they are protégés of the Pakistani military and the ISI. The military offered safe passage between 2002 and 2004 to the very fighters it now seeks to eliminate. The Mehsud tribesmen provided logistical military services to the Pakistan in Waziristan during that time. Taliban leaders, including Mullah Omar, Jalaluddin Haqqani, Gulbuddin Hikmetyar, found refuge in FATA and parts of Baluchistan under the watchful eye of the Pakistani military, and to the willful indifference of the United States.
Islam continues to be used by those already at the helm to consolidate and legitimize their power, and find ready recruits and martyrs. Zia and Musharraf both patronized religious parties; the latter allowed them to infiltrate the political culture by letting them campaign before the 2002 elections, while banning secular political parties. It is unsurprising then that many in the establishment seem – on the face of it -- unshaken by the handover of Swat to a fascist, Islamist group, in a deal that is completely undemocratic and in flagrant disregard of the desires of the people of Swat.
A contorted vision of jihad likely appeals to hundreds of unemployed young men, as does a handsome wage. For some disenchanted foreigners, there is salvation. Islam is probably also used to inculcate discipline and dedication. There is probably some truth to the fact that they are waging a war against what they perceive as pagan forms of worship. Thus they stormed Pir Baba's shrine in Buner last week much to the shock of the people who revere this local saint. But the question is – is there are unifying religious ideology about them?
The focus is not jurisprudence and development of legal doctrines. It is a gruesome display of retributive punishment - the cutting of limbs, the flogging of girls, the gunning down of couples. The central theme is spectatorship and performance --grainy videos, theatrical crowds, and cameras on the viewers. The goal is to instill terror in the hearts of all viewers -- the people of Swat and all of Pakistan in general. "This could be you" is the message.
That this Fazlullah brand of philosophy is the unifying theme that ties the militias together is questionable. At some level, I imagine, religious ideology is but a farce for the many militias; the battle is clearly political – it is a battle of business, profits, territory, and strategic control. Religion is an apt tool for control. The entire region, thus, is a centre of military operations with a set of villainous and unlikely partners in the boardroom, and an inventory of spare parts, arms, pickups, motorcycles, soldiers, suicide bombers, and drugs.
What is depressing is that all the political parties are no longer putting up a fight. The MQM opposed the Swat deal, but their larger politics remain suspect; in recent days there has been some controversy to their consistent warnings that Karachi is being Talibanized, given that the brunt of this campaign is being faced by ordinary Pakhtuns who may or may not be Taliban supporters. And what about the other secular parties? The PPP and the ANP are not protesting the Swat deal – the latter seems to be in fact its primary driving force. Afsandyar Wali criticism of the Swat deal saying that it reinforces an already existing system – some say it brings 'peace' (short term and illusionary?). Imran Khan's PTI defends it based on autonomy for the Pashtuns. A few attempt to portray it as a process that will facilitate a form of justice that people ultimately desire; this is disingenuous. This process is hostile, foreign, impositional – it is exploitative of the economic discontentment in Swat. Now PML-N is making some murmurs about revisiting the Swat deal.
Have the parties uniformly accepted the military's assessment of the situation? Have they given up on the democratic process of parliamentary debate -- abandoned all aspirations to protect the rights of those who elected them? Are we to bid goodbye to the old fashioned bickering between political parties the PML-N and the PPP? Have they surrendered to the wielders of the biggest guns and the biggest briefcases?
Intriguingly, the United States picks up the violation of shrines as human rights violations and conveniently and significantly ignores the tremendous disabilities of illiteracy and poverty in the area (17 per cent overall literacy, three per cent female literacy, $500 annual per capita income) and the devastation its own drones are causing in the lives of the people in FATA. They remain fuzzy about democratic rights – doling out packages for legal and other social reforms. The US's main interests can be divided into two: strategic which means establishment of bases in Central Asia and Pakistan and economic, which means exploitation and exploration of indigenous resources, access to warm water ports in the region, creation of new and vibrant markets for its goods and services, selling advanced and recycled weaponry, and testing its advanced weaponry on the poor and dispossessed of FATA.

I maybe optimistic, but Pakistan is a society on the rise. The people are onto the powers. People are brooding in the fabled and cynical drawing room conversations. People are figuring out the great game. When thousands of lawyers marched upon the capital, the military establishment was shaken to the core. Large segments of society did not face the tear gas, but they were rooting for the lawyers as they rang a promise of better economic and social rights for all. When the Sanghar Haris resisting an oppressive landlord went on hunger strike outside the Karachi Press Club, and a Hari died, people start noticing and joining in. Many in the fragmented left came together to show support. We have to build this brick by brick.
For the sake of our freedoms we have to ensure that the military does not allow the Taliban to enter Karachi and other cities. Both hate democracy. We don't.
The writer is a lawyer. Email:
[Courtesy; The News April 30, 2009,]
The cry of a Patriotic Citizen
There is a prevailing dread among many people that history is repeating itself. We have seen two years of operations ending in peace deals and the people affected have blamed the army for leaving in the middle of operations and the government for ignoring the atrocities of the Taliban. The public and the media have recognised the threat that the Taliban pose to all of Pakistan and there has been a positive reaction this time, but in the past, both have been quite pro-Taliban. Now again there are calls to 'stop killing our own people', faint but carrying the threat of magnification by those buzzards of Pakistani society, the ignorant commoner and the political opportunist. It is time Pakistanis set their priorities right. It is time to recognise your own people.
Your own people are the soldiers who have died for you, not those who have killed them. Your own people are the men who have fought for your country, not those who have slaughtered them like animals and left them for dogs to feed on. Your own people are the policemen still reporting to duty, not those who behead them in the name of your religion. Your own people are those who support your government, not those who execute them for it. Your own people are the ones who take up arms to defend their families, not the ones who hoard weapons to destroy them. Your own people are those whose faith lies in their hearts, and not in their beards. Your own people are those who work to earn their living, not the ones who live to steal the earnings of others. Your own people are those who are the first on the scene to help when a bomb goes off, not the ones who detonate the bomb. Your own people are the ones who serve your religion inviting by their example, not the ones who have scarred it to the point of repulsiveness by theirs. Your own people are those being dug out of their graves, not the ones digging them out. Your own people are those whose dead bodies are slung on poles in market places, not the ones responsible for hanging them there. Your own people are the ones who embrace death to protect you, not the ones who kill themselves while attacking you. Your own people are the believers who enter the mosque to worship Allah, not the kuffaar who enter the house of Allah to massacre those believers. Your own people are those who have lost facilities of medicine and education, not the ones who are the cause of this deprivation.
Your own people are the ones who have worked for years to pull you towards 21st century advancement, not the ones who threaten to take you back to the Stone Age. Your own people are the ones who will suffer deformities for the rest of their lives, not the ones who deny them the few drops that could ensure perfect health. Your own people are those who are being lashed, not the ones who wield the whip. Your own people are the ones oppressed, not the ones who subjugate them. Your own people are the ones that have always cultivated peace in your country, not the ones who bring strife from across the border. Your own people are those who want the democracy of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) in Medina, not those who crave the dictatorship of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Your own people are those who are trying to bring you awareness of the menace that looms just beyond vision, not the ones trying to lull you into a false feeling of security. Your own people are the ones who are being intimidated, not the ones terrorising them.
It is time to distinguish your well wishers from the power-crazed enemy that has despoiled your religion and tarnished your identity the world over. There is no justification for suicide attacks and militancy. We must not accept punishment for the 'injustice', real or imaginary, of other countries. Those who have a bone to pick with America must pick it with America, not Pakistan. There is no remedy for a malignant tumour but to remove it before it reaches vital organs. It can never be 'contained' in one part of the body forever. Either we operate now, or risk lessening or worse, losing completely our chances of survival.
Noor Khan, Islamabad
[Courtesy; The News, May 01, 2009]
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