A city sealed
Militancy, suicide bombings, sectarian killings, rocket attacks and now curfew -- the place is none other than Dera Ismail Khan
By Javed Aziz Khan
The city of Dera Ismail Khan was put under curfew for an indefinite period during last week -- to avoid sectarian clashes, triggered after the killing of three persons from the Shia community.
Apparently, during the funeral prayers of the three Shia who were killed, some people circulated provocative pamphlets that led to retaliatory killings of Sunnis. The authorities had no option but to clamp curfew in a bid to restrict the public into their houses. No army was called nor any additional troops were hired. Only the city was sealed with the help of police and the already deployed Frontier Constabulary.
Dera Ismail Khan, located around 250 kilometers south of the provincial capital Peshawar, is among the most sensitive districts where sectarian clashes easily erupt over petty issues and claim scores of lives. The town is also troubled for being close to the North Waziristan tribal agency and the settled Tank district. The two areas have witnessed their worst time during the recent past after the emergence of militants, both local and foreign. As a consequence, a large population of the North and South Waziristan agencies migrated to Dera Ismail Khan during the past few years after the situation worsened in their hometowns. Presently thousands of Wazir, Mahsud and Dawar tribesmen are settled in the district.
In the recent wave of terrorism, Dera remained the main target of militants along with Peshawar and Tank. A suicide bomber killed two policemen when blew himself up near them on January 29. Last year six law enforcers and a passerby was killed when terrorists blew up the patrolling vehicle of local police. The incident was followed by two more blasts in the city, which claimed no life. Recently the house of the Opposition Leader in National Assembly, Maulana Fazlur Rahman, came under a rocket attack against which the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal strongly protested in Peshawar.
From the sectarian point of view, Dera Ismail Khan has always been tense during Moharram and other holy months of the Islamic calendar. According to reports sectarian violence between Sunni and Shia communities has claimed more than 4,000 lives across the country since the late 1980s. Shias account for about 20 percent of country's population.
In Dera at least three people were killed and five others injured in a gun battle in December last. The firing erupted when mourners were returning from the burial of Nazakat Ali Imrani, killed in suspected sectarian violence in the district. Unknown shooters opened fire when the Shia crowd reached the city's Eidgah graveyard where the funeral of a Sunni Muslim resident was underway. This happens a few times every year and it was out of this fear that the authorities sealed the city last week to 'stop killings'. The media reported it as clamping of curfew which the police later denied perhaps after being reprimanded by the influential Maulana Fazlur Rahman.
"In fact we had sealed the city and there was no curfew. We wanted to stop the killings and we succeeded in this," said Zulfiqar Cheema, deputy inspector general (DIG) Dera Ismail Khan while talking to TNS. The officer informed that they had relaxed the day time curfew and the movement of the public would now be restricted only in the night time. "We launched a crackdown against those involved in the sectarian killings during these days and arrested over 90 people from both sides."
The Opposition Leader in the National Assembly and Secretary General MMA Maulana Fazlur Rahman was concerned about restricting the movement of the general public in the entire district. During a meeting at his residence, he directed to relax the curfew in the nights as well so that the public could move as per desire. "Instead the police should take other adequate steps to provide security to the lives and property of the common man," remarked Maulana, who is considered the most influential person in the province, also because a JUI man is chief minister NWFP.
NWFP and its bordering Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), located close to the border of the war-hit Afghanistan where several groups are fighting NATO and government forces, have seen a lot of violence in recent times. It was the collapse of Taliban in Afghanistan that led to the issue of militants in Pakistan.
Apart from the growing influence of militants in certain areas, Pakistan is also facing sectarianism in many of its parts. Kurram Agency has recently witnessed fierce clashes between Sunni and Shia sects where over 60 person are said to have been killed and over 150 injured when both the sects attacked each other with heavy ammunition. Property worth hundreds of millions is set to have been set on fire during the clashes in the agency.
Madrasas since the 1980's have become politically charged training grounds instead of places of learning
By Bilal Tanweer
Dr. Syed Nomanul Haq, Professor at University of Pennsylvania and scholar of History of Ideas, delivered an eye-opening lecture at the Lahore University of Management Sciences last week on 'Revisiting the Madrasa Question'.
The term 'madrasa' has become so politically charged that its connotations overwhelm the meaning of the term. In common discourse, the term is used to refer to 'politically-driven, evil education' in its many manifestations, rather than denoting an institution of learning. Indeed, this has happened to such a great degree that to attempt to say or imply anything else is tantamount to insanity itself.
It is no ordinary undertaking to address issues clouded in so much political rhetoric. Dr. Syed Nomanul Haq, an acknowledged giant in his field, addressed this question, demystifying the historical background which impairs our understanding of this institution and its veritable contribution in the human intellectual history.
There was a myth invented at the time of Enlightenment regarding Europe's ancestry. According to this hypothesis, European civilization traces its lineage directly to the Greeks, skipping over the long period of the 'Dark Ages'. Among many implications of this story two that stand out are: the 'pure' ancestry of Europe, with other civilizations having little or nothing to do with it; and of course, a continuity of what we call the 'Western' civilisation, again with little or no external interference or influence.
Despite being manifestly incredible, this story has continued to be the spine of most histories of the modern world. And it is this rather 'neat' and misinformed picture which paints the Islamic civilization and culture as having little or nothing to do with the formation of the modern world indeed, jmodernity itself. Also, this has had serious consequences on the history of science and philosophy. For one, both science and philosophy are deemed to be 'Western' creations, and history of these disciplines is studied only insofar as it developed in the Western academia. Hence, despite their direct even textual relationship, works of European philosophers are studied without reference to their Muslim counterparts in whose tradition they were working. For instance, Bacon, Descartes and Aquinas are studied while Ibn Haytham, Abu Bakr Razi and Ghazali are ignored.
This, on one level is pure intellectual dishonesty. On another, it deprives the Muslim peoples of their legitimate claim in the modern world by relegating them to categories of 'backward' and 'traditional'. According to this reading of history, the path to progress lies in disowning the Islamic cultural and intellectual heritage. And lo ho and behold: institutions which have bred this ignorance and backwardness are the madrasas.
However, to discuss meaningfully the question of history of science in Muslim societies, one needs differentiate between science as a process and science as a product. The former is a result of 'creative and critical thought and intellectually controlled imagination', while the latter is technology, which may or may not be the result of scientific process (the wheel was invented and worked as well before the knowledge of mechanics, centripetal and centrifugal forces). Dr. Haq, as a historian, claimed that science as a process was never opposed in Muslim societies. It was technology, for its potential for social and cultural dislocations, which was opposed. Even in the latter case, the opposition was more associationist than substantive (i.e. they opposed technology in a general atmosphere of resistance to all-things European and not because of any intellectual differences or because they were anti-modern in essence!). He cited the cholera outbreak case in Iran in 1896, when the British quarantined Basra, it was taken to be an attack on Islam by the Ulamas, because the Shi'i Muslims could not take their dead to the sacred site of Karbala for burial without a sanitary certification.
Without doubt, this is a sophisticated argument. And, according to Dr. Haq, the body of evidence in its support is huge. Indeed, the Ulamas and the madrasas in many instances actively participated in the promulgation of the European curriculum, particularly in the Ottoman Empire. Madrasa graduates even taught in medical and engineering schools constructed on the European models in the Ottoman Empire. There is no real evidence to show that there was any opposition to a scientific theory or concept in the madrasas. The notable exception to this was Darwin's Theory of Evolution. However, even in this isolated case, the opposition came from Sir Syed Ahmed Khan and Jamal ad-Din Afghani, both of whom, ironically, were among the greatest propagators of scientific education in the Muslim world!
Dr. Haq's address was a brilliant exposition. It highlighted the imminent need to re-examine, indeed, reclaim intellectual history, because Islam has a stake in the modern world. As Dr. Haq notes elsewhere in his writing:
" many of the fundamental features of the modern society are to be found either fully developed or in their embryonic form uniquely in Islamic culture. In this sense it is a secular culture: The development of a world civilization in which everyone participated; the cultivated continuity with the classical tradition; religious pluralism; freedom of the state and economy from religious coercion; and an uncompromising humanism: all these features do exist as defining characteristics is Islamic culture."
(From: 'The Refiner's Fire: Some reflections on Neville, Postmodernism, and the trends in discourses on Islam', in 'Theology in Global Context')
The other important point which needs to be noted especially by the policymakers is that science should not be conflated with technology. Science exists in societies and cultures where there is a 'cultural space which provides for the free expression of ideas'. Scientific education cannot will not take root in society just by throwing money at buildings, laboratories or engineering-technology universities.
People of the book
By Shoaib Hashmi
It is no secret that we have always had a special soft spot for 'people of the book.' Actually it started out with a bit of envy; the people of Arabia were aware that although they had an elaborate,well developed, and very poetic language of their own, unlike the Hebrews and the Christians, they did not have a 'Book'! That ended when they did get a book to end all books of their own, the special place for people of the book continued, in many forms, and still does.
The ancient Arabs wrote poetry, a great deal of it, and also made much of their poets and their work, to the extent that legends grew up that they had invented poetry in the first place. But even here a poet who was a 'Sahib-e-Divaan' had a special place in people's estimation. Prose was never our forte, but here too reserved a place for writers of books, just as in the West they set apart 'men of letters'.
And last week we came upon another kind of 'ahl-e-kitaab' when practically everyone in Lahore you could think of as having anything to do with writing got together got together at Alhamra to launch the book of one of our favourite people, Raja Tajammul Hussain. Tajammal Bhai is a former bureaucrat, a former ambassador, a general all-round gadfly and lifelong friend of everyone worth befriending who ever lived in this country. And I mean everyone!
He and his brother Altaf Gauhar, who were the dynamic duo of the Ayub Khan era and to some extent later also, had led rich lives close to the corridors of power. Their friends had long been urging Tajammul Bhai to write his autobiography, and finally he acquiesced. It is a short book, only about two hundred and fifty pages - and at the launch most of the speakers lamented that it was not longer - but it is the record of a life of dynamism and action, it is a record of our times at their most critical, and above all it is a chronicle of friendships.
When he was appointed financial advisor to the Air Force, The flyers thought up a clever scheme. They spread the story that around mid-morning the blood sugar level of pilots fell very low and they became incapable of flying, and so it was necessary for all squadrons to have little kitchens where sandwiches made of French cheese were always available and also Swiss chocolates, and asked for millions of rupees to set them up.
The advisor sought confirmation and sure enough the chief surgeon said that indeed the pilot's sugar level fell and they became incapable of flying. So Tajammal Bhai delivered his advise - this was serious business and needed catering to, so every day every pilot, at eleven-o-clock, should be issued 'two chatanks of Reoreess!' I don't think the problem has cropped up since!
Among his life-long friends he counted Sufi Tabbassum, Faiz and Habib Jalib. When 1965 came round he thought it would be a good idea to persuade Madam Nur Jahan to lend some of her music to the war effort. I think it was probably an excuse to strike up a friendship with Madam, so who can blame him? He landed up at Madam's house with a mutual friend and when the friend tried to introduce him to Madam she protested that she had met him already, and added, "So Mr Commissioner, now you have started landing up at people's houses to collect your taxes"? Try that in basic Punjabi and you will get the full flavour and agree with me, "Viva Madam"!
The mirage of an agreement
By entering into a so-called agreement with the Lal Masjid authorities, the government has condoned all the illegal acts of the clerics and their followers
By Arif Jamal
The nearly three-month old ongoing crisis in Islamabad, commonly known as Jamia Hafsa 'ka muamla', created by the two cleric brothers, has taken another unpredictable turn although the government keeps underplaying it.
The chief of the ruling party and government interlocutor with the Lal Masjid clerics Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain has claimed that the crisis has been resolved after the government accepted nine out of the ten demands of the Red Mosque administration. The tenth demand -- of re-constructing the demolished mosques illegally built on stolen land by the CDA or providing alternative plots of land to reconstruct new ones -- would also be accepted by the government as soon as the CDA is able to earmark plots of land for the demolished mosques.
In return, according to Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, the Lal Masjid clerics have accepted to remove the pickets around, and on the walls of, the mosque and the madrasas and agreed to withdraw the decision to implement the shariat. The clerics have also agreed that the students from the affiliated madrasas would not carry batons and force the video shops to shut their businesses and not kidnap anybody from his/her house. However, the female students of the Jamia Hafsa, would vacate the children's library only when the government will rebuild the demolished mosques.
In other words, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain has agreed to sanctify the illegal occupation of state land in the name of religion. It appears he has also legitimised the occupation of prime state land by the two clerics.
In short, the government has condoned all the illegal and criminal acts of the clerics and their followers. Now they can carry on their agenda with impunity. The government's surrendering to the two clerics would go a long way to influence the course of Pakistan's history because the two clerics and their followers are no ordinary mullahs. General Pervez Musharraf has himself described the female students of the Jamia Hafsa as potential suicide bombers. In his address to a convention on the occasion of the International Women's Day in Islamabad, General Pervez Musharraf said that 3,000 girls have challenged the writ of the government, and then added that these girls are ready to carry out suicide attacks.
It seems that Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain has emerged as the Islamist face of the government with the passage of time. On several occasions in the past, he pressed the government to change its policies in favor of the Islamists demands such as the addition of a 'religion' column in the machine readable passports a couple of years ago. The Khateeb of the Lal Masjid Maulana Abdul Aziz has claimed that Shujaat had also accepted their demand of implementing shariat in the country. Aziz claimed that Shujaat had agreed that only an Islamic system can lead the country to peace. He even claimed that Shujaat Hussain had told him that his wife had thrown away their television sets out of the house.
However, Jamia Hafsa clerics say that they have not reached any final agreement with Shujaat Hussain. They may have agreed to some of the demands of Shujaat as a face-saving gesture, but they have not stopped going ahead with their agenda of working for an Islamist revolution. They did not agree to close down their illegal FM radio, operated from the Lal Masjid.
They created a crisis on Tuesday when Abdur Rashid Ghazi said that the Quaid-i-Azam University had become a 'brothel' and women associated with the university are 'immoral.' He pleaded for throwing acid on their faces. In view of the emerging scene, the agreement between the two clerics and Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain appears to be a great surrender by the state.
It looks like the Lal Masjid clerics do not want peace, but why is the state not acting the way sovereign states do in such situations?
The answer to this question will throw light on the course of events in the coming months and years. The chain of events in the last three months have shown that a powerful part of the establishment, if not the entire state apparatus, is firmly behind the two brothers. They do want to strengthen the jihadist forces in order to retrieve the strategic depth of Afghanistan and the jugular vein of Jammu and Kashmir.
Most analysts are puzzled as why these two brothers and why not some other more authentic claimants to jihadist politics are being fielded. According to one, Balochistan is emerging as the hub of jihadist politics and Taliban activities because of its proximity to both Afghanistan and Iran. Moreover, it is an ideal place for jihadists because it is nearly inaccessible to outsiders. Jihad created and strengthened pro-Pakistan forces both in Afghanistan and Kashmir. Jihad will also help crush the re-emerging Baloch nationalism. The invisible backers of the two clerics, who are believed to be ethnic Baloch, want to send a goodwill message to the jihadist forces in Balochistan by supporting them.
The agreement has indirectly sanctified tens of thousands of mosques built on stolen plots of land across the country. Even a faint hope of retrieving stolen state land has disappeared with this agreement. It will encourage young clerics to steal more state land and build their palatial houses in the name of mosques. It will also encourage hordes of unemployed clerics to follow in the footsteps of the two brothers. It is not too far fetched to imagine local clerics implementing their brands of shariat in other places. It is, anyway, already taking place across the North West Frontier Province.
The process of Afghanisation of the Pakistani state is already taking place as the big and small warlords like the two clerics of Lal Masjid are emerging across the country. Some people are already talking of the inevitable Islamist revolution in the country. If this happens in any shape, future historians will describe the Jamia Hafsa affair as the beginning of it.
MQM was not taken into confidence
The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) spokesman and advisor to the Sindh Chief Minister on Information Salahuddin Haider have categorically stated that the MQM was not taken into confidence in the negotiations between PML-Q chief Chaudhry Shujaat and Hafsa mosque leaders.
"Only two days ago, the MQM leader Altaf Hussain expressed surprise over heads of ruling parties supporting the religious extremists, including those responsible for suicide attack on interior minister Aftab Sherpao.
"He also looked aghast at leaders of one of the main ruling parties who are trying to portray the inmates of Lal Masjid as angels the same people who have openly threatened suicide attacks in the country."
"What are these leaders of the ruling parties are trying to do and what kind of game they are playing, he asked. "The President, the Prime Minister and the federal cabinet should take notice of the support being extended by leader of the ruling party to religious extremists. "
"On the other hand, obstructions are being created in the way of MQM. MQM's decision to bring out a peaceful, anti-extremism rally in the Punjab . MQM does not wish to dupe anyone but can't walk along with such elements," he said.
-- Shahid Husain
The discrimination against HIV-infected patients is largely due to unawareness regarding the causes of the disease
Amir Hamza Bangash
"My brothers have severed relations with me; my children are not ready to live with me and the rest of my family doesn't want to see my face. I don't know what to do," said forty-six-year-old Jamil Husain, a resident of Karachi who has recently been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS.
The stigma of hatred regarding HIV-infected patients prevails in our society as majority of the family members do not want to live with their affected sons, daughters, wives or husbands.
Numerous civil society and media organisations have started efforts to educate the masses to treat HIV/AIDS affected people as patients. There might be a lot of factors responsible for the stigma of discrimination. However, one dominant factor revealed in the recent researches is unawareness regarding the causes of the disease.
Noshaba Mir, lecturer of Gender Studies at Fatima Jinnah University Rawalpindi, claims that once a girl came to her who insisted on being HIV positive. When she asked about the reason, she replied: "I used to have cyber sex with my friend who later told me that he is HIV positive. I am sure that I have it too."
People tend to avoid having food with HIV infected patients or hesitate to live with them in the same room or home, not knowing that AIDS does not spread like this. Even today many people are now aware that it spreads due to unsafe sexual intercourse, non-sterilised medical equipment, transfusion of untested blood and using syringes used by affected people.
According to Ministry of Health, the number of HIV affected patients in Pakistan is about 80,000, while United Nations agencies working in Pakistan put the toll to 200,000 which also includes a lot of unregistered cases, as in our society nobody dares to be exposed.
While the situation on the international level is more alarming as according to a UNICEF report 17.7 million women are HIV positive, more than half a million infants are infected with it and 15.2 million children are already orphaned by AIDS.
Majority of HIV positives in Pakistan include women. Powerless as they are, they can't stop the infected husbands from having normal sexual relations with them.
Sajida Bibi, a resident of Lahore, stated that her husband came from United Arab Emirates. He consulted doctors for his prolonged weakness here and was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS.
With tears rolling down her cheeks, she told: "Although my husband is no more, I am suffering from the syndrome now and there is no one to take care of me."
When these infected females become pregnant, the disease is transferred directly to the infants.
The representatives of non-governmental organisations working on AIDS control programmes in NWFP are of the opinion that majority of male HIV positives are migrants, who leave their homes to earn money in most of the Gulf countries. NWFP Chief Minister Akram Khan Durrani boldly claimed: "There was no sign of this disease in our province but migrants have brought it here."
Thus it is the need of the hour for the government to act and introduce blood testing centres at airports to check blood samples of the returning migrants.
Mahatma Gandhi used to say 'hate sin but love sinful'. We must all act in the same spirit by joining hands with these care-deserving patients. We must struggle to eradicate this syndrome which has brought darkness to so many of our homes.
Anatomy of a suicide bombing
By Omar R. Quraishi
There are differing views among experts on why someone becomes a suicide bomber. First of all, they all should believe that there is an afterlife. This would be presumably important because this allows those who train them to convince them that if they carry out their assigned task (i.e. suicide attack), a much better life, with heavenly rewards and what not, will await them in their afterlife.
That is why it has now come to be widely believed that a main reason for people being recruited as suicide bombers is that their existence is so bad, that they live in such abject poverty, that the alternative of entering the afterlife, where they are promised many rewards and so on, seems quite a plausible prospect.
However, there are some academics who think that the poverty factor is given too much importance and does not necessarily add up. They believe that rather than poor living conditions, it is the level of political freedom, or lack thereof, in the country where the individual in question resides, which plays a large role in the emergence of such acts of violence. The greater the abridgement of such freedoms, the greater the tendency for such perverted forms of violence to emerge in a particular society. Obviously, this view may not be looked at kindly by some because it could be used to kind of legitimise such acts of violence. But at least for the bomber him/herself (there have been many female suicide bombers), this reason gives legitimacy since the action that he or she embarks on is then equated with a just struggle.
According to Wikipedia, military historians classify suicide attacks as a kind of asymmetric warfare, conducted primarily by a group which lacks the means to carry out conventional warfare. To this one may add that a group may in any case prefer to do this, even if the group does have the means to carry out conventional attacks against an enemy, for the simple reason because it can. This is to say that the casualties suffered by the attacking group would be minimal -- one usually, the attacker -- and even that would be all right because he or she would be doing this in the belief that this is the path to achieving salvation.
Though suicide attacks have in recent years, for better or for worse, come to be synonymous with those acting in the name of Islam, the fact is that they have a fairly long history. Arnold von Winkelried, lionised by the Swiss for his actions in the Battle of Sempach in 1386 (the historical authenticity of his deed is however contested). The Swiss Old Confederate Force, of which von Winkelried was a member, could not breach the defence of the opposing army, sent to fight on behalf of Leopold III of Austria. He then volunteered and threw himself upon the pikes of the opposing soldiers, creating a breach as he fell, taking the lances down with him, and this allowed his colleagues to attack.
Later suicide attacks took place in World War II with many instances of Japanese 'kamikaze' pilots flying aircraft into enemy targets. Then more recently, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam used suicide attackers with great effect in their battle against the majority Sinhala in Sri Lanka, even managing to assassinate former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991.
As for the debate whether civilians should be targeted in such attacks, it is almost universally held that this is unacceptable. However, from the point of view of those who are behind such attacks targeting civilians serves two purposes. One, it is easier compared to targeting military or government installations and/or functionaries, and two, it may help achieve the group's objective of putting pressure on the country on whose territory the attacks are carried out.
Of course, there is a moral tangle to this since targeting those who have no say or involvement in what the armed group may be fighting against makes defence of attacks in which civilians die very difficult and may in fact earn the militant group considerable public resentment. However, it would be fair to say that suicide attackers have no moral qualms about what they do because they have been told and trained to believe that what they are doing is ordained by their faith and that the government or state that they are carrying out the attack is acting unjustly.
As for the personal profile of suicide bombers, while it is difficult, in fact misleading to generalise, it can be said that an empirical analysis of many such attacks indicates that they come from middle-class backgrounds, are reasonably well-educated and unlike what many may think are neither irrational nor insane. In fact, in choosing a suicide bomber, insanity would probably be a disqualifying trait since it lends itself to unpredictability and hence they cannot be trusted to carry out the mission to the end.
The writer is Op-ed Pages Editor of The News.
Email: [email protected]