The Middle East repercussions
Karachi bears the sectarian brunt again -- this time for the events unfolding in the Arab world
By Saad Hasan
Overshadowed by political bloodshed, the recurring electricity breakdowns and a host of other issues faced by the people, sectarian tension is escalating in Karachi. And this time the source of the problem is not domestic but the events unfolding in the Middle East.
Along the busy M.A. Jinnah Road, the walls are littered with slogans against the Ale Saud, the ruling family in Saudi Arabia. There are calls for supporting the protestors in Bahrain. Then, in some places, these writings in pink are whitewashed!
When the revolutionary tide started to sweep through the Middle East a few months back, there was excited murmur among Pakistanis about a possible duplication of such a change in their home country. Debates were initiated on the websites, messages circulated through mobile phones and articles written on the subject. But people stand divided on sectarian lines.
The protestors in Bahrain, Libya, Egypt and Yemen are mostly Shiite Muslims ruled by Sunni monarchs and dictators. The government here is seen by many Shiite to be siding with Sunni rulers. The fact that a lot of Pakistanis are serving as soldiers in Middle Eastern states has added fuel to fire.
Mufti M Naeem of Jamia Binoria has a large following among Sunnis. A lot of seminaries around the city are affiliated with the institute he runs at Site Industrial Area. He says that provoking anger against Saudi rulers is dangerous.
"The slogans like Ale Saud Al Yahood (Al Yahood denoting Judaism) can lead to a lot of problems," he said. "We must realise what Saudi rulers stand for. They are the custodians of the holiest Islamic place. The law in Saudi Arabia has been formed on the basis of Shariah."
In his last Friday sermon, Mufti Naeem asked people to support the Saudi rulers. "We don’t support the Ale Saud because we like them. It’s for the sake of stability in Saudi Arabia."
Tens of thousands of Pakistanis are working in Middle East and send home indispensable remittances, he said. "Can you imagine what could be the repercussions for them if the country is seen working against the Saudi rulers?"
He said that the political struggle between Saudi Arabia and Shiite-ruled Iran over the matters of Middle East must not come in way of Pakistan’s relations with the two countries. "There is no point to fight their war in our country."
Interestingly, some religious scholars use the pretext of Islamic jurisprudence to declare protest against rulers illegal and justify support for the Saudi government.
Qari Usman, a senior official of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl in Karachi, says that no one has the right to interfere in Saudi Arabia’s internal issues. "If a greater power has chosen the Ale Saud to head that country then there is nothing we can do to remove them."
He said that Pakistanis are being attacked in Bahrain and other countries because of the negative perception. "Their homes are being marked and targeted. This could have fallout here as well."
At least five Pakistanis have been killed and scores injured in Bahrain. Hundreds have sought shelter in government-run camps while many have fled the Middle Eastern state because of unrest. Majority Shiite Muslims, who make up 70 per cent of the population, have agitated for years against Sunni rulers to have greater say in matters of national life. And Pakistanis are seen working for the government.
The outrage of protestors against Pakistanis has its roots in the close ties between the two countries. For years, Pakistan has exported its human resource to Gulf Coordination Countries (GCC) including Bahrain. Many of them have joined security force and police there.
Saudi Arabia has also moved its forces into Bahrain to quell protests -- this decision was seen by Shiite scholars as open suppression of the protestors.
Muhammad Mehdi of Majlis-e-Wahdat-Muslimeen views the dictatorship in Middle Eastern countries has the reason for the protests. "First of all, Islam has no room for monarchies. There is either Khilafat or Imamat as a way to rule."
The protests in Saudi Arabia and other countries, he said, are being staged by people who want to have larger say in matters of national life. "There is nothing wrong in supporting these people."
However, he said that the Pakistan government must have a clear policy on this international matter. "We demand the government not to take part in suppressing the protestors. We know for sure that institutions like Fauji Foundation are being used to hire security guards in Pakistan to serve in Middle East."
But what does Mehdi has to say about protests in Syria or Iran -- countries ruled by Shia dictators? "Well, you see the Syrian protestors were being backed by Israel. USA and Israel want to destabilise Syria because it is the only Arab state that openly supports Palestinian freedom movement."
There were no street demonstrations in Pakistan last year when Iranian government killed many protestors who rose for democracy. At the same time, no Sunni scholar dared condemn the Ale Saud for not allowing protests in Saudi Arabia against Israeli attacks on Palestine.
Amidst these allegation and counter allegations, banned groups have also added their voice to the issue. The Jamaat-ud-Dawa Pakistan minces no words in supporting the Saudi rulers.
Professor Mehmoodul Hasan of Jamaat-ud-Dawa said that his organisation will take out its own rallies against those who are protesting in Saudi Arabia. "If Makkah and Madina are not safe, then no place can be safe!"
He said that Ale Saud have funded mosques around the world. "They have done this without any discrimination among different Sunni sects. Yes, it is true they don’t have anything to do with the Shias."
Brig (retd) Maqsood, who heads Fauji’s Overseas Employment Service, said that the group is not responsible for individuals who chose to take up government jobs. "We send people on one year contract. We don’t know what they do after that." But he denied that thousands of ex-servicemen have been exported by the group. "This assertion is baseless. In a year, we send 10 to 15 guards on contract."
Since the ouster of Mubarak, Egypt seems to have an unsettled air with people not sure about what the future holds
By Ahmad Warraich
Democracy, it is said, is a process and not an event. It is an evolutionary process, which may be catalysed, but still by its very essence has to be incremental and piecemeal. It requires development of institutions and shaping and changing of mindsets.
Democracy is not simply the removal from office of an autocrat. That is one defining, brave moment, when people face their all powerful rulers, who have the full might of the state and its apparatus behind them, with courage. But that is just that, a moment of courage, even if it is spread over eighteen days. The more difficult and far less adrenaline pumping part of the road to democracy lies when you follow that up with multiple battles, fought over and over again for perhaps a number of more years, even maybe decades, till a truly functional and representative form of government is well established not just legally and institutionally, but in the hearts and minds of the people.
Amongst revolutions, the French Revolution is perhaps the most famous and one with the most far reaching effects not just geographically but in the sense of time coming down the centuries. However, this revolution was followed by various ups and downs. It soon sank into a ‘reign of terror’, followed by Bonaparte’s Consulship, followed by his empire, then by King Louis XVIII, then later by King Louis Philippe and then further down the road by Napoleon’s nephew, Napoleon III, and eventually the current constitution was passed under de Gaulle(in 1958), which is incidentally France’s fifth constitution. It took that long for France to eventually settle down constitutionally and institutionally.
When in the early part of the nineteenth century the Austrian liberals were demanding a constitution and removal of the arch conservative Austrian Chancellor Metternich, the Chancellor was supposed to have justified his continuing in power, by saying, "après moi, la deluge", meaning that "he is the last hope of stability, if he goes, floodwaters will wash away everything".
This argument has since been used by many a repressive leaders in favour of maintaining the status quo. This same argument was used by Mubarak, and is being used by Gaddafi. It is a testament to the sagacity of the people of Egypt that they did not buy this argument.
Since the ouster of Mubarak, Egypt seems to have an unsettled air with people not sure about what the future holds, and isolated reports of human rights violations surfacing, and fears by the West and the secular elements of the fundamentalists finding space in the political arena. Some civil society groups are asking for elections within six months, an end to the emergency law in place, a new constitution enshrining basic freedoms and new elections held under true democratic principles.
Others are asking for some time lapse, so that they can build and better organise their nascent political parties. Some are hopeful and looking towards a freer and more open Egypt with full constitutionally guaranteed freedoms, still others are fearful that the military may not want things to change too much and some that the Muslim Brotherhood may gain majority in the next parliament, because many Egyptians fear that it is at heart not a democratic entity.
In Egypt, the National Democratic Party of Mubarak was the only party from whose platform a candidate could run for the presidency - anybody else was simply not allowed. This is why no other political party was able to develop properly. Perhaps the only exception is the Muslim Brotherhood which too had been banned in Egypt. It is, therefore, the most organised opposition group, and this has caused apprehension among some secular forces in Egypt and many Western countries. The rest of the opposition parties have no credible organisational structures and the impromptu Tahrir Square rebels don’t have any single party, although many new parties are coming up.
In this state of flux, everybody is looking towards the military, perhaps the strongest institution in the country. In spite of some apprehensions, the military still commands respect from the majority of Egyptians. It has been asking the people ever since Mubarak’s resignation to go back to their homes and work. The military is caught between wanting to maintain security and stability, and the expectations of the people for rapid and quick change in the forms of governance. Earlier the army was hidden behind the Mubarak regime, now it is upfront, dealing directly with governance and people. This is bound to create some friction and disappointments.
Some feel that the military is sending mixed signals. A blogger, Maiket Nabil, has been jailed by a military court to three years in prison for criticising the military. A matter of grave concern to the revolutionaries and rights activists is that, they claim, many people who took part in the Tahrir Square uprising have disappeared.
On the other hand, the public prosecutor in deference to public demand and mood has summoned Mubarak for questioning on corruption charges and deaths during protests. There have been growing demands for investigation into Mubarak’s alleged corruption. The Egyptian government has already asked a number of foreign governments to freeze the assets of the Mubarak family. In addition, some former ministers have also been charged with corruption.
The military held a referendum on March 19, asking for a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ vote to proposed changes in the constitution, which mainly dealt with restricting the powers of any future president. The referendum got a majority ‘yes’ vote, with around 41 per cent voter turnout. The Muslim Brotherhood and Mubarak’s National Democratic Party supported the referendum, whereas some new parties voted ‘no’ to gain time to organise themselves better for the future elections.
Egypt is in a state of flux with the forces of both progress and regression active. Though Mubarak’s removal has changed the political scene, things have not settled down yet. One thing is sure that now the people of Egypt will not accept any reversal to the situation prior to Tahrir Square.
The writer is a Lahore-based political analyst and lawyer.
Not in the name of cricket
By Masud Alam
The poorer a family the more children it is likely to have. It’s the same with the governments in Islamabad. Whenever unable to pay salaries to its existing employees, the government creates a new state organ and hundreds of more jobs.
These organs prove to be just as productive as children growing up on the street without diapers, education and love. And just as messy. But the process of creating something out of nothing serves two purposes: It demonstrates that the government is creative; and the new organ assimilates nagging party workers who must be paid a price for their loyalty. Or an incentive to remain loyal.
Take for instance Benazir Income Support Programme. The nomenclature suggests it is a fund, run by the late Benazir Bhutto’s estate to support the poor through income generation and enhancement schemes. It does nothing of the sort. If anything, it takes hundreds of millions of rupees from public purse and spends it on the welfare of party and personal loyalists, who are hired as directors of BISP and whose sole responsibility is to hire their own cronies as monitors and naib qasids.
Of course the directors take their responsibility seriously. That was why a provincial head of the organisation objected to someone else hiring lowly staff using his signatures. Poor guy. Turned out he was holding the wrong end of the stick. He was fired summarily, to be replaced with someone a little more loyal and respectful to party leaders. Someone who has the courtesy to own up a document someone else has helpfully signed on his behalf.
Predictably, such organisations have a short shelf life. When the government will change hands, BISP will be one of the first state organs to be removed or transplanted. There must be a graveyard somewhere in the PM Secretariat where they bury ambitious schemes of predecessors like Nai Roshni, Yellow Cab, Tameer-e-Watan, HEC et al. And it is because of this high mortality rate, that the surviving organs have ample reason to celebrate.
Pemra is one such organ -- created by a general, groomed by a retired police officer, and now run by some kind of a doctor -- meant to milk… sorry, regulate media. It was this upbringing that made Pemra so resilient -- and not to skip mention of its money-making prowess -- that the present government decided to keep it, with baggage and all.
It has tomes of laws and regulations and an army of legal advisors at its disposal but when dealing with an erring media outlet, even if the error is glaring enough to ensure a quick court decision against it, Pemra relies on the good old police inspector in the area, more than courts of law.
This regulator has now locked horns with Geo News, and again, instead of relying on court where the dispute is being heard, Pemra prefers to spend public money to highlight its case in paid advertisements. It was perhaps in reply to rather passionate columns written in this newspaper last Sunday by staff members, taking their own case to the readers. Those columns gave me the impression the writers had just learnt how Pemra works, or does not work. Which is alright. Every few months some or the other media outlet finds it out for themselves, and when they do, they wonder how come the rest of the media doesn’t stand up to Pemra!
Let it be as it may. Both sides are out to convince us, the commoners, of their principled stand, and I for one, don’t mind the role. What I do mind is bringing cricket into all this. Sana Bucha, in her last Sunday’s column feared cricket would’ve been hurt if Geo Super was not allowed to air the World Cup matches. Wrong. I have watched cricket for 30 years, so let me decide what hurts cricket. Watching it on any Pakistani, in fact any desi channel (that’d include Ten Sports), does, because it’s just an orgy of higher rate but nevertheless extremely irritating advertisements sprinkled with five-ball overs of the game.
If no Pakistani channel claimed rights to air World Cup, our intrepid cable operators would have found us more than one illegal streams that show more satisfying cricket and less advertisements. And Pemra would have no way of knowing, let alone stopping these broadcasts. That would have been so good for us cricket fans.
In bad taste
The incident of two men feasting on human flesh in a Bhakkar village has sent shivers down the countrymen’s spine
By Aoun Sahi
In Kahawarh Kalan, some 10 kilometres away from Bhakkar city, the residents are more than keen to discuss the first incident of its kind in the history of Pakistan: the April 4 arrest of two men for eating flesh of dead humans and dogs.
The two sons of a small land owner, Khalil Ahmed, Muhammad Arif alias Aphal, 30, and Farman Ahmad alias Phama, 35, lived together in one house along with their mentally-disturbed sister Nusrat. Arif’s wife divorced him a couple of years ago and their only son is in her custody. Farman’s wife left him three years ago and their five children live with her in her parents’ house.
The village residents had always doubted Arif’s mental health. They say it was an open secret in the village that these brothers were eating human flesh. "Everybody in the village had some knowledge about the activities of Arif and Farman, but people of their baradri always wanted to hide it because they thought it would bring a bad name to the Rana baradri," Imran Haider, 19, resident of Kahawarh Kalan tells TNS.
"People in the village always suspected them of eating flesh of dead humans but our minds were never ready to accept it," says ex-councilor Rana Khalil Ahmed.
The boundary walls of their house are not higher than five feet and their activities could be easily monitored by people living in the neighbourhood. On the day of our visit there, the backyard of the house was still littered with bones of different sizes. A small-sized skull of a dog was the first thing that welcomed us.
According to the police investigation report, the elder brother has admitted digging out at least five corpses from the local graveyards and then consuming them as meals over a year and a half. The younger brother has confirmed it.
Their peculiar taste for human flesh came out in the public when 24-year-old Saira died on April 2, 2011. She was buried in the village graveyard situated less than a kilometre away. Two days later, on April 4, Saira’s mother and brother accompanied with some other relatives paid a visit to the graveyard -- and found the grave unearthed and the body missing. "It was more shocking than the death of my sister. At first I thought this must be the handiwork of a magician," says Saira’s 33-year-old brother Ijaz Hussain while talking to TNS.
Hussain, stunned, made frantic calls to his other brothers and political influentials of his village and managed to gather a crowd at the graveyard. "Some of them, including the graveyard’s caretaker, Ghulam Hussain Baloch, told us that they had seen Arif and Farman leaving the graveyard early in the morning with a sack and a shovel." They filed a complaint with the police, and soon after the police hired a local khoji (a traditional detective) to investigate the incident.
"Both the khoji and our informers were confident that Farman and Arif were the culprits. So, I raided their house. I also involved the locals because it was a very sensitive issue. When we reached their house, they had already cut some parts of the dead body which we found in a cooking pot placed on a stove. We also seized coffins, human bones and a variety of tools from their house," inspector Abdur Rahman, Station House Officer (SHO), of police station in Darya Khan told TNS.
The younger brother was arrested from the scene while the elder, the main culprit, was arrested a day later ‘with the help of family’. But, after the arrests, the registration of the case became a major concern: "There is, after all, no clause in the Pakistan Penal Code that covers cannibalism," said the police officials. They were booked under section 201 (causing disappearance of evidence of offence, or giving false information to screen offender), 297 (trespassing on burial places, etc.) and 295-A (deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs) of PPC and 16MPO. Later, the police included some sections of Anti-terrorism Act of 1997.
Ultimately both of them confessed to the crime. "In September 2010, I stole the first corpse. So far, I have dug out four bodies of small kids and one of a young person. I used to boil the flesh first and then store it for use. During my childhood, my father killed my mother. He also used to torture me a lot. These are the reasons for eating human flesh," Farman confesses in the investigation report.
Residents of the village say their mother died during pregnancy.
The younger brother denies being a partner in the crime though he knew what Farman was doing. But Farman says Arif was also involved.
Consequently, "The incident has created panic in the area. People are very depressed. Many villagers have stopped eating meat. Businesses of hotels are going down. People have started paying regular visits to the graveyards and have started making cemented graves right after the burials which is usually done after 40 days of death," Abdul Majeed, 45, whose nephew died a week ago, told TNS while standing in the graveyard. He was here to visit the grave of his nephew ‘for security reasons’.
Police have almost completed the investigation and the accused have already been on judicial remand in Mianwali Jail. Both the brothers have been put in a special cell. "They appear to be in sound physical and mental condition. Their behaviour is not weird. They eat whatever is offered to them," says Jam Asif, the superintendent of Mianwali jail.
Seemingly the case is over, the culprits have been arrested. And the evidence against them is very strong. But, more importantly, the police have treated them as petty criminals and have failed, at least so far, to find the missing links. The brothers were never examined by a psychologist. "We do not have this facility available here. Once the investigation is completed all the missing links will be found," District Police Officer Bhakkar, Hamayun Saud Sindhu, tells TNS. "We are sure that they were not selling human organs or casting magic."
Although the culprits’ extended-family members claim to have cut all communication links with the culprits, they refuse to comment on their lifestyles. Apparently, their sister Nusrat who lived with them was found dead from another area of Bhakkar on April 4 -- the same day the culprits were arrested. "Their father identified the body," says the police official.
The elder brother confessed they had been eating human flesh since September 2010, while the younger brother told police they had been doing it for a long time. "When Farman brought the body of the first child home and we ate it, I told my baradri (extended family). They stopped talking to us," Arif told the police during interrogation. It means people around them knew about their activities but none of them tried to stop them or to inform police about their activities.
Additional reporting from Bhakkar by Wasif Raza Naqvi
Last Sunday’s MQM rally in Lahore was yet another attempt to win support in Punjab
By Waqar Gillani
On Sunday, April 10, MQM was in Lahore -- to support the poor people of South Punjab and to warn the Punjabi rich feudals and industrialists that "Altaf Bhai is coming".
Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium was cordoned off from all sides. Heavy containers were placed on different entry points of the stadium. Somehow, the blocked roads and containers reminded an onlooker of May 12, 2007 when the Chief Justice of Pakistan was expected to arrive in Karachi. All routes leading to the Karachi airport were blocked by the city government led by Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM). But this time the containers were placed to provide security to people attending the MQM meeting in Lahore.
Dozens of MQM activists donning orange coloured caps were managing the parking while those in blue coloured shirts were manning the security. "Over 500 dedicated MQM workers have come from Karachi to manage the rally," said an organiser.
The people, mostly from humble backgrounds, entered the stadium slowly -- after passing through the security scans installed at many check points. When a group of elderly women tried to pass through the security check point, one MQM activist turned to them and said: "Baji. Ab aa he gai ho to Altaf Bhai ka nara laga do (sister, now that you are here you might as well raise a slogan for Altaf Bhai)." One of them retorted, "Chal way paran. Naray oday jiday Rab lavawai (Get lost. We praise and chant slogans for those who are blessed by Allah," and ignored his demand.
The address by Altaf Hussain started five hours late, perhaps waiting for the stadium to get packed. At the end of the day, it was a gathering of 6,000 to 8,000 MQM workers. A good number of women also participated in the public meeting.
"I was joking when I said that the expected number of people will be 5,000. Believe me, the number will be in lacs [millions] and the stadium will be packed by late afternoon," MQM leader Haider Abbas Rizvi told TNS.
Many groups of youth belonging to poor classes from small villages --considered as ‘floating votes’ or ‘sellable votes’ in the villages of Punjab -- thronged the stadium. A good number of participants preferred roaming around the stadium instead of settling in the walled ground.
"We have been provided transport and meals," says Ghulam Haider, a labourer from Multan. "MQM talks about the poor people while other parties say they are goons," he adds.
"They are luring the Muhajirs (Urdu speaking)," says Muhammad Mushtaq from a village near Multan.
This is not the first time the MQM has tried to make inroads in the Punjab politics. Previously, it made attempts in the 1990s and then in 2006.
Terming it the beginning of a "revolution", MQM Chief Altaf Hussain said, "Today we are in Punjab. People should witness that there is no difference between Karachi and Lahore. MQM is not only in Karachi now."
MQM, ally of the ruling PPP in the Centre and Sindh, claims to support the lower-middle class without any linguistic or ethnic divisions. "MQM comprises the highest taxpayers who also fund MQM candidates for contesting elections," says Rizvi. "This is of course a political rally and this time the response is 100 times bigger than the ones held in the past.
We are seeing a change in the minds and hearts of the people belonging to the lower and lower-middle class," he adds.
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz spokesman Pervaiz Rasheed brushed aside the MQM’s claim, saying it was a poor show and the MQM had failed to win any support in the Punjab. Some PML-Q leaders, however, attended the rally to express solidarity with MQM. Observers believe PML-Q tried to cash in on the situation and supported the rally just to weaken the PML-N’s grip on the Punjab politics.