Qunfayakoon

Archive for the ‘South Asia’ Category

Red lines in the valley

In South Asia on 31. August 2016 at 20:56

Had the conflict in Kashmir only been about a popular rebel or defiance against indigenous rulers, it would be much easier to portray for what it is – the fight for rights, representation, dignity and freedom. Such is not the case, but it does not stop there – this small landlocked valley in the semi-Himalayan terrains with its about 15 million individuals involves the 190 million sized Pakistan, 1, 3 billion strong India and even the ever so populous China. All three of them nuclear powers, and all with stakes in South- and Central Asia. Call the Palestinian issue a Gordian knot, but the locks in this small valley will put to shame the legend by large margins.

Line_of_control_by_Cecko

By occasion, the valley gives out some shouts. We hear about some protests, stone pelting and strikes, followed up by assassinations, terrorism and police violence. Tension then brews on more when political parties and elected officials in Delhi and Pakistan try to fight their cause in the name of Kashmir in order to gain political legitimacy. A realistic solution is not a topic of the day, but facts are clear, Kashmir is in a stalemate, and there is nothing else to do, other than the obvious.

A lasting solution is what should be discussed – not one painted by ideologies or die-hard nationalism, but a solution that is hard to digest, yet realistic. It should be a talking point in the societies of Pakistan and India so that one day it has enough political leverage to give the politicians in charge room for signing some peaceful notes, and finally settle this red line on the map.

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Mens blodet tørker

In South Asia on 19. December 2014 at 12:54

Terroranslaget mot en skole i Peshawar nordvest i Pakistan legger seg i listen over angrep som vekker stor frustrasjon i landet. En konflikt som har dratt over et tiår tærer på folket og det kreves effektive tiltak for å få slutt på terroren. Taliban tok på seg ansvaret og mente dette var hevn for angrep på deres barn.

Hvis det er hevn som er motivasjonen for angrepet, hvorfor fordømmer Afghansk Taliban angrepet? Det er også verdt å vite hvorfor enkelte analytikere nevner Afghanske og Indiske relasjoner til Taliban. Som en reaksjon på dette, hva er den optimale strategien for å håndtere denne trusselen?

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Mine kjære landsmenn

In South Asia on 2. September 2014 at 20:13

Essay ble først publisert hos Minerva

I Islamabad er det demonstrasjoner mot den sittende regjeringen til den konservative Statsminister Nawaz Sharif. Lederne for demonstrasjonene hevder at Regjeringen har stjålet mandatet gjennom valgfusk og krever dets avgang. Regjeringen og de fleste politiske partier står imidlertid samlet og mener at det er udemokratisk og vil reversere en utvikling i retning styrket demokrati.

At hæren er involvert i denne politiske krisen anses for en del pakistanere å være et demokratisk tilbakeskritt, mens andre mener det er en nødvendighet siden de anser Regjeringen som illegitim. Enkelte få går også den ekstreme retningen og krever ‘et velmenende’ militærkupp.

Har Pakistan siden General Musharrafs avgang i 2008 hatt en demokratisk utvikling? Og vil disse demonstrasjonene gi et bedre demokrati? To sentrale spørsmål som skal belyses i det følgende.

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Marches of folly

In South Asia on 16. August 2014 at 12:38

Election 2013 in Pakistan marked a landmark as often said, that one democratic Government fulfilled its term and was replaced by another. Yet the allegations of rigging and fraud has put its legitimacy to doubt, and the voices has strangely been higher than the elections of 2008 or those under the dictatorship of General Musharraf in 2002.

Elections do have irregularities, and more so in Pakistan. What the frauds are, and when they occur are important to map in order to find solutions for them. However, it does not fix lack of trust on last year’s election.

Question is, what is done to prevent election rigging, when and how does rigging occurs and is the focus of protest marches correct? In other words, is it good for democracy that the elected Government resign in order for midterm polls to take place?

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Unlawful law

In South Asia on 17. May 2014 at 02:29

Following is what happens each time a blasphemy case erupts; Papers debates intense for some days, social media has huge outrage, only to be silent when the case is not of interest anymore. What remains is a poor soul, either killed or lingering in prison, having his or her life turned upside down. Such continues the cycle each time a new case turns up.

In this process, there is also a debate of those in favour, and those against the blasphemy law. Both argue with faith while latter also include secular arguments. There is this third point of view as well which explains that law is a necessity, but is misused.

Since blasphemy is a subjective understanding – as it defames individual’s personal belief – it is also a huge variety in what becomes an offence. In addition, since law is that vague, there is no doubt that citizen’s lack a security in their life. A security a state is required to secure. Question is not about law should stay or not, but rather how can one argue, both theologically, and by secular means, against such a law, which makes it difficult for all citizens of a state?

Why theological argument

As society is guided by the morals given in a faith it is much easier, and even important, to let society comprehend the necessity of tolerance through given parameters. While the need for Islamic state and a penal code based on codified law with punishment for blasphemy also derives from the same sources, it is fully possible to make an opposite argument from the same scriptures.

Scholars as Maulana Wahiduddin Khan from the orthodox trend among Sunnis in subcontinent does not find any theological justification for blasphemy law. He exemplifies from The Holy Scripture that it contains about two hundred verses where Prophets are denigrated by their contemporaries, but not even one verse which tells of a prescribed punishment. The moral from chapters these verses are from is always to be tolerant. Khan urges the use of propagation of faith by argument and not defending it by violence. Hence, his extraction becomes that of a universal wisdom on which great thinkers would agree. As humanity, in total, through ages, is the vice-regent of Almighty, its consensus, from these wise personalities, becomes the closest we come to truth.

Why secular argument

As truth is universal by faith and moral values, it also applies on worldly manners. Statecraft is a human construction. Made by human to organise itself in the most optimal way possible. Just as aircraft, because it has a need, it is upgraded, adjusted and used. Meddling Almighty’s divine words into an erroneous human beings construction will surely defame the image of the former.

Being organised needs an agreement. That of citizen with the state. As time passed, it went from being loyalty to the sovereign of their time, to a security to the individual within that domain. This after learning that state gets weak by civil war or supressing segments of population until point of no return. This was also the consequence of a long development where citizens were granted rights rather than being merely subject.

Now the understanding became, after periods of ethnic and sectarian war that state needs to be stable and in order to be so it needed equality before the law. Thus, democracy was born, in a secular form, as the ultimate system man has developed yet. Apart from being based on equality and justice for all, it also taught of tolerance. As it was no longer possible to supress others, minorities, weaker parts of a population.

This has become the new reality, which many ethnic nationalists or religious fanatics will not comprehend. That the endless cycle of violence, which starts with a part not tolerating another part, needed to stop. Because what is blasphemy, if not merely a personal disagreement? Why then should state, or the representatives of an entire population, meddle in these affairs? What becomes the consequence of such a law?

Consequences

With a blasphemy law, as present, it is undoubtedly no difficulty in convicting a counterpart for alleged blasphemy. Pakistan’s current law mentions Ahmadis explicitly, with restrictions on them appearing as Muslims or to call their house of God for being a mosque. In a subtle way, the law also prohibits Shias from practicing their doctrines. While the former makes a small minority in the country, the latter is a big part of the nation’s population. However, numbers should not justify such injustice at all.

Now the major sects in Pakistan agree upon restrictions against Ahmadis. While Sunnis agree among themselves on the restrictions against Shias. Further on, while it yet is not a law, some segments of Deobandi Sunnis do not accept practices and doctrines performed by the majority Barelvi Sunni denomination. They invoke doctrine of tawhid – oneness of God. While at it, the Barelvi counterpart consider Deobandi criticism of their practices for being defamation against the Prophet. Overall, in one way or other, there has become to be, that either subtle or direct or not even in law, it affects and makes life insecure for each citizen of this state.

Children singing Christmas carols next to a mosque can suddenly be witness to mobs looting and burning their Church. Ismaili doctor throwing away a card which having the same name as Prophet, can be convicted of blasphemy. Chants against a Police officer having same name as one of Prophets Companions can give the same charges. Ahmadi replying to some greeting them in Islamic way end up in jail and a petty argument over a glass of water can make Aasia Bibi linger in jail.

This is not the stability or security a state is required to deliver. Differences will never cease to exist. No matter how much blood is spilled, before any annihilation of an entire community state itself will collapse due to anarchy.

Free speech

Heretics, as defined by Calvin, are simply those with whom one disagree. As disagreement could not be tolerated it became inevitable that laws restricting free speech became necessary. Free speech is not limitless, but to what degree, and for how long can one limit free speech?

It is not practical, in a society, with so many views, both on faith and on worldly matter, to ban one set of thoughts, not even defined, yet subject to ban if uttered. What if ban is effective, will it ban private conversations? Limit people to think of cases others might find blasphemous? Blasphemy law itself cannot fulfil its given role, in its entirely, the only effective law against blasphemy becomes the principle of being tolerant.

It was lack of limits against free speech that early arab scientists could think freely on science. In one case, ibn Rushd was told to explain the movement of planets to the Caliph of Maghreb. Looking at his master ibn Tufayl, Rushd asked the permission to present his thoughts without limits, which was granted. Thus, he could share what he believed to be truth, without limiting his genius, and thereby enriching future philosophers with material to work on.

Same case goes with Ramban who had to defend his faith in front of King James I. Before Ramban took the case, he asked the freedom to have free speech, so his defence would not be accused of committing blasphemy during the disputation. As he was guaranteed, he could with full flexibility answer to charges against his Jewish faith.

In the end, it is criticism, and critical voices should be countered with argument, or simply being ignored. Limits to free speech will also limit human progress be it thinking on faith or science. Limiting it just to avoid criticism or pure blatant hate against ones faith has the cost of limiting liberties entire society has, and the security of life.

No matter how civilised one becomes, there will be criticism, which also includes simple hate. To tackle that one needs to tolerate, there is no way around. As consequences are given, the price is high to pay for a task that belongs to Almighty and not its creation.

‘Behold! There is faith in blasphemy. Those that can differentiate between the two, come forward’

-Shah Hayati

No doubt, word needs to reach out, not only to lawmakers, but also to society. It is society that can pressurise reforms, and all segments of society has its part. Among them, the influential and better off diaspora, most of which live under democratic and secular states. As long as the taboo of talking about this unjust law does not break, there will be no progress, and we will be part of those committing this injustice.

Being realistic, for all practical purposes there will be a demand for decency from society itself on issues as contempt of faith, that in addition to deal with communalism was the main reason British brought in the law into Indian penal code. In the given conditions, it might not win critical support to repeal law itself, but it can be modified, by removing passages that are in conflict with values as equality and justice. More directly, the law needs to go back to its original form, as the British colonial rulers introduced it.

On honour and democracy

In South Asia on 26. April 2014 at 22:09

Given Pakistan’s history with democracy, there should be no surprise that the democratic institution is weak at present. It takes decades to make institutions transparent and auditable, which are closed and non-controllable. Check the list of rulers and you will find non-elected Governor-Generals and Presidents tossing Governments. While bureaucrats introduced this menace of throwing Governments, Army introduced the routine of toppling these, to grab power by themselves.

The period after Zia-ul-Haq’s regime and until Musharraf assumed the reigns is characterised as a democratic period. Indeed it was, as the Governments were elected by popular will (though not always by fair gameplay) but period also marked the clashes of institutions, be it President, Chief of Army or Chief Justice.

After Musharraf’s departure, something has changed. President Zardari put an end to presidents power to dissolve assemblies, and Supreme Court took a responsible stance on not to legitimise Army takeover as it had done so many times before. Free media challenged official narratives and social media extended the range for activists. Power has devolved among institutions and country more democratic than before – though some self-designed messiahs would design it sham democracy, it was a step in the right direction. These same messiahs were oddly silent when Taliban targeted candidates from some political parties during elections in 2013.

Asghar Khan-case, Memogate scandal and the recent brawl between GEO TV channel and the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) has put to question where civilian’s sovereignty ends and where Army’s duties extend. In the same breath, certain politicians (actually a whole lot of them), have come out to give their full support of ‘any attempt to dishonour the army or the ISI’.

We are witnessing two things. Army and ISI tries to win its past monopoly of power, while in reality it has reduced its power to be that of veto, and secondly, politicians still have a long way to go when it comes to understanding democratic principles, especially those advocating change and those who have not felt the ruthlessness of Army takeovers.

Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto escorted by police to court after General Zia-ul-Haq took power

Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto escorted by police to court after General Zia-ul-Haq took power

These new realities

Army had monopoly on power until Musharraf was dethroned. Either by direct rule, or indirectly by meddling in civilian affairs. Be it on its budget allocations, funding to political parties of interest or controlling foreign and defence policies. It could do so because it had propagated its virtue, stability and professionalism into the society. That it was the sole institution that was clean of corruption and had the means to tackle the tasks.

People, the ones suffering from maladministration and lack of necessities, surely would accept such a rule if promises were right. The promises came – without the necessary output of fulfilling them. The first dictator neglected half the population, the second had a self-designed divine agenda and the third the ability to speak for then to do the opposite. All of them empowered army budgets at the cost of healthcare and education, this in order to acquire Army hardware to level up with arch nemesis in east.

As Army rule has proven that it cannot deliver to people, and as established politicians has comprehended that they are better off without army meddling, the foundations to democracy has strengthened, ironically by politicians who on day to day basis are hated by common man. Zardari can be criticised for many things, but in his tenure, there was a smooth transition from dictatorship to civilian rule. A manifestation of strengthened institutions that could check and balance power.

Pakistan Army and ISI has much to answer for. Not because it is evil in itself, it is a necessity, as is defence necessary for every state. There is not a big deal that army personnel are well trained and ready to fight for their country, every army does that. It is their job. That is what it is. Army is no holy cow, it is accountable to people through Parliament, just as Government is accountable to people. Wisdom of many, gives better quality, in long term, than wisdom of the few. Such wisdom is gained by democracy, and puts civilian authority highest above them all.

Army had to adjust to these new realities where civilians and judiciary also tries to find its limits and roles. To a great degree Army has managed to do so, it has realised it is in no good company if it acquires power by force. This is no guarantee that a coup will not occur, only that opposition will be much louder and army rule impossible with the many added critical voices. The fight between civilians and Army at current is the definition of what national interest is. As situation in Baluchistan is handled by upmost brutality by Army, Rangers and intelligence agencies, it is of interest for them that such issues are not talked about that loudly. Neither is the former and current links between designed terror networks and Pakistani intelligence agencies.

In comes honour

Army knows of battlefield, it knows how to mobilise, where to provide reinforcements and where to hit a target. That is their domain and that is their job. Civilian leaders use Generals advice when they give a go to any Army operation. Normal procedure, without any complications.

However, when Army or its agencies intrudes civilian domain, it is the civilian leader’s duty to react. Saleem Shahzad was killed because of his report on links between Lashkar-e-Tayyaba and Pakistani intelligence. Hamid Mir accuse intelligence agencies for the assassination attempt due to his reports on grave violation of human rights in Baluchistan.

Politicians given his full-fledged support to ISI against what they categorises defamation allegations. These are not merely words, these are reflections of how a society priorities democracy in front of what challenges it. Honour is set to institutions as Army or to ideas as ideology of Pakistan or to faith as Islam in order to prevent critical voices from hindering those who benefit from it.

As mentioned before, wisdom from many is better than wisdom from few, but quality in wisdom comes from critical voices. That’s why humankind developed councils, be it panchayat, majlis, daira or shoora – in modern sense a Parliament is an arena open for debate, criticism and reflection in order to put as much wisdom and quality as possible in the legislation.

That is why political leaders instead of giving supporting patriotic statements, or setting foot cadres in support of Director General of ISI, rather should speak up in unison, with other political leaders, and give a clear statement what democratic principles demand.

Allegations as is custom in Pakistan can be put by anyone, on anyone. For some these have dire consequences, as is the case with blasphemy law. Some give popularity due to media attention. Others are mere routines. In this process, it is important for media to be unbiased, not picking favourites and not using the well-known weapon of ‘honour’. Being pressured by establishment is one thing, fawning upon them is quite another.

Come along, path is ahead

That is why democracy has a long way to go. Even though power is devolved more than before, the essence of democracy is to be understood by all actors. Army is bound to be a top-down system with a clear chain of command. However, even soldiers can refuse orders, if they go against moral values. Moreover, Army itself has to answer to civilians, just as police, bureaucrats or elected has to do.

Politicians themselves have to find their role and their responsibility. The wellbeing of their people does not only come from allocation development funds, but also to safeguard and strengthen their rights. Limits on access to media channels as YouTube with the excuse of blasphemy should not be accepted blindly, these are tools which widens the information base. In addition, more information is good to make up one mind. This is for freedom of speech and information, and then we have the lack of enthusiasm on freedom of belief. Civilians cannot be ranked into graded citizens as it hinders the basic pillar of democracy, it being equality.

When politicians will value these issues as if they were infested with honour, only then can democracy truly be strengthened, and by time deliver what is promised to people. No revolutions, coups or holy wars can do so. In the end, being critical is not a sign of defamation or dishonouring, rather to have enough care for a country in order for its institutions to operate optimally.

Thoughts as shared above are even limited to be published on paper, and if published, brandished traitorous. Traitorous indeed, to one set of thoughts, but always in allegiance to the principles of democracy and the universal truths of equality and justice.

På landeveien for frihet

In South Asia on 25. February 2014 at 00:09

Hvorfor er det slik at en liten gruppe menn og kvinner drar på en kjerre, som inneholder bilder av savnede eller drepte, gjennom hele Pakistan? Hvorfor mottar disse triste skjebnene trusler fra terrorister og politisperringer fra myndighetene?

I grunn, hvorfor er det liten interesse for kritikk av den pakistanske hær og dets gjøremål, når den amerikanske, indiske og israelske hæren kan bli kritisert på detaljnivå? Det er naturlig å finne svar på disse spørsmålene med faktorer som valg av informasjonskanaler og prinsipiell tilnærming i forhold til menneskerettighetsspørsmål.

De savnede personene

Mama Qadeer Baloch er far av en sønn som ble kidnappet, torturert, drept og dumpet. Dette grunnet sønnens aktivisme i interesseorganisasjoner for baloch folket. Qadeer, med andre likesinnede organiserte seg under Baloch Voice for Missing Persons (BVMP) og lanserte sin protestmarsj for å levere en formell klage til FNs konsulat i Islamabad.

Gruppen har vandret fra Quetta i sørvest og østover mot storbyen Karachi for så å vende nord langs Induselven mot Lahore og dermed på den famøse Grand Trunk Road mot hovedstaden. Marsjen har pågått i hundre dager og meningen er å vekke oppmerksomhet rundt kidnapping, drap og den smertelige situasjonen folk i Balochistan lider under. Qadeer er på dette tidspunktet i Gujrat-området, et sted hvor de fleste norsk-pakistanere har sine aner fra.

Vognen som inneholder bilder av forsvunne folk er alle av unge menn i sine beste år. Historiene er som regel svært like. Ungdommen var enten organisert under eller hadde ideologiske tilknytninger til Baloch nasjonalistiske grupper. Personer blir plukket opp av både sivilkledd og uniformerte personell, fraktet til hemmelige lokasjoner i provinsen og forblir der inntil det foretas en beslutning.

Av og til mottas svar fra de kidnappede i brevform, andre ganger får en ikke høre noe som helst, med unntak av et lik langs landeveien som oppdages av reisende. Slektninger som hele tiden søker spor oppsøker slike kilder og får identifisert personer. Likene har ofte spor av tortur – alt fra fjernede negler, sigarettmerker til kuttskader og kulehull.

Marsjen ledsages av en ambulanse fra den humanitære organisasjonen Edhi Foundation. Ambulansen huser nødvendigheter i tilfelle akutte situasjoner, men også vann som blir dyrebar når en går i heten. Gruppen har fått støtte fra likesinnede i Balochistan, Sind og det Sørlige Punjab. Alle tre områder som opplever økonomisk diskriminering til fordel for Nord-Punjab. Da gruppen entret Lahore ble støtten drastisk redusert. Deltakerne på marsjen ble forundret over å ha hørt fabler om det livlige Lahore som ikke hadde særlig hjertevarme for en rettferdig sak. Pashtun og Baloch studenter dukket imidlertid opp sammen med aktivister og formet ring rundt gruppen. Dette for å vise sin støtte da Qadeer mottok trusler om konsekvenser hvis han fortsatte marsjen mot hovedstaden.

mama qadeer

Prioriteringer

Liten interesse er meldt fra mediene, mens statskanalene har ignorert dette helt. De største politiske partiene har heller ikke snakket nevneverdig for saken, med unntak av regionale partifylkinger fra venstreaksen. Politiet har samtidig vist stor interesse og har økt sin tilstedeværelse med kvinnelige konstabler. Dette skjer kun av sedvane hvis kvinner også skal arresteres – noe som indikerer at politiet ikke er der for å beskytte, men for å hindre en sivil demokratisk markering. I et land hvor Taliban blir invitert til dialog med myndigheter og hvor sivile demonstranter blir forhindret er det rimelig å anta at de demokratiske idealene fortsatt har en vei å gå.

Nylig ble det oppdaget massegrav i Balochistan hvor flere titalls personer som tidligere hadde forsvunnet ble identifisert. Dette skapte medieoverskrifter, samtidig var det liten respons fra stat og saken ble raskt dysset ned med lovnader om å investigere. Dette nærer oppunder ergrelsen baloch nasjonalister har bygget opp og rekruttering til militante separatistbevegelser blir en naturlig reaksjon.

I en maktesløs posisjon, mot alle odds, går derfor denne marsjen sin gang. Håpløst? Det kan virke som det hvis de marsjerende satset sin lit til internasjonal oppmerksomhet, de ønsker det, men deres motivasjon her i livet er savnet etter deres forsvunne slektninger. Det er denne motivasjonen som får dem til å trosse trusler, hindringer og kalde skuldre. Det er det minste de kan gjøre. Hva er det minste vi kan gjøre?

Gruppen gjentar regelmessig slagord, etterfulgt av repetisjon av navnene på de savnede. De repeteres som om det skulle være religiøse hymner. Gjentas som brensel for motivasjon til å fortsette – for det er få som er villige til å høre den ubehagelige sannhet, fordi den sverter stat og hær, og det er få som tør å ta den samme risikoen, fordi det ikke berører deres egne. Derfor gjentas navnene, de skal ikke bli statistikk, de skal nektes å bli statistikk.

Medmennesker og statistikk

Staten og hæren er representert gjennom paramilitære styrker som nyter formelle og uformelle fullmakter. Den konservative regjeringen til Nawaz Sharif har foreslått endring på en forordning kalt ‘Protection of Pakistan Ordinance’. Denne gir subjektive og vage definisjoner på hva som gir rett til å anholde personer mot deres vilje, samt øker forvaringstid uten rett. Slike tiltak forsvares med å nevne terrortrusselen, men mens nasjonalister sitter bak lås og slå uten rett, klarer militante jihadister å bli frikjent på grunn av ‘manglende bevisførsel’.

Det er ulike tall på hvor mange mennesker som er ‘forsvunnet’ fra Balochistan, enkelte kilder hevder at så mange som fem tusen mennesker kan ha blitt bortført av de hemmelige tjenestene. Da den tidligere høyesterettsdommeren Iftikhar Chaudhry ble vokal i sin kritikk av bortføringene ble det imidlertid håp om at ting skulle løse seg. Chaudhry lot seg ikke presse av hæren og krevde at navngitte personer skulle produseres. Straks ble disse personene funnet, som lik, med torturmerker, langs landeveier.

I denne kyniske prioriteringen lider dermed sivile fordi staten har sammenfallende interesser med terrornettverk. For eksempel var Taliban Islamabads forlengende arm i Kabul, mens Lashkar-e-Taiba en nyttig alliert i Kashmir mot India. Lashkar-e-Jhangvi har lenge forfulgt sjia muslimer og samtidig også nasjonalister i Balochistan. Da sistnevnte blir satt som mål blir det en konsekvens at terrornettverk får operere uten store hindringer.

Hazara muslimer har over flere år blitt utsatt for drap og terror. Deres gravsteder blir overfylte og deres hjem tomme. De siste to årene har to store terrorangrep drept flere hundre sivile noe som har trigget protester. Slektninger har protestert mot myndigheter sammen med likene til sine slektninger. Dette har presset myndigheter til å reagere, men lovnader blir ikke oppfylt. Lashkar-e-Jhangvis politiske arm Sippah Sahaba Pakistan nyter gode relasjoner til regjeringspartiet og har frie tøyler i Punjab.

Men folk tar likevel standpunkt, på et eller annet sted går det en grense. Selv den svakeste mann kan stå imot Goliat når nok er nok og når døden ikke lenger skremmer. Å protestere med sine kjæres lik ved siden av eller å marsjere utrolige strekninger blir en plikt. Blir den kroniske korrupsjonen i landet fortsatt en prioritet som den er for diasporaen? Eller er strømavbrudd viktigere enn mennesker som nå er tall og statistikk?

Aktivisten og poeten Habib Jalib ba i sin tid Punjab om å stille opp;

Jaag merey Punjab, key Pakistan chala

Toot chaley sub khwaab key Pakistan chala

Våkne opp min Punjab for Pakistan holder på å forsvinne

Knust er drømmer og håp for Pakistan forsvinner

Kan den samme stemmen rettes mot diasporaen? En gruppe som finansielt utgjør en vesentlig pressgruppe har stort potensial for å kunne styrke demokratiske institusjoner i landet. Diasporaen har også anledning og ressurser nok til å kunne belyse problemstillinger som må eies, kartlegges, og dermed løses. Det finnes ingen enkeltpersoner som kan forandre landet, men det finnes enkeltskjebner som sammen kan finne frem, dra vognen med rop om rettferdighet, og ta den vanskelige veien frem mot målet.

Ytringsfrihet er ingen frihet hvis den ikke kan tolereres, trosfrihet er meningløst hvis tro påtvinges, likhet er skjevt hvis noen er mer like enn andre, og det er urett for alle hvis noen ikke får rettferdighet.

Behind the veil

In South Asia on 29. December 2013 at 21:41

Jamaat-e-Islami (also known as Jamaat or JI) has since its foundation used an anti-corruption agenda and lack of honesty among politicians in order to win support. Making itself the honest alternative due to its righteousness the Jamaat has escaped and managed to dodge much criticism. However, the Jamaat is not as innocent as it seems, that needs to be understood without labelling critical voices as an attack on Islam, which has been a shield for too long.

Facade

During recent Pakistani reaction to the execution of a Bengali JI leader, the leader of Jamaat in Pakistan Syed Munawar Hasan would proclaim that East-Pakistan was lost due to lack of Islamic ideology. Jamaat used the same rhetoric during civil war in 1971 in order to support police brutality against Bengali students and Army crackdown on protests and later guerrilla movements. According to this narrative, which became official propaganda, one should not allow the division of a Muslim state. This was a higher goal for the Army ruled state with its supporters than the public grievance in East-Pakistan or the grave violations of human rights.

Pakistan never took those behind atrocities committed in Bangladesh to trial. It took Bangladesh a while to do this task, and even they have to answer for acts against civilians of non-Bengali origin. As the state did not learn from history by repeating same mistakes in Baluchistan, neither did Jamaat-e-Islami. Rather they considered their actions noble and right. In the end, they were fighting and supporting a cause, which was in their view according to Islamic principles.

Only some years later would the same Jamaat alongside several other religious groupings and political parties launch initiative to label Ahmadis as non-Muslims in the Constitution of 1973. This was a continuance of events which took place in 1953 where Jamaat had a leading role in Ahmadi pogroms. Maudoodi the founder and then leader of Jamaat escaped death penalty as appeasement to bigots and zealots had become politician’s favourite weapon when faced with criticism.

During the 80s, Jamaat became the sole Islamist political party with effective links to the Army. These events and this relation is quite contrary to the pious and righteous facade the organization tries to portray.

Anti-modernity

In its entirety, Jamaat has been against progressive ideas and modernity. These ideas are challengers to their worldview, but at the same time in evidently accepted several modern ideas but still being inherently against new ones. Jamaat protested against smallpox vaccines during 60s, calling it a conspiracy to sterilize Muslim kids. Taliban outfits in north Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa against Polio drops use this argument today.

Religious parties should not be banned, but there is no doubt that there is an excluding nature in these groupings. As one can change ideologies, it is much harder to change religious identities, and as Jamaat and other religious organisations preach to be the true path and face of Islam, they at the same time tell others that their belief is wrong and needs to be corrected. This is not uncommon for religious groupings, but Jamaat is a political party as well, and wants to introduce (to some degree has implemented) laws which promotes their version and translation of doctrines and books – compromising on freedom of faith.

During a debate on sectarian violence, former Jamaat-e-Islami member and later leader of the Salafi Tanzeem-e-Islami Dr. Israr Ahmed suggested that if Shia Muslims compromise on some of their doctrines there would be no sectarian violence. Hence putting the blame on ‘wrong belief’ rather than on violent reactions or the draconian blasphemy law. With such an approach, violence will be justified. Especially when those more violent as the likes of Sippah Sahaba Pakistan and its militant wing Lashkar-e-Jhangwi do not find mere rhetoric to be enough.

Faith in subcontinent has historically been universal and composite. Being universal in spirituality, it has now become more divisive. Hindu revival movements and Islamists are the manifests of this trend. Sectarian identity has also strengthened from being a non-issue to be the prime object of any transaction or interaction.

Since religion is the sole identity religious parties use in their agenda, any criticism of their conduct automatically, in their view, becomes a criticism of religion. Jamaat-e-Islami has been among those frequently chanting that ‘Islam is in danger’ and that criticism of their conduct is ‘attack on Islam’. Effectively banning critical voices from pointing fingers on their conduct. It should be no surprice that Munawar Hasan calls former TTP chief Hakeemullah Mehsud a martyr. They are at least honest on what they think of human lives and what justifies death.

The hypocrisy

With the advent of Taliban, a grouping with offspring from Sami-ul-Haqs Jamaat-e-Ulema Islam, the Jamaat too aligned with these new rulers in Kabul. Both providing cadres and political support whenever needed. Taliban’s massacres against civilians in general and Hazara population in specific was no hinder in that matter. After all, applying Islamic law was the priority, they were supporting the right cause. The brutal massacres and persecution of Rohingiya Muslims by Burmese state and local Rakhine militias although is being exploited to confirm a narrative that Muslims are at war with non-Muslims. There is little humanity in their care for Rohingiyas, the higher goal is much more important, that is the reason for silence when Taliban are involved in massacres.

The student wing Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba (IJT) has a record of its own. Pakistani universities during the 60s had student activity banned. Partly due to left-wing criticism of Field Marshal Ayub Khans dictatorship and partly due to clashes between the leftists and islamists. Following opening up for student politics the IJT soon became a more organized and dedicated group. Several cases has been reported on moral control, beating up of students who do not follow IJT rules, and even teachers who criticise their conduct. In one event, the IJT enforced ban on selling the mango drink from Shezan because its owner was supposedly an Ahmadi. Student wing has also been a huge recruiting arena for youth who were sent to war in Afghanistan. There has also been several cases on IJT hiding Al-Qaeda personnel or weaponry in their dorms.

Jamaat in 80s was a major supporter for General Zia-ul-Haq’s intervention through proxy and direct involvement on Afghan territory. At that time, even being confident with Pakistani intelligence cooperating with CIA and Mossad. The same tune turned sour when US decided arrogantly to bomb Osama bin Laden out from his hiding in Afghanistan. Now it was completely unacceptable that a foreign power intervenes in other states internal affairs. Jamaat is obsessed with sovereignty now over drone attacks, but the same sovereignty Pakistan breached in Afghanistan by providing support and cadres to different warlords was understandable. The rationale Jamaat puts in order to legitimize its difference in stance is that the world is at war with Islam. Hence using conspiracy theories to confirm.

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Learning from history

Despite being comparatively clean on financial matters, Jamaat-e-Islami has a bloody history from which no lesson has been learned. Jamaat has been keen to label its opponents, the more secular of them in prime the leftist flank of Pakistani politics, to be hypocrites and hence those God warned against. However, as is evident through its own history the hypocrites thrive in their ranks.

Pakistan still got a long way to walk when it comes to truth and reconciliation policy towards the Bangladesh debacle. Such issues take time, but old wounds are important to open up in order for them to heal, and in order to deliver justice.

Even European states as Hungary have elements who rather than learning from history, make up a distorted worldview to justify actions or to make them conspiracies in order to ‘weaken the nations standing in the world’. Problem is that such rhetoric works for a while among your own, but world cannot be fooled. By time, such approach builds an imaginary castle, which is easy to blow away. Leading to automatic reactions against even a hint of criticism, effectively hindering free speech and democratic rights.

Jamaat cannot hide behind its façade of being pious and avoid consequences of its politics. Sadly, it is too easy to get away for such groupings by merely invoking religion and an anti-corruption agenda. PTI can easily align itself with JI in its provincial Government, while at the same time be ferocious to financial corruption among the others.

Truth cannot be hidden, it is revealed by time. Challenge remains to be in tune beforehand in order to avoid suffering of human lives for causes being taught to be worth bigger than humanity. Lessions not learned lead to repeating same mistakes.

Zaat

In South Asia on 12. October 2013 at 16:42

Systemer som diskriminerer basert på etnisitet eller sosial status er ikke noe som hører hjemme i et samfunn som er basert på likhet. Likevel er kastesystemet fortsatt utbredt i Sør-Asia. Systemet møter imidlertid motstand i takt med at demokratiet og det sivile samfunn styrker seg. Spørsmålet blir da ikke om når systemet skal endre seg, men hvor fort endringen skal skje.

Opprinnelsen

Føydale samfunn har vært normen frem til utvikling av den moderne stat. Før var forholdet hersker og undersåtter sett på som nødvendig kontra nåværende som går på plikter og rettigheter en borger har til staten. Det var nødvendig fordi statsformer og administrasjon var satt opp slik, og disse var satt opp slik fordi før den moderne staten handlet det om å utforske, erobre og utvinne istedenfor å fokusere på beboernes velferd.

Kastesystemet har sitt historiske utspring for rundt to tusen år siden i Sør-Asia. Skillelinjene skulle holde folkegrupper i sjakk og dermed gjøre det stabilt for makthaverne å styre uten folkelig uro. For uro ble det, fra gang til gang har de nederst på rangstigen gjort motstand mot urett. Enkelte ganger i væpnet opprør, andre ganger gjennom litteratur. Uansett hvilken måte som ble valgt var det sanksjoner fra herskereliten og også det tradisjonelle samfunnet. Systemet hadde en såpass sterk funksjon at med tiden ble denne inkorporert i kultur og tro.

På den annen side fungerte systemet utmerket tatt i hensyn sikker arbeid og gjensidig avhengighet. En sønn av en baker var sikret arbeid innen yrket fordi store deler av samfunnet var utelukket dette spesifikke feltet. En feier på gravsteder var nødvendig for at de høyest på rangstigen skulle få kremert sine døde og dermed sikre neste steg i livssyklusen.

Fra tradisjon til religion

Det etablerte narrativ er at hinduismen støtter kastesystemet. Dermed blir skylden lagt på innflytelse fra denne religionen når for eksempel muslimer blir konfrontert med praksisen. Dette stemmer til en viss grad, men medfører også ansvarsfraskrivelse.

Når en samfunnsorden er såpass gammel og er blitt inkorporert i kultur og tradisjon vil den også influere religiøse dogmer og skrifter som har utviklet seg parallelt. Slikt vil en finne at kastesystemet blir nevnt i hinduenes hellige skrifter. Men en vil også finne hinduistiske bevegelser, som utviklet seg parallelt, og som har gjort motstand mot ordenen, være seg Bhakti-tradisjonen eller deler av den moderne hindu-nasjonalismen samt den sekulære indiske nasjonalismen. På samme måte vil en finne at slaveri er nevnt i Koranen, fordi slaveri var en del av samfunnsstrukturen på den tid, men en vil også finne at den sentrale pilaren rundt veldedighet i Koranen oppfordret til å kjøpe fri slaver fra trelldom.

I Sør-Asia viser historien at ankomst av enhver ny religion eller filosofi ville få stor støtte blant de svakeste i rangstigen. Slikt aksepterte mange buddhismen. Dette ble også motivasjon for mange å konvertere til islam. Slikt ble også sikhismen populær blant de svakeste blant muslimer og hinduer og med ankomst av britene ble også kristendommen et tilfluktssted for de utsatte.

Muslimske dynastier regjerte i flere århundre før britene kom på banen. Disse dynastiene inkorporerte kastesystemet i egne rekker for å kunne beholde privilegier og samtidig holde det enorme mangfoldet under kontroll. Gjennom flere religiøse erklæringer ble herskereliten gitt status for å være Ashraf (de opphøyde) og dermed berettiget til å herske, de neste på rangstigen ble Ajlaf, som var innfødte konvertitter tilhørende høytstående klasser og sist Arzal som var kasteløse.

Sikhene hadde i likhet med muslimene et sterkt likhetsideal men samtidig også et sterkt fokus på tilhørighet og identitet. Kastesystemet som grunnlag for nivådeling av mennesker ble avvist av sikhenes åndelige veiledere, men samtidig ble det i praksis satt vekt på at enhver gruppe har en viss oppgave i samfunnet. I praksis ble det til at selv sikher, muslimer og kristne praktiserte kastesystemet innad i sine kretser.

Britene i sin tid institusjonaliserte også de forskjellige etniske gruppene for å effektivisere sin administrasjon gjennom splitt og hersk-teknikker. Enkelte grupper ble klassifisert som handelsklasser, andre som krigerklasser. Krigerklassene ble i sin tur rekruttert til hæren og likeledes andre fikk incentiver til å bedrive sine formål. I så måte ble samfunnsordenen institusjonalisert tross en viss urbanisering og sentralisering.

Hudfarge og ære

Hovedskillet i Sør-Asias etniske komposisjon kommer som følge av innvandringen av Indo-Aryanerne i nord, som jagde Draviderne mot Sør. Sistnevnte har en mørkere hudfarge. Fargefokuset er såpass sosialt akseptert at i urbane strøk eksisterer det en milliardindustri på feltet. Filmstjerner, sportsstjerner og modeller opptrer i reklame for hvithetsmidler noe som forsterker skjønnhetsidealet og presser dem med mørkere hudfarge. Nandita Das er blant de få profilerte som har stått imot dette presset og protestert mot retusjering av hennes hudfarge i reklamebruk. Imidlertid er industrien og det etablerte synet så sterkt at selv hennes bilder i reklame mot lyshetsmidler blir retusjert.

Æresbegrepet er en konsekvens av kaste-/ stammestruktur og blir ofte koblet opp mot det å kunne bevare og beskytte det en verdsetter mest av sine eiendeler. I Pashtun tradisjon er disse omtalt som zar, zan, zameen – kvinnen, gullet og jorden. Hvis noe truer eller tukler med en manns eiendom blir derfor æren berørt og må beskyttes. Hvis det ikke reageres er en derfor æresløs og sosialt utestengt fra sin respektive klan/kaste. Et sosialt fellesskap som skal gi beskyttelse blir derfor borte og en blir utsatt for stigma.

Med et utdanningssystem som også fokuserer på utdannelse for kvinner og med en økt demokratisk forståelse rundt likhet mellom mennesker og kjønn er også æresbegrepet på retur. Kvinnen blir derfor ikke redusert lenger til å være mannens eiendom, men et selvstendig individ som skal beslutte på vegne av seg selv. Stater har ansvar i form av å hindre diskriminering, men lovgivning kan gjøres på papir, det er endring i samfunnet som er det kritiske og her kommer borgernes ansvar inn i bildet – konsekvens av å være stille i møte med diskriminering av enkelte medfører at en selv også blir diskriminert av andre.

For how long is not the question

In South Asia on 9. August 2013 at 11:28

We should not ask for how long you, the powerful, will tolerate this madness. It will not change, it did not change last year when corpses were used in protests in a last attempt to gain attention. Neither did it change during the recent Anti-Christian arson and looting in Joseph colony or the Gojra incident. It did not change after the decade’s long forceful conversion of Hindu community, or the institutionalised discrimination of the Ahmadi minority. It did not change when imambargahs, mazaars or mosques were blown up nor when tribal elders were put to gunpoint by their new hosts. It certainly did not change when our neighbour to west burned during the civil war or when fine young soldiers were killed in the most brutal way. So, why will it change with angry written columns?

Leaders should rather listen of what is expected but is ignored, both by will and by ignorance. You, the elected, the umeedvar, as you call yourself, have a responsibility beyond your voters base, beyond financial donor or self interest. That responsibility is to ensure that the citizens of this state are granted the given rights in constitution, and where the constitution don’t grant them, to legislate change, reform in order to fulfil the principles of equality and justice. You are further responsible for the safeguarding of the citizens of this country and use means necessary to combat any threat – in short, keeping the rights of citizens at first priority.

Counter terror

Each nation’s security policy is defined by its national interest. What this interest is varies dependent on whom you ask, though it should not be any disagreement that this policy can only be vetted by civilians. Pakistan’s national interest has been dictated by its small circle of elite popularly known as The Establishment – an unofficial group of those who adhere and dictate the principles of the ideology of Pakistan. The members are within the powerful Army Headquarters, their allied politicians, wealthy business tycoons and bureaucracy.

As the ideology of Pakistan instead of being linked to the welfare of its citizens is rather linked to an overreacted fear of foreign aggression the national interest itself becomes a victim of paranoia and policy, which often compromises civil liberties and democratic principles.

As is known Pakistan supported the rise of Taliban in Afghanistan, militant proxies in Kashmir and East Pakistan and religious militants in Baluchistan because it was in the national interest, these same policies backfired repeatedly on Pakistan itself. Taliban quickly changed its strategy to fight Pakistan, because it was against its interest. Regretfully Pakistan did not change its policy throughout because of two major reasons, one it still adheres to a national interest centred on external threat and two as US can leave the region, Pakistan will get stuck up with an unstable neighbour with militants ready to take on Pakistan.

As the latter concern is legit, and one which US ignores, the former is merely causing trouble by Pakistan’s own doing. Kabul has never recognised Pakistan’s border and claims tracts of land populated by Pashtuns. While it would be normal for nations to be alarmed on such a position, there is no or little risk of Afghanistan to actually claim this land. Hence a foreign policy which is highly exaggerated and therefore unnecessary. On its eastern border, Pakistan has the conflict of Kashmir. While India recognises Pakistan’s border and vice versa, they do not agree on the Kashmir border and both claim the whole region for themselves. The only realistic solution for Kashmir conflict is to make Line Of Control a permanent border, as there is not an Indian interest in invading Pakistani territory. If had been, then Indira Gandhi would have gone forth to ‘fulfill the job’ after the fall of Dhaka – because it is against the interest of India to have a balkanised Pakistan on its western front.

Both conflicts can be solved by diplomacy, but the Kashmir conflict puts pressure on Pakistan to engage in militarisation of region and join the arms race. Every nation would have done so. As it is standing today, Pakistan’s real interest is not defined by an imaginary threat from Kabul or existential one from Delhi, its interest lies in the internal threat to its citizens, and thus it does not need, never have had the need, to court terror networks. In such a case any with a small amount of wit would have taken on these groups, but as Army is also part of defining national interest it becomes a conflict of interest. Pakistan Army is a fine one, especially its first generation of cadres and officers, but they are not democratic in mind-set, and thus not willing to reduce their power. In order to retain power it needs increased focus on its importance, consequently giving it more say in defining national interest, and share of budget.

Counter Terror Policy is a tool to safeguard parts of the national interest. Pakistan needs one committed, worked on CT-Policy, but it also needs a shift in definition of national interest – not saying that all foreign focus should be eliminated – one which puts the internal challenges in centre. This step also triggers the need to think aloud around the Ideology of Pakistan. Nations ideologies are formed and reformed through time and all stakeholders, especially civil society and elected should play a major part in it.

Once committed the state and its security agencies will have the full-fledged support to fight the menace that plays havoc with innocent lives. Causalities ensure lack of trust in state and thus making it fragile – again one thing that genuinely threatens national interest

Reform of Constitution

Constitutions are not everlasting. They can be revolutionary when brought into effect, being influenced by the then up-to-date understanding on sovereignty, freedoms and rights. By time, new fields are discovered to be defined or new concerns to be regulated in the Constitution. In early nation-states sovereignty was breached once a foreign power physically puts its foots on ground in another state, while today sovereignty can be breached by putting dam to a river shared by two countries, building nuclear power plant close to the border or putting restrictions on trade through sanctions. On rights front new challenges are amongst other the limit to free speech and limit in civil rights due to increased surveillance. These are challenges also valid for developed democratic countries.

On the other hand, constitutions also include sections and paragraphs that are not in tune with present nor past. There can be laws and regulations that are against something being higher than constitutions and ideologies – the universal values – it being equality and justice. These values are thought forth by human by centuries and are found in Holy books of faith or the wisdom of intellect. Constitutions compromising on these values are hence not in the interest of the people.

In Pakistan’s case articles regarding freedom of speech, thought and faith are of high concern. In more detailed list the articles limiting Ahmadis to practice their faith, Shias to compromise on their doctrines and heterodox sects to hide their literature is against the principles of freedom. Further, the laws stifling discussion because of their vagueness as the infamous ‘Blasphemy’-paragraphs limits both freedom of faith and speech, and harms especially religious minorities. The law is against principles of freedom, equality and justice.

As seen, the constitution needs to be shaken for some major hot points, but also reformed due to natural change and the many amendments and ordinances. A major task it is, but if legislators do not opt to initiate such, then surely a constitution, with elements against universal values will not give a society that gives equal rights and justice to all its citizens. As more and more countries moves towards democracy and secularism and as a secular state not necessarily harms one’s personal faith it is important to note than one becomes pariah. That too compromises national interest.

Idiom

The issues around Counter-Terror Policy and Constitution reform are technical one and should be dealt by with the help of experts. Subjects as secularism and blasphemy law are easily misused in emotional rhetoric with religion as shield to oppose by groupings opposing such a reform. Counter-terror is not surprisingly also opposed by the same groupings as faith is instrumentalised. These groupings have the right to say their mind, right to partake in democratic process, but not right to go on accord with democratic principles. However, more importantly, the needed reforms and changes also needs to be translated into the local idiom, so they are understood in essence by the common man. Including the citizens into such processes are important, and for that Pakistan needs to rid itself of the colonial mind-set and legacy of top-down approach.