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Hizb ut-Tahrir in Pakistan

August 11, 2011

Hizb ut-Tahrir (HuT) has been in the news ever since the arrest earlier this year of Brigadier Ali Khan, who was serving at the military’s General Headquarters in Rawalpindi. He was alleged to have links to HuT. According to a recent news report, long before the arrest of Brig. Ali Khan, the intelligence agencies had warned that HuT was planning an Egyptian and Tunisian style uprising in Pakistan.

HuT is a global political party. It aims to establish an ‘Islamic’ way of life in Muslim countries and to unify them under a caliphate. HuT was founded in 1953 in Jerusalem by the religious cleric Taqiuddin an-Nabhani. HuT is present in several European, Middle Eastern and Central Asian countries. However, it is the UK that is considered to be a main recruiting ground for HuT. Interestingly, the UK government has not explicitly banned HuT because it is a non-violent party.

In Pakistan, Hizb ut-Tahrir was established during the 1990s. For the most part, the party workers remained underground. Party members are usually highly educated and are proficient in both English and Urdu. In recent years, the only known face representing HuT in Pakistan has been University of Illinois graduate Naveed Butt. His video messages often appear on the Internet where he can be seen advocating the creation of a caliphate and censuring the Pakistani government and military for their corrupt practices.

An independent think-tank, Pak Institute for Peace Studies, based in Islamabad, presented a paper on Hizb ut-Tahrir in October 2010. According to that paper HuT considers the constitution and the democratic system of Pakistan un-Islamic. Their sole aim is to bring a caliphate to Pakistan and from there expand the struggle to establish the caliphate in the rest of the world’s Islamic countries and even in non-Muslim states. Theoretically, this ideology bears close resemblance with what Zaid Hamid propagates in terms of “Ghazwa-i-Hind,” with the core principles of Tehreek-i-Nifaz-i-Shariat-i-Muhammadi and also with Al-Qaeda about the establishment of a caliphate system in the Islamic countries.

The apparently non-violent stance sets Hizb ut-Tahrir apart from militant Islamic organisations in Pakistan. It is usually stated that Hizb ut-Tahrir believes in armed struggle (jihad) against hostile states only after establishing a caliphate in an Islamic country, preferably Pakistan, as opposed to the current wave of jihad. However, HuT does not expressly condemn terrorist strikes against civilian and military targets either, which makes many believe that the underlying ideology of HuT is actually not based on non-violence.

The modus operandi of HuT is to bring the personnel of military forces, the members of academia and the elite under its umbrella. Unlike usual revolutionary movements, HuT aims to bring change through the military because it is well aware that the military is the strongest institution in Pakistan. The arrest of military personnel accused of having connections with HuT corroborates that HuT is striving to achieve its goal through the military.

Before the arrest of Brigadier Ali Khan, there were at least three incidents that indicated a nexus between HuT and certain elements within the military. Seymour Hersh in his 2009 article “Defending the Arsenal” noted that HuT had recruited members of a junior officer group from a Pakistani military academy who had been sent to England for a training course. In 2009, former commanding officer of Shamsi Air Force Base Colonel Shahid Bashir, a retired PAF Squadron Leader and lawyer Nadeem Ahmad Shah and US-educated mechanical engineer Awais Ali Khan were arrested for their connections with Hizb ut-Tahrir and for leaking sensitive information to the terrorist outfit.

The slain journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad in his book, Inside Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, said that former President Musharraf’s security officer Major Farooq was a member of Hizb ut-Tahrir. Saleem Shahzad wrote that it was discovered nine months after Major Farooq’s posting as security officer that he was affiliated with HuT. He was arrested, later released and retired from the Pakistan military.

As far as Hizb ut-Tahrir’s manifesto in Pakistan is concerned, it aims to liberate the ummah from the dominance of kufr. They don’t exclude women from participating in public life; however, they forbid professions where, according to manifesto “feminism is exploited,” such as modelling, being a flight attendant and being a personal secretary. The manifesto states that the caliphate would end the slavish foreign policy. Friendly relations would be established with other states, however, no economic, cultural or diplomatic relations would be maintained with hostile states that have occupied Muslim lands.

Further, the caliph would carry Islam to the whole world through propagation and jihad. The manifesto denounces Pakistan’s policy of “minimum deterrence” as the caliph will seek military superiority. The caliph would not participate in the “colonist tools” such as United Nations, World Bank and International Monetary Fund. Justice and education would be for all. The nation would be trained in both religious knowledge and other natural and social sciences.

The promise of justice, education and basic necessitates could lure people easily to this organisation. Moreover, the apparent non-violent stance also plays positively for those who are sick and tired of the system.

The question is, however, can HuT achieve its high aims through a bloodless coup or will it push Pakistani society into a civil war? More importantly, is it the system that fails or the people that fail the system? Can’t justice, education and basic necessities for people be achieved without a call for a caliphate across the world if we get the right people?

This article can also be found on: Newsline

Curtains are Down on All Things Pakistan

August 1, 2011

One of Pakistan’s widely read, mainstream blogs, All Things Pakistan, run by Adil Najam and Owais Mughal called it a day after completing five years on June 11, 2011. It was indeed sad because this blog touched various aspects of Pakistan, its culture and people. It was always helpful to read the blog during trying times that our country went through in the past five years. Reading the ATP posts would make one feel that there were educated and sensible voices who stood with the rest of the nation side by side in the darkest of times.

In his last post addressed to the readers Adil Najam said,

Today, sitting in Lahore, Pakistan, I write in the realization that it is now time to move on.

This is not a ‘Good Bye’ post – it is, in fact, a ‘Thank You’ post. Nor do I want this to be a ‘looking back’ post – I would much rather that it be a ‘looking forward’ post.

For me personally, it is time to move back to Pakistan.For ATP, the blog, it is time to turn off the lights.

In my view, the most touching statement was,I wish we had written fewer obituaries.” It tells volumes about the state of affairs in Pakistan.

I am glad that one of my posts was also part of ATP. It is quoted below.

Requiem for a Book Store

Posted on March 1, 2011

Adil Najam

I have never been to Saeed Book Bank in Peshawar. Nor do I know if it is in any way related to the still very much thriving book store of the same name in Islamabad. But seeing this photograph and reading the accompanying blog by Ayesha Umar in The Express Tribune left me decidedly sad. When a bookstore dies, anywhere, something breaks in all our hearts.

Little needs to be added to the story that the photograph tells. But here are the essential details from Ayesha Umar:

… one of Peshawar’s largest and oldest bookstores, Saeed Book Bank, … has served the literary and educational needs of the people of KP for over five decades. [It] was established in 1955 by Saeed Jan Qureshi. His sons took over the family business in 1985. By the 1990s the store had expanded to a double story wonderland – the basement stored academic course books that covered all disciplines. In addition to this children’s books, religious books and vast collections of Urdu literature, both prose and poetry, were easily available. The ground floor would had shelf after shelf of English titles, fiction and non-fiction, preparatory books for standardized tests, coffee table books and magazines. The shop also sold greeting cards and office supplies.

… one cannot help but regret that many businesses have moved out of Peshawar over the past five years or so. The prime reason for this is the dismal economic situation and growing uncertainty caused by militancy… while talking to media, the owner of Saeed Book Bank said that one reason for the closure was the non-existent culture of book reading in Peshawar. The fact that not many people read books cannot be denied but one cannot help but question how much this has to do with prices. Books in general, especially imported ones, are quite expensive.

Of course, at the end of the day this is a business decision. And, yes, there are other book stores in Peshawar. But as we have written here before, the end of a book store is not just the end of a business. It reflects, and will reflect in the future, deeper and maybe more sinister implications.

It was nearly three years ago that I had written here asking if Pakistanis read and lamenting about our missing libraries. I saw this picture today and the same thoughts rushed into my head that had instigated that 2008 post. They are still there for you to read, so let me not repeat them. But let me end by saying at least this much:  It is sad to be not able to read; it is sadder still to be able to read but to choose not to!

Violence in Balochistan

July 31, 2011

Photo: The Nation

On July 29, 11 people (including a woman) of Hazara, Shiite community were gunned down when they were traveling in the pickup truck. This is not the first incident of its kind either in Balochistan or in Pakistan. The members of the Shiite community had been targeted frequently in the past. Some incidents were the random attacks on the Shiite gatherings while others were targeted killings of the Shiite religious and political leaders.

The banned sectarian organization Lashkar-e-Jhanqvi (LeJ) was quick to take responsibility of the attack. It shouldn’t amaze anyone given that quite recently they had circulated pamphlets in Balochistan. In that pamphlet the LeJ declared the Hazara  Shiite community in Balochistan libel to be murdered for their belief. The letter also said that after successful mission in Parachinar against the Shiite, their members are ready to deal with them in Hazara Town, Quetta.  According to one newspaper report almost 40 people belonging to Shiite community had been gunned down in Balochistan in two months. That is a shocking figure.

Click to view

Balochistan is home to people of Baloch, Pushtun and Hazara ethnicity (in addition to Punjabis etc.). There is a Baloch uprising in the province which demand an independence from the federation. The issue of missing Baloch nationals and human rights violations has been raised in the media off and on. The province is, as it proves from the incident of July 29, in the grip of sectarian violence too. In fact according to the figures released by the Islamabad based independent think-tank, Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS) the most number of terrorist attacks took place in Balochistan last year.

The pie-chart below is based on the figures released by PIPS. It shows the total number of terrorist attacks that took place during 2010 in different parts of Pakistan. According to PIPS 737 attacks took place in Balochistan, followed by FATA – which is another major conflict zone.

It is quite unfortunate that despite having explicit claim of responsibility by the terrorist/sectarian/militant organizations, a section of people in our society still believes that those acts are committed by the foreign elements. It is hard to come up with a solution, unless we own the problem.

War-Time Miracles: Pakistan and Israel

July 29, 2011

The title of this blog post has the word miracle but the “miracle” I will discuss is different from the one we may witness in our lives. Sometimes we get to hear the stories of miracles that totally set aside the reasoning but such miracles happen rarely unlike the continuous one propagated as the basis of country’s origin and survival.

In 1965, a full-fledged war broke out between India and Pakistan. The masses were given an impression that India was the aggressor. The Radio Pakistan churned out fantastic and spirit lifting war-time anthems. People stood behind the armed forces. Defeat was not an option for the Muslim forces of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan attacked by infidels.

In circumstances like this – the Urdu press (Daily Jang) published new reports about the (mysterious) men wearing green headgear, mounted on horses fighting the Indian forces. They were called the spiritual forces protecting Pakistan.

Years later, I got to read some of those stories in Urdu fiction writer Mumtaz Mufti’s second part of autobiography ‘Alakh Nagri’, where he had quoted the same news report. Mumtaz Mufti remained aloof to religion for most part of his life. Due to rigid depiction of religion he felt rather attracted to Sufis and that became a regular narrative in later part of his life.

Mumtaz Mufti also touched upon the spiritual dimension of Pakistan such as he quoted certain people who claimed that Pakistan was created in an extra-ordinary circumstances and it was “literally” nothing short of a God’s miracle or gift to the battered Muslims of the sub-continent.  Mumtaz Mufti marveled on these claims like we do. The message I gathered was that since Pakistan was God’s gift so it can never be wiped out of the map by an enemy such as India.

We may have survived but I can’t recall whether Mumtaz Mufti questioned the loss of East Pakistan in 1971. What happened to all those miracles and spiritual dimension? In any event, such narrative in today’s time seems quite futile because the definition of war has been changed. We are not fighting any external (infidel) enemy our enemy (the Taliban and militants etc.) lives amongst us and is engaged in the power struggle. However, people like Zaid Hamid are still harping on those old and fictitious tales of 1965.

Coming back to the 1965 fables, it may not be easy to tell where they were originated from but the plausible answer to why they originated could be that it is a part of war propaganda to keep the morale high through every possible mean. Moreover, tales like those make people ready to sacrifice their lives for the cause.

I had once written a post where General Zia drew similarity between Israel and Pakistan being ideological states. There is another striking feature that both the countries share. If Pakistan had its share of tales of miracles during the 1965 war; Israel came up with its own during the Six-Day war in 1967. One of the “miracles” was narrated here:

One such story involved a Catholic journalist who was reporting on the front lines during the war. Ernie Miller had personally met this man in Baton Rouge, LA. The journalist was reporting from the Sinai Desert during the 1967 war. The battle had become very intense and there were numerous casualties. At one point an Israeli soldier was rushed into the medical tent, where the journalist was wiring front line information.

The journalist observed that the soldier was severely wounded. In fact he had been shot in the intestinal area, and his intestines were hanging from his body. He knew it was only a matter of time until the man would die. Yet, the man, who was fully conscience, began praying and saying the various names of God in the Hebrew language. As he prayed he began to talk about God’s ability to heal him and to defeat the enemy armies. To the journalist amazement, the man suddenly screamed, and jumped up from the cot. His intestines were back inside his body and the entire area was healed! The man was jumping and screaming, and ran out of the tent praising God.

The journalist told Ernie, “I am a Catholic and I am suppose to believe in miracles but had never seen one. That day, I saw one with my own eyes that was a true miracle!” These amazing stories clearly demonstrate that the “Battle belongs to the Lord!”

During the Yom Kippur war (1973) the miracle on Golan Heights was discussed a lot, where the sudden and mysterious wind blew away the sand and exposed the land mines. 1973 war was a surprise attack by Arab states (Egypt, Syria and Jordan) to avenge the 1967 preemptive strike by Israel, where Israel had capture Gaza Strip, Jerusalem, West Bank and Golan Heights.

It is not just about the war-time miracles being narrated; generally, the existence and survival of Israel is heavily attributed to a god’s miracle, conveniently ignoring the backing of foreign powers. There is an entire movie that discusses how the State of Israel was created against all odds; people of Jewish origin adopted it and with god on their side they turned the region “with 80% of desert, into the food and flower exporting country”. Maybe it is a way to absolve themselves of the atrocities they commit against the helpless population.

The same is said about Pakistan, that it survived despite all odds and especially our “Islamic bomb” is considered god’s biggest “miracle”. How meaningless it sounds when we study the status of national integrity and the deep mess we are in. Indeed the history tells us is that it’s all rhetoric – plain rhetoric.

Is that plagiarism?

July 25, 2011

There is a difference between misrepresentation of facts and plagiarism. Not long ago, I posted a blog as to how one of the country’s well known op-ed writers and TV presenters, Javed Chaudhry, had completely distorted facts in his Urdu op-ed. I wrote to him. He replied back. I asked him to issue a public apology for misinforming people who have a blind faith in whatever their favorite anchor and op-ed writer (cum intellectual) writes. Let alone public apology, he didn’t bother to reply back.

Other than the misrepresentation of facts there was an element of copying material (of course without verification) from another source and it was evident that Mr. Chaudhry had translated word by word the piece written by Ahmad Noorani for The News International. Principally, I should have also written to The News about such an erroneous reporting but what happened was that I couldn’t check that report in time. It was when I read Javed Chaudhry’s Urdu op-ed and was searching for links to set the facts straight, I came across the one written by Ahmad Noorani and realized Ahmad Noorani was guilty of distorting facts but Mr. Chaudhry was guilty of plagiarism as well as presenting the wrong facts.

Recently, another of Pakistan’s well known TV presenters, Sana Bucha wrote an op-ed, When Incredibles’ Sulk for the English language daily The News International. Someone from the journalists’ forum pointed out that she was involved in plagiarism. The title and especially the opening paragraph of her op-ed was exactly like the editorial published in The Economist. I don’t know how the person in question or the Jang Group responded to that allegation. But it was ugly, especially when it comes from the the well-known TV personality.

Today, just by chance I came across an article published in another of Pakistan’s well known English newspapers, The Daily Times a few days ago. The author Naeem Tahir wrote an interesting piece about the presence of Hizb ut Tahrir in Pakistan, however, the mood spoiler was the 7th paragraph, where the first lines were copied from Wikipedia’s page on Hizb ut Tahrir. What was more annoying that there has been reference to lifting a ban from Hizb ut Tahrir following the Lahore High Court decision. This was also copied from Wikipedia. The Wikipedia links referring to court order are dead. Despite, a relentless search I failed to get a single newspaper link to that 2005 court verdict. Lastly, an independent think tank, based in Islamabad, Pak Institute for Peace Studies had presented a research paper on Hizb ut Tahrir in October 2010 and there is no mention of such a court case in it. In fact, the paper keeps mentioning till the end that Hizb ut Tahrir is a banned organization.

I am still unsure whether there was such a case or not; but the main point here in question is plagiarism. I feel bad when I see established authors picking up lines from here and there. It negates their true caliber and it seems as if in order to meet the deadline, in order to fill out the space in newspaper they write in rush setting aside the ethics that a writer is expected to live  by.

Color Blind Constitution

July 24, 2011

This excerpt from the dissent of Justice Harlan is taken from one of the popular U.S. Constitutional Law cases called Plessy v. Ferguson (1896). The majority held the policy of racial segregation known as ‘separate but equal’. According to this policy the African Americans were considered equal in the eyes of law, however, keeping the history and sensitivities of white people, segregation was maintained between the two races in public places including public transport such as railroads.

Justice Harlan argued in his dissent that the Constitution of the U.S. was color blind as it  did not differentiate between the people on the basis of their color especially after the abolition of slavery in 1865. The Thirteenth Amendment brought the same civil rights for African Americans as were available for the whites. He said,

 “Our Constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens. In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law. The humblest is the peer of the most powerful. The law regards man as man, and takes no account of his surroundings or of his color when his civil rights as guaranteed by the supreme law of the land are involved.”

The segregation remained in force in the U.S. until 1950s. However, the supportive voices and struggle over the decades set forth the process of social change. It is a well established fact that those nations make progress who strive for the equality in society. I wish our society too stand on the principles of equality and justice.

The Domino Effect of Terrorism

June 27, 2011

There is no unanimous legal definition of terrorism while the dictionary meaning of terrorism is the ‘use of violence and intimidation in pursuit of political aims’. If it is up to me, I would define it as a continual dose of fear that creates uncertainty, distrust and melancholy. That melancholy triggers depression, which in turn gives birth to numerous psychological and mental ailments.

Recently, a noted psychiatrist from Peshawar, Dr. Khalid Mufti, released a survey report conducted under his supervision by an NGO called Horizon. According to the survey 80 per cent of the South and North Waziristan residents are suffering from mental illness while 60 per cent people of Peshawar are on the verge of becoming psychological patients. The survey also indicated that 7 to 9 per cent of children became victims of phobia because of their exposure to terrorism related violence on television.

The survey report corroborates a general feeling prevalent among the people of Khyber Pukhtunkhuwa – that is the people are scared and cautious when they leave their homes for work or running errands.  Incidents of terrorism and bomb blasts are routinely discussed among friends, acquaintances, seller and customers. When a person tries to bargain with a seller, he promptly complains about making minimal profits due to incidents of terrorism which generally keeps the consumer away from market. A drop in visiting market, however, is not constant, the business community bears the brunt when a wave of random bombings grip the city or a province as it did in the last quarter of 2009 and the first quarter of 2010. However, this pattern points toward a prevailing uncertainty, which is linked with terrorism.

Similarly, a rise in kidnapping for ransom deteriorated the situation even more. Usually, affluent people are considered to be the prime target as the kidnappers can demand hefty sum in return. But in the past few years, kidnapping has been turned into an organized crime in Khyber Pukhtunkhuwa that kidnappers didn’t spare even people with low incomes including taxi drivers. In such cases, the person is released either on payment or if he manages to runaway. The role of police in recovering the victim is almost none and that increases a collective sense of insecurity in a society.

The other factors that result in frustration, anguish and psychological diseases are related to the standard of living. Some of those mentioned in the survey are, price hike in everyday commodities, joblessness, energy crisis and untidiness etc. Recreational activities contribute to one’s overall development and health but unfortunately there is a serious lack of such activities in Khyber Pukhtunkhuwa. Before the government of Mutahida Majlish-i-Amal in KP, Nishter Hall in Peshawar used to be a hub of cultural/entertainment activities and art exhibitions but the MMA government instead of regulating, clamped down on it in the name of morality. (Only recently, entertainment activities resumed in Nishter Hall on limited basis). The members of entertainment community also suffered and during the course of past years, several Pashto drama artists and singers quit their profession after receiving threats from the Taliban militants.

The dissemination of threatening letters to shopkeepers selling music/video CDs, to those running cyber cafes, to doctors for wearing western style trousers and shirts and to the female principle or staff of the educational institutions are common occurrences. Moreover, destroying cyber cafes, CD shops and school buildings and a random firing of rockets by militants on Peshawar form an unknown location is a routine.

The fear and psychological issues are bound to nourish in an environment where arts and culture is strangulated through a deliberate plan. The innocent civilians are killed in bomb blasts or become victims of an organized crime and are coerced to shun their centuries-old cultural traditions. The depression resulted by the domino effect of terrorism can be contained by taking some of the measures that Dr. Khalid Mufti suggested. Also there is a need to restore the confidence of people and that is possible when the people know that they or their dear ones will not be struck by a bomb blast, or be lifted by a gang of kidnappers while performing their everyday duties outside the four walls of their homes.

Also available on: The Express Tribune

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