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Pakistan’s Quagmire: Exploring the Way out for Peace & Progress: By Aftab Khan

In the present environment of universal turmoil especially in the post 911 scenario, the Muslims have become a target of universal hate propaganda and Pakistan is perceived to be at the core. The extremist justify terrorism under garb of Islam. Thus the ignorant facilitate the anti Muslim lobbies to propagate and project all Muslims as intolerant, war mongers and terrorists.
Despite loss of over 50,000 innocent people in Pakistan, many simple people also fall pray to deviant concepts. Pakistanis are in a state of ideological confusion which is a main hurdle to achieve peace, the basic condition for progress. While countries with much less population and resources have become our donors, we a nuclear power are embroiled in infighting to remain backward. It is customary to put all the blame on foreign conspiracies, while totally ignoring own follies.  The politico-religious wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya and Tunisia have taken heavy toll also brewing up in Egypt. In order to get Pakistan out of this quagmire some basic issues need to be resolved to evolve a broad consensus among people holding conflicting views.
Three Groups:
“Then We conveyed the Book as an heritage to those of Our slaves whom We chose. Now, some of them are those who wrong their own selves, and some of them are mediocre, and some of them are those who outpace (others) in righteous deeds with Allah‘s permission. That is the great bounty”(Quran;35:32)
Ideologically the Pakistani society at present can be divided in to three main groups:
Firstly; the elite and the liberals:
They are less than 1% in numbers but are the most powerful, control more than 50% national wealth while 99% people have to live in poverty at average income of 500 $ per year. It includes politicians, feudal, industrialists, business men, bankers, civil and military bureaucracy, media groups and other mafias controlling other sources of economic and social power. They consider religion as personal affair of an individual and that Islam should be restricted to the mosques for worship, it should have no say in the public affairs like law and social aspects.  Some times they display their religiosity just to get favours form public i.e. to get votes in elections or to change public opinion. They use power, wealth and coercion to crush any resistance to their interests. Here the term “elite” include their supporters, sympathisers and potential candidates form all segments of society to join this club.
The elite include some fascist liberals who consider all the religiously inclined people to be primitive hardliner, fundamentalist, rigid extremists, devoid of intellect, ignorant bigots. They think that religious people are the source of all the ills of society and impediment to progress.
Secondly the Silent Majority:  
“And thus have We made you to be a moderate community, so that (with your lives) you might bear witness to the truth before all mankind, and that the Apostle might bear witness to it before you.” (Quran;2:143).
This is the bulk of population, sandwiched between Elite and Religious Extremists. They are moderate religiously inclined but mostly non practicing Muslims. However they consider that implementation of Islam and Shari’a will provide them social and economic justice and save them for the tyranny of Elite and Extremists.
They revere Islam but lack in practice, laying, deception, fraud corruption is rampant. Some practice Islam in rituals but lack in Haqooq-Al Ibad [service to fellow beings]. They are influenced by moderate Ulema inclined towards Sufi Islamic traditions. Since they are not influential, their voice is lost. They comprise people from all segments of society. Thousands have lost their lives in the terrorist attacks by extremist militants.  
Thirdly: The Muslim Militants & Their Supporters:
Majority of Muslims desire implementation of Shari’a peacefully through democratic system. However some extremist elements like Taliban has opted to for violence and terrorism as means to this end. They consider killing and terrorism as justified Islamic means, which has been rejected unanimously by all the eminent scholars. However there are people who provide tacit support either in reaction to the existing unjust system of rule or under influence of propaganda.
The Imams and Khateebs of mosques enjoy considerable influence in the society. They enjoy unrestricted freedom to talk what ever they like in the Friday sermons or in other religious gatherings. Since mostly they have limited understanding of the system of governance and politics, their influence has negative impact.
No one dare question them while addressing form pulpit. Unlike Middle Eastern Arabs, Pakistan government has no control over them. Mostly they appear to be favouring the extremists and militants though tacitly. They do not openly condemn the killing of innocent people; use of general phrases is used to satisfy feelings of majority. In the supplications would pray for the success of all struggling in Jihad and for implementation of Shari’a, which no one can dare disagree. Though Islam does not have official clergy like Christianity and other religions, but these Imams think that they may also get a role or share in power once the Shari’a is implemented.
The military or civilians rulers have always been involved in exploitation and oppression of poor people. People deprived of good governance, social and economic justice are ready to welcome any one who promises to address their problems. Their expectations from people with religious overtones are high because of their apparent piety and outlook. They fail to comprehend that governance is beyond their capabilities, terror cannot solve all their problems.
Disjointed Society:

The society is disjointed in the thought, intellectually, politically, socially and even physically to an extent due to yawning social and economic gap. Hence for the peace and progress, of the people of Pakistan, there is dire need to at least close this gap in their “Thought” with in acceptable limits if it can’t be eliminated altogether.   <<<Keep reading >>>
By Aftab Khan: http://Aftabkhan.blog.com
Urdu: http://pakistan-posts.blogspot.com/2013/11/pakistan-basic-issues-need-immediate.html

The new Indian government and parleys with Pakistan

As it became increasingly apparent that the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) was expected to form the new government, it simultaneously gave rise to fears and hopes in Pakistan. While fears arose from a nationalist hardliner image attached to the BJP, the fact that the incoming government would not be constrained by the dictates of a coalition politics, gave rise to hope that the leadership of the two countries would be able to take relations forward. An opportunity for realisation of such hopes presented itself sooner that anyone expected. That Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif accepted Narendra Modi’s invitation to his swearing-in ceremony and arrived in India in spite of numerous domestic constraints underscores his own positive intentions with regard to relations between the two countries.

The civilian government has been having differences with the military on a number of accounts. First, the onus of finding a face saving way of extricating Gen Musharraf from the clutches of law, lies on the government and the government has been dragging its feet over removing Musharraf’s name from the exit control list, putting the responsibility on the Supreme Court. Second, the ISI was implicated in the attack on well known journalist Hamid Mir, anchor of Geo TV, and it was believed that the civilian government was backing the channel against the ISI and subsequent events led to Geo TV being forced to go off the air. Third, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) continues to create mayhem within the country. While the army would like to take on the TTP militarily, the Sharif government has been putting emphasis on talks with them. Though reservations remain over the key demands of the TTP, the ceasefire by the TTP has not been extended and the army has recently conducted operations against militants in North Waziristan as a retaliatory measure. This has given rise to unease that the militants could up the ante by resorting to suicide attacks in various parts of the country.

In the backdrop of such problems, the Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif met Army Chief Raheel Sharif in Lahore and discussed the possibility of Nawaz Sharif’s visit to India, in a bid to build consensus on the issue. In an attempt to create a positive atmosphere before his visit, Sharif announced the release of 151 Indian fishermen and 57 fishing boats in Pakistan’s custody. Further, in a departure from past tradition wherein meetings were fixed between visiting dignitaries from Pakistan and leaders of the Hurriyat Conference, nothing was scheduled by the Pakistan High Commission this time.

The talks between the two leaders were supposed to be of short duration but lasted longer than scheduled and served the purpose of breaking the ice, given the suspension of talks with Pakistan since early 2013 in the aftermath two Indian soldiers being killed by Pakistani troops along the LoC. As it is, the two sides had only been able to resume talks in 2011 after the disruption due to the Mumbai attacks. As expected terrorism and trade were two important issues talked about. The Indian side expressed their concerns regarding terrorism emanating from Pakistan, and impressed upon the Pakistani side the importance of abiding by its earlier commitment of not allowing its territory to be used as a base of terrorism. It underscored the importance of taking steps for the speedy trial of those suspected to be involved in the Mumbai blasts. It was agreed that the two countries could move forward on trade as per the roadmap envisaged in September 2012, and as a first step the Wagah-Attari border is to be opened up for full trade. The recent attack on the Indian consulate in Herat also came up for discussion. It was also decided that the foreign secretaries of the two countries would meet to discuss the way forward. Nawaz Sharif expressed hopes that things could be picked up from where they were during his engagement with Prime Minister Vajpayee in 1999 and expressed his willingness to discuss all issues.

Despite the good intentions of the two Prime Ministers’ it was perhaps not possible to agree on anything more substantial at this juncture. The most obvious question is whether the resumption of dialogue between the two countries can take place within the framework of what is called the composite dialogue, comprising eight basic issues. There has been considerable debate on both sides whether this framework would be workable in the future. Therefore, the discussion has centred on the need to evolve a new architecture which will take into account the most critical concerns of the two countries and enable speedy progress towards normalisation. In this context the question of the efficacy of back channel diplomacy is raised from time to time. There are different opinions about whether the back-channel route has delivered any worthwhile results in the past, but the volatility of relations between the two countries does point to the importance of back channel diplomacy away from the media speculation.

There are, however, certain obstacles which will impede the relationship to move forward especially on how much Nawaz Sharif is able to deliver on terrorism. He still has to battle with the religious right constituency within the country. Jamaat-ud-Dawa Chief Hafeez Saeed was overtly critical of Sharif’s decision to go to India and questioned his commitment to the Kashmir cause. Sharif’s own manoeuvrability with regard to such elements is in question given the fact that Pakistan’s Punjab province government has over the last few years been allocating considerable funds in their annual budget for the Jamaat-ud-Dawa. Before Sharif’s visit, Jamaat-e-Islami secretary general Liaqat Baloch while speaking to hardliners in Lahore, warned against any hastiness and said: “These Hindus are not anyone’s friends.”

Even while the army in recent years has articulated that the number one security threat to Pakistan lies within, they have not stopped looking at India as an enemy state. Speaking during a ceremony to mark Martyrs Day at Army Headquarters in Rawalpindi recently, the Army Chief Raheel Sharif referred to Kashmir as the jugular vein of Pakistan and called the issue an international dispute. Pakistan continues to target Indian interests in Afghanistan as is evident by the most recent attack on the Indian consulate in Herat, which President Karzai attributed to the Lashkar-e-Taiba. It is worried that the withdrawal of US troops may give India space to expand its influence in Afghanistan which remains inimical to Pakistan’s interests. There remain in Pakistan many players making normalisation of ties between the two countries difficult. At the same time the complexities in the domestic security situation give little room for manoeuvre. Maulana Fazlullah, the head of the TTP in a video released recently asked the Pakistani government and the military to surrender to “Allah’s writ” and stated that fighting would continue till Islamic law was enforced throughout the country. This reiteration comes at a time when there is infighting in the Mehsud tribe which is complicating efforts by the Pakistani government to continue with peace talks. While some commanders favour talks, others do not, and divisions have been created within the ranks of the TTP over leadership issues.

While Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was careful not to publicly bring up the Kashmir issue in his statement to the media after the talks, it does not necessarily portend any change in policy. Abdul Basit Khan, Pakistan’s High Commissioner to India recently suggested doing away with pre-conditions for talks, and holding discussions on Kashmir as per the composite dialogue. While atmospherics have taken the talks forward the strategic intentions of the Pakistani establishment remain suspect. It remains to be seen whether Nawaz Sharif will be able to cash in on the conciliatory gesture of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and assert his own priority of improving relations with India vis-a-vis the hostile elements within his country.
By Sumita Kumar: 

Views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the IDSA or of the Government of India.

The 2013 Global Go To Think Tank Index (GGTTTI)

The Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program (TTCSP) at the University of Pennsylvania released its seventh annual 2013 Global Go To Think Tanks Report on Wednesday January 22, 2014, at a morning press conference in Washington DC, hosted by the World Bank. The 2013 Global Go To Think Tank Index (GGTTTI) marks the seventh year of continued efforts by the Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program at the University of Pennsylvania (TTCSP) to acknowledge the important contributions and emerging global trends of think tanks worldwide. Our initial effort to generate a ranking of the world’s leading think tanks in 2006 was a response to a series of requests from donors, government officials, journalists, and scholars, to produce regional and international rankings of the world’s preeminent think tanks. Since its inception, our ongoing objective for the GGTTTI report is to gain understanding of the role think tanks play in governments and civil societies. Using this knowledge, we hope to assist in improving the capacity and performance of think tanks around the world.
Souce: http://gotothinktank.com/the-2013-global-go-to-think-tank-index-ggttti 

The Index has become the gold standard for think tanks around the world and is widely cited by governments, donors, journals and policymakers as the foremost profile and performance of think tanks in every region of the world. To complement this global expansion, regional events took place in over 30 global cities to announce the report, which was translated into 13 languages including Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Hebrew, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish and Turkish. “In the world filled with tweets and sound bites that are often superficial and politically charged, it is critical to know where to turn for sound policy proposals that address the complex policy issues that policymakers and the public face,” says James McGann, PhD, Director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program. “This Index is designed to help identify and recognize the leading centers of excellence in public policy research around the world. The report is compiled with assistance from over 1,500 peer institutions and experts from the print and electronic media, academia, public and private donor institutions, and governments around the world and ranks the top 150 global think tanks across four general categories:
  • Top Think Tanks in the World
  • Top Think Tanks by Region
  • Top Think Tanks by Area of Research
  • Top Think Tanks by Special Achievement
The report is compiled with assistance from over 1,500 peer institutions and experts from the print and electronic media, academia, public and private donor institutions, and governments around the world and ranks the top 150 global think tanks across four general categories: 

 Top Think Tanks in the World 
 Top Think Tanks by Region 
 Top Think Tanks by Area of Research 
 Top Think Tanks by Special Achievement 

The Brookings Institution ranked top of the Global Think Tank list for the sixth consecutive year. Following is a selection of rankings, but the full reports since 2008 can be found online at http://gotothinktank.com/rankings. A short video introducing this year’s Index is available online at 

Top Think Tanks World Wide – US and Non US
1. Brookings Institution (United States) www.brookings.edu
2. Chatham House (United Kingdom) : www.chathamhouse.org
3. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (United States) : www.carnegieendowment.org
The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace is a unique global network of policy research centers in Russia, China, Europe, the Middle East, and the United States. Our mission, dating back more than a century, is to advance the cause of peace through analysis and development of fresh policy ideas and direct engagement and collaboration with decisionmakers in government, business, and civil society. Working together, our centers bring the inestimable benefit of multiple national viewpoints to bilateral, regional, and global issues.
4. Center for Strategic and International Studies (United States) : http://csis.org
5. Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) (Sweden) : www.sipri.org

Top Defense and National Security Think Tanks 
1. Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) (United States) " http://csis.org
2. RAND Corporation (United States): www.rand.org
3. International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) (United Kingdom) : https://www.iiss.org/
4. Brookings Institution (United States): www.brookings.edu
5. Chatham House (CH) (United Kingdom) : www.chathamhouse.org

Top Foreign Policy and International Affairs Think Tanks 
1. Brookings Institution (United States) 
2. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (United States) 
3. Chatham House (CH) (United Kingdom) 
4. Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) (United States) : www.cfr.org
5. Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) (United States) 

Best New Think Tank 
1. Instituto PVBLICA (Brazil) : www.pvblica.org.br/EN/
2. Russian Council on International Affairs (RSMD) (Russia) : http://russiancouncil.ru/en/
3. Centre Africain des Etudes Asiatiques (CAEA) (Morocco): http://afro-asia.net/en/

McGann presented the Report at the World Bank and participated in a discussion with Warren Krafdink, Director of the International Budget Partnership and Jeff Thindwa, Manager of the Social Accountability Practice at the World Bank Institute. 
Source: http://gotothinktank.com/dev1/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Press_Release_01_23_2013_Global_Go_To_Think_Tanks_Index_for_finalreview.pdf

Think Tanks - Index

Top Think Tanks World Wide:
1. Brookings Institution (United States) www.brookings.edu
2. Chatham House (United Kingdom) : www.chathamhouse.org
3. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (United States)  www.carnegieendowment.org
The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace is a unique global network of policy research centers in Russia, China, Europe, the Middle East, and the United States. Our mission, dating back more than a century, is to advance the cause of peace through analysis and development of fresh policy ideas and direct engagement and collaboration with decisionmakers in government, business, and civil society. Working together, our centers bring the inestimable benefit of multiple national viewpoints to bilateral, regional, and global issues.
4. Center for Strategic and International Studies (United States) : http://csis.org
5. Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) (Sweden):  www.sipri.org 
6. Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) (United States) http://csis.org
7. RAND Corporation (United States): www.rand.org
8. International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) (United Kingdom) : https://www.iiss.org/

Think Tanks in Pakistan:
  1. Center for Research and Security Studies
  2. Pak Institute of Peace Studies (PIPS) ; http://www.san-pips.com
  3. Citizens' Group on Electoral Process
  4. Gallup Pakistan
  5. Institute of Policy Studies(Pakistan)
  6. Institute of Regional Studies 
  7. Professional Research & Advisory Council
  8. Social Policy and Development Centre
  9. Pakistan Institute of Development Economics
  10. Pakistan Institute of International Affairs  
  11. Takmeel e Pakistan: Syed Zaid Zaman Hamid
  12. Pakistan Institute of National Affairs
  13. Directory of Pakistani Think Tanks
Indian Think Tanks:
Five Indian thinktanks have made it to the list of top 150 worldwide. At rank 50 is Centre for Civil Society (CCS), at 102 is Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), at 107 is The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) followed by Observer Research Foundation (ORF) at 114 and Development Alternatives (DA) at 140:
  1. Centre for Civil Society (CCS)
  2. Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA)
  3. The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI)
  4. Observer Research Foundation (ORF)
  5. Development Alternatives (DA) 
Top 10 most influential think tanks in China:

Re-examination of the intellectual foundations of Islamic philosophy

In Reconstruction, Iqbal called for a re-examination of the intellectual foundations of Islamic philosophy. The book is a major work of modern Islamic thought. It was a major influence on Iranian sociologist Ali Shariati and other contemporary Muslim reformers, including Tariq Ramadan.
The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam is a compilation of lectures delivered by Muhammad Iqbal on Islamic philosophy; it was published in 1930. These lectures were delivered by Iqbal in Madras, Hyderabad, and Aligarh. The last chapter, "Is Religion Possible", was added to the book from the 1934 Oxford Edition onwards.
Quotes from the book
  • ...To have a succession of identical thoughts and feelings is to have no thoughts and feelings at all. Such is the lot of most Muslim countries today. They are mechanically repeating old values...
  • ...space, time, and matter are interpretations which thought puts on the free creative energy of God.
  • If the aim of religion is the spiritualisation of the heart, then it must penetrate the soul of man, and it can best penetrate the inner man . . . We find that when Muhammad Ibn Tumart—the Mahdi of Muslim Spain—who was Berber by nationality, came to power and established the pontifical rule of the Muwahhidun, he ordered for the sake of the illiterate Berbers that the Quran should be translated and read in the Berber language and that the call to prayer should be given in Berber.
  • Such is the attitude of the modern Turk, inspired as he is by the realities of experience, and not by the scholastic reasoning of jurists who lived and thought under different conditions of life. To my mind these arguments, if rightly appreciated, indicate the birth of an International ideal, which forming the very essence of Islam, has been hitherto overshadowed or rather displaced by Arabian Imperialism of the earlier centuries in Islam.
  • The republican form of government is not only thoroughly consistent with the spirit of Islam, but has also become a necessity in view of the new forces that were set free in the world of Islam.
  • The more genuine schools of Sufism have, no doubt, done good work in shaping and directing the evolution of religious experience in Islam; but their latter-day representatives, owing to their ignorance of the modern mind, have become absolutely incapable of receiving any fresh inspiration from modern thought and experience. They are perpetuating methods which were created for generations possessing a cultural outlook differing, in important respects, from our own
  • Hard his lot and frail his being, like a rose leaf, yet no form of reality is so powerful, so inspiring, and so beautiful as the spirit of man.
Keep reading >>>>>>


Religion; Threat to Peace: By Aftab Khan

There is no scholarly agreement on which are the most common motivations for war. Motivations may be different for those ordering the war than for those undertaking the war. Since many people are involved, a war may acquire a life of its own from the confluence of many different motivations. In Why Nations Go to War, by John G. Stoessinger, the author points out that both sides will claim that morality justifies their fight. He also states that the rationale for beginning a war depends on an overly optimistic assessment of the outcome of hostilities (casualties and costs), and on misconceptions of the enemy's intentions. This is an endeavor to analyse the role of religion as a cause of wars through the history, remove misconceptions to understand the real cause of wars to avoid them, if possible. Keep reading >>>>
By Aftab Khan: http://aftabkhan.blog.com

Shari'ah, Democracy, Khilafah: In Conflict or Compatible ? By Aftab Khan

Democracy has taken a number of forms, both in theory and practice. Some varieties of democracy provide better representation and more freedom for their citizens than others. Justice, tolerance, equity and moderation is hallmark of Islam, which accords great value to human life, whether Muslims and non Muslims alike. The so called corrupt and incompetent democratic governments in Muslim lands have shaken the confidence of people of in democracy. Hence disillusioned people blame democracy for all the ills, some demanding military dictatorship or Caliphate [Khilafa] while others talk of Shari’a to resolve injustice, corruption and other ills plaguing society. Exploiting the religious sentiments of the simple people, proponents of Caliphate declare democracy as un-Islamic or Haram [forbidden] and Kufr [disbelief]. Establishment of one global Caliphate is their final objective. Verses from Quran and Hadith are quoted to advance their arguments. While there are many reputed Islamic scholars who consider democracy with in bounds of Shari’a as a good system for Muslims. They also think that instead of copying a particular Western democratic system, each Muslim society should adopt a reformed democratic system suitable to its people, faith, culture and environments. The diverse views demand an objective analysis. Keep reading >>>>
By Aftab Khan: http://aftabkhan.blog.com