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Peace in our time? 2014 could prove a Middle East watershed

There’s not a lot of optimism going round the Middle East right now, but if there is one speck of hope it's that in decades to come this may turn out to be the year that something finally shifted on the Israeli-Palestinian front.

I'm aware that such a statement will seem premature. The Israeli government is hugely likely to swing even further right in elections set for spring. The Palestinian president is old and increasingly irrelevant. Israel's aggressive settlement expansion policy shows no sign of slowing. And the two main Palestinian parties seem utterly unable to put together any sort of united front.

But all of this makes the need for a settlement in the next few years even more pressing.

Putting off the issue of Palestinian self-determination undermines those who advocate peaceful negotiations - for what, after nearly 20 years of peace talks, do they have to show for it?

Equally, the lack of progress empowers those who argue that violence is the only salve for the frustration and desperation felt by more than 4 million stateless people - not counting the refugees outside the Palestinian territories.

Finally, there have been clear signs this year that the international community - or to be more specific, Europe - is waking up to this.

The European Parliament's recognition "in principle" of the Palestinian state on Wednesday tops off an unprecedented few months of similar moves across the continent: Sweden’s government officially recognised Palestine in October, while the UK, France, Spain, Ireland and Luxembourg all held symbolic votes that urged their governments to do the same.

In a further slap in the face for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's hawkish government, signatories to the Geneva Convention explicitly called out Israel for violating international humanitarian law by building settlements on occupied territory, while the European Court of Justice temporarily (pending the inevitable appeal) removed Hamas from the bloc's blacklist of terrorist organisations over what it called a legal technicality. And all this in one day.

But Wednesday had a few more surprises before it was over.

Over in New York, the Palestinians managed to overcome intense US opposition to convince Jordan to go ahead with its plan to submit a draft resolution to the United Nations Security Council calling for a negotiated solution to be reached within a year and Israeli security forces to pull out by the end of 2017.

Tellingly, they did not demand the instant vote they were reported to have wanted, instead leaving it open to fiddling, and for good reason: the resolution as it stands has no chance in hell of avoiding the mighty US veto, which for decades has been generously wielded whenever Israel's interests are at risk.

But France, Britain and Germany are working on a softer resolution that not only may prove more amenable to the US, but would also be much harder to veto, coming as it would from two of the UN Security Council's permanent members.

The parameters are expected to be largely the same: some sort of deadline for negotiating a solution to the conflict based on the pre-1967 borders and an end to the Israeli occupation.

The Israelis are likely to slam this too as a "unilateral move" that is being imposed on them, although they will have to tread carefully considering the EU is their biggest trading partner.

But the truth of the matter is that a unilateral solution needs to be imposed. Open-ended negotiations have proven themselves a failed formula, particularly under the stewardship of the US, and the only way forward is a more structured approach that puts the two sides on a more even keel.

This is especially important because both sides have unpalatable concessions to make and ugly truths to confront, necessitating a certain amount of arm-twisting if a peace agreement is ever to be reached.

The Israelis must face up the fact that their country was carved out of a land that has been inhabited by Arabs for many centuries, and that the continued presence of Muslims, both inside and outside Israel, is a reality.

Israeli Arabs cannot be second-class citizens, and their historical connection to the area cannot be denied. Neither can the Palestinians be asked to forego their security and right to self-determination so that the Israelis can enjoy theirs. As difficult as it is, Jerusalem must be a shared capital - it is not Israel's to take.

The Palestinians, in turn, must recognise that their country as they knew it is gone, and accept that it is no longer logistically possible for all the refugees created by the wars of the past few decades plus their descendants to return to what is known by many as "48 Palestine".

All parties must renounce violence and, of course, Hamas's controversial charter must be scrapped, or else totally redrawn to include an explicit recognition of Israel's right to exist.

There must also be an acceptance of the fact that, for a long time, the onus will be on the Palestinians to ensure that new-found freedom does not give way to radicalism, and that certain security measures are inevitable for years to come.

These are difficult issues, some of which go to the very heart of the collective consciousness of both peoples and touch on long-established narratives engrained in each nation's identity.

It is no surprise that no solution has yet been found to the conflict, but perhaps in 20 years’ time, we might look back at 2014 and say this was the year all that started to change. ·

Peace in our time? 2014 could prove a Middle East watershed   by theweek.co.uk

Will Jobless Jihadis From Afghanistan Turn to India?


NEW DELHI -- On October 2, 2014, a powerful IED went off accidentally at a secret bomb-making factory of a group known as Al Jihad in rural West Bengal. Investigators identified the module as handiwork of Bengali, an Indian Mujahedeen -- Qaeda-Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh-affiliated terrorist leader.

Perennially at the forefront of homegrown and Pakistan-induced terrorism, India is suddenly surrounded by a spurt of terrorist threats from Al Qaeda; the Islamic State, also known as IS, ISIS or ISIL; and the Haqqani network, used interchangeably as Taliban -- all groups that had historically avoided the Indian theater.

Three specific but complex trends explain the abrupt rise in threats from terrorists.
Keep reading>>>>>>>
http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/6272780

PAKISTAN AND THE CHINESE CENTURY

WRITING in Vanity Fair magazine recently, Nobel Prize-winning economist and one of the world`s top intellectuals Joseph E. Stiglitz highlighted a fact that marks the end of an era in world history and holds immense promise and benefits for Pakistan and its citizens.

According to Stiglitz, at the turn of new year, China will become the world`s largest and most powerful economy overtaking the US and thus launching an era which he says `will last for a very long time, if not forever`.

How this has been established and why it has escaped the attention of the world`s news media is not the subject here and is best explained by the Nobel Prize-winning professor and the fourth most influential economist by academic citation himself.What is important for Pakistan is that this rise in its `greatest friend`s` stature could be the most fortunate event in what has so far been a rather forgettable new millennium for Islamabad. From the fallout of the 9/11 attacks to the growth of internal insurgencies and an increasingly beleaguered economy, the country has been dragging itself along with predictions of doom and disaster hanging over its head.

But China`s ascendancy coinciding with the end of the Afghan conflict means a new dawn could be approaching. It`s not all conjecture: between them, Pakistan`s past two governments have managed to inveigle a $43.5 billion investment deal from Beijing. What is needed now is the proper management and planning of the resulting schemes.

`Pakistan must be more transactional in its relationship with China,` said Dr Akbar Zaidi, a senior economist. `Over the years a lot of MoUs have been signed but rarely have these been translated into actual projects.

Dr Zaidi cited the example of the Thar Coal project, launched with much fanfare in 2011 but which has since run into financial trouble. While the government insists that it`s still on, he says that past history suggests that it is highly unlikely to be completed on time, and may never actually get operational.

`China has seen enough of Pakistan`s troubled governance to know that what is set in stone today may well all have melted away tomorrow,` he said.

`They may put in amounts as seed money which may seem enormous, but which is peanuts for them and then wait and see what sort of response comes from the national government in question. They have done this in Africa and Latin America, and have walked away when things got stuck in a rut.

Dr Zaidi`s hypothesis certainly remains true for most bilateral civilian projects. But it appears to lose weight when tested on defence cooperation between the two sides.

Technology transfer for initial weapons development from China for the M-11 / HATF 3, or the co-production of weapons systems such as the F-7P jet have resulted in a Pakistani weapons production industry that now looks set to prosper.

According to the ministry of defence production, military exports have doubled in the past year. This was clear at the recent IDEAS arms fair with greater interest shown in Pakistani defence goods than in those being displayed by renowned international firms.

One reason for the weapons industry`s success in comparison to the civilian sector is the predominance of the Pakistan military in relations with any foreign power.

However, if that was actually the case here, it would still not account for the number of MoUs signed or the fewer number of agreements reached in spheres that are purely civilian and where the grants given cannot be re-allocated to defence needs.

Debate on investment The biggest current example is of course the Pakistan-China trade corridor, seen as a game changer for the country. It also remains a top priority for the current government, something emphasised by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif himself. Yet the project, which envisages the construction of a vast transport and communications infrastructure to connect Chinese Kashgar to the Gwadar port, is already in dispute.

`Our problem is that our priorities remain narrowly confined to political and provincial domains,` said Daud Khan Achakzai, head of the Pakistan senate subcommittee on communications and transport. `This project will be developed over a period of at least 15 years and it needs long-term vision and planning, whereas each new government has been trying to amend it to best benefit its constituency.

In such a move recently, the PML-N led government has diverted the original route through Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, to include Punjab and parts of Sindh.

This has resulted in an uproar from the benches, especially from KP and Balochistan MNAs.

Achakzai, who is from Zhob, says that while he agrees that Punjab and Sindh should also derive benefits from the project, this should not be at the cost of an already greatly discriminated Balochistan.

`Each province should get its just share; as should Pakistan,` he contends.

`We must have a greater debate over the investment from China, as they stand to gain over 10 days in transport time for goods and energy. Currently, it takes them 12 days to ship goods and fuel from the Middle East, whereas the corridor would cut this down to 24 to 36 hours.

This is particularly important, as Stiglitz points out. He says that while China may have moved into the number one economy slot, that does not mean its pace of growth is going to slow down anytime soon. In particular, experts agree, this means a growth in its demand for fuel and oil will increase, the largest proven deposits of which lie around the Persian Gulf.

As such, almost all indicators suggest that Beijing`s best years lie ahead. That`s something that its adversaries are well aware of and want to control as much as they can. None perhaps as much as the US, as is evident with current American President Barack Obama`s pivot to Asia policy which experts like Stiglitz maintain is nothing less than the encirclement and containment of the Chinese Dragon, preying on the fears of its smaller neighbours over territorial disputes.

The only exception to this appears to be Pakistan. In a recent conversation with this reporter at a defence seminar, Chinese officials described the relationship between the two countries by clasping their hands together and calling the two nations `brothers`. While some of this may be rhetoric, there is also a strong element of truth in it. As such it puts Pakistan in an enviable position to propel itself through the 21st century. The only obstacles in the way appear to be self constructed; their timely removal could help propel Pakistan into a new league of economic success.

PAKISTAN AND THE CHINESE CENTURY
By Syed Shoaib Hasan
Dawn.com

Need for Rational response to Extremism

In these times of an ever-widening religious-secular divide in Pakistan a religious scholar could get so many tributes from the ‘secular’ segments of society, the one was shot dead by unknown assailant, believed in the establishment of a rational and objective religious discourse in the country.
kKilling is not only a setback for rational religious discourse in the country, it also indicates the expansion of extremist religious forces.
Faith-based violence, persecution and intolerance are becoming a regular feature of life with sporadic attacks on shrines and the worship places of non-Muslims, and incidents of enforced conversions being reported from different cities.

Rational voices in religious discourse are considered important to balance extremist views. But such voices have fallen victim to intolerance and militancy. Many depict it as an outcome of the overall intellectual crisis in the country, but when rational voices are silenced, the sectarian hate discourse gets louder.

The existing religious narrative provides a lot of space to extremists and militants.
Many rational voices have been silenced by extremist forces, including that of Dr Shakil Auj, the dean of the Islamic Studies Department of Karachi University. He is believed to have been killed on the basis of a fake fatwa. The seminary in Karachi, on whose letterhead the fatwa was issued declaring Dr Auj an apostate and a disbeliever, denied it. He was a thorough academician engaged in the discourse of religious moderation.

Maulana Masood Baig, a scholar from Jamia Binoria, Karachi, was a young scholar who was trying to engage madressah students in debates on critical issues. Maulana Baig was a friend of a young Shia scholar, Allama Ali Akbar Kumaili, the son of the renowned religious figure Allama Abbas Kumaili. Both were shot dead within a week of each other this year in Karachi.

There are several other religious scholars across the sectarian divide who have lost their lives in their quest to promote rationality. Most people do not know about their sacrifices and the loss their deaths have caused to religion and society. These were the voices of reason and represented the hope that an effective response against extremism could be produced from within the larger religious discourse. Obviously, such incidents of targeted killing discourage other scholars from challenging extremist and irrational voices in society.

It is also true that such voices of reason are not in abundance in Pakistan, voices that can develop ideological responses to counter extremist ideologies. Public opinion in Pakistan is also largely influenced by the dominant radical religious discourse and such voices of reason often appear alien to the people.

Consequently, a common man finds no attraction in moderate voices in other spheres of life as well, including politics and social life. Extremists are still targeting leaders and workers  who represent moderate political views. A moderate and secular atmosphere provides a sense of protection to religious minorities. When minorities frequently fall victim to violence and persecution, it suggests irrationality and extremism have penetrated deep in the minds of the majority.

A rational religious discourse always contributes to shaping rational behaviour among individuals in a society. In contrast, the existing religious discourse in Pakistan provides a lot of space to extremists and militants either by outright support for them or by refusing to condemn them.

People who mostly follow the narratives offered to them by the state and the religious clergy also remain confused or silent about issues of religious extremism and militancy. The extremists indeed stand far ahead in propagating their ideologies through their publications and electronic media campaigns, which are together referred to as radical or militants’ media.

The extremists’ ideological campaigns notwithstanding, public opinion in Pakistan is greatly influenced by the prevalent larger hate discourse that is characterised by the existence of a large number of radical and sectarian organisations and madressahs.

Even though a number of Islamic scholars from all schools of thought in this larger religious discourse condemn terrorism and religious extremism, their view is not properly presented or publicised. At the same time, there is a glaring absence of a network of such religious scholars whose work focuses exclusively on countering the spread of religious radicalism and extremism in Pakistani society. As cited earlier, the increasing threats to such scholars are pushing the latter towards isolation or forcing them into silence, even exile.

Apart from enriching the intellectual discourse, inter-sectarian and inter-faith interactions help to develop the required rationality in religious discourse. Such interactions and dialogue are expected to promote a trend where efforts could be made to remove mutual misperceptions and settle controversies involving people of diverse opinion and bridge the gap between them.

Excerpts from 'No room for rational discourse'  by Muhammad Amir Rana, dawn.com
The writer is a security analyst.

Oil prices - Politics or Economics War



OIL remains the world’s most critical commodity. It has fuelled the industrial age. For over a century, oil politics has been almost synonymous with geopolitics; the cause of numerous wars and revolutions.
The recent sharp drop in oil prices is a boon to all who import and consume oil. Besides the individual consumer, the price decline has ameliorated the foreign exchange and budgetary fortunes of major oil importers like China, India and Pakistan and could assist in global economic recovery. It has reduced the earnings of major oil exporters, both Opec and non-Opec members.
To a considerable extent, the decline in oil prices has been driven by the laws of supply and demand. Oil (and gas) production has been expanding significantly over the last decade. A major contributor to this has been US shale oil and deep sea production which became viable due to high prices (over $100 per barrel) and technological developments.
The price downturn began with the no-growth in Europe and growth slowdown in China (from 9.5pc to 7pc from 2010 to 2014), India (from 7pc to 4pc over the same period) and Brazil (from 6pc to 2pc). The insipid US economic recovery, fuelled largely by its own oil and cheap gas production, was insufficient to contribute to higher demand. The growing availability of alternate sources of energy — cheaper gas in the US, subsidised wind and solar power (as part of the shift to ‘green’ economies) — further depressed oil demand.
Under the circumstances, it would have been expected that the traditional ‘swing’ producer, Saudi Arabia, would have brought the market into balance by cutting its own sizable production and leading other Opec and non-Opec members to do the same. In fact, Riyadh not only maintained but added 100,000 barrels to its production in the midst of the initial major dip in prices two months ago. This has driven prices further down to below $70 per barrel for the benchmark Brent Crude. At the recent Opec meeting in Vienna, the Saudi oil minister was sanguine, observing that this was not the first time that oil markets had been out of balance.
Most policymakers are wondering for how long this period of cheaper oil will last.
There is considerable speculation about the rationale for the Saudi policy. The most reasonable explanation is that Saudi Arabia aims to preserve its market share by obliging less competitive producers — shale and deep sea oil and alternate energy — off the market. The average breakeven price for shale extraction in the US is $45 per barrel, whereas Saudi costs are less than $5. With prices of around $60 per barrel, production of shale oil and deep sea oil will become considerably less profitable or non-profitable.
Some US shale producers have already shelved expansion plans; several are likely to face shutdown if lower price trends persist. Deep sea production and exploration will also come under pressure as would alternate energy suppliers, unless they obtain state subsidies. Conversely, Saudi Arabia, with $1 trillion in reserves, can sustain lower prices for a considerable period.
Western commentators have conjectured that the Saudi policy pushing lower oil prices is also designed to inflict additional economic pain on its principal regional rival, Iran, as well as Russia, Iran’s major ally in the current sectarian conflicts engulfing Iraq, Syria and the Levant.
A few believe Riyadh is pursuing this course independently, in defiance of the US, to demonstrate its unhappiness with the US overtures to Iran, and to demonstrate its influence in the world economy. Others say that the policy of inflicting further economic pressure on Iran and Russia enjoys Washington’s blessings.
Indeed, the Obama administration’s priority at this time is to secure a favourable deal with Iran on its nuclear programme and cooperation in stabilising Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. Containing Putin and a resurgent Russia in Ukraine and elsewhere is another objective. Whether low oil prices will help to achieve the desired outcomes is an open question.
In any case, cheaper ‘gas’ prices at US pumps and reduced home heating bills will be popular with American consumers; they could also enhance the economic recovery under way in the US. The misfortune of US shale oil producers will not cause Obama any heartache since most are based in the so-called ‘red’ states which are not likely to vote for the Democratic party in the foreseeable future. Reduced shale oil production may also ease pressure on Obama to approve the controversial north-south Keystone pipeline which faces opposition from environmentalists in his party.
The main questions in the minds of businesses and policymakers are: how far down will oil prices go and how long will this period of cheaper oil last?
It is safe to say that lower oil prices are unlikely to prevail over the long term. With growing populations, industrialisation and urbanisation in the developing countries, demand for oil will continue its secular rise until and unless alternate energy sources become much cheaper.
The global oil economy, despite the ‘green’ goals, will be around for several decades. The current lower prices will drive significant production off market and, more importantly, slow down exploration and investment aimed at additional and alternate energy production. Thus, over the medium term, demand will once again come into balance with supply and may even exceed it. Higher oil prices should be expected to return.
For the short term, the price trend cannot be predicted precisely; but some of the indicators to watch for are: a) how rapidly will Riyadh need to replenish its reserves if oil prices remain around $60 to $70 per barrel; b) the extent of production cutbacks brought about by the lower oil price; c) the growth outlook in major economies, especially the US, China, Japan, India and Europe; d) potential disruption of supply from ‘fragile’ producers, eg Libya and Nigeria, and from the Gulf due to spreading turmoil; e) the outcome of the talks between Iran and the West; and f) the denouement of the Ukraine crisis and Russia’s response to economic pressure.
To mix metaphors, consumers should make hay while the sun shines and use this window of cheaper oil to prepare for a future of expensive energy.
Ups and downs of oil prices
by Munir Akram, dawn.com
The writer is a former Pakistan ambassador to the UN.

Concept of Muslim Ummah in 21st Century World, UN, International law & Quranic commandment to honour covenants

A VERY large section of teachers at seminaries and religious scholars refuse to see Muslims as anything other than a single organic ummah. For them, the resort to coercive methods against those seen as threatening this organic whole is kosher.

In international terms, this means that they are oblivious to the legal development of the UN Charter and the many treaties that prohibit a subject of a state to unilaterally resort to such methods irrespective of religious motivation.

In justifying the use of any means and methods against a perceived enemy of the ummah, such teachers and scholars disregard the barriers and frontiers of legal frameworks.

This line of thinking has nurtured a mindset that is set to operate independently of the discipline of the state — and, by extension, of the international community whose laws and regimes have been recognised by the state.

Also read: Muslim world’s silence

This mindset can visualise its own cause, select its own target, and take a decision to deal with the target on its own terms and prepare itself further to use force anywhere, anytime, against anyone. These actions can manifest themselves in terrorist strikes that are in complete violation of the recognised legal principles of protecting civilians and civilian properties. Worse, this mindset is eliciting support through distorted interpretations of religious injunctions.

It is in this context that I maintain that systematic and state-supported awareness of international law could become an effective tool to de-radicalise youth that is swayed by the propaganda disseminated by non-state actors.

It also needs to be explained to many Muslims that the successes and failures of battles at the present time can no longer be gauged through a military perspective. Victories for states are now defined in terms of their ability to negotiate their positions successfully in treaties and international forums to extract maximum benefits in bilateral relations on the table.

They have to participate intelligently in the process of global lawmaking to secure their own interest — with this process of lawmaking continuing on an almost daily basis through hundreds of international law organisations. With these realities, it is necessary that the Muslim mindset move away from seeing the modern version of Salahuddin Ayubi (the state’s readiness for battle in general terms, not necessarily against a particular entity) as the only symbol of a state’s strength and victory, and instead invest in intellectual pursuits and areas of research as pegs for future victories.

There is a need to explain all these issues to students in madressahs, to their teachers and to scholars of Islam, so that they begin to appreciate the contribution of global adherence to international law and development. This appreciation will hopefully lead to a realisation that compliance with international law, even by a state’s citizens, is beneficial for all.

These scholars can hopefully then link the vision of Islam as a religion of peace with the ultimate direction of international law, which also promotes peace. Barring a handful of scholars such as Dr Muhammad Hamid Ullah, most have not exhaustively explored the synergy between modern international law and such a vision.

Indeed, one is hard-pressed to find significant literature written in the last 60 years by scholars on Islam in Pakistan, India, Egypt or Saudi Arabia that compares or even analyses international law instruments that are binding on Muslim states including Pakistan, and are unable to assess their implications in a progressive light.

It seems that Muslim scholars have carried out their discourse and debate in the subcontinent without factoring in developments in international law. They have never paid attention to the number of treaties that their respective states have ratified. They have never discussed the text of those treaties in their scholarly work. They have never analysed the benefits or disadvantages of such texts and treaties.

In fact, they would do well do delve into their own history. All schools of thought in Islam accept that the Holy Prophet (PBUH) always honoured the commitments made with other tribes through treaties, regardless of the positive or negative implications of such treaties. Extending the same spirit to the year 2014, one can easily argue that honouring treaties and texts one is bound by, such as the UN Charter, the ILO Conventions, counterterrorism resolutions etc is a continuation of that tradition.

At the same time, we should be clear that a citizen in this day and age can be critical of a treaty entered into by the state although he cannot himself violate it. If a state has entered into a treaty of non-intervention with a neighbouring state, then its citizen is equally bound by the covenant, irrespective of his commitment to jihad or belief in extremist ideology.

In fact, scholars of Islam in the Muslim world need to start viewing international treaties that bind states to peaceful methods as milestones in man’s spiritual journey too. In the light of this, as well as the fact that history has shown the extreme utility of putting in place the building blocks of peace, there is no justification for shunning treaties and undoing the progress achieved so far.

Scholars of Islam in the subcontinent need to evolve a fresh approach towards new realities and include developments in international law in their research. Not many realise that the best works and poetry produced by Allama Iqbal in the context of the ummah as a whole, without any treaty boundaries, were written in the years before the signing of the UN Charter in 1945.

The Charter declared unlawful all aggression, declared any acquisition of territorial title through force as illegitimate, and indicated that collective well-being had to be preferred over war. This completely transformed the context in which Iqbal had written some of his best and most popular works. Therefore, even his work should be understood in the context of the shift in goalposts in the international legal order.

Disregard of international law
by Ahmer Bilal Soofi, dawn.com
The writer is an advocate of the Supreme Court and was federal law minister in the last caretaker set-up.

The rise and rise of Kaptaan



The rise of Imran Khan from the world of cricket to the driving seat of Pakistan’s generally dynastic, feudal politics is the biggest change we have witnessed in decades. The November 30 rally in Islamabad, the biggest ever by the kaptaan, and the largest ever by any political leader, present or past, speaks a lot about the growing public support for him in every corner of the country. The rallies he has held in other cities of Punjab and Sindh have been very successful, more in Punjab in terms of numbers. In many ways, he has changed the political culture of Pakistan by raising awareness about the major problems Pakistan faces from widespread corruption by the elite to governance crisis and poor investment in education and health.

The conventional parties and their leaders have taken refuge in ‘saving democracy’, showing their majority in parliament and by closing their ranks against kaptaan’s agitation politics. Unable to defend themselves effectively by counterargument or evidence, failing to contradict what the PTI says about their character of politics and misuse of power and national resources, they have hoped that agitation will cause his politics to taper off. As appears from the recent public rallies, neither is the kaptaan tired and nor are his generally young supporters. Rather, the excitement and commitment to changing the functioning of the political order are on the ascent.
Something the old parties are missing in their understanding, or deliberately turning a blind eye to, is the distrust of the middle class, both urban and rural and its unprecedented politicisation. This is, perhaps, the major factor that accounts for the growing popularity of the kaptaan. The leaders of the dynastic parties have nothing to offer to this disillusioned class. With more urbanisation, the political power and influence of this class has grown a great deal. At the moment, this class is solidly with the PTI.
The second important factor that explains the rise of leaders in every competitive, democratic polity is their credibility. The question that is always on the minds of the people is: can they trust them? People in the democratic politics of the two major parties, the PML-N and the PPP have mattered very little, if at all. They have substituted genuine support of the people with building elite networks, the exclusive clubs of political families. In doing so, never were they alive to the changing political reality of Pakistan: increasing distrust in the ruling dynasties and new voices of change that the media and social discourses have popularised. For long, they have lost touch with the political reality of  a quietly changing Pakistan. On the other hand, people listen to and believe Imran Khan. He has etched a place deep in their political imagination for the better future of the country.
Finally, there is the political message of the kaptaan that has made great political waves in the country. Consistently, for years, he has focused on merit, transparency in government affairs, accountability and responsible governance. Sick and tired of systematic corruption, bad governance, and undocumented accumulation of wealth by powerful sections of society, the general public appears to be embracing his politics and leadership as the best hope for real change.
Furthermore, there are two significant things, in my view, about the rise of kaptaan: his de-legitimisation of old politics and trust in the people’s ability to change what he calls the corrupt and dysfunctional political system. He shows beaming confidence in his own ability to change Pakistan and rebuild the fractured ties between the state and society. The idiom has gone viral — the only cure is change itself.
By Rasul Bakhsh Rais: The writer is a security and political analyst and works at the Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad
Published in The Express Tribune: http://tribune.com.pk/story/800722/the-rise-and-rise-of-kaptaan/


کپتان کی بلندی

کرکٹ کی دنیا پر راج کرنے والے کپتان، عمران خان کا پاکستان کی موروثیت اور جاگیرداری کے پنجوں میں جکڑی ہوئی سیاست کے افق پر ابھرتے ہوئے اس کا اہم ترین کھلاڑی بننا اور حالات و واقعات پر اپنی گرفت جمانا گزشتہ کئی دہائیوں کے دوران رونما ہونے والی وہ اہم ترین تبدیلی تھی جس کا ہم نے شاید ہی کبھی مشاہدہ کیا ہو۔ اس تیس نومبر کو اسلام آباد ریلی، جسے بلاشبہ کپتان ، بلکہ اسلام آباد میں ماضی یا حال میں کسی بھی رہنما کی سب سے بڑی ریلی قرار دیا جاسکتا ہے، سے اس تاثر کی تصدیق ہوئی کہ ملک میں عمران خان کی حمایت میں کمی کی بجائے اضافہ ہورہا ہے۔ اس سے پہلے اُن کی طرف سے پنجاب اور سندھ کے مختلف شہروں میں منعقد کی جانے والی ریلیاں کامیابی کے نئے ریکارڈ قائم کرچکی ہیں۔ ان میں خاص طور پر پنجاب میں کیے جانے والے جلسوں میں شرکا کی تعداد حیران کن حد تک زیادہ تھی ۔ عمران کے ناقدین کے علاوہ اُن کے حامی بھی اتنی بڑی کامیابیوں کی توقع نہیں کررہے تھے۔ اُنھوں نے پاکستان کے اہم ترین مسائل، جیسا کہ طبقۂ اشرافیہ کی ہوشربا حد تک بڑھتی ہوئی بدعنوانی، سرکاری وسائل کی لوٹ مار، اقربا پروری، ناقص حکمرانی اور تعلیم اور صحت کے عوامی منصوبوں میں افسوس ناک حد تک کم سرمایہ کاری ، کو اجاگر کرتے ہوئے پاکستان کے سیاسی کلچر کو تبدیل کردیا ۔ 
جس دوران سیاسی میدان میں عمران خان کی یلغار جاری ہے، روایتی سیاسی جماعتوں نے ''جمہوریت کے بچائو‘‘ کی ڈھال کے پیچھے پناہ لینے میں ہی عافیت گردانی۔ اُنھوں نے پارلیمنٹ میں اپنی اکثریت دکھائی اور کپتان کی احتجاجی سیاست کے خلاف متحد ہو کر صف بندی کی پالیسی اپنائی؛ تاہم عمران کی بڑھتی ہوئی مقبولیت نے اُن کے ہاتھ سے پیش قدمی کا موقع چھین کر اُنہیں دفاعی قدموں پر لا کھڑ ا کیا۔درحقیقت اُن کے پاس پی ٹی آئی کے اس نعرے کا کوئی توڑ نہیں کہ روایتی سیاسی جماعتیں اپنے عہدے اور اختیار سے ناجائز فائدہ اٹھا کر لوٹ مار کرتی ہیں، تاہم اُنہیں امید تھی کہ عمران خان احتجاج کا ٹمپو برقرار نہیں رکھ پائیں گے اور دھرنے اور احتجاجی جلسے رفتہ رفتہ دم توڑ جائیں گے۔ تاہم موجودہ جلسوں نے اُنہیں چکرا دیا ہے کیونکہ نہ تو کپتان میں تھکاوٹ کے آثار دکھائی دیے اور نہ ہی ان کے نوجوان حامیوں میں۔ اس کی بجائے سیاسی نظام کو بدلنے کے نعرے بلند سے بلند ہوتے گئے ۔ یہ صورت ِحال دیگر سیاسی جماعتوں کے وہم وگمان میں بھی نہ تھی۔ آج سے سو دن پہلے کوئی بھی موجودہ صورتِ حال کی توقع نہیں کررہا تھا اور نہ ہی اس کے لیے ذہنی طور پر تیار تھا۔ کیا ہم ایک نئی قسم کے سیاسی اور سماجی انقلاب کی طرف بڑھ رہے ہیں؟ 
پاکستان کی روایتی سیاسی جماعتیں اس صورت ِحال کی تفہیم کرنے میں ناکام رہیں ، یا پھر اُنھوں نے جان بوجھ کر پاکستان کے درمیانی طبقے اور اس میں اٹھنے والی اس بے مثال تحریک سے اغماض برتنے کی پالیسی جاری ۔ جب عوا م نے دیکھا کہ یہ روایتی سیاسی جماعتیں اُن کے مسائل اور شکایات سے لاتعلق ہیں تو وہ کپتان کے پلڑے میں اپنا وزن ڈالتے گئے۔ وقت گزرنے کے ساتھ ساتھ ان کی مقبولیت میں اضافہ ہوتا گیا۔ اب حال یہ ہے کہ خاندانی سیاست پر مبنی جماعتوں کے پاس حقائق پسند عوام کے سامنے رکھنے کے لیے کچھ نہیں بچا۔ تعلیم کے فروغ اور شہری علاقوں میں عوام کے آباد ہونے کے عمل نے ہنرمند اور ملازمت پیشہ افراد پر مشتمل درمیانے طبقے کی وقعت کو بڑھا دیا ہے۔ کل کا علم نہیں لیکن آج اس طبقے کی اکثریت پی ٹی آئی کے ساتھ ہے۔ 
جمہوری سیاست میں رہنمائوں کی سربلندی میں ان کی ساکھ اور اس کے عوام کی نگاہوں میں مثبت تاثر کی بہت اہمیت ہے۔ یہ سوال ہمیشہ سے عوام کے ذہن میں رہتا ہے کہ کیا وہ اپنے رہنمائوں پر اعتماد کرسکتے ہیں؟ہمارے زمینی حقائق یہ کہتے ہیںکہ دونوں بڑی سیاسی جماعتوں، پی پی پی اور پی ایم ایل (ن)کے نزدیک عوام کی بہت کم اہمیت پائی گئی ہے۔سیاسی عمل میں عام آدمی کو اہمیت دینے کی بجائے اُنھوں نے قابل ِ انتخاب سیاسی خاندانوںکے نیٹ ورکس سے تعلق رکھنے والے افراد کے ذریعے سیاسی کامیابی حاصل کرنے کی کوشش کی۔ تاہم ایسا کرتے اور انتخابات جیتتے، ہوئے وہ پاکستان میں بتدریج رونما ہونے والی سیاسی تبدیلی پر نظر نہ رکھ سکے، یا اپنی کامیابیوں کے زعم میںنظر انداز کرگئے۔ اس تبدیلی کا محور خاندانی اور موروثی سیاست سے بیزاری اورتبدیلی کے نعرے، جسے میڈیا اور سماجی بیداری نے مہمیز دیا ،کی عوامی حلقوں میں پذیرائی ہے۔ کچھ عرصے سے یہ روایتی جماعتیں اُس سیاسی حقیقت سے خود کوہم آہنگ کرنے میں ناکام ہیں جو پاکستان میں سرائیت کرتی جارہی ہے۔ اس کے برعکس، عمران خان اس تبدیلی کے داعی بن کر میدان میں موجود ہیں۔ اس لیے جو کچھ وہ کہتے ہیں، لوگ سنتے اور یقین کرتے ہیں۔ درحقیقت اُنھوں نے ملک کے بہتر مستقبل کا خواب دکھا کر عوام کے ذہن پر گہرے سیاسی نقوش مرتب کیے ہیں۔ یہ نقوش روایتی جماعتوں کے روایتی حربے نہیں مٹا سکیں گے۔ 
آخرمیں، کپتان کے سیاسی پیغام ۔۔۔شفاف الیکشن۔۔۔ نے ملک کے سیاسی ماحول میں زبردست ارتعاش پیدا کردیا ہے۔ جو حلقے پی ٹی آئی کے ساتھ سیاسی وابستگی نہیں رکھتے، وہ بھی اس پیغام کو رد کرنے سے قاصر ہیں۔ عمران خان کئی سالوں سے بڑے تسلسل کے ساتھ میرٹ،حکومت امور میں شفافیت، احتساب اور ذمہ دار حکومت کی باتیں کررہے ہیں۔ چونکہ عوام کی اکثریت ناقص حکومتی کارکردگی، بدعنوانی، اقرباپروری اور عوامی فلاحی کاموں میں سرکارکی عدم دلچسپی دیکھ کر موجودہ روایتی سیاسی نظام سے بیزار تھی، اس لیے اُنھوں نے تبدیلی کے لیے اپنا وزن کپتان کے پلڑے میں ڈال دیا۔ 
کپتا ن کی عوامی پذیرائی کی اہم وجہ یہ بھی ہے کہ اُنھوں نے انتخابی دھاندلی کو سیاسی ایشو بنا کر روایتی سیاست کی اخلاقی اور قانونی حیثیت پر سوالیہ نشان کھڑا کردیا ہے۔ اس کے علاوہ وہ عوام کو یہ باور کرانے میں بھی کامیاب جارہے ہیں کہ یہ بدعنوان اور گلاسڑا خاندانی سیاست پر مبنی نظام اُن کے مسائل حل کرنے سے قاصر ہے۔ نوجوان افراد کپتان پر اعتماد کرتے ہیں کہ وہ ملک میں جدید تعلیم اور انصاف کی فراہم کا پرچم بلند کیے ہوئے ہیں۔ روایتی مذہبی افراد کے نزدیک وہ استعماری طاقتوں کے خلاف وطن کی خودمختاری کی بات کرنے کا حوصلہ رکھتے ہیں۔ فی الحال ان کاکوئی مالیاتی اسکینڈل منظرِ عام پر نہیں آیا‘ اس لیے عوام اُنہیں بجا طور پر تبدیلی کی علامت سمجھتے ہیں۔ اس لیے یہ بات بجا طور پر کہی جاسکتی ہے کہ آج کا اہم ترین سیاسی بیانیہ تبدیلی ہے اوریہ تبدیلی روایتی سیاست کے خلاف ہے اور کپتان اس تبدیلی کے نقیب ہیں۔ 

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Islam and the constitution

THE project of reconciling faith and constitutionalism is one that enjoys wide popularity in many parts of the Muslim world. Not long ago, Sudan’s President Omar Bashir promised a “100pc” Islamic constitution to his polity. Similarly, when the regime of president Mubarak was toppled in Egypt and the Muslim Brotherhood elected to power, their first and foremost task was to produce a constitution that embodied the values of Islam while also providing rights to the Egyptian citizenry.

In Pakistan, the question of just how Islamic the Constitution is has been an issue for decades. In its most recent iteration, it became a roadblock in negotiations with the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, who alleged they could not conduct negotiations with politicians bound by a constitution that the group does not consider Islamic.

While these debates and battles have raged on in various forms in post-colonial Muslim nations, ever insecure about creating the perfect hybridity of Islamic principles and constitutional structure, consensus on these questions has been elusive.

Into this contentious mix comes a new study entitled Measuring Constitutional Islamisation: The Islamic Constitutions Index. Developed by University of Chicago scholar Dawood Ahmad and Moamen Gouda, a professor of Middle East economics at Hankuk University, the study attempts to create the first empirical measure for the relative ‘Islamicity’ of a particular constitution, consequently enabling the measurement of just how ‘Islamic’ a particular country’s constitution is. An Islamic constitution developed by the scholars at the renowned Al Azhar University in Cairo was used as a model against which the constitutions of the other countries could be measured.

‘Islamic’ constitutions often grant just as many rights as secular countries: implementation is the problem.
The aim of measuring the ‘Islamicity’ of any particular constitution was motivated by the same questions that fill Pakistani newspapers on a daily and weekly basis. Central to these is a fact highlighted in poll after poll: Muslim publics have a desire to see faith embodied in public life and in their constitutional instruments. Attached to this widely held desire are the thornier questions of whether Islamic constitutions make a polity a democracy or a theocracy, whether the model of constitutional governance and transcendent faith-based precepts is compatible.

On the theoretical level, all have been roundly and soundly debated, and in their study Ahmad and Gouda turn to the empirical plane. The hope is that perhaps in this dimension the questions of computability, the award of rights, the pre-eminence of faith and the protection for individual freedom can be studied with the certainty of numbers.

Their findings are both interesting and thought-provoking. The ‘Islamic Constitutions Index’ ranking reveals the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran to be the ‘most Islamic’ followed by Saudi Arabia and the Maldives. Pakistan’s Constitution of 1973 comes in fourth place followed by Somalia, Yemen, Bahrain and Iraq. (Contrary to popular belief, the Saudi constitution is not simply the Holy Quran but contains additional provisions regarding governance and the ruling monarchy.)

Beyond the ranking, the interpretation of the results reveals that not all countries with Muslim majority populations have Islamic constitutions. Notable among these are the Central Asian Republics of Azerbaijan and Kyrgyz Republic as well as Mali, all of whom have majority Muslim populations but secular constitutions. There is a geographic basis to this, for countries in the Middle East and North Africa with active movements for the imposition of Sharia have consequently Islamic constitutions while most Central Asian Republics without such movements have secular constitutions.

There are also some surprises in the data in relation to colonisation and the ‘Islamicity’ of constitutions. Iran and Saudi Arabia, both countries that have never been colonised, are at the top of the ranking followed by former colonies like Pakistan. Given that Iran and Saudi Arabia are spiritual centres for Shia and Sunni Islam respectively, their example, it can be hypothesised, inspires former colonies like Pakistan who see in them a model of what an Islamic state should look like.

While the researchers state that their analysis does not imply causation, when they correlated the Gender Parity Index developed by the World Bank against their Islamic Constitutions Index, they found a negative correlation between Islamicity and gender equality.

To investigate the question of whether such constitutions are more or less democratic, the scholars compared their data against the Voice and Accountability Index developed by Worldwide Governance Indicators. This too revealed a negative correlation, indicating that civil liberties, political rights of due process and freedom of speech are less available in countries that rank highly on Islamicity in the index. Finally, the scholars also tackled the question of political stability, finding that there was less political stability in countries ranking highly on the Islamicity index.

While gender parity, political stability and democracy were found to be wanting in countries that ranked high in the Islamic Constitutions Index, it was also found that this was not so because the countries did not provide their citizens with rights in their constitutions. In fact, most of the countries were found to be granting just as many rights as secular countries, suggesting then that it is the implementation of rights, and the development of mechanisms that actually facilitate governance that may be lacking in these constitutions.

As the data reveals, Pakistan has been quite successful in Islamising its Constitution, ensuring that the principles of the faith are adequately reflected in the document. The way forward then is to end the debate on whether the country is Islamic enough (the numbers say it is) and focus instead on how the mechanisms for stability, gender parity and democracy can be streamlined, a task the data reveals to be not dependent on faith, but on the jurists, scholars who can develop the procedural mechanisms that can ensure positive outcomes.
Islam and the constitution
by Rafia Zakaria, dawn.com
The writer is an attorney teaching constitutional law and political philosophy.
http://www.dawn.com/news/1148376/islam-and-the-constitution

Indo-Pak Civilization History

One of the strangest claims of recent by our eastern neighbour Bharat is that most of the great inventions of the world were made in the country. Historical facts need some respect, let alone inventing new ones. Greatness is earned, not wished.

Let me make clear that ‘patriotism’ is not what serious historians, or political analysts, should include in any description. It is rightly known as the pastime of scoundrels. But as I read Indian newspapers on the internet every day, as well as hear their new prime minister inform us that it was a Hindu who ‘really’ invented an array of gadgets and instruments, it really makes one wonder just what is going on. This strange happening is a good enough excuse for Pakistanis to rethink their true history, for we have been part of the larger sub-continent since time began. In human terms time began when the ices melted. That is our true history, and the beginning of time is where we should begin our history. It is the history of the people, not of rulers and battles.

For starters the land that is today Pakistan was the very first civilisation to have taken root in the sub-continent. The findings at Mehrgarh in Baluchistan are definitely more than 9,500 years old. As the ices melted increasingly northward, over time the very first planned cities began to take form. Mohenjo Daro in Sindh followed Mehrgarh. Then came Harappa near Sahiwal, and then as the ices swiftly melted as climate changes set in, we see Taxila emerge, and, lastly, the ruins of Swat. The River Indus, or Darya-i-Sindh, was central to these developments as the ices melted and water flowed to the sea.

This set of events are well known to every archaeologist. It is also a well-known fact that by the time Taxila emerged the Ganges civilisation had yet to come about. The likely coming of Lahore and Sialkot are probably the stepping stones before the Ganges civilisation came about. These are universally accepted facts. It is also an accepted scientific fact that the word Hind, as used by the Arabs for the first time, flowed from the word ‘Sindh’, as did the Latinised word India flow from the word Hind. The country of Bharat came about in 1947, and it was never supposed to be called India in Partition documents. But it is silly to pursue this argument, for they can call it what they feel like.

There is no doubt that Pakistan was set up to cater to the disenfranchised Muslims, as much as for other minority sections of British India. But the land of Pakistan also happens to be the very first to be inhabited, as were portions of South India. Very few realise that the Dravidians were not the original inhabitants of the sub-continent. They were a Mediterranean-Australoid people who moved from the south European-North African coastline. In Pakistan the only traces of this Dravidian ‘drift’ are the Brahui people of south Baluchistan. In the midst of these ancient people exists Mehrgarh. Their language is the only one in Pakistan of Dravidian origin. The rest have Aryan structures. Recent DNA studies at Cambridge, as also at Harvard, have proven beyond doubt the connection the Brahui have to the faraway Australian aborigines. The Tamil people represent this human strand in its largest numbers.

By the time the Aryans began drifting eastwards into the land that is today Pakistan, the Harappa civilisation was well-established. It was no invasion and very much like the Afghan drift we see today. It took a long time to take effect. A similar example of this ‘drift’ can be seen inside the walled city of Lahore. We know full well that the majority of the people living in the old walled city of Lahore are Afghans, not original Lahoris. They have drifted to colonies outside old Lahore. This is exactly how it happened thousands of years ago. The Aryan egalitarian ways clashed with the emerging Brahmin caste, to the extent that the Vedas themselves classify all people west of the Beas River as ‘maleech’.

The great Sanskrit grammarian, Rishi Panini, born in Salatura (Lahore) and educated at Taxila University nearly 3,500 years ago, studied this Aryan-Dravidian behaviour and language divide and observed that the sub-continent has two people who can never unite. The line he drew then, ironically, is so very much like the existing Pakistan-Bharat line.

That is why there is a need for our textbooks to forget the strange history they teach to our children today and start, like all good descriptions, from the very beginning. We must learn that even the Hindu religion was born in the land of Pakistan, and that it was the absence of toleration within the then dominant Hindu religion that led to the creation of castes. Belief systems have a way of ultimately creating intolerance to win economic space.

The increasing Aryan numbers, a creeping phenomenon as it still remains, led to the priestly Brahmin-led caste society to move eastwards, leaving behind us ‘maleech’. This word in classical Sanskrit means “varying social strata within the same family” and in their eyes an “unnatural” happening. The divide was thus set in stone, and Panini was correct to point this out 3,500 years ago. Ultimately communal intolerance won.

So as Mr Modi sets about describing all great things to have happened in the world as originally Hindu miracles, he seems to ignore the fact that the very Hindu religion he follows all started in the land of Pakistan. He also ignores the fact that the Vedas and the Ramayana were written in the land of Pakistan. He also forgets that Rama and Sita lived in Lahore, and that their greatest epic of the Battle of the Ten Kings was fought on the banks of the River Ravi in Pakistan. The Ganges civilisation started much later and drew its undoubted strength from the second great migration which led to caste creation of the priestly classes within Hinduism.

Today priests on both sides of the divide threaten the legendary toleration that has been so central to the great civilisations of the sub-continent. We all need to study the history of our people in great scientific detail. Surely our children deserve better.

Why we need to study our history from when the ices melted: by Majid Sheikh, Dawn.com
Source: http://www.dawn.com/news/1147813/harking-back-why-we-need-to-study-our-history-from-when-the-ices-melted


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