Smokers’ Corner: Terrorist floods - Nadeem F. Paracha - October 31, 2010

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Death, destruction, chaos, pain, tears, fear. I can go on and on. People are asking what has happened to our beloved Islamic republic. Well, the answers are obvious. The answers are quivering and screaming right underneath our noses. Take the example of the devastating floods the beloved country has been facing. But before I launch into analysing the issue let me make a humble appeal to all my Muslim brothers and sisters.

Let’s join hands, unite, merge and gather outside the most significant and historically relevant landmarks of the county — the Lal Masjid and the Kahuta Nuclear Plant — and raise our hands and scream at the top of our voices, ‘Oh, Lord, forgive our sins. Forgive us and deliver us from all these calamities that our enemies have unleashed upon us. We know these calamities are your azaab on a shameless, slavish and corrupt leadership. Rid this land of these devils. These agents of destruction and corruption and consumption and dysfunction and eruption’.

Now, dear Muslim brothers and sisters, I would like to address all those hypocrites who have been going on and on calling freedom fighters like the Taliban ‘terrorists’. These so-called liberals whom we all know are clearly on the payroll of various enemy agencies, are always quick to call Taliban terrorists but why are they quiet when these floods have killed so many of our poor, helpless, innocent (Muslim) brothers and sisters? Why aren’t they calling these floods an act of terrorism as well?

These merciless floods have no morals, no religion, no ethics. I have done what no TV channel or newspaper or NGO is willing to do. My team and I conducted a series of interviews with these dastardly floods. And as they roared across the country creating havoc, they told us, ‘our mission is to wash out Pakistan and Islam’.

I dived into the Indus, and warned it that it is being infiltrated by terrorist floods unleashed by our enemies in India and Afghanistan, but my pleas and warnings too were swept away.

Dear Muslim Pakistani brothers and sisters, open your eyes and see the truth; open your ears and hear the facts; open your noses and smell the coffee. After creating hell through infidel agents of death, whom we so naively call Taliban, our enemies have now let loose these highly trained and paid floods. I have solid proof that these deadly floods were created and given training in Kabul and New Delhi by RAW and the CIA.

I also want to share with you another startling fact: Never have our rivers looked so red during flooding. What does that tell you? Simple, dear colleagues. The Russian KGB has joined the proceedings as well. If you listen carefully to the sound of the raging waters in our rivers these days, you can clearly hear it singing not only bhajans and hymns, but Godless and atheistic, communist claptrap as well.

The following is what I want to ask our rulers: Why isn’t the government declaring the floods as terrorists? Why is the government accepting flood relief from India? How can Pakistani Muslims ever get themselves to consume water and food delivered by Hindus? Isn’t it better that the victims drown or starve to death rather than accept such impure aid? What a shame!

It is now clear that only our gallant army can run this country. It successfully wiped out the infidel agents of India, Israel and the United States from Swat; it should be given a free hand to fight these Godless floods too. Why isn’t the government allowing the armed forces to use fighter jets and tanks against these floods? I predict that it will only take a week for our brave forces to wipe out these floods if they are allowed to bomb some strategic areas of the mighty Indus. I have been warning that many parts of the river Indus running across Sindh in particular were always more venerable to infiltration by enemy and terrorist floods. That is due to the presence of the blind dolphins there, especially near the Sukkur barrage. Dear colleagues, let me tell you, these merciless dolphins paid by the enemy western agencies like the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) are not blind at all. It’s an elaborate hoax. Kill them!

VIEW: A fading melody —Zaair Hussain - Friday, October 29, 2010

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Slowly but surely, Pakistani writings and plays and documentaries are being reinvigorated. In the same vein, the music industry and culture must not only be preserved, but reborn. In these times of dry darkness, we must ensure that the crush of bodies, rich and poor, surges once more at shrines where Sufi musicians lose themselves in their devotion

We may say the arts, song
and dance are immaterial at a time when barbarians are within our gates, when our politicians are no better than we remember, when our allies and our army grow impatient and our judiciary and the media, once tipped to become the shining lights of a new era, have sampled and delighted in the power politics of a too familiar past.

And this, all this, is the precise reason we need the arts and culture. It is why this time, and this place, is where we need them most.

There is nothing frivolous about art, about creativity. Without it, we wither and die from the inside. Asphyxiated of venues, our artists, particularly our musicians, are threatened with extinction. And our people are shuddering at the sound of their silence.

How many will never find their words, who would have been poets to sear the souls of a nation? How many musicians will never know themselves, who would otherwise have set hearts to pounding and blood to pumping, who would have taught us in ways we always and never knew what it was to be Pakistani and what it was to be free? How many of them will never find their voice?

We speak of culture as if it were a monolith delivered from on high, its origins impeccable and lost now in the impenetrable fog of time. This is patently false; a culture lives and breathes and grows just like the human beings who create it. Musicians, artists, writers, those who invite us into their souls, are the heartbeat and the pulse of any culture. They are the creators and recreators of our culture, our voice to our people and other nations. We can survive without them, but not truly live.

In writing a column, it is common to peg a broader principle onto inspiration from recent events. No particular event inspired this article, save for the stirring of the winds. It reminded me of a glorious, snowless winter less than two years ago, my first winter after moving back to Pakistan. It reminded me of the grand scale and international splendour of the Rafi Peer festival, which creased my face with a smile and swelled my chest with pride. As the cool breeze once again flows around us, I feel the aching hole the festival’s departure has left.

It has fled, chased off alongside many smaller musical events like so many birds of paradise shooed from an increasingly monochrome world.

What happened to the festival?

There was a loud blast, and then a deafening silence.

It makes perfect sense for terrorists to target our musicians and our artists. Not for the apocryphal jihad that they parrot endlessly, but for the same reason they target shrines: because they know that a people with healthy, vibrant souls are a field in which their hideous ideology can never be sown.

Rafi Peer was the most high profile international concert held in Pakistan. But the underground bands, the up and rising hopefuls, even some of the traditional Sufi artists like Papu Saaen have been forced into retreat. Our artists have always been dependent on concerts for the meat of their profits. And now the shows are dying, the bangs becoming whimpers.

This has not come about because musicians lack the heart or courage, but because no potential audience member wants to shed blood for his evening’s pleasure, and no sponsor or venue wants that blood on their hands. But this is one point on which we cannot back down: we must find a way to secure the arts, all the arts, and music is no exception.

I have no personal talent for music, but I am a writer. If told not to create in the manner that I know, in the manner that I love, I would be dumbfounded. It is neither a hobby nor a calling, neither a job nor a duty. It is neither magnificent nor tawdry. It is, no more and no less, a piece of me without which the whole would be nonsensical.

A true musician, likewise, could no more abandon music than breathe through his ears. To let them fall mute is a crime against them, and against ourselves.

We must preserve them, these creators of our culture. They remind us who we were and show us where we can go. We must make clear — through our voices and our wallets and our feet — that the show must go on.

Those talented young men and women with music in their bones must be able to bring it into the world. The barbarians within are not our only failing. Access to instruments is limited and expensive, whether sitar or guitar. Access to sponsors and venues and proper training is even scarcer.

Where are our classical conservatories that will bring the ancient spirit of the region into this age, into this world? Where are our dedicated music programmes, scattered through our academic institutions like seeds in a lush land? Where are the sponsors and promoters who will match skill with cash if only we, the public, demand it?

We must demand it, and pay for it, and turn out in droves for it.

Slowly but surely, Pakistani writings and plays and documentaries are being reinvigorated. In the same vein, the music industry and culture must not only be preserved, but reborn. In these times of dry darkness, we must ensure that the crush of bodies, rich and poor, surges once more at shrines where Sufi musicians lose themselves in their devotion. We must have, again, those artists representing a dozen different flags practising their craft under the crisp winter sky of Lahore. We must have a wildfire of new performers, flush with youth and talent and the joy of music, playing before a crowd for the first time.

There is a huge market that awaits, a golden apple to plucked, of people open to, wanting, desperate for more music in their lives. As much as brilliant literature or dramatics, great music — great Pakistani music — holds a mirror to the best of us.

Many say we must reveal this softer, cultured, joyous side of our people to the world. I agree.

But it is far more essential that we must reveal it to ourselves.

Play on.

The writer is a Lahore-based freelance columnist. He can be reached at

VIEW: Unable to understand —Gulmina Bilal Ahmad - Friday, October 29, 2010

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Hizb ut-Tahrir is an organisation that believes in the implementation of the caliphate all over the world. It is banned in most countries including Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and even Saudi Arabia. It was, for a short stint, banned in Pakistan

Newspapers are awash with reports about leaflets being distributed in North Waziristan by militants warning against any military action. The leaflets proclaim that if the Pakistan Army is allegedly bending over backwards for $ 2 billion in aid from the US, the militants will collect this amount from North Waziristan. It is amazing that this collection drive can be organised to ward off a military operation but not to address the poverty and development issues of the agency.

While these leaflets have been covered in the media and analysts are rightly raising alarm about them, there are other leaflets, websites, rallies, blogs and press releases that are lethal in the venom they produce but are below the radar screen. Or perhaps, one should correct oneself. Not below the radar screen but in a sense even ‘allowed’ by at least the judicial authorities. One such poster that adorns the locality right next to Kahuta Research Laboratories (KRL) ground in Islamabad declares, “Cut off NATO supply lines. Let the US die its own death.”

About five years back, an honourable judge of the Multan bench of the Lahore High Court (LHC) ruled about the activities of such an organisation as, “...has shown dissatisfaction on the policies of the [Pakistan] government that is the right of each and every citizen...I am unable to understand as to how distribution of these pamphlets in the general public was termed as terrorism or sectarianism.”

The organisation in question is the Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT) and what the honourable judge was ‘unable to understand’ was HT’s stance on democracy, Islamism and Pakistan’s foreign policy. Since space is limited to really present the HT in its imagined saviour avatar, I will attempt to only focus on its stance on democracy, Islamism and our relationship with our allies.

On democracy, HT declares that “democracy as a system is the rule of people, for the people, by the people. The basis of the democratic system is that people possess the right of sovereignty, choice and implementation. It is a kufr [disbelief] system because it is laid down by man and it is not from the shariah laws.”

HT is an organisation that believes in the implementation of the caliphate all over the world. About its interest in working in Pakistan, HT declares on its website, “We do not plan on establishing the khilafat [caliphate] in a weak or small country. We believe the starting point should be in a country that should have certain prerequisites and that includes the ability to sustain itself militarily, based on Ghalaba-tuz-Zan (most probably). One should also understand that for any country to exist, it is not necessary that it should be stronger than all the countries; rather it should be sufficiently strong so that the superpower cannot immediately annihilate it. Pakistan, with its missile capability and strong professional army, is not a soft target. The US knows that Pakistan is capable of retaliating and hurting it more than it is willing to sacrifice. CENTCOM in Doha is within the reach of Pakistani missiles and the Pakistan Air Force. Similarly, the US Army in Afghanistan is virtually surviving on the supplies of petrol and food coming from Pakistan. One should also remember that it took the US a full year of military build up before they could go into Iraq. The Pakistani army is capable of sending more body bags to the US than they could ever imagine. Also, currently, the US army is stretched thin and they cannot recruit people to fight insurgencies let alone a full-fledged war with a nuclear state.”

HT is banned in most countries including Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and even Saudi Arabia. It was, for a short stint, banned in Pakistan but since the honourable judge of the Multan bench of the LHC was unable to understand the reasons for the ban, it was lifted. The HT is now free to spread its venom against non-Muslim Pakistanis and states. It has also not spared the Pakistani state and government and is openly challenging the writ of the state. It publicly declares that, “unjust taxes like income tax will be abolished”.

We immediately get defensive when we, as a nation, state and government, are urged to “do more”. Our indignation might hold some water if we were able to understand the consequences of allowing such organisations to spread their venom. By way of an example, on November 5, 2010, the HT will be organising rallies that “will inform people that the real change is only possible through the establishment of khilafat. Khilafat will sever NATO supply lines within hours of its establishment. It will suffocate the US by joining hands with the people of the tribal areas and Balochistan.”

Why the HT has been allowed in the past, and undoubtedly will be allowed in the future, to spread such venom is because their modus operandi involves recruiting extremely well connected and influential people through the opium of Islamism. In such a scenario, one is unable to understand why we continue to be surprised when places of worship, state agencies, government personnel and innocent civilians are continuously targeted in senseless terrorist attacks. If the judiciary is so fond of activism, how about ‘understanding’ the consequences of this dangerous game and banning such outfits, making it at least at least difficult for them to operate.

The writer is an Islamabad-based consultant. She can be reached at

VIEW: Muslims: everyone’s favourite punching bag —Dr Mahjabeen Islam - Friday, October 29, 2010

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Reports of men being hauled off planes because their fellow passengers felt threatened are now common news. During travel, Muslim prayers are shortened to three times a day and one can pray even sitting in one's seat. I would not dream of doing so on a flight though, for fear of landing up in jail

Muslim-bashing is not just totally acceptable these days, it is the new cool. Time was that derision and put-downs were slung at individuals. Flying while Muslim used to be a personal ordeal; Juan Williams, the former National Public Radio (NPR) analyst, while talking to Bill O’Reilly on Fox thrust it to national attention.

Bill O’Reilly and Juan Williams were discussing the ‘Muslim dilemma’ when Williams confessed to feeling fearful when he saw people in ‘Muslim garb’ boarding planes. Williams, already on probation with NPR for previous misuse of his NPR analyst title, was fired by NPR for “his views being inconsistent with NPR’s editorial standards and that they undermined his credibility as an analyst for NPR”. Williams was not unemployed long; Fox gave him a two million dollars contract.

Williams’ Muslim-garb types, male or female, go through extra security and that is a given. But my 23- and 24-year-old jeans-clad daughters on separate flights from Raleigh-Durham airport were pulled aside for ‘random’ checks. A black man himself, Juan Williams ought to know that the other people picked for ‘random’ checks were brown or black; white passengers were waved on through.

Reports of men being hauled off planes because their fellow passengers felt threatened are now common news. During travel, Muslim prayers are shortened to three times a day and one can pray even sitting in one’s seat. I would not dream of doing so on a flight though, for fear of landing up in jail. After all, six imams were arrested in 2006 for praying in a public area, trying to switch seats, asking for a seatbelt extension (one of them was 290 pounds) and cursing the US in Arabic. Mind you it ‘sounded’ as though they were cursing the US; Arabic is a very guttural language, normal conversation can sound like cursing.

Though the flying imams won and Judge Ann Montgomery gave a scathing judgment against the management of the situation by security personnel, who outnumbered the imams 15 to six, Muslim-Americans have taken heed.

My style is cramped in all dimensions: spiritual, aesthetic and intellectual. My hair products have to travel in itsy bitsy bottles and I have to do a careful survey of my reading material before stepping out. Cannot read Arabic or Urdu script or The Clash of Fundamentalisms by Tariq Ali on the flight; the cover of the book has George Bush in a beard and turban and Osama bin Laden in a suit. My brownness, my accent, my books plus vigilante passengers and voila, the case is made: I might just be landing into the arms of FBI agents.

And yet the issue is not just the profiling of Muslim passengers. Maligning Muslims is the new chic and Juan Williams tried to make acceptable in national media what is pervasive in personal Muslim experience. Republicans Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee are up in arms about the clipping of free speech. They are also clamouring for NPR’s federal funding to end. The 1900s’ US Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr summarised freedom of speech wonderfully: “The right to swing my fist ends where the other man’s nose begins.”

To malign seven million people for the crime of a handful, and to do so repeatedly, endangers us even further. The 9/11 hijackers, the underwear bomber and the many others were not in ‘Muslim garb’. A lot of them carried backpacks. Should backpacks be outlawed from flights?

Rick Sanchez was recently fired by CNN for calling The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart a bigot and making reference to the media being run by Jews. No one protested Rick Sanchez’s firing. Veteran White House journalist Helen Thomas said, “The Jews should get the hell out of Palestine and go back to Poland and Germany.” There were loud calls for her termination and she was fired. Bashing Muslims is fine and one is only exercising one’s right to freedom of speech under the First Amendment. But when Rick Sanchez and Helen Thomas express their views, they must be fired.

In 2004, President George Bush signed The Global Anti-Semitism Review Act into law. Under this legislation, anti-Semitism is a hate crime. The legislation makes it difficult to criticise Israel or the actions of individual Jews or Jewish organisations. Anti-Zionism can be quickly equated to anti-Semitism. Islamophobia, far from being a hate crime, is really a default explanation: must have been the Muslim(s).

Muslim-bashing is rampant at all levels. A black friend tried to be empathetic: “Sorry but thanks for being the new blacks that everyone can now laugh at, blame and be scared of.”

During the heated campaigning in the US Congressional election, the head of rightwing Tea Party Nation leader Judson Phillips said that incumbent Keith Ellison should be defeated as “he is the only Muslim member of Congress”.’s writer Justin Elliot wonders why such blatant racism has not been noticed and that it would be hard to imagine anyone targeting a Jewish or Mormon member of Congress for being Jewish or Mormon and getting away with it.

Then you have the self-hating Muslims who are whiter than whites themselves. Bashing everything Muslim and justifying the marginalising and persecution of Muslims is fine in their twisted minds. The irony remains that their own acceptance despite their wholesale sellout will never be complete. Brown we are and Muslim we shall remain in non-Muslim eyes, in case we think differently in our kala-angrez (black-white) minds.

What is classified as protected speech under the First Amendment and conversation that shatters the already thin ice of our national calm is a debate that we must have quickly and constructively. The power of television and radio communication is beyond encapsulation and the damage is similarly exponential.

My co-religionists damaged us the most and depending on the viewer’s lens, we are perpetrators or victims. I have squashed my style, changed my ways and live in fearful anticipation. Muslims as the overworked punching bag I am almost completely used to now.

The writer is a columnist, family physician and addictionist. She can be reached at

COMMENT: Dreaming of the top —Zafar Hilaly - Friday, October 29, 2010

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What was the cause of much ire was not Qureshi's political daydreaming but the advice he rendered to the Iranian foreign minister, saying that Iran had no justification to pursue nuclear weapons because no one is threatening Iran. As a rule, in diplomacy, when one can say nothing, one should say nothing

The Washington correspondent of a national daily quotes Foreign Minister Qureshi as saying that “he will have a much bigger political role in Pakistan” because he and General Kayani had a complete understanding on all issues at the recent Washington confab. Mr Qureshi further disclosed that they worked in tandem “as Pakistanis and not as political leaders”.

What are we to make of what Mr Qureshi says? That Kayani will give him a leg up as he manoeuvres for the prime ministership? Is it to Kayani, rather than his party, that Qureshi looks for a boost in his political career? If so, it does not speak much for the prospects of democracy in Pakistan.

Nor was one aware that Kayani is a ‘political leader’, although another high office aspirant named in the article, Husain Haqqani, once conveyed that for all practical purposes, the army is a political party and hence its chief can be likened to a political leader. By the looks of it then, all three aspirants for promotion mentioned in the article, Qureshi, Haqqani and Ahmad Mukhtar, think that there is room at the top. And why not? The present incumbent is hardly a roaring success.

Those who have been in and around the PPP know that Qureshi has a high opinion of himself, perhaps because he believes that as modesty is a form of self-flattery, why conceal it? And it is true that Benazir Bhutto, as was also reported, found his antics irksome but only at first. Thereafter she viewed him not as a rival but as another, albeit well spoken, handyman.

Mr Qureshi was obviously pleased by his own performance in Washington and that the visit had managed to extract a new pledge for a further $ 2 billion (2012-2016) for the military. However, the US Congress has yet to sign off on it. And, hopefully, Mr Qureshi has read the small print invariably attached to the US’s munificence, namely, that it is conditional on Pakistan visiting, in so many words, mayhem on the Afghan Taliban in Pakistan.

But none of this bothered Mr Gilani, who lost no time in pointing out that the allocation of $ 2 billion that was making headlines here was, in fact, less than the amount that had already been spent in fighting the insurgents; in other words, that what Qureshi was claiming as a success was nothing of the sort. This unusual and pointed rebuff says much for the kind of sentiments the prime minister harbours for his fellow Multani. And who can blame him? Mr Qureshi is reputed to be extremely ambitious.

But what truly worried many here, and was the cause of much ire, was not Qureshi’s political daydreaming but the advice he rendered to the Iranian foreign minister, saying that Iran had no justification to pursue nuclear weapons because no one is threatening Iran and that, as Iran faces no immediate threat, Tehran should give up the idea of making nuclear weapons and instead grasp the olive branch that the US has extended.

Anyone — what to speak of a foreign minister — who is aware of the importance Iran attaches to acquiring the capability to enrich uranium and of Iranian sensitivities on the matter, and Pakistan’s need to steer clear of the controversy would have parried the question. Mr Qureshi, on the other hand, did the opposite. As a rule, in diplomacy, when one can say nothing, one should say nothing. But not, it seems, our would-be Metternich; he invariably says something when he should say nothing.

In any case, it hardly behoves a Pakistani leader to tell Iran whether or not it faces a threat or to insinuate that while we could steal and lie our way into manufacturing a bomb because of India, if Iran did the same — because of the threat it faces from the US and Israel — that would be inexcusable. It is amazing to what lengths our politicians go to please the US. But then, I suppose, it is all right on our part as Qureshi thinks that he has the army behind him and Allah too, given his semi-divine status in Multan. Therefore, all that remains to propel him into the top job is the US. To be fair, Qureshi, one hears, has denied that he said what was reported. Too late. Besides, no one believes him.

Pakistan, for some odd reason, has never grasped the importance of cultivating Iran either for our energy requirements or our Afghan policy. Sixty-three years on and there is not a single pipeline for oil and gas connecting resource-rich Iran to energy-starved Pakistan. And till recently, the two countries were fighting proxy wars for dominance in Afghanistan. Sadly, Iran’s relations with India are far better than those with Pakistan, and what has been the government’s response to rectify this deplorable state of affairs? To send Mr Abbassi, without a day’s experience in diplomacy or a mite’s knowledge of foreign affairs, to represent Pakistan in Tehran. In contrast, the Quaid-e-Azam and/or Liaquat Ali Khan sent Raja Ghazanfar Ali Khan, their close political confidante and a major figure in the Pakistan movement as our first envoy to Iran, demonstrating thereby the importance they attached to friendship with Iran. One is often asked why Pakistan is constantly stiff-arming Iran. Is it the Saudis to whom we are kowtowing? Is it the Americans who want us to keep them at arm’s length? One knows, of course, and the reasons are sordid.

Mr Qureshi can continue aspiring for ‘a bigger political role’ for himself, for all anyone cares. However, to remove the impression that his government cares a fig for Iran and may line up with Iran’s enemies, he might begin by nominating a respected and prominent Pakistani as Abbassi’s successor, or perhaps condescend to visit Iran. It might just make amends for decades of neglect and his alleged gaffe in Washington.

The writer is a former ambassador. He can be reached at

EDITORIAL: Unprincipled politics - Friday, October 29, 2010

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Speaking at a press conference in Peshawar, PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif has said that if the government did not end corruption, improve the law and order situation, arrest the price hike and implement Supreme Court judgements, change would become inevitable. When asked about the meeting between Federal Law Minister Babar Awan and PML-Q Punjab President Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, he said that morality and ethics should take precedence over politics. While it is correct that ethics are conspicuous by their absence from Pakistan’s politics, it is not just the PPP that has abandoned them; this phenomenon could be observed across the board in all political parties. Take, for instance, PML-N. While criticising the PPP for unprincipled politics, Mian Nawaz Sharif forgot his own brother Mian Shahbaz Sharif’s meeting with PML-Q’s information secretary Tariq Azeem to discuss the possibility of cooperation. Is shaking hands with those who ditched PML-N to ride on the coattails of a military dictator principled politics? It may be expedient for an opposition party to question the government’s performance and call it corrupt, but the stories of PML-N’s past and present corruption are part of urban legend and not very different from those of the PPP.

PPP’s overtures to PML-Q have raised dissenting voices within both parties, but in this game of politics of power, devoid of any guiding principles and ethics, the top leadership of both is perhaps looking to secure a better position. Ideologically, both parties are diametrically opposed to each other and no amount of explanation could wash away the stigma of abandoning principles to outdo your opponents, which was the hallmark of politics during the 1990s and which gave rise to evils such as horse-trading and floor-crossing. PML-N is obviously not happy because the coming together of the PPP and PML-Q may jeopardise its seat of power in the country’s biggest province, Punjab. This may be PPP’s counter-move to prevent the possibility of the unification of the different factions of the Muslim League, efforts for which are being led by Pir Pagara. A unified PML would be more difficult for PPP to deal with than its many factions. MQM, on the other hand, also seems wary, although the PPP has assured that it would remain a coalition partner.

The PPP-PML-Q meeting indicates a shifting political landscape. It cannot be said with certainty whether the system would be able to withstand a reshuffling of partners. For some months now, PML-N’s rhetoric has taken on a strident note, signalling a deviation from its previous posture of being a ‘friendly’ opposition. In the current atmosphere of wheeling and dealing of unscrupulous politics, the PPP and PML-N seem to be on the verge of parting ways. If that happens, the shifting of the political landscape will accelerate, in which every political actor would try to position himself according to the emerging situation. Regardless of which party joins or leaves the ruling coalition, such a change could destabilise the democratic edifice and is therefore not in the interest of the country. If the system does not survive till the next general elections, it would be a big victory for the undemocratic forces and strengthen the impression that politicians are incapable of running the country. If the polity continues down the path of its new configuration, it would leave ugly scars on the credibility of those who chant slogans for democracy but chase power in practice.

The whole edifice of democracy, which came into being after the 2008 elections, is shaking. It seems that our political parties have not learnt from the past, when undemocratic forces took advantage of the divisions among them. It is perhaps no longer possible to arrest the momentum of the process that has been set in motion. Let us keep our fingers crossed and hope that whatever the outcome, it does not undermine the interests of democracy, the people and the country. *

SECOND EDITORIAL: A historic win

The Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) elections on Wednesday saw Asma Jahangir win despite the fact that her opponents had started a maligning campaign against her. Ms Jahangir secured 834 votes while her main opponent Ahmed Awais got 796 votes. She has become the first woman president of the SCBA. Ms Jahangir’s victory was celebrated all across the country. Ms Jahangir is not just a leading light of the legal fraternity, she is one of the most vocal advocates of human rights, women’s rights, minority rights, democracy and justice.

One of the reasons for those opposing Ms Jahangir in the legal fraternity is because of her criticism of the bar and bench for getting embroiled in politics. After the successful movement led by the lawyers for the restoration of the judiciary, it was expected that the lawyers would go back to practicing law and the judiciary would work towards strengthening its institution. Instead, we saw them encroaching on the space of other state institutions, especially the executive. It was in this backdrop that the core leadership of the lawyers’ movement like Ali Ahmad Kurd, Munir A Malik, Justice (retd) Tariq Mehmood, etc, correctly distanced themselves from the restored judiciary. Except for Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan, Ms Jahangir was supported by all the leading lights of the lawyers’ movement. Mr Ahsan’s role was dubious in these SCBA elections because he surreptitiously supported Ahmed Awais. Ms Jahangir was accused of being the PPP’s candidate even though there is no truth to such allegations.

The judiciary’s newfound assertive activism has been a cause of concern and controversy lately, especially in the NRO and the 18th Amendment cases. The SCBA’s role during this time was also criticised since former president SCBA, Qazi Anwar, openly opposed the government and sided with the judiciary instead of remaining neutral, which is what is expected of any bar association. Some sections of the legal fraternity have tried to use the judiciary to destabilise the PPP government and some of the lawyers from the bars have been accused of trying to take advantage of their closeness to the restored judiciary. This may not be the judges’ fault, but the attitude of the bar was questionable. Qazi Anwar damaged the credibility of the SCBA by being partisan even though a bar is not supposed to be an appendage of the bench.

After her victory, Ms Jahangir asserted that she would not take dictation from anyone, be it the government or the judges. It is hoped that with Ms Jahangir’s victory, the bar would re-establish its independence and keep an appropriate distance from the bench. During her tenure, it is expected that the imbalance created by her predecessor would be done away with and the dignity of the bar restored. *

VIEW: Getting elected is not governing —Harlan Ullman - Thursday, October 28, 2010

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Barack Obama’s White House is a current manifestation of the triumph of electioneering over governing. Foreign policy is a sad example. The replacement of National Security Advisor General Jim Jones three weeks ago underscored the problem of making governing the highest priority

The American public is rightly outraged with and deeply cynical about Washington and its failure to govern. The dire economic conditions that seem immune to solution are painful and depressing with unemployment running above 9.5 percent for the past 15 months. While combat operations may have ended in Iraq, their government is fragile at best and still forming. Afghanistan has become Obama’s war and is far from over.

But the overriding reason for public discontent is not well understood even though it is hidden in plain sight. Politics in the US are no longer about providing good governance. Over the past decades, politics have deteriorated into a process of continuous campaigning in which the objective is to win election and re-election, not to govern and along the way to discredit and malign the opposition to the greatest extent possible.

The intense and mean-spirited partisanship in both Houses of Congress has become septic. In this environment, both parties have become dominated by extremes of left and right. Centrist and moderate are now politically pejorative terms. The rapid ascent of the Tea Party, to anyone of sense seems straight out of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and the Mad Hatter’s tea party will move the Republicans further to the right, possibly forcing the Democrats to become even more ideologically driven leftwards.

The long-term consequence has so much intermingled campaigning and governance that the latter has been overwhelmed and is missing in action. Being skilled in campaigning and electioneering does not automatically or usually carry over to governing. Indeed, the short-term, slogan-driven tactics of winning elections are often in irreconcilable conflict with governing.

Even more damaging, aides and advisors for the campaigning and winning election sides of politics are routinely brought aboard for governing. Often no matter how successful these people are in winning the election, many are under- or plainly unqualified for governing. And this poisonous combination allows and encourages campaign slogans and intuitive assertions useful in winning election to be translated into policy irrespective of the quality of those presumptions.

Barack Obama’s White House is a current manifestation of the triumph of electioneering over governing. Foreign policy is a sad example. The replacement of National Security Advisor General Jim Jones three weeks ago underscored the problem of making governing the highest priority.

Jones arrived with impeccable credentials. A former commandant of the Marine Corps with extensive experience in combat, military operations and the workings of Congress where he was a Pentagon liaison officer along with then Captain John McCain, Jones headed NATO’s military command in Europe. One of his responsibilities was overseeing NATO’s military operations in Afghanistan. Ironically, he was initially asked by Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld to take over Central Command after NATO until Bob Woodward’s previous book came out quoting Jones as telling General Pete Pace, then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, not to be a “parrot sitting on the secretary’s shoulder”. The offer of CENTCOM (US Central Command) was withdrawn. Jones was burned again as the White House — read president — was infuriated by statements attributed to the general in Woodward’s latest book Obama’s Wars.

What happened? As is well known, Obama brought to the White House much of his old campaign team that got him elected. Rahm Emanuel as chief of staff and Valerie Jarrett and David Axelrod as senior advisors have been closest to the president on virtually all issues. And others very close to the president such as Mark Lippert were given senior positions on the National Security Council staff — it took Jones considerable time to remove Lippert because the president regarded him as a younger brother. This youth and inexperience in foreign policy made this group known as the ‘kids’. And kids they were.

Worse, campaign promises to end the war in Iraq, emphasise Afghanistan and close Guantanamo became policy. There was no analysis or assessment of the consequences of each. The candidate made them ex cathedra and the administration implemented his pledges.

Jones had sounder views based on experience in Afghanistan, war and in NATO. However, he and the president never connected as prior successful national security advisors such as Henry Kissinger, Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft did with their presidents. As a result, governance was left to veterans of the campaign who were novices in that regard.

Obama’s foreign policy is in tatters. As Jones wrote in early 2008 attracting Obama’s attention, “Make no mistake: NATO is not winning in Afghanistan.” Iraq is unsettled, the Middle East peace process is stalemated, Iran is still pursuing a nuclear programme and the one real accomplishment — the new START nuclear arms treaty with Russia — has not been approved by the Senate yet.

The conclusion is self-evident. Success in campaigning is not synonymous with the ability to govern. But will we ever realise that and act accordingly?

The writer is Chairman of the Killowen Group that advises leaders of government and business, and Senior Advisor at Washington DC’s Atlantic Council

VIEW: Origins of racism —Ralph Shaw - Thursday, October 28, 2010

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Power translates prejudice into discrimination. Whereas prejudice is an attitude, a state of mind, a capacity for injustice, discrimination pertains to behaviour; it is the actual act of injustice and it cannot be realised without power

Contemporary science concurs with religion (Judeo-Christianity, Islam) in proclaiming that there is unity in human diversity. That all present-day human populations are descended from an ancient common stock is as much a modern scientific creed as it is a traditional religious belief. Scientists generally agree that physical differences in population groups have come about due to evolutionary factors such as geographical isolation, mutation, natural selection and hybridisation. Thus, if all modern humans, black and white included, descended from a common set of ancestors in antiquity, the concept of race loses much of its meaning. If a Nordic and a Negroid are cousins 200 generations removed, racial superiority of the one over the other has no validity.

However, even though the biological concept of race is out of vogue, the fact remains that race is real in a social sense and perceptions, whether grounded in reality or myth, have consequences — perceptions matter. If people believe that there are races and that their own is superior to the others, they are likely to act accordingly. A belief in human races can, under certain conditions, lead to prejudice, discrimination and apartheid. Racism is prejudice and discrimination based on race.

The factors that give rise to racism are complex and varied. Social scientists do not single out any specific set of processes that gives rise to racism. However, they do suggest that contact, social visibility, ethnocentrism, competition and power inequalities are the ingredients that give rise to racism.

People have always moved about. Wars, quest for adventure, greed, calamity and a host of other factors have brought people into contact with each other since time immemorial. Ever since man lost the abundance, happiness and contentment of paradise, he has been wandering about the globe. The earliest known contacts are those of humans with Neanderthals, with calamitous consequences for the latter. Neanderthals were either amalgamated or annihilated in this encounter, with annihilation being the greater possibility although no record exists of this prehistoric genocide. Thus, migration is the first step in the building of racial and ethnic prejudices. Without it racism would be unknown.

If the migrants are few in number, they generally escape group discrimination on account of lack of social visibility and, over time, are often amalgamated in the host population. However, if the immigrants are substantial in number and exhibit cultural traits such as language, accents, mannerisms, dress, food and habits that identify them as the members of a specific ethnic group, hostilities can arise over time. The case of the American Jews is illustrative.

The failed revolution of 1848 and the slump in European trade (1836) caused many Germans to move to the US. Around five percent of the arriving Germans were Jews. The Jewish population in the US jumped from 15,000 in 1840 to 150,000 in 1860 but the Jews did not face significant discrimination because they were still few in number, relatively speaking, and were socially invisible in American society. The prejudice they encountered at this early date was religious rather than racist. However, by the end of the 1870s, anti-Semitism was on the rise. This was partly due to the economic success of the German Jews. Economic success had given them greater visibility as well as a stereotype — the ‘quintessential parvenu’, i.e. an uncultivated, pushy, loud-mouthed upstart. Following Czar Alexander’s (II) assassination in 1881 by revolutionary terrorists, the Russian government started a large-scale persecution of the Jews, and Jewish immigration to the US skyrocketed. Increasing numbers and economic success gave them greater visibility. Prejudices started to intensify and racist theories began to be propounded nationwide throughout the 1880s and 1890s. During this phase of American history, other immigrant communities did not escape the bigotry of racism but Jews were the main recipients of prejudicial feelings because of their greater numbers and higher social visibility.

Ethnocentrism is belief in the superiority of one’s own ethnic group. A word coined by William Graham Sumner, ethnocentrism entails group glorification and the judging of other cultures by standards prevalent in one’s own culture. Ethnocentrism often, though not always, results in negative and prejudicial feelings towards the out-group. If one considers one’s own group as the best, others are automatically scaled down in ratings. Ethnocentrism is contagious. Established in one ethnic group, it tends to foster the same in other ethnic groups. The marvel of ethnocentrism is that one’s own group’s virtues become the other group’s vices. As one sociologist put it, if “the in-group hero (is) frugal, thrifty and sparing”, the out-group villain is “stingy, miserly and penny-pinching.” Hard work signifies industry in one’s own group but is a sign of asininity in the out-group.

Contact, social visibility and ethnocentrism are elementary in the making of racism but they do not necessarily give rise to racism by themselves. Even in the presence of these factors, there are known cases of communal adjustment and harmony. Competition for scarce resources is essential to racism. When the gains of one group can only happen at the expense of another, competition is the natural outcome. Inter-group competition inevitably begets prejudice and discrimination. The correlation between depression and prejudice against minorities is no accident. Unemployment intensifies the competition for jobs and hostility is generated by the frustrations of unemployment.

Power translates prejudice into discrimination. Whereas prejudice is an attitude, a state of mind, a capacity for injustice, discrimination pertains to behaviour; it is the actual act of injustice and it cannot be realised without power.

In short, when different groups of people meet and the numbers are substantial, racism develops if there is competition for scarce resources directed along ethnic lines and one group has the power to subordinate and impose its values, norms and preferences on others.

The writer is a freelance columnist. He can be reached at

EDITORIAL: A rosy report - Thursday, October 28, 2010

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The State Bank of Pakistan’s (SBP’s) Annual Report for the year 2009-2010, while assessing the damage done by the floods, presents a rosier picture of the future than may be extrapolated from the ground realities. The report has downgraded all the targets for FY 2010-2011. The growth rate has been reduced to 2-3 percent from 4.5 percent. The current account deficit has been projected at 3-4 percent while the fiscal deficit has been pinned at 5-6 percent, up from 3.5 and four percent respectively projected prior to the floods. The rate of inflation has been projected at 13.5-14.5 percent as opposed to the previous target of 9.5 percent. Given the substantial number of people affected and heavy damage by the floods, even these recast targets are achievable only if the government is able to make major changes in the way it is managing the economy and is able to pare surplus fat from its expenditures. That would indeed be a great achievement. However, it would be expecting too much from a government that is not ready to give up its lavish modus operandi.

Even while it has chastised the government for its excessive borrowing, the SBP report has not taken account of this fact while presenting its assessments. There is no sign that the government is seriously thinking of cutting down its expenses or rationalising the tax structure by taxing sectors so far not in the tax net. Rather, government expenses are on the rise and the borrowing unabated. Huge amounts of money are still being doled out from discretionary and secret funds by various ministries and officials using more than the number of vehicles allowed to them. SBP’s increase in the basic rate twice within two months had minimal impact in checking government borrowing, but has contributed to inflation and negatively affected the private sector’s ability to engage in economic activity. Unfortunately, the SBP finds itself helpless and cannot refuse the government’s irrational demands for more funds while the country’s economy is sinking.

The SBP’s estimates of inflation are also rather optimistic. By all available accounts, inflation is projected to be much higher than the estimates provided by the SBP. Already, the consumer price index for food and beverages during September has seen a rise of 21.24 percent in comparison with the same month last year, according to figures released by the Federal Bureau of Statistics. There has been a nearly 90 percent increase in prices of some of the basic food items within a short span of time. It may be attributed to disruption of supply lines due to floods. However, prices have not recovered and are expected to see a further rise in view of destruction of crops and fields and inflated costs of transportation due to upward revision of fuel prices.

Coming to the current account and fiscal deficits, the figures presented seem unrealistic given the stagnation of the economy post-floods. The SBP report has itself revised the imports figure upwards to $ 34-35 billion, an increase of 3-4 billion. To a large extent, the additional imports are expected to be flood-related, rather than representing growth in the economy, adding stress to the balance of payments. The somewhat understated figures of the SBP report may have allayed somewhat the feeling of doom and gloom, but for effective planning, a realistic assessment is needed. Also, it is reasonable to demand of the government to share with the public what changes it has made in the budget in view of the post-flood reconstruction and rehabilitation needs.

The SBP has indicated the areas the government needs to address if it is genuinely interested in a recovery of the economy. In addition to serious belt-tightening in terms of its expenses and managing of public sector entities, it will have to ensure a regular supply of electricity to consumers in order to stimulate industry and commerce as well as broaden the tax net to ensure better revenues. This is the minimum that is required to stay afloat. *

SECOND EDITORIAL: Corruption galore

Transparency International’s (TI) Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2010 has documented some rather foreboding statistics on Pakistan. Moving up the CPI to an unenviable position of 34 from being at number 42 in 2009, Pakistan stands as one of the more corruption riddled countries of a total of 178. These are harsh figures and for many they reflect the bitter reality. Compiled from a plethora of polls and surveys, taken by reputable and independent organisations, TI’s CPI is an annual charge sheet, one that is, at best, a fairly accurate listing. However, like all things based on independently gathered surveys and inspections, there can be no way to fully substantiate TI’s claims. What lends the CPI more credibility, however, is the fact that public perception is in line with the findings. Over the last two and a half years, the masses in Pakistan have been greatly disillusioned by the incumbents because of the alleged rampant corruption the government has been indulging in since it came into power. For the CPI to show that Pakistan has gotten even more corrupt in the last year has come as no big surprise therefore.

Corruption in Pakistan has become the stuff of urban legend, so ingrained is it in the very structure of all institutions in the country. From Ziaul Haq onwards, the idea of seeking public office for private gain seems to have gained increased momentum with each successive government, whether military or civilian. As if military governments were not corrupt enough, it seems that the slogan of democracy has been reduced to a convenient or even only means for the fulfilment of this naked desire. Irrespective of the political divide, corruption has permeated into all segments of the government’s institutions and has oozed into the very fabric of Pakistani society. If the guardians of our national resources themselves indulge in rampant corruption to the point that they make a major contribution to the ‘promotion’ of Pakistan up the CPI scale, then it must be asked: who will guard the guardians?

Although the situation looks dire, it may not be too late. Such reportss ought to serve as a wakeup call for the development of an accountability process that is non-partisan and credible in nature, one that is not informed by political victimisation. It must be a process that brings corrupt officials to book so that examples are set. Only when the high and mighty are dealt with in an exemplary manner will this trend start receding. *

PENSIEVE: Roots of Indian rage —Farrukh Khan Pitafi - Thursday, October 28, 2010

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Bush was not only popular because he was friendly towards India and signed a nuclear deal, but also because his government ended Pakistan’s flawed policy in Afghanistan. While the policy was flawed, the reason for jubilation was clearly imperial in nature: India wanted its own footprint in Afghanistan

It is clear that in his upcoming itinerary to our region President Obama will not come to Pakistan. Evidently our country is in a league of its own, not a place where you pay surprise visits like Afghanistan, nor a country where you feel comfortable enough to take out time for an elaborate scheduled visit. But for a moment let me focus on his chosen people — the Indians. It is astounding that when the then Senator Barack Hussein Obama was running for the presidency with statements bashing Pakistan and supporting India, his Indian colleagues were rooting for the Republicans. Intriguingly, when he was elected to the presidency his transition choice for intelligence was Bruce Riedel, someone with such clear sympathies with the Indians that during the Blair House meeting following the Kargil crisis, President Clinton did not want to lose sight of him while meeting Nawaz Sharif. I think it can be clearly deduced from the current state of affairs that his contribution actually thwarted the efforts in Afghanistan. And how much will be visible in the following lines.

Currently I am reading a book from the New York Times’ bestseller list called The Roots of Obama’s Rage by Dinesh D’Souza. As evident from his name the author is of Indian origin. I am still not finished with the book hence will reserve my final judgement until the end, yet it cannot be denied that the author or the tome do not harbour any malice against Obama. Reading between the lines and often perverting their meaning, D’Souza, while using Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, wants us to believe that the US president’s upbringing and worldview are to blame for the present mess we all are in. Why would he not say that for he is the one who tried his level best to ruin the prospects of the then presidential nominee Obama by dragging the issue of his impoverished half-brother George Obama’s hut into the media coverage of the campaign.

The choice of the book’s title is curious too because it has an uncanny resemblance with Bernard Lewis’s article ‘The Roots of Muslim Rage’ that appeared in The Atlantic magazine’s September 1990 issue. While Lewis is known for his intellectual hostility towards Muslims, this article of his is known for its role in building a case for the clash of civilisations and identifying the Muslim world as the next enemy after the Soviet Union. Not only did he coin and use the phrase ‘clash of civilisations’ before Samuel Huntington, the article’s subtitle reads, ‘Why so many Muslims deeply resent the West, and why their bitterness will not easily be mollified’. Guess what. I am a Muslim and I do not resent the west. In contrast actually, like my uncountable peers, I believe that if we want to progress we will have to follow the west’s example. But that is beside the point. Samuel Huntington further developed the thesis into a full-fledged argument in support of a clash. Ironically after building his thesis on Toynbee’s definition of western civilisation, Huntington died after writing a book called Who Are We? The Challenges to America’s National Identity, in which he reduced the national identity of the US to the White Anglo-Saxon Protestants (WASPs).

D’Souza’s book, like Lewis’ article, smacks of racism. While identifying with Obama’s origins at the outset to show he is not racist, D’Souza bulldozes the president’s worldview with the typical racist approach of calling it anti-imperialist. Yet the author is of course a known conservative and despite third world origins is entitled to his share of hostility towards the US president. But if looked at closely, this seems an outcome of D’Souza’s country of origin. After all, George W Bush invoked India’s example; where in his own words he was popular. In my humble view, quite contrary to all known laws of physics, if Bush was popular there then Obama is unpopular. What does this explain? A bonding with the neoconservatives? It seems that somehow during the Bush era and especially the days spent under the BJP rule, India lost touch with Gandhi and Nehru’s secularism. Bush, it must be pointed out, was not only popular because he was friendly towards India, and signed a nuclear deal, but also because his government ended Pakistan’s flawed policy in Afghanistan. While the policy was flawed, the reason for jubilation was clearly imperial in nature: India wanted its own footprint in Afghanistan. And from there the admiration grew into the typical Muslim-bashing and support for Bush.

Of course it did not help that the country was under the BJP’s rule at that time. During the BJP’s time, an extremist monster was unleashed — that of racism. Consider this quote from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) bible, We or Our Nationhood Defined by M S Golwalkar: “To keep up the purity of its race and culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the Semitic races — the Jews. Race pride at its highest has been manifested here...a good lesson for us in Hindustan to learn and profit by.” What do you say to that, eh? So D’Souza’s belligerence is a product of the phenomenon of radicalisation taking place in his country. Today even the seculars in India are held hostage by the radicals and Muslims who do not marry in Hindu families have a lesser chance of upward mobility.

Obama of course is not very popular in Pakistan either. One of the reasons is that the Laal Mosque brigade kept alleging that he had proposed bombing of the holy shrines at Makkah and Medina. Nonsense of course, even though effective. But slowly the propaganda is bound to grow weak. And of course I do not condone the hypocrisy of the US-bashers in this country. If we seek aid we should be thankful too. But the focus of this piece is India, not Pakistan, and I want to emphasise a few crucial points here.

I have been repeatedly asking myself why India is not ready to talk to Pakistan and why the Indian establishment appears so wary of the Obama administration. And also the moment I write a note even in praise of India I am inundated in minutes with hate mail from Indians. I think you will find some explanations in this piece. If Indians do not want to correct their direction, it is their lookout.

The writer is an independent columnist and a talk show host. He can be reached at

VIEW: Funding Pakistan’s jihad —Ali K Chishti - Wednesday, October 27, 2010

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While it may be true that over the years the militants have developed a vast and effective network for raising funds by taking as much as a rupee from a poor man to millions from the rich, donations are pouring in for jihad from every segment of society

All the commitment and fanaticism notwithstanding, terrorist operations cannot be run without funds. Funds for jihad are required for procuring weapons, financing training camps, providing logistical support, compensating the families of jihadis, paying instructors and also the wide networks of agents and running recruitment offices.

During the Afghan war, western governments were a major source of funding and weapons for the groups engaged in taking on the Soviet occupation army in Afghanistan. Much of these funds came from covert accounts of the states funding the Afghans. Islamic countries also poured in billions of dollars into the coffers of the jihadi groups. While the role of Saudi Arabia has been limited to the provision of funds to the Islamist and jihadi organisations, the Kingdom, to this day, is the biggest source of official and private funding to Islamist and jihadist organisations in Pakistan, and it is to their credit that certain Deobandi and Ahle-Hadith extremist organisations became so powerful with the growth in their size.

One also has to see the Saudi financial support to Deobandi organisations in the context of the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran post the Iranian revolution where both these countries had supported militant sectarian organisations to organise attacks and counter-attacks on each other’s sects and fought a proxy war inside Pakistan.

So open was Saudi support to Sipah-e-Sahaba (now the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Jundullah) that the Saudi government, in 2000, gave out Rs 17 million to fund hardcore militant madrassas in Jhang alone. Another Saudi charity, called the International Islamic Relief Organisation (IIRO), is an affiliate of the Saudi welfare organisation, Rabita Alam-e-Islami, which in turn helped to set up the Rabita Trust in Pakistan that was banned after 9/11 because of a strong bin Laden connection. The most interesting aspect of the Trust was that its chairman was none other than General Pervez Musharraf, the chief of army staff. To save embarrassment to a close ally, a state department official said, “We do not think the prominent people who have their names on it were aware of the infiltration.”

In fact, so murky is the source of funds coming from Saudi Arabia that the leader of Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, Maulana Fazlur Rahman Khalil said, “The US had instructed, through Rabita Alam-e-Islami that we should initiate jihad in the Chinese province of Xinjiang, to which I replied that we have grown up now. We do not do jihad at your bidding.”

Lashkar-e-Tayyaba’s (LeT’s) parent organisation, the Dawat wal Irshad, initially also attracted the sympathy of certain Arab donors interested in purifying Islam in the subcontinent, which is considered to have been tainted by the influence of Hinduism. In fact, one such Saudi donor, Abu Abdul Aziz, who invested millions of dollars on LeT, LeJ and various jihadi organisations, even donated Rs 10 million to make a mosque at Markaz-e-Dawa’s headquarters.

And while it may be true that over the years the militants have developed a vast and effective network for raising funds by taking as much as a rupee from a poor man to millions from the rich, donations are pouring in for jihad from every segment of society. And while many jihadi organisations collect sacrificial hides to raise funds, many have started raising their capital from publishing magazines to even the property business, and now, as a jihadi told me sheepishly, “the national disaster business”. In a report published by the Aga Khan Development Network in 1998, approximately 50 percent of Pakistanis gave an estimated amount of Rs 770 billion in money, goods and time, of which 90 percent of the surveyed donors cited religious faith as the motivation for giving.

If all this foreign and local funding were not enough, the Pakistani government gives out an estimated Rs 20-35 billion in grants to madrassas and jihadi movements indirectly from government resources like zakat or iqra funds. Another funding source after the crackdown on Saudi sources and tighter monetary controls is the Afghan Transit Trade, which is a cash cow for jihadis and certain rogue establishment actors who exploit the trade for procuring weapons and narcotics smuggling, earning millions of dollars to be funnelled into proxy wars from Afghanistan to Pakistan. There was a reason why the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) offered $ 10 million to replace American aid. The hundi trade is another source that is ‘welcomed’ by the State Bank of Pakistan, as it has, over the years, been buying billions of dollars to shore up its balance of payment positions. The hundi trade helps launder money for jihadis but in the land of the pure, jihad is used as a weapon to further our so-called strategic plans.

Even after 9/11, much of what is happening inside the tribal belt is a bit of a charade. In fact, what earlier used to be taking place openly has now been pushed behind the curtain, otherwise it is business as usual. Every time the Americans start getting impatient, the Pakistanis make a show of launching an operation in the tribal belt. There are arrests of Afghan and Arab jihadis or the killings of certain individuals until everything returns to normal. One big reason why our own Pakistani government will never really close the funding source and cut the roots of jihadis is because doing so would have a direct impact on the various jihads it is involved with to suit certain foreign policy goals. Moreover, by shutting down these rackets, the Pakistani state will lose an important leverage over deciding affairs inside Afghanistan. Often, the Pakistani state has used smuggling as a carrot for the various Afghan warlords and agents, and in return has managed to get them to do Pakistan’s bidding inside Afghanistan. This currency of power will be lost if Pakistan were to curb the illegal rackets. But, in the process of taking action on this trade, what will happen is that the Pakistani state will try to regain total and complete control over this trade, something it was gradually losing out on with the increasing privatisation of jihad.

The writer is a political analyst. He can be reached at

COMMENT: Western Muslims: the politics of cultural critique —Ahmad Ali Khalid - Wednesday, October 27, 2010

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The clash of civilisations was just too simplistic. Our globalised world is so much more complicated, sophisticated and chaotic than that childish model Huntington passed off as scholarship. This current process of cultural synergy has produced a great period of questioning and soul searching

If the clash of civilisation is true, then western Muslims are caught in no man’s land, caught in between the feuding, fighting and mistrust. Though I cannot hope to speak for all my co-religionists living in the US and Europe, I have to say I feel that western Muslims are not only accused of being an inside menace in European and American societies (mostly by right wing and conservative demagogues), we are also suspected of being religiously and culturally inauthentic by some of our co-religionists back home. We evoke perhaps the most passionate of responses from any of these constituencies. Why? Because we are (or we should be) the natural bridge builders. We buy neither the polemical, half-baked narratives of right wing neo-cons nor the deadly and seductive slogans of fundamentalism.

We are caught between a rock and a hard place. Edward Said emphasised in his book Representations of the Intellectual this concept of the ‘liminal intellectual’ who is at once both an insider and outsider, privy to several points of view: “Because the exile sees things both in terms of what has been left behind and what is actual here and now, there is a double perspective that never sees things in isolation. Every scene or situation in the new country necessarily draws on its counterpart in the old country.”

If that is true, then the western Muslim is the ‘liminal believer’ – caught between what appear to be several existential positions, grafting and struggling between the intensity of the polemic, conflict and mistrust, trying to construct something both meaningful and beautiful, a synergy between all the components of our own beings.

But I would not want it any other way. Western Muslims occupy that most precious of niches in today’s world of polarisation and polemic. We occupy that space which allows us precious insight into multiple vantage points. It allows us to maintain a critical distance and construct our own narratives of peace, pluralism, diversity and a cosmopolitan universalism.

It is this act of simultaneous cultural critique that western Muslims can undertake that is crucial. The ability to switch, go between and enter into new social environments, instantly aware of the mental and psychological framework can make for a deep and sustained cultural critique. In time, the critique should be able to reach a level of such maturity that we should realise that this arbitrary division between ‘Islam’ and the ‘West’ is meaningless. That there is just too much complexity, subtlety and intricacy involved simply to reduce the whole discussion to two mutually reinforcing labels. For the sake of ease we use these labels, but as categories of thought and discussion they make little sense.

The identity western Muslims have as citizens of the UK (or any other western country) and the children of Muslim majority countries and cultures is just that. It is a transnational vocation, the occupation of a space which is the envy of the world. It is this precarious position, a shade of grey in the midst of the current kaleidoscope of conflict. Our identity or sense of communal loyalty becomes irrelevant to the extent a sophisticated global cosmopolitanism can take its place, which is at ease with uncertainty sewing fresher narratives from the opulent cloth of ambiguity.

We occupy a niche, a critical niche where we can pass observations on numerous societies and communities based on personal experience and empathy, which in itself is an elusive combination. Our being in the diaspora should not be a slave to the polemical debates on identity and culture, rather we can elevate the debates. We are the exception to the convoluted rules of the ideologies and bigots on all sides. We can be Muslim, European/American, Pakistani and what else there is that makes up our existence, moulding all these identities into something coherent and momentous. We may be exiles to a certain extent but we should be proud of this human condition, for it allows for synthesis, dynamism, innovation and a constant fusion of cultures, histories, experiences and ideas.

The clash of civilisations was just too simplistic. Our globalised world is so much more complicated, sophisticated and chaotic than that childish model Huntington passed off as scholarship. This current process of cultural synergy has produced a great period of questioning and soul searching. Some have no doubt retreated to the easy stereotypes and yielded to the seduction of easy certainty associated with fundamentalism. But others cannot in good conscience accept such shallow certitude. Deep questions deserve deep answers.

Hamza Yusuf, the influential Muslim reformist cleric in the States, summed it up well in the recentl ‘Rethinking Islamic Reform’ event hosted by the Oxford Islamic Society: “What’s happening now as you get this extraordinary post-modern environment that we’re in now; where the internet has opened up extraordinary exchange of ideas and you have many, many Muslims who have migrated to the West, have imbibed western liberalism, have imbibed many of the concepts of the West. They’re struggling. There is a lot of soul-searching going on.”

But Hamza Yusuf also spelled out what is at stake for the Muslim presence in the West:

“This is an immense opportunity, but it’s also a crisis, and we know that in the Chinese, one ideogram means both crisis and opportunity. It’s a crisis if we don’t somehow come to terms with the fact that Muslims do not have the intellectual tools to navigate their religion in uncharted waters, such as these that you are in now. If these tools are not presented in an intelligent way, that’s rooted and founded in the Islamic tradition, then we have a very serious problem.”

The great hurdle for cultural exchange for western Muslims is to somehow communicate their discourse of reformist thinking and intellectual dissent to domestic reformists in Muslim majority countries, as Professor Abdulaziz Sachedina points out: “There is much evidence to show that Muslim dissident scholarship in western languages remains inaccessible to the native intellectuals who can rethink Islamic theology and reinterpret Islamic juridical tradition by applying modern methodologies to the study of Islam.”

The challenge of travailing and engaging multiple communities, dialoguing with different social and cultural contexts whilst remaining faithful citizens and faithful believers, balancing the constraints and responsibilities of active human agents in different worlds is an awesome task, fraught with pitfalls but with the rewards immense.

The writer is a student at the Royal Grammar School, Newcastle Upon Tyne, England. He can be reached at

WASHINGTON DIARY: Spare the rod, spoil the child —Dr Manzur Ejaz & —Waris Husain - Wednesday, October 27, 2010

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In the modern era, the dominant socio-political force has been the army, which has presented itself as not only the parent of the Pakistani people, but as steward of the democratically elected state

Both of our fathers never beat us as children; both respected the essence of the child and found it wiser to explain the repercussions of their children’s actions verbally rather than through physical abuse. For that reason, it is likely that this pattern will continue through our lineage, as the example set by their forefathers will be followed. However, there is a remarkable cycle of violence that is created when a parent uses violence against his child. The child loses his own sense of independence when he is beaten, and when that child grows up, he/she brutalises his/her own offspring, partly to regain the power they once lost. There is a similar paternalistic understanding of politics, especially in South Asia, which is built on the relationship of the state being a parent to its citizens or ‘children’. If one looks at Pakistan, both the ruling elite and the army abuse their ‘children’ due to some emasculation or repressed anger from their own past.
Historical patterns are similar to parental cycles: if the repressed groups gain power, they try to pay their oppressors in the same coin. Pakistani, more specifically Punjabi, hatred towards India has a similar origin.
When the oppressed castes and classes of the peasantry saw Muslim conquerors, they believed they would attain respectability, enhance their socio-economic status, and get even with the ruling elite by converting to Islam. However, unfortunately, the conversion did nothing for them because the foreign conquers treated them just the way the other lowly people were treated. Muslim rulers preferred the immigrants from Afghanistan, Iran and Central Asia for state jobs and other economic functions.
When the Muslim rulers of India needed local cooperation, they embraced the higher castes of Hindus, not the Muslim converts. Foreigners and privileged sections of Hindus (or converted Muslims) kept ruling for 800 years during Muslim rule in India while the converted lower caste of Muslims experienced no change in their lifestyle. It was only after the creation of Pakistan that these repressed Muslim masses gained the status they had been craving for thousands of years. This may be one of the fundamental reasons of intense Punjabi hatred towards India and some of its own people.
Furthermore, it is also a bitter historical reality that the ‘oppressed’ transforms himself into the ‘oppressor’ if given a chance. Therefore, the newly gentrified Muslims of Punjab emulated the method of their long-term oppressors, the upper castes. They did this with the development of Punjab at the cost of others and through nepotism in government jobs and elected positions awarding preference to their biradari (community). This has created the vast socio-political disparity between Punjabis and all others, and depicts the picture of the ruling elite beating their children, or the citizens they are supposed to represent.
In the modern era, the dominant socio-political force has been the army, which has presented itself as not only the parent of the Pakistani people, but as steward of the democratically elected state. This is evidenced by the presumption each civilian administration acknowledges when taking power: if the army thinks things have ‘gotten out of hand’ they will pull the plug and a coup will proceed. Even in the current climate, after the demise of the military dictatorships of Khan, Haq, and Musharraf — the army continues to suggest that it will intervene through a ‘constitutional coup’ if Zardari cannot deliver.
General Kayani stated this definition of the army when he admitted to it being ‘India-centric’ while Pakistan was fighting for its life against its own internal forces, namely international terrorism and religious extremism. The India-centrism has resulted in hundreds of thousands of troops being stationed on the border with India, while an insurgency is mounting force in North Waziristan ready to choke the nation. This has amounted to corporal punishment to the common public who is now subject to suicide attacks, which were a foreign concept a decade ago in the country.
The great abuse against the public is that all the objectives of the Pakistani Army relate to the wars in which Pakistan was defeated, at least nominally, by its Indian counterparts. Add to this the impact of India’s economy and cultural sway over the rest of the world and its relative stability in comparison to Pakistan. This is not to say that India served as a ‘beating parent’ to Pakistan as a child, but rather it represents the root of the psychic repressed anger in the army, which it unleashes on the public. One can look to the religious reforms and the importation of Wahabiism by Ziaul Haq, which laid the foundation for a hospitable environment for extremism and terrorism, as another example of the state doling out corporal punishment to its citizens.
A child who grows up being beaten by his father, will likely strike his children to reclaim the part of him that was lost in his upbringing. In the application to countries, one can see the inescapable cycle of violence that plays out when the parent — state — feels a repressed anger at a third party that inspires it to beat its children, whether through resource-hording or religious indoctrination.
However, to look at real world examples, there are some who are enlightened enough to break the cycle of violence. My father — Manzur Ejaz — was severely beaten by his family as a child, and vowed to never treat his children in the same manner. Such a change in the government would revolutionise both the army and the ruling elite in Pakistan; if they respected the essence and will of their ‘children’ or the people of the nation and fostered their growth rather than exposing them to undeserved violence.

Dr Manzur Ejaz can be reached at

COMMENT: The 18th Amendment case —Munir Attaullah - Wednesday, October 27, 2010

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As a nation, we are being asked to revisit that ancient philosophical dilemma whether the ends justify the means adopted. Is this a novel version of the ‘doctrine of necessity’?

A week ago, the Supreme Court (SC), after months of intensive hearings, passed an interim order in the above case that took everyone by complete surprise. The court decided to refer back to parliament for reconsideration — with its own recommendations thrown in — the constitutional amendment passed by parliament relating to the procedure for the appointment of the higher judiciary.
Meanwhile, it left open the question whether this provision (and many other changes to the constitution made by the 18th Amendment that were also under challenge by various petitioners) should now indeed be validly considered as part of the constitution. In its own words, “The court at this stage would not like to express its opinion on the merits of the issues raised...and would rather, in the first instance, defer to the Parliamentary opinion qua Article 175-A on reconsideration by it in terms of this order. We would thereafter decide on all these petitions.” The date for this ‘thereafter’ has been set for the last week of coming January.
As far as I could tell, everyone appeared to find sufficient comfort for their own point of view in some part or the other of the order to welcome the decision. For the government, and other critics of judicial activism, the court’s observation that the amendment must be deemed to have come into effect and, pending the parliamentary review, upcoming vacancies will be filled as per the procedure spelt out in the amendment, was seen as upholding parliament’s right to amend the constitution. As for that dubious argument that parliament cannot alter the ‘basic structure’ of the constitution through an amendment, there was a reassuring observation: “...the Court did not deem it proper to make it a touchstone to strike down a constitutional provision”.
Meanwhile, the petitioners, though a little disappointed, took heart from the fact that the court, by postponing its decision on merits for a few months, has not rejected outright their objections to the amendment. They can still hope for a favourable decision eventually. As for the more neutral observers, they have praised the court for wisely giving parliament another chance which, if acted upon to the satisfaction of the court, will largely take away the basis for a fundamental disagreement between two pillars of state on an important issue of principle. All in all, the short order seemed a masterly effort at a win-win solution to a thorny problem, right?
No, I don’t think so. Maybe I am alone (though I doubt it) in finding the order wholly unsatisfactory, so I had better give you the reasons that force me to draw that conclusion.
Let us start by asking what might happen should parliament, after due reconsideration, still decides the procedure it laid down in Article 175-A will remain unchanged. After all, as far as I can tell, parliament is not even duty-bound to consider the court’s recommendations (though wisdom requires the honour and dignity of the court be maintained by never ever openly voicing such a thought), let alone treat them as binding (or, will someone tell me the court’s recommendations are indeed binding?). Then what? Will that be the end of the matter? Do not bet on it. Certainly, in my reading of it (and I hope I am wrong) the judgement powerfully hints at otherwise.
Once again, it would appear that the only way of avoiding ‘the clash of institutions’ everyone talks about and dreads is to simply defer to the wishes of the SC without further ado. Everyone recommends that. But there is another side to this story that concerns me. No one questions whether it is indeed constitutionally proper for the court to be demanding from others what it repeatedly asks them to do.
In this particular instance, for example, let us remember two important considerations. Firstly, Article 175-A is a near consensual constitutional amendment, enacted by the political sovereign after lengthy deliberations and consultations. Secondly, there is that not unimportant little matter of Article 239, clauses (5) and (6). To remind readers for the umpteenth tedious time, the former states that, “No amendment of the constitution will be called in question in any court on any grounds whatsoever,” while the latter states: “For the removal of doubt it is hereby declared there is no limitation whatever on the power of parliament to amend any of the provisions of the constitution.”
Could anything be more firmly, unambiguously, and categorically stated, in the simplest and clearest of words? Before any arguments are heard in any court on the merits of any case, the first question to be decided is one of jurisdiction (that is, is the court competent and authorised to hear the case). I at least have not understood how then, given clause (5), the SC saw fit to hear the case in the first place. In my opinion, it had no jurisdiction.
Is it possible to sidestep clause (5) through a liberal and loose interpretation of some other general constitutional provision? I do not think so. For, there are two well established and sound principles of legal interpretation that would preclude such an effort. The first principle is to prefer the obvious meaning over the convoluted of anything clearly and unambiguously stated. The second principle is that a specific and clear provision has precedence over a general one in case of a perceived conflict between the two.
As for the merits of the petitions challenging Article 175-A, clause (6), and the other arguments just adduced, would also seem to lead to the conclusion that the SC should have summarily dismissed the petitions in the first place.
But it has not done so, presumably for reasons that the Hon’ble judges consider legally and otherwise good enough to override all what I have said above. Whether you buy my arguments or not, you will at least have to admit that the SC has adopted a course that is highly controversial legally. In doing so, could it be it is motivated by some honourable and higher notions of acting in the best ‘national interest’? I do not know.
What I do know is that in doing so the Hon’ble Court has controversially ended up putting on the spot many a power circle that has its own turf to protect. As a nation, we are being asked to revisit that ancient philosophical dilemma whether the ends justify the means adopted. Is this a novel version of the ‘doctrine of necessity’? And let us not pretend that all will be well in this blessed land if only we would let the SC be the final arbiter of all contentious issues. When elephants clash the only certain outcome is that the grass gets trampled.

The writer is a businessman. A selection of his columns is now available in book form. Visit

EDITORIAL: Barbaric attack on Sufism - Wednesday, October 27, 2010

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A bomb blast at the shrine of Hazrat Baba Farid Ganj Shakar in Pakpattan has left seven people dead and 14 injured. Two unidentified men left a motorcycle carrying milk canisters outside the gate of the shrine while devotees were offering Fajr prayers, which then exploded. Hazrat Baba Farid Ganj Shakar, more commonly referred to as Baba Farid by his devotees, was a Sufi saint from the subcontinent. He is recognised as one of the first major poets of the Punjabi language. One of Baba Farid’s greatest contributions to Punjabi literature was the development of the language for literary purposes.
The attack on the shrine of Baba Farid once again speaks volumes about the shortcomings of our security apparatus. As Daily Times reported on October 25, there were intelligence reports that shrines across Punjab were at risk of terrorist attacks and lacked adequate security arrangements. There are two police pickets along the market on either side of the road leading up to Baba Farid’s shrine. How two men on a motorcycle carrying canisters made it to the main gate of the shrine and then left the motorcycle primed to explode is beyond comprehension. The declaration by district police officer (DPO) Pakpattan Muhammad Kashif that 30 policemen had been deputed at the shrine only makes matters worse. The icing on the cake is the 14 newly installed CCTV cameras at the shrine, which according to media reports are non-operational. Police officials across Pakistan tend to ‘beef up’ security arrangements at all shrines after a terrorist attack but fail to take pre-emptive action on intelligence reports.
Although no group has taken responsibility, judging by the recent pattern of bomb blasts at Sufi shrines, the responsibility for the attack on Baba Farid’s shrine will not land too far away from the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan’s (TTP’s) door. Previously, the TTP has attacked shrines all across Pakistan. Before this attack the TTP targeted a mosque and shrine in Landi Kotal tehsil, a Sufi saint’s shrine in Jhal Magsi district, and Rehman Baba and Mian Umar Baba’s shrines in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The TTP also claimed responsibility for the suicide attack on Data Darbar in Lahore, but retracted this claim later. Just 20 days ago the TTP, in a twin suicide attack, killed 10 and injured 70 people at the shrine of Sufi saint Abdullah Shah Ghazi in Karachi. This begs the question: why attack Sufi shrines? Sufism is the single greatest threat to the Taliban and their hardline ideology of jihad. It teaches love and tolerance. It is inclusive by nature and welcomes all, irrespective of religion, caste or creed. In the subcontinent, Sufism is credited with spreading the message of Islam, i.e. love and interfaith tolerance. Baba Farid was a pillar of Sufism in the subcontinent. He is revered by not just Muslims and Hindus but also by Sikhs. He is considered to be one of the 15 Sikh Bhagats within Sikhism and parts of his work can be found in the sacred Sikh scripture, Guru Granth Sahib. In contrast, the Taliban use violence to impose their strict jihadist views on everyone.
Given that the vast majority of people in the region adhere to Sufism and not the hardline views espoused by the Taliban, these attempts by terrorists to create a sectarian divide by attacking Sufi shrines will only unite the sects and masses further. In the words of Baba Farid, “Farîdâ bhumi rangâvalî manjhi visûlâ bâg” (Farid, this world is beautiful, but there is a thorny garden within it). The love of Sufism will eventually overcome the hate of terrorism. *

SECOND EDITORIAL: Sleeping with the enemy

Politics makes strange bedfellows, especially in Pakistan. Federal Law Minister Babar Awan and PML-Q’s leader Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi met on Monday and agreed to strengthen democracy. It was interesting to see the PPP extending a hand of friendship to the PML-Q, considering that this is the same party the PPP leadership labelled as the ‘Qatil’ (murderer) League after Benazir Bhutto’s assassination. Babar Awan said, “There is no place for arrogance in politics,” thereby attempting to justify the move. Perhaps the word ‘arrogance’ should be replaced with ‘principles’.
The political landscape in Pakistan is so complex that it is not unusual to see radical political shifts. The PPP’s olive branch to the PML-Q could be for a number of objectives. There could be apprehensions in PPP circles that the MQM may prove an unreliable ally again, which could arguably lead to an in-house change. As an insurance policy, the PPP now seems to be warming up to the PML-Q. Talk of an in-house change has been rife since the initiation of moves to unify the Muslim League by veteran politician Pir Pagara. Whether these moves will be successful remains to be seen, considering that the most powerful Muslim League faction, the Nawaz League, is averse to the idea. The PPP wants to nip this move in the bud and is thus making its own strategy to thwart this plan. In the National Assembly, in a house that should be 342, but is at present at a strength of 339, the PPP has 126 seats, the PML-N 90, PML-Q 53, MQM 25, ANP 13, while there are 17 independents and a handful of seats belong to the MMA, PML-F, BNP-A, PPP-S and NPP. If the MQM leaves the coalition at the Centre, the PML-Q could conceivably replace it and help keep the coalition government intact. The real test though, would come in the Punjab Assembly where the PPP is in coalition with the PML-N. In a house of 371, the PPP has 107 seats while the PML-Q has 85 seats. The PML-N has 170 seats. We have already seen what happened when the PPP imposed Governor’s rule in Punjab, which turned out to be a great misadventure and an eventual embarrassment for the PPP. If the PPP withdraws from its coalition with the Sharifs in Punjab and opts for the Chaudhries instead, it would be possible to oust the PML-N provincial government. But the PPP must keep a few things in mind before going on another (mis)adventure.
Within the parameters of the constitution and democracy, an in-house change is permitted, provided no horse-trading takes place. The political fallout of trying to form an alliance with the PML-Q can be negative if it fails to materialise or is short-lived. Any move for an in-house change in Punjab would invite the inevitable PML-N retaliation. It would likely redouble its efforts to bring down the federal government in turn. As for the MQM, the argument still holds that keeping them close to your chest is better than alienating them, in the interests of preventing the situation in Sindh going from bad to worse. Thus, it would be wise for the PPP to exercise some caution. Destabilisation in Punjab may set off ripples of destabilisation in Sindh and the Centre, arguably threatening the whole democratic edifice. *