Tag Archive | "pakistan"

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Success of Talks is the Priority

Posted on 17 February 2010 by .

Developing countries have in parochialism a menace, which disrupts normal life. A small number of people take the law into their hands and whip up frenzy by playing on divisive and communal sentiments. They not only mar the rhythm of development but also weaken the nation’s cohesion.

The Shiv Sena in Mumbai is one such organisation, which feels proud in sowing the seeds of separation. Its followers are like the Taliban, less violent but equally fanatical. They have adopted Marathi, one of India’s 14 main languages, to push their agenda for a distinct identity. They openly preach Hindutva.

Shiv Sena activists tear a poster of Bollywood actor Shahrukh Khan’s latest movie ‘My Name is Khan’, outside Khan’s residence in Mumbai. — AP

Therefore it was not surprising when it picked on a Muslim for attacks, which were until then confined to north Indians. The Shiv Sena asked Indian cinema’s leading star, Shah Rukh Khan, to apologize for supporting Pakistani cricket players. He had regretted their absence from the Indian Premier League and wished they could have participated.

Shah Rukh stood his ground and rebuffed the Shiv Sena by not showing any regret over his remarks. He had the support of the entire nation. A TV survey showed that 94 per cent of respondents backed him. Of course, the depressing part was the silence of most actors who were expected to speak out in favour of Shah Rukh. I was not surprised by the silence of Amitabh Bachchan. He traveled all the way to Ahmedabad to show his movie to Chief Minister Narendra Modi of the Gujarat carnage fame.

Why the Maharashtra and the central governments, both led by Congress, tarried in taking action against the Shiv Sena was a sad commentary on the party’s secular credentials. But electoral politics made the Congress play soft on Hindutva in Gujarat as well.

What woke up the Maharashtra administration was Rahul Gandhi’s visit to Mumbai. The country applauded his observation that every part of India belonged to every Indian. He literally bearded Shiv Sena in its den, much to the humiliation of its chief Bal Thackery. It is now taking revenge on hapless theatres and viewers wishing to screen or watch Shah Rukh Khan’s movie.

Arousing anti-Pakistan sentiment is a hobbyhorse of the Shiv Sena. Yet it is only the lunatic fringe, which has not reconciled to Pakistan, primarily an Islamic country. That is the reason why Shah Rukh was called “a traitor” while he repeatedly said he was an Indian and stood for good relations with the people of Pakistan.

Anti-Pakistan feeling in India or anti-India feelings in Pakistan are old phenomena, which, unfortunately, have persisted despite growing people-to-people contact. Any demagogue can exploit them. Bal Thackeray in India and Lashkar-i-Taiba chief Hafiz Sayeed, who this week organized a ‘jihad’ meeting in Islamabad to “liberate India”, are there to stoke the fires of hatred. They do not change because they earn dividends from the hostility they peddle.

But I am more concerned by the attitude of young people on both sides. On TV I happened to watch discussions between youngsters from the two countries. The cricket match was between India and South Africa. But the filthy language they were using to describe cricket players belonging to the other side was shocking.

The new generation has mastered the use of computers but not the basics of civilised language. They are worse than the street urchins who have had no schooling. Yet those who were hurling abuses at each other belonged to families which, I imagine, had not brought them up to be goondas. Maybe my presumption is wrong. Maybe even the best of families do not mind their children using abusive language.

Partition is 62 years old. Both the Congress, representing the majority of Hindus, and the Muslim League, representing the majority of Muslims, agreed to divide the Indian subcontinent on the basis of religion. But at the same time, the founders of the two countries, Mahatma Gandhi and Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, told their people not to mix religion with politics.

Mahatma Gandhi said he would live in Karachi and the Quaid-i-Azam retained his Mumbai house for occasional visits. Both said that the two countries would be the best of friends. Then why through their actions are youngsters on both sides denouncing those who won them freedom?

After mass killings and full-blown wars, people on both sides should have realized that hostility is not the answer. The option of war was extinguished once the two counties went nuclear. There is no alternative to peace. Youngsters should appreciate this fact all the more because the challenge before them is to construct the country, not destroy what has been built.

Hindus and Muslims have lived together for 800 years. Together they have molded a life based on a sense of accommodation and the spirit of tolerance. They have developed a composite culture, which retains the separate identities of Hinduism and Islam. It was the British rulers who created disharmony and distance. We should have spanned it long ago.

The other question that the Shiv Sena has posed is linguistic identity. India reorganised the states on linguistic considerations 50 years ago. Even at the time, the danger of linguistic chauvinism was underlined by the Fazl Ali Commission on Reorganisation of States. In other parts of India, movements in the name of language have risen and fallen. The Shiv Sena phenomenon, a decade old, has not died because it has found fertile ground in Maharashtra.

The 26/11 terrorist attacks on Mumbai have come in handy for the Shiv Sena to raise the pitch of anti-Pakistan rhetoric. The larger question is how to fight against anti-Muslim feeling and anti-Pakistan sentiment, which at times look like two sides of the same coin. Friendly relations with Pakistan are the only answer. Unfortunately, the BJP has even opposed talks at the foreign secretaries’ level.

Pakistan Foreign Minister Qureshi does not help matters when he plays to the gallery. His body language and words don’t help the situation. It is true that India made a proposal to Pakistan to resume talks. But this is what the people on both sides have been urging. It does not help if false prestige takes precedence. The priority is to make the talks successful, not dwell on who bowed before whom. It is too early to say which country has succeeded in its strategy. There is still a long haul ahead that will demand patience and willingness to accommodate each other’s point of view.

Author:Kuldip Nayar

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Problems of Mindset

Posted on 05 September 2009 by .

The major challenge for the government is to neutralize Islamic conservative orientation of the populace, especially the generation socialized in the 1990s.

The threat of the Taliban establishing a permanent control over Pakistani territory is now reduced but the Taliban-type mindset is going to haunt Pakistan for a long time. This mindset goes well beyond the Taliban. Many political circles share this perspective to varying degrees. A large number of Islamic parties and groups either support the Taliban or share their worldview, although some of them maintain a distance from the Taliban for political reasons.

A large number of people and societal groups sympathize with the Taliban because they have been socialized into religious orthodoxy and militancy.  They may not agree with their violent ways but they protect and defend their cause or attempt to neutralize any action by the state and society against militant groups.

Islamic parties like the Jamaat-i-Islami and JUI-F and factions of Jamiat-e-Ahle Hadees openly support the Taliban and oppose military action against them. They either describe Taliban violence as a reaction to U.S. military presence in Afghanistan or drone aircraft attacks on them. At times, they argue that some agents of foreign countries have entered the Taliban movement t o engage in violence to undermine the reputation of the Taliban who are actually friends of Pakistan.

The Jamaat-i-Islami realized soon that its opposition to military action against the Taliban does not evoke positive response at the popular level. It changed its strategy by avoiding direct criticism of military action and focused more on criticizing the U.S. and its policies in Afghanistan and Pakistan, accusing Pakistan of killing its people for the sake of the U.S. in return for money and weapons.

Some religious circles oppose the Taliban mainly because of Islamic denominational differences. They also support military action against them. However, they are critical of the U.S. like those religious leaders who support the Taliban. They also support the introduction of an Islamic dominated religious political system in Pakistan.

Now, the civilian leadership and the military have come to the conclusion that stern action has to be taken against the Taliban and other militant groups that challenge the writ of the Pakistani state. Therefore, these elements have become less effective. However, they continue to engage in whispering campaign against the government either with reference to military action in the tribal areas, pro-U.S. policies or alleged corruption and miss-governance of the federal government.

The support for Islamic discourse on national and international issues and militancy is reflected on electronic media and the press, especially the Urdu press. Some of the columnists and TV anchors present an extremely slanted review of politics; and society influenced mainly by strong Islamic orientation, subtle sympathy for the Taliban and strong anti-west, especially the U.S. Pakistan’s internal problems, especially suicide attacks, bombings and killings are attributed to India, the U.S. and Israel. The standard argument is that these countries want to destabilize Pakistan because the U.S. has plans to directly take-over Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal or use the UN to take control of nuclear weapons.

The Red Mosque incident (2007) is periodically highlighted by some columnists as a legendary incident of sacrifice by the inmates of the mosque and brutalities by Pakistan’s security forces.  Writing in August 2008, an Urdu columnist compared the Red Mosque incident with the incident of Karbala in Islamic history by showing how the forces of “Yazidiat” killed the innocent people in the mosque that resembled the extremely hostile treatment of the family and companion of Imam Hussain.  Obviously, by  “Yazidiat” the author meant the government of Pakistan and its security forces.

Several factors contributed to the gradual shift of orientation of the Pakistani society and state towards religious orthodoxy and militancy.  These included  the setting up of Islamic-Afghan resistance in Pakistan to fight Soviet military in Afghanistan,   the search for legitimacy and support by the military government of General Zia-ul-Haq,  opportunity for Islamic parties and groups to penetrate state institutions, the use of state’s reward and punishment system to strengthen religious orthodoxy and constitutional and legal changes for that purpose, changes in recruitment and promotion policies for government and semi-government jobs, Islamization of the media and imposition of cultural norms reflecting conservative Islamic norms and values,  and changes in courses of studies at the junior and high school levels to socialize children into religious conservatism and make them more receptive to Islamic militancy.  The government encouraged proliferation of Islamic madrassa not only in NWFP but also elsewhere and state patronage was used to encourage public display of religiousness.

After having gone through pro-Islamic orthodoxy and militancy socialization, the generation that got out of high school and college education from mid-1980s to 2004-05 was bound to  lean heavily towards conservative Islamic political and social discourse and militancy.

The major challenge for the government is to neutralize Islamic conservative orientation of the populace, especially the generation socialized in the 1990s. Unless an effort is made to encourage plural notion of society and multiple political and social discourses, the government will continue to face domestic criticism of counter-terrorism policy, pro-U.S. orientations, corruption and mismanagement.

Author: Dr. Hasan Askari

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