Archive for June, 2005

Ordeal of women Mukhtaran Mai, a gang-rape victim…

Ordeal of women

Mukhtaran Mai, a gang-rape victim, has become a symbol of women rights in Pakistan. She may be the one attracting international media coverage but there are many more who remain in the shadows and no one knows what happens in their lives everyday. The government of Pakistan, once again, worried of getting negative reaction from around the world, has prevented Ms. Mukhtaran to travel to the US where she would narrate her story to gain wider support for female rights in Pakistan. But will this prevention eliminate the ordeal faced by women all over the country. Even educated women, like Dr. Shazia, have been subjected to humiliating treatment by male dominated traditions. It is a subject that requires a book but we will try to cover it briefly in this article.

Pakistan is an agrarian society with almost 65% of its population living in rural areas. These rural areas are dominated and indirectly ruled largely by landowners (zamindars). These zamindars, in some cases, have their own small armies to ensure their control over the farmers who toil their lands. They also have influence over the Panchayat (a group of wise men) who, more often than not, rule against the farmers. They use their financial resources to gain political clout and also coerce law enforcement to give them a free hand. Despite promises by many leaders in the past, including current President General Pervez Musharraf, the power of these zamindars remains unchecked. The key factor that can reduce this influence is promotion of literacy in these rural areas, which is almost always opposed by the zamindars. The government promises to promote literacy but in the end the funds for education are misappropriated by the zamindar who is also usually the Member of Parliament. General Musharraf is so busy ensuring the continuation of his rule that he does not want to directly offend these people.

The other sad part is that the judiciary has played no role in eradicating the injustices done to the women of our society. According to news reports, in the Mukhtaran Mai case, the Lahore High Court has acquitted the men responsible for this heinous act because the law requires that four male witnesses should be produced in the court to convict the criminals. It is reported that the act was committed in front of hundreds of people and yet n there are not even four people who have the moral courage to come forward as witnesses. Mukhtaran was allegedly gang raped on the orders of a rural council as punishment for a crime attributed to her brother. This shows that the zamindars have totally subjugated, not only the bodies but also souls of the people. The other sad part is that our lawmakers, most of whom are zamindars, have promoted such laws that give them legal coverage to hide their crimes against the female folks.

Pakistan’s population is almost equally divided among male and female citizens. But the literacy rate among the females is almost half that of the male which is 60% for male and 30% for female. Females play an important role in the society especially in building the character and moral values of the children as mothers. They cannot perform this task until they are allowed access to higher education. The situation is even worse in rural areas where female school registration is only a fraction of the total population. In rural Sindh and Balochistan the female literacy is 13% and 10% respectively. Ironically, these two provinces have a higher zamindar influence compared to NWFP and Punjab. According to a study by Oxfam International, while the proportion of children are not attending school in South Asia will fall by half by the year 2005, Pakistan will account for an increasingly larger share of children not attending school. In fact, the study warns that by 2005, Pakistan will account for 40% of the region’s children who are out of school, compared to 27% in the year 1995.

Women cannot gain higher respect in the society unless they become part of the economy by participating in the gainful employment. Due to low literacy, males prevent females from pursuing a career to contribute to the economic benefit of the family. According to Human development Index (HDI) gender-related index or GDI Pakistan ranks 120th among 140 countries and is the worst performer in South Asia. Besides, given fair chance for progress, female workers face male exploitation in the work place as well as social hurdles in the community. Pakistan cannot expect to get out its economic quagmire until it allows its female population to fully participate in the economic activity. Example of Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world, and Malaysia is in front of us. They engage female work force in the economic activity. In the HDI report Malaysia is ranked 59th in terms of female participation in the economy while Pakistan is ranked 142 among 177 countries rated for the purpose.

Pakistan, predominantly a Muslim country, does not even follow Islamic traditions in allowing greater social, political and economic participation of women. Mohammad (PBUH) was a business manager working for Hazrat Khadijah (RATA) who was a prominent businesswoman of her time. No one in his sane mind can believe that she was a docile woman not fully involved in the business decisions. Hazrat Ayesha (RATA) was considered an authority on Sunnah, and a political activist who ran the affairs of the Islamic empire after her husband, Prophet Mohammad (PBUH). Even in the Qoran there are some powerful women who had an impact on the development of their times. Most prominent of them is Hazrat Mariam (RATA) who was very active in her community; Hazrat Sarah (RATA) wife of Hazrat Ibrahim (ES) who traveled with him far and wide to spread the message of Islam, Hazrat Sabah (RATA) who was queen of current day Ethiopia and who came to meet Hazrat Suleman (ES) to spread his message around the African continent.

Pakistani leadership, social workers, business professionals and political leaders should understand the role of women for the development of a healthy and prosperous nation. We should give women equal rights and work shoulder to shoulder with them for the progress of our country. The first step in that direction is focusing on the education of the female child and the second is to give them security in pursuing their ambitions and talents.

Advertisements

Leave a Comment

Jinnah redeemed The difference between a politici…

Jinnah redeemed

The difference between a politician and a leader is that a leader has a vision for the nation and the politician has a desire for power. A leader does not compromise for his personal benefit while a politician manipulates to ensure his continued advancement in power circles. An average leader has a short-term vision while a great leader has a vision for the near future and beyond. An average leader is born once in decade while a great leader is born once in centuries and leaves his impact on the nation for centuries. Founder of Pakistan, Quaide-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, is one of those great leaders who believed in democratic values and stood his ground against all odds to ask for a democratic state for the largest minority in united India. The current debate ignited by L K Advani’s comment that Jinnah was a secular leader deserves some merit to be viewed and analyzed in historical context.

The core of the controversy is Jinnah and other Muslim leaders’ faith based definition of a nation, which culminated in adoption of the Two Nation Theory by the Muslim League. According to Henry Kissinger, former US Secretary of State and renowned author on foreign affairs, the nineteenth century concept of a nation is a linguistic and cultural unit. Based on this definition, Indian people following Islamic faith were different from their Hindu neighbors. Muslims predominantly spoke Urdu, a language derived from Arabic, Persian, and Turkish, while the Hindu majority preferred communicating in Sanskrit and Hindi. Culturally Muslims were almost a counter creed to Hindus. Muslims preferred meat, wore different style of clothes, had unique architecture in homes and places of worship. Societal attitudes of Muslim and Hindu communities were also different. Muslims believed in the equality of all humans regardless of their ethnic and racial origins. Hindus, on the other hand, divided the community on religiously motivated caste system with Brahmans enjoying the highest stature while other casts were subservient to them, the lowest order of the caste being the untouchables. Members of a caste were barred to rise in social stature in their life times regardless of their talents and achievements. Based on these attitudes, although living together for centuries, both Muslims and Hindus were two different communities. Since Muslims from all over India, even with different ethnic backgrounds, followed a common faith, it became an anchor to bring them to a common platform and became a political movement for their rights. If Quaid’s movement for independence was not secular but faith based then the religious leaders of the time, including Congress Leader Maulana Azad, would not oppose him so profusely in this struggle.

Historians of India project Gandhi as a unifying force while Jinnah is wrongfully projected as a divider of India. Historical evidence negates this myth. According to John Keay in his book “India: a History” all foreign born citizens, including Arabs, Turks and Persian were called Mleccha defined as “foreigners who could not talk properly, outcasts with no place in Indian society, and above all inferiors with no respect for dharma”. Further more, John Keay writes that Hindus considered Muslims essentially marginal, negative and destructive. Congress leaders repeatedly exhibited adherence to this philosophy during their struggle for independence. Although on the surface Congress claimed to represent all segments of the Indian society, on key historical events it was clear that Hindu majority Congress could not tolerate Muslim majority in any part of India. The first evidence of this attitude was exhibited when, for purely administrative reasons, Viceroy Lord Curzon, in 1904, divided the largest Indian province of Bengal into Hindu majority West Bengal and Muslim majority East Bengal & Assam. This administrative arrangement created the first Muslim majority province. This political loss by the Hindu majority ignited a countrywide protest lead by Congress ultimately resulting in loss of life and property forcing the government to reverse the decision in 1911. After 1935 elections, a report of “Muslim Sufferings under Congress Rule” was published in 1939. In this report over 100 incidents were reported from Bihar, the United Provinces, and the Central Provinces of Muslims who were violently attacked, killed or looted between July 1937 and August 1939. In all these cases local officials were charged with aiding Hindus and ignoring the cries and complaints of Muslims. Besides these two major events there were other numerous instances when it was evident that majority Hindus would subject Muslims to genocide after the removal of a British protective umbrella.

Jinnah, on the other hand, believed in Hindu-Muslim unity for their common cause of attaining independence from the British rule. He started his career as a member of the Indian National Congress in 1904 and remained a member until the 1920s. Although he participated in annual sessions of the Muslim League, he did not formally join it until 1913.

On many occasions Jinnah championed the cause of Hindu-Muslim unity. Speaking to Bombay Provincial Conference in October 1916, Jinnah said in his address: “I believe all thinking men are thoroughly convinced that the keynote of our real progress lies in goodwill, concord, harmony and cooperation between two great sister communities. The true focus of progress is centered in their union.”

In his statement to the Associated Press in 1934 he wrote: “..nothing will give me greater happiness then to bring about complete co-operation and friendship between Hindus and Muslims;….

Muslim League, under the leadership of Jinnah, struggled for the independence of India, presenting the formula to form a confederacy of two or three states forming a union at the center. This was the central principle of Muslim League’s political strategy until 1938 when the reports of atrocities against Muslims surfaced under Congress run administrations around the country.

The historical fact is that the Indian Sub-continent was divided into two separate nation states, India and Pakistan, and both nations should accept this fact. Any student of anthropology can see that there is an emotional pull between the two nations to live peacefully and harmoniously that is based upon 5000 years of common heritage and history. Indian leaders have to respect the sovereignty of Pakistan instead of exhibiting an attitude of Akhand Bharat. Mr. Advani’s recent statement about Jinnah is a positive step in that direction. Pakistani leaders should give respect to its neighbor India and accept that India is one of the dominant players in the region. Pakistan’s foreign policy should look more towards India for cultural and trade association than Afghanistan and CIS which has never been our allies throughout the centuries.

History always travels in a continuum, instead of broken threads, our common history should compel leaders from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh to form a South Asian Union with free markets and common currency to compete with other unions being formed around the world.

Leave a Comment

Religious exploitation of youth

Pakistan is not at war with any nation but its citizens are once again losing lives to bombs that are detonated by fellow citizens. Once again, these incidents are given a religious color by emphasizing that one sect is committing such acts against the other. Once again, city administration is promising serious actions against the perpetrators. Once again, political leaders are capitalizing on the event and citing a foreign element. Once again, these incidents are being used to divide the nation instead of uniting it to fight this malice. But we cannot fight this violence until we know the root cause of these incidents and work out a solution to eradicate these elements once and for all.
The first responsibility for these incidents lies with politico-religious leaders who use religion to abuse the energies of young Pakistanis to further their own political agenda. These religious leaders trained in orthodox madrasas have a narrow understanding of the religion with no tolerance for other sects or difference of opinion. These religious leaders, who have no productive livelihood of their own, rely on funds provided to them from outside the country to finance their small armies of zealots to plan and organize these heinous crimes against their own countrymen. These religious leaders drive expensive cars with private armed guards brandishing weapons to show their lust for power. They use the sacred pulpit to ignite the emotions of their followers to create sectarian differences within the society. Any media or government actions against these elements are considered attacks against the religion, sometimes even called blasphemous. But this situation cannot last for long if Pakistani society decides to emerge as a truly Islamic society, tolerating other religious beliefs and, most of all, celebrating human rights in the form of ‘Hukkok-ul-Ibad’. People should make a conscious effort to reject these religious leaders and cut off all kind of funds to them to ensure lasting peace in the country.
Politicians cannot be exempted from assuming responsibility for the slow break up of our society. They have repeatedly disappointed the nation by their greed for power, even resorting to corruption and betraying the public trust. Instead of creating an environment for the economic, social and political progress of the country, these sons of landlords, generals, bureaucrats and religious leaders consider political power as a means to extort public office for their personal benefits. This creates an environment where a large number of young people lose their identity and opportunity to express their talents. This frustration becomes a recruitment tool for anti-social elements to recruit these young people promising them either a high place in heaven or igniting their desire for heroism for their ethnic or sectarian group.
Military generals, including current President General Pervez Musharraf, who have ruled the country for the most of part of last 60 years, are also responsible for this gradual division of the country on ethnic and sectarian lines. These generals, to ensure their rule, not only encouraged division but also weakened the civilian law enforcement organizations by delaying the much-required reorganization of these departments. They withheld necessary resources required to ensure implementations of the law in its true egalitarian spirit. Worst of all police has been used as an instrument for political exploitation, which has ultimately resulted in moral degradation of the department.
Media is considered the conscience of a nation and its society. Our media has not done its part by exploring the elements involved in these incidents. We need courageous journalists who could unveil the organizational structure, funding sources, aims and objectives and recruitment practices of religious organizations. We need to identify the suicide bombers and talk to their friends and family to find out why they killed innocent people. Until we find these details, and diagnose the ailment, we will be unable to execute a cure. Recently, a delegation of Dutch journalists visited the US to explore how the US has managed to integrate the Muslim community in the country. They said that only by understanding and exploring why a young Muslim youth assassinated a Dutch filmmaker Van Gogh, they could create harmony in their society. Pakistanis have been victims of suicide bombers for almost a decade now but we still don’t know the identities of these bombers and their motivation to conduct these horrendous acts.
Law enforcement is not possible without the cooperation of the local community. No society has been able to achieve domestic peace without conscious efforts from each member of the society to help law enforcement departments carry out their work. In Pakistan, unfortunately, police do not enjoy a cordial relationship with the citizens because the former are seen as an instrument of exploitation. Underpaid, under trained and under equipped, the police exploit financial benefits from the local street vendors and the common man, which creates friction between the two. Police has to work with community organizations to improve their public relations and establish good will for the people to help them manage public safety effectively.
Last, but not the least, citizens of the country are also responsible for these incidents. As a nation of 150 million people we have allowed a small number of people to abuse our country’s resources for their own personal benefits. We allow corrupt and exploitative people to reach parliaments and bureaucracy. We are self-centered people who do not raise a collective voice against the exploitation of the weak by the strong. We close our eyes to the corruption that happens right in front of our eyes. The only way we express our disgust is by setting fire to businesses, buses and cars, thereby becoming part of the problem instead of creating a solution. We allow undemocratic parties to function in our societies, we allow government institutions to seek bribes, and we allow our votes elect incompetent people, we close our eyes to the deteriorating education system in the country, and we allow religious leaders to exploit our youth in the name of religion.
If we want the country to progress as a civilized society with equal opportunity for all, then we have to wake up as a nation and take hold of our destiny. We have to raise a collective voice, until then, these incidents will continue happening and innocent lives will be lost in the name of religious and ethnic differences. If we call ourselves the Islamic Republic of Pakistan then we have to understand the humanity practiced by our Prophet Mohammad (PBUH).

Comments (1)

Desecration of the Holy Book

In its May 9th issue Newsweek reported the desecration of Qoran at Guatanamo Bay, saying the Holy book was flushed down the toilet as a psychological tactic to force Guantanamo inmates to speak during interrogations. Later the publication retracted the story. No one knows if the story is credible but it does raise questions in the mind about the state of US society, emotionalism of Muslims even about fictitious incidents and quality of journalism in the West.

The US is a capitalist society where everything is measured in dollars and cents. Whether it is a pre-nuptial agreement or taking care of aging parents, economics rules all decisions. This capitalist ideology also spills over to religious beliefs and traditions of the society. US filmmakers have made comedies on the life of Jesus; late night hosts Jay Leno and David Letterman dish out sarcasm on US Presidents on a daily basis. There is nothing sacred in a society that considers economic benefit as an ultimate end. People who are investigating at Guantanamo Bay are also representative of this society. Although there is no evidence that the Qoran was desecrated at Guantanamo, but if it is true, it will be a reflection of the society. US educators need to re-evaluate their social structure and devise educational material that develops respect for the foundation of a society: religion, faith and respect for elders, especially parents. In the absence of these founding stones, the possibility of these kinds of incidents cannot be ruled out.

The quality of journalism has deteriorated noticeably in last few years even in some revered institutions like New York Times and CBS News. The competitive pressures to out perform strains the resources of news organizations, which sometimes result in serious errors costing not only lives but also property. We have heard of plagiarism by a New York Times reporter and then there was an unsubstantiated story of US President Bush’s record at Texas Rangers and now this Newsweek error, which has resulted in loss of human lives. On the other hand Muslim world has always suspected the Western media to be biased, presenting only their part of the story. But this situation changed considerably in last few years when the Arab world countered this media bias by creating news networks like Al-Jazeera. In the Newsweek debacle, Al-Jazeera played its role in igniting the emotions of the Muslims without coordinating their story with Newsweek. It is also a demonstration of conflicting media views could result in serious conflicts.

There is no doubt that desecration of Qoran is something Muslims should not ignore and demand the US government to prevent such type of incidents from happening again. But the real issue for the Muslim world is implementing the true spirit and teachings of Qoran in their societies. There is not a single Muslim country that can be presented as a model to the world, which fully embodies the teachings of Islam: love for peace, kindness towards mankind and equality of all men regardless of their race and creed. Autocratic men rule a large number of Muslim countries. These men promote the emotional appeal of the religion through the Imam’s of mosques to maintain their rule on the country. Imam’s also understand the power of the pulpit and use it to provoke people in taking extreme actions that result in the loss of innocent lives. This element was in full display again when blood was spilled for an error committed by irresponsible journalism. We forget that Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) forgave the woman who used to throw trash on him everyday. It was important for Muslim world to put diplomatic pressure on the US government to ensure that perpetrators of this crime are brought to justice as well as to ensure that these events are prevented in the future. But instead, we yet again reacted emotionally by resorting to violence that claimed 16 innocent lives.

If we want non-Muslims to respect the Qoran as a holy book, we have to demonstrate its teachings in our lives, by exercising it in trade, society and justice system. Traders spread the message of Islam by demonstrating the way of life taught by the Qoran and adopting qualities demonstrated by Prophet Mohammad (PBUH). Those who followed the Prophet Mohammad’s (PBUH) exemplary life style had a profound effect on all those they came across and due to this there were many conversions to Islam. But today’s preachers are professionals who are paid for their control of the pulpit which result in a conflict of interest. In order to retain their control on the minds and souls of the people, these Imam’s, instead of explaining the finer points of the religion to the masses, use emotionalism and oratory qualities, overshadowing the true message. We have forgotten that Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) was a businessman, a statesman, as well as a messenger of God. It was also true for other Sahaba who had a profession to earn their livelihood instead of relying on financial support from the mosque. It is only human instinct to preserve one’s livelihood, which creates a conflict of interest in these Imams to ensure their continued employment. Since mosques are financed through charitable donations from the community members, these Imams strive to increase their sphere of influence, which creates conflicts between them. These conflicts sometimes result in armed conflicts between the followers of various sects.

Mentoring of the spirit is very important for the spiritual development of an individual. But it is also important that a mentor has acquired in-depth knowledge of the theology as well as the practical aspects of human society. If we want to develop our societies, we have to rethink how our religious institutions are organized as well as develop the syllabus of the madrasas on modern lines. We cannot expect an Imam trained in conventional madras to appeal to a person who has completed his masters in science or acquired a PhD. We also have to create a council of community elders to conduct prayers in mosques instead of appointing a salaried Imam who is then more concerned to maintain his job then to focus on the spiritual meaning of the prayers.

As a Muslim it is the prime responsibility of each person to explore the truth by using his or her intellectual capabilities. A deep understanding of faith only happens when a person strives to find the meanings through his own personal exploration. Until we take this individual responsibility to understand the Qoran and demonstrate it in our daily lives, we cannot expect to avoid desecration of the Qoran by those who don’t believe in it anyway.

Leave a Comment

Kingdom of Pakistan

In a recent statement Information Minister Shaikh Rashid said that President General Musharraf would stay as President beyond 2007. I would be surprised if anyone is surprised by this announcement. In our last 60 years of history, mortal rulers behave as immortals and are only pushed out of office by the divine intervention. Ironically, these rulers use constitution only to be applied at the actions of the opposition while their own conduct can be as unconstitutional as it suits them.

Founder of Pakistan Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah was a strong believer of constitutional and democratic values. Unlike Gandhi and other All India Congress leaders he waged the struggle for independence on constitutional grounds. But unfortunately he could not live long enough to give his nascent country stable political institutions. The loss of the founder was further exacerbated by the assassination of his able lieutenant Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan within first 4 years of the independence. That initial blow to the establishment of political parties and formation of a constitution proved to be fatal blow to the formation of democratic values in a country that was deeply marred in economic chaos.

The constitution of 1956 adopted a parliamentary system as the form of government with a unicameral legislative assembly of 300 members equally divided between the East and West wings of the country. Before the constitution could flourish as an acceptable political document it was abrogated by the Martial Law imposed by General Ayub Khan (later Field Marshal). Although in his biography, Friends not Masters, General Ayub justified that this action was for the larger national interest, it is evident in retrospect that his actions undermined the development of political institutions that were not given a chance to take root.

Field Marshal Ayub Khan appointed a judicial commission to repare recommendations for a new constitution, which was enforced in 1962, whose recommendations were ignored . This new constitution adopted a Presidential form of government with a unicameral legislative body of 218 members equally divided among the East and West wings of the country. The most radical element of the constitution was establishment of basic democracies at the district level who were given the electoral voting right to elect the President. This indirect approach for the election of a President showed Ayub’s distrust of mass opinion. It also gave him the political power to manipulate the outcome of the presidential elections. Even with its shortfalls, continuation of the constitution would have eventually helped the country establish a stable political system. But once again a military
general Yahya Khan, under the guidance of an ambitious political
leader Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, decided to abrogate the constitution and establish Martial Law in 1969.

After the trauma of 1971, when the country lost its East wing,
Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto assumed leadership of the battered country and introduced the constitution of 1973. This new constitution reverted to the parliamentary system with bicameral legislative i.e. National Assembly and Senate. President would be the head of State while Prime Minister would become the chief executive of the country. The other aspect of the constitution that gave it legitimacy was that all political parties in the country were given the opportunity to debate on the document and become signatory to it. This is probably the reason it is still enforced in the country although repeated amendments have changed its original form. In 1977, within 4 years of its implementation, another zealot general, General Zia ul Haq,
wearing the religious mask abrogated the constitution before it could gain its own ground and values.

The make-up of Pakistani society is such that in all spheres of our lives we look for individuals to become idols whether it is family, sports, business, political parties or governments. In the political process this element is even more pronounced. Each political party prophesying their desire for a democratic Pakistan are undemocratic in their spirit. Individuals, or a very small group of people, control the party policies, administrations and nomination of candidates. Pakistan Muslim Leaque is either Nawaz or Pir Pagaro factions, Pakistan Peoples Party has become a fiefdom of Bhutto family, Altaf Hussain controls Motahida Qaumi Movement, and Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf
has become a laboratory for Imran Khan’s philosophy of justice for all.

Ambitious army generals understand this weakness in the society and exploit it to the fullest. In the name of national interest they repeatedly hinder the stabilization of political institutes. The real need of the country is a continuation of political process, which gives the masses the ability to slowly remove corrupt and self-centered politicians, and nurture leadership that could take the country on the path of prosperity. It is also important for us to revisit if our culture and society is more suited to a presidential form of government. Though political analysts are still debating which form of government is more appropriate for a true democracy, our
religious heritage indicates that Islamic societies are more suited to Presidential form of government where one person is accountable for the actions of the government. Instead of indirect election of the president, as implemented by Ayub Khan, there should be a direct election of the President by adult franchise votes. The president in turn should appointment his administration to carry his policies. This will dampen the influence of civil bureaucracy that also plays its role in political instability. Bicameral legislative assembly should
be given the responsibility of formation of laws as well as approving the appointees of the President to ensure that the will of the people is implemented. The judiciary should be entrusted with ensuring the implementation of the constitution in all spheres of civic life. This arrangement could probably eliminate horse trading in the assemblies and give one person the opportunity to run the affairs of the nation, which has been the case anyways for the last 60 years.

Whether it is a presidential or parliamentary form of government, we cannot expect the political system to get strengthened until it is allowed to gain root among the people by peaceful transfer of power through elections. President Musharraf has shown his resolve to let the current assembly complete his term. But he has also created a moral dilemma for himself by imposing his undemocratic presidency and not allowing to separate uniform from the head of state. Any lack of succession planning will once again result in political and economic chaos that we have witnessed when General Ayub and General Zia were forced out of their office. General Musharraf’s committment to the nation of continuation of political and economic policies should be backed by a well thought out succession plan through democratic means.

Leave a Comment

Divided Nations in United Nations (UN)

After the Second World War the nations of the world were so devastated that the need to create a world forum arose which would have the authority to prevent the menace of war from happening again. A league of nations was created after the First World War but it could not prevent Second World War. In a 1942 conference in San Francisco, President Franklin D. Roosevelt of USA, proposed the formation of a United Nations. The first item in the UN charter states that the nations of the world are determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind. But even this first promise has been broken at least five times in last 65 years; US armed conflict in Vietnam, Russian armed involvement in Afghanistan, conflict in Bosnia, Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait and most recently, US occupation of Iraq. Legal premise may say that these were not wars but the fact is that countless innocent lives were lost in these armed conflicts regardless of the legitimacy of these actions. In the light of these events the question arises about the effectiveness of the UN in resolving conflict among nations. It is a vast subject but we will briefly touch upon the organization of UN and its role in solving conflicts among nations. The office of the Secretary General and the current Secretary General Kofi Anan have been the topic of many debates after the disclosure of irregularities in the UN oil- for- food program established to help Iraq gain access to food and medicine during the 10 years of sanction period. These scandals have drawn attention to the administration of UN. The current organization of the UN is broken down into the General Assembly, Security Council, Secretariat, Economic Social Council, and the International Court of Justice and Trusteeship. The General assembly is comprised of all member states. GA has a charter to discuss any item that facilitates social, political and economic cooperation between the nations. Security Council, comprised of 5 permanent members and 10 elected members, is more focused in resolving disputes between the member nations and advise corrective actions against nations to ensure international peace and stability. The UN secretariat headed by the Secretary General works as an administrative wing as well as a diplomatic anchor between member countries. Article II of the charter gives equal sovereign rights to all member nations but UN itself puts this article into question by creating a privileged class of Permanent members of Security Council. These permanent members, US, France, UK, Russia and China, can stop any resolution that is brought to the Security Council by vetoing it. We have seen this veto power come into play in many international conflicts seriously damaging the effectiveness of UN in discharging its charter responsibilities. The fact is that there has not been a single incident where all these permanent members have supported a resolution to solve an international conflict.
Many world leaders have stressed the need for reforming the United Nations. Pakistan has supported these calls, like its Asian neighbors. Annan has called on world leaders to reach a new global deal to tackle the challenges of development, security and human rights and to overhaul the UN.
Eventually, the UN must become a body where all countries have an equal say. For now, it is a good sign that UN is now considering to expand this exclusive club by increasing the number of its permanent members from 5 to 7. Japan, Brazil and India are all striving to gain access to these two additional seats. If the world cannot agree to abolish the permanent membership of the Security Council it can at least try to balance it by giving it representation from all cultures of the world. Muslim countries that represent almost 33 percent of the world population do not even have one permanent seat on the Security Council. The West cannot expect to resolve its differences with the Muslim world unless the latter have a voice to express their views on international forums like UN. There are many countries that can be considered for this seat including Pakistan, Egypt and Indonesia. Pakistan is the most qualified choice to represent the Muslim world. Pakistan is the only Muslim country with nuclear capability and one that maintains a substantial military strength. It also enjoys close diplomatic and friendly relationship with key Middle Eastern countries. Africa is probably the poorest and most neglected continent in the world. The UN should try to give Africa its due share on world stage by allocating a permanent Security Council seat to African nations.
The UN Secretariat operates as an international bureaucracy with a lot of waste and inefficiency built into the system. It has recently re-organized its country teams by creating 58 “UN Houses” to provide common office space to various UN agencies operating in those countries. But even this approach cannot produce substantial savings for UN. Instead of managing its social program itself, UN should rely on local administrations to lend staff for the execution of various programs.
The key role of UN is to ensure peace and prosperity among its member states. Unfortunately, it is in this role that the UN has proved to be most ineffective. UN resolutions have only become pieces of paper with no recourse available in cases of its breach. India has repeatedly ignored UN resolutions regarding Kashmir issue but Pakistan has no recourse available to make India honor those resolutions. Like other multilateral organizations, especially EU, the UN should lay down minimum requirements for the member states to conform to before their memberships can be maintained. These requirements should cover social, political and economic parameters to ensure human and equal rights among the populations of member countries. Instead of the US imposing its doctrine on democracy around the world, the UN should assume that role and make it a condition for its members to follow.

The other challenge the UN faces is containment of world powers in initiating unilateral actions against other countries. During the Iraq crisis, the US totally ignored the UN Security Council and decided to take matters in its own hands. This independent action has opened doors for other nations to use US precedence in taking pre-emptive actions against their neighboring countries. Strengthening the diplomatic arm of UN and forming a permanent military establishment to take necessary corrective actions against nations that are committing crimes against humanity can avoid such situations. The crisis in Darfur is an excellent example where UN military intervention might be required to prevent genocide of innocent people. The composition of the UN military should be based on demographics of its member countries.
The need to overhaul the UN has become apparent due to what many analysts see as dilution of its powers in recent times. Indeed, UN sanction was not obtained for several crucial developments in world politics. The UN must not be seen as a talk shop; a club for the privileged few; it must become the final arbiter on decisions and events that could possibly shape the future of the world.
Economic, social and political deprivation gives rise to frustration and anger that ultimately result in conflict between nations. The UN will have to tackle many serious issues in the years to come: Climate change, terrorism, nuclear proliferation, the population explosion, poverty and child labor are among them. Concerted action by all countries is necessary to deal with these critical issues. The UN should act more like a forum where economic and political inequalities can be balanced to create a more prosperous world for all of us. It needs to be stronger, more focused and decisive as the world enters a challenging era.

Leave a Comment

Royalist democrats

We, in America, live in a country which is considered a bastion of democracy around the world. Democracy means a government for the people, by the people. This philosophy is contrary to the royalist view. The latter supports the authority of a selected few who, then, have discretionary power to make decisions for the nation. Some countries that claim to have implemented democracy are actually examples of a royalist system. Pakistan, unfortunately, is among those countries. The most surprising thing is the attitude of immigrant Pakistani Americans. During the visits of various political and government leaders to the US, the residing Pakistanis here, go over board to pamper and praise our guest politicians. This is not only shameful but also a disservice to the community and our country. The question is why do we escort this attitude when we don’t have to? True, hospitality runs in our veins but a dignified reception in honor of the guest should be enough. Educating our leaders about real problems faced by our countrymen in USA, and asking them about issues in Pakistan should be our main concern. Instead, we go all out to impress the visiting politician and forget that they are public servants, answerable to the public and, though worthy of our respect, not entitled to the lavish welcomes and the showering of unnecessary awards and accolades.
The reason for such actions or behavior, maybe, lies in our history and way of thinking. Historically, South Asia has been an agrarian society with considerable economic influence of the landlord. These landlords enjoyed access to king’s court that bestowed favors on them to maintain their rule across the land. After the fall of the Mughal Empire and the rise of the British Empire, these landlords did not find it difficult to switch loyalties. Without support from this handful of people it would have been impossible for the British to rule India for almost 200 years. This is evident from the fact that throughout their rule, the British did not have more than a few thousand soldiers on the ground. The majority of its army comprised of local residents. After the demise of the British rule, a new nation emerged without a clear political vision for the future. Departure of a dominant player provided an opportunity to these landlords to manipulate this nation to ensure their continued hold on the politics ensuring the continuation of the system established during the British Raj. Another reason for this continuation is the fact the Muslim League was founded and funded by landlords. The only two democratic people, Quaid-e-Azam and Liaquat Ali Khan died before democracy could be established. Since that time, we have a system of royalist democracy. In large cities like Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad, people are able to select representatives of their choice but in the other parts of the country, landlords coerce people to vote for the and thus reach the assembly to maintain their grip on government. Even in large cities, we demonstrate our royalist attitude by transforming political leaders into cult figures. Military rulers understand this dynamics of the society and use it to their advantage to rule the country. In reality all it takes to run the country is to gain control of these few thousand landlords. Generals promise the nation of a social and political change by breaking the influence of these exploitative people but in the end succumb to the addiction of power and become their allies. General Musharraf came up with the same promise but has not been able to deliver so far. Of course there are difficulties to bring about that change. No one ever said ruling was easy, but if he has the mettle to take up the challenge, he should take some bold actions. One sign of the General’s weakness is his decision to compromise on his own pet project police reforms.
The system cannot change until people become aware of their rights and the power of the vote. The introduction of media in villages is a good tool to create that awareness. Literacy is another way of giving people true independence to select leaders that could represent them rather than exploit them in the assembly. Pakistan cannot become a true democracy until we choose true democratic leaders. It is the responsibility of the people to judge the character of the candidates and only vote for those who can live up to their expectations. Pakistan is an agricultural economy with almost 65% rural population, which has no voice or the ability to fight for their right. It is the responsibility of immigrant Pakistanis, in the US/UK and elsewhere, to educate their leaders on their foreign trips about the need of the people. Instead, when our leaders travel abroad, a group of cronies circle them and prevent them from getting direct access to the people. These visiting leaders meet a select group of people approved by the cronies who beat each other out in singing praises of the leader. Anyone else who tries to reach the visiting politician or wants to question him/her is considered to be damaging the goodwill of the country. Such scenarios were witnessed during visits of President Musharraf, Mohammad Mian Soomro, Chairman Senate, and Benazir Bhutto, chairperson PPP. The practice, of a small group of people surrounding the visitor and keeping the community members at bay, does more harm than good. For one, the community is deprived of the chance to meet a leader and voice their concerns and the visiting politician also loses the opportunity to talk to the people and update them on the country’s progress. The surprising element is that most of these visiting leaders do not discourage or shy away from the expensive parties thrown for them and the flowery and flattering speeches that usually precede dinner. It seems that such royal treatment fairs well with the ego of the guest politicians since they hardly ever make any efforts to come out of the circle of the select few and mingle with the others. We have to get rid of the politics of the self and embark on a journey of selflessness for the betterment of future generations. If not, revolutions still happen around the world, it only requires 99% of the country to wake up and revolt against the 1% of the ruling class.

Comments (1)

Older Posts »