Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Meeting Ahmad Faraz

republished to commemorate the poets death anniversary on the 25th of August

My Encounter with Ahmed Faraz

I didn’t know Ahmed Faraz personally. But as students at Peshawar we often saw Faraz on the university campus. He taught Urdu. He was a noted poet even then, but among students he was known equally, if not more, for his bohemian lifestyle.

Peshawar University, built at the foot of the Khyber hills, was then 5 miles away from Peshawar city with almost nothing in between except the old Tehkal village on one side of the road and the new and elegantly built University Town on the other. Double decker G.T.S buses ran back and forth at regular intervals ferrying students between the city and the campus. Today, it’s hard to tell where the city ends and the campus begins. The urban sprawl has spread like a cobweb on both sides of the road

Saddar was the happening part of the city. In the evenings, the students would descend upon Saddar to watch movies, to gossip in the cafés, or to simply walk up and down the short stretches of the main Saddar Road and Arbab Road watching people. The Capital and Falak Sair were the two cinemas that showed English movies; Silver Star and Café Alig were popular cafés; The Green Hotel, located at the end of the bazaar also served Murree beer in a bar tucked upstairs. (Prohibition came later, in 1972, when JUI’s government came into power with Mufti Mahmood as the chief minister.) A few hundred yards down the road, the upscale Dean's Hotel retained its quaint colonial architecture and continued to serve mulligatawny soup and caramel custard and, of course, beer and other drinks, in a more formal setting.

London Book Depot was the big bookshop; Bandbox was the drycleaner; Medicose was the chemist; Rathore was the men’s tailor, who not only spoke English in British accent with his clients but also asked a puzzling question, when taking measurements of the trousers, which side do you keep the ‘dressing’?”

Not far from these places, on the main Saddar Road, across the bus stop, was this little paan-and-cigarette shop that did brisk business. Faraz often stopped at this shop. He would come on his noisy motorbike, stop in front of the shop and, without switching off the engine or getting off the bike, buy his cigarettes and paan and breeze away. The alacrity with which the vendor stepped out of his stall to serve Faraz suggested that Faraz had either a running account with the vendor or perhaps he was an ardent fan of the poet – or both.

I clearly remember watching Faraz stop at the paan shop one evening when I was waiting for my bus at the bus stop across the street. He stopped his motorbike without switching off the engine, with his one foot against the curb and the other still on the footrest of the bike, both his hands clutching the bike handles, revving the engine up and down as if he were in a bike race ready to take off. The vendor, familiar with Faraz's routine, quickly prepared a paan and, instead of handing it to him, slipped it in Faraz's mouth, like a mother would a piece of food in a toddler's mouth. Faraz bolted into the dusk. He seemed to be in such a hurry. Probably, he had promises to keep.

Several years later, I encountered Faraz in a different setting. Faraz, already a teacher with some seniority (I don't remember his exact academic rank), was appearing in an exam in a different subject at the examination center at the Forest College hall. I happened to be the "examiner"!

Having returned from the US, I had just started teaching at Peshawar University. One of the jobs that university teachers did – and probably still do -- during the summer holidays, for extra money, of course, was to act as superintendents and invigilators at different examination centers. I happened to be the superintendent that summer at the Forest College hall.

A superintendent was responsible for the overall conduct of the examination while a number of invigilators assisted him in supervising specific rows of examinees in the hall. At a typical examination center, there would be 60 to 100 examinees in different subjects. A few minutes before the examination started, all the doors of the hall were closed, the superintendent read aloud the rules of the exam, the question papers distributed, and the examination would start at the dot of the hour, in total silence. The silence was broken only by the whirring of the ceiling fans and the shuffling of the pages of answer-books -– and clearing of throat by the nervous examinees when they were running out of time.

There was a long list of rules that governed the conduct in the examination hall, but the three cardinal rules were: No cheating! No noise! No smoking! If anyone broke any of the rules, the superintendent was required to terminate his exam and send him out of the hall.

Fifteen or twenty minutes into the exam that morning, when the usual hush descended on the hall, I smelled cigarette smoke. I looked around and noticed Faraz puffing on a cigarette and a pack of Three Castles lying on his table. The invigilator of the row politely requested Faraz to put out the cigarette but Faraz paid no heed to him. Much to my discomfort, the smoking ball landed in my court.

I approached Faraz gingerly and reminded him of the no-smoking rule. He looked genuinely puzzled as if wondering why were we making such a fuss about something so frivolous. He said he could not “do the paper” without smoking. In other words, he wanted us to make an allowance for his handicap and possibly, we thought, for his seniority and status. I told him the rules didn’t allow that. Realizing that we wouldn’t bend the rules for his rank or renown, Faraz did not argue further. He put out his cigarette and proceeded to write the paper with increased frenzy to make up for the time he had lost in the argument.

I do not know how well did he do in that particular exam, but down the years when Faraz's fame soared and I, too, began to appreciate his poetry, I felt a bit of remorse in denying Faraz his fix when he needed it most. But I would console myself by saying that I was simply applying the rules, and that I denied him something that was not good for him, anyway.

Fast forward to 2005-06. The venue: the picturesque PAF club at the foot of the Margalla hills, Islamabad. The club premises look organized and clinically clean. About 30 odd guests, men and women, are gathered at an afternoon reception organized by the PAF Finishing School for women, where they teach a variety of subjects ranging from culture, communication to culinary skills, and from literature to landscaping. The only thing common among the people gathered in that room is that they have lectured, at one time or another, at the Finishing School or are involved with its administration. The new director of the school is introducing herself and explaining the program for the new semester. Everyone is politely listening to the speech.

A few minutes into the speech, the smell of cigarette smoke wafts in the clean air of the room. Everyone in the room senses it but ignores it. I turn around to see the source of the smoke. It was none other but Ahmed Faraz puffing away at his cigarette, oblivious to the non-smoking environment.

After the speech, while everyone was having tea, I approached Faraz, introduced myself and, pointing to his cigarette, jokingly reminded him of the incident in the Forest College hall many years ago. I don't know if he remembered it, but he laughed and gave the impression that he did, and said, "Main do cheezain nahin chorr sakta. Ek cigarette aur doosra darrhi." I cannot do two things: Give up cigarettes or grow a beard.

The last time I saw Faraz was in the summer of 2008, at a mushaira at the annual gathering of Pakistani-American doctors (APPNA), at the Marriot Hotel in Washington, DC. Faraz shared the stage with Aitzaz Ahsan, Gopi Chand Narang and few other intellectuals and poets. He looked in good health. The mushaira lasted late into the night. Faraz sat there, without smoking. He knew the rules here. He occasionally sipped from what looked like a glass of water. When his turn came, he recited several poems in his deep, resonant voice, mostly from memory, to a thunderous applause from the audience and requests for more.

When the mushaira ended, Faraz hurriedly walked to what he thought was his room. But his key wouldn’t work on the lock. Thinking that it was the wrong door, he tried the key on the adjacent rooms, but they wouldn’t open either. Finally, with the help of the organizers, it was found that Faraz had checked in at a different hotel across the street, but had totally forgotten about it.

Faraz was a restless soul. May he rest in peace!


A variation of this piece was published in The News in 2008.

Friday, 17 July 2015

QK archives: The problem of Pakhtunistan


19 February 2003

The problem of Pukhtunistan

Dr. Sher Zaman Taizi

This area was called Pukhtunkhwa (Pukhtun Quarter, according to Bellew) or Paktika (according to Herodotus) and mentioned by many Pushto poets in their verses as Pukhtunkhwa since 11th century. The famous couplet of Ahmad Shah Abdali,
Da Dili takht herauma cheh rayad krhm,
Zma da khkule Pukhtunkhwa da ghre saroona.
I forget Delhi when I recall,
The mountain peaks of my beautiful Pukhtunkhwa.
During World War I, German and Turk governments sent a joint delegation to Kabul to win favour of Amir Habibullah Khan. The Amir was a protégé of the British government. He delayed the delegation for over a year without any positive response. There were some revolutionaries and Afghan leaders including a brother of the Amir named Nasrullah Khan who were in favour of the delegation and wanted the Amir declare Jihad.
That delegation included Kazim Bey, a Turk minister and special envoy of the last Sultan of Turkish Usmania dynasty - Mohammad V (known as Mohammad Khamis) who was virtually the Caliph of the Islamic world. In un-divided India, imams read the Khutba in his name in their Friday sermons. When the British government engineered plots to dethrone him, the Muslims of India launched a movement in his favour in the name of Khilafat movement which bore the Hijrat movement in 1920s.
Kazim Bey carried a farman from the Khalifa in Persian. It was addressed to the residents of Pathanistan. It said: when the British were defeated, His Majesty the Khalifa, in agreement with allied States, will acquire guarantee for independence of the united state of Pathanistan and will provide every kind of assistance to it. Thereafter, I will not allow any interference in the country of Pathanistan. (Ref: Pukhtunkhwa Kiyun Nahin by Dr. Mubarak Ahmad Chagharzai; 1989; PP: 138-139).
The word Pathanistan is not Persian but Indian. It shows that the Khalifa had already acquired the consent of the Muslim leaders of India or these leaders might have motivated the Khalifa to first liberate the Pukhtuns' land (Pathanistan) to build up a strong base against the British Empire in India. Any how, this farman was distributed in the tribal belt.
When the British Empire decided to leave India after its division in two separate States - Bharat and Pakistan - the Khudai Khidmatgar movement led by Bacha Khan opposed the division. Although the Congress had agreed to the division, all the other major parties of India including Jamaat Islami, Jamiat-ul-Ulema-e-Hind (Mufti Mahmood’s) and Ihrar also opposed it. However, the British government of India proposed a referendum in NWFP for India or Pakistan. Bacha Khan demanded that it should be Pakistan or Pukhtunistan. On 21 June 1947, Khudai Khidmatgar leaders met under the presidency of Amir Mohammad Khan (father of Nasim Wali Khan) at Bannu and declared that Pukhtuns did not accept India or Pakistan. Hence, the one-sided referendum was manipulated in favour of Pakistan. But the hero of the referendum, Amin-ul-Hasanat the Pir of Manki Sharif, later repented his role in the referendum and joined Bacha Khan. According to his will, his body was lowered in the grave by Bacha Khan.
Pakistan was created. Khudai Khidmatgar leaders assembled at Sardaryab on 3 and 4 September 1947 and passed a resolution that that accepted the ground reality that Pakistan had come into being. They would leave in Pakistan as its bona fide citizens. They however opposed the dismissal of Dr. Khan Sahib and installation of Qayum Khan as the Chief Minister, but decided to refrain from making any sort of disturbance and difficulty for the new state.
Bacha Khan took oath as member of the Legislative Assembly of Pakistan and in his maiden speech demanded that NWFP should be given the name of Pukhtunistan. At one point, when Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan tried to interrupt him and said something mentioning Pathanistan, then Bacha Khan scolded him that he had said Pukhtunistan and not Pathanistan.
Qayum Khan arrested Bacha Khan and then allowed indiscriminate firing at a gathering at Babra killing several hundred people, who demanded release of Bacha Khan. Hisaction and brutal policies were criticised by the major dailies, particularly the Civil and Military Gazette.
The Afghan government managed to gather a number of tribal elders in Kabul on 01 September 1949, which demanded Pukhtunistan and then formed even a sort of shadow government under the presidency of the Faqir of Ipi. 
Qayum seized that opportunity and linked the movement of Bacha Khan to Afghanistan and India and one-sided propaganda was launched against Bacha Khan. This policy of Qayum Khan suited the resolution drawn in what was called “secret document” prepared in 1948 by a few immigrant Muslim League leaders headed by Liaquat Ali Khan. That resolution was aimed at pushing the native leaders to into obscurity to enable the immigrant leadership to hold the power.
Field Marshal Ayub Khan indicated the difference between the Pukhtunistan of Utmanzai and the Pukhtunistan of Kabul in his book Friends Not Masters. However, the immigrant bureaucracy stuck to its policy to alienate the native leaders, including Bacha Khan, Abdul Samad Khan, Abdul Hamid Bhashani and G.M. Syed.
In the meantime, the government used all its resources to introduce Urdu, the language of a few hundred thousand immigrants, as the national language. The first voice was raised by Khwaja Nazim-ud-Din against this policy, which, eventually, led to bifurcation of Pakistan and creation of Bangla Desh.
Zia-ul-Haq agreed with Bacha Khan to change the name but he contended that the term Pukhtunistan had become controversial. Bacha Khan suggested Pukhtunkhwa. But, again, some hitch was created and Zia-ul-Haq asked Bacha Khan to suggest another name. In response, Bacha Khan wrote a letter (in Pushto) to the President to give up his efforts if he was so much constrained.
The assembly of the nameless province passed three resolutions to give province the name of Pukhtunkhwa, but the federal government did not honour the resolutions.
It is now high time that the ulema give attention to this problem and fulfil the wish of the last Caliph of Islam, Mohammad V, to name the province as Pukhtunistan.
(Daily The Statesman, Peshawar, 24 February 2003)

Friday, 10 July 2015

Bizzare history: The Pakistan-Afghanistan confederation plans

Originally published by the Nation in 2005. No copyright infringment intended

'A Pathan Odyssey'

The history of Pakistan is a history of missed opportunities. Read Aslam Khattak's autobiography, 'A Pathan Odyssey', and you will find out. It speaks of our many moments that went ungrasped, moments that passed us by, chances to change destinies for the better that went a begging. What makes the book unique is that it is a first hand account by a very long life, nearly a hundred year history written by a man who not only saw it happen but often participated in its making at different levels. Born in 1908, soon after Lord Curzon ceased being Viceroy of India, the grand old man is now 97 years old. Why, when he went up to Oxford in 1928 my father was only five years old!
One of the most famous incidents of the Raj was the kidnapping of the British girl Mollie Ellis in 1923 by Ajab Khan Afridi because he felt that the British had insulted his tribe. Mollie was the daughter of the British Commander of the Kohat cantonment. It was Aslam Khattak's father, Khan Bahadur Kuli Khan, who rescued her. A grateful British gave him the title of Kaiser-i-Hind. The unkind rumour soon started that "Kuli Khan arranged the kidnapping himself so that he could win honour and renown by the rescue." I suppose we were a cynical people even then.
I learned of two missed opportunities from his book. The first was regarding Jammu & Kashmir. It seems that we could have had Kashmir had we had grasped the opportunity. Says Aslam Khattak: "One story had it that Sardar Patel, the Indian Minister of the Interior, sent a message to Quaid-i-Azam through Mian Iftikharuddin that India would be prepared to hand over Kashmir and its majority Muslim population to Pakistan if Pakistan would agree to Hyderabad going to India. The Quaid-i-Azam is alleged to have replied that Kashmir was ours and Hyderabad was a legal case." Now if this account is correct, for Aslam Khattak does not claim to be a participant in it, it is for historians to shed light on it.

The other missed opportunity was Afghanistan. Our relations with this neighbour of ours were strained from the outset. The Afghan authorities had believed that their Pukhtoon brethren in Pakistan would be subjugated and ill-treated by the Punjabis (this bogey seems to have started early but it seems memories of Hari Singh die hard) and that before withdrawing, the British should grant some sort of independence to the tribes. So a month before independence, in July 1947, Afghan Prime Minister Shah Mahmood went to London seeking support for some kind of independence for the tribes. But the British Foreign Secretary told him that the NWFP was an integral part of India, which was recognised by the Afghan Government. Thus, after a referendum, the Frontier went to Pakistan. Says Aslam Khattak: "Unable to achieve realisation of its interest in the Frontier internationally, the Afghans turned to a demand for an independent state of Pushtunistan. They pushed it with diplomats in Kabul and the newly created United Nations Organisation. They provided money and arms to dissident tribesmen and gave them refuge and schooling in Kabul. They voted against Pakistan's admission to the UN." How times were to change. Thirty-two years later, it was Pakistan that was to give refuge and schooling to three million Afghans who fled the Soviet occupation.
The missed opportunity came in 1956-57 when Aslam Khattak was first our First Secretary and then Ambassador in Kabul. By then we had a full-blown 'Afghan Problem'. Prime Minister Suharawardhy called a meeting in which Army Chief General Ayub Khan "dismissed our neighboring country in proper Sandhurst style. 'Afghan problem?' he said gruffly. 'What is the Afghan problem? A little strategic bombing and an armoured thrust would settle it once and for all!.'" It was then that Pakistan, with Aslam Khattak in 'Track Two' mode, so to speak, started the proposal for a Pakistan-Afghan confederation. He wanted to get Prime Minister Sardar Daud on his side because "Daud honestly believed that the Pathans were oppressed in Pakistan. He considered it a duty to help his brethren. He may also have been suspicious about the 'A', for Afghan (Afghanica) province in Pakistan. Did it mean we wanted to take over his country? At the same time, we thought that Daud was in league with India and bent upon dividing our country with Delhi. As was often the case in such circumstance, both sides were wrong." Daud was King Zahir Shah's first cousin and married to the King's sister. It was he who eventually deposed Zahir Shah. Khattak went to see Daud and told him that he wanted "to remove the misunderstanding between our countries..."

Next, Khattak separately met the "royal uncles", Shah Wali and Shah Mahmood, and took them into confidence. "I told him that Pakistan and Afghanistan would have to form a confederation if they were to survive threats from the USSR and India." After considerable humming and hawing both agreed to take the idea further. "Now I was ready to try my hand with Sardar Daud, whom I thought would be my most difficult hurdle." After Daud had made his complaints and Khattak had clarified them, including the letter 'A' in the name 'Pakistan', they decided that there should be an exchange of visits between King Zahir Shah and President Iskander Mirza. Actually both President Mirza and Prime Minister Suhrawardy went to Kabul together, which is highly unusual. While King and President were involved in ceremony, the two Prime Ministers started talking. After they left, Khattak continued the dialogue with Daud, who "suggested that we include some friendly missions in our discussions, such as Turkey and the USA. Sardar Daud said that the Americans should foot the bill of our mutual development projects when we confederated. Both sides would maintain internal autonomy, he proposed, but they would form a Central Government for defence, foreign policy, foreign trade and communications. The Prime Ministers would rotate."

If you are surprised at how far the dialogue went, there was more. Feroz Khan Noon had replaced Suhrawardy as Prime Minister. Khattak raised the question of head of state of the confederation with him. "In his grand way [Noon] said we should have no difficulty accepting King Zahir Shah as the constitutional head of state. 'After all, for some time after independence we had a Christian queen. Now we would have a Muslim man'. President Mirza concurred in this." When Khattak next met Daud, he said that "...a confederation was the correct step to realise our common destiny. I noted that Pakistan was a democratic country and asked what would be the position of the King. He promptly replied, 'We shall be a republic if Pakistan so desires.'" So here was Pakistan ready to accept the constitutional monarchy of Zahir Shah in the new Pak-Afghan confederation and there was Afghanistan prepared to become a republic.
As to the USA, Aslam Khattak says, "The Americans agreed to help in a big way. They were prepared to enlarge Karachi harbour and to develop another port. They agreed to provide fifty locomotives and five hundred wagons and to extend the Chaman railway to Kandahar and the Torkham rail line to Jalalabad. Sardar Daud wanted them to extend the Jalalabad railhead to Kabul and to commit to connect Kandahar and Kabul by rail." They had actually got into post-confederation details.

Then came mistakes. Daud came to Pakistan and while inspecting a shipyard in Karachi a bullet ricocheted off a ship and hit Aslam Khattak instead. Undaunted, they decided to bring Ghaffar Khan into the equation. He was released from prison and sent to Kabul, where he agreed to help in removing Pakistan-Afghan differences provided President Mirza agreed to hold a referendum on the One Unit. Mirza agreed. The American Ambassador in Karachi assured Ghaffar Khan through the American Ambassador in Kabul that the referendum would be held. But it wasn't. "I have never known," says Aslam Khattak, "exactly why he did not go ahead and do the job that he said he would. He may have got word from some important Pathans in Pakistan that, if the Afghans stopped speaking about the Pushtuns, the Punjabis would literally turn them into camp followers and second-class citizens. At any rate a great chance to change the face of history was missed." Indeed. Let's leave it at that. So much water has flown since then. But consider. If the confederation had happened, it would have automatically meant the end of the Parity Principle and One Unit because the anti-democratic 1956 Constitution would have had to be changed. There would have been no Ayub Khan regime and East Pakistan may still have been with us. The Soviets would not have such a large country. No Soviet occupation means no Jihad. No Jihad means no Mujahideen. The Americans could not have created Osama bin Laden. No Osama means no 9/11.
E-mail: hgauhar@nation.com.pk

Thursday, 4 June 2015

QK Archives Wali Khan his fathers shadow

QK archives
Originally published by chowk.com in 2006

Khan Abdul Wali Khan: His Fathers Shadow?
H P January 25, 2006

A few personal memories of an honest and straightforward politician of Pakistan

I first met Khan Abdul Wali Khan with a group of students in the late 70s. My graduation still had a few more months to go and I was planning to continue in politics after graduating from student politics that I had joined in the volatile year of 1977.

By that time, Khan Wali Khan had lost his aura. He had made wrong choices in 1973 and paid a price. His party had split and Gen. Zia ul Haq was not happy with his party’s pro- Afghan leanings. Bacha Khan was still in Kabul in a self imposed exile and Wali Khan was looking for ways to bring him back to Pakistan.

It was quite obvious that there were difficulties ahead in Afghanistan. The news of proliferation of Jihadi organizations all over NWFP, especially in the tribal belt, were not encouraging for the progressive and liberal politics in NWFP and in Pakistan.

He talked about Afghanistan and Bacha Khan. It was an informative session but it was quite apparent that he was about ready to give up on politics in Pakistan alhough he kept encouraging us to fight on, repeatedly mentioning that we have a long way to go before Pakistan becomes a democracy.

Just a few years ago, Wali Khan was the leader of the Opposition in the first elected National assembly of Pakistan. There were stories about how Prime Minister Z A Bhutto was scared of him and on many occasions avoided meeting with Wali Khan preferring his close lieutenant and the Baloch leader Mir Ghaus Bux Bizenjo.

Physically, Wali Khan was an imposing figure standing well over six feet tall. With dark glasses to hide his loss of an eye, he was always difficult to read. Wali Khan also had an annoying habit during his leader of the opposition days, to issue threats of dire consequences and often talked about moving chains beyond the Attock Fort. That did not endear him to the people in Punjab.

Eventually Bhutto and the army were able to take advantage his often redundant outbursts when they brought the first Baloch Government of Balochistan down and had the army move in Balochistan to suppress resistance by the National Awami Party.

It was not the first time that the National Awami Party or NAP was in trouble with the army. NAP was banned during the army operations in East Pakistan in 1971. It was the only party in West Pakistan that stood up for Bengalis and condemned the army action in East Pakistan. That was the proudest moment in the lives of many NAP workers as they sincerely believed that they were fighting to save Pakistan by supporting Pakistanis of the Bengali origin. Later on, I met many former NAP workers who always excitedly talked about the dark days of 1971 when either they were behind bars or were distributing leaflets against the army in the darks of nights in different Pakistani cities.

Some old timers told me that Wali Khan himself was not ready to confront the army but always had words of encouragement for students and Labor leaders in NWFP and supported their families when they were in jail.

Unlike Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, some would say, Wali Khan often showed his reluctance to take the authorities on. He was always a vocal opponent but when the time came to confront Gen. Ayub or Gen. Yahya Khan, he moved back to Wali Bagh, Charsadda in NWFP, reading a huge collection of books that he had acquired.

Today when I look back, I feel that Wali Khan never actually fulfilled his promise. He inherited a strong tradition of personal sacrifices, selfless political and social work of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan and the Khudai Khadmitgar movement. On many occasions, in different parts of NWFP, I remember meeting old Surkhposh who still loved Ghaffar Khan but could never get excited about Wali Khan and his leadership. They always showed up to listen to him but the enthusiasm that they had for Ghaffar Khan was never there. Perhaps, that was the reason the surkhposh movement, a genuinely secular political movement, slowly died in NWFP giving rise to the current religious political parties.

Wali Khan spent almost three years in jail in Hyderabad prison. The jail Superintendent was our family friend and a proud Sindhis nationalist. He always wanted to help the NAP leaders that included Wali Khan, Bizenjo, Mengal, and many others but this was the first time that Wali Khan was incarcerated for a long period of time. He was bitter and wanted to get out of the jail at any price. He did not appreciate the jail limitations and once slapped the Superintendent. That destroyed that gentle soul. He resigned. When I met Wali Khan for the last time and on finding out that I was from Hyderabad, he asked me about the Superintendent. He felt sorry for what he did and wanted me to convey his apologies to him.

That jail term actually ended Wali Khan’s short-lived political career in Pakistan. He wanted to come out of the jail and wanted to go back to Wali Bagh and his books. He reportedly made a deal with the army and his wife Begum Nasim Wali Khan, joined the rightwing ISI sponsored alliance that eventually led to the army coup of Gen. Zia ul Haq in Pakistan.

Interestingly, Begum Nasim Wali Khan was a phenomenal orator in both Urdu and Pashto. Her speeches against Bhutto and the Peoples’ Party moved crowds all over Pakistan in 1977. People in Karachi, Lahore, and Hyderabad would come to every rally where she was the main speaker. She made so many friends in Punjab that often people wondered as to why she was not the NAP leader instead of Wali Khan. She was articulate and made her case to Punjab with eloquence and dignity.

That aside, after 1977 Wali Khan the politician, had embarked on a slippery slope that continued to slide. He made compromises with the army, left his Baloch friends, refused to allow the liberals from Sindh and Punjab to join his political party, and finally declared “Islam humara deen” in his party’s manifesto.

Historians would judge Wali Khan’s contribution to Pakistani politics better than I could but if someone were to write the history of the Surkhposh movement in NWFP, they would not remember Wali Khan with the kind of reverence that was reserved for Khan Ghaffar Khan.

On Pakistan’s national political scene, he would still be remembered as a politician who for most of his career worked under the huge shadow of Khan Ghaffar Khan, but at times was able to bring a kind of honestly and straightforwardness to Pakistani politics that was often lacking in the politicians that worked under the different Muslim League banners.

Monday, 18 May 2015

CPEC- A Timeline of Changing Positions of the Government

 CPEC- A Timeline of Changing Positions of the Government
Over the last few months a huge debate generated on social, print & electronic media over the alleged changes to the original route of Pak-China Economic Corridor (CPEC)However, it got more intense during the recent visit of Chinese President where Pakistan & China signed a $ 45.6 billion MoU for Chinese investment in CPEC. Almost all political parties started their protests against PML-N government both inside and outside parliament over the changes in the original routeANP & PPP did separate All Parties Conferences to build a consensus against any changes to the original route. There were some protests too in the two smaller provinces against the alleged changes in CPEC route. The ruling PML-N government and its ministers response to these criticism is ambiguous, at best. These lines will try to give a brief time line of official response to the allegations of changes in the CPEC route. 

The latest response from the government came in a tweet from Mr Ahsan Iqbal on 30th April, 2015 where he gave a map, showing four routes for the CPEC.  Minister tweeted ‘CPEC routes: work in progress on all (routes) simultaneously and western (route) will be operational first. IA’. However the annual PSDP document of the planning commission & the 51 MoUs signed on 20thApril, 2015 negates ‘work in progress on all routes’. All 21 projects of CPEC mentioned in PSDP 2014-15 document is of developing eastern route only. Similarly, the MoUs signed with Chinese government has no investment commitment for the western route of CPECA week earlier, Planning Commission uploaded a map on its official website giving ‘Economic Nodes of CPEC’ without giving any map of the route(s) of the corridor

Probably the very first response from Government on the alleged changes in CPEC route came in June, 2014 in meeting of Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Revenue when some opposition senatorquestion the proposed changes in the original route,Responding to a question, Secretary Planning & Development confirmed that “the proposal (to change the route) was on the table’ on request by Chinese Ambassador. Later, Mr Ahsan Iqbal joined the meeting and confirmed a change of plan on the corridor projectMr Iqbal said the government choose the eastern route (going through Punjab & Sindh) over the western route (going through KP & Balochistan) because it has some of the Early Harvest Projects (EHPs) which can be completed in 4-5 years. The minister argues that “the government would move to the next phase after reaping economic benefits of the first phase and by the time the national economy would become strong enough to take on big projects”. He further asked the opposition “to find out investors for constructing this important corridor on BOT (build-operate-transfer) basis and then there will be no change in the original plan (western route).” 

In another meeting on 10th October, 2014 of a Senate’s Standing Committee on Communications, members from the smaller provinces reject exclusion of backward areas of Balochistan & KP from the Pak-China Corridor Route.Chairman Senate Standing Committee, Daud Khan Achakzai, complain that their earlier recommendations were not entertained by the government. The members of the committee expressed annoyance over the absence of the minister of state for communications from the meeting.

Fast forward to the senate session on 3rd February, 2015 and Ahsan Iqbal termed the reports of route change as ‘propaganda by forces that did not want to see improvement in Pakistan-China relations. However, in the same senate session, Mr Ahsan Iqbal told that “the government was considering using the existing infrastructure to benefit from trade with China and Central Asian States during the ‘interim period’ on China’s request”. While senators from the smaller provinces were complaining that the government changed the route to include Lahore, Multan, Sukkur & Hyderabad, the Minister call it only an ‘interim arrangement’ to use existing infrastructure.

In yet another meeting of the Senate Committee on foreign affairs on 5th February, 2015, NHA chairman told members of the committee that "Whatever we have done is with the consent of the Chinese authorities who told us that instead of waiting (for the original route), the existing road network could be used for making Gwadar port operational at the earliest." To which Senator Farhatullah Babar remarked that ‘once the the new alignment becomes operational it will, overtime, create its own vested interests and it will be impossible to revert to the initially planned alignment via D.I Khan and D.G Khan. Thus for all practical purposes the new alignment will become final and irrevocable. The senator further said that ‘the decision about the economic corridor’s alignment is fundamentally a political decision and has to be addressed at a political level; stating that it cannot be addressed by bureaucrats attending today’s meeting.’
After ANP did an APC on corridor on 18th February, 2015 to build consensus against changes in the original route, Mr Ahsan Iqbal started saying on public forums that ‘Economic corridor will have multiple routes’ and that ‘not a single inch (of the original plan) has been changed’. He alsotalked about the wrong maps been floated on the internet which to him are spreading confusion regarding corridor. Late in April, 2015, he started saying & tweeting that that the Western Route of CPEC will be completed in 2016 pointing out to the already completed work on N-85 & M-8.

It is also to be pointed out that earlier on 8th February, 2015, Planning Commission tweeted a map of the corridor from its official twitter account where only the eastern route was showed which was later deleted after strong criticism over it. Same (deleted) map is also given in annual report 2013 of Pakistan China Institute which is a non-government, non-partisan and non-political think tank. This particular think tank is headed by Mushahid Hussain Syed who is now co-chair of the newly founded think tank “Research and Development International (RANDI)”.   

Despite tremendous pressure on the current government from political parties, print, electronic and social media to come clear on the CPEC route change, the response of PML-N government is ambiguous at best. Their changing positions about the route(s) of CPEC and not sharing detail information about this important project with political parties and general public cast doubts about their intentions. 

Monday, 2 March 2015

QK archives: Senate elections 2003

Republished from DAWN archive for archival purposes.

Independents make dent

By Mohammed Riaz

Peshawar: The affluent independent candidates who ran for the Senate elections from NWFP have not only made a dent in the political parties, but shattered the confidence of the parties' leaders.

Three independent senators - Mohammad Azam Khan Swati, a former Mansehra Nazim, Waqar Ahmed, and his father Gulzar Ahmed, a former lieutenant of Benazir Bhutto - bagged the highest votes in the Senate election on Monday. The three worthy senators are known for their riches.

The three candidates have collectively polled 32 out of the valid 121 votes. Three votes were rejected.

Khalilur Rehman, alias 'Commander', who polled handsomely in a previous Senate election, has done very well this time again. This time he had managed a ticket of the ruling PML-Q and averted all gossip against him. But his fellow Leaguers are satisfied with him. He bagged nine votes.

The PPP and PML-N have emerged as the biggest losers in this election after the general elections. The PPP nominee, Sardar Ali Khan, polled only one vote out of the total of 10. The PML-N nominee, Sardar Mehtab Ahmed Khan, also got only one vote out of his party's five MPAs. But his brother-in-law, Mumtaz Abbasi from Hazara, Dr Saleem Khan from Swabi and Sardar Israrullah Khan from Dera Ismail Khan voted for Mr Mehtab Khan and he won the seat on the basis of these three votes.

Awami National Party's Asfandyar Wali Khan secured seven out of the 10 votes of his party. Three of the ANP's members sold out. The PPP-S has 13 MPAs, but its nominee Shujaul Mulk secured 10 votes with three of its legislators slipping out of its grasp.

The ruling alliance, Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal, has won seven general seats, two women's and two technocrat seats. The MMA has secured 11 out of the total of 24 seats. The JUI, leading component of the MMA, has given four MPAs to Azam Swati and he managed seven more out of the other parties' dissidents.

Chief Minister Akram Khan Durrani too had expressed his hatred towards the horse-trading in the elections. One of the candidates offered Rs12 million to an MMA member, but he refused to sell out. That MPA is very poor. He has an old motorbike. But he stood like a towering mountain against the lucrative offer. We know that brokers remained active for the last several days, he told Dawn. Ibrahim Qasmi, Maulana Ismatullah, Qari Mehmood, Sardar Idrees, Maulana Mohammad Idrees, Akhtar Nawaz Khan, Ghaliba Khursheed and Shah Hussain were reportedly directed by the MMA to vote for Mr Azam Khan.

After his success, Mr Azam Khan told reporters that he was thankful to the JUI for its support, but he would not sit with MMA senators as he had nothing to do with the alliance.

Dr Saleem from Swabi told Dawn that all the seven independents are united under one banner, but they had much earlier agreed that they would not collectively cast their votes. Everybody was free to vote according to his conscience.

MPA Zar Gul, PML-Q, remained active the whole day on Monday to coordinate with MPAs who were to vote for the PML-Q nominee. The PPP and ANP drove their candidates in a motorcade from their respective secure locations to the assembly hall.

Chief Minister Durrani led the JUI men from the Frontier House to the assembly hall in the afternoon. They were the last ones who polled their votes.

QK archives: PPP & Senate 2003 elections

published by THE NEWS March 18 2003
republished for archival purposes solely.

Moment of truth for PPP in NWFP after Senate loss
By Rahimullah Yusufzai
PESHAWAR: Such is the seriousness of the crisis in the PPP following its disastrous performance in the recent Senate elections in the NWFP that the party leader Benazir Bhutto has summoned her 10 MPAs to Dubai to find out as to what went wrong.
The meeting is scheduled to take place on March 24. It might be delayed due to the serious illness of Begum Nusrat Bhutto. But sooner or later, the party leadership would have to tackle the problems that pose a challenge to the PPP unity in the province.
The PPP failed to win one of the general seats in the Senate despite having the requisite number of votes. Any candidate with 8.2 votes was sure to win the Senate's general seat in the first counting. The party's 10 MPAs would have easily elected the PPP candidate, Sardar Ali Khan, as a Senator had they voted for him. But Sardar Ali, a dedicated party leader and a former MNA, got only one vote and lost. His lone voter was Syed Zahir Ali Shah, son of another former MNA Syed Zafar Ali Shah, who earned praise for voting for the party nominee despite all kinds of temptations.
The nine votes of PPP MPAs remain unaccounted. Their opponents accuse them of selling the votes to wealthy independent candidates for the Senate. It is alleged that they voted for Gulzar Ahmad Khan and his son Waqar Ahmad Khan, who were both elected Senators. Ironically, the father and son were once PPP stalwarts and permanent hosts of Ms Bhutto in Lahore. Some people also claimed that four PPP MPAs voted for Mohammad Azam Swati, the rich former district nazim of Mansehra who became a Senator with JUI-F support.
The PPP MPAs did elect Farhatullah Babar as a Senator on one of the technocrats' seats. But that was no big deal because other parties such as the ANP and PML-Q with 10 MPAs each managed to win two Senate seats, one general and the second of technocrat. In real terms, the ANP had only seven votes because three of its MPAs didn't vote for the party candidate, Asfandyar Wali Khan. Still the party won a general and a technocrat seat and expelled the three vote-selling MPAs from the ANP. The PPP's inability to win a general seat fuelled speculations, including the one that accused the party's nine MPAs of selling their votes. The MPAs have consistently denied the allegation, arguing that they traded their votes to seek support for Babar from members of other opposition parties. The argument lacks conviction and is at best an effort to tide over the storms of protest on the PPP's failure to win two Senate seats from the Frontier.
The nine PPP MPAs now in the dock include the party's parliamentary leader and former NWFP Assembly Speaker Abdul Akbar Khan and former provincial minister Iftikhar Jhagra. Both are seasoned politician and were expected to lead their younger. Instead, they were accused of letting the party to go adrift. The other seven PPP MPAs all first timers in the provincial assembly are Qurban Ali Khan (Nowshera), Syed Mohammad Ali Shah Bacha (Malakand Agency), Tariq Khattak (Nowshera), Hamid Iqbal (Shangla), Mazhar Jamil Orakzai (Dera Ismail Khan), Salma Babar (Dera Ismail Khan), and Ms Muniba (Chitral).
The PPP's poor performance in the Senate polls had a negative effect on the party's unity. The party's provincial president Khwaja Mohammad Khan Hoti led a campaign to make the erring MPAs accountable. He was joined by general secretary Najmuddin Khan and Syed Qamar Abbas, who wisely withdrew from the Senate elections after reading the writing on the wall and made room for Sardar Ali Khan. Hoti and the others were emboldened by ANP's decision to expel its three vote-selling MPAs and made them make a similar demand. But it appears unlikely that Ms Bhutto would expel the nine PPP MPAs because it would be a big loss for the party and would reduce it to a one MPA group in the NWFP Assembly.
Hoti's opponents in the PPP have also become active to make their presence felt. This group is justifying the Senate polls result and refusing to accept blame for vote selling. The nine MPAs have played a pivotal role in making the point that none of them sold votes to the highest bidder among the independent candidates. Surprisingly, the group is getting precious support from Maj Gen (Retd) Naseerullah Babar, a former interior minister and governor of the NWFP. Babar, respected because of his clean reputation, threw caution to the wind when he starting supporting the nine MPAs. In the process, he earned scorn from PPP members and began losing his credibility among the people. It was defending the indefensible but Babar persisted with his line of argument.
Ms Bhutto, the final authority in the PPP, would have to decide the matter judiciously to save the party from further splits and divisions. It is going to be a difficult decision and would affect the party's future in the NWFP. Hoti and some of his supporters have threatened to quit the party if the nine MPAs are pardoned. And expelling them from the party would also mean a big loss, at least for the time being.