Friday, 21 October 2016

The 'Invisible' Western Route of CPEC
by Sulaiman Mandarn

The PML-N on one side, all the others on the other. That is the CPEC divide. While the federal government considers it a game changer for Pakistan and the entire region, the others consider it a game changer for only Punjab.
Almost all political parties from the smaller provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and Gilgit-Baltistan complain that the focus of the CPEC is Punjab and that their provinces are left out. Even the PPP, which ruled the centre in the previous term, does not hesitate in calling it the China-Punjab Economic Corridor.   That becomes a particularly jarring situation, given how the success of the project depends solely on these smaller provinces and Gilgit-Baltistan.
Then there is the additional argument that these regions were historically left out of development as well and that this was a perfect opportunity to remove their grievances. Pick any socio-economic indicator of your choice, and you will see stark differences between the western and eastern regions. One analyst from Quetta tweeted that the CPEC is likely to exacerbate regional disparities and will increase inter-group tensions as growth will be exclusive; and, thus, will result in a weaker federation. This is alarming.         
Political parties in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan thus demand that the CPEC route needs to go through Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan. The Baloch, however, are divided as some want the route to pass through Balochistan while others consider it only to be another extractive tool of the federal government.   
In February 2015, the Awami National Party called an All Parties Conference to share its apprehensions regarding the CPEC route with other political parties. Given the opportunity to speak on the occasion, I had made it very clear, by showing documentary proof to the participating political parties, that the plan of the western route is no more on the books      till until at least 2030 and that the original route has been hijacked by the PML-N government.  
In response to the ANP’s APC, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif pledged in another APC that the western route would be the priority route and would also be completed first. However, it was later clear that those were mere words, and the promise was not fulfilled. The following PSDP (budget document) didn’t have enough allocations for the promised western route and the same is the case with this year’s PSDP. The only road that is being constructed on the western route is funded by the ADB and work on it is moving at a snail’s pace. One can confirm this by having a look at the last three PSDP documents.
Senator Taj Haider, chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on the CPEC, shared his committee report (available on the Senate of Pakistan website) in a talk show; the report said that the western route is not existent and that all projects are based in Punjab and Sindh. He made another startling revelation: that the Gwadar Port is a non-starter as the Karachi Port is going to be used for CPEC-related activities. I had also said in February 2015 that the plan on paper is to connect Lahore with Karachi through motorways and use the coastal highway for Gwadar at a later stage.
In a press conference on September 30, Ahsan Iqbal announced that the CPEC portfolio had increased to $51.5 billion as China was going to finance the ML-1 Railway Line. An extra $5.5 billion concessional loan has been agreed with China to upgrade Karachi-Lahore railway line. He added that the ADB would finance the remaining portion of ML-1 from Lahore to Peshawar which also mainly comes in the province of Punjab. This too is a project on the eastern route.
The Awami National Party called for country-wide protests on the issue and ran a social media campaign. In the meanwhile, the tweet of a senior Chinese embassy official did not confirm or deny the non-existence of western route of the CPEC.
A break-up of CPEC projects was given with 16 projects in Balochistan, eight in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 13 in Sindh and 12 in Punjab. However, the number of projects is hardly relevant, considering the funds allocated against each project. As someone wondered: how can one compare construction of a primary school in Gwadar with a multi-billion dollar Orange Line in Lahore?
On the official website for the CPEC [], a list of all CPEC projects is given with details about each project. In the energy sector, there are a total of 16 Prioritized/Early Harvest projects of 10,400MW costing $15.5 billion where only one is in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the Kaghan Valley and one in Balochistan on the coastal region. A list of eight other energy projects is given, costing $18.3 billion; these projects are termed ‘actively promoted projects’. Under this section, all the projects are either located in Punjab or Sindh with the exception of two in Balochistan and none in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa or GB.        
In the transportation sector, a list of eight projects is given in road and rail infrastructure which are entirely located on the eastern route of the CPEC. The only exceptions are the road project of D I Khan-Quetta highway and the Havelian Dry Port worth $40 million, both at the feasibility stages. The website shows the eastern route projects with a completion rate of 60 percent. The Karakoram Highway project is common to both the eastern route and ‘the invisible’ western route.
A list of other 10 projects is given, based in Gwadar and with a total cost of less than $1 billion. These projects are mostly related to make the Gwadar port ‘functional’. Interestingly, the Lahore Orange Line Project is shown in the list of projects under the CPEC industrial cooperation which cost more than $1.62 billion.
Summarising the information on the CPEC website and comparing it with documents of JCC meeting minutes, we find out that the major part of the $51.5 billion is to be spent on the eastern route while some portion on the common route – the Karakuram Highway – whereas nothing substantial is going to be spent on the western route. Nearly $45 billion is allocated for projects of the eastern route from different sectors whereas $6 billion is allocated for projects of the Gwadar Port and KKH.
All the information given above is taken from the official CPEC website, JCC documents and press statements of the federal planning minister. The message is clear: there is no western route. It is very unfortunate that Pakhtuns and Baloch are being sidelined from economic opportunities and denied their fair share.
The Punjab-dominated federal government has to open its eyes before it gets too late. These concerns are genuine. Labelling criticism as treason or as people working on a foreign agenda will further alienate the already sidelined people of the country’s smaller provinces.        
The writer is a member of the National Youth Organization of the Awami National Party. The article originally appeared in The News on 12th October, 2016
He tweets at @Mandanr

Monday, 3 October 2016

A Brief Account of Archealogical Remains in Hazarkhwani

"A Brief account of Archealogical Remains in
Hazarkhwani Graveyard Peshawar"

By Ibrahim Shah
The Hazarkhwani graveyard, known after a nearby village of this name, is located at a short distance to the south of Ganj gate of the walled city of Peshawar. It is also called Akhun Baba graveyard after the celebrity of the famous saint Akhun Darweza Baba lying enshrined herein. It extends over a vast area and is still used by the local people. When the graveyard was first made in use cannot be ascertained for lack of any inscriptional or literary evidence at hand. At the most the possibility that it was already existing at this place prior to the Mughal epoch cannot be ruled out. It houses thousands of graves belonging to the rank and file, higher government functionaries and saints in different mode of construction. Apart from this, the graveyard also contains two ruined mosques and remains of large well. Innumerable historic inscriptions found within the graveyard form a separate class of its own which is beyond the sphere of this work. Archaeologically, the graveyard bears utmost importance. The last but not the least importance is the location of the world-famous Shah Ji Ki Dheri identified to be the site of the Kanishka vihara in the northern quarter of this graveyard. The graveyard is bifurcated by a narrow metallic road going to Hazarkhwani, a village in the Peshawar. The existence of these historical monuments and graves makes it distinguished in the whole area. We are going to discuss on by one.

Research Scholar, Department of Archaeology, University of Peshawar.
Vol. XX No. 1 July 1997


In chronological order the site of Shah Ji Ki Dheri, dating to the time of Kanishka. can be placed at the earliest. It can be approached by a road leading to Hazarkhwani. The ruins of the mound, although at present hardly traceable, can only be identified by an elevated contour of the earth upon which now stands modern houses, lying in the north-east part of this graveyard. The spot is generally known as “Mahbuba Dheri” after a legendary loving couple “Mahbuba and Jalat Khan” whose love story is still circulating among the dwellers of outskirts of the city. The south side of he ruins is enclosed within the curtain wall of the tomb of Khawaja Sayyid Ata Allah which can be discerned from cultural material found within the debris of excavations conducted in the first decade of this country. Once it consisted of two large mounds laying in east-west orientation. The site was first excavated by Lt. Crompton in 1875, which was followed by D.S Spooner in 1908—09 and H. Hargreaves in 1910- II. The eastern mound revealed the great stupa while the western unearthed the monastery attached to it. This great stupa according to Hiuen Tsang, was located to the south of the sacred pipal tree itself lying to the south-east of the city. Buddha is said to have prophesied the erection this stupa having sat beneath this pipal tree whose height was one hundred feet or so …… four hundred years after by (my) departure from the world, there will be a king who shall rule it called Kanishka (Kia-ni-se-kia): not far to the south of this spot he will raise a stupa which will contain many various relics of my bones and flesh”5. As to the stupa, Fa-Hein observes that it was about 400 feet high, and “adorned with all manner of precious things.” Sang-Yun reports that “among the topes of Western countries this is the first”: lastly Hiuen Tsang says that it was upward of 400 ft, in height and 1/½ li or just one quarter of a mile, in circumference. Hargreaves reports that “ the monument was of cruciform type, the square base 180 feet in length, the projection 50 feet.” He further maintains that “ the circular bastion-like tower bases at each corner are

Vol. XX No. 1 July 1997

Journal of Central Asia
However, a unique feature of the monument....." . The eye-witness record of the Chineese Pilgrims informs that there were a hundred small stupas to the right and left of the great stupa standing with regularity, and executed with consumate art . Hiuen Tsang further tells us that "according to the prediction of Tathagatha, after this stupa has been seven times burnt down and seven times rebuilt, then the religion of Buddha will disappear. The record of old worthies says this building has already been destroyed and restored three times. When first arrived in this country it had just been destroyed by a fire calamity. Steps are being taken for its restoration, but they are not yet complete"9. Whether the prophecy was fulfilled and the stupa was finally burnt down for the seventh time is not known for certain '. Since the upper storeys were made of wood, they had therefore been subject to destruction by fire or lightening. Ashy layers exposed in the course of excavation have testified this statement.

The most celebrated Kanishka vihara was identified by Alfred Foucher with Shah Ji Ki Dheri which was attested by D.B. Spooner's excavations in 1908-09 who not only located the stupa but also succeeded in discovering the bronze reliquary . The inscribed cylindrical casket yielded three small fragments of bone believed to be the relics of Buddha (as per his prediction in the accounts of Chinese pilgrims) which were later on presented by Lord Curzon, the then Governor-General of India, to the Buddhists of Burma to be re-enshrined at Mandalay '. The relic casket is inscribed in the cursive Kharoshthi script, the language being Sanskritized form of Prakrit. Of the four epigraphs on the casket transcribed and translated by D.B. Spooner, the excavator, the most informative is as follows15:

dasa agisala navakarmi (k)aniskasa
vihara mahasenasa sangharame
"The slave Agisalaos, the superintendent of works at the vihara of Kanishka in the monastery of Mahasena".

Vol. XX No. 1 July 1997

QK Archives: Da Kabul Naukari...

The Frontier Post, July 1989

By Shahid Orakzai

“Hey buddy, how about a job at Kabul?”, the bandarwala would ask the monkey in the course of his public interview. The rhesus would shriek and jerk his head in strong disapproval and audience would burst into laughter. By the late 1920s, even monkeys roaming the dusty streets of Peshawar had picked up that much common sense. “Da Kabaul naukari na kawam,” (“employment in Kabul-Oh never”) had become a popular Pashto expression that echoed in the hills of the Khyber and rang through the valleys of the Pathan country. A job at Kabul, most probably recruitment in the ill-clad Afghan infantry, was not worth a monkey who happened to live east of Durand Line.

That was the time when the times actually started changing for the Pukhtoons on the two sides of the British drawn demarcation. Apparently, they had only two options. Either stay loyal to an impotent and bankrupt monarchy in Kabul or do business with flourishing British imperialism in India. There were very few floor crossings and people generally settled for whatever was available on their side of the Line. On average, it appears that Pukhtoons were sold out on a “As is where is” basis.

Some may now cite the hatred for monarchy as one of the reasons but the reason that worked and outweighed all others was the silver coin of the British India. The rupee, today the most authentic and popular measure of a Pukhtoon’s life and achievement, was to be found east of Durand Line. Military service in the Indian Army, earthwork labor, firewood, shoe-shine, transportation, smuggling and narcotics helped the Pukhtoons to discover the new frontiers of the worldly success beyond the banks of ‘Abaasin’ (the Indus). Like a typical watchman, Pukhtoons have watched everyone’s interest but their own.

The British initiated the phenomenon and did everything possible to make sure that the original Pukhtoon culture and values get drained out as fast as possible. The leftover residue of Pukhtoon nation, the way it lies before us today, could then be easily managed. For that objective, the British cultivated two classes in particular, i.e. the Maliks among the hill tribes and feudal politicians in the Charsadda and Mardan. The raj used them like the knife and fork to tear the Pukhtoon nation into pieces. North of the Khyber, Pukhtoons were fast asleep for decades and south of Torkham they were awake only to pocket economic gains. Today, on both sides of the Durand Line, they are a people without a vision of nationhood, sovereignty and even individual honor that once turned clay into a Pukhtoon.

The departure of the British did not prove to be a departure from colonial approach and policies. The knife and fork just changed hands. In fact, they went into hands that could mishandle the tools. Pakistan’s colonial establishment inherited the British visions and outlook and viewed the geo-political realities no differently. The reunion of the divided Pukhtoons could never fit in its scheme or frame of mind. That possibility could be perceived only as a threat. Consequently, Pakistan’s political and military leadership moved to counter that threat instead of capitalizing the idea.

After 1947, the Pukhtoons secured a reasonable share in the economic fortunes. Their lower and middle classes began to move around freely in the agriculturally rich plains of Punjab and Sindh in a variety of economic pursuits. Consequently, their social and economic bonds with Punjabis grew stronger with time while their blood bond with the people northwest of the Khyber began to liquidate. A bit of economic prosperity and political freedom injected a strange superiority complex among Pakistani Pukhtoons. They began looking at their own Afghan brethren as inferiors- in every sense of the world. During the last few decades, the economic pace at the two ends of the Khyber Pass drew another Durand Line. That’s what anyone seeking to divide a nation could eventually desire. The Establishment had always worked in that direction, patting the Pukhtoons and telling them, “you are much better off with us than you could be with Kabul.” Allow me to recall the comments of a Sindhi Prime Minister, as he addressed an audience of Maliks at my hilltop village. The most enlightened premier Pakistan ever had ordered his minister for power and resources to fix big tungsten bulbs on the Afghan border “so that they (the Afghans) can see the light on our side and feel the darkness on their’s.” If electric bulb is all the light that nations need to get enlightened, one wonders who is the dark?

As an Islamic Republic, Pakistan had always turned its back to the miserable state of Iranian and Afghan people. The champions of the freedom and liberty never challenged the policy that consolidated despotism in our western neighborhood. While the Muslims of the Pakistan wanted freedom and civil rights for themselves, they preferred to see others in chains. Turning a deaf ear to the advice of Prophet Muhammad-“Do not prefer for your brother, what you don’t like for yourself,” they set a new standard for Islamic brotherhood. The new motto is, “Support the kings, wherever you find them.”

The indifference towards the Persians and Afghans had a penalty. The penalty is being paid in the capitalist havens of the Karachi. And that’s quite natural and well deserved. If you don’t accept the blood bond between the Pukhtoons on the two sides of the Durand Line, how valid is the bond between the Pukhtoons and the Punjabis or Punjabis and Sindhis, the Sindhis and Muhajirs, Muhajirs and Punjabis. Name a single one of these relationships that is stronger than the bond between the divided Pukhtoons. What does a Pukhtoon share with a Sindhi that he does not share with his own tribesmen across Torkham?  Religion?  Language? Philosophy? Or separatism?

Employment in Kabul is still out of question for a Pukhtoon east of Khyber but his rejection this time shouldn’t be based on poor salary, provident fund and pension. A job at Kabul is still worth a monkey and Moscow has found the monkeys it needs. Informatively for the Pukhtoons, it is willing to pay them more than the British once offered.

QK archives: Interviewing Akram Khan Durrani

Newsline 2003 January

"Now the central government and the USA will have to review their policies"

- Akram Khan Durrani, Chief Minister, NWFP.

By Amir Mohammad Khan

Akram Khan Durrani was elected the 18th chief minister of the NWFP after the landslide victory of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) in the October 10 general election. A member and candidate of Maulana Fazlur Rahman's Jamiat Ulema-I-Islam (JUI-F), the party that had won the largest number of seats in the coaliton, Akram Durrani came to prominence in a house dominated by new faces as the MMA component parties accepted him as their leader.

Akram Durrani is the second Frontier chief minister who belongs to JUI-F. The first was Maulana Fazlur Rahman's father, Maulana Mufti Mehmood, who ruled the province as head of a coalition government in 1970. The National Awami Party (NAP), later re-christened the Awami National Party (ANP), was an ally of the JUI, now called JUI-F. Durrani heads a six-party religious coalition government that contested the elections under the MMA banner.

Before the election, MMA leaders, particularly those from the JUI-F, fearlessly opposed the US attacks on Afghanistan and also agitated against the Pakistan government's support to Washington and won the people's approval in the polls. However, after MMA's unexpected victory in the strategically located Frontier province, Akram Durrani appears uncharacteristically cautious and guarded in this interview with Newsline.

Q: What is your top priority as chief minister of the NWFP?

A: The Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal has a programme for the country and the people voted it to power in the Frontier for its manifesto. The primary agenda, if the MMA's voted to power, was that it would impose Islam in the country. As it stands now, we are in the opposition and not the majority in the centre. However, in the Frontier we are in majority and have formed our government. There is an institution in this country called the Council of Islamic Ideology. This council, in which every party and school of thought is represented, has finalised its recommendations. We will try to introduce those sections and clauses of the report of the Council of Islamic Ideology which comes under the jurisdiction of the provincial government.

Q: What problems do people face in the Frontier, and what issues are you going to address?

A: We will work towards improving the law and order situation and make efforts to create a sense of security among our people. It is the responsibility of every government to give protection to its people and ensure peace and security in the country.

Unemployment is another serious problem that we want to address. If we are to eradicate unemployment, we will have to promote industrialisation. There is no other option. Industrialists need an improvement in the law and order situation, and we will ensure peace and security. We intend to form a joint committee comprising politicians and industrialists to work out recommendations for the promotion of industrialisation. We will look into giving incentives to entrepreneurs for investment in poverty-stricken districts to help overcome unemployment in these deprived areas.

Another sector is health services, which needs immediate attention. We have certain districts which have little or no health facilities, particularly in the southern districts. There is not a single proper hospital in the southern belt. Similarly, Kohistan and Dir have got their own problems. We will try to provide at least basic health and education facilities in these areas even if we cannot bring them at par with those districts where comparatively better services are available.

Roads in most areas of the province are in ruins. It is true that certain areas have better roads and it gives us pleasure that our capital, Peshawar, has good roads because people from other provinces and from across the globe visit this city. However, the situation is not that good in other areas. The southern districts and underdeveloped areas lack this facility. It is the duty of the government to build roads and improve means of communication.

Many areas lack potable water. There are areas where the people, including the women carry water at night and early in the morning in vessels on their heads from miles away. We will try to provide potable water to every village and house in these areas.

Educational facilities are available in most areas. We will try to establish colleges and universities in those districts which are underprivileged, underdeveloped in education, and give ethics-based education to our new generation and tackle obscenity, if there is any, in a gentle and kind way. Everything is not achieved by use of force.

Q: You mentioned ethics-based education. There have been voices in the Majlis-e-Amal against co-education. How are you going to treat co-education in the province?

A: There is no co-education at lower levels in our province. We have it only at the university level, and at this level one is mature enough to take care of one's behaviour. We have seen in the university that there has seldom been any indecent incident. One can object to co-education at the lower levels where one is too immature and young, but we don't have it in our province at this stage. This is a province of Pakhtuns who hold their values and traditions in high esteem. Everybody, both male and female, is sensitive about these values and tends to protect the honour and dignity of his family, mother and father. Still, provided enough resources, having separate education facilities for males and females is not a bad idea. However, our first priority is to provide education to the disadvantaged and underdeveloped areas.

Q: The PML-Q will try to implement its own agenda in the Frontier, which is, in many instances, at variance with that of the MMA . How will you be able to run the government efficiently in the Frontier if the centre's policies are in conflict with those of your government?

A: We will always try to have cordial relations with the centre. Our province has certain rights but they mostly come from the centre. Good relations with the federal government will benefit our province and help us take steps for its development. Prime Minister Mir Zafrullah Jamali comes from a neglected province and he will look at Balochistan in that way. The Frontier is similarly disadvantaged, and I hope he will not ignore this fact.

Besides, another advantage that our government has is that the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal leadership also belongs to the Frontier. If the PML-Q government treads the path of the previous governments and denies our province its just rights, the MMA has a powerful opposition in the centre [which will react]. Maulana Fazlur Rahman Sahib has said that had Jamali Sahib been short of a single vote, he would have been unable to become the Prime Minister. He has assured full cooperation to the Prime Minister for the sake of democracy and the country. If the federal government wants this cooperation to continue, it will have to keep good relations with our provincial government. I hope we will have better relations with the centre than any other government has had.

Q: The component parties of the MMA have been campaigning against the US attack on Kabul, its operation against the Al-Qaeda network in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and Islamabad's support to Washington. The PML-Q government has announced its intention to continue the policies of the military regime. How will you react if the US continues its operation against the Al-Qaeda in the NWFP, with the help of the federal government?

A: The main reason for the victory of the MMA in the general election, was its opposition to the flawed American policy in our country. Now the central government and the USA will have to review their policies and respect the mandate that the people have given the MMA. By casting votes for the MMA, the masses have rejected the central government's policy to allow Washington's interference in Pakistan's internal affairs.

The US, which believes in democracy, will have to show respect for the verdict of the people. We have no enmity with them if they change their policies. If the US shows no respect for the people's mandate we will have to conclude that Washington does not believe in democracy. We have heard that the US forces have pulled back from Karachi. God willing, they will have to change their policy and stop interfering in our affairs.

Q: Let's assume for a moment that they do not change their policies. What will the NWFP government's response be under your chief ministership?

A: Ours is an independent country. We aspire for a respectable, independent life. We would not like to live in this country under threat and coercion. We can have friendly relations with others. It is our belief that defending this country is in the blood of every Pakistani. There is nobody in this country who does not rejoice in the independence and dignity of this country. We will always remain faithful to Pakistan. How can we be disloyal to this country, and particularly to this province, which has voted ordinary people like us to power? We will never compromise on the security and integrity of Pakistan.

Q: Many workers of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) feel threatened with the MMA's victory in the NWFP. They think that the clergy-led attacks on NGOs will increase. Will you allow NGOs to work unhindered, or ask them to close down?

A: We have never objected to the constructive work of NGOs. There are even Islamic NGOs which are involved in constructing mosques and universities. What we oppose, are those activities of NGOs which are against our culture and religion. Beside the ulema, ordinary people are also against this. We will check those activities which interfere in our culture and go against our religion. The NGOs should inform the provincial government about their programmes and activities and work with the government's permission. Nobody is allowed to come from abroad and start doing whatever they want to do in this province. Everybody is welcome to come and play a constructive role, and the provincial government will always grant permission for this purpose.

Q: Some MMA leaders have been very vocal about what they deem obscenity. What measures do you intend to initiate in this regard?

A: We are a democratic people and a product of the democratic process. There is a censor board to curb obscenity in accordance with the country's constitution. If we could effect changes through legislation, we will do that. Rather than my party workers intervening, the government machinery will have to implement the law. The implementing agencies are there and they will be asked to focus on their job.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

QK Archives: Interviewing Qazi Hussain (2001)

Interview November 2001 published by Newsline

“Vietnam was a picnic for the US forces compared to Afghanistan”

– Qazi Hussain Ahmed
Amir, Jamaat-e-Islami

By Sairah Irshad Khan

This interview was conducted via e-mail. In the absence of a direct interface, Qazi Hussain chose not to answer several questions and sidestepped others.
Q: You have vehemently opposed the position adopted by the Pakistan government vis-a-vis the allied action against Afghanistan. What other choice did Pakistan have – unless you consider being put in the same corner as Afghanistan is in today a viable alternative…

A: In spite of the indiscriminate bombardment of Afghan cities and countryside for more than three weeks, the American coalition has not achieved any of its targets and the Taliban are as defiant as ever. The Zahir Shah alternative is fading away, especially after the tragic end of Commander Abdul Haq – built up into a legend by the western media – one of the key figures in the future government set-up designed by the Americans and their Pakistani advisors. There is every possibility of America being bogged down in Afghanistan. In the opinion of an ex-Russian general, Vietnam was a picnic for the US forces when compared to the situation [they will encounter] in Afghanistan.

In one of his interviews, Pervez Musharraf prophesied that the days of the Taliban were numbered. On the contrary, it is Pervez Musharraf’s government that has become extremely unpopular, and it will be impossible for such an unpopular government to maintain political stability and law and order for much longer.

Instead of asking hypothetical questions about of what would have happened if we would have refused to follow the American line, let Pervez Musharraf and the American administration explain their objectives and their future line of action, because according to the majority of international observers, they have been trapped in a blind alley.

Even if they capture Kabul, they cannot set up a stable alternative Afghan government, and ultimately the anti-American forces around the world will come overtly or covertly to the rescue of the Taliban in the same fashion as the Americans supported the anti-Soviet mujahideen.

Q: Don’t you think exhorting the people to lay siege to Islamabad, asking for the government to be overthrown, and calling for attacks on airports or public facilities is tantamount to anti-state activity?

A: The nation is facing the worst crisis in its history after the 1971 war with India when it disintegrated under military rule. In order to face this crisis in a united manner, the constitutional institutions must be restored immediately. The All Parties’ Conference, under the aegis of the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), has demanded an interim government with the agenda of free and fair elections. In supreme national interest, the present unconstitutional regime of the self-proclaimed president, Pervez Musharraf, must bow before the national resolve and resign, the army must go back to the barracks, an interim national government should be formed, and elections should be held. The Jamaat-e-Islami has a tradition of organising such peaceful national movements.

Q: If you feel as strongly about a jihad against the ‘infidel’ Americans as you have proclaimed, why are you and your sons not at the vanguard of the jihad, fighting on the frontlines in Afghanistan with the youth that your calls for jihad have inspired to cross the border and join the Taliban?

A: I have got my own jihad front. Even in the armed forces everybody is not supposed to hold a gun and go to the front line.

Q: Considering you so avidly espouse the madrassah system of education, why didn’t you educate your children in such institutions, and furthermore, given your disdain for all things American, why did you send your son to the States in pursuit of higher education?

A: My father was a renowned religious scholar (alam-e-deen). He educated and trained us in both educational traditions – madrassah/religious education at home and school, and college/university education. I have received all my religious education privately from my father and elder brother, and obtained a Masters degree in geography from the University of Peshawar. My elder brothers were both men of letters, both religious and mundane.

I have trained my children in the same tradition. They are highly educated in both traditions. My elder son earned a Masters degree in Islamic Economics from the International Islamic University, Islamabad, and subsequently he got a Masters degree in Economics from Boston University. He returned to Pakistan to serve the nation as a lecturer and as an executive director of an Internet Service Provider. My eldest daughter is a lecturer in Islamic Studies. My second daughter is a Hafiza-e-Quran and graduate in law and Shariah from the International Islamic University. Additionally, she holds a Masters degree in English literature. My second son is pursing an MBBS degree and is currently in the final year of his studies. All my children are educated in the traditional religious way as well as in the modern way. This is the system of education being propounded by the Jamaat-e-Islami. We cannot go against modern education, but we want all educated people and all citizens of Pakistan to also be good Muslims. For this purpose we want to introduce a uniform educational system.

Q: Given your very vocal support for the Taliban – which clearly does not endorse your views on education or women in the workforce – do you consider the Taliban’s Afghanistan the ideal Islamic state?

A: We are for the full implementation of the constitution which provides a sufficient basis for the development of an Islamic polity in Pakistan. We are for the implementation of the recommendations of the Council of Islamic Ideology. This is our concept of bringing about an Islamic change in Pakistan.


QK Archives: Mission of faith

Cover Story

Mission of Faith

The call for jihad in Afghanistan resounds across the land and inspires people from all walks of life.

By Naziha Syed Ali and Massoud Ansari

A letter, ostensibly from Mullah Omar himself, was sent to his religious affiliates in Pakistan shortly after the US declared Osama bin Laden the chief suspect behind the September 11 attacks, and demanded that the Taliban surrender him. An extract from it reads, “If I want to bargain and accept the US conditions and hand over bin Laden to them, I can get whatever I want. I can become richer than the Arab Sheikhs, but what is the worth of such material gain which makes me bow to the infidel west.”

Copies of the letter were subsequently circulated among the many religious schools all over Pakistan. Mullah Omar’s defiant words touched a chord in thousands across the country who have vowed to follow in the footsteps of the Taliban chief, perceived as “a true mujahid for his refusal to surrender to the infidel west” and fight the alliance threatening Afghanistan. The prospect of facing the most powerful military force in the world has left them undeterred. On the contrary, they are fired with the zeal to embrace “martyrdom” in the “defence” of Islam.

The call for “jihad” has, since then, resounded from virtually every pulpit in every mosque in the country. Religious literature of the militant kind has found yet another cause to champion. Zarb-i-Momin, a paper brought out by a group of jihadi organisations each Friday (reported readership 150,000), Jaish Mohammed’s fortnightly magazine of the same name (estimated readership 100,000) and Harkatul Mujahideen’s Al-Hilal weekly newspaper, carry emotional appeals for donations in cash – sterling pound, dollar or rupee – and material relief for the mujahideen in Afghanistan and the Afghan people. Aid organisations, in particular the Al-Rasheed trust, whose accounts have been frozen by the State Bank, have the locations and phone numbers of their offices listed in these publications. The appeals placed by the Al-Akhtar trust for cash donations list three separate account numbers, depending on the currency. Stalls have also been set up all over the country with collection boxes for funds in the name of the “Afghan victims of the US terrorism”. Some of the collection methods are rather innovative: one butcher has announced on a chalkboard that all the proceeds from the sale of meat from his shop would go to the Afghans. Substantial aid is reportedly finding its way to the mujahideen, both Afghan and Pakistani. Sources maintain that the Al-Rasheed trust manages to feed three lakh people a day in Afghanistan. “As it is,” says a Harkatul Mujahideen activist, “their needs are very frugal. A few pieces of bread a day is really all that they need.”

According to the interior ministry, there are some 20,000 madrassahs in the country with nearly three million students. Of these, 7000 madrassahs belong to the Deobandi sect, from which most of the militant cadre is derived. Approximately 700,000 students, aged four years and older, study in the Deobandi religious seminaries. It is estimated that, at the current rate of growth, by the year 2010, the number of madrassahs will be equal to the government-run primary and secondary schools in Pakistan.

Moreover, highly disciplined and motivated groups of Islamic militant organisations operate in almost every neighbourhood of Pakistan, attracting college and university students and medical, engineering and computer professionals to their ranks.

The Deobandi organisations most active in Afghanistan today are the Harkatul Mujahideen, Jaish-e-Mohammed, and Harkatul Jihad. According to sources, a group of jihadis killed during an US air strike on Kandahar recently included about 25 Harkatul Mujahideen activists. Among them was Farooq Commander, who had left for Afghanistan just three days earlier and whose was the first Pakistani corpse to be brought home, to Karachi, since the US air strikes began. Another recent Pakistani casualty in Afghanistan was that of another Harkatul Mujahideen member, Abdul Wahab, who had been elected councillor from Golimar in the local elections a few months ago. A couple of Barelvi organisations, the Harkat-e-Inquilab and the Lashkar-i-Islami, are also said to have a presence in Afghanistan, albeit a negligible one. Courtesy Darra Adam Khel’s booming weapons industry in the Frontier, not to mention conduits through China where TT pistols and Kalashnikovs are manufactured, these militant organisations are armed to the teeth. Most militants claim however, that they do not need to take weapons with them to Afghanistan, because of the massive arsenal of Soviet-era weapons that remain in the possession of the Taliban. Then there are some fortuitous acquisitions such as the 300 machine guns reportedly seized from the pro-Zahir Shah aides of Hamid Karazai after their unsuccessful attempt to instigate rebellion among the Pakhtuns against the Taliban government.

According to those with links to the Deobandi madrassahs, their students are basically taught the Quran, and its interpretation until they become “baaligh ” (the age of puberty, judged by the appearance of facial hair), and it is after this that they are motivated for jihad. By this yardstick, say sources, there are at present some 300,000 young men being motivated for jihad in the madrassahs. However, the recent promotional video circulated by the Al-Qaeda organisation includes footage of what are undoubtedly teenage boys undergoing military training in Afghanistan. Moreover, in the Frontier and Northern Areas of Pakistan in particular, children are familiar with the use of weapons by the time they reach adolescence. But, with their limited ability to defend themselves effectively, many children end up as canon fodder in different conflicts and there is little doubt that this conflict will be any different.

A Harkatul Mujahideen activist however, insists that Mullah Omar has sent instructions that only men between 20 and 50 years be recruited for jihad.

One would imagine that most of those planning to take part in the holy war would be from the militant cadres of jihadi organisations. However, it has become patently obvious that this modern version of the David and Goliath fable has an emotive appeal across the spectrum of Pakistani society. Many, even those who do not agree with the Taliban’s obscurantist version of Islam, have found inspiration in the obdurate refusal of one of the world’s poorest, and Muslim, countries, to give in to the demands of the only global superpower.

A 16-year-old who until recently had been studying for his ‘O’ levels at a City School branch in Karachi and whose father is a production manager with the FM100 radio station, has made his way into Afghanistan. He left armed with nothing more than a mere 3500 rupees in his pocket and a vague notion to help the Afghan people. His mother, who says she sent him with her blessing, insists that as he has no training in weapons and had been studying at a madrassah only for three months, his aim is solely to provide humanitarian assistance. He has written to his family, informing them that he is at the Pakistan-Iran border near Quetta along with a group of 300 volunteers; two members of the Taliban, he said, are in charge of their contingent.

A 63-year-old retired civil servant and ex-army man in Lahore, left his wife reeling with shock when he announced that he was going to join the war effort in Afghanistan. His family was recently forwarded a message on his behalf asking for warm clothes to be sent to him.

In his late 30s, Zafar Iqbal Memon is also preparing to leave for Afghanistan. An erstwhile playboy turned born-again Muslim, Memon says, “Life is an amanat (something given for temporary safekeeping) from Allah and it does not matter if we sacrifice it while fighting for his cause.” As for the fate of his three young siblings and his wife in the event of his death while in Afghanistan, he simply shrugs and says, “It is God who takes care of people.” If reports are to be believed, some volunteers also appear to have acted on impulse; according to a recent report in an Urdu newspaper recently, a bridegroom decided to bolt for Afghanistan and his younger brother had to be persuaded to marry the bride instead.

Four British Muslims have also been killed in a US bombing raid over Kabul. Led by a 25-year-old Pakistani taxi driver from Luton, Aftab Manzoor, they were recruited by the London-based Islamic organisation Al-Muhajiroun. Manzoor had become the father of a baby girl only last year. Sources disclosed that he went to Afghanistan under the assumed name of Mohammed Omar, and is thought to have travelled with at least one other man from Luton. Manzoor and the other three Britons set out for Kabul from Pakistan soon after the US attack on Afghanistan.

Jameel Khan, a 30-year-old peon at a Karachi school, with a wife and three young children, is a more likely recruit for the jihad. He is affiliated with the Harkatul Mujahideen and left for the three-day Raiwind tableeghi congregation in early November, planning to head for Afghanistan after it concludes. “Our religion is like a prison in which we have to serve a sentence, after which we will be set free. How can one anger God for a life of maybe 70 years at the most?” According to sources within jihadi organisations however, most recruits to the Afghan cause belong to non-madrassah backgrounds. In Karachi particularly they say, many of them are members of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), whose activists are acknowleged for their skilled use of weapons.

Their enthusiasm notwithstanding, most volunteers have been stopped short of the border or if allowed to cross over, restrained from going deeper into the country. In Balochistan, five minutes from the border town of Chaman, is a Taliban centre where entry passes for Afghanistan are issued; many volunteers are being turned back. Until a few weeks ago, border guards at Chaman claimed that anywhere between 100 to 300 religious students were crossing over into Afghanistan to fight on a daily basis. The local office of the pro-Taliban party, the Jamiat-i-Ulema-i-Islam located on the main Chaman road, was swarming with Pakistanis, and foreign Muslims, eager to leave for Afghanistan.

According to sources, at least three thousand youth from Karachi alone ventured into Afghanistan soon after the US launched its first air attack, but all were sent back by the Taliban.

There are believed to be two reasons for this approach on part of the Taliban; one is that without a full-scale commitment of ground troops in Afghanistan by the US, there is little required from the jihadis in a land where resources are already strained. Moreover, the intention to hasten the demise of the Taliban government by creating a rift between the moderates and the hardliners among them, has made the regime wary of infiltrators. It is believed that the only jihadis currently operating within Afghanistan proper and allowed to enter combat areas are those with long-standing links with the Taliban and those who have trained in Afghanistan. In the northern areas, 5000 activists of the Tehrik-i-Nifaz-Shariah Mohammed (TNSM), led by Maulana Sufi Mohammed, chanting slogans and armed with an array of weapons, including swords, axes and bazookas, left recently for the Kunar province via Bajaur. It is reported that three weeks ago about 150 students from the Binori Town madrassah in New Town also left for Afghanistan.

An activist of the Harkatul Mujahideen, who has been involved in jihad in Afghanistan since 1988, concurs with the contention that “until the guerilla warfare begins, there is no point in jihadis being stationed within the country.” He adds that “Amirul Momineen Mullah Omar has himself announced that for the moment they should prepare themselves, and that when the time comes, he will give the signal for the Pakistani volunteers to join the war.” However, he maintains that the Taliban do not fear infiltrators, on the grounds that “the Taliban have an extremely efficient intelligence system. Anyone with suspect intentions will be found out very soon; Abdul Haq is one recent example.”

Sources within the militant cadres hasten to add that not all volunteers, when they make their way into Afghanistan, will be engaged in combat. “They are recruited according to their abilities; some are doctors, engineers etc. We have an intelligence system in every locality; that of the Jaish-e-Mohammed is the most well-organised. These people check the background of each volunteer, process his recruitment, and facilitate his departure for the border,” they say. They maintain that there are hundreds of thousands, particularly from Balochistan, the Frontier and the tribal belt, who have committed themselves to the jihad when the call comes. In fact, sources say, in many villages in the Frontier and Balochistan villages along the Afghan border, families deem it their religious duty to send a loved one to fight in the jihad.

Many of the men who are potential recruits for the jihad, such as Zubair Khan – a young JUI activist from Quetta – condemn the US as “a bunch of cowards who will think a thousand times before sending in their ground troops.” Another says, “Even if they do, they cannot win a ground war because they don’t know the terrain, and don’t have the experience of fighting a war.” He dismisses the Gulf war and the current strikes on Afghanistan as “one-sided attacks.” According to him, “A face to face battle is war, such as the confrontation between US soldiers and local commanders in Somalia – and the US soldiers ended up getting killed in that.”

Questioned as to the Taliban’s ability to withstand the superiority of the warfare equipment available to the US, they maintain it is the will of God alone that matters; all, of course, are convinced that God is on their side.

Says another JUI activist, “Do you know that one of our colleagues who was seriously wounded and hospitalised in Jacobabad during a clash with the law enforcing agencies recently, dreamt that very night that Amir-ul-Momineen Mullah Omar was sitting in the company of Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) and his close aides? He saw the Prophet (PBUH) tell Mullah Omar that his difficulties will be over very soon and that he would ultimately become the ruler of entire Islamic world.”

Many young militants we spoke with described their motivation for participating in a jihad as being the desire to “to see God’s religion prevail on the earth. We will decimate the enemies of Islam such that they will kneel before us and ask for mercy.” They feel that they have nothing to lose. On the contrary, they fervently hope their desire to embrace martyrdom will be fulfilled. Whenever any of them voiced this, the rest of them responded with the words, “Insha Allah ” (May God grant your desire). And this is not just the fervour of youth; there are many families who have happily committed their sons and brothers to fight for Islam. Says Ismail Khan from the Frontier province, whose son has already gone to Afghanistan, “When my son was leaving town, I asked two things of him: one, that he will receive a bullet in his chest – and not in his back. Secondly, that he will not forget us on the day of resurrection.” In the same vein, an emotionally charged woman wearing a burqa, during a women’s protest rally organised by the Jamaat-i-Islami ladies’ wing in Rawalpindi, said vociferously, “I’m ready to sacrifice all my children to fight against the enemy of Islam inside Afghanistan.”

In this gathering maelstrom, where an overtly militant segment of the population is seething with rage against the government’s official policy, one wonders if, and when, the battleground of the Afghan jihad will be extended to Pakistan. One of the leaders of the Pakistan-Afghan Defence Council, Mufti Jamil, who is believed to be very close to Mullah Omar and had accompanied the official Pakistani delegation to Kandahar headed by the former ISI chief General Mehmood, to persuade the Taliban to hand over Osama to the US, has said that “we do not want to create any trouble inside Pakistan. We don’t want to divert attention from what is taking place in Afghanistan. But, when our Council decides that we need to do something, we will.”

Superintendent Farooq Awan, who heads the anti-terrorist wing in Karachi, believes that preparations are already underway for such an undertaking. He concurs with reports that several terrorists who had sought refuge in Afghanistan have made their way back to Pakistan and are stockpiling weapons. “We recently arrested one Gul Tiaz Khan from Sukkur with a cache of 30 grenades. He was transporting them to Karachi on the orders of the chief of the Karachi wing of Lashkar-i-Jhangvi’s Qari Hye faction, Atta-ur-Rehman, who has a 10 lakh rupee price on his head.” Lashkar-i-Jhangvi is the militant wing of the Sipah-i-Sahaba, one the parties on the Pakistan-Afghan Defence Council. SP Awan believes that the bomb explosion in a Bahawalpur church last month was the work of the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi and also holds them responsible for planting a bomb adjacent to the gate of the Karachi YMCA which was discovered before it detonated.

The virtual cessation in the sectarian killings of Shias in Karachi over the last two months is also significant in the context of the current situation. SP Awan contends that while the arrest of some top operatives of the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, who were the main perpetrators of the murders, has disrupted their network, this is only one reason for this development. “It is also owes to the fact these militant outfits are otherwise occupied because of the war in Afghanistan,” he says. “However, when they begin their jihad here in earnest, it will have manifold targets - not only Shias, but foreigners, Christians, Aga Khanis, as well as government institutions.” In a teeming metropolis like Karachi, with its varied religious affiliations, ethnic groups, financial and economic interests, the prospect of such a “jihad” can scarcely be more chilling.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Iftikhar Gilani of Kohat: The gentle dove


QK archives circa 1999
Gilani contested the 2002 as an independent and lost by a huge margin to the MMA alliance. His one brother served as Provincial Minister under Pervaiz Musharraf and other served as a member of the Military run national reconstruction bureau.Gilani was to later briefly join Imran Khans Tehrik-E-insaf only to leave shortly afterwards.

I would not be quite honest if I claimed to have understood Iftikhar Gillani after interviewing him. It is not that simple. Iftikhar is a very private person whose emotions, reactions and responses are all under tight control. He seemed aware of every word he uttered, giving away only what he wanted to. Denying this, he says that being deliberate in thought and speech is an inherent trait. He became aware of it only after joining public life.

The eldest child of Pir Syed Amir Hussain Gillani, he says he was made to believe he was the cat's whiskers and had no reason to believe otherwise until he was about fifteen years old. Matriculating in 1954, and following a one year stint at Islamia College, Peshawar, Iftikhar joined Forman Christian College, Lahore, in 1956. This was his first visit to Lahore, and he suffered a sort of cultural shock. Finding his classmates to be polished, sophisticated and worldly wise, he kept a low profile until he had learned their ways. Within a year he had learned enough to be elected the President of the College Union. Learning to play Tennis, he went on to win the Trophy for his college. Until then, the Government College Lahore, had been the undisputed champions for almost ten years. This is Iftikhar's style. He is too sure of himself, too quietly confident, to be overawed by anyone.

Iftikhar has become well-known for being soft spoken in these days of loud, brash politics. His greatest asset though, is his self-control, this has allowed him to be whom he wants to be; another is his vaunting ambition! Honest enough to recognize his own shortcomings, Iftikhar is not above learning from others. Although he admits to admiring some people, he says he has never been overawed by them.

Amusedly, Iftikhar recounted an incident that took place on 14, August 1947. His mother had found him, face against the wall, crying inconsolably.

"Why are you crying?" she asked wondering why he did not join the general jubilation; afraid someone had hurt her precious first-born.

"Quaid-e-Azam has made Pakistan. There is nothing left for me to achieve!" answered her ambitious seven year old. Iftikhar's mother was a wise woman, she pacified her child without mocking him, encouraging him to dream other dreams of greatness.

Syed Iftikhar Hussain Gillani says he had never felt restricted by his Junglekhel background, (a Kohat suburb) where he was born on 18th. July 1940. He always knew, with a quiet certainty, that his future lay beyond. Very early in life Iftikhar had decided that great things were in store for him, and he bitterly fought any restraint in his journey to meet destiny.

Admitting that he is not a very physically active person, Iftikhar says he prefers cerebral stimulation. I do not know whether he will agree with me, but I have a serious suspicion that Iftikhar is not the kind of man who will forgive or forget a slight. An injury he may ignore. Although he projects the air of a relaxed, easy-going democrat; I suspect he is also a demanding, controlled and ambitious man. I also got the impression that he despises people who do not have a similar self-control and implacable will power.

Glorifying respect and obedience to elders, he told of when his father visited his office while he was an advisor to the N.W.F.P Governor. Seeing him rushing to touch his father's feet in obeisance amazed the others present at the time.

Yet, the very same obedient son married a girl of his own choice, in the teeth of his family's opposition. Since that fateful day in 1959, when Iftikhar first saw Nusrat, until 1964 when they were finally married, he did not doubt for a moment that he would not marry her. He said he had made up his mind and that was that! Warm, impulsive Nusrat, with her bubbling sense of humour and her transparent sincerity was a perfect foil for the complex Iftikhar. Her breath-taking beauty was an added attraction.

After studying law at the Punjab University from 1959-61, Iftikhar was apprenticed to Latif Khan, a criminal lawyer of Peshawar. Then, instead of setting up as a lawyer, Iftikhar went back to Kohat and started a construction business. He admits that he was not cut out for business and lost quite a lot of money. Finally his father decided he might make a better lawyer, and in 1967 Iftikhar moved to Peshawar to practice the Law.

Then came the 1970 elections. Although Iftikhar was attracted by the Pakistan People's Party pro-people programme, the general consensus in his family was that he should contest for the Provincial Assembly as an independent candidate. Losing his first election he joined the PPP in 1971. In 1975 Hayat Muhammad Khan Sherpao was assassinated. The N.W.F.P Government was dissolved and Iftikhar was appointed Advisor to the Governor.

I asked whether he was in contact with any of his childhood friends from Government High School No:2, Kohat. Iftikhar replied that, moving in different social circles they do not meet on a very regular basis. Yet, when they do meet, within minutes, the barricades built by time and social status are swept aside. During his elections, he depends on their help and support, which they have never been niggardly in giving.

Although Iftikhar professes to be a proponent of Women's Rights, as Law Minister in the first Benazir Government he never framed any laws that would protect, safeguard or further the cause of women in Pakistan. I asked him about this. Iftikhar says he did not believe laws could change attitudes. I was a little taken aback by the answer, but then, Iftikhar is a complex bundle of inconsistencies and contradictions.

Answering a question about his resignation from the PPP and joining Nawaz Shareef's Muslim League, Iftikhar said he disagreed with Ms.Bhutto's political expediency in joining hands with Ghulam Ishaq Khan. It is Iftikhar's considered opinion that Ghulam Ishaq Khan was the worst thing that happened to Pakistani politics. `A glorified bureaucrat with no imagination or breadth of vision,' is how he describes GIK. After having his say, Iftikhar hastens to add that he has nothing personal against GIK. The criticism only applies to his style of retrogressive governance as a President.

When asked whether he found any difference between the ideologies of the Muslim League and the Peoples Party, Iftikhar had to admit that there really was very little difference. I noticed more than a hint of nostalgia as he spoke of the camaraderie that existed in the Pakistan People's Party. The top brass met frequently, and Ms. Bhutto, while visiting his house would pull up her feet, chatting easily with the whole family. Iftikhar was full of praise for Mohtrama Benazir as a person. He says that during his long association with the PPP, BB and he were very tolerant of each other. There was never any animosity, bitterness nor acrimony, inspite of their many shouting matches when they did not see eye to eye. Disagreeing with BB's impatience with the democratic process, Iftikhar finally parted ways with the PPP in 1993. He believes that in her haste to enter the corridors of power, Mohtrama Benazir sacrificed the very principles that were at the heart of the PPP's struggle for democracy. This, for Iftikhar, is a cardinal sin.

Another ticklish question that Iftikhar deflected in his own inimicable fashion, was about his position on the Kalabagh Dam. Instead of giving me a direct answer he told me a story about when, as Law Minister, he had gone to Saudi Arabia. Showing him rows upon rows of apartment buildings in Ryadh, empty because of a fatwa against living so high above the ground, a Court Minister explained that instead of forcing his fiat, the King had decided to wait until there was consensus of opinion about inhabiting them. Firmly believing in the relativity of perception, Iftikhar believes that nothing is intrinsically either good or bad. Since good governance lies in collective wisdom, decisions should be made keeping in mind the wishes of the people.

It is very difficult to put a finger on what makes Iftikhar Gillani tick. Although a politician, he savours solitude; spending many days alone in his lovely Nathiagali house. Although a family man to the core, he maintains an indefinable distance with his children, Rabia, Aamir and Maliha. As a parent, he is not given to overt expressions of love, and there is no question of a quick hug or a kiss; yet, they dote on him.

It may sound like a strange thing to say, but I found a certain arrogance in his humility; and some contradictions in his self-concept. He prefers to be known as a tolerant man; yet, it is difficult to believe that for one so very particular of what he says and does; for one who is so very intolerant of his own shortcomings; he could be very tolerant of another's weaknesses. A perfectionist, he demands the very best from everyone else.

Long ago, Iftikhar pulled himself up by the bootstraps, vowing to be equal to all men, and never having to look up to another person. When all is said and done, I do believe he has succeeded. Today, Syed Iftikhar Hussain Gillani is considered a statesman among politicians, a thorough gentleman and an uncompromising democrat.