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.

Monday, 15 August 2016

Qalandar Momand profile 2001

Author: Qalandar Momand - Empathizing with the poor

By Nuzhat Rahman

Qalandar Momand is a very versatile personality in modern Pushto
literature. He writes both prose and poetry. He is a critic, a journalist,
a researcher, a teacher and a position holder in the Public Service
Commission's examination. But he has remained behind the bars most of the
time for his 'leftist views'. A very upright and straight forward man, he
holds his integrity supreme. In the process, he says, he exemplifies what
Iqbal says in this verse:

ham ne Iqbal ka kaha mana
aur faqon ke hathon marte rahe
jhukne walon ne rifaten dekhin
ham khudi ko buland karte rahe

(I followed Iqbal's directions and was trampled by starvation. Those who
submitted, lived in luxury while I kept upholding my ego.)

Best known as a poet, he is an excellent short story writer as well.
Critics agree that his short story 'Gajare' is the best in Pushto
language. The consensus is that whosoever might have written the first
Pushto short story, it is Qalandar Momand who has taken it to its zenith.
His largest contribution to Pushto literature is the compilation of the
Pushto dictionary Daryab. He worked on this project, sponsored by the
Department of Education NWFP, from 1983 to 1993 and this invaluable work
has earned him an esteemed place in Pushto literature.

Momand does not write now as his eyesight has been failing. "I have not
written any book since 1990, though I have penned a few articles and
critical pieces in the last ten years. When I receive some reading
material I ask my children to read it out to me. I listen and sometimes
when I feel inspired to write I dictate short critical appreciation notes.
My other and only hobby these days is attending weekly meetings of an
organization of new writers 'Da samio likunko maraka'. I feel very happy
and contented in guiding the new upcoming writers," he says.

How does he feel about the modern Pushto ghazal as compared to classical
ghazal? "In my opinion modern ghazals are better than the old ones,
because when Hamza Shinwari started writing ghazals in the 1940s, he did
not have any school or pattern to follow in Pushto, whereas the modern
poets have Hamza's and his contemporaries' works to learn and follow. That
has made modern ghazals mature and complete."

How would he describe the present socio-political milieu in the country
for promoting literature? "Political conditions in this country were never
encouraging for writers be they in creative literature or journalism.
Those in power cannot digest the truth or be tolerant. Look how Faiz
suffered. He was deprived even of his job and forced to live in exile.

I secured first position in the Public Service Commission examination and
I was made jobless several times. What I did achieve was imprisonment,
imprisonment and more imprisonment for several years in different cities
of Pakistan, because I had the courage to speak up my mind and to reflect
my views through my writings, which were not in conformity with those of
the rulers. In my opinion expressing one's self truly and honestly is the
right and duty of a writer. If he or she cannot do that, it is better to
keep silent. Hypocrisy and distorted opinions do not win respect for a

"Besides, reading habits in our country are very poor. Few people read
books and this results in low print-runs. Have you seen the notice on a
very famous old bookshop and publishing company in Peshawar? It reads that
they are bowing out of the publishing business. Most of our governments
have done nothing to improve the situation. The literacy rate is low and
there is no official patronage of the book trade. The writers and
publishers who are still struggling to survive in these adverse
circumstances are working against heavy odds, specially the writers and
publishers of languages other than English and Urdu."

Twentieth century Pushto poetry has reflected colonialism, communism and
progressive thinking at the same time? Why this combination of diverse
views? "I do not agree with this combination being in Pushto poetry. The
best Pushto poetry started in the fourth quarter of the twentieth century
and the elements you are talking about came in later. But in my opinion in
any language communism is always present with nationalism and not
colonialism. Nehru was a nationalist leader and Allama Iqbal used to say
about him that Nehru has been born between Moscow and Banaras."

These days most of our young poets are producing collection after
collection of poems most of which are quite dull. As a critic what does he
have to say? Are the preface writers right in praising the book so
profusely? "Anybody's preface or introduction cannot make somebody a poet
or a good writer. If that were true then every poet would have been
excellent. Any poet's worth is determined by the verdict of the majority
of his/her readers and critics. Whoever passes this test will survive and
the rest will not be known even for a short period."

Does he not think that criticism is not very common in Pushto literature
as it is in Urdu? "Yes you are right, it is because the Pashtoons are very
self-centred and self-righteous people and for some 'valid' reasons very
few dare to criticise a Pashtoon. Lately there have been a few writers who
realize that literary criticism is essential for the improvement of a
writer. Hence they are now trying to swallow this bitter pill."

Faiz, Ahmad Nadim Qasmi, Khushhal Khan Khattak and Ajmal Khattak are
Qalandar Momand's favourite writers. He owns a three-room house, and one
of the rooms is full of his personal books, mostly on politics and from
the pre-Partition years. Any message for the readers? "Yes convey my
goodwill to them. Here is also a word for new writers in any language:
'always write the truth after thorough research and conscientiously, write
about the realities of life in Pakistan'."

Qalandar Momand belongs to an educated middle class family. From his early
college days at the Islamia College Peshawar during the late 1940s, he was
very involved in politics. He was strongly influenced by Bacha Khan and
later became an active member of the ANP, which made him persona non grata
for the establishment. Qalandar Momand's works have a strong leftist
orientation. He has taken up themes such as the exploitation of the poor
by the rich and the unfulfilled lives of the masses because of the unequal
distribution of wealth.

His best short story 'Gajare' revolves around the same theme. It is the
story of a young girl, who wishes to wear gajare (fresh flower bracelets)
but her poor father cannot fulfil her simple wish. Later her father is
arrested for a crime he has not committed and while the police is leading
him away handcuffed, the daughter says she wants the same gajare as he was
wearing but not made of iron but of flowers and with no chains attached.

Though he is one of the best ghazal writer in modern Pushto and ghazals
usually are used to express the sentiment of love. But Qalandar Momand's
ghazals convey his bitterness about life. He says, 'I cannot change my
luck which is predetermined. I have a fire raging in my heart and I have a
ghazal to offer.' In another ghazal he writes, "If the garden can be
freshened up with my blood then let every thorn be stuck in my heart. No
matter how many thorns you put between me and the flower, I do not care as
I do not put my feet on them. I put my heart on them."

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Analysis of Battle of Saragarhi : The lies we are told

Author: Khan Barmazid


1-  Sikhs and other Indians have made a claim, that "Ten Thousands or 14,000" Afghans attacked the Saragarhi post where 21 Soldiers were stationed from 36th Regiment. Perhaps its based on some estimate by British author, but British military reports of 1897-98 have never made such claim. The fact is , the numbers of Pashtun attackers on Saragarhi fort can never be determined and any estimation by British, e.g 'Pathans as numerous as ants and locusts", should be taken with a pinch of salt, this is sparsely populated region . Sikhs,  and other Indians,  are running the titles "21 vs 10000" or 21 vs 14,000" , "Sparta style last stand" on their numerous websites . Numerous books by Sardarjis have also the same stories. (Some of their sites and books are even claiming it to be 20,000 vs 21). British reports on the assessment of fighting strength of Afridi and other tribes were never reliable nor believable. For example in one report they assessed the fighting strength of the Afridis to be 227,000 while the total population of Khyber agency in 1981 census was 284,256. 

2- The only known and confirmed fact is, that small garrison in the fort was killed to the last man and the fort was leveled to the ground. Afridis and Orakzais had no artillery and were actually at serious disadvantage. Sikhs were firing at them from the high ground. It did not take long for  tribesmen to overrun the Saragarhi fort. British claims that Saragarhi fort was reduced in seven and a half hour.

3- Why Sikhs did not surrender? Sikh soldiers are mentioned in British reports to be torturing and mutilating the Pashtun captives so Pashtuns would not take Sikhs as prisoners. Sikh soldiers at Saragarhi post knew very well that they have no option of surrendering or negotiating with besiegers , so they fought desperately to the last man , while waiting for the arrival of reinforcements. Woosnam Milles has remarked ,"When these two (Sikhs and Pathans) meet , there is no quarter asked and none given".

4- Sikhs claim that more than 600 Afghans were killed but British documents have never reported such casualties of Afghans. British sources say that Rabia Khel clan of Orakzais , who had remained loyal to the British Government, disclosed to General Lockhart that one eighty to 200 tribesmen were killed in the entire affair of Saragarhi. While this is one-sided and unreliable claim and can be dismissed. Yet it is believable. As mentioned earlier, Afridis and Orakzais were at serious disadvantage and did not possess any artillery, and were climbing the hill while facing the firing from the height. Pashtun tribesmen also suffered heavy casualties from the artillery of the Fort Cavagnari . So if Sikh soldiers from the heights with artillery,  inflicted heavy casualties on the Pashtuns, its not so surprising. Judging from the Photographs, there were no proper covers for the tribesmen to take and they had assaulted the fort in broad day light (from nine o clock in the morning to 4:30 in the afternoon). In fact, few years earlier, in 1891, Orakzais are said to have lost 200 men due to fire from British artillery at Saragarhi post, when the former attempted to take it.

4- Sikhs , as well as other Indians (who copy such stuff from their sites), are telling a big lie that "the Battle at Saragarhi is one of eight stories of collective bravery published by UNESCO". To make the lie believable, they have included "Battle of Thermopylae" in the list of eight stories of collective bravery. UNESCO has never published such stories with such title. Thats why only two entries in this false list are known, people can not (and wont) find the names of other six battles despite of extensive search on web and on books. Britain's parliamentary standing ovation , in response to narration of Saragarhi story, is also a lie and fabrication. It is also a lie that this battle is taught to school children in France.

5- Sikh story tellers have not bothered with the accuracy about the location of Saragarhi village. Some assign it to be in Tirah of Khyber and Orakzai agencies , some even says its in Waziristan. Its actually in Hangu district ( once part of Kohat district ) of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. It is held by the Babi Khel, a section of the Rabia Khel Orakzais.

6- Lastly in the so called "heroic stand of all times",  these Sikhs were nothing more than fodder and fuel for ambitions of British imperialism and the ones painted as villains in this story, the Afridis and Orakzais, were fighting and dying for the freedom of their lands from the foreign occupation.

Book references

1History of the Pathans, Volume-IV, by Haroon Rashid
2-  The Pathan Revolt in North West India by H.Woosnam Mills
3-  Imperial Gazetteer of India, Volume-20, provincial series
4-  A Concise History of Afghanistan in 25 Volumes
5-  War in Afghanistan By Kevin James Baker

Ruins of Saragarhi fort, after destruction on 12th September 1897

British Monument commemorating Sikh stand-off in Hangu. The fort served as a signalling station between Fort Lockhart on the eastern edge and Fort Cavagnari (or Gulistan Fort) on the west.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

QK archives: Recognising Pakistan

QK archives: Interview Nawab Akbar Bugti

"Choolas went cold for a few hours in the holy land of Punjab and the heavens shook"

- Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti

Source Newsline February 2003.

By Shahzada Zulfiqar

Q: There is an impression in some quarters that the Bugtis damaged the main gas supply line to the Punjab. What is your opinion?

A: The gas pipeline exploded outside Balochistan, in the Mazari area, situated in Rajanpur in the Punjab province. Scores of gas wells and installations are situated within the Bugti area and a number of pipelines run from different gas fields to the main Sui plant. To date, no explosion has ever taken place in the Bugti area. I have said before that the Bugtis consider these installations their gao matta, (holy cow) that gives them milk, so how can one destroy the very thing he draws food and sustenance from.

Q: Have you been contacted by Islamabad or the Balochistan government to seek your cooperation regarding the disruption of gas supply?

A: No, nobody contacted me.

Q: People got the impression that the explosions were related to your grievances against the government from interviews you've given recently.

A: I don't know how they got this impression. I did stress that we have been deprived for long and continue to be deprived, but this was a general statement.

It has nothing to do with our grievances. We have been struggling for the past 50 years for our rights and for this purpose we have suffered hunger, hardships and imprisonment. Because of our struggle and privations we have become more hardy as a people, and we will face any eventuality to stand for our rights.

Q: Tell us about the history of the Bugti-Mazari dispute.

A: We have traditionally been friends with the Mazaris, but sometimes differences occur that lead to conflict. The sub-clans of the Mazari-Bugti tribes have been engaged in clashes for years. Some years ago, the tension subsided when the two clans sat together and settled their differences. But two sub-clans belonging to these tribes, the Keerd and the Shambani continue to be involved in a dispute.

Q: There is an impression that the Mazari tribesmen and gas companies are engaged in a dispute over jobs and the recent explosions are a result of that row.

A: I have no idea and can't say anything in this regard.

Q: Has there been any attempt to bring about a reconciliation with the Mazaris?

A: No such move has been initiated yet. The whole of Dera Bugti agency remained without water and power for almost two weeks as power wires around 250 poles were pulled down. Nobody talks about the plight of the Bugtis, but choolas went cold for a few hours in the holy land of Punjab and the heavens shook.

The people of the Bugti area, living within a one kilometer radius of the gas plants, still burn dung cakes to cook their food. These people see that they have no power and gas and their gas is being pumped outside their province, while they are deprived. The gas companies make promises, but never implement them, so no one believes them.

Q: Who are the people behind the gas supply line explosions?

A: Perhaps the angels, as nobody has seen them.

Q: Prime Minister Jamali and Chief Minister Jam Yousaf gave certain assurances to the people of Dera Bugti, but they were not implemented?

A: This question should be put to Mr. Jamali and Jam Yousaf, because it is related to them. It is not new for the local people, as they have been receiving such assurances over the years. Agreements are made with one hand and discarded with the other.

Q: Some people say that the Bugtis extort bhatta from the gas companies, besides receiving royalty on gas.

A: Bhatta khori is not our practice, rather it is that of the people of Islamabad and Lahore. We always stood for our genuine rights and never thought of bhatta. And if it is true, then the government must have the relevant record or documents and they should be published in the press. Not a single penny has been given to the Bugtis in terms of royalty since the companies started exploration for gas. We have never demanded any royalty because we are the owners of this wealth. Moreover, it is not a question of royalty, but the main dispute is over rights. We say that gas is the national wealth of the Baloch, and for years it has been forcibly taken out for the use of others, without sharing anything with the Baloch people.