Sunday, 22 December 2013

Bashir Bilour – the valiant leader

by Amir Abbas Turi

“My presence gives hope and valour to the terror-struck folks.” – Shaheed Bilour
Bilour: a man who believed firmly in his creed and fought for it till the very end. It is a death that should be mourned for the heroism and courage of the martyred, and for the loss of multi-faceted life full of affirmative power that has been lost. But, finally, he won – the hearts of millions of Pakistanis.

On December 22, 2012, a terrorist suicide bomber finally succeeded in his aims and took the life of the valiant Pashtun leader. Bashir Ahmed Bilour, a 69-year-old politician from the Awami National Party (ANP) was martyred for adopting a bold stance against terrorism and militancy. He remained the first ever serving minister to be honoured with the highest civil award, Hilal-e-Shujaat for his bravery and resolve against the scourge of terrorism and extremism from the-then President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari on March 23, 2011

Bashir Bilour was a man of towering personality who had always helped the down-trodden and raised the plight of the oppressed folks in this land of pure. The sacrifices rendered by the late leader of ANP for the sake of harmony, tolerance, social justice and human rights could not be forgotten. He, throughout his life addressed the quandary of the brow-beaten and under-privileged inhabitants of this country in particular, and Peshawarites in general. All of the great leaders have had one characteristic in common: it was the determination to confront the major threat to peace against the people of that time. This, and not much else, is the real meaning of leadership.

Bashir Bilour used to say that extremists are our enemies — the foes of our children and women. They yearn for our kids to be their slaves; nevertheless, we will educate our young blood and will make them non-violent and progressive citizens of Pakistan. Once after visiting the spot of suicide bombing in the Meena Bazar market, Peshawar, he lamented on the floor of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa provincial assembly, “I saw the mothers, daughters and sisters of my nation lying uncovered, wounded, bleeding and bits of flesh spread on the road. How much more blood would be enough to awake the dead consciences?”

He was one of the very few sane voices in this country and made significant contribution in widening non-violent approach to eradicate racial, economic, and social injustice following the legacy of Fakhr-e-Afghan Bacha Khan alias Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan. In country mired by confusion over what to do about the Taliban nuisance, his was a clear vision and message: oppose them for their thought and savage means are irreconcilable with anything modern.

Bashir Bilour was popular both among ANP cadres and the electorate in his constituency in Peshawar city. He served as the ANP provincial president and won election from his provincial assembly constituency five times in a row. And the manner of his death in a suicide attack has made him a martyr for his family, party and innumerable supporters.In this situation, the most vulnerable people are those who speak the truth, flight for justice, support the weak and strive against intolerance.

However, history will not forget those who have laid their lives for the sake of truth and justice. He will be remembered for his courage and valour and have had all the qualities of a great leader as, Henry Kissinger said, "The task of the leader is to get his people from where they are to where they have not been." Late Bashir Ahmed stood in defiance against the mighty force of religious fanatics. Regrettably, most of our leaders lack such a strong character and charismatic personality. He knew well the cost of his audacity, but still he raised his voice for the plight of the oppressed. He could not be threatened or silenced.

Martyred Bilour was someone who has good values and a sense of honour and integrity. It’s our obligation to remember those heroes of society who contribute in society for making Pakistan democratic, peaceful and prosperous and worth living. All the segments of society, including political parties and media, will have to join hands to defeat the dogmatic mindset.

The life of Shaheed Bilour could best be understood by the below mentioned couplet of Khushal Khan Khattak once said:

Pa Jahan da Nangyali dee da dwa kara,
Ya ba Okhuray kakary, Ya ba Kamran shay
(A valiant man can do but one deed,
Perish striving for the goal or succeed)

It is our moral duty to remember and salute such unsung heroes of our society. Bashir Bilour is the kind of fearless leader that our nation requires in today’s dark age. May his soul rest in eternal peace!
The writer can be reached at aamirabbas49@yahoo.com and he tweets @EngrTuri

An ode to my Uncle Bashir Bilour

-today is the first anniversary of the death of Mr. Bashir Ahmad Bilour (August 1, 1943- December 22, 2012), senior Minister of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa provincial government and former provincial President of the Awami National Party. His death was described the New York Times as 'Mr. Bilour and eight others were killed Saturday by a suicide bomber who detonated his explosives after a political rally. The assassination, claimed by the Taliban, convulsed the country’s political circles, serving as a grim reminder of the Taliban’s lethal ability to strike their opponents. Mr. Bilour had survived two previous assassination attempts.' This is a special contribution by his niece in tribute to her late uncle. -ed note

by Mona Bilour-Faisal

They say "Time heals all wounds." I wish there was some truth to it. The bitter truth is, time takes away from you what is precious and lets you weep at the hands of it.

The news still flashes before my eyes when I saw on T.V "BASHIR BILOUR INJURED IN A SUICIDE BLAST." I left the house to be with you, to stay with you whilst you recovered, for you to smile at me and tell me "See, I told you they can't kill me." But that one phone call toppled the world for me.

When I saw you lie in front of me not breathing, when I saw the valiant you not move, when I saw your smiling face in pain - Oh! how painful it was. Your silence was the death of every soul that was there to have a glimpse of you. And with each day that passed, to know I wasn't going to hear from you again, on my every visit to my Parents when I don't hear your footsteps and your voice that said "I am here to see my daughter, where is she?", to know I won't ever hug you again, when on this birthday you weren't the first to wish me, when on this Eid you weren't the first to call me and when I look back and think that 2nd December 2012 was the last time I hugged you, there is pain so severe it leaves the mind in despair and the throat clenched and the eyes filled with tears of sorrow.

You have left us in depths of melancholy. The world remembers you as "Bashir Bilour-The lion of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa." But to me, you are "Bashir Bilour - a part of my heart gone missing."

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Book review: Shadow of the Crescent moon is drive by non-fiction

-originally published by Sunday Guardian 16th November 2011

by Aneela Z Babar


Leblanc believes that our ‘social transportations’ are like our identities, so in Bicycle Citizens (1999) she negotiates the streets of Oizumi perched on a bicycle, following the paths a Japanese housewife might use while dealing with the political system. As a result, Leblanc too starts to ‘see’ the political world as the ‘housewife politician’ does.

Fatima Bhutto in her interviews has spoken about how she has had opportunities growing up, and recently as a journalist, to visit the Land Beyond Peshawar-Bara Border, that she has travelled a lot; to Quetta, to Afghan refugee camps in Peshawar. The Shadow of the Crescent Moon could then have provided us with the vantage point of an insider/outsider to a land forever blighted to live in newspaper headlines as the “troubled tribal region of Waziristan”. Sadly, the town of Mir Ali—the theatre of the main action in The Shadow of the Crescent Moon, only comes across as how one would imagine a restive border town to appear out from a taxi window. These are snapshots. It is drive-by narrative non-fiction. Shadowed gullies. Snot smeared children and battery chicken. Bhutto’s characters flounder about in segments that read as “a situation round up” of Waziristan— (hyperlinks one may click at the end of a news report to get 200 word “Who is X and why do they hate Y so”) and their lived world of muddled spaces. Kitchens with people mumbling, sitting rooms where mourners gather, cold vacant stairways where students conspire.

Bhutto is writing about people whom I can recognize, a point in space, a moment in time I may have frequented once but I have none of the elation I would have, say reading Shamsie (Salt and Saffron for one that cunningly unpacked class and spatial politics in Pakistan). There is none of the putting down a book and buying a copy for a friend “Here, these are our stories”. It could be for Shadow.. narrates a surreal cartography, a land where the markers of Eid appears so late in the book, though it keeps on reminding us that it is Eid day right from the first page. The characters inhabit a strange landscape where “ladies...clutching their bags of material and patterns” visit the reluctant tailor, who hands them “the measuring tape and turned his back while they shyly read out their measurements. As Zulfiqar copied the numbers down, he blushed”. When these reticent, bashful exchanges could just be avoided if they carried a naap ki kamiz as women do in their bags along with the material and patterns. The strange land of Mir Ali is stuck in a time warp where Eid is in December, when the reader may know that the last time it was Eid in December, it was 2008. And The Shadow of the Crescent Moon cannot be set in the Eid of 2008 (or the years before that) for it has been months since its protagonist Aman Erum returned from his years in the US, and years since his visa interview at the US Embassy where he reads about a President Obama justifying drones off a news ticker on TV. So Toto, where are we?
So a tale of three brothers and a rain swept Friday Eid morning.
Aman Erum, the eldest, has always wanted to get out of Mir Ali and the family business, and so earlier in the book he sells his soul to the Army-Amreeka nexus. Thus, forever making us view the Pakistani student abroad as not only torn between the With Us or Against Us predicamen; but with now the binary divisions getting further redefined with the students abroad being either preoccupied with ablutions and maintaining gender segregation or spying on his/her compatriots. Doomed if you do, visa revoked if you don’t.

Sikander—a textbook middle child, is a doctor at the government hospital, when he is not racing over rescuing his wife Mina, her emotional health on a quick downward spiral. Mina’s character sketch alternates between the calm she experiences gate crashing funerals, stalking and laying claim to the grief in the “lines of other mother’s faces”, gathering solace from there being a “community of widows and the bereft who knew how she suffered”; and returning “vengefully to the wounded woman that spat and swore and paced until she was let out again”. There is something feral about Mina as she scours the newspaper pages for death notices and obituaries; a silent despair as her husband Sikander watches her, seeing flashes of the woman he remembers from a time ago, but that woman “comes and goes in waves”. There is something to how the two relate to each other that reminded me of another couple-- Sufiya Zinobia Hyder and Omar Khayyam Shakil from Rushdie’s Shame, or perhaps Mina and Sikander are just drawn this way.

Samarra, the young woman with the beauty spot in her eye, is the one that Aman Erum loved once, still does, but there is a betrayal that divides them now. Her character now has to negotiate sentences like “One can track operations in Mir Ali based on Samarra’s syntax”.

There is also the mysterious Colonel Tarek with his ZiaulHaq “eyes weighed down by darkly lined bags and small smatterings of sunspots” playing with his wedding ring slowly and speaking in foreboding tones slower.
And then there is Hayat, the youngest son, the rebel who now questions the cause. But before that he has to manoeuvre the most socially awkward exchange that comes across as Bhutto chooses to translate select endearments in the text into Pashto.

In this case Zainab, the classic filmy white haired widow mother reaches out and “mouths in Pashto into her son’s citrus-scented ear”

a ‘Za tasara mina kawam,’

Translated as, I love you.
Now Pashtun mothers will articulate their love for their sons in many tongues, but to phrase it in the literal sense? As in how one would field the “So what is I love you in Pushto?” query we are accosted with (once you are done answering that other question, “Are there any cuss words in Pashto?”—Only in Mir Ali I would say.

‘Wale?’ he (Hayat) breaths back. Why?

My Thoughts Exactly.
Samarra and her ill fated love affair, Hayat, Sikander, Mina, Aman Erum, the Colonel and the city of Mir Ali quickly plummet towards their heart wrenching end, but not before Mina has had the chance to launch herself onto a Talib in a most jiyala fashion
“Zalim! Der zalim aye! Bey insaf!”
I half expected her to end in a “Zalimo! Jawab Do Zulm Ka Hisaab Do” but I dont think the Pushto subtitles for that were ready yet.
The Talib true to bad cinematic form unleashes a
‘Khaza—‘ Woman. He tries to interrupt her, to remind her of her place and their space but nothing can reach Mina now’.
Déjà vu, I am sitting in a Peshawar cinema watching Badar Munir brandishing a Kalashnikov, all the while dreading being blown up by a suicide bomber.
These things probably never end well.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Babarnama: Interview with Naseerullah Babar

-This is a edited version of an article originally published by The NEWS on Sunday 18-2-2007 . Naseerullah Babar ( born 1928—10 January 2011)

Major General (retired) Naseerullah Babar has served on many important positions. He has been federal interior minister as well as the governor of North West Frontier Province (NWFP) during the era of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. He has been at the centrestage of many important events of Pakistan's history.

Naseerullah Babar is also considered to be the architect of Taliban movement in Afghanistan during the mid 1990s, a charge he tacitly rejects. He is also also credited with the formulating of a strategy of intervention in Afghanistan from Pakistan in the early 1970s. Babar is even said to be the person who made Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) interfere in political affairs for the first time ever.

A close confidante of both Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and her daughter Benazir Bhutto, Babar is a clean man who has never been charged of corruption. He also has to his credit as the federal interior minister the restoration of peace in Karachi, thus becoming bete noir for the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM). His personal valour is acknowledged by his arch rivals.

He belongs to Pirpai village in Nowshera district of NWFP. The News on Sunday recently got hold of him and talked to him at length on various issues of national, regional and international interest.


By Raza Khan


TNS: What do you think of President Pervez Musharraf? Is he under pressure from the West to held elections and cut deals with secular parties like your Pakistan People's Party (PPP) to counter religious extremism?

NB: You see, this has a background in the sense that Musharraf brought these people (the religious parties) to power to convey a message to the Americans that you have Taliban in Afghanistan and mullahs in Pakistan. That is why the two bordering provinces were given to the MMA (Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal). This was done on purpose. But it is possible for him to get rid of them. You can see that the Supreme Court has come up with this case on the educational qualifications of a number of MMA legislators. This is done three, four years after the case was first filed. Why were the mullahs allowed to sit in parliament for so long? All this may be happening with a design. (The came has come up) so that in future these people cannot contest elections.

Historically in Pakistan there has been an alliance between the mullahs and the military in political affairs. Even when Afghanistan question came up, Ziaul Haq needed religious extremists and the religious extremists needed him. But because both the army and the mullahs have no manifesto, no programmes, they, therefore, are dependent on unnatural forms of government.

TNS: Does it means that the West in general and the United States in particular may be asking Musharraf to bring genuine secular parties like the PPP to power through elections?

NB: There has all along being a controversy in a sense that for half of the life of Pakistan the government has been run by the mullah-military alliance for other half by political parties. The military has never allowed political parties to grow and have long tenures of governance. Only the 1971 debacle compelled the military to give power to a genuine civilian government but soon this government became an eyesore. The then political government still developed a lot of institutions that were to the benefit of the army like the National Defence College to provide militarymen with higher education. The office of the chairman joint chiefs of staff committee was developed so that the administrative control of the army could be taken over and looked after by that institution instead of the army itself.

When the coup by Sardar Daud in Afghanistan occurred, Bhutto extended his rule by one year and then in January (next year) Pakistan National Alliance (PNA) was formed within a week. How could such disparate parties (as formed the alliance) come together on a common programme so quickly? It was because the homework had already been done by the military to use them against the political government and that was the beginning.

When Russia invaded Afghanistan, Zia should have formed an exile government of seven component parties of Afghanistan in Pakistan but he did not do so because it did not suit him. Then favourites were found like Hekmatyar and others. That led to the subsequent chaos in Afghanistan that remains till today.

When a political government came to power in Pakistan again in 1988, the ISI had ganged together a shura of Afghan parties and asked our government to recognise it. When we looked at the proposal it did not meet our requirements because it did not include an international personality. The PPP government, therefore, said sorry because we had certain limitations under international law. When the PPP government was sacked and Nawaz Sharif came to power, situation in Afghanistan started unfolding like a stageplay. First Professor Mujeddadi was sent there for six months as president then Burhanuddin Rabbani was made president for a year. On the completion of his tenure, he refused to resign. A chaos was created out of which Dr Najeeb emerged as the Afghan president. With Najeeb I arranged talks in 1992 and Asad Durrani set the tone for the work of intelligence agencies. Dr Najeeb said he was ready to quit at any time provided a governing mechanism was set up in Afghanistan. Due to the unpreparedness of ISI or its insincerity the talk fell through. I must add that I went as a guarantor of Pakistan in talks with Najeeb. In fact, Dr Najeeb came to my house in 1979 to tell me me that he also wanted to join the anti-Soviet resistance. But he was not acceptable to the intelligence agencies of Pakistan. So, he went back.

TNS: Though you claim to have played a positive role role in Afghanistan, why are you also accused as the creator of Taliban there?

NB: In fact, the Taliban phenomenon cropped up during PPP's second stint in power (1993-96) but we did nor recognise them and instead stopped them when they were about to take over Kabul. Pakistani agencies' philosophy was that whoever occupied Kabul should have the right to be recognised as the government of Afghanistan. But we said unless Taliban formed a broad-based government we would not recognise them. We were able to bring together Taliban and Dostum and a draft agreement was formed. Under it a political commission was to be set up having members from all provinces in Afghanistan based on population to give a federal structure to Afghanistan. After the Afghan parties had agreed to the draft, Dostum kept sending me messages to go to Afghanistan for the signing of the agreement. On November 3, 1996, at midnight we had a meeting in the presidential palace in Islamabad with President Farooq Leghari presiding. The prime minister, ISI's director general and the chief of army staff were all present. I was instructed to go and get the document signed by all the parties. I was to go on November 5 but on the night between November 4 and November 5 Leghari dismissed our government for the reasons best known to him. When the new government came in it did not know anything about Afghanistan or Taliban. It immediately give recognition to Taliban. After that whatever leverage or stick we had with Taliban had been lost. I or PPP is not responsible for that.

Even earlier, in 1970s we were in negotiations with Sardar Daud (creator of Pakhtunistan movement) and also with Zahir Shah. We sent two men from Hizb-e-Islami with Pakistani colonel Ibrahim to Rome with the offer that the Hizb would be supportive of Zahir Shah if he returned as a constitutional monarch. The constitution had been prepared by one Mr Shafiq, who had been to the Al-Azhar University in Cairo. This constitution was acceptable to the Hizb-e-Islami Afghanistan.

In 1994, the PPP government was to launch a programme for opening of routes through Afghanistan to Central Asia for the benefit of the whole region. Our thinking was that the market lay in Central Asia while India had industry. So, if oil and gas was brought to Multan from Central Asia, it could be supplied to India and onwards. We could have also used this as a lever to push India to solve the Kashmir problem. But this was not liked by the powers that be. Regarding Taliban, when in our second government I sent a convoy of goods and some gifts to Afghanistan, it was stopped at Kandahar by the Indo-Iran lobby. Then the Taliban came in and cleared the road for the convoy as well as the area where it was difficulties of travel.

TNS: How come Taliban emerged so instantaneously out of nowhere?

NB: Because they were the same people who had been waging jehad against the Soviets. The only thing that changed was that some groups had become fed up with infighting and warlordism. From then onwards, we kept advising the Americans and the United Nations that Afghanistan needed a major socio-economic uplift programme.

We had a long term and multifaceted programme for Afghanistan. But unfortunately at the instance of the US or whoever our government was dismissed. Then I advised (Taliban leader) Mullah Zaeef to hold a Lockerbie-like trial of Osama bin Laden but the Americans asked me how I could guarantee that a court comprising of a Saudi and Afghan judge (to which the Taliban had agreed) could punish Osama. I said no court could say in advance as to whether the accused would be punished. Then the 9/11 happened. All this could have been averted.

TNS: You are also accused of being the architect of Pakistan's intervention in Afghanistan?

NB: It was in 1972 when I was in Peshawar, then Bhutto came to Peshawar and I advised him to open the border of tribal areas with Afghanistan. So, in 1973 we opened Kakar-Khursan in Balochistan. Then other areas followed.

In 1973 when Sardar Daud staged a coup against King Zahir Shah in Afghanistan and we thought we had an interest there. So I wrote a paper analysing what would happen, for instance, to Shah of Iran etc. Then Bhutto decided that we had to protect our interests. At the same time, the Hizb man Habibur Rahman came to us. The Hizb was against the socialist and communist parties in Afghanistan. In 1950s when Daud became premier he had opened Afghanistan to Russians. If you can recollect all the routes from Torghundi to Kandahar and the other from Bandar Sher Khan to Kabul were opened up while the main airbases of Bagram and Sheen Dandh were built by the Russians. We thought this was a plan by the Russians to move on to the hot waters. You know that Peter the Great (Russian emperor) had left a will to his nation to keep pressing until it got to the hot waters. Last of the communist ideologues like Brizhnev etc liked to complete the agenda of Peter the Great.

TNS: The border between Pakistan and Afghanistan has always been the topic of heated discussions. What's your views?

NB: Sardar Daud by 1970s was well aware of the designs of the Russians. He said to us that if (the invasion) was from the North today it might come from us tomorrow. Daud therefore came to Pakistan and was about to sign on an agreement with us on the Durand Line. It was not that we needed it. The treaties of Gandamak and Rawalpindi had already sanctified the Durand Line as a permanent border. Now to look at it differently, the northern border of Afghanistan on the Amu Darya was also demarcated by Sir Mortimer Durand. If the Durand Line agreement loses meaning then all the other agreements including the China-India border (will also become irrelevant) because all of them were drawn by the British. It is a very erroneous argument that the agreement on the Durand Line was valid for hundred years. It is the firm and final border between the states.

TNS: What do you think about Pakistan's proposals to mine and fence the border?

NB: If today the government thinks of putting a barbed wire on the border or mine it, then it is against tradition and even against the Durand Line agreement because the agreement says the tribes will be allowed to travel across the borders. So these limitations will be unnatural.

TNS: How do you think extremism and Talibanisation can be countered?

NB: For this all you have to have is the writ of the government which for all intents and purposes and in every instance is not there. Moreover, if you have the support of the people then there is nothing these elements can do. During PNA agitation, when I was the NWFP governor, was there any incident of violence? It was because I followed every procession and they knew that I was behind them.

TNS: Who are the supporters of Talibanisation in the Frontier and the tribal areas?

NB: There is no one. It is just the lack of governance. Benazir, during our second government, told me to take Maulana Fazl to Afghanistan for negotiations because he had a lot of influence and contacts in Afghanistan. I took him to Kandahar to Mulla Omar. Fazl did not know Mullah Omar nor did Mulla Omar know him. When the stage for talks came Fazl was refused permission. I sent him back straight to Quetta. Then Maulana Hassan Jan, who was the governor of Kandahar, requested me not to bring Fazl to Afghanistan. They told me they have studied along with Fazl and knew he would divide them.

TNS: MMA has emerged as a key power player in NWFP. How do you see the future of the alliance?

NB: You have seen their performance as the NWFP government. Because of a lack of education and administrative experience, they have failed completely. Secondly, these people cannot see beyond their nose. Maulana Fazlur Rahman is promoting his brothers while Qazi Hussain Ahmed has brought in his son, daughter and nephew into politics. They say they would resign and then they backtrack. In fact, Fazlur Rahman has been so corrupt then when the federal government sent National Accountability Bureau officials to Dera Ismail Khan, Maulana immediately budged. This was when on resignations issue Qazi was saying one thing and Fazl another. Now he has prevailed upon Qazi to give up. Why Fazl was named Maulana Diesel earlier? He himself admitted it in front of the press that the charge had been correct. In fact, during our government, Fazl made so much demands that in front of him I asked Benazir Bhutto as to why he is not given the keys of the State Bank to get rid of him.

TNS: So, he is a very worldly mullah?

NB: Yes, all mullahs are worldly because all of them came through the madrasas and they haven't seen the better side of the life. When Fazl was the head of the Parliamentary Committee in our government he went to Frankfurt and stayed at a hotel and left a huge bill of shopping outstanding which our ambassador had to pay.

TNS: But Maulana has on occasions said that the key to peace in tribal areas and Afghanistan lies with him...

NB: Tell me who does he know among the Northern Alliance. Secondly, Fazl has benefited a lot because he has been sending rations there.

TNS: So you think secular, liberal parties will prevail if the establishment stops supporting religious elements...

NB: But Army has no interest in that. Their economic condition has never been so good. Look at the defence housing schemes and lands allotments. If you are a lieutenant general you must have several plots. That will not happen under a political government.

Secondly, it is the supine judiciary that is not letting things happen that way. Every time a case comes up, it is decided under the doctrine of necessity. Then there are characters like Sharifuddin Pirzada and A K Brohi who work against the political governments. If one of them was out, the second would be in.

The governments have been sacked on the charges of corruption. The point is if the army is less corrupt. Corruption occurs in every democratic society and elections are the answer to that.

TNS: What's your views on provincial autonomy?

NB: Had political government been given enough time, the concurrent list of the constitution would have been devolved to the provinces as a matter of course. I agree there should be more autonomy and decentralisation. When the present government could not do so they bypassed the provincial government and came up with the idea of decentralisation at the district level. But army can only change the state into a unitary form of government. Ayub Khan made One-Unit and lost half of the country. Now the other half may break up.

What business the army has to distribute money among parties. Today Hameed Gul (former ISI boss) proudly says he made Islami Jamhoori Ittehad. In 1990, the the ISI chief Asad Durrani also distributed money among political parties. We went to the Supreme Court with all the evidence but the case could not be taken up due to various reasons. I also provided a report to the then chief justice on how intelligence agencies could be brought under the law and constitution so that they play their formal role. Even then the court did not deemed it fit to take up the case.

TNS: But you were the one to have assigned a political role to ISI...

NB: In fact, those who accuse me of doing that use one incident of Hyderabad Tribunal. I had framed the case against the National Awami Party and ISI had brought all the evidence against it (also see our blog 'Pakistan Ideology on trial) . The ISI had to be given a fictional cover in the case because it had no locus standi to produce evidence in the court. So an administrative order was issued creating a political cell within the ISI. It was for a limited purpose. Now they are using that precedent to create an ISI empire. I told them that an administrative order could be cancelled any time. It has no legal sanctity. But why allow the ISI and other intelligence agencies to become even bigger than the state.

TNS: Pakhtun nationalist forces say that they never launched any movement for Pakhunistan but the bugbear was created by Bhutto and you to strengthen almost a totalitarian rule by PPP?

NB: The record is available. For instance, the speeches Ajmal Khattak made from Kabul (clearly point out who was behind the bugbear). Then see who supported the Pakhtunistan movement. It was (former Afghan President) Sardar Daud early in 1950s who did so. He opposed Pakistan's entry to the United Nations. After that the problems in Pak-Afghan relations continued, though during the wars of 1965 and 1971 the Afghan government told us that we can remove all the army from the Western front. In fact, the Pakhtunistan movement was launched for a limited purpose to gain certain advantages.

TNS: You worked on high posts both in the army and the political governments. What distinguishes a military rule from a civilian government?

NB: The military has limited education. They have no experience of political life and governance so they can only use force or at best they can link up with the mullah.

TNS: Some American think tanks have been talking of geographical and political changes in our region...

NB: Changing maps will be difficult in our region but easier in the Middle East. If the US attacks Iran then all the artificial boundaries drawn by the foreign ministers of British and France will go.

TNS: Recently MQM chief Altaf Hussain has said that the man who unleashed a reign of terror on Karachi and MQM is living in a house in Peshawar...

NB: See, firstly, I have a clear conscience. Secondly, (the operation in Karachi) happened in 1995. Till today, has any one has gone to the court to complain that excesses were committed. If there was anything against me, it should have come up by now. Yes, I acted against the MQM men for being involved in militancy because they did not have any right to kill Pakhtuns or Punjabis or someone else. It is a misfortune that every night we have to hear on our TV screens the diatribe of a criminal hiding in London and the criminal in the Governor's House in Sindh. Why is Altaf sitting in London? Is he a British citizen?

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Meet Omar Khalid Khurasani

-Editor's note: This is a translation of a recent interview with Omar Khalid Khurasani (real name Abdul Wali), head/commander of the TTP in Mohmand, shortly after the election of Mullah Fazlullah as the new head of the organization. The interview, conducted in Pashto, has been edited down and changed to make it more comprehensible and wherever possible, avoid jargon. It does not capture the confident mannerism and fluency of the commander, for which we recommend you watch the video which is available on facebook. Unfortunately, we haven't been able to attribute the interviewers.


map of FATA source the Nation
Profile of Mohmand Agency: Mohmand Agency was created in 1951. Ghalanai is its capital town. The total area of Mohmand Agency is 2,296 square kilometer with an estimated population of 325,000 with an estimated 32,000 households. It is bound by Bajaur Agency in the North, Khyber

source FRC


Agency in the South, Malakand and Charsadda districts in the East and Peshawar district in the Southeast. The agency is inhabited by four tribes - Mohmand, Safi, Utmankhel & Shilmani.
Other tribes mentioned are branches of Mohmand (correction via Shah Zalmay)
, the Musa Khel, the Daud Khel, the Mero Khel, the Safi, the Tarakzai, the Utman Khel and the Halimzai. Safi is a small tribe but it is the most radical tribe in Mohmand Agency; Omar Khalid, the head of the insurgency in Mohmand, is also a Safi. TTP is the main militant group active in Mohmand Agency. - source FRC

Acronym use:  OKK (Omar Khalid Khurasani  ), TTP (Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan ), FATA ( Federally Administered Tribal Areas), HUM (Hakeemullah Mahsud), JI (Jamaat-e-Islami), PTI (Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf), JUI (Jamiat-e-Ulema-Islam)

OKK: The Pakistani government, military history and political party's record has always been one of breaking their promises and trying to trick the Taliban. With this last trick our leader Hakimullah Masud was martyred .

Now Across the ranks, whether young or old. They are all angry at this attack and the question of ( peace) talks is not onour minds.

The real issue about whether to hold talks will only happen when our new leader has had a discussion with our council and that consultation has been completed.

So when some of us say there is no question of talks ever that is not necessarily going to àlways be the case .

-- with regard to our council, it is in a state of constant change with varying number of members. It was founded in 2007, with the Ameer having a council that could be relied on for advice.

It consists of all the various branches of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) eg Malakand agency, Bajaur, Khyber agency, Orakzai agency. In fact each tribal agency of FATA has at least one member on the council. With a total of about 15- 17 members.

Interviewer: Are you and the various factions of the TTP in agreement about your new leader?

OKK: ... No question of division. After the death of our leader it takes time to get everyone on board to decide the next step.

We are a large organisation with large numbers of fighters. We're not like some small family where when the eldest dies someone else immediately takes over. This was bound to take time, the stories that are coming out of the media about splits between us are untrue.


Mohmand Agency map source FATA Research Centre

In fact when the new leader (Fazlullah) was agreed, the decision of the council was unanimous.

Interviewer: How true is it that you were also offered the leadership post but declined?

OKK: The TTP is a big organization and that requires someone with vision. While the story about myself being chosen spread in the media. In truth I'd stated I would not consider it, as early as the second day after HUMs death.

Interviewer: People are worried that after HUM death and the start of Muharram things will get worse..

OKK: Considering the loss of our leader it is obligatory for us to avenge the attack on us. Whether that is during Muharram or after, we cannot imagine not taking revenge on this 'apostate' Pakistani government.

We will take our revenge on the Pakistani army and the politicians especially those in government.

Interviewer: Will you punish Pakistan or the USA after all it was the latter that targeted HUM

OKK: America is our enemy but we don't blame them. Our real enemy is Pakistan. We will punish Pakistan because they tricked us. If the USA caused us problems now or ten years ago they have been consistent.

Our first enemy is Pakistan. If the Army, government and others hadn't helped the USA drone programme or the CIA. The USA couldn't have found us or done anything to us without their help. The USA has not hurt us as badly as Pakistan has..

Interviewer: We've seen in the past that previous TTP leaders have tried to strike the USA like the case of Faisal Shehzad etc. Is there any big strike being planned like that now?

OKK: As I've said before we see the USA and all the west as our enemy. However since there are plenty of movements going on against them in Syria etc our focus is here.. Pakistan. This is our target for now, our war is with Pakistan and once we've imposed Shariah law in Pakistan and the Caliphate is revived then we'll reconsider things.

Interviewer: How much truth is there in the statement that talks had started with the government.

OKK:.. Amongst Pakistan's political party's there are some eg PTI, JI and JUI .. that have people that want peace. In fact they seek peace for Pakistan. On the other hand there is the military and others institutions that do not want peace. This is because they will lose precious aid from the west. If they want to talk to us now it is only because of two reasons 1) Because of public pressure and calm people angry with them 2) to trick us once again

Interviewer: It is said the new TTP leader by nature is a hardliner and not interested in talks?

OKK: There is no question of his nature playing a role. I reject the media made up divisions that project one person is in favour of talks and the other is not. The truth is we ( the TTP) have to look at ourselves, our situation and the war. We have to weigh the benefits and risks to our war in any strategy. I can say that when it comes to Fazlullah, although we've not spent any one on one time together, it is not a question of him being a hard liner it depends on the consensus formed by the leadership on the right strategy.

Interviewer: How much truth is there in the allegation you're in fact supported by the Afghan, USA and India.

OKK: This is a wrong accusation, you know how you mentioned our attempts against the USA using Faisal Shehzad and .. . It's hard to imagine that we tried to attack them and then they'd give us aid. With regard to India, I myself have fought in Kashmir and have many friends amongst the groups fighting ( against them). The way we say Pakistan Army is the enemy we say the same about India.

We've not taken any hèlp from India but for example if we did we'd have asked for a anti aircraft gun to shoot down PAF jets. We haven't done that yet, if you're taking aid from someone you'd expect it to be something to hurt your mutual enemy.

Interviewer: If you were offered help though would you accept ?

OKK: We have seen no need for it, we have enough strength as it is.

Interviewer: It is said that when fighting starts in Mohmand agency fighters hide in Afghanistan. Why is that?

KHK: We're basically fighting a guerrilla war in Pakistan.

Just because we don't plant a flag and fight against them doesn't mean we can't. It is the rule of guerrilla warfare to hurt your enemy while saving yourself for another day

Interviewer: TTP are accused of destroying schools are you against education?

KHK: We're not against education after all we were educated in religious schools. We are against the Pakistani school based education system. As an alternative we've set up our own religious schools to challenge the Pakistani school system. We're teaching both religious education and practical life skills. The important part of education is the religious part.

(Our aim is ) We're destroying the old system so ours can take its place.

Interviewer: Why do the TTP block health and development programmes

OKK: We are absolutely not against development projects. We've not kidnapped anyone or placed on obstacles against development work. In fact we organize our own work in Moand agency. Saying that we won't allow NGOs in our area, we believe they are working for foreign governments hence why we target them for kidnappings.

Interviewer: What forms of media do you like or watch ?

OKK: I watch them all in fact I have a media team to monitor the radio, tv and internet.

Interviewer: How much truth is there in the statements about the result of drone attacks?

OKK: There are different reports there is amnesty international one, the government of Pakistan one, the recent British one. All I will say about drones is that they have a bad impact on civilians, especially in north Waziristan.

They don't have much impact on our fighters, in fact the strikes help us in one way. It makes the people feel vulnerable and when they feel vulnerable they turn to us which in turn makes us stronger.

Interviewer: So they don't impact you

OKK: no not at all and we're not scared of death. If we were we would never be doing this ...

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

“Here lies the Victor of Maiwand”

“Here lies the Victor of Maiwand”

by Ali Jan

Maiwand is a small village town in Afghanistan, about 45 miles from Kandahar that gained fame during the Second Anglo-Afghan War in 1880. It was at this battlefield that the British army suffered its most embarrassing defeat at the hands of Sardar Muhammad Ayub Khan, an Afghan general, whose mausoleum is in Peshawar.

He was the son of the King Ameer Sher Ali, who ruled Afghanistan from 1863-1878. Ayub Khan was born in 1855 and spent most of his early life in Afghanistan. His brother Yakub Khan ascended the throne after his father’s demise and Ayub Khan became the governor of Herat.

The term ‘Great Game’ was popularized during the British Empire’s conflict with Tsarist Russian Empire in the 19th century. Afghanistan and its monarchs became pawns in this imperial game of rivalry and strategic influence and its outcome was to have a direct bearing on the British Empire’s hold over India. The British had not forgotten the terrible First Afghan War disaster when an entire army of 15,000 was wiped out in 1842 ending the four years of their initial presence there. Retribution and vengeance were key considerations that paved the way for another military campaign. Incited by the murder of the British agent Major Louis Cavagnari at the Kabul Residency and to counter the increasing tilt towards Russia by the Afghans, the British army once again advanced into Afghanistan in 1878 commencing the Second Afghan War.

Soon after their arrival, the British deposed Ayub’s brother Yakub Khan and then a long campaign ensued. The battle at Maiwand was fought on 27th July 1880 when Ayub Khan successfully led 6000 men and intercepted the British army at this place in order to thwart their invasion of Afghanistan. The terrible heat of the Afghan summer that year and other logistic difficulties greatly disadvantaged the 66th (Berkshire) Regiment led by General Burrows in its advance and it was annihilated by the Afghans who tore through all its lines. The victory is often cited as being perhaps the only instance where an Asiatic leader won a pitched battle fought against a vastly superior European army.

Sardar Muhammad Ayub Khan is revered as a freedom fighter and national hero in Afghanistan. Many 19th century poets have composed ballads about the ‘Ghazi of Maiwand’ and glorified him for giving the foreign invaders a bloody nose. There is a monument to the battle of Maiwand in Afghanistan. The tower, known as Minar-e-Maiwand was erected by King Zahir Shah in 1959 in the town square. A Pashto inscription, taken from a poem, relates a legend how at one stage the Afghans were preparing for retreat when a young woman named Malalai, stepped forward and pleaded to them: "If you do not taste of martyrdom today on this field of Maiwand, By God I am afraid you'll lead an ignominious life forever more." It is recounted, upon hearing this the men turned back to win the battle.

A colossal cast-iron lion statue in the memory of the men of 66th Regiment of Foot who died at Maiwand stands in Forbury Gardens, Reading in Berkshire England. The few remaining survivors that managed to reach the safety of the British garrison at Kandahar, got a medal from Queen Victoria on return to their country. One of the medal recipients was a dog named Bobbie.

The unprecedented British defeat caused a sensation in Europe and provided much literary fodder for English writers such as Rudyard Kipling who composed a poem on it entitled, That Day. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s fictional character Watson is actually based on a surgeon of the 66th Regiment. In A Study in Scarlet (1881), Watson describes how he got shot whilst attending to a fallen soldier at Maiwand. "How are you? …You have been to Afghanistan, I perceive." are the opening words spoken by Sherlock Holmes to Dr. Watson. “How on earth did you know that?” Watson asks in admiration. It is the first of many displays of Holmes's brilliant deductive abilities.

Ayub Khan’s victory was short-lived as another army under the direction of Field Marshal Frederick Roberts came in his pursuit after a few weeks. And when the British army drew back into India leaving the Afghans to govern themselves, Ayub’s cousin and staunch enemy Abdur Rahman Khan proclaimed himself Ameer routing Ayub’s supporters. Ayub Khan was forced to flee to Herat and later sought refuge in Persia where he spent many years in exile. The new King Ameer Abdur Rahman continued to hatch conspiracies against him and made his life difficult even there. On his part, Ayub Khan too tried vainly to topple him and attempted a coup against his cousin but with no luck. As time wore on and the political landscape gradually changed Ayub Khan finally turned himself over to the British emissary in Meshed, Persia. He was sent to India as a state prisoner and kept in confinement for sometime. He spent the last years of his life with his family in Lahore, living off a pension fixed by the Government of India. He died on 7th April 1914 and was buried in Peshawar.

Today, the Victor of Maiwand rests alone in his glory in a small marble mausoleum in the Durrani Graveyard near Wazir Bagh, just outside the old walled city of Peshawar. His tomb made of pure white marble is a fine example of hand craftsmanship. It has a round canopy and bears beautiful floral carvings, geometric patterns and Islamic calligraphy. The mausoleum’s construction was commissioned by the government of Afghanistan during the reign of King Habibullah Khan. The gravestone carries a Persian inscription that lavishes much praise on the inmate. Other dignitaries buried in the Durrani Graveyard compound include his mother (wife of Ameer Shere Ali and queen of Afghanistan), Sardar Ibrahim Khan (brother), Sardar Jalaluddin Khan and other close family members.

The Great Game of the old empires has entered a new round. In the current setting the rules are the same however the players and pawns are different. The future of Afghanistan, it appears, is still as undecided today as it was more than a century ago. Peace in that country may still be a long shot, however its former royal family members continue to rest in eternal peace in this quiet little graveyard.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Malala Yousafzai - from victim of Taliban to victim of narratives

By Shah Zalmay Khan

We Pakistanis are a strange people – extreme in whatever we do. When we love, we ignore all negatives; when we hate, we ignore all positives. We make up our minds first and judge facts / evidences / arguments later, based on our already made up minds. When we are conservative, we become fundamentalist or even militant; when we are liberal, we become fascist. When conservative, we call every dissenter an agent; when liberal, we call every dissenter a troll or a Taliban apologist. We make our heroes, specialize them for ‘us’, exclude the ‘them’ from the ownership somehow and then trumpet the difference between ‘us’ and ‘them’. Nothing escapes this ‘Us vs Them’ mentality; not opinion-making, not war, not peace talks, not suicide blasts, not drone strikes, not Aafia Siddiqui, not Malala Yousafzai.

Coming to the case in point – Malala Yousafzai– the brave Pashtun girl who was shot by the Taliban, just for thinking, believing & acting differently from the attackers’ view.



Who is Malala? An ordinary girl from militancy-hit Swat region of Pakistan who loves education.
What did Malala do? She wrote a diary for BBC Urdu about her daily life / school activities when Swat was under the de-facto Taliban control.
What made the ordinary girl special? Her resolve in what she believed (education) and the courage to stand up and write / speak about it, in the face of imminent death.
Why was she shot? Perhaps the attackers were afraid of what Malala stood for i.e. education.
Did Pakistanis approve of the attack on Malala? No. 99.99% Pakistanis condemned the attack and felt sorry for the innocent kid.
Has Malala ever blamed Islam or Pakistan for anything? Not at all. The kid loves her homeland and wants to return to play her role in its development and peace.

Fine story? All set? Not to be, sadly.

Where then is the confusion? Why do some people on social media especially twitter (and media too) think they somehow care more for Malala & that others don’t? Why do some people on the same forums think Malala is somebody’s agent? Why Pakistan seems divided on Malala? Why do some people take extreme positions (supposedly) for or against Malala?

I feel it is less about Malala herself and more about our own views on certain issues which we somehow link to Malala, thus making her part of our own narrative on the issues. The narrative takes shape of questions (some that I myself may have asked at times). On one side we have such questions as:
Why the West / media / liberals support Malala ignoring (or not speaking enough for) thousands of other kids affected by operations and drones in FATA?

Why are people representing a certain colonial mindset in international politics (e.g ex British PM Gordon Brown) seen on Malala’s side at UNGA or elsewhere; people who are anything but human-rights activists and who caused deaths of thousands of kids in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine etc.

Why Nobel Prize for Malala & not one for Edhi too who has been working tirelessly for humanity since decades?
On the flip side we have such questions as:
How can we hold peace talks with militants who attack kids like Malala?

Since militants attacked Malala for seeking education, so aren't those demanding peace talks, apologists of Taliban & enemies of education or women emancipation?

Why mention drone victims or Aafia Siddiqui in same breath with Malala? (Probably not as innocent as Malala or an acceptable collateral damage).
and so the list goes on.

These and similar questions often widen the debate beyond the persona of Malala; distract the common man and thus a purely human issue (a child’s personal feat, suffering & resolve) becomes an ideological ‘Us vs Them’ battle. Then extreme positions are taken and things associated with Malala are scrutinized for or against her to build the two narratives of pro-Malala and anti-Malala. Reality of both, in most instances, is that it is not Malala herself but our own views superimposed on Malala’s situation that form the clashing narratives.

The equation becomes particularly complex when those in the conservative circles (on one side) and media /
liberals (on the other) start using Malala’s name to lend credence to their personal opinions & beliefs on pressing issues of terrorism and foreign policy. For instance, on one hand, the conservative circles come up with their barrage of ‘why why why’ questions, comparing Malala’s case to others (related or unrelated) to prove that she is nothing but a Western agent sponsored by the ‘House of Zion’ to defame Islam and Pakistan. On the other hand, liberals / media / West come up with an outlandish jargon of their own to prove the attack on Malala was the FIRST & ONLY time a kid had been targeted by armed groups (be it militants or Pak / US forces) and that declaring war in Malala’s name is the only way out. It becomes less about Malala and more about deriving justification or weight for our own views & opinions (mis)using Malala’s name.

Both approaches are harmful; both are damaging the cause for which Malala actually stood up – education – by overshadowing her persona through controversies of our making, not Malala’s. By mixing up our own opinions & wishes with Malala’s tale, we are confusing ourselves and in doing so, harming & making controversial what essentially was & is meant to be – a brave girl’s heroic stand for her ideals in the face of adversity.

Tail piece: This is not to suggest that there are no lunatics who hate Malala per se or what she stood up for. Also it shouldn't be inferred that there are none who hate Islam & Pakistan per se or who would spare any effort to bring both to discredit. There actually are many such lunatics out there and we (by dividing Malala amongst the ‘Us vs Them’ camps) are only aiding them – effectively making Malala a symbol of division rather than unity for us Pakistanis. And that, my friends, is the creepiest part.

The writer is a tribesman from Bajaur Agency (FATA) and tweets at @PTI_FATA (No official association with PTI). His blog can be found here http://pti-fata.blogspot.co.uk

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Malala of Swat – Pride of Pashtuns and Pakistan

By Shah Zalmay Khan

Malala – this name has been a symbol of resistance, pride & honour for Pashtuns ever since Maiwand, 133 years ago. So Maiwand’s Malala came to my mind when I learnt that the BBC-diary-girl Gul Makai’s real name was Malala (the diary I heard in early 2009 on BBC Urdu radio). Then I saw her on TV, talking about how & why she wrote the diary and how she felt about education; her own as well as that of other kids.
Malalai of Maiwand

Fast forward to October 2012, on the 9th came a shocker – Malala was shot by the Taliban. My sister, herself a teacher in a FATA school, would inform me amidst sobs: “Malalai has been killed” (she calls her Malalai instead of Malala). However, soon we knew she (like Maiwand’s Malala) won’t quit like this – she fought death like a warrior. Overwhelmed by shock of the brutal attack, fear of losing her, hope of her recovery & anguish at own haplessness; it was one of the gloomiest evenings in my life. Malala’s innocent face, graceful demeanour & youthful smile; all made rounds in my mind for days. I keenly followed the updates as she was shifted to UK while still battling for her life. Next I saw glimpses of her, upon recovery from her injuries after a long & painful treatment.

Then I saw her addressing the UN General Assembly on ‘Malala Day’. Millions around the world watched as the proud Pashtun daughter of Pakistan spoke astutely about her ideals; humanity, peace and education. She conveyed this powerful message in beautiful words to the world:
"One child, one teacher, one book, and one pen can change the world".


Kids & youngsters around the world expressed solidarity with her by holding ‘I Am Malala’ placards & posters. Latest I saw her speak to the BBC after launch of her book ‘I Am Malala’ (co-authored with Christina Lamb) and read her interview with Kamila Shamsie in ‘The Guardian’ (showing the other side of Malala).
It has been almost three years since I came to know Malala first (as Malala – not Gul Makai) and she has fascinated me more each time I see, hear or read her. However, it saddens me greatly that she lost her childhood & may be her own identity to this episode, like she said in an interview:
“In Swat, I studied in the same school for 10 years and there I was just considered to be Malala. Here I'm famous, here people think of me as the girl who was shot by the Taliban. The real Malala is gone somewhere, and I can't find her”.


However, what fascinates me is that despite her extremely unusual life experiences, she still has this natural innocence of a kid. Even when talking on such serious topics as peace, war & revenge, she does exhibit her child-like innocence. For example on an interview when she was asked if she hated those who shot her (the Taliban militants) she responded:
“I only get angry at my father & brothers (especially younger brother Khushal). I can't be good to him (Khushal), it's impossible. We can't ever be friends".


This typical child-like side of ‘The Malala’, more than anything, keeps our faith in the inherent goodness of human race intact. This faith is further reinforced by her mature thought process when it comes to the issues of killings or war. Just as when asked about the Talib who shot her, she commented:

“It's hard to kill. Maybe that's why his hand was shaking”.
Or when asked about war & the solution to militancy problem, she is very clear in her belief & astute in her choice of words:
“The best way to solve problems and to fight against war is through dialogue”.

Today, as I write these lines, the 1st anniversary of attack on Malala is upon us. The occasion is in full media gaze also because she is being tipped as a strong contender for the Nobel Peace Prize, to be announced on Oct 11th. What I personally feel though is that Malala has grown bigger than awards – she is now a symbol, an icon, herself. So a Nobel for Malala won’t add more to her stature rather association with Malala will give credence to the award itself (especially as it passes through a credibility crisis since the ‘Obama-Nobel’ joke).

The bottom-line:
Nobel or no Nobel – for me, as a Pashtun, Swat’s Malala is a reincarnation of Maiwand’s Malala. We will forever take pride in both Malalas – as symbols of every Pashtun mother, sister and daughter.
And for all of us Pakistanis, Malala remains our brave daughter who serves as a beacon of hope & courage for our 51% population i.e. the 90 million women.
.
The writer is a tribesman from Bajaur Agency (FATA)  and tweets at @PTI_FATA .
(No official association with PTI). His blog can be found here http://pti-fata.blogspot.co.uk/

Friday, 4 October 2013

Uniting for peace : Peshawar after the blasts

By Farah Samuel

The history of Edwardes College dates back to 1900s. It is the first college in the history of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. Despite being a Christian institute, Edwardes College is an ecumenical institute; which means an institute for all irrespective of cast, color or creed.

Edwardes College has produced many laureates till date. A number of prominent personalities such as the ex-Vice Chancellor of University of Peshawar, Prof. Dr. Azmat Hayat Khan have been a part of this prestigious institute, which is why, Edwardes owns its flourishing students wherever they are. The recent blasts in All Saints Church, Kohati took away many lives and unfortunately four students of Edwardes College too. All four of them were brilliant academically and one of them was a medical student at Khyber Medical University.

On 26th September, one of the ex-students of Edwardes College, Dr. Mahrukh Khan came up with a beautiful thought of keeping a peace and solidarity rally in memory of the lost souls. The rally was held within the premises of Edwardes College where all the faculty members and the students showed their good will to contribute in this noble cause.

The ex-Bishop of Peshawar Diocess, Munawar RumalShah expressed his pain: “I fail to understand the ulterior motives of the harmful souls. If they wish to segregate the masses then they have probably failed because if they witness what I see today, they will be wounded to know that people from all religious sects, stood by the Christians in this hour of grave. We have always been together to support each other with our tender care whenever needed and this shall continue for as long as we are alive. Peace is not peace if it is not for others.”

The principal of Edwardes College, Dr.Titus Presler who was not a part of the ceremony physically but had sent his kind regards for his family at Edwardes. A part of his address said: “We must work for peace in order to prevent such an atrocity as was visited upon the Christian community last Sunday or such atrocities as were visited upon the Shia community in Quetta last January and February. Working for peace means seeking to resolve differences without conflict and violence. Working for peace requires courage and humility and it often requires sacrifice.”

The students from the Khyber Medical University (KMU) who were present at the ceremony extended their condolences for the departed and remembered their demised fellow in the highest of spirits. They couldn’t refrain from saying that their fellow student was one of the brilliant students at KMU and shall always be a part of their beautiful memories.

A young Christian, a faculty member at Edwardes College, Asst. Prof. Cedric A Edwin expressed his utmost grief and agony at the unfortunate incident: “It's extremely hard to think rationally in times of sorrow but this is exactly what we are going to do, think rationally and logically, because we are men of Faith. Sinking in the negativity and keeping the heads high! Most of them were friends and their families - honest, middle-class, hard working, strong Christians, our brothers and sisters, who are no more with us. There are many evildoers around here who want to sabotage our cause by playing political tantrums but with the strength and composure which Our Lord gives us, we are keeping our heads high and not showing any kind of hatred towards other communities. Our message is: Terrorists have no religion. Thanks to all the friends who showed their deep concern.”

The ceremony culminated in a peace walk throughout the premises of the College. All the faculty members and the students lifted banners and placards which displayed only one ultimate desire; PEACE. One of the banners said: “Let peace be on earth.” This walk demonstrated that for a humble and noble cause such as the prevalence of peace, the different communities connect and join together as one nation. Such demonstration and the expression of humanity caused by sheer grief are self evident of togetherness. The procession took place peacefully and all the students returned with serenity masking their faces and exhilarating their souls in joy and calmness which they portrayed for the deceased.

A remarkable day at Edwardes College ended peacefully. It was heartening to see the air of friendliness and compassion for each other. Edwardes College has always promoted harmony amongst the masses. Today for once the peace and harmony shadowed the remorse and grief that we suffered lately. It filled my heart with even more reverence for my teachers and the young students who made their presence so effective that it will last forever. This day has been marked in the history of the College as a day when humans and not different religious sects mustered up courage and gathered for a cause which will be remembered for many years to come. We need not such tragic events to join hands but such God fearing souls to illuminate the candle of peace, love and harmony.



-the writer is an Environmentalist by profession and based in Peshawar, a former student of Edwardes College, a proud Pakistani, a keen observer of inter-faith dialogue and a staunch advocate of peace. 
 
 

Monday, 23 September 2013

Remembering Peshawar's All Saints Church

- This piece was published in 2007 by a regular QK contributor

By Ali Jan

The church in the British India had an important purpose. In addition to the institution's role in missionary work and conducting regular religious services, it was also essential for performing baptisms, marriages and funerals. The subcontinental landscape is dotted with numerous old churches from the colonial era. Most of these have been built in typical European and gothic style. However, the All Saints' Church (built 1883); located inside the Kohati gate of the old walled city of Peshawar is an architecturally unique place of worship that bears a striking resemblance to an Islamic saracenic mosque with minarets and a dome.

Before 1883, the old city native congregation worshipped in the nearby Edwardes Mission School. The school is the oldest in the Frontier region and is located at a stone's throw from the church. It is named after Herbert Edwardes, the commissioner of Peshawar who helped in setting up the Peshawar Afghan Mission in 1853. After the British annexation of the city in 1849 the property where the present school stands was confiscated by the government and handed over to Major (later Colonel) Martin to establish the first educational institution in the North West of India. But it was sadly demolished a few years ago and replaced with tacky new construction to make new classrooms.

Another place of worship in the old city was a small reading hall known as Anjuman (or Mission Chapel) under an ancient tree in Peepal Mandi where missionaries often preached the gospel to passing Afghans. Actual conversions by natives in this part of India were rare. Rev T.P Hughes, missionary in Peshawar from 1865 to 1884, felt that Christianity should have some fitting external embodiment like a mosque. He therefore spared no pains to begin construction in the vicinity of Edwardes Mission School and started collecting the necessary funds. He purchased a piece of land to build a church and a pastor's house. In July 1882 a fund raising bazaar was held in Simla on the instigation of Lady Aitchison, the wife of the Governor General of India to collect Rs. 21,000.

Rev. Worthington Jukes one of its founding members records, "It was decided that the church should be oriental in aspect, cruciform in shape, with a dome in the centre, minarets flanking the front and each transept. General Follard (Royal Engineers), very kindly helped with working plans, dimensions etc... Foundations were duly laid in August 1882 and by the time contracts were signed for the building in December, the foundations had solidified, ready for immediate building... the summer of 1883 saw the Church roofed in, and the plaster work pushed on."

The church was opened on St John's Day, December 27, 1883. The foundation stone was laid by Captain Graves whose widow presented the brass desk on the Lord's Table. A plaque on a wall records: 'This church is erected to the glory of God and dedicated to the memory of All Saints in the year of our Lord Jesus Christ 1883.'

The mosque-like architecture adapts splendidly to the purposes of Christian worship. The columns, minarets and oriental arches are flawlessly symmetrical. The church is aligned to face Jerusalem and bears text calligraphy in Persian on its frontal facade.

It is open to visitors on ever Sunday. The church-staff is very courteous and the Vicar Rev SP Asghar, who is a dear man, often takes the guests around personally whenever he is available. The interior is exactly as it was more than a century ago.The church has the capacity to hold about 200 people. Inside the entrance is a rare photograph of Reverend Jukes in native Afghan dress.The walls are covered in texts in various languages spoken in the city in old times such as Persian, Urdu, Pashto, Arabic, English and Hebrew. The altar contains a beautiful screen of intricate wood carving (the pinjra-work for which Peshawar was famous). The inscription on the brass lectern indicates that it was 'presented by Miss Milman, Sir Richard Pollock and the Reverend E Jacob in memory of the Bishop of Calcutta, Robert Milman.'

A curved passageway leads to the ambulatory behind the altar and the wooden screen. Dozens of white marble memorial plaques are displayed here. Amongst them is a tablet to the memory of the notorious outlaw Dilawar Khan who converted to Christianity, and later joined the elite Corps of Guides and died whilst in their service in 1869. Conspicuous among these is the name of Miss Annie Norman, daughter of Sir Henry Norman, K.C.B., who died at the age of 27 after only one year's work among the women of Peshawar, and lies buried, according to her wish, in the native Wazirbagh Christian cemetery in the city -- the only European there. There is also a tablet about Rev Isidor Lowenthal, a Polish Jew convert who after becoming convinced that the Pakhtuns were the lost tribe of Bani Israel chose to work in Peshawar to 'serve his brethren.'

Another memorial plaque recounts the services of Vernon Starr the martyred missionary whose wife Lilian Vade Starr, matron at the Mission Hospital, travelled deep into the Tribal Areas to rescue Molly Ellis, a young Englishwoman who had been kidnapped by the tribals and brought her back safe. This historic incident made international headlines back in 1923.

The visitors are often shown an old bible in Hebrew and English dated 1806, with a brass latch engraved with 'Peshawar City, Afghanistan' that memorialises the deep historical links with the Afghans. It is pertinent to mention here that Peshawar was once the winter capital of the kingdom of Afghanistan which is the reason why the Frontier still bears a striking likeness with that country.

One can climb onto the parapet built around the domed roof. A curious story -- probably apocryphal -- is told of 13 brave Christian men who laid down their lives one after another whilst trying to fix the cross atop the church in its early days. According to the workers at the church, they were all martyred in the process by locals who were opposed to its opening. While narrating the account one of them will even point to a few 'bullet holes' near the cross to substantiate their claim. Apocryphal as it might sound, to any sceptic listener, it is still an interesting story! There is no evidence of it in the church records nor in the memoirs by any of the missionaries. What is more, let's suppose the story is not mythical then there should have been at least a commemorative plaque mentioning it but none exists.

The building which is now almost 124 year old is beginning to show signs of aging and has developed minor cracks at a few places lately. A local proactive group the Frontier Heritage Trust (FHT) which lobbies for preservation of built heritage in NWFP has included All Saints' Church among other buildings in a list complied by its experts. It has appealed to the government authorities for proper notification of endangered historic buildings in the Frontier and to declare this church a protected national monument under the Federal Antiquities Act 1975. It is hoped that the concerned departments will pay heed to their plea so this building can be preserved for our future generations.

- Republished with permission from The News on Sunday (15-04-2007). originally published under the title Mosque-like
The 124 year old All Saints' Church in Peshawar is waiting to be declared a protected national monument

Friday, 20 September 2013

The ‘Un-Signified’ Road to Negotiations : Pakistan’s Pharmekon – Panacea or Poison?

By -Ouroboros


“This pharmakon, this “medicine”, this philter, which acts as both remedy and poison, already introduces itself into the body of the discourse with all its ambivalence” [1]

Since the end of the last government and the beginning of the new, terms as- Peace Talks and Negotiations- have become part of our colloquial jargon, substituted to represent something other than themselves. They now represent a sign play, the collective psyche of dividedness: failure, submission, victory and hope all at once.

While any rational ‘dialogue’ would be based on an assumption that those indulging in a conversation are exactly in control of conscious choices they make. Similarly, the entire structure of the argument of any talks with the Taliban is based on an assumption that they are rational people who attack people for a political end. [2]



The belief, particularly in areas infested with militancy particularly Fata and a large number of people living in urban areas, that the phenomena that has come to be known as ‘Talibanization’ [the etymology of the word is vague but can be traced back to the early 2000’s] is ‘Engineered’. The architects of this ‘engineered product’ vary from personal imagination to relative experience based on (conspiracy) theories.

The point of mentioning altering viewpoints is not to conclude but rather to explain a common source of ideas and the expectations attached to it. While the government itself has always emphasized the intervention of the “Foreign Hand” while politicians believe that Pakistan is a “playground for international forces” – what has changed now? Is there a Confession or is it a speech act like Parrhesia? [3]

While the construction of terms like “Peace Talks” “Negotiating for peace” are based on an assumption, per-conceived, that the talks or negotiation will deliver peace or are at least an effort towards doing so. The construction of such ‘Frames’ * [concepts related in such a way that to understand any one of them you have to understand the whole structure in which it fits] has nothing more than then petty politics lingering in the backdrop. When the concept of -Peace – is associated with talks or negotiation, it creates a metaphor, an image. Appealing to the people who have witnessed, more than a decade of destruction and death. The image in-itself is exploitative, living upon the sentiments of the masses. [4]

While the politicos have ‘appealed’ – Give Peace A Chance – or – We have been elected by the people with a mandate of peace – Our interior minister even went to the extent to appeal to the Taliban “Not to be fooled by the propaganda of those that are opposed to peace talks” the Taliban replied in the same tone “We have an eye on those who are opposed to these talks”. Not to mention the incidents that have followed since then and the responsibility claims.

The question here is then, who do the leaders represent? If there are people who do not agree with the concept of peace talks – do we hear the voice of George Bush’s “Either you're for us, or you're against us” metamophosized for peace this time? A closer look at the arguments for peace talks has as much as common with those starting a war. Its all about “Framing and Reframing”. [5]

[1] (Jacques Derrida, Dissemination, Chicago University Press 1968. Platos Pharmacy, pg70. )



[2] (What Terrorists Really Want Terrorist Motives and Counterterrorism Strategy , Max Abrahms International Security, Volume 32, Number 4, Spring 2008, pp.78-105 (Article) Published by The MIT Press)



(3)[Six Lectures by Michel Foucault at University of California, Berkeley, Oct-Nov. 1983]



[4] (Lakoff , Don’t Think of an Elephant: (2004) pgs.15- 17)



[5] Norris Pippa, Montague Kern, and Marion Just; Framing Terrorism: Published in, Framing Terrorism- The News Media, the Government and the Public: Edited by Pippa, Montague Kern, and Marion Just. Published by Routledge New York, 20

Friday, 13 September 2013

Bye elections Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa: A counter analysis


by Faheem Wali

An enormous amount of media hype, as usual, was created regarding the recently concluded bye elections/ Despite this the same could not instil even a sizeable level of interest amongst the electorates in most of the constituencies in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.  Barring two provincial assembly seats that got vacant due to unfortunate and brutal assassinations of MPAs Imran Mohmand-PK 27 Mardan and Faridullah-PK 42  Hangu, the rest remained business as usual across the Province.

Having said that,bye elections in KP on most of the constituencies threw up some very interesting results and statistics which kept your average person like me curious for a while. These trends   reflect upon the peculiar mindset of voters regarding their choice of candidates and the anger at lack of initiatives for people by various sitting governments in centre and Province

The most intriguing results came out from the infamous NA 1-Peshawar, where three time federal minister and four time elected member of parliament Ghulam Ahmed Bilour of ANP was pitched against a new comer by the face of Gul Badshah of PTI (Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf) to defend the seat vacated by Imran Khan. Imran Khan in the general election had inflicted a humiliating defeat upon the ANP stalwart. Bilour ended up winning the seat quite easily in the end by a margin of 5000 votes,apparently due to multiple factors,including non delivery on the  governance side by the PTI government, intra party rifts within PTI, lack of fame of their candidate and  the effects of local alliances former by the Bilours.

The shock of the victory led most of the critics and some observers to predict the fall of PTI even within 90 days of their taking power and the  massive turnout in their support in general elections was equated with a storm in a tea cup. But fascinating portion for me was not the result but the number of votes secured by a non-entity like Gul Badshah, he got almost 30,000 votes which creates a bench mark that in itself is more astounding for PTI supporters to cheer about. As previously barring Imran Khan's mammoth tally, PTI failed to get even a couple of thousand votes in NA 1, which is a warning all parties and ANP  in particular, not to get carried away with this slim victory because PTI, with slightly better effort is still a force not to be underestimated.

NA-1 (PESHAWAR-I)

Registered Votes             320581
Votes Polled      73614
Percentage of Votes Polled to Registered Voters  22.96%
Rejected Votes 1093
Candidate and Party
Votes polled
Ghulam Ahmad Bilour Awami National Party      
34386
Gul Badshah       Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf            
28911
Samad Mursalin                Independent    
1770
Muhammad Ibrahim Qasmi Muttahida Deeni Mahaz
6673

Truly, clinging on to the past traditions, these bye elections reaffirmed prevalent indifference of the average voter towards bye elections, manifested in the electoral victories of strong candidates in the shape of Haji Bilour, Imran Khattak and Aqibullah Khan. All these candidates had the capacity, means and resources to bring out the electorate to cast votes in their favour which proved vital in their victory at the polls. This factor conversely went against unknown candidates like Gul  Badshah and Maulana Dervesh.

NA-13 (SWABI-II)Result:


Registered Votes             362779
Votes Polled      80241
Percentage of Votes Polled to Registered Voters  22.12%
Rejected Votes 917
Candidate and Party
Votes polled
Maulana Attaul Haq           Jamiat Ulama-e-Islam (F)
32300
Aqibullah            Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf             
43333
 
 
Winner PTI
 

The most positive revelation was the manner and resilience shown by the people in turning out to vote in countless numbers for the brothers of martyred MPAs in Hangu and Mardan respectively,despite lack of any  party support. The voters signalled a big NO to those who believe in violence as a tool for achievement of their twisted goals.

 
Registered Votes
Votes Polled
Valid Votes
Rejected Votes
%age turnout
Provincial Election PK-23 (MARDAN-I)
 
112346
               
               
               
               
 
30045
29390
655
26.74%
Result
Ahmad Khan Bahadur ANP 13606
 
Syed Umer Farooq
PTI          12869
 
Ikram Ullah Shahid MDM2166
 
 
PK-27 (MARDAN-V)
127825
               
 
52141
50829
1312
 
40.79%
Result
Jamshed Khan
Independent
36699
Fazal Rabbani Advocate Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan 10484
 
Zakka Ullah Khan
Jamiat Ulama-e-Islam (F) 3646
 
 
PK-42 (HANGU-I)
118020
               
51641
51342
299
43.76%
Result
Shah Faisal Khan
Independent
38391 (now PTI)
Syed Hussaini Independent                12522
Maulana Mian Hussain Jalali
JUI (F)   41
 
 
PK-70 (BANNU-I)
128360
               
45218
 
44577
 
641
 
35.23%
Result
Azam Khan Durrani JUI (F)
                24291
Malik Adnan Khan      PTI 19756
 
 
 

Another refreshing aspect was demonstrated by electorate of southern districts in Lakki Marwat and Bannu, the seats which conventionally are influenced by right wing votes. This time around, the voters were taken for granted, as can be shown in the attitude of the JUI-F leadership to field their kin to run for the seats. This has not gone well rather it probably catalysed a counter reaction, as a relative of JUI_F leader and ex Chief Minister Akram Durrani won by a thin margin while Maulana Fazal ur Rehman's brother in all probability is likely to lose, his PTI adversary leading the campaign by 8000 votes and even if he get majority votes of the 20 woman polling stations, it can only reduce the margin of defeat.

Overall the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa elections were a win-win situation for ANP and have much to celebrate having doubled their number of MNA's and retained a provincial seat. In their victory though they must realise the loss of support base is continuing. In PK-23 Mardan e.g.,   the number of voted secured by Ahmad Khan were quite a few thousand less than those secured by Amir Haider Hoti, while his rival from PTI added a couple of thousand to his tally secured in general elections. For PTI,it was a no win-no loss election but came as a rude awakening at an appropriate time to check their follies and resurrect themselves by concentrating on deliverance.

The real loser was the JUI-F, for the party the bye elections ended were a nightmare they would love to forget sooner rather than later.