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.


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      
Gul Badshah       Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf            
Samad Mursalin                Independent    
Muhammad Ibrahim Qasmi Muttahida Deeni Mahaz

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)
Aqibullah            Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf             
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)
Ahmad Khan Bahadur ANP 13606
Syed Umer Farooq
PTI          12869
Ikram Ullah Shahid MDM2166
Jamshed Khan
Fazal Rabbani Advocate Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan 10484
Zakka Ullah Khan
Jamiat Ulama-e-Islam (F) 3646
Shah Faisal Khan
38391 (now PTI)
Syed Hussaini Independent                12522
Maulana Mian Hussain Jalali
JUI (F)   41
Azam Khan Durrani JUI (F)
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.


Friday, 6 September 2013

New provinces for a new Pakistan

Pakistan-proper consists of 4 provinces Punjab, KPK (Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa), Sindh, Balochistan and a special region FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas) - a total population of approximately 180 million people and covering an area of nearly 796,000 Square km (population & area of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan deducted from these figures). The population distribution (approx) is as under:

• Punjab = 56% (or 100 million)
• Sindh = 23.5% (or 40 million)
• KPK = 13.5 % (or 25 million)
• Balochistan = 4.5 % (or 9 million)
• FATA = 2.5 % (or 5 million)

Even a casual look at these figures suggests that the weightage of the country's pillars is severely uneven - Punjab overshadows all other provinces combined. This disparity is also reflected in the political setup of the country where Punjab alone gets 148 National Assembly seats out of 272 (directly elected) while the combined tally of Sindh, KPK, Balochistan and FATA is 124 seats.
The extreme disparity in population and political clout gives rise to severe problems at the federation level and even within Punjab where some communities, especially the Seraikis in the west and south complain of being neglected by the rulers of Lahore (Central Punjab). The movement for a Seraiki province has been around for years now.

A similar situation exists in KPK too where people of the Hazara region demand a separate province. Also people of the Pashtun belt (Zhob to Quetta) in Balochistan have been raising voices for a separate province.
The debate on making new provinces normally gets hijacked by political motivations in all provinces. While the ANP or PPP would love to see Punjab divided; they don't like the same to be done in KPK or Sindh. Similarly while the PML-N may be demanding to carve up a Hazara province from KPK, they drag their feat on division of Punjab. Thus a debate that should have focused on the administrative & managerial benefits of creating smaller provinces, is soon overtaken by tempers shooting up at the slightest mention of division of a province. What is the way out then?
Well new provinces definitely need to be carved up from the existing ones. Since this issue affects the life of more or less all Pakistanis, I decided to dig into the matter a bit & do some research. What I (personally) concluded – as an ordinary Pakistani stakeholder – is that a total of 16 provinces can be created in the country: 3 in KPK, 6 in Punjab, 3 in Sindh and 4 in Balochistan. Creation of the new provinces will have at least 2 major benefits, among many others:

• The 4 provincial capitals - Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar and Quetta - get a disproportionately greater share of respective provincial resources while other major cities like Bahawalpur, Multan, Sukkur, Dera Ismail Khan or Khuzdar get neglected. However, with 16 provinces, we will have 16 cities as provincial capitals - which means more cities will join the relatively developed club.
• Existing provincial capitals are too far away for majority populations of the respective provinces. Examples: People from Rahim Yar Khan or Dera Ghazi Khan can't reach Lahore easily; Ghotki folks find Karachi too far; Dera Ismail Khan is far away from Peshawar and Gwadar/Turbat are painfully far away from Quetta. With new provinces spanning smaller geographic areas, it will be easier for people to reach their respective provincial capitals.

Details of the scheme follow.
(Disclaimer: This proposal is entirely my own initiative and has nothing to do with the party I support).

Provinces in KPK

North Pakhtunkhwa
With its capital at Peshawar, this province may comprise of Peshawar Division, Mardan Division, Malakand Division, and Kohistan & Torghar districts of KPK. The province may also incorporate 3 adjacent tribal agencies and 2 F.Rs of FATA i.e. Bajaur Agency, Mohmand Agency, Khyber Agency, F.R Peshawar and F.R Kohat.
Central Pakhtunkhwa
With its capital at Bannu, Kohat or Dera Ismail Khan Khan, this province may comprise of Kohat Division, Bannu Division and Dera Ismail Khan Division of KPK. The province may also incorporate 4 adjacent tribal agencies and 4 F.Rs of FATA i.e. Orakzai Agency, Kurram Agency, North Waziristan Agency, South Waziristan Agency, F.R Bannu, F.R Lakki Marwat, F.R Tank and F.R Dera Ismail Khan.
With its capital at Abbotabad, this province may include Abbotabad, Batgram, Haripur and Mansehra districts of KPK.

Provinces in PUNJAB

With its capital at Rawalpindi or Jhelum, this province may comprise of Rawalpindi, Attock, Chakwal, Jhelum, Mianwali and Khushab districts of Punjab.
With its capital at Multan, this province may comprise of Multan, Khanewal, Muzaffargarh, Layyah, Rajanpur, DG Khan and Bhakkar districts of Punjab.
South Punjab / Bahawalpur
With its capital at Bahawalpur, this province may comprise of Bahawalpur, Rahim Yar Khan, Lodhran, Bahawlnagar and Vehari districts of Punjab.
Central Punjab
With its capital at Faisalabad, this province may comprise of Faisalabad, TT Singh, Jhang, Chiniot, Sargodha, Pakpattan, Sahiwal and Okara districts of Punjab.
North Punjab
With its capital at Gujranwala or Gujrat, this province may comprise of Gujranwala, Gujrat, Sialkot, Hafizabad, Mandi Bahauddin and Narowal districts of Punjab.
East Punjab
With its capital at Lahore, this province may comprise of Lahore, Shiekhupura, Qasur and Nankana Saheb districts of Punjab.

Provinces in SINDH

North Sindh / Larkana
With its capital at Larkana, this province may comprise of Ghotki, Kashmore, Jaccobabad, Sukkur, Khairpur, Larkana, Shikarpur, Qambar Shahdadkot, Noshehru Feroz, Dadu and Nawabshah districts of Sindh.
Central Sindh / Hyderabad
With its capital at Hyderabad, this province may comprise of Hyderabad, Mitiari, Jamshoro, TM Khan, Sanghar, Mirpur Khas, Tando Allahyar, Tharparkar, Umerkot, Badin and Thatta districts of Sindh.
South Sindh / Karachi
With its capital at Malir, this province may comprise of Malir, Karachi South, Karachi East, Karachi Central, Karachi West districts of Sindh.


Provinces in BALOCHISTAN

South Pakhtunkhwa / Quetta
With its capital at Quetta, this province may comprise the Pashtuns areas of Quetta, Pishin, Harnai, Ziarat, Qila Abdullah, Zhob, Loralai, Qila Saifullah, Musakhail and Sherani districts of Balochistan.
Central Balochistan / Kalat
With its capital at Kalat or Khuzdar, this province may comprise of Kalat, Mastung, Nushki, Chaghi, Kharan, Washuk and Khuzdar districts of Balochistan.
East Balochistan / Sui
With its capital at Sui or Sibi, this province may comprise of Bolan, Jhal Magsi, Naseer Abad, Jafar Abad, Sibi, Dera Bugti, Kohlu and Barkhan districts of Balochistan.
South Balochistan / Gwadar
With its capital at Gwadar, this province may comprise of Awaran, Panjgur, Gwadar, Kech and Lasbela districts of Balochistan.

Note: The maps shown in the blog are my own design (permission granted for reuse).

-The writer is a tribesman from Bajaur Agency (FATA)
and tweets at @PTI_FATA (no official association with PTI)