Monday, 25 February 2013

Response to 'The Islamic Solution to Stop Domestic Violence'

Originally published in the Huffington Post

by Samar Esapzai (@SesapZai), Hyshyama Hamin (@SisterhoodArt), Shireen Ahmed (@_shireenahmed_), Vanessa D. Rivera (Nasreen Amina @Nasreen_Vr), and Ayesha Asghar (@ashsultana

This article is in response to a post by Qasim Rashid of the Muslim Writers Guild of America titled, "The Islamic Solution to Stop DomesticViolence" published in the Huffington Post's Religion Blog on March 5th, 2012.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Enter the caretakers

By M Faheem Wali

Of late the entire nation has been held captive in the most interesting political notion that is about the appointment of the forthcoming caretaker prime minister for the purpose of running the day to day affairs of the government during the interim period of 90 days or for that matter 60 days( if the assembly completes its tenure),as the case may be, till an elected government takes the reigns of power for the next five years after one hopes is a free, fair and impartial elections.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Sardar Abdur Rab Nishtar: A man for all seasons

-ed note republished with kind permission from

by S.A Hussain

It is perhaps fitting to remember one of the towering figures from the history of the creation of Pakistan.

Friday, 8 February 2013

Not so lost in translation

As medical students, our basic interaction with patients begins in Year III, where we commence our clinical years. Essentially, we are taught the basics of communications – mostly pertaining to history-taking from the patient. A lot of emphasis is put on avoiding the excessive use of medical jargon. Communicating in Pashto, not riddled with Urdu and/or English words, was a linguistic shock for me even though I am a Pashtun. In the first week, I realized I spoke terrible Pashto that most patients didn’t even understand. Further, until now, I have never been able to read or write it either; all the more reason to be ashamed about not having a perfect grip over my mother tongue. It has been almost four years and I have yet to speak my language with the comfortable fluency that most locals do, but I am getting there.

Like me, the younger Pashtun generation, or most of it, has trouble reading and writing Pashto. Yet, have you noticed when two Pashtuns speak to each other, they only speak Pashto and no other language irrespective of where or who they are with, much to the chagrin of people who do not understand Pashto? While we take Pashto very seriously, ergo the unavoidable need to converse in it; however, if we analyze it from an evolutionary perspective, Pashto has nothing to offer when it comes to vibrant modern literature.

One very important aspect of the diminishing trend in reading and writing Pashto is that our generation, and the one before us, failed to realize the legacy of eminent Pashto authors and poets like Khushal Khan Khattak, Rahman Baba and Ghani Khan. Khushal Khan Khattak is mostly misrepresented as a warrior while in reality he was a physician, a philosopher, and an educationist. Rahman Baba was a Sufi poet and a philosopher and Ghani Khan, in his own league, a revolutionist. Unfortunately, their larger than life philosophy seems to be lost and forgotten under piles of dust at Qissa Khwani Bazaar.
While I was growing up, I was introduced to Jane Austen, Virginia Woolf, Oscar Wilde, Patras Bukhari, and bits and pieces of Allama Iqbal but nothing in Pashto. I believe if our elders had made the effort to recognize the relevancy and concept behind their poetry and made it accessible to us, it would have made a considerable difference in our attitude towards Pashto literature. While Pashto used to be part of the syllabus in most schools in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, that is not the case anymore; this evidently is an important factor to consider.

Since the last 40 years, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has seen an obvious dearth of contemporary literature which could entice the youngsters into reading and writing in their native language. Literature seems to pass from generation to generation, largely through oral medium, subject to the whims of popular musicians. Many great stories and verses get lost or otherwise forgotten. There are only a handful of modern publications in native languages, and reading a language is such an essential part of learning it.
It's no coincidence that our language classes in English and Urdu put much emphasis on reading stories and answering comprehension questions. Literature is both the offshoot and vanguard of a language. Pashto speakers, or any language that is largely divorced from text, now find it incredibly hard to reconcile the dialects and eccentricities that creep into an informal system of language preservation. Literature codifies these things. In many ways, we are the unfortunate generation that are estranged from the language we speak, by virtue of the fact that its literature has been kept away from us. With all the idioms, proverbs, phrases, connotations, literature acts as a linguistic compendium. Moreover, the interesting narratives motivate the reader to exert some effort in learning these things.
Indeed, there is no greater teacher of language than a good story.

- 13 is a practicing Doctor at a major teaching hospital in Peshawar

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Ajmal Khattak: the revolutionary dervish

by M. Taqi ( @mazdaki)

Ajmal Khattak provided the modern theoretical basis for the idea of Greater Pashtunistan. Well-versed in the Marxist-Leninist theory — prevalent and ascendant at the time — Ajmal Khattak deployed it to strengthen the case for the right of self-determination for the Pashtuns

Friday, 1 February 2013

The FC and Levies: Front-line in Pakistan's war

On the December 27th 2012, a force of over 200 militants stormed security check posts and killed several personnel before kidnapping 22 levies. Out of those twenty two men, twenty were killed and one died of subsequent wounds with only one survivor. On hearing the news of the death of her son, the Mother of one of the Levies died of a heart attack. In the ensuing days news was leaked that the levies would not be compensated on the same terms as police personnel. This caused a local campaign by The News which has led to the government to review that decision. This article was to help explain to both locals and outsiders who the main forces at the front line of the fight against militants are and the heavy and unacknowledged price they pay

Original title
Role of Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs) in combating terrorism and militancy in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA
By Syed Fida Hassan Shah

The province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas) are  no stranger to terrorism. Since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in late 1979,  (KP) and the adjoining seven tribal agencies known as (FATA) witnessed many terrorist acts in the form of bombing and target killing. Fortunately this phenomenon did not last long, nor did it spread to other parts of the country causing any serious disruption in law and order. In this context, when the United States attacked Afghanistan in 2001, few would have predicted that the deadly violence would engulf the whole country with devastating impacts.

Since 2006, Pakistan has been engaged in battling strong insurgency in (FATA) and many parts of (KP). An expanding terrorist campaign targeting Pakistan’s major cities is also linked to this insurgency. The growing number of attacks on sensitive military installations like GHQ, Mehran Base, Kamara Base and more recently attack on Peshawar Air Base underscores the dangerous nature of the crisis. Many innocent Pakistanis including members of LEAs (Law enforcement Agencies) have lost their lives in many suicide attacks across Pakistan. It is estimated that Pakistan has suffered more than 40,000 casualties in the war on terror so far.

Besides Pakistan Army and Frontier Corps, Police, Frontier Constabulary, Levies and Khasadar force also are engaged in counterinsurgency war against the militants in KP and FATA. In this article attempt will be made to highlight the sacrifices and preparedness of these LEAs in the war against the militants.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Police

When the terrorist activities started in the province soon after 9/11, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Police (KP Police), then called the Frontier Police, was totally unprepared for the emerging conflict. As the influence of militants spread from the adjoining tribal areas into settled districts of the province, local police found themselves confronting an unprecedented threat. Trained to apprehend common criminals, police officers were confronted with a large number of well-trained and heavily armed groups. The changing tactics and targets of the various terrorist groups posed a formidable challenge to a police force with limited resources, poor training, and inadequate equipment. The officers of KP police however, showed exemplary courage and bravery in fighting the faceless enemy. Officers right from the rank of constable up to the Inspector General were martyred in the line of duty. The following table will show the sacrifices of KP police.

Year Killed Injured
2007 62 172
2008 117 256
2009 149 360
2010 63 197
2011 138 256
2012 75 192
Total 604 1433

Many steps were taken by the provincial government to strengthen the capacity of KP police. In 2007, the KP Police faced severe personnel shortages, for which the government compensated by recruiting new officials and hiring individuals on a contract basis wherever possible. In 2007 the total strength of KP police was 39,147 including all ranks, which was increased to 69,867 in 2010. Similarly budgetary allocation was also increased substantially. New weapons and equipments were also purchased. Special police units like Elite Force, Quick Response Force (QRF), Bomb Disposal Unit and Special Police Force were formed. Compensation for the martyred and injured police officers was also raised quite substantially. Despite all these measures taken by the government police still faces many problems like shortage of manpower and vehicles, poor infrastructure and many logistic issues. Despite all the difficulties the officers and jawans of the KP police are performing their duties with unflinching commitment, to respond to the daunting challenge.

Frontier Constabulary
The Frontier Constabulary is a Federal Paramilitary Force which is largely drawn from the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, but operates in all the provinces of Pakistan. Frontier Constablary was established by amalgamating Border Military Police (BMP) and Samana Rifles in 1913. Both of these were militia forces guarding the border between the then settled areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and tribal areas. Frontier Constabulary’s main function is to police the borders of KP and the tribal areas against tribal incursions, criminal gangs operating across the border and check the smuggling of contraband items.

Frontier Constabulary has also been in the forefront in counterinsurgency operation. Many jawans and officers have been martyred while fighting the militants including its brave commandant, the legendary Sifwat Ghayur. A total of 240 officers and jawans of Frontier Constabulary have so for been martyred since 2007.

Khasadars and Levies

Khasadars and Levies forces have also been performing their duties in FATA and Frontier Regions. Both these forces have also been on the increasing targets of the militants. Khasadari system was introduced in tribal areas by the British government in 1921. Khasadar force are raised, in each tribal agency, from various tribes in the agency on quota system fixed for Qaums (Tribes) who are responsible for maintenance of law and order in respective areas. They carry their own weapons but are paid by political authorities. They are appointed and working under control of Political Agent. The recruitment is made in the ratio of their tribal distribution which is known as 'Nikkat'.

The Khassadars are enlisted from amongst the tribes who are designated by the local Maliks, and enrolled for the purpose of guarding roads and providing safe passage to travelers. Their most important role is as a medium of communication, or a link, between the administration and the tribes. Khassadars provide their own weapons.

A khassadar is paid a salary by the government and his service is not pensionable. Due to lack of training, and a service structure or fringe benefits at par with other forces, they have a low level of motivation. In fact he also owes his allegiance to the Malik who recommended him for employment, and also the tribe because of the system of Nikat under which he got employed.

The Khassadars are mostly illiterate and poor. Their selection is based on nomination by the Maliks and obviously without a regard to merit. Every agency had its own rules and conventions for the Khassadar service. No induction or in-service training is imparted and every tribal agency has the Khassadari system.

There is another similar force under the command of the Political Agent, which is called Levies.The main difference between Khassadars and Levies is that the Khassadar is hereditary and the incumbents carry their own weapons for the duty, whereas Levies are provided weapons by the Government. They are recruited from amongst the indigenous tribes. Unlike Khasadar force, levy force is better trained.
Levies and khassadars, recruited on a tribal basis, fall under the federal government’s Ministry of States and Frontier Regions (SAFRON) control, and are appointed by the PA (political agent) who is also their commanding officer. While levies are provided small arms and limited ammunition, khassadars use their own weapons. Levies, who are marginally better armed, are similarly underpaid and inadequately trained. Functions, responsibilities and duties of Levies are almost the same as of Khasadars.

Like army and police many jawans of Levies and Khasadar forces have also offered supreme sacrifices in in the ongoing war on terror. But compared to police and other LEAs, the Levies and Khasadars are working under miserable conditions. While fighting the militants they are basically our second line of defense after Army and Frontier Corps. But quite unfortunately, they are poorly trained, ill-equipped and underpaid. In the army, police and FC, there is a proper system of compensation for all their officers killed or injured in the line of duty. But very unfortunately there is no such system in place for the Levies and Khasadar forces. They have no proper barracks and other facilities and are expected to serve under the most difficult and dangerous environment. Even our national media gives no importance to any news involving Levies or Khasadar forces. The recent case of the abduction and subsequent killing of 21 Levies personnel in the FR (Frontier Region) of Peshawar should have been an eye opener for the government and the political authorities. These poor fellows had no proper arms and ammunition to defend them against the attackers. Even the news of their abduction and subsequent killing was reported after a delay of 22 hours despite the fact that the area is located just 25 km way from the capital city Peshawar. Till now the government has not formalised any compensation for these martyrs.

Another problem faced by the Levies is that they perform their duties in Frontier Regions (FR) and Provincially Administered Tribal Areas (PATA) like Malakand Agency which come directly under provincial government. But their administrative and operational command is under the control of federal government through ministry of SAFRON. This creates dichotomy in their command structure. Secondly, Levies in each district or Agency needs a professional officer as their commandant as a Political Agent or DCO being a civilian may not be able to do justice with the job as commandant of these forces. If uniformed and professional officers are appointed as commandant of these forces, training and other needs of these forces can be looked after properly.

Law Enforcement Agencies, particularly the ones operating in FATA, have to be built up to a critical level for fighting the insurgency. They need to be provided better salaries and basic facilities, professional training, modern equipment and readily available forensic support. As the famous Indian freedom fighter Vijaya Lakshmi Nehru Pandit once said that, “The more we sweat in peace, the less we bleed in war.”

-the writer belongs to Police Service of Pakistan. A contributor to He tweets at @charnushah and can be reached at

Political Islam in a Pashtun Village

By H. Amin

While leafing through Mawdudi’s Islami Riyasat (Islamic State) in 2006, as a doctoral fellow, I remembered first reading it in 1991, when I was a student-activist in an organization that subscribed to Mawdudi’s ideology. This journey from reading Mawdudi’s seminal book, as activist, to an academic understanding of it has a self-referenced history, and the main underlying motivation for conducting this research.

Conducting research on the Islamic movement, the Jama’at-e-Islami Pakistan, its ideology, historical trajectories and the perpetual dissent it spawned over time, is not merely an academic pursuit for me. The Jama’at and its deep imprints on society are personal for me, kindled deep in my heart and conscience. This discourse is an elaborate history of my childhood; I was brought up in an overwhelming Jama’ati environment (a family or social condition shaped and deeply influenced by Mawdudi’s ideas and activities of the Jama’at). Like most of his contemporary modern educated, middle class revolutionary friends (inqilabi dost), my late father embraced the Jama’at’s “revolutionary message” (inqelabi dawat) in the 1970s, wholeheartedly. His personal thinking, political, economic and social life, and worldview were an embodiment of the new message. As a true believer in the supremacy of his newfound identity, my father preferred his mission of spreading the message to everywhere around his village, to his family and social responsibilities.

When I was born, my surroundings and family were dominated by the thoughts of Mawdudi, Qutb and Hasan al-Banna. Mawdudi’s books formed the dominant academic resource that ruled and subdued all other household articles. A number of weekly and monthly politico-religious magazines further bolstered the intellectual dominance of the Jama’at literature and moral-story digests in my childhood home. This rich intellectual resource centre, as my father would repeatedly remind us, was augmented further by frequent meetings with my father’s Islamist friends, missionary brothers – as brothers in movement (tehreeki bhai) – at our hujra (guesthouse). We, as kids, would attend to the guests as waiters as per the Pushtoon tradition of hospitality. My old, sane and traditional grandfather would, time and again, resent such alien activities of my father and exhort him to stick to the traditional Islamic school of thought prevalent in the village—Deobandism. Grandfather did not like my father’s intellectual subordination to Mawdudi’s teachings and the associated social and political activities. My father’s subscription to Islamism was Mawdudiyyat—a derogatory term for Mawdudi, which was coined and popularized by traditional ulama—for many, including my grandfather.

Conversely, the 1980s brought about an era of Zia’s ill-conceived Islamisation and Afghan jihad projects. More comfortable in the company of the new dictator than representative democratic governments, the Jama’at jumped on the Afghan jihad and Islamisation bandwagon. From my first introduction to these new subjects, I observed intrusion of a strong jihadi bias in the meetings of the Jama’at and its student wing, Islami Jami’at-e-Talaba Pakistan. In these meetings, jihad assumed primacy over all other positive/productive social, political and religious reformation as the space where these activities were hijacked by propagandist literature. My home library also suffered from this change. Books and pamphlets, posters and handbills on active jihad made their way onto bookshelves, replacing mere ideological and religious material. The shift in the balance was considerable and was felt by everyone. The 1980s was also an important decade for the villagers because their incomes rose remarkably due to a flourishing timber business and remittances coming from the oil rich Arab countries. The rising incomes had a demonstrable effect with a construction boom, improved nutrition and modern consumption. Then the village received a telephone exchange and the number of TV sets increased. The Jama’at activists had now more sources of leisure, less time for friends and ideological discussions. Competition in business, jobs and grown-up children demanded more attention, leaving less time and resources for friends and relatives. Now, even the most urgent issues could be discussed on the telephone.

Nevertheless, the opportunities had different effects on income, lifestyle and consumption patterns of the Jama’at activists. This invoked a tension within the Islamists network. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Jama’at central leadership changed; the USSR withdrew from Afghanistan; in Pakistan, democracy was restored; International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank (WB) entered as more visible actors in controlling economy and economic policy; and armed struggle in Kashmir was launched. In addition, all of my father’s movement brothers transformed into new individuals in terms of age, profession, life style, income, family size and pessimism with the arrival of an Islamic revolution.

Thus, in 1989, I joined the Jama’at student wing (Islami Jamiat Talaba Pakistan) when I was in the ninth grade. From that point onwards, the Jama’at activism was not something that I would only observe as an outsider but an internal experience, which I was passing through. My father’s generation of Jama’at activists sowed the seeds of an Islamic movement, and it left a “rich resource centre of ideological books” for us as the most precious asset in inheritance (my father would tell us all the time) that we, the sons, were now dealing with the fruits of the Afghan Jihad project and were building on that.

Though, for us, it was not the USSR but the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan and Dr Najeeb’s government in Kabul that were the main hurdles in reaping the crops of Afghan jihad. The new goal was to liberate Kashmir from Indian occupation. I actively participated in all electoral campaigns which were held in the 1990s; these included fundraising schemes for Kashmir jihad and student activism on campuses. Today, most of my father’s’ friends have tired of this endless struggle, become grievous of the growing elitism in the Jama’at environment, or cried over Jama’at’s current leadership, which deviated from its original ideology and the path set by Mawdudi. Some negotiated space between Jama’at activism –their own business and politics – and negotiated their current positions within the Jama’at by switching from more political activism to more dawah and social activism. Still, others left of their own accord or were expelled over growing differences with the ideology and strategy of the Jama’at. I am witness to the introduction of Javed Ahmad Ghamidi and his students steadily making their way through their audio lectures and booklets in our home library. My father and his friends would never allow me to read Ghamidi’s books or listen to his lectures. These, he insisted, were based on a deviation from Mawdudi’s ideology and were based on the intent to harm the Jama’at cause.

Through this connection, in the mid-1990s, I faced the same attitude and response from my father as he confronted his father: to my grandfather, my father’s defiance was a serious offence because he was deviating from the traditional Islam as was told and narrated to them by the village imams and ulama. To my father, my defiance was substantial because I deviated from the most modern interpretation, ideology and strategy of an Islamist movement, which were Mawdudi and the Jama’at. My grandfather accused my father of creating havoc in the original religion; my father accused me not only of deviating from Islam but also from Mawdudi’s political Islam.

At the time, it was not an academic argument (which it would later become) that enabled us to pass through competing understandings of Islam, and its relation to state and society—my grandfather’s insistence on traditional Islam, my father’s commitment to Mawdudi’s Islamism, and my own introduction to Ghamidi and his ideas. These were religious tensions within and without. We experienced these tensions but could not describe them in academic terms. I see this incessant dissent, rupture, discontinuity, change, transformation, mutation and deviation as a normal pattern within my own lived Islam, and not an exception found only in the modern Western world.