Is Kashmir Ready for Independence from India and Pakistan?

Interview with Senior Kashmiri Leader Raja Muzaffar

By Qaisar Abbas

Raja Muzaffar

Against the backdrop of recently renewed talks between India and Pakistan and the historical baggage it carries with a series of failed negotiations in the last 60 years, it is hard to know how long the current round of congeniality would last.

If the dialogue continues this time, for sure Kashmir will be on top of the discussion agenda, besides other issues of terrorism, border security, trade and cultural relations.

To Raja Muzaffar, a veteran Kashmiri leader who resides in California these days, the new level of trust between the prime ministers of both countries is a good omen and the people of Kashmir welcome these developments.

In his childhood Muzaffer witnessed bifurcation of his homeland into two parts dividing his family on each side of the Line of Control (LOC) in the aftermath of the 1947 partition of the subcontinent.

In his view, however, the political landscape has drastically changed since then and people of Kashmir now overwhelmingly support the third option of independence from India and Pakistan.

“Unfortunately,” he says, “There are some elements in New Delhi and Islamabad with a mentality of expansionism, extremism and narrowmindedness,” and they are creating roadblocks in establishing a durable peace in the region.

The following interview with Raja Muzaffar reveals his candid analysis of the dispute with bold proposals to resolve it. Read on:

You have been part of the freedom movement in Kashmir throughout your life. How did you involve in this movement and why?

My family was influential in Uri, Baramulla District of Kashmir, which falls on the LOC and my uncle Pir Maqbool Gilani had a big role in my political training which led to my participation in the freedom struggle as a member of the Plebiscite Front. I moved to the Middle East in 1975 and returned back to Pakistan to be active as one of the founding leaders of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF).

I held several offices in JKLF as its Secretary General, Senior Vice Chairman and Acting Chairman. When political differences between the two party leaders-Yasin Malik and Amanullah Khan-intensified, I resigned from the party. Struggling through the thick and thin of local and transnational dynamics of the time, we continued working for the freedom of our homeland. I have no regrets over my role in the political struggle, the psychological trauma we went through, the fights we won and the mistakes we made.

Kashmir has become a tug-of-war between the two nuclear powers in South Asia: India and Pakistan. But people of Kashmir-the real stakeholders-are taken for granted, rarely considered as part of the dispute. What are the reasons behind this attitude?

Unfortunately there are some elements in New Delhi and Islamabad with a mentality of expansionism, extremism and narrowmindedness and they are creating roadblocks in establishing durable peace in the region.

UN resolutions after the partition also transformed the Kashmir dispute into a regional conflict between India and Pakistan. Humanistic issues of Jammu and Kashmir have never been considered important for policy makers of India and Pakistan. They have always curbed our right of self-determination which exposes their colonial and expansionist designs.

As it appears, there are three types of political forces in the contemporary Kashmir: Pro India, pro Pakistan and those who seek independence from both. Which of these lines of thought are popular among the people of Kashmir?

Yes, it’s true there are three political camps in Kashmir. The number of people, however, who support independence from India and Pakistan is growing every day and they have become a huge political force on both sides of Kashmir today.

Of all the solutions proposed so far, the former president of Pakistan General Pervez Musharraf’s four-point formula has been very popular. How do you analyze this formula as a Kashmiri?

The Indian government-according to the former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Pakistan, Mahmood Qasuri-was ready to negotiate the four-point formula. Msharraf’s plan, although it was not a new idea, proposed to keep the current partition of Kashmir, make the LOC a soft border and allow human exchange and trade on a limited basis. But no one consulted people of Kashmir and accepted them as party to the dispute. In my view both Pakistan and India have to find an out-of-the-box solution which is acceptable to the people of Kashmir who support independence.

The ever-changing wave of peace talks between Pakistan and India is once again on its peak. Prime Minister Modi’s surprise visit to Lahore in December seems to be opening new doors of negotiations. If talks resume, what should be the strategy to resolve the Kashmir dispute this time?

As you know, Kashmir is on the agenda of the expected talks and we think this is a positive step for finding a solution to the dispute. Political leadership in Kashmir has welcomed it while they think they should also be an integral part of the discussion. I think both countries by now have realized that no solution is possible without participation of Kashmir’s political leadership. So far, both sides seem to be serious this time and there is no reason to doubt it.

Within the context of historical baggage and the current environment in South Asia, do your foresee an agreeable solution to the Kashmir dispute in the near future?

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Terrorism is no more confined to a single nation as it has become a global threat. The rhetoric of religious and communal hatred in India and Pakistan has to be diminished by the leadership of both countries. Forming a contact group comprising India, Pakistan and Kashmiri leaders could be a viable option for developing an innovative resolution to the dispute.

After suffering for so long, the people of Jammu and Kashmir are hungry for peace, freedom and development and they will support a durable solution agreeable to all. I am hopeful that Kashmir will become Switzerland of Asia and an adorable garden of peace in the near future.

(Published in Srinagar Times, Kashmir Times and Pakistan Link).

Obama got Osama!

Viewpoint Archives

Known American journalist Seymour Hersh has recently revealed that the American raid in Abbottabad in 2011, killing Osama bin Laden, was planned by the CIA in collaboration with ISI of Pakistan.

When Pakistan’s media, military and government were condemning the U.S. for violating Pakistan’s borders just after the raid, Viewpoint exposed possible collaboration between the two countries in planning the raid in its weekly issue of May 26, 2011.

We are reproducing the article by Dr. Qaisar Abbas here that discussed this collaboration.

Editor, Viewpoint

 WATCHING A NEW REALITY SHOW

By Dr. Qaisar Abbas

Viewpointonline.net, May 26, 2011

 

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TV channels are showing a popular reality show these days all over the world called “Obama Got Osama” and we the poor, captive audience tend to believe what we see without asking any question!

Although the death of the terrorist leader Osama bin Laden is a good news for the whole world, I sincerely believe it was a stunning performance of the U.S. Navy Seals in Abbottabad, Pakistan, collaboratively conceived by the United States and Pakistan.

There is little doubt in my mind that the reality show was innovatively produced by the joint efforts of the CIA, the U.S. armed forces in Afghanistan, Pakistan army and its intelligence agency ISI. The spectacular reality show served both Pakistan and the U.S. perfectly.

It improved President Obama’s rating, who was losing popularity, and the timing was perfect for Pakistan to stage the event. The American aid package to Pakistan is currently being discussed in Washington D.C. while the mutual diplomatic relations were taking a nasty downturn before the operation.

Americans, on the other hand, repeatedly assured Pakistanis that their leaders were not involved in the operation apparently to calm down their protest. Pakistan, in return, allowed Americans to provide access to Osama’s wives for further interrogation.

Army, however, is the strongest force in Pakistani politics and it has a tendency to keep politicians and elected governments in the dark about important strategic matters. Although it is quite possible the president and prime minister are not informed about the raid in Abbottabad but it is hard to believe the military top brass and ISI did not know about the operation in a military town near its enormous training center.

Pakistan has been playing a double game of mouse and cat for quite some time. Whenever, there are bumps in the relations or the U.S. aid to Pakistan is in jeopardy, some terrorists magically pop up, get caught, and handed over to Americans promptly.

Two top Al Qaeda leaders, Abu Zubaidah and Abu Faraj al-Libbi were handed over to the U.S. in 2002 and 2005.Khalid Sheikh Mohammed,one of the masterminds of 9/11 was also caught along with several other terrorists and handed over to the U.S. in March 2003. Pakistan army might have decided to hand over the top Al Qaeda leader to the United Sates when he became a liability for them.

If it would have been a one-sided operation as claimed by the U.S., it would have ignited a wave of strong protest from the Pakistani establishment. Although Prime Minister Yousef Raza Gilani lodged a lukewarm protest in Parliament, surprisingly there was a pin drop silence with no significant hue and cry from any side.

Interestingly enough, the British newspaper Guardian has recently revealed a secret agreement between the two countries struck in 2001 that allowed the U.S. to pursue and catch Osama in Pakistan.

The report said the secret deal between the former presidents of both countries George W. Bush and General Pervez Musharraf gave a free hand to the U.S. to pursue and catch Osama inside Pakistan. It was agreed that Pakistan will protest for face saving with no real action in case this happens.

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This is exactly what the Pakistani government doing these days! Although the Army chief General Pervez Kayani and Prime Minister Gilani both have issued warnings that any further U.S. intrusion inside Pakistan will be dealt with force, no real measure was announced to back up their protest.

Official statements in Washington D.C. and Islamabad also revealed collaboration between the two countries carefully isolating Pakistan from the operation to avoid public reaction against the civil-military establishment.

President Obama’s televised speech on May 2 carefully placed the event in the proper historical context and declared in inconspicuous terms that the U.S. has full power to operate in Pakistan. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Islamabad, toeing the same line accepted the U.S. rights to enter the country in a press release on May 2.

On the U.S. side, President Obama desperately needed to improve his image to restore his popularity for the 2012 election. A survey of Americans reported he regained popularity after the operation as 54 percent of the U.S. public viewed Obama favorably versus 31 who had a negative opinion of the president, according to an NBC News poll conducted May 5-7. Of course, that was one of the major motives behind the whole adventure in Abbottabad.

So far Pakistan and the U.S. have been successful in creating the illusion that it was the U.S. that developed and managed the reality show “Obama Got Osama” single handedly. In this age of internet marvels, however, we might not have to wait too long until another leak reveals the secret.

Enjoy the reality show until then!

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Lady in Pink: Interview with Medea Benjamin

by Dr. Qaisar Abbas,

Viewpointonline.ent, October 31, 2012

 

Medea

Medea Benjamin has been a vibrant advocate for social justice and human rights for more than 30 years but she has recently become known to Pakistanis when she visited the long march with Imran Khan. As a cofounder of CODEPINK and the international human rights organization Global Exchange, she has been identified as “one of the high profile leaders of the peace movement” by the Los Angeles Times.

Her work for justice in Israel/Palestine includes taking numerous delegations to Gaza after the 2008 Israeli invasion and organizing the Gaza Freedom March among other bold protests in Israel. In 2011 she was in Tahrir Square during the Egyptian uprising and in 2012 she was part of a human rights delegation to Bahrain in support of democracy activists where she was tear-gassed, arrested and deported by the Bahraini government.

In 2005 she was one of 1,000 exemplary women from 140 countries nominated to receive the Nobel Peace Prize and in 2010 she received the Martin Luther King, Jr. Peace Prize from the Fellowship of Reconciliation.

A former economist and nutritionist with the United Nations and World Health Organization, Benjamin is the author and editor of eight books. Her latest book is called Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control, and she has been campaigning to get lethal drones out of the hands of the CIA.

In the following exclusive interview with Viewpoint, she candidly comments on a wide range of international and human rights issues including drone attacks, nuclear politics and Iran, Afghanistan, U.S. elections and the rising public opinion against U.S.in the Muslim world:

Code Pink has been active in several countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel and Pakistan, protesting against war and human rights violations in unusual but effective ways. Why it’s known as a women’s organization only?

Code Pink is led by women, but is not exclusively a women’s organization. Men are most welcome to participate in its activities and many men are involved in the organization.

United States is carrying out drone attacks in Muslim countries such as Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen, killing more civilians than terrorists. What’s the legal and moral justification for it?

U.S. drone attacks are unjustified and illegal. The U.S. administration argues that it is using drones in self-defense, but self-defense is only justified when an attack is imminent, which is not the case with drone attacks.

The administration also says it has the go-ahead from Congress due to the post-9/11 Authorization for the Use of Military Force resolution. But that resolution allowed force against those who planned, committed or aided the 9/11 attack. Most people being killed by drones today had no involvement in 9/11. In fact, many were 10-11 years old children at the time of 9/11 and some of the groups we are attacking didn’t even exist in 2001.

Knowing that Imran Khan’s moderately conservative political party is desperately trying to gain popularity for the next election in Pakistan, why did Code Pink decide to participate in the anti-drone march organized by his party, becoming part of his political campaign?

We went to Pakistan to show our opposition to drone attacks, not to support a candidate or party. We would have marched with any party protesting the drones, it just so happens that the PTI is the party that has taken this issue on. Also, participating in the caravan to the tribal areas was just one thing we did in Pakistan. We met with representatives of political parties, think tanks, women’s groups, human rights groups, military and legal groups. We organized a fast in a public square in Islamabad, where we had a chance to talk to hundreds of ordinary Pakistanis. But most important, we met with people from Waziristan and heard heart-breaking stories about how they are attacked, killed, injured and terrorized by these drones.

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There are talks of Israel’s possible attack on the Iranian nuclear sites these days. What’s your organization’s official position on the issue?

We are totally against any attack on Iran’s nuclear sites and think that the conflict with Iran must be dealt with through negotiations. We are also against sanctions that are crippling the economy and hurting ordinary Iranians.

Our group is against nuclear armaments—period. I don’t know if Iran is developing nuclear weapons but I do know that other countries in the region—Israel, India and Pakistan—already have them and are not part of any non-proliferation treaty. It’s hypocritical of the U.S.to focus on Iran while maintaining the largest nuclear arsenal in the world and not pressuring other nations to participate in the nonproliferation treaty.

Despite his open support for drone attacks on some Muslim nations, do you think Code Pink will support President Obama against Romney in the next presidential election? If not who would you support?

Code Pink does not involve itself in partisan politics as an organization. However, I personally support the Green Party’s presidential candidate Jill Stein.

America is ostensibly trying to get out of Afghanistan by 2014. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, is gearing up for the economically driven“ New Silk Road” initiative to transport natural resources, mainly oil, from Central Asia to the West. Do you really think U.S. will get out of Afghanistan?

The U.S. military has left Iraq but still has its active presence in the country with over 10,000 personnel and the largest embassy in the world. So in my view U.S. will not totally withdraw from Afghanistan. In fact, they are talking about extended military training in Afghanistan for another 10 years.

In your opinion why is America not popular in Muslim countries these days and what can be done to improve its image among Muslims?

U.S. is not popular in Muslim countries because it’s occupying Afghanistan, it’s launching drone attacks on Muslim countries, and it’s supporting Israel unconditionally. U.S. has also been supporting undemocratic countries in the Middle East such as Saudi Arabia and Bahrain because of its economic and military interests.

Do you have plans to visit other Muslim countries?

Yes, I will be visiting Yemen soon to do research on the impact of drone attacks there. But frankly, the most important work is to build a stronger anti-war, anti-drone movement here in the United States.

With so much violence, conflict and hatred in the world today, peace and harmony look like a remote possibility. What are Code Pink’s plans to reduce the possibility of another global or regional war in the near future?

We must do a better job educating public on the cost of war. War creates economic crisis and that’s why we can’t afford more war. We must continue to play the role of “citizen diplomats”, reaching out in friendship to people in countries like Iran and Pakistan. We must pressure our government to change its policies by protesting and lobbying. And we must build coalitions with environmental, healthcare and educational groups that are being hurt because of all the money that is going to the military.

Who are your favorite leaders in the following categories: political leader, activist, writer, poet and singer? Why?

My favorite current political leader is Dennis Kucinich, the U.S. Congressman from Ohio who is very outspoken against war. My favorite living activist is Father Louis Vitale, an 80-year-oldpriest who has been arrested hundreds of times for his commitment for social justice.

Writer and poet Alice Walker is my favorite writer. She is a fiction and nonfiction writer, poet and activist. Also, Michael Franti is one of my favorite musicians because he has a powerful message for peace and harmony through his music.

Ban Ki-moon’s United Nations

By Dr. Qaisar Abbas

Published in Pakistan Link, May 29, 2015

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UN Secretary General Speaks at the National Press Club, Washington DC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The National Press Club’s Ballroom in Washington DC, where the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, is speaking tonight on pressing international issues, is full of diplomats, journalists and government officials.

Everyone is eager to learn what the most influential leader of the most popular (and controversial) global organization will be saying about today’s hot topics.

As we start the dinner, NPC President John Hughes begins introducing the journalists and dignitaries at the head table sitting by the keynote speaker. About half an hour into the dinner, the august speaker takes the podium with a thunderous applause from the audience.

With the powerful statement “We are the first generation that can end poverty, and the last that can take steps to avert the worst impacts of climate change” he calls upon the world community to act now and save its environment before it’s too late.

“There are still some people who do not want to acknowledge the problem…but by any standard, scientific evidence clearly tells us that climate change is happening, is approaching much, much faster than they expected” he alerts the audience.

Speaking on the Middle East conflicts, he seems to be too cautious and diplomatic as expected.

He reiterates the United Nation’s recent appeal to the fighting groups in Yemen to observe cease fire allowing the UN humanitarian staff to help the affected people.

Knowing that the request has been completely ignored by the Houthi fighters, rival forces and the Saudi coalition carrying out air strikes inside Yemen, he is desperately trying to refocus on the humanitarian toll of the conflict adding that two out of three Yemenis relied on humanitarian assistance even before the current turmoil.

To my surprise, Ban Ki-moon conveniently avoids commenting on the legality of the Saudi led air strikes inside the international borders of Yemen. Then I realize, imperatives of international power politics, sometimes, become more credible than the necessities of the international law!

Given the complexities of the Syrian quagmire, his position appears to be ambiguous and reactive. To him, when all the concerned parties in Syria–the rebels, the UN and the mediating forces–are sharply divided on the Syrian issue, it is hard to find a reasonable solution to the conflict.

Ban, as the National Press Club president calls him, is trying to convince the audience in so many words that his organization is doing its best in meeting today’s challenges that include the chaos in the Middle East, poverty, climate change, extremism, violence, children’s education, pandemics and gender equality.

Reminding the audience that he has never seen so many crises related to terrorism and human rights violations ever before, he declares there are so many opportunities waiting for us today besides these challenges.

His organization, he says, faces a huge challenge to accomplish its goal to lift 700 million people out of extreme poverty besides convincing the world on the crucial role of justice, institutions and fundamental freedoms.

Another challenge would be to follow up on the progress made during the last 15 years on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) on poverty, disease and education.

Besides repeated assurances that commissions have been formed or advisors have been asked to report on certain issues, he offers little on what proactive strategies are being formulated for resolving burning issues, especially extremism, violence, children’s education and development initiatives.

Achievements and failures of the United Nations aside, listening to a kind of policy statement from a person, who has successfully faced complexities of global politics and challenges for two terms as its Secretary General since 2007, means something.

As he retires from his position in December 2016, his successful career as a former diplomat of South Korea and as the top UN leader, reflects his committed work as champion of reducing world poverty, educating children, raising women’s status, and taking the challenges of climate change and sustainable development. For sure, he will be leaving the organization with several mile stones on the road to global peace and progress.

Ban Ki-moon ends his presentation on a lighter note announcing that he has recently appointed the James Bond 007 fame movie star Daniel Craig as the UN Global Advocate for the Elimination of Mines.

But the title didn’t come without a reminder as the Secretary General told the superstar “You have license to kill, now I am giving you something very important, humanitarian. I am giving you a license to save.”

Metaphorically speaking, United Nations has a similar role to play in today’s dangerous world: Convincing the powerful world leaders that although they have the muscle to wage wars, they also have immense ability to save humanity from hunger, poverty, violence and extremism.

I leave the event with the impression that the United Nations is increasingly becoming an organization interested more in post-crisis management than pre-conflict mediation.

Perhaps the docile role the organization has been playing, also suits the world powers and super powers as it widens their maneuvering space and influence in the global arena.

(Qaisar Abbas, Ph. D. is a freelance writer and consultant on media strategies, grant writing, research and evaluation. He is based in Maryland, United States, and can be reached at qaabbas@gmail.com).

 

 

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India and Pakistan’s Elusive Peace

ASIA TIMES, March 18, 2015

SPEAKING FREELY

By Qaisar Abbas

Peac SA
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif “had been waiting for his guest for 15 minutes and at one point walked a few feet across the white stripe known as Line Zero and into India, where a brass band was playing jubilantly and folk dancers whirled in the shady lane. Colorful bunting was strung on both sides of the crossing station. The roadways were a burst of color with newly planted flowers and freshly painted stripes. Red carpets had been unfurled. Indian and Pakistani flags flew side by side.” 

This New York Times report on February 21, 1999, narrates the congenial environment when Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee of India crossed the border into the neighboring Pakistan to meet his counterpart, Sharif, and sign the Lahore Declaration on nuclear governance.

Since Vajpayee’s visit, however, there have been several armed skirmishes between the two countries, and they are still suspicious of each other’s intensions, although there have been some attempts to revive the peace-building efforts.

Peace between the two neighbors was on everyone’s mind again on May 26, 2014, when Sharif, of the Pakistan Muslim League N (PML N), back in power after a period out of office, attended the swearing in ceremony of another prime minister of the same Bharatya Janata Party (BJP) as Vajpayee, this time Narendra Modi.

To the contrary, however, the secretarial level negotiations were stalled by Modi when the Pakistani High Commissioner in New Delhi had a meeting with some political leaders from Kashmir, the disputed territory between the two nations since 1947. Modi has recently resumed negotiations, sending his secretary of Foreign Affairs to Islamabad with no solid outcomes.
Sharif Modi
With this weary past, would both political parties, who started the peace process in 1999, be able to succeed this time? A quick historical review of peace talks between the two countries from 1999 to 2015 will be helpful to comprehend complexities of the issue.

Soon after the Lahore Declaration, the then military chief of Pakistan General Pervez Musharraf launched a covert attack inside the Indian-held Kashmir. The attack on Kargil not only ended in an embarrassing withdrawal of Pakistani fighters after a large number of casualties on both sides, it also evaporated the aura of goodwill between the two countries, which were back on the familiar path of brinkmanship on both sides of the border.

Nonetheless, the more important casualty was the democratically elected government of Sharif, who was ousted in a military coup by the same military chief who spearheaded the Kargil misadventure. Musharraf, however, picked up the pieces again to resolve the most important issue of Kashmir.

Both nations were close to resolving the issue when Musharraf went to India in July 2001 to sign a supposedly landmark “Agra Agreement” with Vajpayee; it was never signed and he came back empty handed.

Vajpayee came to Pakistan in January 2004 to attend the the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation conference and met Prime Minister Zafarullah Jamali. In November the same year, Pakistan’s next-but-one prime minister, Shoukat Aziz, met his counterpart Manmohan Singh in India to revive the Kashmir issue – with no luck.

Ongoing negotiations were derailed when another political party, the Indian National Congress, came to power in India despite the fact that Pakistan’s president Pervez Musharraf visited India in April 2005 and had a meeting with the new leader there, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

When Musharraf was ousted by the lawyers’ movement, the Pakistan People’s Party came to power in Pakistan and the new prime minister, Yousef Raza Gilani, visited India as part of the cricket diplomacy to watch the World Cup final. Later president Zardari also made a one-day visit and met Manmohan in April 2012.

After BJP won the general election last year with a strong mandate and formed government, hopes were high for a revived peace effort, but unfortunately hardly anyone knows when and how they can achieve this lofty goal.

Peace between the two countries has been so much politicized at governmental, cultural and media levels that repeated efforts at normalizing relations have always ended in failure and now every new move to eliminate hurdles seems to be a zero-sum game.

Religious extremists in India and Pakistan always oppose peace-building efforts and try to jeopardize negotiations whenever they start. From fiery agitations to violent tactics, these militants never miss a chance to increase tension between the two nations.

Politicization of peace-building efforts at the media level start with unnecessarily raising nationalistic fervor on both sides of the border. Whenever media channels spread hatred widening the existing gaps of mistrust between the people to gain cheap popularity and ratings, good intentions become prisoner of media frenzy, ultimately destroying the negotiating process.

Politicians in every election in India and Pakistan exploit the sentiments of people to gain popularity. Narendra Modi’s statements against Pakistan in the last general election contributed to heightened tensions, prompting a similar tough response from Pakistan.

Although Modi’s tough talk projected him as a strong leader domestically, it further widened the gap between the two nations. A similar political game is played in Pakistan’s elections.

Normalizing relations between India and Pakistan poses threats to certain state and non-state institutions in both countries. As it looks, Pakistan army always feels threatened by any serious peace-building activity as it diminishes the military’s importance. That’s why whenever there are serious bilateral negotiations, the army tries to start border tension without taking political leaders into confidence.

There are also two major issues that need to be resolved before establishing peace. For Pakistan, the Kashmir issue will always be on the table as a precondition to negotiation. The issue has been so much politicized by media and politicians in Pakistan that no government can afford to ignore it in bilateral negotiations with India.

India, on the other hand, has been asking Pakistan to bring the culprits of the Bombay terrorist attack in 2008 to justice before New Delhi can start any serious discussions on normalizing relations.

Although there exists strong intentions on both sides of the border to continue the dialogue, the peace seems to be lost somewhere between changing regimes, bureaucratic red tape, the baggage of history and raising the sensitivities of public opinion by media frenzy.

This negotiating game – now you see it, now you don’t – has been going on in the subcontinent for the past 67 years. Dangerously heightened conflicts between the two nuclear powers have been jeopardizing progress of the whole region which otherwise has huge potential for economic growth, technological advancement and social emancipation.

On the other hand, whenever strong leaders in both countries have demonstrated their commitment to peace they were successful in avoiding bureaucratic complexities and bringing the two nations close to peace and harmony.

Fate has brought the same political parties into power in both countries again to restart the unfinished business of peace-building which they left 15 years ago. If they are serious, however, they have to come up with a new out-of-the-box strategy to bypass traditional, tested and failed approaches.

Let’s see if the two leaders in India and Pakistan, who have both come to power with strong mandates, will be able to change the course of history and start a meaningful peace-building process between the two nations.

 Qaisar Abbas PhD, is a university professor/administrator, media analyst and political commentator based in the United States. He has worked as a News Producer for Pakistan TV and Information Officer in the province of Punjab. He can be reached at qaabbas@gmail.com.

(Copyright 2015 Qaisar Abbas)

Misguided Liberals & Muslim Extremists

CHARLIE HEBDO: MISGUIDED LIBERALS VS MUSLIM EXTREMISTS

  • viewpointonline.net, Thursday, 15 January 2015
  • Interview with  Dr Qaiser Abbas

QA final

A university administrator, media consultant, political analyst and writer, Dr Abbas is based in Maryland, US. In an interview with Viewpoint, he discusses the attack on the French magazine, Charlie Hebdo. Read on: 

Can we define and identify the contours of free expression? Is it really possible to have an absolute freedom of expression? If so, what will it imply in pratice?

As freedom of expression is defined by the sociopolitical environment it operates in, it comes with certain limitations everywhere. For Europeans, the right to free speech also overrides religious beliefs, not only their own but all other religions.

Article 11 of the French constitution’s preamble considers rights to communicate thoughts as “the most precious right of man.” These rights, however, are “subject to accountability for abuse of this freedom in the cases determined by law.”

Developing countries, however, are on another extreme where in most cases freedom of speech is constitutionally provided but either it is severely restricted or narrowly defined by the government.

Article 19 of Pakistan’s constitution, for instance, allows freedom of speech with a long list of restrictions that also includes the interest of glory of Islam, integrity, security, defense of Pakistan or “any part thereof friendly relations with foreign states.” These conditions give a free hand to civil or military establishments to curb freedom of speech.

The Charlie Hebdo tragedy has brought forth the discussion regarding the ‘right to offend’. Is it really a right under the freedom of expression?
I think we should view it within the cultural context of the French society which is very different from Muslim societies at large. For some Muslim extremists it might be offensive to make fun of their religious leaders but for French journalists it is their right not only to make fun of their own religion but other’s too.

The problem is that in this age of global village, with its electronic and social media, the news content is no more confined to your own socio-cultural boundaries anymore.

A three million print run of Charlie Hebdo hit the stalls on January 14. An obscure magazine, at least outside of France, has become a household name globally. Mosques have been under attack in France. Muslims were scared to go to Friday sermon after the attack. In Europe, it seems, leading mainstream media outlets have shown/run the cartoons that Kouchi brothers found offensive. Do you think there are lessons for the Muslim world to learn? Or, do you think, Muslim world will learn that violent means boomerang?

Violent response to visual and written comments on religious figures in media is by far unacceptable which should be condemned. Muslims in general understand this logic but for a handful of extremists no logic works.

On the other hand, using this event as a pretext to marginalize Muslim communities across Europe should also be condemned. Freedom of expression should not be used as a justification to unleash legal, political and religious hatred against Muslim minorities. Both forces, in this sense are religious extremists using hatred and violence as a tool to achieve their ill-conceived goals.

A knee-jerk response by certain progressive analysts after such episodes as Charlie Hebdo is to declare them a blowback from Iraq war? Is it that simple? Why, for instance, Ahmedis in Pakistan or Copts in Egypt have not reacted violently even when they have been systematically persecuted and their religion insulted on daily basis?

For religious extremistsMuslim minority sects and Christians, both are infidels. It’s the same fascist logic that views only themselves following the righteous path while everyone else is wrong and needs to be eliminated.

Certain commentators have highlighted the hypocrisy employed by the western media. For instance, Charlie Hebdo itself was focusing on Islam but refused to run content that might have offended Jews. Jyland Posten, reportedly, also refused to run content that could be viewed as blasphemous by Christians. Your comments?

Charlie Hebdo has been a secularist publication that makes fun of every religion. Lately, however, it has been part of the Islamophobia campaign being launched by religious fascists to create an environment where Muslim communities are not acceptable in France. You might call them misguided liberals.

Last modified on Thursday, 15 January 2015 17:52

Published in vp234

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Turkey and the Middle East quagmire: Learning from Pakistan’s experience

 By Qaisar Abbas

Published in Asia Times, December 23, 2014

Istanbul

Standing at the mausoleum of Moulana Rum in Konya, Turkey, I am thinking about this great Sufi’s message of peace for mankind but the thought that just over 600 kilometers from here the very concept of peace is being threatened, sends a chill to the bones.

This part of my ten-day visit to Turkey seems to be the most exciting and troubling experience at the same time. Exciting because my dream of visiting the resting place of this 13th century poet and peacemaker has finally come true and troubling because a new threat to peace is emerging across the Turkish border in Kobani, Syria which might impact Turkey in important ways in the future.

My first impression of Turkey as a nation where modernity and tradition exist side by side, comes from my observation from the architecture, the attire and cultural manifestations in Istanbul, Izmir, Konya and Ankara, the cities I visited. These national emblems represent both a traditional lifestyle and modernity with a great degree of tolerance and tranquility.

Modern Turkey as a secular Muslim nation at the crossroads of Europe and Asia is a creation of Mustafa Kemal Pasha, popularly known as Kemal Ataturk after World War I. Analysis of strong sociopolitical dynamics, however, reveals the intense cultural struggle that goes on in today’s Turkey.

There are indications that religious, not necessarily militant, tendencies have been slowly becoming part of an emerging image of this nation during the last decade or so. It looks President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) have something to do with it.

Erdogan’s popularity rests on his successful vision of reviving the Turkish lackluster economy to an astounding economic power. That’s why he has been at the realms of power for so long first as an elected prime minister and then a powerful president.

True, his religious policies have been transforming the nation’s image from secular to a more traditional nation which is so apparent not only from shifting trends in the Turkish culture but also from Erdogan’s geopolitical strategies.

From supporting the conservative Ikhwan in Egypt to allowing Muslim fighters to cross the Turkish border into Syria, there are several controversial measures he has taken as part of his vision to deal with the Middle East crisis.

Besides the identity of Turkey as a modern and traditional nation, keeping terrorism out of the border is the third dimension that poses a tremendous challenge to today’s Turkey.

In the wake of American pressure to join the war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Erdogan’s reluctance for fully participating in the conflict next door probably demonstrates his strategy to engage with the Syrian crisis vigilantly. His overall goals seem to be ousting Bashar al-Assad from power, sending Syrian refugees back home and circumventing the impact of militancy inside Turkey.

Before engaging itself completely in the Middle East mayhem, however, Turkey might learn from other Muslim nations who are now suffering from terrorism because of their misguided policies in the past.

Pakistan’s military dictator, General Ziaul Haq, for instance, allowed to use the military and its resources to become part of the cold war between the United States and Soviet Union in the neighboring Afghanistan in the 1980s.

With American funding and armaments, a huge fighting force of Mujahedeen was created. The monster of Taliban, a byproduct of this process, has now become an enormous terrorist threat to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Pakistan, as a result, has become a playing ground for widespread terrorism, militancy, sectarian violence, religious intolerance and narcotics smuggling.  The recent massacre of 133 school children in Peshawar is just one example in a series of terrorist attacks killing a large number of men, women, children, religious minorities and ethnic groups.

Because of its geopolitical location, it seems to be difficult for Turkey to isolate itself from the ongoing chaos in the Middle East, militancy could be checked effectively at this early stage.

Turkey QA

Coming back from Konya to Istanbul I realize, with its magnificent palaces, splendid churches and glorious mosques, this nation has been home to Byzantine, Roman, Greek, Seljuk and Ottoman empires for centuries.

With this historical legacy, mixed with its geopolitical realities of today, Turkey offers a promising future as an aspiring Muslim nation that could also become an economic and cultural link between Europe and rest of the world.

Turkey seems to be at a historical juncture and its decisions today will determine whether the resting place of the great ambassador of human tranquility, Moulana Rum, would remain a peaceful nation or it will be immersed into the folds of militancy tomorrow.

 

Qaisar Abbas, Ph. D., is a university professor/administrator, media analyst and political commentator based in Maryland, United States. He has worked as a News Producer for Pakistan TV and Information Officer in the province of Punjab. He can be reached at qaabbas@gmail.com

 

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South Asia faces tranquility-or turmoil!

 Saarc pic

Published in Asia Times, December 11,2014

By Dr. Qaisar Abbas

Qaisar Abbas, PhD, is a university professor/administrator, media analyst and political commentator based in Maryland, United States. He has worked as a News Producer for Pakistan TV and Information Officer in the province of Punjab.

 The 18th Summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) has recently concluded in Nepal against the gloomy backdrop of a terrorist attack in Kabul, ongoing military tension on the India Pakistan border, and an attack on the military base in Kashmir.

Besides the nicely packaged Kathmandu Declaration, the only achievement of the summit appears to have been an agreement signed by the eight leaders of member states on a power generation, transmission and trade project while two other agreements on roads and railway infrastructures could not be signed.

Historically the perennial friction between the two nuclear powers-India and Pakistan-has been the main obstacle in making SAARC an effective organization and this summit was no different.

Although democracy has been strengthening in the subcontinent lately with regular elections, establishing tranquility in this politically volatile region has been a challenging task so far. When there is no dearth of serious issues-terrorism, internal and external conflicts, religious and ethnic intolerance, poverty and nuclear race-peace and progress appear to be a remote possibility in the region.

Challenges to peace in South Asia

The 2014 UNDP Human Development Report reveals that millions of people live in poverty in South Asia where 44.4 percent of the population, around 730 million people live on 1.25-2.50 dollars a day. “Many who recently joined the middle class could easily fall back into poverty with a sudden change in circumstances,” the report reiterates.

 When countries are politically instable internally, they also lack ability in negotiating peace externally. Unfortunately, internal conflicts in South Asia are in abundance posing a real threat to regional harmony.

It looks marginalized communities in most countries in the subcontinent have been politically isolated by the establishment and important issues of these areas are decided by powerful bureaucrats in the center which becomes a major source of discontent and resistance.

The post-colonial South Asia has also witnessed religious and ethnic intolerance on an unprecedented scale. Increasingly majority groups have been marginalizing minority religions and ethnic groups through violence, legal structures and economic exploitation in Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and other countries.

Increasing terrorism in the region represents both internal and external dimensions. The 2014 Terrorism Index Report recently released by the Institute of Economics and Peace has identified a 61 percent increase in terrorism in the world in 2013 with a huge number of attacks in the region.

The index developed by the report includes five South Asian countries on the list of top 24 nations plagued with terrorism. Of these, Afghanistan has been identified as the 2nd top country, Pakistan 3rd, India 6th, Bangladesh 23rd and Nepal 24th. Sri Lanka and Bhutan are also included on the list.

Kashmir is probably one of the most volatile hotspots in the world that needs to be resolved before we can even think about a durable peace in the region.

As a legacy of the British colonial rule in the region, Kashmir has been the cause of two major wars between India and Pakistan, including a major war in 1965 and a small-scale war in Kargil in 1999 when India and Pakistan were equipped with nuclear arsenal but fortunately they didn’t use it. The dispute has already claimed 50,000 to 80,000 lives, with thousands of people disappeared, imprisoned, raped and tortured.

The conventional wisdom that nuclear capability could be an effective deterrence proves to be a false pretention in the region as India and Pakistan have been engaged in armed conflicts with each other although they didn’t use their nuclear arsenal. Since Pakistan and India became nuclear states, they have been involved in a nuclear marathon to widen their nuclear reach in the region.

When both nuclear contestants in South Asia have widespread poverty and human sufferings for common citizens, nuclear race seems to be an unfortunate development with a capability of wiping out millions of people with horrifying impacts on rest of the world.

In search of a suitable model

saarc pic2

There have been several models of establishing peace and regional integration. The European Union model rests on a strong trade and commerce regime built on a political consensus to consolidate political and economic control in one organization while members enjoy sovereignty at the same time.

Founded in 1967, the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), on the other hand, offers a culturally and geographically relevant model which is also credited to develop a practical infrastructure of regional integration  based on its three pillars as objectives:  political-security, economic community and the socio-cultural community.

Although SAARC does not offer an impressive model of regional cooperation mainly because its members decided not to deal with thorny issues from the beginning, it demonstrates intentions of member states to resolve mutual issues.

They singed the Agreement on South Asian Free and Trade Area (SAFTA) in 2004 to eliminate barriers and create a suitable environment to improve commerce through broader economic collaboration.

Despite its failures, SAARC offers a potential to develop an effective regional trade system which could be functional and effective at the same time.

Establishing meaningful mechanisms-trade relations, transportation network, easing visa restrictions, promoting cultural relations and collaborating in education and research fields-might be some of the initial steps to establish long term peace in South Asia.

The 18th summit also renewed its commitment to the proposed South Asian Economic Union (SAEU) to establish a free trade area, a customs union, a common market and a common economic and monetary union.

Working on these lines, South Asia has a great potential to become one of the largest economic regions of the world if it decides to positively utilize its cultural similarities, deeply rooted in its historical legacies, rather than its differences.

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The rhetoric of discontent in Pakistan


By Qaisar Abbas 

Published in Asia Times (October 29, 2014)

Sit in

Pakistanis have been watching a new kind of reality show on TV channels for the past two months, with uninterrupted coverage of fiery speeches at protests outside parliament, along with spectacular music and dance performances on a daily basis.

The “sit-in” which started from Lahore on August 14 has just ended in the federal capital of Islamabad without achieving objectives that included resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his elected government.
Beyond verbal insults and shallow arguments, the media coverage never came up to the level of analyzing serious issues like the real objectives of the agitation, demonstrators’ social formation, their rationale to participate in the agitation and political rhetoric of protesting leaders.

The two firebrand leaders, Imran Khan – a popular cricket player turned politician – and cleric Tahirul Qadri employed carefully selected themes of political rhetoric invoking religious, patriotic, rebellious, and emotional appeals to the sit-in audience on a daily basis. Both were successful in masterfully exploiting the growing public discontent on social, economic and political issues and unexpectedly sustained the protest for a longer period.

Revolution was the magical mantra for Tahirul Qadri, who was trying to convince the public that once the elected government is gone and he comes to power everything will be fine. By citing daily hardships of the people including power shortage, price hikes, terrorism and corruption, he was trying to transform public frustrations into a mass unrest.

Rightfully calling the system as corrupt and elitist, he promised a new social order based on justice and equity for all. How he would achieve these objectives through what kind of process was the real question left for everyone to ponder. The whole rhetoric was emotionally charged and extremely hostile with little details of the promised revolution.

Because the social formation of most of his audience was middle and low middle class religious devotees, he invariably provoked their religious sentiments in his daily sermons by skillfully playing with his followers’ beliefs.

Patriotism, being an easy slogan to be exploited, became another consistent theme of his rhetoric where army was symbolized as the only patriotic, honest, and professional institution while political leadership was rejected altogether as corrupt and inefficient.

Imran Khan, on the other hand, was embellishing his popularity to reconstruct his image from a talented sportsman to a successful political leader. First, he reinforced his image as a successful player by using familiar cricket terms and repeatedly referring to himself as the “captain” who had never lost a match in his cricket career. By doing this he was projecting himself to his male fans as a dependable catalyst for change and a qualified bachelor for his female followers.

Khan, ignoring the real issues of provincial autonomy, terrorism, freedom of expression, minority rights and gender equity, continued complimenting the armed forces and even raised expectations by declaring that the “umpire” would soon come to the rescue.

The resolution of political, social and economic issues, “freedom” from the current leadership, and building a “new Pakistan” – with Khan as the new prime minister – were his major recipes. Beyond these catchy terms, however, nobody knew what he actually meant.

Leaders

While the social formation of their followers was fundamentally different, both leaders worked together to achieve the same goal of dismantling the current government. For Qadri’s followers, the sit-in was a religiously motivated ritual commanded by their spiritual leader where not only the family patriarch but the whole family was following the leader as a sacred duty.

Imran Khan, on the other hand, banking on his fame, was appealing to the urban, educated youth who is frustrated by the prevailing status quo. This middle class youth was searching for its role in the “New Pakistan” that Khan was promising to them.

By challenging the status quo, he was also trying to convert the public to a solid voting bloc in his favor for next elections which he failed to build in the last polls. Knowing that the frustrated youth also forms a large proportion of the Pakistani society, he was strategically positioning himself as their savior.

Both leaders also devised inspirational rituals to engage their followers throughout the sit-in. While the cleric was trying to involve a religious audience with spiritual rituals and prayers, the captain was entertaining his cricket fans and the youth with music, dance and fiery speeches.

Besides the political rhetoric, participating men and women were in fact loyal followers of the two leaders who were already convinced and needed no ideological reinforcement. Apparently the participants were being used as street power and the real target audience was the general public out there watching the reality show on TV screens.

The prolonged agitation lost its credibility among the public when another senior leader of Imran Khan’s own political party, Javed Hashmi, exposed the whole drama as a well-planned conspiracy hatched in London a year ago, ostensibly sponsored by the armed forces.

Although the political rhetoric terribly failed in achieving its goal of toppling the elected government, it successfully sustained demonstrations for comparatively a long period which signifies the public discontent over the inefficiency of the government in resolving their genuine issues.

It looks the agitation campaign has also been successful in unleashing a wave of political activism across the nation by several political parties effectively building a momentum for large public rallies. Both protesting leaders and other political parties are now holding large rallies in different cities.

Besides the validity of this extraordinary political drama in Pakistan, the real question is: Would a genuine leadership in the future be able to transform this public discontent into a real struggle for social change?

Qaisar Abbas PhD, is a university professor/administrator, media analyst and political commentator based in Maryland, United States. He has worked as a News Producer for Pakistan TV and Information Officer in the province of Punjab.

(Copyright 2014 Qaisar Abbas)

 

Poetic discourse in Pakistan: Internal colonialism and resistance

By Dr. Qaisar Abbas

Resistance

Pakistan’s postcolonial history is in fact the history of internal colonialism where a new kind of operational mechanism was introduced maintaining the same colonial structure to rule the periphery with a heavy control of the center. An unholy alliance between the feudal, army and bureaucracy emerged to colonize the weaker provinces, their economies, cultures and languages as a result of this arrangement.

This system of internal colonialism also continued the legacy of the old civil bureaucracy of the British Raj devised to rule the Indian subcontinent of the pre-partition era. Landed aristocracy and army changed their seats as rulers alternatively in this arrangement and the bureaucratic establishment provided the legal, and administrative structure supporting the alliance as needed.

How the Pakistani literature, mainstream and peripheral both, views internal colonialism is an interesting topic to be explored. The mainstream Urdu poetic discourse offers a mosaic of romantic, modernist, and to a lesser extent, postmodernist streams. Excluding the stalwarts like Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Habib Jalib and Ahmed Faraz, however, it is not the mainstream Urdu verse but the poetic discourse in peripheral languages of Pakistan that is not only modern and fresh in structure and content, it also exposes cruelties of internal colonialism in the postcolonial period. Undoubtedly, it is our Sindhi, Pushto, Seraiki, Punjabi and Balochi poetry that vigorously and boldly challenged and even rejected the system of internal colonialism in PakistanThis aspect of our poetry, however, has rarely been explored in our literary discussions, which have been mostly overshadowed by the mainstream literature.

The poetic discourse in Pakistan’s provincial languages sometimes even surpasses the Urdu poetic verse when it comes to dealing with postmodernist trends, societal agitation, miseries of the poor, insensitivities of the ruling elite and gender issues, both in its manifestation and structure. These trends can easily be seen in Sindhi, Pushto, Balochi, Seraiki and Punjabi poetry. These streams widely exist in the poetry of Sheikh Ayaz, Janbaz Jatoi, Tanveer Abbasi, Sehar Imdad and Pushpa Vallabh (Sindhi); Hasina Gul, Ghani Khan, Amir Hamza Khan Shinwari and Samandar Khan Samandar (Pushto); Ata Shad and Gul Khan Nasir (Balochi); and Ustad Daman, Sharif Kunjahi, and Ahmed Rahi (Punjabi).

In the generation of those writers who participated in the freedom movement against the British imperialism and then saw the independence, Gul Khan Nasir from Balochistan, Sheikh Ayaz from Sindh, Ustad Daman from Punjab and Ghani Khan from Khyber Pakhtoonkhwah were the four daring souls who persistently challenged tyrannies of internal colonialism and its ruling alliance after independence. Unsatisfied with the system, their poetic expression became a loud agitation against the ruling junta of their time.

With the hierarchical mechanism placing the army at the top, the landed elite in the middle and bureaucracy at the bottom, the infamous trio designed this hegemonic system after independence to keep its power and control over the peripheral cultures. Gul Khan Nasir (1914-1983), a firebrand Balochi nationalist, a political leader and an activist was also a revolutionary poet who challenged this political setup from the beginning. His long-fought political struggle against the ruling alliance and his daring poetic posture still remains a signpost of his literary discourse. His fiery poetic style and his criticism targeted at the state apparatus often sent him to jail. One of his poems Towering Fortifications beautifully reflects his political struggle within the same backdrop:

Impossible to confine thoughts

within towering walls of stones and bricks

unimaginable to lockup ideals behind sturdy doors

and unthinkable to put chains of steel around high morals.

These towering ramparts

will crumble one day in the fury and fervor of masses

like the jungle fire that sweeps the wood

like the ocean that melts the rock

like the monsoon waters that flounce the land away

it will burn prisons and forts

the affluent and their palaces

to create a new world.          

Charagh Din, known by his pen name Ustad Daman (1911-1984) was another gallant critic of military dictators and the ruling apparatus of his time through his courageous Punjabi verse. A common man himself, he participated in the freedom movement against the British imperialism working as a tailor and remained a staunch supporter of equity and justice in the postcolonial era. He opposed corruption and exploitation of the poor throughout his life. His poem Two Allahs, a highly satirical piece, is also a valiant representation of his vigorous opposition to the military dictator General Zia:

Two Gods my nation has

 La Ilah and Martial Law!

One lives above the skies

And the other lives here.

The one we call Allah

The other General Zia

Three cheers!

General Zia!

Who would dare to say:  go away Zia?

While the center dominated economic and cultural spheres of the peripheries, or provinces in this case, a kind of pseudo-democracy was used to justify and legitimize the rule of the center. Using a controlled democracy as a tool, elected governments were conveniently utilized whenever needed and dissolved when not needed replacing them with military dictatorships. In the fine tradition of the great Pushto poet warrior Khushal Khan Khattack, Ghani Khan (1914-1993), who was considered as one of the leading Pushto poets of the 20th century, challenged this system through his poetic discourse. The artistic son of the Red Shirt leader, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, Ghani was jailed for 6 years in 1948, just one year after the independence for his political activities and poetry. He wrote two collections of his Pushto poetry, the first in 1956 and the second in 1978.  Also a painter and sculptor, he was well educated abroad. His poem, Leader, represents his dislike toward political leaders:

Take a crow’s beak,

a snake’s tongue,

a chicken’s brain,

a dog’s throat

that barks well,

a mule’s stubbornness,

and deck its pride,

with mud from the village,

and the city’s dunghill,

then approach

a blind potter,

who will prepare,

a new leader for you!

Exposing moral and intellectual shallowness of leaders, the narrative reflects the poet’s hatred towards politicians, probably, the reason why he left politics in the later part of his life.

While democratic norms were deteriorating, the military power was growing at a very fast pace and the institution was in the process of transforming itself into the most organized political party and the most powerful industrial giant.

Sheikh Ayaz (1923-1998), a leading Sindhi writer of the twentieth century always challenged this hegemony for which he was frequently arrested by all military dictators for his unforgiveable “crimes.” Not only a short story writer; he was also a prolific Sindhi and Urdu poet. To his credit he wrote more than 70 volumes of poetry, short stories, memoirs and essays. Coming from Sindh where feudal lords have strong grip on the agrarian social order, his Sindhi poetry condemns class differences between the rich landlord and the poor tenant. His satirical poem Knock masterfully captures the imagery of how he is detained by the soldiers in uniform:

Winter has brought hardships
the boots with uniform, heavy steps
that can be heard from a distance.
And the march halts at my door,
frightened hearts, impatient fools,
the residents tremble.
At my door is a persistent
knock, knock, knock, knock!
“I was telling you, Sir”
and then the deaf shed their tears,
“Why do you write such poetry
that puts you in chains,
they call you a secessionist,
the liars tell long stories about you.”
At my door is a persistent,
knock, knock, knock ,knock!

This incredible generation of heroic poets, who fearlessly lodged their protest against the forces of internal colonialism in the twentieth century and always paid a huge price for it, is no more with us but their legacy remains. Their uncompromising posture against the system still inspires young intellectuals of the twenty first century. In the words of Sheikh Ayaz:

You are trying to make sense of my poetry.

Listen,

in history’s museum

things speak!

(P.S. The author is thankful to his friends Aziz Narejo for providing the Sindhi poetry of Sheikh Ayaz and Agha Zulfiqar for suggesting Ustad Daman’s Punjabi poetry for this article).

Viewpointonline.net, Thursday, 09 December 2010 18:32

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