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Monday, December 29, 2008

India Defeated In The First Round

It is best to win without fighting- Sun Tzu

With India and Pakistan standing eyeball to eyeball, it was India that blinked first, with its media and officials admitting defeat on the diplomatic front.

Times of India writes:

“While the de-escalation should soothe the tense nerves of the international community, it was being feared that Islamabad, by raising the bogey of war, may have edged out India’s concerns. By feeding fears of an imminent conflict between two nuclear-armed rivals, it had ensured that the focus would shift towards conflict prevention. Indian security experts noted that Gilani made it a point to mention that “our friends are persuading India against aggression”.

While the government persisted with reminders to Islamabad about unkept promises, independent security experts said Pakistan may have got away with almost no cost at all. “As of now, Pakistan has managed to divert attention from the Mumbai attacks to an India-Pak conflict,” said K Subrahmanyam.

It was diplomacy by fear, and Pakistan played it effectively. As it allowed passions to run high and let known terrorists join in the show of national belligerence, it was also playing victim. As part of the script, its foreign secretary, it now turns out, even summoned the Indian high commissioner in Islamabad, Satyabrata Pal, on Friday to lecture him on the need for India to bring down tensions.

The U.S. and China had on Friday asked India - in a clear sign of Pakistan’s success - to engage in a dialogue with Pakistan. It’s becoming increasingly evident that India has so far nothing to show for its diplomatic offensive in the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks.”

How could things have gone so wrong, wonders Vir Sanghvi of the
Hindustan Times:

“I am now coming round to the view that they’ve only gone wrong for us. They’ve gone very right for Pakistan. Islamabad has got exactly what it needs, and what it always wanted.

Consider what’s happening today. The operation in the tribal areas has stalled. The Taliban have sworn to back the Pakistan army against India. Troops have been moved to the Indian border. The incoming Obama administration is talking about appointing a special envoy for India and Pakistan.

And forget about acting against those who organized the Bombay attacks. Pakistan isn’t even willing to hand over Dawood Ibrahim or Masood Azhar [Editor: Not in Pakistani custody anyway]. Moreover, Washington seems largely content with this state of affairs.

I don’t want to sound like a pessimist or a warmonger — especially since I have always applauded New Delhi’s moderation and restraint — but it is beginning to seem to me that Pakistan has out-maneuvered both India and America.”

M. K. Bhadrakumar writes at
Asia Times Online:

“By gently holding out the threat to the U.S. that the Afghan operations would grievously suffer unless Washington restrained Delhi from precipitating any tensions on the India-Pakistan border, Islamabad seems to have neatly pole-vaulted over Rice to appeal straight to the Pentagon, where there is abiding camaraderie towards the Pakistani generals.

With Pakistan’s recalcitrance and Mullen’s veiled threat of reopening the Kashmir file, a sense of frustration is gripping Delhi. Pakistan has ignored India’s tough posturing. The faltering Indian security agencies, which have been in a state of appalling decline in recent years, seem to have failed to put together any hard evidence of a Pakistani involvement in the Mumbai attacks.

All indications are that Pakistan is not impressed by the Indian rhetoric. It seems to think Indian politicians are grandstanding in an election year. But, just in case Delhi may spring a surprise, Pakistani army chief General Ashfaq Kayani has warned that the armed forces would give an equal response “within few minutes” if India carried out any surgical military strikes. “The armed forces are fully prepared to meet any eventuality, and the men are ready to sacrifice for their country,” he reportedly said.

Just as we
predicted, an all out war seems to have been averted and Indian media and officials are admitting defeat.

China, Saudi Arabia and Iran have come out strongly in the last couple of days which saw an intense diplomatic effort by all parties to make it clear to India that they not only remain unconvinced of Delhi’s allegations, but also that any attack could have serious consequences for India and the region as a whole.

Pranab Mukherjee was made to do an embarrassing u-turn on India’s previous stance previously, admitting that terrorism - a global issue and not a bilateral one - should be fought jointly.
The Indian officials have also been made to backtrack from their earlier claims of deploying troops along the border with Pakistan.

Times of India, December 22nd:
Even as India refused to take the military option off the table while asking Pakistan to rein in the terrorists, the Indian Army’s and IAF’s quick reaction teams (QRTs) were deployed along the borders in the Western Sector.

“Runways, hangars, main roads, ammunition stores and other sensitive places have been provided with additional cover. Sophisticated radars are installed at a few air bases and we are keeping watch on each and every cross-border activity,” said an IAF personnel.

Indian forces were on regular firing exercises at locations like Lathi Firing Range in Jaisalmer, Mahsan in Bikaner, Suratgarh and Ganganagar.

India Today, December 27th:
India has informed Pakistan that it has not engaged in any sort of troop build-up along the frontier.

In response to the ‘deadline’ set by India and the threats from Sonia Gandhi and Pranab Mukherjee, Pakistan had gone on a diplomatic counter-offensive, briefing world powers and countries in the region on the deteriorating relations with India and the steps taken by it to address Indian concerns. Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir met the ambassadors of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council — the U.S., Britain, China, France and Russia. He also met ambassadors of Italy, Japan, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey soon after returning from France where he had gone for annual bilateral consultations. However, his most crucial meeting was with Indian High Commissioner Satyabrata Pal at the Foreign Office when he said that India should defuse the tension.

Mr. Pal was accompanied by his deputy Manpreet Vohra. The Indian side was categorically told that any ‘surgical strikes’ would be considered a declaration of war. India was urged to respond to Pakistan’s proposal for joint investigation into the Mumbai attacks.

According to sources, the Indian diplomats looked somber when they came out of the meeting.
As things stand, the possibility of war has been averted for now, which is being seen as a massive diplomatic victory for Pakistan.

This of course does not mean that we should let our guard down. In addition to the diplomatic counter-offensive, it was Pakistan Army’s seriousness that put India on the back foot.

Once the realization set in that any further attempts to enter Pakistan Airspace will be punished severely by the PAF, the Indians had gone to plan B, with Mullen asking for a
guarantee that PAF will not respond to Indian surgical strikes.

General Kayani is said to have responded with showing Mullen a photograph of an IAF Mirage-2000 locked by Pakistan Air Forces’ F-16 taken on December 13th. ‘Next time, we’ll bring it down’, Mullen was told.

To make sure the message was loud and clear, Pakistan Air Force jets started patrolling the skies in hot mode and a red-alert was issued throughout the country.

Failing to get that guarantee, the chance of an Indian strike was reduced significantly. For them it was never about a full war. A few surgical strikes on pre-agreed locations would have been enough to relieve some of the pressure the Indian Government faces domestically. Pakistan Army on the other hand made it clear that any action from India would be taken as a declaration of war, and the response would be swift and decisive.

India faces humiliation now on the diplomatic front having failed to achieve anything from this standoff.

In its attempts to isolate Pakistan by building what it saw as a definitive case, it is India that stands alone on the diplomatic front and is left with begging the Iranians and Chinese to put pressure on Pakistan.

We can now expect an intense and sustained terrorism campaign in Pakistani cities in an attempt to destabilize the country along ethnic / sectarian lines - New Delhi’s time-tested method.

On the diplomatic front India will be lobbying hard to have the ISI (and Pakistan Army) declared as terrorist organizations.

We can also not rule out another false flag attack in the next few weeks.
Pakistanis need to stay united.
It’s not over yet.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Interview with Eqbal Ahmed in 1998

Editor's Note: Eqbal Ahmad, the Pakistani scholar-activist who died on May 11, 1999, gave a prescient interview to David Barsamian in the November 1998 issue of The Progressive. What follows is an excerpt from that interview:

Q: You were in Pakistan when the United States bombed Afghanistan and the Sudan. What did it look like to you?

Ahmad: The United States is a superpower that claims to be judge, accuser, and executioner. You don't allow that in your system. We don't allow it in our system. But we are allowing it on a world scale. Why didn't the United States go to international forums and present the evidence that it had against bin Laden before bombing Afghanistan and the factory in Khartoum? There is increasing evidence now that the factory was not producing any chemical weapons. The camp they hit in Afghanistan I visited in 1986. It was a CIA-sponsored camp. The United States spent $8 billion in producing the bin Ladens of our time.

Q: What do you mean by that?

Ahmad: He was socialized by the CIA and trained by the Americans to believe deeply that when a foreigner comes into your land, you become violent. Bin Laden is merely carrying out the mission to which he committed with America earlier. Now he is carrying it out against America because now America, from his point of view, is occupying his land. That's all. He grew up seeing Saudi Arabia being robbed by Western corporations and Western powers. He watched these Saudi princes, this one-family state, handing over the oil resources of the Arab people to the West. Up until 1991, he had only one satisfaction: that his country was not occupied. There were no American or French or British troops in Saudi Arabia. Then even that small pleasure was taken away from him during the Gulf War and its aftermath.

Q: What is the background of the CIA role in Afghanistan?

Ahmad: After the Soviet Union intervened in Afghanistan, an Islamic fundamentalist dictator in Pakistan, Zia ul-Haq, promoted, with the help of the CIA, the mujahideen resistance. Now what you had was Islamic fundamentalists of a really hardcore variety taking on the Evil Empire. They received $8 billion in arms from the U.S. alone. Add another $2 billion from Saudi Arabia under American encouragement. And, more than that, American operatives went about the Muslim world recruiting for the jihad in Afghanistan. This whole phenomenon of jihad as an international armed struggle did not exist in the Muslim world since the tenth century. It was brought back into being, enlivened, and pan-Islamized by the American effort. The United States saw in the war in Afghanistan an opportunity to mobilize the Muslim world against communism. So the United States recruited mujahideen from all over the Muslim world. I saw planeloads of them arriving-from Algeria, the Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and Palestine. These people were brought in, given an ideology, told that the armed struggle is a virtuous thing to do, and the whole notion of jihad as an international, pan-Islamic terrorist movement was born.

They were trained and armed by the CIA. The militants of the Islamic movement almost everywhere have all been trained in Afghanistan. The CIA people now call it "Islamic blowback."
Q: Why do you think the West is so ready to treat Islam as the enemy?

Ahmad: After the Cold War, the West had no viable threat around which it could organize its policies. All powers, all imperial powers-especially democratic ones-cannot justify their uses of power only on the basis of greed. No one will buy it. They have needed two things: a ghost and a mission. The British carried the White Man's Burden. That was the mission. The French carried la mission civilisatrice, the civilizing mission. The Americans had, first, Manifest Destiny, and then found the mission of "standing watch on the walls of world freedom," in John F. Kennedy's ringing phrase. Each of them had the Black, the Yellow, and finally the Red Peril to fight against. There was a ghost. There was a mission. People bought it.

Right now, the United States is deprived of both the mission and the ghost. So the mission has appeared as human rights. It's a very strange mission for a country that for nearly 100 years has been supporting dictatorship, first in Latin America and then throughout the world. And in search of menace, it has turned to Islam. It's the easiest because the West has encountered resistance here: Algeria, then Egypt, Palestinians, the Iranian revolution. And a portion of it is strategically located: It's the home of the oil resources for the West.

Q: What is your view of the Taliban of Afghanistan?

Ahmad: The Taliban is as retrograde a group as it is possible to find. Last year, I spent two weeks in Afghanistan. One day, I heard drums and noises from the house where I was staying. I rushed out to see what was going on. There was a young boy who couldn't have been more than twelve years of age. His head was shaved. There was a rope around his neck. He was being pulled by that rope. There was one man behind him with a drum. He slowly beat the drum.
I asked, "What has the boy done?"
People told me he was caught red-handed.
"Doing what?" I asked.
"He was caught red-handed playing with a tennis ball."
I went off to interview one of the Taliban leaders. He said, "We have forbidden boys to play with balls because it constitutes undue temptation to men." So the same logic that makes them lock up women behind veils and behind walls makes them prevent boys from playing games. It's that kind of madness.

These people are anti-women, anti-music, anti-life, and some of the highest officials of the United States have been visiting them and talking to them. The general impression in our region is that the U.S. has been supporting them.

Q: Why would the United States do that?

Ahmad: When the Soviet Union fell apart, its constituent republics became independent. The Central Asian republics, whose majority population is Muslim, happen to be oil-rich, gas-rich states. Their gas and oil used to pass through the Soviet Union. Now a new game starts: How is this oil and gas going to get out to the world?

At this point, American corporations move in. Texaco, Amoco, Unocal, Delta Oil-all of these are now going into Central Asia to get hold of these oil and gas fields. They don't want to take any pipelines to Iran because Iran is, at this moment, boycotted. It's an enemy of America. So Afghanistan and Pakistan become the places through which you lay pipelines. And you cut the Russians out. Just look at the story here: President Clinton makes personal telephone calls to the presidents of Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Azerbaijan, urging them to sign pipeline contracts. And the pipeline has to go through Afghanistan. In this game, both Pakistan and the U.S. get into the business of saying who will be the most reliable conduit to ensure the safety of the pipelines. And they pick the most murderous, by far the most crazy, of Islamic fundamentalist groups, the Taliban, to ensure the safety of the pipelines.

In this situation, the U.S. concern is not who is fundamentalist and who is progressive, who treats women nicely and who treats them badly. The issue is, who is more likely to ensure the safety of the oil and gas resources.

Q: What's behind the rise of fundamentalism not just in the Islamic world but also in the United States, Israel, Sri Lanka? What gives power to these movements?

Ahmad: There are a number of factors. The first is the fear of-and reaction to-homogenization. Globalization of the economy, the shrinking of spaces through modern technology, the power of the media in creating common tastes, everybody eating McDonald's hamburgers or wearing jeans-all this has made a whole lot of people uncomfortable with what is receding from their own way of life. That discomfort is used by rightwing ideologues to say, "Come to us. We will return you your old-time religion. Come to us. We will give you back your old ways, your old memories." And people who don't know any better often follow.

There is a second factor, and that is a disappointment with modernism, a sense of disillusionment with life as it is constructed in our time. It seems empty, void of meaning. It feels like families are breaking up but there is no substitute for the proximities, the comfort, the security of family life. These are changes that occur from technology and from the expansion of the tentacles of capitalism into every aspect of human life. In many ways, advertisers are deciding the color of underwear that we wear, the kind of sexual advances that we make to our wives and lovers. Once that starts happening, people feel a loss of individual autonomy. In search of autonomy, we look for some specific, unique way of relating to ourselves. Fundamentalism offers that. Old-time religion offers that. New-time religion also offers that.

Q: The media critique of fundamentalism seems to be very selective in its targets. What about Saudi Arabia?

Ahmad: This is a very interesting matter you are raising. Saudi Arabia's Islamic government has been by far the most fundamentalist in the history of Islam until the Taliban came along. Even today, for example, women drive in Iran. They can't drive in Saudi Arabia. Today, men and women are working in offices together in Iran. In Saudi Arabia, they cannot do that. Saudi Arabia is much worse than Iran, but it has been the ally of the U.S. since 1932, and nobody has questioned it. But much more than that is involved. Throughout the Cold War, starting in 1945, the U.S. saw militant Islam as a counterweight to communist parties of the Muslim world.

Q: You mentioned the Iranian revolution. Is there a parallel between Iran in the 1970s, which looked like an impregnable U.S. fortress, and Saudi Arabia in the 1990s?

Ahmad: I think it was 1981 or 1982 that a fairly senior CIA official who had either retired already or was on the brink of retiring wrote a very interesting article in the Armed Forces Journal. The article was entitled "The American Threat to Saudi Arabia." His argument primarily was that the policies that the U.S. government and corporations were pursuing out of greed were going to turn Saudi Arabia into a model of Iran, a totally dependent state and extremely vulnerable to revolution.

Osama bin Laden is a sign of things to come. The U.S. has no reason to stay in Saudi Arabia except exploitation and greed. Saudi Arabia is not threatened with invasion by anyone that we know of. Any potential aggressor, such as Saddam Hussein, has already been knocked out from any capability of invading Saudi Arabia. And the Americans demonstrated in 1991 that they are capable of mobilizing against any attack on an ally in the Middle East. So what's the justification of an American military presence, an intelligence presence, a massive presence in every other area in Saudi Arabia? Every ministry is infiltrated with American advisers. It's creating deep discontent there.

The answer is money. Money in ten different ways. The Saudis' oil is essentially controlled and marketed by American interests. Saudi wealth is invested in the U.S. and Europe. And the Saudis, since the early 1980s, went into the arms market, so the U.S. dumped something like $100 billion worth of armaments in that place.

The Saudi people are going to be discontented. But Saudi discontent shouldn't be seen only as Saudi. Unlike Iran, Saudi Arabia is an Arab country, part of an Arab world. The Saudis are the guardians of our Muslim holy places, and they have been unable to guard them. The Arabs are, at the moment, an extremely humiliated, frustrated, beaten, and insulted people. If you look at the situation from the standpoint of the Arab as a whole, this is a most beleaguered mass of 200 million people. What is actually uniting them at the moment is a sense of common loss, common humiliation.

This people has only two choices now, as its young people see it: It's either to become active, fight, die, and recover its lost dignity, lost sovereignties, lost lands, or to become slaves. Terrorism is not without a history. All social phenomena have historical roots, and nobody here is looking into the historical roots of terror.

Musharraf had handlers in Mossad-US Agency at least since the 80s

Abid Ullah Jan

It is possible that Musharraf could be under the control of these handlers even now? If you are aware of WTC-Building 7 controlled demolition on September 11, 2001, then you know there is something fishy – that it was an inside job . Like the other two towers, Building 7 came down in seconds defying gravity (100 metres in 4.5 seconds) which was a controlled demolition and BBC read the demise of the Building 20 minutes before it happened.

However, how does it connect to Musharraf and him being the agent of foreign intelligence agencies long before he even thought that he would be the Commander in Chief? Here are some tips for thoughtful, resourceful and brave researchers to find the truth about the real Musharraf and bring him to justice for treason and betrayal under his own Army Act: - Question: Why was Musharraf fired in Oct. 1999?
Tip –1 : Musharraf's illegal foreign contacts are not so hidden either . Some were revealed, but no one will talk. They became state secrets. See the case of Javed Hashmi, for example.
Tip – 2 : In the 80s, there was a Journalist John Doe and his wife Agent Jane Doe, in Rawalpindi. John Doe was divorcing his wife. It was in court. Musharraf was the representative of the lady Jane Doe in the court. Divorce happened but Mush made sure that John Doe did not open his mouth about the real reason behind the divorce in Public Court. The real reason behind the journalist John Doe divorcing his wife was that she was an agent of a foreign intelligence agency. As John Doe discovered it, he no longer wanted to continue the marriage. Interestingly, journalist John Doe's wife was a very close relative of Musharraf.
Tip – 3: This is authentic story. But to find out about the journalist John Doe and his wife Jane Doe in detail, one has to check the family court record in Rawalpindi. During the divorce proceedings Musharraf was the representative of the lady Jane Doe. It shows that as an Army officer, Pervez Musharraf covered the connection of a lady to a foreign intelligence agency. Normally one is supposed to tell the authorities. That gives credence to the well founded allegations that he also had, and still has, foreign handlers.
How is it connected to 9/11? When I was doing my research into the ISI connection to 9/11, I gave General Musharraf a huge benefit of the doubt in the book, From BCCI to ISI: The Saga of Entrapment Continues. However, the deeper one goes, the more he realizes that it is almost impossible that ISI would be using its human assets; its human assets will be linked to the CIA, M16 and others; the human assets will be meeting Osama and the foreign agencies at the same time; the Chief of the ISI will also be meeting his human assets as well as the high level officials in the US around the same time and also wiring money ($100,000) to the lead "hijacker” in the Operation 9/11.

Gen. Mahmoud Ahmad was never questioned by 911 commission, is a Tableeghi Jamaat member with a long beard now. He maintains a house at Mai de Khoi, Faisalabad and one in Islamabad. He was chairman of a government entity like fertilizer corporation. Musharraf was never asked as to why he said," Daniel Pearl got over intrusive......".
Why Omar Sheikh was never produced in an open court? And why Benazir talks of Omar Shiekh as the murderer of Osama with David Frost on November 2,2007? Musharraf was the Director Military Intelligence when the CIA supported the creation of the Taliban/Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. Brig. Gen. Ejaz Shah was the handler of Omar Sheikh per Benazir. This shows Musharraf was very much part of 911 and cover up (of it being inside job with Dick Cheney at Command. [1]
Musharraf's connections to foreign intelligence agencies since the early period of his carrier suggests that he is not out of the loop when it comes to operation 9/11. He is one of the main culprits. If any other individual had sent even a dime to Atta, he might have died of waterboarding and other torture techniques by now. However, General Mohamoud is a free main in Pakistan. So despite deep connections to the alleged hijackers to the ISI, nothing happens to the Pakistani Generals or Pakistan as such. To the contrary, remember how former CIA director James Woolsey tried to prove Atta met Iraq security officials, but could not. That was the time when they were looking for justifications for the war of aggression on Iraq.
Eqbal Ahmad in 1998 said that Osama was just the excuse to go into the Oil lands......Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan. And his observation seems true. The warlords needed time. They needed moles at the highest positions, such as the Chief of Pakistan armed forces. Musharraf had to kill the Chief of Air staff Mushaf Ali Mir because he won't agree with Musharraf's policy and planning(Mushaf was a patriot). He had to depart. Mushaf died in a plane crash in clear weather in the most safest plane, along with his wife and closest confidants.
Controversial author Gerald Posner implies that all of these events are linked together and the deaths are not accidental, but have occurred because of the testimony of captured al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida in March 2002 (see Early April 2002).
The deaths all occurred not long after the respective governments were told of Zubaida’s confessions. This simply confirms foreign hand in Mushaf’s murder. Benazir did not agree to Musharraf policies. Note that Musharraf says that she was "very unpopular in the Army". Musharraf thinks he alone is the Army. Benazir would not budge on his uniform issue. She had to go. Musharraf has violated his Oath five times. It is up to the Patriotic Army men to understand the situation and use the Army Act on Musharraf to protect Pakistan from internal aggression.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

The Legacy of Pakistan!!

What is the legacy of Pakistan? Pakistan is in the throes of severe and aberrant conflict and the center of world attention at the moment. Stuck in a precarious geographical location with the medal of being a nuclear state around its neck, it has put the US and its allies on edge with its internal strife, its supposed harboring of terrorists and an overall political situation that refuses to be abided. But assessing the situation analytically even if this past decade was taken out of the life of the country, there is still little in its history to prove that things have ever been what could be deemed peaceful or even conducive to the social, economic or political advancements of any country. Education, basic civic amenities, clean water and health is a continuing woe for the vast majority of the 165 million. Why has Pakistan never been able to settle down?

Perhaps this predicament can be put in context with the following hadith: Umar al-Khattab narrates that the Prophet (saw) said, ‘Deeds are [a result] only of the intentions [of the actor] and an individual is rewarded only according to that which he intends. Therefore, whosoever has emigrated for the sake of Allah and His messenger, then his emigration was for Allah and His messenger. Whosoever emigrated for the sake of wordly gain , or a woman [whom he desires] to marry, then his emigration is for the sake of that which [moved him] to emigrates’. In the case of Pakistan, it suffers because the key person responsible for its acquisition, Jinnah never had a Muslim state in mind in the true sense of the word. No doubt he wanted a separate land for the Muslims but according to many historians exploited Islam as the means to gain the end. The niyaat was political gain not religious autonomy; the weapon was religion. Since Islam and Muslims were outwardly proclaimed as the sole reason, though it was not the case, the end result of the act has been jeopardized. In other words Pakistan suffers as a direct fallout of this discrepancy in niyaat.

Jinnah was a modern Muslim and a secularist by every definition that one uses to define the word.

He was a brilliant lawyer with a sharp wit, tongue and an even sharper mind. It is true that he was bothered by racial prejudice but it wasn’t simply the racial prejudice towards the Muslims that irked him but it was inequality of any kind. He did not envision a Muslim state for the Muslims but a separate state where they, and people of all religions for that matter, would have freedom of religion. In his inaugural speech as the first governor general of Pakistan he said, ‘You will find that in the course of time Hindus will cease to be Hindus and Muslims will cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the state’. He wanted a democratic state but one in which the ‘church was separated from the state’. He was divided on his views. He had to have the vote of the Muslims to gain this state but did he really wish the new country to be an Islamic country? He talked about an Islamic country but the underlying truth is that he never really intended it. Nothing less than religious fervor could have convinced people to support Jinnah en masse for the creation of Pakistan and the subsequent migration to the new country to constitute what has been called the greatest migration in human history.

If Jinnah was a secularist, it was perhaps in his blood and his family background is of much interest in this milieu. Jinnah was born Mahomedali Jinnahbhai on 25 December, 1876, the eldest of seven children of Mithibai and Jinnabhai Poonja. His father was a prosperous Gujarati merchant who had moved to Sindh from Kathiawar, Gujarat shortly before his birth. Some sources suggest that his ancestors were Hindu Rajputs from Sahiwal, Punjab. Though the family had Hindu, Shia, Ismaili and Sunni ancestry his family was primarily Ismaili. Although he was born a Khoja, disciples of the Ismaili Agha Khan, Jinnah moved toward the Sunni sect early in his life and later evidence given by his relatives and associates establishes that he was firmly a Sunni Muslim.

His first marriage was a traditional one when he was barely sixteen to Emibai who was merely a child. She died a little while after the marriage. The second time around he fell in love with a Parsee girl named Rattanbai or Ruttie Petit around 1916. The daughter of Sir Dinshaw Petit, a successful businessman, she was also known as the ‘flower of Bombay’. Needless to say Dinshaw Petit was furious and refused to consent to the marriage as Jinnah was not only of a different faith but also twice her age. Shortly before the ceremony Ruttie converted to Islam and their only daughter Dina was born in 1919. Dina was the apple of her doting father’s eye until she decided to marry the Parsi born Christian, Neville Wadia. It is also known that when Dina married Neville she was told by Jinnah that ‘she was not his daughter anymore’ and the relationship between the two became strained. Dina had two children, a boy and a girl. Her son Nusli Wadia was born a Christian but converted back to Zoroastrianism and settled in the industrially wealthy Parsi community of Bombay.

Though Jinnah died a Sunni Muslim there is little evidence that would insinuate his connection to Islam to the extent that would suggest that his intention in fighting for Pakistan was for the procurement of an Islamic state. His family background, his lifestyle and everything in between only proposes the presence of disparity between the niyyat and the action. The social and political condition of the country ever since it emerged on the map of the world is evidence enough of this hypothesis. Yes he wanted a state that allowed maximum freedom of religious beliefs and practice and treats all its citizens equally. But this ticket and this promise was not enough to rally the Muslims behind him. He had to push the ‘Islamic Country’ theme and he did that relentlessly. Given the fact that he had the support of millions of Muslims of pre-partition India, it is not too difficult to assume that he had not made his plans very clear to the majority of them. This division of thought, of whether Jinnah envisioned an Islamic state or a secular democratic one, still remains the major bone of contention between the millions in Pakistan today.

Dr. Hassan Askari Rizvi, the former chairman of the Political Science Department of the Punjab University, Lahore writes, ‘Jinnah definitely was a secularist who viewed Islam as an instrument of identity formation and political mobilization for the Muslims of South Asia. Whenever he talked of Islam, he also talked about the modern notion of state, constitutionalism, civil and political rights and equal citizenship irrespective of religion or any other consideration. This means that he was neither for a religious or orthodox Islamic state nor for a secular system in the classical Marxist terms. His view was that Pakistan would be modern, democratic state which derives its ethical formation from Islam’.

Dr. Mubarak Ali, former Chairman of the History Dept. at the Karachi University writes, ‘Jinnah used to be a perfect secularist as far as this private life was concerned, (According to Akbar S. Ahmad nearly every book about Jinnah outsides Pakistan mentions the fact that he drank and some sources even hint at his consumption of pork. Several sources indicate that he gave up alcohol only near the end of his life) yet he believed in using religion for public consumption to achieve his political ends. The propelling slogan during the struggle for Pakistan was to establish a distinct identity of Muslims as a nation. And Jinnah used Islam as a motivating force to rally the Muslims to the cause of Pakistan politically. But the state they aimed to create was to be secular, not a theocracy. And the method to achieve the goals was not a religious movement but political agitation’.

In his concluding speech in Karachi at the All India Muslim League session on Dec. 26, 1943 he said, ‘What is it that keeps the Muslims united as one man, and is the bedrock and sheet-anchor of the community. It is Islam. It is the Great Book, Quran, that is the sheet-anchor of Muslim India. I am sure that as we go on there will be more and more of oneness, one God, one Book, one Prophet and one Nation’. One wonders, being so staunch in his ideas for the new country he was seeking for the Muslims why did he not establish Islamic democracy as the rule right from the very beginning? When affairs are run according to the Quran they are automatically democratic. There is no need to specifically separate religion and democracy as was done with Pakistan. Especially when he said in 1945, ‘Every Mussalman (Muslim) knows that the injunctions of the Holy Quran are not confined to the religious and moral duties. From the Atlantic to the Ganges, says Gibbon, ‘the Holy Quran is acknowledged as the fundamental code, not only of theology, but of civil and criminal jurisprudence, and the laws which regulate the action and the property of mankind are governed by immutable sanctions of the will of God’.

Everyone, except those who are ignorant, knows the Holy Quran is the general code of the Muslims’.

So why the Quran wasn’t made the general code when the founder of the country so staunchly believed in it? Why weren’t these rules made clear from the beginning when they were stated to be the very reason why this new land was sought? Did the niyyat change after the goal was achieved? Was Islam really just an instrument of power to seek the goal at hand? And is it this grave discrepancy in niyyat that Pakistan has forever remained in an abysmal state of political and social chaos? Samuel Butler said, ‘God cannot alter the past, historians can’. Maybe now when people ask questions like, ‘why is all this happening in Pakistan? We thought it is a Muslim country?’ they can be answered with, ‘It wasn’t meant to be a Muslim country; it was only meant to be a piece of land for the Muslims’.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Sitting with hypocrites

Sitting with hypocrites & wrongdoers to enjoy their company or to keep them company

Many of those who do not have strong faith deliberately sit with people who are immoral and sinful. They may even sit with those who attack the Sharee’ah and make fun of Islam and the people who adhere to it strictly. There is no doubt that this is a forbidden deed, one which could undermine a person’s belief. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning): “And when you see those who engage in a false conversation about Our Verses by mocking at them, stay away from them till they turn to another topic. And if Shaytaan causes you to forget, then after the remembrance sit not in the company of those people who are the zaalimoon (polytheists and wrongdoers, etc.)” [al-An’aam 6:68]

In that case it is not permitted to sit with them, even if they are closely-related or are very kind and good company, except for the purposes of da’wah or refuting their false talk. But accepting and remaining quiet about their conduct is not permitted. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning): “They (the hypocrites) swear to you (Muslims) that you may be pleased with them, but if you are pleased with them, certainly Allaah is not pleased with the people who are al-faasiqoon (rebellious, disobedient to Allaah).” [al-Tawbah 9:96]

Fidgeting & making unnecessary movements in prayer

Hardly any of the people who pray are free from this problem, because they are not following the command of Allaah (interpretation of the meaning):
“. . . And stand before Allaah with obedience” [al-Baqarah 2:238];
and they fail to understand the words of Allaah (interpretation of the meaning):
“Successful indeed are the believers, those who offer their salaat with all solemnity and full submissiveness.” [al-Mu’minoon 23:1-2]
When the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) was asked about smoothing the earth before prostrating, he said, “Do not wipe it when you are praying; if you have to, then just smooth the gravel once.” (Reported by Abu Dawud, 1/581; see also Saheeh al-Jaami’, 7452).
The scholars mentioned that continuous, excessive, unnecessary movement invalidates one’s prayer. How can those fidgets stand before Allaah, looking at their watches, straightening their clothes, putting their fingers in their noses, looking to the right and the left and up to the sky, and not fearing that Allaah may take away their sight or Shaytaan may steal their prayer??

Lack of composure in prayer

One of the worst forms of theft or cheating is cheating in prayer. The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “The worst type of thief is the one who steals from his prayer.” The people asked, “O Messenger of Allaah, how can a person steal from his prayer?” He said: “By not doing rukoo’ and sujood properly.” (Reported by Imaam Ahmad, 5/310; see also Saheeh al-Jaami’, 997).
This lack of composure and failure to pause in rukoo’ and sujood and to stand up straight after rukoo’ or sit up properly between sujoods may be observed in many of those who pray, and hardly any mosque is free of examples of people who do not have the proper composure in prayer. Correct composure is one of the pillars of prayer, without which prayer is invalid. This is a serious matter. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “A man’s prayer is not good enough until his back is straight in rukoo’ and sujood.” (Reported by Abu Dawud, 1/533; see also Saheeh al-Jaami’, 7224).
There is no doubt that lacking the proper composure is bad, and the person who is guilty of this deserves to be reprimanded and threatened with punishment. Abu ‘Abdullaah al- Ash’ari reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) led his Companions in prayer, then he sat with a group of them. A man came in and started to pray, but made his movements rapid like a chicken pecking the ground.
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Do you see this? Whoever dies having done this has died outside of the community of Muhammad, and his prayer is like a crow pecking blood. The person who bows then pecks in his sujood is like a hungry man who eats no more than one or two dates - what good will that do him?” (Reported by Ibn Khuzaymah in his Saheeh 1/332; see also al-Albaani, Sifat Salaat al-Nabi (The Prophet’s Prayer described), 131).
Zayd ibn Wahb said: “Hudhayfah saw a man who was not performing rukoo’ and sujood properly. He said: ‘You have not prayed, and if you were to die, you would die on a way other than that revealed by Allaah to Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him).’” (Reported by al-Bukhaari, see al-Fath, 2/274). Once a person is aware of this ruling, if he fails to perform prayer with the proper composure, he should repeat it and repent to Allaah for what is past; he does not need to repeat all of his previous prayers, as is indicated by the hadeeth “Repeat your prayer, for you have not prayed.”

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Magic, fortune-telling & divination

Magic, fortune-telling & divination

Other widespread forms of shirk are: magic, fortune-telling and divination. Magic (sihr) is an act of kufr, and one of the seven sins which doom a person to Hell. It causes harm but no benefit. Allaah says of the one who learns it (interpretation of the meaning): “. . . And they learn that which harms them and profits them not . . .” [al-Baqarah 2:102] “. . . and the magician will never be successful, no matter what amount (of skill) he may attain).” [Ta-Ha 20:69]

The one who deals in magic is a kaafir, as Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning): “... Sulayman did not disbelieve, but the shayaateen (devils) disbelieved, teaching men magic and such things as came down at Babylon to the two angels, Haaroot and Maaroot, but neither of these two (angels) taught anyone (such things) things till they had said, ‘We are only for trial, so disbelieve not (by learning this magic from us).’ . . .” [al-Baqarah 2:102]

The prescribed punishment for the one who practices magic is death, and his income is haraam and impure. But people who are ignorant wrongdoers and weak in faith go to magicians to help them harm someone or take revenge on someone. Some people commit the sin of going to a magician to ask his help in undoing the magic of someone else, when they should turn to Allaah to help them and heal them, by reciting His words, such as the soorahs that offer protection (al-Falaq and al-Naas), and so on. Fortune-tellers and their ilk are kaafirs who disbelieve in Allaah, because they claim knowledge of the Unseen, but no one has knowledge of the Unseen except Allaah. Many of these fortune-tellers take advantage of simple-minded people and take their money. They use many methods such as drawing lines in the sand, throwing sea-shells, reading palms, teacups (or coffee cups), crystal balls and mirrors, and so on. If they get it right one time, they get it wrong ninety-nine times, but ignorant people remember only the one time when these liars get something right. They go to them to find out about the future, whether they will be successful in marriage or business, or to help them find something they have lost, and so on. The ruling concerning the person who visits a fortune-teller is: if he believes what he says, he is a kaafir who has left Islaam, on the basis of the hadeeth in which the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Whoever goes to a fortune-teller or a soothsayer and believes in what he says has disbelieved in what was revealed to Muhammad.” (Reported by Imaam Ahmad, 2/429; see also Saheeh al-Jaami’, 5939). If a person does not believe that they have knowledge of the Unseen, but he goes out of curiosity or whatever, he is not a kaafir, but his prayers will not be accepted for forty days, as the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Whoever goes to a fortune-teller and asks him about something, his prayers will not be accepted for forty nights” (Saheeh Muslim, 4/1751) - even though it is still obligatory to pray and to repent for this sin.

Astrology, or believing that the stars & planets have an influence on people’s lives & events

Zayd ibn Khaalid al-Juhani reported: “The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) led us in the morning prayer at al-Hudaybiyah after rain had fallen during the night. When he had finished, he turned around to face the people and said: ‘Do you know what your Lord says?’ They said, ‘Allaah and His Messenger know best.’ He said: ‘[Allaah says]: This morning one of My slaves became a believer in Me and one became a disbeliever. As for the one who said, “We have been given rain by the grace and mercy of Allaah,” he is a believer in Me and a disbeliever in the stars; as for the one who said, “We have been given rain by such-and-such a star,” he is a disbeliever in Me and a believer in the stars.’” (Reported by al-Bukhaari; see Fath al-Baari, 2/333) Similarly, the one who reads the horoscopes in newspapers and magazines and believes what they say about the influence of the stars and planets is a mushrik, and the one who reads them for entertainment is a sinner, because it is not permitted to entertain oneself by reading things that contain shirk, because Shaytaan will try to lead him to shirk through this.

Believing that certain things can bring benefit when the Creator has not made them so

Yet another form of shirk is believing that certain things can bring benefit when the Creator has not made them so. For example. some people believe in amulets and spells, or wearing certain types of pearls or seashells or metal earrings and so on, on the advice of fortune-tellers or magicians or in accordance with inherited customs. So they hang them around their own or their children’s necks to ward off the evil eye - or so they claim; or they tie them onto their bodies or hang them in their cars and homes, or wear rings with special stones, thinking that these things can relieve or ward off distress. This without a doubt is contrary to the idea of relying on Allaah, and will only result in making a person even more weak, like seeking medicine in a haraam way. These amulets obviously contain much shirk, such as seeking the help of some jinns and devils, or vague drawings and illegible writing. Some of these liars even write aayaat from the Qur’aan, or mix them with words of shirk, or write them with impure substances such as menstrual blood. Hanging up these amulets or tying them to one’s body is haraam because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Whoever hangs up an amulet is guilty of shirk.” (Reported by Ahmad, 4/156; see also Silsilat al- Saheehah, no. 492).

If the one who does this believes that these things can cause benefit or harm instead of Allaah, he is a mushrik who is guilty of al-shirk al-akbar. If he believes that they are a means of causing benefit or harm, then he is a mushrik who is guilty of al-shirk alasghar, which includes shirk that consists of attributing causes to things other than Allaah.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Listening to music & musical instruments

Ibn Mas’ood (may Allaah be pleased with him) used to swear by Allaah that the aayah “And of mankind is he who purchases idle talk to mislead (men) from the Path of Allaah . . .” [Luqmaan 31:6] referred to singing. Abu ‘Aamir and Abu Maalik al-Ash’ari (may Allaah be pleased with them) reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Among my ummah will be those who make permissible al-hira(adultry or zinah), silk, khamr and musical instruments . . .” (Reported by al-Bukhaari; see al- Fath, 10/51).
Anas (may Allaah be pleased with him) reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “In this ummah there will be punishments of earthquakes, showers of stones and deformity (transformation into animals); that will be when the people drink khamr, listen to female singers and play musical instruments.” (See al-Silsilah al-Saheehah, 2203; attributed to Ibn Abi’l-Dunyaa, Dhamm al-Malaahi; the hadeeth was narrated by al-Tirmidhi, no. 2212).

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) forbade the “koobah” (a kind of drum), and described the flute as the voice of the immoral fool. The early scholars such as Imaam Ahmad, may Allaah have mercy on him, stated that musical instruments such as the 'ood (lute), tanboor (a long-necked stringed instrument), reed flute, rabaab (stringed instrument resembling a fiddle) and cymbal, were haraam; no doubt modern instruments such as the violin, qaanoon (stringed musical instrument resembling a zither), organ, piano, guitar, etc., are also included in the Prophet’s prohibition on musical instruments, because their effect and impact is greater than that of the ancient instruments mentioned in some ahaadeeth. They are even more intoxicating than khamr, as scholars such as Ibn al-Qayyim mentioned. No doubt the prohibition, and the sin involved, are greater when the music is accompanied by singing and the voices of female singers, and it is even worse when the lyrics speak of love and describe physical beauty. Hence the scholars said that singing paves the way for zinaa (adultery or fornication), and that it makes hypocrisy grow in the heart. Generally speaking, music and singing form one of the greatest temptations of our times.

What is very difficult is the fact that nowadays music is a part of so many things, such as clocks, doorbells, children’s toys, computers, telephones, etc., and avoiding it takes a great deal of determination. Allaah is the source of help.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

US Wish List !!!

Pakistan has given them bases and logistic support as well as intelligence sharing but what the US is now demanding from Islamabad has shocked the Defence and Foreign Ministries and the initial reaction has been a rejection of what are highly intrusive demands for the US military and auxiliary personnel in Pakistan.
This scribe has learnt of the latest set of 11 demands the US has put to the Government of Pakistan through the Ministry of Defence. As one goes down the list of the demands, they become increasingly untenable.
The first demand is for granting of a status that is accorded to the technical and administrative staff of the US embassy.
The second demand is that these personnel be allowed to enter and exit Pakistan on mere National Identification (for example a driving licence) that is without any visas.
Next, the US is demanding that Pakistan accept the legality of all US licences, which would include arms licences.
This is followed by the demand that all these personnel be allowed to carry arms and wear uniforms as they wish, across the whole of Pakistan.
Then comes a demand that directly undermines our sovereignty – that the US criminal jurisdiction be applicable in Pakistan to US nationals. In other words, these personnel would not be subject to Pakistani law. In territories of US allies like Japan, this condition exists in areas where there are US bases and has become a source of major resentment in Japan, especially because there are frequent cases of US soldiers raping Japanese women and getting away with it. In the context of Pakistan, the demand to make the US personnel above the Pakistani law would not be limited to any one part of the country! So the Pakistani citizens will become fair game for US military personnel as well as other auxiliary staff like military contractors.
The next demand is for exemption from all taxes, including indirect taxes like excise duty, etc. The seventh demand is for inspection-free import and export of all goods and materials. So we would not know what they are bringing in or taking out of our country – including Gandhara art as well as sensitive materials.
At number eight is the demand for free movement of vehicles, vessels including aircraft, without landing or parking fees!
Then, at number nine, there is a specific demand that selected US contractors should also be exempted from tax payments.
At number ten there is the demand for free of cost use of US telecommunication systems and using all necessary radio spectrum.
The final demand is the most dangerous and is linked to the demand for non-applicability of Pakistani law for US personnel.
Demand number eleven is for a waiver of all claims to damage to loss or destruction of others’ property, or death to personnel or armed forces or civilians. The US has tried to be smart by not using the word "other" for death but, given the context, clearly it implies that US personnel can maim and kill Pakistanis and destroy our infrastructure and weaponry with impunity.
Effectively, if accepted, these demands would give the US personnel complete freedom to do as they please in Pakistan – in fact, they would take control of events in areas of their interest. It is no wonder then that Pakistan's Defence Ministry, the Foreign Office and the Law Ministry have reacted with complete rejection. But, as one official source feared, "This is just the opening salvo of demands and the US can be expected to bargain in order to seek the most critical of these demands." As he put it, "Any hesitation or weakness that the US senses on part of Pakistan will put us on a fatal slippery slope to total submission.
This would result in increasing instability in the country." So, for those who feel there is bonhomie and complete understanding between the Pakistan military and the US military, and the trouble only exists at the political level, it is time to do a serious rethink.
The first step in dealing rationally with our indigenous terrorist problem holistically and credibly is to create space between ourselves and the US. As the US adage goes: "There is no free lunch". For Pakistan lunching with the US has become unacceptably costly. When US embassy in Islamabad was approached for reaction to this report, Elizabeth Colton, US Embassy Spokesperson, said, "We will not dignify this attack with a comment."
US Wish List Confirmed.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

A Pakistani view of U.S. nuclear weapons !!

By Hugh Gusterson 5 February 2008

"The [U.S.] Air Force has made substantial changes in its handling of nuclear weapons in the wake of a B-52 flight last August during which the pilots and crew were unaware they were carrying six air-launched cruise missiles with nuclear warheads."

-- "Air Force Alters Rules for Handling of Nuclear Arms," Washington Post January 25, 2008.
ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN, JANUARY 25--At a press conference in Islamabad today, Pakistani Brig. Gen. Atta M. Iqhman expressed concern about U.S. procedures for handling nuclear weapons. Iqhman, who oversees the safety and security of the Pakistani nuclear force, said that U.S. protocols for storing and handling nuclear weapons are inadequate. "In Pakistan, we store nuclear warheads separately from their delivery systems, and a nuclear warhead can only be activated if three separate officers agree," Iqhman said. "In the United States, almost 20 years after the end of the Cold War, nuclear weapons still sit atop missiles, on hair-trigger alert, and it only takes two launch-control officers to activate a nuclear weapon. The U.S. government has persistently ignored arms control experts around the world who have said they should at least de-alert their weapons."

Iqhman also questioned the adequacy of U.S. procedures for handling nuclear weapons. He expressed particular concern about the August 29, 2007, incident in which six nuclear weapons were accidentally loaded under the wing of a B-52 by workers who did not observe routine inspection procedures and thought they were attaching conventional weapons to the B-52. The flight navigator should have caught their mistake, but he neglected to inspect the weapons as required. For several hours the nuclear weapons were in the air without anyone's knowledge. "The United States needs to develop new protocols for storing and loading nuclear weapons, and it needs to do a better job of recruiting and training the personnel who handle them," Iqhman said.

Iqhman added the Pakistani government would be willing to offer technical advice and assistance to the United States on improving its nuclear weapons handling procedures. Speaking anonymously because of the issue's sensitivity, senior Pentagon officials said it is Washington's role to give, not receive, advice on nuclear weapons safety and surety issues.

Iqhman pointed out that the August 29 event was not an isolated incident; there have been at least 24 accidents involving nuclear weapons on U.S. planes. He mentioned a 1966 incident in which four nuclear weapons fell to the ground when two planes collided over Spain, as well as a 1968 fire that caused a plane to crash in Greenland with four hydrogen bombs aboard. In 1980, a Titan II missile in Arkansas exploded during maintenance, sending a nuclear warhead flying 600 feet through the air. In a remark that visibly annoyed a U.S. official present at the briefing, Iqhman described the U.S. nuclear arsenal as "an accident waiting to happen."

Jay Keuse of MSNBC News asked Iqhman if Pakistan was in any position to be lecturing other countries given Pakistani scientist A. Q. Khan's record of selling nuclear technology to other countries. "All nuclear weapons states profess to oppose proliferation while helping select allies acquire nuclear weapons technology," Iqhman replied. "The United States helped Britain and France obtain the bomb; France helped the Israelis; and Russia helped China. And China," he added coyly, "is said by Western media sources to have helped Pakistan. So why can't Pakistan behave like everyone else?"

Iqhman's deputy, Col. Bom Zhalot also expressed concern about the temperament of the U.S. public, asking whether they had the maturity and self-restraint to be trusted with the ultimate weapon. "Their leaders lecture us on the sanctity of life, and their president believes that every embryo is sacred, but they are the only country to have used these terrible weapons--not just once, but twice. Paul Tibbets, the pilot of the plane that bombed Hiroshima, said he never lost a night's sleep over killing 100,000 people, many of them women and children. That's scarcely human."

While Iqhman glared reproachfully at Zhalot for this rhetorical outburst, Zhalot continued: "We also worry that the U.S. commander-in- chief has confessed to having been an alcoholic. Here in Pakistan, alcohol is 'haram,' so this isn't a problem for us. Studies have also found that one-fifth of U.S. military personnel are heavy drinkers. How many of those have responsibility for nuclear weapons?"

John G. Libb of the Washington Times asked if Americans were wrong to be concerned about Pakistan's nuclear stockpile given the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in Pakistan. Colonel Zhalot replied: "Millions of Americans believe that these are the last days and that they will be raptured to heaven at the end of the world. You have a president who describes Jesus as his favorite philosopher, and one of the last remaining candidates in your presidential primaries is a preacher who doesn't believe in evolution. Many Pakistanis worry that the United States is being taken over by religious extremists who believe that a nuclear holocaust will just put the true believers on a fast track to heaven. We worry about a nutcase U.S. president destroying the world to save it."

U.S. diplomats in Pakistan declined comment.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Country of Dwarfs

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Pakistani Contractor !

Three contractors. . . . . .one from Pakistan, another from China and the third from England are bidding to repair the White House fence.
They go with a White House official to examine the fence.
The English contractor takes out a tape measure and does somemeasuring, then works on some figures with a pencil.
"Well," he says,"I figure the job will cost $ 900- $ 400 for materials, $ 400 for labourand $ 100 profit for me."
The Chineese contractor also does some measuring and figuring, thensays, "I can do this job for $ 700 . . . .$ 300 for materials, $300 for mycrew and $ 100 profit for me."
The Pakistani contractor doesn't measure or do any figuring, but leansover to the White House official and whispers: " $ 2,700.
"The official incredulously says, "You didn't even measure lik theother guys! How did you come up with such a high figure?"
"Easy," the Pakistani explains, "$ 1,000 for you, $ 1,000 for me and we hire the guy from China to do the work!"

Thursday, February 21, 2008

No Comments!

The Washington Post
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 21, 2008
U.S. Payments To Pakistan Face New Scrutiny
Little Accounting for Costs To Support Ally's Troops
Once a month, Pakistan's Defense Ministry delivers 15 to 20 pages of spreadsheets to the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad. They list costs for feeding, clothing, billeting and maintaining 80,000 to 100,000 Pakistani troops in the volatile tribal area along the Afghan border, in support of U.S. counterterrorism efforts.
In response, the Defense Department has disbursed about $80 million monthly, or roughly $1 billion a year for the past six years, in one of the most generous U.S. military support programs worldwide. The U.S. aim has been to ensure that Pakistan remains the leading ally in combating extremism in South Asia.

But vague accounting, disputed expenses and suspicions about overbilling have recently made these payments to Pakistan highly controversial -- even within the U.S. government.

The poor showing in Monday's parliamentary election by the party of President Pervez Musharraf, whose government has overseen local disbursement of the money, may make Congress look closer at all U.S. financial assistance to the country. Questions have already been raised about where the money went and what the Bush administration got in return, given that pro-American sentiment in Pakistan is extremely low and al-Qaeda's presence is growing steadily stronger.

In perhaps the most disputed series of payments, Pakistan received about $80 million a month in 2006 and 2007 for military operations during cease-fires with pro-Taliban tribal elders along the border, including a 10-month truce in which troops returned to their barracks.

The Bush administration has acknowledged some problems, but still says that the program -- part of a costly military effort known as the Coalition Support Fund -- is worth every penny. "Yes, we may have overpaid, but it's still a good deal," said a senior administration official involved in Pakistan policy, noting that more than 1,000 Pakistani troops have been killed while assisting Operation Enduring Freedom.

"Padding? Sure. Let's be honest, we're talking about Pakistan, which has a legacy of corruption," added another U.S. official familiar with past U.S. payments. "But if they're billing us $5 billion and it's worth only $4 billion, the question is whether it's worth nickel-and-diming it if it's such a top national security objective. If it's in the ballpark, does the bigger picture call for continuing on with a process that does generate significant progress on the war on terror? They do get their hands on people we can't."

U.S. officials say the payments to Pakistan -- which over the past six years have totaled $5.7 billion -- were cheap compared with expenditures on Iraq, where the United States now spends at least $1 billion a week on military operations alone.

"My sense is that the Pakistani military would not be out on the border if not for the Coalition Support Funds. That's the baseline cost of getting them out on a mission that is really our mission," said Craig Cohen, a fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the author of a recent study on U.S.-Pakistan relations.

Yet the Bush administration has recently begun to scrutinize Pakistan's bills more closely.
Washington delayed payment of about $78 million of $360 million for the March-June 2007 quarter now working its way through the reimbursement process. Pakistan will receive only $282 million later this month, U.S. officials said, with additional payment once it provides more detailed accounting.

It recently rejected a Pakistani bill, officials say, for "roads and tracks" -- for its Navy operations, U.S. officials said.
Some regional specialists question whether the Pentagon's money is being well spent. "The amount that's been spent on the Coalition Support Fund, given the results, is a reminder that the Pakistani will just might not be there," Cohen said. "Most Pakistanis see this as America's war."
Congressional officials and others are concerned that the administration has been so eager to prop up Musharraf that it overlooked U.S. foreign aid and accounting standards. A congressional oversight subcommittee is also set to begin an investigation next month, while the Government Accountability Office plans to finish its own inquiry in April.

"We have had an enormous amount of money going out there since 9/11, and I'm not satisfied that we're getting the kind of accounting that would warrant a determination that this is money well spent, or whether we should change the direction of the money and get more bang for our buck another way," said Rep. John F. Tierney (D-Mass.) chairman of the national security and foreign affairs subcommittee of the oversight committee looking into the program.

In a closed-door hearing in December, for example, Hill staffers pressed Richard Boucher, assistant secretary of state for South Asia, to provide receipts for every Pakistani expense over $1 million, a request the State Department has not yet met. The U.S. government generally requires receipts when it reimburses entities for expenses.

A payment process that looks too loose in Washington is seen as too tight in Pakistan, however. Over the past four months, Musharraf complained to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Deputy Secretary of State John D. Negroponte about delays in Washington's payment, which can take five to eight months, U.S. officials said.

The process is laborious, officials acknowledge, with many players blaming one another for allowing the Pakistani bills to move through the system without stronger oversight.
After the spreadsheets are delivered, officials at the U.S. Embassy try to verify that Pakistan incurred expenses in support of combat activity on the Afghan border. "It's a big job to go through and figure out what the Pakistanis have spent. The State Department doesn't know the toys," said the second U.S. official familiar with policy.

He added: "The embassy doesn't have the manpower or expertise to tell whether an aviator widget doohickey costs 50 or 50,000 rupees, or to find out if they really burned out four aviatics packages in an Apache helicopter and, if so, could we see them because maybe they only need maintenance." This first review takes about a month, officials say.

The spreadsheets then go to U.S. Central Command in Tampa, where officials evaluate claims and recommend reimbursement if the expenditures meet U.S. strategy. But the U.S. Embassy's initial approval greases much of the rest of the process, U.S. officials said. This second review takes about six weeks, the sources said.

The Pakistani bills then go to the Pentagon, where comptrollers determine whether they are reasonable and credible, based in part of the costs of fielding U.S. troops, a senior Pentagon official said. That third review takes about five weeks, U.S. officials said.

The bills are then sent to the Office of Management and Budget, where officials have expressed concern about poor documentation but have little leverage at this stage of the process to challenge them, several U.S. officials said. The undersecretaries of defense and state then formally concur that the operations are consistent with U.S. policy and that they do not change the regional balance of power.

The Pentagon next notifies the four Senate and House defense oversight committees. If no congressional holds are issued within 15 days -- and none have been so far in six years -- the Pentagon issues a check five days later.

Administration officials insist that the U.S. arrangement with Pakistan is unique. "Don't compare it to an audit," Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said. "They are a sovereign government assisting us rather than someone who works for us. They are an ally. They are acting on our behalf to go after terrorists in support of Operation Enduring Freedom."

Added a senior Pentagon official: "The last thing we'd want is boxes and boxes of crumpled receipts."

To resolve tensions over the program, Congress, the State Department, and the Office of Management and Budget have all argued for the money to be tied to specific counterterrorism programs, rather than general military support. But some officials still worry that adding conditions would lead Islamabad to reduce cooperation on the most pivotal frontline in fighting extremism.

"We don't want to offend the Pakistanis," said the second U.S. official familiar with the policy. "What if the balance of their calculus changes and they decide that cooperation is more than it's worth? We do have to take that into account."

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

An Eyewitness account of the brutalities of Islamabad Police by a SAC member

Chapter 27
Reverence towards the Sanctity of the Muslims
237. Anas (May Allah bepleased with him) reported:
Messenger of Allah(PBUH) said, "Help your brother, whether he is an oppressor or is oppressed".
A man enquired: "O Messenger of Allah! I help him when he isoppressed, but how can I help him when he is an oppressor?''
He (PBUH)said, "You can keep him from committing oppression. That will be yourhelp to him".
[Al-Bukhari and Muslim].
Commentary: This Hadith contains a very comprehensive injunction toeliminate disturbance and tyranny in the Muslim society. It not onlyordains helping the oppressed but also encourages people endowed withmoral courage to stop the oppressor's oppression. Doing so requiresgreat courage and boldness, but Muslims would be able to do full justiceto their duty of wishing well to their fellow Muslims when they developthe moral courage to stop the oppressor from tyranny, or at leastprotest against it verbally.
"It's just a rock, I'm fine. Don't worry." I said to my friend standing next to me, blinking from the pain, as a broken piece of a brick hit me square in my shin. We were at the capital of our country, trying to reach the house of our Chief Justice held captive by a brutal dictator. The extent of his brutality, we were just beginning to get a taste of.

This was a procession of over 1500 lawyers, students, civil society members, gathered to protest against the blatant usurpation of our judicial institution, our media, as well as our fundamental rights. There were around 150 of us who had come from Lahore to join in today's protest. Marching on to the judge's enclave, we were chanting slogans, singing songs "na mera Pakistan hay, na tera Pakistan hay; yeh uska Pakistan hay jo sadr-e-pakistan hay…" [This not my Pakistan, this is not your Pakistan; this is that person's Pakistan, who calls himself the president of Pakistan…] followed by proclamations of our struggle to get our country back. "Freedom is ours, if you don't give it to us upon asking we will take it..." Wherever you looked, you saw people who had come together, united to fight for the collective good. Stating it was enough, we will no longer be silenced. We will no longer hold back, or bow our heads low.

What for many in Islamabad had become common at protests, for us from Lahore was a first. Treatment meted to us from the police in our city is worlds apart. The recognition that the police itself is oppressed and exploited is adamant amongst the students of Lahore. A suo moto notice had to be issued by a pco-judge in Lahore to get the police to arrest us-the students. The police here was something else.

I was towards the front of the procession, when we saw smoke, and ran backwards thinking it was tear gas. Soon we realized it was fire trucks positioned to hose down protestors with cold water in this chilly weather. They kept hitting us with cold, high pressure water in vain. When it became evident that we would keep going nevertheless, the police started shelling us with tear gas. Most of us smelled CS gas for the first time as we ran backwards experiencing its excruciating effects. A friend had held my hand and almost dragged me along as we ran backwards. Don't breathe. Don't fall. Don't stop. I kept repeating to myself as my throat, eyes, and nose lit on fire. I ran as far back as possible. The spoiled, protected and sheltered girl that I was, nothing even close to this viciousness had touched me before.

It was a surreal feeling as I stood on the very periphery, panting through my scratched throat and rubbing my burning eyes. This was only the beginning. I saw people coming back, drenched. Saw an Auntie who had fallen in a puddle. Saw a girl about my age screaming at the top of her lungs at the police meant to protect us, the people. I found myself craving to be up there, at the front, with my fellows, facing the onslaught. I did not come here as an audience to watch the show from the sidelines, a voice from deep within asserted. And I advanced. Whilst screaming GO MUSHARRAF GO at the top of my lungs. Who was where, who was who; nothing mattered.
While everyone was trying to regroup, some other girls and I started chanting louder than we had ever known our voices to reach, "LATHI GOLI KI SARKAAR, NAHI CHALAY GI NAHI CHALAY GI; YEH DEHSHET GARDI KI SARKAAR, NAHI CHALAY GI NAHI CHALAY GI" [this government of brute force and coercion, we do not accept we do not accept; this terrorist government, we do not accept we do not accept] and we marched. Amidst tear gas, amidst burning and itching throats, amidst pelting stones; nothing was going to stop us.

It was a battle field. It was us the people against them the colonizers—our military state. A broken piece of a brick hit me, I shrugged it off. A much bigger brick hit the girl next to me on her hip and left her limping for a while, she didn't stop. There were lawyers who would come in front of us whenever stones would be thrown our way. Yes, many of our serving police specifically targeted the women. We went on. There were students who would pick up the falling gas bombs spewing the poisonous gas, run to the police as close as possible and drop it back on them. Many would come back staggering almost falling from the effects of the gases, whom we would have to hold up and give salt to, and back they would go to do more.

The police would retreat as tear gas bombs hit them, and the people would cheer and dance. Then many more would be thrown at us, and back to work for all of us. For over two hours the police could not advance on us.

As the situation intensified, so did our chants. "Musharraf ka jo yaar hay, ghaddar hay ghaddar hay; biknay ke liye jo tayyar hay, ghaddar hay ghaddar hay. YEH POLICE BHI GHADDAR HAY, YEH POLICE BHI GHADDAR HAY, YEH POLICE BHI GHADDAR HAY" [Whoever is a friend to Musharraf, is a traitor, is a traitor; whoever is a willing to sell out, is a traitor, is a traitor. This Police is traitor, this police is a traitor, this police is a traitor]. Ultimately the police stormed us. A certain police officer who was especially targeting women ran after me full force. I took cover inside a house to save myself. Never have I run so fast in my life. Many were beaten up, some had to be hospitalized.

Today was more than just another protest. In the midst of raw emotions, hurt limbs and hoarse throats, the only thing that mattered was the wrong being done to us. Indignant, and offended at this treatment; our protest very much was for human dignity. And more than anything else, the sensitivity that this now offended dignity of ours cannot even compare to the years of torment and subhuman treatment that most of our people in this country have endured. Well no more. Passivity that translates into consent and complicity, never again!

Friday, February 8, 2008

The beard, the veil and the enlightened fools

Tuesday, February 05, 2008
By Ansar Abbasi

ISLAMABAD: I never thought my beard and my wife's veil would become an obstacle for any of our children's right to excel. But it did happen and that too in our enlightened Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

"Sir if you don't mind we are looking for some moderate faces," was the first words of an organiser that pierced through our ears as soon as we sat on a sofa in the school's office where the crew of a private television channel had arrived to interview parents of three short-listed students, including my child, for some sort of show/competition in Karachi.

Before we could believe our ears, a suggestion came, "If we can go on camera without the veil." The headmistress of the school, who too was present on the occasion, was stunned. But that was perhaps too much.

"Shame on you and hell with you and your competition," was my spontaneous reaction, which served as a counter shock for the organiser, who though was not a journalist.

There was no ambiguity in our mind that there was no point wasting our time in the disgusting environment. My spouse, who is otherwise a soft, modest personality, was quick to suggest that we withdraw ourselves from the competition that humiliates our pride -- the socio-religious values of our society.

As we stood up to leave, the organiser apologised and offered the explanation that he was conveying what he had been asked to do by his seniors. Indeed some strange people were pulling his strings from Karachi.He said in some of his previous interviews, objection was raised on the veil so he got the directions to interview only moderate looking parents.

The school headmistress snubbed the organiser for coming up with such a stupid idea. She said she would not allow such things to happen in her school. We were perhaps never as dumbfounded as a nation as we are today - thanks to the policy of enlightened moderation. And the organiser later admitted that he too was in favour of the Islamic dress code but was helpless before his seniors, who, he said, were dancing to the tune of the TV programme sponsor.

At the intervention of the headmistress and following unconditional apologies from the organiser, we hesitantly consented to give an on-camera interview but with the condition that our views on their attempt to pick "moderates" would be recorded and conveyed to the management of the television channel. Apparently it was done but it is not clear if the views reached the quarters concerned though the clear message was "shame on you".

Later in the afternoon when I went to the school to pick my children, my son's first question was, "Baba, how was your interview?" Before I could give him my reply, he wondered: "If I am selected." I told him he would not take part in the competition in Karachi, whether he was selected or not. "Why," the innocent soul asked.

I told him that the interviewer was interested only if his parents looked like "moderates". I asked if he would want his father to shave his beard and his mother remove her veil to get him selected. "Baba forget it. I am proud of what you are." And for the enlightened but silly lot, we are proud of what we are and this is how we should be.

Future of Islamic Studies

Interest in Islamic Studies has grown rapidly in recent years, but not always for the best of reasons. The late 19th and early 20th centuries witnessed an upsurge of similar disciplines at a time when the colonial powers (specifically Great Britain and France) were attempting to understand the religious references and practical motivations of their colonized subjects. Research then was oriented toward a specific need: to determine the values and practices of the newly colonized. Acquiring knowledge of "the other" (a rare pursuit in any event) was a lesser consideration. The colonial powers' need to gain full mastery of the tools that would optimize colonial management, that would advance the "civilizing mission," and that would allow them to derive maximum advantage from the knowledge they acquired— directly from certain scholars (ulamâ)—with the intention of using religion and religious dignitaries to legitimize their power, were the dominant concerns. Orientalist studies unencumbered by political considerations were the exception. What flourished for decades was a self-interested study of and research into the question of Islam. From a political perspective, such a trend was as understandable as it was natural.

Today, "Islamic Studies" seem equally driven by self-interest. But now, such studies are dealing with data that is much more concrete and that interact in complex and far-reaching ways. Western societies are now experiencing three distinct phenomena that have drawn their attention to and expanded research about Islam: the increased visibility of new generations of western Muslims; an ongoing migratory flow that seems unlikely to slow and more likely to accelerate; and finally, terrorism, which looms as a threat to both the western and the Islamic world. To these domestic factors should be added the realities of international politics; namely, the central question of the Israel-Palestine conflict, the war in Afghanistan and Iraq, the case of Iran, the question of Turkish membership in the European Union, and the pervasively binary way in which the questions of the clash (and possible alliance) of civilizations are framed. In each of these instances, Islamic Studies are directly or indirectly involved as part of an attempt to understand and to prevent, to protect ourselves, to dominate, and even to fight should the adversary be violent Islamism. As a consequence, sociologists, political scientists, and terrorism experts churn out a mind-numbing volume of research on Islam, on Muslims, on identity, immigration, Islamism, radicalization, violence, terrorism, and so on. Some of their work may be commissioned by governmental agencies and some by major corporations. Such subjects are seen as being of immediate concern and receive multi-million dollar funding. Today, like yesterday, research is fueled by self-interest.

The first difficulty to arise from this carefully orchestrated infatuation with Islamic Studies (and which may well be the major obstacle to be overcome) is the fact that it reduces several centuries of the Islamic legal heritage (fiqh), studies of the creed ('aqîda), philosophical progress (kalam), mystical thought (sûfi), and social and political inquiry (siyâsa shar'iyya) to elementary, contemporary surveys of political ideologies, migrations, and social movements. Over the last 30years, new specialists in Islam have emerged. They are primarily sociologists or political scientists, who have been joined in the last six years by terrorism experts. The study of religious thought proper (of theology, of its premises, its internal complexities and its development) has been relegated to a subsidiary position, if it is not totally absent. Beyond the ongoing and intense concern generated by the conflict in Iraq, we see little interest in the richness of the Sunni and Sh'ia traditions, their millennia-long relationship, and their respective theological and juridical realms.

Surprisingly, Islamic Studies appear to have abandoned the academic chairs that ought to have been theirs by right, where the emphasis was on the study of theology, philosophy, and the history of thought. It is considered proper today to quote the rationalist philosopher Averroes to illustrate to what an extent "something" or "someone" in Islam can be identified as approaching western philosophy. The omnipresence of Averroes in the academic discourse of political correctness stands also as a negative indicator of a lack of knowledge and recognition of Islam's great theologians and thinkers down through the centuries. Universities in the West must seek the kind of knowledge of other civilizations and cultures — particularly that of Islam (though we could also make the same argument with regard to India and China) — that is driven neither by ideological agendas nor collective fears. The decision to be taken is a political one, a challenge that cannot be avoided.

If we are to study the scientific categories that bear on the teaching of Islamic thought, its heritage, and its contemporary expression, we must adopt a holistic approach that would establish, as a prerequisite, those fields of knowledge to be given immediate priority. Obsession with the struggle against "radicalization and terrorism" paints a picture of contemporary Islamic Studies as an academic territory besieged by dangerously utilitarian political considerations. But, if we are to be serious about respecting the diversity of civilizations, about the necessity of dialogue between them, and about promoting common values, we must, on an urgent basis, rethink the content of our curricula. The study of religion proper involves theology and theological scholars (ulamâ), the teaching of law and jurisprudence (fiqh), and the study of legal scholars (fuqahâ') alongside an historical and critical approach to Islamic history and thought (with its philosophers and its trends), but all such disciplines are cruelly lacking today.

No less important is the question of the professors and instructors themselves: while it is generally accepted that Jews, Christians, Hindus, and Buddhists (even though they may be practising believers) can approach their field of study in an objective manner, everything seems to indicate that the same is not possible for Muslim faculty members, whose objectivity is cast into doubt (especially if they are practising Muslims), or who may be implicitly invited to defend theses perceived in the West as "pro-western." Even an informal, statistical survey of the profile of professorial staff in Islamic Studies in western societies would tend to confirm the trend — as reflected in hiring. Under the guise of objectivity (a fundamental requirement in the academic field that can brook no compromise), an essentially "exogenous" form of teaching has been established. If the intention is to understand the Islamic referential universe both "objectively" and "from within," such a situation becomes of necessity problematic.

The third challenge is to establish a distance between the stress generated by current affairs, and the objective study of contemporary Islamic thought. Violence, terrorism, and the repeated insistence that "Islamic authorities" denounce terrorism often prevent us from realizing that we are dealing with a world caught up in intellectual ferment, a world that, from Morocco to Indonesia, from the United States to Australia by way of Europe and Turkey, is creating a body of fresh, compelling, audacious critical thought, which is not merely the work of those thinkers known to and recognized by the West. Alongside the highly publicized statements about modernity, rationalism, women, the sharî'a, and violence by certain public figures, there is a deep-down, deliberate process of evolution underway in every Islamic society in the world. Far from rushing to conclusions, far from populist, ideological speech, the academic world must take this process seriously, study it, and present its outlines and its implications. A significant part of the Islamic Studies curriculum must be devoted to serious study of the intellectual production of its most prominent representatives (which implies mastery of Arabic, Urdu, and other languages) and of the relations and tensions between generations (by historically contextualizing data). Only in the light of such knowledge do the comparative theological and sociological approaches begin to make sense. Only then can serious correspondences be established, as opposed to the dangerous and simplistic notion that Islam is still in its medieval period (for Muslims, this argument goes, the year is only 1428); that it must evolve and experience its own aggiornamento before it can catch up with the West and with modernity. But when this kind of academic stricture is laid down as a prerequisite, the study of a religion or of a civilization is no longer academic or objective. Instead, it feeds into ideologies, maintains domination, and gives aid and comfort to arrogance.

In everyday speech and within academia, a distinction must be drawn between Islam and Muslims on the one hand, and political Islam, Islamism, and Islamists on the other. The distinction is essential if contemporary Islamic Studies are to progress in any meaningful way. Assuming the distinction has been made, there must still be a serious, critical reappraisal of the instruction being offered in many of our universities. Historical depth (the direct result of the break with the classical heritage, as noted above) is currently neglected; it is as though "political Islam" had sprung upon the world in the second half of the 20th century. At best, those thinkers of the classical period quoted by contemporary Islamists are identified without even taking the time to study what exactly those thinkers said (and not what their contemporary interpreters would have them say). So it is that certain violent groups are lent an a posteriori interpretative authority that is based on nothing more than a priori negligence (or ignorance). Perhaps the outstanding example of this treatment is Ibn Taymiyya, who is considered the original extremist thinker. Such reductionism is not merely reprehensible; it also reveals how authority and perspective can be shifted and reassigned. The speech and actions of today's violent Islamists are the windows through which the Islamic heritage and Islamic scholars are re-read and evaluated. Such an approach is neither serious nor academic, yet it is a recurring figure in research studies.

We must also insist on a historical perspective on the variants of political Islam (from movements reminiscent of liberation theology to violent and literalist movements, by way of legalist or pro-democracy movements, not at all unlike trends in Christianity and Judaism); and on the internal development of these movements (in Egypt, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Turkey, Indonesia, for example).

Contemporary Islamic Studies face the major challenge of reconciling students who are drawn to the field with a complex, multi-layered, and multi-dimensional world. Knowledge of languages, cultures, memories, and histories — of social dynamics and evolution — are the essential parameters for the study of "the other" as they actually are, and not simply as people who make up an objective, demographic, cultural, or political threat. This is what responsible citizens need; it is what the universities must focus on in order to provide them with the tools of knowledge and skill necessary to bring about social, economic, media and political action in the future.

The challenges are many. There are indications that things are changing and moving forward, owing to two concomitant phenomena: more and more western Muslims are entering Islamic Studies, bringing with them their knowledge and their sensibilities—from within—while, at the same time, professors and instructors have begun to question the old paradigms much more insistently, to multiply the angles of approach in order to objectify "Islam," and to transform it into a more coherent, more complete and, ultimately, more academic discipline. But we are still far from a satisfactory solution; the obstacles are many and complex. The question is both politicized and political. The investment of public and private funds in research is driven by agendas that are not always exclusively "academic," which explains the strongly ideological and utilitarian approaches favoured today. But the greatest obstacle—which must be hurdled before anything else can take place—may well be that of explaining to politicians and to donors that long-term investment in serious Islamic Studies programs — in a complete curriculum ranging from theology to philosophy by way of the political and social sciences — in close connection with contemporary internal dynamics is, in fact, imperative to protect the long-term interests of our democracies. Short-term political calculation is as a dangerous a game in a university setting as it is anywhere else. Only investment in basic research, coupled with full respect for scientific principles and objectivity, will enable students to deal with the challenges of globalization in the pluralistic societies of tomorrow. Islamic Studies, precisely for the reasons I have sketched out above, and particularly in the current political context, must be approached with full seriousness. It is incumbent upon politicians, university administrators, professors and students to have the courage to say as much and to make a firm commitment to reevaluate in critical and constructive fashion what our institutions offer us today.

Tariq Ramadan is a professor at Oxford University/Erasmus University