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  #11  
Old Sunday, January 20, 2013
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When in Canada ...



John J. Pinto, the Caucasian Canadian and Catholic scholar who for some reason became a citizen of Pakistan has reached the Canadian capital, Ottawa, with some 40 billion followers of his.

Speaking near the Canadian Parliament Hall, Pinto told the mega-ultra-epic-mammoth crowd that he had returned to Canada to get rid of its corrupt politicians, parties and political system and impose true democracy with the help of` the country`s armed forces, judiciary and ice hockey team.

`I won`t move l`rom here until I achieve my goal,` he promised. `I will turn Ottawa into Nazareth and send Creaser and his evil men home even if`they f`eed me to the lions! Most Canadian politicians in the government and opposition have been critical of Pinto. They have accused him of` staying in Pakistan as a Pakistani only to return to Canada on the instructions of those who want to derail Canada`s democracy, topple an elected parliament and replace it with a technocratic set-up backed by the military, judiciary and the country`s ice hockey squad.

`Pinto is a former failed politician and a spiritual fraud, a government spokesman claimed. `We know who he is working for, and believe me, it`s not John the Baptist.

Pinto refuted the claim: `I don`t want power,` he shouted from behind his bullet-proof, water-proof, soundproof, smoke-free, digital, 60-inch flat-screen altar. `I am ready to give my life for my country! This created some confusion as many were not quite sure whether he meant giving his life for Pakistan or Canada.

`For Canada!` He clarified.

`Does that mean you are ready to renounce your Pakistani citizenship?` A nosy journalist asked him.

`I`m a citizen of the world. Of Christendom. Of true democracy. What`s in a passport? Repent, fool!` Pinto replied.

As he was saying this, he began to weep: `I had a dream last night. It was a most glorious dream. I saw a light descending from the blue skies of Ottawa. The light hit the ground and on the ground emerged tanks and soldiers marching towards victory and then snow began to fall. I looked closely and realised the big snow flakes were actually white curly wigs the sort judges wear.

Hallelujah! `Hallelujah!` The crowd chanted back. `Change! Change! Change!` They began to shout, even though most of them were women who were basically demanding that they be allowed to change their babies` diapers in peace.

I`ve been here for hours,` one such woman who was with a shell-shocked baby told journalists. `The government is not allowing us to change our babies` diapers.

This is an outrage! We want change.

And then it happened. While Pinto was speaking, an aide of his whispered something into his ears. Pinto stop-ped for a while, threw up his arms and began to shout out loud: `Rejoice, rejoice, rejoice! The Supreme Court of Canada has just ordered the arrest of the Prime Minister! Rejoice! Throw your children in the air and then catch them after they perform two somersaults and you perform four cartwheels. I hear the tanks coming. I hear the judiciary puffing its chest. I see an elected government collapsing.

A glorious day for democracy!The Canadian media went into overdrive. Why did the SC decide to choose this very moment to deliver its verdict in an old case f`iled against the PM? Was it in on Pinto`s agenda and game`? Would the military or a technoeratic set-up f`ollow? A spokesperson of Canada`s Chief Justice (who also doubles as a TV anchor) denied the allegation: `The CJ doesn`t even know who Pinto is,` he said.

The Canadian Supreme Court is situated only a few kilometres away from where Pinto was holding his rally.

Oh, that,` the spokesperson replied. The CJ thought there was a huge baby diaper sale taking place there But as SC supporters continued to insist on the diaper sale theory, detractors warned that the SC`s decision was part of the Canadian establishment`s plan to derail democracy.

Canada`s leading political parties agreed, but were still cautious. However, everyone now looked towards what the party headed by the former captain of the Canadian ice hockey team, Jim Kant, would do.

Jim`s party has no representation in the parliament but does have street power.

During a press conference he put forward seven demands to the government: `We have taken a wait and see approach,` Jim told reporters. `But we are putting out a list of seven demands to the government. 1: Hold elections ASAP, that is As Soon As Possible and not America Speaks Armenian Punk, okay? 2: Change some fishy personnel in the Election Commission of Canada; 3: The President of the country should resign. Just f or the heck of it. 4: A truly neutral caretaker government should be formed, preferably in Zurich, Switzerland. 5: Five. 6: Seven. 7: One, Two, Three, Four and Five. Dig?

At the time this report was filed by this correspondent, Pinto was still holding fort and sharing his latest dreams that now included visions of fairies and angels descending from the skies and rewriting the Canadian Constitution according to the dictates of the Bible (King James edition); Jim`s musclemen were trying to convince him to let them storm the Bastille in Paris; the SC was running out of prime ministers to fire; and the media was loudly gazing at its navel and calling it `Breaking News!

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  #12  
Old Tuesday, January 29, 2013
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Much has been analysed about why the PPP-led coalition government, the opposition (both within and outside the Parliament), and the security agencies have all been so hapless in the face of the ever-growing menace of extremist violence in the country. The govemment has done well to set an exceptional precedent of surviving its full term as an elected entity (a rarity in Pakistan), but it was just that: Survival.

Beyond this it has looked shaky, indecisive and at times almost paralysed in addressing issues such as sectarian violence and extremist terror. On the other hand, the security agencies and the military-establishment have still to come to terms with political and ideological complexities arising from an awkward situation in which they find themselves face-to-face with brutal outfits, most of whom were once their strategic assets. But there is also another aspect and dimension to this that doesn't get the kind of attention that it deserves.

I am pointing towards the attitude of non-religious political parties that seem paralysed and awkwardly placed when it comes to addressing the issue of extremism. For example, we keep hearing why so and so political parties can't go all out in supporting bills, resolutions and policies against extremist outfits because they don't want to offend the sentiments of a particular section of their voters.

Though this is calmly related in an analysis, the fact that this may also suggest support among large sections of the population for the brutes is never touched upon. PML-N, though at this point in time the most vocal champion of democracy in Pakistan, has continued to remain ambiguous in its stance against extremist terrorism. It condemns it, but never does this party take the names of those responsible for slaughtering over 40,000 soldiers, cops, politicians and common civilians ever since 2004.

One of the reasons given (by analysts) is that (in the Punjab), a vital section of the party's vote-bank constitutes conservative right-wing petty-bourgeoisie and the trader classes.
So, is this to suggest that these classes (though not violent) actually have sympathies for sectarian and extremist organisations; and that they will refuse to vote for the PML-N if it supports any move against, say, the Taliban, Al-Qaeda or any of the many Sunni extremist organisations out there? If so then this is certainly a cause for concern.

It proves that violent anti-state outfits actually have support among certain sections of the population and that these sections are being patronised by democratic parties that should normally and inherently be anathematic to such a scenario. Thus it does make sense then when one sees some PML-N men holding hands with members of banned sectarian organisations so the party can count on the votes of certain pro-extremist sections of the population in urban and semi-urban Punjab. But PML-N is not the only non-religious party caught in the paradox of at least keeping one of its electoral branches rooted in the mentioned section of the population.
This is the same enigmatic section that Imran Khan's PTI is also counting on to give him a numerical edge over the PML-N in an election.

That's why, though recently Khan has decided to shed some of his ambiguity regarding his stance on Islamist and sectarian violence, till only early last year he was sending emissaries to rallies where some of the star speakers were sectarian bigots! Even the more secular outfits such as the PPP and the MQM have gone on to appease and bag extremists on the other end of the sectarian spectrum. For example, a few months back the PPP announced a possible electoral alliance with the Sunni Tehrik (ST).

ST is an organisation of Sunni Muslims from the Barelvi school that, though opposed to the extremist expressions of the Deobandi school of Sunni Islam (such as the Taliban), has its own extremist tendencies. ST is often involved in organising anti-Taliban rallies, but this is the same outfit that considers those who kill supposed blasphemers as heroes. That's why the PPP's decision to cosy up with ST also has a stark irony attached to it.

In January 2010, the PPP's senior members and Govemor of Punjab, Salman Taseer, was shot dead by a man who accused him of committing blasphemy. The man, Mumtaz Qadri, was hailed as a hero and true soldier of Islam by the ST. So, by getting into an alliance with ST, is the PPP expecting to get some electoral push by that section of the population which considers extrajudicial killers and self-styled vanguards of faith as admirable heroes? The MQM's case in this respect is a bit more complicated. Compared to the PPP and maybe even the ANP, it has flexed itself to be perhaps the most overtly secular mainstream party in the country.

In fact, it has continued to be at odds (sometimes violently) with the fundamentalist Jamat-i-Islami (JI) and Deobandi extremists such as the Taliban and the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi (LeJ). Unlike the PPP, MQM has also been at odds with Barelvi parties such as the Jamiat Ulema Pakistan (JUP), and the ST. Though MQM's animosity against outfits such as ST, Taliban and LeJ have been largely ideological, its anti-ST stance has more to do with the fact that during the state's operation against the MQM in 1990s, the more religious cadres of the party shifted their loyalties to the ST.
Recently the MQM tried to regain this ground by supporting Dr. Tahirul Qadri's long march in Islamabad. Qadri, an Islamic scholar from the Barelvi denomination, and a politician, heads the Minhajul Quran (MuQ) organisation that has a large following among the petty bourgeoisie in the Punjab. It was obvious that Qadri had some backing of that segment of the establishment that is still trying to redefine and mould democracy, government, and the state of Pakistan in its own image.

But this article is not about that. Thus, even though it is true that the MQM has tried to remain close to the establishment ever since it rose from the ashes of the state's operation against it in the 1990s, there was certainly talk within the party of banking on Qadri to help the MQM bag the moderate religious Barelvi vote in Karachi and maybe even in the Punjab. MuQ is largely a Punjab-based organisation.

So, what does this prove? As we see the military establishment and even non-religious political parties trying to strike partnerships with organisations that express varied extremist tendencies, all this also lays bare the fact that within the non-violent (and voting) sections of Pakistan's population, are sections of 'normal' men and women who (with their vote) are willing to punish any party for actually taking a clear stand to counter extremism.

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Old Monday, February 04, 2013
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Of shades and sprees


The reactionary Ziaul Haq dictatorship in the 1980s was most triggerhappy when it came to banning stuff. Films, TV shows and books were regularly pulled out of circulation because they were considered to be contrary to the interests and ideology of Pakistan and Islam.

Of course, these interests and ideology being no more than diabolie convolutions constructed by a handful of military men and maulanas who still like to keep things like free speech and open debate at bay.

So maybe that's why all that was banned by these hammerheads almost always managed to sneak its way into the homes of a majority of Pakistanis.

But, alas, if one thought that things in this respect would have improved with the demise of Zia's long Islamist charade, they had another thing coming.

Twenty years after the dictator's death in August 1988, the left-leaning Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) was elected by the people of Pakistan to form its fourth government after its radical inception in 1967.

Now here's the irony: This once socialist/secular party that eventually evolved into a populist social democratic entity, has, in its most recent term (2008-13), paralleled the banning spree of its former tormentor, Ziaul Haq.

It has banned films, TV shows and websites at the drop of a hat.

Pakistanis have always found ingenious and enterprising ways of getting the banned material into the comforts of their homes. Mainly because there is something not very right about parliamentarians, military hunks and animated preachers with questionable ethics, and closets packed with all kinds of skeletons, behaving as the moral compasses of the nation.

If one compares the banning spree (in this context) of the reactionary Zia dictatorship with that of the current 'liberal' PPP regime, one can safely conclude that the thinking of democratic governments in Pakistan is still held hostage by the rather paranoid and pseudo-moralistic mindset shaped during the Zia set-up.

When Zia toppled the first PPP regime in 1977, his Ministry of Information right away banned actors, writers, journalists and producers from the state-owned media outlets who were suspected of having sympathics with the fallen regime and/or were leftist.

Then the ministry drew up a list of TV plays and films that were not allowed a rerun on the mini-screen. This included the serial, Khada Ki Basti, a 1974 TV rendition of celebrated writer Shaukat Siddiqui's novel of the same name that explores incidents of exploitation (by the petty bourgeoisie) in congested shanty towns of Karachi.

Once the regime happily got rid of the country's big and small screens of Pakistan's `im-moral, unIslamic past,` it moved to rid them of material that could put wrong ideas in people's minds about Pakistan's glorious new path to Islamisation.

First to go was a TV serial written by Shoaib Hashmi called Baleela. A simple comedy about a slacker family that keeps selling parts of an old car of theirs (called Balecla) to make a living.

The series was abruptly taken off the air.

The censors claimed that Baleela the car was meant to be Pakistan and the family that sold it bit by bit symbolised military men and bureaucrats.Then in 1979, the dictatorship banned director Jamil Dehlvi's Blood of Hussain. A modern-day version of the 7th century struggle between Imam Hussain and the Ummayad Caliph, Yazid, this rather sloppy piece of cinema gained a cult status when its release was banned and its director chased out of the country.

It was not that Dehlvi had meant Zia to be the modern Yazid; but it was a scene in the film in which a man is shown dressing his pet monkey in a general's uniform that ticked the censors off.

Blood of Hussain also became one of the first banned movies in the country that quietly appeared in the then booming VHS market and made a little fortune for video rental outlets that slipped it to their customers under the counter.

Next to go was Salman Peerzada's Mela a film based on the struggle of an angry young man who was moved by those Sufi saints who challenged the authorities to support the rights of the people. Peerzada too was bounded out of Pakistan.

Among the many books banned during this period was Stanley Wolpert's Jinnah (1984). A biography of Pakistan's founder, it radically contradicted the image of the kind of `Islamised` Jinnah that the regime was constructing. During the same time PTV was running BBC's famous comedy series, Yes Prime Minster. However, the show was taken off theair in 1985 when it was felt that the clumsy prime minister, his scheming bureaucrats and bumbling cabinet shown in the series seemed just like the farcical `democratic government` that Zia had constructed after the 1985 partyless election.

All this was going on in the name of protecting the innocent Pakistanis from deviant ideas.However, this also went on during a period when heroin, guns, militant Islamist and sectarian outfits and literature were actually being allowed to penetrate the soul of the same innocent society.

Let's now very briefly see how the current PPP government has fared in this respect.

In the name of protecting the sanctity of the faith, it has off and on banned social websites like Facebook and Twitter and recently blocked YouTube.

Though quick to ban social websites, this government has almost done nothing to check the continuous growth of sectarian hate literature or the kind of violent indoctrination still taking place in a number of Islamic seminaries.

This is a government claiming to be democratic and liberal but in reality, it has seemed to be nothing more than a blundering hoard, almost completely in-ept at addressing the many economic and social problems faced by the country and the ubiquitous spectre of terrorism.

Thus, it is rather hilarious when one sees the same regime periodically become the society's moral guide! Crackpots continue to come on TV and mouth off tirades smacking of sectarian and religious hatred and bigotry, and moulding the so-called `ideology of Pakistan` in their own mutant image; terrorists and criminals seem almost free to cause ultimate scenes of carnage and mayhem; state and government institutions are riddled with accusations of corruption. And yet films and TV shows are being banned for `giving Pakistan a bad name?` Zero Dark Thirty (film); Homeland (TV series); Call of Duty and Medal of Honour (video games); Facebook, Twitter, YouTube . .

A government and state that (quite literally) is struggling with putting lids over boiling manholes, are so quick to block sites, films and TV shows. Shades of Zia.

Let the people evolve, grow and be bold to debate everything out in the open.

In a democracy, it is the people who elect and reject and make their own choices and not self-appointed guardians of morality whose own characters are greatly suspect.

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Old Tuesday, February 19, 2013
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The meaning of violence



Propagating or eulogising terrorists or acts of terror as heroic is usually a product of populist apologists.

They then proceed to inflict more harm to society than the terrorists.

This kind of callousness is at least one of the reasons behind many an impressionable mind convincing itself to have found some sort of identity and meaning in life. Even if it is in the shape of a violent act passionately justified to be an episode of true faith.

Many of us have wondered what makes a perfectly normal looking person take a life (or lives) and sometimes his own. Secure in a rather convoluted and perverse knowledge that his act is sure to place him in the good books of the Almighty or find him pleasurably loitering in the gardens of paradisc.

Sociologists, psychologists and political scientists have often come up with various explanations. Some suggest that bad economics is to be blamed for some young people desperate enough to be exploited by the violent patrons of faith to go on a killing spree for money as well as God.

But then there are also those who remind us that if it was all about economics, how would one explain acts of faith-driven terror undertaken by young men and women from well-todo middle-class families? Faisal Shahzad, Omar Sheikh, the 7/7 bombers in the UK, all of these men came from educated, urban and middle-class Pakistani families. In such cases it is believed that the mad urge to kill in the name of faith transcends economics and becomes a blatant example of a time honoured theory.

This theory, found in various Marxist and left-liberal philosophics, suggests that throughout history religion has been the most easily exploited element for those desiring to gain political and social power, easy money and/or worse of all, unleash a spree of bloodletting on the bases of religious bigotry and fanaticism (for gains and aims that are largely cynical).

All these theories have merit. However, what gets missed in this context is the role played by those non-violent men and womenin politics, media and the academia who actually end up somewhat justifying (if not entirely applauding) certain violent acts of men they believe are a product of bad economics, injustice and some kind of a noble war.

Such people who can emerge from both the right as well as left sides of the conventional ideological divide are usually called apologists.

Of course, when one accuses them of this, many of them lash back with their own handy terms: Liberal fascist; anti-religion; et al.

Funny thing is that when pressed to describe a person who has no qualms about strapping a suicide belt around his waist and then blow himself up (in the name of God) in a crowded mosque, a Sufi shrine or a congested market buzzing with men, women and children, the apologists would strike a pose of the unbiased and objective thinker to suggest: You see, one man`s terrorist can be another man`s freedom fighter ` That`s why what needs to be looked at and studied is the impact apologists in politics, media and the academia are having on a society quivering under the weight of unabashed terrorism taking place in the name of God and sects.

Yes, bad economics and the vulnerability of religion to be exploited in the most violent manner is making many Pakistanis sully the idea of the Almighty by committing unabashed acts of terror in His name.

But maybe such misguided and deluded souls are also finding a justification of their madness from those who refuse to call them terrorists, or explain their mutant ideas of heroism, faith and glory as a reflection of some noble anti-imperialist and anti-establishmentarian cause.

Back in the late 1970s and just before a revolution toppled the all-powerful Shah of Iran, segments supporting Iranian spiritual leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, began finding the act of torching cinemas a rather satisfying and pleasing act.

Hundreds of cinemas were torched in Iran between 1978 and 1979, but only when there were no crowds inside the cinema halls.Iranian intellectuals and leaders who were supporting the anti-Shah clergy under Khomeini (who was in exile in Paris), instead of condemning the act of burning down public property, explained it as an attack on the symbols of the Shah`s regime.

Hosien Takbali, a young drug addict from the Iranian city of Abadan, was buying and selling drugs on the streets of his hometown when his family and friends intervened and convinced him to travel to Isfahan and get admitted to a drug detox centre there. He didjust that. The revolution against the Shah was intensifying when young Takbali was in recovery.

Since this was also a time in Iran when religious as well as leftist ideas were enthusiastically being absorbed by the country`s middle and lower middle classes, Takbali was encouraged by three other young men whom he had befriended in Isfahan, to supplement his recovery with the study of faith.

When Takbali returned to Abadan, he came back as a man who had kicked his addictionand had become pious.

Nevertheless, he retained his love of` movies, but unfortunately, these were days when cinemaswere going up in flames in Iran.

In August 1978, his three new f`riends visited him at his home. They came with an issue of a British newspaper in which a few members of the clergy were quoted as saying that cinemas were a way to distract Iranians and make them ignore their religious duties.

Takbali`s friends informed him that inspired by the way the clergy was explaining the torching of cinemas, they too have decided to set a cinema on fire.

`Everybody is burning down cinemas,` one of his friends said. `But we`ll do it in a way that will make us genuine revolutionary heroes.

This meant burning down a cinema while it was screening a film and was packed with people.

The young men all bought tickets to an Iranian film called The Deer, at one of Abadan`s oldest cinemas, Rex. The hall was packed with men, women and children when Takbali and friends poured kerosene oil inside the hall and set it on fire. Over 350 people died and were turned into ash. Only a few people survived, including Takbali.

The incident is still considered to be one the most horrific acts of violence and murder that took place during the turbulent years of the Iranian Revolution.

Of course, the apologists who were praising acts of burning down cinemas previosuly, now changed track. Fearing a backlash, they began accusing `agents of the Shah regime for torching Rex.

A year after the imposition of Iran`s postShah Islamic government, some Iranians demanded an inquiry into the Rex tragedy.

Takbali, who was expecting to be hailed as a hero of the Islamic Revolution was arrested and accused of being an agent of the old Shah regime. He was hanged.

The apologists hailed the hanging as a great act of Iran`s Islamic justice.

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Shifting sands: Short history of elections in Pak's 4 major cities


Ever since the 1980s, urbanisation in Pakistan has been galloping at a brisk pace. This has affected demographics and the political and economic cultures of almost all major urban centres of Pakistan.

One is likely to comprehend this by studying election results in the big cities during some of the most telling general elections in the country.

There have been nine direct general elections based on adult franchise in Pakistan.

At least three of these (1977, 1985 and 1990) have largely been discarded as being bogus, even though the rest (apart from the ones held in 1970), cannot be judged as being entirely fair either.

But the 1970, 1988, 1993, 1997, 2002 and 2008 elections certainly hold enough meat and credibility to deserve a study in the context of the shifting political, economic and social dynamics of big cities.

Such a study is also important because rapid urbanisation in Pakistan has affected the growing political ambitions of the country’s middle and lower-middle-classes, and the fact is that even though elections in Pakistan as a whole are still not being contested on issue-basis, these issues do come into play in big cities.

I have chosen four cities: Karachi (in Sindh); Lahore (Punjab); Peshawar (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) and Quetta (Balochistan).

In Karachi, elections were held on seven National Assembly (NA) seats in 1970. Two of these seats were won by the pro-Barelvi Islamic party — Jamiat Ulema-i-Pakistan (JUP) — two were won by the conservative Jamaat-i-Islami (JI), two by the centre-left Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and one by an independent.

Karachi’s population in 1970 had an overwhelming Mohajir (Urdu-speaking) majority, most of which was politically aligned with JUP and JI.

Though socially liberal, the Mohajirs were politically conservative because being migrants from India, they were not considered to be ‘sons of the soil’ and the concept of ‘unity in faith (Islam)’ appealed to them because they had yet to declare themselves to be a separate ethnic entity like the Sindhi, Pashtun, Baloch and Punjabi.

The two seats that PPP won in Karachi were both in areas that had a majority of Baloch, Sindhi and Pashtun working-class populations where the party’s socialist manifesto attracted more support.

In Lahore, eight NA seats were up for grabs during the 1970 election. All eight were won by PPP.

PPP’s appeal in Lahore cut across classes and not only did the city respond well to the party’s socialist manifesto, but also to its animated anti-India posturing.

In Peshawar, NA election in 1970 was held on four seats. Two of these were won by the left-wing National Awami Party (NAP) — a party consisting of Baloch, Sindhi and Pashtun nationalists and progressive Mohajirs — and one seat each was won by the conservative Pakistan Muslim League-(Qayyum), and the Deobandi Islamic party, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI).

The PPP failed to win even a single NA seat in Peshawar.

Since Pashtun nationalist sentiment was strong at the time, the city’s large Pashtun population voted for NAP, whereas some Pashtun and Hindko speakers of the city preferred PML-Q and JUI.

Quetta had just two NA seats in 1970. One each was won by NAP and JUI.

The next significant general election to take place was in 1988, after the 1977 election was declared null and void and then a military regime ruled the country from 1977 till 1988.

A non-party election was held by the dictatorship in 1985 that was boycotted by almost all major parties.

The number of NA seats in Karachi increased to 13 during the 1988 election. The city had witnessed a mixture of economic boom as well as ethnic and sectarian strife in the 1980s. Crime also increased two-fold.

The Mohajir population decreased from being over 60 per cent in 1970 to about 51 per cent in 1988 (1981 consensus). The Punjabi population of the city grew to about 15 per cent and so did the city’s Baloch, Pashtun and Sindhi segments.

The Mohajirs (including the Gujrati-speaking Memons), had organised themselves as a separate ethnic entity in 1984 under the radical and secular Mohajir Qaumi Movement (MQM).

This meant a huge reduction in the vote-bank of right-wing religious parties, JI and JUP in the city.

Eleven of 13 NA seats in Karachi were won by MQM. The remaining two were won by PPP — again, in areas largely populated by the Baloch, Sindhi, Punjabi and the Pashtun.

Lahore had nine NA seats in the 1988 election. The PPP had swept the city in 1970 but not this time.

A new middle and lower middle-class had begun to emerge in the city during the reactionary Ziaul Haq dictatorship. These classes saw the nine-party alliance, the Islami Jamhoori Ittihad (IJI), as being closer to their new-found ideological and economic interests.

The IJI was led by Pakistan Muslim League that had been given a reboot by the Zia regime in 1985. IJI also included right-wing Islamic parties.

PPP picked up six of the nine seats in Lahore in 1988. IJI won two seats and one was won by Pakistan Awami Ittihad (PAI).

The 1988 NA elections in Peshawar were held on four seats — all four won by PPP — a remarkable achievement considering the fact that the party had failed to win a single seat here in 1970.

Peshawar had become flushed with Afghan refugees and the destructive impact that Pakistan’s involvement in the US and Saudi backed ‘Afghan jihad’ against the Soviets in neighbouring Afghanistan directly impacted KP.

Also, Pashtun nationalism was in retreat, replaced by the Islamic radicalisation witnessed in Pashtun areas as a consequence of the so-called jihad.

The city reacted to this by overwhelmingly voting for the centre-left PPP.

Election in Quetta was held on only one seat in 1988. The seat was won by JUI.

Karachi went into the 1993 election with 13 NA seats. MQM boycotted the NA election due to a military operation against its cadres during the first Nawaz Sharif government (1990-93).

Six seats were won by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) that had become a separate outfit after IJI collapsed; another six were won by the PPP and one was won by JI. The voter turnout, however, was extremely low due to MQM’s boycott.

The 1993 election in Lahore was held on nine seats. Eight of these went to PML-N and PPP managed to win just one.

The PPP’s electoral grip over the city had finally loosened as the growing sense of Punjabi ethnic sensibilities and the continuing expansion in the city’s middle and trader classes mostly benefitted the conservative PML-N.

The 1993 election in Peshawar was contested on three NA seats. Two were won by PPP and one by the Pashtun nationalist outfit, the Awami National Party (ANP).

Quetta again had just one NA seat. This was won by the Pashtun nationalist party, the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PKMAP).

During the 1997 election, MQM returned with a bang to win 10 of 13 NA seats contested in Karachi. Two were won by PML-N and just one by PPP.

In Lahore, eight of the nine seats were bagged by PML-N and one was won by an independent. PPP won none.

The PPP’s debacle was explained as a reaction to the alleged misrule and corruption of the second Benazir Bhutto regime (1993-96).

ANP wiped out PPP in Peshawar by wining all three NA seats, whereas in Quetta PML-N won the solitary NA seat.

During the 2002 election, held under the dictatorship of General Pervez Musharraf, Karachi was allotted 20 NA seats.

Out of these, 13 were won by the MQM, five by the right-wing Islamic alliance, the Mutahidda Majlis-i-Amal (MMA), and two by PPP.

Lahore had 13 NA seats in 2002. Four were won by PML-N, three by MMA and PPP (that made a comeback of sorts here), two by PML-Q (a faction of PML formed by the Musharraf regime) and one by Tahirul Qadri’s moderate Barelvi party, the Pakistan Awami Ittihad.

All four NA seats in Peshawar were won by MMA, mainly due to a reaction against the Musharraf regime’s support for US military operation in Afghanistan.

The two NA seats in Quetta were also won by MMA.

By the 2008 election, all major cities of the country had been hit multiple times in terrorist attacks by extreme Islamist and sectarian outfits and were experiencing the economic fall-out of a collapsing dictatorship.

Even though the Mohajir population in Karachi had reduced to about 41 per cent, 17 of 20 NA seats in Karachi were won by MQM. Three were won by PPP.

PML-N reversed its weak performance in 2002 in Lahore by winning 10 of 13 Lahore NA seats, while the remaining three were won by PPP.

Reacting to the misrule of MMA’s provincial government in KP and rising cases of extremist violence in Peshawar, Peshawarites opted for PPP and ANP. Each won two seats out of four in Peshawar.

Both NA seats in Quetta were bagged by PPP
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When Nawaz rocked the Casbah



A gradual but firm pressure is being asserted by the media and the civil society upon the state, the government and the civil-military intelligence agencies — to once and for all —mount a decisive operation against sectarian organisations, involved in a number of acts of terror and bloodletting in Pakistan.

It can be safely assumed that never before in Pakistan has the media and almost all sections of the society so categorically condemned the activities of extremist outfits and demanded an equally categorical action against them. Also interesting is the way those political parties that had largely remained ambiguous in their stance on sectarian and extremist organisations, are also coming under the weight of various quarters to clearify their respective positions in this context.

Such parties do not only include right-wing religious outfits such as the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) or the Jamiat Ulema Islam (JUI), but also parties such as the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf (PTI) and the Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N).

The starkest turnaround in this respect was witnessed in Imran Khan’s PTI. Until only a year and a half ago, PTI was sending ‘emissaries’ to rallies led by some of the most controversial sectarian and religious outfits and personalities in the Difa-i-Pakistan Council. And even though the PTI has stuck to its long-standing policy of holding a dialogue with extremist groups like the Taliban, recently it has come down hard on Sunni sectarian outfits, especially the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi (LeJ).

Soon after LeJ’s brutal attack on the Hazara Shia community in Quetta, PTI chairman, Imran Khan, castigated the LeJ by name. Till Khan’s vocal onslaught against the LeJ, only centre-left parties like the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Awami National Party (ANP), and the secular Mohajir-centric outfit, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), were the ones willing to play the naming game.

PTI, that is being predicted to become PML-N’s fiercest opponents in the coming general election (especially in the Punjab), also went on to lambast the PML-N for having links with sectarian outfits such as the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamat (ASWJ).

The PML-N dismissed PTI’s accusation, describing it as a ploy to dissuade the Shia as well as members of the Sunni Barelvi Muslim majority and ‘liberals’ from voting for the PML-N. But it became tougher for PML-N to respond to PTI’s severe allusions when the social media came alive with old photographs of PML-N luminary, Rana Sanaullah, attending and addressing a rally of the ASWJ.

The LeJ that has owned many of the most gruesome attacks on the men, women and even children belonging to the Shia community, is a breakaway group of the Sipah Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), which was formed in the Punjab in 1985 by some former members of the mainstream JUI.

After rejecting JUI’s electoral politics and the fact that the party had decided to side with secular parties against the reactionary Ziaul Haq dictatorship, these members were also the product of the initial rise of sectarianism fanned by the Zia dictatorship and Pakistan’s involvement in the so-called anti-Soviet Afghan jihad.

SSP held strong anti-Shia views and was often involved in violent acts against the Shia community.

With the consequent formation of the militant Shia group, the Sipah-e-Muhammad (SeM), in the early 1990s, the SSP was hit back by counterattacks by the SeM until the SSP split, and a more militant group emerged, calling itself the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ).

Though SSP and LeJ would eventually be banned in the early 2000s by the Musharraf regime, both have survived through various ‘front organisations.’

SeM too was banned and seemed to have withered away, but some experts believe it might have been reactivated in Karachi due to LeJ’s relentless campaign of murder and mayhem against the Shia.

Though a growing number of media personnel and political leaders have begun to now openly talk about the connections LeJ might have had with members of Pakistan’s intelligence agencies and with the puritanical oil-rich Arab monarchies, the ironic bit is that one of the first mainstream political parties to allude to this was actually the PML-N!

It is very likely that the current PML-N government in the Punjab might have decided to ignore the presence of sectarian outfits such as the SSP (now called the ASWJ) and LeJ as long as they continued to operate outside Punjab.

But it is also true that one of the first concentrated operations against the LeJ and SSP was initiated by the second PML-N government (1997-99).

Newspapers of the era, and perhaps two of the finest books written on the subject of extremist violence in Pakistan, Pakistan’s Drift into Extremism (Hassan Abbas), and Talibanisation of Pakistan (Amir Mir), talk in length about the mentioned operation.

The LeJ was formed in 1996 as a splinter group of the SSP, and by the late 1990s, both the outfits were highly active in the Punjab. In 1998, the PML-N regime led by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif unleashed a no-holds-barred police operation against both the organisations, killing at least 36 of the most militant cadres of SSP and LeJ within a matter of months. The operation dramatically decreased the number of episodes of sectarian violence in the Punjab.

SSP and LeJ had tried to topple Benazir Bhutto during her second term as prime minister (1993-96). But they were not expecting Nawaz Sharif (who till then had been known as the ‘establishment’s man’) to break away from the orbit and act against outfits whose seeds were sown by Sharif’s former mentor, Ziaul Haq.

Sharif did this by taking visible action against SSP and LeJ and then bypassing the military high command to peruse peace with India.

In 1999, Nawaz openly began to name the Taliban regime in Afghanistan (posted there in 1996 by Pakistan and Saudi Arabia), for funding and training the SSP and LeJ.
Even though Sharif and his brother Shahbaz (who was Chief Minister of Punjab) managed to put SSP and LeJ on the defensive, both the outfits redirected their anger towards the prime minister and his brother.

In January 1999, LeJ tried to assassinate Nawaz by bombing the Lahore-Raiwind Bridge over which the Prime Minster’s motorcade was to pass. The bridge was blown, but a few minutes too early. Nawaz escaped unhurt, even though one bystander was killed. LeJ then offered Rs135m to anyone who would kill Nawaz or Shahbaz.

Alas, the operation against SSP and LeJ came to a sudden halt when the Sharif regime was toppled in a military coup by General Pervez Musharraf in October 1999.
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Clever nativity



One of the most common comments one still hears from the cricketers who played in Imran Khan`s captaincy during the 1992 cricket World Cup is that despite the fact that more than half way through the tournament, the Pakistan team looked beat and was on its way out of any practical contention, Khan insisted that they would win the cup.

In a stunning display of positive reversal, the team did rise from the bottom of the pile and go on to win the cup. Many attributed Khan`s optimism as a mixture of unwavering self-belief and a dose of naivety. Something he seems to have carried over into his political career as well.

But I believe the naivety aspect that many have pin-pointed in Khan`s thinking is largely self-imposed.

It seems, he does this to keep in check his cynical side because he thinks leaders who lead during desperate times cannot afford to pace their manoeuvres according to events that can make people find refuge in cynicism.

Where on-ground realities suggest that Khan is more likely to recommend something else, thus facing labels of being naive and out-of-it.

But is he really that naive? Well, apart from embracing nativity as a deterrent to cynicism, he would rather see this as a well thought-out tactic.

Let`s get back to cricket for an example. In 1982 when he replaced Javed Miandad as captain, he picked Abdul Qadir in the squad that was to travel to England for a Test series.Qadir, a leg-break bowler, had been discarded by the selectors alfter he lailed to impress in the Tests that he was played in between 1977 and 1980.

And also, by 1982 leg-break bowling was already on its way out in the international Test arena.

Khan bumped into Qadir at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore where the Pakistan team was practicing. Qadir was there on his own, bowling in a T-shirt and a shalwar! Khan made up his mind that the English batsmen who hadn't played quality leg-break bowling for years would struggle against Qadir.

The selectors thought Imran was being, yes,naive. They refused to pick Qadir. Khan insisted and finally managed to bring Qadir into the fold.

Khan`s `naivety` was vindicated when Qadir bamboozled the English batsmen.The point being that it wasn't naivety, as such, but a gut feeling turned into a theory (the English would struggle against leg-spin).

The naively bit was simply Khan`s way of banking on his gut and theory without letting cynical stats derail his belief.

Another reason to believe that it was largely Khan`s mind at work here was when he not only told the British press that Qadir was a `wizard with the ball`, but went on to ask Qadir to keep a striking goatee to look the part! So it was a gut feeling, turned into a theory and then implemented with a dose of mind play, fan-fare and posturing.

Khan had disarmed the opposition players with his self-imposed (and cleverly self-manipulated) naivety of inducting a discarded cricketer, leaving them unprepared for a jumpy, volatile leg-break bowler with a telling wizard`s goatee coming at them in ways that they (now believed) they were not used to tackling. They`d been successfully psyched.

Over and over again Khan, as captain, would use this combination of outrageous ploys.

In the late 1980s, during an ODI tournament in Australia, he made even his own teammates raise their eyebrows when he told the Australian press that the otherwise mediocre all-rounder, Mansoor Illahi `was the hardest hitting batsmen in the world` Of course, Khan knew he wasn`t. But the ploy worked when opposing teams went into a defensive mode every time Illahi came into bat, giving Pakistani batsmen enough space to gather runs in twos and singles.

The same year the Indian team and press thought Khan was being naive when during a toumament in Sharjah, he went on record suggesting that the Kashmir issue between Pakistan and India should be settled on the cricket pitch! Pakistan won that tournament.

It seems that apart from the fact that Khan has found a still largely enigmatic middle-ground between faith and fun, he has held on to his old cricketing combination of ploys even in polities.

Gut feeling turned into a theory, then kept away from the cynicism of cold facts and imposed with great f an fare and pomp to great effect.

After all, it was a Qadir that he pulled in Lahore two years ago and shook the PML-N out of its compliancy in the Punjab.

The Sharif brothers and their merry men laughed when Khan confidently announced that he was about to host the largest political rally ever in Lahore.

He actually did pull it off. Yes, there is little doubt that this was done with more than a little help from former ISI chief, Shuja Pasha, but between then and now, Khan seems to have broken away from the establishment`s orbit.

He wasn`t the first. Z.A. Bhutto was part of the Ayub Khan dictatorship when he pulled out to form his own party. Not only did he break away from the orbit, the orbit eventually sucked him back in the most unfortunate manner by killing him! PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif` was the establishment`s blue-eyed boy for over a decade before he too broke away and became his own man.

MQM was alleged to be a party formed on the behest of Ziaul Haq`s intelli-gence agencies, but by 1988 it had quickly spun away from the influence of its supposed moulders.

And here we are today, with a `naive` Imran Khan, now threatening to topple the apple cart mounted with all types of apples placed there by the country`s two largest parties, the PML-N and PPP.

Experts still suggest that Khan`s PTI would play the role of nothing more than a spoiler in the upcoming general election.

But once again Khan is banking on his beloved combination.

Recently after disarming his opponents with naive talk` about sweeping the election and doing away with economic issues and the law and order problem within 90, 120 or how many ridiculously few days, he stole the limelight by denouncing sectarian attacks by banned Sunni outfits and mob attacks on Christians in the Punjab.

The timing was perfect. Whereas the PPP-led coalition regime is being massacred for completely failing to address sectarianism and extremism in Pakistan, PML-N`s government in the Punjab has come into focus for cutting deals with banned extremist organisations.

Suddenly it is the naive `Mr. Taliban Khan` who has become the hope of not only a majority of young new voters-to-be, but perhaps also a large number of Shia Pakistanis and the Christian community in the Punjab.

Yes, `naivety` remains Khan`s cleverest ploy.

And what is now more disconcerting for his opponents is that this ploy actually works, and maybe it is them being naive about being so `realistic`?

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Lahore, Barcelona



As a college student and a fancy `Marxist revolutionary`, back in the mid-1980s, one of the historical events that interested me the most was the Spanish Civil War (1936-39).

When in 1930 a military dictatorship in Spain fell, a coalition of communists, socialists and anarchists (the Republicans) swept the country`s municipal elections, forcing the Spanish monarch to flee the country.

The Republicans took over the reigns of the new Spanish government and state and authored a constitution that was hostile towards the military, monarchy and the Catholic clergy.

The new government nationalised all public services and land, banks and the railways but these radical steps created tensions between the leftists (the Republicans) and the coalition of monarchist, Catholic priests and the landed elite (the Falange).

In July 1936, General Franco, on the behest of the Falange, attempted to launch a military coup against the Republican regime, but failed. The failure however, resulted in an all-out civil war between the Republicans and the military-backed Falange.

The first shots of the bloody war were fired in the Spanish city of Barcelona. Even though after four years, Franco's forces were finally able to defeat the Republicans, but what happened in Barcelona during this period is most interesting.

As the state and government crumbled during the civil war, Barcelona was almost entirely run by its residents supported by Republican forces.

Everything was nationalised and taken over by the people, including factories, buildings, transport and policing duties.

The event baffled a number of historians because what in theory sounded like an improbable and highly Utopian proposition i.e. common civilians running a whole city on their own without any state or conventional government in place actually transpired in Barcelona, and that too for a full four years.

This episode used to fascinate me to no end.

However, even more fascinating is a piece of local history that I only recently stumbled upon.

In his 2001 book, The Mirage of Power, former PPP ideologue and founder, Dr. Mubashir Hassan, writes in detail about an event that has been inexplicably ignored and forgotten about by most Pakistanis.

The event is about a Barcelona type situation in the Lahore of`1972.

The PPP had swept the 1970 election in Sindh and Punjab in the former West Pakistan on a radical socialist manifesto.

Though elections were held under a military dictator, the dictatorship was forced to relinquish its power after the Pakistan armed forces were defeated in the 1971 Indo-Pak war, and what was once East Pakistan separated, becoming the independent republic of Bangladesh.

The dictatorship`s fall paved the way for Zulfikar Ali Bhutto`s PPP to form the country`s first ever democratically elected regime. But almost immediately it began to face daunting economic problems, and hostility from the rightists and even from those forces that had passionately campaigned for the PPP during the 1970 election.

But since in the early days of its inception, the regime was genuinely popular among a large number of people residing in Punjab and Sindh, it found itself being actively supported by the masses in the face of various issues that had cropped up due to Pakistan`s military defeat and the consequential break-up of the country.

For example, when the regime failed to break a crippling police strike in Peshawar (in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), it asked the Army to intervene. But the Army refused and Bhutto`s ministers had to get into lengthy discussions and deliberations with the striking policemen to resolve the issue.

But just as the government was about to achieve a breakthrough in Peshawar, an even more crippling strike by the police broke out in Lahore.

Short on resources, time and men, the Bhutto regime struggled to juggle between handling strikes in Peshawar and Lahore. The military refused to intervene in Lahore, claiming that the city was in shambles after the 1971 war and thus, lacked the influence and resources to pacify the striking policemen.

Unable to get appropriate attention of the government, police officers and their subordinates (including those from traffic police), simply abandoned their posts and stations, and went home.

Bhutto and his governor in the Punjab, Mustafa Khar, panicked. Lahore was lingering without any police protection whatsoever and there was fear that if habitual criminals come loose, anarchy would engulf the city.

The fear was realistic. A major city was without any police presence; a city of a country that had lostits pride due to a humiliating defeat at the hands of a hated enemy and consequentially facing a daunting economic and political crises.

But instead of anarchy and free-for-all bloodletting, something entirely unexpected happened.

After finding absolutely no cops directing the traffic and the police stations totally empty, the people of Lahore decided to run the city themselves.

Almost everyone participated fruit and vegetable vendors to labour, college and university students to white-collar office workers.

College and high school students used abandoned stools and sheds to control tralTic. And what`s more, they were all obeyed by the car, taxi, rickshaw and bus drivers.

As the students ran the traffic, the labour and office workers moved in to take over police stations. As some police stations were not abandoned by the striking cops, they were asked to leave.

Those who refused to go were thrown out by large crowds.

In some areas these crowds chose common working class men as the station's new thanedaars (SHO). Masons, carpenters, school teachers, and in one case, an unemployed old man were chosen to run police stations as awami thanedaars (people`s officers).

The old man had initially refused the offer saying that since he couldn't even recover his lost goat, how could he ever catch any thieves? But the crowd around him persisted and the man relented when someone from the crowd appeared with three goats and handed them to him.

This continued for almost two days and Lahore newspapers reported that traffic violations and incidents of theft had dropped considerably during these eventful and unprecedented days.

Khar exploited the event brilliantly. After failing to get the cops to end their strike, he held a large rally in Lahore (televised by PTV).

In the rally he warned the policemen that if they did not return to their posts, they would be dismissed and common civilians would be given their posts and perks. The cops returned, almost immediately.

It is interesting to note that this was the same city that would eventually go up in flames due to the 1974 anti-Ahmadi riots, and these days is making a name for itself` for generating mobs of hatred who go about killing supposed `blasphemers` and burning down whole residential areas populated by Pakistani Christians.

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Default Smokers’ Corner: The Baloch electoral enigma

Smokers’ Corner: The Baloch electoral enigma


Nadeem F. Paracha


One can be left rather perplexed trying to figure out the number of Baloch nationalist parties out there and their many factions and sub-factions. Even though one can say the same about Sindhi nationalist outfits as well, the difference is that unlike the Sindhi parties, the Baloch parties actually have it in them to win national and provincial elections.

The question is, if almost all Baloch parties and their factions have the capability as well as a history of winning NA and PA seats, and the fact that, more or less, they all stand for the same things, why don’t they simply merge into becoming a single and more effective electoral unit?

One reason is that in spite of the fact that all Baloch parties and factions have roots in left-wing politics, are staunchly secular, and analyse the economic and politics issues facing Balochistan with almost similar lenses, they are divided on the basis of class and in their solutions to tackling these issues.

For example, some Baloch parties claim to be made up of middle-class Baloch leadership and are likely to criticise another Baloch outfit of being under the influence of a Baloch sardar or tribal lord.

Secondly, some Baloch parties believe in solving the many problems that the Baloch nationalists have faced from the state of Pakistan through political and democratic means, whereas other Baloch groups support an armed insurgency as the solution.

At the moment there are about 10 Baloch political parties operating in the troubled province.

The leading parties in this respect are Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M), BNP-Awami, National Party (NP), Jamhoori Watan Party (JWP) and Baloch Republican Party (BPR).

Apart from these there are various factions of the Baloch Students Organisation (BSO) and insurgent groups such as Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) and Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF).

Out of these, the two BNP factions, NP, JWP and maybe BPR are expected to contest the May 11 general election.

The BNP factions emerged from the Balochistan National Party (BNP) formed in 1996. The BNP itself surfaced from Balochistan National Movement (BNM) that sprang from Balochistan National Alliance (BNA), a left-wing alliance of youth leaders belonging to BSO and radical Baloch politicians.

BNA was formed in 1987 and managed to win two NA seats from Balochistan in the 1988 elections. It evolved into becoming Balochistan National Movement that split into BNM-Mengal and BNM-Hayee. The Mengal faction then became Balochistan National Party (BNP) but that too split into BNP-M and BNP-A.

The National Party (NP) emerged in 2004 when the BNA-Hayee faction merged with the Pakistan National Democratic Party (PNDP which itself was an evolutionary offshoot of the Pakistan National Party (PNP), formed in the late 1980s as a centre-left Baloch party that shunned Baloch separatism.

The PNP failed to win any NA seat in the 1988 election. In 1990 it won one NA seat and none in 1993. In did not take part in the 1997 election and had become the Balochistan National Democratic Party (BNDP) for the 2002 elections but failed to win a seat. In the 2008 elections it merged with BNM-Hayee to become National Party but couldn’t win any NA seat.

Jamhoori Watan Party (JWP) was formed in 1989. It won two NA seats in 1990, 1993, 1997 and one in 2002 but boycotted the 2008 election.

Recently, a faction split from JWP and formed the Baloch Republican Party.

Before it split into three factions, the Balochistan National Party (BNP) won three NA seats in 1997 but failed to win any seat in 2002.

After the split, only the BNP-A faction contested the 2008 election, winning just one NA seat.

None of these parties seem inclined to launch a joint electoral venture for the forthcoming elections. Yet, interestingly, almost each and every party mentioned here has roots in a united political singularity called the National Awami Party (NAP).

Formed in 1957, NAP was an outfit made up of mainly Punjabi and Mohajir communists merged with leading Sindhi, Baloch, Pakhtun and Bengali nationalist groups.

Many believe that had the promised direct general elections been allowed to take place in 1958, NAP was in a position to win the largest number of seats in both the wings of the country (East and West).

NAP was banned in 1959 when Ayub Khan imposed martial law. It revived itself as the country’s largest left-wing party in 1962, broke into two factions at the onset of another leftist party, the PPP in 1967.

The pro-China faction of NAP became NAP-Bhashani and the pro-Soviet faction became NAP-Wali. The Wali faction (named after Pakhtun nationalist, Wali Khan) was the larger faction, having in its fold leading Pakhtun and Baloch nationalists and Marxist Mohajir and Punjabi members.

During the 1970 elections, NAP-Wali won the largest number of NA and PA seats in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Balochistan. It managed to form coalition governments in these two provinces whereas Sindh, Punjab and the Federal government went to Bhutto’s PPP.

In 1973, the Bhutto regime dismissed the NAP set-up in Balochistan (on charges of instigating a Baloch separatist movement). The KP government resigned in protest.

On the plea of the federal government, the Supreme Court banned NAP in 1975. With most of NAP’s leadership in jail, the remaining Baloch, Sindhi and Pakhtun members of NAP formed the National Democratic Party (NDP) and became part of the anti-PPP alliance, the PNA, for the 1977 elections.

However, after Ziaul Haq’s military coup (in July 1977), differences erupted in NDP and its Pashtun, Sindhi and Baloch leaders formed their own nationalist parties.

In 1986 these parties merged once again to form the Awami National Party (ANP). But by the time the 1988 elections were held, ANP had become a Pakhtun nationalist party when the party’s Baloch and Sindhi leadership broke away to again form their own localised outfits.

Out of these only some Baloch outfits (apart from the Pashtun version of ANP), has exhibited any ability to win seats during NA and PA elections.


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Past tense


Recently, a shocking display of self-righteous tactics employed by the Returning Officers (ROs) while whetting the moral standing of candidates for the May 11 election triggered a series of heated debates in the media.

The controversy revolved around Articles 62 and 63 in the Constitution which were introduced by a reactionary military dictator in the 1980s.

Yet, even after the demise of the dictator, about 15 years of civilian rule couldn’t put the controversial articles up for any worthwhile democratic scrutiny or debate.

The mentioned articles are based on almost entirely abstract allusions about Pakistan’s founding ideology. No matter how much the term Pakistan Ideology is mentioned in the country’s school textbooks and by the mainly right-wing intelligentsia, the truth is that the term has never been fully defined and/or agreed upon.

But it is also true that in spite of the fact that the so-called Pakistan Ideology (Nazariya-i-Pakistan) is at best a figment of lofty and illusionary thinking with very little connection to any substantial historical reality, it remains a widely used term among a majority of Pakistanis.

The main reason for this has been the kind of history almost each and every Pakistani has been taught at school and college ever since the mid-1970s. School and college students are actively discouraged from understanding history as a set of facts based on literary and archaeological evidence.

They are also asked to blindly consume history (especially that of Pakistan) even when facts in this context suggest that much of it was written to fulfil certain manipulative ideological ends and to popularise political and social episodes that have little or no link to any historical reality as such.

No matter how aversely some Nazariya-i-Pakistan enthusiasts in the media, the ‘establishment’ or the intelligentsia may react to the above-mentioned scenario, the truth remains that the whole Pakistan Ideology bit is a comparatively recent construct (if not an outright convolution).

Scholars like Ayesha Jalal, Rubina Saigol and A.H. Nayyar, historians K.K. Aziz and Dr Mubarak Ali, and authors like Hussain Haqqani, Ian Talbot and Stephen P. Cohen have all provided reliable evidence to substantiate that the term Pakistan Ideology was nowhere to be found in the speeches and documents related to the founders of the country.

The ‘Pakistan Movement’ was based on the ‘Two-Nation Theory’ which considered the Muslims of India a separate political and cultural entity from the region’s Hindu majority and was dynamic enough to deserve a separate Muslim homeland. Nevertheless, even after Pakistan was created in 1947, there were more Muslims in India than there were in Pakistan.

The founding father, Mohammad Ali Jinnah was quick to realise this and according to two of his colleagues, Chaudhry Khaliq-uz Zaman and Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, this is why in his first major speech to the Constituent Assembly (August 11, 1947), he emphasised Pakistan to be a Muslim nation-state that was broad-based in its make-up.

In his 1961 book, Pathway to Pakistan, Khaliq-uz Zaman suggests that the speech “effectively negated (and put to rest) the faith-based nationalism of the Pakistan Movement”.

So if Jinnah dropped the Islamic aspects of the movement, then what is the Pakistan Ideology?

Subscribers of this ideology explain it to be a belief in the ‘Two-Nation Theory’ and in the conviction that Pakistan came into being in the name of Islam and was destined to become an ‘Islamic state’.

Detractors, however, point to the fact that the Two-Nation Theory collapsed the moment the majority of Muslims stayed behind in India, making Jinnah affirm his idea of Pakistan as a Muslim-majority nation-state where the state will have nothing to do with religion.

Detractors also suggest that the Theory was contradicted once again in 1971, when Bengali Muslims in the former East Pakistan broke away to form a separate country on the basis of Bengali nationalism.

They further point out that had the founders conceived Pakistan as an Islamic state, they would not have been opposed by Islamic fundamentalists, many of whom were staunchly anti-Jinnah and thought the idea of Pakistan was an un-Islamic abomination.

Jinnah justified Pakistan as a Muslim majority state that would encapsulate the political, economic and cultural genius of the Muslims of South Asia without evoking the theological aspects of their faith.

He was also conscious of the history of polemical conflicts between the many Muslim sects and sub-sects Pakistan had inherited.

Unfortunately, his concerns and vision were rudely ignored after his death in 1948, and the ruling elite haphazardly began to give shape to a monolithic idea of Pakistan in which Islamic laws would be central (1949 Objectives Resolution).

The 1956 Constitution again spoke of an Islamic Republic, but the problem was, all this was being suggested without putting the plan up for any authentic democratic scrutiny or consensus in front of a multi-sectarian and multi-cultural polity.

Most nation states have a history of creating an idealised past to sustain their justification. It was during the secular military regime of Ayub Khan (1959-69) that the myths required to build a nationalist narrative began in earnest. He formed a Council of Islamic Ideology but populated it with liberal Islamic scholars.

The Council was more an exercise in painting Ayub’s polices as being close to Jinnah’s thinking, who, according to the Council, only believed in ‘controlled democracy’ and a centralised government. The Islamic aspect was given mere lip-service in the 1962 Constitution.

Ayub’s policies were opposed by the fundamentalist Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) that, in 1962, for the first time used the term Nazariya-i-Pakistan.

Over the next few years, JI, without mentioning Jinnah, continued to call for the creation of an Islamic state by claiming that it was a natural outcome of Nazariya-i-Pakistan.

Leftist thought and groups ascending in the late 1960s trashed JI’s claims by countering that Pakistan was conceived as a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural Muslim-majority country based on democracy and socialism.

Interestingly, it was during the populist and left-liberal government of ZA Bhutto (1972-77), that the term Nazariya-i-Pakistan first began to appear in textbooks and official lingo (especially after the passing of the 1973 Constitution).

The government rationalised the separation of East Pakistan as a natural occurrence because the real Pakistan was always West Pakistan or the region that ran along the mighty River Indus.

Though more friendly to the idea of the country being multi-cultural and multi-ethnic, the Bhutto regime explained that a largely homogenous understanding of Islam was the glue that kept all the ethnicities together (in the Indus region).

For this, the 1973 Constitution gave power to the state and government of Pakistan to define this so-called homogenous understanding of Islam.

In a land riddled with numerous sects, sub-sects and varied religious interpretations, the move was bound to alienate and even offend a number of Pakistanis who disagreed with the state’s version of Islam.

The Constitution actually took away the right of a Pakistani Muslim to interpret Islam for him or herself without state interference. But it was under General Zia, the man who toppled Bhutto in 1977— all that was first part of public debate (in the 1960s), and then a constitutional allusion in the 1970s became strict state policy — that Nazariya-i-Pakistan finally became an official creed.

Flushed with petro-dollars and an increasing confidence in his power, Zia unfolded a number of Islamic laws culled from interpretations of certain puritanical branches of Islamic thought and then (through textbooks, constitutional amendments and state media), weaved them to become the central planks of the Pakistan Ideology.

Ever since the 1980s, Nazariya-i-Pakistan has come down to mean the belief in the right of the Islamic state and Islamic constitution to not only define faith, but to also judge and measure the faith of the faithful as well as denounce and prosecute those deemed to be threats to the Pakistan Ideology.

All this has created sectarian and sub-sectarian divisions; justified state interference in matters of faith; and rationalised non-democratic intervention in the name of defending the ideology.

Consequently, the mindset has trickled down and armed people to openly manipulate faith as a means to meet self-righteous as well as cynical ends.

Lastly, the so-called called Pakistan Ideology has also left the youth of the country thoroughly confused about its identity in a rapidly changing and complex world.

For starters, instead of looking for their roots upon the ground that they stand on, many of them now look for these roots in the ways and trends of booming desert lands hundreds of miles away, as if Pakistan was conceived in Arabia.

Dawn
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