Articles by Nadeem F. Paracha
A friend of mine, a Shia Muslim, often tells me an intriguing but a very telling little tale.
He is from Jhang in the Punjab province where he, as a school kid, was always a passionate participant of Shia processions.
During one Moharram day (in the late 1980s), a Shia procession he was a part of was attacked by a couple of armed young men belonging to a radical Sunni Muslim outfit.
Nothing surprising, especially in a Pakistan that began to take shape from the early 1980s onwards; and/or when the state under General Ziaul Haq actually encouraged the proliferation of violent Islamist and sectarian organisations as a way to bolster its efforts to whip up a jihadist frenzy against the Soviet-backed regime in Afghanistan.
But my friend and some of his contemporaries were left surprised by the attack. Not because it was carried out by a sectarian outfit but because of the fact that one of the attackers was a young teenaged lad who was actually a contemporary of my friend at school.
The teen was arrested and thrown in one of the city’s lock-ups. When my friend told an empathetic teacher at the school, the teacher too was shocked and decided to visit the young militant.
Reaching the police station the concerned teacher let lose a volley of questions at the boy (in Punjabi): ‘Sohail, what have you done? Why did you attack your friends?’
The young militant was unmoved: ‘What kind of question is that? We all know they (the Shias) are kafir (infidels)!’
Taken aback by the sudden transformation of the young boy, the teacher remarked that the founder of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, too wasn’t a Sunni.
‘What are you saying, sir?’ The young boy shot back. ‘Jinnah wasn’t the founder of Pakistan. Quaid-e-Azam was. And Quaid-e-Azam was Sunni.’
This is a fascinating little tale that is otherwise big on explaining the social and political outcome of the Pakistani state’s long-winded project to construct and impose a rather xenophobic model of faith that could be moulded and easily used to legitimise the hegemony of the religious, political, economic and military elites that make-up the country’s figurative establishment.
The fact that the Pakistani state used Orwellian tactics to twist and turn historical facts to construct a mythical socio-political narrative is now in the open.
Using the media and school textbooks, the state went on a rampage, especially after the loss of the former East Pakistan in 1971. A highly suspicious, xenophobic and aggressive narrative about Pakistan’s ideology, history and society was streamlined that eventually mutated into a warped worldview now found across the society.
One can rightly blame men like Z. A. Bhutto and more specifically, General Zia, for such a state of affairs. But those who came before these two weren’t all that truthful either. This tradition’s earliest roots actually lie in one of the first insistences of Orwellian manipulation of faith and nationalism way back in 1948.
Soon after the creation of Pakistan, Jinnah gave his famous speech to the Constituent Assembly in which he insisted that in Pakistan minorities were free to follow their faiths and that the Pakistani state had nothing to do with religion.
This speech did not go down well with that section of the Muslim League elite that had tasted the power of using religion as a political tool during the Pakistan Movement.
Soon after Jinnah’s speech, an attempt was made by a number of Muslim League leaders to censor the draft of the speech that was to be published in the newspapers.
It was only when the then editor of Dawn, Altaf Hussain, threatened to take the issue directly to Jinnah that the League leaders relented.
No wonder then, soon after Jinnah’s death in 1948, the League’s top leadership at once departed from the secular contents of Jinnah’s speech and, in fact, flipped it on its head by drafting the 1949 Objectives Resolution that in the future became the basis of Bhutto’s populist Islamic experiments and Zia’s Machiavellian Islamist demagoguery.
Re-imagining Jinnah and propagating him as seen from the eyes of the above-mentioned religious and political elite has been a vital tool for the establishment.
Sometimes this dastardly project has been stretched to absurd lengths just so Jinnah’s credentials of being a secular Muslim nationalist can be undermined.
For example, in July 1977 when Zia toppled the Bhutto regime, he almost immediately got down to the business of radically transforming the ideological complexion of Pakistan, changing it from being a ‘democratic Muslim majority state’ into peddling it as a state that was supposedly conceived as a theocratic entity.
Zia and his ideological partners, mainly the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI), hit a brick wall when they couldn’t endorse their revisionist narrative with any of the speeches of Jinnah.
They came up with nothing, until one fine day in early 1983 when after still failing to get a worthwhile endorsement from Jinnah for Zia’s ‘Islamic’ narrative, his Ministry of Information enthusiastically announced the sudden ‘discovery’ of Jinnah’s personal diary.
Excited, Zia held a press conference in which he claimed that in the newly discovered ‘personal diary of the founder’, Jinnah had spoken about having a ‘powerful Head of State (read: dictator),’ and ‘the dangers of parliamentary democracy.’ Then he conveniently concluding Jinnah’s views being very close to having an ‘Islamic system of government’.
The Urdu press gave lavish coverage to the event, as the state-owned PTV and Radio Pakistan broadcasted discussions with ‘scholars’ on this breathtaking discovery.
But, alas, the euphoria around this farce was thankfully short-lived. Two of Jinnah’s close associates, Mumtaz Daultana and K. H. Khurshid, rubbished Zia’s claims saying there was never such a diary.After this, a group of senior intellectuals from the Quaid-e-Azam Academy also denied that such a diary ever existed in the Academy’s archives (from where Zia had claimed the diary had emerged).
Strangely once his claims were trashed, not only did Zia never mention anything about the supposed diary ever again, a number of Urdu newspapers that had splashed the drastic discovery went completely quiet as well.
But for the future generations that have produced confused kids like Sohail, Zia’s claims became a documented utterance, whereas Daultana and Khurshid’s refutations slid down becoming nothing more than mere footnotes.
No wonder the young lad in Jhang thought Jinnah and Quaid-e-Azam were actually two separate men.
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The painfully entertaining
I’ve related the story before, but I find the need to relate it again. Especially after watching a ‘born-again Muslim’ actually denouncing (on local TV) a woman parliamentarian’s plea to pass more pro-women laws in the National Assembly and doing away with the controversial laws that were imposed by the Ziaul Haq regime : due to which thousands of mostly innocent women languished in jails for crimes that were actually committed by men!
This was back in 1995. A women’s organisation invited me to a seminar for a discussion dramatically titled “The Casualties of the Hudood Ordinance.”
Interestingly, also present there were a string of pop and television celebrities of the time.
All of them passionately decried the Ordinance (imposed by the Ziaul Haq dictatorship).
Since it was a strictly no-smoking hall, my habit kept me going in and out of the hall, so much that I completely missed my slot as a
speaker. No problem, because I am not much of a speaker and would rather keep quiet and listen.
However, I did manage to ask some of the celebrities present in the hall what they really thought about the Ordinance. All of them insisted they were against it. I asked if so, then how come none of them have ever used their art and talents to address this issue.
One of them who is still pretty popular, said, “It is not for us entertainers.”
“Really?” I asked, surprised. “Then what are you doing here then?”
He said he was there as a common citizen and not as an entertainer. Ironically, he said this while signing autographs for his fans.
“I see,” said I, smiling. “But common citizens do not sign autographs, do they?”
He smiled back, shook his head and moved on.
My eyes then fell upon another famous pop star of the time who today functions as an evangelist of sorts.
Since on most occasions we had remained amiable acquaintances, we did end up talking in that hall.
“So Paracha sahib, Marx kya kehta hai?” (What does Marx say?) He asked, sarcastically.
“Marx koh choro (leave Marx),” I said, “Tum kya kehtay ho?” (Forget Marx. What do you say?).
“Same,” he said confidently. “Same as everyone here. But we being Muslims should look for a middle-ground in this issue. After all, we can’t just repeal a law given to us by Allah!”
“Allah? Or Ziaul Haq?” I asked, still holding my smile.
I was expecting a cynical chuckle at best, but what I got was a tirade of references from various Islamic scriptures. You must remember this
guy was still a pop star and hadn’t turned to preaching.
“But all this is useless to a person like you,” he casually concluded, at the end of his passionate spiel.
“Hmmm … ” I nodded, still holding on to the smile, even though I was slightly ticked off. Then putting a hand on one of his shoulders, I continued: “Now I get it. If this is how our pop stars think, I am wasting my time asking them to use their art for social and political causes.
Of course, you will never use your star status to talk about the Hudood Ordinance, now would you?”
Lo & behold! He said exactly what his contemporary had earlier said. “We are entertainers, yaar, not politicians.”
Irritated, I decided to actually use a part of my unused speech on him. So this (in essence) is how it went…
“You know, Zia’s Ordinances would have been welcomed by Nazi Germany!” I unabashedly announced.
He was shocked: “What do you mean?”
“Well,” I continued, “Women in Nazi Germany were to have a very specific role. Hitler was very clear about this. This role was that they should be good mothers bringing up children at home while their husbands worked. Hitler saw no reason why a woman should work. From their earliest years, girls were taught in their schools that all good German women married a proper German at a young age and the wife’s task was to have children and keep a decent home for her working husband.”
He interrupted: “What has this got to do with the topic at hand?”
“A lot,” said I. “This is got to do with a law passed by a myopic regime in a society that is becoming more and more chauvinistic and intolerant. A society you entertainers, God bless you, are also a part of.”
He stared at me again. But decided to hear me out.
Mentally mapping words from my undelivered speech, I continued: “As housewives and mothers in Nazi Germany, their lives were controlled. Women were not expected to wear make-up or trousers. Only flat shoes were expected to be worn. Women were discouraged from slimming as this was considered bad for child birth. Women were also discouraged from smoking, not because it was linked to problems with pregnancies, but because it was considered non-German to do so. There used to be a song in Nazi Germany. And it went something like this:
‘Take hold of kettle, broom and pan, then you’ll surely get a man, shop and office leave alone, your true life work lies at home.’”
Finally, that cynical chuckle did arrive. But he went very serious when he asked: “So, are you suggesting that our laws are a product of fascists?”
“Yes I am,” said I. “Entertaining, no?”
He never talked to me after that. And/or vice versa.
Source: Painfully Entertaining
Left is Right
Last edited by Arain007; Wednesday, October 17, 2012 at 01:07 PM. Reason: Source inserted
By the book
Pakistan is a multi-lingual, multi-ethnic and multi-religious society. Non-Muslims are an essential part of it. Many of them have contributed to the country’s well being in various fields.
However, according to renowned scholar and educationist, Professor A. H. Nayyar, the culture and the idioms of Muslim ‘majority-ism’ (after the 1971 East Pakistan debacle) started gaining more currency in the country’s politics and, in turn, also got reflected in the educational process.
Though agreeing with Nayyar, another well known academic, Dr Rubina Saigol, however, suggests that the attempt to mould the minds of the young through textbooks started in earnest in the early 1980s.
The syllabus was redesigned and textbooks were rewritten to create a monolithic image of Pakistan as a theocratic state and Pakistani citizens as Muslim only.
According to Saigol, this clearly tells young non-Muslim students that they are excluded from the national identity.
In an extensive study conducted by Nayyar and Dr Ahmad Salim (in 2002), the following four themes emerge most strongly in history textbooks in Pakistan:
That Pakistan is for Muslims alone; the ideology of Pakistan is deeply interlinked with faith and one should never trust Hindus and India. Students should take the path of jihad and martyrdom.
Scholars like Ayesha Jalal and Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy have argued that the term ‘ideology of Pakistan’ is an after-thought; it was absent at the time of the creation of Pakistan.
According to them Jinnah never used the term ‘ideology of Pakistan’ (especially with respect to Islam).
For 15 years after the establishment of Pakistan, the term was not known to anybody.
The phrase ‘ideology of Pakistan’ has no historical basis in the Pakistan movement. It was coined much later by those political forces that needed it to sanctify their particular brand of politics: especially those religious parties that had earlier been against the creation of Pakistan.
Even though in a 1954 report Justice Munir strongly noted that Jinnah never uttered the words ‘ideology of Pakistan,’ the curriculum documents (ever since the 1980s) insist that the students be taught that the ideology of Pakistan was pronounced by the Quaid.
No textbook has ever been able to cite a single reference to Jinnah using this term.
Jinnah’s speech to the Constituent Assembly on Sept 11, 1947 is completely contrary to the so-called ‘ideology of Pakistan’ as it is presented in school history books. Nayyar, Jalal, Hoodbhoy and Saigol suggest that associated with the ‘ideology of Pakistan’ is an essential component of hate against India and Hindus.
Some time after 1971, the subject of Indo-Pakistan history was replaced with ‘Pakistan Studies,’ whose sole purpose now was to define Pakistan as an Islamic state. The students were deprived of learning about pre-Islamic history of their region. Instead, history books now started with the Arab conquest of Sindh and swiftly jumped to the Muslim conquerors from Central Asia.
Nayyar and Salim have pointed out the following examples of expression of hate in post-1971 history text books:
Hindus have always been enemies of Islam; they worship idols in temples which are very narrow and dark places; they declared the Congress rule as Hindu rule, and started to unleash terror on Muslims. The Hindus always desired to crush the Muslims as a nation and Gandhi was as an extremist.
Though still not part of the mainstream text books, another ‘enemy’ has recently been added in the shape of the ‘modern American (read Christian) crusaders.’
What’s more all history in these books is along religious lines while social, historical, material and economic causes are missing. Pakistanis are not told that the rise of Western powers in the last 500 years was mainly due to the advances made in education, science and culture. This rise was not based on military might alone, and certainly not on any overwhelming religious doctrine.
After 1979, the themes of jihad and martyrdom in textbooks became strong. In this period, history and social studies books openly eulogise jihad and martyrdom.
According to Nayyar, in Pakistan the impression one gets from textbooks on the subjects of Pakistan Studies is that the students don’t learn history, but rather a carefully crafted collection of falsehoods.
For example, in these books, Muhammad bin Qasim is declared the first Pakistani citizen. The story of the Arabs’ arrival in Sindh is recounted as the first moment of Pakistan with the glorious ascendancy of Islam.
Also a widely taught history book insists that, “Although Pakistan was created in August 1947, the present-day Pakistan has existed, as a more or less single entity, for centuries.”
A history book published in 1992 has on its cover a Muslim warrior holding a sword and charging in on a horse; and a chapter called, ‘The Enemies of Islam.’ This chapter is broken into various sections that define these enemies as being Hindus, Christians, Jews and “secularists.”
In their study, both Nayyar and Salim conclude that one should not be surprised at the irrational hate and confusion among Pakistani children after what they learn at school: a state of mind that they can carry well into their adult life as well.
Left is Right
Last edited by Amna; Wednesday, October 17, 2012 at 11:40 AM. Reason: Mention Source At the end of Article.
From apology to perversity
It took them by surprise. Comfortable in the belief` that the nation has well and truly been converted to a narrative that explains the violence of` Islamic militants in Pakistan as an expression of defiance against everything from `US imperialism` to the `invasion of` Hindu and Western culture`. The advocates of this narrative were taken aback with the way the majority of` Pakistanis and the mainstream media responded to young Malala Yousuf`zai`s shooting by the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
As the social media wing of` Imran Khan`s PTI went into overdrive on Twitter and Facebook in trying to explain their leader`s rather ambiguous stand on TTP, religious parties such as the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI), Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI), and the Difa-e-Pakistan Council, were caught stuttering in front of an aggressive media backlash. They were first shaken up and then exhibited anger at the way the media was puttingthem on the spot.
Amazingly, even though all these parties (including the once `new` PTI) have in them seasoned political players. Their response to the hostility that they faced from the media, and from their political opponents (for not taking a clear stand against the extremists), suggests that none of them had even conceived a scenario where the electronic media would begin to furiously shoot holes in the narrative that these parties bank on.
But a week later and by the time young Malala was being flown to a hospital in Birmingham, a rearguard response f`rom the so-called apologists coupled by a threat to the media by the TTP finally pulled back a bit the tide that was threatening to sweep away those being accused of` punctuating their condemnation of the shooting with a series of`buts and ifs.
A brief look at the way the events in this respect unf`olded can l`urther elaborate this: Malala is shot. TV channels and the websites of major Pakistani newspapers break the news. The news is at once shared across social media. Parties and personnel that are routinely denounced by right-wing outfits for `fighting America`s war`, condemn the shooting.
Soon, the TTP claim responsibility. Twoof the ruling parties, MQM and ANP, begin to condemn the shooters by name. PTI and religious parties also begin to issue condemnations, but without mentioning TTP.
As details of the shooting begin to flood in, the electronic media, as if overnight, turns the apologist narrative on its head.
This is a turning point. Or so it seems. As hours pass, the media refuses to give vent to the many dis-claimers that come with the condemnation statements of the PTI, JI and JUI. What`s more, a stern statement of the Chief of Army StalT, General Parvez Kiyani, appears, suggesting that the military will intensify its war against the Islamist militants.
What, the media begins to ask, did Malala have to do with US drone strikes? Those linking the brutal attack on her to the drones insist that the shooting was part of what the US is up to in the militant-infested areas of north-west Pakistan.The media is not having any of that. A new day begins. Malala continues to hold on to dear life.
Days go by, as perhaps for the first time in the last decade or so, the apologists are finding themselves drowned out by accusations of being cowards and for trying to dilute the issue with the usual rhetoric about `nefarious US designs` in the region.
The apologists call the shooters animals, barbarians,and what not, but refuse to take the name of those who proudly confessed to have sent the men to execute the school girl.
They are a reaction to US drone attacks, they keep saying. But what did Malala have to do with the drones? The media keeps asking.
On one channel, a woman JI member, pushed into a corner by a TV anchor who popularised the term `liberal fascist` two years ago, tries to squeeze her wayout by calling those accusing her party of cowardice, as liberal fascists. It`s a desperate act. She thinks this might soften the anchor`s stance. It doesn`t.
PTI, JI and JUI leaders and their supporters slightly change tact. Now they begin to ask, What about all the other Malalas killed in drone attacks? The `liberal fascists` snicker: This is strange, they say. When the same media was going about decrying the plight of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, none of them were concerned about so many other Aafias rotting in local jails (many of them without trial) and for crimes that were mostly committed by men.
They further enquire, How come when for weeks the media covered Dr. Aafia`s case, none of these parties accused it of exaggeration, or of overreacting like they are now? Still feeling cornered and sounding sheepish, some PTI and JI supporters in cyberspace flood Twitter and Facebook with a tragic photograph of a young girl supposedly injured in a drone attack. But within hours the picture is proven to be a shameless forgery.
But even this does not stop those hell-bent on stubbornly holding on to their delusions.
Pictures of Malala sitting with former US diplomat, late Richard Holbrooke, emerge.
Yes, being a Pashtun girl from Swat valley she should`ve been seen tending sheep instead.
Then a TV anchor suggests that the cyber diaries written by Malala for BBC were actually written by someone else. Malala is unconscious to answer him. But then maybe so is his conscience.
Days pass. In spite of a huge rally by the MQM, openly condemning the TTP, the apologists slip back on the mini-screen. An `investigative reporter`, who, during the Swat girl flogging episode, was explaining the act being according to Sharia, this is how he analysed the Malala episode: `Very sad, indeed. But all this is due to our slavery for the US.
His expert journalistic, geo-political analysis continued: `Our decision to joinAmerica`s war was against the dictates of Quran and Sunnah.` Seriously? The apologists may make a comeback, but their response to Malala`s shooting will not be recorded by history as a story of gallant, principled men.
It will record it as a story of those who lied, forged and carelessly quoted from holy scripture just to defend a questionable narrative inflated by nothing else but their misplaced egos.
Left is Right
Today many Pakistanis are aware of Jinnah’s August 11, 1947, speech in which he clearly explains Pakistan to be a democratic Muslim majority country where religion has nothing to do with the business of the state. Well-known historians have all maintained that to Jinnah the Muslims of undivided India were a separate cultural entity requiring their own homeland. Jinnah’s desire to see this through was born from his awkwardness with the idea of a post-colonial India subjugated by the ‘Hindu-dominated’ Indian National Congress: even though the Congress was almost entirely secular. However, there is absolutely no evidence that Jinnah’s push to carve out a separate Muslim country was made in order to construct an Islamic state. For years Pakistanis have debated about how Jinnah went about claiming Pakistan. Was he able to think it through, or did he fail to perceive the vulnerability of his claim? Many also believe that his claim in this respect was too open-ended. That’s why it was easily exploited by some who eventually turned it into a monolithic entity and a militaristic bastion of Islam.
It is ironic that the first Pakistani head of state to sincerely try to realise Jinnah’s concept of Pakistan was a military dictator. Field Marshal Ayub Khan’s regime (1959-69) still remains perhaps the most secular in the country’s history. Apart from, of course, sidelining the democratic aspects of Jinnah’s concept, Ayub otherwise went about defining (through legislation) his understanding of Jinnah’s Pakistan. To him it was about a secular Muslim majority state sustained by the genius of entrepreneurial action, a strong military, and the spirit of modernistic and progressive Islam of the likes of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, Iqbal and Jinnah.
However, in a naturally pluralistic society like Pakistan with multiple ethnicities, religions and Islamic sects, if one takes out democracy from the above equation, one would get (as Ayub did) ethnic strife, religious reactionary-ism and class conflict. The class-based and multi-ethnic commotion in this respect opened windows of opportunity for well-organised leftist groups who were not only successful in forcing Ayub out (1969), but they also eschewed the religious opposition to the Field Marshal’s government. Left parties like the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), National Awami Party (NAP), and student groups like the National Students Federation (NSF), in the former West Pakistan, achieved this by attacking Ayub’s ‘pro-rich policies’ (state-facilitated capitalism), and, on the other hand, neutralised the Islamic fundamentalists by adding a new twist to Jinnah’s image. For example, the PPP advocated Jinnah to be a progressive democrat whose thinking was close to the ideas of ‘Islamic socialism’ first purported (in the region) by such leaders of the Pakistan Movement, as Chaudhry Rehmat Ali, and Iqbal.
After the breakaway of East Pakistan in 1971, and the coming to power of the PPP (led by Z A. Bhutto), the authoritarian centre-right secularism of the Ayub era (and concept of Jinnah), moved towards the populist left. But the Bhutto regime was highly mutable. Though it remained populist, it regularly shifted from left to right on an issue to issue basis.
A study of Jinnah’s quotes used on state-owned media of the period suggests a regime trying to push Jinnah as a democrat who was not secular in the western sense, but a progressive Muslim whose faith was pluralistic in essence and ‘awami’ (populist). Such quotes, that became a mainstay just before the main 9pm news bulletin on the state-owned PTV, suddenly changed track when Bhutto was toppled in a reactionary military coup by General Ziaul Haq (July 1977).
From 1977 onwards, no more was Jinnah being bounced between Ayubian secularists and Bhutto’s Islamic Socialists. He now became the property of the ‘Islam-pasand’ (pro-Islamic state) lot. PTV and Radio Pakistan were ordered to only use those quotes from Jinnah’s speeches that contained the word ‘Islam’.
A concentrated effort was made to remould him into a leader who conceived Pakistan as an Islamic state with a strong military.
In 1978, the order of Jinnah’s celebrated motto, ‘Unity, Faith, Discipline,’ was reshuffled to put the word ‘faith’ first instead of the middle. Then Zia’s information ministry suddenly unearthed a diary kept by Jinnah in which he had supposedly expressed his desire to see Pakistan as a country run on Islamic laws (instead of democracy), and emphasised the political and ideological role of the military. The diary turned out to be a desperate forgery. Also, Jinnah’s August 11 speech was expunged from the school textbooks, as if it never existed.
By the end of Zia’s dictatorship (1988), Jinnah had been turned into a pious, 20th century caliph of sorts who presided over the creation of a ‘citadel of Islam’.
However, a decade later during the self-contradictory military dictatorship of General Parvez Musharraf: who was advertising himself as an updated version of Ayub Khan: Jinnah was made to slightly shed the facial hair that Zia had hung on him. Jinnah now became an enlightened moderate.
But Jinnah’s emergence of (now) becoming a moderate Muslim, at once clashed with his more pious, quasi-Islamist image that was cultivated for more than a decade by the Zia regime. This reignited the debate about exactly who or what Jinnah really was.
Today, with Pakistan facing the deadly spectre of Islamist terrorism, growing societal conservatism, a free (and somewhat anarchic) media, an activistic judiciary and the steady resurgence of the secular Muslim intellectual: all trying to figure (or refigure) Jinnah, something unprecedented happened.
Not since the Ayub dictatorship and during the early years of Bhutto’s government has a mainstream political party openly described Jinnah as a progressive, secular Muslim. But recently the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) did just that. Well, this means at least in Karachi, the Jinnah who wanted a progressive, secular and democratic Muslim majority country is back. And this time he’s not confronting grumpy Islamic parties, but a monster that not only considers him a heretic, but a majority of Pakistani Muslims too.
Left is Right
Will to veil
Last Sunday I came across a most awkward sight. Just outside the big fast-food joint near Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport, I saw at least three separate middle-class families with daughters in hijabs wrapped around their little heads. The girls couldn’t have been more than four years old. Watching the young girls bop about in their hijabs (around their moms who were all in burqas), a question popped in my mind: What exactly were the parents thinking when they decided to wrap scarves around the heads of their little daughters?
Think about it: Did they believe that without their hijabs these little girls would attract immodest stares from men? This is a rather disturbing thought. But as much as I wanted to, of course, I just couldn’t walk up to the parents and ask them.
Nevertheless, I too belong to a large clan where most women adorn the burqa. So I’ve had ample opportunities to interact with both the hijab and burqa phenomenon up-close, enough to develop at least some understanding of it. Incidents of urban middle-class women opting for the hijab and/or the more cloaked burqa is nothing new in Pakistan. It’s been on the rise for the past twenty-five years or so.
Apart from the blanket fact that correctly describes this happening as a symptom of the growing social and religious conservatism among the lower-middle and middle-class urbanites, unfortunately not a lot else has been said or studied in this respect.
Whose decision it is that a woman should wear a hijab or a burqa?
To understand this I’ll bank on the findings of a rare study undertaken by Professor Sadaf Ahmad on the workings of the Islamic evangelist, Farhat Hashmi’s Al-Huda organisation; and on my own observations during the time period I was growing up with girl cousins most of whom opted for the burqa.
Women who take up the more conservative burqa usually do so because it is a tradition (as is the case in my extended family). However, though it is a tradition that is willingly followed by the women, its importance is largely emphasised by the male members of the family. On the other hand, the young middle-class women who have decided to adorn the hijab mostly seem to have done so of their own accord.
In fact there have been cases (and some are even related in Ahmed’s study and book), in which, certain young members of the Al-Huda and other Islamic outfits for women, had become so conservative in their habits and beliefs (again, of their own accord), that it actually became a problem of sorts for their parents. Mostly this is due to the fact that such young women are coming from families that did not have a tradition of women adorning the Islamic attire. For example, in her book, Ahmad is told by one young woman at Al-Huda that she was shocked to see how women of her mother’s generation dressed (in the 1970s).
A large number of both religious as well as secular scholars of Islam agree that Quranic verses on the matter of women’s dressing are open to a wide array of interpretations. Then there are also well-known Muslim intellectuals and authors such as Ziauddin Sardar, Irshad Manji, Muhammad Arkhun, Raza Aslan and even the more restrained Akber S. Ahmed who suggest that the observance of the modern hijab/burqa largely remains to be an extension of a tradition shaped by the dictates of men.
They say that the practice is an outcome of laws and social mores constructed and imposed over the last many centuries by judges, clerics, and lawmakers who were all men. But contemplating the theological part of the topic is not the purpose here.
Simply because I personally believe that the practice in this respect within the lower-middle and middle-class Pakistani women has major economic and non-religious reasons attached to it as well.
More than a religious practice, both the hijab and the burqa, is a social statement. And a defensive one, as opposed to being defiant.
This is especially so in societies (such as Pakistan) where faith has increasingly been advocated as a way to judge one’s character not through his or her actions in the modern context of nationhood, law and order; but on how frequently a person exercises religious rituals that now also include adorning correct Islamic attire.
So, for example, a hijab-clad woman may be interacting with a number of secular-materialistic situations, her hijab here becomes a statement suggesting that she has not lost her Islamic identity in the amoral commotion. She believes that her moral character will be judged more harshly (especially by men) if she did not adorn the hijab in non-religious surroundings. To me, this notion is what makes her act of wearing a hijab more defensive in orientation, in spite of the fact that she is likely to explain it as liberating and being faithful to holy scriptures.
There’s also an economic factor involved here. But this factor has more to do with women who prefer the burqa.
A majority of Pakistanis before the 1980s were associated with a more pluralistic and permissive strain of the faith directly linked to the region’s Sufi shrine culture. But that began to change when, from the late 1970s onwards, a number of Pakistanis started to travel to and work in oil-rich Arab countries.
Those returning to Pakistan or sending money back from these countries gave birth to Pakistan’s first major batch of the nouveau-riche. In the Arab countries not only did they make a lot of money, they also came into direct contact with denominations of the faith that looked suspiciously at their beliefs. Thus, many Pakistanis who returned richer from these countries almost at once began to peel off their old interpretations of the faith, replacing them with the more puritanical ones that they’d come into contact with in Arabia.
In fact, since the old strain of the faith that they were born into now reminded them of their less well-off past, the newly adopted denomination became a badge announcing their new-found economic prosperity and status.
The resurgence of the burqa (especially the kind worn in the oil-rich Arab world) among urban middle-class women in Pakistan whose husbands or brothers have done well in oil-rich Arab countries is at least one obvious sign flashed to exhibit one’s raised economic status.
Another reflection of this is the way the burqas have evolved, becoming more stylised with their own accessories, such as sack-like handbags that are usually shiny gold and silver in colour.
Indeed, a show of ‘modesty’ has never been so stylistic (or expensive). Or for that matter, imposed on very young girls who might already have begun to denounce Dora for running around with Diego without a head scarf!
Source - http://dawn.com/2012/11/18/smokers-corner-will-to-veil/
Left is Right
No country for old men
No country for old men
I don't just read books. I devour them. One of my favorite things to do even while I`m travelling is to spend hours on end in book stores.
And yet, till only recently I had never visited the annual Karachi International Book Fair.
It`s an event that has been taking place for the past eight years and has grown in size and scope with each passing year. All leading publishing houses in the country along with those from India, Turkey, Iran and Bangladesh have continued to participate in the event.
But why did I continue to ignore it? I thought aboutthis a lot and the only convincing answer I kept coming up with, was that instinctively I knew there was nothing special about the fair and that I would be disappointed.
Now that`s a major concem for a person like me. I actually get depressed at book stores where inspite of spending hours browsing across section after section of books, I come out empty handed.
Well, despite my instinctive misgivings about an event that I had never been to, I decided to finally go. And, boy was I stunned! No, I wasn`t gleefully and cuphorically swept away by a tidal wave of books of all shapes and sizes.
Instead, my senses were bombarded by the kind of loud religiosity I had last encountered while doing a newspaper feature on the Tableeghi Jamaal in Raiwind back in the early 1990s.
As I entered one (of the three) main halls where the fair was being held, I was instantly swept in by a sea of`(urban middleclass) humanity, largely made up of women in jet black abayas, men with long, curly beards, and kids. Very noisy kids.
Sure, nothing wrong with that (as such). But as I tried to make my way through this very pious looking crowd, the deaf`ening PA system suddenly came alive with some guy shouting about how Pakistan was created in the name of`Islam and then went on to literally scream: `Pakistan ka matlab kya... ? (What is the meaning of`Pakistan?).
His rhetorical (and very loudly put) question was answered by what sounded like a bunch of kids about to storm an infidel`s castle: `Lailahaillalahl` Answered the kids.
This went on and on and on, until I decided to check out where the chanting was coming from.
It was emerging (like a hurricane of disembodied voices) from huge amplifiers set-up at a big `book stall` run by a religious publishing house.
There was this huge bearded man with a microphone addressing a group of cute little kids (with their abaya-clad moms).
He wasn`t just selling them books. He was selling theman ideology.
`Pakistan ka matlab kya ...?` He bellowed.
`Lal/lahaillalah!` Answered the kids in unison, but without ever letting go of` their lollipops, popcom and packs of fruit juice.
I looked around to see if anyone else was as Habbergasted by this as I was. I found none.
And how could I? I f`inally realised that more than 70 per cent of the book stalls in this large hall were owned and run by publishers that only of`f`ered religious literature.But wait a minute. It wasn`t as simple as that.
As I turned away shocked by looking at more than a dozen young kids mindlessly mouthing what some seriously warped elders of theirs had told them to, I came face-to-face with yet another bearded fellow who shoved two A-4 size glossy pamphlets in my face.
`Take!` He said. So I took. A casual, confused glance at the glossics told me they belonged to yet another religious publishing house. But that`s all I could understand because most of the pamphlets were in Arabic! So, without taking names here, I must tell that the guy shouting in the microphone was representing a `publishing house` associated with outfits advocating one particular sunni Muslim school of thought while the one who had handed me the pamphlets was representing another sunni sub-sect.
The Pandora`s box was now wide open. Stall upon stall that I passed had mountains of books, all on Islam, or rather, the Islam according to the stalls` particular sub-sect and denomination.
A friend cynically said about the event, `There were 72 sects there, all trying to convert Pakistani Muslims to their particular strain of Islam.
Bamed by what looked more like a recruiting ground for all kinds of Islamic evangelical outfits than a book fair, I frantically began to look for non-Pakistani stalls. And voila! I found one belonging to a Turkish publisher.
Ah, I thought. Good old secular Turkey. But, alas, it was Pakistan that the fair was being held in. But all that this particular stall carried was literature by Turkish Islamic author, Fetullah Gullen.
So amidst the loud chanting of aggressive sloganeering over the PA, abayas, beards and book after book after book claiming to contain the `true essence of Islam,` (for mama, papa, Bablu and Baby), I loped out to check the other two halls.
Though things were a bit quieter here, but here too, the majority of the stalls were piled up with books, DVDs and CDs aboutIslam for men, women, boys, girls, kids, old people, bankers, economists, wives, husbands and more wives. .
I finally came to three stalls that had nothing to do with faith.
Or rather they had more than just books about how to become a `true Muslim.
The tiniest of these was a stall selling books on MQM chief Altaf Hussain. I moved on because I had already read most of the stuff that they were selling.
Next was a stall run by a Sindhi publishing house. Impressive stuff on Sindhi culture, polities, art and the poetry of Shah Latif was on display. But unfortunately, most of it was in Sindhi.The third was an impressive stall run by ABC Publishers and Random House.
These guys too had a religious section (who wouldn't in Pakistan), finally, I could look at books on politics, music, philosophy and history as well.
Forget about secular space in Pakistan. It vanished a long time ago. This book fair proves that now even neutral space too is becoming a rarity.
Also, never underestimate the myth of subliminal messaging.
Guess which book I did end up buying at the fair: Islam in South-East Asia.
Left is Right
Published - 12/23/2012
Almost two years ago Osama bin Laden was supposedly killed. Do the silly Americans think that we actually believe the lies they are spreading about his tragic murder and his demeaning burial at the sea? We being true Muslims and card-carrying/bomb-making/McDonald`s-clomping leaders of the ummah can`t be fooled. There was no Osama in that compound in Abbottabad. The Americans killed a look-alike of Osama. The real Osama died of gall-bladder failure in a bush in Sudan in 2002. What`s more, his wives who were supposedly captured from the Abbottabad compound too were look-alikes, and so were his children. They were all look-alikes.
But it doesn`t stop here. Us Pakistanis know that the news about Osama`s death from gallbladder ailment in Sudan in 2002 is also suspect. That guy too was a look-alike. So, yes, it can safely be suggested that the guy they killed in Abbottabad in 2011 was actually a look-alike of a look-alike.
So when did Osama die if not in 2002 or 2011? According to a super famous journalist and TV anchor, Tipu Sultan, who interviewed Osama in an impoverished disco in Kandahar in 1998, Osama was actually dead at the time of the interview. He said that that the guy he talked to was actually a man called Al-Bakir Al-Shaikh Al Qaedawallah, an expert Elvis-turned-Osama-look-alike who told him (off the record) that Osama actually died in 1991 of malaria in the jungles of the Republic of Congo.
Nevertheless, there is every likelihood that the Congo guy was an Osama look-alike as well. So, in other words, the guy who the Americans claimed to have killed in Abbottabad was really a look-alike of a look-alike of a look-alike of a look-alike.
Nevertheless the actual truth is that there was never an Osama. He was never born. It was all an American concoction. The character of Osama Bin Laden was first conceived by America`s 15th President James Buchannan in 1859 when along with the Queen of England he decided to begin a brand new crusade against the Muslims. According to well known Muslim historian and gymnast, Naseem Hijazi, the British monarchy had accused a man called Osama Bin Laden for financing and instigating the 1857 Indian Mutiny against the British imperialists.The Americans and the British then claimed to have suppressed the mutiny by killing Osama in a daring raid. He was claimed to have been hiding in the hookah cafe of the last Mughal king, Bahadur Shah Zafar. Zafar denied the accusations, saying that no such man was seen on his radar. The British exiled Zafar to Burma and destroyed the radar, saying there is no such thing as a radar.
By the way, the guy the British claimed was Zafar was not exiled to Burma. He was only a lookalike. The real Zafar died of dengue forever in Guatemala where he had gone to raise an army against the British and study plants. Famous thinker and horticulturalist, Noam Chomsky, confirmed this. This concocted episode was rightly expunged from the history books by Muslim historians, until America brought the invisible Osama character back to life in the 1990s. They had originally planed to use him as a bogey to invade Canada, but changed their plans and decided to invade Afghanistan after they got jealous of all the amazing and unprecedented economic, cultural and military progress taking place in Afghanistan (under the Taliban) and Pakistan (under handsome military men).
Thus, not surprisingly, the 9/11 episode happened. We all know who was responsible. Not a single Jew died in that attack. Neither did any Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, animists and pagans. The truth is, only Muslims died in that attack. The proof? Simple. Log on to YouTube and check out brilliant, award-winning documentaries, `Loose Nut` and `The Drivels.` Popcorn`s on the house. There was never any Osama Bin Laden. Just like there is no Mulla Omar, no Taliban, no Al-Qaeda.
They`re all American concoctions. There`s only Coca-Cola the real thing.
Furthermore, America never won the war against the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union`s breakup too was a concoction. Soviet Union is still alive and thriving.
We don`t hear about it is because the Jewish controlled media has blocked all news about the Soviet Union. That is because the Afghan and Arab mujahideen that fought against it, liberated Afghanistan and conquered Soviet Union turning it into an Islamic caliphate. That`s why America`s next target will be Valdimir Putin (real name Abdul Something). So if one day you hear that Americans have assassinated Putin, don`t believe it. The real Putin died of a kidney ailment in 1045 AD.
The Zardari government should`ve resigned for letting America make a fool of Pakistanis even though at the same time it be praised for saving our souls and faith by banning YouTube. The Army is not to be blamed. The radar that failed to pick up American helicopters on May 2 was not a radar. It was a look-alike of the real thing that the Americans didn`t give us. Only the mighty Hamid Gul hinted at this while picking his nose. It was a sign: `Dig deep, dear patriots. You have nothing to lose but your heads.
Well said, Gul (real name Genghis), because after all, who needs heads when knees can perform the same function.
Left is Right
The slippery constituency
The slippery constituency
Nadeem F Paracha
Karachi is one of the largest cities in the world. It was once called the `city of lights`, due to its bustling and lively night life driven by nightclubs, cinemas, bars, eating places and other recreational outlets until many of these were closed down in 1977.
Nevertheless, Karachi still remains to be a nocturnal abode. Many of its famous symbols of nightlife may have been forced to close down thirty years ago, the pleasures that they once offered are still very much available under-the-table and largely tolerated.
Karachi is also the most diverse city in the country. Its large population is dotted by a number of different ethnicities, religions, Muslim sects and sub-sects.
The largest ethnic group here is made up of Urdu-speakers (Mohajirs), who constitute about 43per cent of the city`s population. The mohajirs also include Gujrati-speakers (Memons).
The second largest ethnic group in Karachi ismade up of the Pashtuns (now 18 to 20per cent). The Punjabis and Siraiki speakers together constitute about 19 per cent of the city`s population, followed by the Baloch and Sindhis.
More than 90per cent of Karachiites are Muslim. Most of them belong to the Barelvi Sunni Muslim sub-sect but there is now also a significant number (especially among the Pashtun) who identify with the conservative Deobandi Sunni Muslim sub-sect.
Karachi also has a large Shia Muslim population. Then there is a concentration of both Catholic and Protestant Christians; Bohri and Agha Khani Muslim sects, some Hindus as well as an influential concentration of Zoroastrians.
Karachi also hosts the largest number of immigrant population in Pakistan. These include Bengalis, Burmese, Afghans and a sprinkling of Philippinos, Sri-Lankans and Iranians.
The electoral constituency which best reflects this stunning ethnic, Muslim and religious diversity in Karachi is NA-250. It is not only the largest in Karachi, but one of the largest in Sindh as well.
It is due to this reason that this constituency has been throwing up some of the most interesting results.
Of course, it was not always so massive, but the diverse make-up of its voting population has remained more or less the same.
NA-250 constitutes the city`s leading posh localities, as well as some thickly populated middle and working class areas.
All of these localities are dotted by hefty pockets of Mohajir, Pashtun, Baloch, Punjabi and Sindhi populations.
Ever since 1988, Karachi`s voters have overwhelmingly voted for `secular` parties, mainly the MQM, followed by the PPP and (after the 2008 election), the ANP.
NA-250 however, has remained to be the trickiest and most uncertain electoral battlegrounds for the competing parties.
During the 1970 election many of the areas that are now within NA-250 came under NW134 (Karachi VII).
As the majority of voters in the former West Pakistan voted for left-leaning parties such as the PPP and the National Awami Party, voters in the Karachi-7 constituency returned Shah Noorani, chief of the Barelvi Islamic party, the JUP to the National Assembly. Noorani garnered 28,304 votes followed by the PPP`s Noorul Arfin who bagged 22,609 votes.
In the 1977 election, the constituency was further expanded and became NA-191. It was won by Munawar Hassan of Jamat-i-Islami (JI) who got 73,997 votes beating the PPP`s Jamiluddin Aali who managed 33,086 votes.
Karachi`s demography and consequently its polities began to change rapidly during the Ziaul Haq dictatorship between 1977 and 1988.
With the arrival of a large number of Afghans from the war-torn Afghanistan the number of Pashtuns in Karachi grew. The rising population of the city triggered ethnic and sectarian tensions and this resulted in the rise of the mohajir-centric MQM as a powerful secular-ethnic political force.
In the 1988 election, NA-191 was won by MQM`s Tariq Mehmood who received 36,746 votes. He had to fight hard against Sarwar Malik who was representing the constituency`s Punjabi and Pashtun populations under the Punjabi Pashtun Ittihad (PPI) umbrella. He received 28,145 votes.
The NA clections in 1993 were boycotted by the MQM. In these elections, NA-191 went tothe non-religious conservative PML-N`s Abu Bakar who received 27,845 votes followed by the Islamic JI`s Munawar Hassan who could only garner 8,550 votes.
In the 1997 election, whereas most of the NA seats in Karachi were being won by the MQM, NA-191 however produced an upset win for PML-N`s Capt. Haleem who won the seat with 31,414 votes. His closest rival was MQM`s Abdul Jalil who received 25,008 votes.
During the 2002 election, with the increase in the number of seats in the National Assembly , NA-191 became NA-250. Once again this con-stituency voted against the tide by returning veteran JI member, Sattar Afghani, to the NA with 21,462 votes. His closest rival was MQM`s Nasreen Jalil who received 19,414 votes.
The constituency witnessed perhaps its toughest electoral battle during the 2008 election.MQM`s Khushbakht Shujaat deleated PPP`s Dr. Ikhtiar Baig in a close and tense fight. Shujaat received 52,045 votes and Baig stood second with 44,412 votes.
NA-250 remains to be a wide-open and uncertain constituency. Recently Karachi`s largest party the MQM has been canvassing aggressively here, setting up various campaigns and offices.
But this time its main battle here is not expected to come from a PPP candidate. Because theother party that is seen trying to make use of this constituency`s cecentric electoral nature is Imran Khan`s PTI. It understands that NA-250 is the only constituency in Karachi that can produce a winner not associated with either the MQM or the PPP.
There is every likelihood that the main contest in NA-250 in the 2013 election will between the MQM and PTI. But PML-N also has a vote bank here and might spoil PTI`s ambitions. My prediction is that MQM, with the help of votes from disillusioned PPP voters in the constituency`s well-to-do and middle-class areas is poised to retain this seat.
Left is Right
With, within, without
With, within, without
By Nadeem F Paracha
Over the decades, the 1956 science-fiction film, The Forbidden Planet,` has been elevated by film critics to be a vintage Hollywood sci-fi classic.
In the sci-fi genre it is sometimes placed right along side director Stanley Kubrick`s 1968 masterpiece, `2001: A Space Odyssey ` as being one of the most intellectually rich sci-fi movies of all time.
`Forbidden Planet takes place in the 23rd Century where a spaceship is sent from Earth to a planet that is 16 light years away to find out what happened to a space probe that was sent to the planet 20 years ago.
On reaching the planet, the captain and crew members of the spaceship find a scientist and his family who tell the investigation party that an unknown force had destroyed the probe and killed the inhabitants of the planet.After facing attacks from the same unknown force/entity that is largely invisible, the spaceship crew finally figures out that the force is actually the subconscious manifestation of the scientist himself, triggered by a machine invented by him.
The scientist continues to deny this until he is finally convinced that the shadowy entity that is going about slaughtering the planet`s inhabitants is indeed the expression of his own subconscious mind and/or the manifestation of what German psychologist, Freud, called `the id`.
The film`s plot has always fascinated me; especially when I have wondered whether the unprecedented spats of violence by religious extremists that have been haunting Pakistan for years now, may be physical manifestations of our own collective subconscious.
This might also explain the inexplicable state of denial or silence that we as a nation usually fall into every time some entity goes on a killing spree in the name of faith.
May be our Dr Jekyll is simply refusing to realise that the despicable, chaotic and evil Mr Hyde is actually an extension of our own being and not some alien force unleashed across our Land of the Pure.
It is as if the figurative demons of hatred repressed deep within our sub-consciousness have suddenly leaped out to become a horrifying, tangible reality.
Laying latent in us have been awkward fantasies about gallant military takeovers and bloody revolutions based on rotating myths of` bravado and a worldview that has no room for any grey areas.
Such a state of mind has given birth to a cringing mindset radiating a somewhat delusional sense of chauvinism, patriotism and ideological self-indulgence, but one that also comes attached with a persecution complex and an obsessive-compulsive need to deny and deflect one`s own failures.
Though most of us are only willing to exhibit our quivering religious/sectarian and `patriotic` biases in the shape of the usual knee-jerk rhetoric on the internet and the TV, it won`t be all that wrong to suggest that most of what is harmlessly spilled out as patriotic rants in cyber space or the media, has now found its physical expression.
These are the physical manifestations of the demons of hatred most of us have been nurturing in our minds; demons fed by decades of`education`, propaganda or mythical tall tales of bluster and glory that have only ended up conspiring to isolate the Pakistani nation from reality.
We have been carved out and crafted (by the state, the clergy, the media and the class room), as a people who are on a divine mission to safeguard faith from its many (largely imagined and demagogically concocted) `enemies` We think of ourselves as being the chosen people and (thus) are quick to deny and hide most of our own failings by claiming that, No! These failures do not stem from our bloated perceptions about ourselves.
Instead, to most of us these failings are due to any number of` diabolic forces named and numbered and then wrapped in the usual deflective cliches that are spontaneously spouted out by preachers, politicians and patriots out there: i.e. the lingering residue of `colonialism,` malicious designs of `anti-Islam/anti-Pakistan forces`, American tinkering and intervention and, of course, democracy, liberalism, secularism...The truth is, on most occasions than not, it has very much been us and us alone who have brought this country to its knees.
The inflexible, intolerant and gun-totting strain of the faith that was glorified from the 1980s onwards gradually began making a number of us believe that what we had (peacefully) been practicing as our religion before this was perhaps wrong.We beg n to doubt our faith the way it was. The crises turned itself` into a daunting dilemma of` identity. Subtlety in matters of faith went out the window. The new Pakistani society started to judge this subtlety as a sign of weak faith. Consequently everything according to us and our faith be-came loud and pertaining to sheer exhibitionism.
Our faith`s spiritual dimensions were clipped away and it was made to freeze and lose its evolutionary and progressive spirit. It then became just another political and social ideology. A lumbering dogma. Such a dogma means nothing spiritually to an individual.
But it does detach him from the progressive and evolutionary character and body of the faith. Add politics to this mixture and you have a disaster in the making.
The violence that this country faces today in the name of faith is not very different from the violence that our state, politicians, media, and text books have instilled in each one of us.
Indeed, when we sit quietly looking in horror at images on TV of the carnage caused by a suicide bomber on our soldiers, policemen, politicians and common civilians, isn`t this a deep, dark reflection of all that was instilled and nurtured in our own heads? That is, the idea of faith not as a spiritually, intellectually and morally enriching path, but as a demagogic, politicised weapon to retain social, political and economic power. The power to exploit.
The day we finally realise that God alone has the wisdom and right to determine and judge the level and status of`one`s faith is when we may finally reign in the monster that is largely a horrendous and unwitting manifestation of our own self-righteousness and religious biases.
Left is Right
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