The Threat Of Political Islam

The trail of terror continues with cricketers as the latest target. The Mumbai and Lahore attacks, public executions and the murder of over a thousand civilians in the Swat valley by Taliban style terrorists are horrifying examples of atrocities committed by militant groups thriving on political Islam. Global Muslim communities require urgent measures in condemning the agenda of political Islam that distorts religious scriptures to legitimise violence. This ideology of Islamism is threatening to replace a moderate and spiritual Islam, leading to the destruction of society, particularly oppressing women and minorities.

Muslims have a moral responsibility to engage in the social, political and economic development of the societies they live in. Global Muslim societies would do well in following the exceptional efforts of the Indian clerics in denouncing terrorism and de linking it with Islam. Sincere moral outrage needs to be expressed at Taliban atrocities in Afghanistan and Pakistan, political kidnappings and assassinations, militancy in Kashmir, Shia Sunni killings in Iraq and Pakistan, fatwas that condone suicide bombings in the Israel Palestine conflict and other such atrocities that effect innocent lives. Muslims require the consensus of the international in combating extremism but our credibility is lost when we demonstrate selective outrage as in the aftermath of the Danish cartoons.

Political Islam draws its lifeblood from the ideology of fighting the oppressor, but has clearly become the oppressor. Even though some Islamist groups have renounced violence and accepted the principles of democracy, marginally improved their stand on women and minority rights, they remain socially conservative. In Jordan, the Islamist party does not support the rights of women to file for divorce. In Kuwait the Islamists fought against the right of women to vote. In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood will not allow a woman or a person from a minority community to become head of state. Unfortunately, militant Islamist groups thrive in the political vacuum created by oppressive regimes in most Islamic countries.

Muslims must stop blaming the problem of extremism on catastrophic foreign policies for two wrongs simply do not make a right. Islamism is primarily a Muslim problem, threatening both Muslim and non- Muslim societies. We need to acknowledge there is a problem of theology when extremists talk of going straight to heaven after taking innocent lives.

The roots of all modern militant Islamic movements can be traced to one man called Abdul Wahab from Nejd in the Arabian Peninsula. He set out to ‘purify’ Islam, believing that Muslims had drifted away from true religion. Wahab’s followers destroyed many sacred sites he considered idols. Attacking the arts for being frivolous and dangerous, Wahab sanctioned the rape; murder and plunder of those who refused to follow his injunctions. He was considered a heretic by most, for Makkah and Madinah were then centres of contemplative Islam, inhabited by Sufis from all over the world.

In 1774-5 Wahab negotiated a deal with the then nomadic tribe of Saud, forebears of the current royal family in exchange for support in their quest for political domination. Most Saudi’s reject the name Wahabbi; they either call themselves Muwahuddin- Unitarians- or Salafi, refering to salaf, the venerated companions of the Prophet. In this blinkered view, no other version of religious truth can exist. This new face of Islam has nothing to do with Sufis, music, poetry, miracles or the countless devotional customs of Muslim cultures across the world.

Under the patronage of the Saudi Arabia, Wahabism went from strength to strength. Abul Ala Mawdudi, a journalist who translated the Quran outside the paradigms of classical propagated the Wahabi ideology. He founded the political party Jamaat e Islami in Pakistan, making jihad central to Islamic discourse. Addressing non-Muslims as infidels, he grouped Muslims into ‘partial’ and ‘true’ Muslims. Mawdudi’s ideas of Islam as a revolutionary doctrine to take over governments and overturn the whole universal order deeply influenced Syed Qutub of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. These groups have been motivated by political upheavals and the rejection of traditional scholars. Syed Qutub’s brother happened to be among the teachers of Osama bin Laden.

The extremism now found in Makkah and Madinah, the heartland of Islam, is the Wahabi ideology that the Saudis have spent millions in promoting through their outreach programs. There is no tolerance for Shias, Sunni Sufis or other Muslim traditions, leave alone non -Muslims. Unfortunately, there is no collective Muslim protest against the Saudi regime for bulldozing graveyards, destroying cultural and religious heritage in the holy cities, imposing a certain sexual segregation of the sexes inside the Prophets mosque at Madinah, radical sermons, or the distribution of radical literature outside Saudi mosques, many of them issuing calls for death to whoever they view as infidels or innovators of Islam. The problem of Muslim extremism began in the Muslim world and the responsibility of resolving it lies with us.

The inability to present a picture of Islam as a peaceful religion is a collective failure of global Muslim communities. We could begin with increasing the decibel in condemning violence, sectarianism, standing up for the rights of women, stop demonising the other as kufaar (infidels) and show increased support for democratic movements in Muslim countries. It is time for the devout, silent peace-loving Muslim majority to speak for Islam. Let us become louder than the radical voices that claim to represent us.

Sadia Dehlvi is a Delhi based writer and author of the forthcoming book, “Sufism: The Heart of Islam” published by HarperCollins India.

Economic Challenges Might Be Opportunities For Us

Despite all due respect to ministers and other managers of economic policies of our great country, it is disappointing to read statements where it is repeatedly stated that the next year may be economically tougher, GDP growth rate may further decline, fiscal deficit may increase over the revised budget estimates and Indian economy may not turn around unless the global economy recovers. However, once the global economy shows the signs of recovery, India’s turn around will be sharper and swifter; backed by our strong fundamentals and the untapped growth potential.

Challenges might be viewed as opportunities:

We do believe that our fiscal and monetary authorities are sincerely doing the jobs at their best. Since no one can be perfect, chances of error and omissions might be there in assessment and visualization; and just possible that something might be missing in evaluation and analysis of data and plans. Thus it is desirable that instead of mentally preparing common Indians to face hard times ahead, they should better find and remove the regulatory hurdles for growth, announce alternative measures after reviewing the strategic plans and impacts of adopted measures. Of course, Indian economy, like many other economies around the world is facing hard time due to global recession, but it could also be an opportunity for India to pick up higher growth rate again. If India succeeds in doing it, many other nations may like to follow her. Thus, India may have an opportunity here to become a global economic leader.

Overweighing GDCF ratio to GDP:

It is rather unfortunate that the strategy for financing 11th five year plan is not accordance with the fundamental principles of economics of development and planning. How can we resolve a plan with continuous fall in the ratio of consumption expenditure to GDP? Somewhere we have overemphasized Gross Domestic Capital Formation (GDCP) to boost GDP growth. The balance between consumption expenditure and investment should be well maintained in our plans. No economy can achieve sustainable higher economic growth if consumption expenditure ratio to GDP is allowed to fall below 70 percent. Since 11th five year plan was finalized, economic environment in India as well as around the world has changed drastically. It might be reasonable to think of a possible review of the plan to find the odds. The proposal to finance the plan was based on higher saving and investment growth rates which was going right to the plan till inflow of capital from international market was increasing, but after reversal of capital account status, the falling consumption expenditure ratio to GDP accompanied by fall in international demand revealed the truth that an economy cannot grow at higher rate if its consumption expenditure ratio to GDP keep on reducing and the GDCF ratio to GDP keep on increasing.

Continuous falling TCE ratio to GDP should be arrested:

After liberalization of capital account, our GDP growth rates in India have been more than impressive, but proportionate share of Total Consumption Expenditure (TCE) to GDP has declined from 73.2% in 2003-04 to 67.8% in 2007-08. Even with higher GDP growth, our consumption power has weakened during these years. The GDCF ratio to GDP has increased from 27.7% in 2003-04 to 31.9% in 2007-08. There is a limit to stretch the GDCF ratio to GDP. At present India need to focus more on boost consumption expenditure compared to investments expenditures. To boost demand, funds need to flow more towards unorganized sector where workers have higher Marginal Propensity to Consume (MPC) as compared to workers in organized sector. But after analyzing the scope of increase in consumption expenditure with increased liquidity through monetary and fiscal measures, it may be found that funds are not really reaching to bottom level and financial adjustments are more composite in these measures.

Uneven distribution of financial resources:

The fall in consumption expenditure and increase in saving and investment does not indicate inclusive growth because data may prove that after liberalization of capital account, capital inflow through stock market or in terms of External Commercial Borrowings (ECBs) has relatively benefited the corporate sector and the financial enterprises more than other sectors ; but the domestic unorganized sector enterprises have been somehow remained neglected and suffered due to lack of sufficient financial support required for growth. The uneven distribution of financial resources within the economy may have put the corporate sector on higher growth trajectory at the cost of unorganized sector. As a result the rich became richer and poor became poorer.

Corporate Sector might be exploiting financial regulations:

At this stage, one may advance the hypothesis that the corporate sector has exploited the financial regulations framed with regard to fuller convertibility of capital account. Corporate sector have seen investing locally raised equities into Mutual Funds, while enjoying ECBs to expand their businesses because ECBs have been cheaper than domestic credit sources. It has pulled the equity funds to corporate sector and the unorganized sector enterprises were under mercy of local banks with high interest rate which were enough to discourage the entrepreneurship.

Flow of Funds for inclusive growth:

Study might reveal that the financial sector enjoyed liberalization of capital account and thus the financial sector growth rate surpasses GDP growth and rates of growth for many primary and secondary sector industries and trades. The data on growth rate for unorganized and organized sector during last five years and fund flow ratio to these sectors would reveal the script of high growth trajectory for India. It would help us assess the role of financial sector enterprises to help the economic enterprises grow. We have to assure that funds are guided to flow according to sustainable and real inclusive growth plan.

Appropriate flow of equity funds may reduce fiscal deficit:

As an emerging economy, India has high potential for investment expenditures, but when GDCF ratio to GDP crosses 25%, this potential was bound to become somewhat moderate. The continuous fall in consumption expenditure ratio to GDP for last ten years could not hold the high economic growth and it became faster when global recession further weakened the external demand. Since October 2008 after feeling financial pressure, Indian authorities provided excess liquidity worth around 10% of GDP through monetary and fiscal measures in domestic market; but even 2% increase in domestic consumption expenditure has not been achieved. It is critical to review whether the measures are appropriate enough to divert the liquidity to the group with higher Marginal Propensity to Consume (MPC). It is inappropriate to increase the fiscal deficit any more to increase the consumption expenditure when central and state government combined debt is more than 70% of GDP. Domestic consumption expenditure may be increased at even higher rate with entrepreneurship development as well if equity funds are extended to the unorganized sector where workers have higher MPC instead of corporate sector where workers have higher Marginal Propensity to Save (MPS). If we appropriately priorities the flow of equity funds there it may work more effectively to boost demand compared to increasing public expenditures and making fiscal deficit beyond revised budget estimates.

Workers with higher MPC do not get Equity Funds:

A study may reveal that we need to track the fund flow guided through monetary and fiscal measures to boost domestic consumption. Around 95% Poor and vulnerable workers engaged in the unorganized sector enterprises with higher MPC still find difficult to access equity funds while corporate sector with higher MPS enjoys all equity funds. There is no doubt that equity funds encourage entrepreneurial expenses whereas high risk mitigating capacity is needed to afford debt based credits. Since poor entrepreneurs in unorganized sector have low risk mitigating capacity, they deserve more of equity funds as compared to corporate sector. The nature of work at enterprises engaged in unorganized sector does not allow stock market to provide equity funds so they are deprived of equity funds.

Banks should be allowed to deal in small equity funds:

India need to invent small banks dealing in small equity deposits and credits at local level so that small enterprises working in the unorganized sector could be monitored through banks that are otherwise out of reach of stock markets. It might be appropriate to allow local banks deal in equity funds with limit of Rs. 3,00,00,000 which is entry limit for an enterprise to register in stock market. Considering the composite structure of huge unorganized sector, banks may be allowed to extend equity funds with limit of Rs. 3,00,00,00 from their equity fund stocks. Small equity fund may be maintained by banks which could be easily monitored at local levels.

Huge domestic consumerism is main strength of Indian economy:

Such initiatives may increase flow of equity funds to the unorganized sector enterprises whose factor cost would certainly boost expenditure capacity of workers. Since such workers are around 95% of total Indian work force, it may increase the consumption expenditure to considerable level because their MPC is much higher compared to workers in the organized sector. It would also boost the demand forces pushing India out of recession. The investment through equity funds at unorganized sector enterprises will help them grow and raise output whose consumers are local. Increased output of unorganized sector enterprises is supposed to be immediately consumed by huge domestic consumerism where MPC is much higher.

Equity Funds to unorganized sector is the key:

If we succeed to provide equity funds to 95% unorganized sector workers who have higher MPC, India may be on higher growth trajectory again with much inclusive and sustainable growth in nature because it would not depend on international demand or supply, but on domestic demand and supply which is much strong at present as indicative through the difference in wholesale and retail price indices. Equity funds to the unorganized sector will help 95% Indian workers make more expenditure on consumption and investment allowing India grow faster than ever before with really inclusive in nature as well.

Let’s guide the global economy:

Once Indian economy comes out from recession, it will certainly guide other nations to follow this pattern. India will lead the international economic growth strategy. So, it is better that India should stop waiting for recovery of global recession, and set guideline for faster and inclusive economic growth strategy for all nations.

Hindutva And The Upcoming Indian Elections

Indian Flag ColorsTwenty five years ago, for the first time since Indian independence, a political party came to power at the center by whipping up a mass communal hysteria. That party was the Congress and its leader was Rajiv Gandhi, who commented that the “earth shakes when a big tree falls”, as if the anti- Sikh pogrom was the most natural phenomenon. He was soon to backtrack from such a frontal communal posture towards balanced communalism. He let open the locks of the Babri Masjid and simultaneously supported the Muslim Law Bill. In both cases, he provided a shot in the arm to the regressive sections among the Hindus and the Muslims. Continue reading Hindutva And The Upcoming Indian Elections

India Votes: Muslim Leadership Problems

Gwalior Tomb“Umar bhur ek hi gulti kurtey rahey,
Aur doosroon pur ilzaam daitey rahey.
Dhool thi chehre pur apney,
Aur hum aaina saaf kartey rahey”

Traveling in a train in north India a young Muslim Urdu poet was heard to recite the above thoughtful verse that so poignantly illustrates how the leadership of the Indian Muslims has gone off on a tangent and has gone off-track. They have gotten bogged down in locking horns with their adversaries on minor non-issues instead of challenging the mainstream parties, to give them their due share of infrastructure development in their townships, to protect them from rabid sectarian violence, and to stop denying them the benefits of democracy.

The 15th parliamentary election in sixty years of democratic India is looming on the horizon. Like others, Muslims too have repeatedly participated in these rituals of democracy. Why is it that for Muslims this important exercise in democracy became only a ritual that they repeated in the past 14 elections? Muslims, a solid fourteen percent block of Indians, have not only remained at the bottom of the Indian barrel, they have kept going down? In the same time frame, the Dalits and OBCs who were at the rock bottom in 1947, have utilized the same democratic exercises to make impressive gains up the national ladder.

To understand the puzzle note that for the coming election each major ethnic community has readied itself by highlighting their major issues for the political parties. The only exception is the Muslim community. The leaders of the Muslims in mainstream parties remain unfocussed and fragmented. Many of them with promises of election tickets remain beholden to the agendas of others and shelve discussion of their community’s issues with the top leadership of their parties.

Instead of bringing up the pressing issues of Muslim masses to the party leadership, they become yes-men of the party bosses and look for largesse for their own kith and kin.

Then there are Muslim leaders who have formed over half a dozen seasonal Muslim parties in the last six months alone. The Ulema Council, the Parcham Party, the Muslim Mahaz, the Peace Party, that sprung up in recent months, are on a narrow Muslim track with no serious effort to make common cause with like minded deprived non-Muslim communities. Other Muslim parties like Assam United Democratic Front (AUDF) and the Milli Council, though a couple of years old, have also not made much headway in forming alliances with mainstream secular parties.

And then there are the decades old Majlis Ittehadul Muslimeen (Hyderabad) and Indian Union Muslim League (Kerala/Tamil Nadu), that split because the top leadership refused to share power with other dedicated activists. And there is the seventy year old Jamiat ul Ulema Hind, that though is not a political party, but its top leaders, the Madani uncles and brothers, first fought publicly to control Jamiat and now are contesting election from a variety of parties, backing the agendas and leaders of the respective parties whose candidates they are, often against each other. The agenda and issues of the Muslims has gone out of the window.

The United Muslim Front (UMF) of Assam that gave so much promise to get justice for the large but impoverished Muslim community of Assam a couple of decades ago got co-opted by the Congress party, which gave some government positions to UMF leaders like Golam Usmani, and then they stopped lobbying for the Assamese Muslims. Similarly the Pasmanda Muslim Mahaz (PMM) of Ali Anwar, who tried to get social uplift for the long impoverished Dalit Muslims of Bihar got co-opted by Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal, by giving the PMM leaders some largesse of positions of power, after which the PMM’s fervor for social uplift cooled substantially.

Also if you look at the leadership of these “Muslim” parties you find that they have low credibility since they are dominated by clerics and bereft of any of the Muslim intelligentsia who could broad base them. Why is the Muslim intelligentsia so indifferent to the pressing issues of the Muslim masses? Why are the Muslim clerics so indifferent to the Muslim intelligentsia? Why can they not cooperate a bit and in the process help the Qaum? Too many questions but too few answers.

With the Sachar Committee report released about two years ago Muslims had assumed that most Muslim leaders in mainstream parties and the Muslim organizations will make sure that the implementation of this committee’s findings is an integral part of the election platform of all mainstream parties. But that is not what we find on the eve of the election. This despite the fact that there are 90 parliamentary constituencies where Muslim population is about 20 percent, where they can pretty much make the political parties agree to address the basic issues of the community.

Instead the parties that claim to be the friends of Muslims are playing games with them. In Uttar Pradesh, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) of Mayawati that only a few months ago opposed the US-India Nuclear Accord as being against Muslims, has given tickets to only 14 Muslims out of a total of 80 parliamentary constituencies in the state, while it assigned 20 seats to Brahmins, whom it claims to oppose. After winning the election for UP Assembly a year ago with solid Muslim support, BSP appointed only one Muslim as a cabinet minister. And that too is the minor portfolio of Environment. Also after becoming Chief Minister, Mayawati stopped the construction of the Mohammad Ali Jauhar Minority University in Rampur, that would have been of much help in reducing severe educational backwardness among the Muslims of UP.

The Samajwadi Party (SP) of Mulayam Singh Yadav that claimed to be the solid friend of Muslims, has co-opted Kalyan Singh, who as the BJP Chief Minister presided over the demolition of Babri mosque in 1992, into SP’s top leadership. As to the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), when Muslims asked why no Muslim was in the top leadership of the party, its chief Laloo Yadav said that, he himself was the leader of the Muslims of Bihar.

As to the Congress party, with the election campaign in full swing, the party has not included any of its top Muslim leaders in the top tier of its campaigners. In fact in the last five years of its rule in New Delhi, Congress party did not give an opportunity to any of its Muslim leaders to rise and be in the national leadership echelons. And of course Congress has played deceptive games with Muslims when they asked for any real uplift opportunities.

So which Muslim leaders or groups are lobbying with the mainstream parties that they pledge to implement the recommendations of the Sachar Committee on the backwardness of Muslims, and that they restrain police high-handedness against the Muslim youth, the two top ‘make or break’ issues of India’s Muslims? I am afraid your guess is as good as mine.

Photo: Gwalior Tomb

Response To A Pakistani View Of Indian Muslims

Indian Muslims Protest Against PakistanDubai-based Pakistani writer Rabia Alavi in a column in Khaleej Times on 1 March 2009 charges that Indian Muslims are hell-bent on portraying Pakistan as a terrorist hub. However, the entire world is now witness for what really Pakistan stands for. Danish Ahmad Khan responds to Rabia Alavi’s article.

“Why have Indian Muslims, most whom seem well-educated and demonstrate sound judgment on all other matters under the sun, suddenly lose sight of their bearings (and manners) when it comes to attacking all things Pakistani, be it the country’s politics, culture, food or fashion. Why are they hell-bent on defying common sense when it comes to writing off a whole country as being a terrorist hub?” This statement from a Dubai-based Pakistani writer Rabia Alavi whose half of extended family are Indians, is really shocking indeed. I don’t know how this Pakistani woman gathered the gumption to dub we, Indian Muslims, as nonsensical and the ones who are ‘hell-bent on defying common sense when it comes to writing off a whole country as being a terrorist hub’. I just wonder why doesn’t this Pakistani writer – who is seemingly possessed with a squint and blinkered vision – see to it that it is Pakistan which is in fact proving to be no less than a terrorist hub when it comes to attacking all things Indian. My dear Ms. Rabia Alavi have you forgotten the 26/11 Mumbai attacks which claimed several Indian lives irrespective of the religions these martyrs belonged to. Which country did these ‘Islamic heroes’ nay ruthless inhuman killers belonged to? Can you deny that these ‘Jihadis’ did not belong to Pakistan? Your Pakistani government has itself publicly acknowledged that these goons hailed from Pakistan, whom it firstly tried to portray as non-state actors. Are YOU a MUSLIM or not? Are the rulers of Pakistan MUSLIMS or not? Does Islam ask to settle political scores by slaughtering human beings whether they are Muslims or non-Muslims? Is this what is JIHAD you Pakistanis call or think so? What kind of Islam are you Pakistanis propagating? You Pakistanis first of all need to get lessons regarding the true teachings of Islam. We, Indian Muslims, really don’t need to take lessons from you all. Your kind of Islam has miserably failed you all no ends, and Pakistan, which was formed in the name of Islam, is fast approaching to don the status of a failed state. Just cite me a single reason as to why we, Indian Muslims, shouldn’t acknowledge and proclaim Pakistan as a terrorist hub.

I simply look askance when Rabia Alavi daringly asks: “But why do Indian Muslims trouble themselves with Pakistan’s worries anyway? Don’t they have enough of their own? Need I remind them how uncomfortable their minority status is for them? Are they not second-class citizens in their own country? Are they not troubled by the countless assaults on the country’s minorities, the destruction of Babri Masjid or the slaughter of Muslims in Gujarat? Don’t they worry about the Modis and Sadhvi Pragyas of their country?” This is simply ridiculous. For your kind knowledge Ms. Rabia Alavi, we, Indian Muslims, don’t ever care about Pakistan or its worries. But, isn’t it a fact that Pakistan is constantly after us trying to create troubles whenever it’s possible. And, 26/11 Mumbai attacks is just another add on in its long list of crimes. Rabia would do well to at least acknowledge the fact that we, Indian Muslims, never sought help from Pakistan or any other country for that matter to take care of our problems. We, Indian Muslims, are ourselves strong and capable enough to tackle our own problems whenever need be. I don’t buy your theory that we, Indian Muslims, are second-class citizens in our own country. Let me state that we, Indian Muslims, are thankful to the Almighty Allah and our country’s system of governance that we exercise our democratic rights on our own free will without any sort of coercion or favour whatsoever. Whenever need be we, Indian Muslims, have changed governments at the Centre and in the states that failed to deliver either in terms of development or providing security to lives of people. Yes, I do acknowledge that communal riots did take place. But, these are now becoming things of the past. Rabia, but what about democracy in Pakistan. Just see how the Pakistani Generals trample your democratic rights at their own free will. It is pitiable that even after 60 years of independence you all are struggling to let democracy prevail in Pakistan in true sense of the term. Isn’t it a sorry state of affairs for your beleaguered country? Don’t you have your own problems? What about Jiye Sindh movement, Mohajirs and NWFP? Aren’t these grave problems for Pakistan which it has squarely failed to handle? What about Pakistani Muslims who are being slaughtered daily by Talibani jihadists. Aren’t you seeing this? Don’t you have the courage to take these Talibani jihadis head on. I know you are meek and a coward. You won’t even dare to write or talk about the tribals in North West Frontier Province of your country Pakistan. If you ever dare to do so, well you know your fate? DEATH at the hands of NWFP Talibani jihadis! Ms. Rabia, I’m sorry to state that YOU are not a real Pakistani as you are writing sitting pretty well ensconced in secure confines in Dubai. And, just look at me. I’m writing my comments sitting in my own homeland. Just look how much guts you possess and what I possess. This is enough to prove that I’m not a second-class citizen, while I just feel sorry about your status at this critical juncture which your country is presently in.

Ms. Rabia Alavi, do you know that the foundations of the so-called Islamic Republic of Pakistan was laid by an aristocrat Mohammad Ali Jinnah, who wasn’t concerned with Islam at all except being a namesake Muslim. By the way, don’t you know that fact that your Qaid-e-Azam Jinnah profoundly enjoyed alcohol, never entered a prayer hall or Masjid except for his marriage with Zoroastrian Rutten Bai. Jinnah loved consuming pork flesh and extracted its soup. Don’t you know that consuming pork and alcohol are forbidden in Islam? And, you still revere this Pork eating and wine consuming Mohammad Ali Jinnah – your GREAT Quaid-e-Azam!! Please don’t take my comments as otherwise. I suppose this is what you really asked for while initiating needless debate regarding actions of Indian Muslims vis-à-vis Pakistani Muslims.

Looking For The Moderate Taliban

Ever since Obama admitted the US was not winning in Afghanistan and broached the possibility of reaching out to the “moderate” Taliban, there has been a flurry of responses weighing in his odds on both sides. Obama bases his approach on the apparent success of peeling away the moderates from the extremists in Iraq. I say apparent because his assumption ignores the ethnic cleansing of Shias which led to “peace” in the much touted Anbar province [where the surge “worked”] as well as the accelerated ethnic cleansing of Sunnis which took place in Baghdad. In the words of Tom Ricks, military reporter: “And yes, another reason Baghdad is quieter is that ethnic cleansing has been completed in much of the city.”

Then there was the fake sheik who represented the “moderate” elements and the duplicity of the preceding administration, which was talking to dead people while fighting fictitious enemies. Nevertheless, the novel notion of a dialogue to achieve resolution cannot be underscored enough. The UN Envoy to Afghanistan is open to the idea but recommends talking to all the Taliban as it is his opinion that a fragmented approach will fail. This validates Rory Stewarts articulate presentation of the reasons why the Iraq approach is doomed to fail in Afghanistan: “The Taleban… do not have mass movements behind them. When we talk about driving the Taleban to the table, we forget that these groups are more insubstantial and fragmented than we acknowledge. The Kabul Government lacks political depth or legitimacy; the Taleban is elusive…”

Afghan opposition leaders, analysts and writers have also expressed their skepticism, maintaining that as long as Karzai’s government appears weak and ineffective, such approaches would lead nowhere

“I don’t know of a single peace process that has been successfully negotiated from a position of weakness or stalemate.”-Ashraf Ghani, former finance minister

“Obama’s comment resemble a dream more than reality,” said Waheed Mozhdah, an analyst who has written a book on the Taliban.

“Where are the so-called moderate Taliban? Who are the moderate Taliban?” asked Mozhdah, who was an official in both the Taliban and the Karzai governments.

Gen. David Petraeus, inflated by his “success” in Iraq would nevertheless like to apply the same strategy in Afghanistan and “has been a strong supporter of the strategy of trying to divide the Afghan insurgency by offering money and jobs to those willing to accept the government in Kabul. He has said that his strategy of outreach to what he has described as “reconcilables” among the insurgents in Iraq might be applicable in Afghanistan as well.”

While the US administration muddles around the possible outcome of adding more arms to the turmoil, the Afghan government, alongwith Saudi Arabia and Pakistan is already holding talks with the Taliban. Ironically, Taliban officials blame the US government and NATO for impeding these talks and inhibiting resolution between the Taliban and Afghan government.

A former top Taliban official says Afghans blame NATO and the U.S., not Taliban insurgents, for the mounting civilian deaths. And, says, Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, the international forces should step aside to let the Kabul government and Afghan military negotiate a settlement to the war with the Taliban. Mullah Zaeef, who became the public face of the Taliban regime as it collapsed in late 2001, says the Afghan government wants to reach a peaceful solution to the ongoing fighting with the Taliban and other insurgents, but is not being allowed to do so as NATO and the U.S. are firmly in control of military operations. “They have no power, they have no independence to negotiate,” said the mullah, a former confidant of Taliban leader Mullah Omar. “The foreigners should let the people of Afghanistan decide. If they want to talk to the Taliban, the foreigners should not interfere.” Mullah Zaeef spent almost four years in the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay after being arrested in Pakistan in January 2002. He was released at the request of the Afghan government, which is trying to work with “good Taliban” as part of a reconciliation program.

In all this hoopla, the real victims of the war continue to suffer and joke about their helplessness in the face of the events over which they have little or no control.

“Knock, knock.”

“Who is there?”

“It’s U.S. Special Forces.”

“What do you want?”

“We are looking for Mr. Moderate Taliban to talk to our leader, Mullah Obama.”

“There is no one here but us, the real Taliban; we are bearded, armed, and we don’t allow our girls to go to school or go outside.”

“It’s ok, he still wants to talk to you if you only oppress your own women and don’t attack us.”

So whats the solution? Is there a way out of this cesspool? Shazia Rafi offers a way to locate the “moderate” Taliban. Here criteria? Treatment of women. Based on the premise that the quality of a country is determined by the way it treats its women, she has offered a list of recommendations by which the Obama government can successfully locate moderates to deal with.

  • Any leader whose own daughters are being educated without restriction on grade level or subjects: a moderate;
  • Any leader whose mother, sisters, wife are educated without restriction on grade level or subjects: a moderate;
  • Any leader who is willing to take the women and girls of his family to a male physician if he is the doctor on duty at the hospital/clinic: a moderate;
  • Any leader whose female family members have paid employment or are self-employed: a moderate;
  • Any leader who has killed or advocated killing of individuals or groups that disagree with his viewpoint: not eligible for moderate status.

And if you think thats not important, take a gander at what RAWA has to say here and here, or the following video

Civil Revolution May Usher A Constitutional Democracy In Pakistan

Pakistan NavyPakistan avoided yet another crisis. Although oscillating between corrupt civilian governments and military dictatorships, crises have been a way of life for Pakistan. But this crisis was different. It was not particularly for or against a leader. It was the third act of a grass-roots movement, led by the lawyers, in favor of the rule of law under a constitutional framework.

Pakistan appears to be on the verge of emerging as a functioning Constitutional Democracy, with primacy of laws and constitution that has eluded Pakistan for 61 years of its checkered history. Continue reading Civil Revolution May Usher A Constitutional Democracy In Pakistan

Varun And The Ghost Of Sanjay Gandhi

What happens when the ghosts of a powerful past return to haunt a man whose father was the de facto prime minister of India in the 70s? Varun Gandhi could have learned a lesson history taught his father but instead he chose venom over the history. Varun Gandhi could have become the Rahul Gandhi of today had history been on his side. But alas, history is not a narration of ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’. History does not allow anybody to remain permanently powerful. Sanjay Gandhi, Varun’s father, was an extremely powerful politician and Indira Gandhi’s “favoured son.” He was a man in great hurry. On the fateful day of June 23, 1980, Sanjay was flying a single-engine plane for fun. He did three loops in the air but probably was not satisfied. He tried a fourth but lost control. The young dream came crashing down; so did the aspirations of his wife Maneka and son Varun Gandhi.

The fate of Sanjay Gandhi’s family can be summed up in one line: Power followed by powerlessness.

Indira Gandhi’s elevation of her son has been described as ‘feudal’. Eminent historian Ramchandra Guha has rightly remarked, “And just as sons of Mughal emperors were once given a suba (province) to run before taking over the kingdom itself, Sanjay was asked to look after affairs in India’s capital city.”

29-year old Varun Gandhi’s life journey has been characteristically marked by a steep decline of his family. Varun Gandhi was barely three months old when Sanjay Gandhi died in the accident. Sanjay’s death marked the beginning of an era dominated by Rajiv Gandhi. Rajiv’s miraculous rise eclipsed Maneka and Varun Gandhi. A feeling of loss must be etched in the memory of Varun Gandhi.

So what was Varun Gandhi thinking when he spew venom against Indian Muslims and Mahatma Gandhi, father of the nation? How can a man – who studied in the liberal tradition of London School of Economics and Political Science – be communal? Perhaps he was following in his father’s footsteps whose obsessive preference was to be always in the news.

Sanjay Gandhi was the darling of Indian media in the 70s. Sanjay’s “chief cheerleader and trumpeter” was none other than Khushwant Singh himself who devoted pages and pages of photographs accompanied by flattering text in the famous The Illustrated Weekly of India. All India Radio (AIR) and the state-run television channel Doordharshan also used to pay much more attention to Sanjay. Facts would put AIR and Doordharshan to shame. In a single year alone, 192 “news items” were broadcast about Sanjay from the Delhi station of AIR. In the same period, Doordharshan telecast 265 bulletins about Sanjay’s activities. What more when Sanjay made a 24-hour-trip to Andhra Pradesh, the Films Division made a full-length documentary called A Day to Remember whose commentary ran in three languages!

Which media organisation will provide such coverage to Varun Gandhi today? Of course, none. Varun was trying to imitate his father in order to create news around himself. Varun had forgotten that the days of a golden bygone era are over.

Varun Gandhi’s only claim to fame is that he belongs to the Gandhi family. He joined BJP following in his mother’s footsteps in a mad race for power. His five years in BJP has been frustrating. In 2004, he could not contest elections since he was not 25; now he is eligible. Varun wanted to make sure that his debut electoral entry was akin to big bang theory. This is precisely for this reason that he intentionally opted for a provocative poll speech. Varun wants to be like his powerful father who was the centre of attention as well as attraction for even union ministers. It is a well-known fact that Bansi Lal, the then Defence minister, took the two candidates for admiral to be questioned by Sanjay. And When Sanjay Gandhi visited Jaipur; on his way 501 arches were erected in his honour! And at Lucknow airport when Sanjay stumbled on the tarmac and lost the sleeper, it was picked up by UP chief minister. He very reverentially handed it back to Sanjay. Today, Varun is trapped in such a political quagmire that his sleeper will not handed back to him even by an airhostess of a third class airline!

Varun Gandhi’s plight and stature is exactly opposite of Sanjay Gandhi. Sanjay Gandhi wielded so much influence in Indian politics that anybody opposing his diktat was doomed. When Kishore Kumar refused to sing for programmes organised to raise money for Sanjay Gandhi’s notorious family planning, coercion and force were used by Sanjay’s men to boycott Kishore Kumar. Kishore’s songs were banned from Vividh Bharati, AIR channel that used to broadcast film music. The Film Censor Board was instructed to hold up release of movies in which Kishore acted or sang! Sanjay’s supporters also warned record companies against selling Kishore’s songs!

Sanjay Gandhi was a man of obsession: ‘The Man Who Used to Get Things Done’ by hook or by crook. Varun Gandhi is following the same path in order to carve out a niche for himself. There is a fundamental difference between the two: The father was arrogant and haughty but he had at least apologised once on the instructions of his mother, Indira Gandhi. In an interview, Sanjay had lambasted the Marxists and accused them of being corrupt. He later retracted his statement and said that leaders in Jana Sangh and Swatantra parties were even more ‘corrupt’ and that CPI must be saluted for its support to “progressive policies, especially those affecting the poor people.”

Varun’s unapologetic mood conveys that he is being backed by his mother Maneka and the BJP. Chief Election Commission must ban him from contesting the upcoming general election from Pilbhit.

In his press conference, Varun claimed to be a ‘Gandhi’ but he has forgotten the ideals of his own family, at least of his grandmother. “All my father’s works”, said Indira Gandhi in 1962, “have been written in prison. I recommend prison life not only for aspiring writers but for aspiring politicians too.”

Is there any message for Varun? Yes, prison is the only place where he can wear the mantle of political maturity.

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