To Amjad Sabri: Qawwali Never Hurt Anybody

Source: dawn.com

Source: dawn.com

A few days ago when I landed in Karachi for the first time since Sabeen’s murder, the first thought that struck me was that now this city was without her presence. This drove me into a state of temporary depressed state until I had other things to take care of to offer a distraction.

But I had pictured the scene of gunmen approaching her car and opening fire on her. I wonder how it would have felt. You can only imagine the horror.

Who could imagine, I guess you could, but even expect to bear that the happy-go-lucky, jolly and constantly smiling Amjad Sabri would meet a similar fate. He was killed pretty much in the same fashion as Sabeen on June 22.

The TTP Hakimullah Mehsud group has expected responsibility. Most likely for the same supposedly blasphemous Qawwali that got Shaista Wahidi into trouble for allegedly disrespecting Ali and Fatima. Everyone acting on those calls for violence and considering holy figures more important than human life ought to be ashamed of their morals. Especially blasphemy public inquistors like Mubasher Lucman and the petition filers Shauhada Foundation.

Now, the people are speculating on who murdered Amjad Sabri, whether it is the Taliban or was it a political assassination, or just personal rivalry?

Who cares? At this point in time, so many including myself are in shock and pain.

Perhaps not grief, because it was not someone very close and dear to us. I know some who knew hin somewhat closely and are very heartbroken. But this is all you can think of. The dull pain never goes away, as in the case of Sabeen and so many more who have lost their lives to mindless violence in our cities.

What if the murderer gets caught? Just like the one who killed Sabeen got caught and confessed?

What if we have the satisfaction of having them hanged? Would that bring him back?

Source: Shia Multimedia Team

Source: SMT

I am not sure of anything, but I am sure of this.

For no reason at all, the lives of his family are ruined, especially those of his children.

His widow has already been hospitalized after collapsing of grief. I don’t even want to imagine what she would be going through. What her children would be going through.

They must be wondering what did their father do wrong to deserve this? Especially because they must be religious.

We were never a nation that killed Qawwals. What is the matter with us?

His father Ghulam Fareed Sabri Qawwal performed his masterful Tajdaar-e-Haram in s period fresh with the Islamization from the Zia regime. No threats came to him, despite the Islamization at the time.

Why do these Taliban-like militants on the loose targeting Sufi singers today?

Would Ghulam Fareed Sabri had even the remotest of ideas that his son would be slaughtered in a country that adored and valued his work so much?

For a country that is known for the world for Qawwali, we got to ask ourselves. When did we start hating it?

Does the puritanism of the faith of some have grown more important than messages of peace and love?

Qawwali never hurt anybody.

Every moment of existence is becoming difficult in this suffocating mess.

I do not watch Pakistani TV channels much, but always enjoyed his full of life presence whenever I caught him.

I particularly look forward to his performance in Coke Studio 9.

His voice will always remain with us.

May his soul rest in peace.

The Chabahar Deal Reveals India’s Double Standards on State Terrorism

Source: indiatoday.in

Source: indiatoday.in

Mumbai attacks not only devastated India to its very core but has also shaken the conscience of the world, including many in Pakistan. The attacks were undoubtedly one of the most shocking since 9/11 anywhere around the world, but were significant due to India’s findings that the Pakistani state could have been involved.

Since then, India has maintained a principled stance of holding Pakistan accountable for letting Islamist militants, if not its citizens, use their territory to harm Indian people and state assets. While there is a long history of such attacks and allegations, including the attack on the Indian Parliament, the recent attacks on the Pathankot airbase have opened the old wounds that have destroyed relations between India and Pakistan.

However, India’s high standards of fighting state terrorism go down the toilet drain when it comes to its relations with Iran. The recent Chabahar Deal points to a partnership that goes far deeper than just bilateral trade. This does a little disservice to the great stance adopted in fighting the resistance from Pakistan to acknowledge its shortcomings, if not crimes.

Other than North Korea, Iran is the only country that openly calls for the death and condemnation of the Western civilization, as well as openly threatening the annihilation of Israel. Not to mention, a nuclear Iran could pose the sort of dangers for the Middle East that are unprecedented. Again, Israel being the focal point of all the threats.

Furthermore, Iran also has a dubious history of backing Shia militias all over the Middle East, orchestrating an attack on the Saudi ambassador to the United States and has grown tremendously in terms of influence following the fall of the Saddam regime. A recent report from the State Department finds Iran as the top sponsor of state terrorism in the world.

There is nothing about these findings that India is unaware of. India ignores the awful diplomatic stances of Iran, which has almost made the Islamic Republic a pariah in the international community.

There is no doubt that Pakistan has lost face with awful and unacceptable state policies such as allegedly sheltering Osama Ben Laden and backing certain factions of the Taliban and other anti-India militant groups. However, even Pakistan cannot even imagine to take the kind of disastrous and self-destructive diplomatic lines that Iran is known for.

It is shocking that most countries in the world would even remotely be comfortable with a state that openly intimidates more vulnerable targets such as Israel. What is even more shocking is the lack of protest over the Chabahar Deal from Israel, Gulf Arab states and other Western countries concerned about growing antisemitism around the world. However, that is just as baffling as Arab countries and Pakistan not standing behind Israel against the Iranian threat.

India has many strategic and political reasons to partner with Iran. For many, the discussion ends just there. Many are seeing Chabahar as Iran’s answer to Pakistan’s development of the Gwadar port, partnering with China, which is something India should invest in by all means. So while the pragmatist would immediately dismiss any moralist criticism on the Indian foreign policy, the viewpoint is not entirely irrelevant when it comes to Iran’s relations with several of India’s other friends.

While Pakistan and China sound like the perfect recipe of evil, Iran and India are as odd in terms of the moral perceptions of the states as fire and water. However, India has hardly ever explicitly condemned Iran’s irresponsible state stances and has turned a blind eye to several of its dubious activities in the region, including the support of Hamas and Hezbollah.

Probably no other state officially adopts violent rhetoric as a part of its foreign policy than Iran. North Korea is the only other that comes remotely close.

Of course, Iran’s diplomatic irresponsibility should not divorce it from the international community. The recent US-Iran nuclear deal is a part of the second chances being offered to the Islamic Republic. However, Iran needs to mend its own ways for its perception to improve. With the development of ballistic missiles, Iran’s threat to Israel is as real and dangerous as ever.

While India has the right to establish the sort of relations that it deems fit with any nation, ties such as those with Iran undermine its moral authority to lecture on state terrorism.

Not to mention an insult to the memory of the souls departed in the Mumbai attacks.

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.

Trivializing The ISIS Threat

Source: RT.com

Source: RT.com

Regardless of the factors leading to the creation of the Islamic State or ISIS, there is little debate that it is a disturbing entity.

Even the most shameless Sunni apologists of the terrorist entity could feel some disturbance at their gruesome abuse of the local people in Iraq and Syria. Their treatment of the Yazidi women has particularly been the most chilling for the global conscience. To add insult to injury, they have been systematically wiping out the archeological treasures of the region, which should alarm anyone who treasures human civilization.

This is not an ordinary political and military force and is one that threatens human civilization as much as the more recent menaces in history such as the Nazi Germany, if not worse. This only necessitates forceful and meaningful military action against them involving boots on ground, without which the complete annihilation of ISIS is not possible. Unfortunately, neither President Obama nor any other global power seems to be interested in doing so, primarily because none of them is directly threatened by this terrorist state yet.

The unwillingness to take military action against ISIS is usually met by the resistance due to the fatigue from the several American military operations in the Middle East and around the world. The opponents of military intervention have a point, and for many years, I have held the same position. We should also recognize that many are being very consistent in their criticism of US military intervention over the years, and deserve respect for their intentions and ideological position.

The caucus of the anti-military constituents is significant in the United States and in most Western countries including UK and Canada, despite the widespread dislike for ISIS. The influence of such public opinion makes a possibility of action against the ISIS particularly difficult. But what is even worse, such political narrative often cynically trivializes the ever-growing threat of ISIS, when awareness for the support of more comprehensive action is badly needed.

Probably the main reason for the resistance to military intervention against ISIS among Western liberals is that North America and Europe have no direct threat from it. Fortunately, conservative politicians and voters in the United States are not only concerned about the ISIS threat but are also very much willing to support boots on ground.

Sadly, the opposition to comprehensive military action against ISIS has been simply reduced as a partisan election issue. The choice of not taking comprehensive military action against ISIS is a purely ideological and partisan position of liberal politicians, instead of a defensive strategy. However, President Obama certainly considers it the best way to go.

Conservative US senators such as Lindsey Graham and John McCain make sense in their criticism of President Obama’s recent decision to deploy less than 50 special operations troopers because of the half-hearted nature of the measure. While it is encouraging that the President finally realized that the ISIS threat deserves some boots on grounds, especially to assist the Kurds who are putting up an active resistance, we are a long way from a meaningful remedy.

The possible involvement of ISIS in bombing down a Russian airliner over the Sinai desert, as suspected by US intelligence, is only reflective of how dangerous ISIS and its affiliates have become. It clearly shows that the ISIS, if allowed to grow stronger and more influential, is not far from harming Western interests directly, if the misery of the Kurds, Iraqis and Syrians is not enough to fight this fire. Incidents such as these only strengthen the case of building an international coalition to fight the group, which is the right way to deal with the crisis.

The half-hearted approach adopted by the current US administration to deal with the threat of ISIS is not helping the situation. With a departing President looking to build his legacy as a peacemaker, it is unlikely that the current administration is going to commit to any major campaign. There is not much to expect from a Defense Department that considers the Sharia-enforcing Afghan Taliban as a partner for reconciliation anyway, something for which Pakistani government has been blasted since the Soviets left Afghanistan.

But probably what is even worse is the contribution of liberal and faux pacifists to trivialize the threat of ISIS for partisan purposes in political discourse. While it would help them win an election, it is not going to help in building the necessary public support for taking on the crisis created by ISIS, as was in the case of the operation against Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001. ISIS is far worse than both the Taliban and Al-Qaida and a Democratic President may very well require that support in 2016.

What the liberal and isolationist ISIS cynics don’t get is that whatever way we see the problem, there is no real solution but to deal with it through full throttle military action. Whether ISIS is created due to the actions of the wars started by Bush 43 or a by-product of President Obama’s military strategy in Syria, there is no choice but to deal with the crisis.

You cannot expect to have diplomatic negotiations with the Islamic State as in the case of Iran.

A version of the post was published in The Nation blogs.

Post-Traumatic Stress Governance

Source: Dawn News

Source: Dawn News

The way constitutional amendments are passed in Pakistan makes you marvel at the degree of national unity we enjoy.

You would probably never see such unity among any nation in the world.

Despite speaking passionately against the ruling, not a single MP or Senator dared casting a vote against the constitution. Some even voted against their conscience.

It’s good to know that some politicians in this country take up the constitution seriously enough to consider it a matter of guilty conscience.

But the question remains. Why was not a single vote cast in the opposition of the passage of the constitutional amendment?

Why did the JI and the JUI-F boycott the voting session instead of casting a more effective nay? Did they not betray their loyal voters?

There is no doubt about the fact that the 21st constitutional amendment is a resounding insult to the judicial branch of government in Pakistan. A legally sanctioned statement making fun of its perceived inability to dispense the elusive commodity known as justice. No one is bothered.

Despite the gravity of the situation, let’s concentrate on the silver lining in this dark thunderstorm. Maybe, the government has finally made up its mind to eradicate terrorism from the country, despite all the cynical skepticism.

What if the military courts really would deliver the kind of “swift justice” that the people of this country have been waiting for? Hopefully, not the kind of swift justice that the Taliban are known for.

But why have a trial in the first place?

Or maybe there is hope because Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman believes that the bill for the constitutional amendment reflects secular thinking for linking religion with terrorism. Finally, our parliament ended up doing something secular. Though he is unaware that even many secularists are worried about that too.

Perhaps, the way constitution can be altered in Pakistan offers some distant hope for the secularists. Who knows, some day, some compromising situation would bring all the politicians together and make them all unanimously vote to remove the Islamic provisions from the constitution.

All we need is stirring a little sense of urgency for that.

Now that the constitution has been altered pretty drastically, you can only wonder what happened.

What changed so drastically after the Peshawar massacre that it required bringing about such drastic changes to the way the state worked?

How did the terrorists manage to change the way our government works? A lot of people are perplexed about the way the government, all the political parties and the military have reacted.

To others, disappointed that the civil courts keep on releasing or delaying indicting suspect terrorists, the sudden change came as a sigh of relief. This might deliver some justice, finally.

Yet harsher critics merely saw the recent government legislation using the Peshawar school attack as an excuse for imposing undemocratic constitutional measures.

Let’s just blame their destruction of the constitution on their post-traumatic stress symptoms, instead of deliberate intent to sabotage.

But let’s not take the overzealousness of our administrators for malice.

Let us judge actions instead of the intentions.

Though for some, that would make the case even worse.

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.

Excommunication for Condemnation

Source: EPA/rferl.org

Source: EPA/rferl.org

We have a serious problem at our hands.

We are in the middle of a war. We can see that we have an enemy, even though we are not willing to fully confront them.

How can the Taliban be our enemies?

We have always known them to fight for the righteous cause and how can they be evil if all they want is to enforce the will of God?

Such questions perplex the entire nation.

We are even not willing to call our enemy our enemy, because everything we know, everything we understood about the world, tells us it’s not true.

We simply cannot accept the fact that we can be at war with an entity that is not our enemy.

It can’t be their fault. Must be someone else behind all this mess.

How can our enemy be of the same faith as ours?

So in order to escape this confusion, we have two parallel explanations.

  1. Our enemy cannot be Muslims, because Muslims are not capable of acts as heinous as the Peshawar massacre, so they must be funded by the RAW, MOSSAD and the CIA
  2. Our enemy is cruel, so we need to excommunicate them from our religion.

 Why do we have to excommunicate someone to condemn them as our enemies?

Where does this insane idea that we can only be at war with non-Muslims come from? Well, even if you believe that, apparently our faithful enemy, which is far more self-righteous than we are, does not believe in it.

Oh, wait, I forgot. The faithful army of the enemy also believes that we are infidels.

So no matter what we do, no matter how much we suck up to them, we are going to be infidels in their eyes.

Our lifestyle is going to be the lifestyle of an infidel.

Unless we succumb to their Shariah, give up our way of life, and give up every freedom that we enjoy, it is not going to make us people of the faith in their eyes.

What we think about it is pointless.

And pretending that they could not believe in whatever in the world is the true faith does not matter too.

They don’t give a damn about our excommunication. But apparently, the faith of our enemy matters to us a lot.

We make our national decisions, declarations of war and truce, on the basis of whether our enemy belongs to our faith or not.

And that they must be excommunicated before any action against them is taken.

We come to realize that the people killing our children and the loved ones should be declared our enemies because they actually don’t follow true Islam.

We might claim that we, in Pakistan, are not a medieval culture. But apparently, our behavior tells us otherwise.

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.

We are all Taliban

Source: Dawn

Source: Dawn

The entire nation is in mourning.

The terrorists strike again where we are most vulnerable. Killing our children. Making us realize that we still have a lot to lose and proving how cruel they can possibly get.

Cruel. That’s how we have come to define our enemy.

But how are we dealing with them? Other than complaining about people not being mournful enough of the incident.

We are responding by suspending the moratorium on the death penalty and applauding the Prime Minister for it.

And what do I hear from many of my fellow countrymen?

Enforce the death penalty. Hang the terrorists in public squares.

Cruel. Justice must be cruel and merciless.

If only we could keep our cruelty to the battlefield, where it belongs, and out of our towns, legislatures and courtrooms.

Forget that. We actually want to follow the example of Iran and the Taliban themselves. We have people drooling for revenge justice. We are broadcasting the images of the corpses of the hanged terrorists and are just a touch away from live broadcast of public executions.

We condemn the extremist terrorists for their barbaric actions but believe in the same heinous extremities.

It is safe to say that a good number of those who would be described as moderate Muslims believe in public punishment, amputations, stoning to death and an eye for an eye.

Does this mean we would like to see many of our politicians hanging in public, just like what the Taliban did to Dr. Najeeb? I would really like a survey asking that question.

But ask any ten people and you would find a healthy number of replies hinting toward such revolutionary goals.

In other words, how does that make us any different from the enemy?

But wait, who is our enemy?

You might see the condemnation of the heinous act of the Peshawar carnage, but you would find voices reluctant to attack the attackers.

Some of our most prominent commentators would see India behind the attack. Others would blame the CIA and the Mossad for the problem.

Of course, how could our Muslim brothers possibly do something like this to us?

The very occurrence of the incident is evidence that the attackers were not Muslims, but non-Muslims in the guise of the holy warriors.

We are never going to win this war anyway. How can you fight your own self and claim to win? Down with the military operation which resulted in this massacre.

Yet, India and America are behind it.

But no need to appease Western influenced politicians and civil society. There is no need to pretend that we hate our brothers, who are our very own people.

Their beliefs and ours are the same.

We want Shariah compliant public executions now. We don’t care who is being killed in the name of God, we want revenge.

We are all Taliban.

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.

Another Attack on Our Way of Life

Source: A. Majeed/AFP/Dawn

Source: A. Majeed/AFP/Dawn

Today’s tragic terrorist attack on the premises of Army Public School in Peshawar is not an ordinary one. There has been a lot of thought behind it.

It only possibly targeted the families of the personnel of the Pakistan Armed Forces, because it is their children studying in that particular school, for most part. So the TTP terrorists probably thought about sparing the civilians in their own way by selecting that school.

Revenge for the military operation. We’ll take your kids away.

Makes sense.

But children… Even the Taliban would not lower themselves to such disgrace. That’s too low to be human.

What sort of faithful people could engage in such a heinous action?

Well, so much for wishful thinking. And if you really, really thought so, you have a considerably good opinion about them.

That it is not just an attack on school children, and there is nothing shocking about the Taliban carrying it out. They have only proved how cruel they are, and we have only come to learn how vulnerable we are.

They are perfectly capable of it. They have been at it before, exploding schools.

Though there is one thing that we must not forget, and which most Pakistanis are not even going to consider. Because they still refuse to acknowledge that Islamism and the Taliban are the enemies.

This war must be fought.

It is time to decide whether to keep on fighting, or to hide behind the world of comfortable lies of Islamism. It is time to ask ourselves how strongly have we stood by our military for fighting these terrorists.

Were we just as enthusiastic as we would be in a war against India?

Would we ever recognize Islamism, not just the Taliban, as our enemies?

This is no ordinary terrorist attack on a children’s school.

This is another attack on our way of life.

If you would not fight for that, what else is there to worry about?

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