Report from Dera Bugti

Great report by Ijaz Mehr of BBC about Dera Bugti, 3 years after Akbar Bugti’s murder.

Justice Munir and some scattered thoughts

I’ve been reading Judging the State by Paula Newburg — I can’t praise it enough. The only thing I wish is that the author had gone more in depth with the various opinions written by Justice Munir and Justice Cornelius on the major supreme court cases of the 1950s such as the Maulvi Tamizuddin case.

To be honest, I started out with a very negative view of Justice Munir. My overall opinion of him is still largely negative. Newburg makes a really interesting comment at one point that Justice Munir’s pro-stability realism actually demonstrates the limitations of realist thought. (I believe it was in the context of Justice Munir’s post fact justifications of his support of Ayub Khan’s rule by saying he did what he did to preserve the judiciary as an institution — but of course if this is true, he actually destroyed the independence of the judiciary and thereby, its power). But he was a complicated man in complicated times and one must consider the impact on his thinking of his study of the anti-Ahmadi riots after the first martial law.

In short, what I’m wondering is, how would most people act in a situation where they believed they were faced with an intractable right wing that had unlimited power to appeal to the most basic and widely held principles of the entire population? Wouldn’t one be tempted to choose an equally strong counterweight (the military) to the right wing?

The thought fills me with disgust, since I am a strong believer in representative government and democracy. But it does somewhat lessen my disgust for Justice Munir.

the dangers (and inevitability) of the communalisation of politics

I was reading some more about Khizr Hayat Tiwana, and came across an excellent article by Q Abid & M. Abid from Punjab University “Unionist – Muslim League Relations and the Punjab Administration” (pdf link)

The whole article is really great, but what really stands out to me is this account of religious tactics used in the 1946 elections:

the Muslim supporters of the Unionist party were trickling towards the Muslim League. Some leading Sajjada Nasheens and Pirs 34 joined the Muslim League and later on they appealed to the Muslims to support the Muslim League’s Pakistan Movement 35 because by doing so they will be supporting the cause of Islam. 36 The Punjabi Muslims were advised not to have a division on the basis of tribal or Biradari networking (David Gilmartin and Ian Talbot have mentioned religious appeals of the Muslim League in details). In some cases, while preaching in mosques, some Imams had gone to the extent of branding those Muslims who will not vote for Muslim League as Kafirs and
Traitors. Some Fatwas were also issued. It was not only the Muslim League, the Unionist party also used religious appeals in their propaganda against the PML candidates also implying that the Unionist party candidates were in fact better Muslims. The Unionist party hired some Ulama from anti-Muslim League parties like JUI, Ahrar and Khaksars who were openly opposing the creation of
Pakistan. In fact, Chhotu Ram had made a comprehensive plan before his death to employ religious preachers to campaign for the election of Unionist Party’s candidates. Even Khizr Hayat Tiwana was using verses from the Holy Qur’an to support his party’s election campaign.

Communalisation of politics — i.e. in this case the use of a minority with extremist views which unfortunately appeal to the most basic principles of the majority population — is an always-present temptation and once one side starts doing it, the other side has to follow suit or will risk complete destruction. In the 1946 elections, the Unionists were wiped out completely, despite their feeble attempts to respond in kind to the appeal to religion by the Leaguers.

The tragedy really is… did either side know that they were playing with fire? Even if they did, they were willing to toss caution to the wind and pit various religious groups against each other for their own political gain. The sad thing is, when you do have a political reality of a certain number of radicalized religious groups in your midst and your political opponent decides to play dirty and use them against you, how many politicians would not reciprocate in kind?

A couple of good reads

A really interesting review of Ian Talbot’s biography of Khizr Tiwana:

Talbot (and, in the book’s afterword, Arend Lijphart) presents the Unionist government in Punjab as an example of “consociational” democracy, which both authors feel is the most stable way to structure politics in “highly segmented” societies. Lijphart cites other examples of consociational systems, such as pre-civil war Lebanon, Belgium, and nineteenth century Holland, and attributes Pakistan’s problems with democracy to its neglect of consociationalism. Talbot and Lijphart acknowledge the fragility of consociational systems (one might feel that the fact that many a consociational system has given way to civil war undermines their argument), but stress that the tipping point for such fragility often occurs because of external pressures that destabilize the system. In the context of Lebanon, for instance, the authors cite to the Arab-Israeli conflict and the Palestinian national movement; as far as the Unionists are concerned, the external force was the Muslim League.

and this one:

It isn’t hard to see why history has been unkind to Tiwana, who managed to find himself on the wrong side of virtually all the principal currents of late-Raj era Indian politics: his staunchly loyalist stance to the Raj did not win him any friends in the Congress, while his deep skepticism of the two-nation theory and his horror of the logic of partition won him pride of place in the Muslim League’s pantheon of traitors. Talbot’s book is useful in highlighting the sheer scale of the hysteria whipped up by the Muslim League against Tiwana personally after the breakdown of the Tiwana-Jinnah talks in 1944, and unlike much recent writing on Jinnah — from Stanley Wolpert to Ayesha Jalal — Talbot stresses Jinnah’s own complicity in and encouragement of political hysteria, manifested in the context of Punjab in the attacks on Tiwana (including a shameful speech replete with Quranic quotations, to the effect that when God would destroy a people he has them led by a “boy-leader”). Jinnah, of course, won– the Unionists were rendered irrelevant by the rising tide of Pakistan, and many in the party crossed over to the League to save their political futures– though one is left with a bad taste in one’s mouth. Here too (as elsewhere in India), Talbot seems to suggest, a “winner takes all” approach, or better yet the absolutist approach championed by the Muslim League under Jinnah, was precisely the wrong kind of approach in the context of a fractious society already subject to communalist pressures. From the time Khizr Tiwana resigned the premiership in March 1947, communal blood baths became the order of the day in Punjab, and Tiwana was unable to save the Hindu and Sikh peasants even on his own estates in Shahpur.

One of the most wonderful online resources about Pakistan – the Pakistan timeline

A new book about the Aga Khan rural support program

Shoaib Sultan Khan is the chairman of the Aga Khan Rural Support Program and has been working towards the uplift of the Northern Areas of Pakistan for over 20 years. His inspirational statement “Eradicating Poverty through enterprise” (pdf) is a must-read:

The one million people I worked with for 12 years in Northern Areas of Pakistan through
the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme reinforced my conviction of the tremendous
potential and willingness in people to do many things themselves to come out of
poverty. All that they needed was a support organisation to help them unleash their
potential. Once organised the men and women took their destiny in their own hands.

They knew what would bring them out of poverty. They got thousands of villagers
trained as service providers, managers of their organisations, identified constructed and
maintained thousands of physical infrastructure works – irrigation channels, link roads,
sprinkler irrigation, flood protection works, school buildings etc., increased their
productive capacity, planted 50 million trees on land brought under irrigation range,
generated about six megawatts of electricity through village built and managed mini-
hydels which won two international awards one presented by Prince Charles and
second by Government of Japan as the most innovative project of 2005 and
accumulated over Rupees four hundred million as their savings resulting in setting up of
First Micro Finance Bank.

Shoaib Sultan Khan has a new book out about the program, published by the OUP. There is an excellent review of the book in today’s Dawn.

The book outlines a government career imbued with a spirit of public service, learning at the feet of the great Akhtar Hameed Khan, and the experiences of the Daudzai project in the NWFP (created in the image of Comilla Pilot Project in what is now Bangladesh), the Mahaweli Ganga Project in Sri Lanka and the South Asia Poverty Alleviation Programme in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.

But the real story for us is the success of AKRSP and its replication in the form of the National Rural Support Programme and its counterparts in the provinces. All told, some 5000 community organisations — the backbone of the rural support programmes — have been formed and nurtured across the country to demonstrate that development of the people, by the people and for the people is a realisable dream.

But it is only a demonstration. It needs scaling-up of a huge magnitude to cover a rural population of 105 million. A network of support organisations working outside the government will never have the resources to carry out the huge undertaking. Nor is it its mandate. Only the government has the resonly the government has the resources to reduce poverty. But it does not know how. Working in the government for long time has given Shoaib Sultan Khan this important insight. As a district officer, he made honest attempts to implement the programme blueprints handed down from the top. However, districts, even tehsils, turned out to be too big to serve rural communities in any meaningful way.

Don't let Gojra disappear

In 1997, Bishop John Joseph of Faisalabad wrote the following about the February 1997 attacks on the Christian village of Shantingar:

In February this year, someone wrote names of three Christians on some pages of the Quran and threw these pages in a deserted mosque in a Christian village called Shantinagar. The extremists gathered over thirty thousand Muslims and attacked the Christian houses and churches in that area: Over one thousand houses were totally burned, 214 churches destroyed and burned, hundreds of cows and buffaloes burned or mutilated. The trees, vegetable gardens and crops belonging to the Christians were destroyed because from the loudspeakers of each mosque was being shouted: “Destroy the Kafirs [infidels]. It is your duty — fulfill it now!”

In 1998, Bishop John Joseph later killed himself in protest when a member of his diocese, Ayub Masih, was sentenced to death for blasphemy.

Had Bishop John Joseph been alive today, Gojra would have been a part of his diocese.