There should be no distinction between terrorist groups …
After being snubbed and refused a visa to the United States, Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India has now become a dear friend of the United States. India and the United States are now “natural partners.” President Obama’s visit to Delhi on the occasion of India’s Republic Day celebrations on 26 January 2015 was the scene not only of charting mutual strategic interests, but also of pure physical warmth. Narendra Modi is the son of a tea stall owner and as a child he sold tea to his father’s customers on the railway platform at Vadnagar. As these pictures show, he is still pouring out tea as the prime minister of India. People mock him for having begun life in humble circumstances as the son of a very poor man. But it goes to the credit of India’s political system, ridden as it is by constraints of caste, sect, prejudice and religion that a poor child belonging to the backward Ghanchi community grew up to become the prime minister of a country of over one billion people.
We look at Obama’s visit to India not only in the global perspective but also from Pakistan’s perspective. It has been repeated in all the despatches that India is the greatest democracy in the world and Obama’s visit is the meeting point of two of the world’s largest democracies. In Obama’s own words, they are “two great democracies, two innovative economies, two diverse societies dedicated to empowering individuals.” Continue reading
Fatehyab did not give up. Perhaps he did not know how to do that …
The beautiful and historic library of The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs was packed to capacity when Ibn Abdur Rehman, better known as I.A. Rehman, spoke on The Politics of Dissent in memory of Fatehyab Ali Khan. The younger members of the audience had to stand throughout the session. I.A. Rehman is the Secretary General of The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and is one of the leading human rights defenders in Pakistan. He is the founding chair of the Pakistan-India Peoples’ Forum for Peace and Democracy and received the Magsaysay Award for Peace and International Understanding in 2004. Fatehyab’s was a most powerful voice of dissent in politics in Pakistan and, therefore, it was appropriate that Rehman Sahib should have spoken on this subject in his memory: see earlier posts here, here and here.
Throughout his life, Fatehyab fought for fundamental freedoms, democratic values, political morality and decency in public life. He was only 25 years old when he led the movement against Ayub Khan in 1961, which spread throughout West Pakistan, while the political parties sat on the fence. He was interned, externed and imprisoned throughout his political career but he never lost his sense of humour. During the agitation against Ziaul Haq’s tyrannical regime, he was one of the nine signatories of the declaration of the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD, 1981). Continue reading
Coverage of The Politics of Dissent in Pakistan in Dawn by Peerzada Salman
Yesterday’s lecture was organised in memory of the distinguished political leader Fatehyab Ali Khan at The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs’ library. The Secretary General of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Mr I.A. Rehman explained that dissent implied presenting alternatives to state narratives. Alternatives to what, he asked, and answered that it was to do with the dominant narratives that developed because of a lack of clarity and interpretation of ideas before independence. When Mohammad Ali Jinnah was asked about the nature of Pakistani nationhood, the markers that he chose to define it came from religious traditions, which created a problem. He chose to define the history of Muslims of India different from their Hindu compatriots.
Regional communities (Bengalis, Punjabis, Sindhis, etc) were ignored as well as what was common and uncommon between them, he said. Still, Mr Jinnah maintained that Islamic principles would be followed in Pakistan but it would not be a theocracy. At the time of independence, he said, there were three groups who had their opinion on the matter and a large group of which supported sharia state. Realizing the danger of the issue, Mr Jinnah called for a new nationhood on the basis of citizenship but perhaps did not take his colleagues into confidence which was why his 11 August 1947 speech was not allowed to get published. Continue reading
Fatehyab Ali Khan was the brightest star in the galaxy of progressive politicians …
The Objectives Resolution of 1949 bade farewell to the Quaid-e-Azam’s ideals of equality for all citizens and his principles of fair governance. This was stated by I.A. Rehman while addressing The members of the Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) and the media in his talk, “Politics of dissent in Pakistan” as part of the series of the Fatehyab Ali Khan Memorial Lectures on Saturday evening. He said all governments had slowly capitulated to the dictates of the religious parties. “Today, even the Shariat Court has pronounced a verdict against land reforms terming them against the spirit of religion,” he said.
As for dissent, he defined it as presentation of an alternative to the ruling government. However, in our case it was construed as rebellion or treason. According to Mr Rehman, there has been a lack of clarity about Pakistan’s ideals. For instance, in the beginning, there was a view in Pakistan according to which, Islamic principles would govern the country it would not be a theocratic state. It was stipulated that Islamic principles were compatible with democracy. He said Mr Jinnah’s position that Pakistan would follow a neutral foreign policy with friendship for all and malice towards none was violated by successive rulers. Continue reading
As published in Dawn today, The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) has been ranked the premier think tank in Pakistan. The PIIA’s work relates to the fields of international relations, politics, economics and law. According to the ‘Top Think Tanks in Southeast Asia and the Pacific’, (table 10, page 80) of the 2014 Global Go-to Think-Tank Index, PIIA is the top-ranked think tank in Pakistan. The index included 211 South Asian think tanks. Moreover, only two Pakistani institutions – PIIA and the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) – were mentioned in the top 20 of the Southeast Asia and the Pacific list. The Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program (TTCSP) of the University of Pennsylvania has developed the index to identify “centers of excellence in all the major areas of public policy research and in every region of the world.”
The index, which is essentially a suite of league tables, delivered today included 6681 think tanks from all over the world. Moreover, 192 think tanks from India and 19 from Pakistan played a part in the composition of the index. However, among these 211 only two Pakistani think tanks had the distinction of being included in the top 20 and as mentioned above, PIIA – which owes all its success to its Chairman, Dr Masuma Hasan – was ranked sixteenth while SDPI was ranked nineteenth which means that they were effectively the first and second ranked think tanks in our country. Continue reading
Fatehyab Ali Khan, who served as Chairman of the Council of The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs from 1995 to 2009, passed away in September 2010. He was a legendary figure in the public and national life of Pakistan. A visionary in politics, his struggle for democracy, fundamental freedoms, justice in society and the rule of law forms a glowing chapter in the history of our country. His support for the cause of the oppressed and underprivileged will long be remembered. I. A. Rehman, Secretary-General, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, will address the members of The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs on ‘The Politics of Dissent in Pakistan’ on Saturday, 24 January 2015 at 4:15 p.m. sharp in the Library of the Institute. The Chairman and members of the Council cordially invite you to attend this session which is being held to honour Fatehyab’s memory and political struggle for democracy.
Fatehyab’s family migrated from Hyderabad Deccan to Pakistan after the Partition and settled in Shikarpur and Karachi. His bold stand against injustices in the local education system made him prominent at a very early age. Gifted with unusual organizing skills, persuasiveness and charm, he joined the National Students Federation and soon assumed leadership roles in the student community. He was elected as Vice President of Islamia College Students’ Union (at that time the president used to be an official), President of Karachi University Students’ Union and Chairman of the Inter-Collegiate Body. He was a brilliant debater. Continue reading
A large number of organizations in different parts of the world support initiatives that have either leveraged or replicated concepts initially pioneered by Dr. Khan
Dr. Khan’s remarkable life and achievements have been profiled and the impact of his innovative work has been honoured in an article in the Winter 2014 issue of the prestigious American academic journal Education About Asia. The recognition is a great honour for Asia ― and in particular for Pakistan and Bangladesh ― where Dr. Khan’s innovative works were first launched. Education About Asia is a prestigious and peer-reviewed teaching journal published in the United States of America which has included an article entitled Akhter Hameed Khan: A Legendary Social Scientist in its Winter 2014 issue (Volume 19:3).
The journal serves as a resource for professors, teachers, and other instructors to select readings for their students. The inspiring piece on Dr. Khan will help students and academic communities in many countries around the world learn more about him. Continue reading
As a child Akbar (1542-1605) was deprived of the love and care of his parents and was brought up by nurses in the not too friendly homes of his uncles in Kandahar and Kabul. His father, Humayun, the favourite son of the Mughal emperor Babar and his mother, Hamida Banu Begum, abandoned him and his little sister Bakhshi Banu to his uncles, when he was only one year old. They ran from pillar to post in pitiful conditions as Humayun tried to win back the kingdom he had lost to Sher Shah Suri (1486-1545) and to his own brothers. Humayun captured and lost Kabul more than once and Akbar remained a hostage and prisoner with his uncle, Kamran Mirza, until his father decisively won Kabul in 1550. He had had a brief re-union with his parents in 1545.
Akbar’s parentless childhood should have left many scars on his personality. But he grew up to become a fierce and fearless warrior, a passionate hunter, a trainer of elephants and cheetahs, a fine polo player, a remarkable administrator, a conciliator of different interests, a lover of books and music, a man of many talents and, above all, a forgiver. He could get towers built with the skulls of those he vanquished and get rebels trampled under the feet of elephants but he often reinstated those who rebelled against him if they sought forgiveness. Continue reading
The unprecedented rise of terrorism in recent years has sent shock waves of horror all across the world. Our own country is badly affected by this malaise and we would like to extend our commiserations to the people of France in relation to the terrible tragedy that occurred in Paris. Our hearts are with the French – who have always stood with the people and the government of Pakistan by helping us in the fight against terrorism and extremism – and we would like to express solidarity with the families of the victims of the massacre. Nothing justifies such insanity. As a developing nation we are all too aware that a free press is the lifeblood of democracy. In our own country, the murder of 148 innocents, including 132 children, by the Taliban in the Army Public School in Peshawar on 16 December 2014 was a deeply shocking event. It really was the last straw.
It has been reported that the attack on the school was an act of revenge which aimed to “get even” for the Nobel Peace Prize jointly awarded to Malala Yousafzai. Consequently, measures to tackle the menace of terrorism have been taken in the form of the Constitution (Twenty-First Amendment) Act 2015 ( or “the amendment”) which was speedily passed by the National Assembly and Senate on 6 January 2015 and presidential assent was given the following day. Showing solidarity across the border in neighbouring India, legendary Indian actor Dilip Kumar, who was born in Peshawar, said that “[t]he massacre has wounded me beyond words. My heart longs to reach out to the parents who lost their sons and daughters in the worst crime any country has witnessed in recent years.” Continue reading
Jamal Mian could have breakfast in Dhaka, lunch in Lucknow and tea with Jawaharlal Nehru in Delhi
Professor Francis Robinson CBE spoke yesterday (7 January 2015) about Karachi in the life of Maulana Jamal Mian of Farangi Mahall under the banner of the Karachi Conference Foundation. The event was held in the imposing library of The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs. He is Professor of the History of South Asia, Royal Holloway University of London and is writing a biography of Jamal Mian, for which he has access to Jamal Mian’s private papers, his library, diaries, correspondence, collection of photographs, business documents and other material.
Professor Robinson has been close to the Farangi Mahallis for many years, ultimately publishing The Ulama of Farangi Mahall and Islamic Culture in South Asia (2001). Since he was drawing upon work which has not yet been published, it may be considered as a great favour extended to the organisers of this session. Professor Robinson gave a masterly presentation, actually, of Jamal Mian’s life and times, his political career, business dealings and social circle both in Pakistan and India. Karachi figured in the narrative by default. Continue reading