Tag Archives: Pakistan

Ringside to a Rollercoaster 

A new book is history from the perspective of a woman who experienced so much of it and an important chronology of how Pakistan came to be where it iswrites Ambassador K.K. Ghori

An author’s abiding concern is what impact their labour would have on readers. Impact is associated with time. Time, as they say, is of the essence for the acceptability of a book. If it lands in readers’ hands at a moment relatable to prevailing times, then it stirs a chord, exerting seminal influence. Allama Muhammad Iqbal’s Shikwa [Lamentation/Complaint] and, earlier, Maulana Altaf Hussain Hali’s Musaddas [Sixain] — popularly known as Mudd-o-Jazzar-i-Islam [Ebb and Tide of Islam] — had such a seminal impact on the Muslims of the Subcontinent. As eight centuries of Muslim rule were eclipsed by the rise of an alien Raj, people could distinctly relate to Hali’s agonised dismay at the precipitate decline and decay of his fellow Muslims.

What a coincidence that Pakistan in an Age of Turbulence — Dr Masuma Hasan’s memoirs of life set against Pakistan’s cyclical encounter with turmoil — comes out at a time when Pakistanis are up against the most divisive turbulence in their national existence since 1971, when the country was split into half and Bangladesh was born as a separate entity. She may not have planned it, but circumstances and Pakistan’s perennial flirtation with turbulence seems to be designer-made for her book’s unveiling. And what another interesting coincidence that the author — whom I’ve known since we were both students at the University of Karachi in the early 1960s — traces her roots to Hali’s city of Panipat, where her illustrious forebears settled in the 13th century during the reign of the Delhi Sultanate.

Hasan writes that her great progenitor Malik Ali — who traced his family tree to Imam Ali Naqi, the 10th imam from the family of our Holy Prophet (PBUH) — had migrated to the Subcontinent during Ghayasuddin Balban’s reign and was granted a fief in Panipat.

Panipat had been the locus of more epochal wars for political domination than any other part of the Subcontinent, witnessing one upheaval after another in the land’s history as well as folklore. Dealing with crises, thus, is in Hasan’s DNA. But she should be grateful that the tradition of overcoming the daunting challenge of a crisis, initially set by her ancestor Malik Ali, has served her family of Panipat’s Khwajas [masters] so well.

A scholar in her own right, Hasan’s glittering career should be the envy of any man or woman — particularly the latter — aspiring to have their name written in gold. Armed with a doctorate in economics and politics from the prestigious University of Cambridge, she served as head of the National Institute of Public Administration (NIPA).

As Pakistan’s ambassador to Austria, she charmed many a United Nations agency with the dint of her suave persona and impressive scholarship. Gen Pervez Musharraf, to date the last of the Pakistani Bonapartes, elevated Hasan to the rank of cabinet secretary, much to the consternation and protest of puffed-up bureaucrats.

In all these high profile jobs, Hasan left an impact that far survived her tenure in each assignment. As cabinet secretary, she played a great role in persuading Gen Musharraf to make public the famous Hamoodur Rahman Report — that had been gathering dust in the dark dungeons of official archives — on the debacle in former East Pakistan.

In the context of that historic document, Hasan seems to agree with those who would give a pass to former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto that he didn’t doctor the Commission’s full report, although it was put under wraps during his watch.

But those who knew Bhutto’s endemic megalomania and unbridled lust for absolute power — which ultimately brought him to a tragic end — would find it hard to accept that he didn’t tinker with the report’s findings. It’s difficult to believe, as per the surviving version of the report, that Gen Yahya Khan alone was the principal architect and villain of the episode that broke Pakistan into two.

But despite her rollercoaster ride as a public servant, Hasan’s defining and lasting portrayal is that of a great survivor, along with the Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA). Her illustrious father, Khwaja Sarwar Hasan, had founded PIIA in 1948. Khwaja Sahib was a towering personality and a great scholar in the tradition of luminaries, such as Hali, that the fertile soil of Panipat has produced.

PIIA was Khwaja Sahib’s baby, the apple of his eye. Hasan writes that he had nurtured this labour of love with great devotion. But it came under fire from Bhutto’s unchecked lust to amass as much power as possible.

Bhutto destroyed the pillars of Pakistan’s then vibrant economy under the shoddy slogan of socialism. So insatiable was his thirst for aggrandisement of power that he wouldn’t spare even a nursery of learning and scholarship such as PIIA. Bhutto’s marauding broke Khwaja Sahib’s heart. Bhutto was a man he admired, but it was in Bhutto’s nature to decimate all genuine well-wishers and promote sycophant cronies. Khwaja Sahib died a broken man.

But the heist of her father’s shining legacy became a challenge for the indomitable and intrepid daughter of Panipat. PIIA was Pakistan’s first, trailblazing think tank, respected for its sterling scholarship and research far beyond the shores of Pakistan. Hasan made it her life’s mission to wrest her father’s jewel from the grubby hands of carpetbaggers and soldiers of fortune.

Challenges and obstacles were encountered aplenty as Hasan strode on, parrying the jabs and thrusts not only of power-drunk rulers, but also of lascivious property developers who salivated at the market potential of PIIA’s iconic, triangular building right opposite the Sindh Governor House.

The book discloses that, when Gen Ziaul Haq issued an ordinance to bring PIIA under government control, Hasan went from pillar to post to have the dictator’s unilateral action annulled. When Benazir Bhutto came to power, she made Hasan an ambassador, but was too meek, or uncaring, to lift the oppression of Gen Zia’s high-handedness. Finally, Justice Dorab Patel — who had broken rank with his fellow justices on the judicial murder of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto — came to Hasan’s rescue and ended her nightmare.

In all her battles, Hasan writes that she had the unflagging support of the love of her life, her husband Fatehyab Ali Khan. He was an equal partner and she admits, quite frankly, that she saw Pakistani politics through Khan’s eyes.

She points out that Khan was a towering personality in the student politics of the 1950s and ’60s. A left-leaning socialist, he suffered at the hands of dictators such as Gens Ayub Khan and Zia, but never wavered in his commitment to his political ideas and ideals.

Khan was a prominent component in the famous Movement for the Restoration of Democracy against Gen Zia’s autocratic rule, but was stung by his fellow-travellers from the traditional font of dynastic politics. His friend Mairaj Mohammad Khan, another leading star of student politics, was also a victim of political chameleons such as Bhutto who changed colours, subverting the faithful and promoting self-serving sycophants.

The book has many other juicy political vignettes, such as former prime minister Shaukat Aziz confiding in Hasan that former American president Bill Clinton’s brief visit to Islamabad in 2000 was geared towards ensuring that Mian Nawaz Sharif’s life would be spared. Perhaps this was a return of favour, for Sharif’s role in the Kargil episode.

Pakistan in an Age of Turbulence is history from the perspective of a woman who experienced so much of it. The book is an important chronology of how Pakistan came to be where it is.

Pakistan in an Age of Turbulence, By Dr Masuma Hasan, Pen and Sword History, UK, ISBN: 978-1526788603.

The reviewer is a former ambassador and an author, poet, commentator on current affairs and motivational speaker. He may be reached at K_K_ghori@hotmail.com

Published in Dawn, Books & Authors, May 1st, 2022

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Experts think Taliban government will give peace to Afghans despite challenges

At a webinar on ‘Afghan Refugees in Pakistan: Past, Present and Future’, organised by the Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) on Tuesday, experts said Pakistan will not be receiving as many Afghan refugees as it did in the past and so we should be patient and accommodating in the interest of maintaining good relations with the Afghan people in current times. Pakistan has hosted one of the world’s largest refugee populations for over four decades. In successive waves, refugees from Afghanistan have sought shelter inside Pakistan which, over the years, has hosted millions of Afghan refugees. It is estimated that three million Afghan refugees still reside in Pakistan but according to the United Nations Refugee Agency, the UNHCR, only 1.4m are registered. 

Former ambassador of Pakistan to Afghanistan and former chief commissioner for Afghan refugees in Islamabad Rustam Shah Mohmand provided an analytical overview of Afghan refugees in Pakistan.

“The upheaval in Afghanistan resulted in the pouring in of thousands of refugees in Pakistan and Iran in the 1980s. At the time, there was much support for them. And the military regime in Pakistan also used it as an opportunity to legalise its rule,” Ambassador Mohmand said. 

‘We shouldn’t expect more than a few thousand refugees from Afghanistan unless there is civil war there’ 

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Filed under Afghanistan, Discussion, Events, Pakistan, Pakistan Horizon, Politics, Refugees, UK, United States

Afghan Refugees in Pakistan: Webinar on 31 August 2021

The withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan and the return of the Taliban after two decades has left the world stunned and the UK rushed to airlift more than 4,000 UK nationals and Afghan citizens, while Joe Biden intends to stick to the 31 August deadline. These events show that the “war on terror” has been a complete failure. Furthermore, pumping a trillion dollars in the Afghan National Army (ANA) was a complete waste of money. It appears to have been wishful thinking that the ANA would fight against Islamic militancy and its soldiers either deserted or joined the Taliban and 20 years of western efforts to build a stable state in Afghanistan quickly faded away as puppet government of Ashraf Ghani disintegrated in a matter of days. 

The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) is organising a webinar on Afghan Refugees in Pakistan: Past, Present, and Future on Tuesday, 31 August 2021 at 3:00 p.m. (PST). Joining link and details are below. Pakistan has hosted one of the world’s largest refugee populations for over four decades. In successive waves, refugees from Afghanistan have sought shelter inside Pakistan which, over the years, has hosted millions of Afghan refugees. It is estimated that 3 million Afghan refugees still reside in Pakistan but according to the UNHCR, only 1.4 million are registered and the humanitarian assistance provided by Pakistan for over four decades has made a significant impact on its economy and social life and on its strained resources.

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Tribute paid to I.A. Rehman at PIIA

He was a good listener, and never spoke ill of anyone

The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) on Saturday evening held an online reference to pay homage to journalist and human rights defender I.A. Rehman, who passed away in Lahore on April 12. The first speaker was architect Arif Hasan. He divided his talk into three parts: his relationship with Rehman sahib, his personality and legacy. He said he met the late journalist and activist in Lahore in 1967 for the first time where he (Hasan) had gone to work. Although Rehman sahib was 12 or 13 years older than him, they would meet every evening where they’d be joined by the likes of Dr Mehdi Hasan and Nisar Osmani. Rehman sahib used to call the architect ‘kitab’. Even after he returned to Karachi from Lahore, both kept meeting on a regular basis. Significantly, their relationship deepened when Bangladesh was trying to gain independence. Their ties further strengthened during Z.A. Bhutto and Gen Ziaul Haq’s tenures.

On the second point, Mr Hasan said Rehman sahib was a good listener. He knew how to lend an ear to people. He would never interrupt anyone while they were talking, even when they would be presenting a point of view opposite to his. He never spoke ill of anyone. At meetings and seminars, he would give an opinion that differed from others’ with a sense of humour. He never spoke about himself. Once, he visited his birthplace in Gurgaon, India. When he came back, nobody could detect an air of nostalgia in his narration about his place of birth. He talked about it like a tourist would. He was an extremely well-informed man who turned his wealth of information into knowledge (ilm). Mr Hasan, speaking about his legacy, said Rehman sahib has left behind the institutions that he was associated with and founded; his efforts to bring peace between India and Pakistan; his resolve that we should not be afraid of speaking the truth; and the youngsters who in their small but significant ways have established human rights and social welfare groups.

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Hegemonic Masculinity and Its Effects: A Social Stigma

In Pakistan, trans men are highly segregated and provided no incentives to attain education and earn a healthy living, which coerces them to be street beggars, so heterosexual men get all the power.

PAKISTAN-SOCIETY-TRANSGENDERThe concept of hegemonic masculinity enables us to acknowledge the existence of plural masculinities and how it encourages domination between men and women, as well as between men themselves. Hegemonic masculinity, even though globally prevalent, seems to be invisible; it breeds in the society and causes violence against women and trans men, strengthens the patriarchal norms, and leads to gender disparities in the private and public sectors. Hegemonic masculinity is a global phenomenon, which breeds at different levels in various societies. The concept of hegemonic masculinity was first proposed by R.W Connell to divert the attention to the overt practices that had promoted favorable conditions of men over women and the emergence of a dominant kind of social masculinity (Connell and Messerschmidt, 2005, p.831). According to the Italian philosopher Antonio Gramsci, hegemony is about winning and attaining supremacy to exercise power, ability to coerce, if need be (Donaldson, 1993, p.645).

Hegemonic masculinity is a concept which explains the culturally dominant behavior of men in society. It is not hegemonic to other masculinities only, but it is a representation of privilege and leverage men collectively have over women. Such a social structure generates gender discrimination and defines a pattern of conduct of being ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine.’ A feminist and socialist theorist, Simone de Beauvoir, explains that the binary understanding of sex implies man being superior to others and demarcates between the idea of ‘sex’ and ‘gender.’ “One is not born woman, but rather becomes a woman” (Beauvoir, 1949, p. 17) represents gender as a social role. Continue reading

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