March 31, 2009
Posted by sherryx under Pakistan
| Tags: Afghanistan
, Benazir Bhutto
, General Faisal Alavi
, Mumbai attacks
, Pak Army
, State crisis
We are publishing here the analysis of Lahore attacks as “state crisis” of Pakistan. Our readers know that we have been persistent on our position that Islamic terrorism is a symptom of “organic decay” of the post-colonial and Neo-fascist state of Pakistan. We have always maintained a sharp distance from the elitist perspective in vogue in certain secular/ex-left quarters of Pakistan on war on terror which is nothing but a blind drum beating for United States imperialism. We have also been critical of “pro jamat and pro Sharif Left” who is blindly following the Petty-bourgeois and bourgeois agenda in Pakistan. This analysis by International Marxist Tendency is a must read by all progressive Pakistanis. Its one of the most important pieces of work which has emerged on the present situation in Pakistan.
Pakistani section of IMT also held its annual congress in Lahore which is the largest congress of communists in Pakistan. The advance theoretical work which has emerged from this congress is very encouraging. We render our solidarity to the revolutionaries of Pakistan.
Lahore Terrorist mayhem shows crisis of Pakistani state
IMT correspondent in Lahore
Monday, 30 March 2009
At half past eight this morning (March 30) terrorists used machine guns and grenades to launch a savage attack on a police training academy in Manawan, on the outskirts of Lahore. The police and special forces remain locked in pitched battle with the attackers who are hidden inside various buildings at the site, as emergency services are scrambling to evacuate the wounded to nearby hospitals.
Frictions are occuring between the two allies as the war in Afganistan intensifies. Photo by travlr on Flickr.
According to private television channels at least 20 policemen are dead and 150 injured. Two militants have also been killed according to Rangers personnel. “The number of killed is at least 20,” police sub inspector Amjad Ahmad told AFP outside the police training ground in Manawan. However, given the murderous crossfire as police attempted to flush out the terrorists inside the building, the death count may turn out to be much higher.
The incident took place as trainees were participating in a morning parade. Eyewitness accounts estimate some 10 militants carried out the attack, and at least 11 explosions have been heard so far. According to reports, some of the attackers entered the academy wearing police uniforms.
The location of the attack is significant, since Manawan is close to the road that leads to the Indian border. Clearly, the implication is meant to be drawn that the hand of India is behind this latest outrage. In the same way, some sections here tried to pin the blame for the recent killings of Sri Lankan cricketers (also in Lahore) on India, allegedly as retaliation for the Mumbai atrocity.
However, there is a far more likely explanation, and it points an accusing finger at a source far nearer to home. Yesterday the Pakistan authorities conveyed their “concerns” through diplomatic channels over certain aspects of the new policy for the region announced by President Barack Obama on Friday.
“We will speak to them (the United States) on issues of concern in subsequent diplomatic negotiations,” the President’s spokesman Farhatullah Babar told the Dawn on Saturday. A similar impression was given by senior officials of the foreign office, who said the concerns would not go unnoticed and would be taken up at an “appropriate level”.
What did Obama announce that so worries Islamabad? The US President announced several incentives, including an increase in aid to Pakistan, the passage of legislation on the reconstruction opportunity zones and a commitment to democracy in the country, but at the same time he was quite ominous in his tone when he categorically said that there would be no “blank cheques” for Pakistan.
What does this mean? It means that, although Washington sees Pakistan as a vital piece in its strategy to fight the “war on terror” in Afghanistan, it is becoming increasingly frustrated at the ambiguous role of the Pakistan authorities and in particular the role of the Pakistan secret services (the ISI), a shadowy state within a state, which is well known to have close links with al Qaeda and the Taliban and is secretly protecting and encouraging terrorist organizations for its own sinister purposes.
The response of the Pakistan foreign office was guarded because this is an explosive issue and one that lies at the heart of the crisis in the Pakistan state. Sources in the foreign office stated: “There are pretty big problems in the policy about which our leadership is not speaking.” They have good reason to keep silent!
American frustration was shown by recent declarations by US Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who urged Pakistan’s powerful intelligence service to cut contacts with extremists in Afghanistan, which he called an “existential threat” to Pakistan itself. Gates was merely saying what everybody has always known: that Pakistan’s Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence has had links with jihadi terrorist groups “for a long time, as a hedge against what might happen in Afghanistan if we were to walk away or whatever,” as he told Fox News Sunday.
“What we need to do is try and help the Pakistanis understand these groups are now an existential threat to them and we will be there as a steadfast ally for Pakistan,” Gates said. “They can count on us and they don’t need that hedge,” he said, citing the ISI’s links specifically to the Al Qaeda-linked Haqqani militant network and to the forces of Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.
The Pentagon chief’s comments came after President Barack Obama on Friday put Pakistan at the centre of the fight against al Qaeda with a new strategy to commit thousands more troops and billions of dollars to the Afghan war.
“He clearly understands this is a very tough fight and that we’re in it until we’re successful, that al Qaeda is no longer a threat to the United States and that we are in no danger of either Afghanistan or the western part of Pakistan being a base for Al Qaeda,” Gates added.
America is losing in Afghanistan
It is now an open secret that the war in Afghanistan is going badly. Western casualties are constantly rising. Obama is trying to extricate the US forces from Iraq in order to reinforce the US military presence in Afghanistan. Asked about a New York Times report that US military commanders had pressed Obama for even more troops, the defense secretary said: “The president has approved every single soldier that I have requested of him. […] And the reality is there already are a lot of troops there. This will bring us, when all is said and done, to 68,000 troops plus another 35,000 or so Europeans and other partners.”
Obama is now exerting intense pressure to extract more troops from its unwilling European allies. Washington is also demanding more civilian experts and police trainers. But no matter how many troops are sent to Afghanistan, the likelihood of victory remains a mirage. With every bomb dropped on an Afghan village the hatred of the foreign invader grows more intense. The government of Kabul is seen as a puppet government of collaborators and corrupt gangsters. On the other hand, the Taliban have an endless supply of recruits from Pakistan, plenty of money from opium smuggling and secure havens in the tribal areas across the border with Pakistan.
This explains the public attacks on the ISI from Washington, which have provoked angry denials from the Pakistan State Security. The fact is that the ISI was actively encouraged by Washington to support al Qaeda and the Taliban in the past, when these reactionary bandits were used to fight the Soviet army in Afghanistan. This encouraged sections in the tops of the Pakistan army (and especially the ISI) in the belief that they would have a free hand in Afghanistan, which, in effect, would be under Pakistan’s control. They developed the notorious theory of “defence in depth”, which meant that Afghanistan would serve Pakistan as a kind of fallback position in the event of another war with India (a subject these elements are constantly obsessed with).
Ever since the US imperialists have changed the line and declared war on their former allies, al Qaeda and the Taliban, the ISI and other reactionary elements in the Pakistan General Staff have not concealed their displeasure. They have never abandoned the theory of “defence in depth”, nor their ambitions in Afghanistan. They have never broken their links with al Qaeda and the Taliban, which are not motivated by religious fanaticism, but rather the fanaticism to get rich by dirty means.
As Pakistan’s economy collapses and the masses are faced with poverty and hunger, prominent citizens of Pakistan are growing fabulously rich on the proceeds of the black economy, especially the lucrative drug trade. The so-called Islamic fundamentalists are really gangsters and lumpens, linked to the drug mafia and transport mafia that trades in human misery. This is big business on a vast scale, which involves massive corruption that leads all the way up to the top – including the tops of the army. This is the cancer that is gnawing at the entrails of the Pakistan state and destroying it slowly from within. That is why Gates talks about an “existential problem”.
A few months ago, a Pakistani general, Ameer Faisal Alvi, a serving officer in the Pakistan army’s campaign against al Qaeda and the Taliban in the Tribal Areas of Waziristan, and head of the elite Special Services Group (Commandos), sent a letter to the Chief of Staff, general Pervaiz Ashraf Kayani, denouncing the fact that generals of the Pakistan army were actively collaborating with al Qaeda and the Taliban. As a result, he was dismissed from the army. After this, he sent another letter to the Chief of Staff, in which he named the generals concerned. It was an act of personal bravery for which he paid a high price. On November 26, 2008 he was murdered in broad daylight on the streets of Islamabad.
Splits in the state
This explains why the rulers of Pakistan are afraid to talk about certain matters. The rottenness of Pakistan capitalism has extended to the highest levels of the state, army and government, to the extent that it threatens complete breakdown. Last week a US think tank predicted that if something were not done soon, the state could break down in six months! All these events are a striking confirmation of the Marxist analysis of the state that was put forward in the recent congress of The Struggle.
The murder of Benazir Bhutto was an indication of the sinister forces at work in Pakistani society. The western media falsely portray this as the rise of “Islamic fundamentalism”, when in reality these terrorist organizations are small minority groups composed of lumpens and bandits manipulated by the powerful drug mafia and the state. Although it was a lumpen fanatic who pulled the trigger, the real murderers of Benazir Bhutto were the ISI. There is no doubt that the same people were behind the Mumbai atrocity and the killing of the Sri Lanka cricketers. And there is no doubt that the same invisible hand is behind today’s bloody events, which are meant as an answer to the threat from Washington.
The idea that the fundamentalists enjoy massive support in Pakistan society is a blatant lie and a slander against the people of Pakistan. These reactionary gangs were originally created by US imperialism under the brutal Zia dictatorship and were nurtured, financed, armed and trained by the Pakistan state. Without the backing of the ISI they are nothing. That is why the US imperialists are now demanding that the Pakistan government take action against the ISI.
This is very easy to say from the safety of an air-conditioned office in Washington, but not so easy to put into practice on the streets of Islamabad. The ISI is entrenched after decades of a pampered and privileged existence. It is linked by a thousand links with corrupt government officials and politicians at the highest level, to organized crime on a grand scale, to the drug and transport mafia, to the religious fanatics in the madrassas that turn out brainwashed fanatics prepared to act as the murderous instruments of reaction, and to the murky underworld of jihadi terrorism.
Another section of the state has different interests. They are in the pockets of US imperialism, whose interests they serve like a dog licking the hand of its master. They bow and scrape before their bosses in Washington, who treat Pakistan as if it were America’s backyard. The conflict at the heart of these two antagonistic wings of the ruling class is explained by antagonistic material interests.
As far as the working class of Pakistan is concerned, there is nothing to choose between these two rival groups of gangsters. The Pakistan Marxists will fight US imperialism and oppose its criminal actions in Afghanistan, Waziristan and Pukhtunkhwa. But we will do so with our own methods and under our own banner, which is not the black flag of fundamentalist reaction but the red flag of socialist revolution.
Only by taking power into their own hands can the working class overthrow the rotten, diseased state of the exploiters and build a new state – a democratic workers’ state in which the lives and destinies of the people will be determined by the masses themselves. That is the only way forward to lead Pakistan out of the present nightmare and into the realm of socialism and freedom.
Lahore, March 30, 2009
March 24, 2009
Posted by sherryx under India
| Tags: Abida Parveen
, Aga Khan
, Cultural History
, Devotional Music
, Imam Ali
If one looks at the cultural history of Muslims in India, its hard to ignore the festival of Nowruz: The spring festival of Persia and central Asia which marks the start of spring of the start of Persian New Year. For more than a thousand years Nowroz was an official festival of the imperial courts in Dehli and Agra. Later it enjoyed the support of the princely states like Awadh and Hyderabad. Most Indians may remember K.Asif’s epic Moghul e Azam , which shows Jashen e Nowruz of Moghul court.
Nowruz was not just a fashion of muslim elites of India, rather it had a multi-dimensional character. After the Arab-muslim conquest of Persia, the festival of Nowruz became the symbol of a cultural resistance against Arabization and Arab imperialism. With the alliance of the sunni clerical establishment with the Caliphate in Baghdad after the initial resistance of the great Sunni Imams like Abu-Hanifa , Imam Malik and others , the Persian metaphysics and culture came under increasing attack from the state in name of Islam.
The resistance movements in the conquered and converted lands of Arab empire took shape of an “alternative” understanding of Islam, one which was radically different from vision of Abbasids and their supporters the Sunni clerics. The converted people looked towards their traditional philosophies, mythologies and cultural symbologies to understand Islam. Result was development of mysticism and different shades of Shia Islam. It must be understood that the political movement of proto- Shia was predominantly an Arab phenomenon with no theological differences with the proto-sunnis. The theological shia emerged quite later just as the their sunni counter part as the result of looking at Islam through the rich metaphysical tradition of Persians, Coptics, Nestorians, Arians and Pagans. The constant friction between the Ismaili Fatmid and Abbasid Empire played a great role. Its easily forgotten today that what is today dismissed as “heresy” was once the official Islam of half of the Moslem world and its continuous dawa in Abbasid lands made it “people’s religion” in other. Many “sanits” or Sufis could very much be Ismaili dais. Sufism shows a great resemblance to Ismaili theology esp in its understanding of concept of “beyond”. An account of this process with the resultant dissent in Islam is explained here and here.
In this environment Nowruz, the ancient festival of Persia was re-invented by the Shia and Sufi theologians as a potent symbol of resistance against Arab cultural invasion as well as against the rigid and loyalist Islam. Since most of the resistance against Arab imperialism was surrounding one or another Alavite cause, Nowruz was linked with the Holy House of Muhammed, whose status was under attack by the Arab rulers, Against the de-mystifying attempts of Abbasid and their loyalist clerics against Muhammed and Alavites, the Sufis and Shia trends merged both of them with the ancient Gnostic metaphysics with which the conquered people were very familiar. Nowruz became the day when Ali was awarded the “wilayah” in time before Time began. It was the day of Muhammed’s declaration of prophet hood in the zone beyond time, it was the day universe was created, and the day when Mehdi will deliver humanity from tyranny
Through Sufi teaching and its accompanying Ismaili dawa the festival reached the Sunni lands of Central Asia, Afghanistan, Pakhtoonkhawa, India, Turkey, Albania and Bosnia. Kurds also adopted the day due to the esoteric mystic tradition which mostly had Ismaili relations. With formation of Pakistan and its increasing Arabaization and State sponsored Anti Shia militancy, festival of Nowruz has virtually gone into obscurity. Its not that Nowruz is not celebrated in Pakistan, it is widely celebrated but is ignored. Even Pakistan’s self pro-claimed progressives and secularists who have a mantra of tolerance and pluralism on their lips 24/7 are insensitive to an “alternative cultural expression”.
Shias make a sizeable population in Pakistan and they celebrate Nowruz as an “Eid”, special ceremonies and prayers are offered in the Imam Bargahs , sweets, fruits, perfumes, flowers usually mark the offerings of Nowruz. The Aga Khani Ismaili community also celebrates Nowruz in Pakistan. In certain Northern areas of Pakistan which have Shia and Ismaili majority Nowruz has a very potent cultural expression. All of this fails to find any representation in mainstream Pakistan, result is an average educated Urban Pakistani simply doesn’t know about Nowruz. The Pakistani intellectuals are usually busy lecturing India on tolerance and pluralism on issues like Varun Gandhi etc etc and usually don’t care about such small things. The Shia holocaust in Pakistan also goes un noticed by most of our secular-progressive-sufi- Elitist intellectuals. Thanks to them no one in Pakistan knows whats going on against Shias in Parachinar and other areas. A fellow blogger Abdul recently spoke about this criminal silence by those who have a claim to Alternative media in Pakistan. Here is the article by Abdul and other links about Anti Shia holocaust going on in Pakistan. Here , here and Here. Most of our protests on these issues are also met with the same response. Indifference
Pakistani Shias celebrated this Nowruz with an increasing awareness of Talibanization. Yet another Pakistani community celebrates Nowruz. It’s the Bahai community. Scattered through out Pakistan, the Bahai community leads life of invisibility due to “cultural holocaust and apartheid” which is order of the day in Pakistan. Bahai’s through out Pakistan celebrated Nowruz.
The Persian speaking people of Pakistan [this is yet another information for an average educated Pakistani, that there exist people in Pakistan whose mother tongue is Persian] also celebrates Nowruz. Darri speaking [Afghani Persian] Hazaras of Baluchistan also celebrate Nowruz. [Yet another victim of state sponsored holocaust]
Yet another Pakistani community which celebrates Nowruz is the Zoroastrian community commonly known as the “Parsi community”. The community is trying to preserve the ancient pre-Islamic heritage of Iran. Geographically Nowruz is celebrated with greater enthusiasm in Karachi, Quetta, Peshawer, Northern Areas of Pakistan especially Hunza valley, Gilget and Baldistan , Multan and Kashmir. In Pakistan the customs of Nowruz are different than those of Iran.
In Pakistan Nowruz is mostly celebrated as “Alam Afrouz” or the new day. People dress up and visit each other. There are special ceremonies and “aamal” and prayers in Imam Bargahs and Jamat Khanas. Hina, bangles and eidi are also part of Nowruz celebration. In villages the practice of burning wood logs and jumping over it was an established practice on Nowruz but now has almost died. Special sweets like “laddo”, ”rus malai”, ”gulab jaman” “cream rolls” and Suhan Halva are made on this day. These sweets plus roses and perfumes replace the tradition “Haft sen” of Nowruz,
Since in mystic and Shia theology Nowruz is the day to celebrate the wilayah of Ali and house of Muhammed , I have selected a “Ginan”, which are the mystic lyrics wrote of Saints of Indo-Pk , many of them were Ismaili dais [as the Ismaili history is slowly being de-mystified] in praise of the Imams who were in occultation in those days. Shamas the mysterious mystic was also an Ismaili dai who introduced Rumi to “Batin”, what lies beyond the words of Quran.
This particular Ginan is being offered by none other than Queen of mystic music Abida Parveen and it speaks about the “Raj”, the Millennium when charismatic Imams, the continuation of Koranic symbology of Noor-un-ala-noor will rule the humanity. The start of this was affirmation of Ali in realm of spirits an act which is symbolized in day of Nowruz. In modern times this Ginan is specially recited on coronation of the Aga Khan the “Hazir Imams”, the continuation of Ismaili Imamat and the most philosophical rich movement in Islam whose metaphysics contributed a lot in development of mysticism. The devotion of Abida Parveen is worth seeing, a truly spiritual experience. HE Prince Karim Aga Khan, the Hazir Imam can be seen enjoying the Ginan.
March 21, 2009
Posted by sherryx under Politics
| Tags: BJP
, Pakistan Muslim League
, Varun Gandhi
Nehru’s grandson Varun Gandhi , other day spoke in a language against Muslims which shamed the legacy of his grandfather and Mahatma Gandhi. Varun Gandhi has a blood relation with Nehru but his politics has nothing to do with the legacy of Mahatama Gandhi or Jawahurlal Nehru. Mr Varun Gandhi took the line which was the line of Indian communalists before partition against which Nehru and Gandhi stood. Varun Gandhi is not in Congress but the BJP. The heir of Hindu communalism ,which existed before partition who were the real authors of “Two Nation theory”.The Hindu and Muslim communalists which are now called “Hindu and Muslim Nationalists” fashionably , are the cause of religious hatred in India and Pakistan. Varun Gandhi was yet another voice of Religious Nationalism which is “segregationist” and “separatist”. It resulted in breaking of India and the never ending conflict which plagues Indian subcontinent. War, Taliban and Nuclear proliferation are a few expressions of the evil which religious nationalism produced. Varun Gandhi mocked philosophy of Mahatama Gandhi in his speech and departed from Nehru’s secular vision. The Indian Liberal’s continuous attack on Gandhi and Nehru has resulted in slow erosion of secular-socialist values which has resulted in rise of BJP and communalism in India. Just as their muslim counterpart Pakistani liberals are bringing PML-N and Jamate Islami on their shoulders to throne of Islamabad. Time has come that people revisit the history and rediscover the evil of religious nationalism which now threat 3 states. India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Following is an article sent to me by a friend JZ written a veteran Pakistani Leftist and Prof Kurt Jacobsen both of them also co-authored number of books and frequently write for prestigious publications like The Harvard International Review and Le Monde Diplomatique it speaks about legacy of Gandhi and gives a very balanced view of Gandhi , Jinnah and others. We must stop the evil of communalism and religious nationalism weather it exist in fascist form , ie Taliban and RSS or its liberal-secular form the BJP and Pakistan Muslim League and their representatives like Varun Gandhi
Sayeed Hasan Khan and Kurt Jacobsen
Mahatma Gandhi died the 30th of January 1948 at the hand of a mad Hindu fanatic. The legendary leader, also known as Bapu, was deeply tormented in those final days as he watched political power passing into the hands of those political ‘pragmatists’ who humored or succumbed to Hindu communalism, as opposed to those people championing his own multi-cultural, nonsectarian vision. Given the imminence of partition, which he had resisted with all his might, Gandhi declined to participate in independence celebrations, staying conspicuously far away from the capital.
As violence intensified, Gandhi hurried to Delhi where he implored members of the Communist Party to help him to douse the fires of sectarian hatred, to which even some Congress leaders were not immune. Among those answering his summons was Mohan Kumaramanglam, a communist who was the son of a Congress leader from Madras . When Gandhi fretted about mass killings, Mohan retorted that whatever happened merely was the logical result of Bapu’s own political strategy. Gandhi, sitting cross-legged on the floor, stood up and vowed that he was going to stop communal violence even if it cost him his life. It did, but the killing ceased immediately too. His assassin belonged to the RSS, which was banned and did not raise its ugly head again for several more decades.
When Gandhi originally arrived on the political stage there were already plenty of formidable leaders like Jinnah, Gokhle and Tilak jostling there. Jinnah carefully established himself over years in the mould of 19th century English parliamentarians, as a strict secular leader who was fighting foremost for the independence of India . When Gokhle and Tilak died, Jinnah regarded himself as the obvious successor and appears to have felt aggrieved that the position was assumed instead by that deceptively simple, loin-clothed figure.
Gandhi most certainly was a religious man, but in a radical way that transcended Hinduism. He disliked the caste system for the way upper caste Hindus exploited it. The Hindu community nonetheless was over two thirds of India ’s populace and it had to be acknowledged as such if there was to be a meaningful independence movement at all. The privileged Congress leaders, including Jinnah, were always leery of mass politics. If anything, they were suspicious of ordinary people. But Gandhi, in order to reach the masses and to unite Hindus, invoked Hindu symbols from atop Congress platforms. Gandhi as a practicing Hindu, thereby could out-maneouvre and thwart the Hindu ultra-nationalists. He was less adroit dealing with Muslims for whom the symbols he invoked were pure anathema. His call for Ram Raj antagonized them too. Jinnah, unfortunately, was accurate in his view that mass politics would bring the worst aspects of communalism to the top.
Congress itself operated on secular principles but Muslims increasingly perceived that it was Hindu-dominated. This was not true, but the mainly Hindu leadership were unable to dispel these lurking fears. Yet Gandhi forged an agreement with the Ali brothers and a majority of Muslim religious leaders to support the khilafat movement. Jinnah was sidelined, as he was the only major Muslim leader who did not side with the khilafatist. Here was a high water mark of Hindu-Muslim amity, and Gandhi with the indispensible help of Moulana Mohammad Ali achieved it. Whatever the popular misperceptions, Gandhi reached out to his Muslim neighbors in every imaginable way. When during the khilafat agitation a mob burned the police station at Chouri Choura along with the policemen inside he withdrew from the movement, which resulted in severe differences with the Muslim leadership. Jinnah felt vindicated.
Gandhi was pro-capitalist, and his principled nonviolent stance too meant that that he rejected militant revolutionary groups. He declined to support Bhagat Singh when he was arrested and hanged for shooting an Englishman. After the great massacre in Calcutta , though, Gandhi hastened to Bengal , taking former chief minister of united Bengal H.S. Suharwardy along, and managed to restore peace there. The two Punjabs, however, were busy expelling their own respective minorities. Hindus and Sikhs fled from west to east and Muslims were being pushed into Pakistani Punjab. Gandhi maintained that all minorities should be allowed to live in their own homeland. He dispatched a delegation to Gurgaon, a city near Delhi , to stop the forced migration of the minority Muslims.
The Meos community, who were Muslim, was targeted for expulsion. A Gandhian delegation was mounted, led by Mirdula Sarabhai, hailing from a Gujurat industrial family. Other members were Mohan Lal Gautam, a niece of Pandit Nehru Tara Pandit, and Mohammad Masood secretary to Moulana Azad, who told one of us this story. They discovered Muslims were being packed off to Pakistan on special trains. So they rushed to the station where they found a train full of victims about to leave for Lahore . When their request to halt the train was rejected, Mohan Lal Gautam, a UP Congress leader, stood in front of the train and refused to move until it was emptied of its involuntary passengers.. Gopi Chand Bhargava, chief minister of Punjab , arrived and tried to persuade Mohan to leave. Ultimately, the passengers were allowed to go back to their homes.
Thousands of them already reached Pakistan and were languishing in refugee camps in Sahiwal. Later, Chaudhry Yasin a leader of Meos, escorted some of them back to India . Today Gurgaon is no longer a sleepy town. The Meos are fully represented in the Harayana legislature and reap the benefits of their contribution to the development of their city. This all became possible because of one man’s moral stance..
Later, Gandhi asked Chaudhry Khaliquzaman, the leader of the Muslim League in the Indian parliament, to go to Pakistan to try to halt the migration of Hindus from Sindh. Khaliq sahib told one of us that he met the leaders of the government, including the chief minister of Sindh Khuruo who informed him that he himself trying to stop the flight of Hindus from Sindh but that Acharya Kirplani was urging them to migrate. Jinnah meanwhile reverted to his nationalist days and addressed the constituent assembly, pleading with them to shun religious doctrine where the work of state is concerned. The State he envisioned deemed everyone equal and guaranteed that the minorities have rights to practice their religion.
Jinnah was close to a Sindh Hindu journalist, Sharma, whom he asked not to go to India , as he needed his aid. Jinnah’s friend R.K. Dalmia had bought two English daily papers, so Sharma was likely to enjoy a secure job. Jinnah solemnly promised Sharma that he would do the same thing in Pakistan as he did in pre-partition India , which is to fight for the minorities, who now were non-Muslims. But terrible riots erupted 6 January 1948 and a fearful Sharma insisted on leaving. Jinnah arranged special passage for him. The small section of the Sindhi Hindus who were able to stay have done well, but the cream of the Sindhi Hindu community fled and Pakistan was the loser as these clever and skilled people dispersed around the world.
Gandhi often is accused of converting the Indian National Congress into a blatant Hindu organization. Yet once the Hindu majority were mobilized in the movement their religious culture was bound to seep into the organizational ‘culture.’ Despite Gandhi’s best egalitarian intentions, how could it be otherwise? Some sort of communal facade had to be allowed in order to fend off Hindu extremists. The religious political sentiment of the main community cannot help but exert its impact on any national movement.
Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan, who was called the Frontier Gandhi, was the founder of Khudai Khidmatgar movement, which was nationalist and closely worked with the Congress. It had Hindu members but its overall culture was Muslim, even the name means servants of god. Ghaffar Khan, succeeded far more than his friend Gandhi, when he turned the hardy Pathans toward the nonviolent creed, instead of the customary rough methods they were used to settle their disputes with the government and among themselves.
Sixty years after the martyrdom of Gandhi sectarian-inspired killings occur in parts of India and Pakistan and there is no one with the moral authority to appeal to humanity to stop destroying itself in this stupid way. When Gandhi was killed Muslims throughout the subcontinent grieved for the man whom they loved to hate not so long before. Playwright Bernard Shaw said upon Gandhi’s death that one day people will be unable to believe that a remarkable man like him ever walked on the face of this earth. Jinnah said that a great Hindu leader died. He was correct, but Gandhi hadn’t left the Muslims, the Muslims left him. He died while doing his best on their behalf not as minority members but as brothers and sisters
March 18, 2009
Posted by sherryx under Gender and Sexuality
| Tags: Alternative Media
, Dr Rubina Saigol
, Fashion Industry
, Iqbal Hussein
, Jean Baudrillard
, Objectification of Women
, Pakistani Bloggers
, Red Mosque
, Simulation and Simulacrum
, Visual Media
Context of the Article: Portrayal of Women in Pakistani Media: Another Jab at Pakistani Liberal Thought by Freethinker
“The sex Industry sells clothes and the fashion Industry sells prostitution and pornography”
Beauty and Misogyny, Sheila Jeffreys
After reading a wonderful post by a friend and fellow blogger I am forced to write on the issues of Objectification of women, the developed of a hegemonizing and selectively politicized discourse on “emancipation of women” and its highly inaccurate linkage with commercial fashion Industry which has nothing to do with “women lib”. The only relationship it had with political and social movements of women liberation had been extremely hostile one. One often encounter’s mediocrity in disguise of advance intellect but the way “intellectually challenged” have been hegemonizing Pakistani intellectual scene is a real tragedy. This painful awareness disturbed me a lot after reading a lot of responses to Freethinker’s excellent post which objected to objectification of women by Fashion Industry and Corporate media in Pakistan and their ideological mimickers masquerading as anti-commercial “alternative media”. While freethinker was objecting to the “representational discourse and imagery”, trying to demonstrate the fakeness of hypereality [Jean Baudrillard] , one which has nothing to do with “reality” but rather is nothing but an image created, circulated , authenticated, idolized and incorporated into perceptual consciousness of humans by capitalist mass media , fashion industry and other such hegemonizing entities , the intellectually challenged media monkeys perceived it as an attack on personal choices , on liberalism and cultural pluralism etc etc.
The general ignorance which plagues English speaking Pakistani elite and its allied intellectual class is ironic in this sense, that their dogmatism is similar to those who it usually attack ie primitive Taliban. They are ignorant about the advance theoretical positions and philosophies which have emerged as “emancipatory critiques” of established knowledge ie Western Rationalism, Marxism/Stalinism, Logic and Analysis. Freethinker’s critique was not on the dress choice of a famous Pakistani model but rather on it being the “representative” of women. This was an attack on “Simulation”. The ground breaking critique on Mass Media and Visual Arts by French philosopher Jean Baudrillard revolves around three key concepts
Thesis[war of Pakistani Identity
In his philosophical cosmos a simulation is a process in which representation of things replace the “things being represented”. This is a very problematic notion because it causes “de-humanization”; the main concern of intellectuals like freethinkers. With the tremendous power that Visual media holds in late capitalism, this process of the representation becomes more important than the “real-thing”. Signs are thought of as representing reality, Signs than mask the reality, Signs than mask the “absence of reality”. With this we enter a simulacrum, a state where Signs have no relation with Reality what so ever. With Global mass media invasion, copies of copies are created and bombarded on Human Retina. No longer has the simulation reflected an original but simulation is reflecting a simulation. With the mass media and fashion Industry’s portrayals of women as beauty and sex objects, freethinker was calling for appearance of “real woman”. One which works in a cotton field goes to college, dances on a shrine, a typical lahori house wife wandering in bazaar, slightly over weight not much self conscious. The real woman which we never see on mass media or Fashion Empire which portrays a certain image of women based on male chauvinism.
The second aspect of Freethinker’s critique was “problematization” of practice of “politicizing women’s bodies”. The ignorance about more advanced techniques of critical pedagogical dialogues led to further “misrepresentation” of Freethinker’s critique as favoring one side of the war being played on women bodies. To contextulize it let me give you an example. When General Musharaff sided with United States in War on Terror, state adopted a policy of “Enlightened Moderation”. Women’s bodies became the arena of war on terror. General Musharraff’s state sponsored the fashion industry of Pakistan and also the mass media which mushroomed in Pakistan. The commercial interests of media empires, fashion and cosmetic industries led to “objectification of women” on mass and visual media. The Ramp-show models were being represented in London and Paris as “other face” of Pakistan. [Just as the offending post against which Freethinker protested]. These simulations were being politicized as representative of a “secular progressive Jinnah’s Pakistan”. The result of this politicization of women bodies resulted in a barbaric attack on Women’s bodies from the Right Wing. “Burqa” emerged as a “resisting symbol” of Musharraff’s enlightened moderation. Whilst Mush’s were simulations existing only on media, Taliban threaded the “real women” on streets, with Acid. The ultimate anti-thesis of this politicization of simulations was Burqa clad suicidal militants of Red Mosque.
Anti-thesis [War on women bodies
The war which was hyperreal [where reality is replaced by simulacrum] resulted in worse crimes against real women who never were being represented. Why hyperreality is dangerous, the whole violent debate in Musharraff era revolved around “obscenity of fashion shows”, “western cultural invasion” in name of “emancipation of women”. All NGO’s and modernists kept debating this useless notion , war against “co-marathon” in Lahore . All this was in name of “women rights”. Despite the marathons, and establishment of a vibrant fashion industry the “plight of real woman” is same. No serious debate took place on domestic and sexual slavery of women in Pakistan, All anti women laws remain, no debate on reproductive and abortion right, this despite the war in name of “women rights”. This is hyperreality. 8 years nation was polarized on women emancipation, liberalism, secularism and nothing has changed on ground. Because every thing was fictitious a simulacrum of mass media. The real women is paying the price now her safety is under threat.
Iqbal Hussein's paiting
The politicization of women bodies is one of the most important causes of mass crimes against women. Dr Robina Saigol has done an excellent study on how Pakistani Nation State politicizes women’s bodies and its consequences. Its is called Militarization, Nation and Gender : Women’s bodies as Arenas of Violent conflicts. Just as a critique on media portrayals of women was considered an attack on Pakistan Patriotism, a patriotism which revolves around either converting women into a “Barbie doll” of a “burqa clad sub human”. The inherent insecurity of Pakistani nationalists lead them to slogan mongering like Long Live Barbie Doll without realizing the amount of exploitation which goes on in such Industries.
Why we are so concerned about how women are portrayed on media for commercial interests, because overwhelming evidence exists on the harmful effects it causes on “real women”.
“Extensive research has demonstrated the negative results of female objectification in the media. Depression, appearance anxiety, body shame, sexual dysfunction, and eating disorders are only a few among the growing list of repercussions (Fredrickson & Noll, 1997). In addition to the objectification of women, the media commits another assault on the dignity of women. This assault is the dismemberment of women, and it has not received the attention it deserves (Kilbourne, 2002). Kilbourne (2002) pointed out that advertising is a 100 billion dollar a year industry. Each day we are exposed to more than 2000 ads. Advertising can be one of the most powerful sources of education in our society. Many women feel pressured to conform to the beauty standards of our culture and are willing to go to great lengths to manipulate and change their faces and bodies. Kilbourne suggests that women are conditioned to view their faces as masks and their bodies as objects. Through the mass media, women discover that their bodies and faces are in need of alteration, augmentation, and disguise. In addition, women are taught to internalize an observer’s perspective of their own bodies. This phenomenon is called objectification (Fredrickson & Noll, 1997). Advertisements are loaded with objectified women, and only recently have the effects of objectification been explored. However, the effects of the dismemberment of women in advertising have been neglected. Dismemberment advertisements highlight one part of a woman’s body while ignoring all the other parts of her body. Dismemberment ads portray women with missing appendages or substitute appendages. Of course the ads are only symbolic of dismemberment, but the symbolic imagery creates nearly the same effect.” The Objectification and Dismemberment of Women in Media , Kacey D Greening.
What was truly condemnable that the images which were posted in retaliation of Freethinker’s criticism included what have been called “dismemberment of women”. The images highlight one part of women’s body neglect others, like in this case face and breasts. One should note that one never comes across image of male model showing just his crotch! With these images bombarding the mass media, it alters the reality and consciousness. This results in viewing women just as pleasure objects and toys; this is the first step in converting women into prostitute. Pleasure and sex which can be bought apart from woman’s soul: conditioning men into thinking of women as objects and pressurizing women to “conform” to sex-beauty protocols this de-humanizing continues. It is not about what dress some one is wearing, its hyperreality and politicization of women’s bodies which we are objecting. I am concluding this article by giving position of a radical feminist to add another perspective to the issue
“Yet fashion is still misogynist. It commodifies women, encourages them to believe that they must endure pain in order to be sexually appealing. Designers advertise clothes by picturing them on clear-skinned, breastless cadavers, in so-called “women’s magazines”; these magazines run articles that discuss how fashion can help you — an averagely fat, slightly be-zitted woman — come close to this standard of beauty. Fashion invites every woman to make the old trade of sex for money and happiness.”
Anti-Fashion: Patriarchy necessitates prostitution necessitates fashion, Chase Olivarius McAllister
March 10, 2009
Posted by sherryx under Baluchistan
| Tags: AHRC
, Baloch Resistance
, British Raj
, Human Rights
, Indian Classical Music
, Khawja Farid
, Multani Kaafi
, Sassi Punnun
, Sex Abuse
, Ustad Salamat Ali Khan
, Zarrina Marri
“The Wine of Croatian orchids doesn’t alleviate my pain, it burns me more, the pains of love, the pains of alienation, the pains of separation are strange pains: as the wounds heal, the pains sharpen—the soul burns on denial of love and on denial of emancipation——–”
Deep in south of Punjab in the colonized Saraiki deserts spoke one poet who is known as “Keats of the East”, for just like him , love is his subject , every shade of Love , every color of love , love in all its glory , love in all its pain. This Sufi of love ballads when saw his desert being occupied, being colonized changed the shades of his Love Songs, such was the intensity of emotions on the feeling of dispossession of Rohi [Romantic name of desert thar , used for Saraiki lands] that Farid cried
Apni dherti aap wasa tu , putt Angreze Thanne.
[O brave son of land] Take the ownership of your land back in your hands and demolish these British police stations.
Too strong for a Sufi , it may appear to English speaking sufi admiring class of Islamic Republic whose ideas of Sufism are result of interposition of modern quietism to theological mysticism. I drink from my glass , the dark fruity wine from lands beyond , pain sharpens in my heart , the pain of separation , I feel like burning every thing down including myself , the serene voice of Ustad Salamat Ali Khan echoes in my ears.
Ishiq Anokhri peer ae—- Love is a Strange Pain— tears flow from eyes—wounds of heart are strange— I long for my lover— I have become a fatally wounded l patient I have been separated from my love. Life without lover is a lie. I am just like a Crane which has been separated from its flock— and my eyes continuously shed tears —-a thousand pains plague my soul—for love is a Pain Strange
This is separation, which Farid felt, a separation from his land, a separation from his love. They don’t understand, those who have turned their guns and cannons towards the gallant Balochs , they call them brothers and kill them but they don’t understand Love. What love is for a lover?
O Friend Farid [speaks Sassi] Love is a pain strange. O my lover, you are my friend, you are my honour, you are love for me, you are beauty for me, you are my faith, you are my creed and you are my Quran—-You are my total asset –you are my state and my king—– Pains have settled in my heart because you have been separated— and my flesh burns with a hissing sound— for Love is pain strange
A soul in love burns each second, those who have fell in love don’t fear fire, the solders of this great Islamic republic don’t know about love or they wouldn’t have put 4 young Baloch men in molten Coal Tar — they don’t know lovers prefer to melt in fire than to betray their love—-Lovers melted in Tar but no sky fell—God thy kingdom has gone for ever—-they put thy son on cross no sky fell— No sky fell when thy soldiers burned alive these Baloch youth—-Lovers are insane they keep loving , they face torture, their family becomes their enemy—but these mad people they keep traveling on the road to love—O people of Islamic Republic this tyranny and torture will not break the Balochs—It didn’t broke Sassi listen to your Sufis and learn the lesson
[Sassi speaks] The day I expressed my love [for the handsome Baloch] I have declared a war against my tribe, my kin—my father, mother and brothers beat me [are dead for me]. O Lover the people of city are enemies—– the prison of loneliness, of alienation is a strange misery—my soul has a hundred wounds——-
Sassi when wandered in the desert in search of his Baloch lover Punnu—weakened by thirst and grief—she encountered a wicked man who wanted to take advantage of Sassi’s misery. These were the olden times and God had yet not gone into retirement. Sassi called him and mother earth took her into its safety. She was saved from humiliation of molestation. Yet in postmodern times neither did God listened nor did mother Earth came to rescue Zarrina, the poor Baloch girl abducted by soldiers of Islamic Republic and being molested as a sex slave with other Baluch women—No sky fell—
Those who deceived Punnu were his own brothers, those who took him away in the dead of the night away from Sassi—-When he knew he died wandering in desert looking for Sassi—There is a lesson for Baluchs , those who have kidnapped Solecki , acted just like brothers of Punnu
For Love is pain strange, and I drink with no solace, I see the writing on the wall but they don’t—yes love is a strange affliction
This is the Kaafi of Farid which became the inspiration of this post
March 8, 2009
Posted by sherryx under Human Rights
| Tags: Activism
, Human Rights
, International Women's Day
“There can be no socialism without the emancipation of women, and there can no emancipation of women while the economic slavery of capitalism persists.”
For more Pakistani context of Women day and the struggle please read my old article on Fehmida Riaz and discourse of exclusion
With thanks: International Marxist Website
On International Working Women’s Day – Fight Back Against Women’s Oppression.
By Julian Benson
We are living in a period that can be defined as one of the most turbulent in history. The economic crisis, through its sheer scale and reach, is bringing about a wholesale change in the consciousness of working people the world over. The contradictions and weaknesses of this system are becoming plainly evident as capitalism buckles under its own weight. As always, it is the poor, the oppressed, and the workers who must shoulder this weight in order to hold up the privileges of the rich. There is no portion of the working class that has so greatly and extensively borne this affliction than working women.
The International Working Women’s Day is the day we pay homage to the tremendous contributions that female workers have made in the fight for a just society. Here women demonstrating against immigration laws in France. Photo by looking4poetry on Flickr.
March 8, International Working Women’s Day, is arguably one of the most important dates of the calendar for the global labour movement. It is the day we pay homage to the tremendous contributions that female workers have made in the fight for a just society. It is the day we reaffirm women’s place of honour at the head of our movement. More than anything else, it is the day that all workers, whatever their sex, colour, or creed, remind those who seek to divide us that we know that our struggle, our enemy, and our goal, is one and the same.
The conditions faced by working-class women today clearly illustrate the systemic nature of their exploitation. Despite the mouthpieces of the bosses taking up the cry of women’s rights in the last several decades, the facts show that their words are not reflected by their actions. According to the British Trades Union Congress (TUC), the layoff rate for female workers has increased by 2.3% since the start of 2008, almost double that of male workers. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), 90% of workers in sweatshops are women and young girls.
The corporate media, when it is forced to acknowledge these facts, continually tries to confuse workers by presenting them as a gender versus gender issue. Reuters, in an article on the effects of the slump on women, spends one paragraph talking about the plight of women workers and commits the remainder of its three-page article discussing how many women are CEOs or board members of the largest corporations. The argument made by liberal Feminists is that the progress of women can be measured by how many women hold positions of power in the large corporations and in governments. When Stephen Harper announced a cabinet reshuffle after the last federal election in Canada, bourgeois feminists were delighted when he appointed a record 11 women, or 29% of cabinet, to his Tory government. The Feminist NGO, Catalyst, boasts that the percentage of female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies went from 8.7% in 1995 to 16.4% in 2005. However, do facts like this really mean that the welfare of all women is improving? According to the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), in the same ten-year period, women workers went from making 72% of a male worker’s pay for work of equal value, to just 70.5%. Having more women cabinet ministers and CEOs has not only failed to improve the lot of working women, pay equity has actually decreased in the last decade and the exploitation of women is as evident as ever.
Stephen Harper (right) is heading a government with record number of female ministers but this has not improved the situation for women. The same can be said for Germany’s first female Prime Minister (left), who has presided over huge cuts in the welfare state. Photo by franz88 on Flickr.
Capitalism depends on the subjugation of women for its very survival. Sexism, along with racism and every other divisive tool the bourgeois possess, are vital wedges needed to drive apart male workers from their female comrades in order to prevent the rise of the one thing that can undo this system: worker’s unity. Bourgeois women, the CEOs and cabinet ministers, have nothing to gain by ending the disproportionate exploitation of women workers. In fact, they have a vested interest in ensuring that this oppression continues. Keeping female workers at a lower wage than their male counterparts has the effect of putting pressure on male workers to accept lower wages in order to compete for the same jobs, thus repugnantly fostering sexism and pitting worker against worker. Additionally, women are made to form a reserve army of cheap, mobile labour, which is very profitable for the capitalists. There is a reason why women overwhelmingly fill low paid service sector jobs and sweatshops. Capitalism also doesn’t count the creation and nurturing of life as real productive work in society and expects it to be done for free, largely by working class women. A woman’s biological role as the child bearer creates a situation where, under capitalism, it is women who are also the ones who have to take up the burden of child rearing. This leaves women with the double burden of being responsible for the care of her children and home, while additionally working to help support them. Shouldering this extra weight leaves the woman worker with little free time to become politically active, organize unions, or, in many cases, even work a full-time job. This leads to women being forced into the most exploitative working conditions, often on poverty wages, thus making their situation ever worse, helping to re-enforce their economic dependence on men.
Capitalism forces upon women the double burden of child rearing and wage labour. Photo by UNICEF Iran, Mojgan Parssa-Magham.
It is this economic dependence that has forced women to endure the most humiliating abuse across the centuries. Even in so-called enlightened Western countries, every day working class women face the choice between poverty, homelessness and losing their children on the one side, or putting up with a violent and abusive partner on the other. Programmes to protect women from these situations, meagre though they are, are also being cut back by governments looking to save money in the financial crisis. However, despite (or perhaps because of) the social and economic hardships that working class women face on a daily basis, when these women rise up to defend their rights, they do so with an unequalled militancy.
Ironically, it is bourgeois women who act as some of the worst exploitative employers of working class women. All one has to do is to take a bus in the early morning through any wealthy neighbourhood to see the army of nannies, cooks, and cleaning staff, largely pulled from immigrant women, who perform the domestic chores of these upper class households. The bourgeois women, of course, are indeed “liberated”. They are free from both the daily grind of wage labour and from the tiresome burden of domestic slavery and can readily pursue the same ends that bourgeois men do, such as politics, business, and academia. This “liberation,” in which the liberal Feminists wish to paint a victory for women, is realistically just the dumping of all these burdens directly on the already overworked mass of working class women.
It is the duty of all socialists to fight against sexism within the labour movement, not only because of its disgusting chauvinism, but more crucially because it is a tool used by the bosses to divide and conquer. The common theme shared by both liberal Feminists and reactionary chauvinists is that men and women have competing interests. Socialists believe this to be untrue. The bourgeois have an interest in maintaining gender divisions, while workers simultaneously have an interest in breaking them down. We fight along class lines for socialism not because, as some academics have stated, “Marxism doesn’t understand the women’s struggle,” but for precisely the opposite reason. Marxism is infused with over 150 years of hard won experience in the struggle against the exploitation and oppression of women. It is through continually studying this living history of our movement that we have understood that there is no solution to the women’s struggle under capitalism.
Only in socialism can a solution be found. Through universal child care, education, housing and healthcare, through the socialization of domestic chores by creating public laundries, kitchens, etc. and through the guarantee of equal pay in a system of full and fair employment, can the burdens placed on working-women’s social development finally be lifted.
On February 20, two Iranian female workers were sentenced to 100 lashes in public. Their offence wasn’t the flaunting of the Iranian regime’s reactionary “virtue laws”. What they did was far more dangerous to the Iranian state they were arrested and whipped for attending a May Day rally.
We Marxists know, just as well as the ruling class, that the revolutionary potential of female workers is the sword of Damocles hanging over them and their system. In 1917, it was the women of Petrograd that marched from factory to factory, rousing their sons, brothers, and fathers out into the streets in what was the beginning of the Russian Revolution. Just like then, it will be the women who will embody our revolution. It will be the working women who will usher in the end of capitalism, and with it, the end of the exploitation of women now and forever. We say, “There can be no socialism without the emancipation of women, and there can no emancipation of women while the economic slavery of capitalism persists.”
There can be no socialism without the emancipation of women and it will be working women who will usher in the end of capitalism, and with it, the end of the exploitation of women now and forever. Photo by Carlo Nicora on Flickr.
March 6, 2009
Posted by sherryx under Art
, Film Review
, Gender theory
| Tags: Academy Awards
, Arundhati Roy
, Danny Boyle
, Film Review
, Gender theory
, Oscar Awards
, Slumdog Millionaire
Danny Boyle’s movie “Slumdog Millionaire” has taken the world by storm. Based on a novel by the Indian diplomat and author Vikas Swarup the movie tells the story of a poor slum dweller of Mumbai who is contestant on the Indian version of “Who wants to be Millionaire”. The movie was a huge success and was able to bag 8 Academy Awards.
The mood in India is nothing less than ecstasy, merging with the new obsession of Indian ruling and middle classes about “Shining India”.
For more than a decade now India is in the grip of free market economy and its lustrous attempt of building an “Indian dream”, India the great democracy, the greatest country in the world, where poorest of the poor are also happy singing and dancing on the streets. Most of it is a cruel illusion, the recent capitalization of India is very patchy and un even. Only parts of India have seen this free market boom. Most of the India has remained un touched. The Indian peasants are worse affected and the suicide rate has hit new heights Emergence of fascism has become a real threat in India, the slow degeneration of Congress party has resulted in popularization of Hindu nationalists who are out right communalist. Worse are the “New Liberals” who pro claim to be secular but subscribe to a virulent Hindutva ideology. They are rabidly anti-left consider them “pseudo secularist” but fail to see themselves who are just “Jeans clad” version of RSS.
The attitude in general Indian intelligentsia has been to hide these contradictions under carpet and glorify them. Without addressing the material base of these contradictions , a metaphysical blanket is put on the un desirable side, thus the slum become some thing of an “ideal” living place, the poor happy in their life and communalism just work of an evil anti social gunda.
While every one is busy partying on success of Slumdog Millionaire, we are providing an alternative view. This blog has always made sure that it gives voice to the suppressed opinion. .Arundhati Roy , the famous writer, anti globalization and anti-imperialist political activist has emerged as a conscience of India. A fierce critic of Indian ruling classes and established opinion, she spoke about the objectionable side of the movie
“People are selling India’s poverty big time both in literature and films. As they say, there is lots of money in poverty today. I am not against showing slums, but depicting them in a depoliticised manner, as has been done in the film, is quite unfortunate. Films do not show the real poor. Even if they are depicted, it’s not the true picture. The real poor are not shown in films because they are not attractive. Poverty sells but the poor do not. The film gives false hope to the poor that they too could become millionaires one day” The whole reaction can be seen here
Miss Roy wrote a wonderful critique of the movie for Dawn, the largest English newspaper of Pakistan. It was called “India not shining”. She writes:
“The debate around the film has been framed – and this helps the film in its multi-million-dollar promotion drive – in absurd terms. On the one hand we have the old ‘patriots’ parroting the line that “it doesn’t show India in a Proper Light’ (by now, even they’ve been won over thanks to the Viagra of success). On the other hand, there are those who say that Slumdog is a brave film that is not scared to plum the depths of India ‘not-shining’.
Slumdog Millionaire does not puncture the myth of ‘India shining’— far from it. It just turns India ‘not-shining’ into another glitzy item in the supermarket. As a film, it has none of the panache, the politics, the texture, the humour, and the confidence that both the director and the writer bring to their other work. It really doesn’t deserve the passion and attention we are lavishing on it. It’s a silly screenplay and the dialogue was embarrassing, which surprised me because I loved The Full Monty (written by the same script writer). The stockpiling of standard, clichéd, horrors in Slumdog are, I think, meant to be a sort of version of Alice in Wonderland – ‘Jamal in Horrorland’. It doesn’t work except to trivialize what really goes on here. The villains who kidnap and maim children and sell them into brothels reminded me of Glenn Close in 101 Dalmatians”
On the political side of the movie she comments:
“Politically, the film de-contextualises poverty – by making poverty an epic prop, it disassociates poverty from the poor. It makes India’s poverty a landscape, like a desert or a mountain range, an exotic beach, god-given, not man-made. So while the camera swoops around in it lovingly, the filmmakers are more picky about the creatures that
inhabit this landscape.
To have cast a poor man and a poor girl, who looked remotely as though they had grown up in the slums, battered, malnutritioned, marked by what they’d been through, wouldn’t have been attractive enough. So they cast an Indian model and a British boy. The torture scene in the cop station was insulting. The cultural confidence emanating from the obviously British ’slumdog’ completely cowed the obviously Indian cop, even though the cop was supposedly torturing the slumdog. The brown skin that two share is too thin to hide a lot of other things that push through it. It wasn’t a case of bad acting – it was a case of the PH balance being wrong. It was like watching black kids in a Chicago slum speaking in Yale accents”
The whole article can be reached here
A fellow blogger from Pakistan, Freethinker has subjected Slumdog Millionaire to very good “gender critique”. He deconstructs the “Hero Narrativity” and examines Slumdog Millionaire against these dominant discourses of Hero and Masculinity. He writes:
“It’s important to identify the mythical structure in the plots of both the movies which serves to build the hero narrative. Once the hero and the struggle have been identified, both movies establish the hero as the winner through leaps of logic that are more characteristic of myth than fiction.—————- But watching Sd M critically, asking how the protagonist has efficient reading skills without tutoring, or how all the questions asked on the game are linked to the most dramatic experiences of the protagonist’s life, brings home the mythical structure that serves to complete the hero narrative”
“The narratives are also concerned with the hero’s masculinity. The happy endings themselves establish a definition of the masculine as the winner who ‘takes it all’. This is why in Sd M, it is not enough that the protagonist just resolves the central conflict of the plot, that is, his separation from his beloved. In the end, through strokes of luck that sacrifice the story’s plausibility, he not only has love but also wins fame and money.—- The hero’s masculinity is established in other ways as well.———- A different but more traditional approach to this same end is seen in Sl M, in which the hero of the narrative saves the archetypal ‘damsel in distress’. The hero here represents more the anguished warrior who, as he comes of age, gets to reclaim his manhood by getting back his childhood sweetheart and becoming the winner”
This is a very advance critique rooted in firm theoretical foundation, especially his formulation of concept of “emasculation of the collective”. The whole article can be reached here.
March 5, 2009
Posted by sherryx under Meditations
| Tags: 1968
, Zia ul Haq
The way we think is the bases of every thing. . The way of thinking is what legitimizes one thing and condemns others. A particular “way of thinking” has been dominant in human societies since antiquity. It’s this way of thinking which has resulted in evolution of Religion, conventional Morality, hierarchical society and Patriarchy. Since the olden times certain philosophers have revolted against the “main stream” way of thinking, which essentially was based on a dichotomy of “thought” and “observation”. The constant friction between both and their advancement and evolution to this day is the main source of what I call “conventional way of thinking”. Its based on different , often contradictory understanding of concepts. Different ideas of Logic, Rationalism, empiricism and Idealism make this way of thinking.
Many philosophers of olden times revolted against way of thinking, they highlighted the ideas of “contradiction” “continuous flow”, “unity of opposites” and limitedness of apparent. They were often not accepted as “philosophers” but were called “Sophists”, “mystics”, poets and “insane” etc. Xeno gave a critique of motion, declared that a “flying arrow is at rest”. He was mocked for denying “motion”, he infact was criticizing the logical way of thing which looks at “Time” and “Space” as a fixed mechanical concept, showing that with there way of thinking “motion” can be shown to be a logical absurdity. Xeno’s paradoxes resulted in development of advance mathematics and with appearance of Quantum physics, his ideas about motion once again got new fame. Heraclites, Parmenides and others like them also revolted against “liner way of thinking”. In modern times Hegel developed “dialectics” and proposed it as “new logic” it was a celebration of contradiction, continuous motion, unity of opposites and mistrust of apparent.
Marx gave it a materialist touch in form of “dialectical materialism” which resulted in a first ever organized critique of the established way of thinking and its social manifestation. With dialectical thought emerged the critique of Morality, Family, Patriarchy, State, false consciousness, etc etc. Marx libertarian ideas were destroyed by the totalitarian and dogmatic regimes of Stalin and Mao. Against this back drop emerged the youth rebellion after 2nd world way whose expression in cultural arena was movements of “free love” and in politics “civil rights movement”, “Anti war movements”,” new left movement” and “revolution of 1968’ etc. These were the greatest challenges to conformity and established way of thinking. Most of it is now remembered as “Counter-Culture”.
During all these movements certain Hindu mystics emerged on international scene who associated with “peace” and “free love” movements. One such figure was OSHO. One of the most controversial figures of our times he has been maligned a lot. Osho should be called “anti mystic”. He challenged the conventional thinking, belief system and morality. His main ideas revolve around the quest of freedom and how conventional thought has actually brought all evils in the world. An excellent conversationalist, Osho has been called “Wittgenstein of religious thought”, his work is deconstructive, and he shows contradiction of conventional morality, thought and religion.
He was very popular in Pakistan during the cultural fascism of Zia. Rebel youth was attracted to his un inhibited talk on sex and freedom. After his fall from grace his ideas were largely forgotten but have seen a re emergence lately all over the world even in Pakistan. Osho was a trained philosophers, his talk is an expression of a sharp sense of humor and simplicity of expression. Those who have an interest in philosophy can see that in his simple lines he is usually commenting on some very serious philosophical problems.
This video is a short talk by him in which he speaks about concept of God and philosophical concept of contradiction. Its an excellent attack on organized religion, logical thinking and some politics
In this video Osho is criticizing philosophy, its an excellent attack on Idealism. [All proponents of non conventional way of thinking have condemned philosophy, from Xeno to Marx, Derrida and Deleuze want to destroy the whole tradition of western metaphysics as main cause of tyranny]
Few days back world celebrated Darwin’s 200th birthday. What do ideas of Darwin mean? The religious thought has taken a u turn on Darwin from total and violent rejection to cooption. Osho here puts things in perspective, those who have read Kant will enjoy his talk on “perfection”. Rediscovering Osho now will reveal a lot of new things, one need to be bit non judgmental and listen to him not considering all the package that we have inherited.
March 3, 2009
Posted by sherryx under Pakistan
| Tags: Afghanistan
, Ajmal Kasab
, Benazir Bhutto
, Imran Khan
, Lahore Attacks
, Lawyers Movement
, Mumbai attacks
, Nawaz Sharif
, Sri Lanka
, Steve Cole
, war on terror
Today in Lahore the Sri Lankan cricket team was ambushed by a dozen or so Jihadi terrorists. Pakistan TV showed footage of gunmen with rifles and back packs running in the streets of Lahore and firing indiscriminately. The Jihadis were armed with AK 47, hand grenades, rockets and rocket launchers.
The convoy was ambushed as it slowed down at a traffic circle near Lahore’s Qadafi Stadium. The Sri lankan sports minister stated that 5 players and their coach were injured in the attack. All of them remain out of danger. Spokesman for Punjab police acknowledged death of 5 police men in the attack.
It has also been reported that the Jihadis threw a grenade under the bus which fortunately failed to detonate otherwise the guest team would have been blown up. The Lahore attack in its operative mechanics looks remarkably similar to Mumbai attacks. The terrorists looked much trained. Those who have studied these attacks in detail can tell that it had the signature marks of LeT. The ISI controlled Wahabi group based in Muridkay Punjab.
The administrative head of the Punjab Governor Salman Taseer stated, “One thing I want to say, it’s the same pattern, the same terrorists who attacked Mumbai”. While the governor is saying what’s obvious but it’s not that simple. Who were the real attackers of Mumbai? , Governor Taseer knows better than what he has publicly stated. LeT is an ISI proxy; it was made, trained and funded by Pakistani agencies. When Pakistan joined United State’s War on Terror, LeT was protected from United States assaults by banning it and allowing it to operate with another name “Jammatuddawa”. When Mumbai attacks took place, it was clearly visible who was responsible for these attacks, the facts spoke for them but Pakistani establishment adopted a policy of denial.
We than wrote on this politics of denial and how it has resulted in the current crisis of Pakistan. We were abused and ridiculed not only by Islamists but also by the pseudo-secular self proclaimed vanguards of Pakistani patriotism. We had written than that the democratic regime of Pakistan is a virtual hostage of Pakistani establishment, which does these sorts of acts to increase pressure on it. A virulent anti-India line was taken under cloak of supporting the “democratic Pakistani regime”. In our article “Pakistan at cross-roads: Democracy, Terror and Politics of Denial”, we had written:
“With a country in democratic transition, we often forget that policies of post-colonial states especially those like Pakistan which had taken Neo-fascist turn some time in their history [Zia era], cannot be reversed in few months. It needs a structural reform within the state itself. With a few months of PPP-ANP coalition such a structural reform has not yet occurred. Attempts to do such reform have been severely criticized by dominant classes in Pakistan and hence have to be abandoned. Attempts by PPP to bring ISI under political control were converted into a scandal by corporate media and its allies. Similar campaign is going on with the Pakhtoonkhawa issue where Right wing has openly come up in arms against government. These two issues represent the core issues when it comes to challenge the oligarchy. ISI has been blamed by almost all political forces in Pakistan for its attempts to control democracy and for spreading Jihad———In all this patriotic discourse, what we are forgetting is that it’s Pakistan not India which has more at stake. The first victim of this sort of patriotism, which subscribes to values of Oligarchy and its State and not to the values of people, will be democracy in Pakistan and this time the state, may not recover from its consequences. When Mr Manmohan Singh talks about “certain elements within Pakistan” being responsible for the attacks we are fast to condemn it. But are we that naive or suffering from collective amnesia. Have we forgotten that our agencies along with CIA supported insurgency in a country against a government which we recognized as legal government and had diplomatic ties with? For all the period of Afghan Jihad, our government at all international forums shamelessly maintained that Pakistan is “not interfering” in Afghanistan and our support is strictly moral and humanitarian in nature. Then any one who tried to warn oligarchy against it was termed as a “soviet agent” or “RAW agent”. Did our denial do us any good?—— Most of these organizations were allowed to operate by different names in General Musharraf’s time but were they were destroyed? Have Mureedke and Mansoora been shut down? Hafiz Saeed and Molana Masood Azhar serving time in prisons?” The article can be reached here
When I wrote this article most self proclaimed secularists were busy lecturing India and mocking Ajmal Kasab’s story, such was their contempt and self righteousness that they couldn’t find “Faridkot” on map of Pakistan. Within the few days Faridkot was on world’s map and lies of Pakistani establishment and so called patriots became a joke in International politics. Now Steve Cole, the Pulitzer Prize winner and famous investigative journalist has written an article in the prestigious New Yorker magazine. The article basically is about the “back channel” diplomacy between India and Pakistan which resulted in a near settlement of Kashmir dispute during General Musharraf. This brilliant expose confirms the position which we have long been taking that Pakistani establishment and ISI is using terrorism for gaining certain political and strategic objectives. One such objective is to weaken Peoples Party-ANP government. Cole in his article confirms what we wrote about mistrust between PPP government and ISI and also about it involvement in Mumbai attacks
“The historical ties between Lashkar and the Pakistani security services are for the most part undisputed; one book that describes them, published in 2005 and entitled “Between Mosque and Military,” was written by Husain Haqqani, who is currently Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States.——— On July 7th, a suicide bomber rammed a car loaded with explosives into the gates of India’s Embassy in Kabul, killing fifty-four people, including the Indian defense attaché. The United States intercepted communications between active I.S.I. personnel and the Taliban-aligned network of Jalaluddin Haqqani, which is believed by U.S. military and intelligence officials to have carried out the Kabul Embassy attack. Haqqani has a long history of collaboration and contact with the I.S.I.; he was also a paid client of the Central Intelligence Agency during the late nineteen-eighties—-Pakistan’s new civilian President, Asif Zardari, had entered into his own struggle with those in the Pakistani security services who favor the jihadis and covert war against India. Zardari’s Pakistan Peoples Party has fought the Army for power since the late nineteen-seventies; neither institution fully trusts the other, although they have sometimes collaborated. (Some P.P.P. officials believe that the I.S.I. may have been involved in Benazir Bhutto’s murder.)Last May, Zardari tried to assert civilian control over the I.S.I. by placing it under the authority of the Interior Ministry; the Army rejected this order, and Zardari backed down. In November, speaking extemporaneously by video at a conference in New Delhi, Zardari declared that Pakistan might be willing to follow a policy of “no first use” of its nuclear weapons, a remarkable departure from past Pakistan Army doctrine. Privately, in discussions with Indian officials, Zardari affirmed his interest in picking up the back-channel negotiations . Some Indian officials and analysts interpreted Mumbai as a kind of warning from the I.S.I. to Zardari—“Zardari’s Kargil,” as some Indians put it, meaning that it was a deliberate effort by the Pakistan Army to disrupt Zardari’s peace overtures. Several Pakistani and American officials told me that Zardari is now deeply worried about his personal security”
Steve Cole, the Back Channel, New Yorker March 2009
What has to be understood that in the final year of General Musharraf , even the “cosmetic anti terror” acts became unacceptable for Islamist section of Pakistani establishment which started open revolt [series of suicide attacks on Army and certain agencies ] and started supporting anti Mush political agitation. The lawyer’s movement which started as a non political, secular protest against dictatorship was linked with Right Wing. Now this cooption is complete. The Islamist section of establishment wants PPP out and restores the glorious Islamic jihadi era of Zia and his political son Sharif. Now let’s come to Lahore attacks. I agree with Taseer that it was done by those who attacked Mumbai, though he just like Hussein Haqani cannot explain this “who”. Punjab was a safe heaven for Taliban during Shahbaz Sharif ministry who was slowly Islamizing the province; He had turned a blind eye to Talibanization in southern Punjab, Lahore and other areas. Punjab police acted 24 hours later to implementation of United Nation’s resolution of banning Jamat-ud-Dawa [front of LeT], the result was Jihadies evacuated their offices in comfort and took all the record with them. The Supreme Court’s decision ended SS’s control over Punjab. The right wing political alliance and its masters in Pakistani establishment were and are hoping to topple Zardari regime in this unrest. Unfortunately for them, PML-N failed miserably to get public support. Their agitation was limited to 3 cities in central Punjab and even there it took shape of mob violence. The call of general strike failed. Streets went silent on 2nd day and PPP was able to mobilize its workers all over the country to protest on desecration of Benazir Bhutto’s monument in Rawalpindi. Even in Lahore which is considered hub of Sharifs PPP was able to conduct a big rally. Millions were mobilized in Karachi by MQM against PML-N. Mr Shaif couldn’t bring 1/4th of this crowd in Lahore. In Saraiki Multan and Baluch Quetta , PML-N armed goons had to run away due to clashes with PPP.
With the failure of political agitation and expected failure of long march due to strong arm administrative tactics of Governor Taseer , it became critical for certain invisibles to create unrest and the good old Jihadis did the trick. Weather its LeT or some other new name, the hands behind them is same. There should be no doubt about the motives of Lahore attacks and on its responsibility after listening to Ansar Abbasai’s attacks on Salman Taseer’s administrative failure and SS’s warning about possible “RAW” attacks in Lahore. Now a rightwing and their secular patriotic counterparts will start a violent attack against India. This will further marginalize Peoples Party’s regime which will give in more to establishment’s demands. More chaos will be created and our beloved Qazi Hussein Ahmad and Nawaz Sharif both supporters of Sharia and Jihad will come to power. But I warn again that Pakistani state is so much over stretched due to organic decay and war between its different faction that it can no longer sustain this stress. Zardari may fall but Pakistan will not remain standing.
PS: With Lahore attacks every conscientious Pakistani should hold Jihadi sympathizer Imran Khan accountable for deliberately confusing the cricketing world and Pakistan by downplaying the issue of terrorism. Mr Khan declared that terrorists will not attack cricketers, Mr Khan I can just say “Shame on you”.
March 1, 2009
Posted by sherryx under Pakistan
| Tags: Afghanistan
, Asfandyar Khan
, Bacha Khan
, Benazir Bhutto
, British Empire
, Durand Line
, General Hameed Gul
, Grand Trunk Road
, Osama Bin Laden
, Pashtun Nationalism
, Wali Khan
This was published in The New Yorker long time back in 2001. I remember reading it and forgetting it till I was reminded of it again by Rabia’s Grand Trunk Road. Takhalus has written a wonderful note which deals with cyclic history of Pakistani interference in Afghanistan. Most of the discourse emerging on Taliban and Pashtun issue from Pakistan unfortunately is plagued by the establishment’s smoke screen of “secular” vs “religious” divide. A position which was proxy of that of United States War on Terror: Bellum Justum to preserve the Post Enlightenment Western Civilization from barbarians. Neither United States nor Pakistani position is based on Truth; the result is multifold increase in terrorism since the start of War on Terror and increase in religious fanaticism since General Musharraf’s policy of Enlightened Moderation. The real cause of Taliban problem is Pakistan’s obsession with Strategic depth and her continuous interference in Afghanistan plus the dispossession and partition of Pashtuns by British imperialism and their heirs the Pakistani establishment. I am posting this old article because it gives a “historical perspective of Pashtun Issue” one which is lacking in most analysis which is coming forward. This article is a must read by all Pakistani , to know what they have been doing to the Pashtuns. Unfortunately modern poison of biologism is present in this article and should be ignored.
Letter from Pakistan: Pashtun Code
I arrived in Pakistan on a warm afternoon in October, and several days later I set out by car, heading northwest, from the capital, Islamabad, toward the borderlands with Afghanistan and the land of the Pashtun. The American bombing raids had begun a few days before, and from Afghanistan came murky television images, along with messages of fear and despair from civilians and of defiance from the leaders of the Taliban, who were, unbeknownst to most of us at the time, entering a violent endgame. Here, along the border, another drama was being played out, in the passions and politics of the Pashtun people, men and women whose tortured loyalties reflected a mystical attachment to a land that they believed was theirs. Not every Pashtun is an Afghani—a citizen of Afghanistan—but every Pashtun considers himself an Afghan, and the Pashtun have always regarded themselves as the country’s natural rulers. Not only were they prepared to die in support of their claim but many were prepared to do so in the name of a brutal and repressive regime, that of the Taliban.
About sixty miles from Islamabad, I found myself on a bridge, on the Grand Trunk Road to Peshawar. Downstream was the Attock Fort, a spectacular structure with crenellated ochre walls, built in 1581 by the Moghuls, India’s Muslim dynasty, to fortify the Afghan frontier. Upstream was a confluence of two great rivers: the Kabul, which had travelled some two hundred and fifty miles from its source, in the mountains west of the Afghan capital; and the Indus, one of the legendary rivers of Asia, which begins high in the Tibetan Himalayas. The two rivers grudgingly accommodated each other. The Kabul was a sludgy burnt-sugar color, the Indus a brilliant blue-green, like a child’s painting of a mountain stream. Below the confluence, the two colors remained clearly visible, one river with two distinct streams, as though geography as well as history wished to make a point about this place and the boundary that it marks—between the land of the Pashtun and the Punjab, the heartland of Pakistan.
The Pashtun have never taken kindly to boundaries, and even less to boundaries imposed by others. Today, there are thought to be at least twenty million Pashtun, and their territory straddles the borders that the British drew, in the eighteen-nineties, through some of the wildest and least governable terrain on earth. For the British, this area—sometimes referred to as Pashtunistan—represented the extreme edge of the Raj, their greatest colonial territory. Beyond was the kingdom of Afghanistan, a mosaic of ethnic groups which, since 1747, had been ruled by Pashtun kings. As the British expanded their empire into northwest India, they clashed with, but never subjugated, the tribal Pashtun. Twice, they invaded Afghanistan, in 1839 and 1878. Both excursions ended in defeat. By 1893, the British had finally come to see that although they would never conquer the region, it could be made to serve as a convenient buffer between the Raj and the Russian empire.
The job of delineating a border was entrusted to Sir Mortimer Durand, the foreign secretary of the colonial government of India. Durand wrestled with the difficulties of marshalling the unconquerable and disorderly Pashtun on an orderly imperial map. His solution was to cut through their territories, dividing them between the Raj and the kingdom of Afghanistan, in the hope that the Pashtun on his side of the line would go along with the division and allow themselves to be absorbed into the Raj. They did not. In 1901, several uprisings later, the British again admitted defeat.
Their next solution was to treat the Pashtun lands as a second, inner frontier. If they could not be conquered, they could at least be a prickly hedge against intruders. The British sliced off a new province from the settled plains of the Punjab—which they named the North-West Frontier Province—and left the Pashtun tribal belt largely unaccounted for, a loosely administered territory where, all sides acknowledged, the colonial rulers would not attempt to impose their law. The tribal belt exists to this day and remains an ungoverned land. Formally part of Pakistan, in reality it is a spongy no-go area between Pakistan and Afghanistan, a land of fierce and complicated tribal loyalties and equally ferocious tribal feuds, of gunrunning, drug dealing, and smuggling, where a nighttime traveller must move in armed convoy and where the only law that prevails is Pashtunwali—the code of the Pashtun. Although history, and outsiders, have tried to divide the Pashtun, they have failed to break the emotional, cultural, and social ties that bind Pashtun communities across this troubled frontier. Roughly half in Pakistan, half in Afghanistan, the Pashtun are as troublesome today to anyone in search of a neat political order as they were when the British contended with this last unsubdued corner of the empire. Their loyalties have never been more in doubt or more important. Are the Pashtun loyal to the Taliban? (The majority of the Taliban are Pashtun.) Are they loyal to Pakistan? Or are they loyal only to themselves? As the battle for Afghanistan makes its way into Pashtun territories, the Pashtun have begun to demand what they see as their historic role—the right to rule Afghanistan. How that demand is answered will help to determine not just the future of the country but the stability of the entire region.
Peshawar, until 1893 the winter capital of Afghanistan, is now a frontier outpost in Pakistan. No longer the small town that served for centuries as a gateway between Afghanistan and Southeast Asia, today it is a noisy, choking, overcrowded city of more than a million people. In its public face, it’s a city of men, heavily bearded and dressed in the loose overshirt and baggy trousers of the traditional shalwar kameez. Variations in color—pale blue, pale green, white, and occasionally light brown—do nothing to dispel the sense of uniformity. Men throng the potholed streets and lounge in doorways while boys hurry alongside the traffic, delivering glasses of green tea on brass trays. Bicycles and donkeys compete for space with tightly packed minibuses, whose last-minute passengers spill onto the roof or hang recklessly off the back. Women are anonymous to the point of invisibility—blue-robed ghosts, threading their way through the bazaar or crouched by the roadside, their children in their laps.
The Pashtun tribal lands around Peshawar are now out of bounds to foreigners. Getting into them has always required a permit, and none are being issued. “It is not safe,” a courteous but implacable Peshawar official told me. “And if we catch you trying to get in,” he added with a friendly smile, “you will be arrested.” The ban had been imposed in the name of security, when the bombing began: tribal emotions were running high, and a foreigner might be attacked on sight. But the controls to the south of Peshawar, I had heard, were not too effective, and I wanted to visit the village of Darra Adam Khel, which is notorious for the small workshops where, since the eighties, tribal gunsmiths have been turning out perfect copies of anything from an M16 to a rocket launcher.
Getting there was going to require a little subterfuge. I bought a woman’s version of the shalwar kameez and wound the wide scarf that comes with it around my head and shoulders, hiding my hair and the lower part of my face. The effect was to render me as anonymous as the women I passed on the street.
With a driver and a guide, I set off south. A few miles out of town, some trucks were stopped at a police post. “Keep your head covered,” the guide said, “and don’t look out of the window.” The police waved us through. We drove along a wide, barren valley, through a landscape dotted with square windowless forts—brick structures with defensive walls more than twenty feet high. They looked medieval, like ancient military towers, but they were family homes—a contemporary architecture of tribal violence. There were slogans painted on the walls. “Jihad is an obligation, like prayer,” one read. “Victory or martyrdom,” another said. “Telephone now for military training.” A number was provided.
At first sight, Darra Adam Khel seemed an unremarkable village—a string of ramshackle single-story houses and one-room shops on a main street. We drove along slowly, not stopping, for fear of my being detected. I scanned the shopwindows, and my guide pointed to small plastic bags containing a blackish substance. “Opium paste,” he said. Crammed into other storefronts was an astonishing range of military hardware—automatic weapons, rifles, shotguns, land mines, even a few rocket launchers. I counted thirty gun shops before my guide warned that I was attracting attention.
We pulled up beside an imposing fortified house—a watchtower was built in one corner—where we saw a young man sitting under a tree, chatting with an elder. My guide exchanged a few words with the man. I kept my face covered. Pashtun hospitality prevailed. He smiled and nodded and approached the car. Like many Pashtun, he had blue eyes and light-brown hair. His name was Wazir Afridi—a name that identified him as a member of the Afridi, one of the most powerful of the Pashtun tribes. He said he was “about thirty.” He was happy to talk about the skills of the local gunsmiths.
“In the bazaar, you can get copies of the most sophisticated weapons,” he said. “You can get copies of a Kalashnikov here—a gun that costs eighty thousand rupees—for twenty thousand,” or a little more than three hundred dollars. But the gunsmiths had stopped making really heavy weapons, he told me. “Five years ago, we decided not to make any more rocket launchers. Now there’s a five-hundred-thousand-rupee fine if anyone disobeys.”
Even before the present crisis, Pakistan’s President, General Pervez Musharraf, had been trying to rid the country of one of the dangerous legacies of the last Afghan war: the staggering quantities of military hardware left over in the tribal belt. The arrival of modern weaponry in the nineteen-eighties, when there was an abundance of American support for the jihad against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, had had an alarming effect on traditional Pashtun tribal feuds. Instead of attacking their local rivals with clubs or flintlock rifles, the Pashtun fought one another with automatic weapons. Carrying automatic weapons was now banned in Peshawar (although I saw dozens, mostly slung over the shoulders of bodyguards), and a strict practice of licensing had been implemented to discourage the manufacture of new ones. As a result, the gun trade in Darra Adam Khel was depressed.
“This is our business,” Wazir Afridi said. “No government has had any say here since 1901. This is a tribal area. We have our own traditions and laws. The business was flourishing until Musharraf imposed his ban.”
Wasn’t it dangerous, I asked, to have so many weapons? Wazir Afridi shook his head. “We have the lowest rate of gun-related deaths here. Now we negotiate disputes in the jirga“—the ad-hoc Pashtun tribal council that operates on every social level, from the village to the nation.
In Peshawar, I had met a Pashtun tribal leader named Lateef Afridi, who told me that his father, two of his brothers, and two of his cousins had been killed in tribal disputes. “When the Pashtun have a family feud, they now blast each other with land mines,” Lateef Afridi said. (After his father died, Afridi discovered that he’d inherited some missiles—”Apparently, my father had bought them, but I’ve never bothered to pick them up.”) These disputes are part of Pashtun life, but they disappear in the face of an external threat. The Pashtun have a saying: “Me against my brother, my brother and me against our cousins, we and our cousins against the enemy.” It was a common enemy, I was told repeatedly, that accounted, in part, for the Pashtun support of the Taliban. The Pashtun had fought the Soviet Union when it occupied Afghanistan. They had fought for control among themselves and with warlords of other ethnic groups after the Soviet troops left. When the Taliban came to power, in the mid-nineties, the Pashtun acknowledged them as tribal brothers. And, now that the United States had attacked them, the Pashtun were rallying to their defense. I saw evidence of this everywhere in Peshawar: there were Pashtun roadside stalls for collecting money and blood for the Taliban, and I was regularly harangued in the street by Pashtun men who proclaimed themselves ready to join the jihad against the United States. According to Wazir Afridi, fifty thousand men from his district had said they were willing to fight. The whole area, he told me, is backing the Taliban, “their Pashtun and Muslim brothers.”
At the time—the bombing was in its seventh day—no one I spoke to in Peshawar could imagine that the Taliban would lose. The United States was seen as just another foreign aggressor, and, like the Soviet Union, it, too, would be chased off. Now, with the Taliban in collapse, tribal interests are again paramount. The Pashtun are determined to reëstablish their rule—in whatever form it may take.
Violence in Pashtun society, the American anthropologist Cherry Lindholm has argued, is learned in infancy. Lindholm spent nine months living in the female quarters of a Pashtun household in Swat, in northern Pakistan. Hers is a rare study of life behind a family compound’s walls, and her descriptions of the domestic culture, published in the collection “Frontier Perspectives,” are hair-raising. Pashtun family members, she writes, are engaged in a permanent and often violent struggle for power in which only two human types are recognized—the weak and the strong. “The strong survive, take power, and gain prestige,” Lindholm writes, because they learn from their earliest years the value of “aggression, egotism, pride, and fearlessness,” and must be “adept at the art of manipulation and intrigue, and above all trust no one.” Domestic violence is regarded as the main entertainment of village life, and women routinely display bruises and scars they have received at the hands of their husbands. (The term for a husband who does not beat his wife is “a man with no penis.”)
Adam Nayyar, a fifty-two-year-old former nuclear chemical engineer, who abandoned his career when Pakistan began trying to build the bomb, in the mid-seventies, is now an ethnomusicologist and an expert on Pashtun culture. I spoke with him at his apartment in Islamabad. “Pashto is the only language I know in which the word for ‘cousin’ is the same as the word for ‘enemy,’ “ he said. I had asked him to explain Pashtunwali—the code that has regulated Pashtun society for centuries and which, I had been told, was one of the components of the Taliban philosophy.
Pashtunwali, Nayyar said, is based on the absolute obligations of hospitality, sanctuary, and revenge. The Pashtun draw their identity from Islam—they believe they are direct descendants of Qais, a companion of Muhammad— but their interpretation of Islamic law arises out of their own tribal code. “Under Muslim law, for instance, girls can inherit,” Nayyar said. “But women never get anything from the Pashtun.” In tribal Pashtun society, he told me, three things are essential. “They all begin with ‘z’ in Pashto: zan, zar, and zamin—women, gold, and land. Possessing them is essential to Pashtunness—to doing Pashtun as opposed to being Pashtun. And if you lose them—if you lose your land, or your women are dishonored—you’re out. There is no caste system, so there is no reëntry further down the social scale. You are just out. You end up as a night watchman in Karachi or something.”
Nayyar recalled witnessing a marital dispute being settled by a local jirga in the early seventies. A soldier had discovered that his wife was having an affair with a tailor and had called for a tribal council to impose punishment for the injury to his honor. The jirga ordered that the tailor and the errant wife be tied to a tree and shot. Everyone went to watch. “I remarked afterward to a Pashtun friend that it had been horrible,” Nayyar recalled. “He agreed. It was a shame for the tree, he said.”
The Taliban took Pashtunwali to extremes far beyond the tribal norm. Culturally, they were Pashtun, but their ideology was more fundamentalist: they were uncompromising in their aim to return society to the purity of the seventh century, the era of Muhammad. Their approach to women was fanatically severe. Purdah was the traditional Pashtun practice, but the Taliban policy of publicly beating women who were deemed to walk too noisily was not.
Islam is, of course, fundamental to Pakistan’s identity. The Muslim faith was the reason that Pakistan came into being as a country, separate from India, with its Hindu majority, when the British left in 1947. Partition—the painful separation from India of its former province of Sind, along with the Muslim districts of Punjab and Bengal, the North-West Frontier Province, and Baluchistan—precipitated savage communal violence on both sides of what was to become the border; millions of Muslims poured into Pakistan as Hindus fled in the other direction. It was a chaotic and unpromising beginning for a state that was already riven with social and ethnic divisions. Pakistan was not a state that most of the Pashtun wanted to join. Like the Baluchis and the Sindhis, they were fearful of losing their identity in this new country dominated by the Punjabis, who made up more than half the population. The Pashtun resisted, as they had resisted the British. The story of that resistance is one that successive Pakistani governments have tried to erase, but which, I discovered, has lived on in the Pashtun nationalism of the region.
Badsha Khan was a Pashtun leader in the twenties who promoted Pashtun nationalism. He doesn’t feature in many history books. I learned of him from photographs I saw in offices and homes around Peshawar. He founded a political movement, the Khudai Khidmatgars, to fight for independence from the British. The movement’s popular name—the Red Shirts—came from the members’ uniforms, which were dyed with red brick dust. Like Mahatma Gandhi, Badsha Khan believed that nonviolence was the most effective weapon against colonial rule, and although he was a devout Muslim, he mistrusted the political influence of the maulanas, or Islamic scholars. The reforms he promoted—education, sanitation, road building—were secular.
Despite the Pashtun propensity for violence, Badsha Khan’s message took hold. Thousands of followers joined his nonviolent movement, campaigning to get rid of the British and win autonomy for Pashtunistan within the Indian state. But, when the British left, an independent Pashtunistan was not on offer. In 1947, a referendum proposed a choice only between India and Pakistan. Badsha Khan called for a boycott, and just seven per cent of the population of the North-West Frontier Province voted. Nevertheless, the Pakistan option was deemed to have been approved. The Red Shirts were branded traitors, the movement was banned, and their long fight against the colonizers was all but eradicated from the public record.
One evening, I went to uncover the traces of the Red Shirts’ movement. In a mansion two hours’ drive from Peshawar, I sat on a deep veranda, as servants offered tea and cakes, and chatted with Begum Nasim Wali Khan, Badsha Khan’s daughter-in-law.
Badsha Khan and his son, Abdul Wali Khan, she told me, had paid a price for their resistance: they had spent many years in prison. But this did little to persuade them to abandon their Pashtun identity. As Wali Khan once put it, “I have been a Pashtun for six thousand years, a Muslim for thirteen hundred years, and a Pakistani for twenty-five.” When Badsha Khan died, in 1988, hostilities between the Soviets and the mujahideen in southern Afghanistan ceased for a day so that his funeral cortège could travel safely to Jalalabad. In the mid-eighties, Wali Khan had founded a political party, the Awami National Party, which campaigned for a secular democracy. Now he was an old man, too sick on the evening I called to meet with visitors. He was not too sick, though, to have enraged local religious leaders and their Pashtun warrior faithful by declaring his support for the United States’ war against the Taliban.
The people of the tribal belt, his wife told me, were sympathetic to their fellow-Afghans—their Pashtun brothers. But that did not necessarily mean that they supported the Taliban. There was, not surprisingly, a division within the Pashtun. There were those who, stirred by a small group of religious parties that were promoting hard-line Islamism, wished to fight alongside the Taliban and had denounced her husband as a traitor. And there were those who, like Wali Kahn, argued for the separation of politics and religion. It had been the same in the eighties, she said, when the Awami National Party had criticized the holy war against the Russians. The Party followers had seen it as a war between superpowers—between the Soviets and the Americans—and not as an Islamic cause. “We were called kafirs,” she said. “Nonbelievers. Indian agents, Russian agents.” She shrugged. “But this is the way we think.”
The military has ruled Pakistan for twenty-six of its fifty-four years, alternating power with a series of corrupt and inept civilian governments. It ruled the country during the war against the Soviets, in the rather sinister person of General Zia ul-Haq. And it rules the country now, in the person of General Musharraf. On a mundane level, Pakistan does not look like a militarized society: except when demonstrations are anticipated, you do not see soldiers on every corner. Nevertheless, the country is shaped and dominated by military concerns.
Chief among these concerns is a preoccupation with Kashmir. Pakistanis believe that Kashmir, a majority Muslim state, should have become part of their country at Partition. Pakistan and India have fought two inconclusive wars over Kashmir since then, and in the last decade, Pakistan claims, seventy thousand Kashmiris have died in rebellion against what they describe as an Indian occupation. It is an open secret that Pakistan’s powerful military intelligence wing—the Inter-Services Intelligence (I.S.I.)—has sponsored armed groups in Kashmir to support the long-running popular resistance. It is also well established that the I.S.I. was a backer of the holy war against the Soviets in Afghanistan. For Musharraf—who, after September 11th, aligned himself with the United States against the Taliban—the unwanted repercussions of the I.S.I.’s involvement in both regions derive directly from policies pursued by General Zia ul-Haq.
General Zia seized power in 1977 and soon thereafter the man he had overthrown, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, was hanged. In April, 1979, during the Carter Presidency, the United States suspended economic and military aid to Pakistan and introduced a number of sanctions. Eight months later, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, in an attempt to save its tottering Communist regime. Zia now saw enemies on all sides: to the west, a militant Shiite revolution in Iran; to the south and east, India; and now, next door, in Afghanistan, India’s ally the Soviet Union. Pakistan needed to have a friendly government in Afghanistan, Zia decided. Islam was the flag he raised to rally resistance against the Soviets.
Suddenly, Zia’s fortunes were transformed. Ronald Reagan was now in office, and the sanctions fell away. The Reagan Administration provided $3.2 billion in cash and arms, despite Zia’s nuclear program and human-rights abuses, and Peshawar became the hub of the anti-Soviet jihad, awash with money, spies, refugees, and arms.
In the recruiting grounds for the jihad—the Afghan refugee camps, which were rapidly spreading around Peshawar—young men whose tribal links had been ruptured became ready targets for a fundamentalist message. In that decade of easy money, hundreds of madrasahs—the all-male religious schools that teach a particularly severe and absolutist version of Islam—were set up in the North-West Frontier Province, offering Afghan refugees and Pakistani militants free education, food, and military training. The jihad also attracted thousands of international recruits—including young Saudi fighters such as Osama bin Laden—who moved to Peshawar and brought with them more men, more money, and an even more militant form of Islam, Wahabbism.
Asfundiyar Khan, the grandson of the Pashtun leader Badsha Khan, whom I met in Islamabad ten days after the United States began bombing, described to me what the time of the anti-Soviet jihad was like. Asfundiyar, who is fifty, is the president of the Awami National Party. He was first arrested at a political meeting when he was thirteen, and has been in and out of prison ever since.
“The Afghans have never accepted foreign domination,” Asfundiyar told me. “But their resistance had always been in the cause of nationalism. Zia changed that. Backed by the United States and its millions of dollars and its Stinger missiles, Zia based a war against Soviet intervention on religion.” There had been, until then, an acknowledged division between mosque and state, between the maulanas and political power. Civilian politicians paid homage to religious ideas, but there were so many versions of Islam that any attempt to elevate a single dogma to a prime political position led to conflict with rival followers of the Prophet. Politicians had learned to tread carefully. But, when Zia seized power, that changed. “Every Afghan refugee fleeing the war had to go to one of the fundamentalist groups for tents, food, weapons,” Asfundiyar said. “People were pushed into the arms of the fundamentalists.” The Awami National Party, he pointed out, is secular, liberal, and democratic. “You can’t imagine what we went through, trying to keep it going, as the United States was funding the jihad. I remember sitting with a cousin in a bank when a man came in to cash a check for twelve and a half million dollars. This was the kind of man you would never have shaken hands with. How could I fight that kind of money?”
He recalled how marginal figures were changed overnight into powerful politicians. “Like Gulbuddin Hekmatyar,” he said. Hekmatyar was a radical Afghan Islamist who was picked by Zia’s I.S.I. agents, and the C.I.A., to help lead the new holy war. “When Hekmatyar was made a leader, he had scarcely one bicycle and one bedroom to his name,” Asfundiyar said. He mentioned Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, another mujahideen patronized by the I.S.I. “Sayyaf used to sell socks out of a basket in the bazaar. Suddenly, he and all these other leaders had Land Cruisers and Pajeros. None of them had a political organization inside Afghanistan. They had private armies, built in Peshawar with American dollars.”
Asfundiyar’s recollections reminded me of a question posed by Zbigniew Brzezinski, the former national-security adviser. “What was more important in the world view of history?” he asked. “The Taliban or the fall of the Soviet Empire? A few stirred-up Muslims or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the Cold War?”
“We used to be a moderate Muslim society,” Sarfraz Khan, a Pashtun professor of Central Asian history, whom I met at the University of Peshawar, told me. “In 1978, when there were moves in Afghanistan toward land reform, literacy campaigns, the emancipation of women, some of the Pashtun here in Peshawar, in the intelligentsia, thought it a good thing. But others—who mattered—were afraid it might happen here, too.” He recalled a time when Afghani girls went to school, when women were seen without the veil, when television was a normal part of life. “Then the fundamentalists were promoted in every sphere. There was persecution—careers were blighted, businesses ruined, people were killed.” Many liberal Afghan exiles who opposed the jihad were murdered in Peshawar. He grimaced. “I was pushed out of my job in 1984,” he said. “People like me—who criticized the jihad, hundreds, thousands of us—were persecuted. You had to go into hiding. Our state was doing it, and you, the West, were pumping money in.”
Zia had hoped that his holy war would lead to a government in Afghanistan that was friendly to Pakistan. But he never saw the outcome: he died in a mysterious plane crash, on August 17, 1988. Six months later, the Russians conceded defeat and withdrew, and the Americans lost interest. The money stopped. And, with the Russian enemy gone, the mujahideen fought among themselves. By the following year, twenty-five thousand Afghanis had died, and the country sank into a civil war that lasted six years.
The Taliban movement came to prominence in the southern city of Kandahar, in 1994, when its members—former madrasah students—gained control of an important trade route that had been subject to interference from local bandits, warlords, and fighting tribes.the former mujahideen A grateful Benazir Bhutto, then Prime Minister of Pakistan, abandoned and rewarded the Taliban with her support. The Taliban went on to conquer most of the country. Only in the north did the resistance prevail, under the leadership of a Tajik commander, Ahmed Shah Massoud. By 1996, most of the warlords were in exile. By then, Pakistan, too, was harboring its own radical Islamic movement—one that had flowered in the hothouse of the Afghan war.
Lieutenant General Hamid Gul was the most influential figure in the I.S.I. in the eighties, and for a time its director. He was responsible for the military doctrine that reinforced Zia’s policy toward Afghanistan. Called “strategic depth,“ the theory was that, in the event of an invasion by India, Pakistan would need Afghanistan as a military hinterland, a place of retreat and continued resistance. This doctrine may have been, as a former colleague of Gul’s put it, “hoax and humbug,” but that didn’t much matter: for Gul, it was enough to justify a decade’s worth of meddling and military intervention.
I met General Gul, who is now retired, in his house in a military district of Rawalpindi, near Islamabad, where he lives in spacious comfort. I was shown into a reception room, and I sat on a sofa waiting for the General to appear. Beside me, on a low table, a piece of the Berlin Wall was on display—a gift, it seemed, from the West German foreign-intelligence service. The engraving read, “With deepest respect to Lt. General Hamid Gul who helped deliver the first blow.”
General Gul, I’d been told, believed that he had set in motion the events that destroyed the Soviet Union. He was, it appeared, not entirely alone in that view. He was a key proponent of the policy of fighting the Soviet invasion as a holy war, rather than as a national struggle. He had boasted of how he recruited radicals from all over the Muslim world—an Islamic international brigade, as he saw it—and had financed and encouraged the powerful Islamic militants who were now on the streets crying for Musharraf’s downfall.
The General bustled into the room. He is a small man with a neat gray mustache, and was dressed in a shalwar kameez. He spoke rapidly, in long rhetorical bursts, and was eager to describe his strategic vision. He appeared to have no regrets, or doubts, about the legacy of his encouragement of Islamist extremists. If things had recently taken a dangerous turn, he argued, it was because the United States had made a critical mistake by neglecting the Taliban in the nineties and by attacking them now.
“The nation that gifted you your superpower status today—that nation is being ravaged and destroyed once again,” he said. “I am very much a supporter of the Taliban, because they have brought to Afghanistan what it needed most—central authority, law and order, elimination of poppy cultivation, de-weaponization, all those things. It was like a miracle. I never thought they could do it in such a short time, but I saw it with my own eyes. Now you have destabilized a society that had stabilized. It’s a great tragedy. A great cruelty, I would say. A great inhuman act.”
The Taliban, he told me, had been pushed into a corner. If the United States had tried a different approach, things would have been different.
“And you could have got everything you wanted from the Taliban,” he said, with the exasperated manner of a schoolmaster explaining an obvious point to a particularly obtuse pupil. “They would have been eating out of your hands. But you never talked to them, because you thought that they were not honorable. You thought you could pick up bin Laden like you picked up Noriega from Panama. But Afghanistan is not Panama.”
General Gul resented the United States’ relationship with India and its lack of support for Pakistan over Kashmir. He resented, too, the military sanctions that were imposed after Pakistan exploded six nuclear devices, in 1998. For him, the United States’ decision to attack the Taliban and Al Qaeda was the beginning of the apocalypse. “The jihad call has been given,” he told me. “It will bring the Muslim masses out of their slumber. You cannot say that it’s not a war against Islam, that it’s a war against terrorism, nameless, faceless terrorism. Who are the terrorists? All the people who took part in this great tragedy are still hiding in America. I can’t believe that it’s just those nineteen people and they all got killed and that’s that. There must be a very elaborate command-and-communications system, a logistics system, people who provided the safe haven as well as the training. And it is simply not possible that someone got six months’ training flying the aircraft. You can’t fly a jumbo jet like that. It’s all bunkum. There had to be somebody manipulating the air traffic-control, somebody who switched off the warning system for the Pentagon. Somebody who asked the Air Force not to scramble for seventy-four minutes. Those people are still inside America.”
The September 11th attack was, he said, part of a much bigger conspiracy, an attempted coup against the White House. I asked him who was behind it, anticipating as I put the question the answer that would come.
“Ariel Sharon,” he replied. The Israeli Prime Minister, he said, had been enraged by George W. Bush’s being in the White House. Al Gore was the man who would have done Israel’s bidding. General Gul then listed what he claimed were Israel’s demands: the destruction of Pakistan’s nuclear program, the disarming of its Arab neighbors, the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s “headquarters,” and a definitive “no” to a Palestinian state. These, he concluded, were the real objectives of the September 11th attacks. “No wonder that Henry Kissinger and Shimon Peres and Netanyahu—all of them!—are saying, ‘America, you have the might! Do it now! Destroy them! Finish them off!’ It’s a crusade against the Cross and the Crescent, both. And the inspiration? The same people who inspired the medieval crusades. The Jews.”
The people of Pakistan, General Gul insisted, shared his view, except, he admitted, for what he called “a handful of intellectuals who occupy Islamabad. But what’s Islamabad?” he went on. “Only an island in the sea called Pakistan. And a storm rising out of Pakistan will submerge Islamabad. General Musharraf seems to think that this storm is a small thing, that we are a tiny minority. He says that it’s no more than ten or fifteen per cent of the people, without realizing that, even going by his figures—though they are not correct—ten per cent means fourteen million activists and fifteen per cent means twenty-one million. And these activists are the ready-to-die types. If they rise against the government, the government will not be able to stand up to them.” He added, “The Army has been known to join the people.”
General Gul’s version of events was widely shared. I encountered it among government officials and intellectuals, in newspapers, and, every Friday, in demonstrations in Islamabad and Peshawar. The demonstrations followed the Friday-afternoon prayers. As a woman, I was barred from the mosques, but I listened to the speeches of the maulanas relayed on tinny loudspeakers to the streets outside, and the religious leaders I spoke to reiterated the same themes.
On the day following my meeting with General Gul—a Friday, he predicted, that would see tens of thousands on the streets—I went to see what was expected to be a large rally near some government offices in Islamabad. Many of the demonstrators were young madrasah students who repeated the line they had been taught by the maulanas—the same one that General Gul had laid out for me. From a loudspeaker truck, a group of bearded maulanas was haranguing the crowd. Bored members of television crews were foraging for action, and there was a momentary lifting of their spirits when a group burned an American flag. A blow-up plastic alien dangled from a tree. “It’s President Bush,” a demonstrator explained.
But the demonstrators numbered barely a thousand—fewer, it seemed, than the riot police who were lined up with shields and batons. I had by then attended several demonstrations and found that most of them were small, lacklustre affairs. General Gul had articulated a vision of steadily growing protests that could tear Pakistan apart, but, despite the efforts of the maulanas, there was little sign of that yet. This seemed to bear out what I had been told about the true position of the radical religious parties in Pakistan. The Pakistani people showed them a certain respect but did not seem to want them in power. They had never succeeded in elections and would have remained on the political fringes had they not secured the patronage of the I.S.I. The influence of Islamic extremists was felt more in the armed forces and in key appointments in the civil service, which many of them now occupied—again, thanks in part to General Gul’s efforts. Musharraf was trying to dislodge these people. Several religious leaders had been put under house arrest, and Musharraf had reshuffled his Army command and the top echelon of the I.S.I. in order to rid them of fundamentalists who could form a covert opposition to his policies. Even so, there was a widespread feeling that the purge had not gone far enough. And it was possible that the maulanas preaching an inflammatory message in the mosques would eventually have a greater effect on their captive audience.
When the bombing began, Pakistan tried to close the border: thousands of Pashtun tribesmen had reportedly crossed into Afghanistan to fight for the Taliban, and, in the other direction, thousands of refugees, destitute already after two years of drought, were fleeing the war. The government ruled that no refugees would be admitted, and that any who entered illegally would, if discovered, be arrested and deported. In fact, refugees did come, bribing their way across the border or crossing at night along wilder, more dangerous routes. Then they vanished. Those who had relatives stayed with them. Others were forced to find a place in existing camps. None of them could declare their presence without risk of deportation. Officially, there were, therefore, no refugees.
When the war began, there were forty-eight camps in the North-West Frontier Province, providing a temporary home to some two million people. According to Lateef Afridi, the Pashtun leader, there have been two million refugees in this part of the world for twenty-two years, and now the problem will only worsen. “Two million people without an education, without homes, the agonizing victims of war,” he said. “For these people, human rights and bloodshed have no meaning. Most of them are uneducated and addicted to fundamentalist ideas. Iran, Pakistan, the West—the world deserted them. They need a development package, infrastructure, they need a government.”
A visit to one of these camps entails a bureaucratic obstacle course: one requires stamped letters of permission and, depending on the state of tension, an armed escort. The most notorious camp, Jalozai, a squalid plastic city just outside Peshawar where only the most destitute go, remains off limits. Others, like Kacha Gari, one of the largest camps in the Peshawar area, can be visited if one secures permission.
Kacha Gari is a bleak place, built on a strip of desert on the outskirts of the city in 1980. Before September 11th, it housed around seventy thousand people; the numbers have increased since then. To get there, you bounce along a dirt road through a moonscape created by the excavation of clay soil to make bricks. As I drove by, bricks were stacked in the sun to dry, and tall chimneys belched foul black smoke, from old tires being burned as fuel. When I appeared on the edge of the camp, I was surrounded by children with open sores on their arms. A man on crutches tugged my sleeve and led me along a rough sandy track to his house, a single mud-brick room, where a group of relations had gathered—an uncle and his five children, newly arrived from Afghanistan. They had been farmers, the uncle explained. Fifteen days ago, they sold their last cow to raise the money to come here. Their possessions were stacked in plastic bags in the corner. “I have lost everything,” the old man said. “Here I am, a refugee.”
Zahir Khan, the welfare officer for this section of the camp, gestured hopelessly at the miserable accommodation: “These were people who had a good life in our own country.” Every day, he said, there are deaths, among the old and the children.
Finally, on November 7th, the Pakistani government agreed to open eleven new camps in the tribal areas. By then, according to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, the newest group of refugees numbered about a hundred and thirty-five thousand.
In Islamabad, I met Sahar Shaba, a twenty-eight-year-old Afghan Pashtun, who is a member of the clandestine Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA). A small woman, she was wearing a shalwar kameez, her scarf draped across her shoulders, and short dark hair loose around her face.
Shaba was born near Jalalabad, and, following Pashtun tradition, lived in an extended family of some thirty members. Had she stayed there, she said, she would have become a conventional Pashtun wife after an arranged marriage at fifteen. But her family fled to Pakistan as refugees from the Soviet Army. The camps, she confirmed, were dominated by fundamentalists. They banned music and television, as well as secondary education for girls, so when she heard of an underground girls’ school in Quetta she begged her father to send her there. The school was run by RAWA. The organization, which is dedicated to the liberation of Afghan women, has a number of schools for girls. (It was founded by a young Afghan called Meena, who was murdered in 1987, at the age of thirty. The assassins, her followers believe, were members of the Afghan secret service.)
Shaba arranged for me to visit a camp near Peshawar where RAWA operates. The name of the camp, she insisted, must be kept secret. At an appointed time, a young Afghan man appeared at my hotel. I noticed with a jolt that he was wearing jeans and a shirt. I had grown used to a country in which the women were all but invisible and the men were uniformly dressed in shalwar kameez. His name, he said, was Nazeem and he was seventeen. We climbed into an ambulance and set off.
“When I was young,” he said, “my father used to tell me that one day there would be peace and freedom. Now he is dead, and I am seventeen and there is still no peace. Gulbuddin Hekmatyar murdered my father because he was broad-minded, because he wanted democracy. I wish I had been born in any other poor miserable country except Afghanistan.”
The camp we were going to, he told me, held some six thousand people and had been set up in the eighties by a liberal Pashtun leader. The camp was, he felt, the way Afghanistan used to be. “We have jirgas,” he said, “and we all live together—Tajiks, Pashtun, Uzbeks. And you can wear what you like. In other camps, people throw stones at you if you dress like this.”
We were driving through a landscape of neat sugarcane fields. About twenty miles outside Peshawar, we turned onto a dirt road in another desert of brick fields. On the other side rose a mud-brick settlement. We stopped in front of a door, and I stepped into a courtyard shaded by young trees. I spent the evening and the night in the camp. This was the first time, in more than two weeks in Peshawar, that I had been in the company of unveiled Afghan women. Night fell, and, as I was led to small houses set in secluded courtyards, I felt as though I were visiting a peaceful rural village. Sitting cross-legged on thin rugs laid out on hard earth floors, the women told me their stories. Under the Russians, they said, women had been forced to abandon the veil. Under the jihadis, they had been forced to wear it again. Under the Taliban, they had been forced to wear the burka and were confined to their homes. And, even now, with the Taliban gone, most women had not abandoned their bur-kas. They were afraid of what was next.
Fatima, a tall, attractive woman from Kandahar, had fled to Pakistan with her four children three days earlier, after her husband was seized by the Taliban. He had once been a doctor and she a teacher, but under the Taliban she stayed at home and he sold vegetables.
She glared at me. “What will you do for us?” she asked. “The Americans are killing people. I have no food for my children, and I at least am lucky that I crossed the border. I hate the Taliban,” she continued. “I don’t hate them for obeying the laws of Islam. I hate them because of the poverty, the fact that there are no jobs, the fact that if a woman is sick she can’t go to the doctor.” Her youngest son, a fierce two-year-old, sat on the floor and began to eat a flower that was crushed in his fist. He grimaced and spat it out. His mother began to cry.
Another mother, surrounded by her six children, described how her husband, too, had been taken by the Taliban. A former teacher, he had run a shoe shop where he secretly taught his youngest son. Six days earlier, the child had come running home, the keys to the shop clutched in his hand. His father had been taken away. The woman fled with her children. “I have very little hope that my husband is alive,” she said. “People in Afghanistan have no tears left. We have seen our sons grow up and be shot.” She told me stories of the Taliban’s cruelty—the cutting off of hands and feet and the slitting of throats.
That night, I joined a group of RAWA activists for a meal of eggplant and meat served with rice. Two RAWA teachers talked about the children in their classes— the little girl haunted by the murder of twelve members of her family, the boy who wept when the bombing began, convinced that his remaining relatives would be killed. One day, they told me, there will be another Afghanistan, another government. “Then we can return to teach in our own country.”
Women like Sahar Shaba and her fellow-refugees are consumed by another battle raging in Pashtun society, a battle between tribal tradition and modernity. For them, a future Afghanistan must have a place for women outside the confines of purdah, free of the restrictions of both fundamentalism and Pashtun custom.
The next morning, I left the camp just after dawn and drove back to Peshawar, a city where the maulanas were preaching the message of holy war and the women were invisible under their blue burkas. At a traffic light, a woman with a baby in her arms came to the van’s window to beg. The camp, with its hopes of education for girls, of democracy and peace, its faded memories of a time in Afghanistan when teachers taught in schools and doctors attended to their patients, seemed like a dream. Nazeem shook my hand as we parted. “When we go back to Afghanistan,” he said, “I will invite you to the public hanging of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.”
In Peshawar, I witnessed the first attempt to rally broad support for convening a Loya Jirga in Afghanistan—the highest form of jirga, it would be a temporary national council that could decide on the country’s new political structure without resorting to violence. It was organized by Pir Sayeed Ahmed Gailani, a Pashtun religious leader who was being backed, I was told, by the Pakistani government—an affiliation that had probably doomed the meeting before it began. It was held in a modern conference center and attended by a thousand men from all the tribal areas and from Afghanistan, as well as by a number of familiar Peshawar faces.
Pir Gailani swept onto a platform, a magisterial figure in black robes and a white turban. He seemed to be already auditioning for the office of Afghan Prime Minister. Local reporters scanned the rows of bearded faces, looking for figures of authority who would indicate how serious this attempt at organizing a viable alternative to the Taliban would be. They were disappointed. As speaker after speaker called for the return of the king, Muhammad Zahir Shah, to convene the Loya Jirga, it was finally noted that the King had sent no representative. Nor was there any senior figure from the Northern Alliance.
Many of the Pashtun’s rivals in Afghanistan feel that a Loya Jirga would be simply a device to restore the Pashtun to power—an aim that traditional Pashtun certainly hope to achieve. Even among the Pashtun, though, authority has been eroded by twenty years of war and the rise of radical Islamism, which has become the focus for many in the refugee generations.
Some convoys have set off from the refugee camps, returning ragged families to what remains of their Afghan homes. But most refugees are holding back. They remember, Sahar Shaba, the RAWA activist told me, the last time that the Northern Alliance held power. “We would be deceiving ourselves,” she said, “if we thought this was a real peace.” What she sees, from her vantage point, is another version of a familiar story—warlords, in different guises, jockeying for positions of power. “The situation is getting worse day by day,” an aide to Pir Gailani told me, “and there is no sign either of the Loya Jirga or of the broad-based government we proposed a month ago. If the United Nations does not act, the warlords will simply seize territory.”
On November 15th, exiled mujahideen crossed the border from Peshawar and swept into Jalalabad to haggle with rival commanders for control of the city. In Kabul, Burhanuddin Rabbani, the Tajik leader of the Northern Alliance, who was President of Afghanistan before the Taliban took power, also returned, on November 17th, apparently, with the intention of resuming his old job. And in the Pashtun heartland many local figures have emerged, positioning themselves to claim their historic right to rule Afghanistan. But their ethnic solidarity does not disguise their lack of a united leadership or their conflicting positions. Some are willing to strike a deal with the deserting Taliban commanders. Others see them as an obstacle to the greater purpose: the reunion of the Pashtun under the tenuous authority of Afghanistan’s former king—a figure who carries no weight with the Northern Alliance. The political leadership of the Pashtun has been systematically undermined by the likes of Zia and General Gul, the I.S.I.’s veteran holy warrior, by the refugee camps and the madrasahs, by the maulanas in the mosques, and by Pakistan’s calculated effort to strip the Pashtun of their political identity. For many Pashtun, radical Islam is their new allegiance: that’s what this generation knows.
This allegiance was at the front of General Gul’s mind. “I asked myself why the Taliban waited so long to retreat,” he told me when I spoke to him several days after the Taliban had abandoned Kabul. “But now I understand. They held on to give themselves time to evacuate their Scud missiles and their anti-aircraft guns before they took to the hills. Withdrawal is the most difficult military operation. It requires command and control and meticulous planning. This they have achieved. Ask your intelligence where the Scud missiles are. They had two hundred and fifty of them.” There is now, the General said, a Russian-backed government in Kabul. “Putin has played a very clever card. But the Pashtun will resist, of course. And who will lead that resistance? The Taliban.” And their foot soldiers, he insisted, would be the Pashtun tribesmen. “They don’t like bombing,” General Gul added. “But a long-drawn-out conflict in the mountains—that’s the thing they enjoy the most.”
I found the General’s predictions dubious, and yet there was no denying that few parties are eagerly inviting the Pashtun to form a government. Once again, Afghanistan’s neighbors—India, Russia, and Iran—are entertaining alternatives. The Pashtun are not in a good position to bargain. For now, the only hope they have is to win, with force, enough territory to make them too strong to ignore, to become a power without which no peace can come to Afghanistan. If nothing comes of negotiation, they will fight