Monday, May 31, 2010

The 28th May Ahmaddiya Massacre in Lahore; What Minorities, what rights in Pakistan?

The date 28th May will be written in innocent blood red in Pakistan. Previously the pro-violence, pronuclear bomb fanatics were  devilishly celebrating the day that Pakistan exploded a nuclear device in 1998. For people like me, who do not believe in weapons of mass destruction at all, it was a sad day in any case.We the non-nuclear people are like pariahs in Pakistan and India, where most people believe in using and developing weapons of mass destruction , such as the most hateful nuclear devices, as some kind of religious edicts. The violent and criminal Muslim lobby in Pakistan really loves the nuclear bomb against which the Muslim teachings are clearly against. Both the prophet of Islam, and the teachings based on Quran preach complete non-violence, in every possible way. The wars and use of weapons was used only during his life as a defence and not even as a ravenge as is crystal clear from the "Suleh-e- Hudaibiyya" , a pristine pact that the prophet of Islam made and conducted so skillfully and honestly. The other bright, shining example of his non-violence, tolerance and utter greatness is his giving peace and complete amnesty to all Meccans when Muslims conquered Mecca. There can be no more clearer example of his conduct and character.
Keeping this in mind my head hangs in shame and my heart bleeds at the sheer rejection, the audacity of the criminals who massacred the 80 Ahmaddiya community innocent Pakistani who on the peaceful holy day of Friday were offering their prayers in their religious worship places. Nowhere in Muslim society this kind of violence is allowed ever. The sheer shamelessness of the perpetrators was evident from the fact that the man gunning freely from the minaret, how he was gunning all around brazenly. The surrounding people and the police were almost taken aback as the images on television, live coverage and newspaper reports and pictures  show. ( )
It is evident that all the militant groups are freely accessing Lahore, as shown in FIA building, Moon Market, Cantt area, and Manawan police academy and Sri Lanka team  attacks.The Punjab interior department is totally inept and the senior police officers are not willing to be posted in Lahore as they are not too comfortable with the chief minister. What will happen to Lahore only God knows. Meanwhile this episode will too be put on the back burner, the media will not follow up the case as was done in Gojra massacre and burning and looting case and the Karachi Ashura bomb blast and Karachi markets burning and arson cases.

The 1973 constitution of Pakistan does offer rights to minorities but there is no definition of minorities given. There has been implication that minorities are religious that is other than Muslims and sceduled castes. The definition is not even clear to government functionaries who also presumes minorities as religious other than Muslims. Muslims are defined as Sunnis, Shias, Bohras, Aga Khanis, Ismailis. Ahmadiyyas have been termed non- Muslims as they do not consider the prophet Muhammad as the last prophet.  They are declared non-Muslims in constitution.
There are multiple issues in Pakistan regarding the rights of the minorities as envisaged by the law and many issues which come in racism, intolerance, violence and hatred.
The Pakistan constitution does give some rights as simply religious minorities can practice their religion in places of worship that are seperate from Muslim places of worship. These places of worship come under government control and their allotment, authenticity and physical mainatinence has to be permitted and regulated by the government of Pakistan.The religious minorities have to register themselves as religious minorities , put entry in identity cards, passports, school and college and university admission forms. Many services also have the definition of Muslim applicant for many jobs in goverment civil burauecracy and military. The highest ranks in government, military cannot be non-Muslim. It is not enough to be Pakistani.The evidence in case of rape etc also takes as two adult Muslim males. What about non-Muslim males. There are thousands of such loop holes and deficiencies in law, which make the minorities' rights all the more controversial.
The Hudood ordinance (implemented by general Ziaul Haq to promote and achieve his own nefariuos designs in the name of Islam) also added a very dangerous side and angle to the issue of bieng a non-Muslim and even contradicting the mainstream, popular majority (Sunni) thought. This was the blasphemy law, in which any one bieng thought of saying or contradicting the teachings of Islam may be punishable by death. The sad application was seen in many cases where people were declared blasphemous by enemies and killed without even a trial or even in one case by a guard in lock up on his own whim and hatred. Many Christians have been violently murdered and their churches burnt as they were accused by some enemies as blasphemous. In a recent chuch burning the Muslim community said that the Christians had been living peacefully as neighbours and the village people were not involved.(This happened an year back in Punjab). In cases of blasphemy law the trial has to take place and a judicial process grants the punishment which may be life or death. This has to be  a judicial process. the sad part is that in Pakistan many people, mostly militant Sunni religious groups are killing and doing violence on non-Muslims on their own. This happened some two years back when a popular tv religious talk show host, Aamir Liaqat Hussain spat venom against Ahmadiyya community and some 11 people of this community were brutally massacred in Punjab in retaliation after that. No follow up of this was reported by media. The only thing that we came to know of this was that Mr Altaf Hussain ,leader of MQM dismissed Aamir Liaqat from his party and his ministership.
This kind of free violence is practiced in Pakistan in the name of Islam and even seemingly peaceful citizens tend to shy away and look away and not condemn this violence.The recent death gory drama against the Ahmaddiya community seems to be the same kind of mentality where the non-state actors are freely practicing violence and death penalty against law and without constitutional umbrella.There are at this time about 79 cases pending under blasphemy law in courts whose coverage and reporting is almost nil in media.
 Pakistanis are confused between Islam, democracy, civilised political behaviour and non-state actors' practice of violence under the garb of Sharia and Islamic behaviour. Democracy is defined as the rule of the people , by the people, for the people. it also has issues of proteceting the rights of the minorities against the majority. The US government ( definition of rights of minorities is the best, most exclusive and wide embracing. It guarantees the basic civil liberties in the form of freedom of speech and expression, freedom to belief, religion, practice therof, freedom to differ in views, culture, ethnicity, freedom to access justice.,freedom to address economic disparity, political views, non-discrimination if you are religiously, ethnically, racially, gender, culturally, economically different,or even if you have lost election and are politically in minority. Their all encompassing diverse tolerance creates a political will for a society where the basic qualification to be an American is to be a human. We, in Pakistan are at this day and age not even aware that even in democracy the rights of minority have to be safeguarded in various policy issues and set ups in order to reach a justifiable , egalitarian society.
Till such time that we condemn violence and hunt down and exterminate terrorists and killer groups, no matter what name or Islamic identity they are using, we will not be able to guarantee the religiuos minorities their basic rights of existence in Pakistan. The Ahmaddiya community had a contribution to Pakistan. Their peaceful existence is essential. And who wants a Sunni ( and what sect?) monolithic identity of Pakistan? I for one, dont even believe in majority and minority thing on basis of religion, so this is repulsive any way. We have to condemn the violence of non-state actors in anyway!If we want Pakistan to stay on Earth map, we have to let all Pakistanis be equal human biengs.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Lotus Women...Sensual and in full glory.


Samina Raza with "Kuch Aur",water colour, charcoal ,guache. 

Paintings exhibition by Samina Raza.

A paintings exhibition opened at the Firaar art gallery of the T2F  by a very fine artist Samina Raza.
Samina has taken guidance from the senior artists like Iqbal Hussain and Nayyar Jamil. Hers is  clearly a journey of love with line and motif expression. It is as if as she is passionately executing a flourishing dance step. The line giving form to a motif or an object makes its presence felt yet subtly.
The artist told me that she has studied deeply the art of Matisse, Chagall, Picasso, and others and it is this deep understanding of line, colour and motif form that gives the artist the finesse and mastery to execute her pieces with dexterity and a very obvious visual appeal.

Kanwal ka singhar , water colour.

"Aks" meaning reflection. Water colour , pen and ink.

Aurat meaning woman.Watercolour, pen and ink.

Aurat, watercolour, pen and ink.

"Jheel" meaning lake or pond.Watrecolour.

Jheel, watercolour.

Samina Raza potrays the many aspects of woman hood and feminity in a highly sensous way by using the Lotus flower, the nude body form, the faces around. The depiction of women in various settings sometimes, rural ,sometimes modern urban mileu shows themultiple roles a woman has to play. Nowhere does the artist leave her deep interpretation of the woman's sensuality in all its glory.
Her treatment of the nudes is very appealing. The four framed consecutive paintings show a woman posing at first and slowly rotating and as the last frame is reached the depiction of movement is s o intense that the audience feels as if the nude will come out almost dancing. Her figures are rubinesque,adding to the immense appeal.Upon enquiring as if it was Iqbal Hussain's influence, she answered that she as a child also exaggerated and her father would put the image into balance. For example she would call a tree very big and tall but her father would say"balance".While drawing the figure she plays and expresses with the line. When charcoal is bieng used her love and flirtation with the line makes it into a live form.

reThe alive nudes.

the lotuses.

Her use of colour, line, motif and design is very modern. The reflection of  Matisse, Chagall and other modern painters makes her paintings all the more endearing. 

Monday, May 10, 2010

The New Politics Of Governance In Karachi and Hyderabad, Sindh.

Pakistan has entered this new century with a million problems and almost no resources to deal with them both in economic and political terms.It now reminds me of Medusa's head. Ugly, complex, monstorous. But then there is hope and a sweet longing for survival and change. Karachi is the biggest town with teeming millions almost living as if plugged in like pieces of a puzzle. Apparently the lodgings, water supply, commodities and food markets are placed like monopoly cards, un-planned and almost like bets. For years this dynamic, big hearted city has survived without a master plan. Its citizens, initially few have welcomed  people from all across the country with open arms and it was this evolving , open, dynamics which has made it into one of the largest cities in the world.
The ethno-political flavour and color has also evolved and changed over the last few decades. Initially, as the population was less, this appeared to offer no intra-ethnic tensions and almost two decades ago, the ethnic conflict, even when erupted somehow changed and was managed. The religio-sectarian divide was also not so prominent and was gradually  made into a " You look after your house and I will mine, thing" by mutual agreement. The political groups have however evolved from formation, built a political behaviour history in the city and acquired popularity and reputations. The reflections in the current governmental and administrative tensions and dynamics in Sindh are a direct result of this evolution. Some very good things have happened also but they are few and far between.
I will discuss in detail as to what  is the background of this current tension and what the future really holds for Karachi, Sindh and eventually for Pakistan if we do not understand the issues and work towards developing a consensus on most issues for the welfare of all the communities and political groups in Karachi. This I write about from the perspective of a modern, eductaed, middle class woman , citizen of Karachi who has nothing more dear to her heart except the welfare of the people of Karachi, Sindh and Pakistan.
Right upto 1980, the population of Karachi had almost doubled with entry of more people coming to eke out a living as labourers, industrial workers and some domestic help. The educational institutions also catered to and developed mostly in a private sector setup. After 1980, a larger migration of people from the Frontier province started occuring mostly of people who were better off economically and started setting up small businesse like shops for goods , textile and clothes. These sort of traders with a prosperous future to look forward to started sending their kids to schools, colleges and universities so much so that the present day enrolement in colleges and universities of patahn students is the largest single ethnic group. They are graduating and competing and entering post graduate degree seats and also the corporate and other national job markets in a larger volume. The debate about absorption and employment opportunities of any educated people is another matter to be handled by appropriate specialist.
The next biggest change in the socio-econo-political mileu that has occured in the dynamics of the Karachi make-up is that of the so-called "Muhajir" population. When Pakistan was formed in 1947 almost all iimigrants from Indian areas like UP, CP, Bombay and Kathiawar came to Sindh. Karachi bieng the largest port also recieved the largest qouta from these immigrants. Majority of thes immigrants or so called "Muhajirs" were educated people like clerks, teachers, professors, burauecracy etc. Some other professions like washerman or "Dhobis", carpenters, hakims, and other small traders also settled here. Due to a wide variety of the settlement people, all the different trades and professions developed unhindered and the evolving dynamics resulted in a vibrant Karachi, bustling with trade and business, offering jobs, economic activity, a life, a hope for a better future to all its residents.This color of Karachi remains to this day, as it is and it would be very sad if somehow it is changed or lost.
The administration of Karachi also evolved . The mayor was always there and there was a Council elected which sat in the Karachi Municpal Council building. The civic problems were taken care of by this council.
The expanding construction of buildings and houses to provide residences, offices, shops, warehouses, schools, colleges, and universities and hospitals resulted in  the fight for space and propety as this became lucrative. Many large, influential groups of which some were landed  from Sindh and some from the money lenders groups, over the years understood the importance of these initially large areas of land that were eventually taken over almost at a pittance and frequently even as a "Qabza"  created the many, many groups or "the Monstorous Land Mafia". Frequent martial laws and lack of political representation in governments under martial law administrators resulted in opportunists taking advantage in these vested interest affairs inside city and economically benefitting some groups so much so that the dynamics of land acquisition and doing property business has evolved to a whole new level of corruption, death and destruction. These land mafia vested interest have now managed to buy alsmot everything from big businesses, police and other administartive interests and almost totally made ineffective the whole of the enfranchised, empowered political process. By this time the urban population has swelled to such big proportions that managing the socio-political vision has almost become impossible in the context of a basic civic rights paradigm or set up. The political groups that evolved were the MQM, a party which initially named itself as "Muhajir" identity group but eventually changed its name to "Muttahida" meaning united to indicate its acceptance or opening up to membership to other ethnicities make-up. The political structure of this large urban group based party has remained very organised in a fashion almost like the communist party of China, at all street level reaching upto the highest Central Raabta Committee. Due to their poor and middleclass backgrounds, its workers maybe from larger posh areas also but maintain a simple discipline. The civic behaviour is also apparent in its workers set up.Due to the different political changes in Pakistan and the imposition of the various martial laws, the political history of the MQM is closely linked to its socio-political behaviour with certain regimes. For example, during th BB  government a kind of operation was done in the densely populated areas of Karachi in which many of its workers were arrested and put behind bars in order to "tame" them . It was generally known in the non-MQM circles at the time that these "boys " are getting out of hand and the stories of extortion, torture and punishment of people were abundant. The "counter" group of young people like "Najeeb" were giving resistance to these other forces. This confrontational politics in Karachi continued for a time but then a lid was put over the simmering boiling pot.
The present tense nature of distrust between PPP and Mqm has also its links to the 12th May tragedy in which more than 50people were killed in Karachi.
 Meanwhile the Pathan construction workers , with the help of the money lending mafia, grew to become contractors. This construction opportunity provided a large employment to Pathan youth who if lacking in education would find a job always and eventually improve their lives. Their children eventually gain education and move up the social ladder and change their social standing with all modern, urban comforts.
The Local Sindhi population which resided in "goths " or small village like abodes still exists but the makeup has changed as newer residents have moved in and the initial moved out to better abodes. This issue still remains as  large thorn in the side of the PPP- MQM  coalition partnership.
Meanwhile, the complex social interaction has changed and moved beyond simple points of contact. The issue has become more " Status" concious in the context of money, education , area of residence, etc The ethno- social interaction is also changing. for example there is a term a s"beyod the Bridge" meaning the residents of Clifton and Defence and all the millions beyond that. This divide also has strange and negative social implications but that is  a topic for another post.
During the Musharraf regime, the city of Karachi, devloped its road and bridges infrastructure as a large sum of money was devoted to this and this did give the city a better communication infrastructure.Due to handling this development by the city mayor under the MQM, the party did gain some goodwill. But the bitter truth is to be revealed by me a s a citizen who is watching and hoping that all sane people ,including those at the highest level do not let the bull inside the china shop.
The issue of ethnic tension between the Pathan and MQM remains as an ugly and dangerous smoking pot. The face of ANP becomes parochial and ethnic in Karachi as the leadership is that from a lower level in Karachi. I am not aware why the ANP, still chooses a less eductaed leadership in Karachi whereas there are better options. This maybe due to the power and group of individuals inside their party in Karachi.
The PPP also seems to have confined its politics along ethnic lines. Its members in government except a few, are almost imposed on Karachi as they are residing in Karachi. The heavy weights in PPP are all landed, fuedals . They have only Houses in Clifton and Defence and thus no political representation in Karachi. The traditional  vote from Karachi remains same after so many years of its existence. MQM has only come about in the last two decades. It is amazing and reflective of the leadership in qualty and vision of the Sindh Peoples Party that they have neither competed, nor managed to gain a larger vote from th urban middle class of Karachi. It is reflective of the sheer lack of insight, education and dynamics in the idealogical  attraction given to an urban population. Was it deliberate or was it ignorance. I do not thing that Benazir would do either deliberately or out of ignorance. It just puts the fact bare that the leadership of Sindh is not upto the mark in taking the urban middle class along with its party ideology. The face of PPP in Sindh is nationalistic. In both these set ups, the vision and ideology of Bhuttos is bieng countered or if not that at least bieng slumbered upon.
At the end I have at this point in time reached a conclusion that the politics in Karachi, of Karachi have turned to a Socio-ethnic level only. The leadership of the Sindh Peoples Party really needs to wake up and arm itself not with the ammunition of weapons but Eductaion, understanding and consensus building. President Asif Ali Zardari realises the need for consensus building and is always taking steps to improve the situation. I do hope the other stake holders realise this.

The intense divide between the thinking of MQM and Sindh Peoples Party is also reflected in the issue of the division of Hyderabad in four districts. The PPP insistense on reversion is creaing tensions in the coalition. Hyderabad had become almsot unmaneageably degenerated before the administarative division. It had become imperative that unless something was done to salvage theis immediately, there would be disaster. It was decided by the Musharraf regime, to develop Hyderabad also by the districts formation for better prospects. politically it disenfranchises the PPP vote. This is also a step that the Gilani government has decide to take as a reversion of division of Hyderabad as a bitter pill. The federal government is not too keen on undoing allthe steps taken by Musharraf regime like local government etc, but in the context of Sindh it has to do what is the popular demand, though however detrimental to modern civic behavior and health by its Sindh PPP leadership.  
Hyderabad also needs to be divided not only in four but smaller administrative units so that the rural population also benefits. But the politics of ethnicity that is MQM labelled as "Muhajirs" and PPP with "Sindhi" face seems to be priority for the Sindh PPP. The Sindh cities really need to develop and develop fast in order to be economically viable. The incessant corruption in Sindh especially in eductaion and infrastructure development has really eaten away at these cities. The PPP Sindh needs to really weed out corruption fron Sindh and instead of blaming MQM and "Muhajirs"for all of Sindh's ills. It should realistically find new ways and means to fight against corruption and bring up their social indicators. The economical benefits from Karachi to Pakistan makes it imperative on Sindh PPP understand the new dynamics of economic and political development. Only in the context of modern civic living will this complex and damaging ethnic divide be bridged for a better , prosperous future for Sindh, and for Pakistan.