Tag Archive for 'Pervez Hoodbhoy'

Why Maulana Qadri and cricketer Khan can’t save Pakistan

Pervez Hoodbhoy in Express Tribune:

Pakistan has two angry messiahs, the Maulana and the Cricketer. Both are men of fine oratory — the former being more gifted. They promise to kick wicked leaders out of government, reward the righteous, and deliver a new Pakistan. Before a coup-plagued nation that has spent many decades under military rule, they preach to adulating under-30 crowds about the corruption of the present rulers. But neither dares to touch Pakistan’s real issues. Both are careful to castigate only the corruption of civilians; there is nary a word about the others.

Inspired by his fiery rhetoric, for four days the Maulana’s youthful Lashkar-e-Qadri had occupied D-Chowk, Islamabad’s version of Tahrir Square. The cheering, chanting, flag-waving crowd was joyous at the verdict ordering the arrest of Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf. The precise timing owed to another one of Pakistan’s putative saviours — the honourable Chief Justice of Pakistan.

In this age of discontent, assorted demagogues have mastered the art of mobilising the credulous masses. Corruption, say the Maulana and the Cricketer, is Pakistan’s central problem. Utopia will come if honest and pious men — perhaps themselves — are in power. But is crookedness and dishonesty the real issue? Countries which are perfectly viable and livable may still have corrupt governments. More:

The Bomb: Iran, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan

Pervez Hoodbhoy at The Express Tribune:

Once upon a time Iran was Pakistan’s close ally — probably its closest one. In 1947, Iran was the first to recognise the newly independent Pakistan. In the 1965 war with India, Pakistani fighter jets flew to Iranian bases in Zahedan and Mehrabad for protection and refuelling. Both countries were members of the US-led Seato and Cento defence pacts, Iran opened wide its universities to Pakistani students, and the Shah of Iran was considered Pakistan’s great friend and benefactor. Sometime around 1960, thousands of flag-waving school children lined the streets of Karachi to greet him. I was one of them.

The friendship has soured, replaced by low-level hostility and suspicion. In 1979, Ayatollah Khomenei’s Islamic revolution, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, set major realignments in motion. As Iran exited the US orbit, Pakistan joined the Americans to fight the Soviets. With Saudi money, they together created and armed the hyper-religious Pashtun mujahideen. Iran too supported the mujahideen — but those of the Tajik Northern Alliance. But as religion assumed centrality in matters of state in both Pakistan and Iran, doctrinal rifts widened. More:

On neutrinos and angels

Pervez Hoodbhoy in The Express Tribune:

Speed of light issues have often moved sections of religious people in rather strange ways. Way back in 1973, as a young physics lecturer at Quaid-i-Azam University, I had been fascinated by the calculation done by the head of our department. Seeking the grand synthesis of science and faith, this pious gentleman — who left on his final journey last month — had published calculations that proved Heaven (jannat) was running away from Earth at one centimeter per second less than the speed of light. His reasoning centred around a particular verse of the Holy Quran that states worship on the night of Lailat-ul-Qadr(Night of Revelation) is equivalent to a thousand nights of ordinary worship. Indeed, if you input the factor of 1,000 into Einstein’s famous formula for time dilatation, this yields a number: one centimeter per second less than the speed of light!

These days the internet groans under the weight of claims that the Holy Quran had specified the speed of light 1400 years ago. Dr Mansour Hassab El Naby, said to be a physicist from Egypt, announces that according to his Quranic calculations, this speed is 299,792.5 kilometres per second. He even gives error bars! Another video gives a still more precise figure of 299792.458 km/sec. Given the unrestrained leaps of logic made by the authors, it is not surprising that they all arrive at more or less the same numbers. More:

Remembering Salmaan Taseer

Pervez Hoodbhoy at The Express Tribune:

Governor Salmaan Taseer died at the hands of a religious fanatic on January 4 last year. Fearlessly championing a deeply unpopular cause, this brave man had sought to revisit the country’s blasphemy law which, as he saw it, was yet another means of intimidating Pakistan’s embattled religious minorities. This law — which is unique in having death as the minimum penalty — would have sent to the gallows an illiterate Christian peasant woman, Aasia Bibi, who stood accused by her Muslim neighbours after a noisy dispute. Taseer’s publicly-voiced concern for human life earned him 26 high-velocity bullets from one of his security guards, Malik Mumtaz Qadri. The other guards watched silently.

In this long, sad, year more has followed. Justice Pervez Ali Shah, the brave judge who ultimately sentenced Taseer’s murderer in spite of receiving death threats, has fled the country. Aasia Bibi is rotting away in jail, reportedly in solitary confinement and in acute psychological distress. Shahbaz Taseer, the governor’s son, was abducted in late August — presumably by Qadri’s sympathisers. He remains untraceable. Shahbaz Bhatti, another vocal voice against the blasphemy law, was assassinated weeks later on March 2. More:

Seven ways to rescue Pakistan

A conversation between Indian politician Mani Shankar Aiyar and Pakistani physicist and political commentator Pervez Hoodbhoy, hosted by NDTV’s Barkha Dutt at Tehelka-Newsweek’s THiNK 2011.

Some more videos here.

Pakistan after Osama

Pervez Hoodbhoy in Himal Southasian:

Twenty-five years ago, the Pakistani state pushed Islam on its people as a matter of ideology. Prayers were made compulsory in government departments, punishments were meted out to those civil servants who did not fast during Ramadan, selection for academic posts required that the candidate demonstrate knowledge of Islamic teachings, and jihad was propagated through schoolbooks. Today, government intervention is no longer needed because of the spontaneous groundswell of Islamic zeal that has been the result of the years of grooming. A generation of poisoned minds that holds the external world responsible for all the country’s ills has led the country into collective xenophobia and psychosis. Signs suggest that a fascist religious state may be just around the corner.

A necessary condition for fascism – a sense of victimhood, mass delusions and a disconnection with reality – has now been met. A majority of all Pakistanis believe that 9/11 was a Jewish conspiracy, think the dynamiting of schools and suicide attacks on shrines are the work of Blackwater (the US defence contractor now called Xe), see India’s hand behind Pakistan’s deepening instability and, refuse to accept Pakistan’s responsibility in the Mumbai attacks of November 2008. Many welcomed the murder of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer in January, despite the fact that his only ‘crime’ was to protect a poor peasant Christian woman against charges of blasphemy. Surveys also show that a majority believes that senior army officers do not support the Taliban, and think that peace will return to Pakistan once the US leaves Afghanistan.

Those holding such distorted views of the world greeted the news of bin Laden’s killing with outright disbelief and denial. Pakistan’s capacity for self-deception should not be underestimated. An online survey conducted two days after the operation by a global opinion pollster revealed that a staggering 66 percent of Pakistanis thought the person who was killed by US Navy SEALs was not bin Laden. Participants in satirical TV shows burst into peals of laughter as they poured scorn on America and its claims. The supposed killing of bin Laden was nothing but high drama, said popular TV anchors. General Mirza Aslam Beg, former army chief and the formulator of the notion of ‘strategic depth’ in Afghanistan, fully agreed. He wrote: ‘Osama’s look-alike prisoner from Bagram was picked-up and brought to Abbottabad and killed in cold blood, in front of his family members, who were living there. In fact, Osama had been killed in Afghanistan some time back and his body may still be lying in a mortuary in Afghanistan.’ Beg says it was all a ploy to defame the Pakistan government, the Pakistan armed forces and the ISI.

Rent-a-country

Over decades, Pakistan has adapted to its changing strategic circumstances by renting itself out to powerful states. Territory and men are part of the services provided. Payment comes not just from the US, but Arab countries as well. For fear of public criticism, the arrangements have been kept hidden. Pakistan’s supposedly vibrant press has chosen to steer off such controversial issues. But post bin-Laden, the clatter of skeletons tumbling out of Pakistan’s strategic closet is forcing some secrets out into the open. More:

An extremist takeover of Pakistan is probably no further than five to 10 years away

Pervez Hoodbhoy in Dawn:

Over time, then, the country’s nuclear bayonet has gained more than just deterrence value; it is a dream instrument for any ruling oligarchy. Unlike Napoleon’s bayonet – painful to sit upon – nukes offer no such discomfort. Unsurprisingly, General (retd) Pervez Musharraf often referred to them as Pakistan’s “crown jewels”. One recalls that immediately after 9/11 he declared these “assets” were to be protected at all costs — even if this meant accepting American demands to dump the Taliban.

But can our nukes lose their magic? Be stolen, rendered impotent or lose the charm through which they bring in precious revenue? More fundamentally, how and when could they fail to deter?

A turning point could possibly come with Mumbai-II. This is no idle speculation. The military establishment’s reluctance to clamp down on anti-India jihadi groups, or to punish those who carried out Mumbai-I, makes a second Pakistan-based attack simply a matter of time. Although not officially assisted or sanctioned, it would create fury in India. What then? How would India respond?

There cannot, of course, be a definite answer. But it is instructive to analyse Operation Parakram, India’s response to the attack on the Indian parliament on December 13, 2001. This 10-month-long mobilisation of nearly half a million soldiers and deployment of troops along the LOC was launched to punish Pakistan for harbouring the Jaish-e-Mohammad, which, at least initially, had claimed responsibility for the attack. When Parakram fizzled out, Pakistan claimed victory and India was left licking its wounds.

A seminar held in August 2003 in Delhi brought together senior Indian military leaders and top analysts to reflect on Parakram. To quote the main speaker, Major-General Ashok Mehta, the two countries hovered on the brink of war and India’s “coercive diplomacy failed due to the mismatch of India-US diplomacy and India’s failure to think through the end game”. The general gave several reasons for not going to war against Pakistan. These included a negative cost-benefit analysis, lack of enthusiasm in the Indian political establishment, complications arising from the Gujarat riots of 2002 and “a lack of courage”. That Parakram would have America’s unflinching support also turned out to be a false assumption. More:

Pakistan awaiting the clerical tsunami

In an interview with Viewpoint, Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy discusses the situation in Pakistan. Hoodbhoy received his undergraduate and PhD degrees from MIT and has been teaching nuclear and high-energy physics at Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad for 37 years. He also lectures at US universities and laboratories, and is a frequent commentator, on Pakistani TV channels as well as international media outlets, on various social and political issues. [via 3quarksdaily]

The murder of Governor Salman Taseer, who opposed Pakistan’s blasphemy law, has shocked the world. But in Pakistan the killer has become a hero for a sizeable section of society. Why?

In a society dominated by traditional religious values, heroism often means committing some violent and self-destructive act for preserving honor. Although Governor Taseer was not accused of blasphemy, his crime was to seek presidential pardon for an illiterate peasant Christian woman accused of blasphemy by some Muslim neighbours. Taseer’s intervention clearly crossed the current limits of toleration. With no party support, he went at it alone.

Malik Mumtaz Qadri – the official security guard who pumped 22 bullets into the man he was deputed to protect – is not the first such hero. The 19-year old illiterate who killed the author of the book “Rangeela Rasool” in the 1920’s, and was then executed by the British, was held in the highest esteem by the founders of Pakistan, Muhammad Iqbal and Muhammad Ali Jinnah. It is reported that Iqbal, regarded as Islam’s pre-eminent 20th century philosopher, placed the body in the grave with tears in his eyes and said: “This young man left us, the educated men, behind.” Ghazi Ilm-e-Deen is venerated by a mausoleum over his grave in Lahore.

In his court testimony, Taseer’s assassin proudly declared that he was executing Allah’s will. Hundreds of lawyers – made famous by the Black Coat Revolution that restored Pakistan’s Chief Justice – showered him with rose petals while he was in police custody. Two hundred lawyers signed a pledge vowing to defend him for free. Significantly, Qadri is a Barelvi Muslim belonging to the Dawat-e-Islami, and 500 clerics of this faith supported his action in a joint declaration. They said that those who sympathized with Taseer deserved similar punishment.

Significantly most of these mullahs are part of the Sunni Tehreek and are supposedly anti-Taliban moderates. Indeed, one of their leaders, Maulana Sarfaraz Naeemi, was blown up by a Taliban suicide bomber in June 2009 after he spoke out against suicide bombings. But now these “moderates” have joined hands with their attackers. Jointly they rule Pakistan’s streets today, while a cowardly and morally bankrupt government cringes and caves in to their every demand.

Pakistani voters have always voted for secular-leaning parties but it appears that today the religious parties actually represent popular discourse. Do you concur?

Yes, I do. Those who claim that Pakistan’s silent majority is fundamentally secular and tolerant may be clutching at straws. They argue that the religious parties don’t get the popular vote and so cannot really be popular. But this is wishful thinking. The mullah parties are unsuccessful only because they are geared for street politics, not electoral politics. They also lack charismatic leadership and have bitter internal rivalries. However the victory of the MMA after 911 shows that they are capable of closing ranks. It is also perfectly possible that a natural leader will emerge and cause an electoral landslide in the not too distant future.

But even without winning elections, the mullah parties are immensely more powerful in determining how you and I live than election-winning parties like the PPP and ANP. For a long time the religious right has dictated what we can or cannot teach in our public and private schools. No government ever had the guts to dilute the hate materials being forced down young throats. They also dictate what you and I can wear, eat, or drink. Their unchallenged power has led to Pakistan’s cultural desertification because they violently oppose music, dance, theatre, art, and intellectual inquiry.

To be sure there are scattered islands of normality in urban Pakistan. But these are shrinking. Yes, the Baluch nationalists are secular, and so is the ethnically-driven MQM in Karachi. But these constitute a tiny fraction of the population. More:

Why do they pick on us Pakistanis?

Pervez Hoodbhoy in The Express Tribune. The writer teaches physics at Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad. These remarks are excerpted from a recent talk he gave in Washington DC to Pakistani professionals settled in America:

My green passport requires standing in a separate immigration line once my plane lands at Boston’s Logan airport. The ‘special attention’ from Homeland Security, although polite, adds an extra two to three hours. I belong to the fortunate few who can get a visa, but I am still annoyed. Having travelled to the US frequently for forty years, I now find a country that once warmly welcomed Pakistanis to be strangely cold. The reason is clear.

Foreigners carrying strong negative feelings — or perhaps harmful intentions — are unlikely to find enthusiastic hosts. I know that the man who tried to bomb Times Square, Faisal Shahzad, a graduate of the University of Bridgeport, is my compatriot. So is Aafia Siddiqui, our new-found dukhtur-e-millat (daughter of the nation). Another Pakistani, Farooque Ahmed, with a degree from the College of Staten Island, made headline news in November 2010 after his abortive attempt to blow up DC Metro trains.

If such violent individuals were rarities, their nationality would matter little. But their actions receive little or no criticism in a country consumed by bitter anti-Americanism, which now exceeds its anti-Indianism.

Example: after the Faisal Shahzad news broke in early May 2010, TV channels in Pakistan switched to denial mode. Popular anchors freely alleged conspiracies against Islam and Pakistan. None revisited their claims after Shahzad proudly pleaded guilty in June. Calling himself a “Muslim soldier”, he read a prepared statement: “It’s a war … I’m going to plead guilty a hundred times over”. More:

Pakistan’s drones

Pervez Hoodbhoy at Viewpoint:

Pervez Hoodbhoy Pakistan has many more drones than America . These are mullah-trained and mass-produced in madrassas and militant training camps. Their handlers are in Waziristan, not in Nevada . Like their aerial counterparts, they do not ask why they must kill. However, their targets lie among their own people, not in some distant country. Collateral damage does not matter.

The human drone is infinitely better manufactured than its aerial counterpart. The motor, feedback, and control systems have been engineered to high precision by natural evolution over a million years. This drone never misses its target, which could be a mosque, Muslim shrine, hospital, funeral, or market. But military and intelligence headquarters have been targeted with deadly precision as well.

The walking (or driving) drone’s trail is far bloodier than that of the MQ-1B or MQ-9; body parts lie scattered across Pakistan . Detection is almost impossible. The destructive power has steadily increased. The earlier version had a simple bomb strapped on the back but the newer one carries plastic explosives packed into vests both on the front and back of the chest. For additional killing power, the explosives are surrounded with ball bearings and nails. This killing machine is far cheaper than anything General Dynamics can make. Part payment is made by monthly installments to the family, and the rest is in hoor-credits, encashable in janat-al-firdous.

What must be the last thoughts of the bomber as he sits in the eight row of mosque worshippers, moments before he reduces dozens of his fellow Muslims to bloodied corpses? Can he think beyond instrumental terms? As a murder weapon, the human drone has no room for moral judgment, doubt, remorse, or conscience. More:

Can the Left become relevant to Islamic Pakistan?

Pervez Hoodbhoy in New Politics (via 3quarksdaily):

The left has always been a marginal actor on Pakistan’s national scene. While this bald truth must be told, in no way do I wish to belittle the enormous sacrifices made by numerous progressive individuals, as well as small groups. They unionized industrial and railway workers, helped peasants organize against powerful landlords, inspired Pakistan’s minority provinces to demand their rights, set standards of writing and journalism, etc. But the Left has never had a national presence and, even at its peak during the 1970s, could not muster even a fraction of the street power of the Islamic or mainstream parties.

A comparison with India is telling. While the Indian Left has also never attained state power — or even come close to exercising power and influence on the scale of the Congress Party — it looms large in states like Kerala, Tripura, and West Bengal where it successfully ended iniquitous feudal land relations. Across the country it helps maintain a secular polity, protects minorities, keeps alive a broad focus on progressive ideas in culture, art, and education, and uses science to fight superstition. Today, a Maoist movement militantly challenges the depredations of capitalism as it wreaks destruction on their native habitat. Left-inspired movements noticeably impeded passage of the U.S.-India nuclear deal. Indeed, for all its divisions and in-fighting, the Indian Left is a significant political force that is a thousand times stronger than its Pakistani counterpart.

Surely this difference begs an explanation. The answer is to be found in Pakistan’s genesis and the overwhelming role of religion in matters of the state. Understanding this point in detail is crucial to the question: how can one hope to make the Pakistani Left relevant in the future? Are there intelligent ways to deal with a major handicap? More:

Why Pakistan is not a nation

Pervez Hoodbhoy at Himal Southasian:

Illustration by Saira Wasim

The lack of nationhood can be traced to the genesis of Pakistan and the single factor that drove it – religious identity. Carved out of Hindu-majority India, Pakistan was the culmination of the competition and conflict between natives who had converted to Islam and those who had not. Converts often identified with Arab invaders of the last millennium. Shah Waliullah (1703-62), a ‘purifier’ of Islam on the Subcontinent who despised local traditions, famously declared ‘We [Hindustanis] are an Arab people whose fathers have fallen in exile in the country of Hindustan, and Arabic genealogy and the Arabic language are our pride.’

The founder of Pakistan, Mohamed Ali Jinnah, also echoed the separateness of Muslims and Hindus, basing the struggle for Pakistan on the premise that the two peoples could never live together peacefully within one nation state. But Jinnah was unrecognisably different from Waliullah, a bearded religious scholar. An impeccably dressed Westernised man with Victorian manners, a secular outlook and an appreciation of fine foods and wines, Jinnah nevertheless eloquently articulated the fears and aspirations of an influential section of his co-religionists. Interestingly, he was opposed by a large section of the conservative ulema, such as Maulana Maudoodi of the Jamaat-e-Islami, who said that Islam must not be confined to national borders. But Jinnah and his Muslim League won the day by insisting that Muslims constituted a distinct nation that would be overwhelmed in post-British India by a larger and better-educated Hindu majority.

Thus Pakistan, in essence, was created as the negative of India: it was not India. But what was it, then, beyond being a homeland for Muslims? Decades after the horrific bloodbath of Partition, the idea of Pakistan remains hotly debated. It did not help that Jinnah died in 1948, just a year after Pakistan was born, with his plans still ambiguously stated. He authored no books and wrote no policy paper. He did make many speeches, of which several were driven by political expediency and are frankly contradictory. These are freely cherry-picked today, with some finding in them a liberal and secular voice; others, an embodiment of Islamic values. The confusion is irresolvable. More:

Faisal Shahzad’s anti-Americanism

Pervez Hoodbhoy in Dawn:

As anti-US lava spews from the fiery volcanoes of Pakistan’s private television channels and newspapers, a collective psychosis grips the country’s youth. Murderous intent follows with the conviction that the US is responsible for all ills, both in Pakistan and the world of Islam.

Faisal Shahzad, with designer sunglasses and an MBA degree from the University of Bridgeport, acquired that murderous intent. Living his formative years in Pakistan, he typifies the young Pakistani who grew up in the shadow of Ziaul Haq’s hate-based education curriculum. The son of a retired air vice-marshal, life was easy as was getting US citizenship subsequently. But at some point the toxic schooling and media tutoring must have kicked in.

There was guilt as he saw pictures of Gaza’s dead children and related them to US support for Israel. Internet browsing or, perhaps, the local mosque steered him towards the idea of an Islamic caliphate. This solution to the world’s problems would require, of course, the US to be destroyed. Hence Shahzad’s self-confessed trip to Waziristan.

Ideas considered extreme a decade ago are now mainstream. A private survey carried out by a European embassy based in Islamabad found that only four per cent of Pakistanis polled speak well of America; 96 per cent against. More:

Reinventing Pakistan

Pervez Hoodbhoy at Chowk:

The determination to emphasize a singular Muslim national identity, and maintain a centralized state structure run by the colonial-era ruling elite, became the basis for governance. It proved to be Pakistan’s greatest burden. This became evident as the Baloch, Pashtuns, Sindhis, and most dramatically the Bengalis in East Pakistanis, launched struggles to be respected and pursue their own dreams. The independence of East Pakistan thirty years ago should have ended the illusion that religion and force can hold people together in the face of injustice and a lack of democracy.

Yet, religion still remains the strongest bonding factor. A recent survey of 2000 young Pakistanis in the 18-27 age group found that three-quarters identify themselves first as Muslims and only secondly as Pakistanis. Just 14% defined themselves as citizens of Pakistan first. Dejected and adrift, most see religion as their anchor. The common refrain of the post-Zia generation is that “every issue will be solved if we go back to the fundamentals of Islam.”

But these “fundamentals” have multiple interpretations that fuel divisive and violent political forces, each convinced that they alone understand God’s will. Murderous wars between Sunni and Shia militias started in the late 1980′s. Today, even those favoring the utopian vision of an ideal Islamic state are frightened by the Pakistani Taliban who seek to impose their version of sharia through the Kalashnikov and suicide bombings. More:

India & Pakistan: case for common defence

This article by Pervez Hoodbhoy was published simultaneously today in Pakistan (Dawn) and India (The Hindu):

So, how can India protect itself from invaders across its western border and grave injury? Just as importantly, how can we in Pakistan assure that the fight against fanatics is not lost?

Let me make an apparently outrageous proposition: in the coming years, India’s best protection is likely to come from its traditional enemy, the Pakistan Army. Therefore, India ought to help now, not fight against it.

This may sound preposterous. After all, the two countries have fought three-and-a-half wars over six decades. During periods of excessive tension, they have growled at each other while meaningfully pointing towards their respective nuclear arsenals. Most recently, after heightened tensions following the Mumbai massacre, Pakistani troops were moved out of North West Frontier Province towards the eastern border. Baitullah Mehsud’s offer to jointly fight India was welcomed by the Pakistan Army. More:


India’s nuclear fizzle

Why blow the whistle 11 years later? Think President Obama’s initiative to revive the CTBT. By rubbishing the Pokhran II tests as a failure, India’s nuclear hawks hope to make the case for more nuclear tests. Pervez Hoodbhoy, professor of nuclear physics at Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad, in Outlook:

Suspicion has now turned into confirmed fact: India’s hydrogen bomb test of May 1998 was not the fantastic success it was claimed to be. Last week’s dramatic revelation by K. Santhanam, a senior DRDO official with important responsibilities at the 1998 Pokhran test site, has essentially confirmed conclusions known from seismic analysis after the explosion.

Instead of 45 kilotons of destructive energy, the explosion had produced only 15 to 20. The bomb had not worked as designed.

Why blow the whistle 11 years later? An irresistible urge to tell the truth or moral unease is scarcely the reason. Santhanam’s ‘coming clean’ has the stamp of approval of the most hawkish of Indian nuclear hawks. Among them are P.K. Iyengar, A.N. Prasad, Bharat Karnad and Brahma Chellaney.

By rubbishing the earlier test as a failure, they hope to make the case for more nuclear tests. This would enable India to develop a full-scale thermonuclear arsenal.

As is well known, a thermonuclear (or hydrogen) bomb is far more complex than the relatively simple fission weapon first tested by India in 1974 and by Pakistan in 1998. Advanced weapons needs fine-tuning to achieve their full destructiveness – France had to test 22 times to achieve perfection. More:

Pakistan’s westward drift

Pervez Hoodbhoy in Himal:

For three decades, deep tectonic forces have been silently tearing Pakistan away from the Subcontinent and driving it towards the Arabian Peninsula. This continental drift is not geophysical but cultural, driven by a belief that Pakistan must exchange its Southasian identity for an Arab-Muslim one. Grain by grain, the desert sands of Saudi Arabia are replacing the alluvium that had nurtured Muslim culture in the Indian Subcontinent for over a thousand years. A stern, unyielding version of Islam – Wahhabism – is replacing the kinder, gentler Islam of the Sufis and saints.

This drift is by design. Twenty-five years ago, the Pakistani state pushed Islam onto its people. Prayers in government departments were deemed compulsory; floggings were carried out publicly; punishments were meted out to those who did not fast during Ramadan; selection for academic posts required that the candidates demonstrate knowledge of Islamic teachings, and the jihad was emphasised as essential for every Muslim. Today, such government intervention is no longer needed due to the spontaneous groundswell of Islamic zeal. The notion of an Islamic state – as yet in some amorphous and diffused form – is more popular than ever before, as people look desperately for miracles to rescue a failing state. Across the country, there has been a spectacular increase in the power and prestige of the clerics, attendance in mosques, home prayer meetings (dars and zikr), observance of special religious festivals, and fasting during Ramadan.

More:

Crossing The Lines: The battle for Kashmir

Some four years back, academics and peace activists Pervez Hoodbhoy and Zia Mian produced a documentary film, Crossing The Lines, that examines the human face of the conflict between India and Pakistan over Kashmir.

The documentary was produced for the Eqbal Ahmad Foundation and was shown on many university campuses and at private screenings. Recently, it was uploaded on YouTube:

Hoodbhoy is a professor of nuclear physics at the Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad. He graduated and also received PhD from MIT and continues to do research in Particle physics. Zia Mian is a research scientist with the programme on science and global security, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University. [via 3quarksdaily]

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fr2PiD4c5rE

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=klsOKxgicKQ

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ory6Tv1ZvWk

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7fNR_qDw76E

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dYyeLVb08dQ

Ten years later

Pervez Hoodbhoy on the tenth anniversary of Pakistan’s testing of the nuclear bomb in Dawn [via 3QuarksDaily]

IT’S May 1998 and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif congratulates wildly cheering citizens as the Chagai mountain trembles and goes white from multiple nuclear explosions. He declares that Pakistan is now safe and sound forever.

Bomb makers become national heroes. Schoolchildren are handed free badges with mushroom clouds. Bomb and missile replicas are planted in cities up and down the land. Welcome to nuclear Pakistan.

Fast-forward the video 10 years. Pakistan turns into a different country, deeply insecure and afraid for its future. Grim-faced citizens see machine-gun bunkers, soldiers crouched behind sandbags, barbed wire and barricaded streets. In Balochistan and Fata, helicopter gunships and fighter jets swarm the skies.

Today, we are at war on multiple fronts. But the bomb provides no defence. Rather, it has helped bring us to this grievously troubled situation and offers no way out. On this awful anniversary, it is important that we relate the present to the past.

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