Sunday, November 27, 2016

Ignored heroes of Islamic history

Dr. Umar Khan
Dr. Khan belongs to a Lahore based Think Tank.


Ignored heroes of Islamic history

“A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.”

Heroes are people who display outstanding feats of courage, nobility and achievements and all nations need them, and those who are not blessed with them invent them. They serve as role models for the younger generations instilling the qualities in them that the society feels are important. In addition making and glamorizing the heroes is a way of a nation of thanking them. Considering the effects and consequences of heroes in a nation their selection becomes most important. Islamic history is full of heroes mostly winning battles and annexing territory but as a student of history I found it strange that probably 2 most outstanding achiever Muslims with greatest service to Islam and Muslims are absolutely unknown and ignored. After the Sahaba it’s hard to find people with so much service to Muslims and humanity, yet undiscovered and ignored. This is not only unfair with these great men but also with the Islamic history and Muslims too. I am referring to grandson of Genghis, Burke Khan and the great Chinese admiral Zheng He.

Islamic civilization went through an absolute devastation in the early thirteenth century which might be categorized as Islamic holocaust. After killing 11% of the humanity and 40% of Islamic population in early 13th century, Genghis died and his empire was divided in 4 parts. Burke Khan eventually became the ruler of the Golden Horde in areas close to Europe while his cousin Halagu Khan ruled areas comprising modern Iran and Central Asia.

Halagu continued this tirade against Muslims and in 1258 conquered the seat of Khilafat in Baghdad annihilating most of its population and culture. Libraries were burnt, fields and orchards destroyed and centuries old culture of learning absolutely wiped out. This destruction was to the extent that many historians feel that the Islamic society is yet to recover from this devastation eight hundred years ago. Following Baghdad he moved westwards and after subduing Damascus he targeted Egypt, the last bastion of Islamic power whose fate appeared sealed. On the way he got news of death of the Great Khan, Mongke, and had to go to Mongolia. In the meantime his generals with a small army tried to get to Egypt but were beaten at Ain Jalut by the Mamluks, Qutuz and Babrs. Halagu was furious and was returning in 1261 with the single aim to avenge this defeat. He was to punish the locals even more brutally and later he was targeting his wrath towards Mecca and Medina, Islam’s holiest places.

Meanwhile Burke had embraced Islam around 1252 and was disturbed about this tragedy of Baghdad and tried his best to stop Halagu. After Baghdad he wrote a letter to the Great Khan, Mongke Khan, in Mongolia stating,
"He (Halagu) has sacked all the cities of the Muslims. With the help of God I will call him to account for so much innocent blood."
He supported the Mamluks at Ain Jalut and then militarily engaged Halagu, his cousin around Caucuses. Now Mongols were killing Mongols and not Muslims. This Halagu-Berke war was long and indecisive but weakened Halagu as he never regained his strength to attack Muslims again. Soon after Halagu died and the worst nightmare of Muslims ended. Allama Iqbal says,
“Pasban mil gaye Kaabe ko sanam khane se”

Burke Khan fought Halagu just for his adherence and love for Islam and not for any worldly gains. This war weakened him as a Mongol ruler, affected his campaign in Europe but his commitment to Islam was more than anything. Shivers go down the spine when one speculates what could have happened if Halagu had continued his campaign against Muslims unabashed. Islamic culture and society might not have recovered or even survived. Today’s world could have been different. Berke Khan certainly deserves to be included among the greatest Muslims ever born.

Haji Mahmud or Admiral Zheng He 1371-1433 was a Hui Muslim whose father was killed in front of him while he was a child. He was made a eunuch by castration and sent as a servant of a prince where he rose by his valor and qualities. After the prince became king with Zheng He’s support, he made Zheng an admiral with a task to command the greatest armada ever seen and sail the oceans acting as his envoy. He sailed to present day Philippines, Malaya, India, Ceylon Arabian peninsula and Africa. Some even claim that he discovered Australia and America centuries before the Europeans did.

Wherever he went he established settlements with his most trustworthy people many of them being Muslims. He is reported to have supported Muslim communities wherever he went. During one of his 7 journeys he went for Hajj with his 250 ship armada in the footsteps of his late father who had performed Haj travelling by land and prided in getting called a Haji. The next Chinese king called off these voyages and China went into seclusion causing terrible decay ultimately weakening China to the extent that small European nations would colonize and ridicule her. Many believe that Chinese history could have been different and without the humiliating stories like the opium wars had Zhen He’s legacy continued. A significant Muslim population in Mindanao, Malaya, Sri Lanka and many other places owes its allegiance to Islam to this great man, more than any king I know of.

Zheng He showed the world how tragedies and setbacks can be made to work as blessings in disguise, an extraordinary example. He didn’t let his orphaning, castration or enslavement become impediments and worked wonders. He showed the world how Muslims believing in Allah can overcome the impediments. He showed the world that Muslims can be great patriots in a non Muslim world while remaining committed to their faith. He showed the world that Muslims everywhere are a brotherhood and this brotherhood is not against anyone. He also showed how positive, constructive and universal the appeal of Islam could be.

How many of the readers were aware of these heroes and there heroism? Not many I suppose. It’s not the fault of our generation as enough effort, study and thought has not been put in selection of heroes for Islamic history with obvious negative effects. Many of the heroes that we are taught should not be categorized as heroes at all. Most of the great scholars like Ibn I Rushed, philosophers like Bulley Shah and other great men were ostracized in their own times and must be discovered and given a place in history they deserve. All kinds of dishonesty or ignorance are harmful but the intellectual dishonesty can be the most damaging. We in the Islamic world have now produced skillful people in sciences and other trades, although more need to be done, but we haven’t produced a single historian of good standing. History is being constantly rewritten by different extremists criticizing Islam unjustly and we haven’t been able to answer them sufficiently. Hindu extremists have started challenging Aryan invasions which doesn’t suit them and equating Muslim rulers with negativity with dubious reasoning. Anti Muslim rhetoric is going on unabashed and must be countered intellectually.

Saying goes, “If you do not learn history, geography will teach you a lesson” and we have been repeatedly given lessons which we couldn’t learn.
Let us be kind to our history, heroes and the future generations. We need to send our bright minds to this most important science of studying and writing of history. We need to break the monopoly of inadequately educated clergy to lead, determine and interpret our great religion, culture and society. Islamic world needs to reread and rewrite its history with the enlightened mind modern sciences has created and find our real heroes who did so much for the world.
We owe it to our children and our real Heroes.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Pakistan’s too numerous Martyrs

.Dr. Umar Khan
Dr. Khan belongs to a Lahore based Think Tank.


Pakistan’s too numerous Martyrs

It is more difficult, and it calls for higher energies of soul, to live a martyr than to die one. Horace Mann

Turned on the TV early morning and heard the news of more Pakistanis getting martyred. These 7 handsome young men were serving in the disputed area of Kashmir when Indians started firing. The nation again saw the pictures of its martyrs followed by footage of mourning relatives and a dignified funeral with uniformed armed soldiers paying respects in the military way. Have been watching such funerals just too many times, might be time to do something about this tragic issue. A bit of research made me discover the number of martyrs in Pakistan from 2004 until the end of 2013.
Civilian deaths                        48054
Journalists                               45
Civilians killed by drones       416-951
Pakistani security forces         5498
Militants                                  26862
Total                                        81324-81860
Children of APS and students of Bacha Khan University and many later victims are not included in this figure and can make it look worse. Too many for any nation, probably one the highest in the world. The other troublesome fact was that despite losing so many innocent people we are always viewed suspiciously, asked to do more, and blamed for problems around the world. While it is desirable to glorify the martyrs but our glorification zeal should not distract us from questioning why we have so many martyrs, apparently an unending supply. Are we getting too callous with the lives of our young? Were these ultimate sacrifices necessary? Could their deaths be prevented? Was it someone’s complacency and negligence?

We have to establish the fact the martyrs might be our heroes but they are also victims, very tragic victims. Although it is desirable to have people willing to die for a cause but someone lusting for death is certainly abnormal. We must stop venerating death, something we have done too long. On national days most are expressing their desire to die for the country and never to live and work for it. Instead we should encourage our youth to live with ideals, something even more challenging, In our zeal to glorify our dead as martyrs we shouldn’t create a further generation of young men seeking early, violent death to be called martyrs and neither lose sight of the causes of this heavy loss of lives.

Someone who sacrifices his life for his nation or ideology is considered a martyr and glorified. Naturally for their sacrifice and bravado they are held in high esteem in every culture. Our forces are trained to kill and whenever there is a martyr it is a failure somewhere although certain numbers of casualties might be inevitable in a conflict. There are two kinds of martyrs, uniformed and armed soldiers who voluntarily get into dangerous situations, then there are involuntary martyrs who were not fighting or facing danger but got into wrong place at the wrong time like APS children. We have had more than enough of both these kinds. In the second kind, it is always failure of someone or some government organizations that let it happen and must be held responsible.

The major reasons for our extremely troubling high frequency of loss of life are our eagerness to get involved in too many wars and secondly our inability to curtail violence effectively. This is despite having one of the highest numbers of armed uniformed men in Pakistan and many government security agencies enjoying lavish perks and privileges.

Pakistan was born in 1947 with estranged relations with India due to Kashmir, like we say in Punjabi “Sharika”. This hostility did cause and is still causing loss of lives in both covert and open wars. Later we got into a habit of getting into unnecessary foreign wars. We entered the not so cold war in 1979 fighting the Soviet Union in which we sacrificed but US won. We were cunningly sold the narrative that it was our own war giving us an absolute euphoria of beating a world power at the demise of USSR. This led to megalomania of a small but influential segment of Pakistan resulting in its support of fighters in Bosnia, Chechnya, Kashmir and the world over. During this time the world changed and our support for noble jehad became support of terrorism.

This policy of supporting covert operations was a disaster internationally. We were effectively ostracized and even friends like China and Iran have complains against us. Our neighbor Afghanistan for whom we risked our own security, welcomed millions, has become the most venomous critic of Pakistan. Had we not started op Zarb I Azab this isolation would have worsened.

Mushrooming of irregular outfits we called Jihadists overflowed in our society too and we started having sectarian along with communal fights. We fostered strange ideas of strategic depth and tried to influence our neighboring countries. Violence of all kinds and shades became acceptable and the monopoly of the state vanished.

All these series of blunders committed in the 80s and 90s have resulted in the current pathetic condition of Pakistan. Despite having a very high number of martyrs we are the only country in the world whose size has been constantly shrinking whether in 1971 or Kargil or Siachen. Much of the world is annoyed with us and many are fighting their wars in our country resulting in major loss of life and property.

It is pointed out by many academics that Pakistan’s eagerness to get into other’s wars wasn’t as benign as some led us to believe. In the process of entangling us in foreign wars some of us got opportunity to rule long terms, many made fortunes while the common man paid the price in blood. This must stop.

To undo the follies of our past we must start with our commitment not to support or nurture violence of any kind. In one voice the society must give a stern message to armed groups to disarm and anyone who challenges states monopoly over violence must be crushed.

Once we have disinfected ourselves then we ought to find the remnants of interests who put us in this difficult situation and make sure such state of affairs never arise again. We have to build a competent diplomatic core and hand them over the responsibility of running the foreign policy, biggest defense of a nation.  

This will allow us to focus on our people and invest in them as they are our most valuable national asset. Divert resources towards health and education.

Then we must find out the inefficiencies and shortcomings within out state apparatus letting the massacre of APS children and many others happen. If GHQ, air and naval bases can be attacked it has to be someone’s fault but I am not aware of any such inquiry or its report, or the punishment of the negligent. This impunity must end. We should criticize and correct our institutions for their complacency and slackness while refraining from insults or ridicule and punish those responsible of these tragedies.

Pakistanis are the most wonderful people. Intelligent, energetic, enterprising and unbelievably resilient, whenever given an opportunity they have worked miracles. They certainly deserve better. Pakistani blood is valuable and must be protected and valued, even from themselves.

“Na samjho ge mit jao ge ae Hindustan walo
Tumhari dastaan bhi na rahe gi daastanon me” Iqbal
*please substitute word Hindustan with Pakistan

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Pakistan, country or a hunting ground?

Dr. Umar Khan
Dr. Khan belongs to a Lahore based Think Tank.

Pakistan, country or a hunting ground? 

A few hours before the next governor was to take oath Ishratul Ibad Khan flew out of the country to Dubai. He had been the Governor of Sind for 14 years despite very serious allegations including murder, torture, extortion and corruption. He was living abroad and came back home to be the governor and when he was ousted he bode goodbye. He is no exception, before him Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz also flew off immediately after completion of his term while involving in some very dubious policies including investing billions in CNG for cars while we didn’t have enough for basic industry or domestic purpose. Naturally he couldn’t be questioned. Earlier PM Moeen Qureshi also landed just for a brief period to rule. Some of our rulers were more courageous and spent a few days not being in government and left later like Zardari and Musharraf. The interesting thing is that all these ruling class people became richer after their stint in power. It appears that a class has developed that doesn’t see Pakistan as a country of 180 million people rather some kind of wild west or a hunting ground to making fortunes, all this at the expense of its people.

This unfortunate tendency is not limited to the ruling party as many opposition parties are also based abroad. PPP of Zardari is effectively controlled from Dubai, MQM of Altaf Hussain from London for more than a quarter century with its target killers in SA, and even Musharraf is trying to operate politically from Dubai.

Most of our bureaucratic and military leadership also carries a foreign citizenship and leaves Pakistan immediately after retirement when more illegitimate money making becomes unlikely. Admiral Mansoor and Gen Zahid after minting millions went abroad and got sanitized after paying a fraction to NAB. These are just a few examples and if we search the pockets of rich and mighty we will find most with foreign passports hidden. This situation has created many shady expatriate businessmen joining in the golden dip like Mansur Ejaz and Saifur Rehman, who only jump in to collect their share maintaining tremendous arrogance.

Cabinet meetings of Sind provincial government are regularly held abroad aa are most important decisions of ruling N League explaining PMs numerous trips to UK. This gives a feeling of Pakistan being ruled from abroad by another profit seeking East India Company manned by darker skinned people this time with lower scruples and increased arrogance.

Most of these foreign based rulers of Pakistan keep all savings and investments abroad too. Some of them might not have been caught by now as Nawaz and family are with Panama leaks, but most probably have foreign accounts and properties acquired through corruption and looting of Pakistan. This along with their progeny settled abroad reduces their stakes in longevity or well-being of Pakistan and it shows. Their lack of concern for Pakistan and its people is all too obvious.

This has resulted in Pakistan going downhill for the last many decades. Exports have gone down and debt is rising. This is even though we live in a blessed country enjoying a fabulous location and natural resources. We have one of the highest illiteracy rates and malnourished children despite having one of the most fertile land and ample water. It might be true that like Congo and other African countries we have allowed our blessings to be our enemies. This trend of being ruled by foreigners of color must end if Pakistan wishes to rid of its problems and find a respectable place in the world.

First, we should start treating economic crimes and corruption at par with the most heinous crimes like murder and terrorism. It has been established that corruption/economic terrorism causes more deaths and sufferings than terrorism or any other crime. We admire and follow China in many fields and might be well advised to follow them here too with dispensing capital punishment to the economic terrorists. Our poor and downtrodden certainly deserve justice.

Secondly we must make a policy not to let people with a foreign nationality or investments abroad get at the helm of our affairs. If somehow someone gets into that position secretly he should be punished like other crimes per the law. We just can’t afford to have people making decision who don’t have any stakes in our society.

Thirdly, we can make a law to bar bureaucrats, army officers, politicians and other holders of high offices from going and settling abroad for at least 10 years after retirement. During this period their performance should be investigated and they should be further rewarded if found deserving or otherwise. They must not be allowed to slip away until they clear their accounts.

There are two kinds of Pakistani expats, 1st kind are the most numerous hardworking patriotic Pakistanis who are more concerned for the well-being of their place of birth than most of Pakistani residents. These patriots are doing a lot for running Pakistan’s economy and serving its diplomatic interests. They earn abroad and send money back home, over $20 billion annually. For comparison, I must remind that US has been giving 1.5B and making us fight its wars, getting people killed and listen to its ‘do more” rhetoric. Our current prosperity is substantially dependent on this largesse. A blessing to have this group of people. These patriotic Pakistanis deserve voting rights, dignified treatment and ease of travel to their home country. Their property and investments need to be secured too. We owe a lot to them.

Then there is another group mentioned above that takes Pakistani money out of the country, mostly earned illegally. They have predatorial instincts and have eaten their country of birth hollow. Making illegitimate money is bad, but taking it out is worse as it shrinks the economy making everyone suffer. With their stakes in other countries, some of them hostile towards Pakistan, they serve the purpose of others along with their personal. They might be great bullies in Pakistan but abroad they are the most pliable because foreign governments are aware of their weaknesses including ill-gotten wealth. They routinely make money in Pakistan and take it abroad, again illegally. They are bleeding Pakistan and we can afford it.

We must take our future back from the clutches of foreigners of all shades and types. Must declare that Pakistan is a country of 180 million intelligent and hardworking people and not a “game”. Must not let another East India Company loot us again. For this must follow the age-old principle of not allowing the captain of the ship jump first or the pilot of a passenger airplane eject out for his personal safety while risking the lives of others. Pakistan should be managed by people whose future and stakes are tied with their country.

During this we must protect our country from predators and vultures who are always looking for their share of flesh.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Imran Khan at his political best.

Dr. Umar Khan
Dr. Khan belongs to a Lahore based Think Tank.


Imran at his political best

“Crooks might have a hundred days but a single day of law is heavier” Punjabi saying.

Calling off the lockdown of Islamabad after Supreme Court’s acceptance of Panama case opened the flood gates of criticism and ridicule for Imran Khan. He was called master of u turn, unstable and a lot of other things. Surprisingly the biggest critics of his decision were also the biggest opponents of his threat to lockdown Islamabad calling it a conspiracy against Pakistan. This well-oiled ridicule brigade of his political foes was doing it with a difference this time, they had a somber face and lacked the well-known energy and confidence in their voice. On the contrary some close observers thought that it was Imran’s best political decision since entering politics, his political coming of age. He caught the master manipulator Nawaz, someone in power for most of last 35 years, on the wrong foot forced to give explanations he doesn’t have. All this with a single master stroke of not insisting on resignation.

Panama leaks became public 7 months back from nowhere as Gods blessings for reformers and an absolute disaster for Nawaz Sharif and his family. It confirmed what everyone knew all along that Nawaz and his family owned very expensive property in London raising very serious questions about his integrity. Nawaz always denied it and tried to pose as an honest, God fearing politician, kind of a saint. With very effective use of media and organized image building he partially succeeded,

On the other had Imran always characterized Nawaz as the most corrupt and dishonest politician who uses elected offices for his personal gains making the people suffer while harming the country. These allegations were taken serious by a significant segment of society but his inability to prove disheartened many. The last tirade against rigging in elections and decision by the Nasir ul Mulk commission made many resign to their fate of the invincibility of the well-entrenched but corrupt politicians. Road appeared clear for Nawaz encouraging him to get aggressive and pick more fights, his favorite hobby, and he opened unnecessary fronts. And then came the Panama leaks indicting him.

Nawaz and coterie very effectively dealt with it by ridiculing, diffusing and distracting the issue. Their first phase was a nervous one in which they gave different self-incriminating statements but later stabilized. Without giving any reasonable explanation others were attacked with allegations and even the philanthropic hospitals weren’t spared. They created lot of commotion trying to diffuse the topic of Panama papers. Later a commission was proposed with TORs that could only create confusion. Think of it, how can anyone hope for someone to make a probing commission with the ability to convict himself? An absolute preposterous situation. One of the cabinet members openly declared that people will forget Panama leaks and focus on the next crisis.

PTI tried to investigate and resolve Panama issue in the Parliament but nothing happened. NAB refused citing some strange reasons as did FIA, FBR and everyone else. Supreme Court also wanted some reasonable TORs while its clerical management returned PTIs petition labelling it as frivolous. All doors were closed.

This strategy of ducking the issue worked well for 6 months in which Imran tried to bring other opposition parties together but their intentions were dubious from the very beginning. Many argue that after the COD Pakistan’s polity became a one party system where 2 major parties would take turns at center while having permanent power in their respective provinces doing whatever they want unchecked. Excellent plan but not realizing that lacunas don’t last, new factors arise to fill them and this didn’t last long either.

Short of options Imran announced lockdown of Islamabad with very serious risks. Government opposed it vehemently even jeopardizing the unity of the country by effectively cutting of the capital, something Imran had threatened. Message of Nawaz and the government was clear; at any cost we will not let allegations against us investigated. When armed showdown between Punjab and KPK police was narrowly averted all serious sections of the society were forced to respond and resolve the issue of Panama Papers. Finally, the honorable courts took the matter in their hands and Imran called off his strike ensuring the probe of Panama scandal and accountability of the accused.

Imran got what he wanted while his opponents wanted and expected him to be stubborn insisting on PMs resignation which was out of question. With the lock down of Islamabad Nawaz and his media team would have labelled Imran a trouble maker, immature, greedy for power, lacking respect for law and institutions and host of other negatives. Now; after ridicule of PTI finally Nawaz will have to explain where he got the money for expensive flats in London and how he transferred it. He has no answers to these questions because if he had he would not be evading the issue and would have shut his opponents’ mouths by disclosing evidence. This can effectively criminalize Nawaz destroying his decades of image building and political career.

Nawaz Sharif is no ordinary politician; he certainly possesses some kind of Chamak, as mentioned by BB, that has enabled him to get away with the things absolutely unimaginable in the past. He can still be expected to resist and disrupt this situation too although he is running out of options. Many argue that Nawaz has influenced this society more than anyone including Bhutto. He is a pioneer of a system of muk muka. He got away with filthy allegations against BB and came out as clean. Pioneered horse trading at Changa Manga, taking bribes from agencies, only Pakistani PM to get reinstated by SC where the CJ announced the judgement on the first day and heard the case later. This list is endless. He physically attacked Supreme Court in 1997 and can do it again. He resorted to provincialism with Jaag Punjabi Jaag earlier and can do it again. He sent people loaded with money to Quetta and can do it again. He still has a very effective media team ready to disrupt and malign. Imran and the society cannot be complacent and must make sure Panama scandal is properly investigated and the guilty punished.

Imran got what he wanted. Battle is won but war is on with the over smart and corrupt who are deeply entrenched in the last 35 years. Economic crimes are the worst kind, causing more pain and suffering than other crimes and must be forcefully countered. No country in the world can afford theft of the public money and neither can Pakistan with over 50% children underfed and out of school, with majority not having drinking water or sanitation and people controlling their money living in Park Lane.

Hopefully bringing the dishonest to justice will have positive affect on our future and politics will not be a license to corruption and enrichment anymore. With honest service oriented leadership, we can make Pakistan a glaring example within a generation but for this we will have to shed the baggage of corrupt leadership and foolish gimmickry we have accumulated over the years. More such effort and political acumen needed from you Imran Khan.