Friday, September 17, 2010

To be or not to be

I have always been perplexed by the intentions of the media in Pakistan. One day it is shouting one thing and on the next it demands something totally different. It urges the government and politicians to take some steps and when those steps are taken; our media starts vehemently and whole heartedly criticizing them for taking those steps or for taking them too late.

The case of a poor MNA from Rawalpindi is a case in example. We often hear from our scholarly anchorpersons hosting numerous talk shows, that our politicians are uneducated and not qualified enough to run the affairs of state. The conscientious leader from Rawalpindi took this criticism to heart and decided that come what may, he will improve his qualification. He wanted to show to the world that there is no age limit for getting education and for improving qualification. When he started taking practical steps for improving his qualification, the media people created unnecessary fuss and starting blaming him of cheating and using unfair means. Ultimately the unfortunate MNA had to announce his resignation from the national assembly seat.

All this hue and cry of the media was over a very trivial matter. Unfortunately on the day of examination, the said MNA was a little busy and requested his nephew to go to the examination hall in his place to appear in the paper. This great gesture of dutifulness and integrity from the local leader should have been appreciated by the media. It showed that how much importance he gave to education and how much respect he bestowed on the examination system. Despite all his political and business commitments, he did not want to waste a single day of his educational career and he did not want to disturb the examination date sheet. Being a sitting MNA, he could have easily pressurized the board of education to modify the date according to his convenience. But instead of doing all this, he showed how a model politician should behave. He requested his nephew to appear in the exam so that other students did not face disturbance.

Here we should remember one thing. The paper was of Pakistan Studies. He being an active politician and sitting member of national assembly knew everything about Pakistan Studies. It was a chance for young people to learn about the history of the great home land which had been won by the struggle of the students from great educational institutions of sub-continent. Here I must not forget to mention the greatness of the young lad as well. He too had many promises to keep and dates to meet, but he let go of all those commitments and went to the examination hall so that he could give this ungrateful nation the gift of an educated politician.

What did the two get in return of their dutifulness and zest of education? A self proclaimed torch bearer of morality raided the examination hall and got the young man arrested and accused our leader of cheating and dishonesty. Didn’t he have something better to do like staying at home and marking papers and earning an honest living instead of raiding the examination halls and harassing young people . Or he could have contacted the MNA beforehand and asked him for clarifications. I am sure he would have received a satisfactory explanation and along with the explanation he would have got some token of the generosity of our leader which would have enabled him to live a peaceful live for a very long time. But it was not to be. He started this trouble and now he is crying himself hoarse that he is being threatened and his life is in danger. If the followers of the MNA are enraged at the disrespect shown to their leader and want to give that raiding inspector a massage and some bone re-settling exercises, what the MNA has got to do with it. It only shows the love and respect which he enjoys in his constituency.

The inspector should have thought of consequences before committing such foolish acts. He knew that our policemen are too busy nowadays in protecting themselves from the Taliban, who are bent on sending as many policemen to paradise as possible in shortest possible time. Now nobody minds going to paradise but is the early departure to the destination which bothers all. In such circumstances it is not possible for the police to arrange for the protection of all and sundry. In fact I think Taliban are also victims of negative media coverage like our respected MNA. Instead of appreciating their sincere funded efforts, we keep on criticizing them unnecessarily. They are only trying to rid us of the worries of the troubled life in this material world and provide us lasting peace in the world hereafter on voluntary basis. Half a million rupees which our relatives get afterwards is an added advantage. How many of us are able to get half a million rupees for our families even if we keep on striving for a very long time. So it is two benefits in one blast, oh sorry, in one ticket. But ungrateful people of Pakistan insist on living in this world and toiling day and night for earning bread for the families. The media also terms Taliban terrorists and killers. So unfortunate, isn’t it?

Well coming back to our discussion, I am sure if our MNA had not been discouraged by the negative attitude of the media and educational authorities, he would have gone on to conquer many other educational fronts. Subsequently, he would have got an MBA degree or even a PhD in the similar manner. How proud we all would have felt on having such qualified people representing us in the national assembly. We would have told the world that we and our leaders know the importance of education and we have a highly qualified legislature. Our media did not let this happen. This sad and unfortunate incident must have discouraged many other respected members of our national assembly who were planning similar educational ventures. Now if they want to improve their qualification, they will have to sit in the exams themselves, which might not be possible due to their numerous commitments. How will they get education now?

I suggest that all aspiring members of national assembly who want to get further education and improve their qualifications should be provided facilities by the government. Government and educational institutions should hire individuals who appear in the exams on the behalf of the politicians and separate examination centers should also be allocated for their exams. The entry of all nosy and interfering inspectors like the one mentioned above should be banned in the examination halls. Only then, will our leaders be able to get quality education in peace.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Is it Religion or Just Tradition

Dera Ismael Khan: Almost the last settled area bordering Waziristan Agency where Pakistani Armed forces are engaged in fierce battle with Pakistani Faction of Taliban. A Taliban assassin shoots a Shiah Cleric and manages to run away from the scene of crime. The followers of the cleric run after him in hot pursuit. Suddenly on the way, the assassin sees the congregation in a small mosque getting ready for the evening prayer. He forgets his escape and joins the congregation. The followers of the assassin reach there and easily grab him. What happens afterwards is not difficult to imagine.

Islamabad: The brand new car of bank manager is stolen. The police fail to find the car but get some information that the car has been taken to the tribal area. With the help of some Pathan friends, the bank manager traces the whereabouts of the car in Tribal area and reaches there to negotiate its return. He is informed that racket leader Haji Sahib (One who has performed pilgrimage) has gone to the mosque to offer prayers and he will have to wait. After some time Haji Sahib returns rolling the beads of rosary. The bank manager is struck by his pious appearance. However, Haji Sahib negotiates the return of the car in very businesslike way and demands one hundred and fifty thousand for its return. The money is paid and the car is retuned to him in spick and span condition.

These two apparently unrelated incidents involving Pathans throw some light on particular aspect of the character and psychology of these warrior tribes which I think has hitherto been overlooked by most in not all of those trying to analyze the mindset behind the never ending war in Afghanistan and tribal areas and terrorism in Pakistan.

Any casual observer would mistake the Taliban assassin and the leader of car lifting racket as extremely religious and zealous Muslims. The Taliban assassin forgets to save his life when he sees the congregation getting ready for prayers. But is it his love of religious injunctions or is he a prisoner of habits just like a heroin addict who knows that addiction has destroyed his life but can not force himself to abstain from it?

Haji Sahib offers all his payers regularly in mosque and spends lot of his time in repeating holy words on rosary. Does the Haji Sahib, who prays so regularly in mosque and always has a rosary in his hand, not know that theft is considered a serious crime by religion punishable by amputation of hand? Or is he offering prayers just as a matter of habit and tradition?

The answer in both the question is the same. The offering of prayers with congregation, the long beards and the rolling of the beads of rosary are part of Pakhtoon tradition and culture and are performed as a matter of habit but unfortunately are taken as sign of religious fervor and zeal by those unaware of the Pakhtoon traditions.

This is the mistake also made by those who think that war in Afghanistan and tribal areas of Pakistan is a war between fanatic Muslims trying to free their territory against the forces of evil represented by American and Pakistani armed forces. They are deceived into thinking this by the rituals followed by the fighters as part of their traditions and culture. It is in fact just war of territory and war of revenge fought by the warlords against forces who are also just fighting for control over these territories. It would be more appropriate to call it a turf war being fought on large scale.

That is why the war on terrorism is never going to end by preaching to people that terrorism is against Islam and Islam does not allow such heinous acts and suicide bombing is Haram in Islam, because it had nothing to do with Islam in the first place. We can not end terrorism which is fueled by this war by trying to find common ground in religions or by trying to please or even eliminate the religious factions of the Pakhtoon society. They have no significance in this war.

The terrorism in Pakistan has its roots in another Pakhtoon tradition and that is the tradition of revenge. We can only understand the dynamics of this war by focusing on this aspect. I find people baffled at the suicide attacks killing innocent people. People find it hard to find a rationale for such attacks and ask religious leaders to issue decrees condemning such suicide attacks. Let me tell you the truth! Even if all religious leaders join hands (which is next to impossible in the holy land of Pakistan) and issue religious decrees calling suicide bombing Haram, these are not going to stop, because these not religiously motivated. These are only disguised as religiously motivated only to gain some extra benefits. These are part of revenge tradition which justifies killing non relevant people of the enemy tribe just because they belong to the enemy tribe. You have killed my brother and now I am justified in killing your brother, or your father or any one else remotely related to you, even if they had tried to stop you from killing my brother. Their relationship with you is their crime and they will have to pay for it.

When war is going on such a large scale and there are causalities everyday, it is not difficult to find recruits for suicide bombings among the relatives of those killed in the war. In the eyes of those suicide bombers, the crime of Pakistani people is their relationship with Pakistan army which has killed their relatives and now they are duty bound by their traditions to take revenge. No doubt the warlords also utilize this as opportunity to portray their war as a religious war as well by choosing particular groups in society for suicide bombings. (To be continued)