Friday, May 28, 2010

Embedded with the Taliban? –Dr Mohammad Taqi

Daily Times 
Thursday, May 27, 2010

Many in the Pakistani media used the 2007-2009 lawyers’ movement in Pakistan as an ablution ritual to distance themselves from their fundamentalist past and created a centrist illusion around themselves

“Newspapermen commit murder every day and week and go unpunished. Not that they escape judgment when they murder the King’s English; for that crime they are duly condemned. But day in and day out, they ‘kill stories’ with impunity. Or without criticism they may even ‘bury’ a story that is ‘alive’...” — Dorothy Colburn, ‘Newspaper Nomenclature’, February 1927

A couple of weeks ago an audio
clip purported to be a conversation between a Pakistani media personality and an alleged Taliban leader remained in circulation for days on the Internet. While the Daily Times on May 16, 2010 reported the story and Declan Walsh’s reiteration of it the following day in the British paper The Guardian certainly saved the story on and of this tape from being killed, had it not been for the Daily Times (DT) editorial ‘Shocking revelations’ on May 17, 2010, this story might just have been buried alive.

In an era where massively slanted opinion-based articles are passed around as front-page news leads and opinionated columnists masquerade as news reporters, this paper did a reasonably good job of confining its opinion to the daily’s editorial. The editorial still drew criticism for not getting the other side of the story. However, anyone remotely familiar with the workings of an editorial board would attest to the timely news angle of that particular piece, an objective explanation of the issue and the professional manner of writing that did cover both sides of the story. No doubt that a personality was discussed in the piece, but the paper is under no obligation to solicit that person’s point of view on the material that exists in the public domain.

Indeed this lucid and incisive editorial highlighted several issues and has stirred a serious debate in the media, by the media and for the media. However, the readers and viewers, who, according to the New York Times, are the real employers of the media, are watching very closely, as the media limelight, in this case rather unwanted by some, falls on one of its own.

Over the last 30 years, death has grown in the killing fields of Afghanistan and Pakistan for several journalists like Mansoor Khan of The Muslim and Hayatullah Khan, while many others have reaped steep rewards. The newsgathering conduct of the journalists involved in reporting the Afghan conflict and its spillover into Pakistan, has largely escaped scrutiny.

The rather infamous relationship of embedded journalists with the Western, especially the US, forces in Iraq and Afghanistan has been a subject of serious debate and writing. However, little is known about the relationships of the journalists, covering the other side of the conflict — especially the Taliban — with their sources.

Since Dan Rather dressed up as a mujahideen fighter in 1980, journalists from around the world have gone to various lengths to cultivate their sources and to report on the Pak-Afghan theatre. The recent audiotape controversy raises the question about whether there are journalists who are actually embedded with the Taliban.

In the news business, cultivating a source is an essential skill, bordering on being an art. However, a practitioner of this art must demonstrate to the fullest a sound judgment, self-discipline and professional and personal integrity to avoid even the shadow of impropriety. A short measure of any of these essentials could result in an actual or apparent partiality on the part of the newsperson.

The relationship with the source, like any other human interaction, is like two-way traffic. More likely than not, the source is eager to garner the newsperson’s goodwill for motives which could be altruistic or ulterior. Planted stories and slanted reports can happen — with or without the conscious participation of media persons. There is no reason to believe that most newsmen are not doing their job honestly.

However, many in the Pakistani media used the 2007-2009 lawyers’ movement in Pakistan as an ablution ritual to distance themselves from their fundamentalist past and created a centrist illusion around themselves. Those who were known for their exclusive interviews with jihadist leaders or for deriding secular-nationalist leaders through the state-owned Pakistan Television re-marketed themselves — with great success — as the face of the modern and ‘liberated’ Pakistani media. Simply tracking the careers of these anchors to some 20 years back, however, may swiftly flay their new facade.

If some of these same television talk shows are anything to go by, the media person — whose voice allegedly is on the tape in question — has been dropped like a hot potato by his own colleagues. Some, whose coworkers have used illegal phone tapping to discredit an Urdu journalist in the not-so-distant past, spent no time in distancing themselves from the media personality impugned in the tape affair.

It is said that the media is a mirror that reflects the society it serves. And opportunism not being an unknown commodity in our society, it is imperative to keep a close eye on how the present debate evolves. When the veracity of the impugned tape is confirmed, it would only go to show that this is a seminal event, which points to an affliction that might be rampant in a class of journalists who grew up on a steady diet of the proviso suppressio veri, suggestio falsi (suppression of the truth is the suggestion of falsehood) in the Zia era.

The late C P Scott of The Guardian had aptly noted that, “A newspaper’s primary office is the gathering of news. At the peril of its soul, it must see that the supply is not tainted.” There is little doubt that the supply chain of many media outlets is tainted, but its extent remains to be determined.

While the law must take its course in the audiotape matter, the DT editorial has put the Pakistani media houses on the spot about their newsgathering operations; they owe it to the public to come clean.

Dr Mohammad Taqi teaches and practices medicine at the University of Florida and contributes to the think-tanks and Aryana Institute. He can be contacted at

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Mazhar Ali Khan’s legacy: Viewpoint

Daily Times

Mazhar Ali Khan's legacy: Viewpoint

Daily Times - Site EditionThursday, May 20, 2010

COMMENT: Mazhar Ali Khan’s legacy: Viewpoint —Dr Mohammad Taqi
The state takeover of the PPL publications, their subsequent nationalisation and the eventual formation of the National Press Trust, did irreparable damage to the freedom of expression and the people’s right to be informed in Pakistan

“Many will probably conclude that
the dictatorship’s gravest crime was its deliberate destruction of press freedom, because so many other evils flowed from this act of denying to the people of Pakistan one of their fundamental rights” — ‘Ayub’s Attack on Progressive Papers’, Mazhar Ali Khan, Pakistan Forum, January 1972.

The takeover, at gunpoint, of Mian Iftikharuddin’s Progressive Papers Limited (PPL) on April 18, 1959, was a watershed event after which the Pakistani Left, or for that matter any opposition group, has not been able to find a viable alternative to the state-controlled propaganda machine.

However, there were sporadic exceptions to this rule and the August 14, 1975, launch of the weekly Viewpoint from Lahore by Mazhar Ali Khan had ushered in one such era that ended nine months before his death in 1993.

I had an opportunity to meet Mazhar sahib, courtesy my uncle Afzal Bokhari — a regular columnist for Viewpoint. On a bright but nippy Lahore morning in December 1987, we arrived at the Viewpoint offices. At age 17, I was still experimenting with various progressive ideas and knew of Mazhar sahib as “the father of Tariq Ali”. His younger son, Mahir, was in Peshawar in those days at The Frontier Post.

My recollection of Mazhar sahib walking in is of a smiling man with a greying moustache, in white kurta-shalwar suit. His gait was steady and demeanour calm and rather soothing. I felt comfortable enough to fire a dumb question — where could one find Tariq Ali’s Trotsky for Beginners, I asked. His smile broadened and with a hand on my shoulder, he said, “Yeh to aap Tariq se hi poochein” (that is something you should ask of Tariq himself).

Mazhar sahib showed us around the office and I was pleasantly surprised to see Alys Faiz in the next hallway. During the conversation with her, I once again lobbed a question about “ideological non-issues”, i.e. her and Faiz’s early days in Amritsar. With a smile peculiar of Alys’ thin upper lip, she steered the discussion towards asking about Aziz Siddiqui, who was editing The Frontier Post from Peshawar in those days.

Faiz, Mazhar sahib and Aziz Siddiqui were all at The Pakistan Times (PT) at one point. They were matchless journalists and ideologues — traits, which when combined with the towering personal integrity of each, scared Ayub Khan’s military regime.

The junta responded by censorship — a policy that later took many names like the so-called press advice, and was legitimised by the fig-leaf of notorious laws like the Press and Publication Ordinance (PPO).

However, such tactics were no match for the prowess of Mazhar Ali Khan’s pen and the power of his convictions. He was the editor of The Pakistan Times at the time of its takeover by the Ayub regime. The ailing chairman of the PPL, Mian Iftikharuddin, was put under house arrest and the offices sealed after confiscating the records and accounting data.

The junta’s goons led by a general and aided by bureaucrats like Qudratullah Shahab made an offer to Mazhar Ali Khan to continue as the editor with the assurance that after removing Mian Iftikharuddin as the chairman, the status quo ante will be restored. In fact, he was promised that the editorial titled ‘The New Leaf’ — written by Qudratullah Shahab announcing that the paper was “under new management” — would not even be published if Mazhar sahib agreed to remain the editor.

Mazhar sahib responded with a resounding no to any and all offers to serve as a protégé of martial law. The regime had the audacity to tell him that under the new rules he could not even resign. But not being the one to be cowed down, Mazhar sahib called it a day.

The state takeover of the PPL publications (the dailies Pakistan Times and Imroze and the weekly Lail o Nahaar), their subsequent nationalisation and the eventual formation of the National Press Trust, did irreparable damage to the freedom of expression and the people’s right to be informed in Pakistan.

In the years leading up to the creation of Bangladesh, Mazhar sahib remained one of the key leftist ideologues in Pakistan and an inspiration for many in the mainstream parties like the National Awami Party (NAP) and for students becoming increasingly politicised against the repressive military regimes.

After the independence of Bangladesh, Mazhar sahib went there, in a last ditch effort to work out some form of a confederation formula with Sheikh Mujibur Rehman. But the mission, supposed to be a low-key effort with the backing of ZA Bhutto, fizzled out.

Mazhar sahib also accompanied ZA Bhutto to the Simla talks and according to Dr Aftab Ahmed, was able to prevail upon Mrs Indira Gandhi to do business with the first elected leader of Pakistan.

However, the sophisticatedly simple Mazhar sahib is remembered not for mere ideology or the diplomacy stints but for his sober, independent publication — Viewpoint.

This rather thin journal, with a non-glossy cover, composed usually in Times New Roman and printed on newsprint, became the flagship of dissident journalism from the latter years of ZA Bhutto’s government through the dark ages of Ziaul Haq’s Islamic martial law.

It was almost miraculous that a journal, which received neither the newsprint quota nor a lifeline of lavish advertising money from the government, survived, let alone became a pioneer in serious public interest journalism.

The simple charisma of Mazhar sahib’s editorship rallied together a group of fearless journalists like Eric Cyprian, IA Rehman, Amin Mughal and Zafar Iqbal Mirza, who made Viewpoint an exception to the rule of submissive journalism in Pakistan. However, it was his personal devotion to the core principles of serious ideological journalism that kept Viewpoint going.

Identifying the right issue for the editorial, opening timely debate on relevant matters, focusing on the country and region without missing the global perspective, and above all keeping the opinion out of the news while still upholding the highest ideological values, was what Mazhar sahib was all about.

A group of energetic young individuals, led by Farooq Sulehria, has come together to re-launch Viewpoint as a web magazine, with its first issue going online tomorrow (May 21, 2010).

The Viewpoint is the legacy of a fine human being, an impeccable ideologue and inimitable journalist that Mazhar Ali Khan was. My submission is that we take utmost care in handling this trust.

Dr Mohammad Taqi teaches and practices medicine at the University of Florida and contributes to the think-tanks and Aryana Institute. He can be contacted at

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

On music - A chain of love and peace from Kabul to Kolkata

Aman ki Asha - The News

A chain of love and peace from Kabul to Kolkata

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Talking peace with Ustad Hamid Ali Khan, who

believes that peace is not just absence of war but a

pro-active fostering and education of and for peace

By Dr. Mohammad Taqi

A peace is of the nature of a conquest;

for then both parties nobly are subdued,

and neither party loser.

(William Shakespeare)

As commercialised as it may sound, for me, Disney World did turn out to be a place where the dreams come true.

A recent visit to the Disney’s Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida with the king of the Indo-Pakistani classical music, Ustad Hamid Ali Khan was magical in its own right, as together we got to dream peace in South Asia.

While enjoying the 'Peter Pan’s Flight of Fantasy’ ride, our fantasies took us to the land of our birth and our ancestors and what could potentially be contributed to the efforts already underway to promote peace in that region.

Ustad (maestro) Hamid Ali Khan, along with his older brother Ustad Fateh Ali Khan is the foremost exponent of the Patiala Gharana (school) of Hindustani music. He has on a concert tour in North America for the past month, enthralling audiences with his performances from LA to Toronto.

Having listened to the music of the Patiala masters for the last twenty-five years, on tape and in person, I felt like the five year-old whose wish to go to the Disney World has just been granted, when I found out that Ustad Hamid would be visiting Florida.

The Central Florida Pakistani-American Cultural Society arranged a musical performance with a wonderfully diverse group – Pakistanis, Indians, Bangladeshis and Americans - in attendance.

The icing on the cake was an equally diverse group accompanying the Maestro. Rajesh Bhandari on tabla, Shamsher Singh on dholak and Shawn on guitar completed the ensemble, which under Ustad Hamid’s vocal lead gave one of best renditions of the South Asian music to have ever resonated in our ears.

Ustad Hamid opened the evening with a rendition of Raga Kalavati in teen-taal with the vintage Patiala bandish (lyrics), "piya naheen aaye sakhi". The night-time raga literally mesmerised the audience.

As all South Asian music aficionados know, the raga performance has, over the centuries, evolved – by design and default - to evoke the desired emotion called Rasa, both in the performer and in the audience. Theoretically, this music can evoke emotions like romance, peace, devotion, strength, anger, sadness and insouciance.

It is not surprising for an Indian or Pakistani ear and mind, attuned to our traditional music, to respond with the outpouring of the predicted or intended emotion when an appropriate musical piece is played. The impact of Indo-Pakistani classical music and its relationship to the moods, emotions, weather, seasons and above all peace, has been a subject of extensive research and publications.

In our case, the Kalavati’s timing (night-time), the robust and refined vocals and a steady instrumental accompaniment, readily produced a simultaneous ambience of joy, sensuousness and peace in the hall that a raga of Khamaj taath is supposed to evoke.

The next morning when driving Ustad Hamid to Disney World, I noticed him observing the sky gradually getting overcast. I took the opportunity to prod him into telling me about the Raga-Rasa system. The Maestro responded with producing a bandish in Raga Megh … He demonstrated with the alaap and bol-taan the movement of the clouds and the clasp of thunder through his bass embellishment. This indeed is the type of music that fits the bill for a mode of expression that transcends all frontiers and flags.

However, less commonly known is that ample research has shown that the emotional messages produced via music are understood across different cultures. The 1999 work by Laura-Lee Balkwill and W F Thompson at York

University, Toronto has demonstrated that Western listeners, previously not exposed to Hindustani music, were highly sensitive to the emotional messages of the ragas played to them for the first time.

What is both surprising and disappointing that despite having such a powerful common denominator, the classical music shared between India and Pakistan – which in the latter’s case has managed to survive against all odds – we have little or no sharing or exchange of this common heritage.

In fact, the Hindustani classical music is not just shared between India and Pakistan. Afghanistan, a hotbed of cold-war between these two countries, is another trustee of this musical legacy. The great masters like the late Ustad Muhammad Hussain "Sarahang" from Kabul trained with Ustad Hamid’s uncle, the late Ustad Ashiq Ali Khan in Patiala.

This raga saga of the Indo-Pakistani music and especially the Patiala Gharana doesn’t end with Afghanistan. An exponent of the Patiala school from Bengal, Ajoy Chakraborty forms a link in this chain of love and peace that runs from Kabul to Kolkata.

Ustad Hamid Ali Khan is acutely aware, not only of the 150-year musical history of his family and its impact on our region, but of the historical responsibility that now rests with him to help develop a peace-oriented frame of mind through his music.

With his older brother, the inimitable Ustad Fateh Ali Khan getting on in age now, Ustad Hamid is devoting much more time to pure classical music and in passing it on to the younger generations. His three sons Nayab, Qasim and Inam are the family’s eighth generation performing. However, he is not just interested in the success of his sons. He believes peace across our region has to be not just absence of war but a pro-active fostering and education of and for peace. He gives his solemn pledge to play his due role in this process.

Hamid Ali Khan believes that an Indo-Pakistani classical music university, with campuses in Lahore and Delhi, is the way to preserve and improve upon our joint heritage. I might add that a third campus at Kabul may go to show that India and Pakistan are capable of jointly playing a constructive role in Afghanistan too.

The childlike curiosity, unassuming nature and forthrightness that I saw in him during that day at Disney World tells me that Ustad Hamid Ali Khan doesn’t dream of subduing anyone even in the peace process. This emperor of classical music wishes a conquest of hearts through his art. More than that, his desire is to share his art across all borders. May these pages serve to further this amn ki asha.

The writer practices and teaches Medicine at the University of Florida and contributes to think-tanks and Aryana Institute.



Above:Hamid Ali Khan with the writer at Disneyworld; performing in Florida

L-R: Shawn, Rajesh Bhandari, Hamid Ali Khan, M. Taqi,

Asif Jamal and Shamsher Singh.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Two faces of fear

COMMENT: Two faces of fear —Dr Mohammad Taqi

Daily Times

Tuesday May 11, 2010

We would not apologise for Faisal Shahzad’s actions — for we have stood against his ilk throughout our adult life, while Lieberman’s kind has financed, armed and trained the antecedents of such bigots

Senator Joseph Lieberman’s
call to violate section 349 (a) (7), of the US Immigration and Nationality Act, smacks of a desire to go back to the days of the Executive Order number 9066.

The said order was used by Franklin Roosevelt during the Second World War for internment of the Americans of “Foreign Enemy Ancestry” (AFEAs), predominantly the ethnic Japanese, as many as 122,000 of whom were then held in various government-run camps. Following in the footsteps of Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War, FDR had also suspended the habeas corpus writ.

Title 8, Chapter 12, Sub-chapter III, Part III, Section 1481 of the US Code deals with the potential loss of US nationality by a native-born or naturalised citizen, the voluntary actions leading to such loss and the burden of proof to sustain the charges and the presumptions therein.

Simply put, Section 349(a)(7) states that a person can be stripped of his or her US citizenship for committing any act of treason against, or attempting by force to overthrow, or bearing arms against, the US, or conspiring to conduct any of these actions.

However, there is a glitch here — a constitutional one — that does not suit the expedient agenda of the hate-mongers like Lieberman. The law states that the offender can only be stripped of citizenship “if and when he is convicted thereof by a court martial or by a court of competent jurisdiction”.

And why do Senators Lieberman and McCain despise this hurdle? The answer lies in Section 349 (b), which states: “Whenever the loss of United States nationality is put in issue in any action or proceeding commenced on or after September 26, 1961 under, or by virtue of, the provisions of this chapter or any other Act, the burden shall be upon the person or party claiming that such loss occurred, to establish such claim by a preponderance of the evidence.”

Lieberman’s Bill is completely in sync with the neo-con methodology of prosecuting the war against terror, specifically in the Pak-Afghan theatre, in the ‘wham, bam, thank you ma’am’ manner. They wanted to do it cheaply and got thugs like Ismail Khan and Rashid Dostum to do the donkeywork so the neo-cons could divert the resources to attacking a sovereign Iraq. On the Pakistani side, the action was outsourced to a military dictator and his army.

The lazy and incompetent US planners in the Bush era –the motley bunch around Holbrooke not being far behind — never wanted to confront the complete monopoly of Saudi Wahabiism over the mosque-centres in the US. The previous US administrations had turned a blind eye to this Wahabist coup because of their unholy alliance with the Wahabi world against the Soviets.

Whereas no accurate data is available on the ethno-national background of American Muslims, the majority is of Indo-Pakistani-Bangladeshi descent. No concerted effort — by these communities or the US planners — has ever been made to free them from the chokehold of the minority Arab-Wahabi lobby.

While pretending to be non-denominational, most Muslim groups in the US including — but not limited to — the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Muslim Students Association (MSA), Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) and so on, serve as a front for the Wahabi-Salafi ideology of hate. Their alleged financing by Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Arab states has been a subject of much writing but no official probe.

They systematically exclude people subscribing to the moderate Sufi, Shiite, openly Hanafi/Barelvi or other variants of Islam from holding key positions within these outfits. So strong is the Wahabi control that in most mosques run by these groups, the customary Friday prayer sermon is delivered only by Arabs. By one account, ISNA alone controls about 2,000 mosques in the US. This is a whole lot of intolerant pulpits at the disposal of Wahabiist ideology to indoctrinate the vulnerable South Asian Muslim-Americans.

A vicious web of bigotry and intolerance has been allowed to flourish and prosper in the US because the American decision-makers did not want to alienate their Saudi friends, who are the actual lords and masters of Wahabiism Inc. While this multitude of Islamic groups serve as the eyes, ears and sword-arm of Wahabiism Inc in the US, the nerve-centre and training grounds remain in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan respectively.

After any terrorist attack, like the recent one in Times Square, the websites of these outfits are swiftly populated with boiler-plate statements condemning the dastardly act and pledging solidarity with the “adopted homeland”. But in private and many public conversations, their (largely Arab) leadership cannot hide their designated apologist status for Wahabiist terrorism.

For three decades, the Liebermans and McCains of the world have collaborated with Wahabiist maniacs like Faisal Shahzad across the continents, while the majority of Pakistanis and Pakistani-Americans stood up against two military dictatorships and a whole slue of Islamic fundamentalist groups.

Along with the hundreds of thousands of progressive Pakistanis, I hold my head high for confronting Islamism from the very beginning. We would not apologise for Faisal Shahzad’s actions — for we have stood against his ilk throughout our adult life, while Lieberman’s kind has financed, armed and trained the antecedents of such bigots. I would not be labelled an AFEA.

It is important to not let Joe Lieberman or Faisal Shahzad define who the Pakistani-Americans are. Yes, we denounce the past, present or future acts of terror but more than that, we demand and want to be part of a process that takes a proactive approach to this problem.

Senator Lieberman and his coterie must realise that even to create a cultural détente, let alone a rapprochement between the US and the Muslim world, we need to wrestle back the control of the mosque-centres from the Wahabi-Salafi enterprise headquartered in Riyadh. This nerve-centre of fear should not be protected any longer.

The secular and progressive American-Pakistani individuals and organisations are up to the challenge and might indeed be the only viable vehicle to change the face of American Islam.

Attempts at a witch-hunt against common Pakistani-Americans through convoluted legislation, suspension of civil liberties and blatant violations of due process, however, would only go to show the other face of fear.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Students Movement in Pakistan

Students Movement in Pakistan

By Dr S.Akhtar Ehtisham and Dr .M. Taqi

Pakistan Link, California

May 7,2010

At the end of 1948 a few progressive students founded a small group in Lahore called Democratic Students Federation (DSF). DSF participated in Union elections in different colleges. Prominent among its leaders were Abid Manto in Rawalpindi and Zuhair Naqvi in Lahore . In Karachi DSF was formed first in the Dow Medical College in 1950. Islami Jamiat e Talaba, the student wing of Jamaat e Islami formed in 1948, confined itself to proselytization and convened small gatherings in mosques.

Struggle of Bengali Students

Students in undivided Bengal were, if any thing, even more militant in the struggle for freedom than their counter parts in the rest of the country. Jinnah had declared Urdu the only official language of Pakistan. They could not accept that.

Dhaka University students led the language campaign. On February 22,1952 police opened fire on a group of Dhaka Medical College students. Twenty-five students were killed and many more injured. Such a storm of protest, indignation and condemnation followed that the government surrendered and accepted the legitimate demand of Bengali as a state language

Students’ Movement in Pukhtunkhwa
The politicization of the younger generation of Pashtuns started simultaneously with the anti-imperial struggle of Badshah Khan’s Khudai Khidmatgars. Pashtun Zalmay or Young Pashtuns was the organization’s youth wing which focused on the traditional countryside base of the movement.

Led by Wali Khan, under the aegis of the National Awami Party (NAP), the Pashtun youth movement came to the university campuses. Progressive leaders like Lateef Afridi, Afrasiab Khattak, the late Sarfaraz Mehmood and Mukhtar Baacha et al. came of age during the anti-Ayub protests. This era also saw the ushering-in of the Pashtun nationalist politics into the university campuses.

By early 1970s, the Pashtun Students Federation (PkSF) had a formidable presence in the Peshawar University. One of best-known students’ student leaders, Afrasiab Khattak of PkSF went on to lead the leftist movement in Pukhtunkhwa. He was implicated in the notorious Malakand and Hyderabad conspiracy cases. Lateef Afridi incidentally appeared as the defense lawyer in the Malakand case.

Upon the imposition of Zia ul Haq’s martial law, Afrasiab Khattak was arrested and spent a year in prison. He is said to have been subjected to water-boarding at the Warsak Dam. It soon became clear that the leftists were to be physically eliminated. Afrasiab went into self-exile in Kabul and t returned in 1989. He is now a member of the Pakistan Senate and the most important leader of the ANP.
Lateef Afridi had joined Bizenjo Sahib’s PNP, after the NAP was banned. He later on joined Wali Khan’s ANP and continues to be its key leader.
Pukhtoon Students Federation, under its then chairman Muhamamd Idrees, revolted against the high-handedness of the ANP leader Begum Nasim Wali Khan circa 1989-90.
The current information minister of Pukhtunkhwa, Mian Iftikhar Hussain was the chairman of PkSF during the MRD days while another ANP MPA, Dr. Haider Ali Khan, was the president of the PkSF wing in Khyber Medical College .
During the MRD days, Shaheed Nazeer Abbasi offered the idea of reviving the Democratic Students Federation. He, however, was tortured and killed by the military regime. Kifayat Ali became the president of the DSF, which remained affiliated with the leftist group within the ANP. Kifayat was a charismatic, well-read and well-traveled man and helped the DSF to have a dynamic presence on the campuses. His brilliant leadership was reflected also in his handling of the recent lawyers’ movement.

The People Students Federation (PSF) in Pukhtunkhwa played a robust role against Zia’s regime and produced some of the finest student leaders. The late Syed Qamar Abbas, who was the son of Farikh Bokhari of the Progressive Writers Movement, was the driving force behind the PSF activities in Peshawar and surrounding districts. He was arrested and tortured at the orders of the military governor, Gen. Fazle Haq. Qamar along with his associates Azam Afridi, Syed Ayub Shah and Dr. Adnan Gul made life miserable for the junta. Qamar, Azam and Ayub were later elected to the provincial assembly from Peshawar region. Qamar Abbas was later killed in an election-related vendetta in Peshawar.
One would be remiss not to mention the late Hayat Muhammad Khan Sherpao, a founding leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party. He, too, was among those who cut their political teeth during the anti-Ayub agitation. It was most unfortunate that he was martyred by a bombing inside the Peshawar University .

Overview of Students Movement

Following partition Hindu and Sikh students who had dominated educational institutions in West Pakistan left behind a vacuum, which was filled by the immigrants.

Muslim Students Federation was formed at the NED Engineering College, Karachi in 1947. Ahmad Khan Barakzai was the first President.

Student movement in the western wing in early years was for all practical purposes, dominated by the progressive cadre of Karachi. They launched a movement for better educational facilities such as decent classrooms, libraries, laboratories and reduction in fees and provision of textbooks free or at subsidized rates and above all the right to organize.

Overall lead for the national students movement was given by DSF leaders in Karachi. The core of the leadership came from Dow Medical College, Karachi which produced such leaders as Sarwar, Haroon and and Hashmi. Sarwar was the first president of DSF. Its headquarter was in Rahman Hashmi's Room 29, Mitha Ram Hostel.

By late 1952, students took out processions, and led marches in Karachi on January 6, 7, 8/1953. National and international press gave them sympathetic coverage. Prime Minister Nazimuddin met the leaders on January 7, 1953 and accepted their demands. In the official press release, however, agreement was denied.

Enraged, students went on a rampage and finding a car with an official flag on it parked in Saddar, a posh commercial area, surrounded it. Its occupant turned out to be none other than the police minister Mushtaq Gurmani. The police panicked and attacked the students with tear gas. The minister succumbed to gas fumes and had to be carried away.

Police retaliated by opening fire on a group of students in front of the Paradise Cinema in Saddar. Twenty-six students were killed. Nainsuk Lal, a boy scout helping an injured striker, was the first fatal casualty. Several flags got soaked in blood. The city was paralyzed and life came to a halt.

Kazim, the overall leader of the movement, generously and in national spirit, announced that the Government had accepted their demands. GOP, instead of responding gratefully to Kazim’s gesture and considering student demand sympathetically, banned DSF and put student leaders in jail.

Student leaders from East and West Pakistan got together and gave a call for All Pakistan Students Convention in December 1953. Sarwar was elected the Chairman of the convening committee. Delegates from colleges all over the country participated. Mateen and Khaliquzzaman came from East Pakistan. The Punjab delegation was led by Abid Manto, then of Rawalpindi . Alia Imam represented Indian students as an observer. The Sindh delegation was led by Syed Mazhar Jamil, now a leading literary critic, art historian and attorney of Karachi . Kamil Qadri, a leftist student leader, led the Quetta delegation.

Convention dates were fixed in January 1954. The venue was Katrak Hall in Saddar. Messages of solidarity came from student bodies all over the world. Law Minister AK Brohi agreed to be the Chief Guest. He arrived at the hall only to find the place in pandemonium. His cabinet colleague Gurmani had orchestrated the disruption of the convention. The City administration had sent gangsters to subvert the proceedings. Police followed to “quell” the disorder. Both beat up the students.

Student leaders had taken the precaution of organizing a defense squad led by Adeeb Rizvi, later to distinguish himself for his work in kas idney diseases and founder of the Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplant (SIUT). Sher Afzal Malik was a sort of “Red Guard” Lieutenant Commander of the security detail. Volunteers somehow managed to control the situation for long enough to enable Brohi to conclude his address, but the rest of the proceedings had to be moved to another site.

The convention passed a resolution to form All Pakistan Students Organization (APSO), elected Sarwar as the General Secretary General. Numerous student organizations in small and large towns of all the provinces of West Pakistan decided to merge in it. Bengali delegates pledged that they would seek the approval of their groups to do the same. .

Reacting to police and gangster brutality enraged students spread all over the city. Police dare not take overt action and so bloodshed was avoided. But many students were arrested and spent months in jail. Pakistan joined Western security organizations in 1954 and by a queer coincidence (or design) APSO was also banned about the same time.

National Students Federation (NSF) had been a parallel moderate-right wing student body. Second-generation student leaders Wadood, Sibghat and others negotiated with NSF. A coalition was worked out.

Fatehyab Ali Khan, student leader of the period, joined the Mazdoor Kisan Party and rose to be its president. Another student leader was Mairaj Muhammad Khan. ZA Bhutto befriended and appointed him to his cabinet. Mairaj maintained his links with trade unions and once Bhutto had crushed the unions, he sacked Mairaj and put him in jail.

Among other pioneers were Shafi, a brilliant debater, Barkaat, a party ideologue par excellence and Saghir. Undoubtedly all these talented young men had had to play a second fiddle to and resented Sher Afzal, who was molded by Hasan Nasir, the luminary of the Communist Party of Pakistan (CPP). He had great organizational skills and had a devoted circle of admirers from all linguistic groups.

He was elected president of Dow Medical Students Union in 1956. The union made some radical demands. The administration would not agree. A dozen or so activists, Sher Afzal among them and including a few girls, went on hunger strike. It gathered sufficient public support to make H.S. Suharwardy, the PM at the time, to visit the college and accept all students’ demands and give Sher Afzal a drink to break his fast. Tass and other international agencies flashed the news.

Sher Afzal had a say in the upper counsels of left wing political parties led by Bhashani and Wali Khan and was welcomed by the likes of Suharawardy in their private homes. He also earned the barely concealed hostility of the entrenched leaders of the left in Karachi. After completing his tenure of office in the students union, he became the president of NSF.

Martial Law of 1958 intervened. Sher Afzal was soon to lose his patron Hasan Nasir to an extra-judicial murder in the Lahore Fort. Knives were soon out against him.

Martial Law had proscribed student’s unions and college elections. After a hiatus of two years, our military administrator, a doctor Naqi, Lt Colonel in rank, allowed elections in 1959. Our candidates won.

As the next election time approached caucuses were held to choose candidates. Hasan Rizvi was selected to contest for Presidentship and I was nominated to be his running mate as General Secretary. Rizvi won, I lost to a friend. The electoral loss was a serious setback for Sher Afzal.

Sher Afzal looking for an opportunity to retrieve lost ground, pinned his hopes on Patrice Lumumba, a firebrand left leaning nationalist PM of Belgian Congo, who had been assassinated by imperialist agents.

The NSF gave a call for a day of protest marches and meetings. We were a forlorn group of about a hundred carrying such banners as “Long Live Lumumba,” “Death to UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld” and “Down with Imperialism”, and shouting similar slogans.

About the time communal riots had broken out in Jabalpur, India . There were persistent demands that we organize a protest march on the issue. The bosses sent agents provocateurs, who taunted and ridiculed Sher Afzal, and called him a lackey of the Soviet Union.

The next day the daily Dawn editorialized that our progressives felt more for the cannibals of Africa than for their brethren in faith in India. Left with no choice Sher Afzal characteristically threw himself into planning a big gathering and a march to follow.

On the appointed day students in their thousands gathered near Pakistan Chowk. Speeches were made pledging support to Indian Muslims. Police had taken up positions in the broad avenue flanking the meeting. The district magistrate (DM) announced that we had made an impressive protest, the authorities would take note and do all they could to protect our co-religionist in India . We should now disperse peacefully.

Sher Afzal agreed and gave a call to disperse. But an agent provocateur snatched the microphone and screamed that our mothers and sisters were being raped in India and we were being asked to disperse peacefully. It was obviously a signal. Flags and banners hoisted on long bamboo polls were grabbed and scores rushed at the police. They responded with tear gas and lathi (baton) charge.

About midnight there was a loud knock at my door. I opened it and found a Criminal Investigation Department (CID) Sub-Inspector Shah with another two policemen wearing plain clothes. Shahji told me that DM had invited students to a meeting. I told him not to be ridiculous, and to tell me plainly that I was being arrested.

We were about fifteen detainees in a 10x10 cell. Together, our spirits were high. We sang, joked and were quite noisy. Soon after a Police Superintendent (SP) visited our cell and started hurling abuses at us. He told Sher Afzal that being a Punjabi himself and a former student of his father who was a reputed head master, he felt like a brother to him. He did not expect his brother in spirit to associate with riff raffs. Mairaj and Fatehyab protested. They were taken out and slapped right in front of us. They were again taken out of the cell early in the morning and mercilessly beaten.

About one hundred and sixty students were eventually transferred to Karachi central jail, and arrived around noon. The Jail Superintendent informed us that per jail regulations a prisoner arriving about midday doesn’t get lunch or the evening meal, so we would get breakfast the next day. We groaned audibly. The superintendent glared at us. An elderly man, who had joined us, told the superintendent not to be a damned fool. We were students, not ordinary criminals. The superintendent appeared to shrink in his uniform at the rude and public reprimand. The white haired “angel”ordered a guard to go out and get lunch, cold drinks and cigarettes for us.

From the next day food drinks and cigarettes started arriving for us . About thirty of us were herded in separate barracks, the other one hundred and thirty having been released after a few days of incarceration. We spent the time singing, telling stories, teasing each other and in political indoctrination. Many poems were written, some too rich and off color to narrate.

Eid fell during our incarceration. The day started with prayers. The jail Imam (prayer leader) had been commanded to lead the official congregation in the City as Maulana Ehtishamul Haq Thanvi, the official Moulvi, had had a dispute with the government and boycotted the main congregation. We were left with the Deputy Jail Imam. He was a “lifer convicted for murder and sentenced to a twenty-one year jail sentence. The man could not pronounce Urdu words properly much less Arabic. We could not help giggling during the prayers. During the “Dua” after the prayers we lost all sense of sanctity of the occasion and implored “God” to mete out severe punishment to our fellow prisoners.

After the prayers we proceeded to other barracks and were entertained with sweets and drinks, some spiked with Bhang (Marijuana) and raw and refined opium. One person, in for murdering his paramour in a fit of jealous rage, sticks to memory. He had a haunting voice and accompanied himself with music produced by tapping an empty earthenware pot (ghara). We also met a group of ex-Air Force officers convicted of some sort of smuggling. They, instead of idling away the hours, had started a “crime school” teaching tricks of the trade to fellow inmates. We also met an accountant, formerly a senior official in the State Bank. He had been convicted of currency fraud and had, according to his own account, stashed away millions in foreign bank accounts.

On my first day back in college I was expecting a hero’s welcome that took me by a pleasant surprise. Even my political opponents gave me admiring looks.

Karachi party bosses had, in the meanwhile, made inroads into the NSF. They sent messages to Sher Afzal that he should retire from student politics.

A meeting was held in Dow Medical College in which extravagant praise was heaped on Sher Afzal. He was humbly requested to retire. The inner party struggle continued for quite long. Sher Afzal finally decided to cut loose his ties to Karachi and returned to Peshawar where he joined the Awami National Party.

With his Punjabi/Pathan credentials, work among Karachi students, abounding enthusiasm, good mind, inexhaustible energy and patent ideological integrity, he should have gone far. He should have been catapulted into national politics, but Martial Law allowed only sycophants to rise. It was a great national loss.
This account is based on interviews with stalwarts of student’s movement of Pakistan Messrs Nooruddin Sarki, S Mazhar Jamil and Fatehyab Ali Khan advocates and Drs Muhammad Sarwar, Syed Haroon Ahmad, Muhammad Khurshid and Rasheed Hasan Khan of Karachi and Dr Hasan Raza Rizvi and Barrister Abid Hasan Manto of Lahore. The list is by no means complete.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Scylla of violence - on Baluch resistance

The Scylla of violence

The News

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Dr Mohammad Taqi

"This is a political war and it calls for discrimination in killing." -- John Paul Vann, US adviser in Vietnam

The recent killing of Professor Nazima Talib in Quetta has once again called into question the logic of indiscriminate violence against the non-combatant, non-Baloch settlers in the province. It has turned the focus of attention not only to the Baloch guerrilla fighters but has simultaneously put those, who support a non-violent Baloch struggle, on the spot.

Writing about the potential US policy towards Balochistan, Selig S. Harrison noted in his 1981 book 'In Afghanistan's Shadow' that, "with respect to the Baloch issue, the American goal should be to forestall the necessity for a choice between the Scylla of supporting repressive counterinsurgency programs and the Charybdis of supporting Baloch independence."

Indeed both the friends and foes of the Baloch have had to follow this impossible-to-negotiate path. The state players like the USA, former Soviet Union and India have erred - by design or default - in favour of the Pakistani state, while treading this regional policy tightrope.

For the individual and politically or apolitically organised supporters, sympathisers and fellow-travellers of the Baloch struggle, it has been a rather straightforward matter where they have consistently condemned the repressive tactics of the Pakistani state machinery while openly endorsing the Baloch cause. Be it the joining of the 'London Group' boys with the Parari (fighters) in Marri hills in the1970s or lending open - albeit tepid - political support from Wali Khan to Asif Zardari, the Baloch struggle has had almost unanimous backing from the leftist and the centre-left circles of Pakistan.

With the rising spate of killings of the non-combatants, especially Punjabis, in Balochistan, the non-Baloch sympathisers of the Baloch nationalists are finding themselves in an increasingly difficult situation in defending what they have held to be a legitimate resistance and indeed a just war.

The nature of the Baloch guerrilla struggle has been complex throughout its many phases. For the most part though, it has followed - as accurately noted by Selig Harrison - the line given by Che Guevara's associate Régis Debray: in the revolutionary struggle the fighters themselves should be the focus of political power and not subservient to the political leadership not involved in fighting.

Sardar Ataullah Mengal and to some extent Nawab Khair Bukhsh Marri had correctly observed during the 1970s that the students and non-students joining the ranks of the armed struggle would not be under their political guidance or control. These leaders, due to both personal and ideological discipline, did not encourage ideological waywardness in the Baloch guerrillas.

On the other hand, the late Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, for various reasons, contributed to strengthening of this behaviour in the movement. Nawab Bugti was a rather late convert to the Baloch nationalist cause. Besides having a death wish characteristic of a convert, he injected traits in the struggle that have over the last several years contributed to its negative image.

Irregular and asymmetric wars - like any other armed conflict - exhibit tremendous variation in the magnitude and type of violence, even within different phases and time-periods of that particular conflict. The motives of such violence, especially against civilians are complex and multiple. They could range from drawing attention through a spectacular act like the WTC bombings to instilling fear and triggering displacement, as in the case of the Jewish Irgun's attack on Deir Yassin in Palestine.

Regardless of the targets and tactics of violence, it is neither indiscriminate as such nor without consequence. Usually, a method exists to such madness, whether it is a so-called reprisal based on a presumed guilt by association of the target or simply an attempt to plunder and eliminate a group.

More importantly, there are limits to any strategic gains through such violence. Beyond a certain point, violence - indiscriminate or not - is counterproductive. The general population, angered and frightened by the violence, is not only likely to support the state's repressive response but might also resort to tit-for-tat hostilities as have been witnessed in the case of the Baloch students in Punjab.

The Baloch nationalist movement now has reached a juncture where it may lose the support of its various sympathisers in the rest of the country. Similarly, the state apparatus is also at the threshold where it would likely respond by high-profile deterrent activity against the resistance.

The state forces already outnumber and out-gun the Baloch nationalists and have no intention to scale back their repressive activity. Given the geopolitical realities surrounding Balochistan, it is highly unlikely that the Baloch guerrillas will parade down the city streets, mobilise a mass following or engage the state forces in open combat.

With the US, Pakistan and India arriving at a tacit understanding on the future direction of events in Afghanistan, the Baloch question is nowhere near the top of any regional or global power's to-do list.

It is high time that the Baloch fighters and non-combatant elders and leaders revisited the tactics, direction and objectives of their campaign. The traditional Baloch leadership should be brought back into the picture. The Baloch resistance is at a point where, without political leadership, the Scylla of its own violence is about to push it into the arms of the Charybdis of failure.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Misfortunes of the Left\05\03\story_3-5-2010_pg3_5

Misfortunes of the Left: Nausée, Ennui and Déluge

By Dr. Mohammad Taqi

March 3, 2010

“ With the development of interest-bearing capital and the credit system, all capital seems to double itself, and sometimes treble itself, by the various modes in which the same capital, or perhaps even the same claim on a debt, appears in different forms in different hands. The greater portion of this "money-capital" is purely fictitious.”
- Das Kapital: Volume 3, Chapter 2 ‘Component Parts of Bank Capital’

My first response to the Daily Times (DT) editorial, “Left Fortunes” dated April 26,2010 was, in the words of Ghalib:

Torr baithay jabkeh hum jaam o suboo, phir hum ko kia
AsmaaN se baada-e-gulfaam go barsa karay

It roughly translates into an unattributed ancient Greek verse:

When I die, let earth and fire mix
It matters not to me, for my affairs will be unaffected

The next day I saw Senator Carl Levin of Michigan on television, ripping apart the top executives of the Goldman Sachs for their continued swindling of our assets. I thought then, that the DT’s call to whip the Pakistani Left - or its leftovers- into shaping up, merits some introspection.

Most important aspect in the editorial was the quote from Karl Marx (Capital Volume 1) which -had it been produced in full - would have answered the editor’s question. Marx said:

"In every stockjobbing swindle everyone knows that some time or other the crash must come, but every one hopes that it may fall on the head of his neighbour, after he himself has caught the shower of gold and placed it in safety. Après moi le déluge! is the watchword of every capitalist and of every capitalist nation. Hence Capital is reckless of the health or length of life of the laborer, unless under compulsion from society."

Having lived in Michigan for ten years as Carl Levin’s constituent, I can safely say that he is no revolutionary. He was acting under a compulsion from the society – a compulsion to take to task the swindlers of the Wall Street, even if for cosmetic reasons alone.

The Pakistani urban voters, who are Islamized enough to don a beard or hijab but smart enough to send their kids to private schools and put their faith in the laissez-faire religion, have not yet created a compulsion for the reckless neo-liberal market economy to mend its ways.

In fact the Pakistani Neocon media, led by the Hamid Mirs and Talat Hussains, have stoked this urban Pak-nationalist zealotry – whose detonator is Saudi Islam- and helped the grotesque fascist mediocrities like the Brothers Sharif, complete their choke-hold on Pakistan’s political economy.

One is tempted to say to Shahbaz Sharif, whose quote “where have those left-wing revolutionaries gone”, the DT had used to start building its case, that:

Muzhdah-i-baad ahle riya raa keh ze maidaaN raftam

(Translation: Greetings to the hypocrites like you, for you have vanquished me and the battlefield is now open to your ilk)

Isn’t this what they, their military patrons and the media Neocons wanted in the first place? Why the gimmickry and the periodic butchering of Habib Jalib’s poetry?

I do not intend to absolve the Left of the blame but it is not correct that the leftist movement in Pakistan died ten years before the fall of the USSR. The closest we came to an openly Marxist party contesting the elections was in 1990, when the Qaumi Inquilabi Party (QIP) of Afrasiab Khattak and Lateef Afridi went to the polls, in alliance with Benazir Bhutto’s PPP. As someone who had the QIP’s manifesto typeset, proofread and printed, I would say that insofar as the Pashtun Left goes, that perhaps was our swan song.

In the Pukhtunkhwa at least, the leftists were tightly allied to the Afghan Left, which outlived the Soviet Union by a year. But this is neither a consolation nor an excuse for our failure as a movement.

The causes of our failure are multiple and complex. Personal rivalries and internecine warfare, blind following of Peking or Moscow, lazy anti-capitalist sloganeering and above all the failure to analyze the class dynamics in the perspective of a multiethnic, tribal-feudal, national security state just about sum-up our shortcomings.

However, the fatal flaws of the Pakistani Left in general and the international leftists in particular are twofold: Firstly, a robust communication system to reach out to those, who need to hear us. Second is the failure, on economic front, to produce a viable alternative model in the post-Soviet era.

In Pakistan’s case, since the government takeover of Mian Iftikharuddin’s Progressive Papers Limited (Pakistan Times and Imroze), we have never been able to find or found a mass publication system. Mazhar Ali Khan’s ‘Viewpoint’, Hussain Naqi’s ‘Sajjan’, Baacha Khan’s ‘Shahbaz’ or even Hanif Ramay’s ‘Musawat’ were no match for the steady might of the State propaganda machinery.

Even today when the US publishing houses are opening shop in Pakistan through the Express Tribune and Newsweek, there is no alternative on the horizon. Marx, Engels and Lenin took pride in prolific writing, whether journalistic, books or pamphleteering. As we say in Medicine, if it hasn’t been documented, it hasn’t happened. The leftists certainly aren’t documenting well. At the very best we are indulging in parallel play and talking past each other.

Had we been communicating with each other, it was hard not to predict the stock market crash of September 2008. The Wall Street subsequently came up with terms like toxic assets and collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) to explain as to what went wrong.

The CDOs were nothing but imaginary money. What led to the US housing-market collapse is one phrase in the opening quote of this article – fictitious capital! Yes, Marx got it right.

If the market economies had to look all the way back to John Maynard Keynes, to find a fix for the recession, there is nothing wrong in revisiting the Marxist economics to look for an alternative, as the DT editorial suggests. It is about time we got over our nausea and ennui and set forth on what Sartre called the roads to freedom.

However, without a robust focus on the economy and mass communications, we won’t be able to invoke a compulsion from the society and might end up plunging into a bigger déluge than we are in.

PS: On a personal note, I want to tender an unconditional apology for any atrocity or abuse of human rights ever committed in the name of Marxist ideology. Fortunately, the Pakistani Left has never been a party to any such act.

(Author practices and teaches Medicine at the University of Florida and contributes to think-tanks & Aryana Institute. Email: )