Khwaja Muhammad Khan Hoti’s interview

Khwaja Mohammad Khan Hoti: “Oppositionist by nature”

By Tahir Ali

(The News January 2009)

Nawabzada Khawaja Muhammad Khan Hoti was born in Mardan on 1st January 1955. He belongs to the Yousafzai tribe of Pakhtoons. He has passed Bachelor of Arts from Sindh University.

He belongs to an influential political family. His father Nawabzada Mohammad Umar Khan Hoti was chief of Hoti. His grand father (Late) Nawab Sir Muhammad Akbar Khan Hoti was a big landlord and prominent political figure of NWFP. His maternal grand father Brig. Sir Nawab Muhammad Shah Jehan Khan (Late) was the ruler of Dir State. He is the son in law of (Late) Nawabzada Abdul Ghafoor Khan Hoti Ex-Governor NWFP, Federal Minister and Central Pakistan Muslim League Leader and has a son Umar Farooq Hoti – who recently created stir in Mardan when he joined PML (N) – and four daughters.

KMH joined politics in 1979 as member of Mardan municipality. He joined the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) in 1987, became the General Secretary of its NWFP Chapter in 1998. One year later, he became the President of PPP NWFP.

In1988 he became the advisor, and in 1989, the special assistant to the Chief Minister NWFP. Later, he was appointed Provincial Minister for Tourism for a short period. He also served as provincial Minister for Education from 1993-1996.

Due to differences with Chairperson of PPP in 2004, he left the party as provincial president and later on, resigned from its basic membership. In 2006, he joined ANP and was appointed as its Central Vice President of ANP. He won National Assembly seat in Feb. 2008 and was given the portfolio of Federal Minister for Social Welfare & Special Education in April 2008. Now-a-days, he is Federal Minister for Narcotics Control.

He is locally known as Baba-e-Rozgar and he says cannot help without providing jobs to the poor and needy. He is famous for his candid remarks. He is a public figure and feels like amongst the common man. This is why he is locally very popular.

TNS talked to him recently. Excerpts follow

The News on Sunday: You remained very close to Shaheed Benazir Bhutto. How did you find her during your interaction with her?

Khwaja Mohammad Khan Hoti: The truth is that BB was a leader with an unmatched political acumen. She was an international leader and was Pakistan’s cherished identity abroad. She was an asset to the country. Pakistan and Pakistanis have lost too much in her departure to Hereafter. She was a high calibre lady born and nurtured in a great political family- the Bhutto family- and tutored by one of the greatest leaders this country ever produced- Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto Shaheed. She had her peculiar qualities and was truly benazir (matchless). She always took informed and well thought out decisions in her political career.

She had sagacity more than her any other contemporary. She would anticipate the future course of actions and would prepare her responses how to deal with them. I remember when I contacted her right after the 9/11; she was profoundly sad and said that it was a step that would have dangerous repercussions for the Muslims the world over and especially Pakistan. The events in the aftermath just testified to what she had anticipated on the very day of the terrorist attack.

She had that outstanding ability to recognise the potentials workers and how to take them along with her. She was mardum shanas (good judge of people) and would deal with people according to their worth and capabilities.

I personally miss her a lot. She held me in high esteem. You remember I was the PPP’s provincial president for NWFP. Once, in Dubai, when interviews for the aspirants of party tickets were being held before elections, I had a brawl with her on the issue of awarding party ticket to a person for elections. BB stressed that her nomination be endorsed which in my view was not suited to the prospects of the party. I objected to it. Difference of opinion took ugly terms and I walked out of the meeting saying that if our advice was not to be ignored, we had nothing to do there and told her that she should take the decisions herself and get these communicated to us which would be endorsed. Feeling disgusted, I went to the City Centre and was preparing to depart for Pakistan. Soon afterwards, she called for me. When I reached there, she smiled and said, “Hoti sahib! I agree to your suggestion because I have confidence in your political acumen.” Then she said that as I was angry with her that day, she would take us to lunch -which she very rarely did. On another occasion, when after a party’s public meeting in Lahore, there was a discussion as to the number of participants. Some said they numbered 20 thousands and others put the attendance at 30,000. When BB heard all of them, she asked me to give my analysis, and told those present that my assessment would be right as I always spoke the truth. I told them they all exaggerated and that actually the strength was five to six thousand. BB approved of my estimation.

TNS: Despite the fact that there is a powerful PPP government in the centre and four provinces, the death of BB is yet to be investigated. How do you look at the delay? And also who do you think to be behind her death?

KMH: I think her death should be promptly investigated. There have been many untraced killings in Pakistan and let’s hope that her case doesn’t add to these blind cases. Who ever that killed her has succeeded to strike the nation and the country hard. I don’t know as to whether local or foreign people or groups are to blame for her death but it’s our duty to expose her killers and bring them to justice as soon as possible.

TNS: People say the present PPP regime is violating her legacy and the party is being haphazardly run. Do you agree?

KMH: Since I am not in the PPP I cannot say for sure as to how the party is being run after her. I think only a party insider can be exactly aware of the things and feeling there. I am not in a position to say as to what changes have taken place since President Zardari became the party chief.

TNS: You had differences with her. Could you explain as to why did you desert the PPP in early 1990s?

KMH: Now as she is no more physically amongst us I don’t want to go into details about this matter. I have buried this hatchet.

TNS: Your son Umer Farooq Hoti recently joined Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz). Did you suggest this step? People say you are also to join the party soon?

KMH: Yes my son has joined the PML (N). He had some serious differences with local leadership which I think were not dealt rightly by the local chapter of the party. Perhaps Farooq thought that he would have more vistas open to him there in PML (N) and that he could serve the people well if he joined it. So he took the decision on his own. You know he is my only son. If I cannot make him happy, I simply have no right to compel him on this front and thereby displease him. Then he is an adult and knows his interest well. But as far I am concerned, I am in the ANP. Asfandyar Wali Khan is my leader. He is like a brother and very dear to me. He is a respectable and knowledgeable man and knows politics well.

If my son is in a party other than mine, this has been done by others in the past and is seen even today. Wasn’t Asfandyar’s grand-father Bacha Khan a veteran of Congress while the latter’s elder brother Dr Khan sahib was in the Unionist party before independence? Aren’t the two brothers from Laki Marwat – Saleem Saifullah and Anwar Saifullah – in the PML and PPP respectively? I would also like to draw your attention to the past. You know I was inducted into politics by my uncle Abdul Ghafoor Khan Hoti, former NWFP Governor who was a PML stalwart. He wanted me to join PML and would argue with me. But I joined the PPP in 1987 instead.

TNS: But don’t you have differences with, and difficulties in, the ANP?

KMH: We do have been facing some difficulties but I think they are the products of local conspiracies against us. I want to make it crystal clear to all plotters that ministerial or party slots have no significance in my eyes. These come and go. My family has always been the lucky one in this connection. In my case especially, I have worked on too many important slots in different governments. I have made commitments to people in my constituency- You know I am locally known as Baba-e- Rozgar (Father of jobs) because I believe in service and try to provide jobs to the needy. I am proud of my reputation and feel happy that I am not known as Baba-e- corruption which someone else is. Ministries may seem attractive only to those who make money out of them. I have never indulged in corruption and have always met my personal and political expenses by selling my ancestral property. The confidence, support and service of the people are dearer to me. I am not ready to compromise on Pakistan and the rights of the people of Mardan. The moment I realised I won’t be able to fulfil the promises I made with the people, I will resign and go to the people again to apprise them of the situation. I believe in transparency and always consult my constituency on whatever step I take. That will be my last day in office. Also, I am an oppositionist by nature. I feel like being with the people who oppose an incumbent regime.

TNS: How do you look at the performances of central or NWFP government so far?

KMH: I think there are some problems to face, ranging from law and order to financial crunch to external threats to political tensions. The governments are trying to solve the problems. The question is what after them? Who else has the panacea for these ills?  I believe the Pakistani nation is ready to confront all these hardships with courage and patience. The people, unfortunately, are not being taken into confidence. The sooner it is done, the better. I think we need an overall surgery of our policies. These must be brought in tune with the people’s wishes.

TNS: During your election campaign, you would chastise the US policy vis-à-vis Pakistan and Muslims. What about that now?

KMH: Pakistan is a declared non NATO ally of the US. Bilateral relations are meant for the benefit of both the countries. We’ll try our best to rid the world of terrorism. But we have our limits and cannot and must not exceed them to have our own polity jeopardised for them. We may be prima facie divided, we may belong to divergent groups and parties but we are united in that we are not ready to compromise on our sovereignty and national honour. For us Pakistan comes first and other things follow it. It is somewhat a universal truth that we have embraced as a nation. While Pakistan would do whatever it could to eradicate extremism and terrorism, it also expects rational thinking from its other allies. The present stereotyped tendency of putting all the blames of each and very thing on Pakistan will have to be avoided. It will only create problems and will serve no purpose for the coalition. If President Bush has been attacked by shoes, it is not a work of Pakistan’s making. The US will have to change its policy from aggression to peaceful dialogue with its opponents. It will have to bring a shift in its policies towards the Islamic world. When you support the killers of Palestinians, you will have to face indignation from the whole Muslim Ummah. While successive Pakistani governments are also to blame for the scourge, much of the terrorism in the world today is a reaction to US policies. If you also look at the huge anti-war rallies worldwide, you can see that the US has lost the war for hearts and minds. The American people need to know the truth. The US will have to think as to why it is being looked as an anti-Islam/Muslim power. The US must forthwith shun its militant approach, befriend the nations and avoid subjugating them.

And look at the respective attitude of India. It also accuses us of being supportive to terrorism. It ignores that Pakistan is itself a target of terrorists. If terrorists from India or Iraq target Pakistan, does it give us a license to attack these countries? Certainly not. It would have to forgo this mentality of accusation and threats. If it continues to charge Pakistan of whatever ugly takes place there, we also have questions regarding its role. When Pakistan overlooks the Indian intrigues against Pakistan or the disproportionately large presence of Indian consulates in Afghanistan, India should also reciprocate the same gestures.

TNS: You remained in the political arena for quite a time now. Based on your experience, what are the three main problems the Pakistani political system is faced with?

KMH: We considerably lack tolerance. Be that leaders or workers, they all try to benefit at the expense of others. They see their party colleagues not as brothers and friends but as rivals who must be sidelined and maligned to minimise their own prospects. Look when some vested interests in the ANP conspired against us in Mardan, my son was compelled to join the PML (N). This practice goes on unabated at all levels-local, provincial and national- in the country. Politics should not be turned into personal enmity which is a common sight through out Pakistan.

Another malady with our political system in my view is that promises are made but are mostly violated. Commitments are fulfilled the least. Because the promises are not intended to be pursued, mostly unrealistic commitments are made with the people. The public is not taken into confidence by the leaders if there are any hurdles and problems in the realisation of promises and objectives. This causes public resentment and disenchantment with the politicians.

The third drawback in our system to me is that there is too much experimentation in every department. Policies are made, changed and replaced. Projects are started, then lethargy engulfs those who run it and at last these are shelved for ever. Very handsome policies are prepared but these always await implementation. This lethargy has dealt us severe blows through out our history.

TNS: where does Pakistan stand today in Narcotics-trade?

KMH: There are at present an estimated 600,000 drug addicts in Pakistan. It accounts for a little over 2 % of the world’s Narcotics business. Afghanistan now a days is world’s biggest supplier of Narcotics- around 7800 hectors of poppy cultivation has been estimated there. The international drug mafia has changed its focus from Pakistan and is now taking drugs to Europe on some other routes in Iran, Turkmenistan and Bangkok.

And one interesting information, Holland of late has legalised the use of Charas (cannabis) in its country.

TNS: How can the drug trafficking be stopped or minimised?

KMH:  China and Saudi Arabia award death penalties to drug traffickers but even then people take drugs there. Narco mafia is very powerful and spread over the globe. It is very difficult to eliminate the business altogether. But we will have to continue our efforts for a drug-free world. We may not be able to eradicate the trade entirely but will decrease it for sure. As Pakistan is concerned, it faces many constraints. The narcotics’ department is yet to have its own building. It has a total budget of Rs.120 million which much too less than actually needed- as against it, the social welfare department’s budget when I was its minister recently was Rs.9000 million. The department has a workforce of three thousand employees that supervise border areas spread over thousands km- according to an estimate every official looks after an area of 10km to ensure that drug peddling doesn’t take place. Is it possible for him? As against it Iran has a total anti narcotics force of 35000 while Turkmenistan has 25000 personnel for the purpose. Also their pays are ridiculously small- while they are astonishingly expected to deal fairly with the narcotics-trade worth millions, and often billions, of rupees and have to contend with the resourceful drug mafia which is ever ready to invest on them. They deserve to be remunerated well. More incentives must be given to them and to the informers that risk their lives against the dangerous and powerful drug barons. We also need X-ray machines. Small dealers should also be arrested but it is the drug barons that would have to be given special attention- after all the small peddlers get it only form them to pass on to consumers. We also need to have more narcotics police stations around the country. Again, the importance of having more hospitals for drug addicts cannot be exaggerated- I am happy to announce that the present regime has envisaged to open a few narcotics police stations and Benazir Hospitals for drug addicts in the country.

Muhammad Azam Khan Hoti’s interview

Muhammad Azam Khan Hoti: a hard-core nationalist

BY Tahir Ali

(The News, December,2008)

Muhammad Azam Khan Hoti was born on 27 April, 1946 in a respectable and renowned political family of Mardan. He received his early education in Risalpur and later studied at the Aitchison College Lahore. He graduated from the Degree College Nowshera. After his graduation, Azam Hoti decided to join the Pakistan Army and was commissioned in1967 therein. He became a Captain in the Armoured Corps of the Pakistan Army and also took part in the 1971 Indo-Pak war. Thereafter, he sought retirement from Army on account of his domestic needs.

Azam’s passion to ameliorate the quality of life of the people of his area led him to join the National Awami Party (NAP) in 1972. He served the NAP and later the Awami National Party (ANP) actively after NAP was banned. He also remained in exile for several years. He has been a member of the ANP’s central and provincial executive committees and also led Nangialai Pakhtoon (ANP’s youth wing). Azam assumed more significance after his son, Amir Haider Hoti, became the Chief Minister of NWFP this year.

Azam was twice elected as an MNA from Mardan in 1990 and 1997 on ANP ticket and was twice made the Federal Minister for Communications in the Nawaz Sharif cabinets in 1991 and 1997. In March 1994, he was elected as a member of the Senate of Pakistan. He remained a member of different Senate Standing Committees.

He has close family ties with famous Pakhtoon nationalist leader Abdul Ghafar Khan Alias Bacha Khan. His sister Begum Naseem Wali was married to Late Abdul Wali Khan. So, ANP’s chief Asfandyar Wali Khan is his nephew from this aspect.

He has a loving nature and is widely known as a patient listener and astute speaker. The News on Sunday interviewed him recently. Excerpts follow.

The News on Sunday: You in ANP have always been campaigning for provincial autonomy. You have played a role for this purpose. Can you explain for our readers as to what do you mean by the term provincial autonomy?

Azam Khan Hoti: There is a very simple answer to this question. Provincial autonomy is not merely a matter of administrative powers. It, in our view, means our control over our own resources. We say that all our provincial resources- whether water, minerals, gas, forests, and the electricity produced here or anything else- should be left and handed over to the province. We think of provincial autonomy as financial autonomy. It is what we mean by the term provincial autonomy.

TNS: Our constitution has three power-lists-federal, provincial and concurrent ones. Are you satisfied with the constitutional mechanism in this regard?

AKH: The federal list specifies the domain of the federal organs while the provincial one narrates the areas where provinces work on their own. The concurrent list enumerates the combined domains of the two. At the time of constitution-making, a verbal promise was made that the concurrent list would be abolished within ten years for the empowerment of provinces but that too was not fulfilled as Zia imposed martial law and the constitution was suspended. But even the abolition of the concurrent list won’t suffice because that too falls short of what we think is necessary to give financial autonomy to the provinces; it touches minor issues such as the taking or withdrawing of certain departments from or to the provinces. We want complete control over our provincial resources.

TNS: Some people stress that all provinces should have equal representation in the lower chamber of parliament, the National Assembly. What are your views on that?

AKH: The Senate of Pakistan is there with equal representation for the provinces. But the problem is that it doesn’t have financial powers. Most of the powers are at present vested in the National Assembly where Punjab enjoys an absolute 64% majority and the three smaller provinces cannot compete with that majority even if they get together. So, either the Senate should be given financial powers or ‘they’ decide that each province would be handed over the control of all of its resources. If this is done, the problem will be solved.

TNS: Do you subscribe to the view that at present there is Punjab’s hegemony on our national scene? Also what do you think of apprehensions by certain quarters that we are heading fast towards East-Pakistan-like situation?

AKH: Indeed there is one. When all constitutional and legal paths are blocked, things then invariably go that way. This is why it is better to solve the problem through legal and constitutional means. Failure to do so results in disappointment. We should see as to why there is so much disillusionment in Baluchistan and why did the Baluchs take up arms? They were compelled to take up guns because their problems were not solved through legal and constitutional means and instead their leaders were started being killed. Law and constitution are the primary paths to resolve differences. But for these, you always need sensitivity and realisation within the federation. Unless there is a realisation that for the integrity and solidarity of federation of Pakistan each federating unit including Punjab has to be given its rights, the problem will be there. It’s not a matter of majority or largeness of area, it is only of sensitivity. If Punjab and Sind can have full authority on their wheat, cotton, and rice-crops and gas, why can’t Pukhtoonkhwa have on its forests, mineral and water resources? While hydro-power generation stations are located here, our province has been denied its due share. Many parts of Baluchistan still wait for gas facility which is supplied from there to most parts of the country. It is this lack of equity and justice that spoils things. I think the time has come where we have to decide that if we desire to save the federation, then the smaller federating units will have to be satisfied. Or else it would be very difficult to safeguard the federation of Pakistan, especially in the prevailing situation. The sooner this is done, the better for the country. Any delay in this connection will result in more and more problems for the federation.

TNS: How should the financial resources be distributed amongst the federating units, whether on the basis of population or income…?

AKH: (Interrupting) I have already said that each province has the right to own and control the resources found there. Baluchistan should be given the possession of gas. Sind and Punjab should also be given control of their provincial resources. But we also expect that we will be handed over the ownership of our various resources.

TNS: Let us now turn to the problem of militancy in tribal built of the country. What do you think helped produce the crisis: is it a result of the internal power-politics or are the alleged local extremist tendencies to blame or whether foreign hand is involved as you recently blamed the trouble on some foreign states?

AKH: Did religion come in 1980 which caused extremism? Why was there no extremism before that? Were there any Kalashnikov, RPG or rocket launchers ever seen in Pakistan before that? The truth is this all is the handiwork of our hands. All this is the result of our policies. We brought this ‘Fasad’ to Pakistan ourselves. In 80s, we jumped into a war that Russia and USA fought for their interests but we declared we were waging a Jihad. On the behest of the US, Zia took up the cause. US dollars and Jihadi forces were there to assist him. He facilitated, armed and enticed the ‘mujahideen’- imported from Algeria to Philippines- to fight for America in the name of Islam. And when ‘their’ priorities changed that Jihad became a Fasad overnight. We have kick-started the trouble ourselves. Weren’t Pakistan, religion, and mosque there before that? Wouldn’t people offer prayers and keep fasts before that? Did anyone take up gun? But then we gave them guns and pushed them to fight the Russians for American interests. And now when American priorities have changed and Russia is no more in the middle, we are pitted against those very people who were once created by the US.

TNS: Are there any foreign hands involved in the current uprising?

AKH: From the very outset, it was a foreign war. It was a war for the interests of the USA. Now there are many hands involved. God knows as to who and who is coming. All who try to destabilise or wish that, have jumped in-some may have nuclear problem, others may have border issue while others may have any other conflict with Pakistan. I think all of them are involved. It’s a free-style wrestling. No one knows in precision as to who’s fighting and for whom. Even many of those who fight in tribal areas have little knowledge as to why, for whom and with whose money and weaponry they are fighting. You know the rockets that hit my house in October were Russia-manufactured but Russia had stopped their production in 1967. The question is where did they come from into the hands of the miscreants? They may have arrived here either from Afghanistan or from where they were supplied by the Russians. After all we ourselves are to blame. Had we not taken part in that war for US interests, there wouldn’t have been any Fasad now.

TNS: But I am afraid only lamenting our past policies in this regard would be of no use. Some steps would have to be taken to solve the problem. What political steps do you suggest?

AKH: : Look! What is the present situation? Alqaeda, Usama and extremists from Algeria to Philippines were imported by the US. They were neither created by Pakistan nor Afghanistan. It was at best a problem between Pakistan and Afghanistan or an internal issue of the latter. What the Chechens, Arabs, Libyans and Egyptians had to do in it? They were brought here to use them. Now when the priorities have changed, they have been declared enemies. And then the real Taliban are there with Mullah Umar in Afghanistan. Where these Pakistani Taliban have come from? They were created by us then.

TNS: Who’s supporting the extremists at present from abroad? You had accused Mosad, India–?

AKH: (Interrupting) I think all those who want to destabilise Pakistan are involved.

TNS: What is the solution to this predicament?

AKH: The solution is that the insurgents realise that they are destroying their own country and shedding the blood of their own brothers. They should surrender arms and enter into a dialogue with the government. If they think that they would be able to solve problems through arms, they should know that never throughout history have problems been solved through arms. And it’s not that their bodies are made up of iron while only those of others are of flesh. They are just like other humans. And what has happened of late? Haven’t lashkars been formed against them in Bajaur, Mamoond, Buner, Dir and Kurram agency? The insurgents should know that while they are in thousands, the people come to crores. Never in history has any political movement succeeded without popular support, leave alone any militant one. So we ask them: come on! enter the political and electoral process. If you want the law of Shariah, go and seek popular votes on the issue like we do- When MMA was voted to power, wasn’t its mandate accepted by all? You know it was allowed to rule for full five years while we remained in the opposition during that period. If people support your manifesto, that there should be Talibanisation in the country, you are welcome to run the affairs of the country according to your mandate. The mandate should be respected. But you cannot be allowed to impose your will through the power of gun as it only entails lawlessness, killings, chaos and anarchy.

TNS: Which has always been done by the Army in Pakistan?

AKH: Army has done but it has not said that I’ll bring a system forcefully and will kill you. There have been dictators here like Musharraf who overran an elected government. There has been this kind of adventurism which we have opposed.

Again, one cannot deny the fact that all these kinds of Fitnas have always emerged during military rules in the country. Ayub aggravated the situation. When Yahya Khan came half of Pakistan went away. When Zia came, he started the ‘Jihad’and destabilised Afghanistan and Pakhtoons. When General Musharraf came, he made it into a ‘fasad’.  Never has Pakistan undergone damages like this in any civilian, democratic, political and elected governments throughout its history. Dictatorships have had always harmed the country which unfortunately all the time got backing from certain unprincipled politicians who do so for their personal interests. Gen Ayub was supported by Convention Muslim league, Zia by official Muslim league while Musharraf was backed by Muslim league Q.

The situation in tribal areas now is very alarming. It is not a problem of militancy; rather it’s pure insurgency. It’s an attack on the territorial integrity and solidarity of Pakistan. It’s an attack on the writ of the government. It’s a very serious problem.

TNS: What constitutional steps need to be taken to deal with the FATA problem?

AKH: You see FATA was there even in British period before the establishment of Pakistan. No cases of theft were ever reported then. No enmity-related murder remained untraced. There was no law and order problem in the area. No single fire was shot against its people from Pakistan’s soil. There was a status-quo and a system in the tribal built that worked. When that system was disturbed and the people were given guns in their hand and allowed to go wherever they wanted and shoot whoever they wished, this was bound to happen.

Don’t ‘they’ know where these militants are? Maulana Fazlullah has not come to the fore today. He has been there since long. You media men go and interview him which means he’s there but ‘they’ are still unable to trace him. This is all a predicament of our own making.

TNS: Don’t you think that tribal areas should be merged into the province?

AKH: Why not. It should of course be made a part of the province. There are tribal builts both in Punjab and Baluchistan but they are merged into the settled areas and are under the writ of the respective provincial governments.

We must remember that the British had introduced this mechanism for their ease. They divided pukhtoons by drawing the Durand-line and created differences between Pukhtoons on the two sides as well. Not only that, it created Afghanistan, Yaghistan, provincial and federal tribal areas. The British did so to disperse Pukhtoons and to impede their mutual links because they were afraid of their power and resilience. Never forget that the pukhtoons had ruled the subcontinent and the area from Bay of Bengal to the Amu River, including Kashmir, for over twelve hundred years. It was but natural for the British to try to weaken and control the Pakhtoons who could be a threat to them. It’s a known history. But what’s wrong with us.

Coming back to your question, political parties must be allowed to function in tribal areas. Whenever political parties and figures are given free access in these areas, things will automatically improve. At present, mainstream secular political parties are banned in FATA while Mullahs and religious parties are allowed to continue with their work there freely.

And look at the irony of the situation that while the FATA MNAs are elected to sit in the parliament that has come into being under the constitution of Pakistan, they are beyond the realm of that constitution. They take part in constitution making and legislations but are themselves exempted from those laws and are governed by the FCR. Isn’t it a contradiction in itself? What I mean is that the constitution should be extended to FATA; the areas should be made a part of the province; political parties should be allowed to establish their networks there; the tribal built should be given due attention and shares in developmental projects like settled areas; education, employment, health facilities and communication infrastructures should be given top priorities. It is only through more awareness, dialogue and development that you can hope we could successfully cope with this problem. Gun, violence and terrorism will only aggravate the situation.

TNS: Do you accept the view that there is a difference of opinion between the provincial and federal governments on how to tackle the insurgency. The ANP-led provincial government inked a pact with the TTP. But it was disowned by the advisor on interior Rehman Malik?

AKH: No. He later backtracked on his statement and the situation got cleared. We had signed a treaty with them and released Maulana Sufi Mohammad from prison. Mind you, he was in jail for more than seven years, during the five-year term of MMA government as well who didn’t free him despite the fact that he belonged to their ranks. Though he is still campaigning for what he wanted before his incarceration- the enforcement of Islamic laws- he’s doing it peacefully and hasn’t taken up arms for the purpose. The treaty was signed but it was violated. The writ of the government was challenged and the government was compelled to start the operation. It is untenable that on one hand treaty is signed and on the other militancy and insurgency is carried on while on its part the administration strictly follows the pact. The pact was broken by them, not by us.

TNS: ANP has all along been talking of non-violence. It had opposed the operation and war as an alien war. But now it says it is our war. Isn’t it a contradiction?

AKH: We still stand by our stand. We didn’t start the war. We didn’t initiate hostilities. Infact the war has been imposed on us. If we had initiated the hostilities we would have been guilty of violence. Non-violence doesn’t mean that you let someone kill you. when we are attacked, we have the right to defend ourselves.

TNS: This is precisely what Musharraf would say to validate his policy. Then what is the difference between you and him?

AKH: Musharraf said so after 2001. He didn’t talk like that before that. Before that ministers from both the countries would visit each other. When America changed its policy, Musharraf also followed suit. But we have been saying that from day one. The war has been imposed on us. We are being specifically targeted though the ANP has joined a provincial coalition government of which PPP is also a part. They want to fight with ANP. We still urge them to lay down arms, join the political setup, work in the masses and seek their support. If the electorate backs your agenda, you’re welcome to enforce your manifesto. No Muslim can oppose the law of Shariah but it has to be brought through the public mandate. Mullah sahib took a mandate on the issue but didn’t bring it.

The recent insurgency is not a problem confined to the provincial government. The territorial integrity and solidarity of Pakistan is at stake. The national fabric will suffer if the situation worsens any more. But then it was bound to happen. The war was bound to enter the tribal built from Afghanistan to ultimately spread to settled areas. The wrong policies of the past 28 years were bound to result in a situation like this.

TNS: Your critics say you are following a proactive policy rather than a defensive one. In this connection, they point to a decision regarding the resuscitation of ANP’s youth wing ‘Nangiali Pakhtoon’ in a meeting headed by Asfandyar a few months back. Your comments please.

AKH: It‘s wrong to say that. Infact we had decided to organise our party in that meeting. We are still trying to do it but it is meant only for our defence. We have never said we are at war with ‘them’. Have you ever noticed any lashkar from the ANP going to the tribal built to fight the insurgents? We would have been guilty only if we had utilised our party against them. It is quite the opposite. They come and attack us. We are only for our defence and peace.

TNS: ANP had promised of giving pen and book to Pakhtoon children but your critics say you have given guns in their hands by enticing them to tribal lashkars? How do you reconcile the two?

AKH: We still hold on to our stand. We want to see pens and books in the hands of our youth and would do whatever possible to do that. But this can only be possible if the militants lay down their arms.

TNS: Do you see any possibility that the insurgency will grow fainter in the near future?

AKH: Let us not be pessimistic. We should carry on with our struggles for resolving the issue. If there is sincerity and truthfulness, our endeavours shall succeed at last. Of course, you cannot do without peace and dialogue. So, peaceful endeavours should never be given up. The use of force is and should be the last option. It is being used because the other side dislikes peace. If they surrender their guns and want to hold talks, they would be welcomed.

TNS: The use of force, you said, is the last option but critics say it has become the first choice for the government?

AKH: The government started the operation under compulsion because the other side violated the agreement. We all know Maulana Falullah initially agreed to the pact but when Baitullah rejected it he also withdrew his support. You know there was peace for three months following the treaty. As per the agreement, prisoners, including Maulan Sufi Mohammad, were freed; Fazlullah’s complex at Mamdheri was declared an Islamic university; compensation had begun.

TNS: It has been observed that the two sides are suspicious of each other’s intentions. How can this lack of confidence be removed?

AKH: Mutual confidence can be easily created if vested interests get out of the way. The activist at the tale-end surely doesn’t know as to from where he is being funded and supplied. He sees and knows only the next hand but is ignorant of the many other elements involved in the supply chain. His commitment to, and sincerity with, the cause of Islam is being exploited by the vested interests.

TNS: What other steps do you propose to tackle the insurgency?

AKH: There should be two aspects of our strategy-long term and short term. The long term strategy includes adopting what we have been saying all these years: wind up the hurdles between Pakhtoons and allow the moderate political parties access into tribal areas just as Mullahs enjoy there. In the ongoing situation, we should however, give priority to the short term strategy, which is, that dialogue, development and other legal steps should be embraced. We should also resolve that if militants lay down their guns but are still attacked, we should side by them in that eventuality. First they should surrender their guns, then law, constitution, dialogue, development will be resorted to solve the problem slowly and gradually.

TNS: Where do you stand on the issue of renaming the NWFP?

AKH: In principle, the PPP agrees with the ANP that the name of the province be changed. But it requires a constitutional amendment to alter the name since it is written in the constitution of Pakistan. And for a constitutional amendment you need a 2/3rd majority in parliament. When we reach that stage, we will see to it that it is ensured. As far us, we already have been calling it Pakhtoonkhwa. And now we are grateful that even President Asif Ali Zardari has called it Pakhtoonkhwa. Mahmood Khan Achakzai and many others also share our view.

TNS: Critics say that renaming of the province is a non-issue and won’t solve the people’s problems related to water, power, health and education. How do you respond?

AKH: Have these problems been tackled when the name is NWFP? It’s a separate issue altogether. It’s an issue of identity. It was north western frontier province in the true sense of the word when the British were there. Now every province of Pakistan is a frontier province-one is eastern frontier province, the other is south western and the next is south eastern province. So, I don’t think NWFP is any name at all.

TNS: The NWFP is faced with an acute power and wheat-flour crises. Your opponents say the ANP and wheat-flour crisis are identical twins. What do you say?

AKH: It’s just a coincidence. I think the preceding caretaker government is to blame for the Atta crisis. They should have planned and sorted out the strategy for procurement and import of wheat which they didn’t. That is why the problem was inherited by the elected government. Our province doesn’t produce wheat sufficient for our needs. As provinces are not authorised to import wheat, we look towards Punjab and federal governments for our requirements. But even Punjab is faced with a wheat shortage and has to import wheat to feed its population. Lately, the ban on the supply of wheat by the Punjab government multiplied the crisis. Punjab government cited the alleged smuggling to Afghanistan and tribal areas as reasons for slapping the ban- but mind you, Pak-Afghan border is a loose border stretched upto fourteen hundred miles; it has always been very difficult to control movement across it even if we’ll allocate one million soldiers to the task; as long as the smuggling is there, the problem will be there. So there was a gap between demand and supply which exacerbated the problem. And now when supply-quota has been enhanced, the situation has eased out, although the greedy profiteers, who smuggled Atta to Afghanistan, have earned a lot of money. The fact is that the Pakistani planners prepare our food-estimates only for the four provinces but they overlook the reality that Pakistan has to feed the 20million people in tribal areas and as many in Afghanistan as well. So we’ll have to plan in advance to be able to supply atta to the population as per its demand.

TNS: What factors do you think contributed to the power crisis in the country?

AKH: The Musharraf administration has displayed a criminal negligence in this regard. It didn’t add up a single unit in the national grid in its eight years’ tenure while the population has increased about 40%. When demand increases and supply remains the same, there will certainly be a crisis and there is one. Again, the nature is also unkind to us as there is less water in our rivers. And while President Ayub had sold the rights of three rivers Sutlej, Beas and Ravi to India, the latter has built the Baglihar dam over Chenab and is planning another three. I think next wars will be fought only over water and grain.

TNS: It was being hoped that as ANP enjoyed pleasant relations with Hamid Karzai and India, there would be some relief on the two fronts with ANP coming into power. What are your views on that?

AKH: Haimd Karzai has some grievances. He is faced with an uprising and he thinks that insurgents enter into Afghanistan from tribal areas. India has its own problem with Pakistan on Kashmir. Where is ANP in this equation? ANP always asked for peaceful relations with neighbours and still abides by it. If we had friendly relations with our neighbours, there would have been problems with neither India nor Afghanistan like we don’t have with China. You are right, ANP could have served as a bridge but there are many anti-ANP forces that tried to create hurdles in its way.

TNS: Could you identify these forces please?

AKH: These forces are against the stability of Pakistan and peace in the region. They block the way of forces that could bring stability in the region. See! When we can have good relations with Iran and China, why can’t we have ones with India and Afghanistan? You stop interference in Afghanistan and stop infiltration of armed people into its territory from tribal built, relations will automatically improve. And if Afghanistan severs its relations with us even after that, it will be at fault. The fault lies primarily with us. And if we won’t do it ourselves, Afghanistan is now in the hands of the US and NATO forces and they will safeguard their interests at all costs. After all they haven’t come here to go back; they are here for Central Asia’s oil and gas reservoirs and will stay for long unless their interests are fulfilled. When we as their friends will not do what they say, they will do it themselves.

TNS: When Musharraf joined the coalition, ANP supported him along with PML Q and by default USA. Why did you take that decision?

AKH: Had the US troops not come to Afghanistan and expelled Usama and his men from there, Afghanistan would have ‘Arabanised’ within the next ten years. Arabs may be otherwise very good people but if they were there, half of pakhtoon nation would have been Arabs by now which was not acceptable to us. We Pakhtoons are not ready to compromise on our caste and identity which were endangered. Since Pakistan didn’t want to expel him nor could any other power ensure his ouster, we just thanked the US for this precise reason. We had said that Afghanistan should be left to fashion its affairs without any foreign interference. And say even now you keep your hands away and let Afghanis decide their future themselves.

TNS: You mean US and NATO troops should get out of there?

AKH: The US won’t leave unless and until Afghanistan achieves self-rule.

TNS: Don’t you think that the militancy/insurgency in the region is directly related to American presence here?

AKH: It was tied with it in the past too, with the difference that then they would fire there. But they have started doing it here now. And you look at the respective role of the religious parties. You know they had waged a holy war against the USSR. One is reminded of a picture of Qazi sahib having a Pistol tied to himself. But he doesn’t go for Jihad now; even he can’t talk of it. Can he now declare a Jihad against the US forces? The fact is he can go to war for America but not against it.

TNS: People say Musharaf has gone but his policies are still being followed. How do you respond?

AKH: No, this government has inherited the militancy problem from Musharraf. It will take some time and strategy to get out of the situation. It is unthinkable that the present regime can/will follow his policies, but it is caught up in the middle. What can it do and where can it go? The situation is not of its own making; it’s a Musharraf legacy.

TNS: What party-portfolio do you hold at present? Also, Mardan doesn’t have any representation in ANP’s central and provincial positions after Amir Haider Hoti bequeathed his Deputy General Secretaryship and became NWFP CM?

AKH:Yes there is none but it doesn’t matter. I have had neither hold nor have been given any slot in party; I never have sought one nor seek at present. We are all like a family and care the least for these things. We are all equal and respect each other. We are all activists of ANP working under a programme and leadership. There is no problem whatsoever of this sort in ANP.

TNS: There is a perception regarding ANP that it always has been looking for foreign support. For example, both USSR and now USA are accused of genocide of Pakhtoons but ANP kept mum on their actions. How do you react?

AKH: ANP has neither supported one nor the other. Regarding the 80’s war, ANP leaders had said that it was not a Jihad and was a war for the interests of USA and USSR while Pakhtoons were being crushed. And now, we say the foreign forces are making the Pakhtoons fight against each other to destroy them and to destabilise Pakistan. We have our own politics and programme. We neither look towards this side nor that side.

TNS: Would you like to share your future plans with us? Where would you prefer to go in case of any eventuality?

AKH: Politics is a merciless phenomenon. It doesn’t have a heart in its chest that beats. In it, a friend of today may well be an enemy of tomorrow and vice-versa. It’s very difficult to predict it.

Barrister Baachaa’s interview

Interview with Barrister Baachaa: Confrontationist by nature

By Tahir Ali

(The News, August 2009)

Barrister Baachaa was born in 1941 in Cherat, a town of District Nowshehra in NWFP. He got merit scholarship in 4th. While a student of class 7 he represented Pakistan in the International Scouts Jamboree held in Canada in 1955.

In 1956, a student of class 9, he led students’ protest demonstrations against Israel, UK and France for their attack on Suez Canal for which  Egypt’s Jamal Nasir wrote him a letter of appreciation.

He did his matriculation in 1957 and intermediate in 1959. In the last year at Islamia College Peshawar he was elected the President of the students’ union, the Khyber Union. After graduation he got admission in the Khyber Law College Peshawar.

In 1961, for criticising the military dictator Ayub Khan at his face at the convocation of Peshawar University, warrant for his arrest was issued and therefore he managed to slip out of the country and lived in self-exile in Britain for 11 years. He was called to the bar by the Hon’ble Society of the Inner Temple and returned to Pakistan after the military dictatorship ended and democracy was restored in Pakistan.

1n 1992, he joined ANP at the specific request of Abdul Wali Khan but his opposition to Musharraf’s unconstitutional overthrow of a democratically elected government and the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 led to issue of a show-cause notices to him by the ANP which alleged that he had violated party discipline by criticising General Musharraf and the US invasion of a brotherly neighbouring Muslim country. His reply to the show-cause notice was simple and short: that he was just following the ANP’s manifesto. He was, however, expelled from the party but in 2008 he was persuaded by the party’s high command to return to its folds.

Barrister Baachaa opposed all military dictators from Geneal Ayub to General Musharraf. All used carrot and stick policy to win him over. Musharraf wrote him a flattering letter. He says he can’t compromise on constitutionalism, rule of law, democracy, and civil liberties. “Dictatorship is an insult to human dignity and intelligence,” he says. I believe in rule of law but with a human face; in an impartial judiciary that doesn’t legitimise an illegitimate dispensation. “No contempt is committed of a court that is contemptible and no contempt can be committed of a court that is not contemptible,” he adds.

He remained in the frontline of the lawyers movement and was jailed for 13 days on November 3, 2008.

TNS interviewed him recently. Excerpts follow.

The News on Sunday: You wrote letters to the editor frequently. What was the driving force for you in that?

Barrister Baachaa: I am a bit sensitive to social, political and constitutional development in the country. I get worried when I see constitution, law and country’s interests are ignored or compromised. In my letters I just wanted to convey my feelings. I wished to highlight the issues and point out the required steps. I also intended to promote dialogue within our society. I always tried to be as terse and to the point as possible. You know this at times started discussion that went on for weeks.

Also, I am anti-interventionist by nature. That is why I consider dictatorship as an insult to human dignity, intelligence and morality. Those who aid and abet dictatorship are the lowest of creatures in my view. I can’t help voicing my anger over it. I don’t like to impose my will and thoughts on others but won’t allow others doing that to me and to my nation.

TNS: Being a legal mind, how do you see the role of judiciary in the shaping of history of the country?

BB: It has been very disappointing indeed. Its role in fact was more disappointing than other institutions. If judiciary had shown courage against dictators, if it hadn’t legitimised it, if it had stood in the way of constitutional violations, the country’s history would have been something we would be proud of. From Justice Munir to Justice Irshad Hassan Khan, judiciary lent a helping hand to the dictators in the name of doctrine of necessity. I think judiciary is to blame for lack of democracy and accountability in the country. The bar always stood against dictators but it was let down by the bench. But luckily, judiciary now seems to have shed its previous negative role. It now seems committed to fulfil its obligations to the people, constitutions and the country. The new judiciary is determined to perform better. It is a beacon of hope for the country.

TNS: What are the achievements of the lawyer’s movement in your view?

BB: It has transformed our society. It got rid the country of Musharraf who wanted to stay at the top for long. He had said Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif had no role to play but the lawyers’ movement humiliated him and ended his role instead. It gave the political leadership a chance to strengthen democracy. It created constitutional awareness and now even the man in the street knows about what the leadership ought or not to do. It exposed dictatorship and its cronies. It changed public perceptions of judiciary and created goodwill for honourable judges and lawyers. The civil and military establishment learnt that constitutional deviations would not be accepted and tolerated by the bar, bench and the nation in future. Any dictator will think a hundred times before taking any such step again. It has put a halt to dictatorship.

I think it is also proved beyond doubt that the present constitution can’t defend itself. It failed to do so several times by now. We need a strong constitution which could defend itself and save the country from dictatorship. In its present shape, it is more of a constitution of a unitary state than of a federation- all powers are vested in the centre and provinces have no autonomy which is against the spirit of federation. I think matters between provincial and central governments and those of constitutional interpretation should be decided by the Federal Supreme Court (F SC) in Islamabad while the provinces should have their own Supreme Courts as the last courts of appeal to decide the civil and criminal cases. This would expedite the legal process, lessen workload of the SC, and give a sense of autonomy to provinces. In my view, the tribal belt should be developed into one or two provinces and made part of the federation like other provinces.

TNS: What about judicial activism? How much of it is permissible in parliamentary form of government?

BB: If we analyse our history, we can sum it up as a sorry tale of intrusion by institutions into the sphere of others-every institution neglected its own duties but always tried to transgress its limits. Look, for example, at the role of the army. It is trained for defence of the country but it took upon itself to govern it. This mentality has harmed us greatly. We can’t afford it any further.

You know excesses are committed against people by the executive and by the mighty against the weak. There are administrative weaknesses and shortcomings. Remedy is mostly not available. The leadership remains negligent. So, superior judiciary has got to take action in certain cases.

Judicial activism is desirable but with certain conditions: It is good if it means sensitivity to public grievances; it is bad if it becomes an alternative government. It must not result in clash between the different organs of the state. Any such clash means unlimited hardships for the people. Lawyers suffered great financial losses in the last two years. I myself could not earn a single penny in the period as we had decided not to attend the courts unless Chief Justice Chowdhry and other judges were restored.

As I said earlier I am an anti-interventionist. I believe in separation of powers with limited checks and balances. I want all institutions and persons to restrict their focus to their own domains. Parliament should make laws but should not serve as courts as it does in case of public accounts and other committees. Similarly, courts should avoid performing legislative functions. The executive must neither manipulate the parliament nor pressurise the judiciary to comply. I think the judiciary should first point out the issue to concerned quarters. It may ask for a time frame to resolve the problem. And if the government still fails to d the needful, then the judiciary can start legal proceedings against the concerned departments or officers.

TNS: Do you subscribe to the view that Pushtoons have been guilty of promoting conservatism and tribalism in the name of tradition?

BB: Yes. But the issue needs to be viewed in its real perspective. You have to consider the ground realities. Pushtoon society is basically a tribal society. They live and die with their clans and tribes. They simply can’t afford to go against their tribal traditions. Any violation of the tribal code of conduct by a certain individual or family risk them excommunication from, and loss of the support and security of, their clans and tribes, so vital in their cohesive society. If they go against tribal traditions, they have to leave their ancestral area and migrate elsewhere. But in their new abode they are considered outsiders and looked down upon if the cause of their banishment is known.

I wanted to clarify that they do so out of compulsion, not out of choice. It is something of a kind of ‘doctrine of necessity’. A Pushtoon has to abide by the code of conduct-Pushtoonwali- or else he is boycotted and denied the cover and security by his tribe.

Truly speaking, Pushtoons inherently are very tolerant, loving and liberal people. In rural areas, youngsters and elders assemble to enjoy themselves with music even today. You might have noticed that Pushtoon living outside the province or country have changed their life patterns because they could afford it. They have most often supported progressive nationalist forces. Khushal Khan Khattak, the great Pushtoons poet, has written lyrics hundreds of years ago that are considered even today ‘indecent’ by the puritans. Pashtoons have always lived peacefully for hundreds of years with Sikh, Hindu and other minorities in the province and the tribal belt. There haven’t been a single case of riots against minorities in their areas like the one that happened in Gojra. They also want education, development, prosperity, peace and due regard as human beings.

TNS: Don’t you think women have been denied their due rights by Pushtoons?

BB: It is yet another negative perception prevalent against them. Enmity and friendship are two important parts of Pushtoon society. These two revolve round females and are settled by them. All marriages are exclusively arranged by them. They play major roles in dispute resolutions between tribes and families. It is considered an unmanly behaviour to reject the request an offer for ceasefire or settlement of dispute made by female members of the opposite family. Women thereby help end enmities that may go on for hundred of years. A female is regarded highly as a sister, mother, and daughter. She enjoys respect and controls family affairs as wife.

There are may be stereotypes in certain areas and families which are unacceptable to a modern and civilised mind. But then each society has its specific norms which are part of its psyche. For example you can’t expect a Pushtoon to allow his females free intermingling with strangers. It is even the case in the entire rural and most urban areas in Pakistan. Other than this, women have equal rights. They get education, do jobs and businesses. Musarrat Hilali and Aesha Malik, two female advocates from the province, were in the forefront of lawyers’ movement.

The tribal-belt is most notorious in this regard. Yes there are some problems there. But we all are to blame for it. The state has failed to provide them basic facilities. There is not a single engineering, medical or technical college or university in the entire tribal belt. There is no hospital there worth the name. There are no facilities for general female education there either. The women there also want to develop and live with honour but are left at the mercy of condition.

TNS: You are said to be pro-Taliban. Aren’t you?

BB: There is a difference between Afghan Taliban and the extremists in Pakistan. I consider the former as fighting a war of independence from the US. They are, in a way, defending Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, which is the ultimate target of the US. Defeat in Afghanistan at the hands of Taliban will throw the US out of this region, thereby guaranteeing survival of Pakistan’s defence capabilities. The activities of the extremists in Pakistan, on the other hand, have created a sense of mistrust among Pakistanis in general against the word ’Taliban’, which serves American interest.. I am a strong anti-interventionist throughout my life. I am against any foreign involvement in Afghanistan. I think Afghans have suffered a lot for no fault of theirs. They didn’t take any part in the 9/11 attacks on the American cities. Most of them don’t even know where New York or Pentagon is. The American invasion of Afghanistan is against all norms of humanity, the barbaric killing of innocent Afghan people finds no parallel in human history. Before American invasion of Afghanistan there was no terrorism in this region; it is the US that brought terrorists to the region. It is the US presence that gives birth to more and more terrorists. Peace will return to Afghanistan and Pakistan only and only when the US and its allies leave Afghanistan. The fear of  power-vacuum created by such departure can be avoided by stationing in Afghanistan forces from the moderate Muslim countries, such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Jordon and others till such time that a sovereign Afghan government is elected by the Afghans.

Abdul Latif Afridi’s interview

Interview of Abdul Latif Afridi : seeking an exploitation-free world

By Tahir Ali

(The News, March 2009)

Abdul Latif Afridi was born in 1943 in Teerah Khyber Agency- an area that, according to him, still lacks basic amenities. The name of his father was Haji Hikmat Shah. Latif received his primary education in Peshawar. He did his MA from Peshawar University in 1966. Two years later, he got LLB degree from there. He started legal practice in 1969 that continues till now. He claims to have fought thousands of cases free of cost for labourers, human rights activists and the poor.

Latif joined politics in 1963. He was rusticated from university for his support to Miss Fatima Jinnah in 1964. But it was in 1979 that he joined the Pakistan National Party of Ghous Bux Bezinjo and became its provincial president. PNP was merged in Awami National Party in July 1986 and Latif became its first provincial president. In 1997, he was elected as MNA from NA-33. Later, he left ANP, joined the National Awami Party of Ajmal Khatak but in 2005 he rejoined ANP.

At present he is the president of Peshawar high court bar association, of ANP’s lawyers’ wing and the vice president of ANP ‘Pukhtoonkhwa’. He has been elected president of PHCBA four times. He has been in the forefront of lawyers’ movement that culminated in the restoration of deposed judges on March 16 – the happiest day of his life. He is all praise for Afzal Khan Lala of Swat for his courage to stand against the extremists there.

He says he is for a world free of exploitation and cruelty and one that has peace, freedom, tolerance, happiness and equality in it.

The News on Sunday interviewed him recently. Excerpts follow.

The News on Sunday: The lawyers’ community waged a successful campaign for restoration of deposed judges. How do you analyse the movement and its implications?

Abdul Latif Afridi: It is indeed a defining moment in Pakistan’s history. The question of reinstatement of the deposed judiciary was a major irritant for the system. With this crisis now resolved amicably- thanks to an unyielding struggle by the legal fraternity backed by the entire civil society groups and some parties, the country is now back on track. We feel relaxed and proud. This restoration has laid down the foundations of independent judiciary. An independent judiciary is only possible if the executive doesn’t interfere with the system; unless people and rulers respects the rights of others; unless rulers obey the law; there is rule of law; unless the judges have security of office and are not left at the mercy of whims of rulers; and of course there are independent minded judges who are not considered the ‘friends’ of rulers.

Pakistan’s image as a vibrant democratic polity had greatly suffered as result of the en masse deposition of judges by. Luckily, the March 16 notification has established that right is might, not vice versa.  The movement was a heartening development; it established that the Pakistani nation also can stand for human liberties and justice; this movement has washed away the negative image of Pakistan. It was a secular movement run by secular leaders for secular ideals. Most of the religious leaders- Maulana Fazlur Rehman for example- never joined it, opposed it rather. In my view he and other of his kind cannot be accepted as genuine and democratic political leaders.

I think that the restoration would go a long way in strengthening democracy, freedom, and judiciary.

TNS: Should the post November 3 judiciary go?

ALA: We should forget about the past. All the judges, before or after November 3, 2007 should be retained. There is room for all of them. Whether they have taken oath or not under the PCO, all the judges should be accommodated. We should look towards the future. We have to bury this hatchet. We should plan for the times ahead of us. We can hardly afford any new tension, troubles and controversies.

TNS: Would it solve the problems faced by the commoners in administration of justice? What else do you suggest for the purpose?

ALA: Though it is a happy news for all of us, but we should remember that only restoration of judges will not suffice to make Pakistan a democratic, prosperous and human friendly society. Much needs to be done. The legal fraternity should offer suggestions how to improve upon the legal and political system. They should suggest as to how justice can be made easily, quickly and cheaply available. We will also have to eradicate the social, economic, political, educational and regional disparities and deprivations. A judicial system that caters to the needs of the diverse and complex modern conditions will have to be evolved. Each one will have to perform his duty and fulfil his/her obligations. We will have to be vigilant towards the policies, actions, decisions and working of the government, leaders, laws and institutions. Parliament will have to be strengthened and made sovereign in the true sense of the word. It will have to act independently and never serve the elite moneyed class and powerful establishment. It must not be allowed to become a servant for, and puppet in the hands of, the despots which unfortunately it has been- I had a very unenviable experience of this laxity on part of parliament; of the 217 MNAs in 1997-99 in National Assembly of Pakistan of which I was also one, only 20 to 25 took active part in its deliberations and the rest kept silent, showed indifference, and callousness. Unless parliament becomes sovereign, it will remain prone to intimidations, will continue to be used and abused by the establishment and will be at the mercy of military dictators and demagogues. If it becomes sovereign, no general can dare take over the country.

We can learn from the world in this respect. The USA had its constitution promulgated over tow hundreds years ago but only nine amendments have so far been made into it. Our constitution has already seen seventeen amendments in just 36 years of its history. We can learn from the British as well. Though there is no written constitution there but strong and independent judiciary and parliament has made it one of the coveted destinations for all. We should think why is there too much inequality? Why is there no check on the income and expenditures of the government? Why is parliament widely seen as a rubber stamp even by the layman? Why has it always stood behind all dictators- men who are responsible for all the ills of the country?

Middle class will have to be reinvigorated. A must step in this connection will be the abolition of Jagirdari system right away. Institutions will have to be established and strengthened.

TNS: Whenever there is an action against someone, he/she quickly dubs it political victimisation and escapes the law. How should this problem be resolved?

ALA: There should be rule of law if problems like these are to be avoided. Law should be equally applied to all without any preferential treatment to anyone. There should be no differentiation on any basis whatsoever. If there is sovereign parliament and independent judiciary, backed by a vigilant public opinion, no one can be victimized. The problem arises when there is general perception that judiciary can be employed for political gains against the political adversaries. After all judiciary not only adjudicates between persons but also between the ruled and the rulers. How can there be satisfaction and why wouldn’t there be misconceptions and allegations if judges are perceived as ‘friends of the ruling elite?’ if there are independent judges, if there is independent judiciary and the constitutions is followed, there wouldn’t and can’t be any question of political victimization. Justice after all should not be done but must seem to have been done.

TNS: Are you for abolition, modification or retaining of the Frontier Crimes Regulations?

ALA: FCR was promulgated by the British way back in 1901. It is now more than a century old. Conditions have changed considerably. Much water has passed under the bridge since then. The British have left and the area is now part of an independent state Pakistan. Many new ground realities have emerged. The tribal areas aren’t like these were in the past. An approximately 33 of them now live in settled areas through out Pakistan, though most do in Peshawar. Their living style has undergone transformation with the passage of time. Most have opted for education, trade, and jobs. The Dubai syndrome has brought enormous changes in their preferences for life. They are now mostly unlike the ones they were in 1901.  They deserve to be treated as human beings and free citizens of a free state. They should have fundamental rights; should not be governed by a political agent who are mostly corrupt, who plunder the tribal areas and make money at their cost.

FCR is no more valid. It has outlived its existence. It was promulgated by a colonial power to subdue and subjugate the tribes. Now they live in an independent country Pakistan as its free citizens. They shouldn’t be ruled now by laws which were meant for slaves. It has also proved to be of no worth. It has failed to check extremism, terrorism and Talibanisation. It couldn’t deliver. It is a black law and must be replaced by genuine and proper laws. It must be totally abolished.

Basic human rights should be given to the tribal people. Education and development should be given top priority there-female and male literacy rate in FATA is one and ten percent respectively which is highly regrettable and objectionable. Special incentives should be given to them to enrol their children in schools. FATA and PATA must be abolished sooner rather than later and made part of the province. Merge FATA and PATA into the province. Give them representation in provincial assembly and allocate special development funds for them along with the normal federal and provincial budget. I even dislike the term tribal areas. This word has become synonymous with lawless land, backwardness, extremism and terrorism. Tribal people are loving and humane people but they are considered identical with militants and terrorists due to the wrongs of a few amongst them. These people are every where, not only here. The areas have been practically taken over by extremists- they have subdued the five million odd population. They are themselves at the mercy of the terrorists. Drone attacks are continuing for long. And they now fear a limited nuclear strike by the US. They are the victims but their image has been tarnished. This picture and identity should be washed.

TNS: Where do you see Pakistan after ten years from now?

ALA: Historically speaking, agencies have always been supportive of the fundamentalist groups in the regions. In FATA and Pukhtoonkhwa, militants and fundamentalists were planted and nourished by the military establishment for ‘strategic depth’ in the region- an objective that is foolish to say the least. I warned the Pakistani leadership from the very outset that the doctrine of strategic depth will ultimately damage the country. In FATA, I myself have seen pamphlets in which the area under the Taliban sway in tribal built has been projected as part of the Amarat-e-Islami Afghanistan. So whosoever that supports these elements from the establishment is actually working for the dismemberment of Pakistan. Pakistan army is not coming up to the expectations of the people. It is unable to defend the country against drone attacks. It is performing very poorly. It has not been able to root out terrorists elements and they have complete control of parts of the country. And when you are paid for your services in war on terror, you are bound to be questioned, criticized and censured if you fail to perform upto the mark. I think it is high time that Pakistan changes its policy on terrorism and Afghanistan. I am afraid we are fast heading towards a disaster. If polices and preferences are not changed soon, Pakistan I fear may soon disappear from the world map within ten years. Pakistani rulers and establishment should realize that much harm has been already done. They should adapt to new realities.

TNS: What do you think should be done to correct the situation?

ALA: Some important decisions will have to be taken inside the country as well.

The rights of the smaller provinces should be accepted and they must be given financial autonomy and the control of the resources with in them. Constitution should be amended for this purpose. Secondly, we should build strong institutions. Nations are saved only by strong institutional setups, not by individuals. Thirdly, Pakistan should be transformed into a democratic welfare state. Various European countries, the US, and to some extent China have become welfare states that cater to all the basic needs of their citizens. Pakistan should learn from the world and follow suit.  There are present 40 to 50 billionaires in the country while majority lives in miserable conditions. An equitable distribution of wealth and resources between the people and provinces will have to be ensured. Certain basic amenities should be provided to all by the state. Extreme inequality in wealth, remunerations, and opportunities will have to be removed. The state and the rich should contribute to poverty alleviation. They should build hospitals, schools and industries. Fourthly, feudalism will have to be abolished once and for all. This class has always supported the dictators. Land reforms should be introduced sooner rather later. Women empowerment is also required. Education, jobs and economic freedom is vital for the emancipation of this 50% section of population.

TNS: The Swat deal has been criticised as capitulation to extremists. Some say it has brought about a parallel judiciary there. What do you say?

ALA: The swat deal has indeed established a parallel judiciary there. It excludes lawyers, modern educated judges. It has replaced them with medieval Qazis. This is why I am afraid the president won’t sign it in its current form.

The situation is Swat was not created in a day. The previous MMA government in the province let the extremists develop themselves enormously by its negligence. It was a great disservice to the region on their part. Also, Pakistani establishment has a long history of patronising the fundamentalist forces to use them against the ‘Red-threat’. It has officially been lenient and obedient to pro-religious forces. It may be recalled that Pakistan’s first constituent assembly held around 115 sittings to chalk out the outlines of the future constitution for Pakistan. Though it could not do the task it was supposed to do, it did okay the Objective Resolution. Even though it was not made a substantive part of the constitution, but it did pave the way for fundamentalism in the country. The clergy was emboldened. The official policy of appeasement of the religious bigots and condoning their excesses further encouraged them. Extremism became rampant and the whole society now suffers as result. Our entire curriculum was ‘Islamised’ that further aggravated the situation. The approach that a religious Pakistan would be solution to all the problems was foolish. A democratic and liberal Pakistan would instead be a better option.

Abdul Akbar Khan’s interview

Abdul Akbar Khan’s interview: A hard nut to crack

By Tahir Ali


Abdul Akbar Khan was born in 1949 in Spinkay, a suburban village, of Mardan. His father’s name is Sher Akbar Khan. He is an agriculturist and miner by profession. He is an LLB and also practiced law for many years.

He joined the Pakistan People’s Party and soon created an impregnable impression on (Late) Benazir Bhutto, thanks to his abilities and excellent communication skills. He gained her confidence and developed such a rapport with her that she stood by him in every thick and thin. There were moments for Akbar when there were revolts against him in party ranks but she always supported and rescued him.

He has won his seat six times. He ascribes his success to his public contacts, to his untiring service to the electorate and deceit-free politics and to the love the people have with him.

He remained speaker of the NWFP assembly from 1993-96. He also served as its deputy speaker in 1988-90. He is currently the parliamentary leader of the PPPP there. Besides, he is also a member of various standing committees and is also the chairperson of the public accounts committee.

He is a seasoned parliamentarian and the most experienced of the present ones. He raises important technical points on constitutional and economic issues. He is particularly at his best when in opposition. He says he helps every government by raising matters of public importance. He, however, is dreaded by the treasury benches for that matter.

The News on Sunday interviewed him recently. Excerpts follow.

The News on Sunday: Before your appointment as PPP parliamentary leader in NWFP assembly, you often embarrassed the ANP-PPP coalition government in assembly. Now you are a bit silent. Aren’t you?

Abdul Akbar Khan: In every democratic system, there are two distinct sides called opposition and treasury benches who have specific roles to play. The former criticizes the government’s policies while the latter defends them. Their respective roles change as they step from one bench to another. You never see a chief minister or minister attacking their government nor can it be expected. That said, as far I am concerned I have never indulged myself in opposition for the sake of opposition in each of my six stints as MPA. I am for constructive opposition only. I have always raised important issues on technical grounds and will continue to do so. In fact I have been of great help to every government for that matter.

TNS: How did you find (late) Benazir Bhutto? What would have she done had she been there now?

AAK: BB would have done a lot. Her presence would have made things look very easy. She was a woman with exceptional abilities. She was approachable, a patient listener and an astute orator. She would listen intently, consider the suggestions offered and solve matters quickly. She loved the poor, democracy and the country and even sacrificed her dearest life for their sake. I think her presence at top would have been of much help and advantage to the country and its people.

TNS: Who might have killed her-local or foreign actors? Mind you she herself had nominated ex-president Musharraf as her would-be killer in her email to Mark Siegel?

AAK: I think at the moment it would be premature to say as to who are her exact killers. She was an international figure. She was a hard task master and would surely have asserted herself had she come to power. Enemies didn’t kill a politician in her- they killed the prospective prime minister of Pakistan. Being apprehensive of her intentions, stature, wisdom and courage, the enemies decided to kill her before she could become a prime minister. The enemies thought it would be difficult to attack her for tough security once she came to power. She hadn’t enough security as her pleas for security were ignored by the government- hence, the attack on her before elections. Some local actors are also suspected but they surely couldn’t have completed the task single-handedly. Their might be a foreign hand involved. This certainly was a conspiracy to destabilise Pakistan through annihilation of popular leadership. Mind you Nawas Sharif was also in exile then.

The government has gone for investigation by the UN. Investigation by the Scotland Yard in 2008 was meant for ascertaining the cause of death only and didn’t determine the killers. One prays and hopes that her actual killers would be exposed and punished. The UN investigation would help things transpire.

TNS: NWFP is replete with precious resources but it is the poorest of all the provinces of Pakistan. Do you subscribe to the view that it has been denied its due by the federal government?

AAK: You are right that it is a resource-rich but poor province. Yes NWFP has not been handed over its due share but I think politicians of the province are also to blame as much as the governments in Islamabad. Take for example the decision by the former Mutahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) government to go for arbitration on the net hydel profit issue. Arbitration was totally irrelevant in this matter- you accept arbitration when there is a mutual disagreement on a problem. There was none on this issue. The net hydel profit of the province was/is our constitutional right that was fixed by AG N Qazi commission- the commission itself was established and authorised to do so in 1987 by another constitutional body, the council of common interests (CCI). It was guaranteed by constitutional provisions and no government could therefore deny it to us. So there was no need for arbitration at all. NWFP should have stuck to AGN Qazi formula and shouldn’t have accepted the arbitration. Because once you accept an arbitrator in any matter, you will have to accept his decisions.

Besides, the MMA also abandoned the demand for payment of royalty for full 18 years from 1973 to 1991. Taking of Interest was also neglected on the outstanding amount Wapda owed to the province. Only royalty was demanded and that too on the basis of old power tariff. The result is that the province is still given net hydel profit of Rs6 billion based on power tariffs of 1987 at the rate of Rs0.33 per unit while per unit price of electricity has increased manifold since then. At present 18 billion units are produced in the province and the province deserve more than six billion on the basis of new electricity tariff.

Remember that net hdyel profit fluctuates with increase or decrease in prices of power tariff. While royalty- for example royalties on gas, minerals, timber etc- is fixed. Wrongs done to the province in royalty on its resources is a sad story in its own place.

TNS: What should the NWFP government do in this regard?

AAK: The province is faced with many challenges and problems. It is the poorest of the provinces. It is a front line area in the war on terror and is the most affected part of the country for that matter. Law and order situation is worse. Terrorism and extremism is on the rise. Our precious timber resources are being destroyed unscrupulously- according to reports two millions cubic feet of high quality timber-worth hundreds of billions of rupees- lie in open sky in Kohistan alone because of ban on transportation of timber. Similar is the case with gemstone industry.

NWFP houses 14% of the Pakistan’s population. It should have schemes of 70 billion rupees in the total public sector development programme (PSDP) but this year it has schemes of only eight billions rupees-much less than warranted on the basis of its population or poverty therein.

The NWFP government should propose mega projects for next year PSDP. For example, it should propose a scheme to bring under cultivation millions of acres of cultivable land in the south of NWFP that lies unattended. We have plenty of water available for irrigation. An estimated 10 thousand cusecs of water of our share are either utilised by other provinces or fall in the Indian Ocean. This water can be utilised for the scheme.

We all belong to the province and should ensure that NWFP gets its rights. There can not be a better opportunity. A coalition government of the same parties is running both here and at the centre. NWFP government should take up issues with the latter.

TNS: What are the fundamental faults with our political party system? Isn’t personality cult too rampant here?

AAK: The greatest drawback is Pakistani party system is that elections and politics are adopted for power and wealth. These are neither ideology-centric nor service-oriented. The main objective of politicians and parties is how to make it to the parliament. So, there isn’t, and can’t be, a merit-based selection of candidates. The criterion to field someone as candidate is whether or not he can spend enough to win his/ her seat. Sincere and committed workers are neglected. Tickets are awarded to wealthy and influential persons who may not be a sincere worker of the party. He usually deserts his party later. This develops “lota culture” and “horse-trading”. If ideology-based politics is promoted, this scourge could be eradicated.

Another malady with our political system is that commitments are violated. Mostly unrealistic promises are made with the electorate as they are not meant for fulfilment. This causes public resentment and disappointment with the system.

Yes the party system in Pakistan is personality-oriented. But the fact cannot be contested that this is a regional phenomenon not restricted to Pakistan alone. This has been a tradition all over the subcontinent. People in India, Bangla Desh, Pakistan and Srilanka follow political dynasties. They don’t accept substitutes easily for popular leaders.

TNS: The recent swat deal is being criticised as capitulation to militants. Your comments.

AAK: The deal should be viewed in its true perspective. You know Swat was a princely state. For 200 years it remained under the ambit of Sharia laws. The system in vogue there availed its people free, quick and easy justice, if nothing else. It was in 1969-70 that Swat was merged into Pakistan. But it was given a special status and made part of the Malakand division to be governed by Pata regulations. Later, the regulations were declared unconstitutional by the supreme court of Pakistan which created a legal vacuum.

The matter may also be viewed from another angle. Other parts of Pakistan have remained under the purview of Criminal procedure code (CrPC) and Pakistan penal code (PPC) for over 140 years now and are fully accustomed to these now. On the contrary, PATA and FATA didn’t experience the laws for that long. The people there could not get used to it. They faced many difficulties in getting justice. They hardly knew anything about the intricacies of the new legal system.

The people campaigned for Sharia based legal system, a system that could offer them speedy justice. It was promised to them. The constitution of Pakistan also allows this mechanism. To meet this popular demand, a Nizam – e – Adal regulation was enforced first in 1994, then in 1998 and now this one in 2009. It is at best a local solution to a local problem or a demand for speedy justice that must be fulfilled. What has it to do with bowing down to terrorists? When their demand was accepted, they announced cessation of hostilities. They were not terrorists but were people that campaigned for a cause. Had they been terrorists, they would not have announced ceasefire.

TNS: Critics say how can there be different laws in different parts of a country?

AAK: The argument is irrelevant and based on false premise. Never lose sight of the fact that PATA and FATA are inherently different from the rest of the country. These are admittedly separate entities. Judicial decisions in these areas are not based on the CrPC or PPCas in other parts of the country- PATA are governed by PATA regulations and the FATA by FCR. Income tax, customs act and many other laws of the land are not applied there. And what is ironical is that while MNAs and Senators from FATA sit in Pakistani parliament, take part in constitution making and legislation but the areas are exempted from that constitution and laws and are governed by the FCR. No law passed by parliament is applicable there unless specifically meant for FATA or PATA.

There are already different laws enforced in these areas. So, these can be dealt differently.

Even in PATA, like in Malakand division, the province is not authorised to act independently. It cannot enforce a legislation there in itself. It has to send any draft through provincial governor to the president for his approval.

TNS: Will the truce bear positive results?

AAK: It must. But I personally think that the situation and problem there is too complicated by now to be totally rectified. The deal could be partially successful. It will take some time to heal the wounds the social fabric has got there.

Dr Muhammad Farooq Khan’s

Dr Mohammad Farooq Khan: A multifaceted personality

By Tahir Ali

(The News 2008)

Dr. Muhammad Farooq Khan was born in 1955 in a village in the district of Swabi. He is widely recognized as a writer, columnist, and intellectual throughout the country. He is also a known religious scholar and competent TV compare. He delivers lectures both within and without the country. He obtained his elementary education at his hometown. Then he joined Cadet College, Hasanabdal, and later on the Cadet College, Kohat. After having acquired the degree in medicine, he decided to specialize in psychiatry. He established his private practice in Mardan.

He has a comprehensive personality. Besides being a doctor, he obtained religious education in different Madrassas. He served as a student leader as well. Then he joined Jamat-e-Islami but left it soon. He later joined Imran Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf but quickly parted ways with it. He also also contested elections. Recently, he has been appointed the Vice-Chancellor/Project Director of International Islamic University Mamdheri Swat built at the same venue which was the centre of the notable Swati cleric Maulana Fazlullah.

In his own words, he is a humanist who strives for the well being of the whole humanity. He doesn’t believe in conspiracy theories, urges self-realization and critical self analysis and stresses that once we overcome our shortcomings, the external world will steadily become favourable.

He is not happy with the rampant emotionalism in our society and thinks that our reactionary psyche has done us much harm.

God has bestowed upon him the quality of presenting his propositions in simple language. He is clear in his thoughts and terse in his utterances.

He has written some books in both Urdu and English languages. Some of his works include, “ Dialogue with the West”, “Pakistan and the Twenty First Century”, “Islam and women”, Jihad and War, some important discussions”, “Modern issues and Islam”, “The Struggle for Islamic Revolution”, and the like.

The News on Sunday interviewed him recently before he left for Indonesia for a special lecture. Excerpts follow.

The News on Sunday: Pakistan is faced with a multitude of challenges and problems. What do you think are the most pressing problems Pakistan faces today?

Dr. Muhammad Farooq Khan:  I divide these problems in three categories: Primary, secondary and tertiary ones.

The primary reasons for our present state of affairs are the widespread illiteracy and poverty in our country. We are amongst the lowest literate nations in the world. We boast off having 40% literacy rate but that too is questionable by world standard. Education has never been in our priority list. No uniform system of education could be developed as yet. The country as a result has been divided in water-tight compartments.

Our religious education system too is defective. What actually is being imparted is sectarianism in the name of religion. Interfaith dialogue, peaceful coexistence and tolerance were never fostered here.

In terms of poverty too, Pakistan is bracketed with the poorest of countries. The so-called economic development claimed by successive regimes here is cosmetic and superficial. Our ‘robust’ economy cannot do without US loans. The middle class has always been shrinking. The gap between haves and have-nots is widening. A society develops when 70 to 80% of its population belongs to middle class. Good social and moral values are bound to emerge in a society where there is a strong middle class.

TNS: Could you tell us what are the secondary and tertiary problems?

DMF: Lack of democracy, justice, rule of law, integrity and tolerance in our society has also done us much harm. We call them secondary problems not because they are less important but due to the consideration that they are the by-products of illiteracy, poverty and absence of a sizeable and vigilant middle class.

All these five are prerequisites for peace, development and prosperity in states. But they are practically non-existent here. Political demagogues often deceive people because the majority is ignorant. There is no democracy, so no accountability. There is no justice and no rule of law that’s why people take law into their hands. There is less business and investment because integrity is missing. And we see plentiful incidents of violence for tolerance is at the lowest level in our society.

The tertiary problems comprise those of extremism and terrorism and their associated evils. They are interlinked in one way or the other with the above phenomena.

TNS: What is terrorism? Is it restricted to a particular area or society?

DMF: There has been no agreed upon definition of the term so far. Terrorism is defined as recourse to violent means to achieve political ends. If the use of force alone is the yardstick to judge someone as terrorist, then individuals, organizations and states that use force for political objectives could equally be declared terrorists. Also, terrorist for one is a hero for others. And terrorist of the past may well be declared a freedom fighter later and vice-versa.

Historically speaking, terrorism has been in vogue in many developed countries in the past. For example, in USA, vigilantism, the old name for present day terrorism, motivated people to take up weapons to set everything right by force- it continued for more than 200 years. Cowboys, who were particularly popular in Texas where Bush comes from, were American Taliban- And we all know how the Hollywood eulogized and idolized them in thousands of films.

In Europe too, the trend manifested itself after the advent of Renaissance and enlightenment and continued for centuries. French revolutionaries were Taliban of the West, who tried to reform their society by force. All these people had some common attributes: they were sincere, active, passionate, armed and fought for their ideals.

Terrorists (force users) through out ages have been seeking some sort of justification. Renaissance was motivated by liberalism, US freedom struggle sought solace in American nationalism. In South America, where religion is strong as in Pakistan, reformists used Liberation Theology for the purpose. Scientific socialism, language, area and other phenomena too have been used as the bases for violent reformation and liberation movements.

This vigilantism would have been in practice even now had the collective western conscience not come to the conclusion that development and empowerment of institutions was vital for a peaceful, caring and prosperous society.

TNS: How did extremism and terrorism develop in Pakistan?

DMF: A number of factors and actors are to blame in this connection. The above mentioned shortcomings in our polity served as causes of frustration in Pakistan. Things were, however, made worse first by the erstwhile USSR’s and of late by the American aggression against Afghanistan.

USA, Zia-ul-Haq and the Jamat-e-Islami (JI) along with the global pan-Islamist movements like Muslim Brotherhood, are the main culprits responsible for promoting it in the region and worldwide. They joined hands probably in an unconscious alliance to defeat communism. US was happy that it would punish USSR for its role in Vietnam by putting guns on the shoulders of Afghans, so it supplied arms, money, training and media support to freedom fighters; The Arab kingdoms also followed suit. The JI and other religious outfits around the world supplied human resources to fuel the war. Hundreds of thousands of militants converged on Pakistan with their hard-line ideologies. Pakistan welcomed them because it was a base-camp for the ‘Jehad’. Many of these hardliners opted to remain in Pakistan after the war ended. Zia still needed them for Kashmir so he facilitated them. They established their strong holds and are now fighting their erstwhile supporters, the Pakistani military establishment and USA.

It is an established fact that Afghanistan and Pakistan have been trying to destabilize each other by using their respective oppositions. If Afghanistan supported the Pukhtoonistan movement, Pakistan too patted Professor Burhanuddin Rabbani (PBR) and Engineer Gulbadin Hikmatyar (EGH) on their backs since early 70s. I personally met both of them in the JI’s Peshawar office way back in 1974. Jamiat-e-Islami was the sole opposition party in Afghanistan then with PBR as its president and EGH as secretary general.

When Zia decided to lend military support to Afghan fighters against the Russians, he also went for the divide and rule policy so that Afghanistan always remained subservient to Pakistan. So, with the blessings of Zia, Hizb-e-Islami (HI) emerged out of Jamiat-e-Islami, Younis Khalis formed his own faction of HI, Professor Sayyaf was called from Saudi Arabia and facilitated to form his own group, the Sufi school of thought in the Mujahideen also formed its own organization, pro-Zahir Shah group united under a new umbrella, Shias developed their own outfits and various other splinter groups were formed across Afghanistan on linguistic, territorial and sectarian grounds. Afghanistan was sharply divided. These divisions in Afghanistan had also its repercussions in Pakistan. The entire nation saw with awe and anger the emergence of Sipahs and Lashkars in pakistan.

TNS: People say the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan posed a threat to the security and solidarity of Pakistan. Was it so? Also, what should have been done in that situation?

DMF: Opinions differ on the issue. But even if it did pose any danger, Pakistan should have opted for peaceful political and diplomatic channels to deal with the situation. A Dialogue with USSR then would have been useful; it certainly would have allayed Soviet apprehensions on our role in Afghanistan. Probably it would have withdrawn its forces once an independent, impartial or non anti-USSR Afghanistan had been guaranteed. Militant option could have been used but only as a last resort and after a sovereign government in exile and combined army had been formed. But what Zia did was nothing short of dividing the unfortunate land into many states.

The Afghan model was bound to fail. It would invariably turn into a nightmare. Afghan parties were funded separately; each established their strong bastions and no-go areas. Each of them could now challenge the authority of the state. Mind you when an organization of people gets money, weapons and authority to rule within a specific area, as they were, it becomes a state within itself.

TNS: Recently there has been a phenomenal increase in suicide bombings. Which elements are involved in the development of the syndrome?

DMF: Suicidal attacks are basically a sociological phenomenon. It is the outcome of extreme frustration, depression and reactionary approach. Many incidents of suicide attacks are cases of misguidance. There might be some exceptions but people coming from poverty, puritan groups, broken families and some traditional as well as revolutionary outfits normally adopt this course.

The US aggression against Afghanistan and our support to the war on terror have also led supporters of Taliban to blow themselves up to harm our security personnel.

Also, when democracy, tolerance, education and justice are neglected in a society, extremism and terrorism will invariably emerge. We all have witnessed how far election related differences were dragged in our society in not very distant past.

Again, human beings are endowed with spirit of sacrifice. When this spirit couples with reactionary psyche in humans and with frustration, even some normal persons may come to the conclusion that suicide bombing is the best way to take revenge. While they may be right in their political analysis, but they are in the wrong when it comes to the strategy they adopt. This spirit of sacrifice is itself not bad. It needs to be channelized to the right side. They should be taught that solution to all our problems lies in our non reactionary, patient and judicious approach to world problems and in excelling in education.

Hopefully, extremism and terrorism will weaken with the passage of time. For example, Gandhi and Subash Chander both wanted freedom. Both were sincere. But the former won freedom through peaceful means and the latter who favoured violent means to reach at the target finds little support in today’s world. Similarly the Quaid-e-Azam waged a peaceful struggle and snatched independence from a disinclined British government. His opponents in Majlis-e-Ahrar and Khaksar Tehreek were for militant efforts to oust the British. The former won freedom and is respected worldwide while the latter are lost in history. Final victory is for the non-violent struggle though it may take some time.

TNS: How do you analyse the policy Pakistan chose after the 9/11? What would be an ideal option for Pakistan in its relations with the US and the West?

DMF: Musharraf’s Afghan policy was a blunder, rather a crime that greatly harmed our national interests. If Zia had gifted the Heroin and Kalashnikov cultures to our polity, Musharraf with his injudicious decision to join the US-led coalition brought with it the scourges of suicide bombings, terrorism and countrywide tensions.

Turkey’s strategy vis-à-vis the war on terror was the best and Pakistan should have learnt from it. The US requested the Turkish government for logistic support on Afghanistan. It agreed in principle but said it would take the issue to parliament for a final decision. Turkish parliament rejected the US request and that’s all. Though the parliament was suspended then in Pakistan, Musharraf could have bought some time, convened a national meeting of all political, religious, social and media groups and figures to chalk out a proper plan of action but he surprisingly okayed the US ‘request’ in so much haste that it surprised even the US administration. Pakistan offered its support and services in return for money which was also wrong as the US would definitely seek explanation and account for the money they gave. We should have told the US that our polity and the region would be endangered if we joined the war. We also could have sealed and fenced our border, even inside our borders, to block infiltration to and from Afghanistan. Any way, we should have avoided practical involvement in the war on terror. However, Pakistan joined the coalition and thus announced war on Alqaeda and Taliban. Pakistani supporters of Taliban, Tehreeki Taliban Pakistan (TTP) also followed suit, took up arms and started attacking our troops.

Coming to the second part of your question, I think we should seek only working relationship with the US and avoid both friendship and enmity with it.

TNS: Do you think the TTP is justified in its struggle against the Pakistani troops?

DMF: Never. I was analysing the whole situation. I tried to make the point that Musharraf administration fired the first shot in this connection when it joined the US coalition. Taliban only retaliated. But that doesn’t mean they are justified. Islam is against reactionary approach and vigilantism. It cannot be even thinkable that Islam, or any other religion for that matter, allows suicide bombings and terrorism that more often entail collateral damages and in majority of cases that also becomes central damage. It enjoins patience and tolerance. If you want to reform society, Islam warrants that first you should act upon what you say and then preach it peacefully. Reformation of societies through violent and militant ways results in chaos, more loss, less advantage and anarchy in them.

In my view what the Pakistani authorities and Taliban do in tribal built is tantamount to inviting the foreign forces. There are many grey areas where questions arise on their respective strategies. Both should reconsider their present policies in the best interest of Pakistan. As a first step, Pakistan should come out of the coalition and try to mind its own business.

Again, military establishment has more often followed strategies that though may have benefited its corporate interests, but harmed the country’s in ultimate analysis. We should think as to why the whole world is pointing fingers at us and accusing us of double standards.

TNS: What should be done to take the country out of crises it is fraught with?

DMF: we badly need a uniform system of modern education, Poverty alleviation, an equitable distribution of wealth in society, a robust and big middle class, a strong judiciary and rule of law, eradication of corruption, patient and judicious approach to problems, tolerance, interfaith harmony and saying goodbye to emotionalism and Puritanism so that we could get an enviable position in the comity of nations.

Dr Zahoor Ahmad Awan’s

Dr Zahoor Ahmad Awan: A non-conformist to the core

By Tahir Ali

Dr Zahoor Ahmad Awan is an all rounder. He is an academician, writer, critique, columnist, traveller and human rights activist. He is the senior member of NWFP public service commission. He has taught for forty years in universities and after retirement teaches free of cost at Peshawar and Qurtaba universities.  He says teaching is my life, “it will continue as long as I am alive”.

Dr Zahoor was born in united India in 1942. His family migrated to Pakistan from Indian-held Kashmir via Muree in 1947. He did his masters in Urdu, English and Political Science from Peshawar University. He did his MS in international relations from Clark Atlanta University in USA and PhD in Central Asian Studies from Area study centre Peshawar University.

He has visited dozens of countries like USA, Canada, United Kingdom, Turkey, Iran and India and others, some even several times. He has also received the prestigious Tamgha-e-Imtiaz. He had also been appointed educational counsellor at Pakistan Embassy in the US in 1996.

He has written extensively on literature, history and politics. He is a known columnist who is liked for his blunt style. He has around 80 publications that include books, travelogues and literary works in Urdu, English and Hindku languages. He has written over ten thousand columns. He writes what he deems fit and necessary even if it be disgusting to others. He damns care. He is an outspoken critic of rampant corruption, hypocrisy, illiteracy and injustice in our society and says that Pakistanis have excelled all in dishonesty and mastered cheating others.

He is a self-made man. He belonged to a poor family and in his school days he had to work at bicycle repair and bookbinding shops. He educated in extremely unfavourable conditions. He says every one gets opportunities but few lucky ones avail it and I am one. He can be role model for ambitious but poor persons.

This writer interviewed him recently. Excerpts follow.

Tahir Ali: Being a political analyst, how do you look at the post 9/11 unipolar world?

Dr Zahoor Ahmad Awan: I think the withering away of the USSR has dealt severe blows to world politics. It has bereft it of morality and exposed the world and especially the weaker nations to ruthless use of force by stronger nations. Would the USA dare attack Iraq and Afghanistan had the USSR been there? Whenever there was any such attempt on its part earlier, the USSR’s quick arrival or warning would deter it. The unipolar world and the USA as sole world power owe much to the Muslims who helped the capitalist world destroy the USSR. We, the Muslims, are just reaping the thorns we had sown earlier. You need balance of power locally as well as in international politics. Counterbalancing is needed but the question is who after the US. China can bridge the gap but it is going very slowly – it wants to conquer, rather it has conquered the world economy. It is too much careful in responses and avoids confrontation and jumping into disputes with countries, smaller or bigger. It wants to preserve its might and resources unless the other world powers give in to their intransigence or China takes them over economically. But for this to happen, china will have to say goodbye to its degenerating standards. It, in my opinion, will be committing suicide if it continues to produce substandard items on demand as in the long run it will lose consumer confidence world side.

The US has come to the region but not to go prematurely. I think it will stay here and won’t leave until and unless it becomes sure that the region is no more a threat to its security.

TA: How do you analyse the educational system of the country?

DZA: Lack of planning and its rigorous implementation have spoiled the educational endeavours. Our universities are producing a mass of good-for-nothing and half-baked educated persons with out any purpose and planning. Our students seek degrees, not knowledge. The government is also increasing the number of colleges and universities but is neglectful of the worsening standard of education in the country. No Pakistani university is there fore seen in the top 1000 universities of the world. Teachers lack commitment and are ill-qualified. Lack of funding is also a problem. Whereas the UNO standard requires allocation of at least four percent of the GDP for education, our educational budget had never crossed two per cent of the budget – for this year it is around one per cent, only Rs30 billion out of the total outlay of Rs2.9 trillion.

I love books, scholars and research and want my countrymen to devote a portion of their incomes to buy and read as many books as possible. It’s very unfortunate that book-reading is on the decline with each passing day.

TA: What are your suggestions as an academician in this regard?

DZA: Educational budget should be brought at par with international standard of four per cent of GDP- Pakistan’s GDP is estimated at $164 billion and its educational allocation, by this standard, should be around Rs500 billions. I know this is a tough task but at least we should start our journey and take the fist step in that direction by allocating a minimum of Rs100bn in the next fiscal to education.

English should be made medium of instruction from day one. Colleges should have PhD faculty. Student-teacher ratio should be brought down to 15:1 –it is over 40 at present normally and even higher at places. Basic education should be made free and compulsory and parents should be punished in case of non-compliance.

University professors should be limited to research endeavours. Universities should be research centres only and must never be allowed to conduct graduate or post graduate examinations.

Teachers should be given special packages. I think post-graduate primary teachers deserve better remuneration and should be given grade seventeen as against the present grades 7 to 12. They should be offered refresher courses.

Syllabus is good but too much religious contents should be removed from it. It should be goal-specific –we should teach doctors, engineers and other specialists about their own fields rather than making religious scholars of them. Students should study the text and supplementary books instead reading notes and guides prepared by teachers.

Student evaluation should be internal at primary level but it must be external at the higher levels of study so that objective marking is possible.

Sports have obtained a status of religion in USA and other western countries. These should be given their due status.

TA: Tell us about your political ideology?

DZA: In my youth, I started reading Che Guivera, Dr Ali Shariati, Iqbal, Paulo Fereri, Frans Fanan, Thomas Paine and my other ideal missionaries. So I decided to dedicate my life to altruism. I stand for peace, liberty, equality and brotherhood between all human beings irrespective of their cast, creed and colour.  I am a leftist –in fact Bhutto loyalist-, secular, humanist and born feminist –I feel like respecting, serving and pitying the females –a noble creature that needs recognition, respect and support and must not be seen only as entertainer. Actually Manto instilled in me the respect of woman even if she was a whore. I believe in scientific socialism but also believe in Allah. I am a progressive person but not an atheist. Progressivism to me stands for the betterment of humanity. It is a jihad against the injustices perpetrated on the downtrodden. It is a crusade for eradication of property, ignorance, hunger and exploitation.

TA: what maladies, in your opinion, plague our political system?

DZA: Democracy requires educated and independent citizens but in Pakistan democracy and electoral system is pawn in the hands of the wealthy capitalist and feudal class. Lack of education and training of the citizens, corruption, weak institutions, feudalism and hereditary system in parties hamper the development of democratic norms in the country. In my country a TV boss is hired for Rs0.2 million a day while the ordinary clerk or teacher get a start salary of Rs5 to 6 thousand. This is why I hate the oligarchy operated/perpetuating so-called representative democracy. It is nothing more than a transparent fraud wrought with my 170 million poor countrymen with the help of a million mullahs. Only around 1000 landlords decide the destiny of the people. They are divided between what I call the ruling, opposition and waiting parties. Democracy here is a one night bride. With the exception of two or three, all parties are dominated by certain families. There is no democracy in their structure or working though they profess it loudly. Democracy here starts and ends with elections. Rampant poverty diminishes any hope for reform or improvement. We are uneducated because we are poor and vice versa. It is a vicious circle.

TA: How can the situation be improved?

DZA: We can get out of it if our political class has a sense of loss and a resolve to confront and overcome the challenge which is lacking. The government will have to allocate more resources to public welfare. It should get into dialogue with India to have the Kashmir problem solved once and for all. Both India and Pakistan just can’t afford to spend that much on security. Resolution of the problem would help transform Pakistan into true welfare-state from a police-state which it is now.

I am a revolutionary from the core of my heart and believe in a welfare state. I think state should not allow big income disparities and concentration of wealth in a few hands –only 1:10 difference in incomes can be acceptable. I believe in nationalisation-that the state should have all means of productions in its control to divide and utilise them justly for the welfare of the masses. I am against private property. For me all property belongs to Allah which He has given to humanity as a common heritage, not as a gift to few oligarchs or aristocrats. My God can’t be unkind to humanity. He forbids injustice, inequality and exploitation. I myself have acted on my ideology and don’t have any money, property, bank balance or even my own house. But I have bankful of affection and respect in society and the world over.

TA: You have been to several developed countries. What do you ascribe their progress to?

DZA:  I think they are one thousand years ahead of us. I always wake up early in the morning at 4 a.m. In my stay in both America and Britian, I saw to my utter amazement people walking, jogging and getting ready to go to their jobs. I found that Americans and Britians don’t sleep that much. Sleep is only for the people of the East and particularly for South East Asia. I found that their strength and beauty didn’t lie in nude bodies but in hard work. Integrity, rule of law, hard work, equality, discipline and justice are the hallmarks of their society. These tours and studies changed my life in a positive manner, broadened my vision and increased my confidence. We, conversely, have no such values. We have created world records in dishonesty and corruption. Pakistanis are genius but they mostly have misused their intelligence. My mentor Dr Ali Shariati says Islam is endangered by the number two Islam. The avaricious Mullah and the demagogues have joined hands to deprive the people of their wealth, rights and powers. This is why I hate Mullah who used Islam for their personal gains and glory.

TA: Your critics say you are too harsh a critic. What do you say?

DZA: I write what I feel and accept no dictation. I neither write on somebody’s command nor stop it at somebody’s threats and offers. I am a non-conformist by nature. This has exposed me to hazards and losses all through my life but I never cared. On my travelogues on Iran and Turkey I was asked indirectly by their establishments to remove some parts of the text to make it acceptable to the bureaucracy of the two countries but my response was a big ‘No’. I try to write on untouched, unnoticed and fresh topics. I have learnt that being great is not difficult but being different is. I love to navigate on unchanted waters and have no fear of drowning. I hate double talk and hypocrisy. I am incapable of remaining neutral or silent. Rather I am a whistle blower. I take sides right or wrong but can’t say both are right. I do what I think is proper and necessary. I am a rationalist as well as idealist –rationalist and realist in my personal life but an idealist as far as my professional life goes. I never care for the opinions of others when it comes to my professional duties. I have always been steadfast in my ideals. I have always taken a position after rational analysis. People often fail to understand the difference between these two aspects of my personality invariably come to grief, often misjudge me, and accuse me of arrogance, disregard and coldness. But I damn care. You will find perseverance in my pursuits, writings and ideologies.

I am an extremist in love and hate but I hate only handful and love humanity at large.  My father had told me, “Never waste your energy and time on a bad man. Instead, try to find good people and shower your love on them. I think my most popular books are my travelogues. Their many editions have been published with out my permission as I specially write on all my books that all rights are reserved for humanity at large. I have dedicated my writings to the downtrodden and exploited majority. I live for them. I love the underprivileged and the poor in my country and the world.

TA: How do you look back at your writing career and lifespan?

DZA: I remember I started writing freelance weekly literary columns and features for national and provincial dailies way back in early 1970s when I was posted as a lecturer at the beautiful hilly station of Parachinar When I look back at my 68 years of my life, I feel no remorse. I came from a poor family and also not a TAight student –I got third division in Matric. But then I did my PhD and became a university professor, the senior most member of public service commission, a life member of academy of letters, a member of board of governors of national language authority, Chairman Gandhara Hindku Board. I won Tamgha-e-Imtiaz. I wrote around eighty books and thousands of articles thus far. I have been a globe trotter. I have attended national and international seminars and delivered lectures in university of Germany. I wrote fist ever book on Dr Ali Shariati and my book on him and Allam Iqbal. I published my first book when I was reading in MA.I have several other first classes details of which require several pages. I think I have done a lot and have completed my mission. God had given me a pen and I have made good use of it as far as possible. I am satisfied with my work and life. I would like to born again, if that was possible, with the same family, friends, job and duties.

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