Thursday, October 30, 2014

The rhetoric of discontent in Pakistan

It is a good content driven piece separating practical outcomes from rhetoric.  I'm pleased to share it with the Dallas Pakistanis, Pakistani Americans and here at
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By Qaisar Abbas

Pakistanis have been watching a new kind of reality show on TV channels for the past two months, with uninterrupted coverage of fiery speeches at protests outside parliament, along with spectacular music and dance performances on a daily basis.

The "sit-in" which started from Lahore on August 14 has just ended in the federal capital of Islamabad without achieving objectives that included resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his elected government.

Beyond verbal insults and shallow arguments, the media coverage never came up to the level of analyzing serious issues like the real objectives of the agitation, demonstrators' social formation, their rationale to participate in the agitation and political rhetoric of protesting leaders. 

The two firebrand leaders, Imran Khan - a popular cricket player turned politician - and cleric Tahirul Qadri employed carefully selected themes of political rhetoric invoking religious, patriotic, rebellious, and emotional appeals to the sit-in audience on a daily basis. Both were successful in masterfully exploiting the growing public discontent on social, economic and political issues and unexpectedly sustained the protest for a longer period. 

Revolution was the magical mantra for Tahirul Qadri, who was trying to convince the public that once the elected government is gone and he comes to power everything will be fine. By citing daily hardships of the people including power shortage, price hikes, terrorism and corruption, he was trying to transform public frustrations into a mass unrest. 

Rightfully calling the system as corrupt and elitist, he promised a new social order based on justice and equity for all. How he would achieve these objectives through what kind of process was the real question left for everyone to ponder. The whole rhetoric was emotionally charged and extremely hostile with little details of the promised revolution. 

Because the social formation of most of his audience was middle and low middle class religious devotees, he invariably provoked their religious sentiments in his daily sermons by skillfully playing with his followers' beliefs. 

Patriotism, being an easy slogan to be exploited, became another consistent theme of his rhetoric where army was symbolized as the only patriotic, honest, and professional institution while political leadership was rejected altogether as corrupt and inefficient. 

Imran Khan, on the other hand, was embellishing his popularity to reconstruct his image from a talented sportsman to a successful political leader. First, he reinforced his image as a successful player by using familiar cricket terms and repeatedly referring to himself as the "captain" who had never lost a match in his cricket career. By doing this he was projecting himself to his male fans as a dependable catalyst for change and a qualified bachelor for his female followers. 

Khan, ignoring the real issues of provincial autonomy, terrorism, freedom of expression, minority rights and gender equity, continued complimenting the armed forces and even raised expectations by declaring that the "umpire" would soon come to the rescue. 

The resolution of political, social and economic issues, "freedom" from the current leadership, and building a "new Pakistan" - with Khan as the new prime minister - were his major recipes. Beyond these catchy terms, however, nobody knew what he actually meant. 

While the social formation of their followers was fundamentally different, both leaders worked together to achieve the same goal of dismantling the current government. For Qadri's followers, the sit-in was a religiously motivated ritual commanded by their spiritual leader where not only the family patriarch but the whole family was following the leader as a sacred duty. 

Imran Khan, on the other hand, banking on his fame, was appealing to the urban, educated youth who is frustrated by the prevailing status quo. This middle class youth was searching for its role in the "New Pakistan" that Khan was promising to them. 

By challenging the status duo, he was also trying to convert the public to a solid voting bloc in his favor for next elections which he failed to build in the last polls. Knowing that the frustrated youth also forms a large proportion of the Pakistani society, he was strategically positioning himself as their savior. 

Both leaders also devised inspirational rituals to engage their followers throughout the sit-in. While the cleric was trying to involve a religious audience with spiritual rituals and prayers, the captain was entertaining his cricket fans and the youth with music, dance and fiery speeches. 

Besides the political rhetoric, participating men and women were in fact loyal followers of the two leaders who were already convinced and needed no ideological reinforcement. Apparently the participants were being used as street power and the real target audience was the general public out there watching the reality show on TV screens. 

The prolonged agitation lost its credibility among the public when another senior leader of Imran Khan's own political party, Javed Hashmi, exposed the whole drama as a well-planned conspiracy hatched in London a year ago, ostensibly sponsored by the armed forces. 

Although the political rhetoric terribly failed in achieving its goal of toppling the elected government, it successfully sustained demonstrations for comparatively a long period which signifies the public discontent over the inefficiency of the government in resolving their genuine issues. 

It looks the agitation campaign has also been successful in unleashing a wave of political activism across the nation by several political parties effectively building a momentum for large public rallies. Both protesting leaders and other political parties are now holding large rallies in different cities. 

Besides the validity of this extraordinary political drama in Pakistan, the real question is: Would a genuine leadership in the future be able to transform this public discontent into a real struggle for social change? 

Qaisar Abbas PhD, is a university professor/administrator, media analyst and political commentator based in Maryland, United States. He has worked as a News Producer for Pakistan TV and Information Officer in the province of Punjab. 

(Copyright 2014 Qaisar Abbas)

Monday, October 20, 2014

Young Indians And Pakistanis Rewrite Their Shared History

Though this article is old, it will always remain fresh in understanding India Pakistan relationships. The right wing Indian and Pakistani politicians (defined as those who believe "others don't have a right to exist" and will do anything to annihilate the other in their own filthy imaginations) have deliberately done a lot of damage between the two people to lie and promote hatred and causing wars, destruction and a lot of discomfort.  A few Indians and a few Pakistanis are soaked in hate and loaded with poison, I feel sorry for them. The following article captures that essence and it is so true.

Pakistan and India illustration
I am blessed to be barrierless, I truly believe in the Hindu concept of Vasudhaiva Kutumbukum - i.e., the whole world is one family and we must treat each other as such, and the Islamic concept that all of us are created from the same couple and are created into many nations and tribes and the best ones among us are those who make the effort to understand each other and live in harmony. That is all God wants.
Nearly a decade ago, Dr. Akbar Ahmed showed his film on Jinnah at the UTD campus, there were about four Indians including me, who protested the "wrong" portrayal of Nehru and Gandhi in that film and willing to speak out "our" version. The Pakistani Consulate General wanted to cut us out of the discussion, not me, thank God, Dr. Akbar Ahmed asked the consular to let me speak, he is an intellectual and a scholar and as such he welcomes diversity in speech
. Since then, we have become friends and both of us are equally committed to prosperity of both the nations without prejudice. 

When my son was in High School, he was called names by a Pakistani Kid in Richardson Mall, because he is an Indian, but I taught him not to be a revenge seeker and thank God he laughed it off at that son of a bigot, of course same % of Indians parents are equally bigoted. These stupid parents inject so much poison in the hearts of their kids, making their lives miserable when they grow up with hatred for the other. Don't you want  to slap them for messing up their kid's lives? It should be counted as child-abuse.
The SADEW, a South Asian Democracy Watch Organization in Dallas is planning on holding the event "Aman Ki Asha" in Dallas, Texas. It is a continuation of the project." Aman ki Asha (Hindi: अमन की आशा, Urdu: امن کی آشا‎, translation: "Hope for Peace") is a campaign jointly started by the two leading media houses The Jang Group in Pakistan and The Times of India in India. The campaign aims for mutual peace and development of the diplomatic and cultural relations between the two nations in South Asia. It started on 1 January 2010. The campaign never received warm response from India and Pakistan. Despite this, Bennett & Coleman, the holding company of Times Group has been trying valiantly to keep the campaign afloat through a high decibel media campaign. - Wikipedia."

This is an inspiring article, and I hope the Sadew people make an effort to bring Pakistani and Indian kids, teenagers and adults to have an unprepared, unrehearsed conversation about issues, as to how they see the issues. It will be an eye opener for the audience, and material for the research to find ways to mitigate the conflict between the two people. Hell, it looks like those "few" Indians and Pakistanis living in the US are more hateful than the people actually living in India and Pakistan.  

Mike Ghouse is a public speaker, thinker, writer and a commentator on Pluralism at work place, politics, religion, society, gender, race, culture, ethnicity, food and foreign policy. A regular commentator on Fox News and syndicated Talk Radio shows and a writer at major news papers including Dallas Morning News and Huffington Post.  All about him is listed in several links at and his writings are at and 10 other blogs. He is committed to building cohesive societies and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day.

by Tanvi Misra August 17, 2014 1:59 PM ET

Mohandas Gandhi poses with Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, in 1944, in what was then Bombay. The two countries have been rivals for decades, and students from the two countries have jointly published an online project comparing the different narratives.
Mohandas Gandhi poses with Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, in 1944, in what was then Bombay. The two countries have been rivals for decades, and students from the two countries have jointly published an online project comparing the different narratives.
When Britain ended its colonial rule in 1947, splitting the Asian subcontinent into two countries, India and Pakistan, it wasn't just the land that was divided. The two new states quickly came up with very different narratives, with each blaming the other throughout the decades of contentious relations that have followed.
Accounts of major events have diverged widely on questions like who's to blame for the three wars they've fought. Prominent figures who are heroes in one country are villains in the other.

"Most people don't get to meet somebody from the other side," says Qasim Aslam, 27, a Pakistani who started The History Project in 2013 as a way to bring together "conflicting versions of a shared past."
"It's kind of frustrating," Aslam says. "People hate others without really knowing them."

Aslam and co-founder Ayyaz Ahmad, who is also Pakistani, together with a team from both sides of the border, released the first part of the project last year.

They are updating the online version and releasing a textbook this September. The project looks at many major issues, as well as six key personalities, and provides side-by-side descriptions of how the issues and individuals are portrayed in both countries.

Mohandas Gandhi is one of those figures, and the differences are stark.

According to the Indian account from the book, "Of all the people, Gandhi ji, who at all times, had tried to preserve the unity of India, was shattered and heart-broken. The communal carnage that broke out even after the Partition made the situation unbearable."

In this version, his name is followed by the Hindi suffix "ji," signaling the respect and reverence that surrounds Gandhi. He is portrayed as a man who did his best to prevent tensions from boiling over, but tragically failed as Indians and Pakistanis waged their first war at independence in 1947.

In the Pakistani excerpt, "Gandhi did his best to prove India as one nation and nationality so that he could claim to represent the Indian people alone ... Gandhi insisted that there was only one nation in India which were the Hindus."
The History Project illustrates differences between Indian and Pakistani perceptions of Gandhi.
The History Project illustrates differences between Indian and Pakistani perceptions of Gandhi.
Kaustubh Khare and Zoya Siddiqui/The History Project 
In this telling, Gandhi (no "ji" here) is a man who had an exclusionary vision of India in mind, one that Muslims just could not live with. He was "stubborn and childish," Aslam quotes from the book, and has an anti-minority reputation.
When it comes to Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the father and founder of the Pakistani nation, the accounts totally flip.

Jinnah is the one who is revered. His propensity for alcohol and his casual attitude toward prayer were conveniently omitted in Pakistani textbooks, Aslam says.

Instead, he's a man who fought against Hindu hegemony to liberate the Muslim people. He was a champion of self-determination.

Meanwhile, in India, Jinnah is portrayed as a power-hungry politician, who wanted to rule a nation so badly that he made his own, Aslam says. Some school kids Aslam spoke to in India compared Jinnah to Voldemort.
Kaustubh Khare and Zoya Siddiqui/The History Project 
The authors don't attempt to reconcile the differing accounts of the individuals and the issues, but they do provide questions for the reader to think about.
When Indian and Pakistani kids are growing up, they are "given a narrative and asked to regurgitate it," Aslam says, adding that the project's purpose is to have them question what they learn.

Aslam and others questioned their own beliefs at an annual Seeds of Peace camp in Maine in 2001.
The camp was started by journalist John Wallace in 1993 and brings together teenagers from countries on opposite sides of a conflict, like Israelis and Palestinians.

In this case, Indians and Pakistanis came face to face. At first, tempers soared. But when the voices calmed down, the kids looked at their counterparts from the other side of the border and saw some of their own biases. Their friendships sustained the heat of the arguments, and several years later The History Project was born.

Along with the new book, the project aims to use humor and social media tools to engage young people with their history, Aslam says. The creators hope that the project transcends South Asian geography. They've already been asked to speak at various college campuses in the U.S., but Aslam wants to expand the project to 10 more countries in five years.

It hasn't all been smooth, though.

The governments have been "very cagey about it — as soon as we start sniffing around," Aslam says. "We're going to make them [the books] so interesting that kids are going to pick them up themselves."

Sunday, October 12, 2014

If Malala were an Ahmadi Muslim?

Published at World Muslim Congress and Redeeming Pakistan
No copy rights - anyone can copy and post anywhere. 
By Mike Ghouse

On October 13, 2014, Dawn News paper Published, "a letter from Dr. Abdus Salam to Malala" at which is produced below. Thanks for publishing it.

On October 10, 2014, three days before Dawn published, I wrote at

 I congratulated Malala for winning the Nobel Prize, and reminded her that she is not the first Pakistani to win the Nobel Prize, Dr. Abdus Salam has also won the prize and a great injustice is done to him by depriving him his place in Pakistan's history. As a Nobel Prize laureate she can consider working on getting him his rightful place in Pakistan, he is celebrated around the world for his research, and it is time Pakistan does it too. As a Muslim I celebrate you and Dr. Abdus Salaam.

A few years ago, when I was searching for Muslim Nobel laureates, I found Dr. Abdus Salam's name, but Pakistan did not list him. Here, I am trying to take pride in listing Muslims who have made it, and this country which was created for Muslims did not honor him properly, not only that they have desecrated his name and title on his headstone.  Is anyone going to do anything about it?

What's wrong?

Justice for Sunni Muslims regardless of injustice to others is not Justice. Quran talks about justice for all - it talks about telling the truth even if it goes against you. There are numerous examples set by Khulfa-e-Rashidun where they punished their own kith and kin for a complaint of injustice lodged by Jews, Christians and others of that time.  What's wrong with the Pakistani people to deny Ahmadiyya their rights (if you are not aware of it, please Google) -what is sad and shameful is the attitudes of Pakistani Americans living here in the United States who want to deprive Ahmadiyya from every possible human right. Should America do to them, what Pakistan does to Ahmadiyya? Do Pakistani American voices have strength?

We may have to ask Pew research to do a survey, if Muslims understand the word Justice means justice for every party or just them. Second part of that survey is how much brainwashing is done to Pakistanis after Bhutto-Zia combine passed the laws declaring Ahmadi's to be non-Muslims? Had it not been for the laws, and had it not been for Maududi, would Pakistanis have developed so much hatred for fellow Pakistanis?
I felt saddened, when Dean Obeidallah (not sure his origin) on facebook produced a picture of Muslim Nobel Prize Laureates that did not include Dr. Abdus Salam.

What I see is deliberate attempt of Pakistani Authorities to not give credit to an Ahmadi Muslim, that brainwashing has done it to Malala and Dean Obeidallah and many a current generation of Pakistani Muslims. I wonder if Malala were an Ahmadi, or a future scientist from Ahmadiyya Muslim Community wins, would Pakistan deny him or her rightful place in their history. If you read about Dr. Salam, despite the treatment, he preferred Pakistan; he was one of the greatest Patriots of Pakistan.

Of course there are many more Muslims, but missing the one whose name continues to be appreciated in the scientific community is not Kosher
Muslim voices will gather strength, when we are just, just to everyone. Until such time, no one will give a listen - all the Islamic nations can join together, but still will not have the power in their voices - we have been partial and unjust, when Muslims do wrong, we grudgingly or shamefully remain silent.

As a Muslim I am speaking up,
would you?
Mike Ghouse
A Sunni Muslims
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Now here is that letter from Dawn

Dear Malala,

Despite all that occurred, I'd always lugged around with me a sliver of optimism. They referred to me as Pakistan's 'only' Nobel laureate; I insisted on being called the "first".

I was born in a small town called Santokh Das; arguably not as beautiful as your Swat valley, but it did have much to offer. I grew up in Jhang, a city now tainted by its name's association with dangerous groups.
My father was an education officer working for the Punjab government. I have a feeling your father would've liked him.

Like you, I took a keen interest in my studies. I enjoyed English and Urdu literature, but excelled at mathematics. At a very young age, I scored the highest marks ever recorded then, in my matriculation exam.
My education, however, was never as politically challenging as yours.

I did not have to contend with the Taliban destroying my school, or forbidding boys from receiving education. But whatever barriers they constructed in your way, you bravely broke through them.
In fact, you continue to defy them with every breath you take.

Winning the Nobel Prize has enraged your attackers, as it has annoyed many of your countrymen.
It takes courage to walk through it all, and knowing you, courage is not in short supply.
Not a lot has changed in this country. You were mocked and alienated by your countrymen, when you did nothing wrong. I know something of that.

As a nation, we do not want to be celebrated.

What we wish for is to be pitied.

They were pleased with you as long as you were another local victim. But then, you cast off your victimhood and emerged as a hero, a beacon of hope for young girls around the world. That's where you lost them.
We don't like heroes, Malala.

We like battered souls that we can showcase to the world. We want to humiliate the 'colonialists' and the 'imperialists' for their crimes, real or imagined, against the Muslims of the subcontinent.

We want them to acknowledge the Iqbalian paradise we lost to the plots and schemes of the 'outsiders'. Any mention of the incalculable harm caused by perpetrators within us, does not assist that narrative.
We do not want to acknowledge the bigotry within, of which I know something too.

This is not something I had fully realised the day I received my Nobel Prize. Standing in ceremonial Punjabi garb among a group of men in tuxedos, I was proud to represent my country, though my country was far less thrilled being represented by me.

I was demonized and successfully disenfranchised for my religious beliefs; I was not allowed to offer lectures in certain universities due to threats of violence; my work was belittled by my own people.

I decided that working abroad was better than being treated as foreigner in my own homeland. That only gave further wind to the hurtful theories about me being a 'traitor' to my country.

Now, the mantle passes to you, dearest child.

And with it, I regret to pass onto you the heart-wrenching burden it brings.

You are the new 'traitor'.
You are presented with the dire challenge of bringing peace and pride to a country, that doesn't want your gift.
Like a mother of a particularly rebellious child, you must find a way to love them nonetheless. Eventually, I pray, they will understand.

I had the privilege of being the first to offer this country a Nobel Prize. But now there are two of us.
And, I'm still counting.

Yours truly,
Abdus Salam

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To be a Muslim is to be a peace maker who seeks to mitigate conflicts and nurtures goodwill for peaceful co-existence of humanity. Our work is geared towards building a cohesive society where no human has to live in apprehension or fear of the other. World Muslim congress is a think tank and a forum with the express goal of nurturing pluralistic values embedded in Islam to build cohesive societies.  If we can learn to respect the otherness of others and accept each other's uniqueness, then conflicts fade and solutions emerge. Mike Ghouse is a Muslim Speaker  thinker and a writer.