Monday, August 21, 2017

Pakistan’s Struggle for Modernity


The drama of the Swat Valley – its cynical abandonment to the mercy of the Taliban, the terror unleashed on it by the militants, then the recognition that the concession to the forces of darkness had not worked — is of a piece with the larger history of religious extremism in the world of Islam. Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari was the latest in a long line of secularists who cut deals with the zealots, only to discover that for the believers in political Islam these deals are at best a breathing spell before the fight for their utopia is taken up again.
[Commentary] David Klein

The decision by Pakistan to retrieve the ground it had ceded to the Taliban was long overdue. We should not underestimate the strength of the Pakistani state, and of the consensus that underpins it. The army is a huge institution, and its mandate is like that of the Turkish army, which sees itself as a defender of secular politics.

The place of Islam in Pakistani political culture has never been a simple matter. It was not religious piety that gave birth to Pakistan. The leaders who opted for separation from India were a worldly, modern breed who could not reconcile themselves to political subservience in a Hindu-ruled India. The Muslims had fallen behind in the race to modernity, and Pakistan was their consolation and their shelter.

Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, was secular through and through. The pillars of his political life had been British law and Indian nationalism. Both had given way, and he set out for his new state, in 1947, an ailing old man, only to die a year later. He was sincere in his belief that Pakistan could keep religion at bay.

Jinnah’s vision held sway for three decades. It was only in the late 1970s that political Islam began its assault against the secular edifice. A military dictator, Zia ul-Haq, had seized power in 1977; he was to send his predecessor, the flamboyant populist Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, to the gallows. Zia was to recast Pakistan’s political culture. It was during his decade in power that the madrassas, the religious schools, proliferated. (There had been no more than 250 madrassas in 1947. There would be a dozen times as many by 1988, and at least 12,000 by latest count.)

Zia had been brutally effective in manipulating the jihad in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union. His country was awash with guns and Saudi and American money. He draped his despotism in Islamic garb. He made room for the mullahs and the mullahs brought the gunmen with them.

Say what you will about the ways of Pakistan, its people have never voted for the darkness that descended on Swat and its surroundings. In the national elections of 2008 the secular and regional parties had carried the day; the fundamentalists were trounced at the polls. The concessions in Swat were a gift the militants had not earned.

The preachers and the gunmen who brought their reign of terror to Swat made no secret of what they wanted. Sufi Mohamed, the radical cleric who cut the deal on behalf of the militants, was clear about his project. He, and his gunmen, would define the true nature of the faith. They would separate the true Muslims from the “apostates” in their midst. They would replace the system of justice with Shariah law. They would restrict the access of women to the public space. They would war openly against democracy, declaring it a godless innovation at odds with Islam. The conquest of Swat was to be a message to the populace: The writ of the Pakistani state, its monopoly on order, had been broken. The battle was joined, for the very legitimacy of the Pakistani army had been at stake.

In the 1980s, Pakistan led to Afghanistan, and to the final battle of the Cold War. Nowadays, the struggle in Afghanistan leads back to Pakistan, and for a battle on behalf of Muslim modernity. The stakes in Pakistan for the U.S. are vital. Its population is at least six times as large as that of Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, the question of the Taliban is a tribal one. The strident religion is a vehicle for Pashtun resentment and ambitions. Afghanistan is a relative stranger to the doctrines of political Islam that have been blowing through the Middle East and the subcontinent for decades.

America travels light into this region. South Asia has not been a place of American imperial reach. We barely took notice of Pakistan when political Islam began its march there, for we once thought that the religious reactionaries could be managed and contained.

We have a new American president, but we have yet to figure out the new American mission in Pakistan. The Democrats had had a simple approach to Pakistan: It had been wrong, they insisted, to embrace the dictatorial Gen. Pervez Musharraf, for he had taken our treasure but had not severed the ties of his intelligence services to the religious extremists within his country and in Afghanistan. Gen. Musharraf is gone, but no redemption has come.

In his days on the stump, candidate Barack Obama had maintained that he would begin with active diplomacy over the long-standing Pakistani-Indian dispute over Kashmir. But by any reckoning, India’s weight and power preclude taking up that question. No government in New Delhi would countenance any change in the status in Kashmir.

In truth, the U.S. can’t alter the balance of power between India and Pakistan. For six decades now, Pakistan has lived in the shadow of India’s success. This has tormented Pakistanis and helped radicalize their politics. The obsession with the unfinished business of partition (Kashmir) has been no small factor in the descent of Pakistan into religious and political extremism. The choice for Pakistan can be starkly put: the primacy of Kashmir in political life or the repair of the country, the renewal of its institutions, and the urgent task of putting in place an educational system that would undercut the power of the religious reactionaries.

In his desire to be the un-Bush, President Obama seems bent on waging this war in the “AfPak theater” without ennobling it, without giving it a name or a stirring call. We are not to see this struggle through the lens of the “long war” against jihadism and Islamism, for this would give vindication to the way George W. Bush saw the world in the aftermath of 9/11. Besides, we had declared that war done and over with, a great overreach.

By the Obama administration’s practice and admonition, we are not to see the ideological trail from the Middle East to South Asia that has put the world of Islam and its fragile modernism in great peril. Ours is a stealth campaign. We want to “degrade, dismantle, and defeat” al Qaeda, deny it the ability to do us harm. In Afghanistan, and in the Pashtun belt in Pakistan, we wish to separate the “reconcilables” of the Taliban from al Qaeda and the forces of the global jihad. But the people themselves, we hold at arm’s length. We are not to invest ourselves in their affairs in the way George W. Bush invested himself in the reform and freedom of the Greater Middle East.

For a man of words, a bestselling author at that, the reticence of Mr. Obama about the stakes in this struggle is odd and bewildering. Ideology is “so yesterday,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently said, telling us volumes about our current diplomatic practice. So for Mr. Obama, it was two days in Turkey — which has hectored us now for the full length of a decade and given voice to the most malignant fantasies of anti-Americanism — and four hours in Camp Victory. Under Mr. Obama we are not to embrace the Iraqis, and claim the victory we won there and the decent democratic example we implanted on so unpromising a soil. In the same vein, we are to “do Pakistan,” but clinically, without giving a name to the dangers that attend it or to the better heritage we should be calling it to.

For so pragmatic a people, Americans have done best when called to great undertakings. It is not enough to carry to this contested landscape in South Asia the cold-bloodedness of the so-called foreign policy realists.

Mr. Ajami is professor of Middle East Studies at The Johns Hopkins University, School of Advanced International Studies and an adjunct senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution.

Source: The Wall Street Journal

Tehran Declaration

The Heads of States of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan inspired by teachings of Islam and in view of deepest desire of the people of the three countries to enjoy a peaceful, secure, and prosperous environment, and on the basis of the decision reached on the sideline of the 10th ECO Summit held on 10th March 2009 in Tehran, held their first meeting on Trilateral Cooperation on 24th May 2009 (1388/3/3) in Tehran.

Appreciating the initiative of the Trilateral Cooperation among the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan as a concrete move for realizing the vision of the leaders to harness their true potential for the welfare and prosperity of the entire region and in accordance with the will of their people to open a new chapter for peace, stability, public welfare and economic development;

Recalling the Joint Statement issued at the conclusion of the First Meeting of Foreign Ministers of the I.R. of Afghanistan, I.R. of Iran and  I.R. of Pakistan held in Kabul on 27 April 2009 (1388/2/7);

Underlining the heartfelt desire and will of their peoples for putting an end to insecurity and creating a conducive regional environment for a promising future for their coming generations;


– The sufferings of the people of the region and sacrifices made by them;
– The growing concern arising from the insecurity, terrorism, extremism and drug production and trafficking;


– Their deep historical, religious, cultural bonds, common heritage and geographical commonalties;
– The deep desire of their Muslim governments and people for broadening cooperation in the political, security, economic, cultural, scientific and social fields and promoting  people to people  contacts;
– Significance of the regional approaches with the participation of the three states for settling problems of this region;


– Commitments of their countries as provided in the international agreements and treaties;
– The purposes and principles of the UN Charter;
– The rights of all States to sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity;
– The principal of peaceful coexistence, good neighbourly relations and non-interference in the internal affairs of each other’s states;
– All measures and acts already taken for establishment of peace and stability in the region;

For the purpose of:

– Bolstering bonds of friendship among the governments and peoples of the three countries;
– Finding a regional solution with the participation of the three states for the establishment of peace, stability and tranquility in the region;
– Realizing economic development, promoting local cultures, protecting religious beliefs of all peoples of the three States; and
-Alleviating poverty, and addressing the needs of the people;

Agreed as follows:

1-    To establish a mechanism for holding regular and periodical trilateral consultations on special issues by Senior Officials, Foreign Ministers and the Heads of State/Government of the three countries.

2-    To reaffirm their deep commitment to make every effort to eliminate extremism, militancy and terrorism and address their root causes which are in stark contrast with the spirit of Islam and rich cultural traditions and customs of the region.

3-    To encourage cultural interactions including exchange of parliamentary delegations, intellectuals, academicians, seminarians, and the youth as well as promotion of people-to-people contacts.

4-    To exchange experiences, information as well as embark on concentrated efforts towards socio-economic development in the region and planning and implementing trilateral economic projects in different areas including energy, transportation, industries, mining, agriculture, cattle-breeding and environment.

5-    To take urgent steps for development of the infrastructure connectivity between the three countries and in the region, including construction of roads, railways and improving the existing ones.

6-    To collaborate closely in establishing and developing energy corridors in the region, including oil and gas pipelines and electricity networks.

7-    To establish trilateral economic, industrial, planning commissions and Chambers of Commerce.

8-    To encourage the involvement of private sectors of the three countries in the regional development programs.

9-    To encourage ECO member states for the establishment of a Free Trade Area in the region by 2015 as a priority task, as agreed in the  10th ECO Summit in Tehran (2009).

10-    To coordinate and to pursue projects for trans-regional cooperation especially within the framework of ECO and OIC.

11-    To promote trilateral socio-cultural cooperation in the areas of education, health, sports, culture and art.

12-    To strengthen trilateral cooperation among the relevant institutions of the three countries to counter production and smuggling of narcotics and psychotropic substances and their illicit trafficking.

13-    To promote trilateral cooperation among the relevant institutions of the three countries to counter organized crimes such as illegal human-trafficking, money laundering and arms smuggling.

14-    To create pull factors in Afghanistan for the safe, voluntary, gradual and dignified return and reintegration of refugees with the sustained and enhanced support of the international community and UNHCR;

15-    To create incentives and to facilitate the voluntary return of Afghan specialists to their homeland in order to assist rapid reconstruction of the country through attracting cooperation and participation of the relevant international organizations such as UNHCR.

16-    Emphasizing the importance of reconstruction process in Afghanistan in order to achieve sustainable peace and economic development in that country, with the support of international community including international organizations, financial institutions, donor countries as well as Afghanistan’s immediate neighbours.

17-    Emphasized further  effective measures for implementation of bilateral, trilateral and multilateral agreements to which the three countries are party, concerning trade and transit of goods between and through their countries;

18-    Reiterated their commitment to establish joint training centers aimed at achieving a proficient labor force for formulation of relevant projects between the three countries;

19-    Welcomed the World Bank offer of assistance to develop a plan jointly with the customs authorities of Afghanistan and Pakistan and Afghanistan and Iran to share customs information electronically.

20-    To establish a working group in order to conduct a feasibility study for setting up a Joint Investment Fund among the three countries to follow up the adopted decisions by their leaders and also to financially support the trilateral projects. The cases for using the resources of this fund will be determined by the relevant authorities of the three countries.

21-    To establish a trilateral coordination committee at the level of Deputy Foreign Ministers of the three countries to prepare a comprehensive Action Plan to monitor the progress of trilateral cooperation. The three sides also emphasized that the Foreign Ministers shall present the results of their studies and evaluations of the activities of the above-mentioned Council as well as the progress of implementation of the agreements to the 2nd Summit Meeting which will be held in Islamabad in October 2009 (Mizan 1388), while the following Summit Meetings will be held in alphabetical order, starting from Kabul.

22-    To also invite, if required and by consensus, other countries to the future Summits under the trilateral process.

23-    The Presidents of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan expressed profound gratitude to the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran for the warm hospitality extended to both delegations and the excellent organization of this conference.

24-    This declaration was done in Tehran on 24 May 2009, 03/03/1388 in three originals, Dari/Farsi and English, each of which is equally authentic.

Hamid Karzai                                 Mahmoud Amhmadi Nejad                     Asif Ali Zardar
The President of                                  The President of                                The President of
I.R. Afghanistan                                        I.R. Iran                                        I.R. Pakistan

Battle for Afghanistan a fight for young minds

By Colin Freeze- They came in the dark of night to sabotage the empty building with land mines. The explosion roared through the village at 10:30 p.m., and everyone soon knew the outcome: Another school destroyed.

“Now all the students are in their homes … and I hear that the Taliban may want to attack again,” said Faiz Mohammad, a regional director of education, north of Kandahar City. He says he fears for his life.

Since the school was blown up last week, nearly 450 boys and their teachers stay home. Mr. Mohammad says officials are struggling to figure out where else to safely assemble for final exams. “The school is a link between the common people and the government,” he said. “The Taliban want to break the link.”

As insurgents destroy schools in and around Kandahar, Western powers are struggling to build them. One of the “signature” aid projects Ottawa launched last year is a plan to construct, repair or expand 50 Kandahar-area schools before the end of 2011. Five of the projects have been completed so far.

A stalemate of sorts seems to be occurring as both officials and terrorists lock onto schools as extensions of the central government. Arson and rocket attacks against schools became increasingly common in the years after the 2001 U.S.-led invasion to oust the Taliban, but millions of children returned to class over all.

These days, however, fear is mounting as attacks pile up. Two years ago, the Taliban beheaded a headmaster in front of his children. Last fall, insurgents squirted acid onto the faces of 15 Kandahar schoolgirls and teachers. This spring, there has been a spate of complaints by female students that they have been sickened by gas leaks at schools – possibly deliberate attacks.

Canadian officials remain cautiously optimistic they’ll meet their 50-school target. But they acknowledge the plans face a host of obstacles, not just the Taliban. Kandahar’s literacy rate is said to be below 20 per cent – and below 5 per cent for women.

Not only are there few qualified teachers, there are fewer instructors who can teach teachers, which makes it difficult for Canada to meet another of its pledges: to train 3,000 new teachers by 2011. The program is only expected to be rolled out this fall, with officials saying they had to first await a “precursor” program meant to get teachers who are already working up to speed.

Canadian officials have lately spoken of refocusing aid efforts in Kandahar City and in villages where they can do the most good. Afghan officials, who help build schools under the rubric of a “national-solidarity” program, seem to be making similar calculations.

“They don’t want to make schools [in rural areas] because security has become worse,” says Abdul Latif Ashna, an engineer who works in Kandahar’s rural-rehabilitation department.

He said he had helped build 10 schools, but says there are no new projects. “Our department works only in rural areas. The Taliban is only in rural areas,” he said. “No one can enter them. No one can study there.”

Some Kandaharis say the Taliban – self-styled religious scholars who initially derived their name from the word for “student” – are intent on ripping apart the fabric of society and replacing it with nothing.

“They only want to destroy, destroy and destroy,” said Mr. Mohammad, the official struggling to deal with the school that was blown up last week.

Based in the Arghandab, a region north of Kandahar that’s lately become an insurgent hotbed, Mr. Mohammad says he basically inherited his current job from his late cousin, who was assassinated last year by gunmen.

The father of three said that, as an education director, he has no car, his salary is a pittance, and that he’d been marked for death if he ever returned to the village he came from. “If Canadians want to build schools,” Mr. Mohammad said, “we need security in the area.”

Permanent Mission of Afghanistan