Pakistan, according to Khan
Sunday, 25 September, 2011
The title of this new release displays two proper nouns – and it makes for a mighty hard job telling the author’s name and the book’s subject apart
He has on occasion covered many global events like the Iranian Revolution of 1979 as well as local political highlights like Gen. Pervez Musharaf’s so-called ‘enlightened, liberal’ regime with commendable detail, making his book both fast-paced and informative – a rare combination
Pakistan, A Personal History By Imran Khan Pages: 390; Price: 995 Published By: Bantam Press Available at: Readings than not end up in discussing how Mr Khan’s friend in Oxford was Tony Blair’s roommate or how he himself fares as a shooter. However, the rare occasions on which Mr. Khan manages to keep himself out of the picture and focuses solely on international and national affairs while reflecting upon them, he does exceed expectations as an analyst. He has on occasion covered many global events like the Iranian Revolution of 1979 as well as local political highlights like Gen. Pervez Musharaf’s so-called ‘enlightened, liberal’ regime with commendable detail, making his book both fast-paced and informative – a rare combination. That said, this pleasant surprise is more often than not– sadly – short lived. Almost as if to mock its writer’s political career, the book’s read is a rather bumpy ride. So while one is being impressed by the amount of time that the great sportsman has dedicated to contemplating over religion throughout his life, one is jolted down to earth by a sudden childish statement that does not seem to be coming from someone running his fifty-ninth year in the world. And while one is admiring the man’s honesty, one receives a slap of vanity from him that makes one discredit all the good intent that the author has displayed. With a heavy heart – for it is a pity that a man with better intentions than most politicians do has so little evidence of the talent to turn them into reality – I would thus illustrate my criticism with a few examples. The prologue of the book, entitled, ‘A Coalition of the Crooked, November 2007’ is Imran Khan’s recollection Continued on page 7
Illustrated & Designed by Javeria Mirza
fficially, this new release – the sixth book authored by the country’s celebrated son, Imran Khan – is called “Pakistan: a Personal History”, and it comes with a fittingly illustrated title: a large, glossy photograph of the author impressed upon a faded and hardly tellable – if even visible – map of Pakistan. While the last of Khan’s previous five books was released two decades ago, before any of the events that we now remember him for – the World Cup, the Hospital, the Marriage or the Tehreek – took place. Thus, even though he was nearly thirty-nine even back then, the Imran Khan as we know him today, had not yet come of age. Therefore, this latest “revelation” must be the most highly anticipated of his works. Is it good enough to match the lofty expectations? Let us see. To begin with, the book’s name and the title when put together serve at least one purpose to great effect
– that of baffling the prospective reader. So what is ‘Pakistan: a Personal History’ all about? Is it Pakistan or is it Imran Khan? Is it meant to be yet another autobiographical account of the author or does it, instead, chronicle his country’s journey through the annals of recent history? What is it? The truth is: the title tells the story best. But since it doesn’t make a morally upright reader who judges a book by its cover, it is “incumbent upon me” to give you a sneak peek into the written word itself. Minus the prologue and epilogue, ‘Pakistan’ consists of ten square chapters that proceed roughly in a chronological sequence and are named after the major highlights of the period in consideration, either in the personal life of Mr. Khan or in the public life of the country, all the while covering both the given aspects. This, albeit, has not always been done with great justice. So while the first, fifth and seventh chapter, respectively entitled, ‘Can I Still Play Cricket in Heaven? 19471979’, ’Angels in Disguise: Building a Hospital, 19841995’ and ‘My Marriage, 1995-2004’ focus heavily on the life of the man himself, others like the second, called ‘Revolution, 1979-1987’, the eighth, ‘Pakistan Since 9/11’ and the ninth, ‘The Tribal Areas: Civil War? My Solution’ succeed in not only incorporating the country’s own history but also recent global history as a whole into the story of Imran Khan – but, the story of Imran Khan, nonetheless. That is to say, even the sections dedicated by name to global events, more often
2 Media and the urban bias 8 The China question
By Natasha Shahid Kunwar
Media and the urban bias
Pakistani media is by and large dominated by a few urban centres and this bias creates false notions about the rest of the country
By Anum Yousaf
Illustrated & Designed by Sana Ahmed
ll media exist to invest our lives with artificial perceptions and arbitrary values,” said the late great Marshall McLuhan, and it seems to be quite literally true of our television medium. It has had a growth pattern that would make chaos theory blush at its inadequacy. Once saddled with just one state broadcaster, we now have an embarrassment of riches and riches of embarrassment. The abundance of television channels has been a mixed bag. It’s mostly quantity with the quality decidedly leaving much to be desired. While we could dry out seas writing what the television channels are lacking in quality, we will just waste space looking at the urban bias of our country’s news channels. It is true that the television industry, in general, around the world tends to have an urban bias. This doesn’t mean that the urban bias in Pakistani television is any less significant or any less excusable or that this writer won’t pontificate about it. It also does not imply that news broadcasting through other mediums like the press, radio, internet etc does not have an urban bias. Indeed, it does. But given the fact that television is the medium that is the most pervasive in Pakistan, it makes it also potentially the most persuasive. Thus, its expansive outreach (both in absolute and relative terms) means that a pronounced urban bias in TV has far greater consequences. That, too, in a country that is predominantly rural, to state the painfully obvious. This urban bias manifests itself dually: in coverage and in analysis. On the former count, one could rattle off numbers and percentages accompanied but the proof is in the pie, not just the pie chart so let’s start with anecdotal evidence. Recently, while a huge part of Sindh drowned in devastating floodwaters, our news channels thought it more appropriate to treat us to the song-and-dance stylings of Altaf Bhai. The floods had been gathering for a while but media attention ranged from zilch to zero. Political pressers of all and sundry were more pressing and the floodwaters could wait; it’s not like they were receding and going anywhere. This is one incident but it tops off a year of inadequate coverage where the issue of dyke repairs, embankment strengthening, LBOD rehab were not covered whereas it could be seen
crystal clear that they required urgent coverage. This urban bias in coverage comes with another twist. Not only does our machinery ordain that only urban areas get precious airtime, it is a subclause of this commandment that only Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad qualify as ‘urban’ areas. So, coverage is not only skewed heavily in favour of urban areas but certain urban areas. A bomb blast in Peshawar gets less coverage than one in Karachi. A power outage in Faisalabad (even though it is the industrial capital of Pakistan!) will get less airtime than Lahore’s woes. Only when textile mills close down in huge numbers will it be important enough to match the fact that Lahoris can’t watch their favourite primetime soap. Sure, Lahore and Karachi are the most populous cities and Islamabad is the seat of power but the numbers are disproportionately tilted towards the big three. They account for less than one-third of the viewer ship but hog the airwaves like the rest of Pakistan doesn’t exist. It’s not that the other cities don’t have the cash to splurge on making channels. But it might be that this bias has now found institutionalisation. For instance, it’s an outlying example but PEMRA has been alleged not to issue a single license to a Baloch-owned channel in Balochistan. This is an assertion but needs to be looked into. So it’s not just the facts that are urban-inclined. It’s their context that has not been investigated, their frameworks, top to bottom. Blinkered and blustered as our talking heads are, an urban bias is another feather in their prejudiced caps. Consider the governance issue. By common consensus of our punters, governance is bad. Extremely bad. But take of your urban blinkers and you can see that governance is not in such tatters. Rural affluence has increased quite a lot under the incumbent tenure, support prices for agricultural commodities have increased, the BISP would be classed a moderate success even under the most stringent parameters etc. If you look at it from this point of view, all the chest beating about ‘whither governance’ seems plenty redundant. Another instance could be the kuptaan phenomenon. The amount of airtime he gets, one would think that he is all set for some sort of landslide in the upcoming elections. Again take off your urban blinkers, and his utter and incomplete irrelevance to the rural political polity puts his utter and incomplete
irrelevance into perspective. Our channels’ and their talking heads’ understanding of rural politics is about as sophisticated as the one present in the “The Town Mouse and The Country Mouse”. We still see those paindus as simpletons, shackled by their feudal evil overlords, bonded to those who dole them patronage etc. Rural engagement with politics is vibrant, sophisticated with modes of rationality that far outmode urban engagement with politics which is characterised with apathy and dyspeptic cynicism. It is a sad state of affairs that this even has to be said and very few grandiloquent ‘analysts’ have the competence to understand this. But there is an urban bias in coverage and analysis. So what? After all, it’s cold capitalist logic and capitalist logic makes the world go round, right? The urban audience has the moolah so they will get the mooching, right? Wrong. According to the most recent reports (and again the recent report was in 2009 as the rural audience measurement is ignored, no surprises), television has been ‘ruralised’. As per the Gallup Media Report 2009, the rural audience outstrips the urban audience. Out of an estimated 86 million TV viewers in the country, more than 52 million live in rural areas whereas only 34 million lives in 470 towns and cities spread across the country. Obviously, these are just numbers and they don’t necessary translate into ad revenues and ratings but it does present our execs with the logic to expand into uncharted markets. The sad thing is that Pakistan is not a huge country like India or the US. Our mainstream media can cover the entire country without any outreach fatigue. But, our media is afflicted with and afflicting many fatigues. Obviously, one doesn’t expect media magnates to run charity organisations and this is not a moralistic indictment of television channels to purge their urban bias. Private media has and will always have an urban bias because of the material
imperatives that lead to its development. Only state-run channels can be expected to run ads for ‘How to correctly spray pesticide’, ‘Family planning’, ‘Lady health workers’, and ‘How to build laterines’ before the 9 o’clock news while the private channels will be all glitz and glamour tailored for urbane audiences. But this doesn’t mean that this issue should not be addressed. It cannot be eliminated but it may be mitigated. A significant urban bias in news coverage and analysis means that it will engender urban biases in public policy, access to information, our understanding of the rural and urban (and a country where urbanisation is rapid and what is rural and what is urban is still hazy from a policy perspective, this could be problematic) etc. The state has its part (e.g. it’ll keep running those PSAs catered for a rural audience) but the private media needs to understand, that given the numbers and outreach, they too can make some money and correct the imbalance while at it. But suits often think with their pockets. Alternative media can pitch in; but in a country where the mainstream is pinched for survival by the recession, one cannot expect them to really make a significant contribution. To end with McLuhan like we started, he said that we shape our tools and then they shape us. The media’s urban bias was shaped by us, now it’s shaping us and our policies.
Not only does our media machinery ordain that only urban areas get precious airtime, it is a sub-clause of this commandment that only Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad qualify as ‘urban’ areas. They account for less than one-third of the viewership but hog the airwaves as if the rest of Pakistan doesn’t exist
Welcome to small-town Punjab – 21st century edition The process of urbanisation and modernisation is fast sweeping the province and the country, radically changing the socio-economic structure in its stead By Umair Javed
alagang town is the headquarter of Talagang Tehsil, district Chakwal. Surrounded by barren, limestone hills of the Salt Range, this town of around 70,000 odd residents is located roughly half an hour off Balkasar interchange on the Lahore-Islamabad Motorway. Two months ago, during a trip to Mianwali, I had the chance to pass through the town, which like most others in Punjab, was populated on either side of a major road. There were shops, and banks, and Katrina Kaif billboards. There were schools, colleges, and, eerily enough, a gaudily decorated private hospital. There were mosques - plenty of them, of all denominations and sizes, and advertising hoardings, preaching the wonders of calling your ‘friends’ after mid-night. There was a lot of hustle and bustle (11 am on a Friday), and intermittent indication that the 80-year-old road was fighting a losing battle with 4 wheeled modernity. The other end of town was marked by an enormous board that read ‘Welcome to New Talagang Housing Society’, ‘A modern housing society with all amenities for a comfortable living’. On one side of the board, a smiling couple was pointing, one assumes, in the general direction of this suburban sanctuary. Welcome to small-town Punjab – 21st century edition. You see, the thing is that gated communities are the norm in a fast-suburbanizing city like Lahore. With 10 million people, and a population growth plus migration rate refusing to wane, more and more people want security, wider roads, and a neighborhood park that would raise the value of
their 500 square yard corner-plot. But you’d think that’s Lahore, not a Tehsil headquarter of an arid, barren district like Chakwal. Each time the final rites of Pakistan are written - and they are almost every other day the story of the mobile phone vendor in Talagang town will almost inevitably get missed. Pakistan’s story is about crisis, about instability, about high-political intrigue, and remote controlled drones. About terrorists, and ‘jihadis’, Islamists, and Khakis, venal politicians, and self-serving bureaucrats. Hollywood stuff on a country that’s often presented as the pesky third child the world really didn’t want to have. The humanizing flip side, which is more often than not an articulation of misguided optimism, is almost always based on some vague notion of persistence and resilience in the Pakistani polity. ‘Oh, but they’ve survived so much and yet they still have the courage to host fashion shows’. As one friend, after reading another such account of the ‘other’ Pakistan caustically said, ‘making efforts to survive and subsist are basic human traits, not a unique virtue’. Pakistan as a whole, and Punjab specifically has been grappling with modernization, urbanization, and growth for the last 60 odd years. The unfortunate thing here is that this engagement of society with itself is terribly boring. Who wants to write about the three generations it took for the family of a postal clerk from Jhang to build a house in Lahore’s Defence Housing Authority? Or the two generations it took for the family of a migrant worker in Dubai to open a shop in Chakwal and settle in New Talagang Housing Society? The fact of the matter is that these things are more pervasive than the barbaric ‘Talibans’ or the underground house music scene in Lahore. There are multiple stories being written across the province, and in a wider sense, across the country that all give indication of a society f i n a l l y becoming comfortable with a consumption
lifestyle. Talagang, and one simply can’t stress this enough, is just one small town out of literally hundreds. There are Katrina Kaif billboards, schools, colleges, bank branches, and mobile phone vendors in each one of them. Pakistan has seen urbanization rise from a paltry 14 percent to 35 percent officially, and according to some, 40-45 percent unofficially. Contribution of manufacturing and urban services to the GDP stand at around 74 percent, and the corresponding labor force statistic is around 63 percent. The urban consuming class, much discussed, rarely measured, now stands at around 15-20 million by the most conservative estimates. And another large segment of urbanized consumers will be joining their ranks in the next 10 to 15 years. If it wasn’t clear already, this really isn’t an attempt to ‘set the record straight’ as far as Pakistan’s imagery is concerned. Frankly speaking, what is said and written in the international media makes little difference to the vast, and mostly godforsaken, majority. What, however, is worrying is the parroting of Pakistan’s tottering condition by the domestic metropolitan class, who ostensibly, have every chance to observe society for themselves. Flitting between the ‘this state has collapsed’ to the ‘Talibans are coming’ polemic, they’re amplifying the distress to a point where the metronomic mundaneness making things tick in this country is completely forgotten. This is further exacberated by an understanding of politics that focuses almost solely on ‘corruption’, ‘bad governance’ and a perceived disconnect between ‘feudal’ politicians and the common man (whoever that is). The truth is that this disconnect exists only for a small portion of the public, i.e. people like us. The entire political economy of this country is run on the basis of patronage networks that start from a local bigwig MNA, to the local trader and shopkeeper, right down to the daily-wage laborer who works at some construction site. At each level, there are all-
As architect and social observer Arif Hasan puts it, there is an unplanned revolution taking place across cities and small towns in Pakistan, and the future of this country rests on how well we understand and harness the potential on offer pervasive linkages being formed between actors on a daily basis. Yes, the people lower down in the food chain get a rough deal out of this, and yes, the elite is unresponsiveness to the working classes, but there is a system in place, and that system is entrenched in a very dynamic society. Akbar Zaidi, a man who we should all pay attention to, writing in 1991 said that ‘feudalism’ as a mode of production ended in Pakistan after the Green Revolution. People had unprecedent opportunities for mobility, whether it was because of a metaled road being built, or by the advent of television, or, as was the case for many, by the migration of a family member to the Gulf and beyond. It is the same mobility that has led to the growth of Talagang town as a complete urban center, with linkages to all parts of the country. Provincial differences aside, no place in Pakistan has remained stuck in the 18th or 19th century. Each and every village has been touched by modernization, consumerism, and some manner of change. While the world become increasingly convinced of the ‘wilderness’ outside a few islands (Lahore, Karachi, Islamabad), the rest of the country is busy charting its way through the mess, away from the blinkered eyes of the western press and its peddlers in Pakistan. As architect and social observer Arif Hasan puts it, there is an unplanned revolution taking place across cities and small towns in Pakistan, and the future of this country rests on how well we understand and harness the potential on offer.
The writer blogs at http://recycled-thought. blogspot.com. Mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or send a tweet to @umairjav
Sunday, 25 September, 2011
What are we teaching our ch A compilation of notes from a research conducted by Dr Imdad Hussain and Aamir Riaz examining the content of school textbooks being taught in the Punjab
By Xari Jalil
iven the educational crisis that Pakistan is currently stricken with, there has been much talk by policy makers and education experts regarding the nature of the crisis and how to go about dealing with it. Dr Imdad Hussain (researcher) and Amir Riaz (analyst) add their invaluable contribution to this discussion by taking up the issue of the syllabus and conducting a detailed analysis of the content of the textbooks that are currently being taught in our schools. Their findings have been compiled in a detailed report, very aptly entitled: “What Are We Teaching Our Children?” Textbooks are perhaps even more important in developing countries as they are often the only educational material available to the students as well as the teachers. In developed countries, students and teachers have access to a wider range of educational materials, with textbooks serving more as mere guidelines. However, a review of the available textbooks in Pakistan shows dismal, nay, positively alarming results. It seems as though the curriculum and textbooks are inculcating intolerance, hate and terrorism in the minds of young children and by doing so, negating the very purpose of that education.
04 - 05
Previous research Prior research initiatives tackling the issue of the syllabus have done so from a myriad of different angles. Asghar Khan, in his book ‘Islam, Politics and the State: The Pakistan Experience’ argues that the country’s curriculum was primarily geared towards ideological indoctrination and consolidating political power. These conclusions are supported by A. Kazi (Ethnicity and Education in Nation Building: The Case of Pakistan).
Kazi’s empirical study shows how the Pakistani state used curricula to suppress ethnic identities during the 1970s and 1980s. The contents of the curriculum and textbooks were selected and appropriated in keeping with the political agenda of the regime. According to Mubarak Ali, one key way in which textbook material was made an engine of state ideology was to remove the representation of secular rulers from textbooks.In her study, Ayesha Jalal identified contradictions in the processes of constructing Islamic identity, which causes cognitive dissonance among students. The issues of misreporting of political events and negative portrayals of non-Muslims, especially Hindus, was taken up by K.K Aziz and Yvette Claire Rosser while John Dorschner and Thomas Sherlock have demonstrated that textbook contents have greatly hindered any peace efforts between India and Pakistan by reinforcing a blind hatred of the other country in its youth.
The Report For their research, Riaz and Hussain analysed four types of textbooks published by the Punjab Textbook Board. These included Urdu, Islamic Studies/Ethics, English, Social Studies/Pakistan studies. All of these textbooks from grade 1 to 10 were carefully read prior to developing tools of analysis and five themes were identified to focus on: 1. Religion and religious tolerance 2. Nationalism 3. Minority rights 4. Gender equality 5. Modernity, cultural change and citizenship
Religious Chauvinism and Minorities 1. Out of 871 lessons, 318 are about religion and only 61 of them make references to tolerance and dialogue. This means that 80% lessons related to religion do not promote tolerance and peace. Religion as it is found in
these textbooks, does not reflect the religious pluralism within and outside of Islam in Pakistan. Such a partisan presentation of religion accentuates sectarian divisions and alienates a considerable number of students and teachers from the educational processes. 2. There is a lack of material on other religions with no mention of any non-Muslim in 227 of the 318 lessons on religion. All the characters in the textbooks stories are Muslims. Given the issues facing religious minorities in Pakistan and the prevailing discrimination against them; the absence of information about other religions has grave implications for citizenship and interfaith harmony. In 45 lessons, other religions have been evaluated in negative terms. 3. In the scant references made to other faiths in these Urdu and Social Studies textbooks have rendered non-Muslims in a negative light and textbooks imply that all Hindus, Jew and Christians are enemies of Pakistani Muslims. 4. The presentation of Islam in the textbooks favors particular interpretations. Some of the teachings narrated in the textbooks are offensive to people of other sects. This depiction of religion does not only discriminate against minorities; it discriminates also against the beliefs of various sectarian groups.
Nationalism 1. The textbooks contain 98 lessons on nationalism, of these 58 are about war or they glamorize wars and 45 of these lessons explicitly link nationalism with war. From among these 45 lessons, 35 identify religious differences as determinants of war. 2. Only 9 lessons link religion, nationalism and peaceful co-existence in a positive light. Like textbook religion, textbook nationalism continues to deny cultural and linguistic diversity in Pakistan.
3. There are gross problems with the way history is presented in the textbooks as it weaves a singular hegemonic narrative, blatantly disregarding diversity and difference. The historical portraits are all about invading generals and there is a notable absence of discussions regarding local culture and history in the pre-colonial and colonial history of the Pakistani provinces. This contributes in creating discontent among students and teachers from these ignored regions, making them feel like second-class citizens. A fair representation of history in textbooks will help increase the confidence of students in their education.
Gender 1. Most lessons in science, geography and environment do not portray women as vital contributors to these fields. Urdu poetry sections do not contain the writings of poetesses. 2. In contrast, the total number of male characters in textbooks is as high as 210. There are less than one percent of instances in the lessons, which revolve around women or use a female character to make their point. These lessons are 8 in total. 3. Females are, by and large, portrayed in traditional roles. They wear veils, work at home, do not play, do not work in the fields and do not go to offices. These portrayals are not only false, but they serve to reinforce gender discrimination.
Ethics, Tolerance and Citizenship 1. The lessons systematically construct the idea of Hindus and India being mortal enemies to the cause of Islam and Pakistan. They imply that human beings are not capable of living together and that the world is always divided between enemies. 2. The mention of wars with India is glorified and only 53 lessons make reference to ethics. This constitutes less than 20 per cent. 3. In social sciences, out of 871
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hildren? lessons, only 90 make reference to science, scientists and scientific inventions. Only 50 lessons make reference to social workers and philanthropists. These lessons do not generally encourage voluntary work and hardly educate students to contribute to civic prosperity. The textbooks fail to teach young children about the lives and works of great philanthropists and social workers in the history of Pakistan.
Recommendations As a conclusion to their report, the two researchers have made a multitude of suggestions to the authorities concerned. Their recommendations address three groups, the Punjab government, civil society (especially parents and curriculum experts) and those in charge of textbook writing and reviewing. Some of the most important recommendations have been addressed to the Government of Punjab. General recommendations for the Government include that the education ministry should ensure the translation of all educational policies in easy and accessible Urdu, Punjabi, Siraiki and Potohari languages. These translations should be available in the market and placed on the Government of Punjab website. A senior expert of education should be appointed to receive and answer citizens’ questions related to education in general and curriculum and textbooks in particular. Textbook writing and their approval needs to become a more transparent and representative process. Equally
important is the establishment of a sound curriculum research program at the Punjab Textbook Board and that textbook authors be encouraged to avail of these facilities and undertake research. Upon the issue of religious bigotry, the researchers strongly recommend including information on other religions in the textbooks and present them in a positive light so that the Muslim students learn to respect the diversity of religions. Similarly, negative portrayal of cultural groups, religious minorities and language groups should be eliminated from the textbooks. It is also advised that science be promoted in these textbooks by providing information about latest inventions and their implications for our society as well as exploring the relationship between science and society. Hussain and Riaz recommend the following lessons and practical work themes for middle and high school students: community development, visiting hospitals and looking after patients, traffic etiquettes, first aid including measuring blood pressure and personal, household and neighborhood cleanliness. The social studies curriculum should immediately be amended to include stories of great social workers of Punjab such as Sir Ganga Ram, Sir Diyal Singh, Imran Khan, and Gulab Devi. To prevent a gendered discourse, recommendations that have been put forward are that woman related content in present textbooks should be increased dramatically in the near future. Modern roles of women should be represented in the textbooks, such as scientists, engineers, pilots, policewomen, cricketers, bureaucrats and politicians should all be included in the textbooks. To promote tolerance, peace and harmony , the inclusion of biographic information and poetry of Punjabi Sufi poets in social studies and language textbooks is necessary. Punjab has a strong, vibrant and long tradition of listening to these folklores and young children should be made aware of these by including poetic material from folklores such as Qissa Puran Bhagat, Heer Ranjha, Yusuf Zulekha, Saif ul Malook and Sohni Mahinwal. Most significantly, all references to war and the use of negative concepts such as murder, enemy, and hate should be eliminated from the textbooks. Inclusion of information on aspects of Sufi culture such as festivals, poetry recitations, and storytelling in the textbooks and information on South Asia and other regions of the world in the textbooks are vital for the children to have knowledge of.
Fiction 1. Our Lady of Alice Bhatti by Mohammad Hanif (New Arrival) 2. A Case of Exploding Mangoes by Mohammad Hanif 3. Aleph by Paulo Coehlo (New Arrival) 4. Desperate in Dubai by Ameera Al Hakawati (New Arrival) 5. Happy Birthday by Danielle Steel 6. One day by David Nicholls 7. I Don’t Know How She Does It by Alison Pearson 8. A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin 9. Chasing Fire by Nora Robert 10. The Stranger’s Child by Alan Hollinghurst (New Arrival)
Non Fiction 1. Pakistan : A Personal History by Imran Khan (New Arrival) 2. The State of Islam-Culture and Cold War Politics in Pakistan by Saadia Toor. (New Arrival) 3. The 9/11 Wars by Jason Burke (New Arrival) 4. Pakistan - A Hard Country by Anatol Lieven 5. Inside Al- Qaeda and the Taliban: Beyond Bin Laden and 9/11 by Syed Saleem Shahzad. 6. Conversations With Myself by Nelson Mandela 7. On China by Henry Kissinger 8. Destiny Disrupted- A History of the World Through Islamic Eyes by Tamim Ansari 9. Eat Pray Love by Elizbeth Gilbert 10. The Mughal Throne by Abraham Eraly
Children’s Books 1. The Giver by Lois Lowry 2. Dog days - Diary of Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney 3. The Throne of Fire by Rick Riordan 4. Alone on a Wide Wide Sea by Michael Morpurgo 5. Dark Academy - Blood Ties by Gabrilla Polle 6. The Summer that Changed Everything by Ann Brashares 7. Last Sacrifice – Wampire Academy by Richelle Mead 8. Dead Reckoning by Charlaine Harris 9. Shadow Souls- Wimpire Diary by L. J. Smith 10. Red Riding Hood by Sarah Blakley-Cartwrighy
A seminal research study The book looks at the intellectual history of Islamic reform movements and reveals that they originated mostly in the 19th century Punjab By Syed Afsar Sajid
A Questioning the Authority of the Past The Ahl al-Qur’an Movements in the Punjab By Ali Usman Qasmi Oxford University Press, Karachi Pages: 348; Price: Rs. 825/-
li Usman Qasmi is a young but prodigiously t a l e n t e d pan-Islamic research scholar. Coming of a distinguished family of religious scholars, litterateurs and writers (great grandfather: Ghulam Mustafa Qasmi; grandfather: Maulana Baha-ul-Haq Qasmi; father: Ata-ul-Haq Qasmi; uncle: Zia-ul-Haq Qasmi, and brothers: Yasir Pirzada and Omar Qasmi), he holds a PhD in South Asian History from the University of Heidelberg, Germany (the alma mater of Allama Iqbal) and is currently a Newton Fellow for postdoctoral research in history at the University of London. He also has to his credit a series of important seminars and courses on the ‘History of Islam and the modern South Asian Islam’ conducted at the SouthAsia Institute of Heidelberg University. The present work is in fact an updated version of his doctoral thesis on the Ahl al-Qur’an movement – forming a seminal study of the intellectual history of Islamic reform movements having originated mostly in the
Punjab in the 19th century. Maulwi Abdullah Chakralwi (d.1930?), Khwaja Ahmad-udDin Amritsari (1861-1936) and Ghulam Ahmad Parwez (190385) were its leading proponents who emphasized ‘the centrality of the Holy Qur’an as the only divine text required for the inference of religious doctrines’ and wanted to create ‘a discursive space in which Islam could be projected as a religion compatible with modernity; tolerant of other religions; and progressiveegalitarian in its spirit’. Although limited in their influence, the debate about them still continues affecting ‘the worldview of a large number of Muslims touched by modern sensibilities’. The author is of the view that with the exception of Daniel W. Brown’s (Rethinking Tradition in Modern Islamic Thought), there is hardly any detailed work on the Ahl al-Qur’an in Western academia. According to him ‘the leading scholars of South Asian Islam have also given negligible attention to the Ahl al-Qur’an’, some of them erroneously linking them to Ahl-i-Hadith. It is a delicate issue but the writer has treated it with caution and restraint without of course losing sight of the academic ends of his
research. The book comprises seven chapters inclusive of the introductory and the conclusion. In the second chapter the writer traces the history of various Sunni Muslim groups emerging in the later half of the 19th century, in the context of their ideological affiliations and backgrounds. In chapter 3 the author seeks to assess the new trends as espoused by Sayyid Ahmad Khan (1817-98) in the areas of Tafsir and Hadith so as to ‘reconcile dogma with modern intellectual atittudes’. Chapter 4 focuses on Maulwi Abdullah Chakralwi, a key figure in the Ahl al-Qur’an movement, his writings and the controversies generated by his religious polemics. Chapter 5 carries a critical appraisal of another Ahl alQur’an personage Khwaja Ahmad-ud-Din Amritsari’s views, his exegetical and other writings. Comparison and contrast has also been drawn between the two scholars’ approach towards Hadith, Tafsir and Fiqh. The impact of the Ahl al-Qur’an ideas on the Isnad (Chain of transmission of a Hadith) paradigm has also been examined besides a mention of the views of Maulana Maudoodi
(1903-79) and Maulana Amin Ahsan Islahi (1904-97) relevant to the discussion. Chapter 6 elucidates Ghulam Ahmad Parwez’s Tulu’-i-Islam as the leading Ahl al-Qur’an organization after 1947. He envisaged an Islamic state ‘assuming the task of progressively interpreting Qur’anic injunctions in accordance with the dictates of changing spatial-temporal settings’. His ideas influenced General Ayub Khan (190774) in the nineteen sixties motivating him to take some steps to ‘institutionalize Islamic modernism’ in the country. The chapter also brings forth ‘considerable new information and a different theoretical understanding about the politics of Islam in Pakistan during the period 1947-69’. In the last analysis, as the author considers, the exegetical writings and polemical disputations of Ahl al-Qur’an have raised an intellectual debate on the discourse of Islamic reform and that they (Ahl alQur’an) ‘may not register a meteroric rise in numbers but the reformist discourse informing disparate currents in Ahl alQur’an movements will gain even wider recognition’.
The Karonjhar Hills, where Tyrwhitt had his eyrie
For the people of Nagar Parker where he had held court, Tyrwhitt’s pedestal on a wind scoured hilltop outside town even today remains very much a tourist attraction
By Salman Rashid
yrwhitt came to Nagar Parker at the head of an army in 1858 when Rana Karan Singh ruled over the place. A great battle was fought here in which the English were roundly defeated and had to flee for their lives. The Rajputs went in pursuit, and Tyrwhitt was only able to get away with his life after a Meghwar tanner hid him under a pile of cowhides. Returning subsequently with an even greater army, Tyrwhitt was finally able to overcome the Rajputs of Nagar. And not the one to forget the Meghwar, he allotted him a vast jagir.’ Nawaz Ali Khosa, the elderly teller of tales from Nagar Parker fell silent. The tap-tap-tap of his steel tipped cane on the street became more pronounced. From afar the koel called, the moisture laden monsoon wind gusted down the corridor of the street and the old man sat down in the verandah of the ruined hulk at the west end of the Nagar Parker bazaar. I had never read of any great battle between the British and the Ranas of Nagar, I said. ‘But of course there was a battle,’ said Khosa. ‘It is part of the lore of Thar Desert.’ There were, he said, even the ruins of the fortress to show for the eventual defeat of the Nagar Rajputs. At the very end of the bazaar, past the ruined store fronts and houses of the rich Hindus of Nagar Parker’s glory days, past the impressive Jain temple, Nawaz Khosa walked up the slight incline. There in front was a length of wall and further on, a subterranean opening that looked like a large water conduit. The wall, according to my guide, was all that remained of the Rajput fortress and the opening led into its basement where a cache of gunpowder was stored. After the defeat while the Rajput chiefs hid in the surrounding Karonjhar hills, the valiant General Roopa Kohli stole into the fortress to remove the cache. He was discovered, however, arrested and tortured. But he gave nothing away, and so he was hanged to death. Khosa offered to walk me to the east end of town to the site of the hanging. Though this was very clearly fable for the granite blocks of the purported castle and the entrance to the underground vaults were cemented together with modern cement that would have been introduced in Nagar Parker by the British, the little known Roopa (or Roopla) is celebrated in a folk song even today. Sixteen years ago while free wheeling around Thar Desert I had
been told that no trip to the picturesque little town of Nagar Parker at the southeastern edge of Pakistan was complete without visiting ‘Tyrwhitt jo Thullo’ – the Pedestal of Tyrwhitt, for that was how the Welsh name had been translated into the Sindhi and Parkeri languages. The stories my informant told me at that time made out Tyrwhitt as a saint and a demon in equal measure. Here was a man who pursued his official duties, whether to bridle contumacious Rajputs or to provide justice to the aggrieved, with a single minded madness. Tyrwhitt, it was told, was a fun loving man as well who would climb the hill daily to sit on the pedestal especially prepared for him on the windy peak in order to enjoy his drink in the remarkable scenery of the Karonjhar hills. But, it was also said, he was ruthless in his attempts to bring the recalcitrant Rajputs to heel and carried a pair of binoculars with him daily to keep a watchful eye on his domain between sips on his whisky and soda. In 1858 the district of Thar and Parker was detached from Bhoj and placed under the Hyderabad Collectorate. Owing to the more regular system of administration, the Ranas of the desert lost some of the independence they earlier enjoyed,
Consequently in 1860 what now forms the districts of Mirpur Khas and Mithi was detached to form a separate Political Superintendency. The man to head it was George Tyrwhitt. E.H. Aitken’s Gazetteer of the Province of Sind (sic) notes that here was ‘an officer whose memory is associated in the traditions of Sind with many eccentricities’. Even at the time of his appointment as the Political Superintendent of the district of Thar and Parker, Tyrwhitt was reputed to be ‘able, energetic and possessing an astonishing degree of insight into the characters, habits and feelings of the border tribes.’ The man must have done well to have held his appointment for a full thirteen years until 1873. But it is intriguing where and how he acquired his ‘astonishing degree’ of knowledge when we do not hear of him in Sindh prior to his appearance on the scene with his force of six hundred police levies. However, we do learn from the illustrious Mirza Kalich Beg that both his father and grandfather enjoyed friendly relations with Tyrwhitt and that the young Mirza was given an English education on the exhortation of the Political Superintendent. Among the legends regarding the man’s singularity of purpose when
consequently they raised the Kohlis to revolt. On April 15, 1859 a mob burnt down the telegraph office at Nagar Parker, killed a number of the police guard and took possession of the town. That is when we first hear of Lieutenant George Tyrwhitt who accompanied the army with a force of six hundred police levies to restore order. Order was restored, but the miscreants made off to spend the next year as fugitives. When they eventually did surrender, the Rana and his principal abettors were awarded lengthy jail sentences and deprived of their properties, while those who had assisted the government were granted jagirs. The passage of nearly a century and a half had embellished and romanticised the story of a failed revolt with tales of a valiant Kohli general trying to spirit away a cache of ammunition and the defeated white man cowering in fear under a pile of stinking hides. The authorities now saw the difficulties in keeping a vast desert region under the control of a distant administrative headquarters.
it came to the job assigned him, one legend still lives: a con artist of his day impersonating as a district administration official complete with his train of clerks and peons visited Thar and Parker. There, right under the nose of the Political Superintendent the impostor received some money from a certain party and gave it possession of a block of land that was another man’s rightful property. Even before Tyrwhitt could get wind of the carrying on, the swindler and his party made tracks. As soon as word reached him, Tyrwhitt saddled up and rode hell for leather after the tricksters, and, it is said, after riding non stop through the night came upon his quarry at the edge of the desert. The impostors were tried and sentenced to life imprisonment in the island fortress of Manora outside Karachi. If Tyrwhitt left anything in writing, all or much of it is lost. However, rather unlike other officers of the Raj, he certainly did not leave many photographs: there is but a single portrait of the man on record. This
Pictures by the Author
the review Sunday, 25 September, 2011
06 - 07
A true eccentric of the Raj
surely is evidence of his shy, reclusive nature. And so we know next to nothing of this mysterious person. But there are oblique references to his falling from grace toward the end of his service in Thar and Parker. There is no official word on how or why he left his position of Political Superintendent in 1873. There is only the reference that he came heavily under debt – a circumstance rather difficult for a man as seemingly reclusive and retiring as Tyrwhitt. It seems that it was the pressure of this debt that occasioned his departure for home the same year as he was removed from his superintendency. The Raj apparently protected its officers’ secrets well for we get no inkling of the nature of Tyrwhitt’s humiliation. We know that he sailed away for England sometime in 1873. Mirza Kalich Beg wrote that Colonel George Tyrwhitt died ‘after 1874’ in England; if there was a wife and children, there was no mention. The man who had brought order to the vast desert districts of Thar and Parker and ruled judiciously over it for thirteen long years disappeared from official record because of an indiscretion. But for the people of Nagar Parker where he had held court, Tyrwhitt’s pedestal on a wind scoured hilltop outside town even today remains very much a tourist attraction. They still flaunt it even when his memory is confused with the accretion of time. The dearth of official record makes it difficult to chronicle the accomplishments of Colonel Tyrwhitt in any detail, but whatever little is available does make one thing clear: here was a man no less in stature than John Jacob or Bartle Frere. But here was a man who missed the Role of Honour because of his reclusiveness. Here was a man who missed out on glory because of a minor impropriety. Now, one hundred and twenty five years after his death, let us acknowledge him as one of the able empire builders that he really was. With these words do I celebrate Colonel George Tyrwhitt of the former desert district of Thar and Parker. –Salman Rashid, rated as the best in the country, is a travel writer and photographer who has travelled all around Pakistan and written about his journeys.
The IMF and Pakistan – a sordid past The history of IMF programmes in Pakistan reveals a relationship of one-sided dependency and Pakistan’s recent decision to decline pursuing another IMF program appears as a positive step, though it also presents difficulties By Fatima Hayat
he first time Pakistan encountered the term ‘structural adjustment’ was in November 1980 under Zia ul Haq, and there has been no looking back since then. The term ‘structural adjustment’ has since reached infamy in Pakistan, and the world over, for having devastating effects on external balances and increasing poverty like never before. Once again, Pakistan finds itself faced with similar questions from the past. The 34 month Stand-By Agreement (SBA) which was approved in November 2008 by the IMF’s board, has now come to an end, with Pakistan failing to meet the standards that were set. Fiscal deficits are still near 6 percent of GDP and this performance has led to a premature termination of the IMF program. The economic crisis of 2008, with high fiscal deficits, depreciating value of the rupee and soaring inflation levels led to Pakistan kneeling on its knees for assistance. Pakistan first entered into these IMF arrangements because of deteriorating macroeconomic balances. The first program was notable for its size and relatively less stringent terms – perhaps due to Pakistan’s role in the Afghan invasion. Controlling fiscal deficit was its foremost aim, but it failed to do so and fiscal deficit was higher in the consequent four years. The next arrangement came in December 1988 and then in February 1994 under Benazir Bhutto’s government. The most important objective remained to reduce fiscal deficit. Pakistan missed the target of 4 percent in 1995-1996,
resulting in the termination of the 1994 program after disbursement of only 40 percent of the original amount of $1.4 billion. Pakistan was once again categorized as a ‘one tranche’ borrower. Need arose again, and a desperate Pakistan knocked on IMF’s door again in November 1996. The new program set a 4 percent target for fiscal deficit. In subsequent arrangements with the IMF, Pakistan’s macroeconomic balances have for the most part remained much above the agreed goal and shown little signs of improvement. With billions of dollars pouring in, aimed towards fiscal adjustment and macroeconomic stability, Pakistan was still in a fiscal deficit. As soon as the dollars stopped coming, Pakistan found itself in another macroeconomic crisis. Its dependency had begun, and was now complete. IMF programs never led to the completion of their intended goals, but only to further and increasing poverty, to widespread corruption and to decreased spending on development. Since IMF works in close collaboration with the United States (its principal donor), Pakistan has had to face stringent terms and conditions, almost always reliant on its relations with the United States. IMF dependency has thus also led it to the American Slavery Syndrome everyone loves to talk about nowadays. How can you refuse to listen to your Daddy while you live under his roof and on his money? The IMF loans have to be repaid every year, and when Pakistan fails to generate the amount needed to do this along with running the country, it loans more money from the IMF or elsewhere to service old debts. Even when conditions were stringent, even when poverty levels reached unmatched levels, Pakistan’s failure to manage its balance of payments
and fiscal deficit created a dire need for rescue. IMF loans were the shortest fix for money, to keep the economy from going bankrupt – but they have led us to a huge debt crisis. At present, about half of Pakistan’s budget goes into debt servicing. About 30% of the remaining half is reserved for Defense. Pakistan has 20% of her budget remaining for everything else – education, healthcare, maintaining the bureaucracy, paying for imports, the likes. IMF loans decrease the level of socio-economic development. Since the aim of the program is to ‘stabilize’ the country’s economy and reduce its fiscal deficits, one of its primary objectives is for the government to raise more than it spends. A huge problem here comes from an issue that has been a tabooed topic in the reforms agenda in Pakistan. The increased burden of defense expenditures and the fact that details of this budget are never presented to the Parliament. The defense budget is absorbing one thirds of the Pakistani government’s revenues. It may be because of the military’s direct influence in the country’s governance and also because there is no mechanism of oversight or accountability on defense expenditure. The only option left then to decrease government spending is reduce spending on development and social development. Essential and crucial factors such as healthcare and education have borne the brunt of IMF reforms and restructuring. Since the IMF reforms call for privatization and global competitiveness, its second phase of reforms proved even more detrimental to Pakistan. Pakistan had never protected its industries or had enough of them to compete globally. Throughout its history, except for a few years in Ayub Khan’s regime, Pakistan had never implemented
Import Substituting Industrialization (growing industry in your own country to begin to produce locally what was earlier imported from abroad). Lack of protection to infant industries in Pakistan led to Pakistani goods being uncompetitive and lacking comparative advantage. With implementing IMF’s reforms, this meant that Pakistan was on the losing end in international trade, since it did not produce the stuff of high value – it had no comparative advantage in manufacturing or services. Pakistan then began the export of primary goods, most of which were agricultural produce. This leads to a complex problem: when exports are cheaper in value and everything else needs to be imported (like heavy machinery, technological goods, manufactured goods, cars, weapons, technical assistance etc), the balance of payments would be severely impacted. The policies and reforms proposed with aid packages almost always have very strict rules, political maneuvering and absolute lack of grassroots knowledge involved. IMF fails to see the history, the structure and the ground reality involved in Pakistan’s economy and fails to also see the delicate differences among countries. It applies the same universal rules of privatization, increased taxation and free trade to all underdeveloped countries. IMF programs have led to further ruin, instead of solving the problem, not just in Pakistan, but in other developing nations of Asia and Latin America. Pakistan is a classic case of IOU – the I Owe You philosophy of economics that explains how indebted countries are trapped in a vicious cycle, where they are unable to pay off debts and end up borrowing more and more each year. Although Pakistan is resource-rich, and does not lie in the
Pakistan, according to Khan From page 1
of what seems to be in his eyes the highlight of his political career: the Great Arrest, the time when Gen. Musharaf had him locked up in an A-class cell for an astonishing seven days – a highlight, of course, since it doesn’t make a (pseudo) revolutionary without having seen the bars of prison at least once in life. Thus when after his ‘heroic arrest’ he was sent to the D.G. Khan prison, Khan was so badly treated in detention that: ‘I could hardly eat in jail since I had no exercise and the food was terrible. After so many years of sport my body was conditioned to expect exercise.’ If that was the case, perhaps he should have tried exchanging jail terms with one Makhdoom Javed Hashmi – he would have received all the in-prison exercise he desired, and more to save for later. However, this, according to him, was not the worst it got: “The worst of it was that time would not pass. I thought I was going to die of boredom.” He doesn’t know it, but not even an A-class jail cell provides a private laptop with Tweeting (or other more exciting) facilities. Boredom is perhaps the last thing to worry about if one is serving a real jail sentence. It is after braving the torment of one of
those that Mr Khan can qualify for even trying to paint himself as the Che Guevara of the Muslim world. Moving on, one of the book’s more admirable aspects is the way the author has traced the changes in his attitude towards religion throughout his life. It is filled with reflections of all sorts, but reflection on religion is the one major highlight. Good, you might think – but not so fast. Even this seemingly flawless approach manages to find a glitch when it passes through the thought process and pen of Mr. Khan. Speaking of the days of his (well-publicized) ignorant days of youth, when he self-admittedly was losing faith in religion and God alike, Khan reveals how he, all of a sudden, managed to see the light again: “The other thing that made me feel there could be a God was the vulnerability every sportsman feels regarding injuries.” I would be deeply disappointed if he hasn’t observed or experienced anything more significant in his nearly 60 years to reinstate his belief in the existence of God than a famous shin injury. I sincerely hope I am proven wrong in judgment in this particular instance. Lastly, however, comes one big statement from the book that could eclipse even
the above given epic one-liners in the amount of anticlimactic disappointment that it deals. In the opening paragraph of chapter four, labeled, ‘Our Failed Democracy, 19881993’, Mr Khan reflects upon the-then state of the country and observes: “While I think the lowest point for the country’s morale was when we lost East Pakistan, the highest was winning the World Cup.” Unless the country he is talking about here is called Zaman Park, it can safely be said that certain events like the successful nuclear experiment in Chaghi or the fending off of the Indian threat in 1965 deserve a higher spot in the country’s morale-raiser list than lifting that huge glass ball. But, well, perhaps Khan was out picking fruits off of his neighbours’ trees on September 6, 1965, and still suffering from the latest round of clubbing till the wee hours in London on the morning of May 28, 1998, I suppose. If yes, then it is definitely about time he stepped down from the mulberry tree and woke up from his vanity sleep – or, try as he might, his party’s ‘time’ would never come.
lower income bracket of countries, its development indicators are extremely low. Its budget allocation explains this. When 80% of it goes into making new weapons, maintaining its army and paying off previous debts (which keep increasing every year) – who has the money to invest in human capital? Officials and senior economists claim that Pakistan can manage this fiscal year without breaking down as the foreign reserves and balance of trade remain in control. But the country is still to service $1.2 billion to the IMF as loan repayment. Depending on internal resources to generate this money seems to be easier said than done. Raising indirect taxes or implementing power sector reforms (removing power sector subsidies) would have devastating effects on the marginalized sectors of society. Where does Pakistan go from here? Is the government playing dirty tricks to leave the economy shattered before the elections? Is this to create an unbearable economic situation for future governments to face? Or are we really economically sufficient for this fiscal year without the help of the IMF? Only time can tell, but I have a feeling that it won’t be long before Pakistan cries like a borderline girl calling out to IMF, begging on its knees again. Economic stability and progress is not something that can be achieved in isolation from other factors. Economic growth is impossible without political stability, reforms, planning and strong institutions. Pakistan is in a vicious cycle, and nobody ever got out of one through the IMF’s quick fixes. Only we can improve our conditions, and if we plan properly and control corruption, we might not need a new IMF program at all. Sounds too idealistic? If we cut 2 percent of defense budget alone, it would raise the entire economy with a multiplier effect.
Even the sections dedicated by name to global events, more often than not end up discussing how Mr Khan’s friend in Oxford was Tony Blair’s roommate or how he himself fares as a shooter. However, the rare occasions on which Mr Khan manages to keep himself out of the picture and focuses on international and national affairs while reflecting upon them, he does exceed expectations as an analyst
Sunday, 25 September, 2011
By Hashim bin Rashid
hen a new superpower began to rise, on the strength of its economy, hopes
were raised. China’s rise was not an anomaly; it was only strange because it came silently. 2011 marks almost 30 years of Chinese growth rates of almost 10%. China stands as the world’s largest exporter and world’s second largest importer. The 2000’s were special, however. They marked the Chinese economic expansion. It was not that China would not engage in projects outside its country earlier. But it was in the 2000’s when it recognised that its need for resources meant that the bestway forward was to purchase entire primary production units. Oil fields in Nigeria, coal mines in Australia, iron-ore mines in and agrarian land in Africa were all purchased. Another set of moves has seen China become one of the First World’s biggest creditors. The US owes it over $1 trillion in treasury bonds which sets it up interestingly. But what was also noteworthy was when Greece took out the begging bowl, China rushed in and purchased fumbling state enterprises. The policy of course is being replicated.
The rise of a second pole
And the rise of a second pole in the global world order, even if statements by the Chinese President do not make the first headline just yet, is quite obvious. And hence the China question must be asked, especially in the context of the long standing Pakistani courtship of it. The Pakistani courtship has been interesting, almost an instance of the tabooed polyandry. While proclaiming true love to China, it has maintained a love-hate contractual marriage with the US. It has pitched itself to either, or, both depending upon its sense of need. And, in doing so, it has alienated both. Anyhow, the China question is not peculiar to Pakistan. It is a global question. The China question, simply put, is: whether China is the light to alleviate the deep human suffering produced by the existing world order? The question can be answered from
three vantage points. One: we shall compare China to the Western power block, especially the US, in terms of how it goes about its relationships with weaker states. Two: we shall attempt to evaluate China from the self-annotated principles of Communism, primarily the principles of the equality and respect of humans. Three: we shall approach the question from the particular perspective of Pakistan, given the primary audience of this article.
non-interference in Africa’s internal affairs.” But again the sheer lack of a human rights track record, a poor record on worker’s right, and the lack of spillover benefits of so-called Chinese ‘investments’ is conspicuous. A growing number of local voices have begun to label Chinese expansion into the third world as ‘neo-colonial.’ However loaded the phrase may be it appears that China represents the early stage in European (1800s) and American (1900s) expansion, but without armed occupations.
A roving capitalist
The Pakistan Question
One of the first things that China, of today, typifies the roving ability of capital. In fact it is the overt claim the Chinese government makes, “We do not want to make slaves. We want to do business.” This also constitutes a pot-shot at the US. The great strength of China lies in its ability to offer strong economic relationships, without political interference. However, it has meant the expansion of ties into Africa and Latin America have also lacked considerations for human rights, or, the sustainability of investments. Nor have these relationships offered anything to anyone other than existing elites. In exchange for securing energy, mineral resources and other raw materials, China has been doling out aid and providing technical assistance and interest-free loans to businessfriendly African governments. At the same time, Chinese companies are winning contracts to build highways, pipelines, hydroelectric dams, hospitals and sports stadiums and to upgrade railways, ports and airports. The Chinese government itself reports Chinese trade with Africa has increased from US$10.6 billion in 2000 to $39.7 billion. The International Monetary Fund reports the economic growth rate in sub-Saharan Africa nearly doubled in the same period. However, the 5.8% growth rate is said to be the best Africa has seen since 1974. But these growth figures come at a stark contrast: as we speak a famine spreads in Southern Africa. Part of the reason, agrarian grabs by foreign companies, including Chinese. Chinese leaders have also made clear they have not many environmental or political qualms. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao himself sums it up best, “China has been developing relations with Africa under principles of mutual benefit and
Pakistan has courted China since the 1960s, without ever really asking the question: what is China? As it stands, China is now Pakistan’s largest arms supplier and third-largest trading partner. And it continues to be courted further. President Zardari has visited the country thrice. Bilawal has made his diplomatic debut there. The Xinjiang Regional Trade Expo attended by both was heavily marketed. China has also been re-developing the Karakorram highway and looking towards building a train route through it. Chinese firms have been offered multiple construction and mining contracts in Pakistan and Chinese business appears to be being advanced, including the provision in the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) for the establishment of a ‘free-zone’ in Lahore for Chinese businesses and the removal of Pakistani tariffs on 2,423 products to zero percent to encourage China to buttress her economic position in the Pakistani domestic market. While elites have been easily absorbed on the China bandwagon the question to ask is: does China offer hope for the oppressed classes of Pakistan? The negative appears to be the case. A settlement of indigenous fishermen at the Taunsa Barrage head is threatened by the new powerhouse project contracted to a Chinese firm. The Chinese investments in Gwadar have been received with scorn from the Baloch. The Saindak mining project, contracted to a Chinese firm, has seen negligible spillovers in local development. Of course, there are projects that are more interesting. The announcement of the Lahore Rapid Mass Transit System (LRMTS) contract being awarded to a Chinese firm is one such interesting development. However,
the rhetoric from the firm that it would take no profit from the project manifested another of the double-edged mannerisms of Chinese firms one must raise an alarm over. The Chinese flooding of local markets with cheap finished products aids traders and consumers in the short run. But it promises to destroy existing productive capacities in the medium run. In an increasingly globalised world, marked by the invasiveness of capital into the local, China is not a contradiction, but an extension, a fulfillment of an nth potential within the logos of capital. The trouble is Pakistan has been avoiding taking a holistic view of China. And care will need to be taken to not become a dumping ground for Chinese products at the cost of local businesses, or, for Chinese firms to extract raw materials for use in the Chinese mainland.
China for the world
Illustrated & Designed by Atif Rafi
The China Question Replacing an overt imperialism with a covert one is not a good trade-off In its economic and political relationships with other states, China has used a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ policy. It is respected since it does not follow the Western imperialist paradigm of military intervention, but it still flies in the face of what should be the humanitarian principles of equality
To conclude one must ask: does China’s growth bring hope for the oppressed of the world? China’s record on the question of social, economic and political oppression within its borders has been precarious. A policy of systematic silencing is in place. Only last month, two Beijingbased newspapers were taken over by the government’s propaganda wing and protests of villagers against a solar panel factory for environmental degradation were brutally repressed. One of Chairman Mao’s early contributions was to realise the gulf between the rural and the urban. Today the same contradiction remains manifest within China. In its economic and political relationships with other states, it has used a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ policy. It is respected since it does not follow the Western imperialist paradigm of military intervention, but it still flies in the face of what should be the humanitarian principles of equality. One of the more interesting questions worth remarking on has been the question of the expansion of the Chinese language. While English and French came to the world through conquering, it appears Chinese shall come to the world through diplomacy
and economic expansion. However, there are legitimate questions that need to be asked that are not being asked. From what vantage point? From the vantage point of a shared future for humanity, where human diversity can be respected in a world amongst equals. And from this vantage point, a China that does not stand up for human rights, a China that enters exploitative economic relationships, is not the new Global Power we must bow down to.