Military is supreme

In 1957, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto became the youngest member of Pakistan’s delegation to the United Nations. Bhutto became one of the youngest politicians in Pakistan when he entered the government led by President Ayub Khan. In 1958 Bhutto became the youngest cabinet minister when he was given charge of the Energy ministry by Field Marshal Ayub Khan, who had seized power, through a successful coup d’état. In 1960, he was subsequently promoted to minister of the Commerce Ministry, and minister of Water and Power. He aided President Ayub in negotiating the Indus Water Treaty in India in 1960. In 1961, Bhutto negotiated an oil exploration agreement with the Soviet Union, which also agreed to provide economic and technical aid to Pakistan.

In 1963, after his appointment as foreign minister, he opted working for greater independence from Western powers and for closer ties with China. Bhutto was made the foreign minister at the height of reaction to a US decision to give military aid to India following the attack by China on India’s Himalayan border. President Ayub depended heavily, on Bhutto for carrying out new foreign policy initiatives. But Bhutto’s opposition to the peace with India after the 1965 war over Kashmir caused him to resign from the government, and in December 1967 he founded the Pakistan People’s Party, which won a majority of seats from West Pakistan in 1970.

By the time Bhutto was given the control of the government in 1971, Pakistan was torn apart, isolated, demoralized, and emotionally shattered after a bitter defeat at the hands of arch-enemy India. East Pakistan became Bangladesh with the help of India. The trauma was severe in Pakistan, a psychological setback and emotional breakdown for Pakistan; the citizens were stunned at the defeat. They were amazed by the incompetence of their military ruler. The army was unpopular; Bhutto was the only alternative as President Yahya’s successor.

In his address to the nation on December 20, 1971, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto said:

“I would not like to see Martial Law remain one day longer than necessary… We have to rebuild democratic institutions…we have to rebuild a situation in which the common man, the poor man in the street, can tell me to go to hell.”

One of the first thing Bhutto did as President was to dismiss General Hamid as Chief of Staff and appoint General Gul Hassan. He announced reforms limiting land ownership and a government take-over of over a million acres to distribute to landless peasants. More than 2,000 civil servants were dismissed on charges of corruption. Bhutto visited India to meet Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and negotiated a formal peace agreement and the release of 93,000 Pakistani prisoners of war. Bhutto also promised to hold a future summit for the peaceful resolution of the Kashmir dispute and pledged to recognise Bangladesh. Although he secured the release of Pakistani soldiers, he was criticised by many for allegedly making too many concessions to India.

“The sporadic fighting between the insurgency and the army started in 1973 with the largest confrontation taking place in September 1974. Saddam’s government provided support for Baloch separatists in Pakistan, hoping their conflict would spread to rival Iran. In 1973, Iraq provided the Baloch with conventional arms, and it opened an office for the Baluchistan Liberation Front (BLF) in Baghdad. This operation was supposed to be covert, but in 1973, the operation was exposed by M.I. when senior separatist leader Akbar Bugti defected to Bhutto, revealing a series of arms stored in the Iraqi Embassy. On the midnight of 9 February 1973, Bhutto launched an operation to seize control of the Iraqi Embassy, and preparation for siege was hastily prepared. The operation was highly risky and a wrong step could have started a war between the two countries. The operation was carefully analysed and at 0:00hrs (12:00 am), the SSG Division accompanied by Army Rangers stormed the Embassy. Military Police arrested the Iraqi Ambassador, the military attaché, and Iraq’s diplomatic staff.”

Study of Revenge: The First World Trade Center Attack and Saddam Hussein’s War against America by Laurie Mylroie

On 30 March, 1973, fourteen Air Force and twenty one army officers were arrested on charges of plotting to overthrow the government. Major General Zia ul Haq headed the subsequent court martial and used the opportunity to inform Bhutto about the proceedings and offer his services to him.

Bhutto made sure that 1973 Constitution authorised the Parliament to pass laws for the punishment of those found guilty of treason, and included an oath to refrain from indulging in political activity, the Constitution explicitly formalised it:

I …do solemnly swear that I will bear true faith and allegiance to Pakistan and uphold the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. I will not engage in any political activities whatsoever and that I will honestly and faithfully serve the Pakistan Army/Navy/Airforce as required by and under the law.

Bhutto promoted Zia ul Haq from Brigadier to Major General, after King Hussein of Jordan had put in a word for him appreciating his services in Jordan. Zia was in Jordan at the time of the Black September Operations against Palestinians, was believed to have taken part in the massacre on the orders of King Hussein. In February 1976 Zia ul Haq was appointed as COAS, he stood eighth in the seniority list at that time of promotion. Rest is history.

Reason for giving a brief overview of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s career is because of the recent stance of Mian Nawaz Sharif against the military intervention in politics. Three times prime minister Nawaz Sharif aspires to end Pakistan Army’s control on civilian government. He is openly criticising army generals; he talked about the military and its agencies as the “State above the State”. He was among the few civilian leaders to hold friendly relations with the military establishment. But that did not get him anywhere. He ended up getting deposed General Pervez Musharraf in 1999. He was put on trial for corruption and went in exile. In 2013, he became prime minister for the third time. He is alleged to have told his confidantes that he would curtail the role of army and ascertain the supremacy of civilian governments in Pakistan forever. He is locking horns with military establishment at one time again. 

Can he push back a military that is deep-rooted in power politics, today? Can he sustain the pressure?

Despite being an optimist, I believe NO.

If an intelligent and the most popular first elected Prime Minister like Bhutto, who was the founder of Pakistan’s atomic bomb programme, lost his grounds to military, then Mian Nawaz Sharif has no chance. Looking at Mian Nawaz Sharif’s own history, even in the recent past, he has been compromising with the establishment time to time. Opposition’s alliance may force the sitting government for early elections, but as a matter of fact it wouldn’t change the current status of military establishment.    

HINDUTVA

The events in Srebrenica in 1995 included the killing of more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslim. The genocides of 2.7 to 3 million Polish Jews and 1.8 to 2.77 million non-Jewish ethnic Poles. The systematic killing of the Christian Ottoman Greek population carried out in Anatolia during World War I and its aftermath (1914–1922) on the basis of their religion and ethnicity. Five thousand Yazidi civilians were killed during what has been called a forced conversion campaign being carried out by ISIL in Northern Iraq. At least 6,700 Rohingya, were killed in the month after the violence broke out. At least 288 villages were partially or totally destroyed by fire in northern Rakhine state after August 2017. According to UN reports, over 700,000 Rohingya people had fled and took shelter in neighbouring Bangladesh as refugees as of September 2018.

All the above mentioned crimes were committed using religion, Christians, Muslims, and even Buddhist. For the last few years BJP government is quite actively engaged in such activities against minorities in India and Kashmir.

A couple of weeks ago I used the term “Hindutva” on a lighter mode referring to a political incident. Unfortunately my comment offended my Hindu followers and friends on social media inside and outside Pakistan. I always try my level best not to write anything which hurt the feelings of anyone. Hence I decided to write about the importance of the issue to understand the problem; hence it is important for the audience to understand what Hinduism is:

Hinduism is both a civilisation and a congregation of religions; it has neither a beginning, nor a founder, nor a central authority, or organisation. One can be a believer in one God, or multiplicity of Gods or even none at all. Hinduism does not expel much less crucify alleged non-believers. Hinduism is not a revealed religion and, therefore, has neither a founder nor definite teachings or common system of doctrines. It has no organisation, no dogma or accepted creeds. There is no authority with recognised jurisdiction. A man, therefore, could neglect any one of the prescribed duties of his group and still be regarded as a good Hindu. It embraces a range of doctrines and practices, from pantheism to agnosticism and religious belief in reincarnation to belief in cast system. Hinduism recognizes that the truth is plural, that there is no one correct answers to the big question of creation. A Catholic is a Catholic because he believes Jesus was the Son of the God, and in the conceptions of virgin birth. A Muslim must believe that there is no God but God and Muhammad is his Prophet. A Jew cherishes his Torah; simply there is no Hindu equivalent to any of these beliefs. Hinduism maintains that all ways of belief are equally valid. Hinduism incorporates almost all varieties of belief and worship within it, there is no need to choose or reject others. . There is, however, one key difference. Hinduism is a plural tradition, as compared to Christianity and Islam which possess well defined universal creedal formulations.

Therefore, Hindu “fundamentalism” is remarkably thin in terms of religious content as compared to Christianity and Islam. The Hindu thought of God to Hindu is; God is everywhere, a bearing and an absence, within us and outside us. God transcends both time and distance. God has no beginning and no end, but equally has no form and no form. God can thus be imagined, since there in nowhere that God is not, and nowhere that God cannot be. Hindus therefore understand that all worship of God reflects an attempt to reach out to that which cannot be touched or seen; since God is, in that sense, literally unknowable, one may imagine Him/Her/It in any form, since each form may be just as valid as another and none can be guaranteed to be more accurate than the next one. Hinduism is both a civilisation and a congregation of religions. Throughout India’s ancient history, the word Hindu was never meant to denote religion. It was a geographic and cultural term used by the Greeks, Persians and Arabs, derived from the Sanskrit Sindhu, to describe the people living by and beyond the river Sindhu or Indus.

The Chief Justice Gajendragadkar wrote for the Supreme Court of India (AIR 1966 SC 1127), that Hinduism is impossible to define. The court adopted Radhakrishnan’s submission that Hinduism is complex and the theist and atheist, the sceptic and agnostic, may all be Hindus if they accept the Hindu system of culture and life. The Court judged that Hinduism historically has had an inclusive nature and it may “broadly be described as a way of life and nothing more”. All it means is, the way of life of the Indian people and the Indian culture or ethos, and by no means anti-minority or anti Muslim potion.

The Supreme Court of India in 1995 ruled that Ordinarily, HINDUTVA is understood as a way of life or a state of mind and is not to be equated with or understood as religious Hindu fundamentalism… it is a fallacy and an error of law to proceed on the assumption… that the use of words Hindutva or Hinduism per se depicts an attitude hostile to all persons practising any religion other than the Hindu religion. Hindutva is not hostility to any organised religion nor does it proclaim its superiority of any religion to another. It is the shield of security and freedom for all religious minorities in India.

“However the BJP officially adopted HINDUTVA as its ideology in its 1989 resolution. The BJP claims that Hindutva represents cultural nationalism and its conception of Indian nationhood, but not a religious or theocratic concept. Hinduism is the name given to the most ancient and persistent religion on the Indian subcontinent, and Hindutva is the name by which the ideology of the Hindu right, represented by the political party Bharatiya Janata Party, is known. It is also the ideology of the cultural body known as Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which was founded in 1925 and with which the BJP has strong links. Ever since the rise of the BJP on the Indian political scene from 1990 onward, and its recent successes in national elections in India in 2014 and 2019, the question of the relationship between Hinduism as a religion and Hindutva as a political ideology has come to the fore, because the word “Hindu” is common to both“.  Association for Asian Studies

I hope I have managed to explain the difference between Hindutva and the term Hindutva used for political gains by BJP in India, I would like to apologise to anyone who was and still offended because of the use of the term. And I would like to thank you Veengas for making me realise to re-visit my thoughts on the issue.

May the indigenous land of Sindh will always remain peaceful for Sindhus and the rest.

FALLING IN LOVE…

Falling in love again and again; Lahore

My soul is entangled with the indifferent one

Lord of all things visible and invisible.

Madhu Laal Husain

The Lahore I love is so beautifully expressed by Bapsi Sidhwa; the city conjures up gardens and fragrances, the gardens in thousands of Lahori homes with their riot of spring flowers. The trees bloom in a carnival of jewel colours, the defiant brilliance of kachnar, bougainvillea and gulmohr silhouetted against an azure sky. And the winter and spring air are heady, they make the blood hum. On summer evenings the scent from the water sprinkled on the parched earth signals respite from the furnace of the day, for the summers are as hellish as the winters are divine. The city’s ambience has moulded my sensibility and emotional responses. To belong to Lahore is to be steeped in its romance, to inhale with each breath an intensity of feeling that demands expressions.

Lahore; the ancient whore, the handmaiden of dimly remembered Hindu Kings, the courtesan of Mughal Emperors, bedecked and bejewelled, savaged by marauding hordes, healed by the caressing hands of successive lovers. A little shoddy, as Qasim saw her; like an attractive but ageing concubine, ready to bestow surprising delights on those who cared to court her, profoundly displaying Royal gifts.

According to popular traditions Lahore was founded by Loh, one of the twin sons of Lord Rama, the epic hero of Ramayana. The other son Kush is said to have founded Kusawar or Kasu. The city was called Loh in the beginning; it acquired its present name when “awar” was attached to it, which means fort in Sanskrit. When Sultan Mahmud Ghazni seized Lahore his general, Malik Ayaz built the citadel, later to be replaced by Emperor Akbar’s brick construction.

Punjab is referred Panchal in Mahabharata, and Draupati wife of Arjun was called Panchali, the daughter of the Punjab. Lahore Fort has a vacant temple dedicated to Loh. Western historians believe the personages in the Ramayana existed between the sixth and seventh century BC, which proves that Lahore is one of the oldest cities in the world.

The name of Lahore is also celebrated in the legends and quasi-historical traditions of other Hindu states associated with the age of chivalry of the Hindus and their ancient civilisation. The first historical reference to the city is found in the journals of the Chinese pilgrim, written in 630 AD. At the time of Bin Qasim’s invasion of Sindh, Lahore was in the possession of a Chauhan prince. In 1008 the last Rajput king who was defeated by Mahmud Ghazni fled to Ajmer. In 1022 Mahmud Ghazni seized Lahore without any opposition. The Mongols invaded and conquered the Khwarazmian dynasty. The Mongol army advanced and in 1241 and defeated the Lahore governor Malik Ikhtyaruddin Qaraqash, massacred the population and the city was leveled to the ground. There are no buildings or monuments in Lahore that predates the Mongol destruction.

Lahore had welcomed visitors and settlers throughout its history. It has changed hands from Hindu, Buddhist, Greek, Mughal, Afghan, Mongol, Sikh and the British, thereby becoming the cultural capital and the heart of modern day Pakistan. Invaded and conquered many times, but apart from invasions, Sufis from different parts of the world settelled in Lahore too, the existence of shrines of great saints like Data Ganj Bakhsh, Mian Mir and Baba Shah Jamal are the living examples. Sufi thinking became popular among the people, because of their message of brotherhood, tolerance, unity and respect for other religions, besides promoting Islamic values.

It was during the reign of Sultan Ibrahim Ghazni that Abul Hassan Ali Hajveri came to Lahore. Ali Hajveri had travelled widely like many Sufi saints, visiting Baghdad, Basra, Bukhara, Damascus, and Khorasan before settling in Lahore. Ali Hajveri was one of the most notable Sufi preachers on the subcontinent. He is said to have lived on the site in the 11th Century. The Shrine of Ali Hajveri is located west of Bhatti Gate. Data Darbar is one of the oldest Muslim shrines on the subcontinent. It was originally built by the Ghaznavi king Sultan Zakiruddin Ibrahim and has been expanded several times since.

Baba Sain Mir Mohammed Sahib, popularly known as Mian Mir was another famous Sufi saint who resided in Lahore, specifically in the town of Dharampura. He is famous for being a spiritual instructor of Dara Shikoh. According to Sikh tradition, the Sikh guru Guru Arjun Dev met Mian Mir during their stay in Lahore. Mian Mir’s Mausoleum still attracts hundreds of devotees.

Baba Shah Jamal who belonged to a famous Kashmiri family came to Lahore in 1617 CE. He lived in Ichra at the time of Mughal emperor Akbar. Shah Jamal fought against Akbar’s Deen e Ilahi. He died in 1671 CE and was buried near Ichra in Tomb of Shah Jamal. The area has been named Shah Jamal in his honour.

And lastly we have another famous shrine of Shah Husain in Baghbanpura,  a pair of two graves next to each other, one of Shah Hussain and one of Madhu Laal. Both marked with a single emblem reading, SAKHI SARKAR MADHU LAAL HUSAIN.

Shah Husain, who neither belonged to a direct lineage of the Prophet Muhammad nor a wealthy merchant household.

Says Husain the worthless fakir, I am the dust on your doorstep.

After spending years learning the teachings of the Holy Quran and what his teacher would refer to as the true path towards salvation. Shah Hussain’s life took a turn when he came across a Brahmin Hindu boy, Madhu Laal. He was overwhelmed by the feeling of love and enchantment. Everyone questioned their attachment and called them with different names. Shah Hussain believed in the value of self-blame, that piety should be a private matter and that being held in good esteem will lead to worldly attachment. The bond between the two went so deep that Shah Hussain put his name after his beloved’s, becoming Madhu Laal Hussain.

The Urs of Madhu Laal Hussain is celebrated at his shrine, adjacent to the Shalimar Gardens. The Urs and the Mela were two separate events, one carried out at the shrine and the other in the Shalimar Gardens, until they were both combined into one, Mela Chiraghan which still is regarded as the biggest festival of Punjab, and has been a symbol of love, devotion, harmony and defiance of social customs.

Shah Husain says:

O God, do not mind my faults; full of failing,

I am without virtue.

O God, from within, show compassion,

 and enlighten me.

To the men of the world, the pride of the world,

to the recluse, renunciation

all masks, masks, masks!

Neither the man of the worlds, nor a recluse am I,

And they laugh at me, at me,

Who has befriended the terrible one

BLASPHEMY

Photo by rikka ameboshi on Pexels.com

Blasphemy: Quran has a different view

When I speak to Muslims in Pakistan, they say you cannot discuss the Islamic laws  its blasphemous, not agreeing with them is blasphemous, not following the Quran the way they are following is blasphemous, not believing in all of the Ashabs of the Prophet Mohammad is blasphemous, and not praying the way they pray is blasphemous.

Men made laws cannot be discussed or criticised in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, but Quran provides me the space to discuss anything. When I speak to Quran; God says ignore them, it’s my PREROGATIVE not theirs, it’s my Book not theirs, I have sent the Prophet not them, I have sent my Book through Prophet not them, I, the God is the guardian of the Book, not them, to guard even a single dot in Quran is my RESPONSIBILITY.

They can’t guard the sanctity of my Prophet and my Book, Can’t you read?

“Indeed, it is We who sent down the Qur’an and indeed, We will be its guardian.”

The Quran, Al-Hijr 15:9

Let’s discuss the background of the law, an international view, some recent incidents, and the replies of the Holy Quran to my questions, about blasphemy, finality of the Prophet Mohammad pbuh, and who is the GUARDIAN of the Holy Book and the Prophet’s honour.

United States Commission on International Religious Freedom: “Pakistan’s frequently invoked blasphemy law carries the death penalty or life in prison. There are no procedural safeguards, making the law ripe for abuse. While the death penalty for blasphemy has never been carried out, individuals accused of blasphemy have been murdered in vigilante violence. Mere allegations often serve as an accelerant in combustible situations, resulting in mob attacks or violence that undermines Pakistan’s stability and empowers EXTREMISTS. Despite the law’s rampant abuse and lack of procedural safeguards, Pakistan’s Federal Sharia Court recently ruled that the death penalty should be the sole penalty for blasphemy.”

The Pakistan Tehreek Insaf government on Tuesday introduced the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill 2020 in the National Assembly to make intentional ridiculing and defaming the armed forces as a punishable crime. According to an insertion 500A in the Pakistan Penal Code Act 1860, whosoever intentionally ridicules, brings into disrepute or defames the armed forces or member of the armed forces shall be guilty of the offence. It will be punishable with two years’ imprisonment or Rs0.5 million fines or with both.

In June this year the National Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution making it mandatory to write ‘Khatam-un-Nabiyeen’ along with Prophet Muhammad’s name in official documents, books and wherever the holy name is used. 

Let there be no compulsion in religion. Truth stands out clear from ERROR.

The Quran, Al-Baqarah 2: 256

Pakistan’s anti-blasphemy law enacted by President General Zia-ul-Haq in1986 and later amended by the parliament in 2004. The penalty includes a mandatory death sentence for defaming Prophet Mohammad pbuh and life imprisonment for desecrating the Holy Quran. Prior to 1986, only 14 cases pertaining to blasphemy were reported. An estimated number of 1,500 people have been charged under the stringent blasphemy laws of Pakistan between 1986, and 2017.

Junaid Hafeez: a university lecturer was arrested in March 2013 and accused of posting derogatory comments about the Prophet Muhammad on social media. He had studied a Master’s degree in the US on a Fulbright Scholarship, specialising in American literature, photography and theatre. After returning to Pakistan he took up a lecturer position at Bahauddin Zakariya University in Multan, where he worked until his arrest. 34 year-old has been imprisoned without trial for six years, with much of that time spent in solitary confinement. He was sentenced to death in December 2019.

Mashal Khan: In April, 2017, a large group of students formed into a mob, accusing these students of running a Facebook page where Mashal was allegedly publishing blasphemous material. Mashal was killed inside the premises of the Abdul Wali Khan University Mardan. He was in the hostel of the university when he was stripped naked and severely beaten by a group of students and then shot. He succumbed to his injuries. Graphic video footage of the lynching showed Khan was lying on the floor; his body bore marks of severe torture and was not moving. The mob was seen kicking his lifeless body and beating it with wooden planks. He was also thrown from the second floor of the building. At least 25 policemen were present in the university premises when Khan was killed. On the following day, Mashal Khan’s funeral was led by his father. Most neighbours kept away from the funeral, as threats made earlier by a local to anyone attending led them to fear follow-up attacks from religious mobs.

On the topic of blasphemy:

And it has already come down to you in the Book that when you hear the verses of Allah [recited], they are denied [by them] and ridiculed; so do not sit with them until they enter into another conversation. Indeed, you would then be like them. Indeed Allah will gather the hypocrites and disbelievers in Hell all together.

The Quran, Al-Nisa 4:140

Hold to forgiveness; command what is right; but turn away from the ignorant.

The Quran, Al A’raf 7:199

And the servants of the Most Merciful are those who walk upon the earth easily, and when the ignorant address them [harshly], they say [words of] peace.

The Quran, Al-Furqan 25: 63

Those will be given their reward twice for what they patiently endured and [because] they avert evil through good, and from what We have provided them they spend. And when they hear ill speech, they turn away from it and say, “For us are our deeds, and for you are your deeds. Peace will be upon you; we seek not the ignorant.”

The Quran, Al-Qasas 28: 54, 55

[He is] the Lord of the East and the West; there is no deity except Him, so take Him as Disposer of [your] affairs. And be patient over what they say and avoid them with gracious avoidance. And leave Me with [the matter of] the deniers, those of ease [in life], and allow them respite a little.

The Quran, Muzammil 73: 9, 10, 11

On the Finality of the Prophet:

 “Muhammad is not the father of any of your men, but (he is) the Messenger of Allah, and the Seal of the Prophets: and Allah has full knowledge of all things.”

The Quran, Al-Ahzab  33: 40

About the book itself: He it is Who has revealed the Book to you; some of its verses are decisive, they are the basis of the Book, and others are allegorical; then as for those in whose hearts there is perversity they follow the part of it which is allegorical, seeking to mislead and seeking to give it (their own) interpretation. But none knows its interpretation except Allah, and those who are firmly rooted in knowledge say: We believe in it, it is all from our Lord; and none do mind except those having understanding.

The Quran, Al Imran 3: 7

Please read the verses yourself to confirm what I have quoted from the Quran.I will be at peace even if one person will understand what Quran is preaching not a cleric.

Sanity must prevail.

UNDER DURESS

History of religious or sectarian conversions is quite long. However forced conversion that occurred after the seventh century generally took place during riots and massacres carried out by mobs and clergy without support of the rulers. In contrast, royal persecutions of Jews from the late eleventh century onward generally took the form of expulsions, with some exceptions, such as conversions of Jews in southern Italy of the 13th century, which were carried out by Dominican Inquisitors but instigated by King Charles II of Naples. The Rhineland massacres, also known as the persecutions of 1096, were a series of mass murders of Jews perpetrated by mobs of German Christians of the People’s Crusade in the year 1096. The massacre is seen as the first in a sequence of anti-Semitic events in Europe which culminated in the Holocaust.

After the end of Islamic control of Spain, Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492. In Portugal, following an order for their expulsion in 1496, only a handful was allowed to leave and the rest were forced to convert. Muslims were expelled from Portugal in 1497, and they were gradually forced to convert in the constituent kingdoms of Spain. After the forced conversion, when all former Muslims and Jews had ostensibly become Catholic, the Spanish Inquisition targeted primarily forced converts from Judaism and Islam, who came under suspicion of either continuing to adhere to their old religion.

Although it’s not completely true, but lot of historians believe that forced conversion was rare in Islamic history, and most conversions to Islam were voluntary especially in the Indo-Pak subcontinent, where Sufis played a greater role. Muslim rulers were often more interested in conquest and imposing Jiziyah than conversion. A per capita yearly taxation, called Jiziyah historically levied in the form of financial charge on permanent non-Muslim subjects of a state governed by Islamic law. Studies in the 21st century suggest that, in terms of percentage and worldwide spread, Islam is the fastest-growing major religion in the world. A comprehensive religious forecast for 2050 by the Pew Research Centre concludes that global Muslim population is expected to grow at a faster rate than the Christian population due primarily to the young age and high fertility-rate of Muslims. According to Pew Research, religious conversion has no net impact on the Muslim population as the number of people who convert to Islam is roughly similar to those who leave Islam.

India is a nation that is home to a diversity of religious beliefs and practices.  The Indian subcontinent is the birthplace of four major world religions—Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and Jainism. Hinduism is one of the oldest living religions in the world. Laws restricting religious conversions were originally introduced by Hindu princely states during the British Colonial period, mainly during the latter half of the 1930s and 1940s. These states enacted the laws in an attempt to preserve Hindu religious identity in the face of British missionaries. But in recent years politicians and human rights groups including Muslims have protested against ‘forced’ conversions to Hinduism by nationalist groups. They accuse right-wing Hindus aligned with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of forcibly converting Christians and Muslims.

Islamic law prohibits forced conversion, following the Quranic principle that there is “no compulsion in religion” (2:256).

Pakistan is an Islamic country. However, Jinnah’s vision seems to have faded with the passage of time. Despite being the signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states that the right to freedom of religion includes the right to change one’s religion and that no one shall be subject to coercion to change their religion, Pakistan has failed to comply with its international obligations. The current ruling Pakistan Tehreek Insaf government, vowed in their 2018 election manifesto that “PTI will protect the civil, social and religious rights of minorities; their places of worship, property and institutions as laid down in the Constitution.”

The Sindh government twice attempted to outlaw forced conversions and marriages, including laying guidelines for the court process in the Protection of Minorities Bill, placing an age limit of 18 years upon conversions.

In 2016, the bill was unanimously passed by the Sindh Assembly, but religious parties objected to an age limit for conversions, and threatened to besiege the assembly if the bill received approval of the governor, who then refused to sign the bill into law. Religious groups oppose a minimum age for conversion or marriage on the basis that this is not sanctioned by Islam. Former Sindh governor rejected the bill and said: “When Ali Ibn Abi Talib can convert to Islam at a young age 9 years, why can’t Hindu girls?”

In 2019, a revised version was introduced, but religious parties protested once again. A sit-in was organised by Pir Mian Abdul Khaliq Mian Mithu, a political and religious leader and a central character in many cases of forced conversions of underage Hindu girls in Sindh. However, Mian Mitthu turned down all the allegations and said, in the past 200 years, not a single Hindu has been converted to Islam forcibly, he claimed. “All those men, women, girls and boys, whether they belong to the Hindu community or any other community, come to us to change their religion out of their own choice. They are not forced to convert.”

Hindus are often the victims of bonded labour. It was outlawed in 1992, but the practice is still prevalent. The Global Slavery Index estimates that just over three million Pakistanis live in debt servitude. Landlords trap poor Hindus into such bondage by providing loans that they know can never be repaid. They and their families are then forced to work off the debt.  Islamic charities and clerics offer incentives of jobs or land to impoverished minorities on the condition that they convert. Muhammad Ali who was known by his Hindu name, Rajesh, before converting alongside 205 others. Ultimately, his entire family had decided to convert to Islam when one of the cleric, offered to free them from the bonded labour. Muhammad Ali is originally from one of the lowest in Hinduism.

According to a report, more than 100 Hindus in Sindh converted to Islam in June 2020 to escape discrimination and economic pressures. Some of these conversions are voluntary, some not. To convert someone is perceived as a pious deed that will bring rewards in the hereafter, no matter the method employed to execute the conversion.

Although every conversion is not forced, but a question irritates me when a young Hindu girl is kidnapped or eloped and after a few days she converts to Islam: Why it is only Hindu girls who are so eager to change their religion, why aren’t Hindu boys, who enjoy more social independence than the girls? Why wealthy and educated independent Hindu women are not attracted to Islam?

EYEWITNESS TO EXTREMISM IN PAKISTAN

Majority in Pakistan recognises the fact, that the people of the Islamic republic are not sectarian-minded. Before jihad took hold of Pakistan in 1979, and extremist clerics became threatening, there was considerable harmony between the sects. Muharram was not the season of sectarian violence and pandemonium. The Tazias of the Ustad and Shagird in the city of Saints, Multan. Shah Jamal Wala Tazia of Jhang and the Tazias of Chiniot is the true legacy of shia-sunni unity.

The Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto had faced vigorous opposition throughout his premiership years. In 1977 the opposition was united under the revivalist banner of Nezam-e-Mustafa. According to supporters of the movement, establishing an Islamic state based on sharia law would mean a return to the justice and success of the early days of Islam. In an effort to stem the tide of street Islamisation, Bhutto had also called for it and banned nightclubs, horse racing, and the drinking and selling of wine by Muslims.

On 5 July 1977, General Zia-al-Haq led a coup d’état. He committed himself to establishing an Islamic state and enforcing sharia law, established separate Sharia Judicial courts to judge legal cases using Islamic doctrine. New criminal offences of adultery, fornication, and types of blasphemy, and punishments of whipping, amputation, and stoning to death, were added to Pakistani law. Offices, schools, and factories were required to offer praying space. Conservative Islamic scholars were added to the Council of Islamic Ideology. Separate electorates for Hindus and Christians were established in 1985 even though Christian and Hindu leaders complained that they felt excluded from the country’s political process.

Despite reservations expressed by the Shia Ulema, Zia al Haq promulgated a new ordinance regarding automatic annual deduction of the 2.5% Zakat from bank accounts. In July 1980, the Shia political organisation Tehreek-i-Nifaz-i-Fiqh-i-Jafaria, under the leadership of Mufti Jafar Hussain, organised the largest Shia demonstrations in Pakistan’s history at Lal quarters ground in Islamabad. Most of the participants were from Multan, Shorkot and Bakkhar district. When the demands of Shias were turned down by the military government, the Shia leadership decided to march towards Secretariat Islamabad. As soon as the announcement was made, Islamabad Police was ordered to attack the crowd with teargas, which created a panic in the crowd and they all started marching towards the Secretariat. One of the teargas shells hit one of the demonstrators in the head which went through his skull and the victim died at the spot. The crowd reached Secretariat Islamabad after few hours, where the sit-in was announced by the Shia leadership. The sit-in forced Zia after two days to backtrack and he agreed to exempt Shias from Zakat deduction and change the laws for inheritence. Known as the Islamabad Accord, President Zia al Haq viewed it as a personal humiliation as it sent a strong message across the country that his so-called ‘Islamisation’ was not acceptable to all Pakistanis.

As a matter of fact that was the beginning of the opposition of Shias at State level. It was the Islamabad Accord which signalled the start of sectarian war in Pakistan more than Saudi-Iran proxy war or Afghan Jihad. Military Dictator President Zia al Haq viewed Shias as a threat to be controlled and, therefore, first instigated a split in the Tehreek-i-Nifaz-i-Fiqah-Jafaria in 1984 with the help of his intelligence agencies. Second, and more importantly, he approved the appearance on the scene of the anti-Shia sectarian organisation Anjuman Sipah Sahaba later renamed Sipah Sahaba Pakistan. The formation of the Imamia Students Organisation soon after the 1979 Iranian Revolution, the rise of Arif al Hosseini to top positions who was later murdered in Peshawar on August 5, 1988. The emergence of a new class of Shia religious clerics who had either spent most of their time in Iran or were ideologically allied to Tehran. More importantly, it also invited backlash against Shias when the Saudis bankrolled Pakistani-state sponsored madrassahs during the Afghan Jihad in the 1980s, which resulted in the rise of sectarian outfits. The first major sectarian riots in Pakistan broke out in 1983 in Karachi and later spreading to Lahore and Balochistan.

“In May 1988, low-intensity political rivalry and sectarian tension ignited into full-scale carnage as thousands of armed tribesmen from outside Gilgit district invaded Gilgit along the Karakoram Highway. Nobody stopped them. They destroyed crops and houses, lynched and burnt people to death in the villages around Gilgit town. The number of dead and injured was in the hundreds. But numbers alone tell nothing of the savagery of the invading hordes and the chilling impact it has left on these peaceful valleys.” The Herald April 1990

Malik Ishaq, the leader of one of Pakistan’s most notorious anti-Shia extremist groups Lashkar-e-Jhangvi declared Shia Muslims “the greatest infidels on earth” and demanded that the Pakistani state “declare Shia non-Muslims on the basis of their beliefs.” Lashkar-e-Jhangvi death squads are believed to have been responsible for the killings of thousands of Shias throughout the country, including a campaign of targeted murders in 2011 which killed Shia doctors, lawyers and politicians residing in Karachi.

A fierce crackdown by security forces in 2015 which resulted in a dramatic drop in sectarian violence. The crackdown culminated in July 2015 when Malik Ishaq was killed in a firefight with police along with 13 fellow militants. The shootout wiped out much of the top leadership of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.

On September 11 and 12 this month, mainstream religious right-wing parties, allied with banned outfits, held mass rallies to demand stricter blasphemy laws and for the Islam Protection Bill recently passed by the Punjab Assembly to be replicated across Pakistan. The protesters demanding a ban on Muharram processions that marks the martyrdom of Prophet Muhammad’s grandson and his followers on 10, Muharram 61 AH. The commotion followed the detention of a Shia cleric in Karachi under blasphemy laws for leading Ziyarat-e-Ashura, a prayer that salutes the martyrs of the Battle of Karbala, on Channel 24 News on Sept. 13. Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority issued a notice to the news channel and suspended its license for 15 days, and its owner was arrested.

The tragic irony of this increasingly violent sectarianism is that Friday’s demonstration saw thousands of protesters rally near the tomb of Muhammad Ali Jinnah who himself was a Shia Muslim though he maintained a secular public religious identity and preached the same for the country. Once a respected and well-integrated minority in a country and count the nation’s founder as one of their own, Shia Muslims within Pakistan have become a community under siege in recent years and are facing a situation which is increasingly being described by many as a slow-motion genocide.

The Pakistani state and political parties have been a bystander, and an accomplice, in the Shia cleansing. The Tahaffuz e Bunyad-e-Islam legislation, passed by the politicians in Punjab Assembly. The political ramifications of such a gathering cannot escape anyone, particularly in the wake of the fact that an anti-Shia movement there had once led to the killing of a large number of Shias, including professionals and other prominent persons. The State of Pakistan must not ignore the fact that the sectarianism is a dangerous political tool, even worse than religiosity. Wake up!

EQUAL BEFORE ALLAH

Difference, or, let us say, the right to differ, lies at the root of all knowledge, inquiry investigation, research and progress. While, therefore, we must strive to safeguard the right to differ, to question, to dissent and on occasion even to protest, we must at the same time strive to secure that our differences, in every sphere-religious, philosophical, scientific, social, economic, political or whatever, should act and react beneficently and not destructively.

The great Imams of Jurisprudence, Sunni and Shia alike, and also those of other persuasions, together with their eminent disciples and a host of those who followed after them have, through their unremitting labours sustained through centuries, not only enriched and embellished Muslim Jurisprudence, but made an invaluable contribution to the development of the Science of Law and to what that eminent international jurist C. Wilfred Jenks, has called the Common Law of Mankind. They have thus laid the juristic world under a heavy debt of gratitude.

Islam is an Arabic word, derived from a root which means both “peace” and “submission”. It thus connotes the attainment of peace, here and Hereafter, through submission to Allah, or, in other words, through conformity to His Will. A person who thus submits is a Muslim. In the Quran (the scripture of Islam), the appellation “Muslim” is applied to all the righteous.

So with every Prophet; those who accepted a Prophet and submitted to the Divine Will as revealed through him were Muslims. The Quran, however, affirms the truth of all previous revelations and the righteousness of all previous Prophets.

It starts with the position that no people has been left without revealed guidance. This flows from God’s attribute of Providence. He is not only the Creator of the Universe but also sustains, nourishes and leads it stage by stage towards perfection. A Muslim is required to believe in the truth of previous revelations and in the righteousness of all Prophets.

ISLAM advocates for the rights of all humans without regard to nationality, religion, race or gender. Islamic values include education for all, freedom of conscience, food security, the right to freedom from violence etc. etc.

Fortunately, Muslim society has the remedy to hand.

Difference or dissent, sincerely and honestly held, is no evil.

The Prophet said: Honest difference of opinion among my people should be accounted a blessing.

The Quran is clear and emphatic:  There shall be no compulsion in religion. Surely, guidance has become distinct from error.

Even more clearly has it been announced: The Truth is from your Lord; wherefore let him who will, believe and let him who will disbelieve?

And who is more truthful in his word than Allah?

The conclusion of our discourse is: All worthiness of Praise belongs to Allah, the Lord of the worlds.

Quran verses demonstrate a religion devoted to freedom equality and human dignity.

Above excerpts are from the book of Sir Zafarullah Khan, “Islam and human rights, “ which was a comparative study of Islam and  The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), drafted by representatives with different legal and cultural backgrounds from all regions of the world. The Declaration was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948.

Sir Zafarullah Khan was appointed first Foreign Minister of Pakistan in 1947 by the founder of Pakistan Mohammed Ali Jinnah himself. For many years he led the Pakistan Delegation to the General Assembly of the United Nations, and he was President of the General Assembly’s Seventeenth Session. Then he had served as Judge and President of the International Court of Justice at The Hague until 1958. As Pakistan’s first Foreign Minister, he addressed the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan in the days leading up to the passing of the Objectives Resolution. The Objectives Resolution, which combined features of both Western and Islamic democracy, is one of the most important documents in the constitutional history of Pakistan. It was designed to provide equal rights for all citizens of Pakistan, regardless of their race, religion or background.

Addressing the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan, in 1949, he said:

It is a matter of great sorrow that, mainly through mistaken notions of zeal, the Muslims have during the period of decline earned for themselves an unenviable reputation for intolerance. But that is not the fault of Islam. Islam has from the beginning proclaimed and inculcated the widest tolerance. For instance, so far as freedom of conscience is concerned the Quran says “There shall be no compulsion” of faith. 2:256 Al-Quran

He was one of the most influential, skilled, and passionate diplomats of his time. In a personal tribute, King Hussein bin Tallal of Jordan said: He was indeed a champion of the Arab cause and his ceaseless efforts whether among the Muslim and non-aligned countries or at the International Court of Justice will remain forever a shining example of a great man truly dedicated to our faith and civilization.

He earned the abiding respect and admiration of the Arab and other Muslim nations as a defender of their interests Muhammad Fadhil al-Jamali, a former Prime Minister of Iraq, in a tribute on his death, wrote:

In fact, it was not possible for any Arab, however capable and competent he may be, to serve the cause of Palestine in a manner in which this distinguished and great man dedicated himself. What was the result of the debate in the United Nations is another matter. But, it must be acknowledged that Mohammad Zafrullah Khan occupies a pre-eminent position in defending the Palestinians in this dispute. We expect from all Arabs and followers of Islam that they will never forget this great Muslim fighter. After Palestine, the services of this man for the independence of Libya also deserve admiration. In the United Nations, his struggle for the rights of Arabs formed the basis of firm and lasting friendship between us.

Whenever I read about Sir Zafarullah Khan, it makes me feel proud that Mohammed Ali Jinnah had so many talented people around him of international stature; he never looked at the people’s faith when he was making his choices. Unfortunately after seventy three years government of Pakistan is only looking at the faith of people before giving them any responsibilities not their competence. 

Sir Muhammad Zafarullah Khan at the funeral of Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Jinnah’s Pakistan.

Recently Pakistan’s minister of state for parliamentary affairs Ali Muhammad Khan has called for the beheading of people who commit blasphemy. Ali Muhammad Khan made the comments in response to conflicting reports that Ahmadis had been given representation on a newly established National Minorities Council.

Minister for Religious Affairs Noor ul Haq Qadri in an interview with Nadeem Malik has said that anybody that has soft corner in his heart about Ahmedis is a (ghaddar) traitor of Islam and Pakistan both.

I would like to ask both the federal ministers, that where should  we put Mohammed Ali Jinnah who himself appointed Sir Zafarullah Khan first foreign minister of Pakistan knowing that he was an Ahmedi, Dr Muhammad Iqbal remain under the influence of Mirza Ghulam Ahmed for years?

Disassociation or disagreements with the views of people are possible, but how can you call me or anyone a traitor of Islam and Pakistan for having soft corner for Ahmedis? I find such statements completely against the essence of Islam.

I am a firm believer of Ali Ibn e Abi Talib’s saying:

LOOK AT WHAT IS BEING SAID, NOT WHO IS SAYING IT. F�� �6�g�

Bani Israel

There are wounds that never show on the body that are deeper and more hurtful than anything that bleeds. When I look back at my school days, I can only recall a grotesque impression of Jews, nothing positive about them, and I am afraid after four decades it hasn’t change much. Religious hate and bigotry has been immensely increased against minorities in different parts of the world.

Thou shalt not be a victim, thou shalt not be a perpetrator, but, above all, thou shalt not be a bystander.

― Yehuda Bauer

The Holocaust is more than a warning from the past. A phantom of the Jews haunted Europe in the 1930s. Concurrently feared and despised as a Christ killer, a devil, subversive revolutionary and capitalist exploiter, callous upholder of an antiquated religion and insidious exponent of cultural modernism. Increasingly excluded from normal society and expelled from common human fellowship, the Jew was a subhuman, eventually almost everywhere a haunted beast.

Some Christians often blame the Jews for the death of Jesus. But this blame should probably be limited to the Jewish religious leaders, who had managed to keep some of their power by cooperating with the Romans. Crucifixion was a Roman method of punishment, and it is a basic fact that Roman soldiers, not Jews, put Jesus on the cross. A compromise view is that, Jewish leaders and Romans, played major roles, but only Jews paid the price.

In the 1920s the European Jews had presented the appearance of a vibrant and flourishing people. For the first time in their history they were recognised as citizens in every country they lived. However within the short space of two decades a dramatic change transformed. By 1939, two years before the Nazi decision to commit genocide, Jews had been deprived of civil rights and were in the process of being turned into outcasts. The great masses of Jews in east-central Europe were sunk in dire poverty. Whether in the Poland, Germany, France or USSR, Jews sincerely protested their loyalty to states of which they were citizens. Confronted by violent enmity, they embarked on a road toward collective oblivion that appeared to be the price of individual survival. Jewish culture was in retreat, as a result. Religious practice was decreasing and the orthodox, in particular, felt embattled and threatened. The cultural glue that had long bound Jews together was losing its cohesive power. The European Jews in the 1930s were actors in their own history.

By January 1939 more and more Jews in Europe were being reduced to wandering refugees. All over the continent, Jews were evicted from their homes and forced to live in camps. Growing numbers were confined in concentration camps, not just in Germany but in France and Netherlands too. The expulsion fever spread to Southeast Europe. Yugoslavia started deporting Jewish refugees who had arrived from Germany and Italy. At the end of April the Bulgarian and Romanian governments ordered the expultion of alien Jews. In Western Europe too, refugees were confined to camps. From there to mass murder was not an inevitable step.

Hitler explicitly stated in his September 1919 letter that, the Jews are definitely a race and not a religious community. This was fundamental to his anti-Semitic belief. Despite a desperate search to identify a test for Jewish blood, the Nazis never managed to find a scientific way of telling whether or not an individual was a member of the Jewish race or not. As a result, once the Nazis started to prosecute and eventually exterminate Jews, they had to rely on a Jewishness test that was religious. The primacy of race in human history was so central to Hitler’s world view that he would never let the small matter of science get in the way of his belief. The idea that racial hygiene was central to the health of a nation that the Jews were a racial threat to Aryan people, added a potentially catastrophic element to the anti-Semitic brew. Traditional anti-Semitism had been based on religion. If the Jews converted to Christianity then they had a chance of escaping persecution. But the idea that Jewishness was something inherent in an individual, in the blood.

The invasion of Austria and the subsequent union of the country with Germany was a success for Hitler’s regime. Hitler’s self confidence rose in the wake of the Nazi conquest of Austria.

Hitler claimed that his existence was part of a supernatural plan, whoever believes in God must admit: when the fate of a people is altered within three days, then this is divine judgement, and that since God had now decreed that Germany and Austria should be united then, what the Lord has joined together, let no man divide.

Around 37,000 German Jews left Germany in 1933. Many of them went to neighbouring France or The Netherlands. The action against the Jews of the Warsaw ghetto was one of the most atrocious of all the horrors of the Holocaust. Almost all of the Jews from the Warsaw ghetto were sent to the death camp at Treblinka. By June 1942, the first death factories of the Holocaust were in place, and the Nazis had created a method of killing that allowed them to murder in considerable numbers. This specialised death camp was the largest and most deadly. Around 850,000 people were murdered here between summer of 1942 and autumn 1943, around a quarter of a million of them from Warsaw ghetto. The Schutzstaffel, known as SS was a major paramilitary organization under Adolf Hitler achieved this killing because Treblinka had been built with a railway spur leading directly into the camp. The SS were able to speed up the unloading of the Jews and their transportation to the gas chambers. An obvious precondition for the deception was that the presence of large numbers of dead bodies was hidden from the arriving Jews. The killing appeared to progress efficiently for SS, with about 5,000 to 7,000 Jews murdered each day.

I wanted to post the picture of Dr Fritz Klein who was a German Nazi doctor and war criminal, standing in a mass grave surrounded by corpses around him, but couldn’t. He was hanged for his role in atrocities at Bergen-Belsen concentration camp during the Holocaust. When asked how he reconciled his actions with his ethical obligations as a physician, Klein famously stated:

My Hippocratic Oath tells me to cut a gangrenous appendix out of the human body. The Jews are the gangrenous appendix of mankind. That’s why I cut them out.

On July 11,1944 Sir Winston Churchill wrote: There is no doubt that this is probably the greatest and most horrible crime ever committed in the whole history of the world, and it has been done by scientific machinery by nominally civilized men in the name of a great State and one of the leading races of Europe. Declarations should be made in public, so that everyone connected with it will be hunted down and put to death.

But words of outrage and threat on their own didn’t directly help the Jews who were dying in AUSCHWITZ.

Ashura

The day of Ashura is marked by Muslims as a whole, but for Shia Muslims it is a major religious commemoration of the martyrdom at Karbala of Hussein Ibn e Ali, grandson of the Prophet Mohammad pbuh. The Karbala tragedy became the event, as a symbol of the victory of the oppressive majority over the righteous few. Three days after the battle of Karbala, Imam Hussain Ibn Ali was buried by his son. His infant was placed on his chest and his elder son at his feet. Bani Asad, a tribe who lived on the outskirts, assisted with burying the martyrs, and a tree was planted to indicate the grave of Imam Hussain. Until today, its old location is indicated by a door to the shrine called ‘Baab Al-Sidrah’ (gate of the tree).

The origins of the name Karbala are contested. In its etymology, Karbala most likely originates from Kar Bel, or Kur Babel, meaning a group of Babylonian villages, that included Ninawa, Al-Nawawees, Al-Hira, among others. Some narrations mention that the Prophet Muhammad pbuh himself during his lifetime mentioned the definition, implying that the word was a combination of Karb (land that causes agonies) and Balaa’ (afflictions). It is said that the land once included an ancient graveyard for Christians and was famous in pre-Islamic times, as part of the cities of the historic Tusuh An-Nahrain, situated on the shore of the old Euphrates River. At the time of the battle of Karbala, the land was uninhabited, though it was rich with water and had fertile soil.

Shia Muslims across the world mark the days leading up to Ashura each year starting from Muharram 1.While Sunni Muslims acknowledge the events of Karbala, and observe a voluntary day of fasting which commemorates the day Noah left the Ark, and the day that Moses was saved from the Egyptians by God.

Muhammad bin Idris al-Shafi‘i was one of the four Sunni Imams, whose legacy on juridical matters and teaching eventually led to the Shafi’i school of fiqh. He was the most prominent student of Imam Malik ibn Anas, the eponymous founder of the Maliki School of thought. Imam Shafi’i pays tribute to Imam Hussain ibn e Ali:

O who shall be the bearer of a message from me to Hussain?

Slaughtered, though without sin himself,

His shirt as if dyed through with crimson.

Now the sword itself wails, and the spear shrieks,

And the horse which once only whinnied, laments.

The world quaked for the sake of the Family of Muhammad;

For their sake, the solid mountains might have melted away.

Heavenly bodies sunk, the stars trembled,

Oh veils were torn, and breasts were rent!

He who asks blessing for the one sent from the Tribe of Hashim,

But attacks his sons; truly, that is strange!

And if my sin is love of the Family of Muhammad:

Then that is a sin from which I do not repent

Mourning for the incident of Karbala began almost immediately after the battle. The first assembly of the Commemoration of Imam Hussain ibn Ali is said to have been held by Zainab Bint Ali in prison. Popular elegies were written by poets to commemorate the Battle of Karbala during the Umayyad and Abbasid era, and the earliest public mourning rituals occurred in 963 CE during the Buyid dynasty.

Processions are taken out across the continents on the day of Ashura. Shias across the world express their mourning in various ways. The Tazia, for the uninitiated, is a replica of the shrine of Imam Hussain is a key feature of the Muharram processions throughout Pakistan. Tazias tend to cross sectarian and even religious boundaries, with Hindus and Sikhs. Taziadari is a mixture of all the cultures, beliefs and faiths of the subcontinent and can be said a great religious unifying factor. Historians trace the tradition of the Tazia to the invasion of northern India by Tamerlane in the 14th Century.

The Tazia of the Ustad in the city of Saints Multan leads the procession with the Tazia of the Shagird at the back, symbolizing the student’s respect for his teacher. Ustad Pir Bakhsh designed the five storeys Tazia. The Tazia is a 27-foot structure with seven storeys, made completely out of teak wood which appeared early in the morning of Ashura whereas the five storey Tazia of Shagird appear by noon on the day of Ashura. The Ustadwala Tazia is more than200 years old while Shagirdwala Tazia is more than 70 years old.

On the other hand Chiniot is home to the oldest and finest Tazias in Indo-Pak subcontinent. Chiniot, in the Jhang district of the Punjab, is famed for its woodwork and the Tazia benefits from this local expertise. The craftsmen of Chiniot, who are engaged in making furniture for most of the year, consider it a point of PRESTIGE and a mark of their exalted status among their peers, in terms of expertise as well as spirituality, to be associated with Tazia making.

In a region that has become known for its religious and sectarian conflict, Tazias or representations of the tombs of the imams, which form part of Muharram processions, are a reminder of a more harmonious time. Lovingly constructed with great devotion and attention to detail, Tazias are often built by Barelvi Sunni Muslims in Chiniot no one can differentiate between Shiite or Sunni devotees during the performances of the Muharram rituals. In fact, with a few exceptions, almost all Tazia artisans belong to the Sunni sect.

Shah Jamal Wala Tazia, one of the oldest Tazias of Jhang, has the same form as the Lal Nath temple in Jhang city. The form of the Tazia closely resembles that of a Hindu temple. The Tazia of Shadi Malang in Chiniot is similar in form to the Hindu temples of Orissa. This is the true legacy of the multi-religious subcontinent where Muslim culture took root amidst the rich cultural landscape of ancient India. Diversities and differences were honoured, and aesthetics as well as human values were cherished to this purpose. Those who carry the Tazia are almost all Sunni and in pre-Partition India were of the Hindu faith.

The respect for and sharing of religious space is also evident in Hyderabad, Sindh, another important centre of Tazia-making. Here the Hindu community is still deeply involved in the Muharram traditions and some members are known to set up Sabeels so that no one is denied water even as they recall the thirst of the martyrs of Karbala. Again, all the Tazia-makers in Hyderabad are Sunni, and they see the craft as a distinguishing feature that keeps alive their identity as immigrants.

(Tazias of Chiniot by Ghulam Abbas)

Let the people observe Ashura the way they like to observe it. Let us not judge each other, let Hussain Ibn Ali unite us under the flag of Humanity.

Water crisis

Water connects every aspect of life. The water crisis is a health crisis. Access to safe water and sanitation means opportunity for improved health and the ability to help fight disease. Access to safe water means improved health. It means increased dignity and reduced psychological stress for young ladies and women.
The human body consists of 70% of water. Roughly 70% of the Earth’s surface is covered by water, of which 96.5% is contained in saltwater oceans. Less than one percent of the water on Earth is fresh and approachable. We all need it to survive. Nearly 10 percent of the world’s species live in lakes, rivers, wetlands and aquifers, and they are declining at a faster rate than terrestrial and ocean species. WWF is focusing on freshwater ecosystems to help produce a sustainable future for all. Population growth, changing consumption patterns and climate change have put increased pressure on our new water resources.
Cape Town is running out of water and low dam levels in the emerald-green highlands of Lesotho are raising alarm bells in South Africa’s industrial heartland around Johannesburg, which delivers so far avoided the shortages hitting other regions. The overall picture of South Africa is worrying, with Cape Town the most urgent.
Expressing concerns over using up water reserves in Pakistan, environmental experts and researchers say mega cities like Lahore lack safe drinking water. According to WASA Lahore, the ground water table depth in Lahore city has sunk by 600 feet to 1,000 feet. This is an alarming development as the water table depth in the rest of Punjab is between 30 to 60 bases.
Other large cities in Punjab facing the same situation are Faisalabad and Multan while the same situation also prevails in Karachi owing to its enormous size and humungous population. The urban centre is facing shortage of water as it is not getting the required 100 million gallons of water. Water theft and power outages at the pumping stations are also the main reason as to why the supply to Karachi is being moved.
New approaches to filtration and extracting moisture from air promise to relieve the world’s looming water scarcity crisis. Meanwhile, improved technology for capturing water vapour from the air holds out hope for arid areas.
Desalination technologies could take fresh water to everyone, but are currently very costly. Desalination is an operation that extracts mineral components from saline water. More generally, desalination refers to the removal of salts and minerals from a target sum. Most of the modern interest in desalination focuses on the cost-effective provision of clean water for human use. Along with recycled wastewater, it is one of the few rainfall-independent water sources.
Due to its energy consumption, desalinating sea water is generally more costly than fresh water from rivers or groundwater, water recycling and water preservation. Nevertheless, these alternatives are not always available and depletion of reserves is a critical problem worldwide. Presently, approximately 1% of the world’s population are dependent on desalinated water to meet daily needs. Desalinated water is usually healthier than water from rivers and ground water, and in that respect is less salty and lime scale in it.

Nevertheless, a revolution in water filtration developed at The University of Manchester could provide a much-needed solution, with ready access to clean water finally a real possibility for the world. A research team led by Professor Rahul Nair in Manchester University has developed a graphene-oxide membrane that makes whisky clear, paving the way for new commercial application of graphene membrane. The latest research report says that the newly developed membrane allowed alcohol to fall through and remove the larger molecules, which gives the amber colour to whisky. We filtered whisky and cognac through the graphene-oxide membrane. As a result, we reasoned that the membrane allowed, the alcohol to pass through, removing the larger molecules that give it amber colour. The clear whisky smells similar to the original whisky. According to Dr Nair, the new research would help them extend the applications of grapheme-based membranes from sea water desalination to organic solvent nanofiltration.
On April 2017, Prof Nair demonstrated that a multi-layer membrane made from graphite oxide can filter out the sodium chloride in seawater much more promptly and cleanly than existing techniques. Unlike sea water desalination, which separates salt from water, OSN technology separates charged or uncharged organic compounds from an organic solvent.
Prof Nair hopes full-sized desalination plants with graphene membranes will be possible within five years. Still, he thinks that a small scale version of the graphing filter can be developed for bottles and household units within two years. Initial studies indicate that all this is absolutely feasible with the graphene membrane; it performs superbly, better than anything else. Graphene filters would have the further benefit that they will not let any liquid through when they get to the end of their life. During the following few months, the portable graphing filters will be tested to check that they work for chemical contaminants such as cadmium, copper, arsenic, nitrites, nitrates and pesticides.
Solutions to the problems are there, it all depends how quickly actions are taken to resolve the issues.

The journey, not the destination….. travel; envisage; contemplate