Our extremism problem
Rashid Wali Janjua

Two passions as per Bertrand Russell threaten human reason and emotional stability like no other earthy passion. These include politics and religion. While politics has the temporal dimension that lends its debates a measure of human fallibility no such luck with the religious debates where the truth is immutable and the dissent an heresy. The farraginous blend that our polyglot religious beliefs present feature differing stances ranging from puritanism to syncretism. The ethos of Indus Valley Civilization is the substrate over which we have grafted the competing belief systems and despite its inclusive nature the sectarian outlook of our Middle East inspired beliefs begets a virulent strain of extremism that runs deep in our religious beliefs. The persecution complex of new converts from an old faith in India clashed with the hauteur and xenophobia of the old faith i.e Hinduism to develop a fortress mentality wherein any rational debate over religion was discouraged.

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CPEC and revival of tourism in Pakistan
Farooq Awan

valley to attract tourists. Pakistan is home to some of the highest mountains in the world and is highly rich in landscape, mountains, glaciers, lakes and valleys. Pakistan is also prized with diverse culture which can become a source of attraction for the tourists from all over the world. However, due to unavailability of adequate infrastructure and some security issues in the past, the huge potential couldn’t be fully tapped. It is hoped that with the completion of CPEC, the tourism industry will rapidly grow and not only generate a huge foreign reserve for Pakistan but also promote a soft image of the country abroad.

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End of a ‘bumpy road’ for QAU!
Farooq Awan

ISLAMABAD: If we call the last couple of years the most tumultuous, if not outright worst, in the history of Quaid-e-Azam University (QAU), it will not be wrong. In these years, the country’s once top-ranking university had had months of protests by both students and faculty, its departments shut down, its research centres shattered and its fees multiplied – all this led to the university’s international ranking plummeting down. Worst of all, the Higher Education Commission (HEC) had to step in to roll back illegal promotions of some faculty members in the university.

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Mutiny in Indian LEAs
Adeela Naureen

As reported by Indian media, 175 police personnel were dismissed from service with immediate effect and 30 placed under suspension after their rampage inside and outside new police lines in Patna recently. Agitators had tried to lynch DSP Mohammad Mashluddin and also manhandled other senior police officials over the death of a colleague. The perpetrators of violence allegedly attempted to lynch DSP Mashluddin for denying leave to female recruit who had contracted dengue. She died later, following which the agitation began. Civilians and media persons waiting outside were also assaulted in the chaos. It was only after the Bihar Military Police, an armed division of the state police, arrived at the scene that the situation was brought under control.

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PM’s China sojourn
S M Hali

Boon or bane? Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to China from November 01 to 05 is the topic of hot debate. The government spokesperson, the foreign as well as the finance ministers are claiming a successful visit while the opposition is crying hoarse that the visit was a failure. TV anchors, columnists and analysts are weighing in their opinion in a biased manner. Pro-government opinion builders are painting rosy pictures while anti-PTI political analysts are poking holes in the claimed achievements. Pakistan’s enemies and detractors are having a heyday echoing and parroting the opposition’s mudslinging on the government. The Parliament, which is meant to have serious debates on issues and plan legislature, is appearing to be a fish market where both the treasury and opposition benches are engaged in casting aspersions and hurling accusations at each other.

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Indian obsession with Pakistani spies
S M Hali

Indian military officer. According to India Today of 2 February 2018, an Indian Air Force Group Captain was arrested on the charges of being honey trapped and spying for Pakistan. India even captured an allegedly spy balloon and has now reportedly moved on to “spy fruits”- the latest technology from “Apple Inc”.

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Pak-Afghan trade improves
Sajjad Shaukat

ECONOMIC prosperity is the paramount for stability of any country. Afghanistan being a land locked country is mostly reliant on Pakistan for transit and bilateral trade. As per recent survey both countries have potential of trade up to $5 billion annually. In earlier quarter of 2018, although, trade with Afghanistan decreased from $3 billion to $500 million; however recent figures and trends are very optimistic and futuristic. Pakistan and Afghanistan continue to maintain upward trajectory of trade in spite of all hurdles. The Embassy of Pakistan in Kabul was pleased to report in October 2018 that due to its well-directed efforts, Afghanistan exports to Pakistan increased by 29.53% from US$ 443 million 2017-18. Pakistan remained the largest export market for Afghanistan. On the other hand, Afghanistan continue to increase its imports from Pakistan, as Afghan imports increased from Pakistan by 18.33% for the period i.e. US $ 1,271 million in year 2016-17 to US $ 1,504 million in year 2017-18. Karachi Port also remained a major venue for Afghan transit trade as worth US $ 3.321 billion goods were imported by Afghanistan in the year 2017-18 through the port.

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Iqbal: A visionary for all generations
Reema Shaukat

TOMORROW November 09 is the birthday of great visionary leader, poet and philosopher Allama Muhammad Iqbal. Lately, Turkey’s historical city Konya got Allama Iqbal Park built adjacent to Maulana Rumi’s mausoleum. Not to forget there is an honorary grave of Allama Iqbal at Maulana Rumi’s Tomb in Konya, Turkey and now this park entrance displays his picture and quotes at the entrance of “Muhammed Ikqal Parki” shows how much our visionary poet is still respected. The depth of love, affection and respect among the Turkish people and leadership for Muhammad Iqbal is visible today because of his immense services for Islam and contribution to Turkish causes including during the Balkan wars and Turkey’s War of Independence. It is not only about Turkey but in many parts of world like Iran, Portugal, Germany and Argentine they honour Iqbal’s contribution by remembering him time and again by issuing postal stamps, naming some street, roadside or café on his name. When coming across such images it not only brings nostalgia with pride that we as a nation are so blessed that Allama Iqbal was our visionary leader, whose wisdom, poetry and foresightedness is still a vigil for us after many decades. The world acknowledges our leaders so much that sill today they quote them in their discourse.

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Moscow format: New hope for Afghan peace?
Iqbal Khan

MOSCOW Format Consultations on Afghanistan came at a sensitive time. Of late, newly appointed US Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has been trying to convince the Taliban to agree to negotiate an end to the war; and Americans fear that Russian initiative could derail those efforts. Americans keep blaming Russians for arming and instigating Taliban, and Russians keep doubting the American intent to bring peace to Afghanistan. Afghan rivals failed to reach a breakthrough on holding direct peace negotiations during Moscow Format talks. Russia had invited representatives from the United States as well as India, Iran, China and Central Asian Republics; all hailed the Moscow Format Consultations on Afghanistan as an opportunity to “open a new page” in Afghanistan’s history and seek an end to the war. This was the first meeting of the Moscow Format with participation of Afghan High Peace Council representatives and Afghan Taliban delegation from Doha (Qatar) Office. During the meeting senior Taliban delegate Shahabuddin expressed the desire to talk to anybody anywhere in the world to end American occupation of Afghanistan.

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Gravity of Kashmiris’ plight
Iqbal Khan

THE dark night that began on 27 October 1947, with India sending occupation forces continues; but while India could physically and illegally occupy territory it could not occupy hearts and minds. Brave people of Kashmir have resisted occupation for over 70 years and continue to do so. Pakistan has always pursued the matter at the UN. Kashmir issue was raised at international level five times in 10 days preceding the Black Day this year. Human rights violations of the Kashmiri people have been repeatedly documented by independent human rights observers, the most significant among them being the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, who issued a Report in June on the situation in Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IoK). Pakistan has endorsed the Report’s recommendations, and has renewed its call for the UN to set up a ‘Commission of Inquiry’ (CoI) to investigate the grave human rights violations in IoK, as recommended by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. “We endorse the report’s recommendations that a UN Inquiry Commission be constituted to investigate and redress the gross violations of the human rights of the Kashmiri people,” Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi recently told the General Assembly’s Third Committee, which deals with social, humanitarian and cultural questions.

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Moscow conference — landmark peace talks
Mohammad Jamil

PAKISTAN, Russia, China and Iran wish to see peace and stability in Afghanistan, because peace, progress and prosperity of the region hinge on peace in Afghanistan. It was in this backdrop that Russia held international meeting on Afghanistan in which eleven countries of the region participated. The significant part was that for the first time Taliban’s official delegation participated in the conference, and also agreed to attend such meetings to find real peace in Afghanistan. In 2016, the Taliban had declared that it would not take part in peace talks brokered by representatives of Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the United States until the foreign occupation of the country ended. Now the Taliban leaders are not averse to holding dialogue. But since the Taliban leadership is firm on its stand that US forces must be withdrawn, Moscow conference or direct talks between the Taliban and the US would be an exercise in futility.

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Baneful discourse in Parliament
Mohammad Jamil

PEOPLE are wondering what the Parliamentarians are up to? They are trading barbs and fighting with each other instead of focusing on the issues and challenges faced by the Federation. Is this the way to justify the salaries and perks paid by the people of Pakistan? Parliamentary salary is just one component of politicians’ pay cheques. Taking account of the various expenses reimbursed to the members of the assemblies, their annual pay may be as much as double. Despite their being at loggerheads, whenever a bill was tabled enhancing their perks it was immediately passed without debate or discussion. On 31 May 2018, PML-N government had completed its five-year term; however, just a few hours before the end of its tenure the government enhanced perks and privileges of the sitting and former parliamentarians and their spouses by amending the two general laws through the Finance Act 2018 to which the then Acting President Sadiq Sanjrani gave his consent.

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Pakistan fares better than India
Mohammad Jamil

ON Friday, India’s deputy permanent representative to the UN Ambassador Tanmaya Lal at the UN General Assembly session on Report of the Human Rights Council stated that though Human Rights Council continues to expand with growing number of resolutions and decisions, greater frequency of meetings and special sessions, the effectiveness of its work is not always clear. While a very comprehensive normative framework of human rights treaties and Covenants has evolved, the work of the Human Rights Council and its associated procedures and mandates is, regrettably, getting more contentious and difficult. In June this year, India had rejected then Human Rights High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein’s report on Kashmir in which he had called for an independent international probe into the human rights situation in Kashmir.

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Institutions are evolving though belatedly
Mohammad Jamil

SOME writers, media men and so-called liberals have the penchant to denigrate Pakistan’s institutions including judiciary and military and are critical of the decisions taken by the government. While commenting on Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to Saudi Arabia and the $6 billion package one writer in his recent article in national English daily sarcastically remarked: “Khan went to ‘Davos in the Desert’ ignoring the international outcry over the brutal killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi hitmen in Turkey, allegedly on the orders of the powerful crown prince. The prime minister was rewarded. There are no strings attached to this generosity, we are told. But does it give any leverage to an indebted nation to push its benefactor to end a brutal war?” The writer seems to be oblivious of the change in US policy whereby President Doland Trump insists that the war in Yemen must end.

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Soul of Islam
Khalid Baig

A lot of people have misunderstandings about Islamic spiritualism (tasawwuf). Many think that it is something beyond Qur’an and Sunnah. Errant Sufis as well as the superficial ulema, although on the opposite ends of the spectrum, are together in holding this mistaken notion. Consequently the first group has shunned the Qur’an and Hadees while the second group has shunned tasawwuf. Actually, although the term tasawwuf, like many other religious terms in use today, evolved later, the discipline is very much part of the Shariah. The department of the Shariat relating to external part of all Ibadat is called fiqha while the one dealing with internal part and states of the heart and mind is called tasawwuf. Both are commanded in the Qur’an. “Verily, he who has purified the heart is successful and he who has despoiled it has lost.”Thus while commanding Salat, Saum, Haj and Zakat the Qur’an also commands gratefulness and love of Allah and condemns the evil of pride and vanity. Similarly, in the books of hadees, along with the chapters on Ibadat, trade and commerce, marriage and divorce, are to be found the chapters on riya (showoff), takabbur (pride), akhlaq (character) etc. These commands are as much a mandatory requirement as the ones dealing with external deeds.

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