Pakistan’s date with democracy marked a high day on Thursday when buttons of power changed hands smoothly in tune with democratic norms. The Pakistan Muslim League (N) or PML-N led by Sharif family has made way for Pakistan Tehreek Insaaf (PTI) of Imran to take guard of Prime Minister’s House in Islamabad as the PTI has won the mandate on Pakistani people in July 25 general elections. Though the election results were on expected lines as the Sharifs were marred by the allegations and convictions in widespread corruptions but it was still a well fought victory for the cricketer-turned-politician. Imran as choice emerged for the people of Pakistan for his clean image. He has not held any public office earlier and he represents a rare honest image in Pakistan presently. As cricketer and captain of his national team Imran had a hero’s image not only in Pakistan but also in almost all the cricket-playing nations. He took plunge in politics almost 20 years back but caught public imagination only in 2016 after Panama leaks revealed endemic level of corruption in Pakistan government led by Nawaz Sharif. The Sharif family, according to Panama leaks, has off-shore assets worth thousands of crores of rupees. That alarmed the people of Pakistan and anger against Sharif spread to every nook and corner of the country. That provided Imran Khan to make use of his clean image. He consolidated this anger and channelized it into a public rebellion against Nawaz Sharif. In November 2016, Imran Khan brough tens of thousands of people from almost all the provinces of Pakistan to lay siege of Islamabad, the national capital and nerve centre of the country. It sent the country into a serious chaos. However, Supreme Court of Pakistan intervened and the court ordered enquiry into the allegations of corruption against Nawaz Sharif and his family. The intervention of the court forced Imran Khan to call off the Dharna. The allegations of corruption against Sharfis were found correct by the court and he was removed from the office of the Prime Minister in July 2017. Early this month Nawaz along with his daughter Maryam was convicted and imprisoned for 10 years, and Maryam for seven years.
However, despite clean image, some serious sections in Pakistani media were apprehensive about Imran Khan for his “immature” and “reprehensive” language he would often use against his detractors. During election campaign too Imran could not resist the temptation of using acrimonious and derogatory language against Nawaz Sharif and others. That had made them to feel that Pakistan was still way far off having a matured political leader. But the Imran Khan changed the tact moments he sensed the victory, a rethinking of sorts is emerging among them. In his victory speech Imran Khan spoke like a genius and matured politician who had all the ability to lead the country. Imran gave a detailed view of his foreign policy in which peace with neighbours appeared to be central to it. He said that he would better ties with the United States as well. On India, he said if they (India) walk one step, he would take two steps towards India. Khan’s critics often referred to him as the military’s favourite. But the people in general overlooked this allegation mere for the fact Khan, an extremely ambitious, strong-willed person, is neither a businessman nor has commercial stakes anywhere. Nobody has been able to accuse him of corruption and this is his biggest asset.
The big takeaway from Pakistani elections was the rejection of extremist elements by the people. Hundreds of candidates including those of associated with Hafiz Saeed’s newly formed political group were completely rejected by the voters. Even traditional politico-religious parties with almost a liberal image including Jamaat-e-Islami, Jamiatul Ulema Islam were also made to eat the dust. These parties had gathered under the banner of Muttahida Majlis Aml (MMA). They could win just 7 seats in a House of 273. With this Pakistan has ushered in into a new era, it is matter of time how Khan makes use of his opportunity.
Shah Faesal’s political launch
Former IAS officer, Shah Faesal, finally came up with his own party. On Sunday, he announced the formation of Jammu and Kashmir Peoples’ Movement as his party at a public function in Srinagar. Around 3000 people, mostly driven from Kupwara district, attended the Shah’s party launch. The only known face accompanying Faesal was former JNU vice president and research scholar Shehla Rashid. Shah Faesal, typical to a standard politician, virtually promised moon to the people once he was voted to power. From resolution of Kashmir issue to restoring Silk Road, Shah Faesal promised to resolve all the issues pertaining to the people of the state. Shah Faesal resigned from government service in January to pursue political career. Initially, it was understood that he would join National Conference but ultimately formed his own party to give what he said “a new politics to the state has seen only miseries in the past 70 years”. It would be quite premature to comment on the future of Shah’s party but it is just another addition to existing political parties. Politics in Kashmir is a tightly controlled market. Opening in the market, no doubt, is free but the sustenance and rise is restricted. It would be quite premature to comment on the success or failure of Shah Faesal and his political venture but in the given political scenario, he could end up as yet another Babar Bader or Imran Rahi. People have already started questioning his intentions as what made him to join politics when he could have delivered better in his previous position. A common perception is that pro India political tribe is facing severe crisis of leadership. Omar Abdullah and Mahbooba, who were projected as future hope when they took plunge in politics, have bitterly failed, both, in and outside the government. When Omar Abdullah was appointed as chief minister of the state in 2009, some news channels addressed him as Barak Obama of Kashmir. The “iconic” image of both Omar and Mahbooba was blown into heaps by the wind in 2010 and 2016. To a many people, Shah Faesal has been brought in to fill the gap that is becoming wider with each passing day.
Faesal is young and has influenced man a young minds when he qualified the prestigious IAS examination in 2009. He was projected as icon of Kashmiri youth. Many young minds were inspired by him and in the process got to the prestigious All India Civil Services. In 2016 when Kashmiri youth overwhelmingly hit streets in protest against the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, many media outlets in India tried to project Shah as the real icon of Kashmiri youth. Hoewever, the youth in Kashmir are on a rebellious path. Right from University scholars to school drop-outs, a rage of sorts is igniting the young minds to defiance. It is not going overboard to say that Burhan Wani, in recent years, came as inspiration. Though militancy in Jammu and Kashmir is around 30 year old but since 2002, it had started a gradual decline. And many areas in the valley, south Kashmir in particular, were declared as militant free. It was against this backdrop that 2008 assembly elections, despite Amarnath Land row, witnessed huge participation of people. The rise of Burhan Wani, however, gave a new direction to the entire political spectrum. Shah Faesal’s joining politics has to be seen in this context. Whatever his aims and objectives, Shah Faecal has an uphill task before him and there are many challenges that he has to face. Would he be able to deliver or not, only time will say.
Christchurch terror strike
New Zealand is deemed as the most peaceful, quiet and secured land with utmost beauty. But on Friday a brute terror attack shook the country to its foundation. Forty-nine people were killed when a gun-wielding white terrorist attacked two mosques at Christchurch when Muslims were offering congregational Friday prayers. Dozens more were left wounded. The horrific events have left the country in mourning and shock. Muslims make up less than 1% of New Zealand’s population and the faith’s most prominent adherent is a rugby player. The attacker, an Australian by birth, proudly live streamed the video of the attack on his face book account. He offered a smile on his arrest by police. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern deserves all the appreciation for condemning the massacre as an act of terrorism. She called it the darkest hour in her country’s history. She also visited the families of the wounded and dead persons which in itself demonstrated the human values in her country are still supreme. But the reaction in other countries was not as strong as it demanded. In fact, an Australian MP justified the carnage of Muslims for their growing population in western countries. In UK, a Muslim man was beaten with a hammer and a batten outside a mosque in east London, hours after 49 people were killed in the terror attack on two mosques in New Zealand. The assaulters shouted abusive words with Islamophobic content as they drove past the mosque and called people attending Friday prayers as terrorists. From the US to France to Australia, Muslims are persistently vilified and attacked, while biases against them are normalized. It is only confirmation of the pernicious spread of Islamophobia spread after 9/11 terror attacks in the United States. Islamophobia or hate-Muslim ideology is undoubtedly real and on the rise and being propagated online. It has become mainstream in almost all the western countries, more particularly, in America, UK, Australia and Franc. The U S President Donald Trump is personally known for spreading bigotry through his hateful rhetoric. It is perhaps for this fact that the West did not evoke the reaction to Muslim killings as it could have evoked for the case being otherwise. There were no candle marches, street demonstrations and mourning functions on the savage killing of New Zealand Muslims the way the world had witnessed in protest against terror strike in France in 2015.
The silence by Indian government and media too is something horrifying. Prime Minister Narendra Modi extended unlimited sympathy to the people and government of France after 2015 terror attack by ISIS but did not utter a word on the aghast killing of Muslims in New Zealand. The so-called media of the world’s largest democracy also followed the foot-steps of the Prime in maintaining silence on the gruesome incident, notwithstanding the fact that India has a population of around 200 million Muslims. Like in the West, Muslims in India too are facing communal wrath at the hands of the Majority community. The rise of BJP to the power with Narendra Modi (with his Gujrat baggage) at the top has normalized anti Muslim outlook in every section of the society. Such people were termed in the beginning as fringe elements but the fringe has become mainstream now. It is dangerous game that is being played in the arena of world politics: Muslims versus the rest. It goes without saying the majority of the people still believe in peaceful co-existence. But they need to come out of the hibernation and take active lead roles. It is their absence in public and political life that gives the unwanted people space. Muslims also need to do some soul-searching and people with self-manufactured far-extremist views need to be through out of the mainstream.
The Divine Reality
Who are we? Where did we come from? How did life originate on this planet? Who were our ancestors? These are some of the intriguing questions that each of us grapples with at least once in our lifetime.
People look for logical and satisfactory answers to these queries both in religion and science. While the three Semitic religions— Islam, Christianity and Judaism— share a common belief in the origin of mankind, Hinduism has a slightly different view. According to the famous tale of Purusha as mentioned in one of the early Vedas, a cosmic man’s sacrifice created all life. According to the Bible, God just said: “Let there be light”, and only in six days the sun, moon, land and sky and all living creatures came into existence. Similarly, the origin of mankind is beautifully embedded in a mystical Quranic verse: “Kun Faya Kun”. It means “the originator of the heavens and the earth (Allah). When He decrees a matter, He only says to it, ‘Be!’ and it is.”
However, we need a deeper insight into the origin of mankind in order to fathom the complete creation plan in a cogent manner. Quran further says: “O mankind, be conscious of your Lord, who created you from one soul (Adam) and created from it its mate (Eve) and dispersed from both of them many men and women” (4:1). This Quranic verse reminds us of our origin, oneness and commonality, something that has become the most forgotten reality in today’s world. In addition, a lot more verses in Quran unravel the eternal truth that all human beings have one creator, one father and one mother. They actually laid the basis of the Sufi worldview of Wahdat-ul-Wujud (unity of being).
The notion of Wahdat-ul-Wujud was propounded by Ibn Arabi, an eminent Spanish mystic who has inspired a countless number of Sufis in the history of Islam. Eminent sufis such as Shahab-ud-Din Suhrawardi have written complete spiritual treatises on the related Quranic verses which have been referred as untenable esoteric proofs for the Sufi belief in the Unity of Being.
For Ibn Arabi, the entire world is only one “Divine Reality”. He strongly believed that there was none and would be nothing in the universe except for the existence of one and only Divine. Thus, the world and whatever it has in it including the entire humankind, is nothing other than the self-revelation of God by Himself. In his spiritual discourse on this subject, Ibn Arabi wrote in his book Fusus al-Hikam (The Seals of Wisdom)—one of the most in-depth panoramas of Islamic spirituality: “Allah, the Most Truthful (al-haqq) wanted to see the essences (al-a’yan) of His most perfect and infinite Names (al-asma al-husna)… Allah wanted to see His own Essence (‘ayn) in one global object (kawn) which having been blessed with existence (al-wujud) summarised the Divine order (al-amr) so that He could manifest His mystery (sirr) to Himself.”
This clearly sets out that mankind did not appear on this earth by sheer chance. Rather, Allah willed that peoples from different ethnicities and with different faith traditions inhabit the earth as a manifestation of the Unity (wahdat). If we remind ourselves of this basic point, all polemics of racism, xenophobia, misogynism, ethnic superiority and religious bigotry would disappear from this world which is founded on the beautiful spiritual notion — unity of being.