Despite fighting a long and bloody battle with terrorism, Pakistan is still caught in its quagmire. The terror activities in Pakistan have definitely fallen to a great degree but the residual terrorism continues with its dangerous pangs. Last Friday, three devastating terror strikes rocked Pakistan. The day began with high profile attack on Chinese consulate in Karachi. Three suicide attackers stormed the consulate amid a series of gunshots and an explosion, but were killed before they could force their way in with a car packed with explosives. The attack, claimed by separatist insurgents from the impoverished southwestern Pakistani province of Baluchistan, killed four people, including two police officers, but it was far from the most deadly on a particularly violent day across the region. Around the same time a suicide attacker on a motorbike set off explosives in a crowded festival and market in northwest Pakistan’s Orakzai region, killing at least 25 people and injuring dozens others. The attack, according to reports in Pak media, had originated from across the border in Afghanistan, with Jamaatul Ahrar or the militant Islamic State group being the likely perpetrators. The two groups are known to have sanctuaries in Afghanistan, and the attackers possibly entered Pakistan through an unfenced portion of the former Kurram agency. In yet another bloody attack, a suicide blast at a mosque on an army base, over the border in eastern Afghanistan, killed at least 26 people and wounded 50, security officials said. Earlier in the week, a suicide bomber killed 55 people in the capital, Kabul. Though the attack on Chinese consulate was frustrated by the alert policemen but it indicated the underlying dangers. The terrorists in Pakistan are still capable of reaching and hitting their target. The Baluch Liberation Army claimed the attack. Pakistan said that the group is backed by “the enemy country”, a reference to India. There was no immediate comment from India’s External Affairs Ministry about the C4 plastic explosive claims. However in an earlier statement, India denied helping the Baluchistan insurgents and was quick to condemn the violence. Pakistan Tehreek Taliban (PTT) has remained a major contributor to terrorism in Pakistan.
Though Taliban as a potential force has been decimated by a ferocious military campaign but the Friday attacks in Orakzai region, indicates that some leftovers are still active. But what is more concerning is the growing influence and activities of the ISIS. It is widely believed that the ISIS has set up a strong base in Afghanistan with the active help of America where from it is coordinating attacks in Pakistan. It is a serious challenge that Pakistan is facing on its western front presently. The growing bitterness with Afghanistan government is also a contributory factor in terror attacks on Pakistan. The Pakistan government should, in the first place, settle its differences with Afghan government to curb the scheming and planning of terror attacks from that soil. Pakistan must take advantage of its present government. It is after a long period that Pakistan civil government and military are on the same page on the issues facing the country. Prime Minister Imran Khan is also known as an articulate and effective leader. Though he has some serious challenges before him; the bitter relations with the US the prime among them. Still he has some favorable things at his hand. Pakistan, mush to the chagrin of the US, is on way to rebuilding its relations with Russia. Saudi Arabia and UAE, which in the past three years, had not-so-friendly relations Pakistan are also turning better. The two influential Arab countries have promised financial support to Imran Khan to take Islamabad out of the present economic mess. China is as friendly to Pakistan as ever. Turkey and Iran’s relations with Pakistan are also extraordinarily good. This can help Pakistan to offset the American pressure. Imran Khan should avail all these opportunities to his country’s favor and dislodge the terrorism from the bottom. That is quite important for restoring the image of Pakistan as a reasonable and responsible state.
Plight of Indian Muslims
Islam is the second largest religion in India, with 14.2% of the country’s population or roughly 172 million people identifying as adherents of Islam. Over the centuries, Muslims have played a notable role in economics, politics and culture of India, however 70 years after independence the overall condition of Indian Muslims is pathetic.
Poverty illiteracy and ghettoization has marred Muslims for decades now. Ghettoisation among Indian Muslims began in the mid-1970s when first communal riots occurred. It got heightened after the 1989 Bhagalpur violence in Bihar and became a trend after the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992. Soon several major cities developed ghettos, or segregated areas, where the Muslim population moved in. This trend however, did not help for the anticipated security the anonymity of ghetto was thought to have provided.
During the 2002 Gujarat riots, several such ghettos became easy targets for the rioting mobs, as they enabled the profiling of residential colonies. This kind of ghettoisation can be seen in Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and many cities of Gujarat where a clear socio-cultural demarcation exists between Hindu-dominated and Muslim-dominated neighbourhoods.
In places like Gujarat, riots and alienation of Muslims have led to large scale ghettoisation of the community. For example, the Juhapura area of Ahmadabad has swelled from 250,000 to 650,000 residents since 2002 riots. Muslims in Gujarat have no option but to head to a ghetto, irrespective of their economic and professional status.
Increase in ghetto living has also shown a strengthening of stereotyping due to lack of cross-cultural interaction, and reduction in economic and educational opportunities at large. Secularism in India is being seen by some as a favour to the Muslims, and not an imperative for democracy
The Sachar Committee Report explored and commented upon a truly wide range of random issues and concerns, often with a view to forcefully place the Muslim viewpoint on those issues in the public sphere. This included making observations on the high birth rate in the Muslim community in comparison to Hindus: the committee estimated that the Muslim proportion will stabilize at between 17% and 21% of the Indian population by 2100.As per the 2011 census, the population of Muslims is nearly 15% and rose by over 2% over a period of only ten years.
The Sachar Committee highlighted and presented its suggestions on how to remove impediments those preventing Indian Muslims from fully participating in the economic, political, and social mainstream of Indian life. The report was the first of its kind to reveal the “backwardness” (a term used in Indian academic and legal discourse for historically dispossessed or economically vulnerable communities, not meant to be pejorative) of Indian Muslims. An issue highlighted was that while Muslims constitute 14% of the Indian population, they only comprise 2.5% of the Indian bureaucracy. The Sachar Committee concluded that the conditions facing Indian Muslims was below that of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
Report brought the issue of Muslim Indian inequality to national attention, sparking a discussion that is still ongoing. The Committee recommended setting up an Equal Opportunity Commission to provide a legal mechanism to address discrimination complaints, including in matters such as housing. In response to the Committee’s findings, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram proposed an increase to the National Minorities Development and Finance Corporation’s (NMDFC) budget, citing new duties and expanded outreach that the institution would take on to implement the Committee’s recommendations.
However, no such recommendations have been implemented and Muslims continue to suffer in India even seven decades after independence.
Our bond with divine grace
As Sufi teacher Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee explains, the Sufi comes into this world to love and serve the divine and this destiny is stamped within the heart in fire.
Eros makes his home in men’s hearts, but not in every heart, for where there is hardness he departs.
Look in your own heart,” says the mystic, “For the kingdom of God is within you.” He who truly knows himself knows God, for the heart is a mirror in which divine is reflected. Just as a steel mirror, if coated with rust, loses its power of reflection, so do our inward senses which are the eyes of the heart. When this visual heart becomes numb to the celestial impulses owing to the dross of material impressions it no longer remains a clarified beacon. Our quest for the numinous becomes barren and we experience tremors of the dark night of the soul.
The heart has long been the starting point for many spiritual schools, but for a mystic, the heart is a fixed referent for true enlightenment. The heart announces the first sign of life and its silence signals the message of the death of the physical body. The mystic regards God as the real agent in every act, and therefore takes no credit for his good works nor desires to be recompensed for them.
The heart is normally veiled or stained by sins, tarnished by sensual impressions, pulled to and fro between reason and passion: a battlefield on which the armies of God and the devil contend for victory. Through one gate, the heart receives immediate knowledge of God, through another it lets in the illusions of sense.
No previous society has offered seekers so many different ways to chase after Nirvana, so many different paths to spiritual epiphany. One powerful way is by polishing the heart. When we polish the mirror of the heart with daily spiritual practices — we can see beyond the illusion of our transient world and perceive the vast and luminous landscape of our true nature. This is one practice that in time can help us make the marriage between our being and our humanness. By its very nature, living in the world leaves a material impression on our heart, while our thoroughness of being and our impulses of love unveil it. The clear heart is the best guide to living. It is the mirror of our inner state, as also a hologram of all. As Sufi teacher Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee explains, the Sufi comes into this world to love and serve the divine and this destiny is stamped within the heart in fire: “We bring this purpose into the world, and when our heart is awakened we feel this need of the heart, this call of the soul.” This divine remembrance awakens the slumbering soul to its real purpose and the journey home begins.
The mystics have discovered that, in addition to the mind, the heart is a very most important centre governing our spiritual consciousness. With diligent practice, teachers have perfected the techniques that moderate the heart, cultivating profound intuition and realisation. The polished heart becomes a mirror that catches the light of truth and reflects it in one’s consciousness. The surest way of achieving this sparkling quality is by focusing attentively on God and negating the ego. From then on the seeker starts to experience God, and see him with the inner eyes of the heart.
In the words of Hildegard von Bingen: “It is the heart that sees the primordial eternity of every creature.”
Rising tension in Kashmir
AS the Supreme Court is likely to hear the petitions against the continuation of Article 35-A of Indian constitution on Thursday, a wave of unrest is sweeping the trouble-torn state. Ahead of the hearing, On Wednesday, Kashmir is reeling under a protest strike called by the Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL). The rotest strike shall continue on Thursday as well. Apprehensions that the top court might dilute Article 35-A is a matter of concern for all shades of political opinion—separatist as well as pro India. While National Conference and PDP has already warned of serious consequences if 35-A was abolished, the latest to voice his concern is Sajjad Gani Lone. The Peoples’ Conference chairman, who has close political affinity with the BJP, said on Tuesday that the alienation in Kashmir was due erosion in special status Jammu and Kashmir had under the constitution of India. The separatists are already up in arms. That has made the continuation of Article 35-A and 370 of Indian constitution as a joint case for the political leaders in Kashmir.
Article 35A of the Constitution gives special rights to Jammu and Kashmir’s permanent residents. It disallows people from outside the state from buying or owning immovable property there, settle permanently, or avail themselves of state-sponsored scholarship schemes. It also forbids the J&K government from hiring people who are non-permanent residents. While separatist have asked people for a decisive struggle, pro India groups like National Conference and PDP too have joined the chorus. Former chief minister Mahbooba Mufti has cautioned New Delhi that any move to do away the special status of the state would have dangerous consequences.
National Conference patriarch and former chief minister Dr Farooq Abdullah too have expressed similar views. On Wednesday normal life was paralyzed under shutdown called by separatists. The shutdown would continue on Thursday as well. Jammu and Kashmir government, which is presently headed by the Governor N N Vohra in absence of an elected government, has submitted to the Supreme Court to defer the hearing till an elected government was put in place. The state counsel, Shoab Alam, in a written plea to the Supreme Court, has said that “The present matter involves a sensitive issue regarding a challenge to Article 35A of the Constitution of India… It will therefore be requested that the matter may kindly be head when an elected government is in place”. Voices of opposition against revocation of 35-A have come from Jammu too.
Sometime back around 300 lawyers of different courts in the region, last year, supported the continuation of the 35-A as it safeguarded the rights of the people of the state. The people in power at the centre should understand the emotions of the people of Jammu and Kashmir with regard to the state’s individual character. “Azadi” or “right of self-determination” may not be the slogan of every state subject of Jammu and Kashmir but the special status that the state enjoys under Article 370 and 35-A of Indian constitution is closer to heart to every resident of Jammu and Kashmir. Saner voices at national level, who have some knowledge of politics and power in Kashmir, too have warned of the threats involved in tampering with Jammu and Kashmir’s special status. Some newspapers have editorially commented that India would have no legal claim on Kashmir if Article 370 is removed. It would be in India’s national interest that the central government listens to saner voices. BJP which is ruling at the centre should think beyond the arithmetic of election gains. The party may get some votes in the name of 35-A but it is ultimately India that would lose.