|LETTERS TO THE EDITOR|
|EVERYTHING IS NOT BLACK AND WHITE OR RED OR BLUE;
THERE ARE SHADES IN BETWEEN TOO ! PAN ISLAMISM CHECHEN QUESTION ETC.
I have seen a large number of articles about Pan Islamic themes in various issues of DJ . I was however propelled to write this letter once I saw a letter by a reader chiding Iran with lethargy and indifference about Chechen Muslims ! I share the writers concern about the plight of Chechens but feel with considerable conviction that ignorance of history and extreme fervour has induced the writer to make some sweeping statements. This is no fault of the author but a common occurrence in Pakistan where a lot of lip service is paid to abstract concepts of Pan Islamism etc; while many ground realities are ignored. In addition history is not taught in a manner in schools or colleges which may enable a future adult to have a broader perspective of events. The fault lies in our educational system! Take Ahmad Shah Abdali for example. The man was a soldier of fortune who looted the Muslims of Delhi and Punjab indiscriminately but later was extolled by Iqbal as a great Muslim hero . Read Waris Shah and other Punjabi Muslim poets of 18th century Punjab and you find out that this Abdali was the worst kind of looter ! Take Aurangzeb again eulogised by Iqbal as a Muslim hero .The fact is that the man alienated all communities in India. He chastised the Pathans alienating them by punitive expeditions against tribes, making the Yusufzai fight the Khattak as a result of which Pathans stopped joining the Mughal Army at a time when the Mughals needed them the most in the Maratha insurgency (Refers pages-239 & 240-Cambridge History of India-Volume Four).
The same Aurangzeb was more keen to destroy the southern Muslim Shia kingdoms as a result of which the Mughals subsequently got involved in the Maratha war which became the Mughals Spanish Ulcer and the principal reason of decline and fall of the Mughal Empire! By removing the Shia Kingdoms Aurangzeb got inextricably involved with the Marathas who inhabited the area of the Shia Kingdoms . These Marathas found Aurangzeb's Sunni fanaticism intolerable and waged a brilliant guerrilla war under Sivaji which laid a blue print of a guerrilla war imitated or re practised much later in Spain against Napoleon , in Vietnam against USA and much later in Afghanistan .In all cases guerrilla forces triumphed over conventional forces; whether guerrillas were Marataha Hindu , Catholic Spanish , Communist Atheist Vietnamese or Muslim Pathan or Tajik .Today these Pan Islamists think that it was triumph of Islam over Communism ! A typical case of Pan Islamic confusion! To come back to the point the problem with Pan Islamism is that many realities of history are ignored once Pan Islamists talk about Islam at an international level.
Geography, ethnicity and historical background are ignored by Pan Islamists . Take Iran's case as an example . Iran is a Shia Muslim national state. It has defied USA successfully since 1979 more successfully than any other modern Muslim state without selling national honour as done by Pakistani governments since 1950 or by blundering into a trap like Kuwait War in case of Iraq! It is prosperous cohesive and has clear national goals. Now take Iran in relation to its neighbours. On one side is Turkey . An Islamic state if this confused label can be applied to a state which has a defence pact with Israel . Turkey has historically tried to dismember or damage Iran and the same is true for Iran's attitude with Turkey ! In 1724 Turkey concluded an agreement with Tsarist Christian Russia to dismember and divide Muslim Iran ! (Refers-page-237 to page-238-History of Persia-Volume Two-Brigadier General Percy Sykes-London-Macmillan and Company Limited-Saint Martin's Press-New York-1958) . Turkish Iranian rivalry which was a natural result of the fact that the two states were different ethnically and dynastically weakened both and played a major role in ensuring that Ottoman Turkey's forces were divided between Europe and Asia. Iran also remained weak since it was engaged in a series of wars with Turkey from the sixteenth to the 19th century . Pan Islamists may cite this as a case of Islamic disunity but that is absurd ! The same was true for Christian France allying with Muslim Turkey against Christian Austria or France allying with Muslim ruled Mysore against English East India Company. Religion, alas despite all lip service to the idea remains a weak basis for statehood barring Pakistan and Israel with European Jews dominating Israel and Punjabi Muslims dominating Pakistan after having finally sucessfully getting rid of the Muslim majority province of East Bengal ! Even the first Muslim state which in reality was an Arab dominated state was basically a family affair; the first four caliphs being from Quraish and later the the Bannu Ummaya fighting the Ali-ides or the Banni Abbas fighting the Banni Ummaya. If the Holy Prophet (P.B.U.H) wanted he would have left clear guidelines ; about his successor; another legal issue which divides Muslims! History of Islam was in reality the history of Arab Muslims with all power concentrated in the hands of one clan ; a total negation of the concept of democracy as practised by the Holy Prophet ! The Arab dynasties were followed by Turkish Berber Fatimid dynasties all conveniently employing religion as a tool ; an opium to drug the masses ! The Ottoman Empire was a tyranny as far as the Arab Muslims was concerned;Muslim in name Turk in reality !The Mughals were Muslims in name following the policy of divide and rule using Hindu Generals against Pathan Muslims or Hindu Rajput generals against Maratha Hindus ! This was not a negation of Pan Islamism . Islam was good as a slogan but the Mughals had to deal with a larger number of non Muslims. The Pakistan idea emerged only after the Muslims feared persecution from a Hindu majority. But even religion failed once the Bengali Muslims felt that they were being fooled in the name of Islam by the West Pakistani ruling elite ! The Punjabi Muslim politicians raised the slogan of parity to safeguard West Pakistani/Punjabi Muslim interests against possible Bengali Muslim domination ! Exactly in the same manner as done by the Muslim League to escape Hindu majority's domination ! Now we have PONAM BNM ANP MQM STTP etc. The reason is not that these are traitors but because ethnicity is also important . Mere religion is no panacea of all evils ! If it was not so there would be no quota system!
Pan Islamism was picked up by Jamal Afghani in second half of 19th century . It's a good slogan but overlooks certain concrete historical facts . How could for example Indian Muslims support Egyptian Muslims once Alexandria was bombarded in 1882 or once the British fought the Second Afghan War in 1878-80 . The Egyptians had no link with India apart from a common religion ! The Afghans had systematically looted Indian Muslims independently or as mercenaries of Persia from 1739 to 1799 ! Ahmad Shah Abdali warned the Muslim Pathans of Rohailkhand and Upper Doab to be more careful with Shia Oudh than against Marathas ! About 13 years later Shia Muslim Oudh hired a British East India Company brigade to destroy Pathan Muslim Rohailkhand ! Sir Syed Ahmad Khan rightly advised the Indian Muslims not to think the Turkish Khalifa as Khalifa of India ! The Arabs knew much better about the Turk's Islamic fervour ! The British were the de facto rulers of India ! The fact was forgotten by the Indian Muslims much later and the Khilafat movement however heroic damaged the cause of Indian Muslims. The Turks under Kemal the 'Grey Wolf' of Anatolia proved wiser and kicked out the ridiculous Khalifa !
Now to come back to Iran :- (1) How could Iran sell out to the Russians in 1979 when it was itself in the middle of a traumatic revolution and confronting USA which the Pakistani leadership since 1951 has shamelessly wooed, only be kicked once Pakistan needed crucial US help in 1965 and 1971! Zia on the other hand sold Pakistan to the US once the Russians occupied Afghanistan in order to preserve his seat! The military regime was isolated internally as well as externally! Internally, it had reneged on a promise of elections within 90 days, and externally, it had no support! Russian intervention in Afghanistan gave it a golden excuse to stay in power and to get US aid! The Afghans were helped not because of Islam but because they were a good means to get dollars from the US and Saudi Arabia! So much for the Islamic fervour! Pakistan got billions of dollars of US aid most of which was pilfered by Zia and his generals and air marshals! The evidence of this can be seen in the assets of many Jullundhri Pathans or Hindustani generals as held today or those of their sons who are not corrupt politicians by any definition since they are general's sons! (2) What happened in Afghanistan? The US financed a large number of groups, Pathan, Uzbek, Tajik, Hazara, Persian speaking to fight a proxy war. All these groups were Muslim in name but in reality Pathan, Tajik or Uzbek. The Afghan war was a much smaller affair than Vietnam. While about 60,000 Americans died in Vietnam only 14000 Russians died in Afghanistan, an average of 1200 per year. A very insignificant figure in Russian military history keeping in view the fact that about 1,700,000 (Refers-pages-986 and 987 -Hitler and Stalin- Alan Bullock-Alfred. A.Knopf-New York-1992) Russians died in WW One and 13 ,600,000 in WW Two!
Compare Afghanistan with Vietnam in terms of ethnicity versus religion. I think that the best thing about the Russian invasion of Afghanistan was the fact that the Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras who had been third rate citizens in a Pathan dominated Afghanistan since 1799 became first rate citizens ! A fact which even today is very irritating and unpleasant for the Taliban which is a deadly anti Shia and essentially Pathan Sunni Group! The Vietnamese were one race and had one ideology. Vietnam is stable and prosperous today without being Muslim or Christian! The Afghans are disunited and in much worse shape in 2000 than in 1988 when the last Russian soldier left its soil ! What is Hekmatyar without US or ISI aid ! Where is his Islamic fervour now ! More was at stake than Islam! CIA dollars in millions were stashed by CIA and ISI operatives or generals and air marshals in Chase Manhattan or Bank of Cheats and Crooks (BCCI)! The only genuine man was Ahmad Shah Masud who did not become a tool of foreign intelligence agencies and is still fighting not based in a Madarssa financed by an Arab anti Shia state or intelligence agency of a foreign country but by virtue of being a man of substance ! Who are the Taliban ! How have they suddenly replaced so-called charismatic Mujahideen commanders like Hekmatyar, Khaliq Abdul Haq etc ! The change proves that Afghanistan was a manipulated affair ! The controls were elsewhere ! The problem is that one country cannot manipulate another endlessly! As the conditions in Afghanistan stabilise, it will be more and more difficult for external powers to manipulate the country! Either there will be a sellout in 2000 or Pakistan will suffer the ravages of a low intensity limited or full war in case adventurism in intelligence agencies is not curbed ! The Afghan Jehad a misnomer was in reality a CIA Jehad and that is why the Afghans are in the shape they are today ! Their leaders in league with Pakistan's military junta gobbled millions of US dollars and now they talk of confrontation with US ! My knowledge of Pathan history tells me that there will be a sellout in 2000 ! So much for the Taliban and the Osama business ! (3) Few people know that in 1982 at the height of Iran Iraq war General Zia despatched a military advisory group to Iraq ! These people were not there to teach the Iraqi's harmless first aid tactics but were dealing with Iraqi armour and infantry officers fighting a war with another Islamic country! So much for Pakistan's solidarity with Iran! (3) Now coming to Iran's dealings with Russia. Iran at the moment is moving towards close cooperation with Russia. Russia is transferring nuclear technology and also supplying military hardware to Iran. This is most essential for Iran since today's world with a unipolar scenario is far more insecure for smaller states. Muslim, Christian or Atheist than before 1989 ! Why should Iran antagonise the Russians! This is not a sellout. The Iranians are pursuing their national interests, just like Pakistan's usurpers were following their personal interests once they sold Pakistan albeit cheaply and without achieving much to the USA in 1950s or in 1977-88 ! Now coming straight to Chechnya . I have visited Russia twice in 1995 and 1996. Till 1996 the Chechens were doming well in Russia ! They were prominent in Moscow, dominating the Mafia at least marginally and the General Manager of Hotel Raddisson where I was staying was a Chechen! I discussed Chechnya in great detail with this gentleman and many Chechens! The issue is more complicated than we in Pakistan know. The Chechens were happy with the semi independent political status they had achieved in 1996. Only the radical Islamists who were a marginal although well organised group were unhappy. They wanted to export their brand of Islamic radicalism to Daghestan a more liberal and peaceful Muslim state! The present trouble into which Chechnya got into is the result of the absurd and nut headed approach of these Chechen Muslim radicals. Sending guerrillas to Daghestan. Planting bombs in civilian flats in Moscow! These were the acts that provoked the Russian government to attack Chechnya ! The Russians were unhappy when their government attacked Chechnya in 1995 or in 1979-88 when they attacked Afghanistan. They regarded these wars as adventurism. Now the situation is different. Now the average Russian regards the present war as a just war! Russian public opinion is solidly behind Russian government. It is not the question of Islam versus Christianity as is being made out in Pakistan! The Russians are a people with a barbarian past ! They were ruled by Tartar Muslims, oppressive Romanovs and the totalitarian Bolsheviks. More Russians have died fighting each other than Muslims against Russians. In the Russian Civil War fought in 1917-22 almost ten million people died! A number much larger than the total population of Chechnya ! Chechnya houses some of Russia's largest oil and gas reserves ! It is not Afghanistan which was many hundred miles away from mainland Russia. Its possession is vital to Russia . The Russians can easily conduct military operations unlike Afghanistan where logistic cost of supplying or sustaining military operations was the principal cause of Russian withdrawal! Its just like Balochistan which the Pakistani government would not allow to secede; not because for any special love for the Baloch Muslims; but simply because the province houses Pakistan's largest gas reserves and is geopolitically essential for Pakistan's security! East Pakistan was lost because of geography but Balochistan's geography condemns it to be a province of a larger federal state !
The Afghanistan analogy is not applicable to Chechnya. The Russians withdrew from Afghanistan not because they were militarily defeated but because Gorbachev rightly assessed that staying on was not cost effective (Pages-207 & 208- Out of Afghanistan-Cordovez and Harrison-Oxford-1995). Chechnya is an altogether different case because Russian presence there is cost effective because of Chechen oil! The political situation in Russia is once again stabilising. The Communists are once again regaining strength while Putin is likely to emerge as a strong statesman. No amount of statements from the OIC can change the situation. If the Russians are ignoring the OSCE and USA why should they bother about OIC! Why should Iran surrounded by three hostile or potentially hostile neighbours and one super power which every year allocates funds to destabilise Iran antagonise the Russians ; their only trustworthy ally!
Where is Islam in case of Kurds! How many Kurds have died fighting Iranian Iraqi and Turkish armies since the last one hundred years! I think ten times more than total number of Chechens killed from January 1999! Where is the Islam of the Islamic Contact Group in case of Kurds who are condemned for eternity to be subjects of Iran, Iraq and Turkey. The first modern Chemical Warfare attack was carried out against the Iraqi Kurds during the Iran-Iraq war! Where was Islam when genocide was committed in 1971 by a Muslim (a misconceived misnomer!) Army against the Bengali Muslims! Religion, ideology etc is nothing but cheap tools employed by the ruling elite to galvanise and drug the masses! The middle class and the feudal clique of UP and Punjab became interested in Muslim separatism only once their class interests were threatened with competitive examinations and concepts of British democracy! The same was true for the Hindu middle and business classes that joined the congress! They thought that they would succeed the British Viceroys in ruling entire India! Hinduism was only a slogan, just as was the case with the Muslim elite! Religion is a good slogan but only a slogan! Democracy ends immediately when Muslims leave the Mosque! Lip service is paid but that is where Islam ends!
It will be good for our intellectual health if we forget about Pan Islamism and try to set our own house in order! So far we have miserably failed even to stay as one nation in case of East Pakistan! Today we have the smaller ethnic group's issue which is intricate as well as genuine and demands good statesmanship which is sadly lacking both in India and Pakistan ! Both have been termed as 'failed states' by political scientists ! Both have a history of using coercive power of a modern state against smaller ethnic groups e.g. Kashmir 1989-2000, East Pakistan-1971 , Balochistan 1958-64, Balochistan 1974-77 etc etc. Both the states have been steadily involved in an arms race that will end only once a war limited or total is finally fought . A dispassionate study of history proves that men are but victims of currents of history and cannot change the tide of history! Europe learned its lesson after two world wars and is saner ! China learned its lesson from 1911-1949 and is now saner ! Unfortunately Pakistan and India have fought small wars ; petty skirmishes by western standards in which total casualties of each side was less than 10,000 killed. That is why both have hawks; theoretical hawks I would say; arm chair strategists; Don Quixote's who think that Kashmir can we won (Pakistan) or retained (India)! The motivation of the ruling elite on both sides is ulterior! Its not ideology Islam or secularism but ego, powers, lusts for glory! Bismarck's does not lead them or Churchill's but myopic men with limited vision, short-term goals and personal agendas advised by dark horse adventist intelligence agencies! Sundarji called them blind men of Hindustan ; a better name may be 'Blind men of Hind-o-Pak'! These are shortsighted men who have not understood what General Sherman said at Atlanta after the US Civil War i.e. 'there are many a boys here who think of war as glory, but it is hell!' As a soldier I wish that both the countries should either fight it out so that we at least discover (I would say rediscover or confirm as far as ex soldiers are concerned!) The qualitative efficiency of our general officers or arrive at a settlement! Otherwise it's a never-ending game of musical chairs, which the ruling elite of both the countries is making the common man play! The qualities of generalship and mediocrity in higher ranks on both sides have been well proved in 1947-48, 1965 and 1971! 2000 if it proves decisive will inshaallah prove as no exception.
And lastly Pan Islamism is dangerous . It is better if we concentrate on setting our own house in order.
Major A.H Amin
1021 Arlington Blvd
A Question of Treason
Atal Behari Vajpayee the Indian Prime Minister has categorically stated that 25% of Kashmir is possession of Pakistan and so is 20% of Kashmir with China, so unless these two areas of Kashmir are handed over to India, he is not prepared to sit ideal and be a mute spectator. That being so, the nation demands of our leaders and their bureaucrats as to what have they been doing during the 'Bus Diplomacy' and the 'Back Channel Diplomacy' during the Nawaz Sharif regime? Did they want to prove to the nation that democracy is government of the people, for the corrupt and liars, by the traitors.
As it is we find that no inquiry is being held at least apparently into Nawaz Sharif's sinister connections with India. Is President Clinton behind it?
Ali Ashraf Khan