Archive for January 16th, 2012

Gandhi and King- Two Martyrs Who Will Never Die

By Manzer Munir for Pakistanis for Peace

Today is MLK Day in the United States where it is a federal holiday commemorating the life and legacy of the Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr, an icon who would have been 83 years old on January 15.

MLK was a great believer in the teachings of non-violence if Mohandas K Gandhi, the leader of India’s independence movement from Britain. King saw that Gandhi’s peaceful civil disobedience and non-violent methods of protest were very effective in bringing down the British Empire in India and as a result Pakistan and the rest of the Indian Subcontinent after some 300 years of direct and indirect rule. Gandhi had believed that people could resist immoral government action by simply refusing to cooperate. Gandhi adopted many peaceful resistance techniques in developing his concept of Satyagraha, which was a philosophy and practice of passive nonviolent resistance.

Gandhi had earlier used this resistance technique in his struggles for freedom and equality for blacks and Indians in South Africa where both minorities were subjected to second and third class citizenry. His methods and refusal to bow down to the injustices that Indians faced in colonial South Africa inspired Nelson Mandela several years later to start his own peaceful struggle that eventually led to the end of Apartheid in South Africa in 1990.

While at Morehouse College, King learned about Gandhi and became very excited about his ideas. He wanted to further educate himself and read many books on Gandhi and his life and beliefs. In his book, Stride Toward Freedom, King states that “Gandhi was probably the first person in history to lift the love ethic of Jesus above mere interaction between individuals to a powerful and effective social force on a large scale. He further writes in his book that “It was in this Gandhian emphasis on love and nonviolence that I discovered the method for social reform that I had been seeking. I came to feel that this was the only morally and practically sound method open to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom.”

King felt that he had finally found a way to where oppressed people could successfully unlock social protest through Jesus’ teachings of love. In fact Gandhi himself had said “What does Jesus mean to me? To me, he was one of the greatest teachers humanity has ever had.” He also once mentioned Jesus as the “most active resister known perhaps to history. His was non-violence par excellence” Therefore to the Christian minister living in the pre-civil rights era in the South in America, Gandhi appeared to King as a follower of Christ, someone who preached peace and love even at the expense of suffering. Martin Luther King once said of Gandhi “It is ironic yet inescapably true that the greatest Christian of the modern world was a man who never embraced Christianity.”

In 1959, King visited India and became fully convinced that Satyagraha could be effectively applied to the struggle by blacks in the United States for racial integration. He came back to the United States where he continued the struggle for freedom and equality for all Americans. Like Gandhi, King also talked about suffering as a path to self purification and spiritual growth. He not only experienced this suffering by being jailed, beaten and harassed by the authorities of the day, but he eventually ended up paying for this cause for freedom for all with his life.

Today there is a black man that sits in the White House, minorities are on the Supreme Court bench, and black heads of Fortune 500 companies who have reached the proverbial mountaintop in every possible endeavor. Yet there is little doubt that despite how far we have come as a nation, we still have a ways to go to achieve equality for minorities and women. Without Dr King’s struggle, leadership and personal sacrifice, the United States, and indeed the world, would be in far worse shape.

Mohandas K Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr were arguably two of the greatest men of the last century. Both men believed that “injustice anywhere was a threat to justice everywhere.” They both led their people and millions of others out of slavery and servitude against seemingly insurmountable odds to freedom and salvation. On what would have been his 83rd birthday, let us recognize that in the greatest democracy in the history of the world, and despite an assassin’s bullet, the spirit and dream of a King still lives on.

Manzer Munir, a proud American of Pakistani descent, is a practicing Sufi Muslim and member of Muslims for Progressive Values, he is also the founder of Pakistanis for Peace and blogs at http://www.PakistanisforPeace.com as well at other websites as a freelance journalist and writer.

Remembering Arfa

By Ali Moeen Nawazish for The News International

It was 23rd March 2007, a bright and sunny day. I was sitting along with a fellow distinction holder in the waiting room at the studios of state-run TV. We both had this smirk about ourselves as if we had conquered some unachievable mountain and that we were “special”. After all we were going to be on TV. While we were waiting for our turn to get our few minutes in the limelight, walked in this little girl hardly 12 years old. “Hi, how are you? What have you done at such a young age?” asked my counterpart.

“I am the world’s youngest Microsoft certified professional,” she replied putting both of us to shame. That was the first time I met Arfa Karim. First impressions? Amazingly talented girl, capable of doing big things and absolutely confident and sure about herself. In the first two minutes you meet her, she will wow you with her charm and intellect.

I communicated with Arfa after that through email and Facebook in 2008 and 2009, and while we all know of her extraordinary abilities, how she could fly a plane and when she met Bill Gates, I wanted to share something that few people know about her. Throughout our conversations one theme was always recurring, she wanted to do good and help others. She talked endlessly about how she wanted to build a computer lab back in her village, how it was her dream to impart IT education to those who didn’t have access to it in Pakistan. She was well aware of the challenges that lay ahead of her and the country. I feel that somehow she understood the expectations that people had from her, but at the same time was taking it in a stride. She tried hard to ensure that the expectations don’t affect her own self-direction in life. She was also very kind hearted and a generous spirit too, whenever someone would ask her for help or anyone would refer someone to her, she would make sure she helped that person to the best of her abilities.

It is one thing to acknowledge one’s blessings and thank people for the love and affection that they show, but it is completely another to decide to dedicate a part of your life to give something back to the community and country that made you who you are. One thing she often spoke of is how some wouldn’t take her ideas seriously because she was a little girl. People would judge her ideas and plans by her age and not by their merit alone. About an idea for rural education, she wrote: “I myself have been working, or trying to work, for this objective. The problem here is that if I come up with plans, no one takes them seriously because I am a “14-year old kid”. My grandfather was a villager and we are still an agricultural family. I still retain ties with my rural background and so would be proud to be part of something like this.” A phenomenon perhaps often too common in our society. Yet, she always had the resolve to deal with it and find solutions around these problems, as any good software developer would. Arfa was a girl who was never going to let anyone stand in her way, no matter what it took.

By any measure of the word she was truly a gifted girl with her own little quirks that made her who she was. She wanted to get done with her O Levels long before the actual time she had to give them, because quite frankly she didn’t need more time. To one of our conversations in which I was encouraging her to take more time, she wrote: “To have more time was the reason I delayed it a little. Otherwise, I would have been finished with my O levels in this session. I was thinking that if I stretch it out too long, I might get bored with it in the end.” Perhaps the only person I knew in the world that would give exams early because she would get bored with the content.

It is somewhat ironic that I last met her this 14th August 2011 at another PTV recording. She had grown up, but only a little, had matured by miles. Yet, what was astounding and amazing about her was that her spirit was the same of that 9-year old girl who dared to dream big and think different. Her spirit was the same of that 9-year old girl who had made it a point to not let herself be captured by the notion of what is possible and what isn’t. As ambitious as ever and talented even more, Arfa was ready to take on the world in her stride. It is unfortunate that she was taken from us well before our time, but as with all great people God calls them early to Him.

Arfa, you will truly be missed and the youth of Pakistan has suffered a great loss today. May Allah bless you and your family. You were a good friend and a great inspiration. Your spirit and memory will live on in our hearts for as long as we live. The youth lost one of its best today, but you have inspired so many and we promise to not let you down.

Arfa Karim Zindabad! Pakistan Zindabad!

(The writer is Youth Ambassador of Geo and Jang Group. Email: am.nawazish@jang.group.com.pk Facebook: facebook.com/ali.moeen.nawazish

Early Elections Seen as Possible Solution to Pakistan’s Political Crisis

By Saeed Shah for The Miami Herald

Pakistan’s political crisis, which pits its president against determined opponents in foes in Parliament, the Supreme Court and the military, is likely to reach fever pitch on Monday with a confidence vote scheduled in Parliament and hearings scheduled in two critical court cases.

The crisis is so intense that President Asif Zardari’s administration may be willing to call elections for as soon as October, according to members of his ruling coalition and its advisers. But that may not be enough to mollify the opposition, which wants earlier elections, or the country’s powerful military establishment, which is believed to be trying to force a so-called “soft coup,” under which Zardari, a critic of the military’s traditional dominance of Pakistan, would be forced out by Parliament or the courts.

The threat of an outright coup also hangs over the crisis, if the politicians cannot find a way out or the court proceedings reach absolute stalemate.

Whether the government can reach agreement with opposition leader Nawaz Sharif is unclear. Zardari’s Pakistan Peoples Party doesn’t want to announce elections until after voting in March for a new Senate, which the PPP is widely expected to win. But Sharif would like the new elections to be in the summer, perhaps June, which would require an earlier announcement.

“There is no other option for the government to come out of the current crisis without elections,” said an adviser to the PPP leadership, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, as did the other coalition members. “It is in the interests of the PPP to reach an agreement with Nawaz.”

The PPP rules with three major coalition partners, but the alliance is looking shaky. Two of the parties, the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Q, have distanced themselves somewhat from the government.

A senior member of the coalition said the parties so far have agreed internally only to a general election to be held in October. That would be just a few months before the February 2013 date when Parliament would complete its five-year term and elections would have to be held anyway.

An early election should also placate the courts and the military. A supposedly neutral caretaker government would have to be installed to oversee a three-month electioneering period.

Another coalition member said: “It is 100 percent certain that there will be elections in 2012. The only solution is elections. It doesn’t matter whether they are held in June or October.”

Zardari’s coalition itself brought Monday’s confidence vote resolution to Parliament, cleverly wording it so that it asks for support not for the prime minister or even the government, but for democracy. That makes it difficult to oppose.

But the PPP’s troubles in Parliament are only one of the fronts in its battle for survival. The courts and the military are both maneuvering against the party’s leaders, with two explosive cases coming up for hearings Monday.

The first stems from a 2007 decree by President Pervez Musharraf that granted immunity from prosecution to Zardari and other exiled PPP politicians in an effort to persuade them to return to Pakistan to participate in elections that Musharraf was being pressured by the United States to hold.

The Supreme Court later ruled, however, that the decree was illegal and demanded that the government reopen corruption charges against Zardari stemming from the time when his wife, the assassinated PPP leader Benazir Bhutto, was prime minister.

The government declined, however, and now the court has summoned the government to explain its actions. The court could declare Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani in contempt of court, which would in effect remove him from office.

The other case involves the the scandal in which a judicial commission is investigating allegations that Husain Haqqani, a close Zardari adviser and former ambassador to the U.S., wrote a memo that was passed to U.S. officials in May. That memo offered to replace the Pakistan military’s top officials in return for U.S. support should the military attempt to push Zardari aside.

Haqqani, who was forced to resign, says he had nothing to do with the memo, which the military has said amounted to treason.

The judicial commission may take testimony this week from an American businessman, and occasional news commentator, Mansoor Ijaz, who claimed that he had delivered the memo to U.S. officials, in a column that appeared in the British newspaper the Financial Times in October. Ijaz has said he will show up as a witness, though he apparently has yet to receive a visa to enter Pakistan.

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