Archive for the ‘ Pakistanis for Peace ’ Category

Jacksonville Jaguars- Allah’s NFL Team?

By Manzer Munir for Pakistanis for Peace

The last few days have not been easy ones for me. I have had to watch as my adopted homeland, the United States, is accused by Pakistan, the nation of my forefathers, for being responsible for the deaths of 24 Pakistani soldiers by “friendly” fire.

So it wasn’t hard to imagine that once again I would be hurting for being both American and Muslim as I was on 9/11, and now I am once again feeling the pinch of being both Pakistani and American as well. Believe it or not, you can love two countries; just ask Italian or Irish Americans. I am sure you know that this is not the first time and certainly will not be the last time that as a Pakistani American I will be reeling from news concerning Pakistan. Yet the covert attack and neutralization of Osama Bin Laden in May of this year in Pakistan, a country long suspected to be his hiding place, have all but shattered any remaining doubts to the American public regarding which side of the fence Pakistan finds itself. As President Bush so famously said “You’re either with us, or against us” to President Pervez Musharraf immediately following the attacks of September 11, 2011.

At least since Bin Laden’s killing on May 2, 2011, as far as the average American, John Q Public is concerned, it appears that Pakistan was against us all along, and merely only was paying lip service the last 10 years. However staffers at the US State Department, all the way up to Secretary Hillary Clinton and President Obama will rightly admit, that this simply is not the case. Pakistan has been a difficult ally to be sure, but the country has been an ally nonetheless and has proven time and time again to be invaluable not just in this current fight for the strategic direction of Afghanistan, but also was critical in the last great fight involving this land against the former USSR in the ‘80’s.

One can go even further back and talk about the historically strong US and Pakistan relations that go all the way back to at least President Eisenhower and the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO), a security pact similar to NATO, but for Asia and parts of the Pacific, it was an organization of which Pakistan and the US comprised membership, along with six other nations namely Australia, France, Great Britain, New Zealand, the Philippines, and Thailand. This was an eclectic bunch of nations to be sure, but a defense pact tying Pakistan and the US, this once brought the two together in a treaty of mutual defense and cooperation going back as early as 1954.

One would also be remiss if we forget that the famous US Air force pilot Gary Powers flew on a U-2 secret mission from Pakistan’s Peshawar airbase at the request of Eisenhower and at Pakistan’s acquiescence. He had been doing a reconnaissance mission against the Soviets at the height of the Cold War when his plane was shot down causing the then famous 1960 U-2 incident. Amazingly, it was less than just a couple generations ago when President Dwight D. Eisenhower famously called Pakistan America’s “most allied ally in Asia. Wow, as the old Virginia Slim’s cigarette ad tagline used to go “ You’ve come a long way baby!” Haven’t you, Pakistan?

I suppose before we get lost on another few paragraphs on US-Pakistan alliances of old and their longstanding history of cooperation and friendship, whether from the days of the Cold War or the far more recent war on terror, let me get back to the original purpose of this article. So, there I was, in my now seemingly regular funk, on account of all the rapidly downward spiraling US-Pak relations, and then, there it was, a glimmer of hope for a bit of positive news. Maybe a chance for something unrelated to terror, bombs, Taliban, Shiite-Sunni violence, blasphemy laws, honor killings or anyone of the myriad of utterly negative topics that so easily and regularly grace the top of the headline news on any cable news channel on any given day regarding Pakistan.

So here finally was some positive news regarding this nation. Initially I wondered if perhaps this feel good story would be along the lines of the usual sports filled beacons of hope for the otherwise unfortunate Pakistani masses such as in the form of when an Amir Khan gains world boxing glory or when an Imran Khan led cricket team of old wins a Cricket World Cup or maybe it was similar to the legend of the Khan boys, Jahanghir and Jansher Khan who were busy conquering the world of squash (racquetball) for decades. Perhaps this news I so eagerly awaited to get me out of this rut was related to a scientific or professional endeavor that highlighted Pakistani achievements and success stories such as that of Pakistani born neurologist Dr Malik M Hasan, the man who single-handedly helped change the medical industry in the US for the better, when over the course of a few years through a process of mergers and acquisitions, he helped eventually form HSI, a multi-billion dollar healthcare provider that in 1993, which was an organization with about 1.4 million members, 40,000 doctors, and nearly 400 member hospitals! His innovative and entrepreneurial management style led to the very first modern Health Management Organization (HMO) in the United States, and thereby brought more affordable healthcare to the vast majority of Americans in the 1980’s. Dr Hasan eventually grew the business to be worth more than $10 billion dollars and countless thousands jobs for professionals through many midwestern and western states.

Maybe a boldly similar idea or solution in today’s rapidly increasing costs of healthcare and lack of insurance for over 40 million Americans can come, if not from a Pakistani American like Dr Hasan, then perhaps from another of the world’s brightest who still yearn to come to these shores with their dreams and aspirations for success and achieving a piece of the American Dream that millions of their countryman from Europe had done years before them. Along the way, people like Dr Hasan employed hundreds and thousands of Americans and become a mega job creator, kind of like the ones that Republicans say they love.

It could be that the Pakistani American feel good story bringing much needed good news to the Pakistani global diaspora, and indeed by that realization, at the very least, to a Pakistani American like myself was going to be similar to a fellow Lahore born compatriot like Tariq Farid, the founder of the wildly popular Edible Arrangements, a US based international franchise that specializes in fresh fruit arrangements for special occasions and gifts. With nearly a 1000 locations in the US and a few countries abroad, I am sure many a Congressman from both Red and Blue states would love to attract job creators like him to their state and lure his growing and profitable company, during these economically depressed times, to their state from their Headquarters in Connecticut.

I suppose I could go on and on at the long list of distinguished Pakistani Americans from the renowned NASA physicist, Dr Bashir A Syed, to Gibran Latif Hamdan, the first person of Pakistani descent to play in the NFL. Other major contributions not in the field of science, sports or business, yet still as inspirational to Pakistani Americans could have been the story of the American hero of Pakistani descent, Sgt. Wasim Khan, the first Purple Heart winner from that nation who won the award for valor during Operation Iraqi Freedom, costing him numerous injuries while fighting for our freedoms.

Certainly no one to date has better demonstrated a greater sacrifice to this nation than the story of Cpl. Kareem R Khan, another Pakistani American, one who gave the ultimate sacrifice for his beloved country, the United States, when he gave his life for American freedom, liberty and ideals dying on Iraqi soil during combat there. He also earned the Purple Heart and has the honor of being buried at the resting place of fallen American heroes, the venerated Arlington National Cemetery. One can do their own Google search for a list of Pakistani Americans to find out that this list comprises far more accomplished and good citizens of Pakistani descent than the occasional delusional individual like Faisal Shahzad, of the Times Square bomb fame.

So you bet it was good news for me to hear a few days ago that a successful and hard working American businessman and multi-millionaire from the midwest, Shahid Khan, a Pakistani American owner of a large automobile parts manufacturer, Flex-N-Gate, had just bought an NFL team, the Jacksonville Jaguars! My rare good optimism however seems to perhaps been ill placed though because it seems that even a positive and notable news story like this can quickly turn into something far more twisted and sinister as witnessed by the scores of Islamophobic and racial comments being left on the Jacksonville Jaguars Facebook page and other sports blogs and boards, hours since the sale and the origins and national background of the new owner became public. The deal which still has to go to an NFL owner’s vote would only then be complete and final. Whether the NFL owner’s vote affirmatively on the deal or not, the rancid and clearly Un-American comments on the team’s fan page demonstrate that a majority of the local fans of this NFL team seem only to care about his Pakistani background and not of the fact that he is committed to staying and keeping the team in the small Jacksonville market and that he is a genuine fan of football and by all accounts would make a great manager/owner of the franchise.

The sad fact remains that there is a possibility that despite all the countless contributions to this great nation made by Pakistani Americans, many of these die hard football fans have no problem with risking losing their team to a different owner who would take the team out possibly west to the vacant Los Angeles market than to have a “Paki” keep the team in Florida’s small Jacksonville market and try and build a contender there.

Maybe its his IRS troubles that Shahid had a few years ago that prevented him from buying the St Louis Ram’s majority ownership stake last year or maybe it really is his very interesting moustache that scares people away. Regardless, I will gladly take either reason for his bid not being approved than anything that points to his national origin or racial makeup. Afterall, us Americans should never forget the words of the late great Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr when he said that we should ”not judge a man by the color of his skin, but rather by the content of his character.” All I know is that this Pakistani American still keeps alive Dr King’s dream. So no amount of paranoia should let the die-hard Jaguar fans fear that Muslims and Allah are on their way to taking over their beloved NFL franchise. Now gentlemen, let’s play ball!

Manzer Munir, a proud American of Pakistani descent, is a former US State Department Foreign Service Officer Management Selectee, and the founder of Pakistanis for Peace. He is also an often tormented fan of the Kansas City Chiefs of the NFL as well as having the good fortune of being a lifelong fan of Kansas Jayhawk Basketball.

Advertisements

This is not Prophet Muhammad’s Islam

By Manzer Munir for Pakistanis for Peace

The steady stream of negative news about the twisted way Islam is being practiced around the world seems to never end. In my view, it is not how the Prophet would have wanted his followers to behave.

Just when I thought I was beginning to get used to the ridiculousness of the news coming out of Saudi Arabia, where a religious edict is trying to force women there with beautiful eyes to  completely cover up their face in order to stop the temptation of the men, along comes the grim news of Gulnaz  from Afghanistan. If you are not familiar with Gulnaz’s story, let me give you the facts.

Two years ago, in 2009, Gulnaz, a 19 year old single girl who lived with her elderly mother in Afghanistan, was brutally raped by her cousin’s husband. To describe the events, she recalls that on this day, the rapist came into her house when her mother left for a brief visit to the hospital. “He had filthy clothes on as he does metal and construction work. When my mother went out, he came into my house and he closed doors and windows. I started screaming, but he shut me up by putting his hands on my mouth,” she said.

Afterwards, she hid what had happened out of shame and fear, as shockingly there is no difference seen between women who are raped and women who commit actual adultery.  In Afghanistan and in many conservative Muslim countries, any sex outside marriage, whether the guilty party is single or married is considered adultery by the society and the justice system.

A few weeks after her rape, she began to vomit and started showing signs of pregnancy with her attacker’s child. Instead of sympathy and proof of her ordeal, she was charged and found guilty of adultery by the courts and for having sex outside marriage and was sentenced to twelve years in prison. She has already served two years and even gave birth to her rapist’s child, a little girl, in Kabul’s Badam Bagh jail where sadly, her innocent daughter is being raised in captivity alongside the unfortunate mother.

Rather than being freed from jail and given justice for her painful ordeal, the only way out of the dishonor of rape or adultery for her is incredibly only by marrying her attacker. In Afghan culture, and indeed in most Muslim communities, this is believed to be the only way to restore a woman’s honor, by marrying the man who she had sex with, damned be the fact whether it was willingly or unwillingly!

Sadly in many Muslim countries, rape remains a common form of violence against women. In addition, women are often blamed for being the victim of rape. Islam however, views rape as a violent crime against the victim, against society, and against God. The perpetrator who commits a crime is morally and legally responsible for that crime and should be held accountable. The victim, who is an unwilling partner in the sex act and so should bear neither blame nor stigma associated with the unfortunate act. To either ostracize or condemn the victim because she was compelled to engage in sexual intercourse is against the laws of Islam since the victim was an unwilling, and therefore a blameless, participant.

As common as her story and circumstances are for a woman in Afghanistan, the world has only learned of it due to a chance foreign documentary.  Gulnaz’s ordeal came to light because of a dispute between filmmakers and the European Union who hired the crew to film a documentary on the improving situation of women’s rights in Afghanistan and the assistance that the EU has been providing in the better treatment of women in the country. It was only when the documentarians came across her story and the grave injustice being done to Gulnaz and indeed by some accounts, hundreds of women across Afghanistan in similar circumstances, that the EU decided to cancel the project out of fear of harming their relations with Afghan government and institutions. Officially the EU states that it fears for the safety of the women in the film as they could be identified and face reprisals but many human rights organizations believe it is due to the fact that the film shows Afghan justice system in a poor light and the EU is concerned about the Afghan government’s sensitivities to the situation. It is despicable that the EU is more concerned with the sensitivities of the Afghan government rather than fighting for justice for Gulnaz.

Customs such as these in Afghanistan or the recent religious ruling in Saudi Arabia warning women to cover their attractive eyes, or the continued religious persecution of Christians and other minorities in Pakistan through the egregious blasphemy laws as seen in the case of Aasia Bibi, only serve to illustrate to many within and outside Islam the tremendous challenges that exist in what is right and what is logically very wrong and goes against all sense of justice and common sense, not to mention the very essence of Islam.

I am certainly not arguing for making any changes in the Quran or interpretations of religious text or any wholesale revisions whatsoever. That would not only be blasphemous but also counterproductive and unnecessary. Furthermore,  a big part of the beauty of our religion stems from the fact that it has remained unchanged as we Muslims believe that mutations and changes in both the Bible and the Torah necessitated the need for a third Abrahamic religion, Islam,  to arrive some 1400+ years ago to “set the record straight” after all the changes over the years in the two earlier Holy Books. Instead, I believe the only thing that needs to occur is the realization amongst the leaders and countries of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) that in this day and age, there are certain rights and freedoms that should be guaranteed to citizens of all countries of the world and this does not require any changes in the great religion but rather some simple changes in the current laws.

Aristotle once said that “You can judge a nation by the way it treats its most vulnerable citizens”. You could be a Hindu or a Christian in Pakistan, a woman in Afghanistan or Saudi Arabia or a homosexual or transgendered person in Iran, you do not deserve to lose your life or liberty under the guise of religious laws. Allah almighty is a just and fair God in Islam, just as he is in the Christian and Jewish faiths. He most certainly would never condone the treatment of Gulnaz, Aasia Bibi and countless other poor souls who are being mistreated under the banner of Islam.

I am not a religious scholar and nor do I profess to know everything I need to know about Islam, Christianity and many other religions. Some may even question my faith and belief in calling myself Muslim simply because I am asking these tough questions, and in their version of Islam, you never question, you simply obey. Lest they forget, Islam also clearly states to seek knowledge and to be just and fair and respectful of other religions.  “Surely those who believe and those who are Jews and the Sabians and the Christians whoever believes in Allah and the last day and does good — they shall have no fear nor shall they grieve.” (Quran 5:69)

I am however certain that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) would indeed be very upset with the current state of affairs of most Muslim countries when it comes to morality, religious freedoms,  respect for other religions and the treatment of women. Sadly, I do not see the changes necessary coming into being voluntarily by these nations, I believe it is incumbent of the benefactors of these nations, such as the United Nations, United States, the European Union, China and other trading partners, to push for better treatment of women and religious minorities in many Muslim countries of the world.  It is high time that they pressure these nations into enacting basic rights and freedoms for all people, regardless of their race, religion, gender, and sexual orientation. It must become a precursor to being a part of the civilized nations of the world and in being a member of the world community of nations. Freedom after all is what the Arab Spring is all about!

-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 www.PakistanisforPeace.com as well at other websites as a freelance journalist and writer.

With Gaddafi Dead, The Arab Spring Has Finally Sprung

By Manzer Munir for Pakistanis for Peace

In the end, it does not matter whether Muammar Gaddafi was executed due to an order by members of the Libyan Transitional National Council leadership or whether he was killed at the hands of a vigilante mob in the run up to his capture and death. There is no question that initially there was confusion Thursday when unconfirmed reports out of Libya stated that Gaddafi was captured. However within a few hours news came that he had been killed during a battle between the rebels and forces loyal to Gaddafi . Sure enough, within another hour it was confirmed that Gaddafi was killed as mobile phone videos appeared showing a bloodied Gaddafi dazed and confused as rebels jostled all around him to get a piece of the brutal dictator that they had known for more than 42 years.

Exact details are presently murky in regards to his capture and death but it appears that during a battle in Gaddafi’s hometown of Sirte on Thursday morning, Gaddafi’s convoy was spotted by NATO drone aircraft and surveillance and was reportedly fired upon by French air strike on a road fighter jets killing a few dozen fighters. Gaddafi escaped with a few of his bodyguards and was found hiding in a sewage pipe with a couple of his bodyguards by a huge mob of rebels. Hours later, the world saw footages of a severely wounded Gaddafi being held up and surrounded by rebels begging for mercy. Reports sate that he was shot and killed during the crossfire between rebels and his loyalists. And yet there is a sense that he was executed either by those that captured him or by order of the ruling Transitional National Council.

Regardless of how he was killed, more important questions need to be asked. What happens next in Libya? How will a government be formed for a country that is effectively starting over from scratch? This after all is a country that had been held hostage by a dictator for nearly half a century and it is going to need lots of international assistance in transitioning into having an effective and competent government, one that is far better that what the people of Libya have lived under for so long. And how will the Arab Spring and this momentum affect the tenuous situation in several other Arab capitals dealing with their own unrest and near civil wars.

Gaddafi’s graphic last few days were not unlike those of Saddam Hussein of Iraq. His last few hours being injured and captured hiding in a large sewage pipe must have been a far cry from the life he had led for so long as one of the longest serving heads of state and richest people in the world. Saddam too was found near his hometown of Tikrit as he was hiding like a common criminal in a spiderhole when he was caught. In the last few moments of their capture, neither men could not have believed that their worst fears had been realized and their long reign was coming to an end. More rulers across the Arab and indeed Muslim world today must be cognizant of the consequences of their actions as rulers.

The revolts of the Arab Spring have now succeeded in changing repressive governments in Tunisia, Egypt, and now Libya. Further east still in Syria an even more brutal dictator in Bashar al Assad must know that his time is coming near and his day of reckoning is a day closer when his countrymen stand up to brutality, repression, and mass murder at the hands of those who are supposed to be their leaders.

To be consistent, NATO and Western nations must remain vigilant and oppose the brutality presently happening in Syria, Yemen, Algeria, Bahrain and all other nations of the region and world regardless of strategic and mineral importance simply on the basis of principles and what is right. Only exerting pressure or using force against countries that are either strategically important like Egypt for its Suez canal or oil rich nations like Iraq and Libya for their natural resources will only send the wrong message to many other people in the region who are also yearning to be free. How this change in power happens is not as important as the fact that power changes hands in these long repressive regimes. It does not matter how Gaddafi died, what is important is that he is dead and his death could help gain momentum for the Arab Spring that has now clearly sprung far and wide.

From the Heart- My Thoughts on the Death of Steve Jobs

By Dan Ahmed for Pakistanis for Peace

I am quite saddened to hear about the death Wednesday evening of the co-founder of Apple, Mr Steve Jobs. He forever changed the world we are living in and he will never die because we are living examples of his dreams coming true and how he envisioned technology and products enhancing our human existence.

I remember when I first got my iPod in 2001 and early on I must admit that I did not know what it was all capable of, but I remember thinking that I would fall in love with this company’s products.  That is just what happened the day I got my hands on the Apple iPod and since then I have not looked back!

I was buying anti-shock CD players and as well as eventually the Sony Mini discs for my music. Sometimes I would have to carry 3 to 4 discs on my way to work but Apple’s large internal memory based products jumped in as a life changer and I have became a fan of it ever since.

Some years later I recall that I paid $600 for a Motorola Razr in 2004 and never changed it even after I heard about various other new phones coming in out including when I heard rumors about Apple’s new product the “iPhone”. It was getting launched soon and I waited patiently for it because deep in my heart I knew it was going to be worth it.

It was on June 29, 2007 that the first iPhone came out and I was one of the first ones in the line that day to get my hands on the one of the first 60 devices that day. It was a life changing moment for me and so every year since then I tried to get my hands on every one of Apple’s newest products as I have always since that day felt that they exceed my expectations.

Then on June 21, 2010 I got picked up as one of the 5,000 developers around the globe by the company. For me, it was one of the happiest moments of my life. I may have been capable of creativity on my own but it just wouldn’t have been possible without his vision and ingenuity.

Steve Jobs really changed the way that we think and operate on a daily basis. He brought us the concept of the mouse for computers as well as he introduced us to the touch screen system.

He was simply one of the most influential people of the 21st century and he brought a revolution to this world with his friendly and easy to use devices.

I don’t think that there is anyone in the world presently that doesn’t appreciate his company’s products all around the globe. One man truly is enough to change the whole world if he has a genuine love for what he does and this is a very clear message that our determination and dedication for peace like Steve’s love and dedication in his craft can bring the world together.

May he rest in peace and my best regards for the after life for a genius and how he taught us to live our dreams and made it possible for all of us to dream big.

Dan Ahmed, is a group member of Pakistanis for Peace and currently resides in New York with his wife, Nalini and young son.

Bacha Khan, Anti-Partition Hero Who Can Help Pakistan Today

By Mauro Vaiani for Pakistanis for Peace

A person once stigmatized as an enemy of Pakistan, has something important to say in the contemporary public discourse in the second Islamic country in the world. His name is Abdul Ghaffar Khan (in the picture), a Pakhtun patriot, social reformer, charismatic leader. He was a lifelong activist in favour of his fellows Pathans living North and South the frontier Durand Line. He became a very close friend of the Mahatma and he himself was called the “Frontier Gandhi”.

Anti-Partition apostle of nonviolence
He was born on 1890 in Utmanzai, a town in Charsadda District, in the North-West Frontier Province, today Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province in Pakistan. He was an apostle of nonviolence, that he considered a form of spiritual jihad for his time and for the future of his people. He founded a nonviolent movement which arrived to count 100,000 members. As he wrote in his 1969 autobiography, “My life and struggle”, “in 1929 we were able to found the kind of organisation we wanted. We decided to call it the Khudai Khidmatgar movement (Servants of God movement). Our motive for choosing that name was that we wanted to awaken in the Pathans the idea of service and the desire to serve their country and their people in the name of God, an idea and a desire which was sadly lacking among them”. The Khudai Khidmatgars were also known, for the color of their uniforms, “Red Shirts”. The founder was called by his followers, as a mark of esteem, Badshah Khan, also spelled Baacha Khan, or more commonly Bacha Khan, that means “king of our nobles”.

Baacha Khan fostered free education for all, women rights, religious freedom, judicial reform. He also was a pioneer of ecology and sustainable development. He believed in self-government for both the settled and the tribal Pakhtuns. He strongly opposed the Partition of India, proposing autonomous provinces in a unified Indian federal framework. When the Partition became inevitable, he renounce to oppose it with riots or violence. He and his Khidmatgars accepted, reluctantly, Pakistan as their new country and decided to be loyal. They hoped the new regime would have given the Pakhtuns a chance to live united in their territory, free to self-govern their own province. The autonomy of the federal units in Pakistan was instead nipped in the bud and their movement was declared illegal.
For the freedom fighter, a new cycle of imprisonment started. Baacha Khan spent one-third of his life in prison, but, more precisely, he spent more time, about 15 years, in Pakistani prisons than he had spent in the prisons of the British Raj, “only” 12.

He also went in exile in Afghanistan, where he supported local Pashtun cultural, social and economical development, fighting backwardness, clanism, family feuds. He gave in Afghanistan many speeches in favor of “Pakhtunistan”, which were free of every kind of chauvinism, fostering freedom and self-government of his people, within the Pakistani federation, firmly anchored to a commitment for peace in all South Asia, all over the world.
“I am looking forward to the time when free, general elections will be possible again in Pakistan. – he wrote in his 1969’s autobiography – For only then will the world know which way my people are going and whom do they follow. This is the main conflict between me and the rulers of Pakistan.”. This champion of Pakhtun patriotism remained unheeded. He won’t see general and local fair election either under the dictatorship of Ayub Khan, nor under Yahya Khan, nor under the civil but still authoritarian rule of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, nor under Zia Ul-Haq.
He couldn’t see the general elections of December 1988, when Benazir Bhutto, daughter of Zulfiqar Ali, became Prime Minister, for he died in Peshawar on January 20.

He had requested to be buried in Jalalabad, Afghanistan. He hoped this way to witness the need of friendship, and mutual understanding, among all Pakhtuns, between Afghanistan and Pakistan. His last wish succeeded in leaving a footprint in the heart of many throughout South Asia. As one can read in Rajmohan Gandhi’s biography of Bacha Khan (New Delhi, 2004) his funeral resulted a mammoth rally: “Though the Afghan struggle was not yet over, the Kabul government and the mujahedin both announced a ceasefire for the event. Tens of thousands of the Frontier’s mourning Pakhtuns accompanied the coffin and crossed the Durand Line. Pakistan’s military ruler, Zia-ul Haq (who would be killed in a plane crash later in the year), and India’s Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi (also destined for a violent death), were present for the last rites.” (see Gandhi R., Ghaffar Khan, 2004, p. 263).

Political heritage

After decades of oblivion, his political heritage are now again gaining momentum among Pakhtuns. An important political player in the re-established Pakistani democracy, the Awami National Party (ANP), wrote in its manifesto that it “draws its inspiration from the example and teachings of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, affectionately known to his people as Baacha Khan. He spent his entire life in the struggle for freedom and justice. He and his Khudai Khidmatgars offered great sacrifices in the fight against colonialism, imperialism and all other forms of oppression. In a broader sense, Baacha Khan saw politics as the highest form of public service and often described himself as only a social worker. His objective was to liberate the masses of South Asia and, particularly, his own people, the Pakhtuns, from the shackles of ignorance and poverty, so that they could rise to their full potential.” (cf http://awaminationalparty.org/).
The ANP was led in the past by Bacha Khan’s son, Abdul Wali Khan, and today the most prominent figure is his grandson, Asfandyar Wali Khan. In the 2008 elections, the Awami National Party won the majority in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and elected its first Chief Minister since the independence, in coalition with the Pakistan People’s Party. ANP is allied with PPP also in other provinces and at the federal level.
The parable of the Taliban regime and the political violence that still sets fire through the area, has been a terrifying experience for everybody but especially for Pakhtuns. Baacha Khan is being rediscovered, as a source of inspiration for a better future. He was a devout Muslim believer, but he refused terror and was also alien from any bigotry. His political action was centered on peace and social reformation. He sacrificed as a satyagrahi in nonviolent campaign of civil disobedience, firstly against the British Raj, but later also against Pakistan authoritarianism and military rule.
His spiritual heritage helped ANP to defeat the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, the Islamist coalition, which was in power in Pakhtunkhwa before 2008. It was a highly symbolic victory. In the name of Baacha Khan, the modern ANP defeated the Islamists, as well as the ancient Khudai Khidmatgars had always defeated the Muslim League in both the elections hold in the province, under the British rule, on 1936 and 1946. Many hope that this political change could represent the end of a cycle, dominated by a tangle of Islamist and nationalist ideologies, which have painfully marked the history of the Frontier, of all Pakistan, Afghanistan.

Several notable cultural foundations and charities are working in South Asia to promote peace and human rights through the rediscover of Badshah Khan’s life, thought and action. We must nominate the Baacha Khan Trust (see http://www.baachakhantrust.org/), whose chief aim is propagation of Ghaffar Khan’s philosophy, his vision of renaissance for the oppressed and marginalized Pakhtuns communities, and for peace in Pakistan, Afghanistan, the whole South Asia.
Nowadays efforts to make the public opinion and new generations aware of the figure and the teachings of Baacha Khan would certainly help the stabilization of the so called Afpak area. After 60 years of political authoritarianism and violence in Pakistan and 40 years of civil war in Afghanistan, it’s probably time to know something more about Bacha Khan.

Self-government

His Red Shirts were able to provide “local leadership for education and development, and stood up for the dignity and rights of their community. They balanced affirmations of the rights and dignity of all people with teachings about responsibility and sacrifices needed to serve those same communities.” – Ali Gohar, founder and guide at the Just Peace International center, in Peshawar, recently wrote, adding that the beauty of this kind of nonviolent struggle is again alive in 2011 Arab Spring heroes cf http://www.khyberwatch.com/index.php?mod=article&cat=MediaWatch&article=391).

“You all know that I believe in the principles of non•violence. – he said on August 31, 1966, talking in Afghanistan on the Pakhtunistan Day, as reported in his 1969’s autobiography – I am convinced that there will be no peace in the world till the problem of the Pakhtuns has been solved. I am telling both the Russians and the Americans the same thing: if they really want peace, they should solve the problem of the Pakhtuns. What do we want? We keep on telling Pakistan to consider us their brothers and not to make us their slaves. We were never the slaves of the British and you should not expect us to be your slaves.”. Heared today, these words are somehow prophetic and should encourage a serious reflection.

The Pathans, both in Afghanistan and in Pakistan, still need an accountable local self-government, in order to take on full responsibility of their own territories. They can hardly be governed from Kabul, or from Islamabad. May be they can resolve their own way their problems, included terror-related and security’s ones.

The recent Pakistani devolution can be seen as a historical accomplishment on the way indicated by Baacha Khan. This is what many political leaders, not only ANP’s ones, strongly believe. Federalism was part of the independence struggle and the only way to make the idea of Pakistan into a lasting reality.

Unfortunately, the centralized, bigoted and corrupt, republic chosen by Afghani Pashtun leadership, after the fall of the Taliban regime, is much farer from Baacha Khan’s ideal of decentralized responsible and accountable self-government. The present solution resembles too much like the 1973 republic. It may be not reveal the right solution for the future of such a vast, diverse, and bitterly divided, country.

Don’t let anybody deceive you in the name of Islam

Abdul Ghaffar Khan, along all his existence, advocated for reforms, social justice, change through education, and, last but not least, peaceful coexistence of all communities, without any kind of ethnic, religious, caste, clan, social discrimination.
He strongly demanded his fellow Pakhtuns, to strive against ignorance, bigotry, prejudices, family feud and political violence. His message, which follows the furrow of modern nonviolent revolutions, which have already brought down more than an empire, can drive the Islamist factions and wider Muslim public opinion to a radical rethinking.

His teaching was prescient and it is today more relevant than ever: “And you, misguided Pathans, you do not even stop to think whether this is Islam or not, you just swallow anything you are told… I want you to promise me that you will never let anybody deceive you in the name of Islam.” (from Baacha Khan’s speech in Afghanistan, on Pakhtunistan Day, 31 August 1967, as reported in Baacha Khan’s autobiography, 1969).

-Mauro Vaiani is a Geopolitics PhD Candidate at the University of Pisa in Italy and is a Facebook group member and contributor of Pakistanis for Peace. His page at the university is at http://www.sp.unipi.it/hp/vaiani and he can be reached via email at mauro.vaiani@sp.unipi.it

Musings of a Long Suffering Fan

By Manzer Munir for Pakistanis for Peace

I am looking for a professional football team to follow. The Kansas City Chiefs aren’t it. Why, you ask? Why should I not continue to be a fan of the Chiefs? To be honest, I haven’t really been a Chiefs fan since 2006 when they lost to the Indianapolis Colts 23-8 in a game in which they did not gain ONE first down till late in the 3rd quarter! That was the most frustrating game as a fan and since that day when the Chiefs showed their ineptitude, I have stopped giving them my heart and soul on the gridiron. Frankly speaking, I cannot afford to continue to be so embarrassed as I have been by the Chiefs for as long as I can remember. To no surprise and continuing to not disappoint in embarrassing their long suffering fans, they lost today to the Detroit Lions 48-3.

I have had many frustrating games as a fan in many sports. Long before I was a Chiefs fan due to living in the Kansas City area, I used to be a Buffalo Bills fan mainly because I liked the defense of Bruce Smith, Daryll Talley and Cornelius Bennett as well as the offense of QB Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas, Andre Reed. That was a high flying team of the early ’90’s who famously won 4 straight AFC Championships and subsequently lost 4 straight Super Bowls, first one by only one point to a fellow New York Team, the NY Giants, on a late field goal miss by Scott Norwood that started the string of four consecutive Super Bowl losses. The Bills became the only team ever to play in four straight Super Bowls, and also lose four straight championships.

As if the consecutive Super Bowl losses 4 straight years from 1990 thru 1994 weren’t enough, I managed to double my futility as a sports fan when that final year in 1994, my favorite NBA basketball team, the New York Knicks, also lost in a seven game NBA Finals to the Houston Rockets led by none other than future hall of famer and devout Muslim, Hakeem Olajuwon. The Kicks who were always my favorite NBA team, mainly because they were a NY team and I have always thought of myself as a New Yorker, even though I had never lived there, but primarily as it was and always will be the one city that I associate with America. Afterall, New York and Ellis Island have been the main point of entry for generations of Americans and this was the city where I landed as a 14 year old student at JFK airport in NY, headed to boarding school in Vermont in the fall of 1989.

The Knicks with Patrick Ewing had been haunted by Michael Jordan and the Bulls for three consecutive years, when the greatest of all time single handedly defeated my Knicks on his way to his first three-peat. But that year when Ewing and John Starks finally managed to get past the Chicago Bulls, sans Michael as he had retired, Hakeem managed to swat their and my sports dreams on his way to championships in 1994 and 1995.

I became convinced in the early ’90’s that I was jinxed when it came to my sports teams when in 1991, my favorite team of ANY sport on ANY level, the Kansas Jayhawks lost in the NCAA Finals to the hated Duke Blue Devils. The year after that defeat they got “stepped all over by UTEP” in the second round and continued their futility over one lower ranked foe to another all the way till the 2008 season when they finally won their first championship since 1988, a year before I even arrived in the US. If it was not for the Jayhawks championship of 2008, I would be without any sports championship to my name as a fan since following sports closely at the beginning of the ’90’s, some 20+ years ago.

The Jayhawks are a team I am forever bound to with loyalty. Not only is that due to having gone to school at Mount Oread as a student in the early ’90’s but also because despite many disappointing seasons in the last 20 years, they are not a complete disappointment due to having one of the highest winning percentages of any Division I basketball program and occasionally winning a championship every couple decades, something I cannot say of rivals K-state and Mizzou. Still, for as dominant a program as KU is year in and year out, they should have a few more championships. Regardless, I will be a diehard Jayhawk fan as this school may lose and at times disappoint me, it will never embarrass me. I wish I could say that of Chiefs .

No the Chiefs of the last 20 years have been a huge disappointment. They have been embarrassing in fact. There was a time when teams used to fear coming into Arrowhead stadium to play the Chiefs. The spanking of the Chiefs 41-7 by none other than the Buffalo Bills last weeks proves, that Arrowhead stadium has lost a lot of its mystique.

This week as the Chiefs lost to the formerly hapless Detroit Lions 48-3 in Detroit, the Buffalo Bills came from behind and won an exciting game against the Oakland Raiders to go 2-0. As I look around the NFL landscape, I am trying desperately to latch onto a team to follow and support in this nascent NFL season, I keep coming back to my past #1 NFL team, the Buffalo Bills , as a team I am getting excited about.  At least they offer me hope to still call myself an NFL fan. This is a team that is clearly improving and on an upward trajectory, someting I can not say about the Kansas City Chefs.

I know there are those who are much more unfortunate than me when it comes to sports futility as a fan. I am sure someone in Cleveland or Chicago may lament to me about the drought they have had and the suffering they have endured as a Chicago Cubs fan or a Cleveland Browns fan, going decades since winning any championships. Heck even fellow AFC west rivals, the San Diego chargers have gone 47 years and counting since winning a championship, currently the longest drought in the NFL. Yeah, but they are in San Diego! Have you seen the scenery and the weather? Not to mention the beaches! No, I do not feel very badly for them.

As for me, I may be jumping back on the Buffalo Bills bandwagon so I can salvage some interest in the NFL season as I have a feeling that the Chiefs will not be fulfilling that void anytime soon. At least they are a team that I can get behind and get excited about. That is, at least until March Madness and Rock Chalk Jayhawk time. It is funny how life always has a way of coming full circle.

Manzer Munir is a long suffering sports fan who is a diehard Kansas Jayhawk, a proud American of Pakistani descent and founder of Pakistanis for Peace and blogs at www.PakistanisforPeace.com and at other websites as a freelance journalist and opinionist.

Amir Khan, A Son of Pakistan

By Manzer Munir for Pakistanis for Peace

Amir Khan is a British boxer. Let’s first get that straight. He represented Britain in the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece where he was the only British boxer in the contingent. In those Olympics, the British flag was raised and a medal counted towards their overall tally due to Amir’s performance. At the age of 17, he brought home the silver in his lightweight boxing class and became the youngest British boxer to represent the United Kingdom since Colin Jones in 1976.

Since then, an impressive professional career has blossomed to where presently Khan is the current WBA Super Lightweight champion of the world. He has a record of 26 wins and only one loss with 17 of those wins coming by way of a knockout. That sole loss to Briedis Prescott, where Khan was knocked out in the first round, is the only blemish in his otherwise stellar career. Since that bout in 2008 against Prescott, Khan has gone on to defeat such notable fighters as Marcos Antonio Barrera, Marcos Maidana and Paul McCloskey. Today he is considered one of the best pound for pound British fighters in the world.

Standing in his way to even bigger fame and glory was tonight’s fight against Zab Judah, the IBF light welterweight champion of the world and a fighter who had won five world titles in different weight classes. The fight was thought to be very interesting as Judah is considered a very experienced fighter and someone who was capable of knocking out the lightening quick Khan. The winner of tonight’s fight also would go on to unify the Light Welterweight titles as he would be the IBF and WBA Light Welterweight champion of the world.

In the boxing circles there was also a lot of talk of a potential fight in the near future with the undefeated Floyd Mayweather Jr. prior to Kans’s fight against Judah. Mayweather is considered as one of the best boxers in history due to his impressive undefeated fighting record of 41 wins and 0 losses. In an interesting note, Amir Khan is trained by Freddie Roach who also happens to be the trainer for Manny Pacquiao, the seven division world champion and also arguably one of the best fighters of all time. Pacquiao is the only boxer that Mayweather has refused to fight due to one reason or another. A fight that boxing fans around the world have been salivating at for several years now. A potential fight between Khan and Mayweather will need to suffice the fight fans until and if the Mayweather vs Pacquiao fight ever materializes. Therefore saying that the ramifications of tonight’s fight are big would be an understatement in the boxing community.

As for me, my love for boxing must have started at an early age when I learned that my father, on a training trip to the United States, met and had a lengthy meeting with the greatest of all time, Muhammad Ali. At that time my dad had gone to America in the 70’s on a training course on behalf of his company. While staying at the Hilton hotel in Memphis, Tennessee, he ran into the world heavyweight champion Ali in the lobby where a crowd was hounding the champion.

Instantly recognizing Ali, who surely must be one of the most famous people the world has ever known, my dad reached out to shake his hand and at the same time uttered “Asalaam-alikum” to Ali. Grabbing my father’s hand, Ali replied with “Walikum Asalaam” and asked where my father was from, to which he replied Pakistan.

Intrigued with meeting a Muslim from the East as he later stated to my father, Ali invited him to his penthouse suite where my dad proceeded to spend close to two hours with Ali and his entourage during which time the champ asked him many questions about Pakistan and Islam. In particular, he was interested in how the religion was practiced as compared to the way practiced by the Muslims of the Nation of Islam in America, an organization that Ali was influenced by.

Having heard numerous accounts of his story growing up along with seeing countless pictures of my dad and Ali during their encounter so many years ago, not only endeared me to the champ but also to the sport of boxing. Since then I have always followed boxing and seen many great fights and boxers. But for the first time, my interests in boxing along with many people of Pakistani origins has piqued further by the arrival on the world stage of Amir Khan.

Although he is known as the pride of Bolton in England where he was born, his Pakistani origins are never far away as they are a big part of his life and spirituality since his family hails from Kahuta in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. Kahuta which was previously famous for being the site of Pakistan’s main nuclear facility is now also known as the area of Pakistan where Amir’s family originates.

This nation of Pakistan has in the last few years perhaps become synonymous with terrorism, instability, bombings, religious intolerance and extremism. But for one night, the Pakistani people can raise their head with pride and claim Amir as one of their own. He is a product of their soil who is making the country proud during a difficult time in their history. It is also a credit to his native England that promoted an environment for him to train and succeed. There is no limit to the amount of other talent in Pakistan that would have a chance to succeed if only there were such facilities and opportunities in Pakistan or even stability and security that was provided to Khan in England.

There is no doubt that to many people both inside and outside the nation of his forefathers, Amir Khan represents the best of every Pakistani. To these people. whether they are Pakistani Canadians in Toronto, or a youth in the inner streets of Birmingham, UK or a Pakistani American eating paan on Devon St in Chicago, Amir Khan is one of their own.

As he fought and defeated Judah in Las Vegas Saturday night, Amir Khan looked up and saw the thousands of British fans in attendance who had traveled from the UK and were proudly waiving the Union Jack. Deep inside, he must have known that many more millions in Pakistan and across the world were praying and hoping for even greater future success for him as the hopes and dreams of an entire nation are squarely on his able shoulders.

Manzer Munir, a proud American of Pakistani descent, is the founder of Pakistanis for Peace and blogs at www.PakistanisforPeace.com as well at other websites as a freelance journalist and writer.

Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: