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  • 01/26/15--07:46: The Management of Savagery
  •  Ahmed Humayun, an analyst at the "Institute of Social Policy and Understanding" has a post up about the "management of savagery", a central text in the Islamist militant movement.

    Read the whole thing here (at 3quarksdaily).


    Yet it also outlines a clear, coherent worldview, a theory of geopolitical change, and, when it is not recycling superficial clichés about Western decadence, offers penetrating insight into how terrorist tactics can succeed, even when they appear to fail. It is a call to action that outlines a series of concrete, often diabolically clever steps that have been followed by a wide range of militant groups. -

    ..Such a transitional state prevails in the Muslim world today. Militant groups should therefore seek to 'vex' and 'exhaust' the enemy- the regimes ruling their societies, or their Western allies. This will catalyze the breakout of chaos - the weakening of political authority across the land, creating opportunities for militants to 'manage the savagery' successfully, so that the ultimate goal, an Islamic state, may be realized. -

    ..Finally, the West can try to live up to its values. The militants correctly identify that concepts like freedom, liberty, and justice resonate in Muslim majority societies, and see them as competing with the ideology they seek to implement. But when we unflinchingly back autocrats in Muslim majority societies instead of defending our stated values, when we support the stultifying status quo instead of encouraging critical political reform, we shrink the space for progressive ideas to emerge and expand opportunities for militant notions. We will never persuade the militants, of course but we might be able to persuade others if we tried. -

    See the whole thing at 3qd. It is worth a read. I had the following "off the top of my head" comment on it:

    I would add a few minor notes to this excellent analysis of the "management of savagery":

    1.The authors of the Islamist narrative are not self-sufficient in their creation of this narrative. They rely on Islamicate tradition for a lot of their cherry-picked theological quotes and for historical references about events like the early Arab invasion and colonization of the “near East”, the crusades, the invasions of Europe and even the sea-jihad of the Barbary pirates, ..interestingly the Pakistani ones at least seem to make more references to the conquest and loss of Spain and the subsequent centuries of conflict in the Western Mediterranean region than to the Ottoman conquests and subsequent losses in South-Eastern Europe, reflecting perhaps the relative value of the two regions in the eyes of Islamists and in the eyes of broader contemporary audiences; Spain, France and Italy being worthy prizes and the Balkans being mostly a nameless mess. They (surprisingly) do not seem to use a lot of Islamic source material for their polemic about early 20th century European interventions. A lot of THAT narrative is lifted straight from Robert Fisk and other Western writers. SOAS seems to have contributed more to that story than the Ulama and authors of the blessed dar-ul-Islam. This is an interesting sidelight and worth at least one good PhD thesis someday.

    2.The author’s final prescriptions (“But when we unflinchingly back autocrats in Muslim majority societies instead of defending our stated values, when we support the stultifying status quo instead of encouraging critical political reform, we shrink the space for progressive ideas to emerge and expand opportunities for militant notions. We will never persuade the militants, of course but we might be able to persuade others if we tried”) are boiler-plate left-liberal talking points, but depending on what actual steps the author has in mind, may be even more unrealistic than the Islamist’s dream of utopia-after-savagery. Of course, the author may have specifics in mind that are far different from what I have heard from other progressive friends. This is always the risk when one imagines details based on a few brief lines of text. But we all rely on such heuristic devices and I get nervous when I hear “progressive ideas” and American foreign policy mentioned in one paragraph. I may be completely misreading the author (and I apologize in advance if I am clubbing him unfairly with people who occasionally read Arundhati Roy as if she is a serious analyst), but these days, I get nervous easily :) ... I am afraid that the neo-cons half-baked, ahistorical, poorly thought out creation of neo-liberal Iraq was not far enough from “progressive ideas” for us to feel safe. American support for “progressive ideas” may turn out to be no more helpful than American support of the “stultifying status quo” if it is based on equally superficial notions of history and of the origins of states and of modern society (for better and for worse).   Just a thought…

    3.There is no single correct thing to do everywhere and at all times and the answer (as always) is “it depends”, but the author’s desire that the US avoid militarily invading far away countries (to save them, or to destroy them) is one we can all agree with and say “Amen”.

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  • 01/29/15--22:56: Sights & sounds of Cambodia
  •  I just tweeted a few photos of Angkor Wat-

    It really is a spectacular complex and the Khmer are the ultimate originators of the Indo-Chinese South Eastern Asian Hindu-Buddhist-Muslim sub-culture that is both very hybridised but also very distinctive.

    I find interesting to note that Cambodia (Kampuchea's) name ultimately derives from an Iranian tribe (The Kambojas) mentioned in the Vedas who ruled over parts of India (I could be wrong but the pallavas - Parthians- were also prominent in the South).

    Iran, Turan & India go back a very long way prefigured by this intermingling even among the ancients.

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  • 01/31/15--12:45: The Pakistan Army 2014-15
  • Mr Hamid Hussein, one of the best and most well-informed commentators on the Pakistan army (and the British Indian army and it's other daughter armies) has sent in this piece:

    Year in Review and Year Ahead– Pakistan Army in 2014-15
    Hamid Hussain

    “A general who advances without coveting fame and retreats without fearing the disgrace, whose only thought is to protect his country and do good service to his sovereign, is the jewel of the kingdom.”          Sun Tzu      

    General Raheel Sharif was appointed Chief of Army Staff (COAS) in November 2013.  He decided to work with the existing team of senior officers and didn’t embark on  a major re-shuffle right after assuming charge.  The responsibilities of COAS of Pakistan army are not limited to the army and he invariably gets involved in domestic politics as well as foreign relations.  The argument whether  the COAS pushes the door or politicians through their own incompetence opens doors as well as  the windows for him to enter the corridors of power is as old as  the emergence of Pakistan as an independent state in 1947.

    In 2014, General Sharif worked to take control of his own institution, gently pushing civilians on some areas of interest of the army and mediated among quarrelling politicians.  This trend will likely continue in 2015.  General Sharif opted for a different approach and decided to work with  the senior brass put in place by his predecessor, General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani rather than bringing about a new team immediately. This meant that he was first among the equals at the decision making table.  I was not expecting forceful decisions from General Sharif, but I was pleasantly surprised when he took  the decision about launching operation in North Waziristan quite early in his tenure.
    In the last ten years, there has been a gradual shift in the thought processes of  the officer corps.  Earlier there was debate amongst the senior brass regarding  the balance between negotiations and military operations.  In recent years, there has been a decisive shift towards clearing all the swamps.  In the last year of General Kayani’s tenure,  the majority opinion among the inner core was in favor of clearing North Waziristan.   The army had completed all their preparations but General Kayani demurred due to reasons best known to him (since his retirement, many are now critical on many of  his decisions during his extended tenure).  Now with a new COAS, the consensus amongst the existing team and  the new chief being first among the equals at the table made the decision about  the operation easy.

    In 2014, General Sharif used  the normal retirement process to bring about a new team.  This prevents friction amongst the senior brass and was  the correct approach.  Newly promoted officers were appointed to important command and staff positions, that included four Corps commanders.  General Sharif will be now be presiding at conferences where other members around the table are quite junior to him.  This will enable him to carry the team easily with him.

    In 2014, there were three main areas of friction with   the new civilian government headed by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif;  the decision on a military operation in North Waziristan,  the trial of former army chief General Pervez Musharraf and  the large scale demonstrations in the capital by a cleric, Tahir ul Qadri and recently empowered political party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) led by Imran Khan with  the clear goal of ousting the elected government.

    The case of operation in North Waziristan is tragic. Both the previous Pakistan People’s Party government as well as provincial government of Awami National Party (ANP) pushed for the military operation,  the army demurred and now when  the army decided to take action in 2014, the new civilian government demurred fearing a backlash and started to drag its feet.  Both army and civilian rulers share the blame; petty personal and institutional interests clouded their judgement about strategic threats.  Finally, when the army announced  the start of  the operation the civilians simply tagged along.
    The army as an institution doesn’t want a public humiliation of their former chief.  In addition, General Sharif has had a long personal association with General Musharraf.  General Sharif’s elder brother Major Shabbir Sharif was a decorated soldier and was killed in action in 1971.  He was General Musharraf’s course mate and he was what Musharraf wanted to be.  Since 1998, General Musharraf was more like an elder brother to General Sharif and his career was personally overseen by General Musharraf.   As a Brigadier, General Musharraf gave him choice between his Private Secretary (PS) or a course at  the Royal College Defence Studies (RCDS) in London and Sharif chose  the later.  Musharraf promoted him to two stars rank and gave him  the choice appointments as GOC of Lahore based 11th Division and later Commandant of Pakistan Military Academy (PMA). The Army brass want  the government to give General Musharraf a safe exit, while  the civilian government wants the courts to drag him through the coals.

    A third complicating factor was  the announcement of Tahir ul Qadri and Imran Khan to stage mass demonstrations in the capital to oust  the government.  Tahir ul Qadri openly asked for direct army intervention.  On the other hand, former Director General Inter Services Intelligence (DGISI) Lieutenant General Ahmad Shuja Pasha had some contacts with Imran Khan and many of  the politicians who were associated with General Musharraf later joined Imran Khan this raised concerns that Imran had support of the army.  To make matters worse, relations between  the Prime Minister and DGISI Lieutenant General Zaheer ul Islam deteriorated on the issue of an assassination attempt on a famous journalist and television anchor.  Adding fuel to the fire, some senior army officers were also not happy with  the Prime Minister.  With this background, when massive demonstrations were staged against the government in the capital,  the Prime Minister concluded that  the army has given its blessing to these manoeuvres.  Tahir Qadri and Imran Khan assumed too much and over read the briefs without calculating the impact of the change of command.  The trio of  the P rime Minister, Imran Khan and Tahir ul Qadri reached such an impasse that General Sharif had to mediate, further eroding civil-military relations.  In the process, he re-asserted  the army’s control in several important areas.

    The year 2014 ended on a very sad note on December 16th, when militants attacked a school run by the army and killed 141 people, 132 of them children.  Following the precedent of reacting to events, in a knee jerk reaction,  the civilian government started  the wholesale hanging of convicted terrorists, telling teachers to come to schools armed with handguns and announcing plans without any homework which they neither had the capacity nor the will to carry out.  The Army asked for and got a constitutional amendment in two weeks authorizing  the establishment of military courts to try terrorists.  Things which should have been done ten years ago with thoughtfulness and coordination were done in hours after  the atrocities sowing even more confusion.  Neither the Pakistani public nor  the international community is confident from such measures.  

    In 2015, General Sharif will likely continue on the same path, guiding  the army in ongoing operations, managing his senior brass and to position senior officers to succeed him in 2016.  In addition to national security, he will try to keep a firm control on  the key foreign policy areas especially relations with Afghanistan, India and United States.  To do this involves keeping open independent channels of communication with Kabul, Washington, London and Beijing and this will invariably keep civil-military relations on a rocky road.

    In 2015, two major shuffles will occur in April and October when eight Lieutenant Generals will be hanging up their boots.  Among these eight Lieutenant Generals are four Corps Commanders.  Appointments in 2015 will also show General Sharif’s own preference about his succession.  In my opinion, only three senior officers qualify to fill the COAS post in 2016.  They are  the current Chief of General Staff (CGS) Lieutenant General Ishfaq Nadeem Ahmad,  the current Rawalpindi based X Corps commander Lieutenant General Qamar Javed Bajwa and  the current Military Secretary (MS) Lieutenant General Mazhar Jamil.   The current DGISI Lieutenant General Rizwan Akhtar will be too junior to be considered for the position.  However, his role will be crucial in the next two years.  By the fall of 2015, Ishfaq, Qamar and Mazhar would have completed at least two years in their present positions and moving them around will put all three in a position to succeed him.  One possibility is swapping  the positions of Ishfaq and Qamar while moving Mazhar to command of a Corps (probably Lahore as command of Multan Corps is usually given to an Armored Corps officer).  After this repositioning, all three officers will be equally qualified to succeed General Sharif in the fall of 2016.

    General Ishfaq is from  the 62nd Pakistan Military Academy (PMA) Long Course and was commissioned in  the 34th Azad Kashmir (AK) Regiment.  He is generally respected for his professionalism.  His career is typical of any senior officer serving as Chief of Staff (COS) of  the Mangla based I Corps at Brigadier rank, he commanded  the 37th Infantry Division operating against militants in Swat and then as Director General Military Operations (DGMO) at Major General rank before his promotion to Lieutenant General.  In November 2013, he was brought in as CGS.

    Lieutenant General Qamar Javed Bajwa is from  the Baloch Regiment.  He served as  the Chief of Staff (COS) of  the Rawalpindi based X Corps at Brigadier rank, then GOC of Force Command Northern Area (FCNA) and Commandant of School of Infantry & Tactics at Major General rank.  He was promoted to Lieutenant General rank in August 2013 and appointed Corps Commander of  the Rawalpindi based X Corps.

    Lieutenant General Mazhar Jamil is a gunner.  He served as GOC of  the Lahore based 10th Division, Commandant of the PMA and Vice Chief of General Staff (VCGS) before elevation to Lieutenant General rank in September 2013 and appointed Military Secretary (MS).

    General Rizwan Akhtar was commissioned into the 4th Frontier Force Regiment.  He is considered a good officer by his peers.  His career is also typical of  senior officers reaching Lieutenant General rank with usual command, staff and instructional appointments.  He commanded the 27th Infantry brigade of the 7th Infantry Division from 2005-07.  However, all North Waziristan formations were essentially restricted to their posts and there were no offensive operations. The Army was busy cleaning the South Waziristan and the swamps of North Waziristan were rapidly filling with alligators of all shapes and hues.  The Army high command was simply reacting to events on the ground with the result that it lost the support of local population in tribal areas. In 2011-12, he was GOC of the 9th Division operating in South Waziristan.  He was Director General (DG) of the Sindh Rangers in 2012-14 and involved in the clean-up operation against criminal elements in the city of Karachi.  In October 2014, he was promoted to Lieutenant General rank and appointed DGISI.  In 2005 as Brigade commander in North Waziristan, he prepared a detailed report about the threats emanating from North Waziristan and response options.  In 2008, while at the US Army War College at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania, Rizwan wrote his course paper on the U.S.-Pakistan trust deficit and the war on terror.  He made several recommendations on how to bridge the gap in  trust between Pakistan and the USA.  Now as DGISI, his position enables him to address both these issues – only time will tell how successful he will be in this endeavor.

    Generals Ishfaq and Rizwan are the two senior officers amongst the inner core who are in a position to contribute effectively towards the successful conduct of operations, to stay the course while helping to create favorable regional and international dynamics that are beneficial to Pakistan.  They are part of the inner core decision making process and if they can continue on the track of the multiple tasks: of completing major military offensives against militant strong holds, trying to improve relations with India and Afghanistan, slowly disentangling Pakistan from the snake pit of Afghanistan and help the COAS to stays in his own lane.

    An important task for Generals Sharif and Rizwan is to keep the ISI as an organization on the right track. The majority of serving officers in ISI have no intelligence background, they come for a two to three year stint. This stint has become an important part of climbing the promotion ladder, so they tend to be very cautious, relying too much on reports generated from lower levels without being subject to rigorous questioning  (although there are some exceptions).  They should demand from all ISI deputy directors to take full control of their respective departments and ensure that the direction from their commanders is carried out in both the letter and the spirit.  Some old hands in both the civilian section as well as retired army officers serving on a contract basis need to be moved out as the new generation are fully aware of the changed threat environment so need to be represented at all levels.

    One crucial factor in the coming years is the issue of independent external funding of Pakistan's armed forces.  It is clear that with the winding down of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, budget allocations to Pakistan will be markedly reduced especially for the army.  It is likely that a Middle Eastern expeditionary force will be assembled and so more U.S. funding could follow.  The great assembly of extremists of all shades, as well as the mother of all sectarian wars is being fought in the Middle East spanning many countries.  It will be very tempting for the army command  to try and get some piece of the Middle Eastern pie - as the Afghan pie will likely morph into a cookie.

    In my opinion, the Pakistan army command  should make every effort to stay miles away from the mess of the Middle East despite the instant gratification of some short term financial benefit.  The blow-back from Afghanistan is shaking the very foundations of the Pakistani state and Pakistani society and army have paid a heavy price.  Pakistan simply does not have the luxury in both capability and will to bear the brunt of another conflict which is becoming more vicious by the day and nobody can predict how things will settle down in the Middle East.

    It was expected that after his two previous stints as Prime Minister, Mr. Nawaz Sharif would bring some maturity to the position along with a change from a highly personalized to an institutional form of government – instead his performance in 2014 has been dismal.  The government is drifting from crisis to crisis and is unable to present a coherent plan to tackle the critical issues.  The space left by civilians is invariably being filled by the army, especially in the security and foreign policy arenas. The Prime Minister needs to bring discipline and professionalism in his team.  The security and foreign policy teams should be re-organized by bringing in young and energetic members who get an input from both the professionals in the police and the foreign office as well as outside experts.

    The army is by comparison better organized, has better institutional norms, but still has its own problems.  Promoting officers and giving them important assignments under whose command hundreds of soldiers deserted, officers who cannot even protect their own offices when their headquarters were bombed by militants with impunity or under whose nose hundreds of militants enter a major city, break open the city jail and free over two hundred prisoners who then go back to their lairs is not a good omen for the army.  This has a very negative impact all along the chain of command.

    My personal view which has not changed in the last decade is that if any COAS can get the courage to sack a dozen or so officers that will go a long way to improve things.  The army brass needs to work within the system and while bypassing civilians is easy, it will aggravate relations and make things more complicated in the long run.

    the conflicts of the last decade have put a severe strain on the Pakistani state and society. The Pakistan army is not immune from these changes.  One simple fact should be remembered by everyone that civilians and soldiers are on the same team.  It is the responsibility of every player to avoid a selfish goal.  Friction is expected in any polity, but minimum working relations are mandatory.  The personalized decision making process of the  Prime Minister and COAS will only aggravate civil military relations as distrust is mutual.  Civilian and military leadership should establish institutional mechanisms that will improve working relations, generate respect and ensure continuity of policies.  


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    In the latest gruesome attack on the Shia community in Pakistan a suicide bomber blew himself up in a crowded ImambaRa (Shia mosque) and killed over 60 people, including several young children. People are still picking up pieces of their loved ones (literally, see video here if you dare). Who are these killers? how do they convince young people (some reports say the killer in this case was a young man  named Abubakr) to go and blow themselves up in a crowd of civilians? For some background, see below.
    One question i have not been able to resolve: what is the PROXIMATE cause of individual attacks like these? do the LEJ leaders send bombers to blow up people randomly? or do they have specific tactical objectives? by tactical objective I mean things like "release person X or we kill a lot of people" or "pay us X or we blow up shit"...things like that? Will some knowledgeable people from Pakistan comment? Thanks

    On to the background: the following is a slightly edited version of an older post on 3quarksdaily. I have added a few words at the very end about how the response of the state looks ineffectual.

    Shias (mostly Twelver Shias, but also including smaller groups of Ismailis and Dawoodi Bohras, etc.) make up between 5 and 25% of Pakistan’s population. The exact number is not known because the census does not count them separately and pro and anti-Shia groups routinely exaggerate or downgrade the number of Shias in Pakistan (thus the most militant Sunni group, the Sipah e Sahaba, routinely uses the figure of 2% Shia, which is too low, while Shias sometimes claim they are 30% of the Muslim population, which is probably too high).

    Historically Shias were not a “minority group” in Pakistan, in the sense in which modern identity politics talks about “minorities” (a definition that, includes some sense of being oppressed/marginalized by the majority). Shias were part and parcel of the Pakistan movement and a central component of the ruling elite. The “great leader” himself was at least nominally Shia. He was not a conventionally observant Muslim (e.g. he regularly drank alcohol and may have eaten pork) and was for the most part a fairly typical upper-class “Brown sahib”, English in dress and manners, but Indian in origin.


    He was born Ismaili Khoja but switched to the more mainstream Twelver Shia sect; a conversion that he attested to in a written affidavit in court. According to Jinnah-scholar Yasser Latif Hamdani, his conversion was due to the Khoja Ismaili sect excommunicating his sisters when they married non-Khojas.

    Clearly his position as a Shia was not a significant problem for him as he led the Muslim League’s movement for a separate Muslim state in India. Twelver Shias were well integrated into the Muslim elite, and in opposition to Hindus they were all fellow Muslims. The question of whether Jinnah was Shia or Sunni was occasionally asked but Jinnah always parried it with the fatuous stock reply“was the holy prophet Shia or Sunni?” This irrelevant (and in some ways, irreverent) reply generally worked because theologial fine print was not a priority for the (superficially) Anglicized North Indian Muslim elite. Their Muslim identity distinguished them from Hindus and especially in North India, it was mixed with a certain anti-Indian racism, the assumption being that they themselves were Afghans, Turks, Persians, or even Arabs, and were superior to the locals. This sense of superiority was racial and extended to poorer Muslims who were clearly local converts. One consequence of this attitude being the fact that North Indian Muslims who became prosperous frequently acquired retroactive Turko-Afghan origins. But foreshadowing the problems that would come later as the ideology of Pakistan matured, a Shia-Sunni distinction did arise when Jinnah died;  while his sister arranged a hurried Shia funeral inside the house,  the state arranged a larger Sunni funeral (led by an anti-shia Sunni cleric) in public.

    This event and his own studied avoidance of any specifically Shia observance in his life, has led to claims by anti-Shia activists that Jinnah was in fact Sunni. But years later, a court did get to rule on this issue and the court ruled that he was Shia (property was involved). Incidentally, by the time his sister died in 1967, matters had become uglier in Pakistan and even an orderly Sunni funeral was not easily arranged.

    Having used Islam to separate themselves from their Hindu and Sikh neighbors, the ruling Pakistani elite might occasionally use it to strengthen the spirit of Jihad in Kashmir or carry out other nation-building projects, but they rarely saw it as a potential problem. When the "objectives resolution" was passed to impose an "Islamic" color on Pakistan's future constitution ("Sovereignty over the entire universe belongs to Allah Almighty alone and the authority which He has delegated to the state of Pakistan, through its people for being exercised within the limits prescribed by Him is a sacred trust.") only one Muslim member voted against it (that one rebel being the left-wing Mian Ifikharuddin). But it would be wrong to imagine that ALL those who voted for the objectives resolution wanted shariah law in Pakistan. Most of them probably imagined some mildly Islamicate laws but having grown up as members of the pro-British North Indian elite in British-ruled India, they took it for granted that most laws and the basic administrative structure of Pakistan would remain British-colonial, with some harmless Islamic color being added where needed. Most of the push for sharia law came mullahs and from neo-fascist Islamists of the Jamat e Islami and neither group was strongly represented in the ruling elite. Most of these mullahs, as well as the Jamat e Islami, had strongly opposed Jinnah’s project on the logical grounds that no one as ignorant of Islam as Jinnah could possibly create an Islamic state. But they soon realized that this pork-eating, whisky drinking Shia had created the perfect laboratory for their Islamist project and they were quick to move in and try to take ownership.

    Jinnah and some of the other Westernized Muslims in the Muslim League (like their later descendant Imran Khan) do seem to have had the vague notion that a true Islamic state was a sort of social-democratic welfare state that was first introduced into the world by the Caliph Omar and then taken by the Swedes to Europe (see here for details regarding this belief). Some others thought Pakistan would be a secular Westminster- style democracy, but one dominated by Muslims rather than Hindus (to which they added the common belief that Muslims are "inherently democratic" while Hindus are “caste-ridden”, an ahistorical belief shared by many Western-educated Hindu liberals btw).

    But the mullahs knew better. An Islamic state must have Islamic laws. And these laws are not going to be created de novo by some Westernized Muslims impressed by Scandinavian Social Democracy; they already exist. They were developed over hundreds of years, mostly between the 8th and 12th centuries CE. And they are serious business. Very deep questions of legitimacy, authority and sources were debated by the people who created those laws. Part of the Shia-Sunni dispute has to do with exactly these questions of authority and legitimacy. As long as a state is British or Indian or ethno-nationalist, these debates are mostly history; if and when there is an Islamic renaissance these debates will be part of the historical tradition from which this rennaissance will build it's new enlightenment. When that happens there will no doubt be people who will cite these 10th century laws as "the basis of our modern Islamic civilization" the same way some people insist the ten commandments are the basis of all Western laws, but that rennaissance and that level of development has yet to occur in any Islamic country. Outside of Saudi Arabia, what we have right now is Western/colonial legal codes and state institutions with a smattering of “sharia punishments” thrown in for effect. But if you have created a state with no real basis except Islamic solidarity it doesn’t take long to start wondering how and when the state will actually become Islamic. And once you start down that path, you have to specify which Islamic law? Or you have to do the hard work of inventing a whole new set. The “new set” option is a step too far for the limited intellectual resources available to the Pakistani elite (and involves fighting past the apostasy and blasphemy roadblocks), so we are back to arguing about which school of classical Islam to follow.

    General Zia, who understood these matters better than the average Pakistani liberal, took his theology seriously. He favored hardcore Sunni schools of thought, though his exact allegiances are by no means clear. He also understood the importance of Saudi Arabia as a source of cash, and that may have played a role in his decisions (e.g.a senior official in his govt later claimed that he introduced the Islamic law of cutting off the hands of thieves purely in order to get short-term Saudi favor). In any case, he introduced a series of “Islamic laws” one of which made it compulsory for all Muslims to pay Zakat (poor tax) to the state. Shia jurisprudence regarded this as a personal matter rather than a state matter and a very large number of Shias organized to demand that they be excluded from this law. This Shia movement was given some support by Iran (a message from Khomeini was read out to the largest gathering in Islamabad), a fact that has allowed some apologists to claim that all later problems are part of some sort of proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia (a claim that is thoroughly debunked here). While the Shias won that round and were exempted from Zakat, a line had been drawn that has continued to become darker and bloodier with time.

    At ground level a lot of this was not due to any single organized conspiracy but involved the confluence of several factors: Islamization put the question of “whose Islam” on the table; Zia’s personal leanings led to support for anti-Shia factions; Saudi Arabia inserted Wahabi-Salafi propaganda into the mix; The Shia response to the Zakat law and open (even if mostly symbolic) support from Iran helped opponents to label them Iranian agents; and modernization and modern education themselves led to a preference for modern (and fascist) versions of Islam in preference to Indian folk Islam with its “superstitious”, it's heavy Indian coloring of  rituals and folk beliefs and it's striking multicultural colorfulness.

    Newly rich Saudi and Gulf individuals wished to promote “true Islam” in Pakistan. Many individuals in Pakistan wished to be paid by Gulf and Saudi millionaires to do the same. While the actual madrassa cannon-fodder came mostly from poor families, the policy the promoted the same came from middle class military officers and their civilian collaborators. Modern education and economics had prepared the minds of many middle class Pakistanis (including many whose families were traditionally Barelvi Sunni) to accept Maudoodi-type “back-to-basics” modern Islamism. Just like traditional folk Hinduism was rejected by Arya Samajis and other Hindu reformers, educated middle class Muslims in Pakistan were ready to reject folk Islam and strive for modernized purity. Thus,in predominantly Barelvi Pakistan, the majority of the new madrassas set up all over the country and paid for by Gulf money turned out to be hardline Deobandi, Ahle hadith and Wahhabi in sectarian orientation.

    It is worth repeating that the Anti-Shia polemic was not paramount in the minds of many of the geniuses who promoted these policies. In fact, many in the Pakistani middle class still have no clear idea of where the anti-Shia polemic is coming from. It was not part of our education. While Shias were a minority sect, their version of Karbala and the martyrdom of Husain was widely accepted and reverence for Ali and the house of Ali was part of most Sufi orders. Shia symbolism had spread well beyond the Shias and become part of the cultural heritage of educated Sunnis in South Asia (or maybe, as Jaun Elya points out here, a lot of what is now typically "Shia" had it's origin within Sunnis, things not necessarily always being divided in exactly the same boxes in which they are divided today). Certainly there were Ahle hadith and Wahhabi mullahs in Pakistan who were frankly anti-Shia, but even they tended to stay away from any direct criticism of Imam Hussein and his family. That this kind of reverence is not a universal feature of the Muslim word is not something that is even vaguely known to most Pakistani or Indian middle class Sunnis. That in Indonesia and Malaysia there is practically no sense of Moharram as a month of universal mourning is a surprise; that the Saudi Wahhabis have a well-developed anti-Shia polemic that brands the Shias as heretics, Jewvish agents and frank enemies of Islam was poorly understood.

    But the fact is the Saudi Wahhabis and their fellow travelers DO have such a story. When I first heard the Saudi version (from a Pakistani doctor who had converted to Saudi Islam and ran a “study circle” in our residential camp in Saudi Arabia) it was a bit of a shock. It took a while for me to realize that his version of history was completely mainstream in Saudi Arabia. In this version, Islam (basically a military conquest enterprise from day one) was spreading rapidly on its way to conquer the world, until a Jew named Ibne Saba helped to create a fitna (the first civil war) that sabotaged this first attempt at world conquest. This fitna is now known as the Shia sect and they have been sabotaging Islam ever since. I paraphrase of course, but this is not too far from what any pious Saudi or Gulf millionaire believes. It is therefore no surprise that they spend good money to teach Pakistanis these “truths” and some of them go on to support killers who take the next step and start physically eliminating Shias.

    A second and only locally important economic factor was the fact that there were some prominent Shia landlords and power-brokers in Southern Punjab. Anti-Shia polemics combined in those parts with what the Marxists gleefully call “class issues” to give it something of the color of a hardline Sunni revolt against the local Shia elite in these areas.

    But the third and most critical component of this perfect storm was the state policy of Jihad or “strategic depth”. The Afghan Jihad that effectively destroyed Afghanistan may have been a CIA project, but from day one it was supported and then hijacked by local actors who had priorities of their own. Cynical Saudis saw it as a way to send away religious zealots to “jihad camp”; Pious Saudis saw it as a way to spread true Islam to the benighted heathens; and GHQ saw it as a golden opportunity to get “strategic depth” in Afghanistan, to be translated later into conquest of Kashmir and projection of power (perhaps even an empire!) in Central Asia.

    As a result, the ISI got oodles of cash from the CIA and the Saudis (every American dollar was matched dollar for dollar by the Saudis) and had complete autonomy in who they handed it out to. They handed it out to the most hardline Islamist groups they could find. And the Saudis paid for the madrassas where hardline Islam was to be taught to future suicide bombers. That it included a healthy dose of anti-Shia propaganda was part of the package. Even today, many Pakistanis who have not been directly involved in jihad and anti-jihad have no idea of the kind of ideological poison that was being injected into Pakistan’s Madrassa and Jihad underworld starting in the 1980s and accelerating through the 1990s under state patronage; and continuing even as the state itself became at least partially ambivalent about the cause. One visit to this site and others like it should help to put things in perspective.

    Very early on, some of the anti-Shia groups started targeting Shias within Pakistan. Jhang in central Punjab was an early battleground, as were Gilgit, Kohistan and Parachinar. Zia’s regime is known to have actively helped set up the Anjuman e Sipah Sahaba (ASS), the primary anti-Shia militant group, probably as a way of getting political leverage against uppity Shias. Like many other inventions of general Zia (MQM being the most famous) the puppets soon escaped from state control (while continuing to receive help and protection from factions within the state). Ultra-militant offshoots of the ASS (offshoot or deniable-militant-arm, take your pick) like the Lashkar e Jhangvi (LEJ) had launched open war on all Pakistani Shiites by the 1990s. The state made some intermitten efforts to rein them in (most notably in Nawaz Sharif's second tenure) , but since the same militants were linked by common donors and patrons to other militants that were considered “good” by the state (as in Kashmir Jihadists, Taliban, etc.) and because their "legal" front organizations were friends of the Saudis and of the "good Jihad" factories, this crackdown was always ineffectual and remains so to this day.

    The level of violence has steadily accelerated over time. To get an overview of the violence, see here. This has now reached the point where I personally know well-established Shia doctors who abandoned their life in Karachi and escaped to the US because someone across the hall was shot dead in broad daylight because of his sect. In 2012, over 300 Shias were killed or injured in attacks during the holy month of Moharram. Since 2001, nearly a thousand Shia Hazaras have been murdered in Quetta city and its environs and over 3000 injured. In events that evoke the horrors of partition and 1971, Shias were taken down from buses in Kohistan and identified either using their names (there are some typically Shia names, though overlap occurs) or the scars of self-flagellation many Shias have on their backs. They were then shot in cold blood. The term “Shia genocide” has been used and several op-eds have appeared in which prominent writers are asking where this will end.

    Predictions:  So where will this end? Prediction is where the pundit rubber meets the road, so here goes:

    1. The state will make something of an effort to stop this madness. Shias are still not seen as outsiders by most educated Pakistani Sunnis. When middle class Pakistanis say “this cannot be the work of a Muslim” they are being sincere, even if they are not being accurate.
    But if the state makes a greater effort to rein in the most hardcore Sunni militants, it will be forced to confront the “good jihadis” who are frequently linked to the same networks. This confrontation will eventually happen, but between now and “eventually” lies much confusion and bloodshed.

    2. The Jihadist community will feel the pressure and the division between those who are willing to suspend domestic operations and those who no longer feel ISI has the cause of Jihadist Islam at heart will sharpen. The second group will be targeted by the state and will respond with more indiscriminate anti-Shia attacks. Just as in Iraq, jihadist gangs will blow up random innocent Shias whenever they want to make a point of any kind. Things (purely in terms of numbers killed) will get much worse before they get better. As the state opts out of Jihad (a difficult process, but one that is almost inevitable, the alternatives being extremely unpleasant) the killings will greatly accelerate and will continue for many years before order is re-established. The worst is definitely yet to come. This will naturally mean an accelerating Shia brain drain, but given the numbers that are there, total emigration is not an option. Many will remain and some will undoubtedly become very prominent in the anti-terrorist effort (and some will, unfortunately, become special targets for that reason).

    3. IF the state is unable to opt out of Jihadist policies (no more “good jihadis” in Kashmir and Afghanistan and “bad jihadis” within Pakistan) then what? I don’t think even the strategists who want this outcome have thought it through. The economic and political consequences will be horrendous and as conditions deteriorate the weak, corrupt, semi-democratic state will have to give way to a Sunni “purity coup”. Though this may briefly stabilize matters it will eventually end with terrible regional war and the likely breakup of Pakistan. . Since that is a choice that almost no one wants (not India, not the US, not China, though perhaps Afghanistan wouldn’t mind) there will surely be a great deal of multinational effort to prevent such an eventuality. If it does happen, the future may look very different from the recent past (btw, a little explanation of the scenario building in that last link is here).
    Sadly, the Tariq Ali type overseas/Westernized-elite Left will play no sensible role in any of this. If we do (God forbid) get to the nationalist-Sunni-coup phase; Pankaj Mishra may find something positive in it (“strength” and the willingness to stand up against imperialism being a high priority for him) but events will not fit into that semi-positive framework for too long.

    Addendum: A friend raised the objection that the state may well be trying it's best. It is just not a very effective state,so they cannot stop the killers. I don't think we can accept that argument. This is not what "trying your best" looks like and Pakistan in any case is not Nigeria. It is an order of magnitude more capable as a state. It can do much more it if wanted to. For example, in response to any terrorist movement one expects the state to launch a massive propaganda effort against them. All the PR resources of the state (and the resources of the Pakistani state are very potent in this case, see the PR around Kashmir, against Baloch separatism or even the anti-drone campaign that can be turned on or off as needed) are mobilized to identify and demonize the enemy. Has there ever been such an effort against the Lashkar e Jhangvi? much less against their legal fronts and fellow travelers? And in law enforcement, leads are pursued to the end, sympathizers are caught in the dragnet, people are given the message that it is unsafe to support the terrorist program. Has than happened anywhere in Pakistan?  Forget about a broad campaign, even in the case of specific attacks there is limited and very hazy information about the investigation and it's findings. Who planned it? who carried it out? what was their motivation? who has been caught and who is still at large? in many cases, the local police may know a lot of these things a few months down the line, but how much gets communicated to the public? Since very little organized propaganda effort is mounted by the state, the field is open for every conspiracy theory under the sun.
    This is not the best the state can do...

    btw, the cartoons and the painting are the work of the highly talented Pakistani cartoonist and artist sabir nazar.

    Obaidullah Aleem wrote this in 1971, it sound like he wrote it for today.

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    Hello from Phnom Penh.

    It's interesting to note that in SE Asia the country that has thrived throughout is the one that kept its independence (however nominal), the Kingdom of Siam (Thailand).

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    Any thoughts? It's a consistent tendency that explicitly South Asian (de facto Indian) websites tend to have a Left inflection. This means that they're soaked in critical race theory assumptions, but also genuflect to broader Left liberal concerns and priorities (e.g., "black lives matter" or the boycott of Israel). My hypothesis is that it's a selection bias in the type of people who set up these websites, and read these websites. Though the average South Asian American is a liberal Democrat, they're not that political, and too busy to know much about "intersectionality." There are conservative South Asian Americans in the public intellectual space, but they are people like Avik Roy or Reihan Salam, whose focus is rarely on South Asians (though Reihan brings up his Bangladeshi background now and then).

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    Just some random thoughts trigerred by a question that Razib asked and a post on FB.
    The question:

    "Why are all South Asian American websites so Left?
    Any thoughts? It's a consistent tendency that explicitly South Asian (de facto Indian) websites tend to have a Left inflection. This means that they're soaked in critical race theory assumptions, but also genuflect to broader Left liberal concerns and priorities (e.g., "black lives matter" or the boycott of Israel). My hypothesis is that it's a selection bias in the type of people who set up these websites, and read these websites. Though the average South Asian American is a liberal Democrat, they're not that political, and too busy to know much about "intersectionality." There are conservative South Asian Americans in the public intellectual space, but they are people like Avik Roy or Reihan Salam, whose focus is rarely on South Asians (though Reihan brings up his Bangladeshi background now and then)."

    I think (and I think Razib would agree) that not ALL South Asian websites have a Left inflection. For example, I am sure there are a number affiliated with Hindutvadis/RajivMalhotra types that are explicitly anti-Left wing. And I am sure there are a number affiliated with various Muslim groups that are in their own world, impossible to classify as left or right, just not-WEIRD.  But that being said, there IS a very distinct leftward tilt in the highly educated westernized South Asian crowd. Since this is exactly the crowd one finds in universities and "serious" media and arguing in "intellectual" blogs and so on, their visibility is far beyond their actual numbers. And it is not just about visibility. Most people (in some sense, almost ALL people) get their views and opinions ready-made from a relatively small group of opinion-makers. The extraordinary dominance of some (not all; some process of meme-selection does go on) left wing tropes in this highly educated and influential group therefore translates into wide (mostly uncritical and superficial) acceptance of many of these tropes within the larger South Asian community.
    Which then brings us back to why? I have a few thoughts:

    1. Victimhood bonus. I really think this is the single most powerful motivator. Many highly educated Indians (and Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, etc) come from an elite background and any reasonably consistent left wing analysis would have them feeling guilty about their position back home. But suddenly, here in Columbia university, you can get to play victim at no cost (and with some benefits..especially if you stay in the humanities, in which case career choices and peer groups will reinforce and support that choice). It is a VERY tempting offer and only the most churlish and obstinately pig-headed can pass it up. Racialicious is delicious. And this bonus is on offer from the Left, not the Right. That fork in the road and the choice to be made are therefore completely clear and impossible to resist.

    2. Marxism from back home. Marxism was really the default ideology of the first anti-colonial generation in Asia and Africa. In some places, where real Marxist revolutionaries tried armed violent revolution and got put down (as in Malaysia) or were pre-emptively slaughtered by CIA-supported generals (Indonesia) the situation was more muddled, but in the Indian subcontinent the educated elite was highly influenced by Marxism. Most of us brought that vague left wing symnpathy with us to the West (it was not very deep. But then, it never is, anywhere; most left wing parties have 3 ideologues who actually try to read Capital, the rest are lucky if they can read the manifesto) and therefore naturally gravitated to the left in the West. The Left in the West had meanwhile moved on to post-Marxist pomo poco bullshit and that actually proved more attractive to most elite-origin desis than the more "economist" and organized revolutionary Marxism of the old days. No need to be poor, no need to be hunted by the FBI, and all the benefits of being on the right side of history. Who could resist?

    3. Racism. Obviously there really IS a substratum of race conciousness and of explicit, or now mostly implicit,  racial superiority in European and North American civilization. This is owned and massively condemned by the new Left (in fact, it has almost become the default organizing principle of the new Left, in place of proletarian revolution) and denied or (on the fringes these days) owned and honored by the Right. The choice is clear.

    4. Ignorance. Never underestimate the ignorance of the educated human specimen. Since, unlike our working class fellow immigrants, we are mostly ignorant and simultaneously proud of our vast erudition, there is little chance we can spot blind spots, misrepresentation or total muckups in the Left wing post-marxist world after we move into it. We read the correct books, follow the correct opinion makers and become more and more ignorant and more and more proud of our vast knowledge. The clear choice is then reinforced. No surprise.

    5. Truth. And last (and maybe least, or am I being too harsh?) there are elements of truth in the left wing position. The fetishization of individualism and guns and whatnot on the Right in America for example is just not very appealing. Environmentalism, healthcare, education, social justice, tolerance...on so many things the claim is that the left has the humane, reasonable and progressive position. And this claim has enough truth in it to keep the left the default setting for most educated immigrants. There is a "thinking right" and there are great inconsistences and even idiocies in the actual details of the "Left" once you get into it, but once you step ashore on the left side of the beach, you rarely even get to see those... So you keep going. Something like that.

    Finally, and at a tangent to this whole business. The young people so tragically shot in N. Carolina. Some of our friends were naturally concerned that this reflects a new level of Islamophobia in this country. I had posted a link to a story about lynchings in the deep South (a century ago, things have changed a lot, even in the South) and a good friend commented that now they are lynching Muslims. My first muddled thoughts were (as usual? I am beginning to suspect I am sometimes just contrarian for the sake of being contrarian? maybe so) to deny that this is a lynching. I am copying my FB comments here without editing (you can figure out the context pretty easily) just to get thoughts from other better informed (and perhaps wiser) commentators:

    Me: The "Muslim Lynching" in N Carolina, while a huge tragedy for those three good people and their grieving families, was NOT a lynching at all. That was my point. Actually this thought first came to me several years ago in LA. I was at an award ceremony for a (good) South Asian social work organization and some of the speakers were laying it on about their struggle against oppression and racism. I happened to be sitting next to a Black lady and after I told her that I did not think our experience had ANYTHING in common with the Black experience, she felt permitted to open up...and she did. She said she was happy to work in solidarity with people like us, but for us to somehow claim victimhood in the same ranks as Black Americans was, frankly, very very irritating to her. I agreed with her completely and we parted in perfect harmony :) . Since then, I have had other reasons to get irritated by the "social justice warrior" types and have had occasion to think that Neitzsche (PBUH) may have had a bit of a point about such things. As a non-aristocrat (and unlike you, not much of a Roman General at heart ;) ) I am not exactly pining for the return of aristocratic values, but I cannot help the occasional thought that White people who write for "The Nation" and whine about White supremacy and the poor huddled masses of Brown people being fooled by their superiors are, in some sense, in the happy position of whining about being so bloody superior..and of course, there are other more substantive problems with the whole identity politics run amuck thing.. .anyway, I am not sure it reflects well on us....this thought needs more serious elaboration and is liable to massive misunderstanding, so I will leave it here, but no, I dont think Carolina was ANYTHING like a lynching. It's not a lynching when the local community goes around trying to be nice to the lynched..

    To which a friend responded:
    It's a terrible tragedy what happened in NC. I'm sure the victims' faith had something to do with it, but it’s also important to realize that it’s extremely hard to demand an understanding and compassionate attitude from the non-Muslim US public when the later has been witnessing unimaginable scenes of carnage running on a daily basis from the Muslim quarters of the world—beheading, burning people alive, rape, and plunder, being done systematically and in keeping with the ideological framework of Islam. I believe this was a random act of terror and doesn't represent the mainstream American attitude. Comparing this tragedy by invoking lynching of black people is disingenuous or rather simplistic. In these trying times one has to be mindful that If only 10% of the Muslims are to be the extremists type, the number is higher than this, we are talking about 150 million strong diehard army which is glad to slay and get slain in their march to subjugate the entire world to their god, as per their holy book, surah 9111. It's a staggering number indeed that's diffused globally, and not to mention a good 50% of their sympathizers, the useful idiots, the clueless moderates. Eventually if moderate Muslims don't accept this as a reality they are the ones who will be the next victims, either at the hands of the extremists or the hate crimes that's bound to shoot up in the wake of atrocities which are too many to count. Islam has the crisis of ideology, an ideology that is intertwined with Muslims identity. Ultimately, it's a crisis of Muslim identity. It's not looking good for a very long time to come.

    Me:  I will take the opposite tack and suggest that the "fear of Muslims" and their impending clash with civilization is itself exaggerated. I think IS type atrocities will mostly occur in Muslim countries. Most European Muslim tourists-killers going to IS will get blown up by barrel bombs and go on to meet their houri quota rather soon. Few will make it back to explode in Europe and VERY FEW will make it to America (two oceans and Canada, alhamdolillah). Neither the terrorist campaign nor the backlash will be as huge as we sometimes fear. Or at least, that is my guess for today. Tomorrow, I may be in a different frame of mind...

     Him:Technically you are correct. Omar Ali. But humans are not that objective when it comes to matters pertaining to faith and scenes of daily brutality committed in the name of religion. Perception is what matters in these situations.

    Me: My thought was that we may see those scenes and think about them more than the average American. Most people have already classified "those barbarians" as barbarians. But then they have a life to live and I dont find most Americans obsessing about it...Maybe I am wrong, but that is how it seems right now.

    HimThose ‘barbarians’ carry a black flag inscribed with the first kalimah. Images like these make it very easy for the mind to associate.

    Me: again, my thought was that the kalima and so on are more OUR crisis and OUR problem. Hardly worth notice for most Americans...

    I have to run, but what do you think??

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    Over at The Aerogram there is an interesting piece up, Caste Privilege 101: A Primer for the Privileged. The main downside of the piece is that it is standard post-colonial "social justice warrior" claptrap. Unless you buy into the premises a lot of the rhetoric falls flat. You can really write a regular expression to just "search & replace", and it could be about another set of people. Really the post just leverages pretty generic ideas about race privilege, and interpolates them into a South Asian context.

    But the good part is that it is interesting that the experiences of low caste South Asians is highlighted. There simply aren't that many in the Diaspora...or are there? Perhaps they "pass" as this woman and her family have done? And it is a nice reality check to note that what many South Asians consider normative South Asian behavior and folkways are actually just representative of a relative thin and elite strata of Indian cultures. It is also quite sweet and delicious when the authors suggest that many South Asian Americans with names like Iyer and Mukherjee who play the part of "oppressed person of color," despite a customary elite family background, and impeccable educational qualifications and a high income, are oblivious to the structures of privilege in which they partake while excoriating white society.

    The major issue I have is that in the process of lecturing (and frankly hectoring) higher caste Indians the authors express their own narrow viewpoints. For example, when talking about religious differences between low castes and higher castes, they excise Muslims out of the equation. As Muslims are about 1/3 of the South Asian population this seems an important lacunae, and as we all know there are caste and caste-like structures within Islam too, some of which have been imported from Hinduism (e.g., "Muslim Dalits").

    Finally, a lot of the generalizations about upper caste Indians seems to be bullshit. American born Indian Americans intermarry at nearly a 50% clip. I really don't think that caste matters that much when they (we) are marrying people of other races at a very high rate. The fact is that no matter if you are a fair skinned Pandit or a dark skinned Nadar in this country you're a "sand nigger." Next to that all the caste posturing looks like a farce.

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    As usual, a post from Hamid Hussein, this time about the British Indian army in East Africa, with some comments about "all Muslim regiments' and neo-orientalist claptrap about the Pakhtoons and the British. Enjoy. 


    Major ® Agha H. Amin; an authority on history of subcontinent armies sent a reminder about 129th Baluchistan Infantry in E. Africa.  Few questions about Indian soldiers in E. Africa in Great War as well as some ancillary long forgotten aspects of military archeology came my way and following was the outcome.  Only for those interested in military history of the region.

    Indian Soldiers in East Africa in Great War

    “We are too much inclined to think of war as a matter of combats, demanding above all things physical courage.  It is really a matter of fasting and thirsting; of toiling and waking; of lacking and enduring; which demands above all things moral courage”.   Sir John Fortescue

    East Africa is a forgotten chapter of Great War.  Several Indian battalions served in East Africa.  British East Africa is now Kenya and German East Africa is now Tanzania, Rawanda and Burundi.  German army in East Africa was calledSchutztruppe.  Indian Expeditionary Force (IEF) - C commanded by Brigadier ‘Jimmie’ Stewart arrived in September 1914.  This force was predominantly from state forces with about half battalion strength each from Rampur, Kapurthala, Bharatpur and Jind state forces.  Only one regular Indian battalion 29th Punjabis was part of the force.  Indian Expeditionary Force (IEF) - B under the command of Major General Aitken consisted of 27th Bangalore Brigade (2ndLancashire, 101st Grenadiers, 98th Infantry and 63rd Palamcottah Light Infantry - four companies of Madrassi Muslims, two Tamils and two Christian Madrassi companies) and Imperial Service Brigade (Gwalior Rifles, 2nd and 3rd Kashmir Rifles).  This was followed by battalions re-deployed from European and Egyptian theatres as well as.  As usual unsung heroes of the theatre are pioneers, railway volunteers and sappers and miners who were superb in the most trying conditions.

     In general, troops deployed from European theatres had performed well but suffered horrendous casualties and turnover of recruits and officers was very rapid.  The role of state forces was essentially ceremonial and they were neither armed nor trained for war.  Each state contingent was different from other and they had never even paraded together let alone trained for any significant military maneuver.  Most of the area was unmapped but Indian units didn’t get maps where they were available.  During the whole campaign, troops were on half ration.  Harsh weather, terrain, mosquitoes, flies, fleas, fever, malaria, dysentery and man eaters and alligators took more toll on all soldiers than enemy’s bullets.  Despite all these difficulties, Indian soldiers performed very well and discipline of Indian troops was exemplary.  Discipline of Indian troops was much superior to others especially South African soldiers when a number of times they were busy looting the towns. 

    Most of white troops went out of action due to disease.  British political officers proved to be superior in linking up with local communities and raising African infantry.  New battalions of King’s African Rifles (KAR), Hausa Regiments and a Nigerian Brigade were now effective British force commanded by Brigadier F. H. Cunliffe in addition to Indian troops.  Germans lost about one third of their force to sickness but still had about 14,000 natives and 2000 European soldiers.  Local African soldiers called Askaris trained and led by German officers also performed very well.   

    Disproportionately, large number of Pathans in different units served in E. Africa.  Having said all this, it should be remembered that Indians made only a very small part of the force operating in E. Africa and majority of troops of all arms were South African (infantry, cavalry and artillery).  South Africans had initially a very low opinion of Indian troops referring to them as ‘coolies’ but after seeing them in action had great respect for them.  Union Jack flying over Kibata belonged to 1/2 KAR and was a frequent target of German soldiers and gunners. After the battle 1/2 KAR presented this flag to 129th Baluchistan Infantry. 

    129th Duke of Connaught’s Own (DCO) Baluchistan Infantry (now 11 Baloch of Pakistan army): This battalion came to East Africa from the killing fields of France.  This battalion has the distinction of being first in two aspects; first British officer casualty of Great War (Captain Vincent) and first Indian winner of Victoria Cross Sepoy Khudadad Khan). It narrowly missed being first Indian battalion to lock horns with Germans when their comrade of 57th Wilde’s Rifles became first Indians to fire at Germans. 

    On the eve of Great War, infantry battalions were organized as four double companies (total 8 companies).  It was an all Muslim battalion and had six Pathan companies – all trans-frontier (three Mahsud, one Mohmand and two Afridis; Adam Khel Jowaki) and two Punjabi Muslim companies.  One double company of 127th Queen Mary’s Own Baluchistan Infantry was attached to bring up the battalion to war establishment (desertion of trans-frontier Pathans from some regiments resulted in discontinuation of their recruitment.  This is a whole separate subject and I have been working on it for some time so I may dwell on it sometime in future). Battalion suffered heavy casualties in France with repeated replenishments from sister as well as other battalions (Mahsud and Wazir Pathans from 124th Duchess of Connaught’s Own Baluchistan Infantry, Orakzai Pathans and Baluchis of 127th Baluchistan Infantry).  Only 4 British and 5 Indian officers and less than two dozen sepoys of original contingent were unhurt after a year of service in France.  It left for E. Africa under the command of Lt. Colonel H. Hulseberg DSO of 127th Baluchistan Infantry and spent one year in E. Africa (January 1916 – January 1917). 

    Indian component of Ist East African Division consisted of 129th Baluchistan Infantry and 29th Punjabis (they were part of 2nd East African Brigade.  Later 40th Pathans joined the brigade).  Later, in a battle when CO of 29th Punjabis Lt. Colonel H. A. Vallings was killed and Adjutant wounded, soldiers were lost.  Later 30 soldiers of 29th Punjabis were court martialled for leaving battle with self inflicting hand wounds. 

    From 1914 to 1918, four and a half thousand men of honor served the battalion’s colors with over three thousand and five hundred casualties.  Many lie buried in hallowed grounds all over the globe.  Many indomitable men of the battalion belonging to different ethnicities like Subedar Kambir Khan; a Baluch, Subedar Sarbiland; a Pathan and Jamadar Fateh Haider; a Punjabi Muslim and long list of Indian Order of Merit (IOM) winners are now just names on the forgotten pages of history.  Naik Alim Khan (127th attached) during a scouting patrol spotted a five men German picket and this superb marksman killed four of them and the fifth survived only by fleeing.  The ultimate compliment a regiment can get is what its adversary thinks about the soldiers.  German Commander Lettow-Vorbeck said about the regiment that “… the 129th Baluchis …..  Were without a doubt very good”.  A memorial in memory of contributions of all Baluchistan Infantry regiments in first world war at Frere Hall in Karachi is a tribute to sacrifices of many such men of honor.

    130th King George’s Own Baluchistan Infantry (now 12 Baloch of Pakistan army): The deployment of 130thBaluchistan Infantry in E. Africa is interesting.  At the start of war, when battalion was in Calcutta getting ready to be deployed overseas, a Mahsud sepoy attacked battalion’s second-in-command Major Norman Ruthven Anderson who later died of his wounds.  Battalion was sent to Burma where two Pathan companies mutinied.  200 soldiers were court martialled and two soldiers executed.  British commander in East Africa Major General Richard Wapshare specifically requested deployment of 130th to East Africa.  I’m puzzled by why he specifically asked for the battalion. Battalion received double company of 46th Punjabis and it arrived under the command of Lt. Colonel P. H. Dyke (later Lt. Colonel C. U. Price) in February 1915 to become part of Ist East African Brigade (130th Baluchistan Infantry, 3rd Kings African Rifles, 2nd Loyal Lancashire and 2nd Rhodesia Regiment) commanded by Brigadier Wilfred Malleson of 2ndEast African Division commanded by General Michael Tighe.  Battalion participated in the battle of Latema. 

    40th Pathan (now 16 Punjab of Pakistan army):  On the eve of Great War, battalion was in China and arrived in France in April 1915 and fought under Jullundur Brigade.  Battalion was decimated in the killing fields of France in the Second Battle of Ypres losing most of its officers.  It arrived in E. Africa in January 1916 under the command of Lt. Colonel Henry Tendyll.  40th Pathan was originally an all Pathan Muslim battalion (in 1901 the composition was changed with one company Orakzai, half company each of Afridis and Yusufzais, one company of Punjabi Muslims and one company of Dogras). That diluted to some extent the flavor of the original élan as well other naughtiness.  Battalion was nick named ‘Forty Thieves’ as whenever stationed at a cantonment things will mysteriously disappear and CO earned the nick name of ‘Ali Baba’.  Battalion’s marching tune was Pushtu song ‘Zakhmi Dil’ played on dhol andsurnai with strong homosexual connotations.  This song was later adopted by pipe bands of Ist and 2nd Battalions of Seaforth Highlanders.  Any officer commanding 700 young men living together in close quarters has to deal with many naughty souls but Commanding Officer of a battalion with significant number of Pathans had his hands full with many intricate issues such as how to deal with two young sepoys insisting to be put together at night for sentry duty, a young recruit putting a bullet through a randy old Subedar for undue advances or keeping a close tab on home furloughs to make sure that two soldiers with blood feud in their village are not sent home at the same time else one will not return.  

    57th Wilde’s Rifles (Now 9 Frontier Force of Pakistan army): This battalion went to France in 1914 with four companies instead of eight.  Class composition was one company each of Sikh, Dogra, Pathan (Afridis) and Punjabi Muslims.  After a year in the killing fields of France, battalion went to Egypt for six months before landing in East Africa in July 1916.  Commanding officer was Lt. Colonel Thomas Willans DSO.  Battalion was part of 2nd East African Brigade.  Pathan Subedar Arsala Khan Afridi winner of MC and IOM in France (already IOM winner in 1908 Mohmand expedition) also served in E. Africa where he was wounded.  He earned an OBI for service in E. Africa and became Subedar Major of the battalion. 

    57th landed in E. Africa with 11 British officers, 21 Indian officers and around 850 men.  Merely two months later, only 3 British officers and 180 men were fit for service.  An amazing incident happened here.  No: 2 Pathan company commander was Major James Buller.  During an attack on entrenched German position, he shot at German company commander Lieutenant von Ruckteschel but bullet went through the hat.  Ruckteschel fired back severely wounding Buller.  Buller was captured and sent to German hospital in Dar ul Salam where he was nursed back to health by a kind nurse who was wife of Ruckteschel.  Later, Ruckteschel’s leg was shattered by a shell.  Battalion returned to India in October 1917 leaving behind about 35 comrades buried in E. Africa but were proud owners of the German Imperial flag that flew on Governor’s House of German East Africa.  Another irony of the times is the story of Havaldar Salim Khan.  He survived the killing fields of France, German bullets and shells, malaria, snakes, alligators and man eaters in East Africa, won an IOM for a daring attack on a German machine gun position capturing it but killed by fellow Zakha Khel tribesmen when he was going on his well earned pension in 1921.

    One squadron of 17th Cavalry:  This squadron reached E. Africa in February 1915.  17th Cavalry (later in 1922 amalgamated with another all Muslim cavalry regiment 37th Horse to form 15th Lancers) was another all Muslim regiment consisting of two squadrons of trans-frontier Pathans and two squadrons of Punjabi Muslims.  The squadron sent to E. Africa was a composite 120 men Pathan squadron (60 from A and 60 from B Pathan Squadrons) commanded by Major R. C. Barry-Smith.  Indian officers were Risaldar Usman Khan and Risaldar Sajid Gul.  Squadron became orphan when two of the three British officers of the contingent were killed in an ambush until replacements came from India.  Many horses were lost due to harsh climate and horse illness.  After two years, squadron returned to India leaving twenty comrades buried in E. Africa.

    Colonel Paul Emil von Lettow-Vorbeck: He was commander of German forces in E. Africa.  There is no doubt that he was head and shoulders above all his British rivals in the theatre.  He was master of planning, logistic details, tactics and almost always one step ahead of his British foes.  For four years, he fought, feigned, disappeared, re-appeared and engaged his rivals in a lengthy retreat and in the process kept a large number of troops under British command entangled.  However, inter-war German writings raised him to a mythical level which is not accurate.  His success was partly due to inept British military leadership in the theatre but then he who takes advantage of foe’s mistakes is the man who wins.  First German victory at Tanga using conventional strategy clouded Lettow-Vorbeck’s judgment and he didn’t change his strategy despite changing circumstances.  He assumed that another victory like Tanga would end the campaign in his favor despite two alternatives offered by his subordinates (Captain Max Wintgens and Captain Heinrich Naumann advised for guerrilla warfare campaign by deep raids which they had successfully applied and Captain Max Looff’s suggestion about positional strategy to take advantage of the terrain and concentrate dwindling German forces in selected areas).  Lettow-Vorbeck continued on his own path that ultimately destroyed his forces and when finally he realized it was too late.  All this however doesn’t diminish his achievements. 

    He was student of Chief of German General Staff Graf Alfred von Schlieffen; master of maneuver warfare.  He was banished to remote E. Africa because he was not much liked by General Staff due to his personality as well as his dogmatic adherence to conventional warfare.  The last act of maverick Lettow-Vorbeck during his retreat was another brilliant maneuver surprising the 900 strong Portuguese contingent under Major Pinto on his heels.  He re-crossed the river, made a swift encircling march and after a brief sharp encounter, 700 Portuguese surrendered and provided Lettow-Vorbeck much needed supplies especially ammunition. Clothing his men in Portuguese uniforms and armed with foe’s arms, he captured Fort Naguri.  Lettow-Vorbeck was uncompromising to the extent of ruthlessness and expected one hundred percent effort from his subordinates.  After an encounter, he sat on judgment of one of his subordinates Major Fischer and after announcing that Fischer has not tried hard enough to block enemy’s advance handed him revolver.  Fischer dutifully took revolver from his commander went away and shot himself.  South African commander General Jan Smuts acknowledged his foe by stating that “The enemy’s stubborn defense of his last colony is a tribute to the military qualities of Von Lettow”.  (John Nesselhuf’s master’s thesis on the subject is a very good analysis looking at the alternative view of Lettow-Vorbeck).

    I found Edmund Dane’s British Campaigns in Africa and the Pacific 1914-18 and Ross Anderson’s Forgotten Front: The East African Campaign 1914-1918 good comprehensive review of the E. African campaign. 

    ·       Above narrative clearly demolishes at least one myth prevalent in Pakistan especially among army officers that there were no all Muslim regiments in Indian army.  At different time periods there have been several all Muslim regiments and I think Major ® Agha H. Amin has given a detailed account a while ago.  A similar myth is about Pathan being anti-British where hostility of a segment of trans-frontier Pathans is generalized.  They ignore the simple fact that trans-frontier Pathans generally didn’t accept central authority whether Mughal or even their own kin i.e. Pathan rulers of Afghanistan.  They flocked in droves to serve East India Company and later British Crown all over the globe as well as acted as game keepers in their own hinterlands joining scouts.  Pathans were way over represented in Indian army compared to their population.  Numbers of Afridis and Mahsuds is simply astounding. I’m currently working on Pushtun recruitment in British Indian army during Great War.  There were whole companies of Yusfuzais, Khattaks, Mohmands, Orakzais, Mahsuds and Afridis who bravely fought under Union Jack for the pig eating Queen (later King).  Pondering over the Khyber Agency political agent’s files at Peshawar archives of that era I found long lists of many who gave up the ghost in the killing fields of Europe, Mesopotemia, Middle East and Africa.  What is the lesson from this page of history? When properly trained and led by first rate officers even alien who shared nothing with their soldiers and look at the results.  Zakha Khel Afridis of Khyber Rifles with only four years of service were steady as a rock even against their own kin in a battle.  In 1897, when whole frontier was aflame and sole British officer of Khyber Rifles was not allowed to go back to Landi Kotal to join his soldiers, one indomitable Subedar Mursil fought to his last breath in a situation where one son was with him while two sons were with the tribesmen attacking his post.  Compare it to what happened recently.  Poorly trained and horribly led scouts would not fight even for their own homes and hearths. Even in the darkest days of the Empire, a scout would risk his life despite severe wounds to bring back his rifle with his head held high let alone think about surrender.  And here you have dozens including regular troops surrendering without firing a shot or deserting.  Officers who should have been court martialled for their acts of omission and commission were promoted and given prized appointment ensuring that rot went all the way up the chain of command.  Things have improved a lot but still there is lot of room for improvement.  At Moschi in E. Africa, a Mahsud sepoy hardly out of his boyhood was hit with two bullets in his left arm.  When Company Commander ordered the company to rise and reinforce the firing line, he saw the bleeding Mahsud and telling him to report to hospital.  Cocky Mahsud refused telling his Company Commander that ‘you have two arms, you take my rifle and I have one arm, I’ll take your revolver.  We will both go to the perimeter’.  In 1930, only three resolute British and three Indian Scout officers (one Swati, one Afridi and one Khattak) lead their men to defend the Sararogha fort against a large lashkar.  Everyone knew that government was here to stay and not going to run away no matter what is the challenge and the result was that a strange combination of an outlaw, a Khassadar Subedar, a local Mahsud Malik and a retired Subedar Major Mir Badshah Khan stood as a rock against heavy odds and prevailed. (this incident is described in detail by Charles Chenevix Trench in his great work The Frontier Scouts).  In 2008, the same fort was lost to militants due to strategic myopia, pathetic indifference at all levels and due to the fact that men with lot of brass on their shoulders but with feet of clay were at the helm of affairs.  In 1888, the death of only two British officers and four soldiers of 5th Gurkha Rifles moved the whole government machinery and Black Mountain expedition was launched.  Resoluteness of government was for everyone to see and the result was that 300 Afridi volunteers of Khyber Rifles joined the fray.  Over a century later, dozens of soldiers were abducted and beheaded, two and three star officers were killed in major cities and nobody seem to be in any hurry.  No surprise that chair lift operators (Mullah Fazlullah) and bus conductors (Mangal Bagh) made a mockery of state authority.  The wages of such incompetence are the tragedies that militants are slaughtering children in schools and blowing dozens in attacks on mosques. Now Pakistan will need a lot of blood and treasure to reverse the rot. 
    ·       Indomitable Baluch fought for the alien sovereign with pride hundred years ago and hundred years later his alienation from the state of Pakistan is almost complete.  Wisdom of Solomon and patience of Job will be needed to bring him back into the national fold but some in high temples thought that dumping Baluch bodies will keep the nation together.  They forgot that we have seen this movie before and it ends very badly.

    Hamid Hussain
    February 2, 2015

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    Razib put up an interesting post on this topic on his blog . I think his point is that no religion is a "religion of the book". People make the religion and they remake it as time demands. Messily and unpredictably in many cases, but still, it moves. And in this sense, Islam is no more fixed in stone by what is written or not written in it's text (or texts) than any other religion.

    Someone then commented (and I urge you to read the post and the comments, and the hyperlinks, they are all relevant and make this post clearer) as follows:

    "Well, if you take the Old Testament and Koran at face value, the OT is more violent. The interesting question is then why Islam ends up being more violent than Judaism or Christianity, and for that I agree you have to thank subsequent tradition and reinterpretation of the violence in the text. It appears that for whatever reason Islam has carried out less of this kind of reinterpretation, so what was originally a less violent founding text ends up causing more violence because it is being interpreted much more literally."

    I replied there, and then thought I would put that reply up as a new post here because I want to see what people think of this quick and off-the-cuff comment. THEN, I can maybe improve it in a final new post this weekend. So, without further ado, my comment:

    There is an easier explanation. Islam the religion we know today (classical Islam of the four Sunni schools and it's Shia counterparts) developed in the womb of the Arab empire. It is evident that it provided a unifying ideology and a theological justification for that empire (and in the case of various Shia sects, varying degrees of resistance or revolt against that empire), but at the very least, they grew and formed together; one was not the later product of the fully formed other. Being the religion of a (very successful and impressive) imperialist project, it's "official" mature Sunni version obviously has a military-supremacist feel to it.

    Whether the text canonized as "foundational document" does or does not fully explain the imperialism and supremacism is a red herring. The Quran is a fairly long book, but to an outsider it should be immediately obvious that you can create MANY different Islams around that book and if you did it all over again, NONE of them have to look like classical Sunni Islam. The details of Sunni Islam (who gets to rule, what daily life is supposed to look like, how non-Muslims should be treated, etc) are not some sort of direct and unambiguous reading of the Quran. Even the 5 daily prayers are not specified in the Quran. The schools of classical Sunni Islam are supposedly based on the Quran and hadith, but the Quran and the hadiths are clearly cherry picked and manipulated (and in the case of the hadiths, frequently just invented) based on the perceived needs of the empire, the ulama, the individual commentators, human nature, economics, whatever (insert favorite element here).
    So in principle, we should be able to make new Islams as needed (and some of us have indeed done so over the centuries...the Ismailis being one extreme example) and I am sure many of us will do that in the days to come as well. The Reza Aslan types are right about that (though i seriously doubt that HE can make anything lasting). In fact, in terms of practice, millions of Muslims have already "invented new Islams". Just as a random example, most contemporary Muslims do not have concubines and do not buy and sell slaves (and find the thought of doing so shocking). They take oaths of loyalty to all sorts of "un-Islamic" states and most of them turn out to be loyal at least to the same degree as their other fellow citizens of various hedonistic modern states. And so on and so forth.
    What sets them apart is their inability (until now) to publicly and comfortably articulate a theological framework that rejects medieval (aka no longer fashionable) elements of classical Sunni Islam. And this is especially a problem in Muslim majority countries. What stops them? I think apostasy and blasphemy laws (and the broader memes that uphold those laws) play a big role. King Hussein or Benazir Bhutto or even Rouhani may have private thoughts about changing X or Y inconvenient parts, but to speak up would be to invite accusations of blasphemy and apostasy. So they fudge and do one thing while paying lip service to another. Unfortunately, this means the upholders of classical Islam (and ISIS and the Wahabis are not as far from the mainstream Sunni Ulama in theory as is sometimes portrayed, though clearly they are pretty far in practice) have the edge in debates in the public sphere. This IS a serious problem. But the internet has made it very hard to keep inconvenient thoughts out of view. So there will be much churning. Eventually, some countries will emerge out of it better than others.
    ISIS itself will not. Of course, in principle, anything is possible. But we can still make predictions based on whatever model we have in our head. Like most predictions in social science and history, they will not be mathematical and precise and our confidence in them (or our ability to convince others, even when others accept most of our premises) will not be akin to the predictions of mathematics or physics. But for whatever it's worth, I don't think ISIS will settle into some semi-comfortable equilibrium. They will only destory and create chaos. And eventually they will be destroyed, though it is possible (maybe even likely) that large parts of Syria, Iraq and North Africa could become like Somalia. Too messy, too violent and too poor to be worth the effort of colonizing even by intact nearby states. But probably not forever. The real estate is too valuable and eventually someone will bring order to it. Probably using more force and cruder methods than liberal modern intellectuals are comfortable with.

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    (1.) you actually start becoming punctual

    (2.) your schedule runs months into advance
    (3.) you stop socialising nearly as much
    (4.) you start saying Christ inadvertently
    (5.) when you and your other half are the only dark-haired (let alone dark-skinned) people in the room
    (6.) your friends are based on shared hobbies
    (7.) your social calendar revolves around societies
    (8.) you would never dream to drop into other people's homes as you used to
    (9.) seeing people once a year is more than enough to sustain a friendship
    (10.) Christmas becomes a BIG thing and you start thinking about bona fide Easter Eggs lol.

    Bonus 11:
    (11.) your ethnic identity becomes a very valuable tool to differentiate yourself from the white bread upper middle class, who are very homogenous & metropolitan at times.

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    This is an old post and I would probably change some things now (and in fact, will change some things soon once I do a new post) But this was lost when the old Brownpundits crashed and I wanted to recover it. So here it is
    Posted on October 7, 2013 by omar

    Hussein Ibish has written an article on the decline and (impending?) fall of the Muslim Brotherhood.

    Reports of their death may be exaggerated, but surely the “Islamist political party” project is not doing well in most places. Turkey will be cited as an immediate counter-example, but I think AKP just hasn’t had the chance to really become too “Islamic” yet. If and when they do (and pressure to do so is bound to come from within, unless the project falls apart so badly in the middle east that Turkey gets away without trying it), they will find themselves in trouble as well.

    The problem (in over-simplified form):

    Modern states and modern politics (not just all the complex debates about how power should be exercised, who exercises it, who decides who exercises it, the theories around it; but also the actual institutions and mechanisms that evolved) arose first and foremost in Europe. There are surely things about that evolution that are contingent and could have been different elsewhere, but there are also many very fundamental features of modern life (modern levels of knowledge, modern industry and organization, modern understanding of human biology, psychology, sociology etc) that will still hold no matter where they develop on this planet. This is an extremely dense and imposing edifice. You cannot reject it and be modern in ways most people do seem to want to be modern (I have NEVER met an Islamist who did not want an air-force). Some non-western countries have already managed that knowledge transfer (e.g. Japan, South Korea), others are getting there (China), others hope to get there someday (India?) but Muslims are notable for wanting to get there while remaining medieval in terms of theology, law and politics. And not just at the fringes. Fringes are fringes everywhere. But in the Islamicate world, this dream is mainstream.

    Why? maybe because while no serious theory of politics developed in Islamicate religious thought (Ibn Khaldun is not religious literature), some dreams/fantasies of an idealized “Islamic state” were allowed to percolate. The deal was that the ulama would throw this dream around at each other and leave actual ruling to the rulers (who in practice were always and everywhere guided by existing Byzantine, Persian and Central Asian models and by “mirrors for princes” kind of literature, not by the dreamworld of the “rightly guided caliphs”). Every Islamicate empire down to the late Ottomans ruled in the name of Islam, but they did so using institutions and methods that were typically West-Asian/Central-Asian in origin. And then the Europeans took off (literally by 1903 but earlier metaphorically) and that whole world crashed and burned.

    And out of this wreckage, somebody dug up the old stories of the rightly guided caliphs; It seems to me that early fantasists (like Allama Iqbal) took it for granted that a lot of this is just propaganda and we all need propaganda, so “ek hi suf mein khaRey ho gaey Mahmood o Ayaz” (a famous verse of Iqbal, describing how Sultan Mahmood and his “slave” Ayaz could pray in one row; the wonders of Islam, that sort of thing) but they fully expected reality to be much closer to London than it was to Medina (witness his approval of the Grand Turkish assembly). To them, it was more like Chinese or Japanese reformers creating their own version of what worked and getting out from under the imperialist thumb. I am sure Iqbal did not expect to be the leading poet of the Pakistani Taliban! But over time, stories frequently repeated can come to be seen as the truth. Islamist parties want to create powerful, modern Islamic states. But the stories they are using are more Islamic than modern. Far more so than the early reformers perhaps realized. The result is that every party is all the time in danger of becoming hostage to those espousing primitive notions of Shariah law and medieval political ideas. It turns out that pretending to have “our own unique genius” was much easier than actually having any genius that could get the job done. Human nature being what it is, the easy path was taken.

    A small role was also played by well-meaning Western supporters, who wished to help the “lesser races” out of their misery and raise their “self-esteem”, and piled it on thick. With validation coming from Westerners, some in the Westoxicated Muslim elites had little difficulty believing “our indigenous tradition, our glorious heritage” and so on.

    And last but not the least, some of the brightest minds of our generation chose to be ruined by postcolonialism instead of opting for more wholesome pursuits like sex, drugs and rock and roll. Today, the Leftist intelligentsia (otherwise the natural opponents of the Islamist parties) in Muslim countries is so heavily contaminated with Western academic claptrap that some can be found cheering on the Islamists as signs of welcome “resistance to the dominant narrative”. OK, maybe this is not true of Arab countries, I dont know. It seems to be prevalent in a certain Western educated, upper-class Pakistani and Indian context though.

    The results do not look pleasant.

    PS: On Islamicate empires, my background view:

    Islamicate empires (the dominant form of political organization in the middle east and South Asia since the advent of Islam) had a near-total separation religion and state. The empires were run as West Asian empires, mostly (almost totally) an evolution of previous imperial patterns in that region. The religion evolved within these empires, but had practically nothing to say about politics. Religion was part and parcel OF the empires, but religious doctrine provided practically NO guidance to the political process. The political process used religion but was neither derived from it, nor bound by it .

    Islamic theology accepted practically ANY ruler as long the rulers were Muslims. An imaginary idealized Islamic state was discussed at times but had little to no connection with actual power politics, contemporary OR past.

    Empires governed loosely and interfered little with the everyday religious rituals of the ruled, especially outside the urban core. The rulers were interested in collecting taxes and continuing to rule. Most of the ruled gave as little as possible in taxes and had as little as possible to do with their rulers. This is not a specifically Islamic pattern, but it was almost universal in Islamicate empires.

    As a result, Muslim religious literature developed no serious political thought. “mirrors of princes” and pre-Muslim (or not-specifically Muslim) traditions guided actual politics, not some notion of “Islamic state”.

    PPS: some misconceptions are coming up repeatedly:

    1. That I am referring to ALL muslims. Not so. I am talking about Islamist parties, which are NOT a majority in most Muslim countries, but are mainstream in most. There is also the matter of the Islamist parties getting a certain authenticity cachet in the eyes of Western observers looking for “Muslim representatives” in the multiculturalist universe.

    2. That this is about whether the Egyptian military or the Morroccan king are making X or Y correct choice. No, its not about them. Its a broader generalization; the MODE of failure may vary. But failure of the Islamist political project is inevitable…not because there can be no such project in principle, but because the project as it has actually developed in the 20th century is based on the twin illusions of “the ideal Islamic state” and “Islamic political science”…neither of which actually existed in history.

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  • 02/25/15--07:13: A Trip to Pakistan
  • A heartfelt post consisting only of pictures and Urdu verses from Dr Hamid Hussain (about his latest trip to Pakistan). 

    My recent trip to Pakistan was in the aftermath of the December tragedy in Peshawar.  More painful at personal level as it is my hometown but I and many had no illusions and though hoping against all hopes that this may be the last whole sale slaughter but we knew in our hearts that this is not yet the drop scene of the horror movie.  Surely, the ever enterprising militants showed up again and mowed down several Shia praying in a mosque in Hayatabad where brother and cousins of a very dear friend narrowly escaped death.   During my trip, many in different cities in Pakistan were kind enough to share their fears, anger and hopes with me and I’m thankful.  Sometimes few short verses give more meaning to feelings than lengthy explanations but off course it is only for Urdu readers. 

    November 2009. Over ninety People killed in bombing of a crowded bazaar in Peshawar.
    زمیں سے آیے ھیں یا آسماں سے آیے ھیں
    عزاب شھر پہ جانے کھاں سے آیے ھیں

    Fazlullah: Leader of Pakistani Taliban.
    حکم دے رکھا ھے شھروں کی تباھی کے لیے
    کوی قانون نھیں ضل الھی کے لیے
    Taliban Leaders
    لوگ ٹوٹ جاتے ھیں ایک گھر بنانے میں
    تم ترس نھیں کھاتے بستیاں جلٓانے میں

    December 2014.  Pictures of some of the children killed in an attack on a school in Peshawar. 133 children and 16 members of school staff were killed.
    کب اٹھاے گا خدا حشر خدا ھی جانے
    آدمی روز یھاں حشر اٹھا دیتا ھے

    December 2014.  Family members mourning one of the victims of the school attack in Peshawar.
    اک صف ماتم بچھی ھے کوچہ و بٓازار میں
    نوحہ خوانی ھو رھی ھے قصہ خوانی کی جگہ

    December 2014.  Pakistani political leaders at a meeting after the tragedy of Peshawar.
    وہ سبھی لوگ معاون تھے میرے قاتل کے
    جن کو منصف نے بلایا ھے گواھی کے لیے

    Leaders of religious parties of Pakistan.
    بشر مجبور اھل  مصلحت پر رحم آتا ھے
    کے يے بیمار ذھنوں کو بھی چارہ گر بتاتے ھیں
    November 2014.  Civilians killed in a suicide attack in Paktika Province in Afghanistan and laments by Afghans as well as many pakistanis questioning pakistan’s support for some Afghan militants.  For a decade they had been warning, pleading and begging Pakistan.
    وہ دھشتوں کو ھوا دے رھا ھے بستی میں
    اسے بتٓاو یے تمھید ھے اجڑنے کی

    March 2013.  A mob destroys 150 houses of Christian minority in Lahore
    رحمت سید لولاک پہ کامل ایماں
    امت سید لولاک سے خوف آتا ھے

    May 2010. Ninety four Ahmadis killed in attack on their mosque in Lahore.  Members of the community standing over freshly dug graves with names of the deceased in their hands.
    <p>Members of the Ahmadi Muslim community hold the names of victims as they stand over their graves in Chenab Nagar, in Punjab's Chiniot District, on May 29, 2010.</p>
    دل ھي تھے ھم دکھے ھوے تم نے  دکھا لیٓا تو کٰیا
    خود بھی تو  بے اماں ھوے ھم کو ستا لیا   تو کٰیا

    February 2013. Preparation of graves of Hazara Shia killed in Quetta.

    ھمی کو قاتل کھے گی دنیا ھمارا ھی قتل عام ھو گا
    ھمیں کنویئں کھودتے پھریں گے ھمیں پے پانی حرام ھو گا

     September 2008.  Marriott Hotel bombing in Islamabad, killing over 60 people.
    کتنے خوش طبع ھیں إس شھردل آذار کے لوگ
    موج خوں سر سے گزر جاتی ھے تب پوچھتے ھیں

    Karachi: A city held hostage by political, ethnic, sectarian & criminal mafias.
    ھجرت کے چراغوں سے سجا رکھا تا جس کو
    اس شھر کراچی میں تماشا بھی ھمیں ھیں

    Baluch Rebels
    ھم کسی اور کے ھو جائییں تو حیرت کیسی
    تم نے جو زخم دئے ھیں انھیں بھرنا بھی تو ھے

    Leaders of religious parties of Pakistan.
    کسے سجدہ کرو آخر کسے أپنا خدا ماںو
    کے ھر پتھر یھی کھتا ھے مجھ کو دیوتا ماںو

    February 2013.  Pakistan Army Chief General Raheel Sharif chairing Corps Commander’s conference.
    جو اندھیرا میری تقدیر نے پھیلایا ھے
    إس میں شامل تیری زلفوں کی گٹھا بھی کچھ ھے

    PTI Leadership standing with Mr. Munawar Hassan and Mr. Shaikh Rashid
    میں چلںے سے
    تو بڑھتے ھیں
    فاصلے نھیں  گٹھتے
    آرزوئیں جلتی ھیں
    منزلیں تمنا کی ساتھ
      ساتھ چلتی ھیں
    صبح دم ستاروں کی تیز جھلملاھٹ کو
    روشںی کی آمد کا پیش باب کھتے ھیں
    إک کرن جو ملتی ھے آفتاب  کھتے ھیں
    دائرہ بدلنے کو
    انقلاب کھتے ھیں

    Family member holding picture of one of the victims of Peshawar school attack.*
    ھزار دکھ مجھے دینا مگر خیال رھے
    مرے خدایا مرا حوصلہ بحال رھے
    August 2013.  Coffins of police officers killed in attack when they were attending the funeral of a fellow officer in Quetta.
    Image result for attack on the funeral prayer of police officers quetta
    ھوا کے ظلم سے بجھنا قبول ھے لیکن
    ھوا کے حکم سے جلنا ھمیں قبول نھیں
    یار مقتل سے بہر حال گزرنا ہو گا
    بچ گۓ ہم تو کسی اور کو مرنا ہو گا

    ٹال دینے سے کہاں مسئلہ حل ہوتا ہے
    اک نہ اک دن تو کوئ فیصلۂ کرنا ہو گا

    اگلی نسلوں کو تباہی سے بچانے کے لۂے
    جو بھی کرنا ھے اسی نسل کو کرنا ہو گا

    Indian school children holding candles in memory of school children killed in attack in Pesahwar.
    محبت ایسا دریا ھے
    کے بارش روٹھ بھی جائے
    تو پانی کم نھیں ھو تا

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    A post from Dr Hamid Hussain. A (typically earthy) comment from military historian Major Agha Amin follows below Dr Hamid Hussain's post.

    Dear Sir;

    A while ago, many officers asked about the controversies about Ayub Khan's selection and I wrote a piece that may interest those raising these questions.

    Mr. Ardeshir's comment about Sam Manekshaw and Ayub Khan is incorrect.  It is related to Sam and Yahya Khan.  The real story is as follows;

    In early 1947, Sam and Yahya were serving together at Military Operations directorate in New Delhi.  Sam owned a red James motorcycle that looked like the picture below;

    Yahya fell in love with it and Sam agreed to sell it for 1000 Rupees.  In the chaos of partition, Yahya left for Pakistan promising to send the money from Pakistan but later forgot about the money.  After 1971 war, Sam once joked about the incident stating that '"Yahya never paid me the Rs1,000 for my motorbike, but now he has paid with half his country." In 2001, Pakistani columnist Aredshir Cowasjee went to India and met Sam.  Cowasjee remembered Sam's quip and offered to pay the money Yahya owed along with the interest.  Sam replied that 'Yahya was a good man and a good soldier.  We served together and he didn't have a mean or corrupt bone in his body'.

    An additional corollary to the above story is another story.  In 1946, Lt. Colonel Sam Manekshaw was GSO-1 (Operations), Major Yahya Khan was GSO-2 (Frontier Defence) and Captain S. K. Sinha was GSO-3 (Internal Security) at Military Operations Directorate in New Delhi.  In 1971, General Sam Manekshaw was Indian army chief, Yahya was Pakistan army chief and Lieutenant General S. K. Sinha was head of pay and pension department at army headquarters in Delhi.  When war started, Sinha sent a letter to Sam requesting for chance to participate in the war.  Sinha wrote, "old G-1 is going to war with old G-2 and G-3 is being left out'.


    Selection of First Native C-in-C in Pakistan

    Hamid Hussain

    In 1947, India and Pakistan emerged as new independent states and Indian army was divided.  There were no senior native officers and both countries decided to keep British officers at senior posts while native officers were given accelerated promotions to prepare them for senior positions.  In India, General Robert Lockhart (commissioned in 51st Sikh; now 3 Frontier Force Regiment of Pakistan army) was appointed first C-in-C.  He relinquished charge in January 1948 and was succeeded by Lieutenant General Francis Robert Roy Bucher (commissioned in 55th Coke's Rifles; now 7 Frontier Force Regiment of Pakistan army.  He later changed to 32nd Lancers that was amalgamated with 31st Lancers in 1922 to form 13thLancers; now an elite cavalry regiment of Pakistan army).  Near the end of 1948, it was decided to appoint an Indian C-in-C to complete the nationalization process and in January 1949, General Cariappa took charge as first Indian C-in-C.  In case of Pakistan, General Frank Messervy (he was commissioned in Hodson Horse) was appointed first C-in-C on August 15, 1947.  He retired on February 1948 and succeeded by his Chief of Staff (COS) General Douglas Gracey (commissioned in Ist King George's Own Gurkha Rifles and later commanded 2/3rd Gurkha Rifles).  Interestingly, the last two British C-in-Cs of India belonged to regiments that were allotted to Pakistan and the two British C-in-Cs of Pakistan belonged to regiments that went to India.

    On the eve of independence, Pakistan inherited only two native Brigadiers; Muhammad Akbar Khan and Nawabzada Agha Muhammad Raza.  Several officers were given accelerated promotions and senior positions were filled with Pakistani officers.  In 1949, it was decided that Major General Iftikhar Ali Khan will be the first native C-in-C.  He was commissioned from Sandhurst in August 1929.  His parent regiment was 7 Light Cavalry.  Later, he was transferred to 3 Cavalry when later regiment was Indianized and he served as regiment's Adjutant.  During war, he served with newly raised 45 Cavalry.  He was junior to several Pakistani officers and the list includes with commission dates in brackets; Muhammad Akbar Khan 'Rangroot' was Daly College Indore graduate and not Sandhurst commissioned (December 1919), Faiz Mohammed Khan (July 1921), Mohammad Ishfakul Majid (August 1924), Khairuddin Mohammad Idris (September 1925), Malik Fazal-ur-Rahman Kallue (January 1927), Nawabzada Agha Muhammad Raza (January 1927), Raja Mohammad Afzal Janjua (January 1927), Muhammad Ayub Khan (February 1928), Nasir Ali Khan (February 1928) and Mohammad Yusuf (January 1929).  It is important to clarify seniority issue.  At every rank, several officers are superseded and seniority alone is never a criterion for senior positions.  Some officers when superseded ask for retirement while others continue to serve.  Two examples will clarify this position.  Mir Haider was commissioned in December 1919 and in 1949, he was Major. Jamaldar Orakzai was commissioned in August 1928 and in 1948 he was Colonel serving at Quarter Master General (QMG) branch.  Haider and Orakzai were senior to Iftikhar but in view of their service track and rank, they were not relevant to the selection of army chief.  It was decided to send Iftikhar for Imperial Defence Course (IDC) in London to prepare him for his job.  In December 1949, his plane crashed near Jangshahi in Karachi killing all on board that included his wife and son and Director Military Operations (DMO) Brigadier Mohammad Sher Khan.  Sher was a Sandhurst graduate commissioned in September 1932 and joined 6th Battalion of 13th Frontier Force Rifles (now 1 Frontier Force Regiment).

    There are many confusing stories about selection of first native C-in-C of Pakistan but they relate to selection of Ayub and not Iftikhar with the exception that Ayub contended that Iftikhar's name was floated as possible first native C-in-C but no final decision was made.  This may be due to the fact that decision was made but Iftikhar died before any official notification was issued.  Very few officers of that time period wrote memoirs therefore written record is very limited.  Political leadership of newly independent Pakistan under Prime Minister Liaqat Ali Khan selected Iftikhar on the advice of British senior brass.  British considered Iftikhar professionally sound and apolitical. His thoroughly westernized life style was probably a plus.  Some suggest that he was tough disciplinarian and may have temper problem.  According to Major General A. O. Mitha, he had 'the reputation of eating a Brigadier or Lt. Colonel for breakfast everyday'.  Ayub considered Iftikhar a good officer but 'a difficult man' and 'short-tempered'.  Two most credible sources about the subject matter are Major General Sher Ali Khan Pataudi and Major General Syed Shahid Hamid.  Pataudi knew Iftikhar for a long period of time starting from the days when two were at Royal Indian Military College (RIMC) at Dehra Dun where Iftikhar was senior to him.  In early 1948, Pataudi served as 14 Para Brigade commander under Iftikhar when later was commanding 10 Division.  Pataudi was bachelor and stayed at Iftikhar's house and knew Iftikhar intimately.  When Pataudi came to Pakistan in October 1947, he was posted to Gardai Brigade in Waziristan commanded by Ayub. The two were together for three months and developed friendship.  When Ayub was C-in-C, he superseded Pataudi therefore he was resentful.  Hamid served with Iftikhar in the same 3 Cavalry Regiment.  Hamid's time in 3 Cavalry was not pleasant and he soon left the regiment.  He didn't have good memories as some Indian officers including Iftikhar preferred to interact with British officers rather than fellow Indian officers.  Hamid also had friendly relations with Ayub and Ayub used to stay with him.  He served as Master General Ordnance (MGO) and Adjutant General (AG) under Ayub.

    These two contemporaries of Iftikhar and Ayub give different accounts and these perspectives are based on their own personal relations with the two.  It is important to note that during a professional life spanning over two to three decades an officer interacts with several hundred officers in different capacities therefore one can expect quite diverse opinions.   Major General Sher Ali Khan Pataudi considered Iftikhar professionally sound, well read and highly intelligent.  In contrast, he considered Ayub as a typical battalion officer good at basic soldiering but not cut for higher direction of war.  He defended Iftikhar's aloofness by suggesting that 'he was a very shy person which gave the impression of his being conceited, which he wasn't'.  Pataudi claims that Iftikhar was concerned about politicization of officers and distrusted politicians.  He once commented that 'it would be better for both of us if we both got out before our hands were stained and garments polluted'.  Pataudi is of the view that if Iftikhar had been C-in-C, 'he would not have allowed the Army to be used for political purposes and 'would have never used his position as C-in-C, to come into power through the Army'.  In contrast, Major General Shahid Hamid is of the view that Iftikhar was a thoroughly westernized officer (he was married to a charming Parsee girl who was number one woman rider in India.), ruthless and hated politicians.  Hamid is of the view that Iftikhar would have adopted the same course later adopted by Ayub.

    Iftikhar's choice as first native C-in-C is an established fact and Pataudi states that Prime Minister contacted Iftikhar and informed him about the decision which Iftikhar shared with him.  In addition, Pataudi also states that on that day Ayub was also in Lahore and contacted him and asked to arrange for a meeting with Iftikhar to get to know the incoming C-in-C.  Ayub was leaving the next day therefore meeting didn't materialize.  Hamid also alludes to the fact that Ayub was always curious about Iftikhar as it was an open secret that Iftikhar would be next C-in-C.  An incident narrated by Ayub also gives credence that Prime Minister had considered Iftikhar for C-in-C position.  There was a division commander's conference and Prime Minister Liaqat Ali Khan invited some senior officers to circuit house.  He brought up the subject of selection of C-in-C and told the audience that 'it was possible that the appointment would not go to the most senior officer'.  He then elicited opinion of several officers regarding selecting a junior officer as C-in-C.

    Among the list of officers senior to Iftikhar, Akbar was commissioned in 1 Brahmans but spent most of his career with Royal Indian Army Service Corps (RIASC) with no command, staff or instructional experience (the only exception was command of Meerut sub area in 1947).  In April 1946, British recommended several Indian officers for senior appointments to prepare them for command when British left.  Akbar was recommended by the selection board to be Army Commander but it was probably to have a Muslim and not for professional excellence.  Akbar was the only senior Muslim officer at Brigadier rank while the remaining six recommend for promotions and coveted postings were Hindus (Cariappa, Rajindra Singhji, Srinagesh, Nathu Singh, A.J. Rudra and B.S. Chimni).  In Pakistan, by 1949, several officers have attained accelerated promotions and were considered professionally superior therefore Akbar was not considered for post.  He retired at Major General rank in 1950.    One other qualified candidate Raza was not liked by British.  Brigadier Francis Ingall in the process of establishment of Pakistan a military academy dealt with Raza who was then serving as Adjutant General (AG) and didn't have high opinion of him.  Ingall considered him 'extremely pompous', 'difficult to deal with', vague' and 'hesitant to make decisions'.   A junior councilor at British High Commission A. H. Reed remarked that Raza 'a born intriguer, had been lobbying hard for the Commander-in-Chief position'.  He also remarked that Raza was feared by juniors and universally disliked by both British and Pakistani officers.  Major General A. O. Mitha who served under Raza summed up the general opinion that Raza was professionally average and 'had the reputation of being strict and a bit of bully'.  However, after a personal encounter he developed great respect for Raza for his 'large-heartedness' and 'broad-mindedness'.  Many other officers senior to Iftikhar later retried at Colonel and Brigadier ranks.

    In early 1948, Ayub was superseded at the rank of Brigadier and two sources confirm this.  Shuja Nawaz was given access to Ayub's file for his encyclopedic work on Pakistan army and his information removes doubts about seniority.  Ayub Khan was sent to command East Pakistan sub area (later designated 14th Division) with the local rank of Major General.  This could have caused confusion in terms of seniority and General Gracey sent a note to Military Secretary stating that when Ayub is promoted to Major General rank, this will be antedated to the date of his local Major General rank starting January 08, 1948.  Gracey went ahead to clarify the seniority list putting Ayub 'NEXT below Maj. General Iftikhar Khan, and next above Major General Nasir Ali Khan'.  This clearly shows that while Iftikhar was junior as far commission date is concerned but when he was promoted Major General, Ayub was Brigadier with only local Major General rank thus making him junior to Iftikhar.  Pataudi was a friend of C-in-C General Frank Messervy and both played polo together.  Pataudi states that in early 1948, when he was serving under Iftikhar at Lahore, Ayub on his way to East Pakistan passed a note to him 'been superseded.  Can you do something'?  Pataudi went to Rawalpindi and met Frank Messervy and gently raised the subject.  Messervy replied that selection of right officers at this stage was crucial as they will lead the army when British officers are gone.

    After the death of Iftikhar, selection of C-in-C came up again.  The decision was finalized sometime in September 1950 when General Douglas Gracey was C-in-C.  Syed Wajahat Hussain (later Major General) served as ADC to General Gracey in 1947-48 at the rank of Lieutenant.  In 1956, he visited England and stayed with General Gracey.  Wajahat states that Gracey told him that after the death of Iftikhar in plane crash, the choice of C-in-C was narrowed down to Ayub, Raza and Nasir Ali Khan.  According to Gracey, Ayub was picked because of his command experience compared to Raza and Nasir although Gracey was worried about Ayub's political ambitions.  Raza was commissioned in 1/7 Rajput Regiment and later commanded 6/7 Rajput and 18/7 Rajput battalions.  Raza was the first Pakistani Adjutant General (AG).  Nasir was also commissioned in 7th Rajput Regiment and commanded 9/7 Rajput.  He was the first Pakistani Military Secretary (MS), Quarter Master General (QMG) and Chief of Staff (COS) of Pakistan army.  Nasir spent all post independence time at staff positions and didn't command a Brigade or Division.  Nasir was not particular about military decorum and this may have also gone against him.  In summer, sometimes he was seen wearing sandals without socks with his military uniform.  In a British trained army, I'm sure this attitude would have horrified not only British but many Pakistani officers.

    Gracey's remark about Raza's lack of command experience is curious as he commanded 12 Division.  12 Division was raised in Peshawar in November 1948 by Major General Mohammad Yusuf who commanded it until December 1949 (Division was later moved to Batrasi and finally to Murree).  Yusuf was succeeded in command by Raza.  Major General A. O. Mitha confirms that in his memoirs.  He served under Raza when he was Commanding Officer (CO) of 9/8 Punjab Regiment and his battalion was defense battalion of the division at Batrasi.  When decision about C-in-C was made in summer of 1950, Raza was in command of the division for about six months and this may have not been thought as adequate.  One possibility is that Gracey was referring to mid 1949 time period during consideration for C-in-C position when Iftikhar was chosen as at that time Raza had not yet commanded a division.  Prime Minister Liaqat Ali Khan had a favorable view of Raza as Raza's father was Liaqat's friend but probably recommendation of General Gracey and favorable input by Secretary of Defence Sikandar Mirza tilted the balance in Ayub's favor.  Sikandar Mirza was Secretary Defence and he weighed in Ayub's favor.  Mirza had spent his long career in Indian Political Service (IPS) on North West Frontier and familiar with the byzantine intrigues.  He contacted the head of nascent Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) Colonel (later Major General) Shahid Hamid and asked him to generate an adverse intelligence report about Raza with the intention of getting him out of the race for C-in-C.  Shahid refused to oblige.

    The command of 14th Division needs some elaboration.  At the time of partition, the command in East Pakistan was designated East Pakistan Army.  Ironically, this grand title was given to a formation that consisted of a single infantry battalion; 8/12 Frontier Force Regiment.  When Ayub assumed command in January 1948, it was called East Pakistan Sub Area and consisted of only two infantry battalions (8/12 Frontier Force Regiment and 2/8 Punjab Regiment).  In December 1948, sub area was designated 14th Division and although its command played a major role in the decision of  Ayub's appointment as first C-in-C, technically Ayub's command consisted of only two infantry battalions.

    In September 1950, it was decided that Ayub would be next C-in-C.  He was appointed Deputy C-in-C under Gracey to groom him for the top job.  He visited military installations in England and Germany.  He took charge on January 17, 1951.  Lieutenant General Ross McKay was appointed his advisor.  Ayub's appointment as first C-in-C has been criticized by many with the hindsight.  This criticism is invariably in the context of Ayub's coup and long tenure as President with the assumption that another army chief was not likely to launch the coup.

    The issue of seniority and a bad report in Second World War is cited against Ayub.  As far as seniority is concerned regarding three contenders; Raza, Ayub and Nasir, Raza was senior and Nasir and Ayub from the same course although Nasir was put junior to Ayub in army list.  In the argument against Ayub's professionalism a bad report is cited which is probably 'tactical timidity' during Second World War in 1945 by his commander Major General Thomas Wynford 'Pete' Rees (Served with 1/3 Madras during First World War, long stint with 5/6 Rajputana Rifles and commanded 3/6 Rajputana Rifles).  Rees was commanding 19th Division in Burma.  Ayub was serving with First Assam Regiment as second in command (2IC) at the rank of Major.  First Assam was a divisional support unit under direct command of Rees.  On January 10, 1945, Commanding Officer (CO) of First Assam Lieutenant Colonel W. F. Brown was killed and Ayub Khan assumed command.  Ayub was removed from the command by Rees when Ayub suggested that battalion was not fit for the assigned task.  Rees considered this as tactical timidity and removed Ayub from command.  On March 07 (some accounts give the date of March 15) 1945 Lieutenant Colonel Hugh Parsons took command from Ayub.  Parsons was originally from 5/6thGurkha Rifles and had served with First Assam in the past.  Ayub stayed in the tent of Risaldar/Honorary Captain Ashraf Khan of Hazara until his departure to India on April 18.

    All evidence suggests that Ayub got a bad report during his command of First Assam Regiment although exact nature is not clear.  Pataudi states that Ayub discussed this with him when he was working with him in Waziristan.  Pataudi also claims that he had seen this report when he was in Delhi.  Pataudi opted for Pakistan and came to Pakistan in October 1947.  While in Delhi, he was given access to files of Muslim officers opting for Pakistan as he was designated Deputy Military Secretary of Pakistan army.   In October 1958, British High Commissioner Sir Gilbert Laithwaite pointed to this in his report about Ayub.  Laithwaite wrote, 'he was according to our records, a failure as a Commanding Officer (Lieutenant Colonel) on active service and had to be relieved'.  Ayub survived the bad report of Rees and later re-raised and commanded his parent battalion 1/14 Punjab Regiment (now 5 Punjab of Pakistan Army).  Later, he served as President of Army Selection Board tasked with recommending permanent commission to Emergency Commissioned Officers (ECOs).  Some suggest that Ayub had this negative report removed from his file when he became C-in-C.  Shuja Nawaz who was given access to Ayub's file communicated to me that he does not recall seeing Rees's report in the file.  Pete Rees and Ayub's paths crossed again when Rees was commanding Punjab Boundary Force (PBF) and Ayub served under him.  Ayub Khan was one of the advisors to Reese at Colonel rank.  It is not clear whether two had any problems in view of their previous unpleasant encounter.  PBF was severely criticized by Punjab politicians for failure to control law and order.  PBF story is another neglected chapter of subcontinent history and very little has been written about it.   I have done some work on the subject and in my view it is quite unfair to criticize PBF or Ayub for the tragedy that was a chapter from Dante's inferno.  I think this left a deep mark on Ayub and his extreme distrust of politicians.

    Some suggest that country's founder Jinnah was not in favor of Ayub which is probably not correct.  In October 1947, Ayub was Brigadier and commanding Gardai Brigade Group in Waziristan area command.  If the assertion that Mr. Jinnah was not happy with Ayub is true then it does not make sense that Ayub is promoted Brigadier against Mr. Jinnah's wishes and given the task of execution of Operation Curzon; withdrawal of troops from tribal areas.   Similarly, Ayub was promoted Major General in January 1948 and posted to East Pakistan when Mr. Jinnah was very well in full control of all affairs.  In Pakistan, there is a wrong perception that Operation Curzon was the brainchild of Jinnah.  By 1946, it was clear that British were leaving and British high command had put in place a plan for removal of regular troops from tribal areas.  This decision was reached before the Cabinet Mission plan when even partition of India was not envisaged.  On April 24, 1946, a conference was held at Peshawar.  It was attended by Governor North West Frontier Province George Cunningham, Agent to Governor General Baluchistan, Air Officer Commander-in-Chief (AOC-in-C), British minister at Kabul, C-in-C General Claude Aukinleck and senior military and civil officers.  It was realized that the status of tribes will be uncertain until the outcome of Cabinet Mission plan.  The decision was made that regular troops will be replaced by civil armed forces although the process was to be gradual.  It was in this context that decisions such as Indianization of officer Corps of Scouts, raising of Central Waziristan Scouts, Malakand battalion and re-raising of Khyber Rifles was discussed.  Gardai brigade was the first to be withdrawn and replaced by local tribal levies; Khassadars. Once Civil Armed Forces were properly organized and equipped then Wana and Razmak brigades withdrawn.  Events of sub-continent moved much faster with impending independence of India, emergence of Pakistan and massive migration and slaughter put this issue on the back burner. It is to Jinnah's credit that he made the decision quickly and swiftly implemented the plan.  The caveat is that by that time tribesmen had been directed by Pakistan to greener pastures of Jammu & Kashmir during 1947-48 conflict.

    Ayub Khan was an average officer not different from many of his contemporaries.  He was trained as a regimental officer and he was neither trained nor did he strive to learn the higher direction of war.  His reading was limited to Readers Digest type of publications and Philip Mason's Men Who Ruled India.  He was not known for reading classic or modern military works on history or art of war.  This was the reason that Lieutenant General Ross McKay was appointed his advisor.  Ayub was mild mannered and humble.  He was handsome with an impressive personality and very pleasant.  This endeared him to many international leaders.

    Ninety percent of officers of Indian army both British and Indian were groomed for regimental service.  Selection and training of Indian officers during Indianization of officer corps was focused on basic regimental training.  It was envisioned that probably the highest rank an Indian could achieve was command of a battalion.  Second World War opened the door wide open and large numbers of Indians were commissioned.  War also resulted in accelerated promotions and several Indians commanded battalions.  After the war, when it was clear that British Raj would come to an end, then the question of promoting Indians to senior ranks was seriously discussed.  In 1947, only a handful of Indians were at colonel and brigadier ranks. Indian subcontinent went through cataclysmic changes with emergence of new states.  It had an impact on all institutions including army.  In these extraordinary circumstances, officers were given accelerated promotions and first Pakistani C-in-C was selected in these exceptional circumstances.  What else describes the anomalies of that time period than the fact that first Indian C-in-C jumped six ranks from Major to four stars General in six years while first Pakistani C-in-C accomplished this feat in five short years?


    -        Major General ® Shaukat Raza.  The Pakistan Army 1947-49 (Lahore: Services Book Club, 1989)

    -        Shuja Nawaz.   Crossed Swords: Pakistan, Its Army, and the Wars Within (Karachi: Oxford University Press, 2008)

    -        Major General Sher Ali Khan Pataudi.  The Story of Soldering and Politics in India and Pakistan (Lahore: Wajidalis, 1978)

    -        Field Marshal Mohammad Ayub Khan.  Friends Not Masters (London: Oxford University Press, 1967)

    -        Interview of Major General ® Syed Wajahat Hussain by Major ® Agha H. Amin, Defence Journal, August 2002

    -        Lieutenant Colonel Mustasad Ahmad.  Living Up To Heritage: The Rajputs 1947-1970 (New Delhi: Lancer Publishers, 1997)

    -        Major General Shahid Hamid.  Disastrous Twilight (London: Leo Cooper, 1986)

    -        Lt. Colonel ® Gautam Sharma.  Nationalization of The Indian Army 1885-1947 (New Delhi: Allied Pubslishers, 1996)

    -        Brigadier Francis Ingall.  The Last of the Bengal Lancers (California: Presidio, 1988)

    -        Pradeep P. Barua.  Gentlemen of the Raj: Indian Army Officer Corps 1817-1949 (New Delhi: Pentagon Press, 2008 Indian Edition)

    -        Major General S. Shahid Hamid.  Early Years of Pakistan (Lahore: Ferozsons, 1993)

    -        Major General A. O. Mitha.  Unlikely Beginnings: A Soldier's Life (Karachi: Oxford University Press, 2003)

    Hamid Hussain

    February 13, 2014

    The following comment is from Major Agha Amin, (from his website here)
    Dear Dr Hamid Hussain

    you have simply left out joginder singh who stated that ayub khan was in chamar regiment ? joginder was his unit officer and mentioned this incident in his book behind the scenes

    Shuja Nawaz had a vested interest as his brother Asif Nawaz was from Ayub Khans unit.

    Also note that Shuja Nawaz in his work referred by you as encycolpedic distorted history and elevated his fatherin laws brother abdul ali malik as main hero of Chawinda while Shaukat Rizas official account maintains that Abdul Ali Malik was indecisive and just implored commanding officer 25 Cavalry "Nisar do something"

    Problem is that in biased pakistan army hero had to be from between rivers indus and chenab ! Thus all Nishan i Haidars were awarded to people from this region as most generals were from this area.

    I interviewed Major General Tajammul Hussain Malik in 2001 and he stated that Major Aziz Bhattis Nishan i Haidar award was not based on merit.

    Even in Battle of Sulaimanke 6 FF Pashtun officer Farooq Afzal or Saeed Afzal was ignored.

    I dont think that Nishan i Haidar could have been awarded to Karnal Sher and Lalak both non Punjabis if Pakistan Army had a non Punjabi Chief.

    Even General Musharraf acknowledged General Kakars extreme parochialism in his book.

    General Khwaja Ziauddin told me that on Asif Nawazs death Kakar requested General Ali Kuli to fly to Pindi to convince his relative President Ghulam Ishaq to appoint Kakar Chief.So Kakar was trying to reward his benefactor Ali Kuli.

    It is same General Kakar who as per General Ameer Hamza was thrashed by Major Rasheed Warraich at Sulaimanke.

    I remember Kakar was so unpopular for illegally stopping armys election allowance of 1993 elections that he was literally hooted by troops in Darbar held at Fortress stadium .I was on leave and went to this darbar to give company to a friend.

    Brigadier Nisar main hero of 1965 war was just ignored by promotion boards as he was from Patiala (Pashtun descent) and not from main Punjabi belt.

    It is same Nisar who was praised by Indians for his outstanding performance as commander of Changez Force in 1971.

    You see Psc and afwc business came only in 1976 when MG Abdullah Saeed (6 FF) GOC 33 Division asked my father to write a paper and in that analysis it was discovered that most serving generals were non Psc or non afwc.Nisar was bypassed long before that time when Psc or afwc became compulsory.

    Frankly much of what is going on in Pakistan is a farce.Pakistan seems to exist only between Indian border and Indus river !

    In retrospect one may state that partition of 1947 was a failure .Punjabi Hindus regarded as exploiters were replaced by Lahore Gujranwala Faisalabad Sargodha and Pindi Divisions with some Pashtun low caste Khattak Kammis and Hindko Kakar clowns.LTC Feroz , 33 FF my squash partner in Okara in 1993 recounted that kakar counted cherries of his garden as corps commander and suspected that 33 FF guard was pinching the official residences gardens cherries ?

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    Why the EU is damned to doom

    On facebook I follow the extreme left page, Another Angry Voice, and they have a small piece on Podemos, the new left-wing party that's virulently growing in Spain (even more worryingly the party wants to call a referendum on the Spanish monarchy).

    Podemos and the appeal of Pablo Iglesias

    Pablo Iglesias is the 36 year old leader of a new left-wing party in Spain called Podemos (We Can) that was born out of the 15-M street protest movement.

    The Origins of Podemos

    Podemos arose out of the 15-M "indignados" protests, which were a little bit like the Spanish version of the Occupy Wall Street Movement, but crucially the Spanish protesters managed keep the movement going and convert it into a powerful political force, whilst the Occupy Wall Street movement has faded away into near irrelevance in the grand scheme of US politics.

    When the right-wing Spanish government led by Mariano Rajoy brought forward plans to introduce €600,000 fines for people participating in "unauthorised" public protests, they gave the 15-M movement a huge incentive to legitimise themselves as an official political party.

    The rise of Podemos

    Since Podemos was formed in March 2014, the party has experienced an unprecedented rise in popularity. In May 2014, just two months after it was formed, Podemos took 8% of the vote in the European elections to bag 5 MEPs (that's two more than the Green Party managed in the UK, despite the UK having 73 European Parliament seats to Spain's 54).

    One area in which Podemos is utterly dominating Spanish politics is in the online sphere. The Podemos Facebook pagehas picked up over 950,000 followers, which is more than the pages of all of the other political parties in Spain combined!

    At any rate it's a chicken and an egg scenario; the Eurozone is a doomed project banking on economic synchronizing between the heavyweight Germanic economies and the more haphazard Romantic Europe.

    A telling example is the rift between Germanic Europe and the rest (via Inside Europe):

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    I can't claim to have read the Bible, the only books I read are book club prescribed ones and Holy Books haven't yet come onto the selection.
    But I always turn back to my favorite chapter

    To every thing there is a season—Whatever God does, it will be forever—God will judge the righteous and the wicked.
     To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
     A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
     A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
     A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
     A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
     A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
     A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
     A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

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    First published on

    A few days ago, Graeme Wood wrote a piece in the Atlantic that has generated a lot of buzz (and controversy). In this article he noted that:
    "The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic. Yes, it has attracted psychopaths and adventure seekers, drawn largely from the disaffected populations of the Middle East and Europe. But the religion preached by its most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam"
    The article is well worth reading and it certainly does not label all Muslims as closet (or open) ISIS supporters, but it does emphasize that many of the actions of ISIS have support in classical Islamic texts (and not just in fringe Kharijite opinion). This has led to accusations of Islamophobia and critics have been quick to respond. A widely cited response in "Think Progress" quotes Graeme Wood's own primary source (Princeton scholar Bernard Hakykel) as saying:
    “I think that ISIS is a product of very contingent, contextual, historical factors. There is nothing predetermined in Islam that would lead to ISIS.”
    Indeed. Who could possibly disagree with that? I dont think Graeme Wood disagrees. In fact, he explicitly says he does not. But that statement is a beginning, not a conclusion. What contingent factors and what historical events are important and which ones are a complete distraction from the issue at hand? 
    Every commentator has his or her (implicit, occasionally explicit) "priors" that determine what gets attention and from what angle;  and a lot of confusion clearly comes from a failure to explain (or to grasp) the background assumptions of each analyst. I thought I would put together a post that outlines some of my own background assumptions and arguments in as simple a form as possible and see where it leads. So here, in no particular order, are some random comments about Islam, terrorism and ISIS that I hope will, at a minimum, help me put my own thoughts in order. Without further ado:
    1. The early history of Islam is, among other things, the history of a remarkably successful imperium. Like any empire, it was created by conquest. The immediate successors of the prophet launched a war of conquest whose extent and rapidity matched that of the Mongols and the Alexandrian Greeks, and whose successful consolidation, long historical life, and development of an Arabized culture, far outshone the achievements of the Mongols or the Manchus (both of whom adopted the existing deeper rooted religions and cultures of their conquered people rather than impose or develop their own).
    2. Islam, the religion we know today (the classical Islam of the four Sunni schools, as well as the various Shia sects) developed in the womb of the Arab empire. It provided a unifying ideology and a theological justification for that empire (and in the case of various Shia sects, varying degrees of resistance or revolt against that empire) but, at the very least, Islam and the nascent Arab empire grew and developed togetherone was not the later product of the fully formed other. Being, in it's classical form, the religion of a (very successful and impressive) imperialist project, it is not surprising that its"official" Sunni version has a military and supremacist feel to it. Classical Islam is not intolerant of all other religions (though it is in principle almost completely intolerant of pagans) but the rules and regulations of the four classical schools all agree on the superior status of Muslims and impose certain restrictions, disabilities and taxes on the followers of the "religions of the book" that they do tolerate. By the standards of contemporary European "Christendom", many of these rules appear tolerant and broad-minded; and since Western intellectuals (leftists as much, or even more than rightists) are completely focused on European history and culture (and therefore,on the achievements and deficiencies of that culture), this relative tolerance is frequently remarked upon as a stellar feature of Islamicate civilization. But it should be noted that this degree of tolerance is quite intolerant compared to contemporary Chinese or Indian norms and is horrendously intolerant compared to post-enlightenment ideals and fashions. The imposition of Ottoman rules today would be most unwelcome even to post-Marxist intellectuals if they had to live under those rules. Of course, this does not mean they cannot speak highly of these norms as long as they themselves are a safe distance away from them, but such long-distance  approval is of academic interest (literally, academic) and not our concern for the purposes of this post.

    3. Modern states and modern politics (not just all the complex debates about how power should be exercised, who exercises it, who decides who exercises it etc., but also the institutions and mechanisms that evolved to manage modern states and modern politics) mostly reached their current form in Europe. They did not arise from nothing. Many ancient strands grew and intersected to create these states and their political institutions. And there are surely things about this evolution that are contingent and would have been different if they had happened elsewhere. But there are also many features of modern life that are based on new and universally applicable discoveries about human psychology, human biology and human sociology. They have made possible new levels of organization and productivity and in a globalized world (and the Eurasian landmass has had some sort of exchange of ideas for millennia, but this process has accelerated now by orders of magnitude) it is impossible for any large population to ignore these advances and suvive unmolested by those willing to take advantage of these advances.
    The modern world that has been created is not just one random "civilization" among many. It is the cutting edge of human knowledge and the human ability to apply that knowledge to good and evil ends. Whatever else it may be (and there is no shortage of people who feel it is too oppressive, too unfair, too fast, too anxiety-provoking, too inhuman, etc etc.) it is an extremely powerful and progressive culture. You can reject it, and countless people (including, it seems, many of the most privileged intellectuals of this very civilization) do reject many aspects of it. But it should also be noted that there are degrees of rejection. Most of the critics (but not all of them) are either critics-from-within, who only reject certain aspects of it, or non-serious critics whose wholesale contempt for the project is not matched by any equivalent personal commitment or serious consideration of alternatives. Most of them also seem unable to do without critical aspects of modernity. Aspects you cannot have without having far more of the rest than they seem to care for. To give two random examples, I have never met a multiculturalist liberal or leftist in the West (including those of Desi origin) who is willing to himself or herself live under the restrictive sexual morality and the community-centric balance of community vs individual rights characteristic of "traditional cultures'. And I have NEVER met an Islamist who did not want an air-force (you can work out for yourself all the other innovations and institutional mechanisms that would be needed in order to have a competitive indigenous air-force). 
    In fact, forget traditional cultures, just look at Maoist China and the Khmer Rouge, both of whom explicitly rejected modern individualism and mere meritocracy and insisted they wanted to be "Red rather than Expert". One ended up honoring the legacy of Liu Bocheng and Deng Xiaoping over Mao, the other ended up on the proverbial "dust heap of history". There is a lesson (or several lessons) in those choices and their spectacular failure.
    In short, the only people who can realistically stay outside of "our universal civilization" are either museum communities permitted to survive as quaint exemplars of bygone days (like the Amish) or VERY tiny communities that are so isolated and remote that they have escaped the maw of the Eurasian beast until now.  Our universal civilization does not have to be seen as positively as Naipaul famously saw it, but it still has to be seen for what it is, a gigantic human achievement and a work in progress; all criticism and resistance being included within it (dialectics anyone?) 
    And it is important to note that this universal civilization is no longer exclusively European (and never was exclusively European for that matter). Soon, this universal civilization may be dominated by non-European people, a fact that Eurocentric PostMarxist intellectuals seem to have very great difficulty assimilating into their worldview. The institutions and ideas that developed in Europe (from earlier sources that came from all over Eurasia) in the last 400 years have been adopted and adapted already by several Asian nations (Japan, South Korea, Taiwan), with China not far behind and India set to follow. Muslims are not special enough to escape that fate. The only thing truly remarkable about the Muslim core region is the widespread desire to integrate huge elements of modern civilization while remaining medieval in terms of theology, law and politics. Of course we are not unique in this desire; there are Indians and Chinese and Japanese who "reject  modernity" as being too European, and who insist they have an alternative path. Whether they do or do not is to some extent a matter of semantics, but Muslims are not unique in claiming that "we are a fundamentally different civilization". Where we are unique (for now) is only in our inability to generate a genuinely open debate on this topic; the tendency in the Islamicate core is for almost everyone in the public sphere to pay lip-service to delusional or formulaic and practically meaningless Islamist ideals and to avoid direct criticism of medieval laws and theology. This is unlike how it is routine for Indians to criticize Indian "fundamentalists" or Christians to criticize Christian ones. And for that we have to thank the blasphemy and apostasy memes more than any intrinsic unchangeability of Islamicate laws and theology.
    4. But while Islamicate empires (the dominant form of political organization in the middle east and South Asia from the advent of Islam to the colonial era) insisted they were "Islamic" and used Islam (especially in the first 500 years) as the central justification for their expansionist ambitions, there was another sense in which these same empires had a near-total separation of mosque and state. All these empires operated as typical Eurasian empires and they were, in most administrative details, a straightforward evolution of previous imperial patterns in that region. Religion was part and parcel of the empires, but religious doctrine provided practically no guidance to the political process. The rulers used religion to justify their rule, but the battle-axe determined who got to rule and how. Some rulers attempted to conduct an inquisition and impose their favorite theology on their subjects, but most were content to get post-facto approval for their rule from the ulama (and the ulama were happy to oblige). Islamic theologians accepted practically ANY ruler as long the ruler said he was Muslim and continued to work for the expansion of the Islamic empire. ALL four schools of classical Sunni Islam insisted that the ruler should be obeyed and rebellion was unislamic. This did not stop people from rebelling, but once a rebellion succeeded, the ulama advised submission to whatever ambitious and capable prince had managed to kill his way to the top. An imaginary idealized Islamic state was discussed at times but had little to no connection with actual power politics.
    5. It must also be kept in mind that Empires governed loosely and interfered little with the everyday religious rituals of the ruled, especially outside the urban core. The rulers were interested in collecting taxes and continuing to rule. Most of the ruled gave as little as possible in taxes and had as little as possible to do with their rulers. This is not a specifically Islamic pattern, but it was practically a universal feature of Islamicate empires. Muslim religious literature developed no serious political thought. Power politics was guided more by “Mirrors of princes” type literature and pre-Muslim (or not-specifically Muslim) traditions and not some detailed notion of “Islamic state”. There is really NO detailed "Islamic" blueprint for running a state. The so-called Islamic system of government is a modern myth. Every Islamicate empire down to the late Ottomans ruled in the name of Islam, but they did so using institutions and methods that were typically West-Asian/Central-Asian in origin, or were invented to solve a particular Islamicate problem, but had no direct or necessary connection with fundamental Islamic texts and traditions.  
    6. After defeat at the hands of more capable imperialists and during the (relatively brief) colonial interlude, some people dug up the old stories of the rightly guided caliphs; It seems to me that early Islamicate fantasists (like Allama Iqbal in India) took it for granted that the everyday institutional reality of any "Islamic" state would, for the foreseeable future, be much closer to England than it was to Medina (witness for example his approval of the Grand Turkish assembly). Most Muslim leaders, like their Chinese or Japanese counterparts, were first and foremost interested in getting out from under the imperialist thumb. If they gave some thought to the form their states would take, their imagination ranged from Marxist Russian models to very poorly imagined Islamist utopias.  But over time, stories frequently repeated can take on a life of their own. Islamist parties want to create powerful, modern Islamic states. But the stories they were using were more Islamic than modern. The result is that every Islamist party is forever in danger of being hijacked by those espousing simple-minded and unrealistic notions of Shariah law. It turns out that pretending to have “our own unique genius” is much easier than actually having any genius that can get the job done. Modern ideas (fascism, the grand theatre of modern media manipulation, modern methods of guerilla war) are used to promote legal codes and theology whose relationship with these new institutions has not been worked out yet (and I see no problem with sticking my neck out and saying "will NOT be worked out satisfactorily by ANY contemporary Islamist movement). 
    7. The MODE of failure may vary, but the failure of the Islamist political project in the next 20 years is inevitable. This is not because there can be no such project in principle, but because the project as it has actually developed in the 20th century is based on the twin illusions of  an “ideal Islamic state” and an existing alternative “Islamic political science”…neither of which actually existed in history. AFTER this failure, there can certainly be new ways of creating modern, workable institutions that have enough of an Islamic coloring to deserve the label "Islamist" while incorporating all (or most) of the new discoveries in the hard sciences as well as in economics, human psychology, politics, social organization, administrative institutions, mass communication and so on.
    8. I do want to emphasize that I do not believe Islamic theology per se is some sort of insoluble problem.  It may be a difficult problem, but both liberals who are trying to discover modern fashions in that theology and "Islamophobes" who insist that the theology is a permanently illiberal fascist program are wrong in their emphasis on the centrality of this theology. As Razib put it in an interesting post on this topic on his blog, "Islam is not a religion of the book". NO religion is a religion of the book. People make religions and people remake them as the times demands. Messily and unpredictably in many cases, but still, there is movement. And in this sense, Islam is no more fixed in stone by what is written or not written in its text (or texts) than any other religion.
    Someone commented on Razib's blog (and I urge you to read the post and the comments, and the hyperlinks, they are all relevant and make this post clearer) as follows:
    "Well, if you take the Old Testament and Koran at face value, the OT is more violent. The interesting question is then why Islam ends up being more violent than Judaism or Christianity, and for that I agree you have to thank subsequent tradition and reinterpretation of the violence in the text. It appears that for whatever reason Islam has carried out less of this kind of reinterpretation, so what was originally a less violent founding text ends up causing more violence because it is being interpreted much more literally."
    I replied that there is an easier explanation: Whether the text canonized as "foundational document" does, or does not, explain the imperialism and supremacism of the various Islamicate empires is a red herring. The Quran is a fairly long book, but to an outsider it should be immediately obvious that you can create many different Islams around that book and if you did it all over again, NONE of them have to look like classical Sunni Islam. The details of Sunni Islam (who gets to rule, what daily life is supposed to look like, how non-Muslims should be treated, etc) are not some sort of direct and unambiguous reading of the Quran. While the schools of classical Sunni Islam claim to be based on the Quran and hadith, the Quran and the hadiths are clearly cherry picked and manipulated (and in the case of the hadiths, frequently just invented) based on the perceived needs of the empire, the ulama, the individual commentators, human nature, economics, whatever (insert your favorite element here).
    So in principle, we should be able to make new Islams as needed (and some of us have indeed done so over the centuries, the Ismailis being one extreme example; some Sufis being another) and I am others will do just that in the days to come. The Reza Aslan types are right about this much (though i seriously doubt that he can invent anything new or lasting; that does not even seem to be his primary aim). In fact, in terms of practice, millions of Muslims have already "invented new Islams". Just as a random example, most contemporary Muslims do not have sex with multiple concubines that they captured in the most recent Jihad expedition to the Balkans (or bought from African slave-traders for that matter). Not only do they not buy and sell slaves, they find the thought of doing so somewhat shocking. Also see how countless Muslims lived very obediently under British laws in the British empire and in fact provided a good part of the armies of that empire.  Or see the countless Muslims who take oaths of loyalty to all sorts of "un-Islamic" states and for the most part, turn out to be as loyal and law-abiding as any of their Hindu or Sikh or Christian fellow citizens in the various hedonistic modern states. Their "Islam" has already adapted itself to new realities. 
    What sets Muslms apart is really their inability (until now) to publicly and comfortably articulate a philosophical rejection of medieval (aka no longer fashionable) elements of classical Sunni Islam. And for all practical purposes, this is a serious problem only in Muslim majority countries. In other countries that have a strong sense of their own identity and of the necessity of their own laws, Muslims mostly get on with life while following those laws. In the Muslim majority countires, it is the apostasy and blasphemy laws (and the broader memes that uphold those laws) that play a central role in preventing public rejection of unfashionable or unworkable aspects of classical Islam.  A King Hussein or a Benazir Bhutto or even a Rouhani may have private thoughts rejecting X or Y inconvenient parts or medieval Islamicate laws and theology, but to speak up would be to invite accusations of blasphemy and apostasy. So they fudge, they hem and how, and they do one thing while paying lip service to another. Unfortunately, this means the upholders of classical Islam have the edge in debates in the public sphere. And ISIS and the Wahabis are not far enough from mainstream classical Sunni Islam; for example, classical Islamic theology recommends cutting the hands of thieves, stoning adulterers, going on jihad (not just some inner jihad of the Karen Armstrong type, but the real deal), capturing slaves, buying and selling concubines, killing apostates and so on; ISIS of course goes much further in their willingness to kill other Muslims, to rebel against existing rulers and to bypass common humanity and commonly cited restrictions and regulations about prisoners, hostages, punishments and so on, but when they say classical Islam permits the first set of things noted above, they are not lying, the apologists are lying. 
    By the way, while this inability to frontally confront aspects of classical Islam that are out of sync with the current age is a serious problem in Muslim communities, it is not insoluble. The internet has made it very hard to keep inconvenient thoughts out of view. So even in Muslim majority countries, there will be much churning and eventually, much change. It's just that some countries will emerge out of it better than others.
    ISIS itself will not get anywhere. Of course, in principle, an evolved ISIS living on in the core Sunni region is possible. But we make predictions based on whatever models we have in our head. Like most predictions in social science and history, these will not be mathematical and precise and our confidence in them (or our ability to convince others, even when others accept most of our premises) will not be akin to the predictions of mathematics or physics. But for whatever it's worth, I don't think ISIS will settle into some semi-comfortable equilibrium (irrespective of whether more capable powers like Israel or Turkey or even the CIA are supporting them or not). They will only destroy and create chaos. And eventually they will be destroyed. It is possible that in the process parts of Syria, Iraq and North Africa could become like Somalia; too messy, too violent and too poor to be worth the effort of pacification, even by intact nearby states. But even if a Somalia-like situation continues for years, it will not go on forever. The real estate involved is too valuable, the communities involved were too integrated in the modern world, to be left alone. Eventually someone will bring order to to those parts. Though it is likely that this "someone" will be local and will use more force and cruder methods than liberal modern intellectuals are comfortable with. The first stage of pacification is more likely to be handled by local agents of distant imperialists, not directly by the imperialists themselves. That is just the way it is likely to work best. 
    Of course, success and failure are always relative to something. If the zeitgeist (whatever that means) is no longer in favor of something then a "successful" policy would be one that achieves a soft landing. Since the zeitgeist is (almost by definition) unknowable in full in real time, even the soft landing is not going to land where the first planners of soft landing imagined it as being headed. Being able to land softly, wherever that may be is the best outcome we can hope for in many cases. With that cheery note, here are some other useful links (many extracted from an extremely learned discussion on smallwarsjournal)  that shed light on some aspects of the above, raise opposing ideas, or help to understand where I am coming from. 
     Our religion problem by Babar Sattar in DAWN Pakistan. 
     Reforming the blasphemy laws, in many ways, an enlightened "Islam-based" initiative.  
     Razib Khan on "The Islamic State is right about some things"
     From Zenpundit Charles Cameron on Misquoting Mohammed 
    "Brown is a Muslim, a professor at Georgetown, and author of Hadith: Muhammad’s Legacy in the Medieval and Modern World. His book Misquoting Muhammad — not his choice of title, btw — lays open the varieties of interpretive possibility in dealing with the Qur’an and ahadith with comprehensive scholarship and clarity. In light of the upsurge in interest in Islamic and Islamist religious teachings occasioned by Graeme Wood‘s recentAtlantic article, I asked Prof. Brown’s permission to reproduce here the section of his book dealing with abrogation and the rules of war.
    Here then, with his permission, is an extract from Misquoting Muhammad. I hope it will prove of use both here and to others beyond the circle of Zenpundit readers. Spread the word!"
    An ISIS reading list. 
    MUST read: Enough about Islam: Why religion is not the most useful way to understand ISIS
    From a conservative Western perspective: The fantasy of an Islamic reformation. 
    "Q 2:256, “There is no compulsion in religion . . .” (lā ikrāha fī l-dīni) has become the locus classicus for discussions of religious tolerance in Islam. Surprisingly enough, according to the “circumstances of revelation” (asbāb al-nuzūl) literature (see occasions of revelation), it was revealed in connection with the expulsion of the Jewish tribe of Banū l-Nadīr from Medina in 4⁄625 In the earliest works of exegesis (see exegesis of the Quran: classical and medieval), the verse is understood as an injunction (amr) to refrain from the forcible imposition of Islam, though there is no unanimity of opinion regarding the precise group of infidels to which the injunction had initially applied. Commentators who maintain that the verse was originally meant as applicable to all people consider it as abrogated (mansūkh) by q 9:5, q 9:29, or q 9:73 (see abrogation). Viewing it in this way is necessary in order to avoid the glaring contradiction between the idea of tolerance and the policies of early Islam which did not allow the existence of polytheism — or any other religion — in a major part of the Arabian peninsula. Those who think that the verse was intended, from the very beginning, only for the People of the Book, need not consider it as abrogated: though Islam did not allow the existence of any religion other than Islam in most of the peninsula, the purpose of the jihād (q.v.)against the People of the Book, according to q 9:29, is their submission and humiliation rather than their forcible conversion to Islam.[...]"
    From Tolerance and Coercion in Islam 
    "Both verses that are said to have abrogated Quran 2:256 speak about jihad. It can be inferred from this that the commentators who consider Quran 2:256 as abrogated perceive jihad as contradicting the idea of religious freedom. While it is true that religious differences are mentioned in both Quran 9:29 and 9:73 as the reason because of which the Muslims were commanded to wage war, none of them envisages the forcible conversion of the vanquished enemy. Quran 9:29 defines the purpose of the war as the imposition of the jizya on the People of the Book and their humiliation, while Quran 9:73 speaks only about the punishment awaiting the infidels and the hypocrites in the hereafter, and leaves the earthly purpose of the war undefined. Jihad and religious freedom are not mutually exclusive by necessity; religious freedom could be granted to the non-Muslims after their defeat, and commentators who maintain that Quran 2:256 was not abrogated freely avail themselves of this exegetical possibility with regard to theJews, the Christians and the Zoroastrians. However, the commentators who belong to the other exegetical trend do not find it advisable to think along these lines, and find it necessary to insist on the abrogation of Quran 2:256 in order to resolve the seeming contradiction between this verse and the numerous verses enjoining jihad. p. 102-3t al-_arab). Despite the apparent meaning of q 2:256, Islamic law allowed coercion of certain groups into Islam. Numerous traditionists and jurisprudents ( fuqahā_) allow coercing female polytheists and Zoroastrians (see magians) who fall into captivity to become Muslims — otherwise sexual relations with them would not be permissible (cf. q 2:221; see sex and sexuality; marriage and divorce). Similarly, forcible conversion of non-Muslim children was also allowed by numerous jurists in certain circumstances, especially if the children were taken captive (see captives) or found without their parents or if one of their parents embraced Islam. It was also the common practice to insist on the conversion of the Manichaeans, who were never awarded the status of ahl al-dhimma. Another group against whom religious coercion may be practiced are apostates from Islam (see apostasy). As a rule, classical Muslim law demands that apostatesbe asked to repent and be put to death if they refuse."
    The pact of Umar 
    "In the name of Allah, the merciful Benefactor! This is the assurance granted to the inhabitants of Aelia by the servant of God, 'Umar, the commander of the Believers. He grants them safety for their persons, their goods, churches, crosses - be they in good or bad condition - and their worship in general. Their churches shall neither be turned over to dwellings nor pulled down; they and their dependents shall not be put to any prejudice and thus shall it fare with their crosses and goods. No constraint shall be imposed upon them in matters of religion and no one among them shall be harmed. No Jew shall be authorised to live in Aelia with them. The inhabitants of Aelia must pay the gizya in the same way as the inhabitants of other towns. It is for them to expel from their cities Roums (Byzantians) and outlaws. Those of the latter who leave shall be granted safe conduct... Those who would stay shall be authorised to, on condition that they pay the same gizya as the inhabitants of Aelia. Those of the inhabitants of Aelia who wish to leave with the Roums, to carry away their goods, abandon their churches and Crosses, shall likewise have their own safe conduct, for themselves and for their Crosses. Rural dwellers (ahl 'I-ard) who were already in the town before the murder of such a one, may stay and pay the gizya by the same title as the people of Aelia, or if they prefer they may leave with the Roums or return to their families. Nothing shall be exacted of them.
    Witnesses: Khaledb.A1-Walid, 'Amrb.A1-Alp, 'Abdar-Rahmanb. 'Awf Muawiya b. Abi Sufyan, who wrote these words, here, In the year 15 (33).
    Winston King states in the Encyclopaedia of Religion, 2nd Ed., Vol. 11
    Many practical and conceptual difficulties arise when one attempts to apply such a dichotomous pattern [ sacred / profane ] across the board to all cultures. In primitive societies, for instance, what the West calls religious is such an integral part of the total ongoing way of life that it is never experienced or thought of as something separable or narrowly distinguishable from the rest of the pattern. Or if the dichotomy is applied to that multifaceted entity called Hinduism, it seems that almost everything can be and is given a religious significance by some sect. Indeed, in a real sense everything that is is divine; existence per se appears to be sacred. It is only that the ultimately real manifests itself in a multitude of ways—in the set-apart and the ordinary, in god and so-called devil, in saint and sinner. The real is apprehended at many levels in accordance with the individual’s capacity.” p.7692, 
    Paul Radin, Primitive Religion: Its Nature and Origin in connexion with early societies”Where there is little trace of a centralized authority, there we encounter no true priests, and religious phenomena remain essentially unanalysed and unorganized. Magic and simple coercive rites rule supreme”.p.21
    Carl Schmitt in Political Theology,
    All significant concepts of the modern theory of the state are secularised theological concepts‟ (p. 36)
    or again in The Concept of the Political that
    “The juridic [sic] formulas of the omnipotence of the state are, in fact, only superficial secularisations of theological formulas of the omnipotence of God‟ (p. 42).


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  • 03/04/15--08:57: This is a rape culture
  • I'm not a big fan of the latest and newest terminologies that are bandied about by "social justice warrior" types. The issue is not the terminology taken literally, but its context. In the United States a focus on college campuses strikes me as fixating on a population less at risk, but class privileged. Rather, the more economically and socially marginal women, not women as a whole, is probably where the cultural focus should be. But these people are generally not in the limelight, and are not able to fluently deploy the verbal tools which the more educated are familiar with and understand and unlock keys of media attention (this goes to the issue that when a sex or race are viewed as a class as a whole without distinction resources and attention often go to its more elite segments).*

    These terms become even more freighted when viewed in a cross-cultural context. Consider what is occurring in India, as one of the Delhi rapists has now spoken in a film. Man Convicted of Rape in Delhi Blames Victim:

    You can’t clap with one hand,” said Mr. Singh, who was convicted of rape and murder, though he denied taking part in the assault. “It takes two hands. A decent girl won’t roam around at 9 o’clock at night. A girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy. Boy and girl are not equal. Housework and housekeeping is for girls, not roaming in discos and bars at night doing wrong things, wearing wrong clothes. About 20 percent of girls are good.”

    As abhorrent as the views are, we can't look away. They reflect real sentiments which must be abolished.

    * Can you imagine that the UVA rape story could be transferred into a public housing project, and still be published in a high profile journal such as Rolling Stone?

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    My friend, Shoaib, and I have started a new blog called New Pundits. The main advantage of NP is that it's WordPress, which I prefer much more to Blogger. At any rate NP is still very much in it's infancy. I believe we started BP around Christmas time 2010 so it's almost years on and still going strong. I'm a very big fan of the UNZ review, which is really becoming a staple of the alternative media scene and there is no reason in my mind why the fledgling Desi Diaspora shouldn't have something similar to that.

    Last night at dinner I was mentioning to some friends that London was now becoming so Asian that segregation is now an entrenched phenomenon. It's best seen in social groupings of the prime demographic (20's & 30's); very few of them are mixed in any real sense. Class has always been a huge determiner in Britain (which school did you go to?) and a friend of mine once told me "Asians can never be upper class."

    Now I remember this statement very distinctly as it was said in a mixture of remorse & bitterness. At the moment I deeply disagreed with the statement but now that I think of it, it is true that the British Asian (Sikh & Hindu community especially) is merging into the middle classes (just as the Muslim community, for the large part the Mirpuri & Tower Hamlet contingents, are floating between the working and reckless classes).

    However I'll end this slight meandering on this note. I know of a Sindhi lady who fell in love with an Englishman in the 40's and as a result of familial disapproval, eschewed her love and stayed single. She did mention that in those days many Indian girls liked Englishmen because they were so dapper and looked good (obviously in a subcontinent that venerates fairness, Northwest Europeans would have some advantages). However what was interesting to me is that apart from the early generations of the East India Company (mixtures which created the Anglo-Indians) we don't really think of Europeans and Indians mixing (especially after the British disbarred royal intermarriage in the fear that the Indian Royalty would go the way of the Aga Khan and be fully Europeanised in a few generations).

    Perhaps the reason why British Asians stand apart from the class structure is simply because the culture of intermarriage is so weak compared to any other global culture (East Asians embrace it with alacrity and even black population mix in Europe).

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    I have excerpted several paragraphs (after the jump) of this excellent article where black women need to follow the footsteps of Asian women and start intermarrying at much higher levels.

    Of course intermarriage rates vary by region. White men in California in 1990 were more than six times as likely as Midwestern white men to marry outside their race. Overall, interracial marriages are more than twice as common in California (1 in 10 new couples) as in the rest of the country (1 in 25). According to the magazine Interrace, San Jose, San Diego and Oakland are among the Top 10 cities for interracial couples. America's racial complexion, then, will change more quickly on the coasts than in the heartland.
    Nevertheless, the overall increase in intermarriage means that both multicultural liberals and nativist conservatives have misunderstood the major demographic trends in this country. There is not going to be a nonwhite majority in the 21st century. Rather, there is going to be a mostly white mixed-race majority. The only way to stop this is to force all Hispanic and Asian-Americans from now on to marry within their officially defined groups. And that is not going to happen.
    Thus, the old duality between whites and nonwhites is finally breaking down. But don't cheer just yet. For what seems to be emerging in the United States is a new dichotomy between blacks and nonblacks. Increasingly, whites, Asians and Hispanics are creating a broad community from which black Americans may be excluded.
    Disparities in interracial marriages underline this problem. Black-white marriages have risen from a reported 51,000 in 1960 (when they were still illegal in many states) to 311,000 in 1997. Marriages between white men and black women, though still uncommon, rose from 27,000 in 1980 to 122,000 in 1995. Although black out-marriage rates have risen, they remain much lower than out-marriage rates for Hispanics, Asians and American Indians. For the 25-34 age group, only 8 percent of black men marry outside their race. Less than 4 percent of black women do so.
    While many blacks frown upon marriage by blacks to members of other groups -- such relationships are viewed by some as disloyal -- it seems very unlikely that such conservative attitudes are more pronounced among black Americans than among whites or Hispanic or Asian immigrants. The major cause of low black out-marriage rates may well be anti-black prejudice -- the most enduring feature of the eroding American caste system. Furthermore, antiblack prejudice is often picked up by immigrants, when it is not brought with them from their countries of origin.

    In the past, the existence of an untouchable caste of blacks may have made it easier for Anglo-Americans to fuse with more recent European immigrants in an all-encompassing white community. Without blacks as a common other, the differences between Anglo-Americans, German-Americans, Irish-Americans and Italian-Americans might have seemed much more important. Could this be occurring again? A Knight-Ridder poll taken in May 1997 showed that while respondents were generally comfortable with intermarriage, a full 3 in 10 respondents opposed marriage between blacks and whites.
    According to the 1990 census, white men 25-34 in the U.S. military were 2.3 times as likely to marry nonwhite women as civilians. And white women in the same age group who served in the military in the 1980's were seven times as likely as their civilian counterparts to have black husbands. Indeed, for all groups except for Asian men, military service makes out-marriage much more likely. The reason for this is clear: the U.S. military is the most integrated institution in American society because it is the most egalitarian and meritocratic. It is also -- not coincidentally -- the least libertarian and least tolerant of subcultural diversity. It may be that in the nation as a whole, as in the military, the integration of individuals can be achieved only at the price of the sacrifice of lesser differences to a powerful common identity.
    In the end, racial intermarriage is a result, not a cause, of racial integration. Racial integration, in turn, is a result of social equality. The civil rights revolution abolished racial segregation by law, but not racial segregation by class. Ending racial segregation by class might -- just might -- bring about an end to race itself in America. It is certainly worth a try.

    The Beige And The Black

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