Katherine Hepburn and Muslims

You might have heard the news that Katherine Hepburn died yesterday at 96. But do you know what her death has to do with Islam?

Via Tacitus.

Israel and Pakistan

The Head Heeb reminds me of the recent signals that Pakistan might establish relations with Israel. Pakistan President General Musharraf hinted about recognizing Israel in an interview to GeoTV.

He said in view of the changing international scenario Pakistan has to consider whether its Israel policy needs review or not.

He said this issue be taken up seriously and not on emotional grounds. President Musharraf said Islamabad would also consult Islamic countries with regard to any relations with Israel.

Here’s Musharraf’s quote from the interview:

“If the peace process is going forward and they are moving towards peace then we should think whether we will keep our stance against Israel or not,” he told the private Geo-TV news channel. “We need a national consensus on it.

“We have no reason to become more Palestinian than the Palestinians or more Catholic than the Pope.”

I think it is actually a good idea for Pakistan to recognize Israel. It means I can also visit Israel. (Currently, my Pakistani passport says “Valid for all countries except Israel.”) I heard about this first from Zachary Latif about a month ago but forgot about it.

The religious alliance (MMA) leaders immediately opposed the idea.

Jamaat-e-Islami Ameer and MMA parliamentary leader Qazi Hussain Ahmad has warned that acknowledging Israel would become final nail in the coffin of President Musharraf’s rule.

In a statement Tuesday, he said those talking of acknowledging Israel should learn from what Yasser Arafat got out of it. He said Pakistani rulers were oblivious of the espionage and sabotage activities by Israeli secret service Mossad in those countries which had acknowledged Israel, that was why they were ready to do that only to get the ‘US pat on the back’ and to get its support for their illegal rule.

He said Jerusalem was not just Arabs’ issue but directly linked to the faith of every Muslim because it was the first ‘Qibla’ and the place from where Holy Prophet (PBUH) went to Mairaj. Presenting Palestine as a sole Arab issue was a heinous conspiracy of the imperialists and colonists, aimed at disintegrating the Muslims and shattering the concept of unity of Muslims. He said for the same reason the colonist forces were trying to portray every Muslim issue as regional or bilateral.

He also warned that no Arab ruler or army had the right to amend the concept of Jerusalem land which was declared as Islamic trust by the second caliph Hazrat Umar (RA).

Here are some other statements by leaders of the religious alliance MMA.

“Whoever supports Israel supports tyranny and supports millions of Palestinians not coming back to their homes,” said Munnawar Hasan, secretary general of Jamaat-e-Islami, one of the parties making up the Islamic bloc in parliament.

“President Musharraf is following the agenda of Jews and Americans. The agenda he (Musharraf) is following is anti-Pakistani, anti-people and anti-Islam.”

“If the Musharraf government makes any attempt to recognise Israel then the whole Pakistani nation will throw Musharraf’s government out of power.”

Other opposition parties are also against recognizing Israel.

Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) senior leader, Raja Zafar ul Haq has warned that if the rulers recognize Israel, the reaction will be very strong in Pakistan .

“General Musharraf did not show resistance on any issue till today, but reaction will be very strong in Pakistan if Israel is recognized. The people hold strong sentiments about Israel’s attitude towards Al-Quds and Israeli atrocities in Palestine,” he said in an interview with Radio Tehran.

Some of the federal ministers have issued statements “clarifying” that Musharraf did not mean to recognize Israel now.

Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed has said there is no question of recognising Israel as Prime Minister Zafarullah Jamali has already given a statement in this regard.

When asked about President Musharraf’s statement on the subject, the minister said, “The president had referred to the Middle East peace roadmap, according to which Palestine is to be made a state.”

Another minister has spoken sort of in favor of the idea.

Federal Interior Minister Makhdoom Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat on Sunday called for a joint decision of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan to recognise Israel or not.

Talking to The Nation, the Federal Minister argued that Islamabad had neither any direct confrontation nor conflict of interests with Israel while some of the main Arab countries have already recognised it. ?Even after 55 years of confrontation with India, if we can continue diplomatic ties with it why not with Israel?? he questioned. He said that Islamabad would have to take decisions in the larger national interests keeping in view the 21st century requirements.

Geo TV also did an opinion poll on the subject which found that roughly half of the Pakistanis questioned were willing to review Israeli ties. However, it was not a random sample. Rather it consisted of selected viewers of Geo TV based in the major cities of Pakistan. The question was “Should we review our policy on Israel” with respondents answering yes or no. The question is ambiguous and some people who want Pakistan to do more against Israel could also reply in the affirmative. However, even with all the problems with this poll, it is a significant result.

The News, which is probably Pakistan’s largest newspaper group, did not take a stand against or for recognizing Israel in an editorial. But it does consider Israel to be a “vicious enemy” and having lots of influence in the US through the “powerful Jewish American community.”

A primary factor is that the Jewish state has long been an enemy of Pakistan. We had refused to accept Israel as a legal entity because it was illegally imposed upon Arab land by force by the United States. This exercise had resulted in the death of thousands of Palestinians and the expulsion of millions from their homes in what is the holy land.

Pakistan’s non-recognition cost it dearly as it invited the enmity of the powerful American Jewish community, which has a major stake in the US media, economy and politics. At the same time Tel Aviv became a staunch friend of India, benefiting it with much needed assistance in military hardware, training and supply of state of the art AWACs—Phantoms. The American Jewish community also heavily lobbied in favour of India in influencing US policies. The benefit we gained by opposing Israel was Arab gratitude that was translated into support on the Kashmir issue and economic help.

[…]Although the final decision will ultimately be decided by the people, the government would need to weigh what immediate good Pakistan could expect from such a decision and how deeply interested Israel may be in seeking our acceptance. An obvious benefit may be a change in the hostile attitude of the US media and political influentials who might be inclined to be more balanced in their attitude towards Pakistan. Another plus point is that Israel might be ready to sell some of its sophisticated military hardware to Pakistan or decline selling it to India. But, overall it will rid us of the threat from a vicious enemy.

And now some Israeli reaction:

A senior representative of the Israeli administration has lauded the views expressed by President Pervez Musharraf, in his exclusive interview to the Geo TV Channel, on the question of according recognition to Israel by the government of Pakistan.

One of the senior most Israeli diplomats, Israeli Ambassador accredited to EU and also covering the NATO, Oded Eran told The News that the statement of President Pervez Musharraf on taking the issue of recognition of Israel seriously in the changed circumstances is applauded as ‘positive’ by the Israeli government.

Adhering to his previous stance of pursuing even handed approach towards India and Pakistan if Pakistan recognizes Israel, the Israeli Ambassador to EU said formal contact between Tel Aviv and Islamabad would only be possible when Israel receives positive gestures indicating Pakistani willingness to accord recognition to Israel.

So why is Pakistan thinking about recognizing Israel? The main reason is related to the military and India. The Pakistani military has mostly gotten military hardware and technology from China since the US stopped its military aid. Pakistan needs more and better sources for technology. On the other hand, cooperation between India and Israel has been increasing over the years. Pakistan would like to counter that by establishing relations with Israel. The Israeli ambassador’s interview is especially interesting in this light. He says that Israel would be neutral in the conflict between India and Pakistan if Pkaistan is willing to recognize Israel. This is also significant in terms of secret military deals. Pakistan would probably be happy to strike some secret deals for military hardware or technology (like it is rumored it did with apartheid-era South Africa, another government it did not recognize) but Israel wants no part in that.

Will it happen? It could, under the right circumstances. The poll, though extremely flawed, is a good reason for optimism. Also, there needs to be people invested in this idea. A constituency which will gain from recognizing Israel. Sort of like the decision by the previous government of Nawaz Sharif to change the weekly holiday to Sunday due to demands by its business constituency. The military and national security establishment might be one group which will benefit. However, they are not enough. The businessmen need to be convinced as well. If Pakistan recognizes Israel, it should establish full trade relations and not restrict itself to military cooperation only.

The major hurdle is the religious alliance. They are powerful nowadays with considerable support inside Parliament as well as street power. They opposed the Sunday holiday as well but at the time they were weak and were satisfied by Nawaz Sharif in other ways. Another issue is that Musharraf is locked in a struggle with the religious alliance and other opposition parties over his constitutional amendments and military uniform. That is definitely more important to Musharraf than recognition of Israel. Plus Musharraf has not shown any cojones in matters not related to his survival in power. He withdrew announced changes in blasphemy laws during his martial law days due to opposition by religious leaders.

UPDATE: An online poll on Jang’s website is currently running 46.54% in favor versus 46.22% against (total votes 1863) recognition of Israel being in Pakistan’s national interest. Take it with a ton of salt as you should all online polls.

Blogiversary

I started this blog a year ago today on Blogger. So technically today is the blog anniversary. However, I didn’t make the blog public or post regularly until November 2002. My first post was just a test. So I am not sure if today should count as the start of my weblog.

Do not Call, Telemarketers

Yesterday, the Do Not Call Registry was started. More than 735,000 people registered on the first day not to receive any calls from telemarketers. Their website was difficult to access all day because of the high load.

Another problem cropped up with Hotmail and Yahoo spam filters. (Via Perverse Access Memory)

“Our tests showed that Yahoo’s spam filter was automatically sending the confirmation messages from the do-not-call list into users’ bulk-mail folders,” said NetFrameworks co-founder and CTO Eric Greenberg. “The irony of it is that the spam filter is blocking the very thing that’s supposed to help you stop getting spam over the phone.”

I think I had the same problem yesterday with Hotmail. The spam filter probably automatically deleted the emails from the registry which are needed to complete the process.

Why I was fined

You might want to read my previous posts on this topic first.

In December 1991 when the incident referred to in my first post happened, IJT had disappeared from campus and MSF ran the place. They intimidated students, faculty and the administration. The college administration was not really interested in controlling the place and the MSF guys considered college vehicles as their personal property. At the time, MSF was planning some sort of big event (I forget what) and had decided to collect “donations”. For that purpose, they set up a road block on the main road close to the university and stopped every car asking for “donations”. This was near the village of Gangoo Bahadur. They also went to ask for “donations” from the village shopkeepers. Now, the denizens of Gangoo Bahadur were not meek folk. They ran the MSF guys off with their axes and other weapons. Later, the MSF guys returned to the shops in a college pickup truck and tractor (referred to in the letter) and in the ensuing fight set fire to the shops. They ran away but a university bus returning from somewhere was pelted with stones by the villagers later that day.

I learnt about this late that night at home. Talking to a few friends, we decided that it was ok to go to the college the next day. The college buses the next morning took a different route to avoid the village. We heard unsubstantiated rumors that armed villagers were planning to attack the university any time.

I was standing in front of the library with a few friends when we noticed a number of police buses pulling up to a residence hall close by. We thought the police was there to protect us, but we were wrong. As the police reached a group of students near the residence hall, they started beating them with sticks. I looked around and realized that my friends were running away from the police as well. I followed them into the main computer lab. I had never seen the lab so full. Someone locked the door and we waited with bated breath. We could hear the sounds of policemen moving around and trying to get doors open.

After a while, there was silence. We waited for a few minutes and then ventured out of the lab. There was no one in the building. We were afraid of being beaten up by the police, so instead of going out we went to the roof to take a look around. We could not see any police presence. Students then started coming out of classrooms, dorms, labs and wherever they were hiding.

We found out that a large number of students had been arrested. I knew 4-5 students who were missing and none of them were involved in politics/gangs. It turned out that quite a few students, especially the more nerdy ones, had hidden in the library but the police got in and arrested everyone there. I think around 50-100 students were arrested in total. They included some of the student group leaders but most were innocent.

My friends and I walked out of the campus and took a bus home. Then we started calling everyone we knew to make sure they were home safe and sound. There were a few that were missing and were assumed to be arrested. All the students except the gang leaders (or student political leaders, if you prefer) were released later that night. The student leaders spent a couple of months in jail. Some of the leaders who had escaped were arrested at the bail hearings of their friends. However, they had managed to hide their guns and contraband when the police raided and so got off lightly.

The university was closed for the winter holidays. When we returned in January, the campus was free of MSF and IJT for the first time. Things were better for a while.

Student Politics at its worst

I apologize for the delay in explaining what the old letter from my undergrad was about. But I am a graduate student and life was just too busy. I went kayaking over the weekend and then scrambled to do all the work that was postponed because of the trip.

This post gives some background information only. I’ll have more in the morning. I promise!

When I started my Bachelors in 1989 at the University College of Engineering, Taxila, Pakistan (then a campus of University of Engineering and Technology, Lahore but now a separate university), there were a number of student political groups on campus. These political groups should better be called student gangs as they were involved in lots of gang-like activity including turf battles.

One of the worst and biggest groups was Islami Jamiat Tulaba (IJT) [Islamic Association of Students] which was the student wing of Jamaat-e-Islami [Islamic Party] (currently a component of the religio-political alliance in power in the province of NWFP and founded by Maudoodi). [Aside: I have written about Maudoodi here and here.] IJT guys believed in forcing everyone to follow their conception of Islam and patriotism. They were crazy and murderous and found on most college campuses in Pakistan. Even though they didn’t control the student union (student government), they were a big presence on our campus, except for a year or so, but I am getting ahead of myself.

The group that held all the officer positions of the student union in the only election during 1977-1993 (which was held shortly before I joined) was the Engineering Student League (ESL). They were supposed to not be affiliated with any political party, but that didn’t mean they weren’t nasty. And they did morph into the Muslim Student Federation (MSF) in 1991. MSF was the student wing of the Pakistan Muslim League, one of the major right-of-center political parties. Pakistan Muslim League was the ruling party of the country from 1985-88, 1990-93 and 1996-99.

The fights between these two groups happened off and on and involved all sorts of weapons, especially the AK-47 assault rifle. During my time there, 4 students were killed in two separate incidents. I might go into the details of these incidents later.

UPDATE: More here.

Lester Maddox 1916-2003

Lester Maddox who became Governor of Georgia on a segregationist platform in 1966 died yesterday. Here is his main claim to fame (or rather infamy):

Mr. Maddox first came to national attention in 1964, after he violated the newly signed federal Civil Rights Act by refusing to serve three black Georgia Tech students at his Pickrick Restaurant. The Pickrick was noted for the quality of its fried chicken and for its reasonable prices, but Mr. Maddox was determined that no black should experience the ambience that he had reserved exclusively for whites.

When the three black men tried to buy some of his chicken in July 1964, Mr. Maddox waved a pistol at them and said: “You no good dirty devils! You dirty Communists!”

[…]Slight of stature, Mr. Maddox was direct and outspoken in the defense of his convictions, which he wrapped in a states’ rights banner. These included the view that blacks were intellectually inferior to whites, that integration was a Communist plot, that segregation was somewhere justified in Scripture and that a federal mandate to integrate schools was “ungodly, un-Christian and un-American.”