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An Open Letter to Karen Armstrong (I): Of the Silent Choir

By Aasem Bakhshi In reply to Karen Armstrong’s letter which she wrote in 2011 to the people of Pakistan to discover compassion in their daily lives [1]. In the Name of Allah the Compassionate the Merciful Earlier last year, I was visiting a small bookstall when I discovered your letter. I picked it up, almost offhand, as if it was dropped in my mailbox and skimmed it right there in next half an hour. Needless to say that your … Read entire article »

Filed under: Pakistan, Philosophy, Society

Is there a link between Islam and Authoritarianism?

Raza Habib Raja Why there is apparently a link between Islam and authoritarianism? A substantial amount of literature has tried to study the empirical relationship which apparently exists between Islam and authoritarianism. In fact predominance of authoritarian regimes in Middle East and North African (MENA) countries was attributed directly to Islam by some scholars. Kramer (1996) in his famous essay “Islam vs Democracy” remarked, “ In an era of democratization, these lands of Islam remain an anomaly — a zone of resistance to the ideals that have toppled authoritarian regimes of the Left and the Right”. Kramer was of the opinion that Islam is fundamentally contradictory to democratic values and although some of the “reformist” scholars have been trying to find evidence that within Islam there is a room to encompass … Read entire article »

Filed under: Democracy, Islam

Elections: some observations

Prof Farakh A Khan (24.5.13) I was appalled to see Imran Khan ‘carried’ to a truck by four people.  Unfortunately none of the doctors or any one else highlighted basic requirement for shifting of the injured during their TV interviews. Anywhere else the people who were rushing him to a hospital would have been taken to the court. It is well known that shifting of the injured has to be done by professionals with proper gear. The way Imran was dragged could have converted his injuries into permanent paraplegia a dreadful complication in spinal injury patient.  Imran was then taken to a private hospital to have his scalp wound stitched without investigation of more important injuries. This was again criminal since scalp wound was least important of his traumatic injuries. Pakistan, Iraq … Read entire article »

Filed under: Elections

Nawaz Sharif, Army and India

Raza Habib Raja Nawaz Sharif, the Prime Minister elect, is considered a conservative by most of the Pakistani liberals. Yet, in some areas his point of view has been strikingly divergent from the mainstream conservative thought, particularly that which one continues to hear from the TV anchors all the time. The two areas which make Nawaz Sharif stand out are: his continued emphasis on need to have better ties with India; and his hard stance towards Pakistan Army. Any fair assessment ( even if conducted by “liberals”) has to acknowledge, Nawaz Sharif’s bold and in fact anti mainstream conservative approach in these two interrelated areas. These two are intricately intertwined because Pakistan’s security doctrine has always been built around India. Ever since independence, first due to fear of re-annexation and later due … Read entire article »

Filed under: Army, Democracy, India

Strengthening governance in FATA

I am generally skeptical about foreign funded programs as our history shows that aid has often been mismanaged or misappropriated. This is why I always take ambitious sounding development programs with a pinch of salt. The other day I stumbled upon this website (, and inquired details from Raza Rumi, who gave me further information about this program. He also sounded a little cynical as always, but was still hopeful that due to the renewed focus on good governance and peace building in FATA by the major political parties of the country, perhaps there was room to contribute through this project. “AITEBAAR is a Peacebuilding Support to the Post Crisis Needs Assessment (PCNA) Programme, which is a DFID, funded initiative implemented in close collaboration with the Government of Pakistan and FATA … Read entire article »

Filed under: FATA

Congratulations, Pakistan!

By Saad hafiz: Despite allegations of polling irregularities, Pakistanis can be rightly proud of the outcome of the electoral process that culminated on May 11. An unprecedented turnout around 60 percent Pakistan’s 86 million registered voters, and the exceptional enthusiasm and political maturity shown by the voters who braved Taliban threats and violence have bolstered the democratic process. President Asif Zardari and Mr Nawaz Sharif, who shunned the past practice of using political violence by civilian leaders against each other, deserve the most credit for the orderly civilian transition. The moderation shown by the political leadership can help build a peaceful political tradition that, hopefully, will filter down into the society at large. This can only strengthen the world’s fifth-largest democracy and avoid the collapse into civil war or repression that political … Read entire article »

Filed under: Elections

Political parties and elections

by Saad Hafiz Pakistan’s historic path has been ridden by intrigue, strife and bloodshed overseen by power-hungry generals and money grubbing politicians. The chaos in the country also proves that a common religious identity is not a guarantee of stability, security, democracy and free elections. Past elections have not been able to foster a feeling of common destiny. Some elections were so widely and flagrantly rigged that civil rebellion broke out requiring the army to be called in, thus exposing the weakness of political leadership in the country. The army simply shoved the political leadership aside through a coup d’état when it realised that political power depended on it. The Pakistani electorate has an opportunity this week to reverse the country’s anti-democratic legacy. The people can choose the political parties that … Read entire article »

Filed under: Elections, Liberal Democratic Pakistan

Fairer Election, Darker Result

Pakistan Elections 2013 have finally concluded. After years of complaints, protests, campaigning, Pakistan has elected a new party to rule over them for potentially five years. Before discussing the election results, it is incumbent to discuss the actual election process and media coverage. Election was very impressive in terms of being ‘free and fair.’ The process closely resembles the process of Federal Election in Canada. From standing in line to giving proof that you are on the voters list to the standing behind a cardboard box to cast your vote. Everything is in-line with a Democratic country like Canada. Now back to discussing ‘free and fair’ because we all know there are complaints right across the board that it wasn’t fair. There is video proof of multiple votes being cast but even … Read entire article »

Filed under: Elections

PTI and PPP: What Went Wrong?

Raza Habib Raja I must admit one thing: I had never expected around two years ago that Imran Khan’s Facebook supporters will actually come out on the polling day and vote. In fact not only they came out but they actually instilled passion and enthusiasm in the entire election campaign. Imran has motivated them and touched the raw visceral nerve of the class which previously has largely been apolitical. His appeal also influenced many of the youngsters from major urban cities who all came out during the campaign filling huge venues like Minar-e-Pakistan. Apart from that Imran’s influence was also dominant in conservative belt of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa(KP). These three set of demographics formed the core constituency of Imran Khan. Moreover, another set of voter, has voted for PTI is the PPP voter … Read entire article »

Filed under: Democracy, Elections

Some Thoughts on Imran Khan

By Nadeem Bajwa Although I respect and admire Khan for the cricketing hero he once was, for the philanthropist he still is and for the revolutionary leader he aspires to be, I fail to follow him blindly as many of my fellow countrymen do. But to some extent their actions are justifiable by our political culture and the depths that we have driven our country into. He might be patriotic, untainted by financial corruption and charismatic, but does that make him worthy of leading a nation or a country? The road to revolution is not paved with fundamental contradictions, U-turns and half-baked theories. It is forged, inch by inch, by character, self-sacrifice, unswerving principles and passion for the people. Those close to Imran speak of his hefty ego – the need to be the … Read entire article »

Filed under: Elections, Parliament

Brave or Foolhardy?

Brave or Foolhardy?

by: Hafsa Khawaja There are usually, if not always, a certain set of characteristics and qualities that a people expect their leader to have. Amongst the numerous of honesty, integrity and dignity that Pakistanis seek in a leader, is also bravery. With the elections approaching fast, the idea of bravery seems to have been accorded quite a role with populism at play.   A certain notion has been developed in political rhetoric plus social media … Read entire article »

Filed under: Uncategorized

Elections 2013: A guide for the perplexed

by Ghazala Akbar: General Election! Which Election? Depends on where you are. Contrary to popular belief there is not one but are several elections simultaneously taking place in Pakistan. First and foremost there is the contest in the populous province of Punjab often described as the heart of Pakistan. This is where the political heavyweights, the Establishment and the majority of the electorate reside. In electoral terms, the Punjab is the decisive battleground. Whosoever has the bulk of the seats here will be in a strong position to direct the shape and composition of the next government. That is the crux of the matter. Like it or lump it. Presently there is a right royal battle raging on the banks of the Ravi. PML (N) of Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan’s PTI. … Read entire article »

Filed under: Elections

Why is Imran Khan Endorsing Purana Pakistan?

Most of you have probably by now heard of the Ahmadi-Imran Khan brouhaha of the past few days where the PTI central media cell, and then Imran Khan himself, issued statements that they are in no way soliciting the support of the Ahmadi community, that Khan has “an absolute belief in the finality of Prophet Muhammad PBUH”, and that PTI “totally subscribes to” and has no plans to amend the clauses of the Constitution that brand Ahmadis non-Muslims and liars (you can see a good summary of the whole episode here). I assume most of you are deeply troubled by this. I am, to the extent that I’m questioning my (until yesterday) almost-made decision to vote for PTI. But this isn’t about trying to convince anyone not to vote for PTI or for anyone else … Read entire article »

Filed under: Elections

Election Update – 1st May to 3rd May, 2013

1st May, 2013   Elections to occur on schedule stresses Kayani Pakistan will go to polls as scheduled as it is a golden opportunity to usher in an era of true democratic values in the country, Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani has said amid mounting attacks by the Taliban to derail the historic general elections. < Read More – >   Gilgit-Baltistan observing elections from the fringes Gilgit-Baltistan might be the last thing on the minds of Pakistan’s election-contesting parties — none of them have included these far-flung northern areas in their manifestos — but its more politically inclined residents are keeping a close eye on who gets to form a government in Islamabad come May 11. < Read More – >   Women vanguard of ANP campaigns In Lakki Marwat, a southern district of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, women are … Read entire article »

Filed under: Elections

Election Update – 30th April, 2013

Court bans Musharraf from contesting polls for life Virtually sealing his political comeback plans, a provincial High Court today banned former Pakistani military ruler Pervez Musharraf from contesting elections for the rest of his life on a day another put him in judicial custody till three days after the general elections on May 11. < Read More – >   ECP postpones election in Jhal Magsi after candidate’s death ECP postponed the election in PB 32 after body of an independent candidate Abdul Fateh Magsi from Balochistan’s Jhal Magsi area was recovered. According to initial details, the candidate and eight were kidnapped last night. The bodies of Magsi and three others were recovered while five others remain missing. The new date for elections in the area will be announced post May 11 polls. < Read … Read entire article »

Filed under: Elections