It was a time of destruction and devastation. When novelist James Michener published his essay “A Lament for Pakistan” in the New York Times in January of 1972, the country had been hacked in half. Michener, who had lived in various parts of Pakistan, wrote evocatively and with consternation. He could not imagine how the country he had so sincerely admired had become the site of such disunity. In Michener’s words, Pakistan seemed “dogged by bad luck. Jinnah died shortly after the nation was launched, Liaquat Ali Khan, first Prime Minister and perhaps an abler politician than even Jinnah, was assassinated in 1951. All attempts at democracy ended in 1958 when dictatorship took over. And the conciliation one hoped for between East and West never happened.”
It was not bad luck, however, that doomed Pakistan. Michener’s grim assessment of Pakistan rested not on the country’s condemnation by chance or fortune, but by a crucial failure in its core idea. The severing of East and West Pakistan represented to Michener the end of the tantalizing dream of the religious state, proof of the inadequacy of religion as the foundation of a nation state. Faith had been the only basis of uniting East and West Pakistan, the glue with which the vast chasm of cultural differences, geographical incongruencies, qualms, and quibbles over politics and outlook and ethnicity were to be molded together into one statuesque edifice of nationhood. This glue of a common faith had been infused in the once-united country’s constitution, but it could not glue the two halves of the country together.
Decades after Michener’s essay, religion dangles again over the gaping wounds of a bleeding nation. Since 1971 and the excision of a portion of the country, it has been used to paper over the perfidy of dictators, to keep the country’s women forever suspect, to imagine an authenticity that reality has failed to hand up. If religion is believed to be the glue, the country has needed a lot of it to keep its armies fighting, to keep its people paranoid, to make it all work. There is popular religion on television talk shows, to be ingested with recipes for chicken chow mein; there is the religion of beards and exposed ankles, the religion of school textbooks, the religion of cricket matches, and of course the religion of suicide bombers.
Once again, it has not been enough. Lathered liberally over a nation that imagines itself forever soiled, it has failed to purify, failed to unite, and failed to enlighten. All it has done is change the contestation over culture, over misunderstood identity, over limited opportunity into a sordid contest of the accessories of piety. Unable to unite, it remains still the object of an insatiable hunger, slathered on open wounds it cannot heal. The anger of the bleeding distorts it, devolves and daily denigrates it. Before a bleeding blinded population, its arbiters are not men of learning or men of spiritual substance but men with the blood of thousands on their hands, men of war. Theirs is a vision not of the future but of a crudely imagined past — dark, primitive, poor, and paranoid. Today’s lament for Pakistan is that this landscape of dread has become the vision of a nation.
But if the loss of one part of itself did not provoke the grim deliberations that would reveal the delinquencies of nationhood, the ravages of the current moment are also unlikely to do so. The burden of 60 and some years of believing in one idea, on erecting nationhood on faith, means that imagining alternatives feels at once traitorous and misguided. If not this, what then, asks a generation that knows only war, that has not been trained to look elsewhere, that imagines goodness as blind obedience and spirituality as a political act.
There are no answers for them; the greed of those who have gobbled up faith has rendered dissent into blasphemy and silence into survival. Soiled by the politics of power and death, religion stands misused and politics confused. Amid the wreckage of old ideas, of peace talks, amid ready shrouds and promises for the future by the robbers of the past, is the fear that the shuddering, shivering edifice of our nationhood will crumble and fall as it nearly did once before, occasioning from one writer, now long dead, a lament for Pakistan. His words from the past touch our present; our quest for a nation built on faith has left behind a faith without feeling, and a nation without meaning.
By Rafia Zakaria
KUWAIT: According to a local Arabic daily, Kuwait will export 100,000 tons of used tyres that are currently stored in different areas including Rehaya and Mina Abdullah to Pakistan. This will be done by a local private company after getting approval from the authorities in charge including the Environment Public Authority and Customs Department. The shipment will leave Kuwait by sea from Mina Abdullah.
This decision to send the used tyres is an alternative solution to get rid of these tyres instead of building a factory for treating and recycling them. There has been much discussion about storing used tyres in large quantities after repeated fires in Rehaya. Tyre recycling can be a profitable industry and an investment if done with modern technology. “Any project should be build on certain pillars to be feasible. To build a recycling factory for treating the used tyres, we will need to have huge quantities of these tyres on a regular basis. Building such a factory is very expensive and has capital and operational costs, and has to operate for a certain period to cover expenses and make profits,” economic analyst Hajaj Bu Khadour told Kuwait Times. “Although the present quantity of used tyres is huge, it was collected over many years and not in a year. So we can’t expect the factory to work only for three or four months a year. In this case, the production cost will be very high. So the quantity should be suitable and adequate to cover this cost.
There should be a regular supply of material to achieve economic feasibility,” he added. “For these reasons, the export of these used tyres is better than building a factory. Although we have a great number of vehicles in Kuwait, our consumption of tyres is not enough to operate a factory. Pakistan is a huge country with a population of over 180 million people, so definitely their consumption and use of tyres will be greater than ours, so exporting used tyres is the best solution to solve the problem of this waste,” he explained. Bu Khadour blamed the Municipality for not taking this role. “As a result of bad administration and corruption, the Municipality left this transaction to a company from the private sector and is also paying for this. They instead could save these expenses for storing food supplies or other projects, and turn the expenses for waste treatment into income for the state budget. As long as this idea exists, the government is able to execute it,” he concluded. Chairman of Green Line Environment Group Khalid Al-Hajiri described the export of used tyres as the wrong solution. “This waste has great economic value if it is recycled correctly.
In general, recycling waste can turn Kuwait into an exporting country for raw material at least if not other products that can be manufactured from the waste. It’s a wrong decision as there are strict international laws for transporting this waste. Also, these importing countries can refuse to import this waste at any time in the future,” he pointed out. According to him, the intended quantity to be exported – 100,000 tons – presents a part only. “The available quantity of used tyres in Kuwait is much bigger than what will be exported, so we need a clear strategy and plan to recycle the waste and produce useful material out of it, as well as preserve the environment,” Hajiri noted, adding bureaucracy in various public authorities is responsible for failing all environment projects. “I blame the Environment Public Authority, Public Authority for Industry, and the Kuwait Municipality for their negligence. In Kuwait we have the most expensive cleaning contracts that reached $1 billion a year if calculated per square meter. Yet the companies executing this do not provide basic services such as separating waste and others. Corruption is behind these problems,” he stated
By Nawara Fattahova
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif visited the General Headquarters on Tuesday where he was briefed by the top military leadership on the current security situation in the country.
In his first visit to the GHQ after assuming office, the prime minister lay a floral wreath at the memorial of martyrs and held a one-on-one meeting with the outgoing Chief of the Army Staff, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. The meeting was followed by a detailed briefing by the military's top brass.
Many pressing issues, including talks with the Taliban and appointment of a new army chief and Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee — the post currently held by Gen Kayani after the retirement of Gen Khalid Shameem Wynne in the first week of October — are likely to have come under discussion.
Prime Minister Sharif has said before and after his election that the next army chief will be appointed on merit and the most senior general will get the charge.
Haroon Aslam is the most senior general after Gen Kayani.
The prime minister was also briefed by the military leadership on the pros and cons of contacting new Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan chief Maulana Fazlullah, a sworn enemy of the army. Following the TTP’s latest threat to carry out attacks on the military and government installations and functionaries, the government is virtually in a bind as far as the proposed peace talks with the Taliban are concerned.
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif and Kuwait's Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamd Al-Sabah held formal talks here on Monday aimed at strengthening bilateral ties between the two countries.
The meeting held at the Prime Minister House focused on enhancing cooperation in diverse areas, especially trade and energy.
Prime Minister Sharif said the visit of Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber would give a fresh impetus to the efforts to further carry forward the multifaceted bilateral relations with Kuwait.
He mentioned that Pakistan's relations with Kuwait were rooted in historical links and enriched by the great warmth and goodwill between their people.
In the delegation-level talks, Prime Minister Sharif was assisted by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid, Science and Technology Minister Zahid Hamid, Special Assistant to PM on Foreign Affairs Tariq Fatemi, State Minister for Petroleum Jam Kamal and State Minister for Privatization Khurram Dastagir.
Kuwait's ministers for Petroleum, Trade and Chamber of Commerce participated in the talks.
On Sunday. President Mamnoon Hussain underscored the need for Pakistani and Kuwaiti governments to take their bilateral relations to new heights by focussing on trade and investment.
During his meeting with Kuwait’s Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah at the Presidency, the president said Pakistan had huge potential for investors in various sectors, including defence and energy, and invited Kuwaiti businessmen to avail the attractive incentives offered by its government.
Mr Hussain said the Kuwaiti prime minister’s visit to Pakistan demonstrated the special bonds of friendship and brotherhood between the two countries and expressed confidence that it would add momentum to the existing close ties between them.
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif has said that Pakistan attaches special importance to its relations with the Kingdom of Kuwait. He said this while meeting His Highness Sheikh Jaber Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah, Prime Minister of Kuwait, who met the Prime Minister here in Islamabad today.
ISLAMABAD: Pakistani private schools associations office bearers said on Sunday that they have banned teenage activist Malala Yousafzai's book from private schools across the country, claiming it doesn't show enough respect for Islam and calling her a tool of the West.
Malala attracted global attention last year when the Taliban shot her in the head in northwest Pakistan for criticizing the group's interpretation of Islam, which limits girls' access to education.
Her profile has risen steadily since then, and she released a memoir in October, ''I Am Malala,'' that was co-written with British journalist Christina Lamb.
While Malala has become a hero to many across the world for opposing the Taliban and standing up for girls' education, conspiracy theories have flourished in Pakistan that her shooting was staged to create a hero for the West to embrace.
Adeeb Javedani, president of the All Pakistan Private Schools Management Association, said his group banned Malala's book from the libraries of its 40,000 affiliated schools and called on the government to bar it from school curriculums.
''Everything about Malala is now becoming clear,'' Javedani said. ''To me, she is representing the West, not us.''
Kashif Mirza, the chairman of the All Pakistan Private Schools Federation, said his group also has banned Malala's book in its affiliated schools.
Malala ''was a role model for children, but this book has made her controversial,'' Mirza said. ''Through this book, she became a tool in the hands of the Western powers.''
He said the book did not show enough respect for Islam because it mentioned Prophet Muhammad's name without using the abbreviation PBUH ''peace be upon him'' as is customary in many parts of the Muslim world.
He also said it spoke favorably of author Salman Rushdie, who angered many Muslims with his book ''The Satanic Verses,'' and Ahmadis, members of a minority sect that have been declared non-Muslims under Pakistani law.
In her reference to Rushdie, Malala said in the book that her father saw ''The Satanic Verses'' as ''offensive to Islam but believes strongly in the freedom of speech.''
''First, let's read the book and then why not respond with our own book,'' the book quoted her father as saying.
Malala mentioned in the book that Pakistan's population of 180 million people includes more than 2 million Ahmadis, ''who say they are Muslim though our government says they are not.''
''Sadly those minority communities are often attacked,'' the book said, referring also to Pakistan's 2 million Christians.
The conspiracy theories around Malala reflect the level of influence that right-wing sympathisers to the Taliban have in Pakistan. They also reflect the poor state of education in Pakistan, where fewer than half the country's children ever complete a basic, primary education.
Millions of children attend private school throughout the country because of the poor state of the public system.
The Taliban blew up scores of schools and discouraged girls from getting an education when they took over the Swat Valley, where Malala lived, several years ago.
The army staged a large ground offensive in Swat in 2009 that pushed many militants out of the valley, but periodic attacks still occur.
The mastermind of the attack on Malala, Mullah Fazlullah, recently was appointed the new head of the Pakistani Taliban after the former chief was killed in a US drone strike.