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Wake up Pakistan ! Presently the Muslim societies are in a state of ideological confusion and flux. Materialism, terrorism,...

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Sufism, Spirituality and Terrorism


Here’s an advice to those few who, after that terrible terrorist attack at the shrine of Lal Shahbaz last week, rather brazenly began to speak more about the practice of people performing the dhamaal at the shrine, than the attack itself: Do the dhamaal! It just might shake you up and make you remember that over 80 innocent lives were lost in the attack, out of which 25 were children. You may be losing your humanity by sounding the way you are, but try to at least hold on to your soul which is clearly being gnawed away by your fake sense of intellectual and theological superiority.

Doing the dhamaal
NADEEM F. PARACHA

I consider myself a ‘Muslim rationalist.’ Over the years I have devoured the writings of well-known South Asian ‘Muslim modernists’, from Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, Syed Ameer Ali, Chiragh Ali to Muhammad Iqbal and Fazalur Rehman Malik.

Sir Syed has been a particular favourite of mine. His writings became the road which I eventually took almost 25 years ago when I decided to ditch the rapidly fading and crumbling highway of ‘Marxism.’ As a young man I had taken the so-called Marxist thoroughfare to avoid the twisted, bumpy pathway being constructed by the state and government of Pakistan back in the 1980s. This pathway eventually led the country to a very dark place, haunted by some vicious ideological and theological complications, and, consequently, multiple tragedies born from these convolutions.

The first time I actually managed to discover Sir Syed’s rather remarkable stream of logic (outside of the one-dimensional portrayal of the man present in text books), was through a 1987 tome on Sir Syed by Shafique Ali Khan. Quoting from a late 19th century essay by Sir Syed, Shafique Ali wrote that Syed believed the Muslims of India, after reaching the heights of imperial power, had become dissolute and lazy. When this led to them losing political power, they became overtly nostalgic about imagined past glories, which in turn, solidified their inferiority complex. This caused a hardening of views against modernity and the emergence of a dogmatic attitude in matters of faith.

Advice for those who after the terrorist attack at LalShahbaz’s shrine, focussed more on condemning the ecstatic dance
In 1943, S.W. Cantwell in Modern Islam in India wrote that to Syed, the decrees passed by ancient ulema were time-bound and could not be imposed in a changing scenario of what was taking place here and now. Syed believed that the codes of belief and spirituality were the main concerns of Islam and that cultural habits (pertaining to eating, dressing, etc.) are mundane matters for which Islam provides only moral guidance because they change with time and place. Syed added that if faith is not practiced through reason, it can never be followed with any real conviction. He insisted that the ulema were conceiving their world view by uncritically borrowing from the thoughts of ancient ulema. To him, this had made them dogmatic in their thinking and hostile towards even the most positive aspects of the changes taking place around them.

Yet, during the period in which I had begun to somewhat discover the inner workings of what came to be known as Muslim Modernism, I continued to frequent the shrines of Sufi saints and joyfully partake in ceremonies such as the dhamaal. At the shrines of Karachi, the interior of Sindh and South Punjab, my teachers were the thousands of downtrodden men and women who would come to the shrine in droves, and still do. I had been reading book after book on Sufism, but thanks to what I had learned from observing and talking to the common folk at the shrines, I have always maintained that there was absolutely nothing doctrinal about Sufism.

If one observes South Asia’s ancient shrine culture, he or she will notice that Sufism in the region has always been more experiential than doctrinal. I have wondered, why, as a young man, I used to just walk into shrines to listen to a qawwali or do the dhamaal. I did not belong to the class of people who largely visit shrines. Indeed, I could not help but visit these places weighed down by the baggage of being a member of the urban middle-class and its inherent belief of being more educated, ‘civilised’ and chiefly more informed about matters of the faith than the men and women who throng the shrines.

If one observes South Asia’s ancient shrine culture, he or she will notice that Sufism in the region has always been more experiential than doctrinal.
But the moment I became part of all that goes on in a shrine, I began to understand that ideology had nothing to do with this. Things like the dhamaal and qawwali were cathartic exercises, beyond which lay an attempt by a person to strike a special connection with the Almighty which just cannot be intellectualised or rigidly ritualised.


What I learned from (and about) the many people that I interacted with at the shrines was that the saints struck such a connection by roaming among the masses and then, after transcending regimented rituals, they retreated inwards to reach those parts of the mind and the heart that were not so well-known or explored. From here, they claimed, they could actually experience the presence of the Almighty — a presence whose power and beauty may render a mortal man senseless, and annihilate his ego. The annihilation process in this context (fana) was the price the saints were willing to pay.

Indeed, due to habit, I am still trying to intellectualise all this but at least all those visits to the shrines in my youth did often annihilate my middle-class ego and inherent sense of superiority. Never have I felt the awe-inspiring might and beauty of the Almighty and his many creations, as I did in those less pretentious days of youthful discovery.

I haven’t done the dhamaal for over 20 years now. And I don’t know why. Maybe to continue avoiding middle-class biases and that fabricated sense of superiority which my class carries, I have laden my mind with equally weighty doctrines that stand opposed to such biases? Maybe. But even today, when I listen to a qawwali or watch a group of people doing the dhamaal, I can, just for a moment, still feel that inexplicable burst of spiritual liberation which I used to as a younger man.

So, here’s an advice to those few who, after that terrible terrorist attack at the shrine of Lal Shahbaz last week, rather brazenly began to speak more about the practice of people performing the dhamaal at the shrine, than the attack itself: Do the dhamaal! It just might shake you up and make you remember that over 80 innocent lives were lost in the attack, out of which 25 were children. You may be losing your humanity by sounding the way you are, but try to at least hold on to your soul which is clearly being gnawed away by your fake sense of intellectual and theological superiority.

Original: https://www.dawn.com/news/1316895/smokers-corner-doing-the-dhamaal
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Pakistan - Electoral Reforms, Mixed PR electoral system, German model is the answer to corrupted system

PROPOSALS by the Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reforms to resolve operational problems of our electoral system would facilitate fair and free elections. The committee has not proposed systemic reform by changing the electoral formula. It has favoured the present system requiring relative majority of votes to win in a single-member constituency for national and provincial assemblies.
This individual-oriented system of disproportional representation on the basis of a dubious majority is not suitable for Pakistan. Originally introduced for local bodies, this system has localised the body politic of the country.
Many persons elected under this system lacked the quality of national leadership. Votaries of this system should realise that governance of Pakistan is too complex a matter for local influential persons with local bias.
Alternatively, a modified German system of the party-oriented mixed proportional representation on the basis of a genuine majority is needed for Pakistan. With provisions of single-member and multi-member constituencies, it would integrate voter-representative and vote-seat relationships.
Such a system would enhance ability of leaders to steer the ship of the state. Hopefully, better elected leaders would strengthen democracy and block the way for self-appointed leaders of the disappointed nation.
Another model of this system was proposed by famous German psychologist Dieter Nohlen in his book Electoral System: Options for Pakistan(1995), published by German organisation Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (Islamabad). He opined that “electoral systems are important elements which mould the structure of a representative democracy.
Taraq Jazy, Islamabad, Published in Dawn, February 26th, 2017: https://www.dawn.com/news/1316972/pr-electoral-system

Related:

Why Electoral Reforms in Pakistan?

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Image result for german electoral system

Electoral system of Germany

Germans elect their members of parliament with two votes. One vote is for a direct candidate, who ought to receive a plurality vote in his election district. The second vote (considered as more important) is to elect a party list in each province as established by its respective party caucus. Half of the Bundestag is then filled with candidates that won their electoral districts by the first votes and the other half by candidates from the party lists according roughly to the proportion the parties receive from the second votes according to a complex mathematical formula. Common practice is that direct candidates are also placed on the electoral lists at higher rankings as a fall-back if they do not win their districts.
Voting system:
The voter has two votes. The federal election system distinguishes between 'first' and 'second' votes. However, these terms refer neither to a hierarchical order of importance of the votes, nor to a logical (chronological) sequence in a valid election process. According to public polls, about 70% (2002) to 63% (2005) of the voters mistakenly thought the first vote to be more important than the second. In some state election systems that have two voting systems modelled after the federal election setup, the votes are called 'vote for person' and 'vote for list'. It is important that both votes have distinct functions.
First vote
The first vote allows the elector to vote for a direct candidate of his constituency, who applies for a direct mandate in the Bundestag (see illustration above, no. 2). Relative majority voting is used, which means that the candidate who receives most of the votes gets the mandate. If the vote results in a tie, the lot drawn by the leader of the regional election is decisive. In this case, the votes for the other candidates are invalid. The primary function of the first vote is to personalize the election. As there are 299 constituencies at the moment, the same number of mandates in the Bundestag are distributed to the elected candidates in each district. However, the first vote does not determine the power of the parties in the Bundestag. For each direct mandate in a Bundesland the party always receives one mandate less from the second vote.
The size and the geographical shape of the electoral constituencies are revised by an electoral committee appointed by Germany's Head of State. The final decision is made by the German Bundestag and can be found in an attachment to the federal electoral law.
Second vote
For the distribution of seats in the German Bundestag, the second vote is more important than the first vote. This second vote allows the elector to vote for a party whose candidates are put together on the regional electoral list. Based on the proportion of second votes, the 598 mandates are distributed to the parties who have achieved at least 5 percent of valid second votes (see election threshold). Since the 1987 German Bundestag elections, the distribution of seats was made according to the Hare-Niemeyer method. Due to a change in the law passed in January 2008, the distribution of seats is now made according to the Sainte-Laguë/Schepers method.
The proportion of seats a party gets in the Bundestag approximately equates to the percentage of votes the party gets in the election. Discrepancies result from overhang and the election threshold. According to §6, para. 1, clause 2 of the Federal Election Law the electors' second votes are not accounted for if those electors give their first votes to a successful and autonomous direct candidate (a candidate who is not nominated by a party). This rule is designed to prevent a double influence on the composition of the Bundestag.
A similar problem occurred at the Federal Election in 2002. The PDS got two direct mandates in Berlin, but with only 4.0% of second votes they failed to pass the election threshold. The second votes from the electors who voted for those direct candidates counted nevertheless, since in this case both candidates belonged to a party which had handed in a regional list in the respective Bundesland. In its decision of November 23, 1988 (Federal Constitutional Law 79, 161), the Federal Constitutional Court pointed out the relevant loophole in the Federal Election Law to the legislative body. Abolishing the system with first and second votes with the possibility of splitting votes – meaning the elector's option to vote for a direct candidate and for a party independently – would solve the problem automatically.

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Fighting Terrorism and extremism

Firstly, military courts for terrorists are not the norm, but necessary for survival. In the two years they were in existence, 274 cases were referred to them by the federal government, out of which capital punishment was awarded in 161. However, in only 12 has the sentence been carried out. The rest are in various stages of appeal in civilian courts. So where is the advantage of these courts? The appellate process for civilians whose cases are referred to the military courts should also be the same as for accused in uniform. If the army can be trusted to do justice to its own ranks, it should be trusted to do justice with alleged terrorists also.
Secondly, madressahs seem to be increasing faster in our rural areas than regular schools, as exemplified by the situation in traditionally moderate Sindh, in particular the recent attack on Lal Shahbaz Qalandar’s shrine in Sehwan. Boarding house education, the hallmark of our madressahs, is far more effective in impacting a child’s personality and brainwashing him, than day schools. The child is deprived of his family’s values and ethos while interacting with those of the management overseeing his madressah. He leaves his home at a tender age, sometimes as young as four years. Why do you think a sophisticated society like England bases its elite education on boarding house schools like Harrow and Eton?
A law should, therefore, be introduced where an NOC is required to operate any form of boarding school. This would obviously not be madressah specific but apply to ordinary schools like ‘cadet colleges’ too. There would be no restriction on day madressahs where children of the locality study.
Thirdly, unless the ownership of this war against terrorism is taken to the basic policing unit, ie the police station, it will be no more than rhetoric. The police station is the level that has effective command. It also used to have intimate knowledge of all those living within its jurisdiction, but this institution has become ineffective because of population growth and increased crime. Not only must the number of police stations be increased but more training for upgrading manpower and resources provided to them everywhere.
Currently, the interior ministry specifically, and the centre generally, are blamed for their inability to control terrorism. The fact is that they have no say in actual operations. They are dependent on the political priorities of the respective provincial governments. Also, the local station house officer is not interested in confronting terrorists/facilitators in his jurisdiction as long as they do not indulge in local crime, which they usually do not.
There may be a number of long-term solutions but one step that could be taken is to have a representative of the ministry of interior/Nacta, perhaps of inspector level, in uniform, placed in every police station, specifically assigned the task of keeping a watch on terrorists and their facilitators (counterterrorism) and ensuring that local police implements the interior ministry’s policy on terrorism in letter and spirit. Implementation of this proposal would entail problems of coordination, cadre rivalry and resources but a solution will have to be found to contain this hydra-headed monster.
We will have to think out of the box to prevent being overwhelmed by the extremists.
By Tasneem Noorani: The writer is a former federal secretary.
Related, for in-depth study of terrorism: http://takfiritaliban.blogspot.com/
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Dubai properties and Black Money

Image result for dubai real estate market
For a number of years now, we have been hearing about billions of dollars worth of investment in Dubai real estate by Pakistanis. The latest release of data may show a large decline, but the amount is still just below $1bn in the year 2016, down from $2.1bn in the preceding year. In total, the data from the Dubai Land Department indicates that $7.73bn have been invested by Pakistanis in Dubai real estate since 2013.
A VERY valid question is circulating inside the National Assembly, thanks to the efforts of Asad Umar of the PTI: can the government tell us how much money has been sent abroad from Pakistan for the purpose of buying property in Dubai or in the rest of the United Arab Emirates in the recent past? Unfortunately, in this country, the whole scheme of sending and receiving foreign exchange is rigged in such a way as to make it impossible to find an answer. There is a good reason why this is important.
There are grounds to be careful with this data though. First of all, it includes investments by those non-resident Pakistanis who are living and earning abroad. Second, it includes perfectly legitimate investments, not necessarily made from so-called black money or other ill-gotten proceeds. It would be a mistake to assume that the full reported amount of $7.73bn necessarily presents a problem. But in order to know the extent of the challenge these investments may pose, we need a simple reporting template that can tell us how much has been sent from here.
And that is where the problem comes in. The State Bank governor recently told a National Assembly standing committee that his institution has not granted any permission for outward remittances for investment in Dubai real estate. According to the Foreign Exchange Manual, any investment made abroad that exceeds $5m requires cabinet approval, and any investment made abroad in amounts less than that, through the interbank market, requires State Bank approval. But the way the system is set up, one can simply send an outward remittance without declaring that it is for investment purposes, and under the prevailing law no questions can be asked. The only way this could come to the attention of the state is if the person involved decides to declare the assets acquired in his or her wealth declaration at home, in order to keep the money white. For those who have no intention of ever declaring their assets, the hawala system provides an easy route to send the money with no questions asked. It is a marvel to note that our foreign exchange scheme is set up in a way that we can never even know the amount that is going from the country into real-estate investments abroad, let alone do anything to regulate or tax the enterprise.

Published in Dawn, February 26th, 2017
https://www.dawn.com/news/1316969/dubai-properties

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Latest real estate and property news in the UAE and across the world from ... Dubai issues new rules for brokers marketing overseas properties in the emirate.

Property Prices in United Arab Emirates | Emirian Real Estate Prices

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When adjusted for inflation, house prices in Dubai fell by 6.86%. ... in real GDP in 2016) most sectors of the real estate market are likely to see a soft landing, with ...

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Jan 9, 2017 - Dubai's residential market is poised to rebound in 2017 from its cyclical downturn since mid-2014, as oil prices stabilize and real estate projects ...
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