Finance Minister

A little boy wanted Rs.50 very badly and prayed for weeks, But nothing happened.

Finally he decided to write God a letter requesting the Rs.50. When the postal authorities received the letter addressed to God, they decided to forward it to the Finance Minister as a joke.

The Finance Minister was so amused, that he instructed his secretary to send the little boy Rs.20.

The Finance Minister thought this would appear to be a lot of money to a little boy, and he did not want to spoil the kid.

The little boy was delighted with Rs.20, and decided to write a thank you note to God, which read:

“Dear God: Thank you very much for sending the money. However, I noticed that you sent it through the Finance Minister, and those donkeys deducted Rs.30 in taxes”

Who is Popular ?

Eighty-three per cent of Pakistanis want President Pervez Musharraf to be removed and judges to be restored, according to a survey released by the US-based International Republican Institute on Thursday.

Coming three-and-a-half months after a coalition made up of anti-Musharraf parties formed a government, the IRI survey said Nawaz Sharif was now the most popular leader, because of the uncompromising position he has taken over the issues.

In contrast, the Pakistan People’s Party has been hurt by its ambivalence over the reinstatement of judges and how to tackle Musharraf. Yet 52 per cent of respondents said they were optimistic that things would get better in Pakistan under the new government.

The uncertainty in Pakistan is worrying Western powers and neighbours in the region, who fear a transition to civilian-led democracy could founder at a time when the threat of Islamist militancy is growing and the economy is floundering.

The country’s benchmark stock index has shed 35 per cent from a life high in April, depressed by investors’ worries about the political situation and its impact on the economy. The survey from the IRI, a US government-funded organisation chaired by US presidential contender John McCain, said Musharraf’s job approval ratings had dropped to 11 per cent. Only three per cent of people surveyed thought he was the best person to handle Pakistan’s problems.

Conducted between June 1-15, the IRI survey showed that of the 3,484 people, 82 per cent say that they like Sharif, up from 36 per cent in June 2006 when he trailed Musharraf and Bhutto.

When asked who they would support in a future parliamentary election, PML-N was the choice of 36 per cent, up from the 29 per cent who said they voted for the party in February election. Sharif and Zardari disagree on the fate of senior judges Musharraf dismissed when he imposed emergency rule in November to stop the Supreme Court ruling on the legality of his re-election while army chief. Despite Zardari’s hesitancy confronting Musharraf, IRI’s poll found his popularity rating had gone up to 45 per cent from 37 per cent in the last poll released in February.

For Survey Graphs click here

Who is afraid of the Taliban?

Article by Dr Muzaffar Iqbal

The Taliban pose a number of very serious ideological, doctrinal and military threats to many. The greatest and most immediate threat is to the American hegemony in the region. Had it not been for their consistent, bold and strategic resistance, the proxy government in Kabul would have turned Afghanistan into an American colony. This would have been the end of centuries-old traditional Afghan values, steeped in Islam. This would have also meant that Afghanistan would act as a stepping stone for American designs for the region, providing the ground for its offensive against Iran.

In a way, it would have been a situation not unlike what Russians had dreamt of in the 1970s before they invaded Afghanistan in 1979. They wanted access to Afghanistan for similar reasons. For the Russians, however, it was the extension of their influence towards the south and access to the warm waters which was the greater consideration for their invasion of Afghanistan. For the Americans, Afghanistan is key to the Central Asian oil reserves, a launching pad for all military operations aimed at curtailing Iran, and, of course, a direct way to influence events in Pakistan. The resistance launched by the Taliban has blunted all of these plans. Thus, the Taliban are the greatest threat to the Americans and, by extension, to all those who support American policies in the region.

The second threat the Taliban pose is to the ‘liberal Muslims’. They uphold, practice, and enforce customs and values which ‘liberal Muslims’ cannot live with. They demand strict adherence to the Sharia as well as the Sunnah of the most Noble Messenger, upon whom be peace. Although they pronounce the two shahadas (there is no deity except Allah and Muhammad is His Messenger), many ‘liberal Muslims’ have no qualms about certain aspects of Sharia (such as drinking). Thus, they view as a threat the Taliban’s insistence on closing down shops of those barbers who shave beards, places which spread vices in society, and other such measures.

The Taliban also pose a threat to those Muslims whose understanding of Islam is not defined by the narrow vision held by the Taliban. Although such Muslims support enforcement of Sharia and they uphold the Sunnah of their beloved Prophet (PBUH), they cannot agree with certain aspects of the Taliban’s way of governance. In a more normal situation, such differences could be discussed, but the violence and the treachery with which Taliban have had to cope, even brotherly discussions are not possible. Islam is not monolithic and the level of iman is not measured by the length of one’s beard. But diversity within Islam, as reflected in certain practices, is not within the Taliban’s interpretation of Islam.

Regardless of various levels of opposition to them, the Taliban have proven to be a force to reckon with. Most western analysts are surprised at their resilience. They fail to understand that the strength of the Taliban is not in numbers or weapons, but it lies within them. It is grounded in their absolute reliance on Allah. They are distinguished by their bravery, honesty and strict adherence to Islam, and by their loyalty to what they believe in. Unlike the general populace, swayed by winds of all kinds, they have a strong vision of Islam by which they live. Had it not been their inner strength, they would have been wiped out by now.

While many Pakistani and western analysts do not want to admit this, the Taliban enjoy a certain level of support from the general populace in Pakistan and Afghanistan. In fact, their Pakistani support has been gradually increasing. This is so because most Muslims in Pakistan do not support western-style, non-Islamic policies which are tacitly or overtly enforced in both countries. The liberals in both countries are ideologically and emotionally aligned with the western-style secular vision of life. Hence, they are afraid of the Taliban. But liberals are a minority in both countries. Therefore, even if the majority does not agree with some of the things the Taliban do, they still support them because the other side is totally unacceptable.

Those who are afraid of the Taliban have a long fight ahead of them. If history is our guide, it can be said with certainty that NATO is going to be engaged in a no-win situation for decades to come. It is not clear how many western countries will be willing to support such a no-win situation for long. The Americans have their own interests and they have been able to enlist Canada, Britain, the Netherlands, and a host of other countries to provide soldiers. But other than the UK, many European countries have little to gain from such support. Hence, their long-term presence is questionable.

The Taliban have spread their influence into Pakistan and they are now capable of operating in many parts of the northwest. They may not be able to become a main force in the rest of the country but they are certainly capable of influencing events here in Pakistan in the years to come. Their influence may translate into the emergence of new political forces in Pakistan. The Taliban thus pose a threat to the establishment in Pakistan and it has no idea how to deal with them.

Published in The News on Friday, July 11, 2008

On Morals and Manners

1. It is related by ‘Abdullah bin Amr that the Prophet, peace be upon him, “The best of you are those who possess the best of manners.”
– Bukhari and Muslim

2. Abu Hurayrah related to us that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said, “Muslims who possess better morals are the most perfect in Faith.”
– Abu Da’ud and Darimi

3. It is related by Abu Darda, he relates that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said, “On the Day of Reckoning, the most weighty item in the Scales of Deeds will be good manners.”
– Abu Da’ud and Tirmidhi
Note: This is in addition to fundamental principles of Islam: Salah, Zakah, Sawm and Hajj. [Annotated]

4. It is related by ‘Abdullah bin Amr that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said, “Nearest to me among you are those who have better manners.”
– Bukhari and Muslim

5. It is related by Jarir bin ‘Abdullah that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said, “They will not obtain the mercy of God in whose hearts there is no mercy for others.”
– Bukhari and Muslim

6. It is related by ‘Abdullah bin Amr bin al-Aas that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said, “God will have mercy upon them that are merciful. Treat kindly the dwellers of the earth; He who dwells in the heaven will treat you kindly.”
– Abu Da’ud and Tirmidhi

7. It is related by Abu Hurayrah that a person complained to the Prophet, peace be upon him, of his own hard-heartedness. “Caress the head of the orphan, and feed the poor,” the Prophet replied.
– Musnad Ahmad

8. It is related by Abu Hurayrah that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said, “A generous hearted bondsman is nearer to God and men, and he is close to Heaven and far off from Hell; and, surely, an ignorant, but open-handed is dearer to God than a devotee who is a miser.”
– Tirmidhi

9. It is related by Abu Hurayrah that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said, “It is the command of the Lord for every bondsman: ‘Spend on others. I shall spend on you.'”
– Bukhari and Muslim

10. It is related by Abu Hurayrah that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said, “Miserliness and Faith cannot exist together in anyone’s heart.”
– Nasai

Another Gift to the Americans

US President George W. Bush Thursday signed a law expanding legal authority for wiretaps by spy agencies, which he hailed as vital for America’s security, after a fierce Congress battle.

“This law will play a critical role in helping to prevent another attack on our soil,” Bush said as he signed the bill, calling it “vital to the security of our people.”

“The bill will allow our intelligence professionals to quickly and effectively monitor the communications of terrorists abroad while respecting the liberties of Americans here at home,” he said.

The law includes retroactive immunity for telecommunications firms that aided warrantless government surveillance operations following the September 11 attacks in 2001, meeting a key White House demand.