We often get inspirations from some extraordinary people around us and thus they become our role models – but not necessarily everyone gets a chance to meet these icons and get to know about their life experiences.
In the context of Pakistan, when we think about social services, one name immediately strikes our minds – Abdul Sattar Edhi. Like many others he is my role model, too – I had never thought in life that one day I would get a chance to meet him.
It was a Friday afternoon, when Hilal team entered the main Headquarters near Boltan Market Karachi. After entering a big hall and introduction, I asked the young lady at reception about him, she pointed her finger and said, ‘he is sitting on your left’.
And he was no different from the image we always see on TV screens. Dressed in simple dark grey shalwar kameez, wearing Quaid-i-Azam cap – an eminent persona with a grey white beard, sharp features and frail body, whom we all know as Abdul Sattar Edhi; a saint among ordinary people like us, an emblem of hope for many poverty-stricken people of Pakistan.
After a couple of minutes his youngest son Faisal Edhi took us into a modest yet impressive office festooned with pictures of M.A. Jinnah, an old family photograph of Abdul Sattar Edhi, and certificates by different international organizations along with posters of public service messages.
It was not an interview but a conversation with the family, and Abdul Sattar Edhi despite his ailment took part, sharing his life occurrences with Hilal team while listening to Faisal Edhi. Born in 1928 in Bantva (a small town in Kathiawar, India), at the age of 20, he joined a charitable trust run by the Memons, the community to which his family belonged. He was dismayed when saw that the organization only helped their own community. He then decided to work for humans regardless of faith, class, identity – he aimed to serve humanity – and he does so successfully. He preaches to be a human and love the humanity.
He was taught to help people at very little age, when his mother used to give him two paisa's and advised to give one to the needy and keep other as his pocket-money. Later he learnt how to take care of sick, when his mother was bedridden due to paralyses. That was certainly the foundation stone which shaped him into the living legend he is today.
Now 87, Edhi started his charity work 60 years ago with an old van converted into an ambulance, and set out on numerous life-saving missions. He set up homes for the mentally-retarded and old people when observed them mistreated by families, opened orphanages when saw children sleeping with dogs on footpaths, built dispensaries and homes when found women in distress and raised thousands of unwanted or illegal infants.
"I have travelled 72 countries of the world but could not find any country like ours and nation as Pakistanis. Edhi foundation has never accepted donations offered by either own or foreign governments. Whenever I needed money, I begged people of Pakistan and they contributed generously. I incalculably worked for almost 55 years of my life for humanity – now I have gone weak and old, cannot contribute physically but I do supervise my son Faisal, who is managing the foundation,” told Edhi sahib in a feeble voice.
“People sometimes don't understand the true concept of charity, and doubt my efforts and sincerity. Some of the money and jewelry that we had collected for poor people was robbed on gun point. People asked whose amanat was it? That was amanat of deprived and needy people of Pakistan that was amanat we had gathered through begging. My religious beliefs are also questioned…. Alhamdulillah I am Muslim, I offer five time prayers and I always seek help and guidance from Allah and He has been very kind to me. But besides all I always care for humanity; not only for Muslims or Pakistanis. Things were never easy for me and my family, but we always remain self-effacing,” he further added.
As he said his ‘religion’ is humanitarianism, so for people who doubt his religious morality may have a look on the activities performed under the patronage of Edhi Trust, they would be surprised to note the unison between tasks of Edhi Foundation and true practices of our religion. So does his actions not speak louder move words?
Long ago, one day when he was passing by a market, he saw a badly beaten-up man lying helplessly on the road, people were gathered around but nobody tried to save his life and just watched him die. He decided that day, that he would take care of dead, wounded, too. Today everyone knows that even if its armed fight going on anywhere, people fighting would stop and let Edhi ambulance rescue wounded and pickup the dead.
Here I would like to share what he narrated in his autobiography by Tehmina Durrani, published in 1996, about recovering the stinking cadavers "rivers, from inside wells, from road sides, accident sites and hospitals… When families forsook them, and authorities threw them away, I picked them up… Then I bathed and cared for each and every victim of circumstance." While sharing his feelings Faisal Edhi told Hilal, "I was very attached with my father, although he had no time for us, but I used to wait for him especially in Ramadan. At the age of 13, I went to USA for studies but came back after 3 years as I wanted to work with Edhi sahib and thus became his right hand. This task though involves immense hard work and sacrifices, but with supervision of Edhi sahib we are trying to continue the services the way he have been doing in the past."
Faisal Edhi further shared that Edhi sahib always treated the kids in the centres and his own children equally. "You can figure it out with one little example that I wanted to have a bicycle and a small motor car but Edhi sahib did not buy one for me," and said, "it would be unjust if I give you one, and not to my hundreds of kids." He has spent his entire life in the service of mankind, without personal benefits or gain, and taught us the same values he has been following throughout." He has won many national and international certificates and awards for his meritorious humanitarian services not only inside Pakistan but wherever in the world calamities occur, but he has no lust for fame," added Faisal.
In 1964 Edhi sahib married Bilqis who worked as a nurse at the Edhi dispensary. They have four children two daughters and two sons. She had been managing orphanages, maternity homes, girls’ hostels and nursing homes under the banner of Edhi Foundation. As Faisal Edhi is helping his father, likewise their eldest daughter has become a helping hand of her mother Bilqis Edhi.
While talking to Bilqis Edhi whom Edhi sahib calls his strength, we asked about the life journey she has been spending with the icon of humanity. "He has spent his life to help others. Regardless of knowing about his commitments, sometimes I used to complain that he never gives time to our own children, but gradually we learnt to live with it. He missed his daughter's wedding, he did not attend funeral of our grandson Bilal, whom he loved more than his kids.”
Let me share this most heartrending incident that jolted our family and you can evidently see what kind of a person Edhi sahib is. It was July 9, 1992 when he was going to Ghotki to help people dead or injured as a result of train accident and our grandson Bilal died. He was the youngest son of my eldest daughter Kubra. And we loved him more than our own kids. The love and affection Edhi sahib had for Bilal, was never seen for his own kids. He still says that Bilal was part of his heart and after Bilal he would not be able to love anyone. Although he had seen sufferings of other people too many times but the pain he went through after seeing Bilal’s burnt body, was unbearable. He was burnt by a psycho patient Irshad who, with her children, was living in our home.
Just to take revenge from my daughter Kubra that why she complained of her ill-discipline, she burnt my six-year-old grandson alive with scorching water that too on eid day. But instead of taking any action against her, Edhi sahib sent her for treatment in on other centre and asked us to forgive her, too. How the life with a person who always loved and respected humanity, could be an easy one? We never spent time together as family but learnt true spirit of sacrifice from him. He always trusted me for bringing up our children and he still likes when I take care of the abandoned children until they are adopted by someone. When asked about for how long they keep track of such children she replied, "maximum of 5 to 6 years, as we get busy with other kids coming into the centres but the parents do apprise us about the kids, send us their pictures and sometimes bring them to meet us.”
When I asked about how the organization is working on that large scale without government funding, she told about the policy of Edhi Foundation and said, “Whenever international donors offer us donations we politely either refuse or distribute in the same country, since we get enough from Pakistanis, we do not take money from government or from abroad.”
Upon asking about likes and dislikes of Edhi sahib she told, "He has always led a simple life, with undemanding eating habits. Usually he takes pieces of old bread in the morning, and raw cooked vegetable or any daal (pulse) in meals. When we were newly married, my friends used to make fun of him eating chapati with water-melon, but I never mind that as I knew my husband." I was very immature when we got married, but he was always kind and tolerant.
While commenting on Operation Zarb-e-Azb Edhi sahib appreciated the efforts of Pak Army and said, "Pak Fauj under the leadership of Gen Raheel Sharif is fighting for a peaceful Pakistan, the soldiers are helping humanity, we are with them, my all prayers are with them for success of this noble cause."
“Today when I look back into my life, I don't feel any regrets, I attained whatever I wished for, Allah has always been so helpful and kind.” Though every word of Edhi sahib is a message for us but he through platform of Hilal, specially wanted to pass on to the youth that humbleness is the most distinctive trait for humans, so be humble, love humanity and be a human.
Upon leaving the premises of Edhi Headquarters, and spending a half day, I really felt honoured meeting a brutally honest, simple and a very compassionate man. Who has transferred his saint host philosophy in his future generation, too. We pray for his speedy recovery and long healthy life, as someone else may not be able to serve mankind the way he is doing.
Awards Conferred upon Abdul Sattar Edhi
• Shield of Honour by Pakistan Army (E & C). • Honorary Doctorate Degree by Institute of Business Administration, 2006. • Khidmat Award by Pakistan Academy of Medical Sciences. • Human Rights Award by Pakistan Human Rights Society. • Pakistan Civic Award by Pakistan Civic Society, 1992. • Nishan-e-Imtiaz by Government of Pakistan, 1989. • The Social Worker of Sub-Continent by Government of Sindh, 1989.
• Magsaysay Award for Public Service from Philippines. • International Balzan Prize for Humanity, Peace and Brotherhood from Italy, 2000. • Hamdan Award for volunteers in Humanitarian Medical Services from UAE, 2000. • Paul Harris Fellow from Rotary International Foundation, 1993. • Largest Voluntary Ambulance Organization of the World by Guinness Book of World Records, 2000. • International Lenin Peace Prize for services in the Armenian earthquake disaster from Russia (former USSR), 1988.
Today the Edhi Foundation has approximately 550 ambulances, including two planes and a helicopter. Currently, he is building a system of roadside medical aid centres, each with an emergency vehicle, every 35 miles along Pakistan’s highways, from Khyber to Karachi.
• Passion: Serving Humanity • Favourite Song: Dukhaaey dil jo kisi ka wo aadmi kia hai • Favourite Fruit: Mango • Best Companion: Biliqis Edhi • Most Favourite Kid: Faisal Edhi
Mr Athar Yad Ali is a brave citizen who, in a daring action on January 3, 2015, managed to stop a driver-less 22 wheeler truck, whose brakes had failed at Salt Range, Motorway. His action prevented men and material losses and speaks volumes about his courage and sense of responsibility as a citizen.
Interview By: Asif Jehangir Raja
Q. The video of your brave action of halting a driver-less heavy truck at the Salt Range area on the Motorway on Jan 3, 2015 went viral on web. Please share the details of the incident with us.
My wife, two sons and I were on the Motorway, enroute to Lahore from Islamabad, when we noticed an unmanned 22 wheeler truck making its way down the road in an abnormal manner. After observing it for some time in the back view mirror, it became evident that the brakes of the truck had failed. Moreover, we also noticed that the truck was without driver meaning that the driver had probably jumped off after noticing the brake failure. The Salt Range is one of the most dangerous portions for any kind of traffic, especially the heavy vehicles, on the Motorway. An unmanned truck could cause man and material losses and to the vehicles commuting on the Motorway. My children were making a video of the truck. After hoping for the truck to come to a halt which wasn’t happening, I noticed a slope coming which could cause a lot of damage and then within a spilt-second I decided that I had to stop it before it was too late.
Q. In the video, your children and family is heard advising you not to attempt any such adventure. What prompted you to take such a decision despite opposition?
My children were making a video of the truck. However after seeing that the truck just wasn’t stopping and there was a slope ahead, I decided to be more than a mere spectator and took charge of the situation. So I got off from my car and mounted on the truck. If the truck wasn't stopped it could have led to a disastrous situation. I didn't want to leave this to chance and took my chance; and all praise to Allah, it paid off.
Q. How did you manage to stop the truck on a slope whose brakes had failed?
It was essentially a very basic Physics law that I applied to stop the truck. After jumping behind the steering wheel, I kept swerving the truck into the divider and used the tyres fixed on the roadside wall to break the momentum which slowed its speed. I continued doing so for about 2 kilometers and eventually the truck came to a halt.
Q. Were you fearful at any moment of your brave action? What were your feelings while you were undergoing this action?
Honestly, it was the use of cool logic under pressure. Once you take the decision to put yourself in a seemingly dangerous situation, you have to eliminate all fears and replace them with logic; that is the only way to come out of it unscathed.
Q. Did you attempt any brave action of similar nature in your life previously?
Yes, on several occasions.
Q. How does your family feel now?
Besides being relieved that nothing happened to me, they are proud of me.
Q. You have attained height of fame after this incident. What are your feelings?
I didn't intend for the fame to come to me. It was a split second decision that I took to prevent the terrible accident and something that I thought might help others.
Honestly, I am not a hero. I only hope that any Pakistani who could be involved in a similar situation would surely act to help. I just hope that people take this as an inspiration and should help our fellow countrymen and the nation. All praise to Allah, the Almighty.
Q. What is your message for the readers of Hilal?
To always put the needs of others before yours for the greater goal of peace, prosperity and unity of the country. We are all citizens of this great country that we live in and we need to work for peace and harmony. Remember our deeds are accounted for, good and bad. So every chance one gets, should increase the good.
Pakistan is passing through challenging times and terrorism has hit us hard. As member of the civil society, we all shall remain vigilant, and upon watching any suspicious terrorist activity, must inform the concerned authorities and also make all efforts to stop such individuals from barbaric acts.
Q: Briefly explain us the external and internal security challenges Pakistan is facing today? What and how should we prioritize the response so as not to lose balance against any of the foes?
Answer: Pakistan is bedeviled by both external and internal challenges at present. The departure of US Forces from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, after having left behind a small force, will impact the internal and external security matrix of Pakistan. It will be a key thing for Pakistan to watch that things develop smoothly in Afghanistan because if, for any reason, it doesn't stabilize and continues to be riddled with uncertainties in the aftermath of a decade long stay of NATO / ISAF, and an internal strife develops just as it happened in 1989, it will definitely have very negative implications on Pakistan's internal security situation. Pakistan would have liked internal peace process for stability in Afghanistan to commence; but that isn't the case and Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) between USA and Afghanistan hasn't been signed as yet. One can assume about presence of some American Forces in Afghanistan after 2014 but uncertainties those prevail in Afghanistan can make things difficult for our country and lack of stability in Afghanistan will have impact on Pakistan.
The border management between Afghanistan and Pakistan will be another key to our need for domestic stability. After different operations in FATA and Swat by Pak Army, most of these terrorists crossed over the border and moved to Kunar and Nuristan regions of Afghanistan. And even now, if there is an operation in North Waziristan, the terrorists may still move into ungoverned adjacent areas of Afghanistan located on the border areas with Pakistan. This shall mean a continuous interference from outside into Pakistan's territory. Another concern is Afghanistan's proxy meddling in Pakistan. Afghans have been alleging Pakistan as responsible for few incidents of violence in their territory but what is more alarming, are the reports of Afghan groups, or Afghan sponsored groups, carrying out activities inside Pakistan.
India is always there as a point of concern for us simply because two third of its forces continue to be deployed along its borders with Pakistan. Although Pakistan has pulled out some of its forces from Eastern border, however, Pakistan will continue to very consciously watch its East. This is how I view the external security challenges to Pakistan.
On the internal front, Pakistan has even bigger challenges. I shall briefly recount each one of these. First is the lack of governance and enfeebled capacity to administer within the Pakistani state. As a result it has begun to appear weak, irresolute, incapable of functioning even averagely. This situation is posing few questions into the minds of people of Pakistan as the basic contract of the state with its citizens and people is under question. Next most dominating and prevalent problem for Pakistan is terrorism which will also continue to bother us for sometime because of being multidimensional. The inability to respond to it properly during last few years shows the state in very poor light. In addition to these problems include economic issues, division within society; add to it the poor polity, the confrontation within institutions and perceptions arising out of military takeovers. These things have divided the body of our society which remains a very pervasive threat to our cohesion. The culture of radicalism, extremism and terrorism is manifested in the guulies & coochas (streets & lanes) of our cities. So you need to have a very comprehensive way of looking at security of Pakistan. If we think that only through policy of non-interference in Afghanistan and conducting operation in FATA and North Waziristan, we are at peace No we aren't. The challenges are huge. The leadership of today has much work to do. I don't see that happening. If military leadership is doing its work and keeping things in order in their domain, it's like an island among others who have, frankly, gone astray. We need to somehow bring the entire system back into resonance.
Q. In post-9/11 scenario, Pakistan was left with little choices but to combat terrorism to stay aligned with the world community. Today, after fighting this war for over thirteen years, the international forces are scheduled to leave Afghanistan by the end of this year. Where do you see the “War on Terror” going in internal and external context?
Answer: There are certain things that have happened on the world map, particularly in the cultural or civilizational context. For example, where does Al-Qaeda stand today? Is Al-Qaeda a dead phenomenon? Will it survive as a movement? How many ideologues continue to populate it? What kind of leadership influence will they exercise? Will it have a leadership that will justly replace Osama Bin Laden's (OBL) bent of mind? Even if he was a passive figure, he was important for Al-Qaeda movement to generate ideas and thoughts the world over in Muslims. A question may be asked that why do people of Islam feel wronged? Why should they fall for something as populist or driven as OBL espoused? Simply because there are problems in Islam and in Muslim nations which have not been resolved for a long time. Palestine being one; Iraq and the wrongs there are another; Arab Spring creating this tumult in the Arab world. This is a cause of concern for Muslims all over the world, at least in their perception. Secondly, many of the Middle Eastern nations have been autocratic. People have been led by monarchies and dictators for years and decades; and in most cases have remained oppressed. A democratic order has rarely been practiced in true spirit. This has given cause to cleavages within the Muslim world; others have tended to exploit these. The induction of social media and the internet enabled people to galvanise ideas and movements against such repression. Unless given their rights people have this tendency to resort to force; they could also be encouraged to adopt militancy as a way of fighting for their cause. A pervasiveness of such trends, mostly in the Islamic world, tends to grant it a civilisational hue.
If leadership remains available to this trend of movements in the Islamic world, I see it going either way: remaining political and agitational to earn political rights; or, remaining tied to the militant ways to spawn a persisting Al Qaeda type phenomenon. We should know how terrorism comes about? Radicalisation in a society converts to extremism. Extremists then pick up arms and becomes militants which then resorts to terror to impose their will. There are enough number of people who fund this entire franchise. Therefore you may see that Al-Qaeda will stay, so terrorism might also stay.
Internally for Pakistan: one, Afghanistan needs to stabilize. Two, proxy wars on sectarian lines between Islamic countries must not let to be fought on the soil of Pakistan. It has to be stopped. Third, all ends must be secured to cover our internal dimensions, as I explained in one of my earlier responses. The link of radicalism and terrorism and how it connects, from where does the money comes in, how effective are our laws, how effectively we prosecute terrorists and how quickly we convict and punish them. Deterrence of the real value needs to be put into place. And only then can we control this menace. Framing of law and then law enforcement will be the key to managing our internal security situation.
Terrorism will stay in Pakistan till the time our policy structures, government structures, governance and administrative structures develop capacity and ability to fight this menace. Unfortunately it is not going to get away so easily. Terrorism will have to be fought and won against. We will have to integrate the clergy and Ulema in developing a narrative that defies radicalism and extremism from our midst. Only when these divisions are finished and the nation becomes one, will it then have the capacity to fight the threat of terrorism.
Q. “Dialogue and Deterrence” is a visible strategy on scene in the current war with violent forces in Pakistan. How we need to strategize the both so as to ensure peace for the people within constitutional domains of a democratic, free and pluralistic Pakistan?
Answer: There are two dimensions of terrorism in Pakistan. One is terrorism at the borders and fringes; for example, FATA, North Waziristan, provinces of Kunar and Nuristan towards other side of the border, and four other provinces of Afghanistan with Pakistan including Paktia, Paktika, Nangarhar and Khost. These six provinces can be a cause for future trouble for Pakistan unless we handle here-on our matters with extremists in FATA. Since all of this is the border regions, there management becomes important and imperative.
When people say that forces should be withdrawn from North Waziristan as part of quid pro quo for peace in FATA and North Waziristan, it becomes a non starter. You will need the army in these regions on a more sustainable basis to control the borders and ensure peace. We need to cross the rubicon of tradition and place our military in FATA. We may even have to establish permanent garrisons in the troubled areas. There is already military presence in that area and we will need to add numbers to ensure better management of borders. Currently the state is trying to work out whether the dialogue works? If the indicators aren't there, there are alternate options. The retaliatory air strikes were just a glimpse of what can follow.
Third aspect is to fight terrorism inside our own nation. The internal security policy that this government came out with few days back is not a bad way to start but it is still incomplete. The issue is not simply about police, civil bureaucracy, religion and Madrassah. It is actually aimed at changing ethos of this nation where we are able to recognize and understand, as a nation, about a threat which endangers all as a society. For example, if I need to rent away a house, I must make sure it has not been rented to the wrong people. Similarly these terrorists come to the cities and hire transport or even buy it for their ulterior purposes. People must have the awareness to report the matter to the police and the agencies. I was in England in 1992 for few years. Those were the days when Irish Republican Army (IRA) issue was at its peak. I saw the whole British nation aware and sensitive to their societal responsibilities. We, unfortunately, as a society do not have this kind of discipline, awareness, education or ethos to be able to think of a problem on these lines. We will have to change this culture. It is not your problem, my problem or even his; it is problem of every member of this nation. This is an area that our leadership has not been able to ingrain in our people and to introduce it as a culture. There cannot be any compromise on the Constitution of Pakistan. There cannot be any compromise on geographical entity of Pakistan. There cannot be a compromise on system of governance in Pakistan. Even if someone wants to impose Sharia, it must be done through Constitutional means. We have the Shariat Court; we have Council of Islamic Ideology (CII); no doubt there are areas that we may need to work on but simply stating that ours is not an Islamic Republic is perhaps the biggest of the fallacies that anyone can generate in the minds of public. We are very lucky to have a constitution that was agreed upon by all politicians, and all shades of religion, in 1973.
Q. You remained ambassador in Sri Lanka that fought a prolonged insurgency. What are the relevant lessons for Pakistan to successfully tackle the issues of terrorism and militancy?
Answer: Incidentally I assumed appointment of Ambassador when the operation against Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) had just begun and was concluded before completion of my tenure in 2009. During the insurgency period of almost 27 years, different Sri Lankan governments alternated between the options of dialogue and small operations with the insurgents. There had never been a full-fledged war meant to win it and most of the operations were conducted to recover the lost land. There is a famous Elephant Pass that connects Jaffna with areas dominated by (LTTE). This pass was the usual bone of contention; sometimes government would occupy it and sometimes LTTE, and the war went around that pass. Many of their military heroes are the ones who recovered this pass from LTTE and gave it back to the government. But no one actually took the war to the enemy.
Large part of North East of Sri Lanka was LTTE area which was without writ of the government, almost in the similar fashion that some of agencies in FATA are without it today. The current President of Sri Lanka, Mahinda Rajapaksa, who came in power in 2005, often stated that 'we need to do something to resolve LTTE issue'. The narrative was built, spread and suddenly, for a change, everyone in the system, government and public felt the same way and followed the line that they needed to do something about it. A tough army Commander appreciated the situation and assessed that LTTE could only be taken out by war. He decided to use this option of operation against the insurgents. Almost 30 months / 2.5 years of war was put into place. It was a full scale war in which entire area of North East and North Sri Lanka was recovered from LTTE and they were defeated.
What did Sri Lankans do to achieve it? It was through a clear-cut political resolve. They were under tremendous pressure; local pressure, external pressure from USA, Europe and, India, because almost 80 million Tamils live around the world who posed a serious challenge to the Sri Lankan government. But they sustained this pressure and gave free hand to their military to tackle the situation. They gave full support to their military, bought them new military hardware, aeroplanes, helicopters, revived their dead Air Force, and asked them to concentrate on war without worrying for external fronts. This was a milestone achievement by Sri Lankans and set a record of eliminating insurgency through war in the recent history. This operation has brought many positive results for that country; today you visit Sri Lanka, you find them reaping the benefits of peace. A country now on a much faster pace of development; fastest growing country in South Asia, and may even earn the status of the most developed country in South Asia in the next five years.
When you make decisions, you must stick to them. There is never a perfect solution to any problem. But you value your judgment based on where majority of the good lies, let your people stand behind it, stick to the task and any goal can be achieved. That is how nations work. You can't really dither between dialogue and operation and again dialogue, looking for an easier way. There is no easier way out; when you want something for your country you need to go on and work for it.
Q. War in Afghanistan is one of the reasons for many troubles in Pakistan. Where do you see Afghanistan in post-2014 scenario and what measures Pakistan should take to safeguard against any negative fallout?
Answer: Because of lack of peace process in Afghanistan, it leaves the situation very tenuous internally in terms of sustainability and stability of the political system. The Afghan National Army (ANA) does not have the capacity to do what NATO and ISAF have been doing for the past many years. Perhaps it will never attain that capability and quality. The way ANA has been formed, it needs approximately 4 to 5 billion dollars to sustain itself. Almost 90 % of the current budget of Afghanistan is pumped through external sources. USA and Europeans countries are spending an annual amount of approximately 13 billion dollars in Afghanistan. When they leave, most of this help will also go, leaving Afghanistan with approximately 10 billion dollars as total size of their economy, and she will have very little capacity to sustain the ANA. So this will make situation tenuous for Afghanistan internally and will make it untenable as a state, a situation that can create difficulties for Pakistan.
So fallout of post 2014 should be of great concern to us. What we could not do in 1989/1990, we need to do today. Manage this border very strongly and firmly. Hold the border regardless of the sensitivities that have in the past made it into a loose border. This is the time to try out and work out difficulties and find solutions to the issues that we have not been able to do in our earlier history with Afghanistan. We must convey to Afghanistan our need to manage our borders with them more effectively. But before doing this, Pakistan should also ensure elimination of terrorist in its tribal regions.
We also need to make sure that our cities, metropolises, Qasbas, towns and villages are taken care of. We have to ensure that police and bureaucracy are functioning well. Intelligence should be doing its job perfectly and needs to lead this drive against menace of terrorism. We should not interfere in Afghan internal matters, but ensure the sanctity of our own space. Beyond the sensitivity that neighbours might possess nations today are and must be run by own national interests.
Q. A “Two Front War” has worried many countries of the world in the past. How do you view Indian involvement in Afghanistan?
Answer: Our internal situation is what is going to give a cause for worry when we consider how India might become a concern with their increasing influence in Afghanistan. And more than Indians, it will be the Afghan Intelligence that is going to give us trouble. During the Karzai government Afghan Intelligence and Ministry of Interior have maintained a hostile stance against Pakistan. I feel that carryover of this sentiment will affect Pakistan badly in the days to come. As long as Balochistan, KPK and FATA are well governed and are politically more stable, rule of law is in place, economic dividends and benefits are transferred to the people, we will find that the cleavages that have impacted the society at large, and specially at these places where we either have a nationalist, religious or ideological anti-state sentiment, the capacity will automatically exist to fight off adverse external influence. <?p>
Q. Peace Dialogue with India has also not proceeded to any conclusive stage primarily due to Indian inflexible attitude on core issues. Contrarily, we also hear belligerent talk and witness offensive mindset manifesting in doctrines like Cold Start Doctrine (CSD). How much menacing is the threat from the Eastern neighbour with particular reference to rise of political Hindu chauvinism?
Answer: The arrival of Narendra Modi as a probable future Prime Minister of India has raised relevant concerns, not only for Pakistan, but also for India itself. He has invested much of political capital in trying to appease the extremist Right-Wing Hindu sentiment with his anti Pakistan rhetoric. When chosen as the PM he will find it difficult to distance himself from what he has already committed to. So when he has invested so much in playing with people's sentiments, he will have to play by rules that he had set for himself which in turn border at the hard-line. Another point to worry in such an eventuality is India and Pakistan being nuclear nations. These nations are historically put on a war path even with rhetoric as a starting point or as a starting trigger and then leading on to some clashes here and there and snowballing into an operational engagement. It can lead to what can be an unintended conflagration. I don't think Modi will go that way if he has any sense and I hope he displays that when sits as the Prime Minister. This is the philosophy of Hindu chauvinism driven by Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), and used by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to buy votes.
So if it becomes Modi's way of governing then it doesn't bode well for the region. But I hope when he becomes the Prime Minister, his thoughts of running the Indian state change. When Vajpayee, again from the BJP, took the chair in India, he was actually the one who initiated the move to improve relationship with Pakistan. Although Modi is not Vajapayee, but there is always a balance that responsibility brings into your way of looking at things. I hope that when he sits in that chair, he becomes more responsible.
The current environment between India and Pakistan has also changed a bit. It is a fact that there is history of our unresolved problems, territorial difficulties and political issues that have driven hostilities between both countries. Kashmir being what it is, a core issue, leaving it unresolved will mean a resident hostility which will keep coming to the surface. Not that Pakistan wants to go this way, but India too looks at Pakistan with great suspicion because of Kashmir. Then there is Siachen dispute, Sir Creek problem; post-Mumbai terrorism from the Indian standpoint has become an equally central issue. As of now, India only wants to talk about Trade & Terrorism with Pakistan and nothing else. In my assessment, in presence of all such issues, hostilities will continue between both countries.
Under a nuclear umbrella that gives strategic balance to this region conventional war of the way that we have known, is now not a possibility. That's why we find that both nations, in the eyes of neutral observers, have now gone on in unconventional ways of pursuing their political objectives. We blame Indians for what they do in Balochistan, FATA, KPK and Karachi, and correspondingly, Indians blame us for what has happened in Kashmir and Mumbai. So there is a whole history of defining this new paradigm of proxy engagement on both sides. That's how India-Pakistan equations look like today. Obviously this needs to be changed.
In my opinion, to move forward, you need to change the paradigm of issues that you get engaged on. For example, if you fix your engagement on Siachen, Sir Creek, Kashmir, terrorism etc, you will only talk against each other, you will talk at each other, but you never talk with each other. If you want to talk with each other in more cooperative ways then you need to replace these issues with more cooperative issues which can be; for example, caring for a common water source, which is the five rivers controlled through the Indus Water Treaty, and the glaciers which feed these rivers; resolving Siachen dispute, looking for options on Kashmir in a way that is acceptable to both sides, talking for methods of poverty alleviation, looking at reduction of diseases in both regions. We need to discover a common methodology to deal with issues which are common and which can foster cooperative approaches. For this though mindsets need to change in India. Mindsets have changed in Pakistan. But I don't see this happening very quickly in India, especially with Mr. Modi coming in.
Coming to two front scenario, I don't think India will have the capacity and ability to go over Pakistan and try to be a source of concern for Pakistan while being in Afghanistan. We need to look at our border control with adjacent regions, especially Afghanistan, and improve them. Secondly if we maintain good relations with Afghanistan we should being neighbours that will deny the Indians the opportunity to cause mischief from there. Even in our current situation of fighting internally against terrorism, their facilitated unrest in Balochistan and other areas has not caused the state to unravel, I therefore don't see any greater Indian capacity or ability to do much damage to Pakistan. As a strong and resilient nation, we should try to ensure that these things don't impact us.
Q. Being an Air Force officer, how do you view capabilities of Indian Air Force, its likely role in the Cold Start Doctrine (CSD) and suggested counter measures?
Answer: When nations know that they can't fight a regular war then they will resort to alternate strategies. A nation as large as India with huge Armed Forces, if it resorts to a strategy like Cold Start, it will remain a defeatist application without any hinged political objective. It might allow Indian forces penetration of ten to fifteen kilometers depending upon the area, but is unlikely to provide strategic dividends. Every nation goes to war or imposes force with clear political objectives but what shall India gain after occupying shallow depths, if at all. Pakistan could react similarly. I do not see much operational sense in resorting to CSD. It is defeatist way of applying force. It is not how nations should apply military force.
Armed forces are meant to provide you the capability to support your politico-military objectives. The Indian Navy may have a political objective of dominating the Indian Ocean, but the Pakistani Navy has no such matching political objective to pursue. Both Navies are therefore structured accordingly. Armed forces are sized, trained and organized to deliver their specific politico-military goals. Similarly our Air Force has a specific role to play. For that role, it has been trained, equipped and resourced. Indian Air Force (IAF) has its own objectives. No doubt that IAF has made some significant addition to their capacity and capability in last ten to fifteen years. India for the last five years is the largest buyer of military hardware and equipment all over the world. Indian Defence Budget is more than the total budget of Pakistan. Their goals and objectives are different from those of Pakistan and they structure their forces thus.
Q. Your comments on Indo-US Strategic Partnership and its impact on regional stability?
Answer: USA has been trying to woo India for strategic partnership for a long time. India now has liquidity (money) available to them. This money drives everyone in the world. The Chinese have the biggest amount of cash available to them. This is the reason that US, despite how competitive they feel with China, have closest economic relations with them. They are not going to go to war with China simply because of the reason that they get loans and investments from them. Same is the case with India. Americans have been trying to attract Indians by offering them fighters, transport aeroplanes, artillery pieces etc. Indians have been smart in a way that they have kept Americans at a distance and have also retained their relationship with Russians. Because still 90% of Indian military inventory is Russian based and they need relations with them for sustainability of their equipment. Indo-US Nuclear Deal is of much greater concern to us. Because by striking this deal, US has granted a de-jure acceptability to India as a nuclear nation with options to trade in nuclear materials with many countries of the world which form part of Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG). Although both India and Pakistan have strategic and nuclear balance, but implicit acceptance of India as a legitimate nuclear power while denying the same to Pakistan is a matter of concern to us.
Dynamics are changing world over. The relationships are becoming much more realistic. What nations need, determines their relationship with the other states. We should not be shy of accepting the fact that while India will have much greater circle of friends, Pakistan must work equally hard to have a similar circle of friends. There is no exclusivity in relationships between countries in international politics. If Russians, Americans and Chinese happen to be friends of India, they can also be friends of Pakistan. Since the Cold War days are over, the world is no more a neat division of sides. Relationships now are much more inclusive.
Q. Russia and China are among two important poles in the emerging multi-polar world, and, terrorism is an important concern for both the countries. How would these two countries be taking position on issues of terrorism in post-2014 years particularly if Afghanistan and its bordering areas are not secured and used by militant forces?
Answer: As we are threatened by terrorism, so is the a universal concern regarding militancy as long as civilizational sensitivities, civilizational proclivities, civilizational deprivations continue to drive young people of Islam into the fold of militancy and terror. It may not only be that it is only Islamic terrorism that is going to become a factor, there will be number of other factors such as Hindu chauvinism. That is shaping itself as the next threat as far our region is concerned. Unless India has capacity to curtail and cap the sentiment of Hindu nationalism we may find ourselves into an even bigger conundrum. US President George Bush used the word of Crusade after incident of 9/11. Even in Europe, an insane person opened fire on so many people for being Muslims. China has a problem in Xinjiang, Russia has a problem with Chechnya, USA has a problem with Al-Qaeda, India has currently many problems like Kashmir and the Naxalites?
So the entire world would continue to be susceptible and concerned about terrorism and that is why China and Russia will also be equally involved. This is why there is a need for much more cooperative mechanisms in the world to handle terrorism. At the regional level if India itself wants to avoid being targeted by this kind of sentiments then it needs to become partners with Pakistan to fight this menace. Similarly rest of the countries including China, Russia, Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, Central Asian countries need to work together. Central Asian countries are also home to many insurgent movements. This is actually a transitional point in history which needs to be better managed with much more cooperation at international level.
Q. If we critically analyze the recent developments particularly in few important Muslim countries, the Muslim World seems drifting to an Intra-civilizational Clash on sectarian fault lines. How do you see this threat overall and also with reference to Pakistan?
Answer: There are two triggers of sectarianism that have impacted Pakistan, region and the Islamic world. First is the Arab-Israel problem that has gradually gravitated to a point where Israel seems to be in continuous hostility with Muslim world, essentially with Hamas in Palestine and Hizb Ullah in Lebanon. What does it do? It generates sentiment in Syria, which then generates sentiments in Iran. There is thus Shia sensitivity triggered around a geopolitical issue related to Israel. This hypes Shiaism; see what happened in Iraq when Saddam left; Kuwait too has a large proportion of Shia population; the Syrian crisis too has a large Shia overhang. There is also a parallel strain called Wahabi Islam. How? After 1979 when Pakistan became part of war against Russia, the money came from few friendly countries. These countries have particularly been exporting funds; and therefore their religious sentiment or religious thought of their specific way of looking at Islam.
These two strains or two triggers have given cause for this chasm to be more prominently seen and therefore exploited by people. Anyone who wants to weaken Islam will exploit these two areas and will feed either of the two sects to create differences. This to me will be ultimate disaster for the Muslims and religion of Islam. There is a need for Muslim scholars to come forward and keep people united and clearly declare their abhorrence for violent means.
Q. What measures we need to adopt as a state and society to harness violent sectarianism in Pakistan?
Answer: As long as people have shared stakes in the well being of a society, people will care for their society. A stable society will foster a stable state. If people know that their tomorrow is attached with progress of the state, and the future of their children is related with well being of the state, they will protect it. This package of stakes includes justice system, administration, governance, economy; which if provided to the individuals will make this society strong.
But this well being can't be achieved through talks, lectures or promises alone. It needs practical measures to ensure committed governance, able administration, rule of law and merit. Narratives are never coined and forced down the throats. Stable and progressive societies evolve their own narratives which become a binding force for a shared hope and a common future. A hope for our tomorrow being better than our today is the key to societal stability and success.
Q. How do you view absence or presence of efficient governance, poverty, and social injustices in broader context of tackling violence and ensuring peace in the society?
Answer: As I said earlier, hope is the key to success to address all issues. People lose hope due to lack of governance, mal administration, lack of justice, absence of law and order. The nation gets united, not by replacing paradigms and replacing narratives; it will become united by making people stake holders in the system for common benefit to all. This strategy will eliminate 80% problems of Pakistan. The politicians must lead this nation better than what they have exhibited
Q1. You were born in England and have your roots in Pakistan. Please tell us something about your upbringing and family background.
Answer: My family is originally from Matore in Pakistan. It is a town in Tehsil Kahuta, District Rawalpindi. This is where my grandparents came from and I still have many relatives and family living there today. I am from Rajput family and I am very proud of having a Pakistani background.
I try to visit my home back often when I am not training or busy working. My grandparents moved to the United Kingdom in the 1960s, like many did from Pakistan due to the economic opportunities at that time.
My family is settled in Bolton, which is in the North West of England, near Manchester, and we have been here ever since.
Q2. From a child to winning WBA Light Welterweight title at the tender age of 22, your life appears to have seen successes too early too quick. How has this journey been all along?
Answer: It's been a great journey and one that I am very proud of. It started at a young age by winning an Olympic Silver Medal when I was 17 and since then it's just got better and better.
I won the World Boxing Association (WBA) Light-Welterweight title and then I also beat Zab Judah to win the International Boxing Federation (IBF) belt which is another recognised world title. I've shared the ring with some great fighters and fought on some huge shows in America so I am pleased with how my career has developed.
Q3. Having your roots from a country that has the passion and love for Cricket and Hockey, how did you manage to become a boxer?
Answer: My father took me to the gym when I was eight because I was so hyperactive and he thought this would help burn all my energy. He was right – it did – but I also grew to love boxing and I couldn't wait to go to the gym everyday to workout and learn. Boxing has always been my passion above any other sport.
Q4. What takes it to become a world boxing champion?
Answer: I think talent and hardwork. Without either it's not possible to become a world champion. It doesn't matter how much natural talent you have, you have to work very hard and put in a lot of work to get to the very top.
Q5. You challenged Floyd Mayweather from USA, who is an undefeated boxing champion, an action that is appreciated by people around the world. Please share your feelings with us.
Answer: It's my dream to be in the biggest and best fights and at the moment Floyd Mayweather is regarded as the best fighter on the planet. I would love to fight him if the opportunity was there because I think it would be a great match up and very exciting for the fans. I have the tools to test any fighter and I believe with my speed and style it would be a very interesting fight if it ever happens.
Q6. “A hard boxer in the ring is soft at heart and loves his wife, Faryal Makhdom.” How do you explain this statement?
Answer: I got married last year and I am very happy. Faryal definitely brings out the softer side in me and we're extremely happy together. She's very special to me and the time we've been together has been the happiest of my life.
Q7. Please share with us memories of your best bout.
Answer: I would say when I beat Andriy Kotelnik to win my first world title, has so far been the best one. It was always my dream to become a world champion and to win the WBA belt was unbelievable because all the hardwork over the years to realise this dream had finally paid off. I was perfect that night, stuck to the gameplan and dominated the fight over twelve rounds – I can't ever forget it.
Q8. What measure should be taken in Pakistan to promote the challenging game of boxing?
Answer: Boxing needs more investment from the government and authorities to help promote it and get the young kids to take it up. The country needs more gyms and qualified trainers and to make it accessible to everyone regardless of their economic background. That way boxing can flourish in the country and Pakistan can start developing fighters who are able to challenge at a higher level.
Q9. You have recently announced to make a Boxing Academy in Pakistan. How do you intend to take up this project?
Answer: We have a plan for how we want to develop it and bring boxing to all the people in Pakistan. This academy will be a start where we will have qualified trainers and excellent facilities and equipment for everyone to use. By doing this we hope to encourage young people to take up the sport and give it a try.
Q10. What are your future plans?
Answer: I just want to keep improving and be in the biggest fights possible. My aim now is to win another world title at a different weight and try and establish myself at the very top of the sport. That's what keeps driving me and keeps me motivated for the future.
Q11. What message shall you give to the youth of Pakistan through Hilal Magazine?
Answer: To have a goal, no matter what field or sport they are in, and work as hard as possible to achieve that aim. Hardwork and a vision will take you very far in life.