• While the post-9/11 world was focused on the US military campaign in Afghanistan; India thought it could also take advantage of the global anti-terror sentiment to transform Kashmir into an issue of terrorism.
• The India-Pakistan problems are real. The peace will not come through elusive steps but resorting to resolution of core issues.
• Those who mistakenly believe that trade with India will bring prosperity to Pakistan just need to look at other countries in India’s periphery. They are just consumer markets for Indian goods.
• For better results in foreign policy, we should be focusing more on our domestic perils including the crises of terrorism, energy, economy and law and order.
• In improving its relations with its other neighbours, China makes sure that there is no adverse impact on its special relationship with Pakistan which both countries have built over the decades as an asset of their all-weather friendship.
• The potential of our trade with our partners including China remains totally unharnessed because the continuing energy crisis has seriously constricted our export capacity.
• China and Pakistan represent a natural partnership to work together in converting Pak-Afghanistan border into an economic gateway for the region.
• India’s claim for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council is nothing but a mockery of the very principles and values that the UN is meant to uphold.
• Any conflictual ‘stalemate’ in Afghan theatre will not be without serious implications for peace and stability of the region.
• Pakistan can play an important role in bringing SCO and ECO together.
• We are confronted today with an extraordinary crisis situation with no parallel in our history. The gravity of this crisis warrants equally extraordinary responses.
• Pak-US relationship is important and a necessity for both sides because of common political, economic and geo-strategic interests
Q. Where do you see the region after US President Barack Obama’s recent visit to India?
Premier Chou En-lai was once asked by a visiting journalist; what in his opinion were the historical effects of the French Revolution of 1789. Premier Chou En-lai’s sage reply was: ‘It is perhaps too early to tell.’’ That response on the surface may have appeared glib but at its deeper level, it was really profound in encapsulating the reality of never-ending impact of global dynamics in international affairs. Any major development of historic magnitude in one country or a region can have long-term implications not only for its own future but also for other nations and regions even centuries later.
President Obama’s recent visit to India, his second in less than two years, was no doubt an event of lasting, albeit ominous, implications for the future of peace and security in this region. It marked further reinforcement of a worrisome Indo-US ‘strategic partnership’ that has been growing since the beginning of this new millennium in the form of nuclear, military and military technology collaboration. During this visit, the two sides announced plans to unlock billions of dollars in military and nuclear trade as the bedrock of their burgeoning alliance. Their Defence Trade Technological Initiative involves massive collaboration in terms of joint ‘pathfinder’ projects including joint production of drone aircraft and equipment for C-130 military planes, cooperation on aircraft carriers and jet-engine technology and upgrading of their joint military and naval exercises. Obviously, in building up this new nuclear and military alliance, the US has its own priorities as part of its larger China-driven Asian agenda in pursuit of its worldwide political and economic power. Washington also views India as a vast market and potential counterweight to China's growing influence in Asia. India on its part is seeking to use this partnership for its grandiose ambitions of a global status and is gloating over Obama’s endorsement of its designs for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council. Based on their respective goals and expediencies, the two partners are playing on Kautilya’s game plan to cope with what they both see as the spectre of Rising China. The future of this partnership will depend not on the avowed interests of its signatories but on how other major countries in the region affected by this strategic alliance feel compelled to respond to preserve their own security interests. It seems to be the beginning of a new round of Cold War. The only difference is that this time, India stands on the other side of the rivalry pole. But if history is any lesson, things never remain static. They keep changing as the world and its dynamics do by the inevitable process of change that is always inherent in the rise and fall of power. One has to see how the regional and global dynamics shape up in response to this new configuration of power. Actions are bound to provoke reactions. The politics of alliances and alignments will not be without serious implications for strategic stability in this region.
If the turbulent history of this part of the world had any lessons, US engagement in this nuclearised region should have been aimed at promoting strategic balance rather than disturbing it. Washington should have been eschewing discriminatory policies in dealing with India-Pakistan nuclear equation, the only one in the world that grew up in history totally unrelated to the Cold War. But this never happened. Instead, the U.S. gave India a country-specific nuclear deal with a carte blanche in the Nuclear Suppliers Group for access to nuclear technology. A stable nuclear security order is what we need in South Asia. Any measures that contribute to lowering of the nuclear threshold and fuelling of an arms race between the two nuclear-armed neighbours are no service to the people of this region. Only non-discriminatory criteria-based approaches would be sustainable. Preferential treatment to India in terms of nuclear technology not only widens existing security imbalances in the region but also seriously undermines the prospects of genuine India-Pakistan peace.
Since Pakistan’s actions in the nuclear and missile fields at each stage are force majeure in response to India’s escalatory steps, an element of mutuality in restraint and responsibility is required for nuclear and conventional stabilisation in our region. Obviously, in the face of India’s fast developing capabilities, including its dangerous weapon-inductions, aggressive doctrines and devious nuclear cooperation arrangements enabling diversion of nuclear material for military purposes, equally dangerous options in response become inevitable. It is this reality that last year, The New York Times editorially flagged to question India’s special waiver-based eligibility for NSG membership. Acknowledging that India has long sought to carve out a special exception for itself in the nuclear sphere, The NYT urged the NSG not to accept India’s bid for membership until “it proves itself willing to take a leading role in halting the spread of the world’s most lethal weapons. One way to do that would be by opening negotiations with Pakistan and China to end the dangerous regional nuclear arms race.” In effect, the NYT reinforced Pakistan’s stand for a criteria-based approach in the NSG. Despite the Americans and other Western powers eyeing new lucrative defence and energy contracts in Narendra Modi’s India, the editorial suggested that India’s NSG membership must not be granted until it meets certain non-proliferation benchmarks and resumes talks with its regional rivals on nuclear restraints. It was a timely reminder to the world’s major powers, especially the US, to understand the gravity of the damage they are doing to the cause of peace and stability by giving India country-specific nuclear waivers.
Q: You remained Foreign Secretary of Pakistan. In your views, how India emerges in foreign relations between China and USA particularly after Obama’s visit?
I don’t think after President Obama’s recent visit, India emerges any different in its role and relevance that it already has acquired since its alignment with the US as a regional counterforce against China. If anything, other than a hotline that will now connect Prime Minister Modi and President Obama, there was no groundbreaking or transformational outcome from the Obama visit. The two countries seem to have only reinforced their already existing military and nuclear ties by renewing the 10-year defence treaty for another ten years and agreeing to a notional arrangement for operationalisation of the nuclear deal besides deciding to restart negotiations on a long-pending investment treaty. Ironically, Obama’s visit came within a year since Washington effectively ended its blacklisting of Modi who became a persona non grata in the United States and European Union for his role in the killing of over 2000 Muslims following deadly communal riots in the western state of Gujarat in 2002 while he was its Chief Minister. All said and done, critics suggest the Obama visit was high on optics and there is a long way to go before they transform their ‘vision’ into a real partnership. For the moment, the two sides may have just become “more comfortable” in engagement with each other for a common China-driven cause. But both cannot ignore other equally important, if not more pressing, regional and global dynamics. India, in particular, will weigh carefully how this engagement affects its future relationship with China which itself is building new equations in the region backed by the phenomenal growth in its global power and economy.
Q: India cancelled talks between Foreign secretaries of both countries. Should we expect unfolding of a hard core and narrow minded Hindu foreign policy towards Pakistan in coming day by Modi’s government?
This has been a familiar pattern in India’s calculated policy towards Pakistan since 9/11 which every Indian Prime Minister from Vajpayee to Manmohan Singh and now Narendra Modi have followed with one stark message that there will be no dialogue with Pakistan until it deals with cross-border threat of terrorism into India. There is a background to this ugly logjam. While the post-9/11 world was focused on the US military campaign in Afghanistan; India thought it could also take advantage of the global anti-terror sentiment to transform Kashmir into an issue of terrorism. After the attacks on the Kashmir State Assembly building on October 1, 2001 and the Indian parliament building in Delhi on December 13, 2001, India moved all its armed forces to Pakistan's borders as well as along the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir. Pakistan was blamed for both incidents without any investigations or evidence. South Asia was dragged into a confrontational mode. Intense diplomatic pressure by the US and other G-8 countries averted what could have been a catastrophic clash between the two nuclear states. It was again the constant pressure from the same influential outside powers that the stalled India-Pakistan dialogue was resumed in January 2004 on the basis of “January 6, 2004 Islamabad Joint Statement.” In that ‘Joint Statement’, Pakistan implicitly accepted India’s allegations of Pakistan’s involvement in cross-border activities by solemnly pledging that it will not allow any cross-border activity in future.
Since then, the India-Pakistan peace process has remained hostage to India’s opportunistic mindset. As part of its sinister campaign, India has sought to implicate Pakistan in every act of terrorism on its soil and has kept the dialogue process hostage to its policy of keeping Pakistan under constant pressure on the issue of terrorism. It blamed Pakistan for successive attacks on a train in Mumbai in July 2006, Samjhota Express in February 2007, Indian Embassy in Kabul in July 2008, and finally the Mumbai attacks on November 26, 2008, which like the earlier ones were also alleged to have been staged with ulterior motives. And that’s where we are today. India seems to have come to realise that the world today is fixated on terrorism and there could be no better opportunity to exploit this global concern. In a calibrated diversionary campaign, India is only seeking to redefine the real Pakistan-India issues by obfuscating them into the ‘issue of terrorism’ and sporadic incidents of violence across the Line of Control. In its reckoning, the time is ripe for it to pressure Pakistan to an extent where it can surrender on the Kashmir cause. While India is taking full advantage of our domestic failures and weaknesses, our rulers have been giving wrong signals even to the extent of compromising on our principled positions. They don’t even understand that the peace they want will never come by giving up on our vital national causes. The India-Pakistan problems are real and will not disappear or work out on their own as some people in Pakistan pursuing an illusory Aman Ki Asha have lately started believing. Peace in South Asia will remain elusive as long as Kashmir remains under Indian occupation. On other issues too, we cannot ignore India’s illegality in Siachen and Kargil and its ongoing water terrorism in Occupied Kashmir by building dams and reservoirs on Pakistani rivers in violation of the Indus Waters Treaty. Those who mistakenly believe that trade with India will bring prosperity to Pakistan just need to look at other countries in India’s periphery that opened their markets without any level-playing field, and are left today with no industrial potential of their own. They are just consumer markets for Indian goods.
We just cannot opt for that kind of a subservient role in the region. India is not ready for talks with us. There is no point in begging for dialogue. A dignified tactical pause is what we need. We should be focusing more on our domestic perils including the crises of terrorism, energy, economy and law and order. We must consolidate ourselves to be strong enough to negotiate an equitable peace with dignity and honour. A purposeful dialogue and result-oriented engagement on equitable terms is the only acceptable means to resolving India-Pakistan disputes. But to negotiate an honourable peace with India, our own country must first be at peace with itself.
Q: In the past, China-India relations were mostly acrimonious. Of late, both these countries are improving relations particularly in mutual trade. In recent past huge investment in India has been agreed by China. How do you view this whole relation and its impact on the Chinese policy towards other regional countries?
Again, if history is any lesson, things never remain static. They keep changing as the world and its dynamics do by the inevitable process of change. Don’t we remember the days in the 1950s when we used to hear Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai slogans? Politics of alliances and alignments has been changing globally and even in our own region. In inter-state relations, there are no eternal friends or enemies. There are only permanent interests. Interestingly, the China-India relations are a classical example of this proverbial aphorism. They have been on warring terms, mostly remaining in an adversarial mode with a long disputed border, and yet they also remain engaged, politically as well as economically. But the credit for this engagement between the two arch-rivals goes to China which uses economic policies as a principal instrument of its statecraft. Since the end of the Cold War, there has been a discernible change in China’s foreign policy which based on the principle of peaceful co-existence has had a paradigm effect on modern international relations. Pragmatism has been the determining factor of this change which includes improvement of its relations with the US and other “advanced” countries as well as with its immediate neighbours including India. For China, India is a regional power of great geopolitical and economic importance that it cannot ignore. It handles sensitive issues concerning its neighbours with particular care in an “appropriate” manner that commensurate with its larger interests.
In improving its relations with its other neighbours, China makes sure that there is no adverse impact on its special relationship with Pakistan which both countries have built over the decades as an asset of their all-weather friendship. We should have no worries on China-India relations. Instead, we should be focused more on further strengthening our own multidimensional cooperation with China on the basis of mutual benefit. If China-India bilateral trade is growing rapidly; it is because both countries have commodities to sell to each other. Their trade both in value and volume is growing even faster than the target rate. From 66.5 billion US dollars in 2012, it is now scheduled to reach 100 billion U.S. dollars by 2015. There is nothing wrong with this. In fact, we should be taking lessons from this model of burgeoning economic relationship instead of hopelessly remaining a ‘basket’ case. The potential of our trade with our partners including China remains totally unharnessed because the continuing energy crisis has seriously constricted our export capacity. Our industrial wheel is no longer running. Economic activity’s basic ingredients – consistent policies, stable law and order situation and supporting infrastructure including fuel and power that keeps the industrial wheel running– are all currently missing in our country. Let’s remedy the situation that keeps us from meeting our own targets in trade with China. Already, China is doing everything to help us. From Karakoram Highway to the newly completed Gwadar Port, a string of industrial plants, factories, electrical and mechanical complexes, power producing units, including hydro and nuclear power plants, stand testimony to China’s vital contribution to our country’s economic development. The new China-Pakistan plans involve a whole range of connectivity, construction and economic and technical cooperation.
The proposed ‘economic corridor’ linking Pakistan’s coastal areas with northwest China, on completion, will bring overarching economic and trade connectivity, bilaterally as well as regionally that would be of great benefit to landlocked Afghanistan. Given their geopolitical location and unparalleled mutuality of interest, both China and Pakistan represent a natural partnership to work together in converting Pak-Afghanistan border into an economic gateway for the region, and as a linkage of peace and cooperation with Central Asian countries.
Q: India is striving hard for permanent seat in the UNSC. What are India’s prospects and how it can affect resolution of Kashmir Issue through the UN?
India has never hidden its aspiration for a permanent seat in the Security Council. It has been using its demographic size, democratic system, and its growing economy with large market potential to advance its claim to the permanent membership. Together with Brazil, Germany and Japan, India now constitutes a group of four major contenders, formally known as G-4, seeking permanent membership of the Council and pursuing their own campaign for increase in both categories involving addition of four non-permanent and six permanent seats with veto power. It’s not a simple matter. The reform of Security Council is a complex issue and has been the subject of protracted discussions at the UN for over two decades now. While there is almost a consensus on increase in the non-permanent category, the overwhelming majority of UN member-states remains opposed to any expansion in the permanent category. With the exception of Africa, all regional groups are also divided because of deep differences between the main contenders and their regional rivals (Pakistan and China vis-à-vis India, Republic of Korea and China vis-à-vis Japan, Italy and Spain vis-à-vis Germany and Argentina and Mexico vis-à-vis Brazil).
With sharp differences among the member states, there is almost a deadlock situation on this issue. Despite increasing support for India’s claim, it is unlikely that the issue will be resolved in any foreseeable future. Pakistan has been spearheading the Uniting for Consensus (UfC) strategy with the help of major rivals of the G-4 contenders, namely, China, South Korea, Italy, Spain, Argentina and Mexico. Pakistan especially argues that population alone cannot be the criteria for permanent membership and that India is also in violation of the UN Security Council’s resolutions on Kashmir which pledged to the Kashmiri people their inalienable right of self-determination. The setting aside of UN resolutions is one thing, the discarding of the principle they embodied is quite another. The cardinal principle of self-determination enshrined in the UN Charter (Article 1.2) and also unequivocally reaffirmed in the Millennium Declaration in the case of peoples still under “foreign occupation” cannot be thrown overboard. India is in clear breach of the Charter as well as the Millennium Declaration. Its claim for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council is nothing but a mockery of the very principles and values that the UN is meant to uphold.
Q. India has heightened the tensions at borders by adhering to intense cross border fire during past few months. What, in your opinion, can be possible reasons for this escalation?
These violent eruptions along the Line of Control as well as on the Working Boundary are also part of a calculated pattern that India has followed since 9/11 to keep Pakistan under constant pressure at a time when the latter is fighting a war against terrorism on its own soil. As already stated, India has come to realise that the world today is fixated on terrorism and there could be no better opportunity to exploit this global concern in its favour. The recent intensity in its provocations along the Line of Control is also to be seen against the backdrop of the emerging US-imposed ‘peace’ in Afghanistan where India was expecting to find a role to the detriment of Pakistan’s political, economic and security interests. It is witnessing the situation unfolding against its expectations. No wonder, a reaction of anger and frustration finds manifestation in India-Pakistan tensions along the Line of Control. But the good thing is that both sides are not letting the situation go out of control.
Q: Where do you see this region particularly with reference to Pakistan, Afghanistan and India in next decade (2015 – 2025)?
With ongoing transition in Afghanistan, the region is fast approaching a period of profound change. But what kind of change do we expect at the end of this long war? Today, as we look at South Asia’s post-2015 political landscape, the horizon looks hazy and unclear if not murky. There are many imponderables on the very nature of the stipulated end-state. An ominous uncertainty looms large on the horizon in the post-2015 scenario. The spectre of a domestic political strife in Afghanistan is already causing serious concerns over the region’s future security landscape. Obviously, Washington has its own priorities as part of its larger Asian agenda in pursuit of its worldwide political and economic power. China is also concerned over the uncharted developments in its backyard. It has serious concerns over the persistent instability in the region with Islamic fundamentalism and radical influences seeping out of this region with ominous implications for its Western region. As a major power, China seems to be bracing itself for a balancing role in the strategically important regions across its Western borders. With surreptitious induction of its nuisance potential into the murky Afghan theatre, India is also pretending for a role in the region and in the process seeking to redefine India-Pakistan issues. This is a serious situation. Afghanistan is an area of fundamental strategic importance to Pakistan. The risk of a Pakistan-India proxy war in Afghanistan is fraught with perilous implications for regional and global peace, and must be averted at all cost.
If the Soviet presence in Cuba almost triggered a nuclear war in the early 1960s, India's continued ascendancy in Afghanistan will remain a danger of no less gravity to the already volatile security environment of this nuclearised region. Any conflictual ‘stalemate’ in Afghan theatre will not be without serious implications for peace and stability of the region.
Q: There is no second opinion about economic potential of Central Asia. Certainly, USA, China and Russia are main players in Central Asian resource politics. We also hear about New Great Game. How would you appreciate future role of these important players and suitable course of action for Pakistan?
After the World War II, Asia’s geo-political landscape has gone through a sea change in terms of its emerging political, economic and strategic problems and priorities. The collapse of the former Soviet Union not only left a truncated and weakened Russia but also reshaped Asia’s political map with the emergence of six new independent states in Central Asia and Azerbaijan in the Caucasus. This is a vast region, immensely rich in natural resources with unmatched oil and gas reserves. No wonder, a power-led and oil & gas-driven Great Game is already on. Yes, Washington has its own priorities as part of its China-driven larger Asian agenda in pursuit of its worldwide political and economic power. America is no stranger to this region and had used this as battleground of a decisive war to dismantle the “evil” Soviet empire. The region remains important to its economic and strategic interests even in today’s changed environment. Meanwhile, in recent years, there has been a conspicuous development of closeness between China and Russia in reaction to what they perceive as growing US strategic outreach in their backyard. For Russia, it is its desire not only to check the US political and economic incursion into its backyard but also its anxiety to prevent further erosion of its political standing in its ‘near abroad.’ China also has vital strategic and economic stakes in this region and its energy resources.
Besides their common interest in curbing Washington’s influence in strategically important and resource-rich Central Asia, both China and Russia have also been concerned over the persistent instability in the region as a result of what they see as ‘forces of terrorism, separatism and extremism’ emanating from this region. In fact, the very rationale for their joining together in a regional grouping together with four other Central Asian states (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan) called Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in the 1990s was to forestall these very forces. Over time, this regional grouping also became important as a catalyst for the establishment of a new pan-Asian order in response to America’s Asian Pivot. In recent years, SCO has been developing into a major regional and global entity with a comprehensive agenda and a framework of cooperation in all areas of mutual interest to its members, including military, security, political, economic, trade and cultural fields. No wonder, even with its larger international canvas, SCO remains focused on regional security issues in general and Islamic extremism and radical influences in particular. According to some observers, in sharp contrast to the Russians view, China might be seeking to use the SCO only as a facilitator of regional trade and investment, something that would enable Beijing to play the leading role. Interestingly, two founding members of Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), Iran and Pakistan, are also associated with SCO as its observers. The regions covered by SCO and ECO are contiguous and mutually complementary in terms of their potential for regional cooperation.
There is a tremendous overlap between the two organisations in terms of their natural and human resources. Their combined untapped economic potential, if exploited properly through innovative national and regional strategies, could transform this part of Asia into an economic power house, besides making it a major factor of regional and global stability. It is in this context that Pakistan can play an important role in bringing SCO and ECO together. As Secretary-General of ECO (1992-96) which during my tenure was transformed from a trilateral entity (Iran, Pakistan and Turkey) into a 10-member regional cooperation organisation, I am familiar with ‘blueprints’ conceptualised in the early 1990s for an elaborate transport infrastructure linking the ECO member-states with each other and with the outside world and a network of oil and gas pipelines within the region and beyond. Those regional plans remained unimplemented only because of the ensuing war-led turmoil in Afghanistan. The multifaceted work that ECO has already accomplished over the last two decades in the form of various plans, strategies, agreements and projects could be of great complementary value to SCO in its regional plans of action. We could jointly capitalise on our geography and natural resources through development of transport and communication infrastructure, mutual trade and investment and common use of the region’s vast energy resources. Regional cooperation on security issues is the new global trend. We could also explore the possibilities of regional cooperation in the areas of counter-terrorism and conflict-prevention. Peace in Afghanistan remains crucial for the success of both ECO and SCO. Together with China, we represent a natural partnership from within the region that can bring about the real change in this volatile region. Both are supportive of genuine peace in Afghanistan, free of foreign influence or domination.
Q: What measures are needed to overcome challenges of terrorism, extremism and sectarianism in Pakistan?
Terrorism is invariably the product of “a broader mix of problems caused by governance failures and leadership miscarriages. When there are no legitimate means of addressing the massive and systemic political, economic and social inequalities, an environment is created in which peaceful remedies often lose out against extreme and violent alternatives including terrorism.” We are confronted today with an extraordinary crisis situation with no parallel in our history. The gravity of this crisis warrants equally extraordinary responses. Our armed forces are already doing their job valiantly by rooting out foreign and local terrorists and eliminating their sanctuaries in areas bordering Afghanistan. But no military success is sustainable unless it is backed by the requisite civilian support in terms of immediate corrective as well as deterrent measures and long-term policies ranging from internal security, legal and economic measures to education and social welfare projects in the affected areas. The ultimate responsibility to deal with the twin-challenges of extremism and terrorism lies with the government which must ensure good governance and rule of law, guarantee non-discriminatory justice, promote tolerance and communal harmony, and reinforce popular resilience and mutual respect in the country.
Q: What potential do you foresee in future of Pak-US relationship?
This is an important relationship and a necessity for both sides because of common political, economic and geo-strategic interests. But over the decades, they have had a chequered history of frequent ups and downs in their relationship which has lacked continuity, a larger conceptual framework, and a shared vision beyond each side's "narrowly based and vaguely defined" issue-specific priorities. They need to remake this relationship as a normal, mutually beneficial bilateral relationship on the basis of universally-established norms of inter-state relations. The objective must be not to weaken this equation but to strengthen it by infusing in it greater mutually relevant political, economic and strategic content. It must no longer remain a “transactional” relationship and must go beyond the issue of terrorism.
Q: What qualities are essential for a successful diplomat? Your advice to the future diplomats of Pakistan?
In terms of personal qualities needed for a successful diplomat, the qualities of patience, modesty, intelligence, confidence, sociability, hospitality, charm and hard work are taken for granted. Among other requisites, one has to be perceptive and quick to grasp, balanced and cooperative with a good sense of right and wrong and control over emotion. He has to be a good communicator and an effective moderator who should also know the virtue of silence. Moral integrity, tact, prudence and discretion are the hall marks of a professional diplomat. Above all; he must be fully conversant with his own country’s affairs and also those of the country of his posting. A Pakistani diplomat’s challenge lies in how effectively he protects and projects his country’s national interests in the course of his diplomatic career. My advice to the future diplomats of Pakistan is that they should be looking forward to a profession which is both demanding and challenging given Pakistan’s geo-strategic location and foreign policy objectives. They must know that their Foreign Service career is a lifetime commitment which is personally fulfilling and professionally rewarding. It is a neat and clean profession which gives you plenty of opportunities to serve your country in the real sense.
Shamshad Ahmad Khan is a former Foreign Secretary of Pakistan who also served as Pakistan’s Ambassador to South Korea, Iran, as Secretary General of Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) and as Pakistan’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the UN. At professional level, he served in various posts at headquarters in Islamabad and in Pakistan Missions at Tehran, Dakar, Paris, Washington and New York. He contributes regularly to the media and has also authored two books ‘Dreams Unfulfilled’ (2009) and ‘Pakistan and World Affairs’ (2014).
Dr Akbar S. Ahmed is an eminent scholar of international repute. He is the Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at American University in Washington, D.C. His most recent book is ‘The Thistle and the Drone: How America's War on Terror became a Global War on Tribal Islam’ (2013). He belonged to the Civil Service of Pakistan and served as Pakistan's High Commissioner to the UK and Ireland.
Q: Globalization is giving rise to advent of a new universal civilization where citizens of the developed and developing countries could easily interact, observe the differences and compare life in different societies. This awareness, interaction and comparison can generate different responses from those who are not satisfied either with the international system or their own governments. How do you see societies of developed, developing and under-developed world reacting to the process of Globalization in the future?
Answer: First let me say what an honour it is to be asked to contribute to Hilal Magazine. I have many links with the army. My younger brother Sikander Ahmed was a brigadier and a proud Commanding Officer of the 1 Frontier Force Regiment and several of my class fellows from my school ‘Army Burn Hall college,’ Abbottabad became Generals. I've also had the privilege of being close friends with two Shaheed heroes of Pakistan Army, Major Shabbir Sharif and Major Sabir Kamal. I have described them as those who “lived simple and honest lives, cared deeply for the problems of the ordinary people, and readily sacrificed their lives for their nation in acts of extraordinary valour…Their motivation, courage, and idealism are second to none compared with that of officer cadre of any army in the world” (The Thistle and the Drone, 2013, p. 178). I wrote a poem in honour of Sabir called “Major Sabir Kamal: The Last Stand.” I had the pleasure of marching with Shabbir Sharif's 6 Frontier Force Regiment when I was attached to the army as part of my Civil Service training. When I called on the new Chief of Army Staff, General Raheel Sharif, I was pleased to remind him that I had marched with his Frontier Force Regiment the same as that of his brother. It was such a pleasure to meet the General because he reminded me of my friend Shabbir and I felt that Pakistan was fortunate that it got the right man for the right job at the right time in its history.
Now about Globalization: There is often a process of simultaneous attraction and revulsion to aspects of Globalization in the developing world. On the one hand, people want economic development, improvements in transportation, and new products. On the other hand, people are exposed to far-off countries and cultures in real time through global media and this can provoke feelings of anger and alienation when what is seen is perceived as threatening or alien. For example in my book Journey into Islam: The Crisis of Globalization (2007), I explained that when those in the Muslim world see the wealth of Western CEOs or idyllic scenes of peace in Western societies on their television screens juxtaposed with the poverty and chaos of places like Palestine, Afghanistan, and Iraq – many feel anger. Some contend that American culture is invading their societies through the media and a deluge of Western products. Globalization is also characterized by the rich becoming richer and the poor becoming more poorer.
Dangerous gaps are opening between the very rich and the mass of people who are struggling to survive. So, while Globalization is bringing the world closer together and undoubtedly benefits many, it also divides people as many do not feel its benefits, or, are threatened by it. Often those resisting or opposing aspects of Globalization seek to restore their “purity” in the face of perceived threat from outsiders, and conflict and violence can result. It is for this reason that I have dedicated my work to promoting dialogue and understanding between the world's civilizations, religions, and cultures which I believe to be the only way of avoiding confrontation in the age of Globalization. One of the most dangerous ideas that gained widespread currency with the age of Globalization was that there was on-going Clash of Civilizations.
As it happened, I found myself teaching one of my first classes at American University in Washington, D.C. on 9/11. I had just been appointed the Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies and I looked forward to a long and peaceful innings as a scholar on campus leading a peaceful life. When the plane flew into the Pentagon just a few miles from my university when I was in the class, I knew immediately that my life would never be the same. As a Muslim scholar I knew that the gap between Muslims and non-Muslims would become very wide and that it was obligatory on all scholars, like me, to try to bridge that gap. I, therefore, launched into an unending cycle of lectures, media appearances, interfaith dialogues, and meetings at the White House, Pentagon, the State Department, the think tanks, and also churches, synagogues, and temples. In order for better understanding of relations between US and the Muslim world, I worked on an ambitious series of projects, the fourth part of which I will embark on this summer. Journey into Islam: The Crisis of Globalization was the first, followed by Journey into America: The Challenge of Islam (2010), The Thistle and the Drone: How America's War on Terror Became a Global War on Tribal Islam (2013), and the forthcoming Journey into Europe: Islam, Immigration, and Empire. I was also supported by a dedicated and passionate team of young American students/scholars who accompanied me and helped me create a genuine Dialogue of Civilizations. We thus presented an alternative to the widespread idea of the Clash of Civilizations.
Q: The contemporary Muslim World comprised of countries that either remained colonies of Europe, under occupation and influence of Russia, and few other major powers in the past. How do you see Muslim societies in different countries adjusting to prevailing norms of democracy, free market economy, media freedom, human rights and gender equality? How these societies can avoid internal conflicts that come in the way of any great transformation?
Answer: In my book Journey into Islam: The Crisis of Globalization I delineated three models of Muslim response to Western colonization which developed in the 19th century and persist until this day: the modernists, literalists, and mystics. The modernists sought to adapt Islam to Western modernity and include among them prominent figures such as Muhammad Abduh, the Egyptian religious scholar who, in the late 19th century, attempted a programme of reform to adjust to the times, as did, in a different way, the secularist Mustafa Kemal Ataturk of Turkey. In South Asia, prominent examples include Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, who believed Muslims should learn Western science and founded Aligarh University on the model of Cambridge, Allama Iqbal who was influenced by western thinkers like Goethe and Nietzsche, and the Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who was trained in the British legal tradition and greatly respected Western figures like Abraham Lincoln. These three figures were instrumental in achieving the State of Pakistan within the modernist tradition.
The literalists, the second category, also arose in the 19th century, but instead of attempting to balance Islam and the West, they sought to draw boundaries around Islam. They saw Islam as under attack from the West and attempted to preserve its purity by going back to the holy texts and attempting to interpret them literally. This included attempts to exactly emulate the behaviour of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) of Islam, for instance by dying their beards. The literalists drew their inspiration from thinkers like the 14th century scholar Ibn Taymiyya of Damascus, who wrote as the Muslim world reeled from the Mongol invasions and believed that Muslims in every generation must revert to the holy texts rather than applying mindlessly the teachings of current scholars. In South Asia, prominent examples of literalist thinking include Maulana Maududi, founder of the Jamaat-i-Islami, and the influential Islamic seminary at Deoband, which is today linked to various movements across the region.
The third category is the Sufi mystics who see the love of God as the reality underlying all things. Intellectually and spiritually they transcend distinctions of religion and nationality. Their message of sulh-i-kul, or peace with all, resonates with people across the social and economic spectrum in Muslim societies and indeed even in non-Muslim ones. Mystics, who trace their spiritual lineage to the Holy Prophet (PBUH) of Islam, often attempt to reach God through chanting and music and are inspired by the great mystic poet Rumi, who said “I go to a synagogue, church and a mosque, and I see the same spirit and the same altar.” The universal message of the Sufis is demonstrated by the fact that Rumi is widely cited as the most popular poet in the United States today. There is a great variety of Sufi movements across the Muslim world, including the Chishti Order of South Asia and the Naqshbandi which originated in Central Asia.
In Journey into Islam, I argued that the perception in the Muslim world that Islam is under attack from the West after 9/11 has meant that the mystics and modernists who wish to engage with the West are pushed aside in favour of literalists. Like the Deobandis in the 19th century, many literalists teach that the purity of Islam must be preserved by adhering strictly to Islamic law and tradition and keeping out foreign influences. The turmoil of the Muslim world today is in part the clash of these positions. Only by speaking and interacting with one another as fellow Muslims and seeing the humanity in each other can this turmoil be resolved. I believe that we must find a balance between Islam and modernity as the great modernist figures mentioned above, all of whom were guided by the example of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) of Islam, argued.
Q: How do you see growth of the post-colonial state in the Muslim World? What went wrong that still most of the states have not been able to establish powerful institutions, construct internal cohesion and achieve economic progress?
Answer: In my latest book The Thistle and the Drone: How America's War on Terror Became a Global War on Tribal Islam, I argued that the post-colonial modern state has failed to accommodate its own people. At independence spirits were high across the Muslim world with charismatic founding-fathers such as the Quaid, Sukarno in Indonesia, and King Muhammad-V in Morocco appealing to people in every corner of their respective nations to cast off the colonizer and shape their destiny as united independent people. The problem came shortly after, however, when the unity dissipated and clashes broke out between the dominant ethnic or religious groups at the “centre” of the country and minorities living in the “periphery.” Development was disproportionally concentrated in the centre and sorely lacking in the periphery. People in the centre viewed the periphery as uncivilized and did not grant them their rights as full citizens of the state. In Pakistan this can be seen, for example, in the attitude of the elite who come mainly from the big cities such as Islamabad and Lahore and their attitudes towards the people of the Tribal Areas and Balochistan, and the perceptions of those people towards them. It is my thesis that this clash between centre and periphery has driven conflict since independence, and, after 9/11, terrorism in postcolonial Muslim states from Nigeria to Indonesia. The Thistle and the Drone contains 40 such case studies. In short, for all the talk about national identity and unity, we have seen time and again the modern state failing to provide prosperity, peace, education, security, and democratic representation to all of its citizens. In order to improve the situation and build unity, centre and periphery must be brought closer together. This can only be done by granting the periphery and the ethnic and religious minorities the full rights and privileges of being citizens of the state.
Q: Clash of Civilizations is a West-coined cliché that intrigued the mind of many particularly in the Muslim World. How do you explain the US and NATO presence in Afghanistan, intervention in Iraq and Libya, continuous support to Israel, and, also US support to Muslims of Bosnia and Kosovo?
Answer: After 9/11 many commentators in the West argued that a Clash of Civilizations between the West and Muslim world was occurring. This, they claimed, was a war that had broken out at the founding of Islam and 9/11 was only the latest episode in it. These commentators were building on the work of scholars like Bernard Lewis, who coined the phrase Clash of Civilizations, and Samuel Huntington, who popularized it. (I have been in the extraordinary position of conducting one-to-one debates with both). The problem with this theory was that there are many examples in history of Muslims, Christians, and Jews living, working, and producing great works of art and literature together for example, Muslim Spain that do not fit into this mould. And, as the question indicated, there are many examples of the US intervening in support of Muslims before 9/11, such as in Afghanistan in the 1980s during the Soviet invasion and in the Balkans in the 1990s when Muslims faced ethnic cleansing. After 9/11 the US, driven by many policymakers who believed in the idea of the Clash of Civilizations and who possessed an inadequate understanding of the people who had attacked the US as well as Muslim culture and history, went charging into Muslim societies intending to defeat the “terrorists”. In doing so, it linked up with central governments eager to defeat the people on the peripheries they viewed as troublesome. Many nations picked up this global anti-terrorism paradigm driven by the Clash of Civilizations theory. The Muslim world had its own adherents of the Clash of Civilizations, such as Osama bin Laden, which helped propel global conflicts. So while I do not believe that there is a Clash of Civilizations in history between the West and Islam, it is certainly a simplistic albeit powerful and influential idea that needs to be challenged. I have dedicated my life and work after 9/11 to promote an opposite idea, a Dialogue of Civilizations, first proposed by President Mohammad Khatami of Iran, calling for understanding, education, and cooperation across religious, ethnic, and cultural boundaries.
Q: The Muslim World has often been blamed for reverting to the Fundamentalism and Conservatism. However, we also see racism in the West and rise of violent nationalism in Hindu civilization. What is the magnitude of these movements in various societies?
Answer: My friend Karen Armstrong has explained the phenomenon of internal conflict in every major religion in the world between its “fundamentalists” and “moderates” in The Battle for God (2000). While she focused on the Abrahamic faiths Judaism, Christianity, and Islam we can easily apply the same frame to non-Abrahamic faiths such as Hinduism and Buddhism. Today we can see movements that promote the preservation of the “purity” of religious groups and violence against minorities in non-Abrahamic societies in South Asia and Far East Asia. The most important point is to understand that these are global movements affecting all faiths and therefore the moral and spiritual leaders in every faith should work actively towards creating bridges of understanding to promote harmony and peace. The magnitude of these movements in vast swathes of the world is enormous and has implications for the coming time. The violence that has resulted from groups that attempt to enforce purity by targeting others has led to immense suffering. Millions are displaced as a result of the upheavals of global conflict. I dread to think of the millions of young children growing up in refugee camps today after having lost close members of their family. They have little hope of the future and so much despair and anger in their hearts. The world must understand that there will be a cost to bear for the misery that is being caused across the globe to millions and millions of people in this disruption.
Q: Despite a glorious past, the Muslim Civilization has not been able to contribute much in the present rise of a world that is characterized by scientific inventions, technological advancements, and intellectual freedom. What are the main reasons for this decay? How Muslim societies should respond to this decay and construct a better future characterized by knowledge, economic progress, political freedom, peace and social justice?
Answer: A constant theme in my work has been the decline of ilm or knowledge in the Muslim world. This is tragic and unacceptable as ilm is the second most used word in the Qur’aan and the Holy Prophet (PBUH) of Islam instructed Muslims to seek knowledge as a religious compulsion. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) stated “The ink of the scholar is more sacred than the blood of the martyr.” A thousand years ago, the library of the court of Cordoba in Islamic Spain held around 400,000 books, while Christian Europe's largest library at that time only held around 600 books. Today the situation is very different. In 2005, for example, scientists across the Arab world produced nearly 13,500 scientific publications, while Harvard University in 2005 alone produced nearly 15,500 scientific publications. With the decline of Muslim civilization following its golden age came a loss of the knowledge ethos and it has cost Muslim society dearly. I mentioned earlier that the post-colonial modern state has failed to accommodate its citizens. A further failure can be seen in its attitude toward learning and knowledge. Leaders like Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Hafez and Bashar al Assad in Syria, Mu’ammar Gaddafi in Libya, and Suharto in Indonesia were more concerned with military glory and eradicating “enemies of the state” than promoting knowledge and education. This has led to the decline of Muslim civilization and a plethora of problems in Muslim countries. In order for the situation to be remedied, there must be a renewed focus on education and knowledge in Muslim countries in addition to what I said earlier about fully accommodating all the state's citizens irrespective of ethnic or religious background.
Q: You have carried out extensive research on the life of Quaid-i-Azam. What in your view was Quaid's vision of Pakistan as a state and society?
Answer: Yes, understanding the importance of the Quaid, both for Pakistanis and non-Pakistanis, I spent a decade of my life conceiving and completing the Jinnah Quartet: Jinnah, starring Christopher Lee; a documentary based on rare archival footage and on interviews given by those who had seen or interacted with the Quaid and were therefore contemporaries; an academic book on the Quaid's life from a sociological perspective; and a comic book, probably one of the first in Pakistan. These different projects were aimed at reaching different parts of society.
I must put on record the tremendous support and affection I received from so many people, both Pakistanis and non-Pakistanis. The readers of this magazine will be interested to know the great support of former Chief of Army Staff General Jehangir Karamat, and many others in uniform. On the other hand, I was maligned and attacked by some, which always puzzled our supporters. Christopher Lee and others would constantly be puzzled as to why Pakistanis were attacking those people who had set out to pay tribute to the man they so respected – the Quaid.
The Quaid envisioned a State which would be a homeland for South Asia's Muslims while also protecting the rights under the law of ethnic and religious minorities as well as those of women. The Quaid cited as his inspiration for these values the Holy Prophet (PBUH) of Islam. In order to understand the Quaid's vision for the nation, Pakistanis should study Jinnah's first speech to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan in August 1947. In his speech, the Quaid emphasized the equality of all in Pakistan, Muslim, Christian, and Hindu alike: “If you change your past and work together in a spirit that every one of you, no matter to what community he belongs, no matter what relations he had with you in the past, no matter what is his colour, caste or creed, is first, second and last a citizen of this State with equal rights, privileges and obligations, there will be no end to the progress you will make.”
On religious freedom, the Quaid told the citizens of the new state: “You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this State of Pakistan…You may belong to any religion or caste or creed – that has nothing to do with the business of the State . . . We are starting in the days when there is no discrimination, no distinction between one community and another, no discrimination between one caste or creed and another. We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens, and equal citizens, of one State.” The Quaid was confident about the future if Pakistanis could follow these ideals. He made a pledge: “My guiding principle will be justice and complete impartiality, and I am sure that with your support and co-operation, I can look forward to Pakistan becoming one of the greatest nations in the world.” The Quaid in his speeches often quoted a Dutch proverb which encapsulated the values he wanted Pakistanis to have: “Money is lost, nothing is lost; Courage is lost, much is lost; Honour is lost, most is lost; Soul is lost, all is lost.”
Today's Pakistan is far from the vision of the Quaid. In the trying current environment, where there is so much conflict between different religious, sectarian, and ethnic groups in Pakistan, all Pakistanis need to remember the Quaid's vision for Pakistan and work to make it a reality.
Q: How to avoid spread of sectarian divide that is quite visible on domestic political landscape of many Muslim countries?
Answer: When I was growing up in Abbottabad and studying at school the students were almost one hundred per cent Muslim, I had no idea who was Shia and who was Sunni. Yet today I am heartbroken to read about and see on our television sets the violence between the two. I think it is one of the most tragic, and, frankly speaking, it makes no sense. I am quite disgusted to see the deliberate targeting of medical doctors and prominent members of each other's communities in order to destroy the community. Do these people not understand that in doing so they destroy the larger society in which they live? Anyone with any doubts about Shia and Sunnis should recall the Quaid's famous answer when asked whether he was a Shia or a Sunni: He replied, I adhere to the same faith as the Prophet of Islam, and if you can answer whether he was Shia or Sunni I belong to that faith.
Q: The incident of 9/11 brought War on Terrorism to Pakistan's neighbour as well as home front. How would you comment on US/NATO's invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, conduct of the war for last thirteen years, and now pull out by the end of 2014?
Answer: The American invasion of Afghanistan was provoked more by anger and emotion than cold logic. There was little thinking or planning about the strategy and objectives. The Americans, therefore, fell into the same trap that many foreign invaders have throughout Afghan history including the British and the Soviets. That is why you see the paradox of the most advanced and well-equipped army in human history failing to vanquish an impoverished tribal society which had been suffering from a civil war situation over the previous decades. Not only was Afghanistan thrown into war but the effects spilled into Pakistan and as a result an estimated 55-60,000 Pakistanis were killed unnecessarily after 9/11. A state of raging civil war was created, and law and order collapsed in many districts, especially those on the border. We, therefore, see a relatively stable nation like Pakistan which was destabilized and a struggling nation like Afghanistan thrown into uncertainty as a result of the invasion. The Americans too are asking questions as to whether it was all worth it. They sunk billions of dollars into the war, lost thousands of lives, and emerged with fewer friends in Afghanistan or Pakistan than when they went in. The ledger of history is clear: the losses have been too great and the gains too few. Afghanistan has been the longest war America has ever fought and has been so, for some time now. Future historians may see this as a turning point in world history. Indeed, we are already seeing developments on the world stage as a direct consequence of America's weakened position, for example President Putin's astonishing “capture” of the Crimea under the noses of the US and the EU. Putin has got away with it because America is in no mood for any more wars. That is why everyone, Americans, Pakistanis, and Afghans, feel that America's wars after 9/11 have cost it so much and given so little. Many questions are going to be raised after the American pullout and a new chapter, perhaps one of even more uncertainty, will open in the region.
Q: How Pakistan should tackle the issues of terrorism and religious extremism on long-term basis?
Answer: Pakistan's problem with terrorism dates back to its post-9/11 security policies, which were enacted at the urging of the United States. Following the American invasion of Afghanistan, President Pervez Musharraf, under pressure from the Americans to capture suspects fleeing across the international border, sent forces to Waziristan, placing troops in the area for the first time since the Quaid withdrew all troops from the Tribal Areas at independence. The Waziristan region particularly South Waziristan has the toughest tribes in Pakistan which have historically been the most resistant to central authority and tenaciously wished to preserve their independence and way of life. I saw this first hand when I served as the Political Agent in South Waziristan in the late 1970s. The Islam of these tribes, as I explained in The Thistle and the Drone, is influenced by their tribal traditions of honour, revenge, and hospitality.
The 2003 onwards military presence in a way ushered in an era of military administration over the tribes (that in a way) sidelined the civilian administrators who had administered the area dating back to independence and even to British colonial times. The conflict escalated exponentially following the Lal Masjid incident in Islamabad in July 2007 in which many soldiers and civilians, including female students got killed. Nearly 70 % of students in the Lal Masjid were from the Tribal Areas and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and the Tribal Areas erupted in violence which soon spilled over into the rest of the country. The character of the attacks in targeting the innocent reflected a cultural change stemming, as I argue in The Thistle and the Drone, from intense fury at the government and a total societal breakdown. All three pillars of authority which used to hold together tribal society – the tribal elders, religious leaders, and political administration – were attacked and side-lined in the chaos, creating a vacuum which was filled by the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which was formed in December 2007. The TTP unleashed strikes all over the country and struck terror every where in Pakistan. In 2008 alone, there were 88 bombings in Pakistan which killed 1,188 people and injured 3,209. It was estimated that 80% of all suicide bombers came from South Waziristan.
To resolve the problem of terrorism, Pakistan must fully accommodate the people of the Tribal Areas and bring them into the state with equal rights. It must also re-establish the civilian writ of the state which has been lost in the current ill-conceived and contradictory policies of either fighting the tribes or turning over areas to be ruled by the Taliban who roam unchecked, commit acts of unspeakable violence, and implement laws outside the legal framework of the state of Pakistan. Pakistan must reconstitute a neutral, strong, just, and compassionate civil service, judicial structure, and police structure in all districts. It will be impossible to stabilize Pakistan without these crucial reforms. In the Tribal Areas, the army needs to be withdrawn and administration turned over to civilians. The army must rethink its role in the affairs of Pakistan. From my own experience I know how impressive the Pakistan Army is and the high caliber of its soldiers. Yet Pakistan's soldiers are not trained for civil administration. Instead, they must return to the barracks and the civil bureaucracy to function in FATA. Of course, the army must always be ready to assist civil administration when needed. In the tribal regions, the civilian administration should work with the local tribal leadership to ensure peace and stability. These steps would help ensure a rapprochement between centre and periphery in Pakistan which will lead to peace and harmony in the country, not only in the Tribal Areas but also in Balochistan.
Q: What should be your advice to the government and people of Pakistan for achieving a lasting peace, economic prosperity and constructing an enlightened and tolerant society?
Answer: As I have already pointed out, we need to keep the Quaid's vision of a modern Muslim state in mind in order to construct a peaceful and prosperous society. After all, he is the Father of the Nation and we seem to have wandered from his ideals. The Quaid correctly pointed to the evils of corruption, nepotism, sectarianism, and provincialism. He emphasized human rights, especially for women and minorities. He repeated the importance of maintaining and upholding the constitution and the rule of law. Today, I notice that Pakistanis have little hope of receiving justice from the state and even less hope in their fellow Pakistanis. The widespread violence also affects everyone and government must give law and order top priority. In this turbulent stage it is crucial for the leaders of Pakistan to provide shining examples, otherwise things will only get worse. Pakistan's strategy for the future must be holistic and long-term. It will require courage, compassion, and wisdom from the leaders of the nation. The challenge for Pakistani leadership is to either accept the Quaid's vision of Pakistan as “one of the greatest nations of the world,” or abandon it and allow Pakistan to fragment and fall. I pray and hope that Pakistani leaders will be up to the challenge and that your readers who form such an important part of this leadership will play their role in this critical time of history.
Colonel Omer is serving in Pakistan Army since 1986. He suffered from spinal injury due to an accident in 1994, when he was a Captain. It rendered him paraplegic (chest down paralysis) with a major disability. But despite being wheelchair ridden since that day, his life moves on whereby he drives his car, travels frequently, discharges his social and religious obligations. He volunteered to remain in uniform after the disability and still serves with pride to the best of his abilities. With the support of his family and Pak Army, he even aims higher and wants to do much for Pakistan. He got married after this accident, has three children and is leading a happy life.
Q. How do you recall your childhood days? Please tell us about your family and days of your early service in Army.
Answer: I was born on 6 December 1968 in Rawalpindi. I belong to Barki tribe of Pathans and we are settled in Lahore. My early education was subjected to my father's postings who is a retired army officer, Lieutenant Colonel (Retd) Zaheer-ud-Din Khan from Remount Veterinary & Farms Corps (RVFC). I am second youngest in a family of four brothers and two sisters. Being son of an officer from RVFC, I remember being brought up among the thumps of horses. I began to crave for horses and became a good rider at a small age. Riding was and has remained my passion. I have been a national level Polo player.
My passion for army dates back to 1980 when I went to witness 23 March Parade in Jhelum Cantt. It was first time that I witnessed tanks in motion. The only difference, it made then was change in my taste and passion from riding a horse to riding a tank. In the similar pursuit, I applied for commission in Pak Army after Matric and was selected for Junior Cadets Battalion (JCB) in 1986. I later joined Pakistan Military Academy (PMA) in 1988. Being a natural sportsman and a rider, routine in PMA suited me and I was very comfortable in tough life of the Academy. I was commissioned in April 1990 with 81 PMA Long Course and joined 26 Cavalry Regiment. I think Allah was very kind to me to grant me the armour regiment where I had all the time to work with tanks.
My second passion in those days was mountains. I was lucky to be assigned as a liaison officer with Japanese and Korean mountaineer expeditions in 1992. With them I went as high as Camp 4 which is 7400 metre high. I was later posted at Line of Control in Neelum Sector which gave me a chance to experience live action before returning to my unit, 26 Cavalry.
Q. You passed through a traumatic experience in your prime youth that resulted in a lifelong disability. Please tell about that fateful day and the events later.
Answer: It was 28 May 1994 and I was a Captain (I remember 28 May on two accounts: my accident and Pakistan going nuclear in 1998 on similar date). I was part of a military convoy when my vehicle met a serious road accident near Kala Shah Kaku. I was immediately evacuated to Combined Military Hospital (CMH) Lahore. It was a shock for me to know that my spine had been broken. In addition, Discs T5, 6 and 7 had also been affected. I was
stabilized at the hospital but spinal surgery wasn't a common practice then due to lack of facilities and doctors. The medical authorities at CMH then placed me under supervision of Dr Omer Sawar Khan in Sheikh Zaid Hospital Lahore who was then the most experienced spine surgeon in Pakistan. My initial treatment was completed but rehabilitation of spinal injury was still not possible in Pakistan. Situation was getting worrisome for me and my family. I was disabled to an extent that in hospital, while my brother was sleeping at the next bed, I felt thirsty and wanted to take a glass of water at my own without bothering my brother. To my horror, I could not pick up the glass two inches away from my hands. It was then that I realised fully about my disability but also made it a point to strive my way back to normal life.
Q. After having confronted a serious crisis we today find you as a successful person in competition with all other citizens. From ICU bed to routine life and a successful professional life with routine promotions; what have been the highlights of your life all along?
Answer: Since there was no rehabilitation centre for spinal injury in Pakistan, I was advised by doctors to move to USA for advance treatment. I had full support of my family and my institution, Pak Army, who all backed me to travel abroad for the treatment. I remained admitted in Metro Health Centre Cleveland, Ohio for one year and underwent massive rehabilitation training. During that time, I learnt how to drive, swim, use the washroom; in short how to live the life without being hostage to any disability. Army also provided financial assistance for this treatment. After rehabilitation, I returned back to Pakistan and was ready to enter into a much challenging practical life.
Upon return, I was asked to undergo medical board to ascertain my disability and fitness level for service in army during 1995. The medical board initially declared me unfit to serve in Army due to major disability and recommended my discharge with full benefits as per policy. However, I requested the authorities to let me serve as I volunteered to remain in uniform. Army then decided to improve my qualifications in technical subjects and assigned me desk jobs due to wheel chair. I was detailed to undergo “Electronic Data Processing Course” at Military College of Signals (MCS) for 3 months. It was a challenge for me to concentrate on study due to my health and more so, computers were a rare phenomenon in Pakistan during 1990s. Studies, especially the computers, were least I could think of in my life before. But I worked extremely hard and I was able to earn the best possible grade. Those results gave me confidence to fight back with my disability in more befitting way. If I analyse it now, I am confident in stating that it was, and it indeed is, my Khaki uniform that drives me to face any challenge in life successfully.
It was a new life to me. A student again, but on a wheelchair. This new phase in life brought more challenges as during the course I faced a lot of problems; my father at the age of 72 years used to pick and drop me every day from Islamabad to Rawalpindi, a job he never did before since my childhood. Washroom and stairs were rather a bigger issue as maximum bathrooms had less wide doors, unfit for wheelchair, and almost each path leading to the class and other places had stairs. But when there is a will there is way, and here I am, in front of you. It was the same time that I decided to become self-sufficient in the routine matters in maximum possible things. I decided to import a car with hand-controls for disable people. After bit of effort and allocation of quota, I managed to get a special car in 1997. After my course I was posted to then Army Computer System (ACS) Directorate (later C4I Directorate). People were little sympathetic towards me due to disability and avoided to task me much. But I requested everyone to treat me at par with other officers as I wanted to learn and work hard; for my pride and to remain useful to the system and my country. I think my hard work has been well recognised by this great institution and I have been rewarded accordingly.
In February 1997, I was part of team that devised “Election Monitoring Software” which became quite a big success. It was followed by census in 1998 and, again my work was appreciated and I was awarded COAS Commendation Card for my work. Later, I was sent to National Accountability Bureau (NAB) upon its raising in PM Secretariat Islamabad in 1999, where I served till 2006. I was later posted to Military Secretary (MS) Branch in 2007 where I continue to serve till date. I was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in 2007 and to the rank of Colonel in 2012.
Q. What has been the source of inspiration for you during your life?
Answer: My inspiration is a sum of people including my father, my brothers and my course-mates who never let me despair and always supported me without thinking me as a disabled man. But the ultimate inspiration in my life has been my wife. A lady who chose me as her life partner despite knowing about my disability. She was doing her House Job as a Medical Officer when she decided to marry me against social pressures for tying knot with a person who had 80% disability. She was my cousin, an educated and a pretty lady who belonged to a well-to-do family. She could have the best of man for her marriage and a life partner, but I still owe her respect for choosing me and staying with me as a wonderful companion.
Q. Tell us about your family and how do you spend time with them?
Answer: Alhamdulillah I am very thankful to Allah Almighty that He bestowed upon me his greatest blessings. I was blessed with twin daughters (Hafsa and Haleema) in year 2002 and a son in 2004 whom I named Ibrahim. I performed Umra last year with my family and I also say my prayers in gratitude for His countless blessings. Today I am so happy with my family; I play Cricket, Badminton with them, do shopping and travel all around the country and the world. I love talking to my father and mother as it gives me internal peace and spiritual solace.
Q. How does rehabilitation system of Pak Army works to cater for the soldiers with disabilities?
Answer: Army never leave its sons unattended, especially during problem or hardship. Due to ongoing War on Terrorism, the cases of limb injuries and disabilities have increased in the Army. However, from the first aid to the complete rehabilitation, all affected people are being looked-after. Establishment of Armed Forces Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine (AFIRM) in Rawalpindi by the Army is a very commendable step. The under treatment soldiers are not only taken care of clinically, but psychological aspect of their personality is also been catered for. These soldiers are being taught different skills and are also participating in competitive sports activities.
Q. We see that your wheelchair does not have the handles? Any specific reason? And what advice do you render to the people with disabilities?
Answer: The answer to all these questions is very simple. I think the best way to cope up with such phenomenon is to accept the reality, as it is, and as soon as possible. You have to decide in clear terms that life has to go on and you have to move on with it. The self respect never allowed me to be excusive. I removed handles from my wheelchair as I never wanted somebody to be pushing me when my hands are with me.
Q. What is your message to the youth of Pakistan through the platform of Hilal?
Answer: Hilal is a very old magazine and I am sure that people seek inspiration through it. Through this forum, message to the youth and those who suffer any set back in life whether physical or mental, is to accept the reality as it is and to move on from there. I think it is a shame for any human being to beg for anything. Immediately after my accident, I remember not having the strength to pick up a glass of water placed few inches away from me. But I was confident of returning to the normal life and Allah helped me in doing so. My family supported me so did my institution. If you are willing to become a useful citizen, the environment around you would help you but if you surrender and hide from people, you will be a sorry figure everywhere. At the end, I would say: No struggle is short of triumph; and, if not, a valiant effort is worth the Man.
Q. Most of our cricketers claim to have started playing the game in the streets and later rose to the national / international level. Being a female how did you manage to learn cricket and rise to become captain of Pakistan Team?
Answer: My story is same as any other cricketer in Pakistan as I started playing this game on streets. I was fortunate enough that my father, Colonel (Retired) Mir Moatazid, was serving in Pakistan Army. So during my childhood, we moved from one cantonment to other and it was easy for me as a female to go out in the street and play in the environments of the garrison. I will specially mention Taxila Cantt and Gujranwala Cantt in this regard where I used to call children from my neighbourhood to play cricket in the street, and in certain cases, we would play the whole day. Since there were no formal cricket for females at school, college or university level and there was hardly any female cricket club during 1990s, so I instead learnt this game in galies / mohallas (streets) and reached where I am today.
Q. How conducive are the environments in Pakistan for female sportsperson?
Answer: I shall comment little differently by saying that the prevailing environments for female sportsperson are far better than the past. People are encouraging females to come forward and take part in sports. But on the other hand sports is still a new field for females in Pakistan. Questions are still asked that why are you playing and what is in it for you or for any female to take it as a profession. Few people even doubted the ability of Pakistani females to play cricket or any other game at international level. But now things have improved and so have perceptions. Females are now quite confident to play different games and to choose it as a profession.
Q. Who are your favourite cricketers?
Answer: Since I was initially a fast bowler and later changed into a spinner, so Waqar Younis has been my all time favourite. As a captain, Imran Khan, Mahela Jayawardene and MS Dhoni have inspired me.
Q. Where have you been brought up and where did you carry out your studies?
Answer: My early education was in Rawalpindi. Then we moved to Gujranwala and after passing my 6th grade we moved to Taxila where I did my Matric. From Taxila we moved to Karachi where I completed my Inter and Bachelors degrees before settling in Lahore where we reside now. So we have been travelling all around Pakistan due to postings of my father. My studies and sports have been going side by side and I tried to manage both things simultaneously. I always wanted to join the army and serve my country as my father did. I have always respected the brave and gallant armed forces of Pakistan. More so, I was granted admission in National University of Science and Technology (NUST) as an engineering student. However, it was difficult for me to chose between cricket n engineering. But my father help me in this regard by saying, "we have many women engineers in Pakistan but not many women cricketers, you should go and make your dream come true." His advise turn my life and I became a cricketer.
Q. What takes it to become a female cricket captain of Pakistan team?
Answer: The foremost important thing to become a good cricketer and captain of Pak Cricket team is to develop the passion and love for the game. It is likely to take few more years for women cricket in Pakistan to take proper roots and to be taken up conveniently as a profession. There will be obstacles but one has to be passionate to be able to play the game. Team preferences over personal ones is another important thing that each player must carry to give best to the team. And last is the hard work which is obviously key to success to every game.
Q. Which form of game do you like and why?
Answer: At the moment females are playing only T20s and ODIs. But I feel that Two Day format of the game should be introduced for the female cricketers. It will help to groom future players and in improving their skills. T20 is apparently the future format of the game but needs a player to be very skillful to give her best. So to polish the game, more and more ODIs and Two Day games should be played at domestic level.
Q. What all measure should be taken to encourage more and more females to join cricket or any sports?
Answer: In our culture and society, any decision taken by female has to be routed through her family. So for any girl to come out in ground, street or to join any cricket club, support of family is must. Without acceptability of female sports in our society as a normal thing, women will always feel hesitant to come in the ground and play. Easiest and simplest can be provision of big grounds to girls at school levels so that they get exposed to the sports at early age and their shyness of playground is also removed. Moreover, for a balanced personality, extracurricular activities play very vital role.
In Pakistan, almost all girls in the sports field that I know, have been supported by their families to reach at the top level.
Q. What role did your family and society play in your particular case?
Answer: I give all credit to my family, especially my father, without his support I might not have been able to do, what I did. My father always encouraged me to play outdoor sports and never discriminated between a boy and a girl in the house. I will also mention about my mother who always helped me in difficult times and facilitated me in every possible way. My brother was my first coach who used to take me to the ground and would skillfully help me in learning the game. Even my sister and my brother-in-law have encouraged me at each and every step. I can confidently claim that my complete family is at my back. And result is in front of you, I am captain of Pakistan Cricket team.
Q. Where do you grade yourself as a player?
Answer: I think I am someone who believes in improving each day. I was initially a fast bowler but after playing regular professional cricket with hard ball, I developed stress fracture due to bowling action. It forced me to turn into a spinner and I am happy with my fitness now. When it comes to the achievements, I have been selected to represent World Eleven at Lords on 19 May this year. Moreover I have consistently been part of ICC top 20 players for the last six years or so. But I still aim to do much and want to be part of a team that wins maximum bilateral series and tournaments for Pakistan and take it to top four ranking teams in the next two years through my captaincy and performance.
Q. What advice will you render to females to maintain their fitness?
Answer: I have seen females trying to reduce weight through reduction in diet which is very dangerous. Similarly females avoid drinking milk because of their skin and weight issues. These trends are not encouraging. A balanced diet with moderate exercise is ideal for a healthy life. Best way is to exert more than you eat.
Q. When are you planning to get married and will you continue playing cricket afterward?
Answer: I am concentrating on my game at the moment. However, if anything of the sort comes up then I will try to find a way to balance both things. But I don't believe in very long planning and my marriage isn't planned as yet. Let's see what happens.
Q. What is your message for readers of Hilal?
Answer: Our country needs people who are willing to take responsibility. We all must take responsibility and do whatever is in our little capacity for the betterment of country. We all must work hard to make Pakistan a developed country.