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Unity, cooperation and disunity
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21 Jun 2010
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Monday, June 21, 2010
Dr A Q Khan

The three words unity, cooperation and disunity look so simple but their importance is realised at crucial times. In all societies and nations, great emphasis is laid on unity and cooperation

The Quaid-e-Azam was like a superhuman and the Almighty had bestowed on him the wisdom of Khizar (AS). Though he never claimed to be a religious scholar, all his actions were in accordance with the golden rules of Islam. His slogan “Unity, faith and discipline” reflected the essence of the Islamic code of conduct. The very first word of this slogan emphasises the dire need for unity, not among the countrymen but also amongst Muslims.

There is the story of a wise old man who gave each of his sons a stick and asked them to break it, which they all managed to do. Then he placed all the already broken sticks together in a bundle and again asked them to break them. None of them succeeded. He then told them that the young men were like the sticks–individually they were vulnerable, but nobody could harm them when they were united.

The British, who were known as clever and cunning colonialists, made it a cardinal point of their foreign policy to “divide and rule.” Using this policy, they managed to occupy a large part of the world. Instigating locals against locals, they inflicted untold miseries upon the people and thus managed to rule for hundreds of years.

This practice extended from Australia to India to Africa and all the way to America. In our subcontinent they created provincialism and communalism and, by dividing the nation, they managed to rule such a large population with only a few thousand people.

Clever rulers are aware of the strength of a unified nation and they keep them engaged in sports, trivial conflicts, bogus fears of foreign threats, etc., so that the people remain united and do not find time to critically analyse the rulers’ wrongdoings. The Indians are very good at this. They are always warning of so-called threats from China and Pakistan. In the olden days, kings used to hold tournaments and competitions of all kinds to keep the people busy and their fighting skills sharp.

In nature we see many animals staying in herds, flocks, etc., for safety. For them this is a God-given instinct for survival. In this way, wild dogs, hyenas, wild buffalos, etc., manage to keep even lions at bay. When a lion sees a few buffalos charging together, it runs for its life.

Sincere, honest rulers always strive to keep the nation united. They look after the needs and comforts of their people and do not allow anything to create disunity. Before the advent of Islam, the Arab nation was divided into tribes which were perpetually at war with each other. After embracing Islam, they became a strong, united nation, competing with each other in areas of hospitality, charity, good deeds, etc. Within a very short span of time they had managed to conquer other powerful nations and ruled from Spain to Central Asia. This was all a direct result of exemplary and unflinching unity. Once they again started infighting, the whole empire fell apart. They were dislodged from Spain, the Mongols occupied all the Central Asian states up to Iraq and later the Western powers occupied all the Islamic countries. Only Turkey managed to survive within its own borders, thanks to the leadership of Mustafa Kamal Pasha.

Even in our own less educated communities we find many proverbs about unity, e.g. “Char haath dushman per bhari.” “Ek se ek miley to raaee bansakti he perbat.” Karl Marx was fully aware of the importance of unity and expressed this by saying that people were the greatest force. Mao Zedong held the same views and said that if there was ever a nuclear war, the last person on the planet would be a Chinese. Cunning people and vested interests always consider unity of the people to be a threat to their interests. They cause disruption through pressure, blackmail, incentives, etc., and exploit the masses by these methods. However, in the (very) long run, such nefarious tactics usually fail. We saw it happen in the Philippines, in Iran and, most recently, in Kyrgyzstan.

In a speech to the British parliament on Feb 2, 1835, Lord Maculay said: “I have travelled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country unless we break the backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, the native culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation.”

Within 50 years they managed to achieve it. Various sources have reported Winston Churchill to have said about this same rich, proud nation just before partition: “Power will go to the hands of rascals, rogues and freebooters. All Indian leaders will be of low calibre and men of straw. They will have sweet tongues and silly hearts. They will fight amongst themselves for power and India will be lost in political squabbles. I hate Indians. They are beastly people with a beastly religion. Anything multiplied by zero is zero indeed.” He was also reported to have said: “These rascals, rogues and freebooters will tax everything, including water and air.” How right he was is evident today in India, and more so in Pakistan.

The British policy of divide and rule was later adopted by the Russians in Central Asia and they occupied the whole area and destroyed its cultural and educational heritage. What we in our region need most, beside good governance, is unity and discipline. The strength of public unity has been demonstrated in Iran and Kyrgyzstan. The flood of a unified nation can sweep away the ruling elite.

George Washington ensured that his soldiers had enough food as, according to him, patriotism did not grow on empty stomachs. Similarly, to expect our hungry, jobless masses, troubled by shortages of sugar, flour, electricity, gas, etc., to have eternal patience and not to protest while they sit and slowly starve, is asking too much.

The revolution, though not visible to rulers, is just around the corner. The keg full of dynamite is there. All that is required is one small match (in the form of a good leader/orator) to make it explode. The 18th Amendment alone will not stop the flood of anger and dissatisfaction of the common man. May Allah help Pakistan and its masses. Ameen.

A dream fulfilled
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14 Jun 2010
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Monday, June 14, 2010
Dr A Q Khan

It was one of my childhood dreams to visit Lhasa. To most people, Potala Palace is Lhasa. It is well-known all over the world and UNESCO has declared it a site of World Cultural Heritage.

The Tibet Autonomous Region is situated in the south-western region of China and has an area of about 125,000 square kilometres. The average height of the area is about 4,000 metres and many places are even 5,000 metres. Tibet has an approximately 3,500-km-long common border with India, Bhutan, Nepal and Myanmar. In the north and east it is bordered by Xinjiang, Qinghai, Sichuan and Yunnan provinces. Temperatures range from 15°C to 25°C. Buddhism is the prevailing religion. Tibet has a population of about 2.5 million, with about the same number of Tibetans living in Sichuan and neighbouring provinces.

The Western powers, together with India, tried their best to break Tibet away from China, with which China had had close relations for centuries. The Indians supplied Western weapons to the Tibetan insurgents. On the one hand, Nehru was shouting “Chini-Hindi Bhai Bhai,” while on the other hand, he was stabbing the Chinese in the back. On New Year’s Eve of 1959 the Tibetan insurgents, incited by the Dalai Lama and outside agents, killed many Chinese civilians and soldiers.

The Chinese are, on the whole, a soft-natured, peace-loving and hardworking people, but when provoked they become bitter enemies. Chairman Mao immediately dispatched Gen Li Chew to quell the uprising. Gen Li dealt with the rebels with an iron hand and eliminated most of them, but the Dalai Lama and a few thousand insurgents fled to India through mountain passes. They settled in Dharam Sala in India, where they are enjoying a Western lifestyle and are being assisted in their propaganda against the Chinese. Gen Li (whom I know personally) was a soft-spoken, gentle, scholarly person and a calligrapher. He loved Western classical instrumental music.

In 1985, together with a few colleagues, my wife and two daughters, we went to Beijing and were kindly treated as state guests. One night we were invited to see the Princess Wencheng play. This princess was married to Tibetan king Songsten Gampo. After the play I happened to mention my great desire to see Lhasa and asked whether this could be arranged. They immediately agreed and said that July was the best time to go there.

In July of that year, after obtaining permission from Gen Zia and Mr Ghulam Ishaq Khan, my wife and two daughters, Col Qamar Faruqui, Brig Sajawal Khan, Mr Badrul Islam and I flew to Beijing where we stayed for two days. We then flew to Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province, where we stayed for a day and enjoyed the famous local hot cuisine, before flying to Gongkar Airport in Lhasa, where we were given official protocol.

The airport is about 125 km from the city where we were taken in Chinese-made jeeps. Since the road was under construction (it is now an excellent motorway), it took us four hours and many detours, crossing and re-crossing the river, to reach the hotel. As we neared the city, we could see the majestic Potala Palace against the tall mountains. The hotel was more like a guesthouse (Tibet had only recently been opened to the first tourists).

As soon as we got out of the jeep, the altitude hit us, making us feel very dizzy. We were told to make all our movements in slow motion. Our rooms were on the first floor with a majestic view of the palace, which was particularly beautiful in the mornings with the sunlight on it. Neither Brig Sajawal nor Col Faruqui were much bothered by the altitude, both being used to regular exercise. We were not so lucky and were especially troubled by headaches and muscle cramps at night. We were given leather bags filled with compressed air to inhale from, which did help a little.

In the afternoon we were taken to the nearby market. The shops were full of edibles and we bought some biscuits. The roads were lined with trees but the city was not yet properly developed. The next evening the governor hosted a dinner for us and we again had the opportunity of enjoying Chinese food. I especially remember the fresh fish from the Brahmaputra River. Tibetan food was not great and the tea made with yak butter, milk and salt took quite some getting used to. It was thick and soupy. Yak meat was tasty and the governor gave us a box of dried meat, which we all enjoyed.

On the third day we went to see Potala Palace. The road sloped up to the fourth or fifth storey. By the time we reached, our hearts were thumping painfully. The palace has walls more than a metre thick, which give excellent isolation. The inside was majestic, with thick carpets, colourful furniture, murals and paintings. Each storey was a treat to the eyes and there were Buddha statues and religious artefacts everywhere, the hall permeated by the smell of lamps burning rancid yak fat.

The High Priest offered us green tea and delicious biscuits. After a visit of about two hours we slowly made our way down the 13 storeys to the waiting cars. In the afternoon we were taken to see the Dalai Lama’s Summer Palace (Norbulingka) situated in a large garden, together with other 250-year-old villas.

The new portion of this palace was built in 1956. It was so well maintained that it seemed as if the Dalai Lama was actually living there. I felt sorry about the course history had taken. Had the Dalai Lama stayed, he could have done a lot for his people. It is said that, were he to land in Beijing today, he would be received with full protocol and allowed to play a role in the welfare of his people.

The next day we were taken to visit many local well-known monasteries, all crowded by worshippers. They contained many Sanskrit scripts and statues of the Buddha. Outside these monasteries, many worshippers were inching forward while lying flat on their stomachs, with leather patches on their knees and leather gloves on their hands for protection. The next day we visited the museum and saw Tibetan historical relics. Our daughters bought brass bells sewn onto colourful cloth and slippers made of colourful cloth with leather soles.

After an unforgettable stay of five days we returned to Beijing and then Islamabad. When we visited Lhasa, the population was about 150,000. Today it is a developed city with five-star hotels, wide metalled roads, department stores and supermarkets.

A railway line has been laid from Chengdu to Lhasa, some of it passing over extremely difficult but beautiful peaks. It is now possible to travel from Beijing to Lhasa by train.

Good governance
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07 Jun 2010
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Monday, June 07, 2010
Dr A Q Khan

The law of the land is not applicable to the select few and they openly ignore even court orders. In the olden days a Qazi would hear and decide cases quickly and fairly. Our history and traditions have many golden chapters. There were not merely a dozen or so honest, efficient rulers, but literally hundreds of them.

An efficient administrative and legal system already existed during the period of Hazrat Abu Bakr (RA), but it was Hazrat Umar (RA) who established the most efficient, honest and neutral system. Everything was properly recorded and coded and it was a complete, exemplary constitution.

In one of my previous columns I had mentioned how the Qazi, a former Turkish slave, had thrashed Ali Noshtgin, commander-in-chief of Mahmud Ghaznavi’s army, for being under the influence of alcohol. Here I would like to mention Sher Shah Suri, who had the Grand Trunk Road built from Peshawar to Calcutta. What he achieved in the five years of his rule our inept rulers have not been able to achieve in even 62 years. His minister of finance was Raja Todar Mal, who was so efficient that, years later when Akbar became emperor, he sent for Raja Todar Mal and requested him to be his minister of finance. History is witness to the prosperity and progress made during Akbar’s reign.

Let us also take a look at the excellent administrative and legal system enforced by Hazrat Umar (RA). During the short reign of Hazrat Abu Bakr (RA), Muslims were not only consolidating their rule, but also expanding their territory. Even then, law and order was supreme. When Hazrat Umar (RA) became caliph, proper and detailed laws were made and strictly enforced. Muslims ruled extensive territories from Samarqand to Armenia, Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt, Syria, etc. Just imagine, with no modern facilities such as railways, roads, vehicles, electronic communication, etc., how difficult it must have been to dispense justice to the public.

Hazrat Umar (RA) is reported to have said that, even if a dog died of hunger and thirst at the bank of the Euphrates in Baghdad, he would be held accountable by Almighty Allah. Look what is happening in Karachi and how many are held accountable! Hazrat Umar (RA) did not overlook or ignore any aspect of good governance and enforced the golden rules of Islam on every aspect of life.

Here are two instances that show just how sacred Hazrat Umar (RA) considered the rule of law and the sanctity of words to be. It is reported that Jabla bin Aiham Al-Ghassani was the king of a small state near Syria. He was originally a Christian who later embraced Islam. During the rule of Hazrat Umar (RA) he was performing Tawaf around the Kaaba. At one point a man inadvertently stepped on Jabla’s robes. The king was furious and slapped the man. The victim immediately complained to Caliph Umar (RA) who, according to the Islamic law of Qisas, gave permission to the victim to slap the king in public. The king retorted: “What kind of a religion is it that equates a king with a commoner?” Hazrat Umar (RA) said that the punishment would be duly carried out unless the victim forgave him of his own free will. The king managed to escape and upon reaching his kingdom, he abandoned Islam. Upon hearing this, Hazrat Umar (RA) remarked: “It is good that we got rid of such a vainglorious person as there is no place in Islam for such elements. Our prestige does not depend on kings’ allegiances.”

The second episode is about Harmazan, a Persian army commander who had excelled in bravery and warfare. During the rule of Hazrat Abu Bakr (RA), Muslim armies were already fighting in Persia and Iraq, but it was Hazrat Umar (RA) who put full force behind these efforts. The famous battle of Qadisiya, which put a seal on Persia’s fate, was fought. Hazrat Saad Bin Abi Waqas (RA), uncle of the Holy Prophet (PBUH), was the commander-in-chief. This battle was of great historic importance and has been described in detail by both Eastern and Western historians. Rustam was the commander-in-chief of the Persian forces.

The Persians fought bravely, but were defeated despite their numerical superiority. Many Persian commanders fought bravely, most notably Harmazan. He had inflicted heavy casualties on Muslim forces by raiding at odd hours at night. It was Wamiq Abul Hol (RA), a black burly man with a pockmarked face, who put an end to Harmazan’s adventures. Harmazan managed to slip away to Shoster, the capital of Khozistan. Mughira Bin Sha’ba (RA), governor of Basra, attacked Hurmuz (Ahwaz). After his removal by Hazrat Umar (RA), Abu Musa Ashari (RA) took charge and laid siege to Shoster. Harmazan came out of the city with a large army, attacked the Muslims, was defeated and retreated into the fort. After lengthy discussions, Harmazan agreed to surrender on condition that he was taken to Hazrat Umar (RA) and that he would accept whatever the caliph decided. Hazrat Anas (RA) took him to Madina and presented him to Hazrat Umar (RA) who was resting on the floor in Masjid-e-Nabvi.

Because Harmazan had inflicted great harm on Muslim forces and had martyred two famous Sahaba–Bara’ bin Malik (RA) and Mahrat bin Sur (RA)–in hand-to-hand combat, Hazrat Umar (RA) was furious and was determined to have him beheaded. However, for the sake of moral and legal formalities, Hazrat Umar (RA) asked him if he had any last wish. Harmazan asked for some water to drink. After having been given a bowl of water, he held it and looked around. Upon enquiry from Hazrat Umar (RA), he replied that he was afraid that his head would be chopped off while he was drinking. Hazrat Umar (RA) then promised that no harm would come to him as long as he did not drink the water. Upon hearing this, Harmazan poured the water onto the sand and said that since Hazrat Umar (RA) had made that promise, he could not be executed now.

Everyone present advised Hazrat Umar (RA) not to spare Harmazan because of this clever trick, as he was the murderer of many Muslims. However, Hazrat Umar (RA) said that, as caliph and as Muslim, he had given his word, and he therefore stood by it. He then ordered Harmazan to be set free. Thereupon, Harmazan immediately embraced Islam and Hazrat Umar (RA) often sought his advice for expeditions into Persia and surrounding areas. Now look at how our rulers, who disregard solemnly made promises without a trace of shame or repentance.

Hazrat Umar (RA) ruled for 10 years and see what he achieved in this relatively short time. When Saad Bin Abi Waqas (RA), Muar Bin Al-Aas (RA), Khalid Bin Walid (RA), Mughira Bin Sha’ba (RA), Ammar Bin Yasar (RA) and Ayaz Bin Ghanam (RA), all highly respected sahaba holding high offices, were found to have transgressed, Hazrat Umar (RA) had no hesitation in removing them from their posts. What a contrast to today’s rulers! Their cronies commit a crime for which they are convicted but then, with the stroke of a pen, they are cleared of all wrongdoing.

All this while we, the general public, can only look on aghast and pray for a miracle to happen to change the situation.

The curse of borrowing and interest
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19 Apr 2010
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Monday, April 19, 2010
Dr A Q Khan

The word “borrowing” in itself looks so simple, but it has been responsible for untold and unimaginable hardship and misery to many. Only someone who has been a victim of this curse, whether lender or borrower, knows the consequences.

Almighty Allah has clearly warned against it in the Quran:

1. As for those who devour interest, they behave as the one whom Satan has confounded with his touch. Seized in this state, they say: Buying and selling is but a kind of interest, even though Allah has made buying and selling lawful, but interest unlawful (haram). (2:275-276)

2. Believers! Have fear of Allah and give up all outstanding interest if you do truly believe. But if you fail to do so, then be warned of war (chastisement) from Allah and His Prophet. If you repent even now, you have the right of the return of your capital; neither will you do wrong nor will you be wronged. But if the debtor is in difficult circumstances, let him have respite until the time of ease, and whatever you remit by way of charity is better for you. If only you know. (2:278-280)

3. Believers! Do not devour interest, double and redoubled, and be mindful of Allah, so that you may attain true success. (3:130)

4. Whatever you pay as interest so that it may increase the wealth of people does not increase in the sight of Allah. As for the Zakat that you give, seeking with it Allah’s good pleasure, that is multiplied manifold. (3:39)

5. And for their taking interest which had been prohibited to them, and for their consuming the wealth of others wrongfully, and for the unbelievers among them, we have prepared a painful chastisement. (4:161)

Borrowing is easy, but the problems start when the time comes for repayment. We are all aware of the negative effects of borrowing and even a beggar, upon receiving alms, will pray for you by saying: “May Allah protect you from borrowing and from dependent on others.”

Despite these warnings, some people (rarely are they genuinely needy people) still buy on loan. Contrary to organised lending facilities, shopkeepers often hesitate to do so, as they usually end up losing their money. For them, lending is easier that recovering. In larger setups, thugs are hired to coerce lenders to return what they had borrowed. We have recently tried following the Indian practice of hiring khwaja saras to sit and sing in front of the houses/offices of loan defaulters in an effort to shame them into repaying their debts.

We often see that banks and other lending institutions are ruthless and harsh in recovering loans from the financially underprivileged while at the same time writing off billions of rupees in loans from the influential. The poor are often forced to sell property and or belongings to pay off Rs50,000 or so while the wealthy go off scot-free. Sometimes it even leads to suicide due to inability to repay.

There are many different kinds of borrowing, some of which can be summarised as follows:

Between shopkeeper and customer. The “borrower” here usually belongs to the low-income group. They buy at deferred payment and then pay when they receive their salaries. This kind of lending usually takes place between people who are known to each other and hinges on mutual agreement.

Between landlord and peasant. The peasant pays back the amount borrowed after selling his crop. However, here the rate of interest is always high and often not covered by the sale of crops. Often the peasant is forced to mortgage his land and ends up losing it. The entire peasant family then ends up being servants (read slaves) of the landlord. Unfortunately, this curse is quite common in Pakistan. It is not unusual to see a cruel landlord chaining the entire family and treating them as slaves. Thanks to the activities of the judiciary, such cases are now being exposed and are being dealt with severely and many families have been liberated.

• Between friends and family members. Here the victim is usually the lender, not the borrower. The borrower uses reasons of medical treatment, marriage of children, repayment of loans, etc., and promises to return the money as soon as possible. This “as soon as possible” often never materialises and the lender, poor fellow, due to many considerations, never presses the matter, thus losing his money. The borrower may then move on to his next victim.

• Between businessmen/industrialists and lending institutions. This type of borrowing is usually done very cunningly by using connections and influence and with the connivance of the lending institution. The value of the mortgaged property is estimated exorbitantly high or with insufficient collateral coverage in order to obtain a large loan. It is this abhorrent practice that is one of the main factors in breaking the back of our economy. Corrupt bankers and cunning industrialists/businessmen swallow billions of rupees every year, the latest example being that of Bank of Punjab losing almost Rs10 billion. Recently published statistics show that almost Rs100 billion was written of as “bad loans” during the Musharraf era. Over the last few decades, bad loans worth more than Rs250 billion have been written off. Ours is the only country where the writing off of loans is common practice. While the defaulters are still billionaires owning huge villas and expensive cars, the country suffers. Recently the Supreme Court has taken notice of this menace and is trying to have the money recovered. The amounts written off are from the taxpayers’ money and while the already rich benefit, the ordinary citizen gets very little return on his deposits/savings. This curse started with the nationalisation of banks and industries and the rulers appointing their relatives/friends as heads of these institutions. Now it became simply a matter of easy mutual connivance.

• Between Pakistani governments and international lending institutions. Corruption, mismanagement, the writing off of huge sums of money as bad loans, etc., has resulted in the country having to borrow billions of dollars from international institutions and foreign countries. The annual rate on these loans alone exceeds one billion dollar annually. The various institutions have a hold on us like an octopus holds its prey. We have to comply with their conditions and obey their dictates, often to the detriment of the national interest and the common man. Then there is no other option than to raise the prices of essential utilities/commodities, thus increasing the stranglehold on the poor. But then, as beggars, one can’t be choosers.

Every rational thinking Pakistani is worried. One wonders why a country with 180 million people, with many natural resources and with a reasonable number of educated and talented people should find itself in this situation. We are plagued by bad governance, corruption, nepotism, dishonesty, hoarding, adulteration, etc. In my personal opinion there are two main causes for this malady. 1) Our selfish, corrupt, bad administration, and 2) the poor performance of our financial managers. Bad governance and corruption lead to the break-up of all institutions and because of mal intent, the blessing (barkat) of Almighty Allah has disappeared. The progress, prosperity and development of a country depend on the performance of its financial institutions. In our case, both the leaders and the financial institutions have failed to deliver the desired results. All we can do is pray for a miracle, but miracles don’t happen when people indulge in wrongdoing and disobey the clear edicts of Allah.

Justice – then and now
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07 Apr 2010
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Wednesday, April 07, 2010
Dr A Q Khan

In my column of Jan 28 I had written about Hazrat Umar (RA) who had informed his own son of the severe reprimand he got from Allah for the defective bridge built in Baghdad during his rule in which a goat had broken its leg. Hazrat Umar (RA) is reported to have said that even if a dog died of hunger on the bank of the Dajla (Tigris), he would be taken to task for it.

Contrast this to the situation nowadays. People are without food, water and electricity hardly a kilometre from the palaces of the rulers. Lavish lifestyles and foreign tours cost the exchequer millions of rupees, with the rulers totally ignoring the literally starving masses in the country.

Our Islamic history has many golden chapters of good governance and justice. It is all there as an example for us to act accordingly. We know that the USA has many Nobel laureates in economics, but that has not stopped the country from being almost bankrupt and asking other countries to bail it out. Were it not for its natural resources, the United States would have been totally bankrupt by now and perhaps disintegrated into individual states.

Many other Muslim rulers are famous for justice. Hazrat Umar bin Abdul Aziz (RA), Haroon Al-Rashid, Mahmood Ghaznavi, Alauddin Khilji, etc., all left a treasure of good governance and justice. Were our present rulers to follow this age-old tradition, we would come out of the precarious situation we are facing.

During the period of Haroon Al-Rashid, his Qazi was famous for his honest and quick decisions. His memoirs were so interesting that they were translated by the British and published as Reminiscences of a Mesopotamian Judge. One of the stories he told was related to an inspection tour to some far off place. The people there were very pleased and thanked him for having appointed a very honest Qazi. On hearing that, he held his head in both hands and thought: “Oh my Lord! Is it possible to have a dishonest Qazi?” I wish we could say the same today.

In that same column I had written about an adjudicator of justice and a famous administrator – Nizamul Mulk Toosi and Chanakya. The latter was the prime minister of Raja Chandra Gupt Mauria, was very clever and a great planner. He managed to get the Nanda dynasty wiped out through his intrigues. Chanakya’s treatise on state administration was known as Arth Shastra and was translated into Urdu by Shanul Haq Haqqee and printed by Mr Ismail Zabi. Chanakya’s policies and tactics were mostly based on unethical principles. It is believed that the Italian statesman and author Nicolo Machiavelli’s book The Prince (1532) was based on Chanakya’s Arth Shastra. His name and tactics are synonymous with cunning, scheming and unscrupulous behaviour in politics and business.

Nizamul Mulk Toosi was the prime minister first of Seljuk Sultan Alp Arsalan and then of his illustrious son, Sultan Malik Shah. He was a very competent, honest and efficient administrator. He wrote two treatises on administrative policies and methods for the benefit of Muslim rulers. These books, Siasat Nama and Dasturul Vuzara are internationally acclaimed as masterpieces. Both are based on truth, honesty, Quranic edicts, Hadiths and the Shariah. This noble person was murdered by a follower of Hasan bin Sabbah, who was out to destroy the stability and the very existence of Islamic dynasties. In his books, Nazimul Mulk Toosi mentioned many very interesting and eye-opening episodes regarding justice. Here I would like to tell the one related to Sultan Mahmood Ghaznavi.

Once Mahmood Ghaznavi and his companions listened to music and drank the whole night. Mahmood’s commander-in-chief, Ali Noshtgin, and Muhammad Arabi drank excessively. Before dawn broke they were fast asleep and when they rose at about 10 a.m. Ali Noshtgin asked Mahmood for permission to go home. He was still drunk and his behaviour was erratic. Mahmood advised him to relax till Zuhar prayers and then go home, as by that time the influence of the alcohol would have worn off. If he went out in his present condition the Qazi might catch him and punish him according to Shariah.

Noshtgin thought that since he was the commander-in-chief nobody would dare touch him. In his arrogance he left the palace, ignoring Mahmood’s advice. He had only gone a short distance with his soldiers and servants when the Qazi, a former slave, came upon him and, seeing that he was drunk, intercepted him. He told his guards to take Noshtgin off his horse and he himself whipped a screaming Noshtgin black and blue. The Qazi left him lying there. His servants took him home and treated his wounds. After a few days, when Noshtgin went to see Mahmood, the Sultan asked him what happened. Noshtgin told him and showed him his back, which was still sore and bruised. Mahmood smiled and said that a just and honest punishment had been carried out with justice applicable to all without discrimination. He said that had even he been caught in that condition, he would have been treated in the same way. Alhamdulillah.

The second story is about a fifth-generation descendent of Mahmood, the Sultan Ibrahim Ghaznavi, who was also famous for his justice and good governance. It so happened that all bakeries were closed and bread was scarce. People were facing hardships because of it and complained to the sultan. Upon enquiry he was informed by the bakers that all the wheat and flour that was being brought to the city by the farmers was being forcefully bought by the supervisors of the royal kitchen and bakers were not able to buy even small quantities. Ibrahim Ghaznavi became very angry and ordered his guards to fetch the supervisor, throw him in front of an elephant and then tie his mutilated body to the tusks of the elephant and allow it to roam the city for all to see. By evening there was an abundance of bread in the bakeries and flour in stock!

These two stories have been told to illustrate how our rulers and judges of yore dispensed justice and practiced good governance. The system was applied without fear, discrimination or undue delay. Nowadays people have lost faith in receiving quick, fair justice and the words “good governance” no longer exist. The remedy lies in strict and severe laws to be promulgated by our lawmakers and their strict and exemplary application by our judiciary.

Presently there is neither the will nor the application to do so. Recently, hoarders of sugar and flour caused unimaginable hardships to the poor public while allowing some to become billionaires overnight. Mill-owners from the ruling party and the opposition alike made profit. The judiciary was helpless in the absence of stringent measures that could be applied. It could deal with the menace only to a limited extent.

Nazimul Mulk Toosi had warned that a heavenly curse and worldly problems are the forerunner of the decay and fall of a nation. The best period in any nation’s history is when just, honest and efficient rulers are in charge. Since the demise of the Quaid-e-Azam we have not seen anyone without ulterior motives. There seems, for the time being anyway, no change forthcoming.

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