Archive for December, 2009

Dear Compatriots,

It gives us immense pleasure and infests in us, immense pride – to announce the winners of Iqbal’s Day Poetry Competition. Winners would get Rs. 10,000 each and runners up will be given a collection of Iqbal’s Poetry.

Category English – 1st Prize – Farah Scheikh ” Words of our tears ” – She writes: ” But We’ll show to the world that Pakistanis never kneel “ – Read her complete piece at: http://pya.org.pk/inquilaab/iqbals-day-poetry-competition-09/winner-of-category-english-farah-scheik/

Category English – Runner up – Arifa Batool ” Crescent Nation’s Adversity Times ” – Her short poem addresses the current wave of terrorism and she delivers a wonderful message of hope: ” Five ants are seen stuck under, the famous American dime. Pathan, Kashmiri, Punjabi, Sindhi, Balochi – each ant a paradigm “. Read her piece at: http://pya.org.pk/inquilaab/iqbals-day-poetry-competition-09/runner-up-english-arifa-batool/

Category Urdu – 1st Prize – Asmarah Khan with her ” Utho Loogon ” – ” Tumharay khoon ki mae peenay ku hai ab pher say yeh dharti ; Tumharay Ishq ki lazzat say isku chor huna hai “http://pya.org.pk/inquilaab/iqbals-day-poetry-competition-09/winner-of-idpc-09-urdu-asmarah-khan/

Category Urdu – Runner up – Arsalan Abbas with his ” Yeh boo hai ju baarood e inquilaab may hai “http://pya.org.pk/inquilaab/iqbals-day-poetry-competition-09/runner-up-urdu-arsalan-abbas/

Last but not the least, may first dawn of new year bring the much needed bliss in our land of pure. May the sun-rise for the first time in 2010 tomorrow with a message of hope and determination, may it inculcate the spirit of “revival ” – May the blood soaked streets of Pakistan echo of “hope” – May Lord give us the strength and courage to hoist the flag of Pakistan at newer heights. May the flag always sour high and keep melting our hearts and guiding our souls.

Lets spare a moment in our busy lives for the prayer of hope. ” Dil say ju baat nikalti hai asar rakhti hai, par nahi taqat e parvaaz magar rakhti hai! “


Pakistan Youth Alliance

Fanpage: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Pakistan-Youth-Alliance/125954437061

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Mystifying is the turn of time, indeed. The same Allama Iqbal who was given fatwa’s on, by his contemporary “Mullahs” is now quoted by well-reputed Mullahs of the same school of thought.

The same Bulleh Shah, who had been refused by the mullahs to be buried after his death in the community graveyard because of his unorthodox views, today enjoys worldwide reverence and is quoted by contemporary mullahs. The tomb of Bulleh Shah in Qasur and the area around it is today the only place free of collective refuse, and the privileged of the city pay handsomely to be buried in the proximity of the man they had once rejected.

Maulana Rum (aka Rumi), who was condemned as a kaafir, is not only the top selling poet across the globe but is held in high reverence by people of all religions.

I have written on this topic previously, the verses of Bulleh Shah force me to write again. Every word that was misinterpreted by mullahs, can serve a cure for all the ills we are facing in our times.

Chal Way Bullehya Chal O’thay Chaliyay
Jithay Saaray Annay
Na Koi Saadee Zaat PichHanay
Tay Na Koi Saanu Mannay
O’ Bulleh Shah let’s go there
Where everyone is blind
Where no one recognizes our caste (or race, or family name)
And where no one believes in us
Masjid Dha Day, Mandir Dha Day
Dha Day Jo Kujh Disda
Par Kissay Da Dil Na Dhawee(n)
Rub Dilaa(n) Wich Wasda
Tear down the Mosque, tear down the temple
Tear down every thing in sight
But don’t (tear down) break anyone’s heart
Because God lives there
Hindu na nahi musalmaan,
Baheeye tiranjan taj abhimaan.
Sunni na naheeN ham sheeya
Sulha kuhl ka maarag leeya.
Neither Hindu nor Muslim,
Sacrificing pride, let us sit together.
Neither Sunni nor Shia,
Let us walk the road of peace.


Props to Junoon, Rabbi, Abida Parveen, Saeen Zahoor and other musicians of our times for helping the new generation in rediscovering the message of Bulleh Shah. Junoon started the trend and was labeled as “Sufi Rock Band” – The message that pierced my heart was through them, when I was 12.

This first aspect of Bulleh Shah’s poetry and philosophy that strikes upfront is his bold and almost arrogant critique of the religious orthodoxy of his day; specifically the Islamic religious orthodoxy. His poetry is filled with direct attacks on anyone claiming control over religion.

Mulla tay mashaalchi dohaan ikko chit
Loukan karday chananan, aap anhairae vich
Mullah and the torch-bearer, both from the same flock
Trying to give light to others; themselves in the dark 


Bulleh Shah’s poetry portray him as a humanist. Someone providing solutions to the sociological/political/cultural problems of the world around him, describing the turbulence his homeland of Punjab is passing through, while simultaneously searching for God. His poetry highlights his mystical spiritual journey through the four stages of Sufism – Shariat (Path), Tariqat (Observance), Haqiqat (Truth) and Marfat (Union). He starts from the rules as laid down by Islam, and eventually ends up at a point where he accepts the existence of God, everywhere, with no discrimination between different religions, finally becoming one with God.

Pointing at someone else’s faith would only unveil how weak your faith is. Picking up guns, instead of pens to enforce your way of thinking would never have an effect that the likes of Bulleh Shah had through his soul-searching and heart-melting poetry.

Islam was never spread by sword. It wouldn’t be the fastest growing religion on earth if that were the case. Islam is spread by the message of love and by deeds, not the way Taliban “ENFORCE” it.

Lord Almighty Himself says:

There shall be no compulsion in religion – [2:256]

I cannot help pasting the verse below:

Bulleh-a aashiq hoyiyon Rabb da, Hoai Malamat Lakh
Tenon Kafir Kafir aakhdey, toon aaho aaho aakh

O Bulleh, just love your God and ignore the chidings
When they say you are an infidel, say “yes I am one”


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Teray wajud key ahsas ku aamm kardoun ga
Kitab-e-zeest ka har warq aamm kardoun ga
Zau-e-aftaab-e-hiraas kab talaq asar dikhae ge
Abr-e-imaan ki chaon say shamm kardoun ga

Likhta rahoun ga wuhi ju tu dikhlae ga
Har lafz, har nuqta teray naam kardoun ga
Teray ishq-o-chahat key ghum key siva
Har ghum teray darbar may neelaam kardoun ga

Aur wuh ju sitar ku bait-e-shaitaan kehtay hain
Aaghaaz ku hi apna anjaam kehtay hain
Unki bay rung-o-sur mahfil-e-jehl mayn
Naghma-e-tauheed ka ahtemaam kadoun ga
Meray khuda may kuch aisa kaam kardoun ga
Key teri makhlouq may saqi ku amm kardoun ga

Teray wajud key ahsas ku aamm kardoun ga

– Syed Ali Abbas Zaidi

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Truly, Mullah Sufi is an intriguing name. Intriguing because history of Islam is full battles between Sufis and Mullahs, both critical of each other to every extent possible One would like to meet Mullah Sufi of the Swat-fame and inquire as to what are his thoughts regarding this undeniable clash between mystical and orthodox Islam. He might give a fatwa therein declaring Sufis as heretics and non-Muslims or He might claim to be a bridge between the two extremes. The latter seems very ambitious after his recent comments on who-so-ever disagrees with the system he proposes, so one would stick to the first assumption till of course, further clarified or one is publicly hanged in Jinnah Super market for defaming and degrading the Holy Amir that is if his Talibs manage to Talibanize Islamabad. [this article was written in 2009 when Taliban threatened to take over Islamabad]

In this temporary world, opposites play out their part in light and darkness, in pain and laughter, in hate and love, in evil and good, in difficulty and ease, and in midst of it we have been asked to establish the good measure i.e “ mizan “. Ever since the first human was crafted out of clay, God had injected the skill to discern between two extremes, and asked His “Vicegerents” to maintain balance.

There has been a bombardment of articles on national and international level debating on how Sufism can be used as an anti-dote to the venom of Talibanization. The debate though old, now has a new dimension and is receiving unprecedented attention because extremism has never threatened Islam they way it does now.

Sufism is not a sect, but a mystical side of Islam – a personal, experiential and spiritual approach to Allah, which contrasts with the rigid, doctrinal approach of fundamentalist Islam popular in Taliban, and its offshoots. Sufis – commonly known by their spiritual poetry, prose, miracles and Sufi orders have had reservations against the segment of Muslim community claiming to be caretakers of Islam for them Mullahs deem whatever necessary to impose their version of Islam. Usually referred to as “Mullah” in their poetry, which symbolizes a bearded – greedy for wealth and fame- clergy having studied Quran and Sunnah in its literal form, without insight and understanding the inner meaning.

Dr. Muhammad Iqbal who was ardent follower of Rumi, perhaps the greatest Sufi poet of all time, openly criticized the self-proclaimed guides of the religion. However, it is satirical that mullahs of the same breed quote verses of Iqbal to support their pose, yet his poetry is filled with open disapproval of them. Here he bashes out at Mullahs in his famous “The Mullah and the Paradise”

When in a vision I saw
A mullah ordered to paradise,
Unable to hold my tongue
I said something in this wise:

‘Pardon me, O Lord
For these bold words of mine,
But he will not be pleased
With houris and the wine

He loves to dispute and fight
And furiously wrangle,
But paradise is no place
For this kind of jangle

His task is to dis-unite
And leave people in the lurch,
But paradise has no temple
No mosque and no church

It is also interesting to note here, that apparently, Iqbal’s acclaimed “Reformation of Religious Thought in Islam” is banned in Saudi Arabia. [KSA propagates Wahhabism]

Bulleh Shah, the famous sufi from Punjab was quite innovative in his scathing about them and here, compares and un-enlightened “Mullah” with a dog.

[He] Read a lot and became a scholar
But [he] never read himself
[He] enters into the temple & mosque
But [he] never entered into his own heart
He fights with the devil every day for nothing
He never wrestled with his own ego
Bulleh Shah, he grabs for heavenly flying things
But doesn’t grasp the one who’s sitting at home
Religious scholars stay awake at night
But dogs stay awake at night, higher than you
They don’t cease from barking at night
Then they go sleep in yards, higher than you
They [dogs] don’t leave the beloved’s doorstep
Even if they’re beaten hundreds of times, higher than you
Bulleh Shah get up and make up with the beloved
Otherwise dogs will win the contest, better than you

Another famous couplet:

The mullah and the torch-bearer
Hail from the same stock;
They give light to others,
And themselves are in the dark.

Though Sufis only used their words to denounce extremism, from the other end there was a more violent reaction and they were persecuted, denounced, exiled, imprisoned and in some cases even hanged or killed. Most of the times for political benefits when kings feared massive uprising of the public owing to enormous following of Sufis, they preferred to wipe out Sufi leaders but never managed to completely root out Sufism. Sufis always managed to inspire crowds by their deeds, and that is what differentiated them from theologians and jurists. A Famous Sufi was once guilty of breaking air (fart), as a woman visited him for advice. The Sufi was so cautious of making her feel uncomfortable, that he pretended to be deaf not only in front of her but all his remaining life. As neither would she find out, nor would her heart break. There are other countless examples of their humility and height of religious piety, so much so that books of history are full of miracles associated with them.

Mullahs on the other end, claimed to be the final authority what-so-ever on religion. Their interpretations of Quran and Sunnah were more literal, thus making Islamic Law quite extreme. They never matched Sufis in humility and deeds, and wasted more of their time in instigating violence by preaching hatred than love amongst the various segments of society

Islam was spread by practical example, and thus the Sufis played a pivotal role in attracting people to Islam. However, the popular support of Sufis among the common people raised eyebrows in the ranks of clergy as it challenged their authority as caretakers of Islam. The bias between inner and outer understanding of the true way of Islam, aroused clashes between orthodox religious scholars and the Sufis, both claimed to follow the true path, but their understanding differed, and therefore their schools of thought became exclusive. The clashes were often recurring and which symbolized the polarity of the outer law and the inner reality. Because everything is created in pairs, outer perception cannot be perfected without inner reality, and therefore, a dive into inner reality can only transform the outer understanding. Islam also lays importance on “acknowledging with heart” before “acting with the limbs” which underlines the importance of recognizing the truth and reality of faith in the deepest realms of human awareness. After inner-awareness one is asked to articulate the inner faith to rational speech. And the last stage of this process, “acting with the limbs” is the domain of jurists, which cannot be perfected if two steps mentioned above are not perfected.

On needs to understand the essence of Sufism as being the mystical and non-violent tradition which has been present since the inception of Islam. The very word “Sufi” derives from the word “wool/Suuf in Arabic” which represented the coarse woolen clothes worn by Prophet’s (PBHU) companions. One of the earliest peers of Sufi tradtion, Rabia Al Basri was a female who was an exponent true “Love”. On the other hand, the extremist element with-in Islam has been present for centuries and its recently evolved form can be termed as talibanization. One side has always advocated a softer, more liberal and spiritual version of Islam beyond sects, creed, color and even religions. The other side, however, claimed everyone except their followers as heretics and infidels. One side attracted a huge following in not only Muslim but Non Muslim communities (Rumi is the top selling poet in US for years now) because of its tolerant approach to religion as being a personal matter. The other side waged a war against everyone not coherent with their beliefs. The notion of Islam being spread by sword was negated when Sufis entered sub-continent and inspired millions with their humility, piety and spiritual interpretation of Islam, and thus the number of Muslims multiplied and it became the second most popular religion in the region. Pakistan and Sufism share an inseparable and ingrained connection with one another which is still far more popular than the extremist version, having millions of followers and hundreds of shrines of revered saints through out the country. (very recently Urs of a famous Sufi saint attracted 300000 people as compared to Mullah Sufi’s address which had around 3000)

Whilst Sufis preach to see God in everything and everyone, respect other belief systems and try to self-evaluate before preaching, Mullahs tend to enforce their version of Shariah, by hook or crook. The latter aim to establish puritanical form of Caliphate that neither recognizes nor tolerates any other school of thought. They despise democracy, secularism, women’s rights and propagate an extremist mindset more strident and hard lined than any of the known traditions of Islam. However, it should be noted here, that over the years appearance of pseudo-Sufis has considerably maligned the beauty and essence of true Sufism and deviates from Islam in its practices. The dope smoking wanna-be Sufis who get money for spiritually helping someone are even more dangerous than contemporary extremism. These fake Pirs or Guides distort the real Sufism to gain personal benefits.

Often misunderstood for their use of metaphors, Sufis claiming to be drunk in the wine of divine love, don’t cherish anything material or worldly as they long for re-union with their beloved and on the other hand, the militant clergy always found guilty of feeding their curvy bellies and reaping monetary as well as political benefits from their version of “Jihad” which not only includes public butcher of who so ever dares to speak against them, but also burning down schools and snatching every right of women in this modern world in which more than 50 % population comprises of the fairer sex.

The Sufis were always aloof of intrigues, despite of a bigger following and by denying riches and power over the years, they won hearts rather than conquering lands and shedding blood in the name of religion, which in the long run – did more damage than good to Islam on the whole. The famous Sufi of Shiraz, Sheikh Saadi seconds the view:

Dominion of world from end to end
Is worth less than a drop of blood on earth

The recent attack on a Sufi saint’s (Rehman Baba) shrine in Peshawar points at an inevitable battle of ideologies and juxtaposition of an already paradoxical rift between fundamentalism in Islam and Sufism. We would witness the climax, if these Jihadis enter the more populated and more tolerant provinces of Sindh and Punjab, where Sufism has a tremendous following and urs of famous Sufis like Shahbaz Qalandar and Ali Hajveri attract millions. How would the tolerant crowd counter the violent backlash of misinterpreted shariah? Only time will tell.

The same paradox in contemporary times is underlined by Aitezaz Ahsan in “Kal aj aur kal” when he says:

On one side, (Sufis) Sachal and Bahu
On the other side, (Mullahs) clergy and tradition

West, after helping in creating the extremist version of Islam now contemplates to counter it through propagating pseudo-Sufism, which would further deteriorate the state of affairs in the Islamic world. Hence, we Muslims need to be more aware and pro-active, as our society is still in painful transformation and it will still take years for a stable and peaceful Islamic world. We need to denounce extremism in all its forms and manifestations and also, condemn the notions of pseudo Sufism because very soon, we will have to make the choice. On one end is Mullah Sufi declaring everything except his way “Haraam” whilst on the other Maulana Rumi propagates tolerance:

Come, come, who ever you are,
Wonderer, worshipper, lover of leaving,
It doesn’t matter!
Ours is not a caravan of despair,
Come, even if you have broken your vow a thousand times
Come, yet again, come, come!

Syed Ali Abbas ZaidI

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Yes, the moments of sheer pindrop silence arrive. In a personal debate or public meeting, such moments leave us speechless. A few incidents are related:

A story is told that one public challenge to Rumi came from a Muslim dignitary, Qonavi, who confronted Rumi before an audience. “You claim to be at one with 72 religious sects,” said Qonavi, “but the Jews cannot agree with the Christians, and the Christians cannot agree with Muslims. If they cannot agree with each other, how could you agree with them all?” To this Rumi answered,

“Yes, you are right, I agree with you too.”

There was pin drop silence after it.

Veer Savarkar once started addressing a public meeting in Hindi at Bangalore.
The crowd started shouting ” Speak in Kannada. We will hear only in kannada.”

Veer Savarkar replied ” Friends, I have spent 14 years of rigorous imprisonment in ill famous Andaman Jail where all freedom fighters were kept in jail. I have learned Bengali from the freedom fighters coming from Bengal, Hindi from those coming from Uttar Pradesh, even Guajarati and Punjabi. Unfortunately there was none from Karnataka from whom I could have learned Kannada.”
…and there was pin drop silence.  

At a time when the US President and other US politicians tend to apologize for their country’s prior actions, here’s a refresher on howsome former US personnel handled negative comments about the United States.

JFK’S Secretary of State, Dean Rusk, was in France in the early 60’s when Charles DeGaule, the French President, decided to pull out of NATO.
DeGaule said he wanted all US military out of France as soon as possible.

Rusk responded “does that include those who are buried here?

DeGaule did not respond.
You could have heard a pin drop.
When in England , at a fairly large conference, Colin Powell was asked by the Archbishop of Canterbury
if US plans for Iraq were just an example of empire building by George Bush.
He answered by saying, ‘Over the years, the United States has sent many of its fine young men and women into great peril
to fight for freedom beyond our borders. The only amount of land we have ever asked for in return is enough to bury those that did not return.’
You could have heard a pin drop.
There was a conference in France where a number of international engineers were taking part, including French and American.
During a break, one of the French engineers came back into the room saying ‘Have you heard the latest dumb stunt Bush has done? He has sent an aircraft carrier to Indonesia to help the tsunami victims.  What does he intended to do, bomb them?’

A Boeing engineer stood up and replied quietly: ‘Our carriers have three hospitals on board that can treat several hundred people; they are nuclear powered and can supply emergency  electrical power to shore facilities; they have three  cafeterias with the capacity to feed 3,000 people three meals a day, they can produce several thousand gallons of fresh water from sea water each day, and they carry half a dozen helicopters for use in transporting victims and injured to and from their flight deck.  We have eleven such ships; how many does France have?’
You could have heard a pin drop.
A U.S. Navy Admiral was attending a naval conference that included Admirals from the U.S. , English, Canadian, Australian and French Navies.
At a cocktail reception, he found himself standing with a large group of Officers that included personnel from most of those countries.
Everyone was chatting away in English as they sipped their drinks when a French admiral suddenly complained that,
whereas Europeans learn many languages, Americans learn only English.
He then asked, ‘Why is it that we always have to speak English in these conferences rather than speaking French?’

Without hesitating, the American Admiral replied, ‘Maybe it’s because the Brit’s, Canadians, Aussie’s and Americans arranged it so you wouldn’t have to speak German.’
You could have heard a pin drop.
Robert Whiting , an elderly US gentleman of 83, arrived in Paris by plane.
At French Customs, he took a few minutes to locate his passport in his carry on.
“You have been to France before, monsieur?” the customs officer asked  sarcastically.
Mr. Whiting admitted that he had been to France previously.
“Then you should know enough to have your passport ready.”
The American said, ‘The last time I was here, I didn’t have to show it.”
“Impossible. Americans always have to show your passports on arrival in France !”
The American senior gave the Frenchman a long hard  look.
Then he quietly explained, ”Well, when I came ashore at Omaha Beach on D-Day in 1944 to help liberate this country,
I couldn’t find a single Frenchman to show a passport to.”

 You could have heard a pin drop.

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The ways may vary, but the goal is one. Don’t you see that there are many roads to the Kaaba? For some the road is from Rum, for some from Syria, others come from Persia or China or by sea from India and Yemen. So if you consider the roads, they are beyond counting, with infinite differences. But when you consider the goal they are all in accord with one desire.

The hearts of all are upon the Kaaba. The hearts are one in their longing and love for the Kaaba, and in that there is no room for separation. That love is neither belief nor non-belief, for it has nothing to do with the various roads. Once we arrive, this argument and war and those differences in the roads – this woman saying to that man, “You are false, you are an infidel,” and that man saying the same about her – once we arrive at the Kaaba, we realize that such fighting is over the roads only, and that the goal of all is the same.

For instance, a bowl’s spirit is in love with its maker, and is a slave to those hands that fashion it. Yet some see this bowl and say it should be placed just as it is on the table. Some say the inside of it should be washed first, some say the outside of it must be cleaned. Some say all of it, some say it must never be washed at all. The diversity of opinion comes from the bowl’s many uses, but as to the fact that the bowl certainly had a creator who fashioned it, and that it did not come into existence of itself, on this all agree.

– Extracted from ” Fihi Ma Fihi ” – It is What it is – Discourses of Rumi

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Humor cannot be banned; it is intrinsic to human nature and no matter how “serious” we pretend to be, in the back of our minds, something “humorous” pops up which makes us giggle. As a complete system of thought, Nasrudin pinches us with humor and exists at so many depths that he cannot be killed. He addresses the burning issues of our society, culture, religion and norms and finds a way to tickle our thoughts whilst making us think at the same time.

Nasrudin said that he considered himself upside down in this world, argues one scholar; and from this he infers that the supposed date of Nasrudin’s death, on his ‘tombstone,’ should be read not as 386, but 683.

Another professor feels that the Arabic numerals used would, if truly reversed, look more like the figures 274. He gravely records that a dervish to whom he appealed for aid in this “…merely said, ‘Why not drop a spider in some ink and see what marks he makes in crawling out of it. This should give the correct date or show something.'”

In fact, 386 means 300+80+6. Transposed into Arabic letters, this decodes as SH, W, F, which spells the word ShaWaF: ‘to cause someone to see, to show a thing.’ The dervish’s spider would ‘show’ something, as he himself said.

Mulla Nasruddin – Keeper of Faith In Turkey, where some people allege Nasruddin is buried, there are HUGE locked gates at his grave site. Yet his headstone reads – “Sometimes you do not need a key to get through gates. All you need to do is walk around them as there are no walls.” – “The Sufis” by Idries Shah

Once, when Mullah Nasruddin was visiting a Western town

Once, when Mullah Nasruddin was visiting a Western town, he was invited to attend a fashion show. He went, and afterwards he was asked how he liked it. “It’s a complete swindle!” he exclaimed indignantly. “Whatever do you mean?” he was asked. “They show you the women – and then try to sell you the clothes!”

Mulla Nasrudin – All the great rulers of the past had honorific titles

Mulla Nasrudin – A certain conqueror said to Nasruddin: “Mulla, all the great rulers of the past had honorific titles with the name of God in them: there was, for instance, God-Gifted, and God-Accepted, and so on. How about some such name for me?” “God Forbid,” said Nasruddin.

Mulla Nasruddin nearly fell into a pool one day

Obligation Nasruddin nearly fell into a pool one day. A man whom he knew slightly was nearby, and saved him.

Every time he met nasruddin after that he would remind him of the service which he had performed. when this had happened several times nasruddin took him to the water, jumped in, stood with his head just above water and shouted: “Now I am as wet as I would have been if you had not saved me! Leave me alone.”

Mullah Nasruddin – Moon is more useful than the Sun

More Useful One day Mullah Nasruddin entered his favorite teahouse and said: ‘The moon is more useful than the sun’. An old man asked ‘Why mulla?’ Nasruddin replied ‘We need the light more during the night than during the day.’

Mulla Nasruddin started making arrangement for his funeral

Mullah Nasrudin had become old and was afraid that he can die any moment. Nasruddin started making arrangement for his funeral, So he ordered a beautiful coffin made of ebony wood with satin pillows inside. He also had a beautiful silk caftan made for his dead body to be dressed in.

The day the tailor delivered the caftan, Mulla Nasruddin tried it on to see how it would look, but suddenly he exclaimed, “What is this! Where are the pockets?”

Where is God Not (retold by Nasruddin)

My beloveds, I traveled again to the village of my friend Tekka, after years away. He had become very devout in his ways, sometimes a little pompous, but still the kind soul I had loved for years.

I visited him, and we picked up our friendship as if we had never been apart.

“Nasruddin, you are a light to the eyes,” said Tekka, “Please stay with me. I insist.”

I accepted his kind invitation. He showed me my sleeping room, with a window to the east, and the bed made up. “I have arranged it so your head faces toward Mecca,” he said proudly. “You must always sleep with your head toward Mecca, out of respect for the Prophet, on whom be peace.”

My first night, I tossed and turned, and finally fell asleep. I am apparently an active sleeper, for when Tekka shook me awake the next morning, he was very agitated.

“Nasruddin, I am disappointed in you!” I looked at myself, and said, “I am often disappointed in myself, Tekka, what seems to be today’s problem?”

“You have slept with your feet toward Mecca! This is most disrespectful!”

“My apologies, Tekka, it was unintentional. I am a very active sleeper.”

Tekka was mollified, but insisted that the next night I must do better. I promised I would.

The next night resembled the first. I slept well, after some tossing and turning, but awoke to find my feet on my pillow and my head resting on the floor at the end of the sleeping mat. Just as I realized my predicament, Tekka stood in the door and clucked in concern.

“This will never do, Nasruddin. I am a good citizen and a good Muslim. You must sleep with your feet pointing the opposite way from Mecca, and your head pointing toward Mecca, out of respect for the Prophet and devotion to Allah.”

“What is your reason for insisting on this, my friend?” I asked.

“You must not point your feet toward God!” he said, and repeated it. “You must point your head toward God and your feet away from Him.”

I thought about this. We spent the day together, and that night Tekka was most emphatic. “Nasruddin,” he said, “If you cannot sleep with your head toward God, I regret to say I cannot have you in my house. It pains me to say this to an old friend, but my devotion is to Allah.”

The third night was much like the other two, except that this time I awoke with my nose pressed against the floor at the foot of the sleeping mat. It was pushed out of shape, and I was rubbing it when Tekka appeared. His face was clouded with anger and sadness.

“Before you speak, Tekka, answer me this,” I said, springing up. “Does Allah rule over everything, even the fate of men?”

“You know he does,” replied Tekka, puzzled.

“Is Allah there in every part of His creation?”

“Of course he is!”

I pointed out the window at the birds rising from the edge of the well. “Does he live in the birds of the air?”

“Yes,” said Tekka. “Why are you asking these questions?”

“Please have patience with an old friend,” I replied. “Is Allah everywhere, even across the desert and the mountains?”

“Allah is the creation. Allah is in the creation, and is the lord over the creation!” exclaimed Tekka.

“So, Tekka,” I said, holding out my feet. “Point my feet where God is not!”

Humble (retold by Nasruddin)

My beloveds, I remember a time long ago when I was still a Mulla. I lived in a small town, just big enough for a real mosque, with a beautiful mosaic wall. I remember one evening, we had finished our prayers. The stars were clear and bright, and seemed to fill the sky solidly with lights. I stood at the window, gazing at the lights so far away, each one bigger than our world, and so distant from us across vast reaches of space. I thought of how we walk this earth, filled with our own importance, when we are just specks of dust. If you walk out to the cliffs outside the town, a walk of half an hour at most, you look back and you can see the town, but the people are too small to see, even at that meager distance. When I think of the immensity of the universe, I am filled with awe and reverece for power so great.

I was thinking such thoughts, looking out the window of the mosque, and I realized I had fallen to my knees. “I am nothing, nothing!” I cried, amazed and awestruck.

There was a certain well-to-do man of the town, a kind man who wished to be thought very devout. He cared more for what people thought of him than for what he actually was. He happened to walk in and he saw and heard what passed. My beloveds, I was a little shy at being caught in such a moment, but he rushed down, looking around in the obvious hope someone was there to see him. He knelt beside me, and with a final hopeful glance at the door through which he had just come, he cried,

“I am nothing! I am nothing!”

It appears that the man who sweeps, a poor man from the edge of the village, had entered the side door with his broom to begin his night’s work. He had seen us, and being a man of true faith and honest simplicity, his face showed that he entertained some of the same thoughts that had been laid on me by the hand of Allah (wonderful is He). He dropped his broom and fell to his knees up there in a shadowed corner, and said softly,

“I am nothing…I am nothing!”

The well-to-do man next to me nudged me with his elbow and said out of the side of his mouth,

“Look who thinks he’s nothing!”

Every story of Mullah NasrUddin has hidden wisdom, research on him and his rather, funny but real stories and you will call him with same title this post has. ” The Mad Mullah With The Torch “

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Democracy or dictatorship?

Thursday, November 26, 2009
Ijaz Tabassum, in his letter of November 22, has recommended that we should bring back Musharraf. I will go a step further and recommend that military rule should, through a constitutional amendment if need be, return legally for a limited period with checks and balances. The problem with democratic governments is that they remain under pressure to go with what the majority of the citizens want, not what is best for them. If the majority wants that babies should be given cigarettes, babies will be given cigarettes. Civilians have ruled us for more than 20 years now, and during this period we have seen loot, plunder, crookedness and every type of fraudulency under the sun. Only two former military officers are listed among the hundreds of NRO beneficiaries. People of several South American countries, which have returned to civilian rule after a long time, are now beginning to feel they were better off under dictatorships.

Ayub Khan was ruling Pakistan when I was a child. Whenever foreign dignitaries visited Pakistan (among them were President Eisenhower, Queen Elizabeth, the Shah of Iran, Vice President Lyndon B Johnson and others) they used to ride in an open horse-driven carriage with our president in Karachi (our capital at that time) on an immaculately clean Elphinstone Street (now the filthy Zebunnisa Street). People used to shower flowers on them from the side buildings. There were no police. I used to accompany my father to see them, and often they stopped the carriage to shake hands with the people lining the street just ten feet away. Invite President Obama now to do the same. I will eat my shoes if he can do it.

I say, first bring back Ayub Khan and his chosen governor of West Pakistan, Nawab Amir Mohammad Khan of Kalabagh. Musharraf can follow.

Commodore (r) Parvez Iqbal



Saturday, November 28, 2009
Commodore (r) Parvez Iqbal in his letter titled “Democracy or dictatorship” (November 26) has suggested that military rule should return legally for a limited period with checks and balances. He has also claimed that during the civilian rule the nation has seen loot, plunder, crookedness and every type of fraudulency. In my view the retired commodore has mixed up the conduct of certain politicians with the system of governance. I would suggest that the writer should carefully go through the contents of the article by Kamila Hyat (November 26) wherein she has very lucidly explained how democracies have done wonders in India, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore and Bolivia. May I request the writer to look at the list of corrupt countries brought out by Transparency International and see for himself that the countries at the bottom are all democratic while the ones at the top have a weak democratic system?

Despite a high level of corruption in Pakistan, at least there is uproar in parliament as well as in the press on this problem and the prime minister has to respond to the questions being raised by the opposition relating to illegal appointments and promotions and other allegations of corruption. On the contrary, all the dictators in Pakistan appointed their cronies in lucrative positions without any questions asked. May I ask the writer whether the country was corruption-free during the rule of Ayub Khan, Zia-ul-Haq and Musharraf? The writer has to understand the difference between legalised corruption and other types of illegal transactions. There are very few names of army officers on the NRO list because the armed forces do not fall under the purview of NAB or any other civilian anti-corruption agency.

Furthermore, no one can technically point a finger towards commercial plots and agricultural farms having market value of tens of millions rupees allotted by the government to individuals. The legalised corruption is not accounted for anywhere. During the eras of Ayub, Zia and Musharraf, remarkable progress was seen in development of infrastructure, but that was due to certain geo-political situations such as the Cold War, the Afghan war and the post-9/11 scenario in which Pakistan got financial and military support from developed countries, especially the US. Despite these lucky breakthroughs, the dictators failed to bring about any meaningful change in the country. Democracy in Pakistan will work very well if it is allowed to breathe freely without military interventions every now and then.

Dr Najeeb A Khan



It was shocking to read the letter of Commodore (r) Parvez Iqbal titled “Democracy or dictatorship” (November 26). The respected commodore believes that another dictatorship can save Pakistan from a mess created by a dictator who has fled the country in fear of being held accountable for the crimes he and his allies committed in the previous regime.

Let me remind the commodore that due to short-sighted policies of dictators over the years, East Pakistan became Bangladesh and Balochistan cries for its rights. Due to these tyrants, NWFP is burning. Due to these dictators and their lust for power, the Pakistan army is forced to fight an enemy that the state itself created during Zia’s regime. Pakistan became a hub of Islamist militias. It is because of these dictators and their continuous meddling in civilian affairs that every institution is weak and Pakistan hasn’t tasted the real taste of democracy. Curse upon these dictators and their puppets. If we want to progress and redeem our image across the globe, we must hold Musharraf responsible for the atrocities he and his friends committed. We must punish those who have made Pakistanis bleed and then move forward towards a real democratic culture which will take time to develop.

A corrupt ruler does not automatically make the previous tyrant good, neither does faulty democracy in its infancy mean that dictatorship is a better option. The current parliament may or may not teem with thieves accused of looting public money and brought back to mainstream politics by yet another dictator who engineered the NRO, but that should not justify military rule.

Commodore sahib is advised to have some sense as I remember his comments against dictators during the great “Bloody civilian” debate that he initiated in these very columns and later apologised to the readers for using derogatory language for his fellow civilian countrymen.

Syed Ali Abbas Zaidi



In his letter titled “Democracy or dictatorship?” (November 26) Commodore Parvez Iqbal favoured dictatorship over democracy. He should be reminded that the people of Pakistan are sick and tired of generals ruling them and rejected Musharraf’s policies in the February 18, 2008, elections. It was because of the dictatorships of Ayub, Yahya, Zia and Musharraf that today, even after 62 years, Pakistan is struggling to achieve success and prosperity and its people are deprived of the basic necessities of life. The answer to a flawed democratic system is certainly not dictatorship and it is this thinking that has destroyed Pakistan from within. Pakistan is still bearing the brunt of the actions and decisions of the past despots. Not one country in the world that is successful and prosperous today is run by a military regime or the system that Mr Iqbal is proposing.

Pakistan doesn’t need the army or landlords to run it; it needs shrewd and sincere leadership elected through a democratic process. Let’s not forget the words of the Quaid-e-Azam who during his address at the Military Staff College said: “Never forget that you are the servants of the state. You do not make policy. It is we, the people’s representatives, who decide how the country is to be run. Your job is to only obey the decisions of your civilian masters.”

Hafsa Khawaja


Wednesday, December 02, 2009
Commodore (r) Parvez Iqbal’s letter titled “Democracy or dictatorship?” (December 1) in response to Syed Ali Abbas Zaidi’s criticism of his earlier letter was amusing. The distinguished commodore defends military regimes in Pakistan with arguments that are best left for concocted history books. He even throws in a reference about Venezuela being the epitome of good governance ever since Hugo Chavez came into power and has cemented his stay using all means necessary. He also had the audacity to claim that under Musharraf, we at least “saw a reasonable amount of stability”. Yes, try telling that to the Baloch.

Finally, the commodore throws at us a gem saying military leaders often have to make decisions on an ‘act-first-explain-later’ basis. In Pakistan, however, military leaders seem to be acting on an ‘act-first-then-forget-about-explanations’ basis. We are, after all, still waiting for explanations on the Operation Gibraltar, the Ojhri ammunition depot fire, Kargil, the 1971 war, the judicial murder of our first elected prime minister, the rape of the constitution a couple of years ago and so on and so forth.

Sohaib Athar

Boston, US


This is in reference to Commodore (r) Parvez Iqbal’s letter “Democracy or dictatorship?” (December 1) in response to my letter of November 28. The respected commodore listed a few good deeds of the military dictators and advised the civilians to go through history before criticising them. Commodore Sahib declared Field Marshall Ayub Khan a ‘charismatic leader’ who built Islamabad in five years. He completely ignored, however, the corruption and nepotism that marred his 10 year rule. He also forgot to mention the economic disparity created by his rule which led to public agitation and in result he had to transfer power to yet another dictator.

Commodore Sahib, while referring to Gen Ziaul Haq, ignored to mention that the US aid to help the mujahideen came through intelligence agencies Zia used to cement his own rule. The Afghan jihad converted Pakistan from a peaceful nation to a hub of Islamist extremists. Why doesn’t the writer remember that era’s heroin smuggling, AK-47 culture, religious extremism and diversion of scarce national resources to the military?

It was General Pervez Musharraf who put Balochistan on fire. Who sacked judges unconstitutionally after they refused to hand down a favourable judgment? Who was responsible for the murder of Nawab Akbar Bugti, the Lal Masjid fiasco, curbs on the media and the emergency of November 3, 2007, which he himself termed unconstitutional?

Syed Ali Abbas Zaidi



This is in reference to the letter “Democracy or dictatorship?” by Commodore (r) Parvez Iqbal (December 1). Looking into our past it’s not difficult to judge that due to the dictators our country is bleeding today. They have inflicted sever damages both to our geography as well as our independence and sovereignty just to prolong their own rule. We must not support them just for a few goods they have done during their long reigns.

Instead of saviours I hope Ayub Khan and Pervez Musharraf will be considered as the first and the last dictators, respectively, of Pakistan.

Kamran Bangash



This is with reference to Commodore (r) Parvez Iqbal’s letter “Democracy or dictatorship?” (December 1). The retired gentleman never fails to start a controversy on your pages. Such issues should not be started in times of war when our forces are busy fighting a tough battle against cowardly terrorists. A state is built upon a social contract or the constitution which sets the boundaries in which various organs of the state should function. A negation of the contract occurs when any organ of the state crosses these limits. Martial laws, military rule and dictatorships, however benevolent, are a negation of the people’s right to govern themselves. We have paid the price for these violations in the shape of the Bangladesh debacle, sectarianism and Kalashnikov and heroin culture.

As regards his rhetoric about corruption, incompetence and inefficiency of politicians, that is none of the business of a bureaucrat (civil or military) to determine. The people are the best judge and their decisions are never wrong. Only they can judge their representatives. Also the degree of corruption among high-ranking bureaucrats, both civil and military, is far worse than politicians. The people of Pakistan, especially the young generation, are not interested in the sermons of retired military men about the blessings of dictatorship.

Ahmad Nadeem Gehla



Friday, December 04, 2009
Commodore (r) Iqbal Parvez’ step to trigger the democracy-dictatorship debate is most inappropriate and ill-timed. With the country mired in countless problems and the army valiantly fighting in FATA to save the nation from terrorism the commodore should have exercised discretion. There can be no denying that the inept political class has repeatedly and appallingly let this nation down. A dispassionate examination, however, would lead us back to the ‘original sin’. The political manipulation, the empowerment of individuals, the culture of sycophancy and little acceptance for any dissent — all sprouting from that fatal October 1958 decision — have led to the current state of affairs.

Ayub Khan stopped General Akhtar Malik from taking Akhnoor in 1965. His scion ran a fiefdom and owned an industrial empire. He schemed to defeat Fatima Jinnah in the 1964 elections. Pakistan’s political culture would have been quite different today if Fatima Jinnah had been allowed to win. Yahya Khan’s fair elections are a myth. His investment in such an election was the result of an erroneous input by the intelligence maintaining that no single party will return with absolute majority. He and his coterie were not willing to part with power even after Dec 16, 1971. Besides introducing heroin, Kalashnikov and drugs, Zia bloodied the streets of Karachi and unleashed serpents of religious extremism, fiery mullahs and sectarian violence on society. His era saw Pakistan losing the Quaid peak in Siachen to Bana Singh of the Indian army. Rather than the Soviets, it is the nation whose nose continues to be rubbed in the dust because of the defacement then received. Musharraf’s moth-eaten era will always be remembered for his abject failure to provide an alternate fresh political leadership. He finally compromised with those whom he had tirelessly condemned in the most vicious manner.

Let time and history be the arbiter if the Venezuelans’ choice is correct. In 1932-33 several posters in Germany read “Hitler — our last hope”. By 1945 Hitler had led his nation to annihilation and the world at large to complete destruction. Before becoming the supreme commander of the Allies’ expeditionary forces in 1943, Eisenhower was the allies’ commander in European theatre. He brought laurels for the free world. De Gaulle granted independence to Algeria in the teeth of opposition from his comrades. Let the politicians squabble as always — but let their nemesis be written by none other than the people.

Commander (r) Muhammad Azam Khan



I fail to understand why dictatorship can even be an ‘option’ for a country. What we need is a change of leaders, not of system. The present lot needs to be disposed of. We need a leader who is honest. There may not be many honest men in the present lot, but that doesn’t call for a military takeover.

Dr Habib Usmani



In his response to Syed Ali Abbas Zaidi’s letter, Commodore (r) Parvez Iqbal (December 1) tries to wrongly glorify the eras of Pakistani dictators which have actually brought Pakistan to the brink of collapse. Ayub, Yahya, Zia and Musharraf, all were blotches of shame on the face of the country. The retired commodore tried to portray that all the military dictators had halos above their heads. If that is the case, then are the 16 crore Pakistanis wrong who rebelled and struggled against the rule of the military? I admit that there is widespread corruption in civilian governments but it is no secret that corruption and nepotism were more rampant in the years of these dictators, particularly Musharraf’s.

The new generation will not believe the false accounts of the so-called great military eras that destroyed our country. A few good actions of these despots cannot justify their rule or make us forget what they did to our homeland.

Hafsa Khawaja



With reference to the ongoing democracy-dictatorship debate and particularly the comments of Parvez Iqbal on December 1, let me say that as for the Indus Waters Treaty the commodore failed to mention the heavy price paid by the state by officially surrendering its claim to rivers Ravi, Beas and Sutlaj, all tributaries on the east bank of the Indus, in lieu of aid and loan for the construction of Mangla Dam. This was done overlooking the fact that the reservoir would consistently be reduced and the water demand would keep growing. The fact that the canal irrigation without water would become redundant was also ignored.

The Basha Dam fiasco and the abandonment of the Kalabagh Dam project pose a serious danger of drought in the near future. The construction of the Baglihar dam during military rule is another feather in the cap of military dictators. The building of Islamabad by Ayub Khan was a decision simply to have the capital near his real power base, GHQ. As for the examples of Eisenhower and De Gaulle given by the retired commodore, they came through ballet. Could Pervez Musharraf have occupied the presidency through the ballet?

Jehangir Khan


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Wednesday, September 09, 2009
Engineer Qadeer Ahmed says he feels proud that 30 years back he chose not to join the PMA and remained a ‘bloody civilian’ (Sept 7). Over half a million men are serving in our armed forces and only two or three former military officers are washing their dirty linen in public. And what they are doing is sad, but black sheep do manage to disguise their true nature over a long period of time before they finally expose their true colour.

If Engineer Qadeer had chosen to join PMA, he would have walked into his barrack with some ingredients of a strong character because he would have been carefully selected, but he would still have required more drive, energy, determination, self-discipline, will-power and nerve. These would have been given to him by the military academy.

His first rank would have been GC, which stands for ‘gentleman cadet’, emphasising the imperative for him to always think, talk, move, dress and behave like a gentleman. He would have been told that in official parties, politics and women are not to be discussed. He would have acquired good internal locus of control which, unfortunately, is lacking in our civilian population because neither the parents, both literate and illiterate, nor the educational institutions they attend, bother to nurture these qualities.

Examples abound. Why do we have so many casualties when some calamity takes place? No civilian is trained for first aid. No civilian parents care to learn how to fight fires or even how to escape when a house or an office catches fire. The only thing they know is push the man in front of you and run like hell. After a bomb explosion or an accident half the police effort goes in yelling at people to get back. I would not be wrong in saying out of 170 million people, 169 million cannot swim. The list goes on and on.

Even after retirement, I feel as proud as ever for having been a military officer and the pride will remain with me for the rest of my life. I remain grateful to the military for teaching me clean habits. To those few indulging in senseless whistle-blowing on TV, I would suggest they should do something equally senseless but more practical, commensurate with their IQ. Find a herd of sheep, take a sword, mount a white horse and yell ‘charge’.

Incidentally, in the military, the world over, the phrase ‘bloody civilians’ is used as a figure of speech only, and no offence is intended.

Commodore (r) Parvez Iqbal



Bloody civilians

Friday, September 11, 2009
Commodore (r) Pervez Iqbal (Sept 9) must be truly a gentleman for admitting that the people in the military do use the phrase for those who are not one of them. I also appreciate the quality of their training and upbringing of their officers. But despite all the training and tall claims of character-building how come buccaneers of the likes of Yahya, Ziaul Haq, Aslam Beg and Musharraf all become four-star generals and take their turns in demolishing the vital institutions of the country?Second, who can deny that the half a million gentlemen own resources of the country much more than their due share? And third, under what law are lands leased to the armed forces by the provincial governments for specific purposes like defence converted into lucrative housing societies? This method of enrichment happens nowhere else in the world. To attain the respectability of being the most honoured institution of the country — something it enjoyed during the 1965 war — the serving gentlemen should take oath not to obey any unconstitutional and illegal order. That day onwards the nation will salute them.Another bloody civilianIslamabad


This is with reference to letters by Engineer Qadeer Ahmed (Sept 7), Commodore (r) Pervez Iqbal (Sept 9) and Shahid Saeed (Sept 10). Around 30 years back I also preferred not to join the PMA because I had the ability to study further. I have a double master’s and this is what I wanted to obtain: intellectual ability, which is what makes me proud to be a civilian. I do not judge others on the basis of their ability to provide first aid, their fire-fighting and swimming abilities.

Anwar Ali Khan



I found Commodore (r) Pervez Iqbal’s letter (Sept 9) entertaining indeed. Retired commodores, air marshals and generals are always right as is Commodore (r) Iqbal about how many Pakistanis know how to swim. I, for instance, never joined the army and I never learned to swim. Commodore, how right you are about ‘bloody civilians’ who not only miss to learn swimming but more by remaining civilians.

Dr A P Sangdil



This is with reference to Commodore (r) Pervez Iqbal’s letter “A ‘bloody civilian'” (Sept 9). I am afraid the very mindset of the much-esteemed officers of the armed forces is the reason they cannot roam around in their own country in their uniforms. The other day I saw a lieutenant abusing a traffic police constable just because the latter had asked for the driver’s licence. For doing his duty, the poor constable was slapped and humiliated by the lieutenant.

Nowhere in the world do servants of the nation have the audacity to stand up and abuse civilians and call them names. It is high time that we, a nation of 170 million ‘civilians’, including civilian family members of those serving the armed forces, began asking those in uniform of their contribution during the past 62 years? We can begin with Ayub Khan and go all the way to Pervez Musharraf.

Those who wear uniforms and think that they are superior to civilians should realise and understand that it is the taxes paid by civilians which pay for the military’s expenditures.

Syed Ali Abbas Zaidi



With reference to the letter “A bloody civilian” (Sept 9) by Commodore (r) Pervez Iqbal, I would say that over the years our armed forces in general and the army in particular have emerged as an elite ruling class. In this process they have penetrated into every possible institution. A lot of talented and deserving professionals have had their careers ruined.

Moreover, the general attitude of the military towards ‘bloody civilians’ is full of contempt. The question now arising in the minds of the public is: what is the difference between our military and the British colonial army which had the same scornful attitude towards the natives? They too considered us inferior and destined to be ruled upon by them.

I hope that they start teaching our military officers how to take criticism gracefully and to treat civilian with respect.

Muhammad Salman



To be or not to be a civilian?

Sunday, September 13, 2009
It is Engineer Qadeer Ahmed who in his letter (Sept 7) said that he felt proud that 30 years ago he did not join the PMA and chose to remain a ‘bloody civilian’. If he (Engineer Qadeer) is proud to remain a bloody civilian, why should others feel offended by the use of the term? Why blame Commodore (r) Pervez Iqbal who simply tried to defend the army as an institution (Sept 9). After all, the term is used as a figure of speech and not to offend anyone.

Our worthy men of letters must show maturity and stop bashing the army as an institution. It is our most reliable institution and is able to deal with crises and internal and external challenges to our national security. It takes years of training to make a soldier, unit and formation fit as a trained, cohesive and motivated force to perform its operational role. Let us not make the job difficult for our men in uniform.

Brig (r) Saud Bashir



With reference to Ameer Rizwan’s letter of Sept 12, may I say that after reading what he has written it is clear who the bigger fool is. If retired army officers live in palatial mansions and drive around in expensive cars, it is because they have served their life for the defence of the nation. Also I know that most of these retired officers, if the need arises, will rush to the defence of the nation. I doubt it very much that civilians will do the same thing.

Hassan Abdullah Rasool



It is very unfortunate to see a useless debate on the word ‘bloody’ which started from the letter of Commodore (r) Pervez Iqbal (Sept 09). What the commodore has said are surely his personal views and not of the armed forces. The armed forces belong to all of us, our own brothers, sisters, sons, parents and relatives are members of this institution. So how can one abuse their own blood? May I suggest to the nation not to carry on this kind of futile and harmful discussion? We all belong to Pakistan and together we have to defend it from the enemies. Instead of creating hatred we must work for the unity and prosperity of Pakistan because together we stand and divided we fall.

Bilal Shahid



I have been religiously following the animated debate over the above-cited caption. Among all the letters, for and against (mainly against) I enjoyed M S Hasan’s letter (Sept 12) in particular, not least because of his indescribably admirable wit.

Umar Hayat



With reference to Commodore (r) Pervez Iqbal’s letter, may I ask how many out of the nearly half-a-million men of the armed forces know how to swim? I would say that our cadets are taught not how to be gentlemen but rather to see themselves as superior than civilians — and hence the use of the term ‘bloody civilian’. In fact, they are taught these things so well that it doesn’t end after their retirement as Commodore Iqbal’s letter has proved.

Dr Habib Usmani


I stand by what I said

Monday, September 14, 2009
My letter of Sep 9 has caused a sharp reaction from many people apparently because it has not been read with the right spirit. Regardless of the comments appearing in these columns, I remain convinced that we have, in quality of personnel, one of the finest armed forces in the world. For a very small fraction of what the Americans and the NATO are spending in Afghanistan, our military is achieving the same purpose at a much faster pace. For me, it was an honour and pleasure being a part of such a superb professional force, and no amount of misplaced criticism will distract me from this affiliation.

As for our civilians, they can see for themselves where they stand as compared to their counterparts in other countries. Relieving themselves in public on the nearest wall they can find, scratching themselves profusely, driving as if the Devil was on their tails, using the most colourful expletives and profanities in conversations and quarrels, spitting saliva by the gallons on the roadsides… I do not wish to elaborate more. Has anyone seen any member of our armed forces behaving like this?

One does not require resources or money to conduct ourselves in a human way. Only good sense and self discipline. I will not be apologetic for what I wrote in my letter.

Commodore (r) Parvez Iqbal


At ease, Commodore!

Tuesday, 14th Sept, 2009

In reference to the letter “I stand by what I said” by Commodore (r) Parvez Iqbal, may I say that we are all aware of the high level of capability of the Pakistan army and we laud its services? Having said that, I disagree with the disfigured picture of a civilian that the retired commodore has spoken of. Those who relieve themselves in public and scratch themselves profusely are not literate civilians. As for colourful expletives and profanities, these can be used by civilians and non-civilians alike. The only impression that one gets of the letter really is that the gentleman in question has a sense of pride which is rather obdurate.

Shakil Ahmed



I agree with each word of the retired commodore and believe that he belongs to a community of the ‘finest men in the world’. I believe the retired officer was in service in 1971 and afterwards. While they were ruling the nation very few things were made public. I wish if he could clarify that the 90,000 guns these ‘finest men in the world’ surrendered are still in India’s possession or were taken back and the nation doesn’t know about it? Arrogance, surrenders, disregard for laws and disillusion — this is what this nation has experienced at the hands of these ‘saviours’.

Ahmad Nadeem Gehla

Kedah, Malaysia


What can I say about Commodore (r) Pervez Iqbal’s letter of Sept 14 except to be reminded of the fact that sometimes it is pointless arguing with some people? The ‘enlightened’ commodore thinks that every civilian relieves himself by the wall and spits on the road and one can only wonder how he came to this conclusion. May I have the temerity to ask that how someone who shows such ignorance could be promoted to the rank of commodore? Nevertheless, the retired commodore is advised to enjoy his retired life though he is now a ‘bloody civilian’ himself.

Syed Ali Abbas Zaidi



With reference to Commodore (r) Parvez Iqbal’s comments, I would only remind the honourable commodore that not all land is even on earth. Not every civilian is alike and for the commodore to suggest that they are is downright absurd. I don’t want to be judgmental but the commodore’s view of civilians makes me think whether in his eye we are children of a lesser god perhaps.

I have had the honour of being in a military academy for a while (I left honourably due to personal reasons) and know a lot of respectable officers. However, the commodore would be heartbroken to know that these gentlemen have been seen doing all the ills of civilians as mentioned by him — and sometimes, worse.

I will be mature and show maturity and not pass any comments on the armed forces as a whole for the actions of a handful of people. I would ask the commodore if it is fair to place all Pakistanis in the category that he has.

Ali Iqtedar Shah



I did my best to refrain from indulging in the ‘bloody civilian’ controversy but can no longer hold myself after the second letter on this issue by Commodore (r) Parvez Iqbal (Sept 14). Many civilians have reacted sharply on being referred to as ‘bloody civilians’ and this was to be expected. However, it is disturbing to note that no letter of — even discreet — disagreement has appeared so far from ex-service men. I am sure there must be quite a few former generals who would be most unlikely to be heard shouting ‘bloody civilians’ and one that comes to mind is Lt-Gen Talat Masood.

Humayun Bashir



The fact of the matter is that the military slang or informal military terms are used commonly by military personnel in all armies of the world. And yes it is true that some of the terms have been considered derogatory to varying degrees and attempts have been made to eliminate them. For example, we have terms like ‘blighter’, ‘bloke’, ‘bloody hell’, ‘bloody-minded’ and so on and in most cases these words are used within the military. In my 28 years of service I have never come across any occasion where I heard someone using the term ‘bloody civilian’ against any civilian.

Our soldiers serve in frozen places like Siachen and they give up their lives so that the nation may stay peaceful and its citizens secure. We have suffered enough over the years on such petty issues — we all make mistakes and no one is an angel. And in that context it is good that retired senior officers are at least admitting their guilt for past actions — and this needs to be appreciated.

Lt-Col (r) Mukhtar Ahmed Butt



This refers to the Sept 14 letter “I stand by what I said” which was a sort of a rejoinder by Commodore (r) Parvez Iqbal to all the civilians who have criticised and chided him for his use of the term ‘bloody civilians’. The retired commodore makes a valid point about the general lack of civic sense among our people. He is also probably correct in saying that personnel of the armed forces do not relieve themselves in public, do not scratch themselves profusely, do not drive like mad, and nor do they utter colourful expletives, profanities or spit gallons of saliva on the roadside.

Since we have not seen armed forces personnel in military uniform in public places for a long time we have to concede to the commodore on that count. How many personnel of the armed forces, while in civvies, have indulged in this boorish behaviour is not known, therefore the benefit of doubt on this score as well should be given to the retired commodore.

Having said that, I can state with a degree of confidence that as compared to the over half a million, impeccably groomed, clean-cut armed forces personnel who could not be seen indulging in the kind of uncivilised conduct in public, elucidated so eloquently by Commodore Iqbal, there are at least a couple of million ‘bloody civilians’ in each major city of Pakistan who would also refrain from the same uncivilised and uncouth public behaviour.

However, the issue is much larger in its scope and context vis-a-vis the armed forces as an institution and with regards to its involvement in national politics, military takeovers and misadventures, and running businesses such as the sale of mineral water to cereals, fertilisers and LPG, from owning a bank, a road freight service to being the largest real estate developer in the country. The fact also is that the progeny of many an air chief marshal, general and admiral are now some of the country’s riches people and owning businesses and choicest properties.

The commodore is entitled to public expression of his views. What is suggested here is that the commodore should ‘stand at ease’ — he should not single out the bloody civilians for their bad conduct. We have a serious problem as a nation and such boorish behaviour is exhibited by all people in general regardless of their professional affiliation. And this can only change through across-the-board quality education, good governance, and transparent and effective accountability.

M S Hasan



This is in reference to the various letters regarding the ‘bloody civilian’ issue printed in the past week. It is sad to see Pakistanis who can’t remember the sacrifices of our soldiers. If all these people had any idea how the children of the shaheeds shed tears for their fathers and how their families manage to live without them, they’d become silent in an instance. Also, if a few people of an institution do something wrong, does that mean that the whole institution has done that wrong thing? We are all first Pakistanis — and we all love our homeland.

Maira Shaukat



There our black sheep in every community and institution. When we think of the army why do we see only the generals in their staff cars? Why don’t we see the soldiers sitting on frozen glaciers or in scorching deserts fighting for us? The army that they say nurtured the likes of Ayub Khan, Ziaul haq and Musharraf has also given birth to heroes like Captain Junaid, Captain Najam, Captain Bilal and Captain Waqas. Even then if the people of Pakistan still do not salute their army then I wonder how many more wives will have to be widowed, how many children will have to grow up without their fathers, how many mothers will have to receive their sons in coffins and how many more officers and soldiers will have to die before their loyalties are proven? Pak fauj zindabad!

Fatima Riaz



With regard to the civilians versus non-civilians debate, may I say that while people have the right to express their viewpoint, it should not be at the cost of national integration? Such a situation is more dangerous in the prevailing environment and will help none but the vested interests of our national enemies. Our families are a blend of members having different professions. How can we call our brothers ‘bloody civilians’ or ‘bloody soldiers’? Everybody has the right to choose his or her profession but there are umpteen examples where young men preferred joining the PMA instead of prestigious professional institutions — because they wanted to join a cause. Most of them were fully aware that less than 50 per cent will have the chance to rise above the major level that too after a very tough competition. Facing bullets and leading men to face the bullets is indeed a very difficult and challenging task.

We must ponder on the very important question that having buried their young sons with their own hands and seen the dead bodies of young men on the media, why are parents still voluntarily sending their sons to join the armed forces? I am afraid the kind of argument going on in the media will badly hurt the sentiments and feelings of these people. What will be the result and who will benefit? The issue of DHA plots will be a lengthy debate but for now I will say that how many of us would be ready to sacrifice our own lives or those of our sons for a DHA plot?

Parvez Malik



This is in reference to Commodore (r) Pervaiz Iqbal’s letter “I stand by what I said” (Sept 14). The letter only goes to show that he has no regard for the people of this country, who are the strength of Pakistan. One is bitterly sad to see that the commodore is talking about the people of Pakistan as if they are from an enemy country. If he has an iota of decent bone in him, he should apologise to the people of Pakistan.

Rahim Malik



I want to comment on the ‘bloody civilians’ letters. As for such armed forces officers who are proud of their military training and discipline, I want to ask them a very simple question. At the PMA do they learn how to defy their superior commanders? And are they taught to distort and maul the constitution? Justifying their crime by blaming politicians for inviting them to power and civilians welcoming them cannot exonerate them (the armed forces) from their crime because a crime is a crime no matter what. A murderer cannot claim innocence on the plea that the victim’s family invited him to commit the said act.

As for Commodore (r) Pervez Iqbal, let me remind him and his kind that it is this lot of ‘bloody civilians’ who pay for their comfort and style. It is this pride of the armed forces officers which has brought our poor country to this sorry state in which it is now.

Rehana Rahman



The Great Debate

Thursday, September 17, 2009
Commodore Parvez Iqbal has taken an exception to the bloody civilians relieving themselves on the nearest wall. Does he remember the exploits of our glorious commander-in-chief General Yahya Khan? As for civilians using profane words gratuitously one only needs to read the Hamoodur Rehman Commission to know of the colourful exploits of our generals. In India sometime back a general was court-martialled for embezzlement and in Pakistan we have yet to see that happen. Our poor citizens belong to a nation which is amongst the countries with the lowest per capita income and still has one of the seven largest armies in the world. From 1965 to Kargil we have had a long list of military failures but has anybody ever been held accountable?

Mohamamad Aamir



This is with reference to Pervez Iqbal’s letter. All I will say is that when you enter a cantonment area of any city life changes altogether. Carpeted roads, footpaths, fountains, good hospitals, schools and parks, clubs, sports facilities, subsidised living and what not, all at the expense of taxes paid by me, a bloody civilian. The armed forces were tested three times — in 1965, 1971 and 1999 — and failed all the three times.

Saleem Toor



The reason why some armed forces’ officers look at civilians with contempt is not because of good or bad manners but rather because the former have been in possession of power for a long period in the history of the country.

Dr Najeeb A Khan



I was in the army for more than thirty years and to tell the truth I never ever heard the term ‘bloody civilian’ being used by any officer I knew or served with. As far as the issue of taxpayers is concerned, may I remind your readers that military officers are also taxpayers and that in their case, tax is deducted at source as well. Moreover, offering your life for the nation cannot be compared with paying taxes. In this regard we all must salute our shuhada and their families.

Iftikhar Ayub



Engineer Qadeer Ahmad has succeeded in initiating an acrimonious debate on a point which is not there. Like Lt-Col Mukhtar Ahmad Butt, who in his twenty-eight service has never heard the term ‘bloody civilians’ being ever used, I myself, during thirty years of service, including being member and president of special military courts, have never heard this term being used. Ahmad Nadeem Gehla has referred to 90,000 men surrendering to Indians in the 1971 war. I would ask him to state the facts because the total number of troops was about 32,000 spread all over East Pakistan in December 1971, as I have explained in these columns recently.

Col (r) Nazir Ahmed


I am sorry…

Thursday, September 17, 2009
While remaining convinced that we need to reform ourselves, both at the personal as well as collective levels, if I have hurt any feelings, I want to end the debate in these columns from my side with these three immortal words… I am sorry.

On Dec 3, 1971, I was on short leave from my ship buying a few personal items in Saddar, Karachi, with Rs150 I had saved from my salary (I was the junior-most officer on my ship). Suddenly there was noise all around on the road, with people shouting about the war having broken out. My immediate thought was to get back to the ship, but I couldn’t find a taxi. An elderly gentleman dropped me at the dockyard in his vintage Volkswagen. Before I got down, he said “mein aap kay liye dua karoon ga, beta”, and drove away into the darkness. God bless him. A true, patriotic, thoroughbred Pakistani civilian.

The captain asked me to take over navigation officer duties and we left the harbour with only a handful of officers and sailors on board. A day later, we lost a ship, and with it several of my close friends and course mates. They were only 22 or 23 years old. They went down with the burning ship. I held back my tears as a compulsion. Yes, we lost the war because the odds were too overwhelming. We were fighting a regional power backed by a superpower. But every officer, soldier, sailor, airman and civilian fought hard. We recovered very rapidly. The enemy could not destroy us mentally. Let us put 1971 behind us. It will never happen again, rest assured. No hard feelings from my side. If you can’t swim, it’s OK. Let’s get on with life and move on. Pakistan Zindabad.

Commodore (r) Parvez Iqbal



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 Meera’s ‘marriage’
Wednesday, September 09, 2009
One wonders if the new generation of Pakistani conspiracy theorists would label Meera’s recent marriage fiasco as a plot to divert attention from Blackwater and US marines. She can be funded by a Hindu-Zionist lobby and with her theatrics divert mass attention towards more trivial matters quite effectively.

Syed Ali Abbas Zaidi


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