Pervez Hoodbhoy on Pakistan’s Future

Posted on June 16, 2009
Filed Under >Adil Najam, >Pervez Hoodbhoy, People, Politics, Religion, Society
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Adil Najam

Like him or not, Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy is undoubtedly one of Pakistan’s leading intellectuals.

He does what intellectuals are meant to do. He makes us think.

He forces us to ask questions that we avoid and he challenges us to question the easy answers. This is not to say that Pervez – who I have had the honor of knowing since the early 1980s – is always right. No one ever is. But he is always provocative. And in the right sense of the word. he provokes us to think. Even – and, maybe, even more – when we disagree with him, we are forced to think. And that can never be a bad thing.

Currently, the Chair of the Physics Department at the Quaid-i-Azam Univeristy, Pervez Hoodbhoy recently wrote this article for the celebrated journal The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. It is worth a close and careful read. Personally, I am not convinced by his worst case scenario. Although, I should acknowledge that worst case scenarios are supposed to be exactly that: worst case scenarios. I also think that he underplays the role of civil society in Pakistan, which I think remains the most vibrant hope for our future, not withstanding the undercurrent of the ‘urban taliban’ within Pakistani civil society. But, there is much in this article that we should ponder upon and think about very carefully.

If you think Pervez Hoodbhoy is wrong in his assessment of where Pakistan is heading, give us your own assessment of where yo think we will be. Disagree if you will, but do what the article is supposed to have you do: think!

Whither Pakistan? A five-year forecast

By Pervez Hoodbhoy

First, the bottom line: Pakistan will not break up; there will not be another military coup; the Taliban will not seize the presidency; Pakistan’s nuclear weapons will not go astray; and the Islamic sharia will not become the law of the land.

That’s the good news. It conflicts with opinions in the mainstream U.S. press, as well as with some in the Obama administration. For example, in March, David Kilcullen, a top adviser to Gen. David Petraeus, declared that state collapse could occur within six months. This is highly improbable.

Now, the bad news: The clouds hanging over the future of Pakistan’s state and society are getting darker. Collapse isn’t impending, but there is a slow-burning fuse. While timescales cannot be mathematically forecast, the speed of societal decline has surprised many who have long warned that religious extremism is devouring Pakistan.

Here is how it all went down the hill: The 2001 U.S. invasion of Afghanistan devastated the Taliban. Many fighters were products of madrassas in Pakistan, and their trauma partly was shared by their erstwhile benefactors in the Pakistan military and intelligence. Recognizing that this force would remain important for maintaining Pakistani influence in Afghanistan-and keep the low-intensity war in Kashmir going-the army secretly welcomed them on Pakistani soil. Rebuilding and rearming was quick, especially as the United States tripped up in Afghanistan after a successful initial victory. Former President Pervez Musharraf’s strategy of running with the hares and hunting with hounds worked initially. But then U.S. demands to dump the Taliban became more insistent, and the Taliban also grew angry at this double game. As the army’s goals and tactics lost coherence, the Taliban advanced.

In 2007, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP, the movement of Pakistani Taliban, formally announced its existence. With a blitzkrieg of merciless beheadings of soldiers and suicide bombings, the TTP drove out the army from much of the frontier province. By early this year, it held about 10 percent of Pakistan’s territory.

Even then, few Pakistanis saw the Taliban as the enemy. Apologists for the Taliban abounded, particularly among opinion-forming local TV anchors that whitewashed their atrocities, and insisted that they shouldn’t be resisted by force. Others supported them as fighters against U.S. imperial might. The government’s massive propaganda apparatus lay rusting. Beset by ideological confusion, it had no cogent response to the claim that Pakistan was made for Islam and that the Taliban were Islamic fighters.

The price paid for the government’s prevarication was immense. A weak-kneed state allowed fanatics to devastate hitherto peaceful Swat, once an idyllic tourist-friendly valley. Citizens were deprived of their fundamental rights. Women were lashed in public, hundreds of girl’s schools were blown up, non-Muslims had to pay a special tax (jizya), and every form of art and music was forbidden. Policemen deserted en masse, and institutions of the state crumbled. Thrilled by their success, the Taliban violated the Nizam-e-Adl Swat deal just days after it was negotiated in April. They quickly moved to capture more territory in the adjacent area of Buner. Barely 80 miles from Islamabad (as the crow flies), their spokesman, Muslim Khan, boasted the capital would be captured soon. The army and government still dithered, and the public remained largely opposed to the use of military force.

And then a miracle of sorts happened. Sufi Mohammed, the illiterate, aging leader of the Swat sharia movement, while addressing a huge victory rally in early May, lost his good sense to excessive exuberance. He declared that democracy and Islam were incompatible, rejected Pakistan’s Islamic constitution and courts, and accused Pakistan’s fanatically right-wing Islamic parties of mild heresy. Even for a Pakistani public enamored by the call to sharia, Mohammed’s comments were a bit too much. The army, now with public support for the first time since the birth of the insurgency, finally mustered the will to fight.

Today, that fight is on. A major displacement of population, estimated at 3 million, is in process. This tragedy could have been avoided if the army hadn’t nurtured extremists earlier. For the moment, the Taliban are retreating. But it will be a long haul to eliminate them from the complex mountainous terrain of Swat and Malakand. Wresting North and South Waziristan, hundreds of miles away, will cost even more. Army actions in the tribal areas, and retaliatory suicide bombings by the Taliban in the cities, are likely to extend into the foreseeable future.

Meanwhile, the cancerous offshoots of extremist ideology continue to spread. Another TTP has recently established itself-Tehrik-e-Taliban Punjab. So one expects that major conflict will eventually shift from Pakistan’s tribal peripheries to the heartland, southern Punjab. Indeed, the Punjabi Taliban are now busy ramping up their operations, with a successful suicide attack on the police and intelligence headquarters in Lahore in May.

What exactly do the Pakistani Taliban want? As with their Afghan counterparts, fighting the United States in Afghanistan is certainly one goal. But still more important is replacing secular and traditional law and customs in Pakistan’s tribal areas with their version of the sharia. This goal, which they share with religious political parties such as Jamat-e-Islami, is working for a total transformation of society. It calls for elimination of music, art, entertainment, and all manifestations of modernity and Westernism. Side goals include destroying the Shias-who the Sunni Taliban regard as heretics-and chasing away the few surviving native Christians, Sikhs, and Hindus from the frontier province. While extremist leaders such as Baitullah Mehsud and Maulana Fazlullah derive support from marginalized social groups, they don’t demand employment, land reform, better health care, or more social services. This isn’t a liberation movement by a long shot, although some marginalized Pakistani leftists labor under this delusion.

As for the future: Tribal insurgents cannot overrun Islamabad and Pakistan’s main cities, which are protected by thousands of heavily armed military and paramilitary troops. Rogue elements within the military and intelligence agencies have instigated or organized suicide attacks against their own colleagues. Now, dazed by the brutality of these attacks, the officer corps finally appears to be moving away from its earlier sympathy and support for extremism. This makes a seizure of the nuclear arsenal improbable. But Pakistan’s ‘urban Taliban,’ rather than illiterate tribal fighters, pose a nuclear risk. There are indeed more than a few scientists and engineers in the nuclear establishment with extreme religious views.

While they aspire to state power, the Taliban haven’t needed it to achieve considerable success. Through terror tactics and suicide bombings they have made fear ubiquitous. Women are being forced into burqas, and anxious private employers and government departments have advised their male employees in Peshawar and other cities to wear shalwar-kameez rather than trousers. Coeducational schools across Pakistan are increasingly fearful of attacks-some are converting to girls-only or boys-only schools. Video shops are going out of business, and native musicians and dancers have fled or changed their profession. As such, a sterile Saudi-style Wahabism is beginning to impact upon Pakistan’s once-vibrant culture and society.

It could be far worse. One could imagine that Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani is overthrown in a coup by radical Islamist officers who seize control of the country’s nuclear weapons, making intervention by outside forces impossible. Jihad for liberating Kashmir is subsequently declared as Pakistan’s highest priority and earlier policies for crossing the Line of Control are revived; Shias are expelled into Iran, and Hindus are forced into India; ethnic and religious minorities in the Northern Areas flee Pashtun invaders; anti-Taliban forces such as the ethnic Muttahida Qaumi Movement and the Baluch nationalists are decisively crushed by Islamists; and sharia is declared across the country. Fortunately, this seems improbable–as long as the army stays together.

What can the United States, which is still the world’s preeminent power, do to turn the situation around? Amazingly little.

In spite of being on the U.S. dole, Pakistan is probably the most anti-American country in the world. It has a long litany of grievances. Some are pan-Islamic, but others derive from its bitter experiences of being a U.S. ally in the 1980s. Once at the cutting edge of the U.S. organized jihad against the Soviet Union, Pakistan was dumped once the war was over and left to deal with numerous toxic consequences. Although much delayed, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent acceptance of blame is welcome. But festering resentments produced a paranoid mindset that blames Washington for all of Pakistan’s ills–old and new. A meeting of young people that I addressed in Islamabad recently had many who thought that the Taliban are U.S. agents paid to create instability so that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons could be seized by Washington. Other such absurd conspiracy theories also enjoy huge currency here.

Nevertheless, the United States isn’t powerless. Chances of engaging with Pakistan positively have improved under the Obama administration. Real progress toward a Palestinian state and dealing with Muslims globally would have enormous resonance in Pakistan.

Although better financial monitoring is needed, Pakistan’s support lifeline must not be cut, or economic collapse (and certain Taliban victory) would follow in a matter of months. The government and army must be kept afloat until Pakistan is fully ready to take on extremism by itself. The United States also should initiate a conference that brings Iran, India, and China together. Each of these countries must recognize that extremism represents a regional as well as global danger, and they must formulate an action plan aimed at squeezing the extremists.

Thus, Pakistan’s political leadership and army must squarely face the extremist threat, accept the United States and India as partners rather than adversaries, enact major reforms in income and land distribution, revamp the education and legal systems, and address the real needs of citizens. Most importantly, Pakistan will have to clamp down on the fiery mullahs who spout hatred from mosques and stop suicide bomber production in madrassas. For better or for worse, it will be for Pakistanis alone to figure out how to handle this.

Also see: Pervez Hoodbhoy on Re-Imagining Pakistan; Pervez Hoodbhoy on ‘Us’ and ‘Them’ Minds.

46 Comments on “Pervez Hoodbhoy on Pakistan’s Future”

  1. Riaz Haq says:
    June 16th, 2009 1:32 am

    Nice article. I am much more hopeful than Hoodbhoy that, with the newly-found popular support, Pakistani civilian and military leadership can eventually defeat the Taliban, though it won’t be quick or easy.

    It took Sri Lanka a lot of sweat, blood, tears and 25 years to defeat the Tamil Tigers. It could take years, if not decades for Pakistan to accomplish the same thing against its insurgents. Meanwhile, the Taliban threat needs to be reduced to a more manageable nuisance until they are totally defeated or co-opted.

    As to the suggestion to partner with US, there is some merit to it simply based on at least a temporary alignment of US-Pakistani interests. But I don’t see that same alignment with India in the short term or the long-term. So partnership with India is definitely out, as far as I can see it. In fact, India would not even consider joining any partnership with Pakistan because it has far more hostile and rigid attitude toward Pakistan and considers Pakistan the source of all evil.

  2. Eidee Man says:
    June 16th, 2009 2:16 am

    Hoodbhoy always makes pertinent points, however, his approach is often counter-productive. One pattern I personally find quite disturbing in his articles is his ridicule of students and young people in general from lower socio-economic classes.

    For instance, he was recently a guest on the “D-bate” program hosted by Mahreen Khan where he was partnered with a university student; their team argued that Pakistan spends too much of its resources on the military. Opposing the motion were Javed Jabbar and another university student. It was pretty obvious that Hoodbhoy basically switched between ignoring his own partner and rolling his eyes. Granted that his partner went a bit over the top with poetry and loud, political-style ranting. In contrast, Javed Jabbar, whose partner was quite similar in style, delivery, etc, was constantly conversing and using the opportunity to teach/advise his student.

    I have no illusions about the state of higher education in Pakistan; it’s pathetic, and most graduating students are unfortunately incompetent. However, expecting students trained in the worst of circumstances to be clear, rational intellectuals is quite naive. In my own experience, I have found that even high-achieving students in Ivy-league universities are often shockingly ignorant, or biased about important issues.

    Back to the focus of this piece. I think the way forward is quite simple, although extremely difficult. Pakistani government, political parties, and military must work together to dismantle and destroy these terrorist groups. After doing so, we as a country must discard the nonsensical aspiration to become a leader of the Muslim-world; most of our problems have stemmed almost entirely from our being thrust into the center of every conflict. We have plenty of internal challenges that require our urgent attention; I’m sure no other Muslim country will notice our absence.

    The bit about the U.S., China, India, and Iran meeting in a conference to tackle extremism is also quite naive, in my opinion. It’s well-known that Iran provides substantial financial support to militias in Iraq and Lebanon, and that the U.S. supports certain Baloch elements against Iran. Every indication suggests that the tension between China and the U.S., and India and China, will continue to escalate as these powers compete for influence and energy. Hence, they will probably continue to try to gain “strategic depth” in each other’s spheres; I don’t see them coming together and singing Kumbaya anytime soon.

  3. Athar says:
    June 16th, 2009 2:47 am

    Most of this article I have no issue with but I have to raise an objection to the simplistic explanation provided for why Pakistan did not act earlier against the Taliban.

  4. zen says:
    June 16th, 2009 3:17 am

    “A meeting of young people that I addressed in Islamabad recently had many who thought that the Taliban are U.S. agents paid to create instability so that Pakistan

  5. Iftikhar-ue-Rehman says:
    June 16th, 2009 4:02 am

    Dr.Hoodbhoy maybe an intellectual but I view him as an American Agent.

  6. Farhan Zia says:
    June 16th, 2009 5:38 am

    We talk too much, so much that we don’t get enough time to think. I cannot think of a single idea left that is not discussed in this article either about the cause of the issue or its resolution. Isn’t it time for us to take a step back and rethink where did we go wrong? But that is our dilemma, we are not left with much people who can really think. It is not hard to understand why so many prominent scholars of this nation have been getting murdered in target killings since decades for “no reason”. We all can see the reason now. In tough times like theses, those scholars were needed more than any other time and now since we don’t have them we are exactly in the situation of chaos as it was planned for us.

    Before I move forward, let me clear up that I am not a supporter or opponent of Talibans or the moderators. I am trying coming out of being in favor of any of them and take a holistic view.

    Let us go back a little in time and ask ourselves what was the problem for us living in the united India? We have been living there happily since centuries but never felt a need for a separate homeland. The lifestyle we want to enjoy here in Pakistan was not possible in India? I don’t think so. Our culture, our daily chores, our marriage ceremonies, our business dealings etc etc. I am trying to think what is it that we are doing here in Pakistan different that any one living in India could not do. Honestly, I am not able to think of a single thing! We pay interests, we dance in our parties, a big majority of us drink alcohal, we go to the prayer place (mosque in our case) weekly, money is more important to us than any value etc. We are no different. But we insist we are different, and that we are muslims and this is Islam.

    Offcourse this interpretation of Islam is going to clash with any other interpretation that do not allow all these things. That do not allow dances in parties, drinking alcohal, interests, etc. More to it, our interpretation will also clash with another interpretation that ban women education and their right to exist.

    So which of the two interpretations of Islam is right? And who is going to make this decision? We? But we are a party to it. And it cannot be Talaban as well because of the same reason. So to whom should we go to get the correct interpretation of Islam? The only correct answer can be provided by the one who created Islam and the one who taught us about it for the very first time – Allah and His messenger Mohammad (PBUH).

    I am an educated person living in my 30s and for some reason have a belief that majority of the common man of this country agrees that none of these two interpretations of Islam is correct because even though little, but we have gone through some of the basic principles of Islam in our childhood home education from our parents and elders and we know that the things part of both of these interpretations are incorrect. What we don’t know (or let me say what are we confused about) is how to get to the correct interpretation of Islam that the prophet PBUH told us. Our problem is that we are not giving a priority to clear this confusion, we are so busy in our daily lives with our work, our families, our businesses that we don’t have time to think/learn about it and so the confusion continues. So we are trying living in the middle line, avoiding thinking about it. But the time has come to choose one, sooner we have to be at one side and as early we can clear up our heads as good it is for us. It is not rocket science but it need some willing efforts. Going through the Tafseer’s of Quran, the Hadiths and the life styles of Sahaba – that’s all that is needed to clear up our confusion about what is right and what is wrong. We know that the prophet never banned women education, he never ordered whipping women in public, he never ordered bombing up girls schools but at the same time he banned interest based economy, he banned the current form of music, dances and most of the things that are currently part of the western cultures; that we are unfortunately loving from our hearts.

    Pakistan was created because muslims in united India were not able to practice the correct form of Islam. Allah helped us and the new country was created. But once created, what did we do to fulfill our promise? We did nothing and so the gap remained hanging.

    I think that is the root cause of the issue. If we would have seriously made any efforts for the correct Islamic sharia after the creation of Pakistan and have what so ever (complete or incomplete) implementation, the gap would have filled. But that did not happen and so now, different people having different school of thoughts are trying filling that gap.

    I think the solution is still the same. Instead of starting to kill those people who are doing their own efforts to fill this gap with their own thoughts, we need to do the same. The history of this world has proven unlimited times; “Thoughts can never be killed”. We can kill all the Talibans they are not huge in numbers but “Taliban” is not an organization or a group of people it is an ideology that people share across the world (notice the origin of fighters, they are from all parts of world including US and Europe). We can kill those people here in Pakistan but the thought will remain alive and there will be more people ahead with that same ideology. How many muslims will we kill? All of us must have felt the pain in our heart when we hear the news “Pakistan army killed 10 mujahedeen today in Swat”? (the media has now started calling them with some other names).

    We need to start filling up that gap as soon as possible with the true Islamic Sharia that is available in the Quran, in the Hadiths of the prophet and in the lives of the Sahabas. If we manage to get even close to it, we will be out of this problem and if we cannot, I bet we cannot resolve it doesn’t matter how many Taliban we kill.

    And let me share the grief that I felt when I read the first few lines of this article of Pervez Hoodbhoy:

    “…and the Islamic sharia will not become the law of the land.

  7. srikanth says:
    June 16th, 2009 6:03 am

    I had read the article by Dr.hoodbhoy. and all the comments. We in india faced the same situation with the Ltte during the early 90′s. The same org that was trained and supplied by india bit behind our back. and as for us the advisers and analysts they have seem to have lost totally out of touch with reality.The problem that is being faced by pakistan should not be seen in isolation. It is an international one. And we need to have a multi-pronged approach. Instead of blaming anyone or talking about lack of trust factor just get things moving on ground.

    how can we do that.
    i think it was simply put in one of the comments. its as simple as that. all this soul searching should come after the cancerous movement has been dealt with.

  8. JQ says:
    June 16th, 2009 7:19 am


    It seems like Mr. Hoodbhoy has simply ‘walked around’ the core issues in providing a possible solution.

    I don’t quite agree that its not a liberation struggle. True, it’s not a classic case of one, but one mustn’t forget that the initial demand of the TTP Swat was to have access to free, quick and transparent justice to the citizens of the area. This is something they were used to having under the ‘Waali’ of Swat’s reign. Something the govt. has failed to provide answers to in Swat and elsewhere in Pakistan.

    Calling a conference of India, Iran and China may help tackle the global dimension of the issue, but ideological struggles are rarely put down by joint force WITHOUT public support. Hence, more important is a nationwide support base first.

    We need leaders. Not these D-graded businessmen. Period.

    And the society must churn out new leaders from within, and soon.

    Adil bhai, imminent or not in the near future, collapse is inevitable in th current state of affairs. We must give up our luxury lifestyles, us and our leaders, spend nights under the stars to realise what IDPs are going through, and most importantly start DOING, after thinking. :)

    That said…
    Raat din gardish mein hain saat aasman,
    Ho he rahe ga kuch na kuch, ghabraein kya… *sigh*

  9. Maskeenel says:
    June 16th, 2009 8:10 am

    Adil Sahib our civil service which are vibrant and unaffected by the trend can be wipe like they were wiped out in the Iranian revolution. We should not ignore that our society is uneducated and are followers. There is impending danger on the horizon and it should be sternly dealt with. Failure to recognized and ignoring their growth will destroy what we call Pakistan or civilized Pakistan as it is People are scared to go there for the fear of unrest at the hands of different faction and the government is helpless to promise safety to the turist.

  10. Rizwan Khan says:
    June 16th, 2009 10:19 am

    “Pakistan was created because muslims in united India were not able to practice the correct form of Islam. Allah helped us and the new country was created.”

    @Farhan: I am willing to bet my last penny on anyone who can prove to me that his version of Islam is the “correct” version of Islam. Come on. Don’t be childish. Why is it so difficult to understand that your version of the “correct” form of Islam is not shared by everyone? Why do you think we have shias, sunnis, wahabis, barelvis, sufis, deobandis and numerous others fighting that their brand of Islam is the “correct” form?

    If you think that the answer will be found in the tafseers of Qura’n, Hadeeths and lifestyles of sahabas, then you are deluding yourself. All the firqaas have been claiming that their interpretation comes from authentic tafseers, hadeeths and lifestyles of sahabas and yet they have not been able to come to an agreement after centuries of argument. What makes you think that you can surpass everyone else by your own efforts and discover the true version of Islam by your private study?

    The bitter truth is that there is no universal agreement on what the correct form of Islam is and neither it is going to be achieved in any near future. The only sensible alternative is: to you, your deen; and to me, mine. Let Allah decide who is following the “correct” form of Islam.

  11. -Farid says:
    June 16th, 2009 11:10 am

    Dr. Hoodbhoy does make one think – though as Dr. Adil mentions one might not always agree with him.

    I’m personally more optimistic. I think the several flavors of TTPs have no specific agenda or game plan except to spread pandemonium and reap some benefits from the results in terms of power and influence. I fail to see how they can possibly be called a religious movement by any stretch of the imagination. It’s more like a mercenary group that happens to have chanced upon a convenient platform which they are using to their advantage at the moment.

    I think if you look around Pakistan, it is patently obvious that they do not have the sympathies of the majorities – or they would not have had to resort to such extreme violence in the first place. They would simply have run a popular movement and the masses who are supposedly in their favor would have followed them on to the streets en masse. This has not happened and is getting less and less likely to happen with every passing atrocity.

    I think looking at history it is clear that even oppressors and dictators need some form of pseudo-legitimacy to hold on to power for any length of time – and I have a hard time understanding where they will acquire it. Failing this the only other way to control a country of 160 Million souls is thru extreme, indefinite violence. But here too, the theory that they are somehow invincible and can keep this up forever is a bit of a stretch. The worst case Dr. Pervaiz mentions is a scary one but I’m not sure what the chances of such an eventuality are. As Dr. Adil says, it is the worst case and improbable as such.

    That’s my view. I remain cautiously optimistic. Not exactly related to this specific argument, but I recently wrote my views on what has gone right in Pakistan over the years here:

  12. Shoaib says:
    June 16th, 2009 11:17 am

    I have been a silent reader of ATP for sometime now, and I have always appreciated the quality & diversity of the content posted here.

    I also appreciate Dr Hoodbhoy for his academic exellence, although I disagree with some of his political views.

    But today, I was amazed to see the way Dr Hoodbhoy’s article has been put on ATP. With no offence to Dr saab & Mr. Aadil, its all public knowledge that every Zaid & Bakar in Pakistan knows, and I dont see any *thought provoking* piece there in.

    I rather felt dissappointed after reading the article as I was looking for *something*. And I would appreciate if Mr Adil can highlight what caught his eyes, that I seem to miss. As there is a good probability of myself being dumb enough to miss the obvious.

  13. readinglord says:
    June 16th, 2009 11:23 am


    He has well-said:

    “It seems like Mr. Hoodbhoy has simply

  14. IK says:
    June 16th, 2009 12:08 pm

    I have admired Pervez as someone who stands up for the rights of the downtrodden. We need more like him to speak up for the common man. Regarding this piece of education and advice, I do not see anything new here. It is not clear who the audience is. His conclusions are not backed up by reasoning. I think there is already way too much interference in the internal affairs of Pakistan by the US overtly and India covertly. Pakistan and Pakistanis are a resilient nation. They have experienced far worse and come through. Pakistan is not going to collapse if foreign aid stops. Foreign aid is an addiction that Pakistan needs to get off from. I think Adil is phishing for material here in these responses. :-)

  15. Obaid says:
    June 16th, 2009 2:41 pm

    Even Saudis think Pakistanis are not doing enough to do more to curb terrorism…wallahay…yeah din bhee aana tha…those who spread terrorism in first place by their financing and ideology are now blaming Pakistan. If Saudis had invested in industry, real education and infrastructure instead of extremist madrassas things would have been different.

  16. Kasim Mahmood says:
    June 16th, 2009 5:29 pm

    ATP has become a cliche and seems to be loosing it’s charm. Time to rejuvenate it.

  17. zia m says:
    June 16th, 2009 5:33 pm

    It may be impossible to reform Islam.Can we reform the madrassa? Start teaching science and math to our future generation instead of just memorizing Quran.
    Our salvation is in separating religion from state.

  18. Asif Sheikh says:
    June 16th, 2009 5:43 pm

    “Our salvation is in separating religion from state.”

    That’s problematic, especially since it would be helpful in this current situation that the state’s version of the religion (i.e. democracy and constitutional politics is compatible with religion) trumps Sufi Muhammad’s version where democracy and constitutional politics is kufr.

  19. vigilant says:
    June 16th, 2009 7:47 pm

    I first read this article about two weeks ago—-Mr. Adil Najam, you were quite slow to post it.

    In response to someone’s question here on whether Hoodbhoy is Parsi—his religion should be irrelevant to our assessment of him, but nevertheless, I will answer your question: his family are Ismaili Muslims, the same as the family of our great Quaid-e-Azam. I hope that satisfies you.

  20. Farhan Zia says:
    June 17th, 2009 6:08 am

    @Rizwan Khan: I would first like to thank you for reading my comments and making a response to it. One perception that have created around ourselves is that it is so hard to find out what the correct form of Islam is; and according to you impossible. If the muslims have to live in this confusion forever that what exactly Islam is, tell me what was the purpose of Allah’s sending His messenger on earth and creating a large group of first-hand followers (the Sahabas) to show a practicle example? We need to realize that the differences we have among most of those firqas that you have mentioned above are political rather than anything else. These firqas exists more because of power hunger than anything else. Have we ever spend anytime analysing the differences? It makes us laugh if we do so: thing like should we wear green imamas or white? should we say “Ya Mohammad” or not? And then make a party of it so that one can become a leader and have a group of people to follow them. Tell me honestly, is this anything else than power hunger?

    You mentioned that all these firqaas have been claiming that their interpretation comes from authentic tafseers, hadeeths and lifestyles of sahabas but here is my question: Have you, me or the followers of these firqaas ever made a sincere attempt to go and try understanding the saying and life of prophet and sahabas to verify? No we haven’t because we are so busy in our lifes, in reading news regarding the clashes between them and in commenting over it. We have never tried sincerely to find the truth.

    I would respectfully disagree with you that there is no universal agreement of what the correct form of Islam is. Allah has given that judgement and the prophet and Sahabas has demonstrated a practicle example of that agreement. It is we who are trying creating confusions in it so that we can make a way out to satisfy our power hunger. The alternate you mentioned “to you, your deen; and to me, mine” – I would agree with this as at least it will stop us from saying others as wrong and killing people on the basis of it. But let’s be prepare to answer Allah on the day of judgement when He will ask what did we do when Islam was put in to so much confusion and He gave us the power to think and do something. At the least, without going into any clashes with anyone, privately, if we just start to do some self-study, anaylysing with whatever brain power Allah has given us; the Quran, The Hadiths and the lives of Sahabas, I have no doubts in my head that even just this will be enough to come out of the confusion in which we are that “what the correct interpretation of Islam is”. I am not ruling out the roles of people who have spent their lives in understanding Islam (Muftis and Shaikh ul Hadees) as they will always be needed to clarify the details. But what we are getting confused over are not details Rizwan, we are today confused over the most basic things, the most basic definition of Islam. Like a single one-time study of seerat-e-sahaba is enough to let me know that no Sahaba ever burned girls schools, they never did things like what the so called Taliban are doing. And that they never allowed music in its current form, dances in our parties, drinking alcohals. They never resisted wearing a particular color imama and most of the thing we are currently fighting over.

    Do you agree that most (or all let me say) of the followers of these firqaas are not having even the basic knowledge of Islam, even their leaders don’t have that. They just follow the (molvi sahab) of the mosque who tell that whatever he is able to understand without consulting anything. That moulvi sahab cannot understand Quran because it is in Arabic, he cannot read tafseers and seerat-e-sahaba or books of Hadiths because several of time he is illeterate or (like us) don;t have time for it out of the busy life.

    So what are we all doing, just following the illusion that it is so hard to know what correct Islam is. Perhaps that is the most easiest thing to do becuase when you say something is imposible, you don’t have to do anything else after it. The challenge starts when we try achieving something, in this case, trying removing an illusion that true Islam is so hard to understand.

    Thank you once again, it is good that at least we are having this discussion. Sharing thoughts is itself a step towards anything.

  21. Aqil says:
    June 17th, 2009 6:41 am

    Well I think there is nothing particularly new in this piece by Hoodbhoy. Also, while many of the things he says are on the right track, I fully agree with both Athar and Eidee man’s comments. As Athar has argued with a detailed list of specific issues, it is ridiculous to blame everything on Pakistan, and unfortunately Hoodbhoy is another one of those Pakistanis who have joined this American/Indian band wagon. Eidee man is right on target about Hoodbhoy’s attitude towards students and people who haven’t been fortunate enough to have had the education and exposure to consider issues rationally and objectively. Hoodbhoy often has valid things to say, but what he badly lacks is finesse. He issues blanket condemnations like a bulldozer and makes little attempt to understand the finer points and nuances. (Another such person that immediately comes to mind is Asma Jahangir).

    I also agree with Eidee man that suggesting a regional conference involving India and other neighbouring countries appears to be rather optimistic. I think it’s still worth doing(since there is nothing to lose) but not with very high expectations. A more fundamental problem here is that a growing number of Pakistani liberals have a blindspot when it comes to India. This is very similar to the kind of silliness Imran Khan displays on the Taliban. People like Hoodbhoy see India as part of the solution in total denial of the ground reality that India is presently a part of the problem and its hostile attitude towards Pakistan clearly shows that it has no intention of becoming part of the solution any time soon. Pakistan has badly screwed up in pursuit of its legitimate strategic interests and we have to deal with it. What we need is a comprehensive national security policy that fully recognizes the Taliban as a major threat but also does not involve denying that we face a problem from India. Countries don’t run on single issues. They are about parallel processing (i.e. dealing with several issues at the same time). It did not help when we saw the Taliban as assets due to our India centric approach and ignored the potential threat posed by them and other militants, and it is equally stupid when we start assuming that India is a willing ally in our struggle against terrorism without any concrete evidence based on India’s actual behaviour.

  22. Monk says:
    June 17th, 2009 10:31 am

    Introspection is not everyone’s cake. It takes real intellectual and individual honesty explore the issues at home before throwing punches in the dark.
    Pervez Hoodbhoy and intellectuals like him are rare species in our part of the world, much thanks to the Islamisation of the academia as well as all other spheres of life, where blind faith rules.
    What is disappointing is the historic popularity of the parroting hypocrites whose fortified egos are damaged unless they blame the West/India for all their domestic, individual and household issues – only fools get fooled around. An honest look at the history of the subcontinent tells a lot about the mess that lies behind these propaganda based walls of pride and prejudice.
    what’s next? Israel/India killed my cat? God favors my side in all wars?

  23. Maha Khan says:
    June 17th, 2009 12:25 pm

    Dr.Hoodbhoy mostly see dark side.Like in his famous book Religious Orthodoxy where he deprived classical era muslims of every scientific thought and strike down by the genius of the islamic world here

  24. sayeen says:
    June 17th, 2009 3:07 pm

    getting rid of the mullah is the only way forward and the root cause of all that ails Pakistan

  25. faraz says:
    June 17th, 2009 3:16 pm

    Think of Perveez hoodboy as Intellectual not a political leader.

    He is politically incorrect but truth is so called glory of Muslim civilization is pretty much a myth and fabricated. Except 100 years of Abbasi Khalafat; Muslim Civilization was never a great civilization. We never had elements of freedom, personal expression (attitude toward fine arts and philosophy) and curiosity which could have been seed for a “Enlightment”. If you think about other religions like Christianity, Judaism etc they evolved over time but Islam is rigid as it claims that we have exact words of God and actions of prophets were directed by God. So we have less room for “free-thinking” inside box of Islam. We miss recipe for evolution of ideas.

  26. ShahidnUSA says:
    June 17th, 2009 10:29 pm

    I say, send all the mullahs to construct Basha Dam.
    It seems they have too much time in their hands to either kill each other or spew hate for others.
    Turn (TEMPORARILY) all the mosques into community centers. To find jobs for people. If the women cannot enter mosque then men should also have equal rights.
    Poor women have to die to enter cemeteries.
    One little problem, mullahs have to use only hands to construct
    a dam, because they dont like to use American machineries.

    Hum bole ga to tum bolo ge ke bolta he^^^

  27. wsd says:
    June 17th, 2009 11:32 pm

    I wishe he had written in greter detail why and how taliban became so strong in NWFP and why the army operations did not work for so many years. Also he wrote brief 3 liner in the end as a solution to this complex issue which is full of clische’ as usual without an concrete substance in it.

  28. MB says:
    June 18th, 2009 4:14 am

    Very well written by PH
    There is hardly anything one can disagree to
    Few people accuse him of only seeing the dark side but if TRUTH favors him mostly it shouldnt matter which side he is tilted to. The truth is he has a very (almost) PERFECT analysis of the current situation.

    Many people and even ADIL NAJAM doesnt agree to few assumptions at end where he mentions the removal of KIYANI and mullah taking over ARMY but truth is stranger than fiction and from what we know there is a good percent of rouge elements in ISI and MILITARY establishment and may be, just may be, ZIA’s removal is repeated and we have a brand new ARMY fully in-line with the mullah style and Saudi brand of ideology

  29. Maha Khan says:
    June 18th, 2009 5:30 am

    @ Faraz

    Abbasi Khilafat was not only epicenre of wonderful muslim heritage and science.Spain was considered as the Jewel of the World in those days and students from Italy used tocome and study there unlike Dr.Hoodbhoy claims.Kindly click on the link to see what Professor George Saliba of Columbia University and one of the world leading autority on historry and islamic science said during his visit to Lahore at Government College Lahore , LUMS and Jamia Ashrfia last year.

  30. Muhammad Naim says:
    June 18th, 2009 6:22 am

    I disagree with few comments of Dr. Hoodbhoy which have oft repeated cliches like Gen Musharraf running with hares & hunting with hounds etc.
    First of all all countries keep their national interests supreme,therefore Musharraf did not have accept everything the US required.Pakistan would do only where its & US interests coincided.
    Next very Jhonny declares that Pakistan created Taliban without any solid proof or fact eg. money or arms given to such & such individuals etc.There is no proof.We are in a habit of just picking up insinuations put up as reports by foreign media.In most cases this media has preconceived biases?compulsions to put up sensational news items.Only sensation sells.We Pakistanis take thus yellow journalism of white man as gospel truth and start bandting it about as evidence.
    As a nation we lack objectvity & eye for detail ,as detail requires hard work of finding & sifting facts.Therefore we accept every thing thrown at us at face value.
    The article by Dr Hoodbhoy is a below par one with not much of intellectual content.It may look good to non Pakistanis who do not know much about this country & its people.
    Pakistanis are a resilient & tough people with a pioneering spirit.They have made this country what it is today literally out of nothing.

  31. Osman says:
    June 18th, 2009 9:12 am

    I am so glad that Adil Najam put this up. Because this demonstrates his point. The job of intellectuals is to make us think about hard questions and the discussion shows that whether people like his point of not, Hoodbhoy is forcing them to think and speak out on important issues. That is why we need more intellectuals like Hoodbhoy and Najam and why we need more intellectual discussions like on this website.

  32. Roxio says:
    June 19th, 2009 10:41 am

    I had a decent opinion about Hoodhbouy untill I saw him on Capital Talk few days back that led me to think that all is not well about his perception about Pakistan’s future.
    Though being a nuclear scientist and a Physics professor of long experience and calibre,what he said on TV defied everything.
    This is what he said:

    “Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are in real danger of falling into (Swat’s)Talibans and there is a clear danger of Islamabad falling into their hands too and if that ever happens,and we hope it doesn’t happen,then Pakistani Talibans can easily attack London,Moscow,Paris and New York with nuclear weapons”.

    The participants of that particular show could hardly believe what he said.If a politician had said that,that was acceptable but to hear that nonsense from a nuclear scientist meant he wasn’t in a right state of mind when he said that.
    Hoddhbouy has always been spelling doom and gloom for Pakistan’s future.

  33. Aamir Ali says:
    June 19th, 2009 3:11 pm

    Israelis have a term called “Self-hating Jew”. Rather than an intellectual, I would call Pervez Hoodbhoy a “self-hating Pakistani”.

    Don’t why its so difficult for Pakistanis to ever take the good with the bad. Either Pakistanis see themselves as the greatest gift from God, or they see themselves as complete, utter, and unredeemable cretins of this earth. Pervez Hoodbhoy belongs to the latter category.

  34. zia m says:
    June 19th, 2009 9:54 pm

    “Hoddhbouy has always been spelling doom and gloom for Pakistan’s future”
    And Roxio you also stated
    “I had a decent opinion about Hoodhbuoy untill I saw him on Capital Talk a few days back”
    We have our prejudices,Dr hoodbhoy is a great intellectual and an asset for Pakistan.He is not going to be right on all issues but we should judge people with an open mind.

  35. June 20th, 2009 10:47 am

    Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy and Adil Najam are one of those few rare intellectuals, Pakistan has ever been blessed in decades. Such intellectuals challenge us to debate and open dialogue – something that we should welcome and not excuse.

    I am proud to have him as my teacher and guide. I found him as most dedicated, honest and loyal person towards his duties as a teacher in Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad. He is currently chairing Physics Department and I am witness of his efforts in bringing improvement and to open doors of new dimensions of thoughts for his students.

    We must pay respect to our intellectuals. They float echoes of sanity and wisdom in thick air filled by noises.

  36. zia m says:
    June 20th, 2009 1:03 pm

    @Aamir Ali
    I think the expression “Self hating Jew” is most often used by Zionists and right wing nuts to belittle and demonise their political opponents.
    I have lot of respect for so called self hating jews.
    Your comment about Dr Hoodbhoy should therefore be considered a compliment. :)

  37. Khwaja Aftab Ali, Florida, USA says:
    June 28th, 2009 2:22 pm

    Who says there is no feudal in Pakistan. Rural Pakistan is control by the feudal, even in urban areas one can see the people who work hard and other who exploit the situation and make money in the name of Muslim saints or family lands. Our ruling class of so called politicians is from feudal and then industrialist follow them for power in authoritarian society. Law making body-the Majlish Shora, parliament -the senate , national assembly, provincial assembly and district council , every where the members are feudal, indusrialists, drug barons and /or Rtd. corrupt police officers with few Rtd, army officers as well. The writer of the this article and a leading scholar Dr. Aisha Siddiqa is also from feudal class with extra ordinary intelligence. I agree with some people that one should do some thing instead of suggestions. I have done some thing by leaving my home land as it

  38. Hamed says:
    June 30th, 2009 2:25 am

    He is unable to distinguish between Taliban of Afghanistan and Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Anyone can proclaim he is a Taliban and blew school, lash woman, explode himself. On simple investigations evidence is contrary.

    Suicide bombers can be used by anti-Pakistan elements/states as well, if this thought ever occurred to his intellectual brain.

    What Mr. Hoodbhoy says comes from their masters in UK. On one side we have TTP creating anarchy in Pakistan and other side we have self proclaimed analysts creating discontent in educated sections of society.

  39. Shahid Afridi says:
    July 13th, 2009 2:32 am

    Hoodbhoy is my peer from QA University.

    He is a very smart physicist but suffers from a degree of tunnel vision and myopia as a political analyst.

    Pakistan has been ruled through the barrel of a gun for the better part of its life. The Taliban are using the same formula which the Pakistan Army has been using for the past 50 years. The only problem is that their gun is not big enough to achieve their out of reach political ambitions.

    What we should talk about is Rule of Law.

    If the Army Generals who conquered Pakistan FOUR times are tried and convicted (even posthumously) for high treason we shall never see any Talibans setting up shop in Pakistan.

    A country with NO RULE OF LAW and NO PRINCIPLES has no right to exist.

  40. Suhaib Khan says:
    September 4th, 2009 8:28 am

    Pakistan Suffers from “No rule of Law”. If there is implementation of rule of law alike for rich or poor, Pakistan shall be the best country in the world to live in.

    Please remember, where ever government fails to implement law, then anarchy follows. Our country is in a state of anarchy since the death of Quaid.

    Biggest folly was conducted by Liaquat Ali Khan when he flew to USA to land in the Arms of USA rather than of USSR.
    USA is not our friend but infact our enemy No.1 (simply put)
    using Pakistan or using the world for it’s ulterior motives.

    T Care


  41. Khwaja Aftab Ali says:
    November 22nd, 2009 7:48 pm

    Pakistan’s Ignored Rural Areas
    By Khwaja Aftab Ali

    Five regional cities should be upgraded within the provinces in Pakistan: Dera Ismail Khan in NWFP, Gawadar/Qalat in Balouchistan, Sukkar/Larkana in Upper Sindh, Jehlum/Rawalpindi and Multan in Punjab province.
    These cities have been ignored by the federal and provincial governments although they have their own history, culture and languages. Dera Ismail Khan in the south of Pakhtun khwa/MWFP is under siege, Multan/DG Khan in the south of Punjab is the next target of religious extremists, Sukkar/Larkana is being ruled by criminals, Gawadar/Qalat appears troublesome. The people of these regions have to travel to provincial capitals trivial reasons.
    A good number of people are also forced to travel to big cities to earn livelihood as the local feudal who own majority land treat the common man as their virtual slaves.
    Creation of regional government and upgrading of regional cities will save a lot of money and time of the poor people of these areas. Circuit benches of the High Courts are already functioning in these places and what is required is additional staff to beef up different departments engaged in additional work at the provincial capitals.
    The concerned authorities should immediately consider to upgrade the regional cities. And immediate attention should be given to upgrade/build the airports, TV stations, civic centers, libraries, hospitals, educational institutions and bolstering investment opportunities for Pakistanis living abroad. Foreign firms should be encouraged to create jobs in the areas as the majority population in rural Pakistan does not have enough resources to survive.
    In this context I am reminded of the conditions obtaining in Iran before the Islamic Revolution when rural Iran continued to be ignored and the capital Tehran was developed and called the ‘Paris of the Middle East’. A couple of big cities, including Isfahan, and the Caspian Sea area were developed because of the attraction they possessed for foreign tourists but the rural area was ignored and plagued by problems of sorts as it was ruled by ruthless police and intelligence forces. It was but natural that the rural population supported the Islamic Revolution and moved to Tehran and other big cities and later ruled the cities. After the revolution, the new government was motivated to develop the rural areas of Iran.
    There is thus a pressing need to set up a fund to upgrade/build the regional cities in Pakistan under the aegis of the public and private sectors. Our foreign friends and Pakistanis living abroad could be asked to participate in this singularly important developmental effort.


    Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
    © 2004 . All Rights Reserved.

  42. Khwaja Aftab Ali says:
    June 11th, 2010 2:08 pm

    Almighty God bless America,The USA. Most powerful man has gone and two richest persons/groups have come in power. The poor will become poorer and rich will be richer day by day because of the unique business of politics in Pakistan. President Musharraf handed over resignation to the chief of army staff in presence of other generals. Army act of Pakistan zindabad , Pakistan paindabad. For God sake, plan for creation of jobs and circulation of money to boost economy of the under developed country. And make sure the rule of law over rule the law of ruler. Hard working people of Pakistan can make this great country a wonderful place if justice is provided to the common man. All the best with lot of prayers to the Almighty GOD for the welfare of oppressed people of Pakistan.

  43. Majeed says:
    December 19th, 2010 1:30 am

    This is a good article and lots of good ideas we should think about.

  44. dr shafiq says:
    February 7th, 2011 8:24 pm


    dear mr pervaiz , u have given a very biased analysis of the whole situation , i would like u to answer few of these questions . u think islamic sharia is better then democracy ? If yes , then isn t it possible to make a law against islam via democracy?surely it is possible , then how can u call it better ? u have any sympathy for the families of muslims in northren pakistan and afghanistan , who were murdered and disgraced by ur american friends , how would u feel if u were born in waziristan and ur family would have died in a drone attack ?

    3.can u justify war on terror by USA ? surely not , then how can u justify Pakistan as an ally of USA ?How can u justify pakistan prividing air support and air ports for attacks on muslims ! how can u justify pakistan providing upto 70% of NATO troops supply line ?

    4.Kindly write some thing about afia siddique , amil kansi and raymond davis , may be a comparasion of them !

    5.i would like to you to justify gauntanamo bay atrocities by USA. this article u just wrote ageing illetrate sufi Mohammad ! do u think u have the right to use such insulting comments against any one !

    I know this would have bothered you , but i will appreciate if u talk about all this and include it in this article .Kindly answer every question one by one.


    aoa and Allah Hafiz

  45. M Gohar says:
    February 8th, 2011 8:46 am

    This guy is completely insane, a liberal extremist!

  46. Saleem says:
    May 21st, 2011 9:41 pm

    @Dr. Shafiq
    Your comments are typical of insanity prevailing in streets of Pakistan. The same insanity and limbo that has led Pakistan to current situation. In your right mind , do you believe that writer will visit every forum and respond to everyone POINT by POINT. HAVE EVEN A SHRED OF LOGICAL THINKING LEFT IN YOU. The useless rants are responded below and are my personal opinion, do not let the mullah make you believe that CIA is responding to you !
    1) What has islamic sharia got to do with democracy ?
    2) Do you have any sympathy for countless murdered by mullah fanatics and thousands kidnapped for ransom. How would YOU FEEL if your loved one is kidnapped by mullah brigade and than slaughtered while being filmed ????
    3) Can you justify mercenaries sitting in Pakistan and simply claiming attack on US or France or Denmark ? Have you seen this happening in any other country ? Do you EVEN have a sense to understand that muslims are MORE FREE TO PRACTICE ISLAM IN US THAN IN PAKISTAN !!!
    4) The way mullah are coming out in name of affia siddiqui makes me suspicious about her. These mullahs who will burn anyones shop on heresy or simply kill people in name of correct or incorrect practise of islam can not defend a human life unless they have a purpose. Go to wikipedia and read about your mother teresa afia siddiqui. A divorced lady who ran to Afghanistan ! Whats so divine about this lady that people like you who favor killing of millions in hand of mullah brigade are standing up for this single lady ?
    5) I am not sure if you have visited Guantanamo bay and seen the atrocities first hand or just believe in what your mullah told you about the place. From the atrocities I have heard from the mullah , it is much milder version of our jails or the torture cells operated by jihadi idiots.
    6) Do you disagree that sufi mohammad was ageing or do you think he had a phd in suicidology ?

    Once again I repeat , your rants are typical of Pakistani mullah minority, the same rants which is bringing down Pakistan !


    dear mr pervaiz , u have given a very biased analysis of the whole situation , i would like u to answer few of these questions . u think islamic sharia is better then democracy ? If yes , then isn t it possible to make a law against islam via democracy?surely it is possible , then how can u call it better ? u have any sympathy for the families of muslims in northren pakistan and afghanistan , who were murdered and disgraced by ur american friends , how would u feel if u were born in waziristan and ur family would have died in a drone attack ?

    3.can u justify war on terror by USA ? surely not , then how can u justify Pakistan as an ally of USA ?How can u justify pakistan prividing air support and air ports for attacks on muslims ! how can u justify pakistan providing upto 70% of NATO troops supply line ?

    4.Kindly write some thing about afia siddique , amil kansi and raymond davis , may be a comparasion of them !

    5.i would like to you to justify gauntanamo bay atrocities by USA. this article u just wrote ageing illetrate sufi Mohammad ! do u think u have the right to use such insulting comments against any one !

    I know this would have bothered you , but i will appreciate if u talk about all this and include it in this article .Kindly answer every question one by one.


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