Voice of the Mountain People

Archive for October 3rd, 2009

Protest drive comes to logical end; 22 file papers from Hunza

Posted by Gilgit Tribune on October 3, 2009

By Zulfiqar Ali Khan

HUNZA, Oct 3: While ending the month-long protest campaign, almost all major political parties and individuals here on Saturday opted to electoral politics by filing nomination papers to contest for the lone seat in the forthcoming election of Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly.protest4

At least 22 candidates from various major political parties as well as independents filed their nomination papers in the Returning Officer’s office. This is for the first time in the history of Hunza that such a large number of candidates have filed papers.

About 200 people were gathered in front of the office of the Returning Officer on the call of All Hunza Action Committee (AHAC) to stop the candidates from filing their application.

After failing to stop intending candidates from filing nominations, the top leaders of AHAC also submitted their papers and the protesters dispersed peacefully.

Serious differences surfaced within the committee over boycott of the election.

nomination 2Talking to this scribe, Baba Jan, Chief Organiser of Progressive Youth Front said that his party will devise the strategy soon. He said his party is still in favour of election boycott.

The action committee has now been transformed into electoral body, an angry protester commented while others praised the decision for peaceful ending of the boycott.

protest2Those filed their papers included Zafar Iqbal, Ghazanfar Ali Khan, nomination4Atiqa Ghazanfar, Wazir Baig, Fida Karim, Noor Muhammad, Mir Baz Khan, Sher Yar Khan, Saleem Khan, Aziz Ahmed, Waheed Murad, Fazal Rabani, Naik Naam Khan, Karimullah Baig, Abbas Khan, Abuzar Ali, Lal Hussain, Ghadir Shah, Doulat Karim, Karimullah Baig, Kamil Jan, Bahadur Khan, Shahbaz Khan, Shah Khan, Rehmatullah Baig, Rozdarullah, Arif Hussain, Ijlal Hussain and Karim Sher Khan.

Posted in Gilgit-Baltistan, Hunza-Gojal, Politics | 1 Comment »

GBLA polls: 382 file papers

Posted by Gilgit Tribune on October 3, 2009

By Our Special Correspondent

GILGIT, Oct 3: As many as 382 intending candidates on Saturday filed nomination papers for the Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly elections, official sources told GB Tribune.

The Election Commission officials said that they have received 382 nomination papers to contest elections for the 24 general seats of Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly scheduled to be held on Nov12.

According to the Election Commission of Gilgit-Baltistan, Zafar Waqar Taj, for the six seats of Gilgit District 144 intending candidates have filed nominations.

For six seats of Skardu District, 71 candidates have filed papers. In Skardu-I, 12 candidates, Skardu-II, nine candidates, Skardu-III, 10 candidates, Skardu-IV, 16 candidates, Skardu-V, 17 candidates and in Skardu-VI, seven candidates have filed their papers.

For three Ghangche District seats, 21 have submitted nominations.

In Ghangche-I, six candidates have filed papers, Ghangche-II, 10, and in Ghangche-III, five candidates have filed papers.

For four seats in Diamer district, 51 have submitted papers. For two Astore District seats, 42 have filed nominations and for three Ghizer district seats, 55 candidates have filed nominations.

Nomination papers will be scrutinised on Oct 7.

All former members have again submitted their papers to contest elections.

Corner meetings, rallies and campaign are getting momentum in Gilgit-Baltistan.

Posted in GECA, Gilgit-Baltistan, Hunza-Gojal, Politics | Leave a Comment »

People urged to get united against terrorism

Posted by Gilgit Tribune on October 3, 2009

By Our Special Correspondent
GILGIT, Oct 3: People from cross section of the society and political divide condemned the spate of terrorist acts and called it a conspiracy to sabotage the democratic and uplift reforms introduced in the region recently.

They demanded of the government to expose and eliminate such elements so that a lasting peace and order could be established in the region. They urged the people to reject such elements through their ballots.
Talking to this correspondent, senior politician and information secretary of Pakistan Peoples Party, Rana Nazim described it handiwork of the ‘hidden’ hands to destroy peace and harmony of region. He urged the people to unmask such elements.
“Certainly sectarian elements are enemies of the country, public and the area and this is ours national duty to get united against them,” he stressed.
They are also trying to deprive the people of the fruits of empowerment and self-governance recently introduced by the PPP government in Gilgit-Baltistan.
He, however, was optimistic that people of area would thwart the designs of such elements.

He said it’s high time to purge society of such anti-peace and anti-state elements which have made the society and the area hostage. He asked the administration to deal with sectarian elements with iron hand so that development process could not be halted.
Another prominent leader Jamil Ahmed sees external hands behind the incidents to disturb peace and warned them that their nefarious designs could not be successful because the public have now become aware of their designs.
“Undoubtedly it is a conspiracy hatched by the enemies of Pakistan which need to be thwarted,” he said.
Municipal Committee Chairman Ilyas Siddiqui came down hard on law enforcement agencies for failing to track down miscreants and to curb terror acts which have destroyed peace and development of the area.
He said those forces which are killing innocent people were planted by those who are busy in weakening the state and destroy social fabric of Gilgit-Baltistan. “But they are living in fools paradise as the area is different from other restive areas of the country,” he commented, apparently mentioning the Tribal Areas and Swat and Balochistan. He warned that this could not happen and they would be defeated by the peace-loving-people of the region.
He asked the administration to take quick action against the small group of extremist elements before things get out of their hands and Swat-like situation is created in the peaceful region of Gilgit.
It is irony of the fact that the rulers never nipped the evil in the bud and awakens when the situation gets worse and state has to suffer huge loss in terms of human lives and resources.
He demanded of the government to come down hard on the perpetrators and establish peace in the region.

Violence mars electioneering

Though a large number of candidates have obtained nomination papers to take part in the forthcoming elections, the recent unfortunate incidents of violence have marred the electioneering and political activities in the capital city.

There was low attendance in all government and private departments and markets. Election officers continue to issue nomination papers to the intending candidates, but none of them have submitted the papers yet.
Even the intending candidates in Hunza have obtained nominations where rumors about boycotting the elections were rife,” Zafar Waqar Taj, Election Commissioner told the Tribune.
He disclosed that not a single nomination was submitted on the second day but he was optimistic that there would be enough candidates in the run keeping in view the tendency shown in obtaining of the papers, the EC said.
He said October 3 is the last day and those willing to contest the elections could submit the form by due time.
Sources in election commission told this scribe that almost all former lawmakers have again obtained the nomination papers.
It is to be noted here that Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani had told media that elections were being held under the supervision of judiciary and ordered the administration to ensure holding of free and fair elections.

Posted in Gilgit-Baltistan, Politics | Leave a Comment »

RO slammed for not ensuring availability of voters list in Hunza

Posted by Gilgit Tribune on October 3, 2009

Our Correspondent

HUNZA, Oct 3: The intending candidates here have criticised the local administration for failing to facilitate them and ensuring availability of electoral lists in the office of Returning Officer.

Over 18 candidates obtained nomination papers till Friday evening. They included Ghazanfar Ali Khan, Atiqa Ghazanfar, their two sons Saleem Khan and Sher Yar Khan, Zafar Iqbal, Kamil Jan, Imam Dad, Arif Hussain, Shah Khan, Bahadur Khan and his son district council member Shahbaz Khan as independents candidates. From PPP platform Lal Hussain, Abuzar Ali, Neknam, Fida Karim, Hajat Mohammad, Ghulam Abbas and Daulat Karim have obtained nomination papers.

Meanwhile, the All-Hunza Action Committee seems to be in disarray as despite its announcement to hold a public rally and stage a sit-in outside the office of the returning officer in order to stop the candidates from filing their nomination papers, has failed to do so as some candidates have succeeded in filing their papers.

“We have asked the local administration to ensure security on the occasion of elections,” a candidate told this scribe.

He said forcefully stopping people from the election process was not a democratic norm and if the “action committee claims representing the people, then they should contest the elections”.

Differences have appeared in the All-Parties Hunza Action Committee (AHAC) over the participation in the forthcoming elections for Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly.

Nationalist and progressive parties are strongly advocating boycott of the election against non-acceptance of their demand of an additional seat for Hunza in the legislative assembly while other parties and individuals are in favour of fielding joint candidates from the committee’s platform.

The committee at its meeting held at Aliabad on Thursday, had decided to stage sit-in outside election offices to stop intending candidates from submitting their nominations.

AHAC chairman Sheikh Abid Hussain announced holding of public gatherings on Thursday and Friday in front of the sessions court Hunza to stop candidates from filing their nomination papers. “We will first convince them and then force them not to submit their papers,” some of the committee members threatened.

They said participation in the election means accepting the discrimination with the people of Hunza.

The participants, however, were divided on future strategies in case consensus on boycott option is not reached. Most of the action committee members supported the idea of fielding a joint candidate from the committee’s platform in the election. However, the leaders of the progressive and nationalist parties opposed the proposal.

Labour Party Boloristan Chairman Advocate Ehsan Ali and Progressive Youth Front Hunza chapter chief organiser Baba Jan were of the view that the action committee should not be converted into election body and opposed participation in the election process. They stressed on mobilisation of the people to stop election process.

The participants condemned former chief executive of Gilgit-Baltistan Ghazanfar Ali Khan for backtracking from his earlier announcement of boycotting the polls by getting seven nomination papers for seven of his family members.

Posted in Gilgit-Baltistan, Hunza-Gojal, Politics | Leave a Comment »

Faheem Hussain – as I knew him

Posted by Gilgit Tribune on October 3, 2009

by Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy

It was mid-October 1973 when, after a grueling 26-hour train ride from Karachi, I reached the physics department of Islamabad University (or Quaid-i-Azam University, as it is now known). As I dumped my luggage and “hold-all” in front of the chairman’s office, a tall, handsome man with twinkling eyes looked at me curiously. He was wearing a bright orange Che Guevara t-shirt and shocking green pants. His long beard, though shorter than mine, was just as unruly and unkempt. We struck up a conversation. At 23, I had just graduated from MIT and was to be a lecturer in the department; he had already been teaching as associate professor for five years. The conversation turned out to be the beginning of a lifelong friendship. Together with Abdul Hameed Nayyar – also bearded at the time – we became known as the Sufis of Physics. Thirty six years later, when Faheem Hussain lost his battle against prostate cancer, our sadness was beyond measure.

Revolutionary, humanist, and scientist, Faheem Hussain embodied the political and social ferment of the late 1960’s. With a Ph.D that he received in 1966 from Imperial College London, he had been well-placed for a solid career anywhere in the world. In a profession where names matter, he had worked under the famous P.T. Mathews in the group headed by the even better known Abdus Salam. After his degree, Faheem spent two years at the University of Chicago. This gave him a chance to work with some of the world’s best physicists, but also brought him into contact with the American anti-Vietnam war movement and a powerful wave of revolutionary Marxist thinking. Even decades later, Faheem would describe himself as an “unreconstructed Marxist”. Participating in the mass anti-war demonstrations at UC had stirred his moral soul; he felt the urge to do more than just physics. Now married to Jane Steinfels, a like-minded soul who he met in Chicago, Faheem decided to return to Pakistan.

Faheem and Jane made an amazing couple. Fully immersed in the outstanding causes of the times, they seemed to have a limitless amount of revolutionary energy. Long before I knew them, they had been protesting against the Pakistan Army’s actions in East Pakistan. As Faheem would recount, this was a lonely fight. Many Marxists in those times, inspired by Mao’s China, chose to understand the issue in geopolitical terms rather than as a popular struggle for independence. Some leftists ended up supporting the army’s mass murder of Bengalis.

With Bangladesh now a reality, things moved on. Bhutto’s rhetoric of socialism and justice for the poor had inspired nascent trade union movements to sprout across Pakistan’s cities. Many, however, quickly turned into organizations for labour control rather than emancipation. There were genuinely independent ones too, such as the Peoples Labour Federation (PLF), an independent Rawalpindibased trade union that saw through Bhutto’s shallow rhetoric. In the early 1970’s, Faheem and Jane were highly influential in this organization, sometimes providing security and cover to its hunted leadership. Iqbal Bali, who passed away in the middle of this year, would vividly recount those days.

Very soon, I joined the small group of leftwing activists that looked up to this couple for instruction and guidance. We formed study groups operating under the PLF, both for self-education and for spreading the message through small study groups of industrial workers. Some, including myself, branched out further, working in distant villages. Gathering material support for the Baloch nationalists, who were fighting an army rejuvenated by Bhutto, was yet another goal for the group. The dream was to bring about a socialist revolution in Pakistan.

All this crashed to an end with Bhutto’s death by hanging in 1979 and the subsequent consolidation of General Zia-ul-Haq’s coup. Pakistan’s Dark Age had just begun. Although Bhutto’s regime had turned repressive and violent in its last desperate days, it was gentle in comparison with what was to follow. With dissent savagely muzzled, the only option was to operate underground. On 3 November 1981, three of our QAU colleagues and friends were caught, imprisoned, and savaged by the military regime. Jamil Omar, a lecturer in computer science and the “ring leader” – was tortured. Two others – Tariq Ahsan and Mohammed Salim – were also imprisoned and their careers destroyed. Their crime was involvement in the secret publication of “Jamhoori Pakistan”, a 4-page newsletter that demanded return to democracy and the end of army rule. A triumphant Zia-ul-Haq went on Pakistan Television, congratulated the men who had succeeded in arresting the teachers, and pledged to “eliminate the cancer of politics” from Quaid-e-Azam University.

Although Faheem was not directly involved in “Jamhoori Pakistan”, we knew he was being closely watched by the intelligence and could have chosen to hide. Instead, with characteristic fearlessness, he did all that was possible to help locate the abducted teachers, and then to secure their release. Tariq Ahsan wrote to me from Canada that “His solidarity during those long years was an invaluable source of support for our families and friends.”

But the struggle took its toll. By the mid 1980’s, Faheem was in the doldrums. Situated in an academically barren environment, he was able to publish little research of worth. Politically, there was no chance of doing anything significant in the climate of repression. Things had gone downhill in personal terms as well – his marriage with Jane was coming apart. To the great sorrow of their friends, the couple parted ways and Jane returned to America. Encouraged by Faheem, she had written school books on Pakistani history that are still sold and used today. In 1989, Faheem left QAU formally but his involvement in academic and political matters had already dropped off in the year or two before that.

From this low point in his life, Faheem struggled upwards. Initially in Germany, and then elsewhere later, he now concentrated solely upon his profession and was able to learn an impressive amount of new physics. Professor Abdus Salam, who by now had received aNobel Prize for his work, invited Faheem to become a permanent member of the theoretical physics group at the International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Italy. Faheem remained there until his retirement in 2004. Getting this position was no mean achievement: theoretical physics is a fiercely competitive and notoriously difficult subject. Faheem was the first Pakistani to publish a research paper in one of its most challenging areas – superstring theory.

With a cheerful and positive disposition, and an abiding concern for the welfare of others, Faheem quickly became popular at the ICTP. His laughter would resonate in the institute’s corridors. With time, he took on administrative responsibilities as well and was instrumental in setting up a “Diploma Programme” that admits students from third world countries for advanced studies in various areas. Now married to Sara, a beautiful and even-tempered Italian woman, he was equally comfortable with Italians and Pakistanis or, for that matter, Indians. To Faheem, a cultural amphibian, differences between nations carried no meaning.

And then came retirement time. What to do? I wrote to Faheem: come back! He agreed. Finding money was not a problem – Pakistan’s higher education was experiencing a budgetary boom. But his old university, plagued by base rivalries and a contemptuous disdain for learning, refused. Specious arguments were given to prevent one of its own founding members, now one of Pakistan’s most distinguished and active physicists, from being taken on the faculty. Initially at the National Centre for Physics in Islamabad, Faheem was eventually offered a position at the newly established science faculty of LUMS in Lahore.

Faheem’s unpretentious mannerisms and gentleness of spirit ensured that LUMS too was enamored of him. Asad Naqvi, one of Pakistan’s leading physicists and a faculty member at LUMS, wrote to me upon hearing of Faheem’s death: “I am lost after hearing this. I only knew him for about 5 years, and in that short time, I had grown really fond of him. We are all poorer today, having lost such a lovely person who touched us so deeply.”

Surely, there shall be many other such tributes from Faheem’s many friends. But, to be true to him as well as my own self, I must admit that in later years we did disagree on some important things – “unreconstructed Marxism” to me is an anachronism, a relic of the 1960’s and still earlier, meaningless in a world that has become far more complex than Marx could have possibly imagined. Nor can I reflexively support today’s so-called “anti-imperialism” of the left that ends up supporting the forces of regressive fundamentalism. But let these issues stand wherever they do. Why is it necessary for friends to agree upon everything?

From atoms to atoms – death is inevitable, the final victory of entropy over order. Meaningless? No! To have lived a full life, to have experienced its richness, to have struggled not just for one-self but for others as well, and to have earned the respect and love of those around you. That is a life worth living for. Faheem, my friend, you are gone. May you now rest in peace, with a job well done.

The writer is Chairman, Department of Physics Quaid-i-Azam University Islamabad.

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