South Asia Citizens Web - Dispatch
1st June 2000
#1. Pakistan's leader faces growing unrest.
#2. Pakistan: How 2 sisters defied tradition & started a women's cricket team
#3. Fiji / India: What is common between George Fernandes & George Speight?
#4. UNIDIR fellowships : South Asia
Far Eastern Economic Review
Issue of June 1, 2000
PAKISTAN'S LEADER FACES GROWING UNREST. CAN HE SURVIVE WITHOUT IMPOSING
By Ahmed Rashid/ISLAMABAD Issue cover-dated June 1,
FROM A LEGAL POINT OF VIEW, Pakistan's leader stands strong. On May 12, the
country's Supreme Court validated the military coup last October that
brought Gen. Pervaiz Musharraf to power. The court also gave Musharraf, now
chief executive, sweeping powers to amend the constitution and over two
more years to carry out social and political reforms and return the country
The court mandate raised hopes that the glacial pace of the army's promised
reform agenda--and reform was Musharraf's justification for the coup--is
about to change. Instead, a riotous week of growing instability and
backtracking on reforms has prompted doubts about whether Musharraf can
even last for two years.
Rock-throwing Islamic militants shut down Karachi on May 18 and 19 after an
Islamic scholar was shot dead in sectarian violence between Sunni and Shia
extremists. As rioting ended, traders launched a three-day national strike
that brought the country to a halt. Traders called the strike to oppose a
new general sales tax of 15% that's due to be included in the budget on
This kind of breakdown in law and order would have been considered normal
under earlier, elected regimes. But even in this volatile country, such
instability was not expected under military rule. Despite the newfound
legitimacy it has gained from the court ruling, the army has been left
struggling to retain its credibility in the eyes of an increasingly worried
and sceptical public.
In Islamabad, the aftermath of the strike left growing concern that
Musharraf's only means to ensure stability is martial law. While the army
refrained from imposing such measures when it seized power last October, it
may now be left with little choice.
Outside the military, Pakistan's most powerful organized force--and the
political force to be reckoned with--are the fundamentalist mullahs. If
recent gestures are any indication, the army is not prepared to tackle the
escalating power of Islamic fundamentalist parties. On May 16, Musharraf
unexpectedly gave in to their demands and withdrew a proposal by his
government that would have made it harder for individuals to accuse others
of blasphemy. The surviving law is considered to be discriminatory by
The proposed change, though relatively minor, was bitterly opposed by a new
alliance of some 40 of the country's Islamic fundamentalist parties. The
army had hoped that by backing down it would stop fundamentalists from
supporting the traders' strike. Instead, Islamic parties not only supported
the strike but also stepped up their demands for the full Islamicization of
Pakistan's laws. By backing down to the mullahs on a small issue, the army
may inadvertently be allowing the Islamic parties to set the regime's
The mullahs are too powerful to ignore. "We have to take the Islamic
parties with us," says a senior army officer. "We cannot afford to confront
them." In fact, an increasingly powerful group of generals around Musharraf
already has close links to the fundamentalists.
Despite concerns about an ideological divide in the army, Musharraf is
still seen to have the backing of key generals, and with it the power to
act decisively. But military officials say they are reluctant to push
through multiple reforms for fear of antagonizing many sections of society.
As for martial law, while it might stabilize things at home, it would do
little to help relations with the West, particularly the International
Monetary Fund, with which the government is trying to negotiate a $2.5
Musharraf does have another, though highly unlikely, escape route: If
unrest persists, the army could throw in the towel and order early
Copyright ©2000 Review Publishing Company Limited, Hong Kong. All rights
June 5, 2000
A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN HOW TWO SISTERS DEFIED TRADITION AND STARTED THE
COUNTRY'S FIRST NATIONAL WOMEN'S CRICKET TEAM
By Tasgola Karla Bruner
Shaiza and Sharmeen Said Khan have survived death threats, bureaucratic
hostility and men who are threatened by women who know what they want. A
top official of the Pakistan Cricket Board once told the sisters that he
didn't approve of women "getting out of the four walls." Many Pakistani
women are not allowed to challenge tradition, but that's what the Khans
have done for the love of a sport and the respect of their country. With
the help of their father, a wealthy carpet manufacturer in Karachi, Shaiza
and Sharmeen, 30 and 26, have formed Pakistan's first national women's
cricket team. It has been recognized by the government but not by the men's
Pakistan Cricket Board, which eventually aims to take over the sport. The
team has no outside sponsors but plenty of moxie: 14 female playersmost at
ages when they're expected to be married and bearing childrenare
practicing in Karachi and preparing for their first test match in Europe.
The team will play Ireland in July. "Pakistani women are treated like
slaves," says Sharmeen, the youngest sister. "Cricket is demanding, and you
need a mind of your own to play it. This is what these women are trying to
showthat we are here and we can do it."
The women learned the sport by playing in the backyard with their older
brother. After he went away to school, Shaiza and Sharmeen began dreaming
of representing their country in international competition. In 1988 the
Khans applied for membership in the International Women's Cricket Council,
the governing body for the sport worldwide. They soon received death
threats.Their father sent them to school in England, where they could play
in peace. Shaiza became captain of the women's cricket team at the
University of Leeds. Sharmeen followed suit, but that was not enough for
them. Four years ago they returned to Karachi and formed the Pakistan
Women's Cricket Control Association.
Nobody paid much attention until the Khans organized a match between
female players and a group of veteran male cricketers in Karachi. One of
Pakistan's religious parties, Jamaat-e-Islami, protested, saying the match
was "detrimental to the Islamic identity" of the country. "To let women
appear in pictures, or play games in front of men, is pure and simple
exploitation," says Naimatullah Khan, Karachi president of Jamaat-e-Islami.
The match was canceled, but the sisters persevered. They cobbled together a
team two weeks before the 1997 Women's World Cup in India. They practiced
in a garage in Lahore until the Army provided facilities at a school
shortly before their departure. Not surprisingly, they finished last. "You
have to have a very strong character to go against tradition," says Mary
Brito, president of the International Women's Cricket Council in New
Zealand. "I have great admiration for them."
Pakistani companies have not been nearly as enthusiastic about sponsoring
the women as they are about the men's team, so the sisters have relied on
their father. He has paid for airplane tickets, schooling and equipment.
The team now practices on cricket grounds constructed beside one of the
Khans' carpet factories. Players from distant cities live in a house the
family owns in Karachi. Player Shajda Sheikh, a 12-year-old girl from
Hyderabad, was determined to join the team, but her family forbade her.
Sheikh stopped eating in protest. Five days later her parents softened and
allowed her to leave. "I was very scared that they might take cricket away
from me," she says. Adds 22-year-old player Kiran Baluch, who's from
Karachi: "Whatever I am today, it is because of cricket."
Detractors say the Khans achieved what they have because of their family's
money and status, but few question their tireless dedication. To show their
gratitude to their father for his help, the sisters got degrees in textile
engineering and textile management and now run his factories. There, Shaiza
and Sharmeen encountered resistance from men, but their efforts have
boosted production. The controversies have not ended. Two rival women's
groups have formed cricket associations, although only the International
Women's Cricket Council recognizes the Khans' group as the national women's
team. The Pakistan Cricket Board recently met with all the groups to
encourage them to unite. The Khans are busy sorting out these differences
and getting ready for their upcoming matches. The team is doing better, so
far playing 11 one-day internationals and one test match. Not even all
men's teams worldwide have test-match status yet. The sisters are often
frustrated, but they realize that their efforts have an impact far beyond
the game. Says Shaiza: "We've given girls an opportunity to live their
lives the way they want, to have their own inner happiness, the way we
have." That's a winning philosophyon or off the cricket grounds. ©
2000 Newsweek, Inc.
The Hindustan Times
1 June 2000
RETURN OF THE NATIVES
(Amulya Ganguli on 'xenophobia' closer to home)
WHAT IS common between George Fernandes and George Speight?
Both are opposed to "foreign citizens" becoming Prime Ministers of their
countries. Fernandes' target is Sonia Gandhi because she was born in
Italy. Speight's target is Mahendra Chaudhry although he was born in
Fiji. His stand shows that, to the narrow-minded, the place of birth is
incidental. What they are motivated by is political expediency and
Fernandes, of course, is only the cat's paw of the Sangh parivar. It is
the latter's attitude which is more relevant in this context. Its case
against Sonia Gandhi is that she remains a "foreigner" despite acquiring
Indian citizenship and therefore cannot be loyal to this country. It
would like to change even the Constitution to keep her out of the
Speight's views are similar. He will also want the Fijian constitution
to put political power beyond the reach of Indians, providing fresh
inspiration to P.A. Sangma who has such a plan for Sonia Gandhi. So far
as Speight is concerned, Chaudhry having been born in Fiji does not mean
anything because his Indian origin automatically puts his loyalty under
a cloud. Even if it doesn't, he has no right as a "foreigner" to be the
Fijian Prime Minister. Speight can also argue that the fact that
Chaudhry maintains his links with his "family" in India is proof enough
of his alienness.
It is known that Chaudhry's relatives and friends in Haryana are deeply
perturbed about the events in Fiji. They even called on Atal Behari
Vajpayee to express concern about the situation there and about
Chaudhry's fate. One can imagine the fit which Fernandes would throw if
Sonia's relatives in Italy call on the Italian Prime Minister to
intercede on her behalf. It is no secret that Indians, in general, feel
an affinity with Chaudhry and wishes him well.
Chaudhry is not the only "Indian" Prime Minister outside India. There is
Basdeo Pandey in Trinidad and Tobago, Navinchandra Ramgoolam in
Mauritius and Ujjal Dosanjh in British Columbia. What is more, they
still retain their love of the motherland. Ramgoolam, for instance,
described his recent visit to India as "home coming" while Pandey took
time off during his official visit to India to go to the village in
Uttar Pradesh from where his ancestors had migrated to the West Indies
more than a century ago. Interestingly, not long ago the President of
Trinidad and Tobago, Noor Hasan Ali, was also an Indian.
These are not the only examples of "aliens" attaining high positions in
their adopted countries. President Fujimori of Peru is of Japanese
origin and Carlos Menem of Argentina is Syrian. Nor are such origins
ever forgotten. Disraeli, for instance, when taunted in the House of
Commons, said: "Yes, I am a Jew, and when the ancestors of the right
honourable gentleman were brutal savages in an unknown island, mine were
priests in the temple of Solomon."
What is noteworthy about this observation is that Disraeli was not only
proud of his "alien" origin but also contemptuous of the past history of
the natives. It is not an attitude which the Chaudhrys and Pandeys of
the world can safely adopt. But the fact that Disraeli could get away
with it showed the broadmindedness of the citizens of the previously
One definition of patriotism is that it is the last refuge of
scoundrels. There is little doubt that those who flaunt it are usually
motivated not by the high ideals of nationalism which they claim, but
the basest of motives - usually an atavistic attempt to whip up popular
sentiments to peddle a cynical political line. But those who are
fomenting racial tension in Fiji or Sri Lanka are really the denizens of
a medieval world, like the Sangh parivar's followers in India.
They are harking back to the closed tribal world of the past, when small
communities belonging to the same racial stock lived huddled together,
zealously guarding their religion and language and genetic purity. All
outsiders to them were suspect, to be kept at an arm's length. The
Islamic world still lives by these tenets, according a second class
status as citizens to the minority groups.
But the world is changing. Travel has become easier, opportunities have
expanded and the cities have begun to resemble one another. Of all the
globe-trotters, Indians have been the most adventurous. They also have
the habit of being successful - first as businessmen and then as
politicians. But the mean-minded among the losers are bound to resent
their dominance. If they can, they like to throw them out, as Idi Amin
did in Uganda. Fiji, too, saw an exodus of Indians after Sitiveni
Rabuka's 1987 coup. But Speight's rebellion may meet with a different
fate, even if it is initially successful.
The reason is that multicultural tenets are becoming the new norm.
Tribalism is dying down. Where there is a slight resurgence, as in
Austria under Jorg Haider, he is immediately ostracised and the European
Union is galvanised into adopting strict anti-racial measures. Speight
and Rabuka are, therefore, fighting a losing battle.
Unfortunately, however, India has seen the appearance of parties and
individuals in recent years who endorse the fascistic "one people, one
culture, one nation" ideology which is antithetical to a plural society.
The plight of Indians in Fiji may promote general awareness in this
country about how sectarian, anti-minority policies can undermine social
VISITING RESEARCH FELLOWSHIPS - SOUTH ASIA
A call for applications
The United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research is establishing a
new visiting research fellowship programme, funded by the Ford
Foundation. Four researchers from a single region will be invited to
Geneva for a period of 4 - 6 months. The researchers will work
collectively on a single research paper, focusing on a particular
question of regional security. The research paper would then feed into
policy debates on the security of their region. The visiting fellows
programme aims: to provide training for researchers from developing
States; to allow them to interact with each other, with researchers from
developed States, the UN Secretariat, delegations and the
non-governmental institutes; and to contribute to UNIDIR's research
In the first year, the fellowships are specifically for researchers from
South Asia. The fellowships will be allocated on a competitive basis,
taking due care to obtain regional representation.
Applications for a visiting research fellowship should include a
curriculum vitae, names and contact details of three referees, a
one-page outline of the main security issues in South Asia and a
four-page description of an approach to one of those issues of concern.
The fellowship programme is scheduled to begin in October 2000. Fellows
will receive a stipend for their time in Geneva; the total amount will
depend on their duration of stay. A return fare from the fellows'
places of residence will also be paid.
Requests for further information should be made to Isabelle Roger,
Administrative Assistant, UNIDIR, Palais des Nations, Geneve-10,
CH-1211, Switzerland, Ph: +4122 917 3186, Fax: +4122 917 0176, email:
, website: http://www.unog.ch/unidir.
UNIDIR is an equal opportunities employer; the working languages are
English and French.
Closing dates for applications: 30 July 2000.
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