How Not to Understand Muslim fundamentalism

2 06 2010

Mahmood Mamdani recently gave a talk at the University of Johannesburg, touching on the topics of free speech and bigotry in our contemporary world. He took the example of Mohammed cartoons to make this point. It is a well argued and seemingly persuasive thesis which you can read here at Kafila.

I found that I had some fundamental differences with it and decided to write them out here. Please do read him before you read my response. Read the rest of this entry »

Tackling the Taliban

22 05 2009

This is the draft version I wrote for the editorial of the Economic and Political Weekly, Vol XLIV No. 20, May16 2009.

[A sole dependence on military solutions cannot defeat the Taliban] Read the rest of this entry »

So what is the solution in Swat?

28 02 2009

The rise of extremism in Pakistan’s Swat valley needs a nuanced and democratic response.


[This is the draft for the editorial I wrote on the Taliban takeover of the Swat and the Pakistan Government’s deal with them. The final revised version will be published in the EPW 28 Feb – 6 Mar 2009 (Vol XLIV NO 9) edition.]

Read the rest of this entry »

Left Writing Pakistan’s Elections

11 03 2008


At the beginning of the new year, just a few days after the tragic assassination of Benazir Bhutto, this column had written about why democracy has been structurally weak in Pakistan and the threat of religious fundamentalism gaining power in Pakistan. This column had argued that the dominance of landed property, the weakness of an independent industrial capitalist class and the merging of the armed forces with the landed ruling class had created conditions where it would be near difficult for democracy to strike roots. It had further argued that this array of conditions made the likelihood of a fascist takeover of power a credible threat in the near future.

It was a gloomy prognosis to say the least and it is with undiluted glee that I have welcomed the resounding defeat of the religious fundamentalists and those political parties which were aligned to military rule. These electoral results have reverberated all over the world and have been seen as the beginning of a new chapter in the political history of Pakistan. It truly is a moment for democrats and progressive forces all over the world to savour when the people of Pakistan, braving the bombs, bullets, sundry threats and inducements of the establishment and of the fundamentalists, comprehensively voted both out. Read the rest of this entry »

The Coming Revolution in Pakistan – II

9 01 2008


Last week this column had posited that Benazir Bhutto’s assassination was the culmination of a long series of failures by the Pakistani ruling class to manage the contradictions inherent in a State based on strong landed property with a weak industrial base. The column argued that such conditions created a predilection for the use of brute repression (the strategy of the stick) to deal with popular demands and undermined the possibility of democratic institutions gaining ground. The column further argued that this predilection was conditioned by the structural limitations that landholding imposes on the political strategy that a ruling class can adopt vis-à-vis the demands of the masses.

These structural limitations are the falling rate of return on primary products in global trade and the physical difficulty of dividing landed wealth among new aspirants to the ruling class. Read the rest of this entry »

The Coming Revolution in Pakistan – I

1 01 2008


Benazir Bhutto’s assassination is perhaps as significant a turning point in the history of Pakistan as was the assassination of her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and of Pakistan’s first Prime Minister, Liaqat Ali. In a sense these three killings form three significant watersheds in the political history of Pakistan and each represent the culmination of the failure of the country’s ruling class to successfully manage the contradictions of their time. What is particularly significant is that each assassination, built as it was on the failure of the previous attempt to overcome contradictions, has been more calamitous for the country than the previous one. Today, in the opinion of this columnist, it’s a situation of do or die for Pakistan as a nation and its citizens as a people. Read the rest of this entry »

Religious Demography in India

3 03 2007


This is a review of Religious Demography of India, A.P. Joshi, M.D. Srinivas and J.K. Bajaj, Centre for Policy Studies, Chennai, 2003, pp. i-xxii + 358, Rs. 800.

I wrote it in October 2003 when I was working for The Hindu, but unfortunately, it never got published. The issue of “religious demography” remains as important today as ever and the carnards spread by Hindutva propagandists as vile as ever, therefore I am posting this review. Read the rest of this entry »