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When leaders flout laws -letter7


I am writing this after reading the report titled 'When leaders flout laws' and the subsequent comments offered by the learned writers. The austerity measures taken by two communities with consensus of their leaders at Lotkuh level are no doubt commendable steps. This will save the poor people from unnecessary avoidable expenses on the occasion of weddings and funerals. This is also a step towards social change and reformation and people of the valley by and large appreciate this. But such understandings though for good causes do not become law and can not be enforced with force or at will.


Such social agreements can be accepted voluntarily and as a social obligation but not as a binding law. Social development is a gradual process and takes time to transform society and change centuries old practices. If one achieves fifty percent results out of social and voluntary agreement in such a short span of time that should be considered a huge success. Negative propagation against violators of such agreements will do more harm than good. We still do appreciate and support the austerity measures and their proponents but extreme care needs to be taken while dealing with those who do not respect these measures. Criticism and painting negative image of them will prove to be counter productive and we must refrain from provocative criticism. Instead we need to closely work with them and engage them in the process of social transformation by building genuine social pressure.

Sultan Mehmood,
Garam Chashma, Chitral,

08 June 10.

When leaders flout laws -letter6


Reading the comments on the report and on my letter, I thought I should clarify a few points further. Let me separate a few sentences and explain the issues embedded in them.

1. “When leaders flout laws”: The heading creates in the reader’s mind an impression that leaders referred to have committed some kind of unlawful act that may have legal consequences. The issue is not a legal one. If it was a legal one then the government authorities would need to get involved and if the individuals involved found in violation of the law would be subject to punishment. Punishment can range from fine to imprisonment or both depending on the nature of violation of the law. It is not a legal issue. In this case, certain individuals presumably have ignored a collective understanding of the local community to observe austerity in expenses related to matrimony and funeral. To ensure its implementation, a lot depends on the good will and cooperation of the community members. Thus, the caption of the news report is not only misleading but also unfairly damaging for the image of the local community leadership as a whole.

2. “political and community leaders of the Ismailies, in particular are flouting”: Who are these political and community leaders of the Ismailis? This is a blanket statement involving the community leaders collectively and without specific reference to the individuals. Instead of giving names of the individuals involved and defining the issue in comprehensible terms for the readers, the statement includes everybody associated with community’s leadership. Why can’t the reporter say that so and so who is or has been in leadership position in his wedding spent on xyz in violation of a collective understanding? Why can’t he suggest that the community institution or leadership should seek explanation from so and so and take necessary steps to prevent such behaviour in the future? Isn’t it a violation of the very discipline of journalism to report events in ambiguous terms?

3. “Will the Ismaili Council take action against its powerful members for flouting its decision?” Who are the powerful members? Why the reporter is hesitant to release their names?

4. “ what was the need to bring in AKDN institutions...?” In three paragraph report, there are references to Ismailis, Ismaili leaders, Ismaili councils, Ismaili Jamat. The issue is simple and straightforward; there is a collective understanding of the local communities that simplicity should be observed in matters of marriage and funeral. Some individuals have shown disregard towards this common understanding and leadership of the respective communities should be aware of it and take necessary steps to ensure that the community members understand the importance of the initiative and act upon it. Sadly, it has become a pattern to magnify small local issue involving in it the entire community and its institutions. If this pattern continued, the issues would get more complicated than resolved.

5. “It is like the Mullah pitching you against Islam when you speak the truth which he doesn't like.” In a discourse, people express opinions and perspectives and if anybody thinks that his views represent the truth is arrogant and vain. If a Mullah says that it is against his interpretation of Islam that is his belief. You may or may not agree with him. Political leaders also use the same logic don’t they? If they don’t get the power the country’s survival will be at risk. This example is again proves the point that there is a pattern in the current discourse to make statements that are sweeping and stereotypical. All Mullahs, like any group, are not the same. There are those whose primary goal is to pursue their vested interest. There are also those who are sincere in their service and devotion to the welfare of their communities. A sincere and devoted Mullah is there to lead his community in daily prayers and to recite the Nikah in marriages. Such a Mullah is there to lead the Namaz Janaza before the dead body is laid to rest, he accompanies it to the grave, recites the Qur’an for the benefit of the departed soul, Mullah is there for his community as a religious teacher and a resource person for consultation in matters of faith and difficult life situations. After all Khatib of the Jami Masjid Garam Chashma is also a Mullah who deserves respect.

6. “Obviously the notables and those riding ten million buck land cruisers would be under the eye of the public.” Who are these notables? Why do they use such expensive land cruisers? Have they acquired these expensive vehicles unlawfully? Are they private or institutional property? If they are institutional, why institutions have assigned them to these individuals? If they are private, why should that be of public concern? People work hard and over the years, their fortune changes and their quality of life improves. If they can afford to keep vehicles for their private use, that decision is theirs. Recently, several young Chitrali professionals were reported to have been promoted to prestigious positions in the military and civil service of Pakistan. A proud moment for all Chitralis. They have worked hard to achieve their respective positions and certainly they will have a better quality of life. Why should one be concerned as to why such successful individuals live a better life? Shouldn’t they be considered as asset for Chitral rather than being under public scrutiny?

Dr. Mir Baiz Khan
Toronto, Canada

07 June 10


When leaders flout laws -letter5

It is with reference to a report in 'Chitral News' which has attracted public attention. The points raised by all the participants are worthy of consideration. It is true that music is part of our culture but it is also true that culture is organic and therefore it is bound to grow losing some of its features in the process to adjust with the changing situations. The points raised by Mr. Bahauddin that positive changes in the area may be highlighted is also note worthy because in recent times almost 90% people are adhering to the communal consensus. In the case of the death of the Bahauddin’s father and that of Salar the funeral rites were kept very simple although both of them were famous and the Pamir Degree College held condolence references to recall their services in the field of community service and struggle for Pakistan. A few days back Mr. Mir Zaman Shah GM AKESP, contracted marriage which was conducted in a fairly simple manner although in a few other marriages involving important people much wasteful expenditures were involved.

'Chitral News' deserves our commendation for supporting best practices, good causes and social reformation. The desire of its editor to hold a conference to further expand the social reformation process in entire Chitral is a welcome initiative. The people of Garam Chashma must be credited for initiating it. The process should not be dented,

The efforts of Ismaili Council and Khatib of Jamia Mosque Garam Chashma must be supported. Their recent actions against violators are giving us confidence that institutions have started to reinvent and reinvigorate themselves. It is time that instead of presenting knee jerk reactions and trying to hide things under the carpet we must face realities and resolve our conflicts through healthy debate because that is the only civilized way dictated by the dynamics of the information age.

Garam Chashma, Chitral,

07 June 10.


When Leaders flout laws -letter4

This is in reference to the report “When leaders flout laws.” and subsequent two letters one by Bahauddin and the second one from Dr Mir Baiz Khan.

The leaders of Ismaili and Suni Communities of Garamchashma have made a wise and rational decision to overcome unnecessary expenses during marriage ceremonies and other rituals. The People of the area are happy with the decision and fully implement the reforms made by the local leaders. However, Challenges are to come and faced. The changes advocated in Garamchashma require the collaboration of many individuals to become more effective and long lasting than to flout law. The writer should provide valuable ideas and help communities understand frugality better instead of highlighting the shortcomings.


We know the gaps and weaknesses on part of a handful individual but there is nothing wrong with the intention of leaders who have put considerable effort and time in place for the betterment of the people of Garamchashma. As a whole, the communities appear to be motivated and follow the guidance of their leaders. I request the writer that the more support from educated people the greater likelihood it will happen.

Ismail Khan
Karimabad, Garamchashma.

04 June 10.



When Leaders flout laws -letter3

This is with reference to the subject news report and following two letters commenting on it.  I feel Dr Mir Baiz Khan has been unfair in assuming the report to be biased against AKDN institutions. I have read it all over again and found it identifying a social occasion where the concerned people who probably seemed to be notables have deviated from agreed upon rules. Obviously the notables and those riding ten million buck  land cruisers would be under the eye of the public. The man in the street who is wobbling to make two ends meet can not be the subject of such a report.  After the immediately followed letter by Bahauddin who tried to clarify the reported point of view, what was the need to bring in AKDN institutions, I don't understand.  Dr Mir Baiz has tried to create an imaginary baby, put it in a bath tub and wants no one to throw it out.  It is requested not to bring in institutions when they are not under direct discussion.  It is like the Mullah pitching you against Islam when you speak the truth which he doesn't like.  I did not find any negative language in the report and fully endorse forthright and matter of fact reporting.

As Dr Mir has referred to earlier write-ups in the same tone I being a regular reader have not felt so, except on one occasion, about negative and unkind remarks of a letter writer about the race of individuals which should have been expunged from the letter. Other than that there has been positive and balanced discussions and I hope same will continue.


Muhammad Asif,


04 June 10.


When Leaders flout laws -letter2


This refers to the letter “When leaders flout laws.” I found hard to accept the language in this letter and in many others that is used in characterizing events, individuals, institutions, and political, social and community leaders. The language used is negative; instead of highlighting the issues and offer constructive solutions, the institutions and their affiliates are targeted with all the negative attributes that can be found in a dictionary. In doing so, they tend to throw the baby with the bath water as the expression goes. The sheer overflow of emotions and sensationalizing of local events to a disproportionate level is least helpful for nourishing an enlightened intellectual discourse around important issues in a burgeoning Chitrali intellectual and civil milieu.

Bahaudin’s letter is different; it is admirably balanced, exploratory, analytical and above all constructive. His approach to build on the positives will go a long way in overcoming the challenges of socio-economic concern. His comments indicate that there has been positive response to the austerity approach and he is absolutely right that change in human behaviour, particularly in a socio-cultural context, is slow and requires concerted efforts to educate the population in the benefits of the intended change.

It is absolutely necessary to educate people to live within their means and avoid wasteful expenses in weddings and funeral practices. However, it should be remembered these two occasions bring families, relatives, friends and neighbours together. It will be disservice to these people if they were deprived of this shared moment of happiness or sadness just because some elements indulge in an unacceptable behaviour. Equally important is to realize that wedding is a happy occasion and a celebration which again should not be suffocated to the extent that it turns out to be a gathering for a feast only. Music and dance are cultural expressions and source of entertainment which should be part of celebration. What is needed is to use it with civility and moderation within the limitations of the local community. In this regard the Ismaili Volunteer Corp, a very well disciplined and active institutional resource of the Ismaili Imamat, can be very helpful in Garam Chashama or elsewhere. The Sunni community can also set up similar organization within its fold to assist it in its socio-cultural gatherings.

I also would like to remind those individuals who criticise the institutions of the Ismaili Imamat and its development agencies that they deserve more gratitude than criticism. Are they perfect? Absolutely not and no institution or individual can claim to be perfect. Are there another set of institutions and agencies which have contributed to Chitral’s development more and better than the AKDN? Not to my knowledge. A few years ago. 'Chitral News' published my letter relating to the first visit of His Highness the Aga Khan to Chitral in 1976 where I described the abysmal situation of Chitral which I will not repeat here. Let me remind the readers briefly of the impact of that visit once again.

Since the siege of Chitral events of 1895 which had put Chitral on the world map momentarily, it was once again a land of a forgotten, isolated and extremely impoverished people even though it was now geographically the largest district of the north-western province of a sovereign state, Pakistan. For the first time, Chitral was on the radar screen because two leaders His Highness and Prime Minister of Pakistan Mr. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto saw firsthand the deplorable condition of Chitral. Following their visit, they opened the doors for development in Chitral. Today Chitral with all its problems is ahead of many rural districts of the country in terms of education, social, economic and institutional development. Let us remind ourselves the ethics that the Holy Qur’an teaches us: wa sayajzee Allahu al-Shakireen (And Allah will reward those who are grateful.)

Dr. Mir Baiz Khan
Toronto, Canada.
04 June 10.


When Leaders flout laws -letter1


This is with reference to the subject news report. The correspondent has reported about few marriages which I assume are two recent ceremonies that took place in Garam Chashma area and, according to him, the individuals holding these ceremonies either have at present or have had in the past had leadership positions in the Ismaili community, but they have violated the law passed by the local leadership of both the Sunni and Ismaili communities to curb unnecessary expenses in weddings and funerals.


The correspondent maybe right in his observation reflecting partial violation of the law, but he has failed to observe and highlight the successes of the law. The family where dhol damama was played at night has clearly violated the law and the local leadership should ask the family to explain why they have failed to respect and obey the law which has been passed and enforced in the best interest of the communities in Garam Chashma.

As far as the second marriage ceremony is concerned, the family has complied with the law in many respects which should also be reported and appreciated. For example, the individual getting married is in a leadership position and therefore has a large circle of colleagues and friends, but despite that he chose to have a very low profile wedding ceremony. He did not distribute expensive and fancy cards, instead invited all by email and telephone calls. He had musical show for only a few hours and that too during day time. He was accompanied by only a few people from his family while going to bring his bride home. There were no extra expenses other than the one-time walima food at his home. Some of his closest friends and nearest relatives did not participate in his ‘janj’ (wedding procession) to obey the law enforced by the local leadership. There are many other examples that reflect this wedding being a low profile.

We have seen in the past that hundreds of people would accompany a bridegroom and the ‘janj’ would include hundreds of vehicles with elaborate decoration, live music and gun fires. The dhol damama would go on and on for the whole day and night. Food would be served many times and the queue of visitors would never end. But this time, there was no such elaborate celebration. This shows that the law has already received considerable respect and appreciation by the people of Garam Chashma including the leadership.

My request to the learned correspondent is that we must report “both sides of the story” when we write to a reputable newspaper, about an event. The correspondent has highlighted only one side of the story, completely ignoring the other side of the story. We should also realize that any change takes time. Bringing about change in a socio-cultural practice is perhaps the most difficult one. It will therefore take time for people to understand, appreciate and internalize the change. One should not expect a total paradigm shift from one extreme to another or a change overnight which, even if it happens, will not be a desirable change. Any positive change will take time as the experts say, “change is a journey—not an event”. The initial steps toward this journey in Garam Chashma are very encouraging. Let’s continue the journey with Patience, Persistency, and Perseverance.

Parabeg, Garumchashma.

03 June 10.



When Leaders flout laws

Chitral --The two communities of Garam Chashma, the Sunnies, and Ismailies have recently entered into a historic accord with active participation and encouragement of local administration to promote simplicity and frugality in all walks of life. To begin with they decided to keep expenses on funeral rites and marriages within prescribed limits.. This was done to bail out the impoverished people of indebtedness and in keeping with the injunctions of Islam and Farmans of His Highness.  While the ordinary jamats are observing the inter-communal consensus, political and community leaders of the Ismailies, in particular are flouting the consensus achieved after a prolonged and painful process fully backed by Local and Regional Council presidents and Khatib of the Jamia Mosque.

Recently few marriages involving families of Ismaili leaders were solemnized with much pump and show, sending signals to the people that laws and accords are only meant for the poor and that Ismaili jamat does not respect decisions of its institutions and leaders. In one marriage ceremony dhol damama was played which had been strictly prohibited at night time to eliminate use of intoxicants and indecency. The ban on procession of vehicles was also violated, not to mention lesser restrictions.

These events have put the people in a dilemma. If leaders and law makers break the laws and community consensus achieved after great efforts, how are we going to make life easy for ordinary members of the community by eliminating wasteful expenses leading to indebtedness resulting from demonstration effects of wealth. Even the government finds its hands tied, when it comes to implementing laws involving influential people, like community leaders, politicians and elected representatives. Will the two communities, who had agreed on the social boycott of the law breakers, go ahead with their plan? Will the Ismaili Council take action against its powerful members for flouting its decision? These are 100 million dollar questions and on these hinge the future successes of the prevailing communal consensus and supremacy of the law and promotion of best practices. --(by our correspondent, Gatam Chashma, 03 June 10).


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