LUBP is pleased to present an exclusive interview with Mr. Olaf Kellerhoff Resident Representative Pakistan at Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom.
Olaf Kellerhoff has also worked as a Intercultural Mission Advisor at UNIFIL, Chief Target Audience Analysis at ISAF, Political Advisor at ISAF Chief Cultural & Religious Advisory Group at ISAF and Political Advisor at KFOR.
His profile on Linked in describes his expertise as follows:
– Conflict management & political consulting
– Communication for Islamic world
– Strong cross-cultural & language skills (viz. Farsi, Arabic, Turkish)
– Extensive mission experienced in post-conflict countries
– Creativity and communication
– Work style shaped by passion and reliability
LUBP: Olaf Kellerhoff, thanks for taking out the time to interview with us tell us something about your background and your experience as a representative of Friedrich-Naumann-Stiftung?
Olaf Kellerhoff: First of all, dear Junaid, many thanks for your interest in our work here in Pakistan. That’s also why I joined the Friedrich Naumann Foundation (FNF) in 2008. I had studied Islamic History and International Relations and served as an Officer of the German Federal Armed Forces in many missions. Due to my interest and studies I had been working and living in several Muslim countries but until 2008 I didn’t know Pakistan. This country is one of the most fascinating places in the world for me. Consequently, I was very lucky when I received this job offer.
Since January 2009 I am the Resident Representative of our foundation in Pakistan. For me personally a fabulous experience. I enjoy my work and life over here and would even love to enjoy it more if the work doesn’t take its toll: just too many things to do and nothing should be delayed as it’s too important for the betterment of the country.
LUBP: Tell us something about your organization, its main objectives and work in Pakistan, especially in the promotion of liberal democratic politics and human rights?
Olaf Kellerhoff: A peaceful and progressive Pakistan – that’s what the Friedrich-Naumann-Stiftung für die Freiheit (FNF) is committed to since 1986. Our team in Islamabad is part of a family with more than 60 branches around the world. The first President of Germany, Theodor Heuß, established the Foundation in 1958 and named it after his mentor, the German philosopher and politician Friedrich Naumann (1860–1919). Ever since we do not loose focus in our work for human and civic rights, democracy, rule of law and free market economy on the basis of the political philosophy of liberalism. Today, FNF belongs to the 200 leading think tanks of the world.
Our vision is an open society with equal rights for individuals in freedom with responsibility. Our mission is to strengthen civil society in a sustainable and professional manner. Therefore, we do not only fund, but first of all train, consult and interlink our partners. In Pakistan we work in joint partnerships with for example the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), Shehri – Ciitzens for a better Environement, Society for Protection of the Rights of the Child (SAPRC) or Center for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI) and few more. Thus, our partners and friends do their share as responsible and vigilant citizens for the bright future of Pakistan.
LUBP: The socialists and Islamists suggest that liberalism in Pakistan is an alien idea for the majority of the people, they portray that it is a grand western scheme to dominate third world’s market and eastern values? How do you view such claim/narrative?
Olaf Kellerhoff: Al-hamdu li’llah previous generations of the Pakistani people have been open minded: Imagine Islam being rejected as foreign import from the Arab Peninsula – or even worse as Arab scheme to dominate the Eastern markets or getting hold of the ressources in the Subcontinent! Islam is universal and so is liberalism. The one is a religion, the other a political philosophy – both complementing each other in a very suitable manner. This xenophobe attitude of some people demonstrates their ignorance in general but interestingly also in their claim as subject matter expert. So far, please excuse there might be, but I haven’t met any socialist or islamist who has real expertise on socialism or islamism.
Most likely, it is just the natural human fear of changes . Especially, in a world which is becoming more and more interlinked (it always has been global) and countries more competing with each other, the idea that you have to compete is not a very convenient one. There are a few countries which try to protect themselves by customs. Fine that works for one industry sector. The problem is that you as consumer and tax payer pay the price for it and you as an employee even might pay the price with unemployment. On the long run this sector gets less and less competitive. In other term the consumer/tax payer pays for a very few getting richer or at least defending their funds.
Similarily, it is natural and human that a religious functionary wants to keep his job and influence. Any change means a threat to his or her position. Accordingly, he or she will always argue against it. This is not unique in Pakistan or in Islam. This happened and happens all over the world. For example, the Syrian Intellectual Sadiq al-Azm has done acomparison once between Islamist and ultra-conservative catholicism: Almost everything was exactly the same: the same demands, the same arguments, the same opponents – just you had exchange the word Islam with Christianity.
Have a look for example at the negotiations of the Tehreek-e Nifaz-e Shariat-e Muhammadi (TNSM) for Swat in 2009. The claim of a Sharia court was not about the following sirat al-mustaqim of Islam, but giving jobs to quite untrained clientel. The legitmate wish of the Swati people for justice (as the State failed to deliver) was just too easy to exploit. Why should all the Army checkpoints be removed? Because each checkpoint diminishes the profit of contraband like mainly wood, cars, gems etc. Why should all NGOs leave immediately? Why was the Middle Strata of the Society threatened and made leave? Because every thinking person undermines the nonsense told by religious extremists. Unfortunately, to a good part they could succeed. Thinking persons are leaving – often not only Swat but Pakistan on the long run. Also this is an overall trend: Where do you find the best Islamic scholars? Mainly in Western countries where there are free to think, to talk, to publish. This not because these scholars have alien ideas but threaten by undermining the position of certain extremist groups. That’s very unfortunate as more thinking persons are needed – for the sake of Islam and the people. Or in the words of first Nobel Laureate Sully Prudhomme (1839-1907): Always can be found in the most intelligent humans the most liberal and in the most uneducated the most radical.
LUBP: In the current global economic crisis, we have seen European union stepping in to bail out countries in their fraternity. Possibly the good money was being spent to bail out bad investments. The bailouts have been in billions. Dont you think that developing markets like Pakistan would have been a destination for flows of funds? The europeans would have earned a better name and at the same time increased their influence in Pakistan which has been the forte of USA and middle eastern sheikhdoms?
Olaf Kellerhoff: Please excuse that I can’t see the point: Germany has donated 12,5 million Euro as emergency relief. Furthermore, additional 22,5 million Euro were allocated for food. Not to forget that the German share of European emergency relief is about 20 percent which comes on top of it. This equals around eight million Euro. And the German people have donated privately 160 million Euro (17,2 billion PKR). This is more than any other nation has given from the public. All this money comes directly to the people of Pakistan. Equally, we saved our currency. Not doing it would have had a major impact on world economy – with disadvantages to Pakistan, too.
LUBP: Pakistan is currently facing extremism, militancy and an anti-democratic establishment. What are the reasons for Pakistan not being a developed democracy? Are we the sole responsible for the present democratic crisis or the foreign players and their agenda is the biggest reason? Kindly also share your understanding about the nature of radical approach here, and suggest us ways to cope up with this overall menace?
Olaf Kellerhoff:Truly, I believe in self-responsibility. There will always be hampering factors or challenges for everyone. This could be ressources, could be interference from others and so on. But still you are repsonsible for yourself and blaming others does not help except for feeling better because of not feeling responsible (which is always more convenient). So, if the people of Pakistan want to have a functioning democracy – noboday says they have to have this wish – every citizen can work for it. Democracy has not come in history and will not come in the future as a ready-made gift to a people. Also once introduced but democracy remains a constant task.
If Pakistanis want democracy they should develop it by themselves – and also only if wanted seek help from outside. This would have the advantage not to make (bitter) experiences yourself but come out of the findings and bitter experiences of other people to better solutions directly.
Of course, the idea of democracy is a thorn in the eye of extremist and autocratic rulers (feudal lords included) who want to exploit for selfish reasons. Thus, they will always discourage it. If you don’t want to be exploited then the consequence is to take your responsibility as citizen and work for a functioning democracy.
LUBP: How do you view the recent liberalization of media here? And especially after the fake Wikleaks appeared on Pakistani main stream newspapers do you think Pakistani media is doing its job responsibly?
Olaf Kellerhoff:The Pakistani people can be very happy that it has a vast media landscape. Since its liberalisation it has extended so widely which is wonderful. What is natural in this quick development is that there was not time enough to train all the newcomers. So, many claim to be a journalist without being trained. Consequently, some journalists do not work properly, if not to say irresponsible. Therefore, we have developped with our partners FIRM – Free, Independent and Responsible Media. This is a programme designed especially for journalists in technical skills as well as in understanding and internalizing underlying values of responsible reporting.
The fake Wikileaks made it crystal clear that we are still far away from achieving our goal here. Just simple cross-checking – the basic rule of every journalistic research – would have made the fake obvious.
LUBP: Do you think Wikileaks is helping to to democratize the global world? or such sort of revelations are counterproductive?
Olaf Kellerhoff:Wikileaks is an interesting phenomena: So far, we don’t know how it will change the world on the long run. It is clear that it changes patterns and structures of journalism and to a certain extent also inter-state relationships. If Wikileaks democratises has to be seen. The Right to Infomration and the Freedom of Information, which is after the 18th amendment (Article 19-A) given to the people of Pakistan, is different in nature. This is really the “oxygen of democracy” as it brings light into bureaucracy and government what loyal citizens have paid taxes for. There every person has the right to know for example how his money has been spent. This is public information anyhow and has to be public. Some diplomatic, military and secret service information are not included in it. This is different from Wikileaks which focuses especially on this information which is confidential by nature. There is also a reason why it is confidential. So, not everything should be disclosed.
LUBP: Do you think global liberal world also requires the fundamnetal re-definition of terms like ‘sovereignty’ and ‘self-reliance’?
Olaf Kellerhoff:A liberal world is our vision. It will still take many years if not generations. It will not require a re-definition but souvereignity and self-reliance will be consequence of it not a precondition.
LUBP: kindly share with us ‘Germany’s experience of democracy and also tell us how we can transform Pakistan as a democratic nation?
Olaf Kellerhoff:Germany was a “belated” nation in terms of nation-building. Also the emergence was different from other countries and determines state and mentality of Germans until today. That means, due to the diversity it has a strong federal setup.
Furthermore, from the experience of the Weimar Republic (1918-1933) we know that a “Democracy without Democrats” does not work out. In Berlin of 1920s we had street clashes and targeted killings perhaps like nowadays Karachi. As a consequence political foundations like ours have been set up in order to train German citizens in democracy – a task we still fulfill until today. It is a model which has been exported since the 1960 very successfully. That is also the learning experience: democracy education. You don’t need not only trained politician but trained citizens who can perform their duties as citizens: citizens who know how to vote, who know how to be vigilant, who know how to protest in a peaceful way. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to indtroduce civic education in school curricula and to make it obligatory for each and every citizen – starting from the earliest years of life.
LUBP: What are your views and observations about the internal heterogeneity of Islam. Currently, Pakistani Muslims are faced with a wave of terrorism which is inspired by religious and sectarian ideology. How could this situation be improved?
Olaf Kellerhoff:Terrorism is a communication strategy of weak groups. Often there are legitimate demands behind but these groups have not learned how to express these demands in a peaceful way or if so are ignored. It is clear that you can not “bomb” a communication, in other terms a “war on terrorism” is not only by its words pure nonsense. The need of people has to be addressed on one hand and rule of law maintained on the other. A state has to deliver to its citizens. A government has to be in communications with its voters. A nation has to create opportunities and lead the way ahead for its people.
The ideology is secondary. Of course, persons in search of personal power will always prefer to exploit the obvious as this is much easier, i.e. in this case Islam. But Pakistan’s terror challenge is not about religion: extremist groups contradict and act antithetically against Islam. Most of its adherents are just simple dacoits in search for money and opportunities without any knowledge of nor interest in Islam. It is a personal challenge, a bigger jihad, to restrain from temptations of this world, instead of getting paid 12.000-15.000 PKR as an ordinary talib, driving around in brand new pick-up, and take things you always wanted to have – and even worse: suddenly being respeceted (or let’s say feared after intimidating people but gives you a sense of respect you might have been looking for). In other words: “That’s cool, man!” – especially compared to be just a simple law obedient Muslim and worthful member of your community.
Generally, heterogenity is richness. It can be a very fruitful learning experience when different groups are in communication with each other but it is a threat of those who want to command and control. It belongs to the inner logic that extremists create an “illusion of alternatives”. The Nazis did this, too: Either National Socialism or Bolshevik Chaos! Either believer or unbeliever. Either Muslim or kafir. But the world is not black and white, not only good guy or bad guy, not Muslim and kafir. There many different Muslims and almost forgotten is the category of ahl al-kitab. The “people of the book” are not kuffar, unbelievers. Extremists do not only – willingly or unwillingly (because in general they don’t know anything about Islam) – ignore this category but also have to declare Muslims who are not in line with them, who do not want to be controlled by extremists, kuffar. The takfir is part of the propagandist game extremists have to play.
So, what you could and should do as a citizen:
- Get not trapped in the “illusion of alternatives”. Do not allow others to impose this question on you as this is not legitimate. It’s none of other people’s business what you believe in but between you and God.
- Query whenever somebody comes up with simplistic explanations.
- Don’t get into the blame game but look ahead how to solve problems.
- Demand the state to deliver to all citizens – regardless region, religion or ethnicity.
Contribute to an open-minded, multi-cultural society. This is the richness of Pakistan and not it’s problem.
LUBP: Are the notions of human rights and democracy compatible with Islam?
Olaf Kellerhoff:Definitely, there is no contradiction but even more the obligation as a Muslim to follow human rights and democracy. There exist only very few differences between Islamic notion of human rights and Western concepts. Of course, I am well aware that different regimes in history and presence tried – with some success – to portray this in another way. For good reasons: each autocratic leader will loose his power in favour of power to the people. Obedience to human rights is very annoying to rulers. Accordingly, selfish leaders who want to impose their will on the people will continue to mock human rights and democracy.
LUBP: Your message for young Pakistani Liberals?
Olaf Kellerhoff:Live liberalism in practice! Be an example for others!
Unfortunately, the word liberalism is often misunderstood to that extent that someone who drinks alcohol and is hanging around with other women (or men in case of women) claims to be liberal. This is nonsense! Living liberalism means
- to see other persons as equal, to pay them respect
- to be responsible for yourself (often very unconvenient if you can not blame others)
- to be responsible for your family, community and state
- to act as a vigilant citizen
- to obey rule of law and demand its implementation.