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This does not look promising

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Joined: 22 Dec 2006
Posts: 186
Location: dallas, Texas

PostPosted: Sat Aug 11, 2007 8:05 pm    Post subject: This does not look promising Reply with quote


This does not look very good. In the statements attributed to the Parliamentary Secretary of Defense, it appears he supports a system of non-education for women, fist-length beards, burning all kites and beating of barbers. And all of that in the context of punishing "us"? It is like cutting off your nose to spite your face.

Naturally, such rhetoric of jihad against the U.S.A., if it continues, will most likely make it more difficult for decent Pakistani nationals to visit our nation in the future, is my best guess.

Just my thoughts, on reading this article. Anyone else want to enter the corridors of thought on this topic? Are things in an overheated state in general because of the upcoming elections?

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PostPosted: Sun Aug 12, 2007 2:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote


Reality and rhetoric
By Irfan Husain

FOR years, many Pakistanis had resented being ‘abandoned’ by the US after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan. But now that we are once more allied with the Americans, millions of Pakistanis are up in arms over the relationship.

As the recent debate in parliament showed, and as many opinion polls have confirmed, there is a deep and visceral anti-Americanism at work. Indeed, a cheap way to win an argument is to accuse somebody of being pro-American. This is similar to the tactics used by the Jewish lobby in the West to silence critics of Israel by labelling them as anti-Semitic.

I experienced the intensity of these sentiments when I reluctantly got into an argument at a dinner party recently. Somebody loudly protested against the increasing American pressure on Pakistan to ‘do more’ to eliminate the extremists infesting the tribal belt.

Unable to resist, I pointed out that since 9/11, Pakistan had received nearly $10 billion as aid from Washington in one form or another. Part of this sum is the billion dollars a year that go to defray the costs of our military presence and operations on the Afghan border.

“Surely,” I argued. “For this kind of money, the Americans have a right to ask for a quid pro quo.”

Another guest (a recently retired ambassador and an old and dear friend) promptly said my argument reflected a pro-western mindset. I replied that as an independent country, we were at liberty to refuse western aid, and then change our policy towards the Taliban. But as long as we were taking billions of dollars, we were in a contractual agreement to stick to our side of the bargain.

At this point the exchange grew more heated. My friend said we did not have to give up any aid, but should do what suited us best. According to him, when Musharraf performed his famous post-9/11 U-turn, our foreign office had advised him that he did not need to go along with the ‘for us or against us’ rhetoric from Washington. As the argument was by now generating more heat than light, I extricated myself as best as I could.

As a Pakistani, I find the threatening noises from sundry American public figures demeaning and insulting. Nevertheless, I do see the problem. We are making a big deal of our sovereignty when the reality is that it barely exists in the tribal belt along the Afghan border.

In truth, we have never exercised real control over this international boundary. Neither the tribes on both sides, and nor successive governments in Kabul, have recognised the reality of the disputed Durand Line.

For decades, the autonomous status of the tribal belt has meant a safe haven for smugglers, heroin factories and gunrunners. The world was largely ignorant of this reality, and even if people had been aware of what was happening, they couldn’t have cared less. The exchequer lost billions; the country became awash in guns; and millions of Pakistanis became addicted to heroin. But this was a matter of supreme indifference to the rest of the world.

However, the anarchy along the border began to matter when western troops arrived in Afghanistan and became targets for the Taliban and their supporters. It was soon apparent that these elements were using Pakistani territory as a base and a safe haven. They could retreat here after mounting cross-border operations to rest and recuperate, safe in the knowledge that they could not be followed.

Although Pakistan has some 80,000 troops along the border, it has been unable to stop this infiltration. Many western voices accuse us of dragging our feet, and not doing as much as we could. They see Taliban sympathisers within the Pakistani establishment who make it difficult to mount effective anti-terrorist operations.

This view will probably be strengthened by the speech made by the parliamentary defence secretary, retired Major Tanvir Hussain. Speaking in the recent debate on foreign policy in parliament, he is reported to have demanded that the government allow jihadis to enter Kashmir to fight, and to recognise the Taliban. He also accused the CIA of being behind the spate of terrorist attacks targeting Chinese nationals. He concluded his speech with this popular statement: “Be it the mountains of Waziristan or Kashmir, or the plains of Punjab, there should only be one slogan: Al jihad! Al jihad! Al jihad!”

Considering that this worthy is a member of the ruling party, one would assume his views are not far removed from the sentiments of the PML-Q. So when American lawmakers want to make aid conditional on Pakistan’s performance against extremism and terrorism, one can see why they have introduced this rider. Obviously, it is unpleasant to be tacitly accused of slackening in this struggle, but we need to understand the context behind these charges.

Another thing we seem to have lost sight of in this controversy over recent American statements is that the fight against extremism is more our fight than the West’s. As we saw at Lal Masjid, the spectre of fundamentalism is the biggest danger to us. Irrespective of whether we get financial assistance to fight the jihadis or not, it is in Pakistan’s interest to root them out. We cannot live in peace with ourselves or with our neighbours as long as this threat exists.

In this rush to appear more anti-American than the next person, we see a peculiar convergence between the left and the religious right. We have lost our ability to differentiate: any policy emanating from Washington is bound to be wrong.

But surely things are not so conveniently black and white. I supported the ouster of the mediaeval Taliban from power after 9/11, but I marched against the invasion of Iraq, despite my distaste for Saddam Hussein. Indeed, had Bush not embarked on his mad adventure in Iraq, he would have had far greater moral authority and military strength to do the job in Afghanistan.

Sovereignty implies that a state controls the territory over which its writ extends. By this definition, the tribal belt is not, strictly speaking, under Islamabad’s control. Until this anomaly is removed through a constitutional amendment, we will continue being flooded with drugs, guns and terrorists. Blaming the West will not solve our problems.
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 12, 2007 7:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Respected Sidqi,

Thank you for posting this additional link, which is well-written. There is much that is in line with my own thinking. Looking at the NWFP, FATA, etc. I peer through the glasses of anthropology, because having grown up in the tribal areas of Oaxaca, Mexico I understand cultural nuances. These areas are a pulsing, living organic time capsule where the forces of modernization have not brought much to bear. They are also off the map of jurisdiction of the Pakistan government.

Irfan Husain is correct in his assumption of the posture between America and Pakistan. My scripture states that the borrower is servant to the lender, and yes, Pakistan places themselves in a position of servanthood with their acceptance of approximately one billion dollars of aid a year for their military assistance along the Afghan/Pak corridor.

We all know that the Taliban and Pashtun tribesmen share a symbiotic relationship which is mutually beneficial and the top leadership of Al-Qaedah has also benefitted from both the geographic terrain and the terrain of the mind, which is harder for people as myself, who enjoys analysis, to map.

We are culturally ignorant of our neighbors, for the most part. But apparently, the ignorance moves on both sides. The remarks of Major Tanveer Hussain (ret) seem rather ignorant in my eyes.

My husband just bought me the magazine "Discover". The lead article is "Science and Islam", Special Report: The Ultimate Conflict Between Science and Religion. I have not read it yet, but my guess is that it will make for interesting reading. The article is quite long. But it is remarks such as that of the Parliamentary Secretary of Defense which paint a broad brush of opinion in the public corridor. For if the top policymakers in Pakistan welcome the Taliban, surely the earth quakes under such burden.

The anti-American visceral hate is part of the lingering effects of British colonialism which spawned the pan-Arab nationalism of the 1920's-1930's, producing writers and activists such as Syed Qtub and Hasan al-Banna. But to be retrospective to that era at this point, is counterproductive. I certainly do not mean this as a slap, but the fact remains that while America was having their industrial revolution of the 19th century, the Muslim nations for the most part languished. Many of them continue to languish in what all know are the benchmarks of all great civilizations: the maths and the sciences.

My apology is extended for the recent grandstanding and showmanship of our own presidential candidates. On a personal level, I found their remarks unnecessary and politically motivated. We can do better.

The article mentions an Ambassador. I have also had my "ambassador connection". Former Pakistan Ambassador Syed Ahsani resides nearby and I have found him to be a wonderful person, both in telephone dialogue and also in person, at both a conference and also a Ramadan open house at the Esters Road Masjid in Irving. I have fond memories of being seated next to him eating a plate of food and thinking that it was indeed odd to be seated next to such a person of note who had bare feet. smile Once again, cultural differences which we must understand. Graciousness is not a commodity, but rather a character trait. I found him to be very gracious. I consider the readers of this forum to also be articulate and educated, and it remains a distinct honor, to engage you in dialogue.

Tammy Swofford
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