Archive for September, 2008

War on Terror – Part 2: Political Parties and Media in Pakistan

Sunday, September 28, 2008

In Part 1 of this article, I talked about public support in Pakistan for our role in “war on terror” and gave reasons for which Pakistanis – in general – do not confirm Pakistan’s role in this war. Today, I will talk about our Political forces and role of our media and its support to Pakistan’s war on terror.

Political Parties

Our political parties throughout the history of Pakistan have exploited this nation in the name of democracy – just to get into the power. They were never able to get public support but supported public anger, frustration and hatred (for rulers at time) to get the support. No political party has ever given an agenda to work on but just the popular slogans to bag the votes or to destabilize the government at time. Unlike in civilized countries – where “democracy” is implemented like a democracy, where political parties survive based on their policies rather personalities, where public issues are crucial  to win votes, where parties are not political dynasties – our  political parties ( generally) are like group of people who fight with rivals just to hang on to power or to get into the power. They do this in the name of democracy, in the name of “public interest” and yet there is no democracy in Pakistan and “public” fighting over “aatta” (flour). Our political leaders are creation of our hatred for others.

In 2001, the leadership of major political parties was in exile and – as we have parties based on the personalities – there was a political vacuum. However, the political forces – that were present in the country at that time – did not approve of Musharraf’s “u-turn” in our foreign policy – and those who did were insignificant. These political forces opposed our policy on this “war on terror” not because they had a better foreign policy but they wanted to get popular; as its normal for political parties to get popularity by opposing the government. For these political parties, there was no argument of being responsible or being patriot or being principled– though they claimed; their resistance to Pakistan’s policy was because of their hate for a dictator and to get support of angry public. It was time when they all should have got together and forgot their personal grudges, when they all should have thought about “Pakistan First”, when they all should have stopped scoring points against each other, when all should have shown the facts to the public rather sparking more anger inside them; unfortunately that did not happen. In their hatred for a dictator, they supported – intentionally or intentionally – those elements who are, today, challenging writ of the govt. everywhere in this country. 

Even today, after 7 years since 2001, these political parties are not in agreement for on policy and everyone is calling its own shots – mostly with motions only. It’s a shame. 

Media

About a year ago, I wrote “Pakistani Media, Freedom and Responsibility”, where I discussed about the responsibility of Media and its powers. I talked about how irresponsible our Media is and today, after a year, I still have the same opinion.

We talk proudly about our media for being “free” and “vigilant” but we forget that freedom and vigilance does not mean bringing distress to people, it does mean to demoralize the public.

If you do not understand what I am bragging about then watch this video clip that will put you in deep anxiety and may make you insomniac. And then watch this video that talks about the same situation – that first one does or may be worst – but still leaves you hopeful and optimistic.

That’s the difference a media can make, media can pull the morals high in worst situations, media can unite a divided nation on one issue and media can make people to take on their responsibilities. Unfortunately, our media doesn’t do any of this; all we see on our TV screens is that sparks anger in public, makes them more frustrated and depressed, makes them more divided and make them more violent. If you read newspaper, just looking at the reporter’s name, you can tell what the report would be? Who it would be against? Who would have been criticized? How sensational it would be? It is hard to find an unbiased opinion from these reporters (off course there are few exceptions). 

Media could have led us to unite on this “war on terror”, media could have presented the facts to people rather selling emotional videos and talk shows to the public, media could have done intellectual debates to set an opinion rather gathering a bunch of emotional people who were just against govt. policy on “war on terror” – and then calling it public opinion. In these 7 years in “war on terror”, all media did is to criticize our policy and to promote people’s anger and emotion; why wouldn’t they have done this, after all it was the selling product. They sensationalized every aspect of “war on terror” to sell it more to the public and a little importance was given to “being responsible”.

Whether you agree with govt. foreign policy or not, interviewing people like “Molana Fazl-ullah” (a militant leader in Swat) was never supposed to help in reducing militancy or in helping Pakistan to deal with militancy. Only a responsible media can ascertain as to showing what on TV can be of assistance in handling with terrorism that Pakistan is facing today. 

Conclusion:

With the aim of fighting crises that Pakistan is facing today – be it “war on terror”, economic or any other – both political parties and media will have to change their current policies.

Political forces need to sit together putting all their personal grievances back and devise a common policy to fight with current issue – if this goes against public emotions then so it is, explain people with facts and they will understand. Politicians need to come united to fight all these challenges that we face today – even if this demands a change in their “principled” stance on certain issues. 

On the other hand it’s time for media to start taking things with responsibility. It needs to start showing both sides of the pictures rather showing only what people want to see or only what sells best. Media needs to rise above any political party, group, movement, institution or anything and needs to start looking at things with an unbiased eye.

What’s next:

In the next part of this discussion, I will talk about Pakistan’s Policy (read: Musharaf’s Policy) and role of Pakistan army in this ”war on terror”.

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Interviewed at The Pakistan Spectators

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Recently I was interviewed by The Pakistan Spectators (TPS) – few moments of my fame.

I don’t know how it went as it was my first interview but I hope it will give you little bit more inside of me as to how I see things around me.

Take a look at it here and don’t forget to leave your valuable comments. :) 

War on Terror – Part 1: Public support in Pakistan

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

 Pakistan decided to align with US after 9/11 and became the frontline-state in War on Terror. We were (probably) aware of the fact the war in the neighboring country – Afghanistan – will affect Pakistan as well, however, we did not anticipate that this war will become our own war. A war where our own security forces will be fighting against militants in our own country, where our northern areas will go under control of Taliban; we did not anticipate the type of insurgency we are facing today, the type of terrorism where suicide bombing becomes a regular act. There might be million reasons today to criticize our U-Turn in foreign policy at that time but most of us agreed to the same in 2001 – though there was disagreement on how it was done and to what extent it was done.

“War on terror” never became popular within Pakistan and it never got any support from public. Even today, when our security forces are almost in the state of war in FATA and NWFP, there is significant opposition to military’s role, including political and religious parties, media and civil society.

War Against Islam (or Muslims):

One of the main reasons for people not supporting “war on terror” is the concept where people believe that this is America’s war against Muslims – or to be more precise, against Islam. This concept is strongly projected in Pakistan – and believed in northern side of Pakistan and among religious parties and groups. Many journalists and analysts also project the same idea though not as strongly as they used to in early days of war – in 2001.

Wars have a long history; wars have been fought in almost every generation in almost every country in the world. Reasons for wars could be from revolutionary to demographic, from behavioral to sociological, from rational to economic and from political to strategic – but none of these reasons is religion. No war in the history has been fought for religion or against a religion.

In the documented human history of over 4000 years, one of the first wars, “Battle of Kadesh” (1375 BC), was due to a conflict over city of Kadesh between Egyptians and Hittites. “Wars of Diadochi” (323 BC) were a series of wars fought for control over Macedon. Even in Muslim history, “Battle of Badr” (624 AD) was not a battle against a religion – Islam; it was due to Mecca’s strategic trading route to Syria that Muslims could interfere with and did interfere with at that time. “Battle of Uhud” (625 AD) and “Battle of Trench” (627 AD) were also not against Islam (or Muslims), these were against a force that was emerging, a force that could challenge – and was challenging – Meccans at that time. These wars would have been fought against any force that could have challenged Meccans authority at that time – it just happened that this force was Muslims. “Battle of Mu’tah” (629 AD) was against Byzantine Empire over killing of Muslim emissaries by tribes under protection of Byzantines.

After the death of prophet Muhammad (PBUH), Muslims fought a series of wars against apostasies –known as “Ridda Wars or Wars of Apostasy” (632-633 AD) – these wars were also political in nature rather religious. Muslims fought (632-750 AD) against Byzantines, Persians, Arabs, Indian and stretched their empire from Northwest India, Central Asia, the Middle East, North Africa, Southern Italy, and the Iberian Peninsula, to the Pyrenees; none of these wars was against any religion or its followers and neither Muslims intended to conquer these empires to spread Islam. All motives behind Muslim conquests during that time were either political or strategic or conflicts over certain non-religious issues and Islam (or religion) was never a motivation.

Another series of wars that is often referred as religious wars is “Crusades” (1095 – 1272 AD). Crusades were mainly fought against Muslims and the fact they are called religious because these were launched by Pope Urban II with a goal to conquer “Jerusalem” and the “Holy Land” back from Muslims. This was after Muslims conquered “Jerusalem” (and Christian’s Holy Land) in 1071 AD and when Byzantine emperor called for help from Western Europe. Pope called upon all Christians to join the war, promising that dead would receive immediate remission of their sins – the same motivation that USA gave to mujahidin during soviet-afghan war and same motivation that today Al-Qaeda (or Taliban) gives to its fighters.

However, the reason European countries supported the crusades was not the religion or Islam or Christianity or the capture of “Jerusalem” by Muslims, it was these countries’ political and strategic interests. These counties feared Muslims knocking at their doors after conquering Romans (Byzantines); they went to help Byzantine Empire because after Byzantines’ defeat Europe would have been next Muslims conquest. European countries, for their own interests, sold a religious motivation to people making them join the war; this was very same what USA and Pakistan did during soviet war, when they called “mujahidin” from all over the world in the name of “jihad”. Religion was used in the very same way in crusades (precisely in First Crusade) and in soviet war in 1980s to attract warriors. If conquest of “Jerusalem” and the “Holy Land” was the reason then it was conquered in 1071 AD (not in 1095 AD when first crusade started) and it was first conquered by Muslims in 638 AD.

Cutting it short, in old times – even couple of centuries ago – there were no countries but only empires. There was no international boundary between these empires but only the power, control, authority or rule. For political, geographical or strategic interests, these empires used to wage war on each other and the weaker was defeated, surrendering its cities to victorious. No empire waged a war on any other just because they had a different religion unless there was a political, strategic or geographic interest.

 “War on terror” is also not against Muslims or Islam but it’s about strategic interests – of USA (mainly). It just happened that USA strategic interests, for now, are in those countries where Muslims are in majority.

We need to understand that not everything we hate is against “Islam” and neither everything we admire is “Islamic”. We need to understand that Nations are not based on religion today but a country identifies a nation – geographical boundaries separate different nations into different countries and not the religion.  If we were a Nation based on our religion – Islam – then Muslims countries would not have been fighting with each other – in Middle East for example; Pakistan did not have strained relations with Iran and Afghanistan; Bangladesh would not have been parted from Pakistan; Muslims in India would not have called themselves as “Indians”. Conflicts between Muslim countries are due to their political and strategic interests – and religion is placed behind.

Going of the topic, we cannot relate everything to “Islam” or project as “Islamic” – for example our Nuclear Bomb. We usually entitle it as “Islamic bomb”, can we confirm that we will not use it over Indian Muslims if – hypothetically speaking – a need arise against India? Can we confirm that we will not use it if Pakistan goes in war with another Muslim country (let’s say Bangladesh or Iran?) and needs to use its nuclear technology – again hypothetically speaking? The answer is No; we cannot confirm that it will not be used against Muslims (or Muslim countries) if a situation arises. The only territory where it cannot be used (or we can confirm not to use) is Pakistan; no matter what people live there and no matter what religion they have. That makes it “Pakistani nuclear technology” – that is irrespective of religion – and not an “Islamic Bomb”.

America’s War:

Another reason for not supporting “War on Terror” is that many of us see it as America’s war – though they may not believe that it’s a war against Islam (or Muslims). These people do not see Pakistani forces, fighting against militants, defending our own territory but they see it as a war that Pakistan is fighting on America’s behalf. An argument that is often given to support this view is that if Pakistan did not have aligned with USA, then we would not have been fighting militancy in our tribal areas and NWFP. It is also said with strong voices that abandoning support to USA would help to reduce the militancy and to stabilize our troubled areas.

Let’s say Pakistan would have decided to stay away from this “war on terror” in 2001 and would have continued to support Taliban – or would have decided to play neutral by abandoning the support to Taliban as well – then what would have been the situation. In that case – being very optimistic – Taliban still would have used our tribal areas as “safe heavens” after being pushed out from Afghanistan; USA – for not achieving its objectives in Afghanistan – would have used its own forces to remove these “safe heavens” and have considered Pakistan as Taliban ally – and the consequences are not hard to imagine; Taliban would still have been spreading in our settled areas. In a nutshell, US would have been doing all this to us that Taliban (or militants or Al-Qaeda or whatever) are doing to us now – may be worst. Pakistan would have been a battlefield between Taliban and USA as it is becoming now – the only difference would have been that we were seen as aligned with Taliban rather than rest of the world.

On the other hand, if we abandon support to this “war on terror” now, we will be inviting USA to come and get us while Taliban are already inside our territories and doing as much damage as they can. We need to understand that our security operation against these militants is not for USA but for Pakistan itself. If we don’t do it then a) we are letting Taliban to take over our territories b) we are inviting NATO and USA to come and invade our territories c) we are making Pakistan a battlefield for Taliban and USA.

Having said this all, today after 7 years in war on terror, many of us have started to realize that these militants (or Taliban) are not innocent people, they are not doing “jihad”, they do not want “sharia law”, they are not sincere to Pakistan. Today, military operations in troubled areas are not opposed as much as they did 4 years ago – like Wana operation. Today, we have realized that there are foreigners who actively participate in Taliban attacks in Pakistan. But there is still enough opposition to military operations that these operations cannot lead to a success in these troubled areas.

No matter if we have said “no” in 2001 or if we say “no” now to USA, the situation in Pakistan would have been similar – if not the same. That’s how wars in neighbours affect the countries – like soviet-afghan affected Pakistan in 1980s.

Conclusion:

Summing up all; we, Pakistani, need to:

          think that war on terror is not a war against Islam or Muslims – there never was – so it should not be opposed only because it is being fought against Muslims – and we are Muslims,

          understand that military operation – if and when its required against militants – should be supported by public as they are for our own interests – I wish we would have understood this when “wana” operation was launched and today we would not have lost our territories to Taliban,

          look (at least) at Pakistan’s firepower verses USA firepower and Pakistan economy verses USA economy, before asking for another U-turn in our foreign policy  – wars are not won by emotions and neither economies running on debts can pay for wars.

What Next:

Writing this all I do not mean that our official policy on this war on terror is on the right path – though I will write about it and our political forces in coming parts of this discussion. Pakistan need to align its foreign policy based on its own political, regional and strategic interests. This might get a bit tricky – I think it already has – to define a policy that serves our own interest but at the same time does not have any (major) conflicts with interests of USA in this region.

Pakistan: Why Kayani needed to speak?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Recently, General Kayani issued a statement asking Washington not to intrude into our territory and let Pakistan army do the jobs as and when considered necessary. He unambiguously stated the “terms of engagements” and referred to his recent meeting with Admiral Michael Mullen.

Kayani said:

The sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country would be defended at all costs and that no external force is allowed to conduct operations inside Pakistan…the right to conduct operations against the militants inside one’s own territory is solely the responsibility of the respective armed forces.

Why Kayani needed to respond to US frequent intrusions? Why our newly elected president did not utter a word about it? Why our Prime Minister considered only passive support to Kayani’s statement? Why no strong support came to Kayani’s statement anywhere from govt.?

In one of my previous posts, I wrote about US replacing Musharraf with PPP to pursue its regional agenda more actively. Does this mean that PPP govt. – after showing exit to Musharraf – was actively following the US agenda and Kayani had to intervene? Does this mean Kayani will be new obstacle for US – like Musharraf?

Why our Prime Minister and Defense Minister needed to rebuff Kayani by saying:

We cannot wage war on U.S.