Bogey Nation

by Nadeem Paracha

Recently the monthly Herald published the results of an elaborate survey that it undertook to determine the extent of anti-Americanism in Pakistan. The findings suggest nothing that we do not already know. The percentages in this case hold only an academic interest. 

Though anti-Americanism during the Cold War (1949-89) was mostly the ideological vocation of pro-Soviet leftists, today (some twenty years after the collapse of the Soviet Union), one can safely suggest that America is experiencing its most detested hour. It hasn’t been hated across the board so much and so instantly as it is today, thanks mainly to the many arrogant misdeeds of the Bush administration and its utter deficiency in the art and skill of empathetic and prudent diplomacy. 

However, the anti-Americanism virus — at least in most Muslim countries — today is such that the critique that comes with it is largely rhetorical, and, at times, rather obsessive-compulsive. The recent ‘debate’ that took place in Pakistan’s electronic media on the Kerry-Lugar Bill is a vivid example of this trend, in which, it was quite clear that certain politicians, TV talk show hosts and their audiences among the country’s ever growing chattering classes, who were quick to attack the Bill, hadn’t even read the document! Their single cue in this respect was the Pakistan Army’s concerns about certain conditions mentioned in the aid bill, and off they went on a rampage. 

More interesting however will be to trace the history and evolution of anti-Americanism in Pakistan. According to a research paper written by Dr Talukder Muniruzaman in 1971 on the politics of young Pakistanis, a majority of Pakistanis viewed America positively and admiringly in the 1950s. The paper also suggests that right up till Pakistan’s 1965 war with India, most Pakistanis saw America as a friend, especially in the context of the Soviet Union’s close ties with India. 

According to a lengthy paper (published by Chicago University in 1983) on the ideological orientation of Pakistan’s university students (by Kiren Aziz and Peter McDonough), anti-Americanism among most Pakistanis remained somewhat low even during the celebrated movement (in 1967-68) against the Ayub Khan dictatorship; in spite of the fact that the movement was largely led by leftist students and politicians. 

The paper further suggests that anti-Americanism in the 1970s that was ripe among many Arab countries due to the United States’ single-minded support for Israel, started to finally make its way into Pakistani society during the Z. A. Bhutto regime (1972-77); especially when Bhutto started to expand his ‘Islamic Socialism’ doctrine at the international level by striking firm relations with various radical Muslim states and Arab countries. The build-up to this was the otherwise sympathetic Richard Nixon administration’s failure to militarily help its Asian ally during the 1971 war with India. 

In spite of this, America remained Pakistan’s leading aid donor. According to Lubna Rafique’s 1994 paper, ‘Benazir & British Press,’ it was only in the last year of Z. A. Bhutto’s regime (1977), that he started to allude to moving out of the ‘American camp,’ calling the US a ‘white elephant.’ He also went on to accuse the Jimmy Carter administration of financing right-wing parties’ agitation against him in 1977. 

Throughout the Ziaul Haq dictatorship in the 1980s, anti-Americanism remained a much polarised affair in Pakistan. Most political-religious parties and their supporters, and the industrial class that supported Zia, were either openly pro-America or ambiguous on the subject. This was due to the fact that Zia was an Islamist military dictator who was backed by the Ronald Regan administration with military hardware and dollars during the West’s war against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and against ‘communism in the region’. On the other hand, anti-Americanism became rampant among those opposing Zia. 

Though by the late 1980s the intensity of anti-Americanism had grown (compared to the preceding decades), it never became violent. In fact, some would suggest that in the 1990s as America largely divorced itself from the region after the end of the Afghan civil war, anti-Americanism actually receded, and Pakistanis got busy tackling the bitter pitfalls of the war in the shape of bloody ethnic and sectarian strife. 

Anti-Americanism returned to the fore like never before after the tragic 9/11 episode in 2001. According to veteran defence analyst, Hassan Askari, this strain of anti-Americanism is an emotional response of most Pakistanis to the confusion that set in after 9/11. In other words, this version of anti-Americanism has very little to do with a more academic or concrete understanding of both international and home-grown terrorism. The post-9/11 confusion and emotionalism in Pakistan is given vent and an ‘intellectual tilt’ by Islamist apologists of all shapes and sizes pointing fingers at ‘outside forces’ for the blood that is being shed by home-grown fanatics, is only too visible. 

Whereas there was a prominent streak of individualism and romantic rebellion associated with the anti-Americanism of Pakistani leftists during the Cold War, nothing of the sort can be said about the widespread anti-Americanism found in Pakistan today. The present-day phenomenon has become an obligatory part of populist rhetoric in which American involvement is blamed for everything — from terrorist attacks, to the energy crises, to perhaps even the break of dengue fever. 

Ridiculous, really.

Myth-busters in the Media

Pakistani media is seeing a wave of muckrakers. These are journalists who go beyond baseless paranoia and finger-wagging to the hard truth. It is an exceptionally welcome change for the many who are sick of rumor-based, spiteful writings characterized as “journalism.”

Need proof? Recently a veteran journalist. Agha Murtaza Poya, said America, India, and of course, Israel were “an axis of evil out to destroy Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan.”

Usually one would read this and have a sudden headache, but no worries, there is hope. These psuedo-writers are on their way out, says Nadeem F. Paracha in his article posted on Dawn.

Article:

Talking to DawnNews, veteran journalist Agha Murtaza Poya called America, India, and Israel an ‘axis of evil out to destroy Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan.’

There is absolutely nothing new or original about Poya’s grand ‘geopolitical’ assessment, but when such unsubstantiated claptrap comes from a respected journalist, what common sense or responsibility can one expect from the hoards of TV anchors and print journalists whose figurative 15 minutes of fame have already overstayed their cacophonic welcome.

It is a ‘fame’ gathered from cheap fist-clenching demonstrations of populist nonsense and so-called political discourses that are thoroughly anti-intellectual in nature and akin to deal more in sardonic barbs and thrilling sound bytes for an audience that seems not to have the patience, or for that matter, the capability to enjoy a more rational discourse.

TV screens and the pages of some newspapers are choked with hosts, journalists, and ‘experts’ dishing out the most worn out clichés that can be wonderful fodder for fast food spy fiction, consequently announcing the demise of any semblance left in this society to actually understand international and local politics as a dynamic science instead of reading it as a rapid-fire script of a racy James Bond film.

Accusations are conveniently floated about ‘corruption’ and ‘foreign hands,’ and not even once have they been proven as something more concrete than drawing room gossip or obsessive finger-wagging.

Thankfully, those sickened by such baloney have gotten down to systematically dismantling the many myths and conspiracy dribble that are smugly rolled out as ‘facts.’

Take the books written on the subject of Islamists and terrorism in the region by well known author Ahmed Rashid. In Decent into Chao (2008), Rashid uses reliable sources to turn the already known narrative of Pakistan being its own worst enemy into an elaborate and convincing intellectual and journalistic exercise.

But myth-busters – including Rashid, Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy, Dr. Mubarak Ali and others – may seem ‘too dry’ in their style compared to the many compelling babblers, journalists, and columnists who have turned spouting populist twaddle and worn-out conspiracies into an industry. Now, however, the myth-breaking brigade have found their own shock troopers.

This is a vital development in which sanity in this respect seems to be evolving a muscular side to challenge the sheer brawn of gaseous drawing room jocks such as Zaid Hamid, Aamir Liaquat, Mubashhir Luqman, Shahid Masood, Ansar Abbasi, et al.

Urdu columnist and TV host Hassan Nisar and investigative journalist Aamir Mir have been the frontline shock troopers. They have continued to dent the jocks’ numerous theories not only with arguments rooted in facts, but also with a punch.

In his book, Talibanisation of Pakistan, Mir, like Rashid, uses the most convincing investigative tools, smartly gathering on-ground facts from various competing intelligence agencies in Pakistan to lay out a harrowing narrative that puts Pakistan’s many schizophrenic intelligence agencies smack-dab in the middle of all that has gone so terribly wrong with Pakistan in matters of extremism and terrorism.

Mir’s book is a warning, but without the holier-than-thou approach that many of his detractors usually take.

The more we remain in denial about our own agencies’ historical dabbling in civilian political matters, and the many deadly games that these agencies played moulding armies of fanatical and violent Frankenstein Monsters, the deeper we shall tumble into the bottomless pit we have managed to dig for ourselves.

Interestingly, every time certain awkward truths about our own political and societal failures start to become a hot topic among the amoral chattering classes, there are always those who suddenly up the ante of their respective TV shows and their newspaper ‘scoops’ and columns, diverting the attention of the people either back to the wrecking and scheming ways of ‘foreign hands,’ or, of course, the Kerry-Lugar Bill and the NRO.

I’ve been associated with both investigative and desk journalism for more than 15 years now, and I know how vulnerable to exploitation journalists can get; quite like the politicians we so self-righteously bash. And even though I have very little experience with electronic journalism, one can quite easily point out the cynicism that cuts across it.

In 2007, the army (for the TV news channels) became the villain and the lawyers our saviours; terrorists were dealt with velvet gloves, even glorified as men who were creatures of circumstance instead of the cold-blooded murderers that they really are.
The same year, when late Benazir Bhutto met with Pervez Musharraf, she was mocked and put down as a ‘puppet of America.’ Soon after her tragic death, she suddenly became a heroine, and whole documentaries were dedicated to her.

In 2008, the army was still the villain and democrats became supermen. Terrorists were still seen to be fighting a noble war against America, and those who were blowing themselves up in mosques and schools were ‘Indian agents.’

In 2009, after the government and the army finally took decisive action against the terrorists, the army returned to the TV screens as heroes. Terrorists, meanwhile, became an elusive cross between barbarians and men funded by foreign powers. Last year’s supermen, the elected democrats, on the other hand, become ‘corrupt,’ ‘incompetent,’ and a laughing stock.

Suddenly, for TV news channels in Pakistan, it seems democracy isn’t all that cool anymore. They’re back indulging in Pakistani journalism’s all-time favourite pastime: looking for those ‘dark clouds’ of army intervention to ‘control corrupt politicians.’ They just never tire of this hollow, reactive exercise. It’s been going on ever since 1958.

The electronic media claims these somersaults are undertaken in the fine name of ‘democracy,’ and  ‘freedom of speech.’ But the truth is, much of our electronic media is simply driven by what is better described as a mobocracy! Even a casual glance at any ‘talk show’ should suffice as proof.

Secretary Clinton meets with Pakistani Students

The US’s shift in its relationship with Pakistan could not have been more evident: Secretary Clinton reached out to students at Government College in Lahore in an hour-long townhall. It demonstrated American commitment to a long-term, mutually respectful partnership.

“I am well aware that there is a trust deficit,” Clinton told the students. “My message is that’s not the way it should be. We cannot let a minority of people in both countries determine our relationship.”

Secretary Clinton implored the students to keep fighting extremism in Pakistan, saying it went against all that Americans and Pakistanis alike held dear.

Bringing extremists to the table

Can we bring extremists to a point of public debate and discussion?

Believe it or not, we can.

A recent study by Ohio State University emphasizes a critical requirement for bringing people with radical leanings to the table: have them believe more people sympathize with their views than is actually true.

“When people with extreme views have this false sense that they are in the majority, they are more willing to express themselves,” said Kimberly Rios Morrison, co-author of the study and an assistant professor of communication at OSU.

Stanford University carried out a social experiment in which this theory proved correct. Students were asked to which degree they supported alcohol on campus with the results showing most to be moderately pro-alcohol and a minority to be very much so. When those same students were given false data stating most students were against alcohol on campus, the staunchly pro-alcohol numbers quickly decreased.

What can we learn from this fascinating research?

If we put this in context of Pakistani religious extremism, we may have a found a key to dialogue.  Weeks of terror attacks and scores of innocent people killed imply extremists feel immensely threatened, desperate and outraged at the thought they are soon to be shut out from Pakistani society.

Though there are many in those groups who will always continue to hate secularism and modernity, most are disenchanted, poverty-stricken people with no opportunities. Here is a study that suggests we can tie in their experiences, approach them with a “Many people understand and sympathize with your struggles” – comment and pursue them from that point on.

This would then become a diving board, a way to filter out those willing to work with the government and be taken into the fold of Pakistani society.

Regardless of how, if at all, we apply this research to the crisis facing Pakistan, it clearly goes to show that acceptance is what people with radical sentiments are seeking. Providing them with the idea of that will bring them out in the open.

Pakistan’s Founder and the Ideology of Pakistan

Bakhshish Yousaf Chaudhry authored this article for Dawn, Pakistan’s Founder and the Ideology of Pakistan:

 

IN 1940 came the Muslim League’s Lahore Resolution with all its ambiguities and contradictions demanding that the geographically contiguous areas in which the Muslims were in majority (the northwest and the east) should be grouped together to constitute independent states in which the constituent units shall be autonomous and sovereign.

In 1946 the Muslim League agreed to the cabinet mission plan which proposed to put Muslims into two autonomous regions within the Indian federation but this plan did not materialise. A month before leaving Delhi for sovereign Pakistan its founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah (the Quaid-e-Azam) dismissed a suggestion that the new country should be a theocracy. The purpose of the creation of Pakistan, he said, was not to create a theocratic and monolithic state but to safeguard the social, economic, and political rights of Indian Muslims. Once Pakistan was created the rights of even non-Muslims were to be protected as equal citizens.

The current crisis has its origin in large measure to a dogmatic view propagated by some politicians that ‘ideology’ of Pakistan was Islam. But the Quaid-i-Azam never made any mention in his speeches and conversations nor used the term of Ideology of Pakistan. Instead, he made it clear that his ideal was to create a democratic state for Indian Muslims where faith would be a personal matter of each individual.

For fifteen years after the establishment of Pakistan, nobody used the term ideology of Pakistan nor was it known to anybody. In 1962, a member of Jamaat-i-Islami, Maulvi Abdul Bari of Lyallpur (now Faisalabad) used this term for the first time when the political parties bill was under discussion. Chaudhry Fazal Ilahi, who later became president of Pakistan, objected to this construct and asked what he meant by this. On this the member who had moved the bill said, “Ideology of Pakistan is Islam.” Nobody raised any question or sought explanation and the bill was passed.

The Quaid-i-Azam’s vision was as clear as crystal and his guidance superb. His utterances in public and private did not leave any one with the slightest doubt that he was a forward-looking, progressive and rational man and wanted a secular Pakistan.

Now the question arises, can we subordinate the acquisition of knowledge to any ideology? The answer is that we cannot do so. If we subordinate the acquisition of knowledge to any ideology, we reduce the field of knowledge to what the ideology teaches us because the ideology has to run through a groove or a defined channel and does not let us go out of it. It was a Christian dogma for centuries that the centre of the planetary system is earth. Copernicus showed that the centre of that system is not earth but the sun and the earth revolves round it. Galileo further illustrated this theory. For this he was placed before an inquisition tribunal for having expounded a theory which was opposed to the Christian ideology.

We cannot subordinate education to any ideology. The object of education is to acquire knowledge, knowledge of everything, of universe, the remotest nebula, the knowledge of light travelling at the speed of 186,000 per second. The knowledge of the mightiest galaxies is within our reach. Knowledge of everything which exists in the universe is not beyond our reach. Knowledge has no limits. There are a number of branches of knowledge. Now if we subordinate the acquisition of knowledge to any ideology, political, economic, or religious, we reduce the field of knowledge because it imposes limitations on human intellect and on our activities.

Education being imparted in madressahs (seminaries) is subordinated to an ideology and therefore does not inculcate quest for knowledge among students there. Apart from inculcation of a dispassionate quest for truth in them the seminaries fail to enable students to take some socially useful profession in life. They are taught that only their creed is based on truth and that other faiths and creeds are incarnation of evil. The attempt to mould the minds of the young through education started in early 1980 with the political agenda of the Islamisation of the state.

The curriculum was redesigned and textbooks were rewritten to promote the ideology of Pakistan and create a monolithic image of Pakistan as an Islamic state and only the Muslims were the citizens of Pakistan. Pakistan is a multi-lingual, multi-ethnic and multi religious society. Non-Muslims are an integral part of it. Many of them have contributed to the image, stature and wellbeing of the country.

The term globalisation was coined towards the end of the 20th century. This term highly speaks of the wonders of the present century. With the invention of the most modern means of transportation and the most sophisticated means of communication world has shrunk into a global village. The world is contracting and the foreigner is becoming my brother. He cannot live without me and I cannot live without him. We both cannot hate each other. If I lose somebody due to hatred then I lose myself. My country can only expand in peace, the peace that is born of dialogue between peoples.

It is extremely dangerous and lethal to establish a monolithic society. In a monolithic society different creeds cannot co-exist peacefully. All diversity should be forced into unity. We live in a pluralistic society where different religion co –exist peacefully. The most important thing in a pluralistic society is to accept unity in diversity.

We must know full well that Pakistan was created not in the name of Islam but in the name of enabling the Muslims of the subcontinent to live according to their cultural practices, religious values and age-old customs. So, Pakistan was not meant to be a theocratic and monolithic state. It was created to safeguard the social, economic and political rights of Indian Muslims and also treat the non-Muslims as equal citizens.

The architect-founder of Pakistan Mohammad Ali Jinnah told the new nation in his historic address to the Constituent Assembly on August 11, 1947, that “You are free to go to your temples, your are free to go to your mosques, or to any other place of worship in the state of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the state. I think that we should keep this in front of us as our ideal and you will find that in course of time Hindus will cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense because that is the personal faith of each individual.”

This excerpt of the speech of the founder of Pakistan clearly speaks about pluralistic society in which full freedom of religion would be given to all communities and there would not be any discrimination on the basis of caste or creed and cultural diversity would be recognised and respected to promote national unity. As a prudent politician and statesman, Jinnah knew full well that in a multicultural society like Pakistan discrimination on the basis of religion could impede communal harmony and hinder economic development process.

Pluralism is the root of democracy which stipulates that all the people irrespective of their caste, colour, creed and ethnic affiliation should be given equal rights and affiliation. Some politicians assert that democracy is a multi-valued notion and not a single-valued one and it should be shared rather than monopolised.

The message of the founder of Pakistan to the nation was unity, faith and discipline. His speeches clearly outline the kind of unity he envisioned to make Pakistan a progressive state. He stood for unity in diversity. Progress, prosperity, solidarity and integrity of Pakistan lies in the successful practice of the democratic system. This must also be borne in mind that religion is not for the state but it is for the people who live in the state.

After sixty two years Pakistan still remains in the list of backward coun
tries. The people of Pakistan are at the mercy of the unjust social system or the criminals and terrorists. Nobody is safe at home or out of home. The poor are becoming poorer and the rich are becoming richer.

The Quaid-i-Azam set an example for the others. When he was the governor-general of Pakistan his salary was rupee one only. At this moment

Pakistan is completely in the grip of crises and our rulers are enjoying life. Let us seek the solution of all our problems by keeping in mind the principles the founder of Pakistan upheld.