Shireen Mazari’s Latest Column: India, Anti-Americanism, and an Ideology of the Past

Shireen MazariShireen Mazari’s latest column, published in Express Tribune, reads like she’s not even trying anymore. A mix of unintended irony, conspiracy theories, and outdated ideology leftover from the Zia years, it is a perfect example of where we were in the past, and why it’s time to move on.

Shireen starts off by pointing out the irony in American concerns about whether Davis can receive a fair trial when some here had similar concerns about the fairness of the trial of Aafia Siddiqui. She asks “are we to try murderers based on how the US views these trials and condemn the credibility of our judiciary proactively?”

This may seem like a fair point at first, but note that Shireen Mazari fails to notice the irony in her own suggestion that Davis can receive a fair trial only moments after she declares him a ‘murderer’ who ‘did kill in cold blood!’ The court is not set to formally charge Mr Davis until March 3, yet Shireen Mazari has him already guilty in her own mind. And even if we are to accept that Aafia Siddiqui did not receive a fair trial in the US, is Shireen Mazari suggesting that we should throw injustice after injustice? Or are we supposed to believe that a court could find Mr Davis ‘not guilty’ and Shireen Mazari would gladly accept such an outcome?

Perhaps this is what she means when she says we should not ‘condemn the credibility of our judiciary proactively’: That she can only rate the credibility of the court once she knows that it agrees with her own opinion. It is certainly worth asking if a fair trial is possible before an injustice takes place rather than afterwards. If we are going to demand impartial justice for our own countrymen, should we not be willing to demand impartial justice for others?

And this is not the only example of Shireen’s confusion on the issues. For that perhaps we should consider her repeating the conspiracy theory that Davis has links to attacks on the security establishment. This assertion is ridiculous as it contradicts what the security establishment itself is saying.

Consider how CIA and ISI officials described the relationship of these agencies to a real journalist, Mr Declan Walsh of The Guardian

“They need to come clean, tell us who they are and what they are doing. They need to stop doing things behind our back,” he said. There are “two or three score” covert US operatives roaming Pakistan, “if not more”, he said.

CIA spokesman George Little said that agency ties to the ISI “have been strong over the years, and when there are issues to sort out, we work through them. That’s the sign of a healthy partnership”.

The ISI official agreed that future co-operation was vital. “They need us; we need them,” he said. “But we need to move forward in the right direction, based on equality and respect.”

The intelligence agencies are merely asking that the CIA cooperate more openly with them. So why is Mazari trying to create some suspicion between the two by suggesting that Davis was involved in conspiracies to attack Pakistan’s security?

To answer that question we may look to the conclusion of her piece which lays clear the out-of-date ideology that obsesses Shireen Mazari and the rest of the Ghairat Brigade – India. Yes, only a senior official of the Ghairat Brigade could analyse a situation in which a US Embassy employee shoots two armed men at Mozang Chowk and somehow find a link to India.

One issue has become evident: the US agenda for Pakistan has growing question marks to it. The appointment of Marc Grossman as Holbrooke’s successor is a case in point. A known critic of the ICC, as vice-chairman of the Cohen Group, he has been closely associated with furthering US-India relations, including in the aerospace and defence fields. The Cohen Group was in the forefront of lobbying for the US-India nuclear deal. Earlier, as undersecretary of state for political affairs, Grossman was the main architect of the “Next Steps in Strategic Partnership between the United States and India” initiative. An active Indophile will now be dealing with Pakistan on behalf of the US. This really says it all about US intent in Pakistan.

This is an old and discredited way of thinking. China signed trade deals worth billions with India, and nobody pretends that this means China has nefarious intentions towards Pakistan. Actually, nations like the US and China don’t view their relations with us and India as a zero-sum game in which they can only be friends with one or the other. They want good relations with both, and they prefer that our two nations are also in good relations.

Of course we need a better and more balanced relationship with the US. But the correct approach to this is not explained by Shireen Mazari, but by Shafqat Mahmood’s column for The News.

Pakistan and the US are interlinked in myriad of ways. It is not just the Kerry-Lugar aid money that we desperately need or the American acquiescence to IMF or other international donors aid packages. Our defence and security needs also dictate a continuing relationship with the United States.

We do not have to be subservient to it, and I do not think we have been. There are many issues on which the US has been pushing us for a long time but, we have not given in. In particular, we have stoutly resisted the American demand for an attack on North Waziristan or its interference with our nuclear programme.

Having said that, there is also no need to get into an adversarial relationship with it. It is true that the Americans should not let the Davis case impact the entire relationship. But this argument cuts both ways. We also should not let it affect our relationship with the United States.

But worst is the way that Shireen Mazari tries to smear the name of the American diplomat Marc Grossman by accusing him of being “an active Indophile” because he had a job at an American firm that performed business consulting in India. In a glaring act of omission that has become typical for Shireen Mazari, she did not mention that Marc Grossman served at the US Embassy in Islamabad from 1976-1983. She did not note that he served as US Ambassador to Turkey from 1989-1992. She did not note that in 1999 Mr Grossman helped direct US participation in NATO’s military campaign in Kosovo that saved the lives of countless Muslims. All of this information is readily available – I learned it from his Wikipedia page. But such facts are not of interest to Shireen Mazari. With such a history, why does Shireen Mazari not term him ‘an active Islamophile’?

Shireen Mazari represents an ideology leftover from the Zia years. It is an outdated way of thinking about national security that places India as the ultimate threat, even while religious militants are attacking within our own borders. It uses anti-Americanism as an excuse for internal problems and provides a scapegoat for political pied pipers who promise that we will live in paradise if we can only get rid of the ‘foreign hand’.

The truth is, it is Zia leftovers like Shireen Mazari – not the Americans – that are holding us back. They want to keep us tied down to a Cold War mentality because they know that in the 21st century, their ideology is as irrelevant as their phony ‘think tanks’.

Pervez Hoodbhoy on Anti-Americanism and Conspiracy Theories

The following is from an article by Pervez Hoodbhoy that was published in New Politics last summer. It is worth reading again during the present day.

The Conspiracy Industry

In a country that can boast of few achievements in improving the lot of its own people, legitimate criticisms tend to be conflated with illegitimate ones. After all, it is human nature to blame others for one’s own miseries. Today the United States is frequently held to blame for Pakistan’s ills, old and new. Absurdities abound. Surely America should not be held responsible for the sewage-contaminated water that Pakistanis must drink, the pitifully low level of taxes collected, the barbarity of the police, or the massive theft of electricity by rich and poor alike. Nor can it be blamed for the fact that Kashmir is unresolved and that Pakistan’s generals foolishly thought of winning it through covert war.

Of course, Pakistan is not the only country where America provides a rationalization for internal failures. U.S.-bashing is a structural phenomenon where, at least sometimes, it has nothing to do with what America actually does. For example, one recently saw the amazing spectacle of Hamid Karzai threatening to join the Taliban and lashing out against the Americans because they (probably correctly) suggested he had committed electoral fraud.

In the present anti-American climate, the manufacture of conspiracy theories has become Pakistanis’ single biggest industry. Various polls show that the events of 9/11 are assumed by most Pakistanis to have been a CIA-Mossad conspiracy designed to malign Muslims and a part of the West’s war on Islam. It is also believed that Osama bin Laden did not carry out these attacks and, even if he did, that he died long ago. Many think he is an American agent trained and armed by the CIA, while Blackwater is believed to be behind suicide attacks in Pakistani markets and mosques. On the other hand, the Afghan Taliban are often pictured as simply freedom-loving people trying to free their country from foreign occupation. Just when one feels that the limits of absurdity have finally been crossed, some popular television anchor throws out a conspiracy story that leaves one gasping.

Example: for months one heard the theory from various popular anchorpersons that leaders of the Pakistani Taliban, Baitullah Mehsud and Hakimullah Mehsud, were U.S. agents. But there was deafening silence when these leaders were killed by American drones. And, by the way, what happened to the khatna (circumcision) theory — that suicide bombers were uncircumcised and were either Blackwater employees or Indian agents? Now that one can check the carcasses of suicide bombers frozen in cold storage, that theory has conveniently disappeared from the market.

Pakistan’s collective psychosis is painful to behold. When a suicide bomber walked into the female cafeteria at the Islamic University in Islamabad, followed by a second bomber in the male cafeteria, one might have thought that great anger would have been expressed at the Taliban. Instead, the brainwashed students vented their anger at the university administration, government, and America instead of the perpetrators of this heinous deed. The Jamaat-e-Islami and other religious political parties flatly refused to condemn the suicide attack on students.

Ordinary Pakistanis — including the bearded and burqa’ed ones — have fully bought into America-bashing. So does the Westernized elite which yearns for a Green Card, sends its children to U.S. universities, listens to American pop music, and drives out in fancy cars to a McDonald’s. It also includes Pakistanis permanently settled in the United States, who writhe in guilt knowing they live off an anti-Muslim superpower — as they see it.

Tragically for Pakistan, anti-Americanism has played squarely into the hands of Islamic militants. They vigorously promote the notion that this is a bipolar conflict of Islam versus imperialism when, in fact, they are actually waging an armed struggle to remake society. They will keep fighting this war even if America were to miraculously evaporate into space. Created by poverty, a war-culture, and the macabre manipulations of Pakistan’s intelligence services, religious militants want a total transformation of society. This means eliminating music, art, entertainment, and all manifestations of modernity and Westernism. Side goals include chasing away the few surviving native Christians, Sikhs, and Hindus from the Frontier province.

There is certainly legitimate reason for countries across the world to feel negatively about America. In pursuit of its self-interest, wealth and security, it has waged illegal wars, bribed, bullied and overthrown governments, supported tyrants and military governments, and undermined movements for progressive change. But nutcase conspiracy-thinking of “foreign hands” being behind most ills is deadly for a nation’s mental health. If some “foreign hand” is imagined behind everything, then that kills self-confidence and one’s ability to control outcomes. Imagining these “extra-terrestrial” forces deadens the ability to think rationally and sharply reduces the capacity to deal with terrorism — which is here to stay in Pakistan for the foreseeable future.

Pakistanis, who desperately want someone to stand up to the Americans, have bought into the notion of the Taliban as being somehow anti-imperialist. Today, in a country that is divided on everything else, strong anti-U.S. feelings provide a rare point of consensus. Sadly, some in the Pakistani Left seek to cash in on this.

Are Our Expectations Realistic?

Example of a Mandlebrot factal

As a boy I was naturally curious about everything around me. I was also fascinated with my parents who both read as if the words were their life’s blood. They seemed to know everything. Growing up in my house, I discovered a love of books at an early age. But I found that with the high point of reading a book or learning something knew also came with a low point of realizing that there was more to read, more to learn before I could ever have the answer. I fantasized about being a brilliant man, but for each book I read, that goal seemed to move farther away instead of closer.

If I read a book of poetry, I would become obsessed with deciphering the allusions and finding the influences of the poet. This led to more poets with more allusions that led to more poets. It was an infinite regression of poetry! By the time I was a teenager, I began to despair. I was never going to be able to read enough to learn it all.

It wasn’t until my late 20s that I realized that this was normal. That, true, I will never know it all. But that’s okay. I came to realize that the beauty is not in the knowing, but in the learning. Perhaps I tell you something about fractal geometry. But it’s not that a section of maths that I love as much as it is the process of learning about it. Learning is not an goal, it’s a path.

Two items reminded me of this yesterday. Both were fairly unremarkable in their own right, simply people expressing frustration with the very frustrating situation of society plagued by problems and government that is slow to provide solutions. But the more I thought about these items, the more I started thinking about whether or not our expectations of the government are fair? Are we being realistic about what the government can do, and how quickly it can do it?

The first item I noticed was a comment on a post by Agha Haider Raza that stated,

However, it would be interesting to read any viable recommendations you could make so as to hold the President accountable, or even the PM for their lack of activity “for the people.”

The second was the statement of PML-Q MNA Marvi Memon that government has failed to deliver.

She said people elected their representatives to have their problems solved, and since the legislators had failed to come up to the expectations of the electorate, protests and sit-ins had become order of the day. Decisions taken by parliament, she said, were not being implemented by the executive, as a result of which unrest was going up. She warned that the country could face Egypt-like situation in case the government failed to address people’s problems.

These statements have something in common in that they both communicate a frustration with the government being too slow in solving the problems of society. But I began to wonder if not just this government, but any government would meet our expectations.

One of the fundamental elements of democracy is that it is slow moving. Before some change can take place, different groups have to come to an agreement on the move. And these groups may not see things in the same light. The military has its wants, the business class has its wants, the poor have their own set of needs, and the politicians themselves have certain things that they want. Disagreements between these and other groups are natural, and finding solutions that meet everyone’s needs can be difficult.

Dictatorships are much faster moving, but that speed comes at the cost of the rights of citizens. A fast-moving dictatorship cannot tolerate a free press, popular dissent such as street protests, or even disagreement with his policies. You simply get what he gives you and if you don’t like it then he will be happy to hang you in a stadium as a warning to others who might think of crossing him.

Another issue is that I think that we have been conditioned to expect failure from the government. Why should this be any surprise? I am a young man, and already I have lived through a series of governments (some elected, some imposed) that have let us down at each turn. When we elected this government a few years ago, I found myself filled with optimism. Even though I knew better, I still thought that now that we had elected a democratic government, things would quickly fall into place. There have definitely been some improvements since Musharraf, but I can’t help but feel sometimes like I expected more.

But I also know that progress is slow. It does not come overnight. Winston Churchill said that ‘democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others that have been tried from time to time’. He could have very well been talking about Pakistan. We have tried military rule under Gen. Yahya Khan that fractured our young nation. We have tried Islamization under Gen. Zia that bred the militant terrorists who bomb our shrines and our markets. Yes there are many problems that we must overcome, and yes it is frustrating how slow change seems to come. But until someone can think of a better form of government, democracy is the best way forward.

When you meet someone who is older and well read, it can become an easy wish to have that same wisdom that they do. But it takes time, patience, and hard work to achieve it. Just because you are granted membership to a library, still you cannot read all the books in one day. There are no short cuts to wisdom, and there are no short cuts to social progress also. We need to set our expectations on short-term goals that are realistically achievable in the pursuit of long-term goals that will take time. Like a Mandlebrot fractal, those small short-term successes will build on themselves and over time we will find ourselves further down the path of democracy.

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

Right now concerned citizens are asking themselves: Where do I sign up for a revolution in Pakistan? How can I bring down the government because it’s so, so terrible?

Easy there, concerned citizens. Let’s bring the rhetoric down a bit, and really study the myriad of issues we face as a nation. For anyone truly concerned about the future of Pakistan, serious discussions must be had, requiring cool minds and an acknowledgment of the facts. Vigorous public debates are healthy – they are the calling card of a free society. However, we cannot tolerate discussions that incite hate, or encourage violence. This is not a respectable discussion or anything resembling journalism. Our free media must take its role seriously and be an informative tool. Because they are they medium through which people debate, their role is key in national discussions.

An example of the alarming violent speech is this talk of a “an inevitable revolution in Pakistan.” I think they must mean a metaphorical revolution, right???

As we watch the Arab world fight for democracy, we must stand in solidarity with them, not shake our heads at their “mistake.” We should applaud their bravery and courage. For countries like Egypt, where a revolution successfully toppled Hosni Mubarak, the real challenges begin now. A regime can be topped in a matter of weeks, but the building of institutions takes much, much longer. Unforeseen dilemmas will surely arise as the country tries to steer towards its goal of democracy. It is a struggle worth having.

And yet in Pakistan, some are not talking about a revolution in metaphorical terms. In Lahore there was an actual youth protest against democracy, and for some sort of pan-Islamic form of government to unite all the Ummah. The sky-high absurdity of that is astounding. First of all, Muslims are in every part of the globe. The logistics would be difficult enough! All joking aside, it is really tragic that the Islamic world is rising towards democracy and freedom, while many in Pakistan are bent on bringing it down.

Is our government perfect? No, of course not. We must always be working towards a more perfect society. Problems will plague us and obstacles will always be in our path. But are we willing to sacrifice Jinnah’s Pakistan to some idealized vision of dictatorship?

It’s time to really just calm down and think. Concerned citizens, wake up and have a look around. Haven’t we been through enough of that back and forth between dictatorships? Haven’t they done enough damage? Protestors and pundits alike speak with conviction against our current democracy. Yet very few have the real courage to build things up, strengthen institutions, or even engage in a civil discussion.

Is Raymond Davis a manufactured controversy?

spy vs spy

Increasing evidence points to spy-vs-spy games

The latest conspiracy theory that has been spread thanks to a statement by a Lahore police official published in Express Tribune, is the wildest yet. According to the unnamed official, “The Lahore killings were a blessing in disguise for our security agencies who suspected that Davis was masterminding terrorist activities in Lahore and other parts of Punjab”. According to the official, cellphones recovered from Davis showed that he was in communication with militants from TTP and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ).

If having contact with militants means that you are ‘masterminding terrorist activities’, we are in serious trouble not because of CIA agents but because of our own intelligence agencies who surely have far more contact with militants than any CIA agent would dream.

LeJ is a splinter of the group Sipah-e-Sahaba (SSP) which began as a Deobandi political party in the 1980s formed by Maulana Haq Nawaz Jhangvi to fight Shia influence after the Iranian revolution in 1979. In 1996, SSP members who thought the organization was not militant enough formed LeJ as the armed wing of the anti-Shia group. LeJ received arms and training from the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM) group involved in the Afghanistan jihad of the 1980s which was supported by the CIA and the ISI.

And let’s consider what contacts our intelligence agencies had with Mr Raymond Davis before the incident. The latest statements from the ISI, though, suggest that they had no idea who he was or what he was doing.

Even Pakistan’s spies say they had no idea what Davis was doing in Lahore.

A senior intelligence source told The Daily Telegraph he was unknown to Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence directorate and was operating outside the normal agreements between the two countries.

“We want the US to come clean on what exactly he was up to,” he said.

But earlier news reports said the two men shot by Davis were ISI spies who were trailing him.

According to the Pakistani officials, the two men had been sent to track Raymond Davis by the Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, which believed that Davis had crossed “a red line” and needed to be followed.

In late January, those officials say, Davis was asked to leave an area of Lahore restricted by the military. His cell phone was tracked, said one government official, and some of his calls were made to the Waziristan tribal areas, where the Pakistani Taliban and a dozen other militant groups have a safe haven. Pakistani intelligence officials saw him as a threat who was “encroaching on their turf,” the official said.

According to the article by Declan Walsh, a senior ISI official denied that the two men were ISI agents and suggested that the whole matter was the result of ISI frustration with their CIA counterparts not keeping them in the loop.

A senior ISI official denied the dead men worked for the spy agency but admitted the CIA relationship had been damaged. “We are a sovereign country and if they want to work with us, they need to develop a trusting relationship on the basis of equality. Being arrogant and demanding is not the way to do it,” he said.

When Raymond Davis’s identity as CIA was revealed in the media, it was not because the US government felt it in their best interests to admit as much but because ISI agents exposed his identity. And what has caused this? Is this meant to put pressure on the CIA over the US lawsuit against ISI chief Pasha?

Other questions that are being ignored include who are the two men that were shot by Raymond Davis? Were they simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, or were they intelligence operatives playing spy-vs-spy? Why were they carrying illegal guns?

Once you cancel out all the noise and conspiracy theories, it looks more and more like a spy-vs-spy game played between the ISI and the CIA. It is not known who the winner will be, but the loser is sure to be regular Pakistanis.