Imran Khan: Musharraf Sahib Mujse Shadi Karoge?

Is love in the air? For months I have been seeing headlines reporting the great Imran Khan has called for the government to go. So wasn’t it only a matter of time before the new wanna-be coup leader got together with the last guy to come up with this same plan?

This is why I could not help but laugh a little bit to myself when I read that Musharraf and Imran Khan are courting!

Musharraf, who formed and runs a political party in exile, has started exploring new political allies and the PTI is one of them. The PTI has instructed its chapters in western countries neither to speak against Musharraf nor lodge any protest on his arrival there, an advice being strictly followed. Imran Khan, PTI’s chief, has recently been gifted a puppy by Musharraf who used to criticize Imran Khan frequently. The puppy was born at a dog centre at the Musharraf’s farmhouse.

An old dictator and a wanna-be dictator sending each other puppies and sweets. How cute! But Imran Khan have more in common than a love of coups and puppy dogs.

My friends have taken to jokingly calling PTI as ‘Tehreek-i-Internet Pakistan’ since they have a very impressive presence on Facebook, but can’t seem to win any elections. Perhaps this is also why Musharraf feels such a natural connection. He can combine his 400,000 Facebook supporters with Imran Khan’s 160,000 supporters and then they can have a dharna demanding a new province Facebookistan and they can take turns overthrowing each other in their own provincial assembly.

Think about it: Imran Khan and Musharraf can hold Internet dharnas all day long without their supporters having to suffer without AC; they can plot coups and counter-coups against each other without adding to the killing; and with their very own Facebookistan province, their combined total of 600,000 supporters will finally be enough to win an election.

Meanwhile, the rest of us can get along with trying to figure out some realistic solutions to the difficult problems of extremism, inflation, and load shedding.

Sovereignty Issues

If questions about sovereignty were merely political weapons to be made during the KL debate, the American operation in Abbottabad has put them into start reality. The Americans may have killed their man and left, but the operation highlighted some more disturbing points such as how did the world’s most wanted terrorist mastermind get into and live in Pakistan for years without notice? And if the Americans can enter and leave Pakistan without notice, how secure are we actually?

The problem is not only that Hizb-ut-Tahrir is banned, therefore the members of this group are choosing to break the very laws they are meant to protect, rather it is something much deeper. The stated goal of Hizb-ut-Tahrir is for all Muslim countries to unify under a Khalifa. That means that supporters of Hizb-ut-Tahrir are by definition anti-Pakistan.

For all the worry about sovereignty, it is Hizb-ut-Tahrir that believes that Pakistan does not deserve sovereignty but should be subservient to a foreign dictator (Khaliph). How can members of Hizb-ut-Tahrir be soldiers sworn to defend Pakistan if they do not believe Pakistan should exist? There are some journalists and media celebrities who are defending these arrested officers and trying to claim that it is an attack on Islamic ideology, but this is fundamentally incorrect.

Neither is it simply a matter of technicalities. When the Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan spoke to the media to take credit for the suicide bombing on a police station over the weekend, he bragged that it was carried out by “Uzbek nationals”. This means that Pakistan’s sovereignty was violated once again by foreign agents crossing our borders and carrying out attacks on our security services. As usual, the Ghairat Brigade is silent on this fact.

We have sacrificed too much for this country to let it be slowly eroded away. We should be vigilant about protecting our sovereignty from violation by larger powers like India and US, but in doing so we should not ignore what is going on underneath our very nose.

Shared Goals

At 8:00 PM on June 22nd, President Obama made the much-anticipated announcement that by next summer all 30,000 of the “surge” troops would be brought home.  The drawdown of tens of thousands troops certainly signals the beginning of the end of the war in Afghanistan, but it also heralds a new era in the fight against extremism.

Take for instance a particularly telling quote from President Obama’s speech:

“We are starting this drawdown from a position of strength,” the president said. “Al Qaeda is under more pressure than at any time since 9/11. Together with the Pakistanis, we have taken out more than half of al Qaeda’s leadership. And thanks to our intelligence professionals and Special Forces, we killed Osama bin Laden, the only leader that al Qaeda had ever known.”

In the last decade, Pakistan’s profile in the fight against terror has only increased. Its importance in fighting extremism cannot be swept under the rug, nor can American and Pakistani shared objectives in rooting out terrorists be exaggerated.

Afghans and Pakistanis must not think the US is leaving them again, as they often say regarding the US actions post-Cold War. Rather, the strategy must be different, and for this everyone must come to the table with the same priority: to eradicate terrorism.  An eternal optimist, I cannot help but hope leaders make decisions to cooperate in the right ways. We should take this opportunity to form on-the-ground strategies to combat terrorism, and make this a priority transcending political parties.

The rabid anti-Americanism in our media depends heavily on the idea of Americans as “invaders.” By calling 30,000 troops back, President Obama has made it clear he wants Afghans to build their own country and their own future (don’t hold your breath for the media to point that out, though). That is what America must do for herself as well, he said. As Americans and Afghans are responsible for their own nations, so are we. Our shared goals make us allies, and that is the most crucial point of all.

Ambassador Haqqani urges mutual respect for long-term Pakistan-US ties

Ambassador Husain HaqqaniWASHINGTON, June 22 (APP): Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States has said it is through demonstration of mutual respect that the two countries can forge a long-term relationship. “Both countries have their respective processes. We need to show respect for each other’s processes. We need to show respect for each other’s people and then develop a partnership that is long term,” Ambassador Husain Haqqani told The Washington Times in an interview.

The envoy noted that the U.S.-Pakistan relationship has some strengths and many challenges. “We are working on the challenges. I think what is needed is for the Americans to show patience to the emerging democratic process in Pakistan and understand that all the concerns you have about public opinion adherence to the rule of law…etc. in the context of the United States should also be applied to Pakistan.

“You cannot have the attitude that Pakistan should just do anything on demand whereas the American side while delivering anything for Pakistan has to go through a process.”

On America’s reputation in Pakistan, the ambassador said it is something that the U.S. has to work to change public opinion and to ensure that the Pakistani people feel the benefits of the U.S. Pakistani partnership.

It is a consistent phenomenon for several years that Pakistanis have not looked upon the United States as a reliable friend ever since the United States walked away from Pakistan in the aftermath of the war with the Soviets, Haqqani explained.

Questioned about value of the bilateral relationship, Ambassador Haqqani said the U.S. is Pakistan’s largest trading partner and a major supplier of sophisticated conventional weapons for Pakistan. “There are almost a million people of Pakistan living in the United States and above all we are both democracies committed to strengthening democracy around the world.”

Regarding Islamabad’s policy toward Afghanistan, the diplomat reaffirmed that Pakistan has always been supportive of the Afghan-led reconciliation process in that country. Pakistan would like to see a stable Afghanistan.

Tolerance Matters

In my last article I asked the readers if it is justified to have Anti-American sentiments after I had come across an article talking about Farah Ahmed, A Pakistani American woman standing for city council elections and how the US state of Texas had denounced all personal propaganda created against her for being of Pakistani origins. I came across another piece yesterday of similar nature and I find myself asking readers the same question once again.

As mentioned in this post, at a Netroots Nation conference in Minneapolis, local republican blogger John Hugh Gilmore was harassing Muslim women before he got arrested for disorderly conduct.

According to witnesses, Gilmore saw the women wearing hijabs, or headscarves, traditional to more conservative Muslim women and started asking them questions, confronting them and taking their pictures without their consent. Fortunately dozens of other Americans saw what was happening and jumped in to defend and protect the two women. Here is a what one eye witness had to say about the whole incident.

I also want to mention here that in last weeks Sunday Washington Post there was an article on front page that talked about how Muslims are adapting to US after the terror attacks of 9-11 and also gives a great insight on how an average American is so tolerant of Muslims living in US.

Of course, one will find all kinds of people globally as bigotry isn’t confined to geographical boundaries but I find it extremely interesting to see that people in America still stand up and defend our culture and religion, yet we fail to defend non-Muslims in our own country. A prime example is this article where a prominent media celebrity lashed out at an American USAID (ironically an organization that provides aid to our social sector) employee for accidentally brushing his chair against hers at an Islamabad restaurant.

It should come as a no surprise to anyone that we have high levels of intolerance in Pakistan, religious or otherwise. Our religion teaches us the value of Haqooq-ul-Ibad and yet we fail to see. In order to prove that our religion is superior, we deprive religious minorities of equal justice and alienate them. Extremists and Islamic fundamentalists vandalize churches and loot and burn small Christian villages. We manipulate the law in any way possible to give us the upper edge, the exact same thing our religion teaches us not to.

Not just Christians, but other religious groups face cruel and inhumane treatment in Pakistan as well. We treat all of the religious minorities as second-class citizens and use the Blasphemy laws as a tool for oppressing the small and weak. As far as intolerance goes, women have particularly suffered as well, under the controversial Hudood Ordinances and with recent case of Aasia Bibi, the Christian women accused of blasphemy under the blasphemy law.

In his address to the constituent assembly of Pakistan on August 11, 1947 Quaid-e-Azam rooted for a state in which every citizen would be free to follow his own religion and that the State shall make no distinction between the citizens on the grounds of faith. Here is an excerpt from the speech

“You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place or worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the State. As you know, history shows that in England, conditions, some time ago, were much worse than those prevailing in India today. The Roman Catholics and the Protestants persecuted each other. Even now there are some States in existence where there are discriminations made and bars imposed against a particular class. Thank God, we are not starting in those days. We are starting in the days where there is no discrimination, no distinction between one community and another, no discrimination between one caste or creed and another. We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one State. The people of England in course of time had to face the realities of the situation and had to discharge the responsibilities and burdens placed upon them by the government of their country and they went through that fire step by step. Today, you might say with justice that Roman Catholics and Protestants do not exist; what exists now is that every man is a citizen, an equal citizen of Great Britain and they are all members of the Nation. Now I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal and you will find that in course of time Hindus would 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, but in the political sense as citizens of the State”.

Our religion also teaches us the same virtues of patience and tolerance and justice. I understand that a common Pakistani has become so frustrated with social problems, energy crisis, rising inflation, crime, terrorism and uncertainty that we do not care about coping with these issue while at the same time keeping in consideration the convenience of others. The everyday grind is tiresome no doubt, but venting frustrations at someone without reason is no answer. If the local Americans can stand up for foreigners amongst them and stop injustice wherever they see it taking place, I’m sure we can do the same too.