Focus on Politics, Not Pearls

SM Krishna and Hina Rabbani Khar

On July 27th, Pakistan’s groundbreaking Foreign Minister, Ms. Hina Rabbani Khar, met her Indian counterpart Mr. SM Krishna. FM Khar traveled to Delhi, and the talks covered a wide variety of topics. The meeting concluded with “small but significant concessions to ease tensions in the disputed border region of Kashmir and pledging to work toward closer ties between their mutually wary, nuclear-armed countries.”

Both countries firmly stated their desire to carry on with the meetings in the wake of the tragic Mumbai bombings just a couple of weeks ago. Both sides ignored the extreme right-wingers in their respective countries, and pushed forward a peace-oriented agenda. It was, as FM Khar said “a new era in bilateral cooperation.”

But unless you were reading international coverage of this momentous visit, you missed it. South Asian media outlets (both in Pakistan and India) gave their audiences two options:

1. Either they were heavily dissecting Ms. Khar’s fashion (from her bag, to her sunglasses, to the pearl necklace she wore in Delhi, nothing was ignored) or

2. Pundits mocked Ms. Khar’s qualifications, in thinly-veiled commentary meant to paint her appointment as Foreign Minister as a joke

It’s really stunning that this is what the high-level talks were turned into in the media. Trivialization or outright sexism…pick your poison, folks!

Ms. Khar has an accomplished political career. She was elected to the National Assembly in 2002 on the PML-Q ticket, and ran in 2008 after switching to the Pakistan People’s Party. In the 2008 election, she won with an overwhelming 84,000 votes. She has served as State Minister for Economic Affairs and Statistics in 2009. Most notably, she has served as Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs since February 2011.

Where were her critics in 2008, 2009, and in February of this year? This only leads me to believe these comments are nothing but nasty remarks made regarding a clearly capable woman by certain green-eyed people.

As far as the comments about her fashion, Ms. Khar herself took on the issue. “You don’t want the attention to focus on the frivolous,” she said. “A guy in my place would never get such attention; nobody would be talking about his suit. I refuse to be apologetic about it; I will continue to be who I am.”

Ms. Khar, who has represented a conservative constituency, has risen to the country’s top diplomatic role. Her duty is to represent Pakistan on a global scale, and criticism should focus on the work that she does in that role. Anything else is at best, superficial and at worst, undermines her as a Minister.

She says she would like Pakistan-India relations to get to the point “where if an issue comes up, I should be able to pick up the phone and say, ‘this really isn’t working. And he (Mr. Krishna) agreed.”

For too long, women in Pakistan have been taught the earth is flat, and if they venture too far, they will fall off the edge. Whatever it is that drives Ms. Khar’s critics to sexist commentary must end. After all, Ms. Khar will work on improving relations not just with India, but with the entire world. Surely they can fill the newspaper inches with some of that, right?

Waseem Badami weighs in on PML(N) allegations

Waseem Badami in his show 11th hour tries to find out reasons for the PML (N) and PPP tensions. He invites guests Sheila Raza (PPP) and Senator Mushahid Ullah PML (N) to discuss reasons behind the escalating political tensions between the two parties. He further tries to find out if the alleged PPP war with the judiciary is really an issue, or if PML (N) is just using judiciary as a political card for its own agendas.


Corruption, Courts, and Cynical Melodramas

Shahbaz SharifIf you want to know just how out of touch the Sharifs have become, a perfect example came yesterday when CM Shahbaz Sharif dragged out the old bogeys of corruption and ‘war on the judiciary’. Meanwhile, body counts continue to rise from target killings in Karachi, bodies continue to disappear from Balochistan, and even more bodies walk through markets never knowing if they will be the latest victim of Taliban blood lust. With no answers to these problems facing the nation, Sharif is reduced to dusting off last year’s talking points once again.

Of course this is an old political tactic. When Muhamman Khan Junejo was dismissed in 1988 it was due to charges of corruption. Same with Benazir in 1990, and Nawaz in 1993. Corruption.

After Benazir was dismissed in 1996, the Ehtesab Commission was established by the caretaker government to clean up corruption in politics. Chief Ehtesab Commissioner Mujaddad Ali Mirza started investigating and it was announced that no exceptions would be made for any politician or civil servant. Such a clean sweep was more than anyone had bargained for. Getting rid of your political rivals is one thing, but actually sacking everyone who did some favours?

When Nawaz Sharif formed a government the next year in 1997, he quickly neutered the watch dog. Chief Commissioner Mirza complained that FIA and Anti-Corruption Police stopped cooperating, files began to disappear, cases got moved off of high court dockets, and eventually everyone lost interest.

And when Mushy made his coup against Nawaz Sharif in 1999, what was the reason given? Of course is was the old corruption charge. And now it is Musharraf who finds himself in the hot seat as FIA is investigating his assets and still no one knows who paid for his £1.4 million (Rs199 million) London home.

The Sharifs are singing an old tune that they have merely updated with a chorus about war on the judiciary. But even this takes on a certain note of cynical political gamesmanship if we take a moment to remember the Sharifs’ own recent “war on the judiciary”.

This is why I have a hard time taking seriously this latest outburst of concern about corruption and respect for the judiciary. It is just more politics for the sake of politics, not for the sake of the people.

Is there corruption? Yes there is. Is there contempt for judiciary? Yes of course. But these are reflections of larger social issues that can be found throughout the country, but even these are minor issues compared to the need to stop the violence in Karachi, to respect human rights in Balochistan, and to put an end to extremist militancy.

I’ve said before that we need leaders with the courage and principles to play by the rules instead of trying to upend the table when they don’t like their hand. If the Sharifs have some answers for the issues facing the nation, please let us hear them. Until then, stop boring us with these worn out melodramas.

The real war

The following quote could easily be taken from any number of statements by jihadi militants and their sympathisers.

The operation was not to kill as many people as possible, but to give a strong signal that cannot be misunderstood, that as long as the government keeps driving its ideological line and keeps deconstructing Islamic culture and mass importing Westernism, then they must assume responsibility for this treason. And any person with a conscience cannot allow its country to be colonized by the West.

The real quote is from the Norwegian terrorist Anders Behring Breivik.

The operation was not to kill as many people as possible, but to give a strong signal that cannot be misunderstood, that as long as the Labor Party keeps driving its ideological line and keeps deconstructing Norwegian culture and mass importing Muslims, then they must assume responsibility for this treason. And any person with a conscience cannot allow its country to be colonized by Muslims.

Using warped ideology and fancy terms like ‘hegemony’ as an excuse to kill and seize power is found in every culture. The real war is not between Muslims and the West, but civilized people and barbarians.

Escaping from the crushing domination of US imperialism

Pieces of the global puzzleI was a bit stunned when I read a few days ago an American scholar suggesting that if Pakistan and US government cut links, “a cooling-off period could even lead to renewed ties”. Has PTI opened an office in Washington, DC? Thankfully, the answer to that question is no. Then I noticed that the writer is from the same think tank that recently hosted Gen sahib’s historical amnesia speech. Unfortunately, the case may be that this is writer is listening to the various ‘analysts’ who peddle this belief that isolating Pakistan is the path to progress.

International Secretary of Pakistan Trade Union Defence Campaign wrote in Daily Times over the weekend that “In an epoch where there is a world economy and a world market, the chances of escaping from the crushing domination of US imperialism are bleak”.

Things don’t have to be so bleak.

While it is true that the US is the world’s largest power in terms of economy, it is not an isolated and self-contained. American politicians are presently dead locked on how to manage the country’s $14 trillion national debt. A record number of Americans want US troops pulled out of Afghanistan. No matter how much money certain people are making from telling that the hidden hand of US hegemony is knocking on the door, the facts say that the US has its own problems and is not interested in taking on responsibility for a new colony of 180 million Pakistani Muslims.

But what about those countries that are already making agreements and cultivating relationships with the US? Aren’t they being pounded under Washington’s iron fist? Hardly so.

The obvious example to mention is China which is seen by many as a rising global power that could even replace the US on the top of the rankings someday. China and the US are closely intertwined and work together on mutual interests approaching disagreements through dialogue and compromise. Both countries see the future as one of close relations between the two nations. Yet even these two play spy games with one another, and no one would dare say that China is bowing under US pressure.

Turkey, which I wrote about last week, is also integrated into the world community without suffering any ‘crushing domination of US imperialism’. Actually, the US has openly welcomed Turkey as a rising leader. And in case you think that Turkey has paid for this honour by becoming a puppet of some US-Zionist hegemony, please to recall that Turkey is taking a hard stance on Israel

Even Cuba which has been a symbol of resistance to Western capitalist hegemony is looking at ‘upgrading’ the national system. This is because after decades of isolation, the revolutionaries there are realising that they can bring their country into the new era without leaving their principles behind.

Changing for the better doesn’t imply betraying principles. By maintaining distances and differences within the core of the revolution, we have also changed – some more than others. Certainly, we will only be able to achieve reconciliation through all of the camps changing more. But it will always be important to define the direction of the change.

The feeling of love for Cuba, for the Cuba that Marti dreamt (free, democratic, with distributed ownership) could be the key to success of the dialogue.

Change ‘Pakistan’ for ‘Cuba’ and ‘Jinnah’ for ‘Marti’ and the same holds true does it not? Being true to nationalist principles does not mean refusing to change. There is only one thing that does not change, and that is death. Life changes and adapts, and so must nations.

Sadiq Saleem wrote that all this anti-Americanism misses the point that realism and pragmatism have always moved Pakistan ahead, while ignoring these principles has set us back every timeMunir Attaullah who is a successful businessman sees a bright future for Pakistan, but only if we “re-integrate with the international community rather than thumb our noses at it”.

China, Turkey, and many other nations are fully engaged and integrated into the world community and doing rather well for themselves without suffering ‘the crushing domination of US imperialism’. There’s no reason Pakistan can’t do the same.