A few weeks ago, America announced that it would sell Pakistan $1 Billion in new weapons including AH-1Z Viper Attack Helicopters and AGM-114R Hellfire II Missiles and associated equipment, parts, training and logistical support. These weapons will help support counter-terrorism operations…at least that’s how the story goes. While most people cheered the agreement for bringing a needed injection of new material to our defence forces and a sign of improved relations with the US, some criticised the agreement. Former Ambassador Husain Haqqani responded with a piece in the Wall Street Journal that did not mince words: “American weapons will end up being used to fight or menace India and perceived domestic enemies instead of being deployed against jihadists.” The response to Haqqani’s analysis was unsurprising, to say the least. Sheikh Rasheed blasted him on the airwaves while retired bureaucrats blasted him in print. But on Tuesday, the tables may have been turned, and by a most unexpected party.
When American Imam Ahsan Zahid was woken by a phone call early on Friday morning, he had a terrible feeling that the call was bringing bad news. Only he didn’t know just how bad it was. A fire was engulfing a building at the Quba Islamic Center. Zahid had seen someone lurking around the property with his face hidden, but he prayed that his fears were unfounded. However fire investigators confirmed the worst: The fire was an arson attack.
Whatever the attacker hoped to achieve, he failed. A building may have been destroyed, but buildings can be re-built. The tens of thousands of Muslims who live in the area may be concerned, but they are going nowhere. Most importantly, though, Zahid was able to make the tragedy into a blessing by turning for guidance to the one thing that can make such a transformation: Sunnah.
Zahid did not respond by offering a bounty for the attacker. He did not take out a protest march with the slogan “In the service of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), we are willing to die”. He did not respond with calls for jihad. He responded with love, and in turn he received an outpouring of love.
In a time when media headlines are filled with threats and counter threats and violence seems to be the only thing that anyone knows anymore, what is needed more than ever is for more people to be like Zahid and follow the example of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and answer enemies with love and forgiveness. A bullet can make a heart bleed, but kindness can make hearts blossom.
When my mother heard that three Muslim doctors had been shot in North Carolina, she immediately called me. She was upset and scared for my cousin who is studying in Chicago. Is he safe? Will he be targeted? Why doesn’t he come home? I didn’t know what to say. I wanted to comfort her, to reassure her that nothing like that could ever happen, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t have similar fears for friends and family living overseas. Any time there is a news report about a shooting or a bomb or something I get a familiar feeling of dread. This time, though, there was another feeling that was causing tears to well up in my eyes while talking to my mother. It was due to the last of my mother’s questions: “Why doesnt’ he come home?”
A Tweet by Jang Group correspondent Murtaza Ali Shah caught my attention this morning.
US tilt towards India concerns Pakistan, US leaders going out of the way 2 please India 4 the sake of business deals http://t.co/WSHxmq7Ubv
— Murtaza Ali Shah (@MurtazaGeoNews) January 24, 2015
Unfortunately, the link clicked through to an article by Ansar Abbasi reporting the worn out claim that Jamaat-ud-Dawa is a welfare organisation and that anyone who says otherwise is parroting Indian propaganda. Abbasi gained this information from “highly placed sources” with inside access to what was communicated to US Secretary of State John Kerry during his recent visit. The fact of the matter is that anyone with eyes and ears can see and hear what kind of “charity” Hafiz Saeed and his JuD have been operating – No propaganda necessary. So unless JuD itself is being sponsored by RAW, Abbasi’s report is not only baseless, it’s comedic. But what this has to do with US and India and business deals? That is what I was interested in. If Murtaza’s link would not provide the information, though, my interest was piqued enough that I would have to look for it myself.
It didn’t take me long to find a better fitting link for Murtaza’s Tweet, a recent article from Forbes about President Obama’s upcoming trip to India that reports that the US president will be joined by a cadre of American CEOs. Now this is interesting.
Following the visit of American Secretary of State John Kerry to Pakistan, the US State Department gave a candid assessment of the state’s new ‘zero tolerance’ policy towards terrorism, and the point appears to be, “We’ll believe it when we see it.” Following are some key quotes from the briefing:
Question: Do you get the sense that in the wake of this brutal attack that the Pakistani leadership is actually changing its orientation and willing to go after groups like LET and Haqqani and so on, or not?
Senior State Department Official One: Well, keeping in mind [Senior State Department Official]’s kind of cautionary note that the proof is in the pudding, and I mean, it relies on kind of what actual operational steps are taken.
And certainly, and saying publicly and privately that they were not making any sort of distinction between terrorist groups is something that we’ve heard more uniformly, more robustly than we’ve ever heard.
Question: And are you just – do you believe it?
Senior State Department Official One: I hope to believe it. We’ll have to see kind of what develops…
Senior State Department Official Two: The Pakistani delegation told us several times today they won’t differentiate between good and bad Taliban, and there are two important things inherent to that kind of a statement. One is acknowledgment that there had been or was a policy of good Taliban and bad Taliban, which I think is interesting. But secondly, it’s a – that’s a measurable proposition going forward.
They’ve now put themselves – committed themselves to something that we can actually more easily observe and measure, because if there is no differentiation, then all Taliban and all militants should be within the specter of their operations. And that’s something that makes it much easier for us to engage with them. So I think it is a very forward-looking thing, and now it gives us the ability to kind of go back to that, and it simplifies this part of the dialogue. But we are going to have to watch and see how this plays out.
The message is pretty clear. The US is encouraged by what they are hearing from military and civilian leaders, but they will be watching closely to see if policy matches rhetoric.