Rabid Dogs

An interesting article in The News makes a compelling case that outsourcing war by using private contractors is a losing strategy. This was most clearly proven in Iraq when the private security company Blackwater did more harm than good to efforts to bring peace to the country. The Blackwater mercenaries were accused of murder by Iraqi officials and a case against Blackwater agents continues in the US courts. More powerful than any specific action of Blackwater agents, though, was the way the use of mercenaries tarnished the world image of America’s fight against terrorists after 9/11. Using contract fighters like Blackwater that operated outside the laws undercut the moral authority of US and made even sympathetic minds question American intentions.

America may be the world’s super power, but it is not the only country to use mercenaries to fight its battles. Actually, close parallels can be drawn between groups like Blackwater and LeT, Taliban, and other militant groups used as proxies in Pakistan. Just as US guards its choice to use Blackwater and Dyncorp type proxy forces, some in our security agencies also jealously defend the right to keep lashkars on hand for future use against Indian aggression in Kashmir, Afghanistan, or anywhere else.

Our lashkars are different from the American lashkars in name only. We can claim that our militants are driven by ideology and not greed, but I suspect you would find the same answer from American apologists for Blackwater. All extremists resort to the excuse of ideology. If you wear a blindfold, separating the groups is harder than you might think. Both kill indiscriminately. Both operate outside the laws. Both have undercut the moral authority of the nations that sponsor them. For all of our complaints about America’s illegal and self-defeating actions, aren’t we doing the same thing? And for what? Kashmir is no more free today than it was before the lashkars were unleashed. In decades they have accomplished nothing but death.

There’s another part of this story that I think deserves an even closer look also. The author of the article in The News notes that “The idea that a personal army comprising soldiers-of-fortune will stay loyal in extremis may well be wishful thinking”.

This is something that our own experience is proving all too true. At Imran Khan’s dharna in Karachi there were SSP, LeJ and LeT flags flying. Surely this will get some sympathies from people fed up with drone strikes. But these groups also call Osama bin Laden as a martyr and murder innocent Pakistani citizens.

Sipah-e-Sahaba flag flying at PTI dharna Karachi

Outsourcing war is a self-defeating strategy for security. A man can keep rabid dogs in his home to keep thieves away, but eventually those same dogs will turn on him also.We may take the opinion that lashkars and militant groups are a necessary evil, but evil never produces any good. SSP flags flying at protests against drones send a strong message to the world that Pakistan tolerates extremism and murder of its own citizens. We lose any moral standing that we have to protest against violence when we march with perpetrators of violence. And while SSP will gladly march against American drones, tomorrow they will just as gladly kill some innocent Pakistani Muslims. Rabid dogs are in the house…

Raymond Davis Case Closed: Time To Move On

Raymond DavisWhen Raymond Davis burst onto the headlines in a flash of broken glass and gunfire, the nation became immediately transfixed. Here was the blonde, white American ex-Blackwater CIA operative that the conspiracy theorists of the Ghairat Brigade had been warning us about! The Americans immediately claimed diplomatic immunity, and the response was a predictable gasp from both the left and the right.

There were two popular responses to the question of diplomatic immunity and the fate of Raymond Davis. The jihadi solution was to set aside any pretense of reason, justice, and law and order and simply hang the man in the street as an act of vigilantism.

The second came from the more reasonable-sounding crowd who repeated ad nauseum that everyone should ‘let the courts decide’ and demanded that the Americans respect the ruling of Pakistani justice.

For example, here is the statement of JUI-F.

“The Islamic laws clearly provide that a person, after proving to be guilty, would have to undergo the punishment, Qasas, Diyat etc under Sharia,” said JUI-F’s Secretary General Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri.

He explained that the judicial process is obviously of Pakistan as an accused would have to pass through the process in accordance with the law of the land where he commits a crime…”The only acceptable option is to let the courts decide about the fate of the arrested US national in accordance with the laws,” he responded to a question.

Letting the courts decide was also the stated opinion of COAS Gen Kayani – an opinion termed “total commitment to rule of law in the country” by The Nation.

Reaffirming total commitment to rule of law in the country, the top brass of Pakistan Army Wednesday supported decision of the government that case of US national Raymond Davis was a sub judice matter and let the court handle it.

In fact, The Nation was quite explicit in its own support for the courts to decide. On 6 February they even published an editorial with the headline, ‘Leave it to the courts’.

Is it intolerable for the bipartisan delegation for a Pakistani judge to decide the fate of an American? The need to leave the judiciary to decide is highlighted because the investigator in the case has determined that excessive force was used.

Even JI deputy chief Liaquat Baluch said that the Americans should allow the courts to decide.

“Why is America hell bent on trampling on Pakistani law and its judicial system? We will forcefully protest if he is released without a court order,” Jamaat-e-Islami deputy chief Liaquat Baluch told Reuters.

Now, of course, the court has decided. Justice has been carried out according to our own laws and customs, and not American or Western jurisprudence. Qisas & Diyat Laws were invoked, blood money has been paid, the families have issued a pardon, and the accused has been acquitted by the courts and released.

So, everyone who demanded to let the courts decide based on our own laws and customs is satisfied, right? Of course not. This is Pakistan.

No, instead you have everyone complaining that the court came to the wrong conclusion. If this is the case, why bother with courts at all? If courts are supposed to come to a pre-determined conclusion no matter what, then they are not courts at all but just a sham. Law and order is about process, not outcome. Justice is about means, not ends.

There were some groups that made very clear that they had no interest in real justice – that no matter what, their blood lust must be satisfied. These groups include TTP and JuD.

If Pakistani courts cannot punish Davis then they should hand him over to us,” said Azam Tariq, spokesman for the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (Taliban movement of Pakistan).

“We will give exemplary punishment to the killer Davis.”

The entire Raymond Davis affair was a disaster from start to finish. People are still talking about the effect on national dignity, but that was a no-win situation also. Recognizing his claim of diplomatic immunity would stoke a media firestorm that threatened riots and violence that would humiliate the nation on the world stage. Not honouring our commitments under the Vienna Conventions would make us appear untrustworthy to other world powers. In the end, the court managed to side-step both of these possible disasters in an artful and just decision under our own laws.

As for the Americans, whether or not Raymond Davis was entitled to diplomatic immunity, the incident was humiliating for them. And with this outcome, the Americans had to respect Pakistan’s sovereignty as well as our courts, laws, and customs. Raza Habib Raja makes this excellent observation on Pak Tea House.

Now if indeed the families of the victims have accepted the compensation and Mr. Raymond has been released after compensation has been paid, then frankly it is a win win situation. Although I know some may disagree because they desperately wanted to see Raymond publicly hanged but a thoughtful analysis would reveal that in fact USA has not been able to bully Pakistan and eventually had to resort to proper legal means and had to compensate the families. Of course this fact would not be acknowledged by the media but if the families have accepted the compensation then it is a moral victory of Pakistan while preserving its realpolitik concerns.

The only people who didn’t get their wish were the Taliban who weren’t ever interested in ‘justice’ but only wanted to quench a blood lust. These are the same Taliban who are mercilessly killing our own people, violating our own sovereignty, and trying to replace our own laws and customs with their own. Do we really want to find ourselves infected with their same blood lust?

Village schoolAfter dragging on for far too long, the Raymond Davis case is finally closed. It’s time to focus our attention on more important matters. Like the urgent need to address the education emergency in our country. We can tell our children about how the Americans could not bully us, and how through our own laws we found justice. But we cannot, we must not dwell on this episode. Our children deserve a better future than one obsessed with ghairat and America. We need to stop looking backwards, and start looking to the future of our country. The Raymond Davis case is closed. It’s time to put that same energy that we spent in putting down America into building up Pakistan.

Pakistan’s Black Water

The Raymond Davis case continues to be passed around like a bowl of sour milk that no one wants to end up with. After the Foreign Office neglected its duty to determine the American agent’s diplomatic status and passed the case on to the LHC, the LHC has now determined that it too does not want to be responsible for making the determination and has passed the case on to the trial court. Meanwhile, religious groups continue to use the case to organize protests and conspiracywalas in media are making a picnic out of fears of American agents roaming the country and undermining Pakistan’s democracy. But while the hue and cry against American agents interfering against Pakistan’s sovereignty, hundreds of foreign fighters have been entering another Muslim country to undermine its own democratic movement and nobody seems to be paying attention.

Bahrain protesters attacked with tear gas on 13 Mar 2011

The people of Bahrain, following the example of Tunisia and Egypt, are attempting to rid themselves of a corrupt and brutal regime. The country’s rulers have responded by cracking down on pro-democracy protesters and declaring martial law. But those enforcing the corrupt government’s rule are increasingly foreign agents recruited to stamp down on pro-democracy protestors. But these foreign agents are not from the US – they are from Pakistan.

According to the Ahlul Bayt News Agency, a classified advertisement entitled “Urgent Requirement: Manpower for Bahrain National Guard” was recently placed on the website of a prominent Pakistani human resource firm that has close ties to the Pakistani military.

The advertisement said Bahrain was seeking to hire several categories of ex-military personnel, including anti-riot instructors, Pakistan Military Academy drill instructors, retired infantry majors, and military police.

The advertisement added that a delegation from the Bahrain National Guard would be visiting Pakistan for the purpose of selecting the Pakistani personnel from March 7 to March 14.

It is difficult to confirm the exact number of former Pakistani soldiers who have been recruited in response to the recent ad, but sources claim as many 800 Pakistanis have been hired in the past few weeks.

Human rights activists have long complained about the controversial practice of hiring large numbers of foreigners to serve in the Bahraini security forces to suppress political dissent in the kingdom.

Bahrain’s police, military, and national guard are staffed in large part by non-Bahraini citizens, mostly from Pakistan, Yemen, and Syria.

It is bad enough that the complaints against foreign agents in Pakistan are shown as sheer hypocrisy on the world stage, but there is a much more dangerous element to this story that must be examined. Pakistanis recruited to serve as pro-regime agents in Bahrain are not only undermining democracy in a Muslim state, they are also stoking sectarian tensions.

Earlier this year, Syed Nadir El Edroos asked ‘Will Bahrain’s sectarian divide impact Pakistan?’ In his post for Express Tribune the author makes an important point.

What makes events in Bahrain relevant to Pakistan is the sectarian divide in the country.

The Sunni minority in Bahrain has monopolised power while the Shia majority is systematically marginalised from public influence and control. With Saudi Arabia’s support, the Shia population has been systematically oppressed, as the fear of Iranian influence in Bahrain is considered a strategic liability.

Bahraini security forces recruit from across the region. Pakistanis, particularly from Balochistan along the Makran coast, are favoured recruits.

These Pakistanis are viewed as instruments of state oppression by the protestors. If the Bahraini regime were to fall, Pakistan as a willing supplier, nay ‘facilitator’ of Bahraini recruitment will not be viewed favourably by a new set of leaders.

Pakistan’s involvement in sectarian tensions in Bahrain could result in an even more dire outcome for our own country because it threatens to worsen sectarian tensions not only within our borders, but with our neighbor to the West the Shia state of Iran.

Pakistan itself is no stranger to sectarian violence, which has intensified in recent years. If the Bahraini regime falls as the Saudis and American’s fear, it would be seen as and portrayed by Iran as a victory of her interests. This would push the Saudis to intensify support for organisations that share it’s goals of containing Iran.

Such support for organisations in Pakistan, could lead to sectarian attacks and reprisals.

Though Nadir warns of this outcome in his post, I fear he misses the more important point. The correct strategy to protect Pakistan’s security is not to prop up the corrupt and anti-democratic regime in Bahrain, but to support democracy and the people of Bahrain deciding their own government. We must not take part in the same interventions that we complain of within our own borders.

We must face the fact that we have our own Black Water and that our own agents are propping up corrupt and anti-democratic regimes in Muslim countries. This not only undermines any moral authority we have to complain about foreign agents on our own soil, but in the worst case it threatens to undermine our own security as we experience ‘blow back’ from sectarian violence.

Whose Side Are You On?

This is a question that I get asked from time to time, usually when someone takes offense at my daring to take a point of view that goes against the Ghairat Brigade talking points. It’s a cheap trick – when you have no other answer, accuse someone’s patriotism. This question couldn’t help but come to mind again after the numbness following yesterday’s assassination wore off. Reading the reactions of people who I respect, people like Ahsan Butt who is despairing, and MSS at Cafe Pyala who is so angry, I realized that this question is often misused, but sometimes it is not entirely inappropriate.

In his anger at the killing of Shahbaz Bhatti Shaheed, MSS lashes out at the people whose own inactions and careful hedging on the issue of extremism clear the way for the violence, hatred, and intolerance.

I write that I condemn the spineless, self-preserving hedging about of the spineless, self-preserving f—wits swarming TV and newsprint. I write that I condemn the willful, witless intolerance seemingly decent people practice through their silence during bloodthirsty sermons delivered in mosques and drawing rooms. I write that I condemn those whose reaction to events like this is a diminishing of their personal and political engagement with the world around them rather than an expansion. I write that I condemn every parent, grandparent or caregiver who lets strangers dictate their child’s moral code.

Ahsan Butt independently makes the same complaint.

Please don’t give me any nonsense about allowing the political system to work, or letting institutions develop, or other claptrap. These are our institutions at work. We need to understand this. Our military spawned these nuts. Our society tolerates them. Our judiciary celebrates them. Our media excuses them. And our political parties are either beholden to extremist forces, or so intimidated and pusillanimous because of them, that they may as well be the same thing. When Rehman Malik says things like “I will shoot a blasphemer myself” and Babar Awan says things like “There will be no change to the blasphemy law” and the Gilani government doesn’t even provide a bullet proof car to its targeted ministers and also withdraws support from Sherry Rehman at a crucial time, that is our political institutions at work. And mind you, this is the “liberal, secular” PPP. Forget the Army or the ISI or the PML(N).

Both blogs will be accused of pessimism, both will be accused of despairing when we need a positive outlook. This is the line I would have taken in the past, too. But today I can’t help but think that they have a point.

MSS points also to a Dawn story that should be shocking to anyone who respects democracy and the rule of law, not to mention basic human decency.

THREE REMAIN SEATED: But many in the house and the galleries were surprised to see three bearded members of the opposition Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam of Maulana Fazlur Rehman remaining seated in their chairs when the rest of lawmakers stood up to observe two minutes’ silence for Mr Bhatti.

There was no immediate explanation what motivated the JUI back-benchers, in the absence of their party leader, to violate a parliamentary etiquette, and a directive given by the chair, in agreement with some voices raised in the house, that members stand up to pay a silent tribute to their assassinated colleague.

Fazlur Rehman should be pressed to answer for his actions. Why did he choose to show such contempt and disrespect for the murdered Minister? This is not a question of blasphemy law, it is a question of BASIC HUMAN DECENCY. Fazlur’s action, consciously chosen, can be easily interpreted as sympathy for those who murder men in the streets when they disagree with their opinions. Is this what his action meant? Why does he not come clean and admit it?

What about Munawar Hasan, Abul Khair Muhammad Zubair, Sahibzada Fazal Kareem, and Maulana Ameer Hamza? Their immediate response is to blame CIA, Black Water, ‘Foreign Hand’ and all the other bogeys that provide cover for and distract attention from the jihadi gunmen who have already admitted guilt.

The question, ‘Whose side are you on?’ is typically used to accuse people’s patriotism by suggesting that they’re tools of the CIA, the US, or the West. But maybe it’s not the question but the assumption that is incorrect. We should be asking not whether people are loyal to Pakistan or the US, but whether people are loyal to Pakistan or the jihadis. There is no ‘good Taliban’ and ‘bad Taliban’. This lie must be stopped. Speaking against bogey men like Raymond Davis is cheap. It’s easy. If you are a real patriot, speak against TTP. Speak against LeT. Speak against SSP.

Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto was a real patriot, and her blood has watered the soil of the country that she was loyal to. Salmaan Taseer Shaheed was a real patriot, and his blood has watered the soil of the country he was loyal to. Shahbaz Bhatti Shaheed was a real patriot, and his blood has watered the soil of the country that he was loyal to.

What about you? Are you on the side of Pakistan or of jihadis? Will you speak out against the real enemies of Pakistan? Or are you going to hide in your chair like Fazlur Rehman?

Fazlur Rehman

The question here is not meant to accuse anyone. It is meant as a serious question. Lets get it all out in the open, please. I am only asking because I truly want to know. Every day I am spilling out my own position. I am very open about it and yet it seems nobody can hear me.

But you…your silence is deafening.

 

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.