The Looming Jihadization of Pakistan

I’m sure I’m not the only one who breathed a heavy sigh of relief when it was learned that the idiot who bombed Sweden this week, Taimour Abdulwahab, has no ties to Pakistan. For once, let it be someone else’s burden.

But my relief was short lived when the headline on The News caught my eye this morning – “Growing Pakistanization of al-Qaeda”. The article, which confirms the urgency described in yesterday’s post, reports that al Qaeda is getting more Pakistani in its leadership. That’s not good news.

According to the article,

…Ilyas Kashmiri, who is also the Ameer of the Azad Kashmir chapter of the Harkatul Jihadul Islami (HUJI), had been made the chief of al-Qaeda’s military operations for the region…

Ilyas Kashmiri

Now, you may be thinking, this is a guy who is tasked with organizing attacks against the West, not Pakistan, so again this is someone else’s problem. But I hate to tell you that it’s not. First, read the headlines:

Attack on shrine in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa kills three

Teachers and students in the crosshairs in Balochistan

Bomb blast wounds woman in Peshawar

Militants kill two Pakistani soldiers, injure six

Believe it or not, but while Ilyas Kashmiri and his al Qaeda terrorists plan attacks against the West, they are attacking Pakistan also. And they are not attacking because of drones or American troops in Afghanistan, they are attacking girls schools and Sufi shrines. They are attacking our own people and culture because they are an invading force.

Consider this paragraph from the report in The News:

Kashmiri is also a prime example of the increasing partnership between Osama-led al-Qaeda, Afghan and Pakistani Taliban and the Jihadi groups active in the Indian-administered Jammu Kashmir — all of whom have assembled in the Waziristan region on the Pak-Afghan tribal belt. And Kashmiri is believed to be well placed to exploit this growing cooperation, which has augmented al-Qaeda’s capacity to launch major terror attacks against the US and its Western allies.

There is a growing partnership between all of these jihadi groups like a hydra headed monster. Their goal is not simply getting the Americans out of Afghanistan. You honestly believe that if the Americans leave, all these jihadi groups are going to put away their guns and bombs and go back to the tea stalls?

No. These are all backwards brainwashed extremists who want to keep our sisters uneducated and locked away. They want to remove our access to fashion, film, music, and the arts. They want to hang people in the streets like dogs. They have no respect for our history, our culture, or our own desires for our country. They don’t even believe that our country should exist.

Please read again the words of S Iftikhar Murshed:

It is time for Pakistan to come to terms with the problems that it confronts. The challenges are internal and the foremost among these is the threat to the country’s survival from terrorist violence. Furthermore the state has yet to fully reclaim its writ in the tribal region. This cannot be achieved so long as foreign militants and groups including those from Afghanistan remain in the area.

They should be asked to leave or face military action. It should be made clear to the Afghan groups including the Haqqani network that the road to Kabul is not from the tribal areas of Pakistan but through participating in President Karzai’s reconciliation initiative.

What we are facing is not the growing Pakistanisation of al Qaeda. What we are facing is the growing jihadization of Pakistan. If we don’t face the facts and act to stop it, it will soon be too late.

Fashion for Flood Relief

Fashion for Flood ReliefFashion is not something that just exists for runways or glossy magazines only. It can be dismissed as creative opulence when it really ought to be embraced as a nation’s art. Fashion represents ideas, intellect, and the soul of a people. Pakistan is a country full of talent, and that talent determinedly shines through in the face of all we struggle with. One of our best designers today is in the inimitable Deepak Perwani, an inspired genius. What makes him a national treasure is his loyalty and love for Pakistan, and the world witnessed it earlier this week.

On the very important day of Eid-ul-Adha, Deepak Perwani teamed up with Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani to hold a fashion show at the Ambassador’s Residence. Proceeds from the show going to the flood relief efforts. In this way, fashion was married to a humanitarian cause – helping the 20 million people affected by the worst natural disaster in our country’s history. It was worth a trip from New York to DC to witness this wonderful event.

Deepak PerwaniFashion is about ideas. Showing the work of Deepak Perwani, a Hindu designer, encourages the idea of pluralism in our society, where people of all and any faiths may contribute in their own way. It shows how we live, what we accept and what the future can hold. We all hope for a peaceful and prosperous Pakistan, and with strong, civic-minded citizens, we can absolutely get there.

It was a night of hope.

Guests came to the ticketed event curious and intrigued, and they were not disappointed. Deepak’s designs were simultaneously glamorous and elegant, and the noble cause they were to support had everyone aglow.  The diversity of the guests and the fact that so many people were from Capitol Hill made us Pakistanis feel a sense of strong friendship and support from Washington, DC and the United States.

Pakistan’s vibrant culture is unapologetically dynamic in the face of extremism. Our people are equally resilient and united against the militants, who only seek to ban the designs in favor of cloaks of misery. In the long run, they will lose, and they will do so because there are talents like the Ambassador, Deepak Perwani saab, and the millions of Pakistanis who work towards a peaceful, tolerant, and of course, colorful Pakistan.

Sidra is a Pakistani-American currently studying in New York City. She has a love for fashion and film as her hobbies.

Golden Age Cinema

Slackistan movie posterI love movies. I am a total movie junkie. So Amna Mela’s blog post on Express Tribune really touched a nerve with me. Nothing makes me more frustrated than being the only person who hasn’t seen a movie – and can’t! Amna’s blog post was especially infuriating to me because I read it on the same day that I read about a new pact between Hollywood and Bollywood to increase production and distribution of each other’s films. Everyone else is working together, and we are pushing people away.

Unlike Amna, I admit that I like cheesy Bollywood films sometimes. Kal Ho Naa Ho made me cry. Salaam Namaste made me laugh. I also like American films. I could watch the Bourne Identity movies a hundred times and still not be tired of them.

Part of the reason that I like movies so much is that it’s a window into the hopes and dreams of other people. Certainly not all Indians can sing and dance, and not all Americans are good looking action heroes. But if I like these movies made by other people, I know that we at least have that in common – the desire to escape from the reality for even two hours only. We can laugh and cry at the same stories because, basically, at our core we are the same – we want love, we struggle through hard times, and eventually we make some peace with ourselves.

So it makes me furious that while the rest of the world is opening up the global dialogue through cinema, we are remaining closed. I don’t have any proof of why, but I have my suspicions, so please do permit me one small conspiracy theory here.

When I was younger my brother and I were watching Indiana Jones. We were completely engrossed when my auntie came in and sat down. I didn’t notice at first, but then she started clucking her tongue at everything. It was getting really annoying. Finally, I asked if she was okay.

“What are you two watching?”

“Indiana Jones.”

“India Jones?! What is this India Jones. Why not Pakistan Jones?”

“Auntie, please, it’s INDIANA Jones. It’s an American movie. Very good.”

She clucked her tongue some more.

“I think there is something better to watch…”

After about fifteen minutes, we gave up and went outside. It was clear that she was going to complain through the entire film. The funny thing is, my auntie loves movies too. But to her, movies are only Armaan or Intezaar. She loves these old black and white features that remind her of being a young girl. Maybe I’ll be the same way when I’m her age and only want to watch Indiana Jones. Who knows.

My point is that I think too many people are looking for cinema to escape reality not for two hours, but for every day. It’s like, if we close off access to certain films, what is depicted in them ceases to exist. But life doesn’t work that way. There’s a new British comedy about jihadis called ‘Four Lions’. I haven’t seen it yet, but I can guarantee you that banning this film will not get rid of jihadis. If it would, I would be organizing a march today.

I don’t know why anyone would not want to show Harry Potter. It seems like a pretty harmless, but fun special effects movie. Not showing Slackistan, though, seems like trying to hide from ourselves. It does depict part of reality, though, and refusing to show it will not make that reality go away any more than refusing to show ‘Four Lions’ will make jihadis disappear.

But if we actually show the film and people watch it, maybe then we can start talking about that part of reality that makes aunties across the country uncomfortable.

Yes, Pakistan is Ramchand Pakistani. But it’s also Slackistan. Maybe it’s time we open our eyes to it, at least in the cinema.