Pakistan drowning

drowning

I have not commented on the child abuse scandal in Kasur because what words can be said that could bring any sense to such an atrocity? It is pure evil. There can be no question. And it took place here in the ‘Land of the Pure’. It was not carried out by RAW or CIA. It was not covered up Westernised secular politicians working for their Hindu-Zionist masters. It was carried out by evil men. It was covered up by cowardly politicians and police. And worst of all, it was, it was all done openly. How could it be a secret when the CDs of the abuse were being sold for Rs50? This was not a terrible secret, it was a terrible reality. It sickened me to my core. However, the knife was only twisted by the reactions that came.

There were the ‘cool heads’ like Ejaz Haider who told us to keep things in perspective. This type of abuse happens everywhere, he says. Surely it was not his intention, but the fact is that his ridiculous attempt to show that he is above emotional response unquestionably comes across as downplaying the seriousness of the crime.

Obviously Haider saab was only playing his usual role as the retired military officer cum pseudointellectual analyst protecting Pakistan’s honour. Even he was not as callous as some media houses who even reported that it WAS a conspiracy.

Then there are the self-serving spin-walas like Ahmed Quraishi who took advantage of these poor abused children once again to serve his own agenda.

So much of the reaction from the expected corners falls into a usual pattern: Denial.

Child abuse is not a good thing, but it happens everywhere. Why make a big deal of it?

Child abuse is not a good thing, but this case is being blown out of proportion. It was just a land dispute.

Child abuse is not a good thing, but it is the fault of corrupt Westernised politicians, not real Pakistanis.

Then I was read another article unrelated to the Kasur tragedy, and yet at the same time it was perfectly related. It was the story of a so-called father who preferred to watch his own daughter drown to death rather than let Dubai Police’s Search and Rescue Department save her because he believed that being touched by an unknown man would dishonour her.

Pakistan is drowning. We are drowning in a sea of extremism. We are drowning in a sea of rape and violence that goes unstopped because we would rather watch our country drown than face the embarassment to admit there is a problem.

Reclaiming Our National Honour

It is time we say goodbye to this hollow ghairat. We must find honour, dignity and respect through constructive work in the fields of economics, science and the arts, instead of looking for ghairat by crying out war chants, paranoid accusations and waving our skinny wrists and fists while pretending to ride our way to ghairatmand glory on our much cherished nuclear missiles.

The best analysis of the entire Raymond Davis drama comes from Nadeem F. Paracha, and in it he says almost nothing about the Raymond Davis case. This is wise because, as with all the manufactured controversies that play out on our TV screens each night, this too is but another in a long line of dramas that will continue to come and go.

Pakistan is not the only poor country in the world. We’re not the only country at war. We’re not the only country with tense relations with its neighbors. We’re not even the only country where all of these challenges come together at once. For too long we’ve looked for excuses in India, America, communism, secularism, the IMF, the World Bank. But every nation must deal with challenges coming from all sides.

We see in Japan that even the wealthiest nations of the world suffer natural disasters. On 9/11 we saw that even the mightiest nations of the world suffer terrorist attacks. There will be more disasters, and there will be more terrorist attacks, and the countries that succeed are those who do continue to keep their eyes looking forward, their energies dedicated to moving ahead.

Appearing before the Supreme Court on the matter of the Reko Diq mine earlier this year, Nuclear scientist and member of the Planning Commission, Dr Samar Mubarakmand, stated that Pakistan has the technical expertise and manpower to run the Reko Diq project, therefore the government should not give it to any foreign company. This is but one example of our professors and experts declaring that we have the expertise and manpower to manage our own affairs. It’s time we stop saying it and start proving it.

And proving it doesn’t require that we first close the American Embassy and put all Westerners on planes back to their home countries. It doesn’t require that we build a giant wall around the nation to keep out any and all foreign influence. We can start by improving our education system so that every Pakistani child has the opportunity to become the best – the best doctor, the best lawyer, the best businessman, the best journalist, the best scientist, the best teacher, the best driver, the best cook. Every Pakistani child should have the opportunity to be the best at whatever he or she chooses.

But taking responsibility for ourselves does not come without cost, and it is a cost that each and every one of us must bear together.

Who says we should not have honour or protect our sovereignty? We must, but it cannot be done with angry words alone or pointless demonstrations. We have to stand up for what we believe in. Particularly the full bellied, who are the most incensed.

The solution is not complicated, it is not molecular biology. Start paying your share to keep this nation afloat. No one is asking for outlandish sacrifices. No one is saying sell everything and give it to the nation. Just pay your reasonable share. If you have income, from whatever source, even if agriculture, pay a part of it to protect your honour and sovereignty.

Then, all your talk will have meaning. You will have a stake in this country, not just in an ideational sense but because you will be a partner in its upkeep. Then the notion of the collective will feel real and not just a mental construct that gives you a sense of identity. It is like building a house, not by watching from the wayside but brick by brick with your own hands. It is that sense of ownership which is needed, and over time will replace hollow patriotism.

Once we are able to pay our bills, then sovereignty will come too. No crash course would be needed. It is not a mythical concept that needs to be learnt. It is a state of being that comes from not being beholden to anyone. It is the confidence that standing by oneself gives. Alas, we have a long way to get there.

So stop telling me that the politicians and the Army are corrupt while you are doing corruption yourself. Stop asking me ‘who is the man of impeccable character to lead us for the next decade’. Stop telling me that you oppose increase in taxes out of concern for the poor while you run down rickshawalas in your shiny Pajeros and Prados.

We have created an economy of excuses that pays to put TV anchors in designer clothes, but has not a paisha to spare for a school or a hospital. We take lessons on morality from people who strap bombs onto children while dismiss as ‘sell outs’ those who speak of the same compassion and tolerance exhibited by the Prophet (PBUH).

We do this not because we are bad or immoral, but because the alternative is difficult. It means making a sacrifice. It means that maybe you can’t buy a new car or take a trip abroad. And we have discovered the convenience of blaming someone else. A ‘foreign hand’ is responsible, not us.

Imran Khan and Syed Munawar Hasan will organize street protests about Raymond Davis, but where is the street protest about a lack of education? They will march and chant demanding an end to drone attacks, but where are the chants demanding an end to tax evasion?

Enough. It’s time we take responsibility for our own nation. If we don’t want foreign agents running around the country, let’s get rid of the terrorists who they are coming here to find. If we don’t want our children joining militant groups, let’s build schools so that they will have a future to look forward to. Whether Dr Samar Mubarakmand is correct that we have the technical expertise and manpower to manage the Reko Diq project alone I cannot say. But I can say this: We have the pride, the intelligence, and the power to make Pakistan one of the greatest and most prosperous nations in the world. But for that to happen, we must stop looking for easy answers and easy excuses. The power to change is within us, if only we have the faith in ourselves to make it happen.

Pakistan Zindabad.

Wanted: Principled Leadership

The Raymond Davis saga took a turn for the worst over the past few days as principled leadership on the issue has been sacrificed on the altar of political ambition and populist groveling. The explosive statements of former Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has changed his reputation in the media from an American puppet to a Ghazi almost overnight. We should stop and ask ourselves if what is really going on is as it is being spun in the media (that would be a first) or if perhaps this new story line is once again not exactly as it seems.

FM Qureshi with US Secretary of State ClintonFirst let me say that a lot of people have taken to attacking Mahmood Qureshi, which is unfortunate. He’s not a bad guy. Actually, he’s really smart and capable man, if a little out of his element lately. Trying to define him as a demon does not do anything for the case of reason and rule of law over rule of mobs. Unfortunately, those same people who would demonize him as an American puppet last week are now ready to present him with his very own laal topi and declare him as one of the faithful. So let’s throw out all the self-serving statements and take a look at the facts.

Qureshi’s recent behaviour is unfortunately not out of the ordinary. Between Rehman Malik’s telling that he will kill blasphemers with his own hands and Babar Awan‘s trying to trade Raymond Davis for Aafia Siddiqui as if he were a bakriwallah bartering in a market and not Law Minister – too many of our politicians continue to play to the populist gallery rather than provide real leadership on hard issues.

When I first read Malick’s column in the The News I thought, ‘this is rich’. Suddenly the Americans’ darling Mahmood Qureshi is now their victim? The whole thing seemed a bit too tidy to me. It was just too convenient a headline. But there was more to the article than simply the headline that bothered me.

According to Malick, this supposed story starts in a high level meeting in Islamabad that was attended by President Zardari, Prime Minister Gilani, Babar Awan, Rehman Malik, Shah Mehmood Qureshi and the DG ISI Gen Shuja Pasha. Let’s stop here for a minute. If this is the cast of characters who was in attendance, it means that one of them has to be the leak. Reading the rest of the article, it’s clear that the source for Malick’s article is none other than Qureshi himself. This becomes even more clear as more articles begin pouring into the media with quotes from Qureshi which shows that the man whose silence got us into this mess is now incredibly accessible to every journalist in the country. So we must ask what is the purpose of Qureshi leaking his own story to The News which is not exactly a mouthpiece for the government?

And let’s consider Qureshi’s previously impenetrable silence, can we? The shooting that started this whole mess happened three weeks ago. According to Qureshi now, he has “strongly argued the case that Raymond did not enjoy unlimited diplomatic immunity under law, flatly refused and even said that if need be, he’d rather resign”.

Really? Since when? Because everyone has been demanding that the FO decide the question of diplomatic immunity for weeks and Qureshi was nowhere to be found. If he was really being pressurized to act against his convictions and was so adamant about resigning rather than facing the tune, why did he never resign? In fact, it’s only since he’s been sacked that Qureshi has suddenly found this adamant conviction on the issue.

And then there’s the issue of Qureshi’s sacking, which wasn’t really a sacking at all. When the PM dissolved the cabinet in order to reduce the bloated number of ministers and began making reappointments, it was decided to offer Qureshi a new portfolio – Water and Power. Unfortunately, Qureshi felt that he deserved foreign affairs, and if he wasn’t given the position he wanted, he was going to take his ball and his bat and leave the game. In fact when he was supposed to be sworn in as a cabinet minister, he didn’t bother to show up at all, rather he sent a terse note saying, “I am not interested in water and power ministry in place of foreign affairs”. This is a curious response to the offer of a cabinet portfolio, a position for which only a handful of people are selected out of the 180 million citizens. Could it be that Mr Qureshi’s reason has fallen prey to his personal ambitions?

And rather than a punishment, offering a cabinet position to Qureshi was actually something of a token. After all, has there not been constant frustration with his performance as FM over the past years? Manmohan Singh blamed Qureshi personally for his poor handling of talks last summer. This was an ongoing problem that Qureshi had, pushing his Indian counterparts away when it was his job to hold talks and find solutions to issues. And it was under Qureshi’s guard that India has become considered for membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group, while Pakistan remains without a civilian nuclear deal. Also he has taken great criticism from diplomats such as Tayyab Siddiqui for his comments on Iran.

He skipped the SAARC meeting in Bhutan last month, and in the midst of the negotiations over Raymond Davis, he even skipped a meeting with an American delegation last week. More on that point: As I stated earlier, if Shah Mahmood Qureshi truly felt so  adamant about Raymond Davis’s status, why was he silent and missing in action for the past weeks? Why did he not make statements when it could have mattered? If he was actually being pressurized, why did he not resign then? He said himself that he would have kept his position of FM if it was offered, so don’t try to have it both ways please.

And let’s not forget that it was only a few short days ago that the Foreign Office under the leadership of FM Qureshi stated that Raymond Davis at a minimum does enjoy at a minimum “partial immunity”. Then Salman Bashir calls the newspapers and says that if he committed some immoral act, he would not request diplomatic immunity for himself, which is essentially admitting that Raymond Davis does have diplomatic immunity, but it is annoying to the FO. This is another example of the failure of the foreign office by trying to have everything both ways. Whether or not Salman Bashir would invoke diplomatic immunity is irrelevant – Raymond Davis has invoked it. If Qureshi was unable to make a decision one way or the other, the country needed someone in the Foreign Office who could.

But the problem is not just Qureshi’s failure to act on principle. We’re also seeing other leaders like Babar Awan trying to barter Raymond Davis for Aafia Siddiqui as if Islamabad was filled with goat traders at a market, or Altaf Hussain comparing apples to peaches by saying that “Just the way US court gave the decision of Dr. Aafia’s case, US must also wait for Pakistani court’s decision on Raymond’s case”. Whether or not Aafia should be repatriated, she has no claim to diplomatic immunity, so her case is nothing like that of Raymond Davis.

Last fall, Shah Mahmood Qureshi warned against being influenced by concocted messages sent through media over Pak-US relationships. He now seems to be playing the same game. Unfortunately, he is not the only one doing so. It is now three weeks since the tragic incident that has brought diplomatic relations with the US to stand still. As Foreign Minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi could have ended this mess weeks ago by declaring Raymond Davis’s status one way or another. But when Qureshi had the opportunity to speak, he was silent. Now that his opinion carries no consequences to his own skin, suddenly he has found his voice. Elsewhere, our political leaders are asking the courts to help them out of a difficult situation and making populist speeches and goat trading to protect their own hides. The courts are telling those responsible in government to please do their jobs. Outside in the street it is the same as in the media – we are blinded by ghairat when the situation requires objective reason.

Again let me state that I do not think any of these are bad, dishonest, or incompetent people. I think the problem is one that is a larger problem in society. We allow issues to be hijacked by people who use emotional blackmail to keep us from using our brains. As a result,  good and capable men lose all sense of reason and proportion.

At present, everyone appears to be playing hearts and demanding to take the trick. But spades are trumps in this game, and diplomatic immunity is the ace of spades. If Raymond Davis plays the trump card, he takes the trick no matter how many hearts are thrown. But we should also keep a sense of proportion. The Raymond Davis case is only one trick and it is not for game. We need to stop acting like it is for all the chits. 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.

Restore Pakistan’s Credibility – Investigate Jang Group

Sometimes you really have to wonder ‘what are they thinking!?!’ Of course, the obvious answer is that they are not. I had this face-slapping moment today when I read the headlines in The Guardian, ‘Pakistani media publish fake WikiLeaks cables attacking India’ and Dawn, ‘India needs to cooperate more with Pakistan: FO’. The inevitable conspiracy theory explanation from Zaid Hamid notwithstanding, this is inexcusable. The courts should begin an inquiry into Jang Group for sabotaging national security.

This isn’t just about whether or not the media is reliable – it’s about whether or not the media is intentionally or unintentionally sabotaging our national security. In any other country that claims to view journalism as a serious institution, a scandal of this magnitude would result in massive sackings. It will be instructive to see whether or not Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman has the courage and the principles to clean house.

Because let’s face it. Jang Group is humiliated today, as is the entire nation. But if Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman doesn’t care about how his company and his nation look in the eyes of the rest of the world, he doesn’t have to do a thing. The people who read and believe this crap don’t read The Guardian, even if they do read English, so they likely don’t even know about the situation.

No matter what Jang decides to do internally, though, the courts should immediately begin an inquiry into this mess. Seriously, if there was ever a cause worthy of suo moto notice, is this not it? How can the FO expect India to be cooperative while Jang is running defamatory articles about them? We want the Americans to treat us with respect while Ansar Abbasi is on TV telling Moeed Pirzada that all this WikiLeaks stuff is a big American conspiracy and saying that there are no boundaries to the ruthlessness and carelessness of Americans. Where is Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman while all of this is happening?

If Jang Group wants to be a joke, that’s fine. They can continue selling all the fictions they want. But when they start publishing crap that undercuts the ability of government and military officials to do their jobs, that is where we need to draw the line. I strongly believe in a free media. And I strongly defend the right – even the responsibility – of the media to hold the government accountable. But I do NOT support the right for anyone in the media to SABOTAGE the government.

And this problem needs to be solved now because this is not an isolated incident. A similar problem occurred during the floods, didn’t it? How often did we see people complaining about how inept our government is, not missing any opportunity to take a pot shot at Asif Zardari, and then turning around and complaining that nobody will give us any money! Oh, it is because the government is so corrupt! They loved to shout from the rooftops. “This is why other countries were so quick to give to Haiti but not to Pakistan!” As if Haiti is a corruption-free-zone of the world. Here’s an inconvenient fact for these jokers – even if Pakistan was number 143 on Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index…HAITI WAS NUMBER 146. Please do tell me how many poor innocent people suffered because somebody in the media really hates Zardari that much?

Now we are humiliated on the headlines of a foreign newspaper because our own media is running false stories against India. And it’s not even a good lie because it’s so easily proven to be false. All The Guardian had to do was check the facts! How could these fools not know that they would be caught immediately at their cheap tricks? But the truth never really mattered, probably. It was all simply a gamble for a short-term victory in domestic politics. The consequences were not considered.

There’s a thing called credibility. Once you lose it, it’s really hard to get back. Perhaps Jang Group does not care about their own credibility. But we need to be very concerned about how Jang Group is ruining our national credibility. It’s time for an inquiry. Let the courts expose Jang Group’s intentions as Wikileaks has exposed the intentions of so many other clever souls. If Jang Group is filled with innocents and angels, let them prove it in a court. Otherwise, let them be held accountable for their actions. That would go a long way to getting our own credibility back.