The American Election’s Lesson for Pakistan

USA election Hillary ClintonThey say trouble always comes in threes. First India elected Modi. Then UK voted for ‘Brexit’. So maybe we should have predicted that America would follow suit and elect Donald Trump. What does this mean? Nobody really knows, though everyone seems to have a prediction. Some are saying that this will finally bring the downfall of America. Some are predicting that it unites the Ummah against America. Many are worried about their overseas family members, and some are predicting that all overseas Pakistanis will now come home. The only thing anyone knows for certain, is that no one knows what will happen, but it will probably not make anything easier for us.

There is one interesting thing about the election, though, that I want to mention. It is what happened the next day after the election. After losing a very close election to Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton went on TV and gave a speech and said this:

“Donald Trump is going to be our president. We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead.”

President Barack Obama who is the leader of Clinton’s party also gave an official statement where he said this:

“We are now all rooting for his (Trump’s) success in uniting and leading the country,”

No dharnas. No long march. Clinton did not file cases with the Election Commission. She didn’t make any accusations of rigging. There’s no ‘Go, Trump Go!’ Clinton’s party lost, and then she told her workers and activists to ‘give Trump a chance’. The leader of her party said he was rooting for Trump to succeed. Can you imagine this happening here?

If this is not shocking enough, let me tell you something else: Clinton is accepting the election results even though she actually got more votes. How did she lose if she got more votes? American elections have something called the ‘Electoral College’ which is a complicated system that allocates votes based on the number of seats in the Congress. The winner is usually the person who gets the most votes, but sometimes, like in this election, the person with the most votes can actually lose. Sounds like it’s not fair? Maybe it’s not fair, but the system still works because politicians accept the results because they respect the law.

American democracy works even though it is obviously not perfect because politicians and people respect the law, even when it works against their own interests. Even when it seems like it’s not fair, they still respect the law instead of trying to cheat it. This made me think: Instead of trying to predict what the American election means for Pakistan, maybe we should take a lesson from it – Even when democracy is flawed, it can still be successful if only we will accept and respect the law.

 

Unsensational

From the saga of leaked London Police documents to the revival of the Tanveer Zamani circus, this week we have once again seen sensational rumours spreading like wildfire. Unfortunately, less sensational but far more important stories are all but missing from the discussion.

Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s advisers pushed for targeted actions including economic sanctions against Pakistan military officers who the US believed were supporting al Qaeda terrorists.

“Assuming we have adequate intelligence, we can go after bank accounts, travel and other reachable assets of individual Pakistani officers, raising the stakes for those supporting the militants without creating an inordinate backlash,” he wrote.

“Thanks, Sandy. This is very helpful,” Clinton replied. Through a spokesman, Berger declined comment on Wednesday.

While the US State Department believes Pakistan military officers have supported terrorists, they do not seem to have the same concerns about Indian support for terrorism inside Pakistan despite Chief of Army Staff Gen Raheel telling parliament that he presented the evidence during his trip to Washington last year. Actually, the US denies that Pakistan has presented any evidence.

“I am not aware of any such delivery,” said US State Department spokesman John Kirby when asked at a news briefing if Pakistan had shared those proofs with the United States.

These stories should be just as sensational, if not more than those that have dominated media this week, however they do not satisfy our desire to vilify the hapless politicians. Because of this, they are not only considered un-sensational, they are barely considered news.

Saying #ShutUp Doesn’t Solve the Problem

zawahiri

Yesterday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters that she believes al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri is hiding in Pakistan. Foreign Minister Khar responded with grace and poise following such a serious allegation, stating that the government has no information about Zawahiri’s being in Pakistan, but that if the US does would it kindly share that intelligence with Pakistan so that they government can take appropriate action. Unfortunately, this was not the only response. In addition to the FM’s cool reaction was, of course, the predictable outburst of emotion that ignored all reason and, in trying to defend Pakistan, behaved embarrassingly.

The embarrassing response took the form of a Twitter hashtag #ShutUpClinton. As you might expect from the hashtag itself, these were not the most intelligent responses to Clinton’s accusation. They were emotional, reactive, and often attempts to change the subject by pointing out problems with US policy as if that someone excuses problems with our own.

There is no doubt that the US has made some profound mistakes. 9/11 was a terrible intelligence failure. The invasion of Iraq was based on manipulated evidence and propaganda. But just because the Americans have intelligence failures and manipulated evidence and propaganda, does that mean we should do the same?

Many people responded to the #ShutUpClinton campaign by pointing out that Osama bin Laden was living in Pakistan undetected. What came to my mind wasn’t Osama, though, it was Warren Weinstein – the 70-year-old development worker who was kidnapped from his home in Lahore last August.

Overshadowed by Clinton’s remarks was another piece of news that should shake us to our core. The kidnapped American aid worker has finally been heard from – in an al Qaeda hostage video.

It was the first direct confirmation that Al Qaeda was holding Mr. Weinstein, the country director for the Washington-based consultancy J.E. Austin Associates, which contracts for the United States Agency for International Development.

Armed men snatched him from a Lahore neighborhood in August; three months later the leader of Al Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahri, said Mr. Weinstein could be released if the Obama administration stopped all airstrikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen, and released several men convicted for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

Yesterday, TTP leader Hakimullah Mehsud declared that the 4th May suicide bombing in Bajaur district was carried out to avenge the 2006 death of an al Qaeda commander. An article in Express Tribune explains the frightening al Qaeda connection in Bajaur:

A Mohmand cleric, Maulvi Faqir Muhammad arose as the al Qaeda-backed leader of the Taliban in Bajaur, who has escaped capture for the last six years, although it was rumoured earlier this year that he may have been killed. He is an important commander with approximately 3,000 warriors under his wing and is expected to fight the post-withdrawal war in Afghanistan. In August 2008, the army launched Operation Sherdil against him to stop the Taliban movement to and from Kunar. The terrorists were ousted from the agency by 2010 but, like warlord Fazlullah of Swat, Maulvi Faqir is able to make hit-and-run raids into the area. Bajaur is far too strategically important for al Qaeda to abandon. In the coming battle, this will be the funnel through which our warriors will cross over to fight the Northern Alliance.

Maulvi Faqir has been difficult to eliminate because of his alliance-making dexterity: he is aligned to Mullah Omar and al-Zawahiri. There are other terrorist outfits in Bajaur that owe similar allegiances and are at the beck and call of Maulvi Faqir. Since 2007, the Taliban are there together with the remnants of TNSM. But the Jaish-i-Muhammad is there too, headed by Qari Ali Rehman, who will unite against the Pakistan Army despite his differences with Maulvi Faqir. The Harkatul Jihadul Islami, which was involved in the Islamabad Marriot Hotel blast, is also active in Bajaur,

As The Express Tribune notes in its editorial, “The suicide attack in Bajaur is a foretaste of what will transpire in the region after the US and Nato forces leave Afghanistan”. Forget Osama, since the past few days al Qaeda terrorists have carried out suicide bombings and released hostage videos of aid workers kidnapped from Lahore. And our response is to list the failures of American foreign policy?

Al Qaeda is operating in Pakistan, and our response is to tell Hillary Clinton to shut up? That doesn’t solve the problem, it ignores it. Whether or not Ayman al-Zawahiri is living in Pakistan is not a question of ghairat, it is a question of self-preservation. If we are unable to unwilling to admit that terrorists are in Pakistan – whether or not their names are Zawahiri – we will be the ones who continue to suffer.

Shah Mehmood Qureshi don’t abandon your principles

Former Foreign Minster Shah Mehmood Qureshi has announced his resignation from PPP and the National Assembly. It is a moment that surprised nobody, but I still think the whole things tastes of spoiled milk, and that’s really disappointing. The debates about diplomatic immunity are now firmly in the past, and Pakistan needs leaders who are focused on the issues of today.

Whatever SMQ decides about his political future, what is important is that he stays consistent in his principles. If his does this, he can influence whatever party he decides to join with to take a reasoned approach to close relations with the US and other nations in the west.

Looking back on his years as Foreign Minister, it cannot be denied that SMQ’s legacy is without doubt the Kerry Lugar bill that he helped pass and when it was attacked he stood with his American partner Hillary Clinton and defended it vigorously.

At the time, SMQ came under attack from certain elements who claimed that he was selling out the nation when nothing could be further from the truth. Even his son Zain Hussain Qureshi was targeted because he worked in US Senator Kerry’s office when the bill was written – an entirely unfair and pointless accusation.

Pakistan’s history is filled with the politics of betrayal and revenge, and vendetta politics never makes for good policy. So can we please set aside petty personal feuds for once and do what is right for the nation instead? Shah Mehmood Qureshi has a perfect opportunity to show young people interested in politics that the old ways of politics based on strategic alliances and personal loyalties are dead, and a new politics of principles is the way of the future.

US Congress Requests Revoking Visas For Qadri Supporters

In a letter to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday four American Members of Congress requested the US government to revoke visas to anyone supporting Mumtaz Qadri.

A copy of the letter which has been received by email terms the assassination of Salmaan Taseer “an unspeakable tragedy” and “heinous crime”.

We have now become aware that some of the most prominent clerics, journalists and lawyers who have praised Taseer’s death and have demonstrated support of his murderer, are people who frequently travel to the United States and hold American visas. We urge you to identify those Pakistani citizens that have shown demonstrable support of the assassination of Governor Taseer. We further request that visas not be issued to such people and that applications for new visas from those who have endorsed this heinous crime be denied.

The letter states that “it is imperative that we show our dedication to peace and not further violence” and requests the US State Department to increase diplomatic efforts and investment to support growth of democracy and tolerance in Pakistan.

The letter is signed by two Republicans and two Democrats in the US Congress: Steve Israel, Gary Ackerman, Peter King and Michael McCaul.