Anti-American Pathology

Syed Yahya HussainyPakistan’s political system is suffering from a debilitating illness. It is neither corruption, nor nepotism, nor most of the usual symptoms that our commentators point to, but a pathological anti-Americanism that paralyzes the nation and prevents us from achieving our potential.

The usual excuse given for this strident anti-Americanism is that we don’t hate the American people, we only hate the policies of their government. But this is a poor excuse, and it ignores the fact that we react differently to the same policies if the US or other countries adopt them. At every turn, American intentions are assumed to be anti-Pakistan, despite the fact that none of the predictions of American plans to clip Pakistan’s wings have ever come true. We readily accept that US policies are anti-Islam, while we turn a blind eye when Muslims adopt these same policies.

In many ways, America has been a fickle friend to Pakistan, that is true. They have been cozy with both our civilian leaders and the military dictators that overthrew them. The Americans were always there when they needed us, and then walked away when we were no longer useful to their policy goals.

But have we been a better friend to America? In 1979, we burned down the US embassy, killing two American diplomats following false reports that the US had bombed the Masjid al-Haram. These false reports came from Iran, and the street protests outside the Embassy were exacerbated by busloads of young people brought in by Jamaat-i-Islami. Islamic militants carried out the attack, yet we accepted the Iranian propaganda without question. We burned an Embassy and killed two people because of a lie.

In 1986, the US launched a retaliatory strike against Libya following acts of terrorism including the bombing of a Berlin discotheque. The response in Pakistan was fervent anti-Americanism, including large street protests organized by religious parties in support of the military dictator Col. Mommar al-Gaddafi. When that same dictator turned his arsenal on his own people this month, attacking pro-democracy protestors with air strikes, our religious parties were united in their silence.

In 1991, Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein invaded a Muslim country (Kuwait) and the Americans were requested to help stop his imperialist agenda. Nawaz Sharif sent soldiers to Saudia Arabia to fight alongside American troops, but the public reaction, encouraged by religious parties and the ISI chief at the time, Gen. Aslam Beg, rapidly turned anti-American and pro-Saddam. We blame the Americans for supporting Saddam in the 1980s, but we were in the streets loudly supporting him in the 1990s.

In 2000, when Nawaz Sharif sought reprieve from the punishment he was given under Musharraf, it was not America that bailed him out, rather it was Saudi Arabia that secretly negotiated his release and gave him sanctuary.

Saudi Arabia was also the new home for the Ugandan dictator Idi Amin where he lived in comfort until his death in 2003. It was this same Saudi Arabia that warned US President Barack Obama not to encourage the Egyptian people to overthrow their own dictator, Hosni Mubarak. If Raymond Davis was from Saudi Arabia and not the US, would we still be talking about imperial arrogance and support for dictators?

Actually, we have some clue as to the answer. In 2008, three gunmen from Hayatabad abducted Heshmatollah Attarzadeh Niyaki, a commercial attaché at the Iranian consulate in Peshawar. They killed his guard during the assault. After the Iranian diplomat was missing for two years, Ramin Mehmanparast, the Iranian foreign ministry spokesman, announced last year that “the location where Attarzadeh was held was identified by Iranian intelligence agents, and through a series of complex operations he was brought home”.

Ansar Abbasi wrote that security has been tightened around Raymond Davis to prevent “a possible Hollywood Rambo-style sting operation”. But such a breach of Pakistan’s sovereignty, honour, and national security has already happened. Only it wasn’t American forces, but Iranian intelligence agents that crossed our borders, violated our sovereignty, and carried out covert operations without informing our own military intelligence agencies. And none of the religious parties or Ghairat Brigade spokesmen has been moved to say a word against it.

It was also in 2008 that Prince Muqran bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, the chief of Saudi intelligence, visited Gen. Musharraf, Nawaz Sharif, and Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain to “play its role in Pakistan’s present political circumstances”. And we learned from the American diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks that Saudi Arabian Ambassador to the US Adel al-Jubeir told American Charge D’Affaires Michael Gfoeller that, “We in Saudi Arabia are not observers in Pakistan, we are participants.”

Far from being a slave to American hegemony, we have been a willing puppet of dictators in Muslim dress. The Americans may have short memories, unable to remember their overthrowing of Mohammad Mossadegh in 1953, their support for Saddam Hussein in the 1970s, and their wavering on the Arab democracy movement. Our memories may be longer, but they are selective. How easily we forget our own support for dictators, our own complicity in the slaughter of Muslims and the imperialist ambitions of those same Arab dictators.

America may have been inconsistent in its relations with us, supplying our military with weapons and training but ignoring the much-needed development of our civilian institutions. But this is finally changing. Despite any imperfections in the Kerry-Lugar-Berman bill, it represented a shift in American attitudes from using our military establishment to expand US power to investing in the long-term development of democracy and civilian infrastructure. Despite the threats of violence by our own right-wing, the greatest threat made by the US over Raymond Davis has been to reduce aid.

If the US cuts aid to Pakistan, it will weaken our civilian institutions – not the elite and the military establishment. The US will always keep close relations with the military and the ISI, an outcome those institutions are certain of. They know that their power in the country will be strengthened. The real victim of the Raymond Davis fiasco will be neither our sovereignty nor our pride. What is at risk is the very change that we have been demanding – a change in the relationship between our two countries that has been paralyzed by a pathological anti-Americanism. This is our revolution. The question is, are we willing to seize it?

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

Right now concerned citizens are asking themselves: Where do I sign up for a revolution in Pakistan? How can I bring down the government because it’s so, so terrible?

Easy there, concerned citizens. Let’s bring the rhetoric down a bit, and really study the myriad of issues we face as a nation. For anyone truly concerned about the future of Pakistan, serious discussions must be had, requiring cool minds and an acknowledgment of the facts. Vigorous public debates are healthy – they are the calling card of a free society. However, we cannot tolerate discussions that incite hate, or encourage violence. This is not a respectable discussion or anything resembling journalism. Our free media must take its role seriously and be an informative tool. Because they are they medium through which people debate, their role is key in national discussions.

An example of the alarming violent speech is this talk of a “an inevitable revolution in Pakistan.” I think they must mean a metaphorical revolution, right???

As we watch the Arab world fight for democracy, we must stand in solidarity with them, not shake our heads at their “mistake.” We should applaud their bravery and courage. For countries like Egypt, where a revolution successfully toppled Hosni Mubarak, the real challenges begin now. A regime can be topped in a matter of weeks, but the building of institutions takes much, much longer. Unforeseen dilemmas will surely arise as the country tries to steer towards its goal of democracy. It is a struggle worth having.

And yet in Pakistan, some are not talking about a revolution in metaphorical terms. In Lahore there was an actual youth protest against democracy, and for some sort of pan-Islamic form of government to unite all the Ummah. The sky-high absurdity of that is astounding. First of all, Muslims are in every part of the globe. The logistics would be difficult enough! All joking aside, it is really tragic that the Islamic world is rising towards democracy and freedom, while many in Pakistan are bent on bringing it down.

Is our government perfect? No, of course not. We must always be working towards a more perfect society. Problems will plague us and obstacles will always be in our path. But are we willing to sacrifice Jinnah’s Pakistan to some idealized vision of dictatorship?

It’s time to really just calm down and think. Concerned citizens, wake up and have a look around. Haven’t we been through enough of that back and forth between dictatorships? Haven’t they done enough damage? Protestors and pundits alike speak with conviction against our current democracy. Yet very few have the real courage to build things up, strengthen institutions, or even engage in a civil discussion.

Ben Ali, Hosni Mubarak, and Ahmed Quraishi

What do Ben Ali, Hosni Mubarak, and Ahmed Quraishi have in common? Quite a bit, as it turns out. Ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak learned the lesson when they got on a plane and left. Ahmed Qureshi titled his own article, ‘A lesson from Egypt & Tunis’, but as usual he got the lesson hilariously wrong.

Actually, Ahmed Quraishi’s spin is laughably bad. He terms dictators ‘politicians’, and yet still goes on to praise them. The man who has never met a dictator he didn’t fawn over like a blushing bride, Ahmed Quraishi looks at Hosni Mubarak’s record of iron-fisted rule and writes:

We can say a few good things about Hosni Mubarak who consolidated the position of the country and gave an opportunity to the middle class to grow but he failed to fully represent the potentials of the Egyptian people.

That’s right. Ahmed Quraishi believes that Hosni Mubarak’s failure was not fully representing the potentials of the Egyptian people. Secret police? Iron-fisted rule? All of these are just fine with Ahmed Quraishi who knows all too well what dictatorships and covert agents are up to. He has even said so himself, defending the release of the fake Wikileaks story by saying that it is justified to use fake media stories for political ends, and he followed up this astonishing admission of manipulation by calling for a blatant authoritarian regime in Pakistan that will “enforce discipline” and “tolerate dissent but not chaos”. Was Ahmed Quraishi a speech writer for the newly deposed dictators? It certainly sounds like it.

According to Ahmed Quraishi, the solution to all of the country’s ills is to give unchecked power to the establishment, and this time he wants to make sure meddlesome justices like Iftikhar Chaudhry do not get in the way of dictatorial powers.

Within a few hours of the flight of its President from the country, the army arrested all the presidential nearest and dearest who were suspected of plundering the national wealth. Remember, they were arrested alone as suspects and they did not wait for an investigation by an agency like NAB or a legal court.

This is no suprise. Ahmed Quraishi has been condemning the lawyers movement and all demands for fair and neutral justice for years. His latest article is another boring display of his same old fetish for coups and military strongmen.

Ahmed Quraishi and Gen Musharraf

Tunisians and Egyptians may have held their own long marches to remove dictators and win democracy, but Pakistanis won our own freedom a few years ago. But now Ahmed Quraishi wants to hijack the Arab pro-democracy movement and twist its meaning to support the return of military dictatorship to Pakistan. I’m sorry, but we have seen that movie too many times already. We all know how it ends and we’re not interested in seeing it again but thank you for the suggestion.

A much better explanation of Pakistan’s political situation is made by Dr Pirzada in Daily Times on Wednesday.

When after Tunisia, Egypt started to rock with shouts of “revolution”, an important western embassy in Pakistan ordered an immediate “risk assessment” to determine if Pakistan could be “next”. The ambassador was told: “Don’t you worry, for while Pakistan presents all factors ripe for revolution, sadly it does not have any leadership to lead this.” This is certainly true, but it is only part of the explanation. I would have told him: “Excellency! Relax and welcome to a multi-polar, raucous but democratic Pakistan.”

This is precisely what many in Islamabad and certainly Washington have not realised — not so far. When some of us were naively whispering in worried American ears: “Sir, we will fix it up in a day”, they did not realise that the country has changed; today it has many centres of political authority, dozens of TV channels — all trying to outwit Fox, hundreds of chirpy radio stations and countless racy publications. And precisely because of this multi-polar and multi-media situation, our courts have found the space to assert themselves as independent entities and they in turn add to the depth of a rough, volatile and fragile mix that despite its many failings is the new democratic dispensation in which no one is all-powerful, no one, not even the good old GHQ has total control. If they are creating impressions of ‘control’, they too are bluffing.

Democracy is neither orderly nor neatly pressed and tidy like the khaki uniforms worn by the Hosni Mubaraks and Ziaul Haqs of the world – establishment ‘liberators’ who gladly free their countries to serve their own interests and those of their lackeys. It’s really sad that people like Ahmed Quraishi are willing to take the sacrifices and the dreams of people for democracy and twist them into distortions that claim to promote the very dictatorships that people are struggling against. Thankfully, the power of the people is greater than the power of any dictator, and certainly more powerful than Ahmed Quraishi.

Ahmed Qureshi Article 2-9-2011