Friday Book Club: What Makes a Pakistani?

While politicians, diplomats and business leaders are negotiating trade deals that would grant open access to American markets, a lucrative new industry of writing books about Pakistan for Western audiences is starting to take hold. Two of these recent books were the subject of reviews this week, and provide an interesting starting point for a discussion of Pakistan ideology both for what each book said…or didn’t say…about the subject.

In today’s Friday Times, Raza Rumi reviews a new book, ‘Explaining Pakistan’s Foreign Policy: Escaping India’ that explores the way the reliance on religion to define Pakistani identity has wreaked havoc with the nation’s foreign policy decisions.
Explaining Pakistan's Foreign Policy

The overall emphasis of the book is to highlight how Pakistan’s exclusive ‘ideological’ identity as opposed to a multi-ethnic nation-state cognisant of its past inhibits the formulation of a realistic foreign policy. This is a view, which many in Pakistan would empathise with especially the political parties. The book also documents the nuances and shades of policy options articulated by various political and religious groups.

This book suggests that the establishment’s attempt to use Islam as a “substitute for nationalism” has resulted in not only external wars such as Kargil, but internal wars to define who qualifies as “Muslim enough” to be Pakistani. In his review, Raza Rumi mentions the 1949 Objectives Resolution, but we can easily connect the dots between this and the way Yahya Khan characterised Bengalis as crypto-Hindus, 1974 law declaring Ahmedis as non-Muslims and present day attacks by anti-Shia groups like SSP and LeJ.

A similar observation was made by Ayesha Siddiqa in her review of a new book edited by Maleha Lodhi, ‘Pakistan: Beyond the “Crisis State”‘. According to Siddiqa, “The basic thesis of the volume is that there are many things which are not right about the country but that in itself does not qualify it as a failed or failing state”. This is true, of course, and it is important to recognise the progress that Pakistan is making as well as the challenges that remain. But Ms Siddiqa in her review worries that Lodhi’s volume serves as something of an unproductive whitewash, and in ignoring underlying issues surrounding ideology, Lodhi’s book fails to address the critical issue of ideology.

Pakistan: Beyond the Crisis StatePakistan’s fundamental problem is that the state defines citizenship on the basis of a citizen’s putative relationship with religion and the central establishment. This leaves out millions of non-Muslims or members of minority ethnic communities from a sense of representation. Those that choose to protest their rights like the East Pakistanis or Baluch are then brutally butchered in the name of national security. This volume chooses to focus on religion related violence. This category of violence cannot be stopped because the problem of the religiosity of the state becomes compounded with another issue of a powerful military bureaucracy, an institution which tends to use all measures including religion and violence to gain its military-strategic objectives. According to Zahid Hussain, some of the militant groups were connected with the military due to the role they played in the possible resolution of the Kashmir issue or in helping GHQ Rawalpindi deal with India.

Could it be that the bizarre handling of questions military, ideology and national identity were by design? After all, Maleeha Lodhi was appointed Ambassador to the USA following Gen Musharraf’s 1999 coup, and was awarded Hilal-e-Imtiaz by Gen Musharraf in 2002. According to Siddiqa, “Maleeha Lodhi’s edited volume is one of the few books that Pakistan military’s Inter-Services Public Relations’ head Maj. General Athar Abbas recommends to his visitors”.

Have you read any of these books? If so, what are your thoughts? Are there other new books on Pakistan that you like? Please share in the comments!

The real war

The following quote could easily be taken from any number of statements by jihadi militants and their sympathisers.

The operation was not to kill as many people as possible, but to give a strong signal that cannot be misunderstood, that as long as the government keeps driving its ideological line and keeps deconstructing Islamic culture and mass importing Westernism, then they must assume responsibility for this treason. And any person with a conscience cannot allow its country to be colonized by the West.

The real quote is from the Norwegian terrorist Anders Behring Breivik.

The operation was not to kill as many people as possible, but to give a strong signal that cannot be misunderstood, that as long as the Labor Party keeps driving its ideological line and keeps deconstructing Norwegian culture and mass importing Muslims, then they must assume responsibility for this treason. And any person with a conscience cannot allow its country to be colonized by Muslims.

Using warped ideology and fancy terms like ‘hegemony’ as an excuse to kill and seize power is found in every culture. The real war is not between Muslims and the West, but civilized people and barbarians.

US Court Clears Pakistan of Official Support for 26/11

A US jury on Thursday, June 9, 2011 cleared Pakistan-born businessman Tahawwur Hussain Rana of involvement in the 2008 Mumbai siege and in the process also cleared the Government of Pakistan and its intelligence agencies from accusations of support and involvement in the 26/11 terrorist attacks.

Rana trialThe man on trial in a US court Tahawwur Hussain Rana was accused of allowing his immigration business to be used as cover for his friend David Coleman Headley to scout out potential targets in India’s financial and entertainment capital before the attacks. The prosecutor’s star witness was David Coleman Headley, Rana’s old friend from high school in Pakistan. Headley, who has admitted lying to authorities, has been cooperating with prosecutors since his 2009 arrest at a Chicago airport. In a plot that reads like a movie thriller, Headley spent two years casing out Mumbai, even taking boat tours around the city’s harbor to identify landing sites for the attackers and befriending Bollywood stars as part of his cover.

Testimony from the trial provides detailed information vital to understanding the intricacies and complexities involved in the planning of the Mumbai attacks. Headley, in his testimony, elaborated in detail how he befriended members of the banned jihadi group LeT and was assisted by some rogue elements. When questioned closely, Headley admitted that top officials of Government of Pakistan and Pakistan intelligence agency did not know about the attacks and were against it.

Actually, claims of official support for the 26/11 plotters were disproven precisely by the fact that Headley and Rana found themselves in the court room. Rather than finding official protection after the attack happened, the 26/11 plotters told Headley to go underground since the Government of Pakistan and ISI officials were furious and were arresting the perpetrators. The Government of Pakistan and its intelligence agencies arrested most of the named individual in testimony, and they are currently under trial in Pakistan on various criminal and terrorism charges.

The claim put forward by Indian government that Pakistan’s intelligence agency aided and abetted in the Mumbai attacks turned out to completely mistaken. Just as the British government and its intelligence agency MI6 cannot be blamed in the Cambridge five affair and the US government and its CIA cannot be held responsible for Aldrich Ames, Government of Pakistan and its intelligence agencies also cannot be blamed for the actions of rogues and impostors, many of them having been already discharged from service for prior suspicions.

Now the truth is out in the shape of the facts revealed by the Tahawwur Hussain Rana trial. These facts confirm the statements of US security officials that Pakistan is committed in the fight against terrorism. Only the most hardened RSS-type conspiracy theorist could deny the facts as they have been proven not by an internal Pakistani investigation but by a neutral court of the United States.

It should be remembered that Pakistan is fighting this war on two fronts: Against Al Qaeda and Taliban and against their affiliates in Pakistani society such as LeT, SSP, and other militant groups also. A complete generation after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan imbibed this warped ideology which was allowed to grow unchecked even by the Western countries as it was used to defeat Soviet Russia in Afghanistan. Over the period of three decades, the jihadist ideology was institutionalized in Pakistani society by the Wahhabi madrassas and the financial backing they received from wealthy Arab states. Unfortunately, the Government of Pakistan lacked the resources to stem its growth and the rise of this jihadi ideology was not given proper consideration even by US till 9/11 attacks. This makes it a very complex war where Pakistan must fight not only the militant groups but at the same time purge the ideology of extremist jihad that has festered in society.

Mike Mullen, Scott van Buskirk,  Ashfaq Kayani, Ahmad Shuja Pasha

The Government of Pakistan and its intelligence agencies have been instrumental in dismantling the network of terrorist in region, the proof being counted in the thousands of Pakistani troops and intelligence agents who have laid down their lives in the fight against terrorism and continue to do so. This greatest of sacrifices in the war against terrorism has been recognised by US Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael G Mullen recently.

Admiral Mullen lauded the sacrifices and efforts of people of Pakistan and its security forces and reassured that security ties will not be allowed to unravel between the two armed forces.

Gen Kayani and Admiral Mullen acknowledged that evolving Pak-US strategic relation was important for the achievement of mutual long term objectives of comprehensive security of both the countries.

The outcome of Rana trial which was carried out in the US courts should clear any remaining misunderstandings and misguided perceptions. The Government of Pakistan and ISI officials had no role in supporting the 26/11 attacks or terrorism more generally.

A War Within the Ranks?

An inter-agency battle appears to be playing out on the pages of some propaganda web sites. Following the briefing by Maj General Mehmood Ghayur that put to rest several drone myths and conspiracy theories, a call for his head has been issued on a website by Moin Ansari who was exposed as part of Cafe Pyala’s report on propaganda websites last year.

The General’s strange statement that “The number of innocent people being killed is relatively low.” should be condemned at the highest levels and he should be taken to task. Just labeling it as a “personal assessment’ is not good enough. Foreign Minister Qureshi had to give up his job for confronting allies and friends. Major General Mehmood should be stripped of his stars and put in jail for “approving” the attack on civilians in Pakistan, for tolerating the violation of Pakistani sovereignty–and justifying illegal murders.

As evidence that the General is incorrect, the author refers to the data of New American Foundation. But when I looked at their website, it turned out that the data actually supports Gen Mehmood’s statements.

Drones Deaths 2004 to 2010

But more telling, perhaps, is the way that the author strikes out at the ISI and even Gen Pasha by name.

The ISI has to own up to its incompetence in not following folks who were hurriedly handed out Pakistanis visas by the Pakistani Embassy in Washington. Why were the 500 or so “spies” not followed properly. How could they romp around Pakistan without the ISIs eagle eye on them? What stopped the ISI from doing a follow-up and in depth background check on these individuals. Why did the ISI have a epiphany moment when “Raymond Davis” actually committed murder. Why was he not targeted for intense surveillance for months. Does the ISI not know about the safe houses in Lahore. Ordinary citizens know where these thugs live. Why did the ISI allow them to run amok. There has been a shake-up at the ISI, where inefficiency has been sidelined. The knife neds to go deeper and eliminate incompetence.

Why has the ISI not submitted deep and profound background checks on all the Xe types that are present in Pakistan?

If General Pasha and General Kayani cannot answer these questions, the Senate and National Assembly should hold closed door and pubic hearings on these issues. If General Pasha is still allowing the drones to commit murder on Pakistani soil, then General Pasha should not get an extension.

An article in Daily Times reveals a network of think tanks are responsible for much of the conspiracy theory propaganda being circulated on the internet. Actually, this is not the first time these propaganda networks have been exposed. Last year Cafe Pyala found the same thing, including the web site that features these latest calls for sacking the military brass.

What is interesting is how these propaganda rings appear to be driven by retired military and intelligence officers from the Zia and Musharraf eras who consistently promoted pro-jihadi ideologies and failed military adventures that resulted in the present sad state of security. Now that Gen Kayani and Gen Pasha are left to clean up the mess that they created, they seem to have turned on their beloved institutions. Ideology before country, I guess, which is ironic for a bunch of goons that consistently declare themselves as ‘patriots’ and ‘nationalists’.

You have to wonder, though, if this isn’t just a public face of a larger war being waged within the ranks. The Zia-style ideologues for jihad versus the Kayani-style pragmatists for national security. It’s long been rumoured that such a battle is being waged, but the military keeps much closer ranks than politicians who are quick to insult each other openly.

Let me tell you this: If Gen Kayani and Gen Pasha have boiled the blood of the hyper-nationalist pseudo-patriots, they must be doing something right.