Recent events prove now is the time for a modern nationalism

Diverse PakistanSeventy years ago, certain social and political ground realities existed which resulted in the political movement that created this country. I am not questioning the motivations or the historical environments which preceded the formation of our proud nation. However, it is also undeniable that since the past 70 years the regional and global order has undergone evolutions that have created new social and geopolitical realities that call for an evolution of our strategic and theoretical thinking to match.

Just as a person must evolve and adapt to take his proper place in the community when he ages, nations and societies must also evolve and adapt otherwise they will be unable to properly achieve their rightful place in the global community. What was necessary and proper 70 years ago has been established just as one’s culture and personality are established as one matures. However, one is not the exact same as he was even 10 or 20 years earlier but rather becomes more complex even as he is still grounded in his past.

Recent events have made clear that we have entered a new era in which the religious nationalism that may have made sense in the past is no longer sufficient to guide us in the new millennium. This has become increasingly obvious with the troubles of our participation in the Saudi military alliance, which was presented as a ‘Muslim NATO’ but was soon exposed as a dangerous experiment that threatens our own national security. The stakes were raised once again when a Saudi-led alliance of Arab states announced cutting diplomatic ties with Qatar and closing borders, putting Pakistan squarely in another bad position.

While alliances with Muslim allies are causing no end of uncomfortable situations for Pakistan, it is ironically the atheist China which is proving to be more sensitive to our own needs. Where Saudi has given some loans that must be repaid, China is investing billions in infrastructure and resources that will advance Pakistani businesses and develop our own economy. It is not just economically that atheist China has proven a strong ally, but also in terms of respecting Pakistan’s positions in global forums such as the UN. Even on Kashmir, China has respected Pakistan’s position but not from any religious motivation as China is not Muslim proving that religion is not the only bond that can bring two nations together.

Just as religion is not the only bond that can bring two nations together, also it is not the only bond that can unite our own nation.

Now imagine a Pakistan that would have embraced its diversity instead of treating it with fear and loathing. Imagine a Pakistan that would give equal rights to all its citizens without considerations of religion or gender. Imagine a Pakistan that would not be held hostage by its religious clergy and where the rulers would refuse to be blackmailed by these contractors of faith. Pakistan as a territory blessed with geography, relief, natural resources and a rich cultural heritage.

If its leaders had any vision it would be the magnet for the world both for business and for tourism. The tourism potential alone should have been enough to transform us rapidly into a rich and prosperous nation.

As an example, we can see India is being torn apart by religious chauvinism and majoritarianism. We cannot allow ourselves to fall further into the same trap. Now is the time for an updated nationalism not based on our differences but on our diversity which is our strength.

China’s view of Pakistan, in their own words

H.E. Ambassador Luo Zhaohui at India

Former Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Luo Zhaohui recently gave an address at United Service Institution of India. His official statement which is available on Chinese Embassy’s website must be read by everyone to understand the reality of our relations with China which are not the fantasy that is promoted by hypernationalist TV anchors. Here is a key paragraph:

Some Indian media say that China always puts Pakistan first when handling its relations with South Asia countries. I want to tell you this is not true. Simply put, we always put China first and we deal with problems based on their own merits. Take Kashmir issue for example, we supported the relevant UN resolutions before 1990s. Then we supported a settlement through bilateral negotiation in line with the Simla Agreement. This is an example of China taking care of India’s concern. Today few Indian friends remember this episode, or they have chosen to forget it. On Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) issue, we do not oppose any country’s membership, believing that a standard for admission should be agreed upon first. On promoting India-Pakistan reconciliation, we hope that both sides could live together in peace, because this is conducive to regional stability in the interests of China. The development of China, India, Pakistan and the stability of the whole region call for a stable and friendly environment. Otherwise, how could we open up and develop? That’s why we say we are willing to mediate when India and Pakistan have problems. But the precondition is that both India and Pakistan accept it. We do this only out of good will. We do hope that there is no problem at all. When the Mumbai Terrorist Attack on November 26, 2008, took place, I was Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan, and I did a lot of mediation at that time.

Please take time to read Ambassador’s full speech on Chinese Embassy’s website. Before responding, think about what it means, and whether our own internal policies are not leading us down the same path with China that we already went down with America.

Sufi clerics victim of our paranoid conspiracy culture

Syed Asif Nizami and Nazim Nizami

The story is as predictable as it is embarrassing. Two Sufi clerics visiting Pakistan from across the border go missing. Indian media immediately jumps to the conclusion that the two were picked up by ISI. Pakistani media immediately reported that the reports were just the latest example of anti-Pakistan Indian propaganda and that the two clerics had simply entered into an area where mobile phone signal was not available. Now that the clerics have returned home, though, the truth is coming out, and it is not quite as neat and clean as we wished.

Actually, the two elderly clerics Syed Asif Nizami and Nazim Nizami were picked up by our intelligence agencies and interrogated about their supposed ‘anti-Pakistan’ activities. And where did our brilliant agencies get their intelligence about these two? Apparently Urdu daily Ummat had published some fake stories accusing them of being secret RAW agents.

Now our media is scrambling to create the narrative that the entire affair was a big misunderstanding from an inaccurate report in Ummat. In the most hilarious example, Express Tribune has even tried to frame work the story as agencies providing ‘VIP treatment‘ to visiting clerics!

Let us review the facts of this case:

  1. Two Muslim clerics visited Pakistan.
  2. An Urdu newspaper falsely accused them as RAW agents.
  3. Our intelligence agencies read the report and picked up the Muslim clerics, holding them ‘incommunicado’.
  4. After realising the mistake, the clerics were allowed to return home and our media is spinning their being picked up and interrogated by agencies as ‘VIP treatment’.

It has been noted that daily Ummat is also the ‘news’ paper that first accused missing bloggers of blasphemy.

The entire affair is an indictment not only of our senseless media, but raises serious questions about intelligence agencies. If they were fooled by fake news in this case, how many other fake reports have they been fooled by? And why are intelligence agencies taking their cues from what they read in media reports anyway? It is a recipe for a national security disaster. Do not expect anyone to demand Parliamentary Commission to investigate this humiliating episode, though.

Pragmatic Moderation: An alternative to failed hyper-nationalism?

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif should be commended for attempting to use diplomacy to highlight the plight of Kashmiri people. However, it is time to face the fact that the hypernationalist narrative that our officials have been promoting has completely failed. This does not mean that the Kashmiri cause is failed, it just means that the way we have been trying to help has actually being hurting. If we truly want to help the Kashmiri people, we need to try something different.

First let us discuss why our current efforts have failed. It is easy to blame the Indian lobby for all of our failures, but we should be honest enough to look in the mirror. Here is one that Jibran Nasir has held up for us.

During the recent diplomatic mission to Washington, Senator Mushahid Hussain found himself facing the usual questions about how Pakistan can be taken seriously on Kashmir when our diplomats are singing the praises of Hizbul Mujahideen commanders at the United Nations. Senator Hussain gave the correct answer, which is that ‘one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter’. As much as that may make sense to us, though, we need to think about what the rest of the world is hearing which is that ‘your terrorists are our freedom fighters’. We are not convincing anyone that Hizbul Mujahideen are not terrorists. All we are doing is confirming India’s claim that Pakistan is the ‘mothership of terrorism‘.

We can blame whoever we want, but it cannot be denied that our efforts have achieved nothing till date but maintaining the status quo. We can compare Kashmir to Palestine, but in the words of one Pakistani scholar, “In case of Jammu & Kashmir there is not even that level of international support and interest that exists in the Palestinian question.” That scholar is none other than Husain Haqqani, and hate him however much you want, but you cannot deny that he is correct on this point.

That quote was taken from an interview Haqqani gave a few months ago in which he makes several very good points about the Kashmir crisis and how the war between right wing ideologies in both India and Pakistan make this crisis and all other regional crises worse.

Haqqani says that he considers himself a ‘pragmatic moderate’ and notes that ‘solving disputes first and then becoming friends is always more difficult than becoming friends first and then solving disputes’. However we continue to demand that relations can only improve once all disputes are solved. We are putting the cart before the horse.

Despite the failure of our strategy till date, we still have so-called ‘experts’ saying that the way forward is just doing more of the same. As we debate and discuss about enemy narratives and diplomatic offensives, something Haqqani said about his own pragmatic moderation: ‘This is not about winning the argument, this is about winning the peace’. We should ask ourselves whether we are more interested in winning the argument.

Come back Nadeem F Paracha! We need you!

NFPNadeem F Paracha, or ‘NFP’ as he’s also known, has one of the sharpest wits in the country. For a long time I have looked forward to his writings and TV appearances because he has always had a way of cutting through the BS to show the absurdity of so much that was taken too seriously. He was never mean spirited, but always pointed out the ridiculousness of ‘serious’ topics, giving a necessary injection of humour and helping break up the tension. However, something in his satire has changed since the past few years, and the old NFP seems to be missing right when we need him most.
Let me give you an example. This video produced by some Indians is exactly the sort of satire that I would have expected from NFP a few years ago. It’s not point scoring, it’s showing the absurdity of the situation we find ourselves in.

Lately, though, we are getting posts like this:

And Tweets about pigeons.


And articles about pigeons.

pigeonMy god, man…so many posts about pigeons!

Don’t get me wrong. India’s bizarre paranoia about spying pigeons is funny, but you’ve done that joke to death, man! This is the problem, I think. The satire, it has become…well…lazy.

NFP, I understand that you love Gen Raheel. We ALL do. He is the best thing we’ve had in my lifetime. And Modi is an easy target. TOO easy, almost. But we need the old NFP back. The guy who wasn’t going after easy targets, and wasn’t worshiping holy cows. If blind patriotism was going to save this country, WE’D be the world’s biggest superpower. What our country needs is someone with wits sharp enough to cut through the fog of war and show us the way out of this mess.

I know you love this country. We all do. And I know these are tense times. But look: the civilians are finally making their move. NFP, we need you to come back now.