Choosing Sides, Choosing Isolation

Two important news stories have been reported in the international media that point to a digging in of entrenched positions that are further isolating Pakistan in the world community.

First was the story reported in The New York Times that US is considering withholding $255 Million in military aid due to ‘dissatisfaction with Pakistan’s broader intransigence toward confronting the terrorist networks that operate there’. Specifically, the Americans are frustrated because Pakistani agencies refuse to let them talk to a Haqqani Network militant captured in the raid that freed American hostages earlier this year.

It is a very interesting question why our agencies don’t want the Americans to talk to a Haqqani Network militant, even after he was captured in a raid with foreign hostages. Are they afraid of what he might tell them about receiving support from certain elements within the establishment? Even if this is all a conspiracy theory, isn’t it true that preventing him from speaking to American law enforcement only makes the establishment look more guilty?

The second story comes from a recent appearance of Palestinian Ambassador to Pakistan Walid Abu Ali on stage at a Difa-e-Pakistan rally standing next to none other than Hafiz Saeed who was freed once again a few weeks ago. Ironically the Jamaatud Dawah chief was set free after “a senior finance ministry official failed to convince the board that the release of Saeed would bring diplomatic and financial problems”. Diplomatic problems have certainly come into play, however, as Palestine has recalled its Ambassador due to his appearance with Hafiz Saeed on the DPC stage.

According to a statement by the Palestinian Foreign Ministry, “The State of Palestine highly appreciates India’s support in its tireless efforts to end the Israeli occupation” and terms attendees of the rally in Rawalpindi as “individuals accused of supporting terrorism”.

Blind and deaf to the diplomatic disaster that had broken, our own Foreign Office issued its own statement defending the recalled Ambassador and defending Hafiz Saeed.

In these two highly sensitive matters, it appears the state has chosen to side with the controversial militants rather than foreign governments. In this case both the US and Palestine. In the case of the Americans, even our own frustration with their unreliability does not explain what we gain from hiding a captured militant and looking guilty of their accusations. The case of Palestine is even more puzzling. By all appearances we have simply decided that these militant groups are more important diplomatic allies than world powers or oppressed Muslims.

Finally, it must be noted with some additional irony that in one report on these stories, Dawn termed Husain Haqqani as ‘disgraced ambassador’. While Pakistan receives multiple black eyes from internationally blacklisted militants, petty journalists continue peddling personal jealousies and prejudices instead of educating the nation about the very dangerous path that these stories show we are heading down. As one international analyst noted on Twitter, far from ‘disgraced,’ these stories appear to have ‘vindicated‘ Husain Haqqani and what he has been trying to warn us about since long.

Human Rights Hyperopia

difficulty seeing

Pakistanis are known as the most charitable people of the world. We contribute more troops to UN peacekeeping missions than any other country. We have been outspoken leaders on issues of human rights. Despite all of these undeniable facts, there is still an undeniable problem. Hyperopia is the medical term for farsighted, the condition in which a person can see things clearly when they are at a distance, but those same things fall out of focus when they are close up. Therefore our commitment to human rights is undeniable, but I believe it also suffers from this condition hyperopia.

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Case Studies in Dignity & Self Respect: Turkey vs. Iran

Obama listening to Turkish PM Erdogan

Yesterday I wrote about Dignity, Integrity & Self Respect and how to get there. I argued that these qualities can’t be gained by intransigence, deception and denial, but must be earned through honesty, sincerity and responsibility. Today I want to follow up with some examples from modern geo-politics that demonstrate my point.

Earlier this month, Turkey announced that it will partner with the US to host part of NATO’s missile defence system.

Under the Nato plans, a limited system of US anti-missile interceptors and radars already planned for Europe – to include interceptors in Romania and Poland as well as the radar in Turkey – would be linked to expanded European-owned missile defences. That would create a broad system that protected every Nato country against medium-range missile attack.

This makes sense for Turkey since it will help protect the nation’s security. But it doesn’t mean that Turkey is an American stooge or a servant of Western hegemony. Far from it. At the same time that Turkey was cooperating with the Americans to secure its borders, they also expelled the Israeli ambassador when he refused to apologise for the Gaza flotilla raid that killed Turkish citizens and spoke out loudly in favour of Palestinian rights. If one were to listen to our ghairatmand conspiracy walas, this would be a seeming impossibility. How can a country be partners with the Americans and not fall prey to their US-Hindu-Zionist mind control? Because Turkey is reasonable and realistic, it is respected when it disagrees with the US and taken seriously on the world stage.

Compare this to Iran that rigs elections, spreads ridiculous conspiracy theories, and acts as a destabilisers in the region. When Turkey speaks out about a serious issue like the rights of Palestinians or economic markets, the world listens. When Iran rants and terms the holocaust “myth”, the world laughs at them. And when they speak out for the rights of Palestinians, nobody listens. This week’s UN meeting is a case in point.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, much diminished at home by his confrontation with the country’s supreme leader, has said the same thing so many times at the United Nations that it has taken on the aura of a ritual monotony. When a Western ambassador was asked what he anticipated from Mr. Ahmadinejad’s speech, he quipped, “We are preparing our usual contingency walkout plan.”

Right on schedule, Mr. Ahmadinejad prompted a walkout by the United States and Europe by implying that conspiracies lay behind the Sept. 11 attacks and the Holocaust.

This is the question we need to ask ourselves. Do we want to be indignant or effective? Being indignant is easy. All you have to do is pound your fist and point your finger and don’t give a damn what anyone else thinks. You can feel self-righteous and superiour, but you will never succeed in changing anything.

The other choice is to be effective. That requires being realistic and being responsible. It requires taking a long view of history, recognising our limitations, and working towards achievable solutions even if they come only incrementally. When a country follows the Turkish path, it has the ear of world leaders. And when you have the respect of the world, self respect comes naturally.