Pakistan’s Black Water

The Raymond Davis case continues to be passed around like a bowl of sour milk that no one wants to end up with. After the Foreign Office neglected its duty to determine the American agent’s diplomatic status and passed the case on to the LHC, the LHC has now determined that it too does not want to be responsible for making the determination and has passed the case on to the trial court. Meanwhile, religious groups continue to use the case to organize protests and conspiracywalas in media are making a picnic out of fears of American agents roaming the country and undermining Pakistan’s democracy. But while the hue and cry against American agents interfering against Pakistan’s sovereignty, hundreds of foreign fighters have been entering another Muslim country to undermine its own democratic movement and nobody seems to be paying attention.

Bahrain protesters attacked with tear gas on 13 Mar 2011

The people of Bahrain, following the example of Tunisia and Egypt, are attempting to rid themselves of a corrupt and brutal regime. The country’s rulers have responded by cracking down on pro-democracy protesters and declaring martial law. But those enforcing the corrupt government’s rule are increasingly foreign agents recruited to stamp down on pro-democracy protestors. But these foreign agents are not from the US – they are from Pakistan.

According to the Ahlul Bayt News Agency, a classified advertisement entitled “Urgent Requirement: Manpower for Bahrain National Guard” was recently placed on the website of a prominent Pakistani human resource firm that has close ties to the Pakistani military.

The advertisement said Bahrain was seeking to hire several categories of ex-military personnel, including anti-riot instructors, Pakistan Military Academy drill instructors, retired infantry majors, and military police.

The advertisement added that a delegation from the Bahrain National Guard would be visiting Pakistan for the purpose of selecting the Pakistani personnel from March 7 to March 14.

It is difficult to confirm the exact number of former Pakistani soldiers who have been recruited in response to the recent ad, but sources claim as many 800 Pakistanis have been hired in the past few weeks.

Human rights activists have long complained about the controversial practice of hiring large numbers of foreigners to serve in the Bahraini security forces to suppress political dissent in the kingdom.

Bahrain’s police, military, and national guard are staffed in large part by non-Bahraini citizens, mostly from Pakistan, Yemen, and Syria.

It is bad enough that the complaints against foreign agents in Pakistan are shown as sheer hypocrisy on the world stage, but there is a much more dangerous element to this story that must be examined. Pakistanis recruited to serve as pro-regime agents in Bahrain are not only undermining democracy in a Muslim state, they are also stoking sectarian tensions.

Earlier this year, Syed Nadir El Edroos asked ‘Will Bahrain’s sectarian divide impact Pakistan?’ In his post for Express Tribune the author makes an important point.

What makes events in Bahrain relevant to Pakistan is the sectarian divide in the country.

The Sunni minority in Bahrain has monopolised power while the Shia majority is systematically marginalised from public influence and control. With Saudi Arabia’s support, the Shia population has been systematically oppressed, as the fear of Iranian influence in Bahrain is considered a strategic liability.

Bahraini security forces recruit from across the region. Pakistanis, particularly from Balochistan along the Makran coast, are favoured recruits.

These Pakistanis are viewed as instruments of state oppression by the protestors. If the Bahraini regime were to fall, Pakistan as a willing supplier, nay ‘facilitator’ of Bahraini recruitment will not be viewed favourably by a new set of leaders.

Pakistan’s involvement in sectarian tensions in Bahrain could result in an even more dire outcome for our own country because it threatens to worsen sectarian tensions not only within our borders, but with our neighbor to the West the Shia state of Iran.

Pakistan itself is no stranger to sectarian violence, which has intensified in recent years. If the Bahraini regime falls as the Saudis and American’s fear, it would be seen as and portrayed by Iran as a victory of her interests. This would push the Saudis to intensify support for organisations that share it’s goals of containing Iran.

Such support for organisations in Pakistan, could lead to sectarian attacks and reprisals.

Though Nadir warns of this outcome in his post, I fear he misses the more important point. The correct strategy to protect Pakistan’s security is not to prop up the corrupt and anti-democratic regime in Bahrain, but to support democracy and the people of Bahrain deciding their own government. We must not take part in the same interventions that we complain of within our own borders.

We must face the fact that we have our own Black Water and that our own agents are propping up corrupt and anti-democratic regimes in Muslim countries. This not only undermines any moral authority we have to complain about foreign agents on our own soil, but in the worst case it threatens to undermine our own security as we experience ‘blow back’ from sectarian violence.

When Shah Ghazi bled

Nadeem Paracha

by Nadeem Paracha

There’s a war going on in Pakistan; in the mountains and in the cities.  A war enforced upon the people of the country by monsters that we have created ourselves. The enemy in this respect is clearly visible and yet we want to continue treating it like an elusive ghost.

Its targets are now obvious. But we dare not name them. But today, I will. These targets are those Pakistanis who have vigorously contributed in making Pakistan what it really used to be: a temperate, promising conglomerate of various ethnicities, religions and Muslim sects.

The Sunni Barelvis, the Shias, the Christians, the Hindus and the Ahmadis – they are all under attack in their places of worship and shrines. They are being attacked in the most remorseless manner by a rare, violent breed of animals that uncannily look like human beings but are nothing like them.

The suicide blasts yesterday (October 7) at Karachi’s revered Abdullah Shah Ghazi shrine in Clifton, is yet another reminder of the war each one of us faces. This attack will be thoroughly covered by the media, however, soon we will go back to lamenting the ‘barbarity of the US drone attacks,’ the ‘injustice faced by qaum ki beti’ Madam Aafia, and what glorious words that idiot, Faisal Shahzad, spouted at his sentencing …

If – as mindless babblers like Imran Khan, Hamid Gul, Zaid Hamid, right-wing anchors,investigative journalists and other such media fodder for reactionary whiplash would suggest – these inhuman assaults take place due to the drone attacks, I want to ask, exactly how many handlers and planners of these drones were present in all the mosques, shrines and bazaars that have been attacked by these monsters?

These babblers and the media feed us nonsense and we submissively accept it. These monsters keep maiming and murdering us by the hundreds, and all we can do is point towards the skies looking for the drones (that actually manage to eliminate many of these bloody brutes); or of course, within days it’s back to playing the confused ostriches or worse, paranoid hyperboles, loudly taking the roll call of the usual, imaginary suspects: India, Israel or the US

Just wait, one fine day you will also be able to see names like China and Iran on that sheet that is read and repeated ad nauseum. Yes sir, anything and anyone, but us.


Shah Ghazi is known by Karachiites as the city’s patron saint. According to tradition he arrived from Iraq in the eighth century to preach the kind of tolerant, pluralistic and empathetic Islam that the region has known for centuries.

His is the kind of faith that the so-called puritanical ogres scoff at and want to literally blow to pieces; a faith that the many otherwise ‘respectable-looking’ apologists of these monsters running amok on TV screens tell us is ‘wrong’ and ‘impure’.

They tell us it’s all a diabolical conspiracy against our faith and country. A conspiracy by the wretched Hindus, scheming Jews and of Western countries that are ironically visited quite frequently by this vivacious gung-ho gang of armchair and TV studio politicians, journalists and ‘experts’.

An implausible narrative is formed and gleefully peddled, as media men comment on the issue as if reading from a script of a bad James Bond movie, or a thrilling Ibn-i-Safi novel, in which fantastical plots are hatched by evil geniuses and dotty synchronistic connections made by the daring heroes.

Had the animated, hyperbolic weaver of epic tales about Muslim conquerors, Naseem Hijazi, been alive today, he would have made a great TV anchor/ ‘security analyst!’

________________________________________

Karachi has been evading the curse of the kind of delusion that feeds these blood-thirsty ogres and their shameless, populist defenders. The evasion maybe coming to an end, but not if the three main political parties of the city and Sindh restrain from indulging in the kind of petty squabbles they’ve been indulging in lately.

There is no doubt that it is the coalition of MQM, PPP and ANP that has kept Karachi saner and safer compared to the madness faced in this context by the people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the Punjab.

Sure, these parties have been a failure to reign in their respective anarchic renegades out on a targeted killing spree, but the consensus against psychotic extremists remains the strongest in Karachi and Sindh.

MQM (perhaps the toughest bulwark in Karachi against violent religious fanatics), I am afraid will have to cut short its sudden admiration of Madam Aafia; PPP will have to stop negating its own tough talk against extremism by indulging in populist, empty sloganeering; and the ANP (that has suffered so much at the hands of the faithful psychos in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) must stop ridiculing MQM’s concerns of the possibility of some Taliban gathering in disguise in the city’s Pashtun areas.

The Pakistani people, politicians and army have all suffered deaths and great tragedies in this war. But despite so much carnage and terror, Pakistanis are still looking for contrived and utterly convoluted answers that are readily given to them by the media and the small, manic political parties.

They are doing so because many of us are terrified of a simpler, to-the-point truth: these monsters are not only amidst us, but they are from among us!

If this nation has braved through so much terror and madness, then why do we continue to hide in fear from this one vital truth. We must realise that without owning up to this truth, this country will never be able to rid itself from the blood-soaked quagmire it has gotten itself into.

This article originally appeared on the Dawn Blog.

Has Jinnah’s Pakistan become an intolerant nation?

The calamitous reality of the situation can no longer be denied; nor can we hide behind political correctness whilst the ideals and principles Pakistan was founded upon go up in ruins. Pakistan has indeed become a dangerous place for minorities. The Quaid’s nation – which was supposed to be a free and safe haven for all to live in peace – has had blood spilt for decades.

In the past twenty years, over 4,000 people have been killed due to sectarian violence. We are reminded of this on every occasion dear to minorities.

Take the recent attacks on Shiites – after the grim attacks on Ashura, we are now reeling from attacks this past Friday that killed even more, tore the lives apart of hardworking Pakistanis.

Take the frightful national attitude towards Ahmadis. There are laws in place that would deny an Ahmadi a Pakistani passport. There are televangelists, like Aamir Liaqat and scores like him, who declare the murder of an Ahmadi to be perfectly Islamic. Is anyone therefore truly shocked when there are Ahmadis killed after this holy decree?

Take the recent case of a 12-year old Christian girl Shazia Masih. This child, already a victim of the shackles of generational poverty, was beaten, tortured and finally murdered by her employer, a wealthy Muslim lawyer. The police initially did not want to investigate the charges filed by Shazia’s family! Look what we have become…a nation where we do not even respect the basic human rights of our people!

As Huma Yusuf points out in her Dawn article , we can look to the opinion-makers and trendsetters to see where this is coming from and where it gains momentum.

 

Indeed, intolerance is very much a characteristic of Pakistani society, a fact obvious to anyone who follows the media. Take, for instance, the highly sensationalised, racist jibe at Senator Babar Ghauri by Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf chief Imran Khan. Khan resorted to racism as a response to Ghauri’s accusation that he had an illegitimate child. But the ease with which he opted for the race card — and the resounding applause that met his comment — indicates that intolerance is thriving here.

Khan’s one-off insult cannot, however, compare with the consistent intolerance preached by other prominent personalities. Pakistani bloggers have made much of self-proclaimed strategic analyst Zaid Hamid’s Wake Up Pakistan campaign, which is explicitly anti-India. Although the campaign calls for an “ideological revolution” that restores the Muslim identity of the Pakistani state, Hamid’s dream of Radio Pakistan broadcasting from New Delhi has come to symbolise the no-compromises attitude of this particular movement.

What can be said of a nation where these men have a respected platform and their calls for racism, sectatianism, military takeovers are met with wild applause?

The fact is, Imran Khan and Zaid Hamid are not isolated individuals. They are demonstrative e of the national of “us versus them” mentality. Them, of course, refers to the Ahmadis, Shiites, Hindus, Jews, Buddhists, et al.

This is a reality that should break the heart of every true Pakistani.

We do not respect personal choices. We do not allow for individuality. We do not accept minorities (be they women or people with different religions) as having human rights. We do not believe in common decency.

In order to stop our county from spiraling downwards, we have to create and maintain a grassroots movement for tolerance while our political leaders call for fair treatment and brotherhood. Only with a concerted effort can Pakistan live up the Quaid’s vision.

 

 

Musical denial

It was an August day when my cousin Navid and I were standing in the rain, by the edge of the Hudson River. He was somber, having decided to drop the cheerful façade he’d maintained throughout his visit to New York City. The wind blew his hair from his eyes; I saw tears.

Looking away from me and in a low voice, he recounted the night he learned his friend died as a result of a suicide bomb. A witness who survived said Abbas had been standing outside the Shi’ite mosque, turning off his music player before any of the older men could give him disapproving looks. He had loved Junoon, a popular rock band. He must have been near the bomber, maybe even glanced up and said “Salaam.” Something about the innocence of Abbas’ last act — turning off his music so the imam wouldn’t get mad — touched me deeply.

“It’s funny,” Navid said, looking suddenly at me. “That night it rained hard, like this.” Sitting outside the red-sanded steps of Abbas’ house that very night, the group of young friends knew things had changed. Going through the motions of consoling the family and being there for one another, they knew something foreign had entered their worlds. They were now face to face with the cancer of extremism, something that had always seemed so far away, because it affected the regions up north. Now it was in Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore.

Coming from a Muslim family with relatives throughout the world, I can many times  connect the events in the news to people I know. I try to keep the two worlds apart though, but at times the they are too strongly linked.

As with this story.

 

This New York Times video details the Pakistani rock music scene. The truth may startle some not familiar with a public who uses anti-Americanism as a crutch against many national issues.

Junoon’s beloved lead singer, Ali Azmat, is now on a solo career and has become an icon. He has stopped singing about love and heartbreak, and, like many other musicians, now chooses to sing with current affairs.

The alarming anti-Americanism in the top songs of Pakistan is unsettling.

When asked if he would ever sing about the 200 girls’ schools that were blown up, Azmat looked slightly taken aback but then an expression of denial crossed his face and he declared “You can’t blame the Taliban for that! Where is the funding coming from? It is the agenda of the neo-cons to de-Islamize Pakistan.” His songs routinely condemn the United States for meddling in Pakistan’s affairs, for infringing upon Pakistan’s territory and causing the problems the nation faces today.

Another popular band, the Noori brothers, sat relaxed and carefree, with the most nonchalant expressions as they agreed “The Taliban are amongst the smallest problems Pakistan faces. The West is affected by the Taliban, we’re not.”

Pakistan has been rocked by devastating terrorism this past month; one wonders if the Noori brothers and Ali Azmat mourn for the countless killed, wounded, traumatized…or is their grief reserved for the US?

I should note one of the brothers wore a shirt that said “Not terrorized enough.” Well, exactly how many deaths and how much destruction will it take before it IS enough?

I find it absolutely ironic these musicians are complaining about the west trying to rid Pakistan of the Taliban. The militants are killing Pakistanis every single day, these militants wouldn’t even support the right to music, and yet…and yet we have people in positions of influence being grossly irresponsible and pathetic.

I am at a loss to understand this. I cannot comprehend the thought process it must take to blame the United States, India and Israel for the violence that paralyzes the nation. Bombings at mosques, like the one that killed Abbas, explosions at schools and markets, suicide bombings at aid organizations…how can this all be blamed on others?

What is more disturbing is how their opinions have gained traction amongst the youth.

In his last blog, which can be found here:http://blog.dawn.com/2009/11/12/a-nation-of-sleepwalkers, Nadeem Paracha implores Pakistanis to gather their wits about them. Regarding the bombings at International Islamic University in Islamabad, he writes

Here we have a university that was attacked by a psychotic suicide bomber who slaughtered and injured dozens of students so he could get his share of hooris in Paradise. The attack was then proudly owned by the Tekrik-e-Taliban Pakistan. And in its wake, we saw enraged students protesting against the Kerry-Lugar act? What a response!
What did the Kerry-Lugar act have to do with the suicide attack? Wasn’t this remarkably idiotic ‘protest rally’ by the students actually an insult to those who were so mercilessly slaughtered by holy barbarians?

He highlights the Pakistani media’s love of the conspiracy-minded mentality, and cites an incident after a suicide attack in Peshawar:

One shop-owner who said he lost more than millions of rupees worth of goods in the blast was slightly taken aback when the anchor asked him who he thought was behind the bomb attack. For a few seconds he looked curiously at the anchor’s face, as if wondering why would a major TV news channel be asking a question whose answer was so obvious. ‘What do you mean, who was responsible?’ he asked. ‘The Taliban, of course!’

In a time where Islamic clergy are taking a stand against the Taliban and suicide bombings (and often being killed for their bravery), it is a downright shame the leading musicians choose to spread an ignorant message of blame and denial.