Creating National Consensus Against Terrorism Requires Action, Not Just Words

COAS Gen Kayani

COAS Gen Kayani said earlier this month that the nation must create national consensus against terrorism. Of course, the Army Chief is 100 per cent correct, but the path to that consensus requires us to forge a new consensus on the legitimate use of force in society. Continue reading

Saving Karachi

Target-killing-in-Karachi

In the spring of 1992, a confident young mother of two took her children to Karachi, at the invitation of friends from college who now resided there. One bright afternoon, she took her children out for a walk to explore the city. They were only a few blocks away from her friend’s home when the sight of a bus stop covered in fresh, dripping red blood dripping caused her to scream. She immediately ran into a shop, called her friend to come get her, and went back to Lahore, shaken.

The young woman in that story was my mother. She told me this story a few weeks ago, as we were discussing the sharp rise of killings in Karachi. One isolated incident like the one my mother experienced is bad enough; today’s Karachi sees violence on a daily basis. The figures of 5, 7, 10 dead in a day have gripped the city with fear. Over 1,000 people have been killed in 2010 alone. Such murders are now being called “target killings” though we never know the details of why the victims were chosen. At its heart, Karachi is an economic center as well as being a diverse city. Ethnic tensions and political strife are alleged to be the main causes of the recent spate of murders, with each death sparking another round of targets.

This has to stop. The PPP government has called for an end to the violence, and is working with the MQM to stabilize the city. But this has to be a conscious effort from all sides. We must investigate each crime, and root out the individuals behind this. As Saba Imtiaz points out in Foreign Policy¸the sale of illegal guns continues unabated and it must be stopped. All political parties, community leaders, and the general public must stand together against brutal killings of Pakistani citizens

As the saying goes, “An eye for an eye will turn the whole world blind.” It is time we all worked together, regardless of ethnic origin or political affiliation, and rallied for peace.

Essential Element for Economic Growth

Everyone has their own opinion about what is needed for economic growth: RGST, eliminate loadshedding, more FDI, and of course the old favourite, end corruption. But what is too often missing from the discussion is the one essential element that must exist before we will see economic growth: peace.

China suffers from massive corruption, yet has economic growth. India suffers from loadshedding, yet has economic growth. What do these nation’s also have? Relative peace in the land. Yes every nation has sections that face more violence than others. But even the Naxalites only killed about 1,000 people in India last year. Compare that to the almost 5,000 Pakistanis who died from violence during the same period.

I was reminded of this point today when I saw Governor Punjab Latif Khosa on TV talking about Karachi:

We are finding ourselves in a vicious circle where lack of economic opportunity leads to violence, which leads to lack of economic opportunity that leads to violence…

We have to break the cycle. If we’re going to see economic growth not only in Karachi but in all of the nation, we have to stop the violence first.

A Modest Proposal

You shoot me, I shoot you right back. I have been thinking about the blasphemy laws and the veneration of Mumtaz Qadri, and I must admit that it has taken me a while to understand what is going on. But now that I have finally wrapped my brain around it, I wanted to be sure to share with my moderate and liberal friends who I fear are still trying to makes heads or tails of the situation.

Let’s start with a review of the facts:

First, Asia Bibi was convicted of blasphemy for allegedly saying that Jesus was equal to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Or something. Nobody really seems to be certain what she said. But we’re certain that it was insulting, whatever it was. After all, she’s a Christian, and that’s insulting enough.

When people began investigating the background of the case, though, they discovered that actually it all seems to have started because of an argument over a goat. Governor Punjab Salmaan Taseer took up the case saying that he wanted to make certain that the woman was not punished if she did not commit any crime.

Sahibzada Fazal Kareem, head of Sunni Ittehad Council, told AFP that a pardon of Asia Bibi “would lead to anarchy in the country”. Asia Bibi still sits in prison with no pardon.

Second, Mumtaz Qadri of the Elite Police Force turned his gun on the man he was sworn to protect and shot him the back. For this, he is being termed ‘Ghazi’. Lawyers showered the confessed killer with flowers, and Jamat Ahle Sunnat clerics threatened politicians and journalists with death if they do not support Qadri’s act.

Why did Mumtaz Qadri commit this act? The man he was sworn to protect, Salmaan Taseer, had termed the blasphemy laws ‘man-made law’ and said that it should be reviewed. Mumtaz Qadri disagreed with him.

Some have mistakenly said that Qadri killed Salmaan Taseer because of blasphemy, but this is not correct because Salmaan Taseer never committed any blasphemy.

Actually, Javed Ahmad Ghamidi also agrees that the law is man-made law and not divine law. Dr. Khalid Masood also has noted that the blasphemy laws are mis-used to promote injustice and that justification for these laws is questionable based on Quran. This is something that has been discussed and debated and there are differing positions even between respected scholars.

Salmaan Taseer, even if you disagree with his position, was not convicted of blasphemy. He was tried by no court and no sentence was handed down. His killer was not authorized to commit this act by any judge. Qadri was not even authorized by any fatwa. We know this because Mumtaz Qadri has said it himself. He simply woke up one morning and decided to shoot a man in the back because he disagreed with him.

Therefore we have now shown that Mumtaz Qadri shot a man in the back because he disagreed with him on an issue. So, we must ask, if shooting a man in the back because you disagree with him makes you a Ghazi, shouldn’t we all shoot in the back those who we disagree with? After all, don’t we all want to be Ghazis?

Think about the lawyers who are cheering their new hero. It makes perfect sense why they would idolize him. Everytime they go into a courtroom it is because there is a disagreement. And resolving these cases takes countless hours of preparation and sometimes years of making motions and giving evidence. Cases could be closed much more quickly if they just shot each other in the back.

For a similar reason, it is obvious why the Mullahs are supporting Qadri. Think of the theological disagreements that they have been studying and debating and arguing over for a thousand years or more. So much time could be saved and used for more important tasks like beard conditioning and turban folding if a cleric could just shoot the scholars he disagrees with in the back.

Or how about politics? Think of all the energy that is spend on campaigns and rallies and voting. It would be so much simpler if we should we all just go out and shoot supporters of the other political parties.

How about cricket? With today’s fast-paced society, test matches are nearly impossible to watch. Even ODIs are too long for many people. We’ve already created 20/20 to move things along more quickly, but imagine how soon a match would be completed if we just did away with bowling and batting and fielding and simply went straight to shooting everyone in the back.

As you can see, it makes perfect sense. This would surely increase our GDP also as we would create a booming new industry for guns, ammunition, and funerals. If we put a tax on bullets, we could raise enough money to close the tax-to-GDP gap that has the IMF so concerned. Plus, we would never have to listen to anyone we don’t agree with. What an incredibly wonderful world. So it’s settled from now on, there is only one rule – if you don’t like what someone says, shoot them in the back.

Let me know if you disagree. I’ll be happy to shoot you in the back.

Editor’s Note: This piece is satire only. Please do not shoot anyone in the back, front, or anywhere else. If you disagree, please simply leave a comment instead.

Power, Violence, and Conspiracy Theories

Hannah Arendt stampIn a column for The New York Times, Roger Cohen takes a look at the culture of conspiracy theories in the Arab world and comes to the conclusion that “minds resort to conspiracy theory because it is the ultimate refuge of the powerless”. What he was writing, though, could have just as easily been said about our own conspiracy culture.

To prove his point, Mr Cohen looks at the ridiculous conspiracy theories that seem to find an invisible American hand behind everything. What he finds is that with the twisted logic of the conspiracy theorist, “there can be no closure because events stream on endlessly, opening up boundless possibilities for ex post facto theorizing”.

To demonstrate that the twisted logic of the conspiracy theorist can be used to reach any conclusion, no matter how crazy, Mr Cohen uses their same reasoning to ‘prove’ that it was Iran, not the US, that invaded Iraq in 2003!

I know it appears that the United States was behind the invasion. What about “shock and awe” and all that? Hah! It is true that the deception was elaborate. But consider the facts: The invasion of Iraq has weakened the United States, Iran’s old enemy, and so it can only be — quod erat demonstrandum — that Tehran was the devious mastermind.

We see this same desperation in as they try to explain how Wikileaks is a conspiracy against Muslims. You see the same twisted logic when Hamid Gul says that America committed 9/11 against itself or when Zaid Hamid says 26/11 attacks were carried out by ‘Hindu Zionists’.

But what is happening in Pakistan is more than merely the powerless trying to make sense of the world around them. What is actually happening is that a powerless but ambitious group of people are using these conspiracy theories to manipulate a public that is desperate to find some sense behind all the chaos. By redirecting attention away from the real problems, problems that these powerless but ambitious souls have no solutions for, they manipulate the people’s emotions. It is part of a cynical strategy to get people to put their faith in these charlatans and give up power over their own lives.

The German political philosopher Hannah Arendt, in her book, On Violence theorized that violence is a tool for multiplying strength, but it is destructive only, not productive. Power, she says, corresponds to the human ability to act together towards a common purpose. Thus violence can destroy, but can never create power.

People like Ahmed Quraishi know too well what governments and covert agents are up to with their conspiracy theories. He has even said so himself, defending the release of the fake Wikileaks story by saying that “we can manipulate too”. He follows 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”.

This is where the true intentions of our conspiracy theorist set becomes clear – manipulate through propaganda as long as possible. When that stops working, resort to violence.

Conspiracy theories and coercion. These are the tools of the powerless, would-be tyrant. He is powerless because the truth is that, as Hannah Arendt observed, all power lies with the people. That is why would-be dictators and their pawns like Ahmed Quraishi must resort to the tricks and threats of the powerless. That is why the democracy is not only the best revenge, as Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto has said, but is also the antidote to conspiracy theories and coercion, the antidote to tyranny in all forms.