The real America, CIA And Terrorism In Pakistan

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How a growing number of American commentators are concluding that the United States is closely working with the same terror groups it publicly condemns, using them to silently attack its Pakistani ally.

by MIKE WHITNEY

WASHINGTON, DC—When CIA agent Raymond Davis gunned down two Pakistani civilians in broad daylight on a crowded street in Lahore, he probably never imagined that the entire Washington establishment would spring to his defense. But that’s precisely what happened. Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Mike Mullen, John Kerry, Leon Panetta and a number of other US bigwigs have all made appeals on Davis’s behalf. None of these stalwart defenders of "the rule of law" have shown a speck of interest in justice for the victims or of even allowing the investigation to go forward so they could know what really happened. Oh, no. What Clinton and the rest want, is to see their man Davis packed onto the next plane to Langley so he can play shoot-’em-up someplace else in the world.

Does Clinton know that after Davis shot his victims 5 times in the back, he calmly strode back to his car, grabbed his camera, and photographed the dead bodies? Does she know that the two so-called "diplomats" who came to his rescue in a Land Rover (which killed a passerby) have been secretly spirited out of the country so they won’t have to appear in court? Does she know that the families of the victims are now being threatened and attacked to keep them from testifying against Davis?

Here’s a clip from Thursday’s edition of The Nation:

"Three armed men forcibly gave poisonous pills to Muhammad Sarwar, the uncle of Shumaila Kanwal, the widow of Fahim shot dead by Raymond Davis, after barging into his house in Rasool Nagar, Chak Jhumra.
Sarwar was rushed to Allied Hospital in critical condition where doctors were trying to save his life till early Thursday morning. The brother of Muhammad Sarwar told The Nation that three armed men forced their entry into the house after breaking the windowpane of one of the rooms. When they broke the glass, Muhammad Sarwar came out. The outlaws started beating him up.

The other family members, including women and children, coming out for his rescue, were taken hostage and beaten up. The three outlaws then took everyone hostage at gunpoint and forced poisonous pills down Sarwar’s throat." ("Shumaila’s uncle forced to take poisonous pills", The Nation)

Good show, Hillary. We’re all about the rule of law in the good old USA.
But why all the intrigue and arm-twisting? Why has the State Department invoked the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations to make its case that Davis is entitled to diplomatic immunity? If Davis is innocent, then he has nothing to worry about, right? Why not let the trial go forward and stop reinforcing the widely-held belief that Davis is a vital cog in the US’s clandestine operations in Pakistan?

The truth is that Davis had been photographing sensitive installations and madrassas for some time, the kind of intelligence gathering that spies do when scouting-out prospective targets. Also, he’d been in close contact with members of terrorist organizations, which suggests a link between the CIA and terrorist incidents in Pakistan.

Here’s an excerpt from Wednesday’s The Express Tribune:

"His cell phone has revealed contacts with two ancillaries of al Qaeda in Pakistan, Tehreek-e-Taliban of Pakistan (TTP) and sectarian Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), which has led to the public conclusion that he was behind terrorism committed against Pakistan’s security personnel and its people ….This will strike people as America in cahoots with the Taliban and al Qaeda against the state of Pakistan targeting, as one official opined, Pakistan’s nuclear installations." ("Raymond Davis: The plot thickens, The Express Tribune)
"Al Qaeda"? The CIA is working with "ancillaries of al Qaeda in Pakistan"? No wonder the US media has been keeping a wrap on this story for so long.

Naturally, most Pakistanis now believe that the US is colluding with terrorists to spread instability, weaken the state, and increase its power in the region. But isn’t that America’s M.O. everywhere?
Also, many people noticed that US drone attacks suddenly stopped as soon as Davis was arrested. Was that a coincidence? Not likely. Davis was probably getting coordinates from his new buddies in the tribal hinterland and then passing them along to the Pentagon. The drone bombings are extremely unpopular in Pakistan. More than 1400 people have been killed since August 2008, and most of them have been civilians.

And, there’s more. This is from (Pakistan’s) The Nation:
"A local lawyer has moved a petition in the court of Additional District and Sessions … contending that the accused (Davis)… was preparing a map of sensitive places in Pakistan through the GPS system installed in his car. He added that mobile phone SIMs, lethal weapons, and video cameras were recovered from the murdere-accused on January 27, 2011." ("Davis mapped Pakistan targets court told", The Nation)

So, Davis’s GPS chip was being used to identify targets for drone attacks in the tribal region. Most likely, he was being assisted on the other end by recruits or members of the Tehreek-e-Taliban.
A lot of extravagant claims have been made about what Davis was up to, much of which is probably just speculation. One report which appeared on ANI news service is particularly dire, but produces little evidence to support its claims. Here’s an excerpt:
"Double murder-accused US official Raymond Davis has been found in possession of top-secret CIA documents, which point to him or the feared American Task Force 373 (TF373) operating in the region, providing Al-Qaeda terrorists with "nuclear fissile material" and "biological agents," according to a report.

Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) is warning that the situation on the sub-continent has turned "grave" as it appears that open warfare is about to break out between Pakistan and the United States, The European Union Times reports…..The most ominous point in this SVR report is "Pakistan’s ISI stating that top-secret CIA documents found in Davis’s possession point to his, and/or TF373, providing to al Qaeda terrorists "nuclear fissile material" and "biological agents", which they claim are to be used against the United States itself in order to ignite an all-out war in order to re-establish the West’s hegemony over a Global economy that is warned is just months away from collapse," the paper added. ("CIA Spy Davis was giving nuclear bomb material to Al Qaeda, says report", ANI)

Although there’s no way to prove that this is false, it seems like a bit of a stretch. But that doesn’t mean that what Davis was up to shouldn’t be taken seriously. Quite the contrary. If Davis was working with Tehreek-e-Taliban, (as alleged in many reports) then we can assume that the war on terror is basically a ruse to advance a broader imperial agenda. According to Sify News, the president of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari, believes this to be the case. Here’s an excerpt:

"Zalmay Khalilzad, the former US envoy to Afghanistan, once brushed off Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari’s claim, that the US was “arranging” the (suicide) attacks by Pakistani Taliban inside his country, as ‘madness’, and was of the view that both Zardari and Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who believed in this US conspiracy theory, were “dysfunctional” leaders.
The account of Zardari’s claim about the US’ hand in the attacks has been elaborately reproduced by US journalist Bob Woodward, on Page 116 of his famous book ‘Obama’s Wars,’ The News reported.
Woodward’s account goes like this: “One evening during the trilateral summit (in Washington, between Obama, Karzai and Zardari) Zardari had dinner with Zalmay Khalilzad, the 58-year-old former US ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq and the UN, during the Bush presidency.

“Zardari dropped his diplomatic guard. He suggested that one of the two countries was arranging the attacks by the Pakistani Taliban inside his country: India or the US. Zardari didn’t think India could be that clever, but the US could. Karzai had told him the US was behind the attacks, confirming the claims made by the Pakistani ISI.”
“Mr President,” Khalilzad said, “what would we gain from doing this? You explain the logic to me.”
“This was a plot to destabilize Pakistan, Zardari hypothesized, so that the US could invade and seize its nuclear weapons. He could not explain the rapid expansion in violence otherwise. And the CIA had not pursued the leaders of the Pakistani Taliban, a group known as Tehreek-e-Taliban or TTP that had attacked the government. TTP was also blamed for the assassination of Zardari’s wife, Benazir Bhutto.” ("Pakistan President says CIA Involved in Plot to Destabilize Country and Seize Nukes", Sify News)
Zardari’s claim will sound familiar to those who followed events in Iraq. Many people are convinced that the only rational explanation for the wave of bombings directed at civilians was that the violence was caused by those groups who stood to gain from a civil war.

And who might that be?
Despite the Obama administration’s efforts to derail the investigation, the case against Davis is going forward. Whether he is punished or not is irrelevant. This isn’t about Davis anyway. It’s a question of whether the US is working hand-in-hand with the very organizations that it publicly condemns in order to advance its global agenda. If that’s the case, then the war on terror is a fraud.

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Owners of ARY TV Agrees to Become Party For Monetary Benefit

 

NBP Mafia Prove Mettle by Dictating Terms; ARY TV Anchor Set to Resign if Programme Not Released

By Tariq Khattak

The owners of ARY have reportedly agreed not to bring cases of massive corruption in the National Bank of Pakistan after assurance by the Bank and some leading businessmen that they will get a soft loan of Rs 100 million.

The bank has started preparations to transfer funds to the account of the owners of ARY TV at a Dubai bank.

It may be recalled that ARY’s anchor Dr. Danish on February 26th brought to lime light some corruption cases in the Bank including the issue of Dr. Mirza Ibrar Baig, alleged to be Indian spy.

He was called a security risk in the light of reports by civilian and military security agencies. Those defending the bank could not answer the questions raised by the anchor person.

During his TV programme “Sawal Ya hai” Dr. Danish also announced to run another programme on Feb 27th. That programme was recorded but was never released.

Sources in the bank say that Anwar Majeed and Riaz Laljee, both close friends of President Zardari, perused the owners of TV channel to stop telecasting anything against National Bank.

Dr. Danish is said to be very upset about the development and wants to resign. He says that he will join any group that will agree to run the programme regarding National Bank.

The situation also speaks of the strength of mafia ruling the roost in the National Bank of Pakistan. That mafia is minting billions bringing the institution down.

It may be mentioned that Baig is chief of HR in the bank and he has successfully foiled all inquiries against him by offering jobs to the relatives of investigating officers, insiders said.

He recently resigned from the bank but the administration didn’t accepted his resignation. Sources said that Chief Justice should take note of the situation and take apprioprate action.

Journalists’ unions should also raise voiceon the issue, they added.

It was earlier reported in the allvoices that Dr. Mirza Ibrar Baig, Senior Executive Vice President (SEVP) National Bank of Pakistan (NBP), has resigned following renewed investigations against him by different security agencies on serious charges levelled against him over the years.

Baig has been under the radar since years and alleged by the national security establishment for being an India spy. His suspicious activities continues despite being under probe that only helped the suspicions of agencies against him, insiders said.

Senior Executive Vice President Group Head Human Resource Management and Administration Group Mr. Baig, an Indian by birth, got Pakistani nationality by tempering with papers and bypassing law of the land.

He remained under investigations by various national security agencies since long. However, he managed to neutralise some probing officers by providing incentives that included appointments of relatives of those who were digging into his past, documents available with this scribe said.

Sources say that the accused may be charged soon for offences in the court of law.

The acting President NBP, Qamar Hussain, hasn’t accepted Baig’s resignation so far, insiders said. Influential Qamar got himself appointed against a specially created post in the bank while the SBP, failing test of being a good regulator repeatedly, decided to overlook many critical requirements.

The Ministry of Finance, that backed former President Ali Raza for over a decade, is still supporting him and providing all benefits to him. Many top officials of the ministry have their close relatives appointed in the NBP against lucrative posts. They have forced bank to sign deals with businesses run by their blood relatives.

Those is the power including Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Sheikh are said to be avoiding appointment of a President on permanent basis in NBP as the present president would do anything to please them irrespective of what rules and regulations say.

This is the reason the Finance Minister has been avoiding appointment of a proper Board of Directors in the bank since March 2010. The current board consist of only three while regulations say that a board must comprise of five members, insiders said.

Thus, all the decisions of the NBP BoD stands illegal and open to litigation in the courts. Present government try to cheat masses with window dressing and has never opted for a fundamental change for improvement of dwindling economy, they added.

Corruption is a way of life for elite in Pakistan which has kept millions under the poverty line and send economy in the tailspin.

Sources said that Mr. Qamar is providing hefty loans to politicians and other influential including defaulters and those who got loans waived worth billions.

Those who are getting major share in the pie are all close to President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari. These include Islam uddin Sheikh, Riaz Laljee, Iqbal Z Ahmed and Anwar Majeed etc.

The questions remained to be answered in that why NBP is the only government owned commercial bank that will fund projects like the RPP’s that are owned by Iqbal Z. Ahmed and Anwar Majeed. It would happily extend loans to companies that give Mir Raza son of Ali Raza allocations of LPG without him having a LPG marketing company

All the projects that Mr. Zardari’s front men wanted funded was being done by Mr. Syed Ali Raza former President and brother Syed Salim Raza, former governor SBP and involved in money laundering scam.

Not in distant past, Majeed and Zardari decided to expand their business empire and Ali Raza even went to extent of cancelling the loans for Dewan Groups sugar and cement mills to enable the Anwar-Zardari team to buy these assets at throwaway prices.

Supreme Court and Public Accounts Committee need to realise that NBP is a premier bank which has been bailing out many businesses and institutions facing financial difficulties. What if it fails due to unabated corruption of crooked bankers and their political masters?

I am a Blasphemer

 

By Sana Saleem

iFor those unaware of the context, recent debate on the reformation on the Blasphemy law has triggered a spate of violence. With high profile targets like Governor Salmaan Taseer & Minority Minister Shahbaz Bhatti being the recent targets. Those who targeted them have justified it under the name of ‘blasphemy‘. Being a Muslim, nothing hurts me more than cold-blooded murder being justified in the name of Islam.

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I am a blasphemer

I am a blasphemer because my heart cries every time a human is slaughtered in the name of religion

I am in shambles whenever the ‘up holders’ of religion use it to justify murder.

I am a blasphemer because my tears do not recognize the difference between an Ahmedi, Shia, Wahabbi, Barelvi, Christian, Hindu, Muslim or an Atheist

It pains to witness the mosques being used as the barracks of demagogues instead of as a place to unite believers in remembrance and prayer.

I am a blasphemer because my faith in God is stronger than any offensive word, or action committed. I refuse to be offended by people who disagree with me.

I am appalled when sermons, meant to deliver messages of faith, call out for blood.

I am a blasphemer because inciting violence in the name of Islam offends me more than caricatures.

I disown every single sermon, fatwa, and cleric that uses my religion, my scripture, and my hadiths to validate their thirst for authority.

I am a blasphemer because I choose to speak; to question.
I want to ask, why?
Why are people allowed to silence words with bullets?
I want to ask, what?
What religion, ideology or culture justifies celebrating cold blooded murder?
I want to ask, where?
Where are all the promises of peace, co-existence, plurality that were promised by God’s men?
I want to ask, how?
How did the word of God, which was meant to guide us and hold us together in compassion, became the decree for murder?
I want to ask, who?
Who will put an end to this madness?

When will we realize that bigotry feeds intolerance?

But I know you wont answer me.
Ignore me. Oppress me.
Silence me with your bullets.

Because, I am a blasphemer

The author is Feature Editor (South Asia) at BEE magazine. BEE is a quarterly journal published in Britain, focusing on Asian Women. Blogger at The Guardian, Global Voices, Dawn.com & Asian Correspondent.

Saudis mobilise thousands of troops to quell growing revolt

 

By Robert Fisk, Middle East Correspondent

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Saudi security forces in armoured vehicles responding to the threat of a Shia uprising this week

Saudi security forces in armoured vehicles responding to the threat of a Shia uprising this week

Saudi Arabia was yesterday drafting up to 10,000 security personnel into its north-eastern Shia Muslim provinces, clogging the highways into Dammam and other cities with busloads of troops in fear of next week’s "day of rage" by what is now called the "Hunayn Revolution".

Saudi Arabia’s worst nightmare – the arrival of the new Arab awakening of rebellion and insurrection in the kingdom – is now casting its long shadow over the House of Saud. Provoked by the Shia majority uprising in the neighbouring Sunni-dominated island of Bahrain, where protesters are calling for the overthrow of the ruling al-Khalifa family, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia is widely reported to have told the Bahraini authorities that if they do not crush their Shia revolt, his own forces will.

The opposition is expecting at least 20,000 Saudis to gather in Riyadh and in the Shia Muslim provinces of the north-east of the country in six days, to demand an end to corruption and, if necessary, the overthrow of the House of Saud. Saudi security forces have deployed troops and armed police across the Qatif area – where most of Saudi Arabia’s Shia Muslims live – and yesterday would-be protesters circulated photographs of armoured vehicles and buses of the state-security police on a highway near the port city of Dammam.

Although desperate to avoid any outside news of the extent of the protests spreading, Saudi security officials have known for more than a month that the revolt of Shia Muslims in the tiny island of Bahrain was expected to spread to Saudi Arabia. Within the Saudi kingdom, thousands of emails and Facebook messages have encouraged Saudi Sunni Muslims to join the planned demonstrations across the "conservative" and highly corrupt kingdom. They suggest – and this idea is clearly co-ordinated – that during confrontations with armed police or the army next Friday, Saudi women should be placed among the front ranks of the protesters to dissuade the Saudi security forces from opening fire.

If the Saudi royal family decides to use maximum violence against demonstrators, US President Barack Obama will be confronted by one of the most sensitive Middle East decisions of his administration. In Egypt, he only supported the demonstrators after the police used unrestrained firepower against protesters. But in Saudi Arabia – supposedly a "key ally" of the US and one of the world’s principal oil producers – he will be loath to protect the innocent.

So far, the Saudi authorities have tried to dissuade their own people from supporting the 11 March demonstrations on the grounds that many protesters are "Iraqis and Iranians". It’s the same old story used by Ben Ali of Tunisia and Mubarak of Egypt and Bouteflika of Algeria and Saleh of Yemen and the al-Khalifas of Bahrain: "foreign hands" are behind every democratic insurrection in the Middle East.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Mr Obama will be gritting their teeth next Friday in the hope that either the protesters appear in small numbers or that the Saudis "restrain" their cops and security; history suggests this is unlikely. When Saudi academics have in the past merely called for reforms, they have been harassed or arrested. King Abdullah, albeit a very old man, does not brook rebel lords or restive serfs telling him to make concessions to youth. His £27bn bribe of improved education and housing subsidies is unlikely to meet their demands.

An indication of the seriousness of the revolt against the Saudi royal family comes in its chosen title: Hunayn. This is a valley near Mecca, the scene of one of the last major battles of the Prophet Mohamed against a confederation of Bedouins in AD630. The Prophet won a tight victory after his men were fearful of their opponents. The reference in the Koran, 9: 25-26, as translated by Tarif el-Khalidi, contains a lesson for the Saudi princes: "God gave you victory on many battlefields. Recall the day of Hunayn when you fancied your great numbers.

"So the earth, with all its wide expanse, narrowed before you and you turned tail and fled. Then God made his serenity to descend upon his Messenger and the believers, and sent down troops you did not see – and punished the unbelievers." The unbelievers, of course, are supposed – in the eyes of the Hunayn Revolution – to be the King and his thousand princes.

Like almost every other Arab potentate over the past three months, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia suddenly produced economic bribes and promised reforms when his enemy was at the gates. Can the Arabs be bribed? Their leaders can, perhaps, especially when, in the case of Egypt, Washington was offering it the largest handout of dollars – $1.5bn (£800m) – after Israel. But when the money rarely trickles down to impoverished and increasingly educated youth, past promises are recalled and mocked. With oil prices touching $120 a barrel and the Libyan debacle lowering its production by up to 75 per cent, the serious economic – and moral, should this interest the Western powers – question, is how long the "civilised world" can go on supporting the nation whose citizens made up almost all of the suicide killers of 9/11?

The Arabian peninsula gave the world the Prophet and the Arab Revolt against the Ottomans and the Taliban and 9/11 and – let us speak the truth – al-Qa’ida. This week’s protests in the kingdom will therefore affect us all – but none more so than the supposedly conservative and definitely hypocritical pseudo-state, run by a company without shareholders called the House of Saud.

As Pakistan battles extremism, it needs allies’ patience and help

 

By Asif Ali Zardari

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Just days before her assassination, my wife, Shaheed Benazir Bhutto, wrote presciently of the war within Islam and the potential for a clash between Islam and the West: "There is an internal tension within Muslim society. The failure to resolve that tension peacefully and rationally threatens to degenerate into a collision course of values spilling into a clash between Islam and the West. It is finding a solution to this internal debate within Islam – about democracy, about human rights, about the role of women in society, about respect for other religions and cultures, about technology and modernity – that shall shape future relations between Islam and the West."

Two months ago my friend Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab, was cut down for standing up against religious intolerance and against those who would use debate about our laws to divide our people. On Tuesday, another leading member of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Shahbaz Bhatti, the minister for minority affairs and the only Christian in our cabinet, was murdered by extremists tied to al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

These assassinations painfully reinforce my wife’s words and serve as a warning that the battle between extremism and moderation in Pakistan affects the success of the civilized world’s confrontation with the terrorist menace.

A small but increasingly belligerent minority is intent on undoing the very principles of tolerance upon which our nation was founded in 1947; principles by which Pakistan’s founder, Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, lived and died; and principles that are repeated over and over in the Koran. The extremists who murdered my wife and friends are the same who blew up the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad and who have blown up girls’ schools in the Swat Valley.

We will not be intimidated, nor will we retreat. Such acts will not deter the government from our calibrated and consistent efforts to eliminate extremism and terrorism. It is not only the future of Pakistan that is at stake but peace in our region and possibly the world.

Our nation is pressed by overlapping threats. We have lost more soldiers in the war against terrorism than all of NATO combined. We have lost 10 times the number of civilians who died on Sept. 11, 2001. Two thousand police officers have been killed. Our economic growth was stifled by the priorities of past dictatorial regimes that unfortunately were supported by the West. The worst floods in our history put millions out of their homes. The religious fanaticism behind our assassinations is a tinderbox poised to explode across Pakistan. The embers are fanned by the opportunism of those who seek advantages in domestic politics by violently polarizing society.

We in Pakistan know our challenges and seek the trust and confidence of our international allies, who sometimes lose patience and pile pressure on those of us who are already on the front lines of what is undeniably a long war. Our concern that we avoid steps that inadvertently help the fanatics is misinterpreted abroad as inaction or even cowardice. Instead of understanding the perilous situation in which we find ourselves, some well-meaning critics tend to forget the distinction between courage and foolhardiness. We are fighting terrorists for the soul of Pakistan and have paid a heavy price. Our desire to confront and deal with the menace in a manner that is effective in our context should not become the basis for questioning our commitment or ignoring our sacrifices.

If Pakistan and the United States are to work together against terrorism, we must avoid political incidents that could further inflame tensions and provide extremists or opportunists with a pretext for destabilizing our fledgling democracy. The Raymond Davis incident in Lahore, which directly resulted in the deaths of three Pakistani men and the suicide of a Pakistani woman, is a prime example of the unanticipated consequences of problematic behavior. We need not go into the legal, moral and political intricacies of this case. Suffice it to say that the actions of Davis and others like him inflame passions in our country and undermine respect and support for the United States among our people. We are committed to peaceful adjudication of the Davis case in accordance with the law. But it is in no one’s interest to allow this matter to be manipulated and exploited to weaken the government of Pakistan and damage further the U.S. image in our country.

Similarly counterproductive are threats to apply sanctions to Pakistan over the Davis affair by cutting off Kerry-Lugar development funds that were designed to build infrastructure, strengthen education and create jobs. It is a threat, written out of the playbook of America’s enemies, whose only result will be to undermine U.S. strategic interests in South and Central Asia. In an incendiary environment, hot rhetoric and dysfunctional warnings can start fires that will be difficult to extinguish.

The writer is president of Pakistan.

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George ka khuda hafiz — I & 2

 

By George Fulton

Published: March 1, 2011

The writer is a freelance print and broadcast journalist george.fulton@tribune.com.pk

For the past nine years, I have been in a dysfunctional relationship. My liaison started somewhat unexpectedly, quickly becoming an all-consuming passionate love affair. My partner reciprocated strongly, bestowing deep affection and adoration upon me. Blinded by love, I was naive to her failings. Yes, at times she was self-destructive, irrational and grossly irresponsible, but I hoped by appealing to her nature’s better angles she could change. Instead, as the years progressed, and, supported by her ‘friends’ in the media, she corroded, simultaneously displaying signs of megalomania and paranoia. Once the relationship turned abusive and I feared for my life, I decide to call it quits. Today, the divorce comes through. Her name is Pakistan. And today, I am leaving her for good.
This was not a difficult decision to make. In fact, I didn’t make the decision. It was made for me. You do not chart your own destiny in Pakistan; Pakistan charts it for you. It’s emigration by a thousand news stories. I am aware that bemoaning the state of Pakistan as a final shot appears churlish and arrogant. After all, I have the luxury to leave — many others do not. Nor do I want to discredit the tireless work of the thousands who remain to improve the lives of millions of Pakistanis. They are better men and women than I. Pakistan has also given me so much over the years. It was Pakistan who introduced me to the love of my life. And it was upon her manicured lawns that we married, and upon her reclaimed soil that we set up our first home. She brought the love of a new family and new friends into my life. And it was Pakistan that witnessed the birth of my son, Faiz — named after one of her greatest sons.
She embraced me like no other gora post-9/11. I appeared in a documentary/reality series titled “George Ka Pakistan”. It allowed me to explore the country. I ploughed fields in the Punjab, built Kalashnikovs in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (probably couldn’t do that now), and mended fishing boats in Balochistan. The culmination of the series saw the then prime minister, Shaukat Aziz, confer Pakistani citizenship upon me, after the viewing public voted overwhelmingly to make me one of them. I was their George. Fame and affection followed.
But that love was conditional. Conditional upon me playing the role cast — the naïve gora. The moment I abandoned the Uncle Tom persona and questioned the defined establishment narratives — whether through my television work or columns — excommunication began. No longer a Pakistani in the eyes of others, my citizenship evidently was not equitable to others.
So, as I depart, I could go with my reputation tarnished, but still largely intact. Or I could leave you with some final words of honesty. Well, true love values honesty far more than a feel-good legacy. So here goes.
Pakistan, you are on a precipice. A wafer-thin sliver is all that stands between you and becoming a failed state. A state that was the culmination of a search for a ‘Muslim space’ by the wealthy Muslims of Northern India has ended up, as MJ Akbar recently pointed out, becoming “one of the most violent nations on earth, not because Hindus were killing Muslims but because Muslims were killings Muslims”.
The assassination of Salmaan Taseer saw not only the death of a man but also represented for me the death of hope in Pakistan. I did not mourn Taseer’s death. I did not know the man. But I mourned what he represented — the death of liberal Pakistan. The governor’s murder reminded us how far the extremist cancer has spread in our society. A cancer in which I saw colleagues and friends on Facebook celebrate his murder. A man murdered for standing up for the most vulnerable in our society — a Christian woman accused of blasphemy. He committed no crime. Instead, he questioned the validity of a man-made law — a law created by the British — that was being used as a tool of repression.
In death, the governor was shunned, unlike his killer, who was praised, garlanded and lionised for shooting Taseer in the back. Mumtaz Qadri became a hero overnight. But Qadri is not just a man — he’s a mindset, as eloquently put by Fifi Haroon. Fascism with an Islamic face is no longer a political or an economic problem in Pakistan, it’s now become a cultural issue. Extremism permeates all strata and socio-economic groups within society. Violent extremists may still make up a minority but extremism now enjoys popular support. As for the dwindling moderates and liberals, they are scared.
Pakistan does not require a secret police, we are in the process of turning upon ourselves. But then what do you expect when your military/intelligence nexus — and their jihadi proxies — have used religious bigotry as a tool of both foreign and domestic policy. It is ironic that the one institution that was designed to protect the idea of Pakistan is the catalyst for its cannibalisation. Christians, Ahmadis, Shias and Barelvis have all been attacked in the past year. Who will be next? Groups once funded and supported by the state have carried out many of these attacks. And many jihadi groups still remain in cahoots with the agencies.
So as I leave Pakistan, I leave her with a sense of melancholy. Personally, for all my early wide-eyed excitement and love for the country and its people, Pakistan has made me cynical, disillusioned and bitter over time. I came here with high hopes, adopting the country, its people and the language. I did find redemption here — but no longer.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 2nd, 2011.

 

From the moment I arrived in Pakistan nine years ago, the omnipotence of the military apparatus was self-evident. Yet, as I leave, it’s apparent it will be this institution, more than any other, that will be the catalyst of this country’s eventual downfall. As Pervez Hoodbhoy recently pointed out, rather than acting as a factor for détente in the region, our acquiring the nuclear bomb in 1998 exacerbated our military arrogance. Kargil, the attack on India’s Parliament and, more recently, Mumbai have all occurred since we got the bomb — attacks that couldn’t have been carried out without some military/intelligence involvement.

And yet, ironically, the military’s regional self-importance belies our chronic servitude to the US. In addition to being the largest landowner in Pakistan, the Pakistani Army is the world’s largest mercenary army. Look at the media storm created over the Kerry-Lugar Bill for it’s supposed slight to Pakistani sovereignty. Yet it is the army’s reliance on US military aid that has made Pakistan a client state of the US. This inherent contradiction is not disseminated in the media. Instead, the established narrative for our acquiescence to the US is laid firmly at the weakness of our political class. As if it was the politicians — and not the military leadership — who somehow control Pakistan’s foreign policy.

Of course the military/religious right in Pakistan use their proxies in the media to blame the Hindus, Americans and Jews for all our sins. But those sins are mostly ours. Atiqa Odho, a friend, and someone who truly wants the best for Pakistan, sent me a text message after the detention by India customs of singer Rahat Fateh Ali Khan. “Rahat Ali Khan is not a criminal, he has become a victim of corrupt trade practices in India that have singled him out to target the soft image of Pakistan… Let’s not treat a music icon who has million of fans over the world as a common criminal.” The text had it all: hyper-patriotism, paranoia, absolution of responsibility, and a shot of snobbery. Why shouldn’t he be treated as a common criminal if he was avoiding tax? The attack on the Sri Lanka cricket team wasn’t a foreign hand. It was a Pakistani hand. Salman Butt, Mohammed Asif and Mohammed Amir were not brought down by some covert Anglo/India plot, but by their own avarice. They cheated.

But the right’s hyper-nationalism is perhaps more tolerable than the liberal elite’s disengagement and insouciance. Like the right, the liberal elite believe all Pakistan’s woes belong to others. But rather than the Hindu/US/Zionist paranoia of the right, the liberals put the blame on the mullahs, the masses, the uneducated and the unwashed — anyone, but themselves. We — and I include myself here, as this was my social milieu for the past nine years — are unaware of our own hypocrisy.

My friends will condemn the cricketers, but not the society that actively encourages these lower middle-class boys to cheat. But why would they? Their families have gorged and benefitted from this society. Recently, at a coffee shop, I overheard a society Begum, decked out in designer clothes and glasses, bemoan the cricketing scandal. Her ire was primarily directed at the boys for bringing Pakistan’s ‘good’ name into disrepute — not the cheating itself. She then harked back to a time when the Pakistan cricket team spoke English well, as if good English equalled with moral rectitude. But does she question how her husband makes his money? For every Rs100 collected by the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) in taxes, it misses another Rs79 due to tax evasion. The FBR estimates that the total revenue lost by the government as a result of tax evasion comes out to Rs1.27 trillion for this fiscal year and is equal to eight per cent of the GDP. According to the FBR, over 70 per cent of all taxes evaded are corporate income taxes. What’s the difference between Salman Butt screwing his country for money and the rest of us?

But the liberal elite is a misnomer. We aren’t really liberal. We want the liberal values of free speech and rule of law, without wanting to instil the economic and democratic mechanisms to ensure them. We espouse liberalism but don’t practice the egalitarian values — distribution of power and wealth — that underpin liberalism.

But then, the English liberal ‘elite’ has abdicated all responsibility to govern in the past 60 years. Despite enjoying unprecedented levels of wealth and education, we no longer believe it is our duty as the best educated and most privileged in society to contribute to its development. The English language has created a linguistic Berlin Wall between us and the rest of the country. We remain cosseted inside our bubble. Instead, we have ceded political space to a reactionary, conservative, military, feudal and religious nexus. Tolerating this because, in turn, they have left us alone. They have allowed us freedoms that the rest of the country doesn’t have.Freedom to get obscenely wealthy. Freedom to party at Rs10,000-a-ticket balls. Freedom to dress how we like. But these freedoms come at a price. A Faustian pact has been signed.

Even Pakistan’s intellectual elite has largely abandoned its responsibility. An ideological vacuum occurred after 1971, when the ‘idea of Pakistan’ and the two-state solution failed. What filled the vacuum over the succeeding decades have been a variety of parties with their own vested self-interests — Ziaul Haq, Islamists, the Saudis and the US — trying to enforce their own idea of Pakistan. Today, our intellectual elite are too compromised — suckling on the teat of donor money, scholarships and exchange programmes — to challenge the US narrative.

Unfortunately, no one is immune to the ills that this country subjects its citizens to. I have changed. Slowly, my values and morals have corroded. But I don’t want that for my one-year-old boy, Faiz. I want him to grow up in a society where guns are not an everyday occurrence and his parents can openly hold hands.

After Salmaan Taseer’s assassination, my mother-in-law — a hardworking, decent school principal, who was born in Bombay and had grown up in Dhaka before migrating to Pakistan — called me up. She had seen three of her children leave Pakistan during the past 20 years. My wife was the last one remaining. As she spoke, she sounded defeated: “George, just jao. Jao”. So now I am going. Khuda hafiz, Pakistan.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 3rd, 2011.