What Has She Done?

Source: Niklas Elmehed/Nobel Media/nobelprize.org

Source: Niklas Elmehed/Nobel Media/nobelprize.org

So what has she done?

That pesky Malala.

What has she accomplished to deserve the Nobel Peace Prize, you are asking? Especially, since she said she didn’t deserve it.

Here is what she has accomplished what I or any of you could not have.

Despite being a little girl, she stood up to a very clear and present threat from the Taliban, which actually jeopardized her very existence.

In case anyone had any doubts, the Taliban actually ended up shooting her in the head and it’s a fucking miracle she’s even breathing.

They still vow to go after her.

She just had to speak out an innocuous little thing to get all this attention that she just wanted to go to school. Yes, that’s all what it has been about.

But it snowballed into something gigantic thanks to the ignorance of her haters.

You think it’s all obvious? No, it’s not.

But she won the prize also because she was important enough for an activist to address the United Nations Youth Assembly. She has also been active for causes such as speaking for the Nigerian girls abducted by Boko Haraam and addressing the concerns of Syrian children refugees.

She is not just a local figure anymore, but a global figure.

What really matters is  that the world sees her as a global ambassador for education, for girls especially.

Now why girls? You know, why be a sexist? But you have to be, because in her culture, people do go out of their way to target women like her. To deprive them of education.

Now when does it prick the most that she has won yet another prize valued by the West? Well, when you constantly apologize for the Taliban, Islamism and obscurantist misogynistic forces.

But it probably happened for a plain reason that Malala has become a Gandhi like figure to the West. Right up there with the likes of Nelson Mandela and Mother Teresa, and even Gandhi was not awarded this prize, thanks to his shocking Holocaust satyagraha statements.

And this is precisely why Malala is important to the world now, even if she is of no consequence to the social conservatives and Islamist nationalist conspiracy theorists in Pakistan.

So don’t be surprised if you find completely irrelevant babbling complaining why Edhi not receiving the Nobel Peace Prize is such a disaster (as if they cared about that too) and sharing articles making ridiculous comparisons with a random girl testifying against drone strikes backed by an American congressman.

Source: Daily Telegraph

Source: Daily Telegraph

Which reminds me that part of why Malala is condemned is because she is backed by Western powers. Hell, even President Obama met her with his entire family. He never did that for the Pakistani Prime Minister. That’s really fucked up.

She even had the courage to criticize him to his face about the drone strikes of the Nobel Peace Prize recipient President.

But that’s how powerful Malala has become.

Maybe she has sold her soul to the devil.

I never really had tremendous respect for the Nobel Peace Prize anyway, because I had read somewhere that only a devil would put a prize on peace. Maybe George Bernard Shaw’s statement, not too sure.

But  I was greatly impressed when I saw the likes of President Carter, President Sadaat and Prime Minister Begin winning one for the Camp David Accord of 1979, and when I saw Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat receiving it.

You know, bitter adversaries working hard to attain some peace. Back then, I really found this shit inspiring. That part I still admire though.

But overall, the idea has been pretty empty and meaningless. You know what they say, hey, that’s the award that President Obama got for who knows what. And oh, even Henry Kissinger received it.

Must be something evil for sure.

I know this one, like all of them, is highly political. But who gives a fuck. Somebody said something nice about Pakistan.

But if I ever was delighted for a Nobel Peace Prize, for the first and most probably the last time, it is for Malala Yousafzai.

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Donate to the Malala Fund please. 

The Libertarian Case for the Baloch Resistance

Source: balochistanpoint.com

Source: balochistanpoint.com

No resistance movement is popular in the State against which it is initiated. The Baloch resistance to Pakistan is not any different.

But do they have the right to resist the tyranny of the State and struggle for freedom? And does that also extend that right to the Taliban? It is illegal, but arguably, yes.

This pertains to their fundamental rights, which should be covered by the Constitution, even if they are not currently.

The resistance movement would prove very sound from a Libertarian viewpoint as well, but from the standpoint of the defending State, it would be rightful to enforce law and order and curb it. So in terms of warfare, it is a violence for violence battle. But what is the limit?

While there is little doubt about the Baloch right for the secession, what should the State do to win the hearts and minds of the Baloch people?

Should the State continue to rule a people like a colony, as an alien ruling class, or should it start allotting more aid to the province? Should the State take measures to free the local people from the tyranny of local Baloch nobles and feudals or would that be the tyrannical intervention of the Federation on one of its independent units or States?

How should a civil war be treated? Is it justified to use violence, or any means possible, to preserve the Union?

There are arguments on both sides, but the dissidents are arguing beyond Pakistani nationalistic fervor here. Their opinion may not necessarily be liberal, but would reach out to the violated individual liberty of the freedom fighter.

The Libertarian case for the Baloch resistance would be the recognition of their right to bear arms and engage in an armed struggle against an oppressor. It would be the recognition of their right to life and liberty and protection from any unwarranted searches, detention and unlawful killing. It would be the recognition of their right to free speech for expressing dissenting views against the State and rejecting the Constitution.

This is where the Pakistani state law enforcement and military agencies are making a big mistake.

Pakistani agencies are allegedly detaining Baloch citizens on the suspicion to be a part of the treasonous resistance, which is both illegal and unconstitutional. An extrajudicial killing after torture would be even worse.

Now there would be a lot of Pakistani nationalist friends who would defend this act, which is supporting the idea of curbing the resistance by all means necessary.

But if this sort of behavior were to be given legal approval, then the State could detain any citizen for any given cause, without warrant. If it does not alarm a citizen, then they need to be more aware of the excesses of the government that could threaten their liberty.

I am not saying that the State has no right to curb an uprising by force and to enforce law and order. What it cannot do is to alienate its own people. So while it is curbing an uprising, it is up to the State how it treats its own people.

But above all, it is the responsibility of the State to not violate the liberty of an individual based on suspicion, instead of a legal warrant based on reasonable doubt.

This is not how a democratic republic should curb an uprising. Of course, a military dictator or monarch could use any means at their disposal, but surely that would be the wrong way of doing things. In another words, not the democratic way.

Now arguably all the rights for the Baloch resistance also apply to the Taliban. Which is true, like it or not. So let it be the Baloch cause or the Taliban, the liberty of the individual citizen must not be violated.

Surely, it would be outrageous for some for me to mention both of the different resistance movements together, considering the different morality of their ideologies. But then again, morality of ideologies is relative.

Of course, all that makes Baloch cause any better to that of Taliban is that the latter is fighting to enforce the authoritarian Islamism on an unwilling population. While others could have the same distaste for the Baloch resistance if it were Socialistic or Anarchic in nature.

While you could talk about just about any resistance movement regardless of the ideology or cause, there is a reason to present the case of the Baloch resistance. At least in the context of Pakistan. At least when we have inspirational people like Mama Qadeer marching all the way from Quetta to Islamabad to make this point.

The Baluch people have allegedly seen brutal assaults from the State elements and have had their liberty violated.

This is the perfect way to make enemies of already dissenting and defecting citizens.

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Disclaimer: The post does not reflect my support of or opposition to any of the resistance movements anywhere.

The Window of Opportunity

Maulana Abdul Aziz - Source: AP/B.K. Bangash

Maulana Abdul Aziz – Source: AP/B.K. Bangash

I have observed that most Pakistani secularists find the idea of talks with the Taliban nauseating. However, a new window of opportunity has dawned for their cause by the turn of events in the past weeks.

The religious conservatives of the country have really put themselves in an awkward position by making practical steps to negotiate with the Taliban.

The Taliban have made their lives even more difficult. They have responded by demanding the imposition of Shariah Law throughout the country and have rejected the constitution. Curiously, these are demands that are not even acceptable to most conservative parties, except for the extreme religious groups.

This makes a common Muslim wonder why would there be such resistance to a system that they have been taught is the solution to every ill in the world. How are the likes of Maulana Abdul Aziz wrong in their insistence that the obvious demand of Shariah imposition should not even be a matter of debate.

What, then, is making the Pakistani political leadership so suspicious about Shariah imposition?

Even though every Muslim is supposed to be an Islamist, the fact remains that an overwhelming majority of them are not.

At least not in Pakistan.

Their lifestyle, their customs, their way of life and their voting patterns, all suggest that they want nothing to do with Shariah Law.

Pakistanis watch movies, love music and love to dance. They may indulge in a lot of social ills, but they would have problems with someone blowing up music shops and telling the women of their family how to cover themselves. They also like to shave and do not mind skipping their prayers.

They also do not seem to be prepared to sacrifice their almost Western lifestyle in cities and traditional ways in rural areas to embrace an 8th century code of life.

To them, Shariah is a word that must be revered and must not be challenged, but it really has no place in their lives.

While the Taliban have reminded the people of Pakistan of what Shariah is, it is the perfect time to convert them against this threatening and authoritarian ideology.

At least it is time to ask some tough questions about Shariah, if we must not get too carried away with our ambition.

And make no mistake about it, it can be done in the most discreet and polite manner.

There is no harm in asking them why they would want to support something they do not practice. There is no harm in asking why they would not embrace Shariah as it is if they are Muslims, and why would they reject secularism then.

Everyone can start with their near and dear ones. I ask my family this question everyday, and no, it would not get you killed if you do it respectfully. Charity begins at home and it can easily be propagated to bigger platforms through leading secular opinion leaders.

They would surely shy away from the taboo subject. Surely, they would find it hard to step out of the reassuring shelter of faith, but a little perseverance could pay well.

This is the first step to win the battle against the Taliban. And the first step to convince people why proactively countering the indoctrination of Islamism is essential to their liberty, peace and way of life.

This is the perfect time to reiterate that secularism will prove to be the best social contract to resolve the multitude of religious problems. This is something politicians on right and left must agree on.

It is the perfect time to offer reason to those who are willing to take it.

But don’t get me wrong. This is not a time to build fences. It is not a time to merely win debates and score ideological points.

It is a time to win hearts and minds. We must overcome our curmudgeonly cynicism to see that perspective.

Even in the darkest of thunderstorms, there is always that silver lining.

A Question About Torture and Justice

Source: AP/Mahesh Kumar A.

Source: AP/Mahesh Kumar A.

The December 2012 case of gang rape and (attempted) murder of a young woman in Delhi has come forth as one of the most hideous crimes on an individual level in recent history. The crime involved absolutely unspeakable torture in which the rapists used an iron rod to penetrate the woman, resulting in subsequent organ damage and her unfortunate demise a couple of weeks later.

India is completely outraged by this incident and people have taken to the streets to protest against it and rightfully so. As a matter of fact, the protests have been extraordinary and inspiring because this incident has shaken the whole world, not just the Indian nation.

However, let me dare say that I have noticed a lot of genuine urge to inflict torture, apart from the genuine anger at this crime. I mean really apart from the reactions that stem out of genuine frustration that are understandable.

Of course, I don’t even want to go on discussing the Talibanesque Indian (Far) Right, but not just the public figures.  Even though I tried to stop myself from thinking this way at a time like this, I could not help but find this behavior a little disturbing in terms of the relation between torture and justice at times.

But then again, I am not sure if I am clear about this myself. I mean they have a point. Isn’t that letting them off the hook too easily?

Now let me be clear on this that a part of me wants some sort of torture to be inflicted on the perpetrators as well. You know, like castration and life imprisonment. I don’t want to give the impression that I am at a higher moral ground and am free of violent urges at all, being a low animal. Castration is sort of cruel but intellectual, because it prevents procreation, at least from that individual.

But then again even when I ask this question to myself, I don’t find a clear answer. Especially when it comes to action. As much as I agree with severe punishments, I am not really sure if torture, or maybe even death should be a part of it. Just not as convinced.

What is justice, then? Torture for torture? Murder for murder? Eye for an eye? I know it’s not about compensating the loss at all, if anything at all. What about castration? That seems a mild punishment, or is it? That’s torture, surely. What about public hangings? That surely sounds perfect for deterring the crime. Besides, why worry about the cruelty of the punishment? Only those thinking about committing such a horrid crime would be facing the music. And they deserve it.

Source: India Today

Source: India Today

Go ahead with it by all means but then please never criticize the Taliban ever for their “brutalities”. Because the last time I checked, these are the sort of things that the Taliban do. And yes, they have hanged people too. They don’t just behead people in the good old fashioned “Middle Eastern” manner. But can you really stop such urges from emerging? Tempting.

In a way, it makes perfectly good sense to kill any such perpetrator at the spot, in defense at least. Such as an instance of using a licensed firearm to shoot down someone intruding into your house. At least, within the moral system followed by the rapists, I think they would not be too shocked if someone comes out to kill them, or even brutally torture them. You know, driving steel rods up their asses or burning them at stake.

But would you do that in cold blood? Especially when you do not share the lawless jungle morality of the rapists. This is an important question. But at the same time, I would like to appreciate the fact that the demands for death sentence on behalf of the people are mor or less justified because it is a commonly accepted penalty in the Indian Penal Code for murder. But of  course the matter is much more complex than that.

But I am not sure if it is appropriate to torture those men in more or less a similar manner or much mildly for their crime. And if we do penalize them strictly, would that really deter such crimes? Or perhaps if milder penalties are ensured to be imposed, without violating any human rights? Would that deter the crime still by simply ensuring effective enforcement?

But yes, the question becomes rather meaningless when rapists are hardly ever convicted at all, let alone penalized. And when the rate of rape is as appalling as it is in our part of the world and the society turning a complete blind eye to it. Because not only do we traditionally blame everything about rape on women, but in conservative circles create an environment where there are greater barriers to consensual sex than there are to rape.

I understand that the degree of this particular offense is simply too much and the charge is murder and sexual torture in this case, more than just the milder definition of rape, so probably a stricter punishment is justified in this case. Especially considering the physical and mental implications. Not to mention the mess the traditional patriarchal Indian society creates for rape victims if they survive.

But a stricter punishment is surely justified in this case. I am sure even the most liberal of commentators, politicians and judges would be at least forced to consider it. I mean, think about the precious lost life, and what her life could have been. Besides, think of the cruelty with which these criminals acted. Do they deserve mercy? A stricter punishment sounds more like justice.

But is it? I am not sure. I don’t want to make any secret of my confusion over here, but the more I think about it, the more I feel that probably torturing the criminals back is not really the answer. Or probably I would have an answer straight away. Because a part of me feels as if we probably love to see people tortured a bit too much as a species.

I don’t really support capital punishment but I cannot help but ignore the pressure in this case. I do know that capital punishment is the accepted norm in the sub-continent and so I guess I would not mind hanging these criminals.

I mean I expect very few to be upset about it when they even want to deny them defense in the court. But then there is the thought of letting these criminals go too easy. And what if they are at it again?

I am just lucky and relieved that I am not in the position to bear the responsibility of determining penalties on criminals.

I know that does not make me a good human being, let alone a better one.

But I envy the ones with convictions

Malice, Morality & Malala: or Adding Insult to Injury

Source: AP/The Hindu

I write this with a heavy heart, with disgust and with a sense of insecurity and fear.

As you all know, teenage education activist Malala Yousafzai had been shot by the Taliban in her native Swat on October 9, 2012 to the shock of not only the entire nation, but the whole world. Right now she is struggling her way back to life and hopefully making good progress. However, I am seriously concerned for her well being in the future as she is feared to have suffered brain damage, but that’s not confirmed. Hopefully not.

After this sad incident, amid spontaneous sympathy and genuine grief, all kinds of genuine heartlessness, cruelty and the usual idiocy emerged. I am talking about the organized campaign and the spontaneous reactions aimed at undermining the tragedy of the shooting of Malala Yousafzai and maligning her character as an activist.

You can find all kinds of people coming up and linking the event with their political agenda and trying to prove something completely unrelated.

So, you’re upset about Malala, right? How come you don’t make the same kind of fuss about hundreds of little children who have died in the drone attacks?

I am so sorry for not outraging as much about the hundreds of little children who have died in the drone attacks, but what in the world drone attacks have to do with Malala and what does grieving for her have to do with grieving for the children dying in drone attacks? Why is grieving for a girl that you knew as a public figure wrong and how that negates the feelings you have for the people dying in drone attacks?

So is speaking out for the attack on her wrong just because you think people are not condemning drone attacks? What kind of morality is that, by any of the twisted standards we have in this world of ours? Maybe just because the whole world is sympathizing with her, she must be an evil person, right? The ever-obnoxiously-eloquent Ayaz Amir puts it like this.

I mean what in the world are people trying to prove over here. Yes, drone attacks (which are, mind you, bombings, which are bombings and are lethal, let them be by manned aircraft or not) are atrocious for both innocent and terrorists alike, but those events are completely irrelevant to the point that Malala Yousafzai was an innocent little child who was brutally shot. I literally felt as if someone had shot my own daughter, but you don’t have to feel the pain to imagine if the girl was your “daughter” really. I regret even mentioning that word here. Though I cannot see it or put it any other way.

Actually the reaction from many of the hyper-nationalist and self-proclaimed exclusively-patriotic and religious right and center-right (with sincere apologies to the sane center-rightists) of the country, and especially the religious leaders and “scholars”, is nothing more than a dirty display of Groupthink, with hurt pride turning into venomous damnation of Malala and of all the sympathy for her. It is certainly not without a reason.

They do actually consider Malala and everything she represents as a threat. A threat to their religious-nationalist identity. A threat to the Pakhtun Islamism, a threat to the Islamic clergy, a threat to the Taliban and a threat to their cult of oppressing women into oblivion, ignorance and obscurantism, depriving them a right to education and a happy and free life.

Islamists like the Taliban are more aware than your average moderate Pakistani Muslim what great a threat secular education can possibly be to the religious dogma and faith. The reason is that education on scientific basis can help children grow to become freethinkers and use reason and scientific method, which could possibly eliminate the superstition and the supernatural from their lives.

Oh yes, was she really innocent of all her charges? The razor-sharp wit of Wus’atullah Khan so sarcastically puts why she was not. Even Nicholas Kristof sees it this way.

I agree that she is not innocent of her charges. I am proud that she is not. She was doing something even the most outspoken of liberal and secular public figures were and are afraid to do. She was propagating, supporting, endorsing and practically ensuring secular education to the children of her land, especially girls. This is something remarkable considering how the Taliban love to blow up girls’ schools and how they consider education to women an evil.

This is also remarkable because not long ago the Taliban and allied Islamist militant groups had taken over the control of Swat and enforced their Shariah there for the time. The Pakistani state had briefly lost control over the territory until a military operation was carried out to regain it. So it takes some courage to take on the Taliban not far from their lair.

This is precisely why the Taliban targeted her and their spokesperson Ehsanullah Ehsan has vowed to attack her again if she survives this one. Actually, the Taliban specifically mentioned that she was attacked because she was “secular-minded”. This is the reason why many in the rest of the supposedly moderate Pakistan think that attacking her was justified, even though they cannot or could not do it themselves.

So much for those who think that though shooting her is wrong, she does not deserve all this attention and sympathy. There are even those who think that shooting her was completely justified. Those who side with the Taliban. Therefore, I find this incident, not polarizing, but cleansing, in terms of who is who in our society. If we still cannot see who our enemies are as Pakistanis, then we never will.

Source: Amnesty International

While I think about Malala Yousafzai this day, what overwhelms me more than anything else and what really puts me to shame is her bravery and her clarity. Because what she is demanding is so obviously and unmistakably right and worth defending and not worth giving up, even for a second, just like breathing, eating and drinking. And stepping down and giving that up just because your life is under threat is just clearly wrong reasoning, isn’t it? But are we fighting that hard?

Either we are stupid or Malala is.

Pakistanis and Double Standards

Source: Express Tribune

Maybe it’s just not exclusive to Pakistanis. Of course, it isn’t. It would be most unfair to say that, but because I live in Pakistan, I cannot help but notice it with a greater sensitivity in its case as compared to other nations around the world. Although it can safely be said that more or less the entire species is suffering from this condition in one way or another, but let us be specific over here.

It’s the annoying double standards that I am talking about.

Actually, you could make a huge list of the things for which Pakistanis have double standards, but there are quite a few incidents that occurred recently, which has pushed me to write something about it.

However, I will make the list nevertheless for the benefit of those who are not aware of the following issues.

CNG Strike and the Troubled Pakistani Economy

Alright, it’s true that the GST on the CNG for vehicles and increased prices will be a burden on the people, but what about the fact that using this resource for vehicle deprives the country of sufficient natural gas supply in the winters? While I am all for welfare and controlling poverty, people simply take it as an excuse to cover up their own corruption. Yes, I am talking about the CNG filling station owners’ body APCNGA.

Of course, they are protesting for their profit cuts and their strikes are only adding to the troubles of the people, who have been spoiled by this inconveniently convenient fuel. Clearly goes to show that Pakistan’s people and businessmen are the part of the problem that is the troubled Pakistani economy. They criticize the government for having no money and no fuel, but gladly deprive it of any opportunity of collecting whatever money it can in order to operate and to sustain the hideous CNG network in the country.

So the government doesn’t have money, right. How can they when they subsidize fuel?

Let the people pay for fuel and let the government subsidize the staples and see to it that the private enterprises and government organizations inflation-adjust the income of the people.

The Case of the Son of the Chief Justice & the Media vis-a-vis the Corruption of the Politicians

It was really striking, though not as shocking, to see that the tone of the Pakistani media was entirely different than usual when it came to the case of alleged financial favors that the son of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhary took from a real estate tycoon. Of course, we know nothing about that. The reason why I found it a bit odd was that they always sound absolutely convinced when there are corruption allegations against politicians, such as the cases against the sons of Prime Minister Gillani.

Source: Express Tribune

There are several other factors for which double standards are practiced. Briefly.

Drone Strikes and PAF Strikes

Drone strikes on Islamists militants and FATA civilians are wrong because the United States carries them out, but certainly that would be fine if the technology is handed over to Pakistan and when Pakistan would make these strikes. Also, the PAF bombings are pretty cool.

Afghan Taliban and Pakistani Taliban

But of course the Afghani Taliban are called freedom fighters because they are fighting for their domain that the United States and NATO captured, but the Pakistani Taliban are terrorists because they are fighting against the Pakistani state.

Taliban Separatists and Baluch Separatists 

Both Baluch separatists and Pakistani Taliban are fighting against the state. Baluch separatists are not a part of an Islamist movement. Therefore, Baluchs are separatists to one group of people while the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan are terrorists and the other way around in other cases. However, both carry out bomb blasts, both harm state infrastructure, both are killed by military. Maybe the Baluch separatists are not idiotic enough or intellectual enough to carry out suicide bombings.

Though it can be argued that they are also widely different since the Pakistani Taliban do include people who are not natives of the land they are occupying.

But hey, I am only talking about separatists here.

Only speaking in objective, technical terms, not supporting or opposing anything.

Source: The Daily Telegraph

Blasphemors Outraging at Blasphemies

I know many righteous Pakistani Muslims, Sunnis in particular, who would gladly blaspheme against the Shias, the Hindu gods and even against Christians, who are supposedly in the same Abrahamic league, but would outrage when somebody blasphemes against the Koran or Prophet Muhammad.

Different Rules for Drinking Classes

Ameer piye to class. Ghareeb piye to cchaapa. 

The rich and the high can drink the prohibited liquor in peace. The poor either die of the poisonous spirit or the torture of police.

Different Rules for Men and Women

Men can practically have sex with as many women they want, can marry up to four. Kill women if they try to live like that or talk to someone or have sex with someone or even try to live like just another person, or even better, throw acid on face. But hey, that does not qualify for conflicting double standard, does it?

Sheltering Osama Ben Laden

Enraged by the violation of the sovereignty of the country by US Navy Seals yet many are not bothered by what the Most Wanted Terrorist in the World was doing in the lion’s den of the Pakistani military.

Misplaced Patriotism

Claim to be very patriotic, flag-waving, cricket-team-cheering, anthem-bowing, Quaid-saluting. Defy law in Pakistan, observe diligently abroad and do a lot of things that hurt the country’s economy such as tax evasion. Does that not hurt the country? While this is a common observation though sounds like a generalization, a lot of responsible Pakistanis in this category.

And finally the best of all.

Hate USA But Want Green Card

There is a widely spread misconception that Pakistanis hate the United States. They don’t.

They may burn the US flags all they want, but even the most fundamentalists of them would prefer US citizenship over the Pakistani any day.

Now of course don’t go on assuming that every Pakistani is like that but a lot of them do somehow think like that collectively.

In other words, Pakistan is a nation of double standards in many ways.

And it is suffering its consequences every single day.

Deal with it.

Afghanistan: Colony or Outpost?

Source: Massoud Hossaini (AFP/Getty Images)

Regardless of what the public opinion is about the (still) ongoing war in Afghanistan, the United States is here to stay. Whether the Taliban stay or not. And they are most likely to because the NATO forces have still not been able to curb their insurgency and the situation pretty much seems like a stalemate. The issue with Afghanistan is that it offers key strategic territory in South Central Asia where the United States has not enjoyed significant political influence since the very early days of Cold War, or in other words, ever before, except for the Soviet Afghan War of the 1980s which was followed by the disintegration of the only challenger to the strongest power in the world.

Now the Americans have a choice, let’s drop the NATO part for a moment. They could either run Afghanistan as a functional colony (sorry the vassal state term hardly applies here), which they would probably plan to do, choosing a democratically elected local leader like Hamid Karzai for sugarcoating and keeping a US military viceroy to control the actual political interests. Or they could either use Afghanistan as an isolated outpost for the region leaving the internal affair of the rest of the country to its fate, constantly engaging in the conflict with the resistance and establishing military bases that are used for far greater interests of the United States in the region. The FP Magazine published an article about the Israeli military presence in Azerbaijan, but the US bases in Afghanistan are probably an even better option for war with Iran. Among many other advantages.

However, Iran is just one dimension of the episode. The campaign could even be broader than that and it is not necessarily about war. War just happened but it is actually about political influence and if that political influence is threatened, military force will of course be used. The dual US policies in Western Asia has created duplicitous allies such as Pakistan which is now offering them a taste of their own medicine by allegedly keeping a check on the US interests in Afghanistan, particularly apprehensive due to their own insecurities of growing Indian influence in Afghanistan. Whether that is true or not, it is true that India is more aligned with the larger US interest right now than Pakistan is. Furthermore, the US may not need Pakistan in the bigger picture as much as it used to do in the Cold War decades.

The US presence in Afghanistan has a great deal to do with the changed perspective of the United States towards Pakistan. It is seen as a problem area. Pakistan has been serving the US interest for decades and the utility of the state reached its zenith during the Soviet Afghan War from 1979 to 1989. However, after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, which for some odd but obvious reasons coincided with a sudden monstrous increase in religious extremism in Pakistan, all that has been changing gradually. This was pretty convenient for the future and thinking from the perspective that Pakistan has actually fulfilled its utility in the geostrategic targets of the West in the region, it is worth noting by all means.

It is an open secret that the Taliban were created by the Pakistani forces under the guidance of the American CIA as the more respected Mujahideen to fight against the Soviets and you hardly need any references to verify that. You know, one of those loosely declassified things of which there is no great evidence available perhaps. Call it a conspiracy theory, if you will. While there is no doubt that Osama Bin Laden was the man the US forces were after and that he was thought to be in hiding in Afghanistan in 2001, of which no one can be completely sure, but assuming that the United States attacked Afghanistan for that very reason is pretty naïve. At least that was not the only reason, if one at all. Actually it is pretty ridiculous to assume that in my books but I am sure the viewpoint I am offering is widely seen the same way as well. On a serious note, it seems that there were larger plans at hand.

However, things are not as simple as they seem, as is always the case with such affairs. Many among the US people are not even bothered about any advantages that the United States may be enjoying by occupying Afghanistan and want the government to call the troops back home. Others are too concerned about a terrorist threat rising from Afghanistan and would not mind if the military maintains its presence there but the fact remains that life is tough for the US soldiers in Afghanistan and the Taliban don’t seem to be giving up. You would think that they should have by now. It has been ten long years. More than that. The greatest problem that the United States is going to encounter in the future are the Afghan people, who could become out of control of the neocolonial power. They have a history of doing that at least.

Recently, two very unpleasant incidents occurred. A few American soldiers allegedly burned a copy of the Muslim Holy Book Koran and another opened fire on unarmed Afghan civilians including women and children in Kandahar. Both these events caused an outrage in Afghanistan with widespread protests for the former, given the religious fervor of the Afghan nation. The protests even resulted in the death of 2 US soldiers. Of course, it is hard for many in the West to understand the violent protests over the mere burning of a book but unfortunately that phenomenon is a reality in Afghanistan and the rest of the Middle East. These two incidents were purely individual acts, as much as you disapprove of them or not, but what they have done is that they have created tension between the common Afghan people and their US masters. Reminding them that America is a foreign power after all.

In my opinion, the greatest challenge for the US strategists right now is this cultural shock and lack of trust in the long run. The longer the US military stays in Afghanistan, the more these incidents will appear. While no one needs to doubt the competence of the US military, you do not need to be a defense analyst to know that they don’t particularly enjoy their stay in Afghanistan, that too, under the constant threat of the attacks from the Taliban. In my opinion, a complete American pull out from Afghanistan will never occur in the short run, actually for a considerable period of time, and if it is made, it would be pretty embarrassing. Because quite frankly, they have achieved nothing in Afghanistan except for toppling over the Taliban regime and that was not the real objective after all. Removing their regime was never really a problem for the strongest country in the world anyway, though completely eliminating them is.

The US Presidential elections will be held later this year, that is, 2012. The candidates are on the campaign trail and there is some antiwar sentiment in the air with no less than 69% of the people disapproving of the US military campaign in Afghanistan, let alone the presence. This will certainly push President Obama to announce the withdrawal of the US troops from Afghan soil. The latest date is 2013 perhaps. But hey, wasn’t he supposed to pull them out in 2008? He actually increased the number of troops by 30,000 the very next year. Well that fits a person’s understanding from the perspective of the account presented above but perhaps not for the antiwar voter. Nevertheless, regardless of the outcome of the US elections, the US presence in Afghanistan will certainly not diminish after 2013 and as long as there are Taliban, there will be war. Actually some reports do point out that the military stay could even last up to 2024. Who knows.

Pakistan’s presence may only make the delay excruciatingly long or maybe not and maybe that is the new plan of stimulating the world economy. That’s just a joke, not a conspiracy theory. However, as much Pakistan would like to have a say in the political affairs of Afghanistan, they will not be given as much control as they were in the 1990s. Regardless of the Pakistani perspective and strategy, the US needs to see how it should run Afghanistan in the immediate future. Whether they want to run it as a colony, or a periphery if you want to be more euphemistic, or as a military base in a large and hostile battlefield. All that depends on how they engage with the Afghan people, making me think if only the word colony fitted that relationship. It seems something worse. An occupation maybe. Whether they want to appoint diplomats there or deploy generals with units prepared for battle. It is a bumpy ride ahead for the United States but not one that they can pull out of by choice.

This war is not over yet.

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