Triumph to Egypt! Triumph to the Truth!

It started on January 25, the National Police Day in 2011, only days after the rioting Tunisian people had forced their dictator Zine el Abidine Ben Ali to flee the country after his oppressive reign, millions took to the streets of Cairo, Alexandria and all major cities of Egypt with a single demand:

Step Down Hosni Mobarak.

Source: alsiasi.com

Hosni Mobarak became the President of Egypt only eight days after President Anwer El Sadat was assassinated by a fundamentalist soldier, most probably due to the Camp David Peace Accords with Israel. Mobarak had been ruling as a dictator for about 30 years when these protests began, and had also enforced emergency in the country for several years, strangling freedom of speech in the country.

On February 11, 2011, this historic day on which this post is being published, Hosni Mobarak has succumbed to the pressure of the masses and has stepped down after just a struggle of 18 days. The world has just witnessed the fall of tyranny spanning over 3 decades, crumbling to dust in less than 3 weeks. The scenes of jubilation in the Tahrir Square, also dubbed the Liberation Square, would never be forgotten in many years to come. The ecstatic crowd dancing and chanting, celebrating the victory of the Truth and the rightful.

 

Source: Patrick Baz (AFP/Getty)

This was no ordinary uprising. Neither was the one in Tunisia. It was the voice of longing for liberal freedom of expression and the world protested with the Egyptians. The images were broadcasted to all corners of the world and the media around the world approved of and supported the struggle of the Egyptian people against tyranny, with Al-Jazeera playing a phenomenal journalistic role.  It was the greatest sign for those who doubt the fact that the world has indeed become a global village.

Even the Western leaders, particularly those of the United States, had to recognize the rights of the Egyptian people and opted to show their support for the protesters instead of Mobarak, who had been their main negotiating contact for diplomacy and peace process in the Middle East, especially in relation to the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Only Israel and Saudi Arabia expressively voiced support for Mobarak, and for obvious reasons.

Many attribute these protests to the revelations made by the WikiLeaks and the fact that despite all the checks and controls on freedom of speech, the people in these countries were able to use the internet to rally and campaign to oust their respective dictators. People used social media like facebook and twitter to gather support for their cause, and bloggers and activists like Wael Ghonim played a key role in the uprising. Even the Egyptian regime of Mobarak was forced to suspend internet services in the entire country for a few days during the uprising.

But what do we learn from this? Were Egyptians so naïve that they did not bother to raise their voices for democracy, and more importantly, for freedom of speech? I am sure that is not the case. Egyptians have proved to the world how resilient, strong and determined they are. But they could never have achieved it had there not been an overwhelming unity of opinion and action among the protesters.

Many around the world feared the uprising in Egypt at the same time, and understandably so, especially Israel, who have a lot at stake in their relations with Egypt. Many feared that Ikhwan-ul-Muslimeen or the Muslim Brotherhood, a banned religious political party and Islamic movement, which has been considered fundamentalist due to their opposition of Egypt’s peace process with Israel, will rise to power in Egypt.

This organization has been active in the social sphere and charity for a number of years and has also been in the center of anti-Mobarak protests. They have also been one of the main opposition groups  A lot of people are even skeptical about the path that Egypt has chosen of letting the military control the hold of the government. Many are fearing a change for the worse. Especially, when it comes to relations with Israel.

 

Source: Getty Images

While some around the world watch in doubt and fear, while others in jubilation and solidarity, you do not need arguments to convince Egyptians that they have done the right thing, which maybe they should have done years ago. They have complete trust in the military, as Ghonim, a prominent spokesperson of the people expressed in an interview to CNN, that it will not remain in power for long and will move to hold elections.

Whatever be the outcome, let us hope that Egypt moves on to a better future and that they uphold their peace agreement with Israel, while also not abandoning the Palestinian people, especially the ones in Gaza Strip. Let us hope life becomes a little more bearable for them. I hope that Egyptians will be responsible enough to take care of their own lives and of the peace in the region. If people like Mohammed El Baradei and Amr Moussa succeed Mobarak, then it can confidently be said that the peace in the Middle East will not be disturbed.

One of my twitter friends Purnima Rao tweeted:

To those who link violence & Islam, some of the most groundbreaking non-violent protests in the last 2 yrs have been in Muslim countries.

How true is that. The protesters remained non-violent and peaceful till the end and all the violence that occured was initiated by the police, the Presidential guards and the authorities in guise of pro-Mubarak supporters. It is a shame that Mobarak’s forces directly or indirectly caused the death of 297 people and injured thousands during the protests, according to Human Rights Watch, resisting the inevitable that he would have to step down eventually.

It would also be wrong to judge that the Egyptian people were the ones behind the looting and damaging the artifacts in the National Museum in Cairo, as the youth had formed a human chain around this building holding the treasures of nation along with the army to help prevent any more miscreants from entering it. A number of artifacts have been recovered and the damaged ones are expected to be repaired.

Whether you fear another military dictatorship, loss of American and Israeli interests in the region, or religious extremists overtaking the country, there is only one chant echoing in the streets and squares of Cairo.

Egypt is Liberated.

To many, this is just the beginning of a new Middle East.

The Kashmir Day Post – 2011

 

Source: Drew Martin, logosjournal.com

Kashmir has been an area of conflict for quite some time, and has also been the most violent of regions in South Asia. While it is hard to even mention Kashmir without taking a particular political side, but to me, there is only side to take when I think of Kashmir, humanity.

Whether Kashmir is a part of India or Pakistan is none of my business, because both the countries are occupying certain parts of the region, and will continue to fight over it forever it seems. Neither would I be promoting any separatist ideas, which is something that Kashmiris on the both sides should decide for themselves.

Of course, every country was born out of a separatist movement, even India and Pakistan themselves.

Unfortunately, religious and political divisions in the sub continent are so deep that the prejudice, patriotism and nationalism cloud the vision of even the most apparently sane people who justify the use of all sorts of violence and force to achieve their political means.  At the end of the day, there is no balance in the way the Kashmir issue is perceived either in India or in Pakistan.

Of course, no Indian would approve of the idea of separatism, and rightly so, I support them in their views, but I would like them to consider that there is a boundary between political disagreement and human rights violation. But at the same time, I think it is the right of the Kashmiris to choose their own destiny. Unfortunately, the Kashmiri Muslims and Pakistanis completely fail to realize the agony of Kashmiri Pandits driven out of the state, and the Indian nationalists gladly overlook all the violence and atrocities on the local Kashmiri population blinded by nationalism.

I can thankfully say that my brain is not infected with any sort of false nationalism, patriotism or religious affiliation that could affect my ability of not disapproving a human rights violation when I see one, anywhere in the world, in Pakistan, in Kashmir or anywhere else. But the most cruel aspect to it is the brutal silence of approval and the lack of humanity in our views.

There is no use in hating the stone-pelter, for they will never stop unless they are accepted.

Pakistanis itch every year to observe the Kashmir Solidarity Day on February 5, some for their vested interest, others for capturing Kashmir for its resources, some out of plain hatred for India, while others in genuine solidarity and brotherhood for the oppressed. But at least some one around the world should speak for the people who are suffering out there, if only the traditional rivals.

However, I see the matter differently because to me human rights violations in Kashmir is not really an issue for Pakistan to worry about, although every nation of the world should be worried about it. I would be even more concerned about it on a political level as an Indian and would have been concerned in the very same manner as a human being despite of any affiliation with the Indian subcontinent.

I can just be thankful that I am not a Kashmiri or that I don’t live in Kashmir, and I can afford to say that living in peace, comfort and security, like many of those reading these lines. While it seems cruel, cold-hearted and insensitive to say that , it is a harsh reality.  A reality known probably to every Indian, every Pakistani, but surely to every Kashmiri. Some compare Kashmir to Gaza, which is largely incorrect, but what Kashmir has in common with Gaza is the fact that no one would like to live there. I would not, at least.

While things have thankfully calmed down in the Indian Kashmir of late, which I would hope remain that way forever, there should just be realization and recognition of the human rights violations there that have been taking place for more than two decades now, and it is brutal to even mention the statistics, most probably starting after Pakistani intervention in the state. And the Indians who do recognize that impartially are labelled as traitors. Of course, tyranny shows its face in so many ways.

But Pakistani intervention or not, it is how the Indian forces treat the locals which largely alienates them from the country, as has been the case in Balochistan in Pakistan. This is a point to ponder for you cannot govern indefinitely using brute force. India is a strong regional power and Kashmiris do not stand a chance against them anyway, but every oppression has its limits.

Why cannot India, Pakistan and Kashmiris be on the same team? (Ridiculous? I know.)

I would like India to keep Kashmir forever, since it is one of their states. I have no problems with saying that. But I would only like them to treat Kashmiris the right way.

That is the only way Kashmiris could be made to realize that India, and even Pakistan, are more concerned about the people than the land and its resources, if only that were true.

 

Maybe that could help them win their hearts.

Remembering Richard Holbrooke: The Diplomat Who Ended a War

 

Richard Holbrooke (1941-2010) - Source: WikiCommons/USFG

One of the most prolific, multi-dimensional and influential diplomats in the recent US history, Richard Holbrooke, passed away on December 13, 2010. He was the US Ambassador for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Richard Holbrooke died after he had suffered a torn aorta. He was 69 at the time of his death, and his memorial service was held on January 14, 2011.

There can be two kinds of people who could have problems with people admiring Richard Holbrooke. The people who have problems with anyone making efforts to stop wars, and those who are blindly Anti-American.

But not everyone criticizing the US policies is Anti-American. I am a critic of US policies as well, but that does not make me Anti-American, because if that is not the case, then I am Anti-Pakistan too, because I criticize the Pakistani government and some of their policies as well.

But I admire Ambassador Richard Holbrooke.

He helped the United States intervene in the volatile and rather inhumane situation in the Balkans, when the local pressure prevented President Bill Clinton to intervene, especially militarily. It was one of the very few times in history when the United States made a correct decision of intervention, the one which could be considered responsible, if not anything else. Here, the critics could make the point that why the instrument of intervening in foreign affairs is being approved here while criticized at other instances.

It depends on the case and the motives.

Bosnians would have survived without a NATO intervention, maybe not with a separate country, although ethnically cleansed in much larger numbers than what resulted after it. But it is not about having a war, or breaking or making a country. It is about stopping an ongoing conflict, and diplomacy played a much larger role in it than any NATO air strikes. Remember, the UN peace keeping forces were deployed in the region at the time? But some could say that the US used the conflict as an excuse of increasing its influence in the region.

It was an unfortunate conflict which thankfully came to an end, preventing more lives from going to waste.

Of course, war is not something you could be proud of or approve. Richard Holbrooke was apparently not pro-war, he just wanted things to calm down there, and the events led to the conclusion of the Dayton Peace Agreement, which came as a sigh of relief for the war-torn and shattered people of Yugoslavia, particularly that of Bosnia & Herzegovina, who were the primary victims of the Bosnian War, while also not forgetting the people of the Albanian province Kosovo.

While the Serbs would not see the role played by Holbrooke as the one which favored them, but keeping nationalism aside, they should know that it would certainly be incorrect if anyone implies that the Serb people were to be blamed for the actions of the regime of Slobodan Milosevic, who had been coexisting with other Yugoslavian ethnic groups. That idea would be as horrifying as the conflict itself.

One of the signs that Richard Holbrooke was not fond of wars were his last recorded words, which have been frequently broadcasted, published and discussed ever since:

You have got to stop this war in Afghanistan.

A War which has caused thousands of civilian casualties since October 7, 2001, not even accounted for accurately, and has led to the loss of lives of no less than 1,472 American military personnel and 843 soldiers from other coalition countries, according to icasualties.org. To many, it is a war in which the allies are making little progress on the military front, with the war only consuming billions of dollars from the pocket of the American tax-payer.

Maybe it is just to prevent the Taliban from capturing power again, the very same force, which was on the forefront in fighting the USSR in Afghanistan in the conflict that lasted from 1979 to 1989. They were armed by the United States through their allies, especially their regional periphery, Pakistan. But undoubtedly, it is being carried on to protect the US interests in the region.

Many take it as a comic interchange between Holbrooke and his Pakistani surgeon who was sedating him, but I take it as a serious warning from a dying man. You never lie in your deathbed, and especially if you know as much about what is going on as Richard Holbrooke, whose health was eaten up by the pressures and tensions of the assignment of the Special Ambassador to Afghanistan and Pakistan. By the way, he disapproved the public use of the term “AfPak“.

Of course, with such a job as being a diplomat, and participating in and influencing the major decision-making in different points of time in history with leading Democratic figures in office, a person’s record for peace is always considered doubtful by skeptics and critics. But to many, that is not even a question to worry about, just something that I am imagining that some of you could ask.

But Diplomacy is not all about wars, attacking other nations and killing people, it is also about saving lives.  We have little idea how many lives diplomacy saves around the world every passing year, and as you are reading these lines. This is exactly why in this peace, I am not really focusing on the rest of the career of Richard Holbrooke, but the part which he loved to talk about the most. The Dayton Peace Agreement. His memoirs for that campaign are titled “To End a War“. Speaks volumes about how he took it.

Therefore, I find it my duty to talk about his contribution in the Dayton Peace Agreement.

It is written in the Talmud and the Koran.

Whoever saves one life saves the world entire.

Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, a great man and a great diplomat, will always be remembered for saving a human life, in fact many human lives, and therefore, the world entire.

This, I believe, is how he would have wanted to be remembered.