Pakistan’s Turn to the Dark Side

Source: ARY News

Source: ARY News

If the recent foreign policy developments for Pakistan did not have you worried, then it is time for serious reflection. Ever since President George W. Bush left office, you can feel a distance between Washington and Islamabad. The differences between the two countries were particularly seen at their worst when Pakistan decided to carry out nuclear tests in 1998 during the term of the Clinton administration.

While Pakistan and China have always had very strong ties since the 1970s, but nothing like the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor has ever been seen before. It promises great prosperity for the future, but skeptics see it as yet another neo-colonial scheme in the region which could bring more harm than good. Not to mention the control it could possibly offer to the Chinese authorities in Gwadar.

Of course, the irony is not lost on the Pakistani left progressives and former communists who have been struggling against the military establishment since the 1950s. They recall how Afghan Jihad was mobilized by Pakistani military and masterminded by American National Security experts, out of fears of Soviets reaching the shores of the Persian Gulf. They also recall the harsh bans they had to endure during the Cold War years.

But let’s face it. The CPEC is too grand to be said no to. The magnitude of the project is so grand that even India would have agreed to it, had it been a primary beneficiary. The fact that Pakistan is turning to partners other than the United States and Great Britain for its economic and trade development sounds perfectly fine. Though you can’t help but wonder if the economic development comes at the cost of military alliances and other illegible footnotes.

Especially since the killing of Osama Ben Laden at the hands of US Navy Seals in Abbottabad, a humiliating episode for the Pakistani state, Pakistan’s position in the Western alliance has never been more precarious. The difference of interest between Washington and Islamabad on military action against certain militant groups in Afghanistan and within Pakistan have even worsened the tensions in the Obama years.

With the gulf of military cooperation apparently widening with a more disinterested US administration, Pakistan is apparently seeking new avenues with more sinister powers. On the surface, it was a welcome development that President Zardari paid a rare visit to Moscow in 2011 and that for the very first time, the Russian military participated in joint military exercises with Pakistan on Pakistani soil. Such an occurrence would have been unimaginable in the 1980s.

There is only one problem. Vladimir Putin and his open intimidation of the Western world. Not only that, his close association with Iran and the brutal Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad. At a time when Aleppo has become the greatest battlefield for the conscience of the world, it may not be the best time to favor Russia over the Western world. So let’s just hope the military exercise is just a harmless affair of two old rivals on the road to friendship.

Probably it has been a long while that Pakistani nationalist commentators have been dreaming of Pakistani statesmen standing up to the US authorities on an equal standing. Even though we have had a tradition of strong diplomatic figures from Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to Abdullah Hussain Haroon. So you could expect that Senator Mushahid Hussein Syed’s recent comment at a Washington think tank about the United States no longer being the superpower of the world would see much appreciation.

The only problem is that the statement of the Prime Minister’s envoy could be tantamount to an needless provocation. It could work all very well in terms of harnessing diplomatic leverage and probably it would be unwise not to make soft threats, but if behavior such as this is overdone, it could surely affect Pakistan’s future with the Western world.

Furthermore, it is important to choose your words. Not sure how calling the United States “a declining power” is so flattering, no matter what your objectives are. It has only been a slight sign of Pakistan drifting away from and slipping into the Chinese and Russian camp, other than the usual cockiness of Senator Mushahid Hussain, who is free to get carried away after retirement as much as he wants. It is just that the China-Russia camp does not offer the best of values in human civilization.

It is only a fair point to make that it takes two to tango. Perhaps the United States does not require the partnership of Pakistan as it used to during the twentieth century or perhaps it is sick and tired of nurturing the Pakistani military without the satisfactory fulfillment of its objectives. However, the United States still favors Pakistan enough with its more traditional and liberal politicians largely refraining from supporting a Liberty Caucus resolution in the Congress to declare Pakistan a terrorist state.

Even though the situation is far from being apocalyptic, the direction Pakistan is heading is certainly not that bright. There is nothing wrong in stating that we are living in a multi-polar world today, neither is there any harm in pursuing trade and commerce ties with the likes of China and Russia. But it would be wise not to burn bridges with long-time allies, whose values and humanitarian record we need to identify with more than authoritarian powers.

On the other hand, Pakistan’s greatest strategic concern India has been significantly improving its diplomatic standing in the West, even reaching out to Israel, since the fall of the Soviet Union. At the same time, India has not been alienating rival China and old ally Russia in its pursuit toward a freer and more vibrant economy and strong defense. Pakistan surely needs to take its diplomatic lessons from its bitter rival, despite India’s petulant insistence to isolate Pakistan diplomatically. At least the missed diplomatic opportunity with Israel cannot be emphasized enough.

As citizens, we can only hope for Pakistan to pursue more liberal and democratic policies and to stand with global forces representing such values than otherwise.

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.

Isn’t an Agnostic an Atheist Without Balls?

Source: quotes.lifehack.org

Source: quotes.lifehack.org

Stephen Colbert is a comedian and I take the statement as a joke. Though it does possibly translate the opinion, if not malice, of a lot of atheists, and probably his own toward people identifying as agnostics.

Professor Dawkins has referred to “permanent” agnostics as fence sitters and has accused them of intellectual cowardice. (Agnosticism)  He has proposed his useful atheistic scale that goes from 1 to 7, depending on how people perceive their belief pertaining to a supernatural being. But he is speaking in more practical terms to someone who has just had the revelation of the absence of a deity after reading “The God Delusion“.

Colbert’s statement is an idea that many people hold probably because agnostics are perceived to be less confrontational than a lot of new atheist converts. That is not necessarily true. An agnostic can be antithetical too. But if you are not being disrespectful to someone, that not necessarily may be a sign of lack of guts, but of good manners.

There are agnostics that tend to believe and agnostics that tend not to believe, bust mostly fall into the disbelief zone for their skepticism. Agnosticism, to a lot of people, like Bertrand Russell, is simply a more accurate philosophical and logical position than atheism. For others, it could be a transitional stage from belief to disbelief, and that is probably what Dawkins refers to as “temporary agnosticism”.

The agnostic is just conceding that they don’t know and that they cannot know. While an atheist thinks that there is no supreme being simply because there is no evidence at hand. Though this does not mean that agnostics do not agree to the lack of evidence. To different people, either positions can make sense, and not much to others, who would see it as splitting the hair.

Source: Telegraph

Source: Telegraph

But to settle the matter, let us examine the quote of the philosopher that I personally consider the greatest authority on skepticism, Bertrand Russell, (No, Dawkins is not half as much brilliant or even sensible) from his 1947 pamphlet Am I An Atheist Or An Agnostic?.

As a philosopher, if I were speaking to a purely philosophic audience I should say that I ought to describe myself as an Agnostic, because I do not think that there is a conclusive argument by which one can prove that there is not a God.

On the other hand, if I am to convey the right impression to the ordinary man in the street I think I ought to say that I am an Atheist, because when I say that I cannot prove that there is not a God, I ought to add equally that I cannot prove that there are not the Homeric gods.

I just think agnostics are philosophically and logically more correct than atheists, not lacking balls or any other round objects.

However, you can come up with more accusations if they did not even appreciate or understand the Russell’s teapot analogy.

Quick Web Reference: Agnosticism
Quick Web Reference: Russell’s teapot

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Answer to the Quora Question:

Atheism: What do you think about this quote: Isn’t an agnostic just an atheist without balls?

Pakistanis: Why They Talk About Sovereignty?

Courtesy: The Nation

Every nation in the world is fed with lies in one form or another in order to control  them and to keep them united. No exceptions, I’d be glad if there was one. Some are fed with fear, some with vain pride. The lies of some countries are truer than others, while that of the others are falser. And no surprise, some lies have also been fed to the Pakistani nation.

Recently, some of the people have come to terms with the fact that their sovereignty is actually non-existent, especially after all the US drone strikes, which according to the Wikileaks are “quietly approved” by the Pakistani government itself, and now people are also offended at the United States Navy SEALs operation at Abbottabad against Osama Ben Laden, although their sovereignty was actually violated by none other than the most wanted terrorist in the world. Something that has embarrassed the Pakistani military in front of the nation (and the whole world) for a change, even if you consider local conspiracy theories. Anyway.

But still people talk about sovereignty, despite knowing there is no such thing. There are two reasons to that. Firstly, they would still not believe that their sovereignty is non-existent because of their conditioning. This is what the text books say, that Pakistan is a sovereign nation, the fortress of Islam and all that, and this is what they have been growing up believing in. What is happening right now to the beliefs and ideals of the Pakistani nation is a case of cognitive dissonance.

Secondly, because some of them, who realize that they actually have no sovereignty, aspire to attain it, which is every nation’s right I guess. They want to see their country sovereign, respected and powerful, like all the prominent nations in the world. But the question is how are you going to attain it? I am not a big fan of the nationalism crap but if they really want to do that, apart from stopping sheltering terrorists like Ben Laden, they should  start building themselves economically.

But then again, that is another story…