Hanging Them in the Squares

Source: Naya Daur

Conservative and populist Nationalists in any nation enjoy a special license of holding trials when and where they wish. In Pakistan, a part of the Messiah Syndrome happens to be the longing for swift justice that suits them. It is pretty strange because this kind of swift justice was dispensed by leftist Bolshevik revolutionaries in Russia and earlier Republican revolutionaries in France. Either way, this sort of swift justice is usually associated with challenging the established order. But which established order?

In Pakistan, interestingly enough, it is fashionable to support the forces responsible for the status quo while calling for the violent elimination of the forces that have mysteriously caused the moral corruption of the society. In order to cleanse this evil from society, it is important to selectively pick certain individuals who have somehow simultaneously threatened the interests of those deemed essential for the national security of the country.

The narrative of the casual fascism practiced by a number of the people of Pakistan for a long time, particularly the social conservative nationalists in Punjab, has only started to appear in the political mainstream with this audacity. A lot of people are condemning Faisal Vawda and his extremist statement about “hanging 5,000 odd people being necessary for fixing the state of the country,” but that is pretty much the sentiment of these social conservative nationalists across urban Pakistan.

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However, since Faisal Vawda is particularly more psychopathic than the rest of the elements in the current administration, he doubled down on his call by adding dragging them behind vehicles before hanging in the square. Unfortunately, the Constitution guaranteeing rights to citizens is the only hurdle in the way of this much-needed action. Of course, a person who is so widely broadcasting his savagery deserves all the condemnations in the world. But the overzealous and partisan speaker who often jumps at “expunging obscenities” from the house proceedings apparently did not have a problem with such vile statements.

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While it is true indeed that there is a wilder, savage side to the tribal justice in indigenous India or anywhere for that matter, as is often the case with undemocratic tribal societies. It is pretty interesting that even in very liberal settings frequented by respectable Senators, discussing very progressive ideas, you could hear them talking about the need to hang people to cure the country.

The sweeping statements from these conservatives remind how frighteningly close democracies remain to the rise of fascism. These bloodthirsty urges are far more dangerous than the campaigns of xenophobia and cries of economic nationalism. The thought of swift justice can sound pleasant to the depressed ears forever waiting to hear something good in the news. For them, the swift justice would be the fruit of the eagerly-awaited Messiah and just like the coming of the Messiah, it would turn around the age-old evils of social inequalities, injustice, and poverty. This is a path to hell paved by “good intentions.”

Be thankful for thoughtful fascist ministers like Faisal Vawda that have truly represented the idea of justice of a regressive administration elected by the morally constipated and hypocritical social conservatives.

On to the revolution.

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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.

ISIS: Islamist Terrorists Only Sound Threatening Next Door

Source: The Telegraph

Considering the Gaza crisis, which is undoubtedly a humanitarian disaster on both sides, you can’t help but ask yourself a question. A question that seems even too simple to ask.

Why do Islamist terrorists sound threatening only when they are operating next door?

It is actually because the threat is greatly underestimated.

But I don’t want to get too carried away over here. I have been of the opinion that the Islamist militant threat is greatly blown out of the proportion by liberals at home (Pakistan) and conservatives abroad (West).

Source: scaleplasticandrail.com

Source: scaleplasticandrail.com

And for the sake of an academic argument, I still subscribe to that theory, when compared them to a number of secular powers that could start a World War on their own. But they do become a menace when they get too strong and when they are not offered any real resistance. Or when they go out of control, as the Taliban did after the realpolitik Americans were done with them.

So if the Islamists are used as pawns for the Free World, why take them so seriously?

Because they actually believe in their ideology and are really not warriors for the cause of Western Democracy and Liberty. Concepts which are actually not only alien to them, but greatly sacrilegious in nature.

This is why you cannot trust someone subscribing to the Islamist school of politics.

Source: dawn.com

Source: dawn.com

But we repeat the same mistakes, don’t we? Another area, where I have found that my opinion was terribly wrong and have changed my mind.

We are all for empowering Islamists in our democratic process, when everything they stand for is contrary to the democratic values.

But don’t we do this out of fear? So that they resort to dreaming about the numbers in elections and do not take up arms. Well, their dream is not too far away. Look at Egypt. Look at Hamas. Why go far? Look at the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

But as in the case of Lal Masjid, as in the case of Swat, as in the case of Gaza Strip, as in the case of Kabul, even. You don’t get to realize the threat until the time it manages to sneak into your neighborhood. That’s when brutal action becomes indispensable.

The same is true for Syria, Libya and Iraq. Iraq, especially, because the country was “liberated” just a decade ago.

Especially because the ISIS is a nightmare.

Source: The Telegraph

Source: The Telegraph

But today, despite warnings from the likes of Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), and yes, the devil-incarnate Dick Cheney, the matter is being trivialized. Now there are two sides to the picture, even though I think left and libertarians, who I would otherwise agree with, have it wrong.

1. Iraqis are in trouble thanks to the Islamists. Their lives and liberty are in jeopardy. All chances of democracy dying. Let’s take action against the ISIS through military intervention.

2. It’s a centuries long sectarian conflict and nothing that concerns America. No need to involve our boys needlessly into this unsolvable issue. Or maybe just fuck Iraqis.

But there is also this third viewpoint that not many talk about and that many on the left, libertarian and anti-establishment spectrum could possibly appreciate. Alright, it has its share of logical problems, but worth considering.

3. You, Republican or Democrat, fucked Iraq and pretty much handed it over to the Islamists. Clean up the mess you made.

The funny part is that all three of them seem morally right in their own way. Even though the opponents would still see great moral wrongs in them. But I am kind of surprised by the mainstream resistance to the idea of intervention, more owing to the popular American sentiment.

However, the Democratic opposition to the suggestion by Republican conservatives seem more partisan than moral. I hope you know why I am saying this.

Source: AP/Washington Times

Source: AP/Washington Times

At the same time, the indifference of President Obama and his administration over the situation in Iraq is hard to ignore.

You know anti-American and anti-Israeli conspiracy theorists are suggesting that ISIS might be funded by the United States (partially true thanks to the Syrian Civil War) and Israel (OK?). While the latter completely sounds like bullcrap, the way the United States is letting the ISIS run loose is enough to raise doubts.

I never thought I would be advocating military action, ever. It’s for a very different reason though. But are you left with a choice with people who are actually threatening the peace of people’s lives?

The safety and security of Iraqis are at stake here. And it does not matter really because it is apparently a distant, unimportant threat. But really, some action would become necessary if they get within 50 miles of the borders of Israel.

This is where we need to assess the gravity of the situation of Iraq.

Source: The New York Times

Source: The New York Times

One thing is for certain that the United States directly or indirectly contributed to the present mess in Iraq and allowed an opportunity for the ISIS by dismantling a secular dictator in Saddam Hussein. Especially due to allegedly arming Al-Qaeda rebels for the Syrian Civil War.

Though the argument from the conservative side is that it is actually the Obama administration which is to blame for the disastrous situation in Iraq.

And you know what, that actually makes more sense. Why advocate Saddam as the lesser evil?

This question is rightly asked whether controlling the situation in Iraq would mean constant occupation. It’s a valid question and that is why the invasion was such a terrible idea in the first place.

At least, Iraq was stable under Saddam Hussein.

In any case. When you claim to be the liberators of a people, the upholders of the value of Liberty and Democracy, you gotta live up to the name. Or as Congressman Paul says stop being the policeman of the world, and perhaps let the EU intervene, which they hardly ever do.

Especially when you ruin the lives of millions of Iraqis who had absolutely done nothing wrong and not to mention thousands of allied soldiers who did not have to die for that needless campaign.

Yes, let me call that campaign absolutely needless.

Because under the ISIS, Iraq will never be free.

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