Imran Khan’s Hollow Dream of Becoming an International Statesman of Peace

Source: Prime Minister Office/samaa.tv

The New York Times issue of August 30 saw something peculiar. An opinion piece by the Pakistani leader Imran Khan with a passive-aggressive threat of nuclear war.

The piece is a chronology of recent events between India and Pakistan since the PTI leader took office following a controversial election in July 2018. Of course, he started the article referring to his first address in which he invited India to peace talks, which were rebuffed. Then he refers to the February 14 Pulawama suicide attack by a “young Kashmiri man” against Indian Troops, following which the Indian government held Pakistan responsible. He reminded the world of the return of a captured Indian Pilot and a subsequent letter to Modi to deescalate tensions. India instead took the lobbying route to seek Pakistan’s blacklisting at the FATF.

Imran Khan’s self-absorbed rant failed to take into account the history of India-Pakistan relations before his assumption of office and the long and glorious history of cross-border terrorism starting from Pakistan supporting militancy in Kashmir, the Parliament attacks following Lahore, Kargil war, and Mumbai attacks among many other incidents.

Pretending that India-Pakistan relations started with his party entering the government, he then had a sudden realization following India’s persistent rejections for talks after Pulwama.

Evidently Mr. Modi had mistaken our desire for peace in a nuclear neighborhood as appeasement. We were not simply up against a hostile government. We were up against a “New India,” which is governed by leaders and a party that are the products of the Hindu supremacist mother ship, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, or the R.S.S.

The Indian prime minister and several ministers of his government continue to be members of the R.S.S., whose founding fathers expressed their admiration for Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler. Mr. Modi has written with great love and reverence about M.S. Golwalkar, the second supreme leader of the R.S.S., and has referred to Mr. Golwakar as “Pujiniya Shri Guruji (Guru Worthy of Worship).”

Mr. Modi’s guru wrote admiringly about the Final Solution in “We, Our Nationhood Defined,” his 1939 book: “To keep up the purity of the race and its culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the Semitic Races — the Jews. National pride at its highest has been manifested here. Germany has also shown how well-nigh impossible it is for races and cultures, having differences going to the root, to be assimilated into one united whole, a good lesson for us in Hindustan for us to learn and profit by.”

Imran Khan probably came to know through one of his advisors that Indian Prime Minister was a lifelong member of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a paramilitary organization dedicated to promoting Hindu characteristics among Indians, as well as the Hindutva political philosophy. Yet he thought that the reelection of Modi, instead of Rahul Gandhi, a Nehruvian secularist, would be a better idea for the peace in the region.

I had hoped that being elected prime minister might lead Mr. Modi to cast aside his old ways as the chief minister of the Indian state of Gujarat, when he gained global notoriety for the 2002 pogrom against local Muslims on his watch and was denied a visa to travelto the United States under its International Religious Freedom Act — a list of visa denials that included associates of Slobodan Milosevic.

Mr. Modi’s first term as prime minister had been marked by lynching of Muslims, Christians and Dalits by extremist Hindu mobs. In Indian-occupied Kashmir, we have witnessed increased state violence against defiant Kashmiris. Pellet-firing shotguns were introduced and aimed at the eyes of young Kashmiri protesters, blinding hundreds.

Imran Khan was well aware that Modi, a global persona non grata, was coming to power. It is indeed true that his administration has been complicit in the organized mob lynching of several Muslims, if not endorsing them. He was also aware that it was his administration, which started the heinous practice of deliberately targeting the eyes of Kashmiri civilian protesters with pellets, yet he hoped for his relations. Was he sucking up to him with his statement? If only he had addressed the issues India wanted Pakistan to offer guarantees about. But only if he could.

This is pretty strange because the Prime Minister should have realized Modi’s background before writing to him for peace. How can someone who admires Mussolini and Hitler be up for peace? What is even more ironic is that Imran Khan expected Modi to be better for India-Pakistan relations and to possibly “settle Kashmir issue.” Well, he got the latter right, at least.

On Aug. 5, in its most brazen and egregious move, Mr. Modi’s government altered the status of Indian-occupied Kashmir through the revocation of Article 370 and 35A of the Indian Constitution. The move is illegal under the Constitution of India, but more important, it is a violation of the United Nations Security Council resolutions on Kashmir and the Shimla Agreement between India and Pakistan.

And Mr. Modi’s “New India” chose to do this by imposing a military curfew in Kashmir, imprisoning its population in their homes and cutting off their phone, internet and television connections, rendering them without news of the world or their loved ones. The siege was followed by a purge: Thousands of Kashmiris have been arrested and thrown into prisons across India. A blood bath is feared in Kashmir when the curfew is lifted. Already, Kashmiris coming out in defiance of the curfew are being shot and killed.

If the world does nothing to stop the Indian assault on Kashmir and its people, there will be consequences for the whole world as two nuclear-armed states get ever closer to a direct military confrontation. India’s defense minister has issued a not-so-veiled nuclear threat to Pakistan by saying that the future of India’s “no first use” policy on nuclear weapons will “depend on circumstances.” Similar statements have been made by Indian leaders periodically. Pakistan has long viewed India’s “no first use” claims with skepticism.

With the nuclear shadow hovering over South Asia, we realize that Pakistan and India have to move out of a zero-sum mind-set to begin dialogue on Kashmir, various strategic matters and trade. On Kashmir, the dialogue must include all stakeholders, especially the Kashmiris. We have already prepared multiple options that can be worked on while honoring the right to self-determination the Kashmiris were promised by the Security Council resolutions and India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru.

Imran Khan hilariously brings his favorite jargon of “New Pakistan” to allude to Modi’s “New India” and mourns the revocation of Article 370. As he goes on to criticize the lack of international reaction to the horrific curbs on civil liberties in India and a majoritarian constitutional amendment, he alludes to the threat of nuclear war. His case clearly is that India has threatened Pakistan with nuclear war because they had made statements about making the “no first use” policy conditional to circumstances. Interestingly, those circumstances can possibly include the “use of tactical nuclear weapons by Pakistan in the event of an Indian attack.” Pakistan’s nuclear doctrine can be learned about through various sources and the reasons pushing India to adopt such a stance after years of threats escape Imran Khan’s memory.

Through dialogue and negotiations, the stakeholders can arrive at a viable solution to end the decades of suffering of the Kashmiri people and move toward a stable and just peace in the region. But dialogue can start only when India reverses its illegal annexation of Kashmir, ends the curfew and lockdown, and withdraws its troops to the barracks.

It is imperative that the international community think beyond trade and business advantages. World War II happened because of appeasement at Munich. A similar threat looms over the world again, but this time under the nuclear shadow.

Interestingly, when no one is bringing up nuclear war, Imran Khan invokes it over and over again. He believes that is the best way to attract the attention of the international community to Kashmir is threatening nuclear war. This is his idea of a short cut to peace in the region. If Kashmir is under India’s draconian authoritarian control, why does Pakistan have to respond with nuclear war considering Pakistan is already showing solidarity with Kashmir through peaceful means.

Imran Khan’s stance on India seems to be just about as confused as his imaginary “Medina Riyasat” or “Medina State” model which attempts to present Islamic Caliphate as a “fair” welfare state that protects religious minority groups. He is apparently not being able to make up his mind whether Indians are Nazis that must not be appeased and should be nuked or if they are a legitimate state which should be engaged in peace talks. Why would he engage with Modi, after declaring him to be a follower of an ideology comparable to Nazism, at all? Wouldn’t it violate his staunch stance against fascism?

Those familiar with Imran Khan’s personal history recognize him to be a narcissist and a megalomaniac. Despite his first year in office being a failure, he sees his rise to power as a historic and revolutionary moment with divine inspiration. He sees his stature in global politics no less, even though the reality is very different. While Modi is being awarded the highest civilian awards in the UAE, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia, Imran Khan had driven their leaders from the airport like a chauffer, seeking aid money to bail his bankrupt country out.

As much as his case for Kashmir might sound pleasant to the eyes of unsuspecting commentators, you simply cannot ignore the parallel rhetoric from the military, dubbed his “selectors” by the opposition. Actually, their actions speak louder than words as the military tested the “Ghaznavi” ballistic nuclear missile a day before the Kashmir Hour solidarity protest enforced on the public through a 30-minute traffic jam.

Before lecturing the world, he conveniently forgets the state of democracy, civil liberties, and human rights at home, which is caused by the policies of his administration under the guidance of the Bajwa military administration. He has revived the culture of caustic divisive politics in Pakistan, making blatant political arrests targeting the opposition and dissenting citizens and criticized India of doing the same in parliament floor. He and his supporters complain about a lack of national unity at the time when the entire opposition leadership of Pakistan is in jail and deprived of proper medical facilities.

He conveniently forgets that the world is well aware of the state of democracy and religious freedom under his administration before he can make a legitimate case about any other. He forgets that before lecturing India on fairness, he cannot utter the word “secularism” in the same sentence with “Pakistan” at home. His refusal to acknowledge the Chinese atrocities on Uighur Muslims has been astounding for his supposed image as an upright and principled politician.

Imran Khan may very well dream of being the next Zulfikar Ali Bhutto or Jinnah, but he simply cannot shrug off the history of Pakistan that burdens him. He cannot break the shackles of the military establishment he used to criticize and now colludes with. His follower might think that being a hypocrite and a liar might be characteristics of a great leader but he simply cannot be an independent leader as long as he remains a puppet in the hand of his masters.

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Sectarian Diplomacy to End Sectarian Terrorism

Source: Times of Israel

Source: Times of Israel

This September, the New York Times featured a surprising piece from the Iranian foreign minister. Reading the article, you would find that he has curiously coined a new term for Islamic terrorism: “Wahhabism.” But sadly, it is not as clear as it sounds.

While you would occasionally come across the term used by Shia social media warriors every now and then, it certainly has not been a part of the mainstream with such political connotations. But now that it is, it effectively condemns an entire school of Islamic thought and apparently calls for its annihilation, correct me if I am wrong please. Imagine the outrage among our progressive liberals had the Saudi foreign minister made such an appeal to get rid of Shiite Islam.

Either the Iranian foreign minister is extremely naïve or wants to instigate divisive sectarian action from Muslims on purpose. While you could argue that the complaints against the Wahhabi school of Islam are not completely without substance, what about his verdict? If the Saudis are doing so with their action, such rhetoric surely would contribute to the problem. And I say this while appreciating that Iran needs its fair share of public relations to improve its image in the western world as well.

It is hard to interpret anything else from the term “Wahhabism” and “getting rid of it from the world,” which sounds a touch too sectarian a solution to end a sectarian problem. Unless it is really a new expression for Saudi foreign policy or radical Islamic terrorism as practiced by ISIL, Boko Haram, and Al-Qaida, instead of the theological school. Especially because like all Shias and Sunnis, not all Wahhabis must believe in militant and expansionist Islam apparently. At least not openly, like the rest.

I don’t recall if ever before a high-ranking diplomat has ever called for the annihilation of an Islamic school of theology. Either that or the title of the opinion article is terribly misleading. I find it shocking that a prestigious publication such as The New York Times would provide a platform to such outrageous ideas. But then again, it is also an effective way of publishing an insight into how the Iranian regime sees the world.

The main point in the article was much needed though that the Western world should wake up to the excesses of the Saudi foreign policy around the world. There is no doubt that Saudi Arabia has been a disgraceful ally of the West due to the kingdom’s regressive and even malicious policies in the region. Saudi Arabia also needs to be called out for its anti-Iran aggression. Even arguing for sanctions against Saudi Arabia for its human rights violations makes perfect sense, but probably not what the title of his article suggests.

The point about the correlation of Islamic militant activity with the presence of Saudi funding of theological schools abroad is interesting, but does that mean that the very theology of Wahhabism is exclusively responsible for it? It is possible but consider this. Are Islamic militancy, expansionism, and enforcing of theocracy exclusive to Wahhabi Islam? Furthermore, are Wahhabism and the Saudi regime one and the same? More importantly, are all Wahhabi Muslims extremists and militants?

In my opinion, the Koranic literalism and strict monotheism of Wahhabism have done more harm than good in terms of tolerance and harmony in more diverse and almost pluralistic Muslim societies such as Pakistan, but I am not sure if it should be banned as a theology or if we should “rid it from the world.” We are well aware that this has been a standard of freedom of religion in the Islamic Republic of Iran, or even in Saudi Arabia. But why should the free world follow those undemocratic values?

In making his case, the Iranian foreign minister pretends as though Islamist tendencies are absolutely absent in schools other than the Wahhabis. Sadly, the regime he represents deny that assertion. Furthermore, Iran also regularly backs Palestinian and Lebanese terrorist organizations that target Israel, if not other militant and political activity in the region. Especially, when Mr. Zarif speaks of the brutalities of the Syrian rebels while defending the sociopathic policies of the Assad regime, which is probably still using chemical weapons against its citizens.

At the end of the article, the Iranian foreign minister graciously invites the Saudis to join the fight against “Wahhabism.” What a joke. But this probably implies that by “Wahhabism,” he actually means radical Islamic terrorism instead of the Wahhabi school of theology. Though I am not sure if that means that either of the countries is in a position to reject Islamic militancy, which remains to be their weapon of choice.

In the very same article, the author declares Wahhabism a “theological perversion.” How terribly confusing. However, Mohammad Javad Zarif, the apparently cheerful Iranian statesman who does not dress like an Iranian cleric, does not come across as such a confused man by any means. He has a successfully negotiated nuclear deal with the United States under his belt, resulting in the lifting of some economic sanctions.

With a diplomat as brilliant and capable as Zarif, I think he knows perfectly well what he is writing about. In any case, it is a desperate attempt to counter the Saudi PR offensive he complains about.

The confusion that the article produces seems to be a case of deliberate ambiguity that could make the most out of the general ignorance of Islam among Western audiences. However, it needs to be called out for the nonsense that it really is. Not to take away from the fact that the credibility of the messenger ruins whatever traces of sincerity could be found in the message.

Probably the Iranian foreign minister should stop confusing everyone and join the rest of the world in referring to Islamic terrorism with the word that everyone understands. Terrorism. After all, you are not going to fight “radical Islam” unless you say the words.

A version of this post was originally published in The Nation blogs.

Cyber-Bullying Institutionalized & Published

According to one of my twitter friends, the social media have brought out the assholes in everyone. Cyber-bullying has become a phenomenon in the age of social networking, but it was taken to the next level with the case of a young man in an Imran Khan protest rally talking about the conduct of the police and the difficulties he faced in the rally. The video which has become the object of ridicule on twitter, facebook and other social media, unfortunately, was either leaked or aired from a private Pakistani TV channel, and I’m sure the experience must have been traumatic to the person in the video.

While everyone shared the video to their personal audience, something odd caught my eye yesterday. The correspondent of the New York Times in Pakistan, who apparently had run out of topics to write about, had all the time in the world to write about the video and use it to prove how ridiculous was Imran Khan’s cause. Of course, it was an important event in the history of AfPak. Even a few of well-known Pakistani journalists were sharing the link and cracking jokes on it.

While I disagree with Imran Khan and his supporters as far as their so-called revolution is concerned too,  but this had certainly gone too far, simply out of political opposition and hatred, which goes to show the kind of journalism that is being practised.

The New York Times blog post, along with the video broadcasted from Pakistani channels,  institutionalized the cyber-bullying and since it was against the PTI and published in an American publication, it was OK by the standards of the so-called liberal journalists in Pakistan. But what to say about Pakistani journalists, who were of course the source of the video anyway. To make matters worse, the Honorable Pakistani Ambassador to the United States made it official by tweeting the post.

Yes, nothing wrong with sharing the link, and let us not expect any sane behavior from the general public including myself. Well everyone needs a good laugh, isn’t it? But institutions need to be more responsible than individuals and the public, Pakistani channels included, especially the Honorable Ambassador. Isn’t it?

Hilarious.

It’s a lesson to everyone that you should think twice before talking to the press.

I shared the link on social networking as well and rather feel ashamed and disgusted at myself, though the idea was not to ridicule but to show how much people know about a revolution. But that is when the cause is lost and you invade someone’s privacy and become the culprit yourself. The intention of other people and journalists sharing it would have been the same, except for those cracking jokes on him, but making his comments a point to discuss on publications, …well you decide.

I apologize to the person in the video and have learned my lesson in cyber-bullying.  Also learned my lesson in how the press works.

While this post would only propagate the video further, it would also hopefully offer the side of the picture that very few are presenting, so I thought that writing about is alright after all. Comments are welcome.

The point to ponder, which goes for myself too, is:

There is no point in laughing at the political ideas of kids. They are only learning.

But guess what, adults need to learn too.