The Pragmatist’s Resolution to the Gaza Conflict

Source: Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Images/Vox.com

Source: Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Images/Vox.com

If you are sick to your stomach of the recurrent, and I repeat recurrent, Gaza conflict, well you are not alone. The episodes of this conflict are bound to occur after a small period and the tragedies will only grow worse with time.

The Hamas control of Gaza Strip and the consequent blockade is not a point of equilibrium and is unsustainable. This is why the conflict keeps on escalating every two years, or so it seems.

If Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ends the conflict now, and if you are realistic, it would only mean one thing. We are going to see another Gaza episode two years from now, and maybe sooner.

Did more than 60 Israeli soldiers die for a nothing campaign?

I am sure Israelis are sick of it, and you can be very sure that it is a matter of survival for the people of Gaza.

The most dreadful thing about the nature of this conflict is that neither Hamas nor the Israeli leadership will care for the human tragedy. They say they would, but we all know what to expect. And probably this war is one that has made so many civilians vulnerable more than any conflict zone in recent history.

This is why there are very strong arguments for relieving Gaza of Hamas control. And to me, this is the pragmatist’s resolution to the current Gaza conflict. It is not a permanent solution, far from it, but it is a start toward a better life.

In a way, Israel has been presenting this proposition, which is evident by the way the conflict has escalated. The world seems to be largely OK with it. Therefore, the American, the European and Egyptian sanctions on the Gaza Strip. Nobody wants to see Hamas in Gaza Strip.

The problem is that most pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel protesters simply do not find Hamas a problem. Good for their moral high ground, bad for the pursuit of any resolution.

So what would kicking out Hamas of Gaza mean? Better lives, open borders, no embargoes and no war. There would still be Israeli occupation, which means that there would be no freedom, but it surely could mean no war.

Or alternatively, handing over the administrative control to the Palestinian authority, while the IDF remains in charge of border security. Well, because we know as a plain fact that the Palestinian Authority is simply incapable of it. That’s why Hamas occupied Gaza in the first place.

And there is a reason why Hamas is not an acceptable party to peace. The kind of freedom that Hamas wants, that is to end the occupation of land where Israel currently exists & of Jerusalem, is not acceptable. Moreover, their charter is pretty much about the annihilation of Israel and the Jews, so case closed.

This is why the Gaza Palestinians who are not insistent on a two state solution that some in Israeli right are blocking are a part of the problem. Not seeking compromise under the given circumstances is what blocks peace in the Middle East and intensifies the tribalism of the conflict.

And we know that this conflict is all about moral dilemmas and not as much about logic, as explained in this article.

Then again, Palestinians who want freedom would never favor Israeli occupation of Gaza. They’d rather become martyrs to present their case. And the politics never ends and neither do the killings. While I sympathize with their cause, I wonder if the Hamas way is the best way.

But the greatest tragedy of Gaza, as in any war, is the individual. Someone who should not have suffered due to a political conflict.

But nationalism is blind to the individual. It always has been.

Advertisements

Would You Shoot at Gullu Butt?

Source: Dawn

Source: Dawn

He is the new cultural icon.

He is at the center of political satire and social media humor. He even has a game app to his name now.

He is Gullu Butt.

Now while people have started loving this character, don’t forget who he really is. Gullu Butt is a dangerous, irresponsible criminal who should do his time.

But the question remains.

Would you shoot at Gullu Butt?

Surely not with the intention to kill him, but certainly to harm him.

Ideally, just to incapacitate him from wreaking further havoc and damaging private property.

OK, probably not the car smashing revolutionary hero, but probably someone with more lethal designs such as arson.

Or probably someone looking to commit more dangerous crimes which could arguably lead to injuries and, in some cases, lost lives.

Source: Reporter's Diary

Source: Reporter’s Diary

Now leave Gullu Butt’s cuteness aside and consider our usual, probably equally cute, religious and political rioters who burn colonies to the ground. Consider these innocuous looking protesters for example, who raided the Joseph colony for a righteous cause.

All in the name of angry protest. All in the apparent name of freedom of association and religion.

Source: Express Tribune

Source: Express Tribune

So just like the Punjab police were spectators in the background when Gullu was smashing windshields of unattended vehicles, they were spectators when these folks burned homes of several families.

The Punjab police were also apparently helpless when they were witnessing the stoning to death of that woman Farzana Parveen outside the Lahore High Court.

For an even darker possibility, these rioters could become mass murderers when they act in the Indian state of Gujarat and all the police does is to stare at arson sites helplessly.

So would you shoot at Gullu Butt? I know not everyone. Or perhaps it depends.

But shoot or not, the fact remains that when the hands of security personnel are tied, the private citizens will need to act to protect themselves and their property.

It would be a lot easier to shoot at these several Gullu Butts if they would not have such a public face.

It could not only help protect private property but also save innocent people.

While shooting rioters sound authoritarian and draconian, it is arguably the next best thing to do for a private citizen at least. Especially when the protectors of their security would do nothing to ensure it.

When protesters turn into criminals, they should be treated as the latter.

Why Mandela is a Symbol of Freedom

Nelson Mandela (1918-2013) - Source: history.com

Nelson Mandela (1918-2013) – Source: history.com

Nelson Mandela is a symbol of freedom.

These are not hollow words as the true meaning of freedom can only be understood by those who are incarcerated and harassed by authoritarian forces and those who are constantly discriminated for one reason or another. Especially when it is the color of the skin.

Some people learn the price of freedom, peace and democracy the hard way. Even if they would apparently not even understand these ideas fully. Nelson Mandela became the greatest embodiment of this realization over time.

Nelson Mandela is a symbol of freedom because he experienced authoritarian oppression first hand and in one of the cruelest of ways that any political leader of the modern times could suffer.

Nelson Mandela was a Democratic Socialist by political persuasion, who had been a lifelong communist, therefore gathering the criticism from the anti-communist West at the time, who would demonize communists at any opportunity that presented itself.

His critics in the West may have a point, but Mandela did not establish an authoritarian government in South Africa on the abolition of Apartheid. But it also goes to show the hypocrisy of the democratic West, which would support Apartheid regimes while trumpeting principles of liberty and democracy.

But more than his later commitment to non-violence, it is his struggle against colonial and racist captors of his people that immortalizes this great man. Arguably, the greatest since Gandhi.

Who but Mandela could be the greatest inspiration to the West and to everyone else for how demonizing someone for their ideology is wrong, and authoritarian in its own right.

But this is not the first time, or last for that matter, that you would find people taking refuge in an authoritarian ideology in order to fight the persecution from another. Anything that offers some hope. In this case, social equality and justice.

Most sympathizers of authoritarian ideologies are kind, well meaning and passionate people, who just don’t know what they are taking about. Some of them then end up discovering the price of freedom the hard way.

Who but Mandela would know the price of freedom. Who but he can tell what authoritarianism and totalitarianism mean.

RIP Nelson Mandela

It has been a privilege to be alive during your lifetime.

I hope you keep on inspiring for the pursuit of freedom, which continues to elude those who value it.

The Minimum Responsibility

Source: ISPR

Pakistan is probably the only country in the world where coups are always unmistakably bloodless and unopposed.

But there is a slight problem with such carte blanche bloodless coups. It has become somewhat of an accepted practice, and one which is almost taken for granted. Just like how rapists are turned into grooms in a conservative society.

There has been recent news that the Pakistani government is to try General Pervez Musharraf for treason for abrogating the constitution. I think it is encouraging that finally the authorities are taking note of people abrogating the constitution. However, there is a problem with it.

First of all, I am, by no means, implying that such a trial should not be held and am surely not apologizing for the General. But I would only support it to be symbolic as long as the barbaric law of death for treason remains in effect. I would also like the prosecution to include other personnel to establish the minimum responsibility for the charge, of course with the degrees of responsibility and offense taken into consideration.  

While discussing the illegal and unconstitutional take over of the government by Musharraf, we must also try those who were directly responsible for preventing it. Now I am not saying that we should not hold people accountable for breaking the law, as some supporters of Musharraf would like to do, by demanding obstruction to a trial because a lot of other people were involved too. Especially when Article 6 of the constitution includes the clause of those aiding in the abrogation of the constitution. If the trial goes on at all, that is.

There is a reason why minimum responsibility should be established in this case and why it is not equivalent to inaction in other moral problems, because it has a legal basis. This is because army officers are responsible as per their oath to uphold the Constitution of Pakistan. This is why at least the Armed forces corps commanders should be responsible to stop the Army Chief from abrogating the constitution and taking over the country.

Arguably this should also be true for judges, civil servants and politicians, but given the precedence of military might in Pakistan in terms of politics, that is a relatively unrealistic demand, but a reasonable one and certainly not without basis in legal logic.

Furthermore, who are the only ones who have any real power to prevent someone from their ranks abusing the law and the constitution of the country? It is indeed none else but the army leadership. And to be more accurate with establishing the minimum responsibility, the corps commanders, probably.

Why it is that all the corps commanders apparently seem to be fine with the idea of their chief or even one of them arresting the Prime Minister and taking over the government? Why do they not defect from this defecting and technically treasonous faction of the state and prevent an action that is not only unlawful, but malicious to the Republic?

Why can the military not disobey all the unlawful commands of their corrupt superior and actually arrest the one person or a few who are actually the ones who need to be removed? It is only they who can prevent  this unconstitutional and dictatorial atrocity from occurring. After all, it is only they who have the necessary force to commit the crime in the first place.

But no, our military officers would be under the delusion of genuinely believing that the military rule is what the country really needed, believe it or not.

Or afterwards, when a democratic government is installed, they would justify their complicity by citing the blind military discipline to be the reason when they follow the unconstitutional and illegal commands of their superiors, such as arresting the elected Prime Minister and the cabinet.

What becomes of the blind military discipline when military commanders plan and act to stage coups? What becomes of the blind military discipline when the top military brass decides to supersede the authority of those who they are answerable to?

Army officers following unconstitutional and illegal orders from their superiors is neither discipline nor responsibility. It only makes them a party to a crime which is in clear violation of their oath, which also makes it a professional failure, surely a greater problem than jeopardizing democracy.

Let us establish at least the minimum reasonable responsibility for treason for the October 1999 coup, if we are to try for it at all.

Let us try all the corps commanders and commanding officers carrying out unconstitutional and authoritarian measures of force. And those who failed to prevent them. In that order and, if found guilty, penalizing with the respective degree.

But let us first remove the ridiculous penalty of death for the charge of treason.

The Embarrassment of Standing With the Oppressed

Source: M. Jibran Nasir facebook page

Source: M. Jibran Nasir facebook page – Under fair use

I am not particularly proud to be a Pakistani citizen.

I don’t really find it an unpatriotic thing to say because someone sympathetic to the country would say that provided its discriminating history. The Pakistani constitution, law and the society are largely discriminating.

So when you stand with the oppressed minority groups in Pakistan, there is this perpetual embarrassment that you need to deal with.

Take the Pakistan Christian community for an example, the most popular and widely recognized religious minority group in Pakistan. Most Pakistani people would agree with offering them security and coexisting peacefully with them.

Even with such a minority religious group, you would have the dilemma of treating them as if they were weak or not even raising that point at all. I mostly prefer to do the latter usually, though you can always agree with them tactfully about how terrible discrimination is.

Morally speaking, they are not weak, and it would be rather insulting to make that point, but let us face facts. They are not exactly powerful and are most certainly oppressed.

Especially in the wake of the Peshawar church bombing killing more than 300, the realization is increased, especially in protests and political events. But what remains is their constant friendliness, peacefulness and tolerance. What is added is a slight anger toward the intolerance, which is justified, natural and understandable.

I have no sympathies with the theology of any minority religious group, as is the case with majority religious groups, because they are as dangerous in their effect as the other. I know some Pakistani Christians, though not everyone, are as eager for their share of blasphemy law, despite knowing how harmful it can be to just about anyone.

But their religious zeal does not change anything for the better for them in the Pakistani society, where disbelief is a crime, more or less, or enough to qualify someone to be ostracized. Besides, they are not treated as equal citizens anyway, despite their religiosity.

So I want to save myself further embarrassment and would like to say that protesters and activists rallying for peace and against terrorism should raise their voices to demand a secular constitution. So while I may not exactly be proud to be a Pakistani citizen, I would have one less reason to be ashamed.

So instead of promoting gibberish like “Many Faiths, One God”, we should demand the elimination of the intrusion of faith into public life.

Keep your religion to yourself.

The Perseverance of the Hazara

Source: Pakistan Youth Alliance Facebook Page

Irfan Ali – Source: Pakistan Youth Alliance Facebook Page

The January 10 Alamdar Road bombings in Quetta targeting the Hazara and Shia community has worked somewhat like the last straw for both these troubled people and our troubled nation. The Hazara community held a sit-in protest for three days with the corpses of the victim on the road. Similar sit-in protests were also held in other major Pakistani cities in solidarity. The protests triggered the Prime Minister to fly over to Quetta and confirm Governor’s rule in Baluchistan, dismissing the Raisani regime.

Even though I am not sure what good would the Governor’s rule do and if the community could feel safer with increased military security, it is encouraging to see that the protest had its effect. It was surely not a wasted exercise but I am not sure if I agreed with every demand of theirs. But I do hope it works whatever they are. I mean at least words were not falling on deaf years this time around, as has largely been the case with Shia killings in Pakistan in general.

Vigil for Irfan - Source: Shiraz Hassan

Vigil for Irfan Ali in Islamabad – Source: Shiraz Hassan

Sadly for Pakistani twitterati and human rights groups, peace activist Irfan Ali ( @khudiali ) also lost his life in the incident. He was one of the most energetic activists around in Pakistan and was the face of the struggle of the Hazara in many ways.  I am sure that he will be missed greatly by those on the forefront of fighting for the rights of the community and it is simply heartbreaking to even think of all the precious lives lost in this incident. All we can do is just write words on blogs and on twitter.

Even Irfan’s last tweets are reflective of how painful the situation is on ground in Quetta for the Hazara community.

 

I met a couple of my friends in the Hazara community who were also actively staging the protests. What I loved about not only them but almost all the members of the Hazara community in the Islamabad protests was that they were smiling and were in high spirits despite all what was happening to them. They were welcoming everyone with open arms. It is not easy to do that when you are going through hell and staring death in the face.

But apart from any one particular sit-in, the entire Hazara community has remained remarkably calm and peaceful. Given the viciousness of the people of this region, their peaceful behavior has restored some of my long lost faith in humanity. Even though all people like me can offer is moral support, I really hope that the people killing them stop doing it. Because I don’t really see the Pakistani government taking any action against them whatsoever.

All the rest of the communities in Pakistan need to break our silence about it. While we can all hope that the madness of the targeted killing of the Shia community in general and Hazara in particular comes to an end, simply increasing the military security will do no good. Baluchistan is already virtually under military control, so what they need to do is take proactive action against terrorist groups such as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan.

If they are serious to stop this genocide, that is.

Thoughts on November Gaza Strikes and the Middle East Conflict

Source: AP/Washington Post

You can’t expect people to act rationally or logically when they are being bombed, Israeli or Palestinian. If you think they do, then you know very little about humans. Though there are people out there who are paid to do so.

That’s why I think it’d take really smart people to handle the fragile Middle East situation. This is why I am worried that the Israeli policies could actually harm the Jewish people, even though they are designed to protect them, or offer the perception of protecting them.

Using force as a deterrent is probably a necessity there, especially in the early years when the memory of antisemitic fascist regimes was still fresh. It is relevant even today, but considering that Gaza does not enjoy that luxury would make you very concerned about their security too.

I believe the people living on the both sides have the same fears and desires. But thinking again from the Israeli perspective, I would be very concerned as an Israeli citiizen or diplomat about the image of the nation around the world. I know a lot of Israelis would prefer better security over a better world image. Who wouldn’t? I would too. Anyone would.

But this is something for the leaders to think about because it concerns the future. Unless we are hellbent to enact the Biblical or Hadith Apocalypse.

People often mention the wounded and the killed Israeli and Palestinian children and the propaganda about them. It’s not a question of whether a Jewish child dies or an Arab child dies. The question to ask is whether we would want a child to live in such a hostile environment.

Seriously, I would do whatever I can to prevent a child from living in a warzone (ideally anyone but why add more misery by forcing new people to suffer by shoving them into this world, though true in any other situation too). But can I, or can we? No.

If the Hamas regime is irresponsible, which I am convinced that they are, to the point that their policies don’t really reflect any sympathy for the security of their own people (if you ignore the fact that they are badly repressed by the Israelis), then what could be better ways to deal with them?

To a cynic, maybe build global consensus before bombing Gaza City. To a more rational person, maybe Israel and the US should stop blocking full Palestinian membership in the UN like civilized nations and lift the Gaza blockade and grant their states completely autonomous status like soveirgn countries and maybe give them a chance to prove their civilty once again.

But still if Palestinians are sensible, they would know that the intifadas are largely a lost cause today because the rest of the Arab world would rather really support Israel over them any time. Then again, is it a coincidence that the Palestinian resistance looks towards Iran? The enemy of your enemy is your friend.

I do think the Palestinian leaders could have done a lot more to ensure peace and are largely responsible for a lot of deaths over the years (Not because they should have as per their principles but because they lack political resources to fight Israel). But that’s politics. If only they were not obsessed with Jerusalem. Not that the Israelis are not.

The growing West Bank settlements and the policy of gradual Palestinian deprivation may have worked well for the Israeli occupation, but make a very poor case for Israeli peace efforts. In any case you would really want the violence to stop regardless of the political consequences. But in politics, land and power are more precious than life. Then again, there is liberty.

But the recent November strikes on Gaza have made an impact in some other way. The international community and media noticing the cruelty of the Israeli attack on Gaza this time for a change is significant. The image of the BBC photojournalist as posted above has shaken the West. Accussations of biased media coverage from both sides do not change the facts and the misery that both the affected people go through.

Therefore, both Israelis and Palestinians need to learn their lessons fast. Good luck to both of them for peace.

I know it almost sounds superficial, especially after these words echoing the conference halls on the conclusion of countless meaningless accords, but just in the memory of Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat, let us agree to stop the madness and say:

Shalom. Salaam. Peace.

Then again, it’s not important. Is it?