Why Pakistan Should Be On Fire But Isn’t

Source: Times of India

A lot of people have been irked by the not-even-nearly-enough inflammatory rhetoric from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif after his ouster following a business-as-usual judicial coup. Of course, nobody wants to see anarchy and disorder spread around them. It makes perfect sense.

Now that is particularly true if you live in politically dead cities such as Rawalpindi and Islamabad, and if you don’t find a bone of political activism in you. I sort of include myself in that category but no such excuses will be good enough when people will attribute the absence of political activism and a lack of civil responsibility for a weak democracy in Pakistan.

You could say that the verdict to disqualify the Prime Minister has been a resounding slap on the people of Pakistan. One day you have someone as a Prime Minister and the next day, you don’t and for no apparent good reason at all. Disqualified for life, just like that. There is someone else making that decision for you.

In many ways, the verdict is as outrageous, if not more, than corruption in carrying out the elections. Indeed, such doctoring with the legal term of an elected Prime Minister is a form of electoral corruption in itself.

We seriously need to ask ourselves this question. How do we respond to coups?

What do we do as citizens and soldiers to resist the tyrants taking over a democratically elected administration? What do we do as citizens and soldiers to actively prevent such situations? Why are coups almost always bloodless in Pakistan? Without a single shot being fired? And after all, who will fire that single shot?

Even if we ignore the Judicial ones under the pretense that the honorable Supreme Court carried out a legitimate verdict and that there was nothing political about it, we still have examples of military coups. People old enough still recall how smooth the 1999 military takeover was. Only the Prime Minister happened to get arrested.

Why is that we in Pakistan can only be amazed by the Turkish people who came together to save the government of an elected leader who is bitterly divisive? Why is it that we in Pakistan put our partisan affiliations above the office of the elected leader of the nation?

We probably would be a little more chaotic than the calm we prefer in our resistance to the bureaucratic tyranny in Pakistan if we were more committed to the constitution. Perhaps the fault lies in our political class for not being able to make a case strong enough for democracy and even for the supremacy of the constitution.

Perhaps the fault lies in our civic education that failed to convey to the people about the importance of the rights that the constitution guarantees. Perhaps it is the weakness of democracy that they fail to grasp the importance of their rights and have learned to love their tyrants.

Perhaps our democratic leaders are fools to believe that the people will go out on the streets and riot for them. They overestimate our commitment to democracy and our right to vote. They probably have no idea how we abhor political activism and even worse, much prefer unelected bureaucrats to govern us.

But in a way, it’s much better this way. Nobody wants damage to property and lives. All that for what?

We don’t want trouble. We don’t want chaos. All that too for these corrupt politicians in the name of democracy?

Pakistan might be on fire soon enough, but never for this reason.

 

This post was originally published in Dunya blogs.
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A Missed Opportunity of Our Own Making

Source: Hindustan Times

Narendra Modi made history by becoming the first sitting Indian Prime Minister to visit Israel. We already know that India has been a buyer of Israeli arms in the recent years, but this visit goes far beyond anything we have ever seen in the history of their relations.

Modi and Netanyahu brought together their private sector which has signed deals worth $4.3 billion. These deals cover sectors as broad as information technology to water treatment and from startups to innovation. But more alarming for Pakistan is India’s investment in an Israeli missile defense system among other defense contracts worth $630 million.

India and Israel have come a long way, while Pakistan can only shed tears at this alliance.

Now, this might seem like the vindication for the anti-Semitic “Brahmin-Zionist nexus” conspiracy theory proponents. However, the fact remains that India has overcome a lot of resistance as well as the internal struggle to come to terms with Israel. You could argue that even today, a good number of Indians are critical of friendly relations with Israel. Especially when Modi is snubbing the Palestinian leadership during the visit to Jerusalem, unlike most world leaders. The message sent to Israel is that India stands with it unconditionally.

For those who are not familiar with the background of the Indian stance on the Israel-Palestine issue, India has been surprisingly anti-Israel. Both India and Pakistan voted against the 1947 resolution for the partition of Palestine and creation of the Jewish majority state of Israel. India and Pakistan refrained from voting because of perfectly legitimate reasons.

Both the countries considered the creation of a Jewish state inappropriate and an invasion on the rights of the local Arabs. However, once the resolution passed, both the countries at least should have shown the decency to accept it and recognize Israel. At least they should have helped the infant Jewish state against acts of aggression by the neighboring Arab states right after its creation.

In any case, particularly due to the Cold War, India refrained from friendly relations with Israel due to its close ties with the Soviet Union and the Arab states. Pakistan, even though in the same camp as Israel with the United States, chose to anticipate Israel as an enemy. Pakistan’s foreign policy has been heavily influenced by Gulf Arab states, particularly Saudi Arabia, leading to such irrational policies which continue to this day. In addition to that, Pakistan became one of the few countries whose citizens cannot travel to Israel.

Source: junaidghumman.wordpress.com

Now back in the day, straining relationships with Israel made sense with India and Pakistan aligning with Arabs. And as Israel continues its brutal behavior toward the Palestinian people, it still attracts the rebuke of the world. However, in terms of the recognition of its right to exist around the world, Israel is not in a precarious position anymore. And with Pakistan’s archrival India softening its stance toward Israel, and using it to potentially put Pakistan at a disadvantage strategically, it is finally time for the Pakistani state regime to wake up.

With successive right-wing governments in Israel and more uncompromising and irresponsible behavior from the Palestinian leadership, the Israel-Palestine conflict has grown worse. However, you could argue that recent events such as the excessive use of force in Gaza wars could be good reasons to penalize Israel diplomatically, as Turkey did briefly. But none of these events are terrible enough to convince a country to not establish diplomatic relations. And for this sort of protest, you need to establish diplomatic relations in the first place.

Some of the biggest foreign policy lessons for Pakistan remain to be those concerning India. We must learn from India overcoming its anxiety when it comes to establishing friendly relations with Israel. Pakistan chose to ignore their Israel problem by printing a statement on national passports reading, “This passport is valid for all countries of the world except Israel” and Indian leadership finally realized to make the most of this weakness. But more than a weakness, it should be considered a missed opportunity for Pakistan, born out of anti-Semitism and paranoia.

It is a missed opportunity of our own making.

 

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

 

Pandering to the Authoritarian Ally

Source: Dawn

Source: Dawn

In perhaps a not so unprecedented move, the Pakistani interior ministry has ordered the shutting down of Pak-Turk schools and the staff to leave the country by November 20.

It was not too long ago that the same Interior Minister ordered the Save the Children organization to shut down, only later to reverse the decision. But there are many ways this case is far worse.

In an utterly shameless manner, the Turkish President claims that the organization of his rival is a threat to Pakistan’s national security. The Turkish President accused Fatehullah Gulen to have orchestrated a failed military coup in July 2016, apparently all the way from Pennsylvania. This also resulted in a cruel purging of dissidents from government service and arrest of political workers.

The PTI had called for the boycott of the Turkish President’s address to the parliament out of spite for the Prime Minister, or perhaps because he is “disqualified” now. I would have had much more respect for them, or for any other Senator or MP, had they expressed their protest when such humiliating and unacceptable language was being used by the Turkish head of state. But more than that his pressures for banning the Pak-Turk schools should be condemned.

What is even more outrageous is his defiant behavior toward the Pakistani press rightfully criticizing the ban. Typical despotic behavior from him that has not been unheard of. While his government may not welcome the criticism from the Pakistani press, our press and our people supporting freedom should not welcome his comments and actions either.

The fact that the Sharif brothers would go to any degree to appease their personal allies is one problem. But what about Pakistan’s sovereignty? That would have already been invoked had the demander would have been the United States.

Just like we have done so many times before, we have ensured an authoritarian ally that no one is safe in our country as long as they are opposed to them. So, it is not just about Fatehullah Gulen, if you are Dalai Lama, you better not enter Pakistan or we could hand you over to China.

The question remains if we are to give up our sovereignty of offering safe shelter to the Turkish employees of the Pak-Turk schools, then what exactly is our argument with India? Why are we not listening to India about which terrorist group should be taken action against or not? And it appears that India’s problem with Hafiz Saeed holds a lot more weight, even if he happens to be a natural citizen.

If our moral compass really supersedes our political and territorial sovereignty, then what is the resistance to not listening to India, signing an extradition agreement and handing over the likes of Hafiz Saeed? If diplomatic relationships are everything and more important than the freedom of local and foreign citizens staying in the country,  then why not take this necessary step to put an end to the current diplomatic crisis with India? Purely because of their grievance with Hafiz Saeed. Other than the fact that Pakistan thinks that he has not done anything wrong.

This may be a false equivalence, but enough of an argument that would never work on deaf ears. Let us talk about our loyalty and devotion to the Turkish people instead, arguably the most loyal allies Pakistan would ever have.

It could be argued that the Pakistani government would not have a choice considering the diplomatic pressure from Turkey. However, at what cost are we strengthening our diplomatic relations?

The question is not even about political and territorial sovereignty. Again the problem remains to be our government’s insensitivity to the right of freedom of access. Not only have they deprived the Pakistani people of an independent service entity, but they have taken away an option for education, which violates the freedom of education. Especially in a country in which the government is not doing much about education anyway, despite passing the meaningless free education clause.ee

Our stance, as a nation and as a people, remains with the rule of democracy in Turkey, no matter who is elected.   For that reason alone, even the most liberal commentators would support the regime of President Erdogan and his party. However, we must never become a party to his partisan vendetta against his rivals.

Our loyalties in terms of alliance and friendship should remain with the people of Turkey regardless of their political and religious leanings. What is more important is that our loyalties must remain with all the Turkish people and not just those who are in power.

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.

Pakistan Must Join the Global Coalition Against ISIS

Source: ipp-news.com

Source: ipp-news.com

In a recently reported statement, the representative of the Pakistan military has denied any intentions to send troops as a part of a global coalition for fighting ISIS. I hope I am reading it wrong but the statement is disappointing to say the least and would cast serious doubts about the nation’s commitment to fight terrorist threats around the world. This is only disappointing considering how the Pakistani military has been acknowledged by international leaders for its contribution in the war against terrorism.

On the other hand, Pakistan Army has already made statements vowing that the existence of ISIS would not be tolerated in Pakistan. While so far the officials have not acknowledged the presence of the terrorist group in Pakistan, critics have good reasons to question how the threat of ISIS in the region is being downplayed.

However, contributing to the global coalition against ISIS does not necessarily have anything to do with the threat in Pakistan and Afghanistan. There is no doubt that increased security is required at home, but we also have a responsibility to respond to the humanitarian crisis in Syria.

We are not sure whether the Western leaders have really started to rally a serious coalition for ground forces in Iraq and Syria, but this early statement is not a healthy sign. Nevertheless, the need to build such a coalition as soon as possible, and one which many in the West are underestimating, if not undermining, at best.

While the efforts of the Pakistani military must be appreciated for fighting the terror bases in the North Western tribal areas, this does not mean that the war against terrorist threats is over. Pakistan must fulfill its global responsibilities, and the Pakistani civilian leadership should take a stand on the issue.

The war against ISIS is too important to be left to the lack of enthusiasm and reluctance of nations making up the allies. The United States and other leaders of the coalition should pressure Pakistan, among other countries around the world including India and Middle Eastern countries, to contribute their due share.

Pakistan has a proud tradition of assisting the United States in its campaigns against enemies of freedom around the world. From resisting the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and being an inseparable part of the peacekeeping force to stop genocide in Bosnia, Somalia and Sierra Leone to the war against terrorism, Pakistan has been a responsible ally for the most part. It is time to act in that spirit again.

Muslim majority countries must lead the way to battle Islamist terrorist groups organizing themselves in tyrannical states and it is imperative that Pakistan be in the frontline. Pakistan would also be reluctant to take action on ISIS abroad due to its refusal to participate against the Iran-backed Yemeni rebels.

There has been a particular reluctance to fight ISIS both among Western powers and Sunni majority countries due to their anti-Shia inclination. However, saner political forces both in the West and in Sunni majority countries do not agree on this dangerous and counterproductive way of countering the Iranian influence.

Tolerating ISIS is also a terrible way to hope for the fall of the Assad regime. Probably a more morally and politically correct way would be to launch a mass invasion on Syria, in the manner of the 2003 Iraq War. Both the United States and the EU did not hesitate for a minute to get directly involved to overturn the Libyan regime. At least we can agree that Assad is far worse than Gaddafi. And if removing Assad is not that important, why even bother with that?

You know the world is dealing with a moral crisis when Russia is actively claiming to fight ISIS, and Turkey and other adjoining nations are just silent witnesses. And even worse, shooting down their planes.

There is no doubt that a ground force or any sort of political intervention is not going to resolve the Sunni-Shia rift in the region, and such a coalition should not aim to achieve any nonsensical goals in the first place. However, such a presence is required to ensure the elimination of the Islamic State and to prevent such organized threats from emerging.

Even today, the public opinion and many liberal politicians oppose deploying ground troops. And many of them are asking valid questions, like the UK opposition enquiring if the airstrikes proposed by Prime Minister Cameron would make any difference and what would be the next step.

The current leadership in the West is not thinking about the next step because of the horrors of the Iraq War campaign. Who are they going to help by bombing ISIS? Assad, Russia and pro-Iran forces? And would it be enough to help what is left of the Syrian Free Army that is currently being targeted by the Russians?

Those opposing substantial military action for the liberation of the ISIS occupied territory might as well not bother with the bombings either, apart from surgical drone strikes targeting ISIS leadership. Also, they should make up their minds about what to do about Assad.

Apparently, many people around the world still need to be convinced that ISIS is a threat worth proactively fighting against. Unfortunately, for political reasons or otherwise, the Pakistani military leadership appears to be among them.

It is important to understand that without a long-term occupying ground force in Iraq and ISIS occupied Syria, stability cannot be achieved.

Pakistan needs to be an inseparable part of this ground force.

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.