Asking the Wrong Question

Source: usnews.com

Source: usnews.com

These days the candidates for the 2016 US Presidential Elections, especially Republicans, are being asked the perfectly wrong question. And I hope we don’t see it as often for the rest of the duration of the campaign.

Knowing what we know now, would you still attack Iraq?

Of course, America has just gotten out of two wearing wars and great sacrifices have been made. So no wonder the public mood is pretty anti-war. And in a perfect isolationist world, rightly so. But ISIS is a threat of the proportions of the Nazis, if not worse, so being an anti-war isolationist with ISIS is not even an option.

The media has been orgasming over Republican Presidential candidate Jeb Bush fumbling the question, as ISIS moved on to take the historic city of Palmyra in Syria and Ramadi in Iraq. The White House responded to the development by assuring they were not losing against ISIS. Actually, the administration had an even more creative explanation of their disaster of a military strategy.

It is remarkably ignorant comment of the US Secretary of Defense  Ash Carter to assume that recent ISIS gains in towns such as Ramadi was due to the “lack of will to fight” of Iraqis. Maybe that could be true for some of the radical Iraqi Sunnis, but what about the United States letting the Kurdish people down, who are very willing to fight and are still fighting singlehandedly?

The Iraqi military is inadequate, and is neither properly equipped, nor trained for fighting the monstrous force of ISIS, which is fighting with sophisticated Western weapons anyway. Even in Senator John McCain’s opinion, the US administration seem to have no strategy to fight ISIS. But then again, he’s just another pissed hawk.

Source: News Corp

Source: News Corp

And leave alone the question of aiding a militia on the ground trying to resist ISIS, something which is apparently against the principles of the White House, they did not even bother taking action to help the unarmed Yazidis. Since then, countless Yazidi women have been forced into sexual slavery.

Apparently, of all the people, Iranians seem to have some moral authority in this issue. Yes, finally I found one. They and their supported Shiite militias are the ones who seem to be resisting ISIS, albeit for their own interest, which is perfectly fine.

But it speaks volumes of the state of morality of the nations around the world, especially the EU, who usually would go to great lengths to threaten dictators like Gaddafi and Assad, but would be largely silent on this issue. The Sunni majority Arab states are completely ignoring this monster, which has already started knocking on their doors.

And to which heading is the moral compass of Pakistan pointing? Surely, we don’t want to stir another hive of bees. But what if the enemy is at the gates?

Where is the international coalition that got together to fight against terrorism? Is dethroning Assad worth destroying the entire Middle East?

So instead of asking the candidates hypothetical questions about what they would have done in terms of invading Iraq 10 years ago, (most of them supported Iraq War anyway, including Hillary Clinton) how about asking them what they have to offer to improve the situation on the ground in Iraq and Syria now. And I am sure this question will come up near the elections.

And if they simply have no solutions to offer, just like the current President, let the voters hear them.

Because it is no doubt that US foreign policy created this mess, whether Bush or Obama, it doesn’t matter.

America should clean the mess up, because apparently no one else will anyway.

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

The Foreign Hand Excuse

Karachi-Bus-Attack-news_184842_l

What do we need to absolve the usual suspects within the country of their responsibility? Just let someone utter these words that our ears always long to hear:

Foreign hand was involved.

Let us not doubt the words from our foreign office, for we don’t have the access to the information to either take their word for it or deny it. However, what is certain is the instantaneous told-ya knee jerk reaction deviating attention from the real problem that such statements trigger.

Incidents such as the Karachi bus attack targeting the Ismaili community, and other similar religious terrorism that has been going on for years, have much deeper root causes than just the foreign hand.  We better not shy away from the problem of religious extremism at home.

It is no secret that religious terrorist organizations run amok in Pakistan, despite scores of them being banned by the federal government, and quite a few of them targeted by law enforcement. Considering the power of religion in the contemporary Pakistani society, any government would think twice before even planning to initiate an operation against such culprits.

However, I cannot help but applaud the incumbent Information Minister Pervez Rasheed for his courage to speak against religious seminaries. A statement that has apparently attracted fatwas against him.

Not even the serving government officials are safe from fatwas. This only goes to show the perpetually threatening force of religious extremism and terrorism in Pakistan. An undemocratic entity that enjoys legitimized status in the Pakistani society. Considering how true they are to their faith, you can hardly blame them.

Even if we suppose that factors such as foreign intervention were behind the Karachi bus attack, it is not the foreign intelligence agencies that declare Shia infidels. It is not the foreign agencies that would publicly condemn them to death in sermons. The sectarian hate movement against the Shia is very indigenous, and if someone would advocate its foreign influence, it would only inconveniently point fingers to certain allies in the Middle East. But let’s just call that a vague conspiracy theory.

Until the Pakistani state takes the responsibility for not acting against religious political parties and sectarian terrorists, it would never be able to overcome the problem of terrorism. Even if foreign powers are exploiting such anti-state weaknesses in Pakistan, it is such elements of the Pakistani society that are at the heart of this problem.

Another thing that is at the heart of this problem is the faith of the people guiding them toward such belligerent behavior. Simply attacking religion of freedom by issuing draconian decrees regulating the time of the call to prayer would not suffice. The government should never hesitate to tread upon the religious freedom whenever it is threatening the individual liberty and security of the people. This is where sectarian terrorist groups must be proactively crushed.

It is true that having a secular constitution is not a guarantee to prevent the flourishing of religious fundamentalist terrorism. The growing Islamist terrorism against rational Bangladeshi bloggers is a demonstration of this notion.

Nevertheless, the government must promote religious tolerance instead of puritanism, but if it is finding it hard to do so, it can at least crack down on extremism for establishing law and order. Egypt is doing so, albeit with an undemocratic show of force.

Until and unless we stop apologizing for religious political parties in the name of choice and democracy, we would keep on falling in their trap of totalitarianism. And will remain tangled in the obsession with homogeneity and purity, which were apparently or allegedly the basis of creation of Pakistan, which continue to extend and evolve.

It is time to nudge the law enforcement operation to a slightly different, uneasy direction.

This post was originally published in The Nation blogs.

The Security of Harmein Al-Sharifein Excuse

Source: Dawn

Source: Dawn

The parliament just voted down the possibility of sending out troops to assist Saudi Arabia to bomb the hell out of Yemen, and like always, pretty unanimously too. Well, almost. And to make things even more fun, a top UAE diplomat came out with a blatant and open threat about the consequences for the half-hearted vows and the lack of substance in its friendship with the Arab world. An interesting turn of events.

A lot of people see this as an issue which is pretty black and white in terms of its morality. In my view, things are not as straightforward as that. There is evil on both sides, especially if you refer to the Iran-Saudi conflict and take Yemen out of it altogether. The only moral problems are the violation of the sovereignty of Yemen, which apparently does not even matter anymore, and obviously the loss of innocent civilian lives. But I take that is the least of our problems at the moment as well.

However, my criticism has nothing to do with the morality of the action of sending the troops or not. Either way, this is going to be a diplomatic mess, with a question of which party you can afford to offend less. Personally, I feel you should not stir a hive of bees if your legs cannot carry you far enough to escape the swarm. But this is actually about the morality of why you would want to send the troops.

So you genuinely believe that Pakistani troops should be sent for the Saudi campaign, then stop lying to the Pakistani people. Now that is something on the morality of which pretty much everybody can agree, no matter on which side of the camp you find yourself. OK, maybe not.

But let’s try again. It’s not like the Iranians are taking over the Kaa’ba again. How about instead of offering the reason of the security of the sacred sites in Saudi Arabia, you try pitching the restoration of the deposed Yemeni regime as the objective. Now one way or another, this sounds like a far more legitimate reason for intervention, and coincidentally this is what the military intervention is really going to be all about anyway. Why is that so hard to explain? It’s about defeating the Houthi rebels, which are allegedly backed by some country which is apparently the only one upset by the Saudi bombing.

So whatever you want to do, please stop invoking the security of Harmein-al-Sharifein for crying out loud. The religious parties such as the Jamaat-e-Islami, JUD and the JUI(F) just held a conference dedicated to the Security of Harmein Al-Sharifein, or in other words, for endorsing the Saudi bombings in Yemen. This only goes to show how much religion is used by our politicians to blackmail the sensitivities of the masses.

Now ironically, these are the same political parties who protested against the Gaza bombings by Israel, but are not only silent over the killings in Yemen, the images of which starkly resemble the former, but even vocally support it. Because apparently Yemeni people are less important than the people of Gaza, or maybe because the killer is not an infidel this time around. And as it turns out, comparing the Yemen bombings with Gaza bombings is not much of a case of apples and oranges anyway. The only difference is that Israel was bombing Gaza for far more legitimate reasons and to respond to a more immediate threat.

Now speaking of Israel, don’t you think our state uses the security of Harmein Al-Sharifein excuse just like the American hawks use the security of Israel for warmongering in the Middle East? This may be a false equivalence, but the similarity is that politicians on both sides have succeeded to develop mass consensus on these issues to use military force and consider it an integral part of their national security.

Again, there is nothing wrong with that either. But invoking this sacred reason for justifying military action for worldly political ambitions of another country certainly sounds like a bit of a moral problem.

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.

 

The Mystery of Openly Operating Banned Religious (Terrorist) Organizations in Pakistan

Source: The Nation

Source: The Nation

What does the banning of a religious organization really mean?

What is the point of announcing their addition to the list of condemned organizations when there are hardly any curbs on their activities?

It is easy to criticize the Government of Pakistan in this regard, but hardly anyone accounts for the complex problems they have to deal with.

Even if we say that these problems are of their own making, it does not eliminate the need to consider the difficulty of the task at the hands of the government.

They simply just cannot take these banned organizations away from the public.

Or maybe they can.

But this goes to show the sheer force of the religious political groups prevalent, and growing, in Pakistan. A force that is so enormous that even the government of Pakistan and the military are afraid of it. Nobody wants a religious uprising to deal with.

This is what happens when you declare a war against an ideological enemy without convincing the people of your country against it.

It would be understandable to see the anger of the members of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa if their political activities were to become illegal.

Furthermore, the likes of ASWJ would also be seen protesting on the roads if such a decree pertaining to their organization would come into effect.

Of course, we cannot even imagine the day when political parties such as the JI, JUI, ST and MWM are prevented from running in the elections.

But apart from that, it is hard to oppose organizations that you consider heroic.

This is why when it comes to narrative about the local Jihadist organizations, charity must begin at home.

But has there been any active effort to confront such narrative, which is only affirmed on occasions such as the Kashmir Solidarity Day? An otherwise seemingly harmless holiday observed to show moral support for the oppressed Kashmiri people, mixed with vows to liberate them from their oppressors.

Again, from a nationalistic viewpoint, attacking India for any such purposes sounds pretty fair. However, the sad part is that this narrative provides a lot of fodder for these banned militant outfits to feed on.

So probably the state should think twice before giving the narrative around this holiday its blessing. Surely, the holiday can be observed without any belligerent calls to Jihad.

But the general impression remains that a good number of masses in Pakistan views Islamist militant organizations positively and accept their active role in politics.

Merely playing to the galleries would not be sufficient for the federal and provincial governments. Simply adding these militant outfits to the list of “banned organizations” to create an impression on Western powers would not work.

An ideological awakening and education of the masses are required to ensure a gradual social change.

Or at least for the government to be able to enforce the bans that it proposes.

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.

Excommunication for Condemnation

Source: EPA/rferl.org

Source: EPA/rferl.org

We have a serious problem at our hands.

We are in the middle of a war. We can see that we have an enemy, even though we are not willing to fully confront them.

How can the Taliban be our enemies?

We have always known them to fight for the righteous cause and how can they be evil if all they want is to enforce the will of God?

Such questions perplex the entire nation.

We are even not willing to call our enemy our enemy, because everything we know, everything we understood about the world, tells us it’s not true.

We simply cannot accept the fact that we can be at war with an entity that is not our enemy.

It can’t be their fault. Must be someone else behind all this mess.

How can our enemy be of the same faith as ours?

So in order to escape this confusion, we have two parallel explanations.

  1. Our enemy cannot be Muslims, because Muslims are not capable of acts as heinous as the Peshawar massacre, so they must be funded by the RAW, MOSSAD and the CIA
  2. Our enemy is cruel, so we need to excommunicate them from our religion.

 Why do we have to excommunicate someone to condemn them as our enemies?

Where does this insane idea that we can only be at war with non-Muslims come from? Well, even if you believe that, apparently our faithful enemy, which is far more self-righteous than we are, does not believe in it.

Oh, wait, I forgot. The faithful army of the enemy also believes that we are infidels.

So no matter what we do, no matter how much we suck up to them, we are going to be infidels in their eyes.

Our lifestyle is going to be the lifestyle of an infidel.

Unless we succumb to their Shariah, give up our way of life, and give up every freedom that we enjoy, it is not going to make us people of the faith in their eyes.

What we think about it is pointless.

And pretending that they could not believe in whatever in the world is the true faith does not matter too.

They don’t give a damn about our excommunication. But apparently, the faith of our enemy matters to us a lot.

We make our national decisions, declarations of war and truce, on the basis of whether our enemy belongs to our faith or not.

And that they must be excommunicated before any action against them is taken.

We come to realize that the people killing our children and the loved ones should be declared our enemies because they actually don’t follow true Islam.

We might claim that we, in Pakistan, are not a medieval culture. But apparently, our behavior tells us otherwise.

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.

Another Attack on Our Way of Life

Source: A. Majeed/AFP/Dawn

Source: A. Majeed/AFP/Dawn

Today’s tragic terrorist attack on the premises of Army Public School in Peshawar is not an ordinary one. There has been a lot of thought behind it.

It only possibly targeted the families of the personnel of the Pakistan Armed Forces, because it is their children studying in that particular school, for most part. So the TTP terrorists probably thought about sparing the civilians in their own way by selecting that school.

Revenge for the military operation. We’ll take your kids away.

Makes sense.

But children… Even the Taliban would not lower themselves to such disgrace. That’s too low to be human.

What sort of faithful people could engage in such a heinous action?

Well, so much for wishful thinking. And if you really, really thought so, you have a considerably good opinion about them.

That it is not just an attack on school children, and there is nothing shocking about the Taliban carrying it out. They have only proved how cruel they are, and we have only come to learn how vulnerable we are.

They are perfectly capable of it. They have been at it before, exploding schools.

Though there is one thing that we must not forget, and which most Pakistanis are not even going to consider. Because they still refuse to acknowledge that Islamism and the Taliban are the enemies.

This war must be fought.

It is time to decide whether to keep on fighting, or to hide behind the world of comfortable lies of Islamism. It is time to ask ourselves how strongly have we stood by our military for fighting these terrorists.

Were we just as enthusiastic as we would be in a war against India?

Would we ever recognize Islamism, not just the Taliban, as our enemies?

This is no ordinary terrorist attack on a children’s school.

This is another attack on our way of life.

If you would not fight for that, what else is there to worry about?

The Value of Freedom

Source: npr.org

Source: npr.org

Alright, let’s give credit where it is due, even though I mostly find promoting Google Doodles very distasteful.

I woke up to this Google Doodle, and in a minute and a half, it made me realize something very striking.

Source: Google

You don’t value freedom, or even recognize its cost, until you find it gone or threatened by political forces that could so easily part individual from individual.

Today is the 25th anniversary of the fall of Berlin Wall, an almost universal symbol of tyranny and everything contrary to freedom, since the beginning of the Cold War.

And that’s the only thought that comes to my mind today.

How fragile freedom is.

Today, it means nothing to us because we have overcome the political conflict that gave rise to the human tragedy of a divided German Republic. The supposed liberators of the city ended up having it divided in the most terrible manner, even with deadly consequences.

How would you react if that happened to your city tomorrow? No matter where you live and no matter who forces the division.

There are many other examples too. The Koreas, the partition of Kashmir and the Indian sub continent, the Arab Israeli conflict.

But it’s easy to observe that not just 25 years, but a much shorter period, was sufficient to forget the misery of more than 3 decades of suffering that Berliners endured in the name of political conflict.

It is important to notice how two opposing political forces can actually divide a part of your lives for their own authoritarian power grab.

Just imagine you being unable to walk into a part of your own town, just because it belongs to an alien political entity now.

Is there anything more horrifying?

That’s just how precious freedom is.

The scary part is that all of this can happen tomorrow. All over again.

Source: TIME
Source: TIME
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