A rebuttal to Mosharraf Zaidi and other apologists of the military state of Pakistan – by Sumantra Maitra

While Pakistan army has many known proxies in the Islamist right wing media, it has a significant number of (better camouflaged) sympathisers and apologists in Pakistan's (seemingly) liberal, English language media

Related post: Fake criticism of Pakistan army by FCS proxies

First published in: The Washington Examiner

(My reply to two articles of Mosharraf Zaidi in Times of India and Foreign Policy Magazine.)

The dust settled.  The answer is known.  Pakistan had Osama bin Laden hidden deep inside a picturesque town of Abbottabad, more famous for being the town with a Pakistani version of Sandhurst, or West Point, placed there.  Clearly, someone knew something: either the Pakistani army or the country’s military intelligence, the ISI.  The fact that they didn’t know that the world’s greatest terrorist was staying there for the last seven years, in a pretty much barbed and fortified building – as confirmed by one of Bin Laden’s wife – is not only irrationally naïve, but also hilarious, and utterly absurd.

There came out some articles, with muffled anguish, and disbelief.  Cyril Almeida wrote in Dawn, Pakistan’s large circulation English-language newspaper:

“Maybe they didn’t know. Maybe they’re so daft they didn’t really take this whole business of pursuing Al Qaeda seriously. Maybe they just didn’t think it was their problem. But those voices, unconvinced by their own words, quickly trail off … They knew. They knew he was there. It’s too frightening to make sense of. The world’s most-wanted terrorist. A man who triggered the longest war in American history. The terrorist mastermind the world’s only superpower has moved heaven and earth to track down. A decade of hunting. Hundreds of billions of dollars spent. The blood of countless Americans and others spilled. And when he was finally found, he was found wrapped in the bosom of the Pakistani security establishment. Away from the bleatings of the ghairat brigade — the paranoid schizophrenics marching this country into the abyss the shock is profound. Grim questions are etched on anxious faces, but so is fear of the answers. Proud men and women, people who love and serve their country, have cried as they connect yet another dot in the horrifying trajectory this country is on. If we didn’t know, we are a failed state; if we did know, we are a rogue state.”

Ejaz Haidar wrote a scathing piece for Pakistan Today.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ press release PR. NO.152/2011 (Date: 03/05/2011) would be a laugh if this matter were not so serious. But since MoFA has come up with this joke at the behest of the military, and it is no time to mince words, I shall direct my questions to that institution. Firstly, I want to construct a high-wall compound right next to the Pakistan Military Academy, one with barbed wire on top. Next, when someone comes asking who I am because PMA is a high-security area, I am going to flash the MoFA logic in his face and say this is in line with my “culture of privacy and security”, thank you. This is nonsense, at its most nonsensical…”

But these are a couple of individual, proud, baffled journalists.  The majority of Pakistan is quiet.  Eerily silent.  Day after day we are seeing rallies in Pakistan by uneducated Islamists, mourning the death of bin Laden.  The JuD, the politial arm of the militant Islamist group Lashkar-e-Taiba has been offering prayers for a “great martyr;” Tehrik-e-Taliban, of Pakistan, is vowing revenge for the “murder” of a great “Muslim Son;” while Pakistani liberals are looking on with cowering silence, hushed and apologetic.  Some are raising questions about the “arrogant” Americans coming and infringing their sovereignty; some raising conspiracy theories; but at the end of the day, it’s the long silence.  They have been searching for answers, when it is the time to ask questions.

Why don’t we see any rallies from civil society now?  Why not a single candlelit march?  Why not a single voice saying: if Pakistani forces couldn’t kill the most dreaded terrorist on the face of the planet, then let the American forces do the job.  Why not a single voice saying: good riddance?  Are they spineless cowards?  Or have they ceased to exist, struggling to dribble between bomb blasts and terrorist attacks, everyday?

What of the 5 million urban, educated, moderate, liberal Pakistani who we hear so much of in our own liberal media channels?  Our media always feeds us the same old syrup of standing beside the “moderate forces of Pakistan or else…”  Stand beside whom?  The forces of democracy can only stand beside those people, who are willing to stand up and fight for their honor, not those who appease and apologize.

This incident of bin Laden hiding in Pakistan under the patronage of “someone” high in the Pakistani administration, did it increase the international prestige of Pakistan?  The westernized, educated, handsome womanizer, Cricket World Cup-winning captain Imran Khan, a childhood hero of mine, now supports the tribal jirgas of Pakistan’s North-West province, who barter with underage women.  Is this the “civil society” our media wants us to support?

Sorry, but I guess the defining moment is here.  The Pakistani army is not at all ashamed.  It is giving statements after statements, how the next time any foreign forces would face “dire consequences” if they decide on any such “misadventure” on Pakistani soil.  The Pakistani newspapers, the conscience of the society, prints them with equal jingoistic zeal.

There can be two courses of logic for them: if they knew they didn’t act, then they are malevolent; if they didn’t know, then they are incompetent, and negligent, or both, and, in matters relating to this level, are criminal and liable for punishment.

But until now, we have not seen any serious acknowledgment other than “threats” from their side.  No heads rolled.  They don’t even consider it to be wrong, perhaps.

The political parties, the moderates, civil society – they are all quiet, and numb, almost paralytic.  Which is ironic, as they are the worst sufferers at the hands of the extremists, and symbolic of  the cancer that’s roots go deep.

We can’t fight their battle, or fix their country.  No one can.  The streets of Egypt and Tunisia, and then Libya, erupted, for good or for bad, without any external support system, spontaneously.  This is the time for Pakistan to follow them.  They have to ask questions, flock to the streets, challenge the system and the politicians, stare into the eyes of the army and dare them to shoot.  They have to engage the uneducated and extremist ideologues who are rotting the country from within.  Or else, their dream of true democracy will never happen and Pakistan as a nation-state will cease to exist someday, either by internal gangrene, or by external amputation.


LUBP Editor’s note

The crux of Mosharraf Zaidi and other apologists’ arguments is to somehow obfuscate the issue by suggesting that Pakistan army generals as well as corrupt (or immoral politicians) are responsible for Pakistan army’s collusion with Al Qaeda / Taliban. They also try to distract from the Osama bin Laden Abbottabad episode by referring to irrelevant issues such as the lack of education, electricity, governance and morality in Pakistan.

Here are some gems from Mosharraf Zaidi’s articles:

Times of India: Key point: Pakistan army is not institutionally supporting Al Qaeda / Taliban. Some unreliable elements in the ISI might be doing this, some of them might have tipped off the Al Qaeda chief.

Now that Osama bin Laden is in the bag, the big question is how much the Pakistani authorities knew? About bin Laden’s whereabouts, about the intelligence operation that had identified his couriers, about the surveillance that began in earnest in August of last year, and about the actual operation that took place on May 1 in the dead of the Abbottabad night.

From the Pakistani and US authorities, there seems to be a well-coordinated effort to create the impression that Pakistan was kept in the dark about the operation. This suits the narrative of an unreliable Pakistani intelligence community that may have tipped off the al-Qaida chief….Some elements of Pakistan may have harbored bin Laden, and may be harboring others like him that India is interested in prosecuting. But India is not the US. It has neither the leverage over Pakistan that Uncle Sam enjoys, nor an understanding of Pakistan that would enable it to conduct a reasonable calculus of the pros and cons of a direct military action in Pakistani territory.

Foreign Policy: Key Point: Politicians are as responsible for the army-Al Qaeda collusion as are generals and their accomplices (judges and bureaucrats).

In the near-decade since 9/11, Pakistan’s generals, judges, politicians, and bureaucrats have constructed two separate and equally effective narratives. To the West, they sold the bin Laden version of Pakistan: a fanatical nation, full of restless natives armed to the teeth with hatred and — if the West wasn’t careful — nukes. To ordinary Pakistanis, they sold the Ugly American version of the rest of the world: a big bad Uncle Sam and friends who were always burning Korans, knighting Salman Rushdies, and violating the Land of the Pure (the literal meaning of “Pakistan”).

Open Magazine: Key point: OBL fiasco was caused by a lack of: education, electricity & moral leadership, i.e. corrupt politicians.

The single-lens view of Pakistan through the prism of terrorism often ignores the substantial body of evidence that suggests that dysfunction in Pakistan is deep, wide and systemic. Pakistan has an education emergency so severe, that it keeps nearly 40 million kids between five and 18 out of school. That is among the world’s largest out-of-school populations. Most cities in the country experience more than six hours of electricity load-shedding. Industry is in disrepair. …There is a problem. Pakistan possesses almost no morally exceptional leadership. This is a killer weakness for a society and state in crisis. Moral leadership can help extricate a nation from crisis by making unpopular decisions popular. By making difficult decisions easy. By doing outrageously brave and courageous things in a heartbeat. For all the positive strains that exist in Pakistan, this one element simply does not. Without it, Pakistan will continue to meander along on a meaningless series of misadventures and debacles. The inner resilience and islands of excellence may stem the rot and will prevent a total breakdown, and that perhaps, is why we should not give up on Pakistan. Yet. But these scattered strengths will not be able to turn the tide. To turn the tide, Pakistan needs moral leadership.



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