My Pakistani friends I write to you in hopes of shedding light on the need for more understanding between the US and Paksitan relations. Building bridges between the US and Pakistan would be hazardous work for civil engineers; imagine a fine art doctorate involved in such a verbal construction project (I have to admit I was apprised of the peril of attempting to write in solidarity with Pakistan by friends with more geopolitical savvy than me). But, the friends I have in Pakistan were intelligent, thoughtful and full of passion; why not attempt to help in their efforts at democracy and ridding the Constitution of Zia legacies, an outdated “Strategic Depth” program that enables the very terrorists that invaded and murdered FATA/Waziristan tribal elders and its peaceful leaders, and mybe I could provide solidarity when the CJ releases Taseer’s murderer?
Not one of the four groups- Progressive Muslim Voices, ONEMANKIND, Progressive Citizens for Secular Democracy-Pakistan, United Secular Army- I belonged to could get through commentary unrelated to the U.S., subjects that had nothing to do with America- without my being assailed by unrelated subjects of US foreign policy, any o which I do not agree. For decades I have been a student of history, philosophy and geopolitics, but debating unrelated issues outside scope of the essay is time consuming if your mission is building bridges.
In fact, there is much about American foreign policy I do not subscribe to. I think retribution for 9/11 should not have been a U.S.conventional military Afghan invasion, but rather a smaller, but substantial elite rangers operation targeting al Qaeda in cooperation with local assistance, even enlisting the ISI if necessary. The Tafiri Salafist Taliban power-grab was a major blow to Afghan human rights, mostly woman’s rights, but only concerning Afghanistan and Pakistan. Even since 1747 proto–Afghanistan has been defined by conflicts (Afghanistan, Isby,2008); Islam has the only real national identity, with majority Dari-speaking Pushtun nationalism probably the strongest. Still, with its non-Pushtuns- Uzbec, Pashai, Baluchi, Nuristani, and Turkmen roots along with the Pashtuns, they all tend to unite during Soviet or American invasions.
The invasion of Iraq at first seemed important to stop nuclear “WMD” in the hands of an aggressive Saddam. When it was proven that the information Bush, Cheney, and Wolfowitz were going on, meant the war was started on a false premise, many in my country were angered. The impulse of the administration was to save face, avoid blame, trying to justify a “war of choice,” and, after the fact, removal of a dictator who had high-jacked Iraq and chemically killed Kurds, an invader of Kuwait, who had killed millions of youth in the hapless, deadly Iran/Iraq war. However, U.S. presence and removal of its political infrastructure, and no exit plan was evident then, and a decade later. Nonetheless, Iraq, really a colonial invention of thee states- Kurds, Sunni, and Shia, leaves a power vacuum upon U.S. troop removal.
Pakistan loves a conspiracy theory- here is something for those paranoid: the CIA and the ISI are conspiracy-based by definition; but, the salient conspiracy, besides the Deep State, is Pakistan military that continues to play a double game with us and the Pakistanis: The U.S. CIA, and Admiral Mullen worked with the Pak Army and ISI in sending in drones to North Wazeristan, while General Kayani publically complained, he privately condoned it.
If we were to discuss the unfair treatment of Ahmadis in Pakistan, or the intimidation of tribes in FATA by Taliban, sooner or later conspiracy theorists would bring up fantasy that the CIA was behind it all. Ignorance of their own ISI, who is assisting Tehrik-i-Taliban Paksitan is more common than the realization that the US is an ally, not an enemy of Pakistan.
So, I began this project of pro-secular, democratic Pakistan, because in my life I have had close friends who were friends of the family from India (who moved to Sindh after partition, Karachi and then, Lahore), compelled me to study South Asia, the religions and geopolitics. These friends told me of working together , Hindus and Muslims, and harmony and commerce prior to partition. Also, had Iranian Muslims friends, back in my Catholic days, and had close friends from Baghdad who had escaped Saddam’s 1980 war, so I have an interest in the region.
Then the progressive friends from Pakistan inspired and encouraged me to write.
In order to move on to solving mutually strategic goals of plurality, democracy and Islam/secular questions one instead has to navigate around blatant discrediting remarks about the US from antagonists, completely unrelated to the subject, namely: Progressive Muslim Voices, ONEMANKIND, Progressive Citizens for Secular Democracy-Pakistan, United Secular Army (yes, even when discussing Islam, geostrategic U.S. became a derisive subject). One particular dialogue went back past the Civil Rights to the “19th century massacre of the Indians.” The Unites States has come a long way then and done its best to right past wrongs. Sadly, the same cannot be said of those whose obsession with tagging us as “imperialist” blinds them to the tragedies committed by their own. The U.S., yes, we take responsibility for Vietnam, Iran-Contra, in Cold War mentality unwittingly funding the Mujahadeen. But, it was Pakistan that is responsible for its own Frankenstein – Taliban, LeT, LeJ, SSP/ASWJ ultimately turning against its own- Shia genocide and attacking Pak Arm, or innocent Frontier troops.
In the United States, we acknowledge our mistakes and apologize. We celebrate great Republican and Democrat presidents when they stood up and delivered for civil rights and did their best to right past wrongs. It was our intervention in the Balkans that saved the lives of tens of thousands of Bosnian and Kosovar Muslims. We failed to act in Darfur and Rwanda, but where was the feckless UN?
All this mind you, does Pakistan have no personal responsibility themselves for the bloodbaths and rapes in Bangladesh, or, Zia’s dark era, judicial murder of Zulfi Bhutto, killing of Benazir Bhutto, recent assassination of Salmaan Taseer, kidnapping of his son, Shahbaz Taseer, Christian Shahbaz Bhatti cold blooded killing, or home-grown “strategic depth” proxies like LeT deadly attacks on Mumbai, Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry allowing murderers to go free? A nation that endures this and the rampant MQM killings of Pashtuns in Karachi, one would think would be sympathetic to nations that have legacies to live down. Infact, it was a major American Publication, the Wall Street Journal, whose author Sadanath Dhume, highlighted the ongoing massacre of Shia Muslims in Pakistan. In this article, it was Mr. Dhume who refered to the online petition that has been circulated by bloggers to draw attention to the perilious situation in Pakistan. Is there even one newspaper in Pakistan that has bothered to even talk about this petition?
My good friends, I am aware that I am far too sensitive for sometimes; the artistic and creative savant in me, notwithstanding (I have not slashed an ear yet) wants more truth from establishment press and geopolitics in general.: All nations act in their own perceived self-interests.
Building bridges is not easy in an environment where your allies hide Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, and Mullah Omar, and put up bin Laden in a garrison town, and expect us not to send in drones; ignore Taliban terrorizing tribal populations in FATA; military and security apparatus enable the same radicals that kidnap and kill their own Shiites, Hazaras, Balochs, and when their own political rivals hold a knife to their own economic jugular vein, the entrepreneurs of Karachi. All the while, verbally tearing down their own heroes, visionaries like Quaid-e-Azam Jinnah, Sir Muhammad Iqbal, the late Benzir Bhutto, even in death have constant corruption unsubstantiated allegations to wade through, as does President Zardari, who is working under the shadow of a treacherous military, and the only viable political party dedicated to democracy is the much maligned PPP.
And, who did Pakistan pick for its leader? PML-N Sharif: a proven sympathizer and negotiator, with loyalty to the Saudi-petro dollar, and to terrorists TTP/ SSP ASWJ, et. al.
Fine task I had laid out for myself in retirement.