Monday, February 15, 2010, Safar 30, 1431 A.H   ISSN 1563-9479
 Group Chairman: Mir Javed Rahman Founded by: Mir Khalil-ur-Rahman Editor-in-Chief: Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman 
    News on Sunday
    Health Body & Mind
    Investor's J.
    Viewers' Forum
    Today's Cartoon
    Business & Finance Review
    MAG Fashion
   Opinion Archive
   Fashion Archive
   Magazine Archive
   Style Archive

   Currency Rates
   KSE Index
   Bullion Rates
   Prize Bonds

Share this story!   
 Between imperialism and extremism
Friday, January 16, 2009
by Ayesha Ijaz Khan

On the one hand, Pakistan is the subject of a vicious and malicious international smear campaign, emanating from Washington and Delhi alike. On the other hand, internally we face out-of-control militant and misogynist groups whose aim is to terrorize their own population to a point such that no state institution can check their ever growing power and brutality. Unfortunately, in spite of the gravity of the situation, neither government representatives nor the opposition leaders are able to argue the case for Pakistan effectively in international media, and nor are they able to implement cohesive and effective policy with respect to troubled areas like Swat where the local population is overwhelmed by the cruelty it faces.

There is a belief in some quarters, and indeed has been perpetuated by certain writers within Pakistan, that "India is not the enemy; terror is." Wrong. On the other hand, there are those who claim that all of Pakistan's troubles can be fixed if Pakistan were to distance itself from the American "war on terror." Wrong again! The truth is somewhere in between these two extremes.

Pakistan finds itself in the unenviable position of having to formulate policy such that it is at once anti-imperialist and anti-extremist. This is not an easy thing to do. In fact, it is extremely difficult. It is like fighting a war on two fronts. But it is the only way forward if Pakistan is to survive the mounting crises.

Internationally, there is a consistent onslaught of editorials and opinion pieces written by western writers in the likes of the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal and by Indian writers in publications such as Asia Times casting aspersions on the security of Pakistan's nuclear weapons, the ability of its civilian government to rein in the dubious intelligence agencies, economic mismanagement and the growing recruits of extremist forces, often making the case that Pakistan is not fit to handle its own affairs and should in fact be placed in "an international receivership."

One would think that in light of such offensive attacks in the world media, Pakistan's government would task its diplomats and ambassadors to write counter-pieces. No such luck. Instead, since Musharraf's time, we have had to suffer the embarrassment of our President writing self-important op-eds for American newspapers. Zardari is following in Musharraf's footsteps, but such pieces inevitably argue for an individual or a party, and not the country. As if that is not bad enough, a fumbling, mumbling and repetitive Zardari on shows like "Larry King Live" on CNN does nothing to counter the very serious allegations that are made against Pakistan.

This obsession with appearances on foreign media and vying for relations with foreign writers is not limited to Zardari however. It has also equally, and more disturbingly, become the way of our high-ranking military officers. General Ahmed Shuja Pasha's recent interview to Der Speigel has been critiqued most accurately by analysts within Pakistan. Ironically it too was simplistically titled, "Terror is our enemy; not India." Clearly, the General is not trained in media relations and perhaps should not be agreeing to such interviews. They do not help Pakistan's case.

A few weeks ago, it was revealed that Major-General Faisal Alvi had shared key information with writer Cary Schofield. Tragic as the General's death was, what was he thinking? Is key information on the Pakistan Army to be shared with foreign writers? I would have no problem if he had, for instance, shared it with our very own Ansar Abassi or some other Pakistani investigative journalist or writer, but to offer such sensitive information to a foreign writer is beyond my comprehension.

That not all publicity is good publicity is a fact perhaps lost on our military and civilian elites. And thus the latest casualty of the Indian propaganda campaign was Mr. Imran Khan. Appearing on Barkha Dutt's show, "We the People," Mr. Khan answered the first question posed to him rather well, identifying the lapse in security at the Taj Hotel during the Mumbai attacks, but shortly thereafter his responses descended into chaos. "We have no government. We don't know who is in charge. It is a complete hodgepodge here," Mr. Khan told Barkha. Her ensuing smile said it all.

"Thank you very much Mr. Imran Khan," she beamed. He had just given her guests the ammunition to make the case for "India's Pakistan Problem," as the topic of the show was called. Did Mr. Khan not realize that he was on Indian television and not on Aaj Tv or Geo Tv. That his response must answer to the discussion that is ongoing in India, which incidentally, was arguing for extreme economic and military sanctions for Pakistan on just the grounds that Mr. Khan presented, i.e., that Pakistan is anarchic and nobody is really in charge of a nuclear-armed extremist country.

If Mr. Khan is unequipped in matters of foreign policy, then perhaps it would be better for him to decline such interviews to NDTV in future. Alternatively, he should send the newly-recruited Shireen Mazari out to bat for him in such instances, as I am sure she would have done a far better job of challenging the Indian misinformation. Similarly, the government and military men should not agree to interviews without at least a serious debriefing from some of Pakistan's seasoned foreign office veterans, the likes of Mr. Riaz Khokhar or Mr. Tareq Fatemi.

On the other side of the equation, cries of help from our fellow traumatized citizens in Swat are entirely unheeded. With the inaccessibility of the media in the area, most Pakistanis are unaware of the dire situation in Pakistan's most picturesque of valleys. The emails I receive from Swat are deeply depressing and resentful of both the military and civilian administration. The myriad of letters pouring into this newspaper from the people of Swat and the recent insightful pieces by Hamid Mir and Nasim Zehra underscore the fact that what is going on in Swat is unique and does not fit into the standard explanation that this is merely a response to American drone attacks and intervention.

There have been no American attacks in Swat. And even if there had been, how does turning against your own population counteract the malicious designs of the Americans? It was terribly disappointing for me to hear Mr. Ayaz Amir on "Siyasi Log," as he attempted to draw an analogy between the Islamic Salvation Front in Algeria and what is going on in Swat. The ISF was voted into power by the Algerians. The people of Swat, on the other hand, are being held hostage by this armed monstrosity, and are pleading for help and emancipation from this heinous force.

It was even more disappointing to hear Samia Raheel Qazi of the Jamaat-e-Islami argue on "Live with Talat" that men who are torching girls' schools are not Muslims. After all, how can a Muslim do such a thing? There are one billion Muslims. Is Ms. Qazi suggesting that none of them are criminals? Several months ago, a newspaper report revealed that the imam of a mosque in Gowalmandi (Lahore) had raped a girl of ten. Is Ms. Qazi suggesting that he too was not Muslim? What will we possibly gain by being in such denial? Isn't it far better to accept the bitter truth that there is a force of Muslims in our country who have transgressed all bounds and perverted the religion such that it is closer to "jahilya" than it is to Islam and thus this "fitna" must be dealt with severely.

But when ironically Haji Adeel of the secular ANP claims that most people in Swat want "nifase sharia," one must ask him why then would they vote for his party? And can Haji Adeel give some explanation as to what this vague term means? Can he guarantee that it will not result in the end of female education? Will he guarantee that it will not mean mutilation of dead bodies? Or is he just too scared to say otherwise?

With the notable exception of Senator Mandokhel of the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party no politician appearing on television has told the people the truth about the aspirations and troubles of the people in Swat.

The writer is a London-based lawyer turned political commentator. Website:

Share this story!   
Back     |    Send this story to Friend    |     Print Version
The News Home  |  Jang Group Online  |  Jang Multimedia  |  Jang Searchable  |  Ad Tariff / Enquiry |  Editor Internet  |  Webmaster