They say in Africa that when elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers. To this Julius Nyerere had once added that when elephants make love, the grass still suffers. Nyerere had made this witty remark at a summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in the 1970’s. The organisation had been formed to extricate as much of the world from suffering the same fate as the grass in this African proverb, during the Cold War. Yet, it failed Afghanistan as most of NAM’s members were anything but non-aligned. Unfortunately, this included its leading lights.
The US decided to give the USSR a bloody nose in Afghanistan. It seemed no one cared for the poor country caught in the crossfire. Washington found Gen Zia ul Haq’s Pakistan to be a more than willing partner. For the Pakistani dictator, this was an unbelievably lucky opportunity to gain international ‘legitimacy’, even recognition. But for Afghanistan and her people this superpower showdown meant the worst misfortune, misery, death and destruction in the country’s history. The misery continues even two decades after one of the superpowers is no more.
The following article is a short trip down memory lane by an Afghan expat, Muhammad Qayoumi, for Foreign Policy (May 27, 2010). It is one glimpse, through a particular little window, of how three decades of war can push a country six centuries back in time. It is not claimed that Afghanistan did not have large areas which were, as it were, centuries behind parts of Kabul, Herat and Mazar e Sharif, even 30 years ago. But what is most saddening about this little window on the past is the realisation of the damage that has been done to the psyche of the Afghan people, regardless of who they were, where they lived and in which ‘century’. To regain self-confidence, and to let go of anxieties of more than one sort, would perhaps be the most difficult task faced by the Afghans in their efforts to try and rebuild their country. They will have to relearn to be Afghans, rediscover their own history and not only find hope and security, but once again get used to feeling hopeful and secure. They will have to learn to smile again. (bciv)
Once Upon a Time in Afghanistan…
Record stores, Mad Men furniture, and pencil skirts — when Kabul had rock ‘n’ roll, not rockets
On a recent trip to Afghanistan, British Defense Secretary Liam Fox drew fire for calling it “a broken 13th-century country.” The most common objection was not that he was wrong, but that he was overly blunt. He’s hardly the first Westerner to label Afghanistan as medieval. Former Blackwater CEO Erik Prince recently described the country as inhabited by “barbarians” with “a 1200 A.D. mentality.” Many assume that’s all Afghanistan has ever been — an ungovernable land where chaos is carved into the hills. Given the images people see on TV and the headlines written about Afghanistan over the past three decades of war, many conclude the country never made it out of the Middle Ages. Continue reading
Below, we are posting two relevant stories about the massacre at Ahmadi mosques in Lahore. This massacre will be a especially ugly chapter in the sordid history that Pakistan has created when it comes to its treatment and protection of minorities from the religious zealots that are found aplenty in the majority sect that inhabits Pakistan.
But more importantly, many Islamist guests on the PTH, as well as countless on outside media and blogs have conveniently accused RAW, MOSSAD, CIA (pick your favourite intelligence organization) behind the massacre.
Self delusion seems to run rampant in Pakistani right wing. They are most welcome to indulge in their mass manufacture of hidden hands and twisted conspiracy theories. As one of the Ahmadi leader recently pointed out while answering who may be responsible for the immense loss of life in Lahore: “When the state allies call for killing Ahmadis a required religious duty, when Khatam-e-Nabuwwat Conferences call for Ahmadis to die or leave Pakistan, and when TTP threatens the community consistently, then it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to realize that massacre on this magnitude was always on the cards”.
We have pointed out repeatedly that the biggest casualty of this self delusional behaviour is Pakistan itself. The enemy is our home-grown badly out of control Frankenstein, as well as the religious-nationalist mindset primarily responsible for its creation and nurture. A religious frenzied state policy that was meant to create proxy militias to fight both east and west, turned out to be one of the most idiotic policies ever implemented by any state in recent memory, with no regard to the flawed marriage of religion with state policies, as well as disastrous consequences that this marriage would entail. If these events are not a wakeup call, then I don’t know what would be. The religious genie unleashed by Pakistan cannot be contained if Pakistan is not honest with itself. Religion has no place in the affairs of the state. The religious bigotry against others is consuming Pakistan first and foremost.
We have posted Omar Ali`s previous post titled “The Dead Parrot” a few weeks back. Below we reproduce his comment on the Lahore massacre. Dr. Ali discusses compelling reasons why we are here and where we are heading towards from here. We did not get into this mess overnight and we will not get out of it soon enough. Too many innocent Pakistanis are losing their lives as Pakistan struggles to overcome its previous policy errors. PTH may not necessarily agree with all points raised in the following post (AZW)
Blowback In Lahore
By Omar Ali
Terrorists (Punjabi Taliban) simultaneously attacked two Ahmedi sect mosques in Lahore during Friday prayers and killed over 80 people. First thoughts on this evil attack: The choice of target is easy to understand. Ahmedis are a persecuted and vilified minority in Pakistan and “mainstream” news organizations feel no compunction about attacking them, so the ground is already prepared. e.g. GEO TV’s religion presenter (and phoney doctor) Amir Liaqat Hussain, a former minister, encouraged people to kill them if they “overstepped their bounds” and an Ahmedi doctor was promptly killed; there was some fuss in the liberal press but his programme aalim-Online is still on TV and writes a particularly vicious column in a major newspaper.
Filed under Al Qaeda, Army, FATA, History, Identity, India, Islam, Islamabad, Islamism, minorities, Pakistan, Religion, Rights, state, strategy, Taliban, USA, violence, war
The Times Square Bomber: Home-Grown Hatred?
By Ahmed Rashid
From The New York Review of Books
Published May 14, 2010
The Pakistani media is in a state of apoplexy about the would-be Times Square bomber, the Pakistani-born US citizen Faisal Shahzad. Predictably a great many commentators in the press and on the non-stop talk shows that run on over 25 TV news channels have discussed whether it was a CIA plot to embarrass Pakistan or provide an excuse for American troops to invade us: Was Shahzad an Indian or Israeli agent? And in any case, why should Washington hold Pakistan responsible, since he was an American citizen?
Not surprisingly, the Zardari government, the army, and Pakistani politicians have also muddied the waters. Although the government has said it will fully cooperate with US investigators seeking to find out which extremist groups trained Shahzad and where, Islamabad continues to fudge the paramount issue—the need for Pakistan to launch a comprehensive campaign against all extremist groups rather than the hit-and-miss anti-terrorism measures it is presently pursuing. That selective campaign leaves untouched the Afghan Taliban based in Pakistan—including Mullah Omar and other top leaders—who are not killing Pakistanis but are organizing attacks against US troops in Afghanistan; it also has ignored the Punjabi Taliban groups who have been attacking Indian nationals and government buildings in Kashmir, Kabul, and elsewhere, as well as killing numerous Pakistanis in suicide bombings in Lahore and other cities.
Filed under Afghanistan, Al Qaeda, FATA, Identity, Islamism, North-West Frontier Province, Pakistan, Taliban, Terrorism, USA, violence, War On Terror
One of our friends recently wrote: “Two highly recommended books for those who wish to understand Pakistan: Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll and The Castle by Frank Kafka”.
This is not a cynical view of Pakistan. Pakistan is a country that is a conundrum wrapped within a puzzle inside an enigma. As the previous proxy state militia broke into different factions and is now fighting the state, the lines between friends and foes are blurred. ISI that used to formant proxy militias to further its causes in Kashmir and Afghanistan is now itself being attacked by its very own Frankenstein.
The previous masters of the Taliban are now either their prisoners or being killed by them. A case of Khalid Khwaja and Colonel Imam is a sad reflection of the evil of the religious extremism that is consuming itself due to the utter chaos that it represents.
Mr. Khwaja’s life was remarkable in itself for all the intrigues that were associated with him. Not many people have accused General Zia-ul-Haq for not fully implementing the Islamic Sharia in Pakistan. He was one of the accusers, and after promptly being dismissed by the General, Mr. Khwaja went on to play significant roles in assembling alliances against the PPP government of Ms. Benazir Bhutto. Taking on the causes of Jihadis, he managed to appear in the news on and off, even volunteering to take on the case of five Americans who were apprehended in Pakistan while allegedly looking to train for Jihad.
Filed under Afghanistan, Al Qaeda, Army, FATA, North-West Frontier Province, Pak Tea House, Pakistan, Taliban, Terrorism, USA, War On Terror
Pakistani-Americans and Police Sharing, and Trying to Spread, Trust
Cross Post from The New York Times
By ANNE BARNARD
(New York Times) — STRATFORD, Conn. — Last month, a resident of Avon, Conn., received a threatening letter full of religious references. The police chief there, Mark Rinaldo, wondered whether the letter implied a broader threat from a Muslim militant.
He called Dr. Atique A. Mirza, a Pakistani-born Muslim cardiologist, who studied the letter for cultural, religious and political clues. They concluded that the threat probably involved a narrow dispute between neighbors.
Now that a Pakistani-American man from Connecticut, Faisal Shahzad, stands accused of trying to detonate a car bomb in Times Square, setting off soul-searching and unease among the state’s thousands of residents of Pakistani descent, Mr. Rinaldo and Dr. Mirza are holding up their relationship — built over three years of meetings and cooperation between Pakistani-Americans and law enforcement — as a model for communities across the state and the nation.
The comfort level is such, said Mr. Rinaldo, that Dr. Mirza “wouldn’t be insulted and say, ‘Why are you calling me,’ “ nor would the chief doubt Dr. Mirza’s analysis. “That’s the trusting relationship we are looking for,” said Dr. Mirza, who has formally assumed the role of Avon’s police-community liaison for the Pakistani American Association of Connecticut (Paact), which has similar representatives in 13 towns and hopes to increase the number to 70.
Reproduced from The New York Times
Published: May 15, 2010
This article was reported by Andrea Elliott, Sabrina Tavernise and Anne Barnard, and written by Ms. Elliott.
Just after midnight on Feb. 25, 2006, Faisal Shahzad sent a lengthy e-mail message to a group of friends. The trials of his fellow Muslims weighed on him — the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the plight of Palestinians, the publication in Denmark of cartoons lampooning the Prophet Muhammad.
Mr. Shahzad was wrestling with how to respond. He understood the notion that Islam forbids the killing of innocents, he wrote. But to those who insist only on “peaceful protest,” he posed a question: “Can you tell me a way to save the oppressed? And a way to fight back when rockets are fired at us and Muslim blood flows?
“Everyone knows how the Muslim country bows down to pressure from west. Everyone knows the kind of humiliation we are faced with around the globe.”
Yet by some measures, Mr. Shahzad — a Pakistani immigrant who was then 26 years old — seemed to be thriving in the West. He worked as a financial analyst at Elizabeth Arden, the global cosmetics firm. He had just received his green card, making him a legal resident in the United States. He owned a gleaming new house in Shelton, Conn. His Pakistani-American wife would soon become pregnant with their first child, whom they named Alisheba, or “beautiful sunshine.”
Filed under Afghanistan, Al Qaeda, FATA, Identity, Iraq, Islam, Islamabad, Islamism, Pakistan, Religion, Taliban, USA, violence, War On Terror