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Why Does the Pakistan Army Deserve our Support

It seems that deriding Pakistan army and maligning its efforts has become a finely tuned mechanism within the Pakistani public sphere. It would, however, be prudent to keep certain truths in our minds when we reach hasty conclusions and then share such easily formed opinions on the ubiquitous social media outlets. I write this neither as a former army officer nor as an international scholar, but rather as a diasporic Pakistani who has never actively severed his symbolic and material links with Pakistan.

As I write these lines, the young officers and soldiers of Pakistan army are fighting and dying for Pakistan’s very survival and security on various fronts. I have no doubt that they have the necessary skills, the leadership, and the material support necessary to continue defending Pakistan against all threats. But armies are never only about equipment and technology alone: at the end of the day an armed force is a trained body of human beings who voluntarily offer their services and, when, needed their lives to defend their nation. No amount of money can induce anyone to sacrifice their life: one must believe in the nobility of one’s mission and its intrinsic value to offer one’s life for a cause larger than oneself. When I was deployed at Sia Chin, I did not give my best to the nation because I was being paid a hard area allowance; I gave my best because I believed in defending Pakistan and would have died in the process. I could have such faith because at that time when I introduced myself as an army officer, no matter what the scenario, people treated me with respect and honor. As a human being I knew deep down that the nation for whom I was willing to sacrifice my life accorded me honor and respect. In other words, the public opinion of my service had an inextricable link with my morale, my self-worth, and my commitment to lay down my life for my country!

In the early nineties, only a fraction of Pakistan army was deployed at Sia Chin: at this time over eighty percent of our troops are deployed in one internal struggle for Pakistan or another. Just visit any cantonment and you will see that most battalions only have their rear parties in the cantonment, for rest of them are fighting in one way or the other. The soldiers and young officers, according to my sources, hardly ever get the one and a half month annual, staggered, leaves that happen to be their legal right. Besides this, about seven thousand soldiers have died just in FATA and the number of seriously wounded is even larger than that. In such a scenario, the least we can do for our troops is to offer them the kind of moral support that is absolutely essential for their morale and eventually crucial to Pakistan’s survival.

I live in the United States, an established democracy with strong civil institutions. Even here, from leaders to the average people, no one ever unduly criticizes the armed forces or troops. In fact, if every day Americans run into a military person, they often say to them: “Thank you for your service.” If we just adopt such every-day rituals, it means a world to the soldiers who are fighting for the very survival of Pakistan.

I understand that some politicians and their supporters find it easy to scapegoat the army, but if their politics can only sustain itself by unduly maligning the very integrity of their national defense force, then there is certainly something wrong with such politics. Of course, the politicians are well within their rights to insist on the civilian control of the institutions, but that does not mean that they should force their will upon the internal functioning of armed forces or make it their mission to malign their own armed forces.

I am not naive and am aware of the past political adventures of the Army elite. I am, however, also aware that soldiers, officers, and the current leadership is more interested in keeping Pakistan safe and secure and impugning any other motives onto them is dangerous and self-defeating.

So, your soldiers are fighting and dying for you. It is only fair to lend them your love and support, for if Pakistan loses this fight against the forces of destruction, then no amount of electioneering or democratizing will save Pakistan!

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Pakistani Feudal Economy and the Asiatic Mode of Production

The Asiatic Mode of Production (AMP) figures prominently in early Marx as an explanation of a despotic mode of production that relied on centralized power and extraction of surplus labor in rural communities. Marx abandon this term in his later works and an explanation of his altered views on various modes of production can be seen in the following explanation of it:

Before 1857, Marx and Engels occasionally used this term to refer to a distinct social formation lying between Tribal Society and Antiquity. Marx and Engels had believed that the great Asian nations were the first we could speak of as civilization (an understanding partly based on Hegel, see: The Oriental Realm). The last time they used this word was in the Grundisse, having dropped the idea of a distinct Asiatic mode of production, and kept four basic forms of societal evolution: tribal, ancient, feudal, and capitalist. (Source: http://www.marxists.org/glossary/terms/a/s.htm).

It must be noted that rise of capital, for Marx, was a necessary step for the rise of the proletariat, for the future revolution depended upon the prolitariatization of the masses. Sadly, though, this has not happened in Pakistan. In fact, in Pakistan capital has arrogated the feudal mode of production to itself in a way that it has formed a new monstrosity: a capitalistic system with core feudal values still intact. This monstrous system has enabled the old hierarchies to be renegotiated in modern terms in a process that enables the landholders to retain their economic and symbolic capital without transforming the lives of the peasants, sharecroppers, or the captive labor employed in Pakistani agriculture.

Pakistan is probably the only modern nation-state in which sanctimonious modern politicians can rise to power and speak eloquently about democracy while still holding on to large tracts of land tilled and ploughed by bound, captive labor with no recourse to upward mobility. Neither Mr. Z. A Bhutto, nor the subsequent military and civilian governments have been able to dismantle this monstrous AMP.

Compared to pakistan, India abolished the large land ownership system in the 1950s and even though the conditions there are not perfect, one still does not see the kind of slave labor practiced in the rural heart of Pakistan. In a way, the democratic process itself enables the feudal elite to normalize old hierarchies within a new political system: almost all our major politicians have a feudal background in one way or the other and when the come to power, they can further strengthen their position by branching out into lucrative agribusinesses that still rely on the captive labor of peasant farmers. It is no surprise that pretty much all major agribusinesses in Pakistan are owned by large landholders. Thus, while the economy becomes increasingly industrialized and global, its worker base is still trapped in a prehistoric mode of labor.

There are quite a few consequences of this revised AMP in practice in Pakistan, not the least of which is the rise of fundamentalism. If people cannot be liberated through reformative modes, where are they likely to go? They will certainly seek the leadership of those who promise to undo the current system and make into one on which the least shall not remain the weak and impoverished: only the Islamists in Pakistan can offer this promise and that is why their ranks are growing.

Pakistan needs a serious revisiting of its feudal system and needs to bring about a massive change in the way people live in the rural heart of Pakistan. But as the ones in our parliament are mostly those who literally own their constituencies, the chances of a smooth parliamentary change are not very good. Even Bhutto, who had a lot of political capital to spend, could not get the land reform bill passed and our generals have not had much interest in the project as they mostly rely on these so-called ‘notables’ to run their regimes.

Sadly though, unless Pakistan breaks out of this Feudal, Asiatic, monstrous mode of production, it is not likely to have a viable future as a modern nation. The situation is even getting worse because due to the neoliberal state policies, the wealth is concentrating at the top and the poor are being left to perish without any viable safety nets or any hope for upward mobility. A comprehensive land reform could be a good start to change the course of Pakistani history. Will it happen in my lifetime? I am not so sure!

I am, however, planning to make this an important issue in my occasional Writings and would be grateful if the readers could contribute regional or national news and events that highlight the ills of Pakistani feudal system.

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Judiciary Again: Serving Their Masters

English: This is the Coat of arms of Supreme C...
English: This is the Coat of arms of Supreme Court of Pakistan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is a recorded fact that the Pakistani justices have pretty much always provided a legalistic rationale for all military adventures in Pakistan. A sad and glaring example of that is the enigma of “doctrine of necessity” invoked by the justices in the mid-1970s to provide a justification for Zia-ul-Haq’s illegal and unconstitutional regime.

We had hoped that the current supreme court, having come back to power through popular support, would have learned not to serve the anti-democracy forces in Pakistan. But we were, of course, too naive.

How did this crisis come to be. Simply, the judiciary forced the Prime Minister to open closed cases against the current president. Let us not forget that Mr. Zaradri IS the former Mr. 10% and we have no doubts about his checkered and corrupt past. But our main concern now is to see at least one government finish its term so that a clear system of public rule and democratic norm can be established. The justices should have kept this long-term view in mind, but, sadly, they have gone for short-term political gains. This set of circumstances is deeply troubling and deplorable.

The question now is simply this: would this juridical vendetta end now or the new government would also be brought to a crisis under the same issues. How many prime ministers are the justices willing to replace just to make a point. And who gains if the army, this time, remains the main player behind the scenes. There can be no future for pakistan if those committed to serve the nation cannot stop acting as the masters of the nation and keep coming up with varied schemes to undermine the will of the Pakistani people.

Yes, the political system is corrupt, but give it time, a chance, and we might forge a system worthy of our hopes and aspirations. We have tried military and quasi military rule for the past sixty years: it does not work and it has given us a fractured, tortured, and disrupted nation.

There should be an end to such misguided judicial activism: it hurts the nation and endangers the future of our children!

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J Salik and the World Minorities Alliance

By far the crowning event of my recent visit to Pakistan was a meeting with Julius Salik. A towering figure in the history of Pakistani activism, J Salik has fought all his life for the rights of the poor and the weak. He has now launched a more ambitious and revolutionary project: The World Minorities Alliance.

Simply focused on the rights of minorities all over the world, WMA describes its mission in the following words:

The World Minorities Alliance would be a single such platform that gives thought to the problems of all minorities and seeks their solution. It aims at projecting the issues irritating the minorities in the very same country they lived in. Every individual living anywhere in the world can become a member of the World Minorities Alliance.

As we sat and talked about the possibilities of this organization, over a cup of tea, I could see that J Salik has finally launched a project which, if successful, would become his ultimate legacy. Imagine the possibilities: anyone living in a minority status anywhere in the world would not only get a global platform and representation but would also be able to voice his or her opinions in the world affairs, a world system so obviously defined and perpetuated by the majority populations of nation-states.

In my conversation with J Salik while I was deeply impressed with his committment and his vision, I was also aware the a lot of resources would be necessary to launch and sustain this project. While I have no doubt that he will see this through–he is famous for his resilience–I do hope that those of us who are interested in the issues of minority rights and issues of social justice would also step up and support this important cause.

Personally, I have already done a bit of what I can do and would continue to do more and I implore all of you to support this important organization during its fledgling phase. You can help in may ways:

  • Join the organization as members and patrons.
  • Pass the word around on your blogs and websites.
  • Contribute financially (Contact us for details on this).

Links:

We will keep posting further updates on this. Meanwhile, please feel free to pass this on and add your comments of support. Thank you all in advance.

 

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US-Pakistan Need Better Stories

“Those who tell the stories rule society.” (Plato)

“But let there be spaces in your togetherness and let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.” (Kahlil Gibran)

Last week I traveled to Seattle, Washington to participate in the annual conference of Modern Language Association. As the conference reached its end, I decided to take the train to visit Portland, Oregon. In our household Portland is the city of dreams and great memories: my wife lived here for quite some time and still fondly remembers the city and its culture. This trip for me, therefore, was not just an ordinary journey but rather a pilgrimage to a city that has been an important part of my wife’s past. I took some time to visit the very places that she must have visited often during her stay here and I also took a trip to a street where she lived, long ago, in a basement apartment. We do these things to remind ourselves of the importance of those we love and somehow, it seems, visiting the places dear to them also brings us closer to them. That certainly has been the case for me.

My wife also arranged for me to stay at a local bead and breakfast, in a historical house, owned by one of her old friends. It was while at this particular place, last night, that I had a most interesting conversation with the manager. As I was out smoking, Steve, the manager, came out and joined me. We started talking about the weather and from then to our pasts and our cultures. Steve was obviously curious about Pakistan and wanted to have a conversation about my culture. We ended up having a two hour conversation about the past, present, and the future of our two cultures. This conversation epitomizes for me the need for a different kind of storytelling, a different kind of narrative about the US and Pakistan. I realized that as someone who lives in that ambivalent space between two cultures–with no entrenched loyalties to either culture–it is my job to construct and tell a more complex non-binaristic narrative: a narrative that goes beyond the usual stereotypes and brings these small encounters and exchanges of  kindness to the forefront.

We spend too much time demonizing each other: our mullahs always use the west and the US as the other, as the evil against which they must mobilize all powers of a fundamentalist and purist view of the world. As a result, so many of our children in Pakistan develop a sort of underlying hatred for the west and for the US without having ever met and having ever talked to a single American. On this side of the global divide, things are not much different either. The media and the fundamentalist forces of American life also foreground the Pakistani stereotypes in order to simplify and demonize Islam in general and Pakistan in particular. In these huge narratives of difference and distrust, the micronarratives of trust, respect, and love get totally lost.

So, here is my humble attempt at sharing the micronarrative. Last night Steve, who is now my friend, and I sat for over two hours and talked about our two cultures. In this conversation we both respected each other’s history and culture but, despite our different backgrounds and lived experiences, we were able to find a common thread to our existence. Steve is one of thousands of Americans that I have encountered in my life in the US: one of many decent, compassionate, and warm-hearted Americans who have enriched my life and made it possible for me to succeed and live a more meaningful life. These are the people I would like to acknowledge as truly American and truly human. These are the people who Pakistanis need to be told about: decent, compassionate, honest, and caring.

On the other hand, we also need to offer the best of our own culture, our hospitality, kindness, and generosity. If we share these micronarratives with each other chances are we will be able to see beyond the stereotypes, beyond hate and find a way of living in which Pakistanis and Americans can live in peace with mutual respect for each other.

So, as a commitment to this cause, I have decided to continue sharing these important micronarratives, for the stories that we tell our children are crucial in shaping their future. It is time we started telling the narratives of love and understanding instead of demonizing our others to stabilize our own identities.

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Thoughts on Pakistan, By Khalid Maalik

The coat of arms of Pakistan displays the nati...
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I am not the one who can write columns, articles, or can deliver speeches and lectures. First time ever trying
to say what I really feel while staying in Pakistan. I have been reading different articles and discussions on blog
“PAKISTANIAAT” for last few months. Many problems have already been defined, discussed and solutions to those problems.
I am here in Pakistan for last two years now, and unfortunately I would be saying that Pakistan is the only country where situations (law and order, corruption etc.) is getting worst and worst. The gap between rich and poor is getting huge. The only country in the world where people say: “The Past was Far Better than this Current Time”.
One every TV channel, we see “Talks” and “Talks” and “Talks”, but what’s the result?, NOTHING. In other words we can just talk and do nothing. We can criticise others and put blames on others and that’s all we can do. Finding the real problems of our country “That’s not Our Job”.
We never even try to think who we were, who we are and where we are heading to. Pakistan is going through worst Economic and Social Crisis, but who cares? Our Young generation is just after the new mobile Phones, capable of holding multiple SIMs, having a long list of friends or so called “girlfriends” who they can talk to all night long, enjoy and party hard. Our media (Cable Network), whoaaaa, I don’t know what they are presenting and where they are taking the people of Pakistan to. Top of that blessings on Facebook and other socialising websites, I don’t think I need to say a word about it,
we are already seeing the consequences. “Right” can never be Wrong “and “Wrong” can never be “Right”.
Unfortunately we have lost our true identity. And I feel really sorry to say that we are still not a “Nation”. None of the characteristics of a “Nation” can be found among Us. How the Pakistan is surviving, that’s what we can call “A Miracle” of Allah .
People who got affected by the devastated floods of 2010/2011 plus Dengue, again “WHO CARES”. We just criticise that other countries didnt help us. My question is “have we ever try to help our self”. Our corrupt rulers, our elected politicians, Crises we are going through, I would just be saying that it’s the result of our own deeds and it’s a Punishment from Allah and nothing else, and unfortunately we are keeping our eyes shut.

In the end my apologies in advance if I offend the readers.

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Reflections on RJA’s Hunger Strike

Those of you familiar with our blog must be aware that for the past few weeks we covered Raja Jahangir Akhtar’s (RJA) fast against corruption. The news of his intended fast had come to me during Ramadan, through a dear friend in Pakistan, and we immediately posted his first press release on the blog. In fact, and I am proud to say this, The Pakistan Forum was the first major blog to post information about RJA’s intended initiative.

Since then we covered the story both in its early as well as culminating phase. As you know, RJA has ended his strike today after the politicians promised to seriously consider and legislate an anti-corruption bill. I do hope they live up to their promise; If not, we will be there to hold them accountable on the pages of this blog.

Personally, RJA’s actions have given me a new kind of hope: I mean here is a 68-year-old  citizen of Pakistan who has forced, through personal will and lateral solidarities, the Pakistani politicians to listen. And he accomplished this when one of the major TV networks (Geo TV) was shamelessly avoiding any mention of him in their so-called news.

A hunger strike is a performative act: it presupposes an audience of like-minded people and a means of communication to spread the message. In a way it is an act that introduces an anomaly within the discursive space of power, a sort of breakage: the kind that forces power to stop in the tracks of its normative drive. A hunger strike cannot be an end in itself but is always caught up with the future that it may unleash: Gandhi’s Satyagraha relied quite heavily on such public performances, but succeeded only because the press covered it.

What we saw in the last few weeks is unprecedented. Young people joined the movement and brought the tools of their time to fray: a Facebook page, a live stream, a blog. Countless webs of transnational solidarity woven together through techne but made possible because one man stood up and said: “enough!” This is the greatest lesson that I have learned: that one person can unleash so much power of good.

There were quite a few detractors: some venal members of a forum called The Defense Forum, some tired youth on Facebook asking silly questions without offering to do anything themselves, but then that is the nature of such actions: the nay-sayers, the fatalists, and the minions of power, when threatened, always resort to cowardly, malicious tactics or, like Geo TV, pretend to not notice at all.

But this has been an enlightening experience for all of us who were involved and I am specially grateful to my friend from Pakistan (whose name I cannot mention) for providing us all the information that we needed.

My thanks to Raja Jahangir Akhtar for putting his life on the line for a just cause: Thank you from our heart and may you live long and continue working for Pakistan.

To our politicians: beware, we are watching what you do to OUR country and our patience is not endless!

 

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Geo TV’s Shameful Silence on the Hunger Strike

Those of you who come to our blog often must be aware that for the past few days we have constantly been covering the anti-corruption hunger strike by Raja Jahangir Akhtar. An Islamabad based businessman and lifetime activist, Raja is on the fifth day of his hunger strike, a fact hard to miss around Islamabad. While the strike is now being covered by bloggers, national and international newspapers, the major Pakistani news channel, Geo TV, has been stramgely silent about the strike.

I just checked their website, and while they are covering what Indian Film actors are up to and even the news about a british farmer who has, it is being reported, “grown the largest onion” (I am not making this up; please check the screen shot), there is no mention of RJA’s strike for Pakistan.

 

As a scholar and editor and a Pakistani citizen I find this silence by Geo TV not only troubling but also deeply shameful. Obviously, since it is impossible to miss the strike, Geo TV has made a decision not to cover it and the reasons must be political.

I take this opportunity to request those who run this TV network to live up to their responsibility of informing Pakistani people about things that are important, especially if someone is putting his life on the line for the cause of Pakistan.

If they remain silent about it, then their’s would be a legacy of shame!

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Raja Jahangir Akhtar: Hunger Strike, Part 2

ISLAMABAD: Raja Jahangir Akhtar, a renowned   political and social worker, who has announced to go on hunger strike unto death to press for acceptance of his demands, has written an open letter to all political leaders of Pakistan. Some of his main demands include:

  • All headquarters of defense forces situated in civilian areas may be shifted outside the domain of civilian population so that in the event of war valuable civilian lives remain safe. Hiroshima is the worst example. It was GHQ of Japan’s defense forces when America used nuclear weapon   during World War II.
  • Every district in Pakistan may be provided with infrastructure for education from primary to intermediate level. Children of marginalized sections of society be provided with free education.
  • A network of new engineering universities may be set up to help all students who secure 900 marks in F.Sc seek engineering degree.

 

Following is the text of his open letter:-

“An open letter to all political leaders

In my capacity as a humble political and social worker, I have been waging struggle for the past 48 years to express my views on the economic situation of Pakistan. For my candid views on country’s economy, I have been put behind the bars many a time, and once a military court sentenced me to one year’s imprisonment and 10 flogs’ punishment.

I feel totally disappointed over Pakistan’s current critical economic situation. And more disappointing for me is pathetic and insensitive attitude of our national political leadership about this grave economic situation. Therefore, as protest against apathy of the national political leadership, I have decided to go on hunger strike till death from 12 September 2011 at Super Market Islamabad.

I have no hesitation whatsoever in saying that in fact our national political leadership is solely responsible for the current economic crisis. Majority of our political leaders believe that our army is facing an external threat and is duty-bound to defend our geographical (and according to some our ideological) borders. I have an opposite view. I firmly believe that Pakistan faces no external threat. Whatever threat we face is from within. We need to divert all our resources to end poverty, promote education and improve public health.

I claim with full confidence that India and Afghanistan, though never so friendly to Pakistan, never ever had any aggressive designs against Pakistan from 1947 to 1965, the period during which our country’s economy was at its peak. Pakistan’s currency was 1: 1.25 stronger than India’s. We must also keep in mind the fact that the 1965 War against India started after we launched Operation Gibraltar in Occupied Kashmir.

I dare claim that both the government and the opposition political parties have no practicable solution to resolve our current economic crisis. Therefore, I humbly suggest that we can salvage our economy by cutting the size of our army, which is not required in its present strength as we face no external threat. Therefore one way to meet our current economic challenges to end our confrontation with India and Afghanistan like the Soviet Union did against America and other western countries. We can do this by maintaining the strength of our army at a level which existed before the 1965 war. We should give a golden shake hand to the rest of the army which can serve the country in a better way.

Therefore, I request the national political leadership to support me if they agree with my viewpoint; and if they don’t, they should convince me about their views and solution (if they have any) for Pakistan’s economic survival”.

 

Your’s sincerely,

Mahmood Ali Hamdani

Media Coordinator

Email: mahamdani@hotmail.com

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Raja Jahangir Akhtar: A Hunger Strike Till “Death”


According to our sources in Pakistan, a local bussinessman and a lifetime activist has declared his intent to go on an indefinite hunger strike unless some of his demands about Islamabad and Pakistan are considered by the authorities. Mr. Raja, as is obvious from his press release, understands the futility of this gestures but hopes that his “death” will somehow mobilize the people.

I do not have a lot of details,  but provided below is a Youtube interview and images of his statements and list of demands:

Press Release