Categories
Editorials

The US and the Myth of “Pakistan Should Do More”

Once again a US politician, this time the new US president, has offered the same hackneyed wisdom about the US war in Afghanistan, and besides other mundane things offered as new and innovative, yet another refrain was also included in the non-substantive Afghanistan policy speech delivered by President Donald Trump. Trump, like so many other US politicians before him, bellowed:

Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with our effort in Afghanistan. It has much to lose by continuing to harbor criminals and terrorists. In the past, Pakistan has been a valued partner. Our militaries have worked together against common enemies. The Pakistani people have suffered greatly from terrorism and extremism. We recognize those contributions and those sacrifices.

But Pakistan has also sheltered the same organizations that try every single day to kill our people. We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that we are fighting.

But that will have to change. And that will change immediately. No partnership can survive a country’s harboring of militants and terrorists who target U.S. service members and officials. It is time for Pakistan to demonstrate its commitment to civilization, order and to peace.

Beyond the usual bluster, if looked at textually only the rhetorical energy spent on Pakistan in the speech also declares, beyond the words themselves, the extreme importance of Pakistan in the US mission in Afghanistan, whatever that mission ought to be, for Mr. Trump failed to define what exactly would be the US “Victory” in Afghanistan. The Pakistani government and military should not take this as more of the same or as an empty threat. Furthermore, declaring that we as a nation are better off with China (as the argument is being made in Pakistan by some leading politicians and journalist) is also not in Pakistan’s best interest. Staying engaged with the United States can in no way be against the Pakistani national interest. But keeping the US public informed about the sacrifices made by Pakistan is also exceptionally important.

Just the last month as I sat with one of my former army seniors, he informed me that my old battalion was slated to be deployed in an operation in the Pakistani tribal areas that very night. As we talked, we both hoped and prayed that everyone in our battalion came out of the operation unscathed and unharmed, but, deep down, we both knew that in operations such as these there are always casualties. Pakistan has suffered tremendously over the last decade or so both in terms of military and civilian casualties. We need to remember that this war against the Taliban and ISIS and other extremist groups is not necessarily a war conducted at the behest of the United States, but crucial to our own national future. We should fight this war on all fronts, military, civic, and economic, with or without US help, but we should also do a better job of challenging absurd claims by the US politicians about “reluctant” Pakistan “not doing enough.” Our men and women, civilians and soldiers are dying every day in this complex and expansive war: WE ARE DOING A LOT!!! We need to do a better job of foregrounding our sacrifices and our efforts nationally and globally. Our politicians, generals, journalists, and academics need to help develop a counter narrative to the Taliban and others but also a strategic counter narrative to any scapegoating of Pakistan proffered by the US politicians.

We should also pose some hard questions to the US policymakers: What, to them, is victory in Afghanistan? Obviously it cannot be the conquest of Afghanistan! If the victory to the US is a stable democratic Afghanistan with a democratically elected government, then it cannot be accomplished through military means and even if Mr. Trump does not like it, he will have to invest in building the civic and political institutions in Afghanistan. Building a stable and autonomous Afghanistan should also be a top Pakistani priority. We as a nation need to rid ourselves of the misconception that Afghani people owe us for anything. Yes, we hosted millions of their refugees during the Soviet-Afghan war, but that alone does not give us the right to dictate Afghan politics or their foreign policy. If we need to win Afghanistan over as a regional ally and friend, then we should accomplish that with deep cultural and economic investments in Afghanistan and not through proxy groups or through politics of intimidation and isolation.

If there is some truth to Trump’s claims about Pakistan serving as a safe haven for Taliban groups, then we as a nation should openly declare that no place in Pakistan shall be or could be used as a safe haven for any Taliban group. If we have used any of these groups as our proxies in the region, we should know by now that the same groups can turn on us any time and conduct horrible terroristic attacks on our people. At this point there seems to be no advantage to us in harboring any terroristic groups both  officially or unofficially. Pakistan should, therefore, declare openly that Pakistani territory will not be a safe place for any terroristic proxy group, may they be targeting Afghanistan or any other adjacent regions.

Only when we have a clear and open policy against terror groups can we challenge the sad and shallow stereotyping used by US politicians against Pakistan. Furthermore, our relationship with the US should not be transactional but rather deeper and long-term. Th US on her part can continue to invest in Pakistani education, infrastructure, and other civic and cultural fields. If the US decides to isolate Pakistan and defunds US cultural and military support to Pakistan, the long-term implications  of such steps might be hard for Pakistan but would certainly be damaging to the US interests in the region.

So, as two nations focused on solving an intractable problem in the region, the US and Pakistan should treat each other with the kind of respect and dignity as two sovereign nations ought to!

Categories
Editorials

Lahore Massacre: Mourn and Then Stand Up for Our Children!

Another day, another massacre: target, our children. This is the sad reality of Pakistan, a country gone so wrong that to put it on the right course of history (if we can collectively figure out the right course) seems to be a task beyond human capabilities.

This time the same perpetrators–those who claim to know the mind of God and can only enforce their version of religion through violence–targeted women and children at a park. I could call them cowards, but that would be stating the obvious and I am also tired of such labels. There is a limit to what one can accept as normal, and killing children in the name of any God, no matter how holy, can never be right!

We have been here before: last time they came and killed our children, we resolved to send them a message. We announced an end to such cruelties and enacted laws, laws that would not only permit our armed forces to pursue and destroy these terrorists but would also allow the nation to prosecute all forms of hate speech. We have failed in implementing those laws. In the end, laws are useless without implementation and without the popular will behind them.

While our children were being killed, the followers of a religious political party were busy destroying our capital to protest the legal execution of a murderer. It seems our mullahs and their acolytes are far too busy defending the murderers and have no time for the innocents killed in the name of their religion.

Yes, the Taliban need to be defeated! But more importantly, we need to defeat and wipe out all traces of fascist thought, hate speech, and acts pf epistemic and material violence. For far too long we have allowed these merchants of death and hatred to define our public discourse! It is time we took the public sphere back and mounted our collective acts of rhetorical and semiotic interdiction. We all have to speak up and condemn all such acts, all statements that scapegoat people, that pit one group against other. We need to hold our so-called religious scholars accountable when they maintain their troubling silence when our children are being killed. We need to make Pakistan a dangerously hostile place for all Taliban sympathizers.

Yes, today we cry for our children and for the innocent killed in Lahore, but let our tomorrow be full of hope and resolve. This fight is for our future, for the sustenance of a nation that can tolerate difference and where all citizens feel safe and protected. We need to work together for a Pakistan where no one lives in fear, and where the purpose of the law is to protect and nourish life and where religion serves as a solace and not as weapon to destroy life!

How would we do that? Hard question to answer. Against such forces of hate we all feel powerless, weak, and ineffective. We feel weak because we have internalized thinking individually, in isolation. If we all stand together and mount our semiotic and material resistance, the one would become many and many is the thing that these monsters cannot face!

So, let us put aside our political, cultural and religious differences. Let us make it our mission to voice our opinions whenever anyone tries to frame one group as unwanted to posit any novel ideas of religion that exclude some people from the promise of our nation. Yes, we need to work in our own spheres, in solidarity, but persistently and sincerely. We need to hold our journalists, our leaders, our military commanders accountable: we need to remind them that they serve us, that we are the people and that without us there would be no country for them to govern!

Here are some of the things we can do:

  • If there is a civil society protest in your city, join it. Add your body and your voice to it.
  • Write: blogs, articles, tweets, Facebook posts! Words matter!
  • Report all acts of semiotic and material violence.
  • Question the mullahs and their ilk. Ask them what their plans are for the future.
  • Help the weak amongst you.
  • Do not think of anyone as less Pakistani than you because of their gender, religion, ethnicity, or region.
  • Absolutely always challenge any narratives sympathetic to the Taliban and their like. Yes, they are angry and probably disenchanted, but does that give them the right to kill our children?

Yes, we mourn today, for the loss is great and the wounds deep. But we are a resilient nation. We have been here before. We have been tested time and time again. And yet, despite these atrocities, average citizens of Pakistan wake up every day, go to work, love their children, take care of their parents, and love their neighbors. This love and respect for each other is the glue that binds us; this is the mortar that holds the edifice of our nation together. So, let us live through this and remember that from now on every inch of the public sphere is at stake and we cannot concede it to these merchants of death without a fight.

In the end, we only live once. Let us live with honor and let us live to create a better future for our children!

Categories
Commentaries Editorials

Taliban, the Politics of Death, and our Obligation to Speak

That the Taliban claim certain mastery over the methods and instruments of death is no secret. They taliban_pickuphave proven their skills at killing their civilian brothers and sisters quite consistently over the last decade or so. The question that we need to pose to them and to many other like-minded groups is simply this: Do you have a politics of life?

Dispensing death is the easiest things in the world, given the fragility of human body and the power of tools of destruction that we humans have created. But to create conditions that sustain life requires a lot of doing! So, at the end of the day, how would Taliban, if they were to establish their so-called just system, make people’s lives better and would transform Pakistan into a place where living with dignity becomes a right and not just a privilege?

No ideology–religious or secular–can succeed if it does not contain a plausible narrative of life. A social system succeeds only if people see it as a life-giving system and want to become a part of it. Forcing people into a way of life through violence is like putting people in ideological concentration camps and using the religious rhetoric as a path to dignified gas chambers.

And we all know what happens when a powerful group of citizens decides that a certain part of population is undesirable and a danger to the body of the nation: This line of thinking leads only to death camps and gas chambers.

The whole purpose of any civilizational project is to privilege physics (politics) over nature. Much that I disagree with this nature versus politics dichotomy, as it relies on an instrumental logic, it has always worked under certain rational assumptions:

  • That humans are no longer able to sustain life in the state of nature.
  • A Government is necessary to protect them and to create conditions that enable life.

Law is meant to enable life and the role of justice and punishment is to maintain the established order. But to establish an order  through punishment and threat of violence and death is not the right method. To be a part of any system, people must voluntarily become a part of it knowing that after they accept to be a part of a community they will have to live by its rules. To force people into a “community” through violence and then to keep them enclosed is exactly opposite of voluntary participation in the communitas. And this is what the Taliban hope to accomplish: to force people into an ideological straightjacket and then keep them there through coercion and force. Thus, a politics of death is the only mode of action available to them. Taliban, it seems, are trapped in the logic of their own ideology: since their vision of the world is based in force and not in love, they must, automatically, become more violent and death-driven, for signs of love, within this masculinist narrative, are markers of weakness.

I keep writing about these subjects, knowing that the Taliban certainly do not read this, and if they did, they are not likely to be persuaded by my argument. So, what is the purpose of these words that I craft painstakingly and then throw them into the wind? I have no clear answer. maybe, it is my way of saying that I disagree with what Taliban stand for and since I cannot change much, I will, at least, say something about it, for silence is the ultimate form of surrender and, for me, surrender has never been an option.

Cultural silence and general apathy are dangerous signs: they lead a nation to put other humans in death camps. Not speaking against epistemic and physical violence will only lead us to our material and spiritual annihilation. We always assert that ours is a religion of peace, for that is the Arabic root of the word Islam, but do we seriously work to make this statement a real-life project. If we are about peace, then where do these brothers of ours come from? These brothers of ours who in the name of our God have decided that it is perfectly desirable and even virtuous to kill, maim, and destroy ordinary citizens of our country. What logic drives this insanity? Why should we accept it as our fate?

Yes, there are always material reasons for our actions. Yes, we are partially a construct enabled or encumbered by our surroundings. But we do not need to be rich to understand love, nor do we need to be scholars to understand compassion and kindness. I have travelled extensively to the farthest regions of Pakistan, regions considered “backward”–yes that is the term they use in Pakistan–and found the most natural kindness and compassion from amongst the very poor and destitute. Compassion and care of the others have been a part of our culture for thousands of years: we do not need a college degree to learn these values, and we certainly do not need English medium schools to learn these values!

So, what is it that  baffles me the most about Taliban: Their extreme lack of compassion and love. If they are adherents of Islam that I understand and if they read the Qur’an and Hadith and want to follow the sunnah, then how come they completely miss the most alluring part of all these texts. Every time I see images of Taliban–brandishing foreign-made guns and riding the pickups also invented and produced in the West–their faces offer no trace of the kind of compassion and love that is supposed to define a general Muslim demeanour. I see no difference between these stern faces and the faces of other gangsters from other parts of the world, gangsters who, in this realm of privatized violences, terrorize the common people to gain their material or spiritual ends.

As a nation we are in dire need of inventing new narratives of selfhood and nationhood: the ideal narratives would retain the best of our tradition and the best of what the world has to offer. A reliance on a purist past will not do; it will only produce more monstrosities like the Taliban. There is no natural path to the past: past is only textual and when we read the textual signs of our past, what we bring to the act of reading decides what we seek and see in the text. There is no unmotivated, unmediated engagement with history, nor is there an accidental transition to a bright future. To forge a future with a total reliance on history is a complete denial of the present and without the present–our only tangible signpost–one can neither retrieve a useable past, nor create a better future.

So, what the Taliban do in our streets, cities, villages and public spaces is nothing less than the destruction of the present to overwrite it with a simplistic and purist narrative of the past. If we lose, we would have lost the past, the present, and the future and such a loss of all temporalities is unsustainable.

It is time for us to wake up as a nation of living breathing beings and say it in our different voices that those who can so randomly and callously kill, maim, and destroy our brothers and sisters do not have our silent acquiescence. Yes, it is time to speak, for silence is now only a slow march to the death of our culture!

Categories
Editorials

Taliban, the Politics of Death, and our Obligation to Speak

That the Taliban claim certain mastery over the methods and instruments of death is no secret. They have proven their skills at killing their civilian brothers and sisters quite consistently over the last decade or so. The question that we need to pose to them and to many other like-minded groups is simply this: Do you have a politics of life?

Dispensing death is the easiest things in the world, given the fragility of human body and the power of tools of destruction that we humans have created. But to create conditions that sustain life requires a lot of doing! So, at the end of the day, how would Taliban, if they were to establish their so-called just system, make people’s lives better and would transform Pakistan into a place where living with dignity becomes a right and not just a privilege?

No ideology–religious or secular–can succeed if it does not contain a plausible narrative of life. A social system succeeds only if people see it as a life-giving system and want to become a part of it. Forcing people into a way of life through violence is like putting people in ideological concentration camps and using the religious rhetoric as a path to dignified gas chambers.

And we all know what happens when a powerful group of citizens decides that a certain part of population is undesirable and a danger to the body of the nation: This line of thinking leads only to death camps and gas chambers.

The whole purpose of any civilizational project is to privilege physics (politics) over nature. Much that I disagree with this nature versus politics dichotomy, as it relies on an instrumental logic, it has always worked under certain rational assumptions:

  • That humans are no longer able to sustain life in the state of nature.
  • A Government is necessary to protect them and to create conditions that enable life.

Law is meant to enable life and the role of justice and punishment is to maintain the established order. But to establish an order  through punishment and threat of violence and death is not the right method. To be a part of any system, people must voluntarily become a part of it knowing that after they accept to be a part of a community they will have to live by its rules. To force people into a “community” through violence and then to keep them enclosed is exactly opposite of voluntary participation in the communitas. And this is what the Taliban hope to accomplish: to force people into an ideological straightjacket and then keep them there through coercion and force. Thus, a politics of death is the only mode of action available to them. Taliban, it seems, are trapped in the logic of their own ideology: since their vision of the world is based in force and not in love, they must, automatically, become more violent and death-driven, for signs of love, within this masculinist narrative, are markers of weakness.

I keep writing about these subjects, knowing that the Taliban certainly do not read this, and if they did, they are not likely to be persuaded by my argument. So, what is the purpose of these words that I craft painstakingly and then throw them into the wind? I have no clear answer. maybe, it is my way of saying that I disagree with what Taliban stand for and since I cannot change much, I will, at least, say something about it, for silence is the ultimate form of surrender and, for me, surrender has never been an option.

Cultural silence and general apathy are dangerous signs: they lead a nation to put other humans in death camps. Not speaking against epistemic and physical violence will only lead us to our material and spiritual annihilation. We always assert that ours is a religion of peace, for that is the Arabic root of the word Islam, but do we seriously work to make this statement a real-life project. If we are about peace, then where do these brothers of ours come from? These brothers of ours who in the name of our God have decided that it is perfectly desirable and even virtuous to kill, maim, and destroy ordinary citizens of our country. What logic drives this insanity? Why should we accept it as our fate?

Yes, there are always material reasons for our actions. Yes, we are partially a construct enabled or encumbered by our surroundings. But we do not need to be rich to understand love, nor do we need to be scholars to understand compassion and kindness. I have travelled extensively to the farthest regions of Pakistan, regions considered “backward”–yes that is the term they use in Pakistan–and found the most natural kindness and compassion from amongst the very poor and destitute. Compassion and care of the others have been a part of our culture for thousands of years: we do not need a college degree to learn these values, and we certainly do not need English medium schools to learn these values!

So, what is it that  baffles me the most about Taliban: Their extreme lack of compassion and love. If they are adherents of Islam that I understand and if they read the Qur’an and Hadith and want to follow the sunnah, then how come they completely miss the most alluring part of all these texts. Every time I see images of Taliban–brandishing foreign-made guns and riding the pickups also invented and produced in the West–their faces offer no trace of the kind of compassion and love that is supposed to define a general Muslim demeanour. I see no difference between these stern faces and the faces of other gangsters from other parts of the world, gangsters who, in this realm of privatized violences, terrorize the common people to gain their material or spiritual ends.

As a nation we are in dire need of inventing new narratives of selfhood and nationhood: the ideal narratives would retain the best of our tradition and the best of what the world has to offer. A reliance on a purist past will not do; it will only produce more monstrosities like the Taliban. There is no natural path to the past: past is only textual and when we read the textual signs of our past, what we bring to the act of reading decides what we seek and see in the text. There is no unmotivated, unmediated engagement with history, nor is there an accidental transition to a bright future. To forge a future with a total reliance on history is a complete denial of the present and without the present–our only tangible signpost–one can neither retrieve a useable past, nor create a better future.

So, what the Taliban do in our streets, cities, villages and public spaces is nothing less than the destruction of the present to overwrite it with a simplistic and purist narrative of the past. If we lose, we would have lost the past, the present, and the future and such a loss of all temporalities is unsustainable.

It is time for us to wake up as a nation of living breathing beings and say it in our different voices that those who can so randomly and callously kill, maim, and destroy our brothers and sisters do not have our silent acquiescence. Yes, it is time to speak, for silence is now only a slow march to the death of our culture!

Categories
Editorials

On Negotiating with Taliban

Recently the negotiations between the Taliban and Pakistani government have been one of the major daily stories in the Pakistani and international media. My purpose here is not to deride this recent attempt at peace by the Pakistani government, but to ask one important question: What is likely to be the cost of this peace?

There are two parties to these negotiations: people of Pakistan–represented by their elected government–and the Taliban, an extra-national violent group in a state of war with the people and government of Pakistan. This aspect of these negotiations should be very clear: Taliban are not another political party negotiating a sort of peace settlement with Pakistan. Taliban, as an entity, have declared war on Pakistan and are, therefore, a belligerent group that has used their coercive violence to bring the Pakistani state to the negotiation table. It seems as if without having read Clausewitz, the Taliban seem to be working within the logic of modern warfare: fight your enemy to a point where you can bring them to the negotiation table to seek an advantageous peace.

Let us also remind ourselves as to what kind of war have the Taliban waged: they have killed women, children, soldiers, doctors, the poor, and the rich from all walks of life. We are not talking about a noble resistance movement that fights its “enemies” with a certain degree of honor and respect for the lives of average citizens. No, this group has targeted schools, mosques, hospitals, military installations, bazars, polio workers, and Pakistani streets. They have done it to break the will of our nation in order to overwrite the constitution of the state with their own vision of what constitutes Islamic, moral, and properly religious.

I understand the reluctance of military leadership to negotiate with the Taliban: The army, along with thousands of civilian citizens, has paid a heavy price for this ongoing war in defense of Pakistan. The army must also see this as a delaying tactics by the Taliban: what better way to buy more time and regroup to continue their violent war than by negotiating for an unreachable peace.

This peace cannot be achieved unless the government of Pakistan abandons Pakistan’s constitution and rewrites it to suit the Taliban. And what kind of a constitution would it be: a constitution that practically bans women from the education and other aspects of the public sphere, that further reduces the minorities to the levels of abject silence, and that regularizes only one interpretation of Islam–Hanbaliyya-Wahabi–as the ultimately correct interpretation of Islam. These changes, let us remember, would have to be brought in without a public consensus and without involving the majority of Pakistani people. This implies that Taliban want nothing less than restructuring of the Pakistani national identity and nothing less than this would satisfy them. In return, if their demands are not met, they go on killing innocent Pakistanis as indiscriminately as they have done so far.

There is a certain point beyond which all cosmetic attempts at peace fail and a nation must decide that if the price of peace is to abandon the very nature of the nation, then that is too high a price. So, yes acceptance of the constitution of Pakistan as it exists should be an absolutely necessary point for the negotiations to begin. To participate in this the Taliban must accept the Pakistani law, abandon all murders and killings, and then they should be welcomed at the negotiation table. Anything less than this is not a peace negotiation but a genuflection to the violence that Taliban have perpetuated.

Yes, I know a failure of these negotiations could be catastrophic. But we have seen, for the last ten years, the destruction that these so-called  Muslims can bring about and as a nation, despite our limited resources, we have withstood them and not allowed them  to send us cowering into the kinds of caves that they dwell in. Yes, the losses have been great, the suffering high, but at least, as a nation, we can proudly declare that no amount  of bloodshed by the Taliban and their ilk has forced us to surrender the basic humanity of Pakistan as a modern nation, a nation that can live with differences and does not need to be forced into a violently created straightjacket of a fanatical interpretation of religion.

So, if we must negotiate with the Taliban, and I am doubtful about this, we must first make sure that those who have to fight them–the soldiers, the police, and others–are on board this process, as theirs are the lives that have been affected the most by this ongoing war and they are the ones who will put their lives at risk whenever asked.

Furthermore, the Taliban must first renounce violence, turn in their weapons, and accept the Pakistani constitution as a necessary precondition for peace talks.

If these steps are not met, then the negotiations will fail and even if they succeed, we would have surrendered Pakistan to the destroyers Pakistan. The result would not be a peace but a total surrender of our entire way of life!

Categories
Editorials

On Negotiating with Taliban

taliban

Recently the negotiations between the Taliban and Pakistani government have been one of the major daily stories in the Pakistani and international media. My purpose here is not to deride this recent attempt at peace by the Pakistani government, but to ask one important question: What is likely to be the cost of this peace?

There are two parties to these negotiations: people of Pakistan–represented by their elected government–and the Taliban, an extra-national violent group in a state of war with the people and government of Pakistan. This aspect of these negotiations should be very clear: Taliban are not another political party negotiating a sort of peace settlement with Pakistan. Taliban, as an entity, have declared war on Pakistan and are, therefore, a belligerent group that has used their coercive violence to bring the Pakistani state to the negotiation table. It seems as if without having read Clausewitz, the Taliban seem to be working within the logic of modern warfare: fight your enemy to a point where you can bring them to the negotiation table to seek an advantageous peace.

Let us also remind ourselves as to what kind of war have the Taliban waged: they have killed women, children, soldiers, doctors, the poor, and the rich from all walks of life. We are not talking about a noble resistance movement that fights its “enemies” with a certain degree of honor and respect for the lives of average citizens. No, this group has targeted schools, mosques, hospitals, military installations, bazars, polio workers, and Pakistani streets. They have done it to break the will of our nation in order to overwrite the constitution of the state with their own vision of what constitutes Islamic, moral, and properly religious.

I understand the reluctance of military leadership to negotiate with the Taliban: The army, along with thousands of civilian citizens, has paid a heavy price for this ongoing war in defense of Pakistan. The army must also see this as a delaying tactics by the Taliban: what better way to buy more time and regroup to continue their violent war than by negotiating for an unreachable peace.

This peace cannot be achieved unless the government of Pakistan abandons Pakistan’s constitution and rewrites it to suit the Taliban. And what kind of a constitution would it be: a constitution that practically bans women from the education and other aspects of the public sphere, that further reduces the minorities to the levels of abject silence, and that regularizes only one interpretation of Islam–Hanbaliyya-Wahabi–as the ultimately correct interpretation of Islam. These changes, let us remember, would have to be brought in without a public consensus and without involving the majority of Pakistani people. This implies that Taliban want nothing less than restructuring of the Pakistani national identity and nothing less than this would satisfy them. In return, if their demands are not met, they go on killing innocent Pakistanis as indiscriminately as they have done so far.

There is a certain point beyond which all cosmetic attempts at peace fail and a nation must decide that if the price of peace is to abandon the very nature of the nation, then that is too high a price. So, yes acceptance of the constitution of Pakistan as it exists should be an absolutely necessary point for the negotiations to begin. To participate in this the Taliban must accept the Pakistani law, abandon all murders and killings, and then they should be welcomed at the negotiation table. Anything less than this is not a peace negotiation but a genuflection to the violence that Taliban have perpetuated.

Yes, I know a failure of these negotiations could be catastrophic. But we have seen, for the last ten years, the destruction that these so-called  Muslims can bring about and as a nation, despite our limited resources, we have withstood them and not allowed them  to send us cowering into the kinds of caves that they dwell in. Yes, the losses have been great, the suffering high, but at least, as a nation, we can proudly declare that no amount  of bloodshed by the Taliban and their ilk has forced us to surrender the basic humanity of Pakistan as a modern nation, a nation that can live with differences and does not need to be forced into a violently created straightjacket of a fanatical interpretation of religion.

So, if we must negotiate with the Taliban, and I am doubtful about this, we must first make sure that those who have to fight them–the soldiers, the police, and others–are on board this process, as theirs are the lives that have been affected the most by this ongoing war and they are the ones who will put their lives at risk whenever asked.

Furthermore, the Taliban must first renounce violence, turn in their weapons, and accept the Pakistani constitution as a necessary precondition for peace talks.

If these steps are not met, then the negotiations will fail and even if they succeed, we would have surrendered Pakistan to the destroyers Pakistan. The result would not be a peace but a total surrender of our entire way of life!

Categories
Editorials

We Must Stand with Malala

malala-yousafzai

The Pakistani blogosphere is abuzz with news of Malala Yousafzai and as usual the very cowards who had attempted to silence her voice through their contracted murderers and their minions are also out in force to fight the “threat” posed by this teen age “menace”

 

That the Taliban and their ilk inhabit the most precarious kind of masculinity is as obvious as sunlight: it’s the kind of masculinity that depends upon an extreme silencing of all things woman and even a glance from a woman can shatter it. Coming from a place like this, it is no wonder that the Taliban and their Wahabi masters can only declare the world a safe place for men if all the women were covered, hidden, and walled up.

 

It is now being suggested that Malala Yousafzai is a product of the West and hence not worthy of our trust, admiration, and support. That this charge comes mostly from those whose sheer existence depends on this so-called West is pretty obvious. I mean even for the Taliban who are not on western payroll, the West is a necessity: Don’t they fight their so-called Jihad using the weapons, explosives, and technologies developed by the West. Let us list the western (infidel-produced) technologies that they use to perpetuate their hateful message and to destroy Muslim lives:

Cellular Phones: used for communicational and bomb activation devices.

Cameras to produce their propaganda videos and pictures.

The Internet.

Weapons and explosives (all produced in the West)

Western medicine from common pills to surgical procedures.

Battlefield equipment including clothing.

TV and Video players and air-conditioning (Remember the air-conditioned caves!)

 

So, it seems that the Taliban and their sympathizers have no qualms about using Western commodities and technologies to continue their version of the destruction of the world. Of course, their Ulama have declared it permissible as all these things are necessary to conduct Jihad against all the infidel forces and what could be better than using the tools of your enemy to fight the enemy.

 

It is also evident that in the field of Islamic jurisprudence, the most innovation has occurred in justifying Jihad. Thus, Takfeer has now been expanded to include even those who may not be hostile to you but who may not be sanguine enough to your cause. And within that logic, for the Pakistani Taliban, it was deemed aptly moral and, probably sacred, to send out two assassins to kill a fourteen-year old girl. And that this girl was shot in the head at point blank range by these “warriors” of Islam is also a fact. In what interpretation of Islam is this a noble act? And if I know my Pashtun culture correctly, what Pashtun will ever send out assassins to shoot and kill the daugthers of their enemies? No, but for Taliban, killing women and children has now been exalted to sacred acts.

 

So, when Malala, after having been shot and after having recovered through the technological advances of Western medicine, attempts to use the vocabularies of resistance used in the west and to reach for support on a global scale, it is somehow un-Islamic! In other words, it is fine to use the destructive powers of Western technology but, somehow, the very liberating ideas that make the West the West are still too contaminating to handle.

 

This trope of a westernized woman as a traitor to her primary culture did not develop today: in fact, pretty much all anticolonial movements relied on the image of the “pure” woman in opposition to the caricatures of the Westernized native women. Partha Chatterjee eloquently discusses this within the context of Indian national politics in his book Nation and its Fragments (Princeton 1993).

 

And now as Malala has mobilized the biggest tradgey in her life to do more than what any of us could accomplish in a whole lifetime, she is suddenly being labeled a sell-out and a “western stooge”. So, what has Malla done to deserve these e epithets?

 

Made the women’s education one of her major causes.

Criticized Taliban for their atrocities.

Spoken well of some of the western figures, such as president Obama.

Used her global recognition to change things.

 

That the tragedy of her attempted murder created a global web of sympathy for this teenager from the mountains of Pakistan is no secret. That she has used this world renown to further the cause of others, and to promote her regional vision to a global support system is not only commendable but also essential. We cannot change the world alone: we must reach out and build global solidarities to change local conditions: this is the first rule of current forms of resistance to global imperatives and Malala, it seems, understands that.

 

Her enemies, the Taliban, have always understood it and have relied on global alliances of terroristic networks to perpetuate their hate across Pakistan and elsewhere. So, when they use their Western weapons, drug money, and Western technologies, it is somehow justified, but when Malala uses the global connections constructed out of a tragedy, then that, somehow, is not worthy of our respect.

Of course, part of this new attack on Malala is simple to understand: if one young girl can rise up to challenge the Taliban vision of Pakistan, then would it not, if the idea catches on,  mount a massive popular challenge to the Taliban. For Taliban to exist and to perpetuate their death world vision, the necessary conditions of creating this death world must be maintained. Malala, as a symbol, through her courageous stance proves to us that hope and courage is the ultimate weapon that will vanquish the darkness that happens to be the promising reality of a Talibanistic Pakistan. And this possibility of change, a change that convinces the weakest amongst us of our importance in fight against darkness is what threatens the fragile masculinity of the Taliban.

 

 So, let us stop playing their game. Let us stand together and declare once and for all that we are with Malala Yousafzai and no amount of propaganda about her supporters and her motives would convince us otherwise!

 

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Editorials

The Underground Economy of Talibanization in Pakistan

talibanFor quite some time now, I have been writing about the rise of Taliban within the larger context of globalization{{1}} [[1]]”Neoliberal Dispositif and the Rise of Fundamentalism: The Case of Pakistan.Journal of International and Global Studies, Vol. 3 (1) 2011: 21-31[[1]]. I, however, never meant it to be an apology for the actions of Taliban: In my opinion what Taliban do to the children and women and soldiers of Pakistan is absolutely unforgivable and that is why I always condemn them in strongest possible terms. But I have always insisted that the rise of Taliban is ultimately connected, in the last instance, to the conditions unleashed by neoliberal capital.

During my conversations with my friends, some of them former commanders who served in FATA, I have now learned that my philosophical suspicions were true. I have also always insisted that the Taliban are not outside of the gambit of neoliberal capital, but, rather, a product of it. It is now evident to me that Taliban are also a commodity: a commodity for purchase as private militias to safeguard the interests of the powers that be.

For instance, the Americans “own” their own Taliban fighters to protect the long line of communication from Karachi to Khyber pass. Similarly, the Chines hire their own Taliban militias to protect their contractual projects in Pakistan. the list goes on: there are Indian, Iranian, and, of course, Pakistani Taliban. sometimes, I learned, it is hard to guess which group belongs to whom as the Taliban, in the true entrepreneurial spirit of mercenaries, often switch sides to work for the highest bidder{{2}}[[2]]In a way this practice is no different from the hiring of private militias by western corporations in South America as well as Africa[[2]].

So to posit Talibanization of Pakistan simply in religious terms is no longer sustainable: Taliban are intricately connected to the privatization of violence in Pakistan. They are part of the logic of neoliberal capital, and the very powers that cry foul about every Pakistani action are deeply implicated in the process of creating more and more Taliban. In fact, according to some of my former colleagues, anyone can work for a particular Taliban group just as long as they grow a beard and let their hair grow.

So, it is sad to say that the creation of Taliban is also determined, in the last instance, by the economics. There is some food for thought here and, of course, we must also read our Marx more carefully.

 

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Editorials

Shooting Malala Yousafzai: Another Low in Taliban Politics of Death

It was not a random act of violence: it was a targeted shooting sanctioned by the higher echelons of Taliban in Swat. The target: a fourteen year old, courageous girl who chose to speak against the Taliban. That this is a new low in the list of Taliban atrocities in Pakistan is fairly obvious. But this act alone provides us yet another proof that there is nothing holy, Islamic, or honorable in the way the Taliban conduct their daily business. This act is also a reminder to us all that if we do not stand strong against the death-politics of Taliban, even our children, who otherwise should be safe in a just war, can be targets of premeditated, cold-blooded murder. That this organization, this monstrosity called Taliban, fights and kills in the name of Islam is yet another thing to seriously ponder. Do we, at the end of the day, want them to hijack what Islam means and express it in such acts of murder?

Our ulama, it seems, are still ambivalent about Taliban. Other than a few words by some fringe groups, I have not yet heard any loud condemnations of these actions by the stalwarts of major Islamic political parties in Pakistan. What does this silence mean? Are the Jamaat and Jameat busy consulting their scholarly commentaries to figure out that shooting  fourteen year old girls in cold blood is not right?

Meanwhile, it seems that this might be the turning point for the Taliban fortunes in Pakistan: not many Pakistanis can now offer any legitimizing apologetics for the actions of these so-called Muslim fighters. It has been my opinion for quite some time now that the Pakistani people need to clearly express their distaste and opposition to Taliban: this act of terrorism against an unarmed minor should, therefore, become a lightening rod in mobilizing the public sentiment against the Taliban and their apologists.

The reason given by Taliban leadership for the attempted murder of Malala is also ludicrous and would have no standing in any interpretation of Jihad or rules of engagement. The Taliban spokesman said that she had been targeted for “openly criticizing Taliban,” and we are to take that as a crime punishable by death at the hand of a masked assassin. What law, what Islamic rule, what Qura’nic verse suggests that criticizing the “mighty” Taliban, killers of children, is a capital offense?

What is Taliban vision anyway? Is it to make Pakistan “Islamic” through death and murder? And if so, does it not prove the point made by detractors of Islam that Islam is a so-called religion of the sword. What good is an Islamic nation, if Islam is  imposed by a violent minority and kept in place through acts of murder and fear of reprisals? These are the questions that we Pakistanis should be asking ourselves and of the Taliban.

Death, death, death: Is that the only way Islam can work as a political force? I hope not.

So, let us stand together steadfast and resolute. Let us tell these murderers that our children and our daughters, Malala and others, are not open targets and those who kill and hurt children are neither Muslims nor decent human beings and, I am pretty sure, there is a separate hell for people who hurt children.

And let us ask our Ulama to take a stand: condemn the killing and maiming of our children!!

Note: This where we will post any statments against this atrocity  by Pakistani religious scholars. Please post them in comments for us to collate:

1. Thank you Ulama of Sunni Ittehad Council for issuing a Fatwa against the shooting of Malala Yousafzai.

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Editorials

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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