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!


For Pakistani Military a Hard Choice: Complicity or Incompetence

Soon after the US “invasion” of Abbottabad and elimination of Osama bin Laden, Pakistan army has been caught with its proverbial, heavy-booted foot in the mouth. Were they a part of the Operation? Nobody knows! So, if this was a solo US mission then what were our overfed intelligence agencies doing for the last ten years? How could they miss a fortified mansion right next to the Pakistan Military Academy. I mean it is a fortress; look at it:


So, let us believe for a moment that they missed it: it happens some times. But how could they have missed it for ten years? weren’t they looking for him all this time?

Even more pathetic is the excuses being offered for not having detected TWO ATTACK HELICOPTERS flying over Pakistani territory for over an hour to reach their target. So, they cannot find a target in their own country and also do not have the capacity to ascertain the presence of two foreign helicopters flying across their territory.

So, here is the million dollar question: Are they simply incompetent? Or yet another: Were they hiding OBL? And yet another: were they part of the operation but are too afraid to make it public.

I guess it is time some hard questions are asked of our generals. What have they been doing with the money that our nation has sacrificed for them by selling our children’s future and what have they been doing with the money given to them by the US? I mean how much money does it take to have a competent intelligence agency that can either find the most wanted man in the world or can, at least, track two “hostile” helicopters flying over their territory.

I am not sure if they were complicit with the US or OBL, but of their incompetence I have become quite certain.

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Commentaries Culture Politics

GoodReads: Engaging the Muslim World, Juan Cole

Engaging the Muslim World

By Juan Cole

Publication Details:
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan; Rev Upd edition (September 14, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0230102751
ISBN-13: 978-0230102750

Details (From

From Publishers Weekly

University of Michigan history professor and blogger Cole (Sacred Space and Holy War) takes aim at the Bush administration’s Islamophobic discourse, highlighting that some of the very people who promulgated the phobia (Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld) once sang a different tune. He calls instead for evenhanded and pragmatic policy changes, not least a reckoning with the heterogeneity of the Muslim world. Yet for all his expertise, Cole fails to source some of his harshest accusations; moreover, for a scholar championing greater subtlety of thought, he too often discards nuance himself. To the extent that Cole argues against painting the Middle East with overly broad strokes, he brings a constructive addition to public discourse; his failure to be consistent is a lost opportunity. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. –This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


“Cole has delivered an important book that members of the administration would be wise to read en route to the Middle East.”–The American Prospect
“[A] balanced and effective antidote to oversimplified Western views of Islam. . . . manages to prick western misconceptions without taking extremist movements entirely at their own estimation.” —The Economist
“[Cole] brings a constructive addition to public discourse.” —Publishers Weekly
“Intelligent, clear and erudite. This is a timely and incisive retrospective of the Bush administration’s calamitous encounter with the Muslim World by one of the most noted scholars of the subject. Cole looks deep into what went wrong to show the way forward to a new engagement of the Muslim World.”–Vali Nasr, bestselling author of The Shia Revival: How Conflicts Within Islam Will Shape the Future

“Juan Cole, distinguished specialist on the Muslim world, delivers his most comprehensive and erudite commentary to date — covering imperialism, the Arab-Israeli conflict, American oil politics, radical Islam and Middle Eastern terrorism. Engaging the Muslim World is the book every educated American should read.”–Chalmers Johnson, bestselling author of Nemesis and The Blowback Trilogy

“Engaging the Muslim World is a MUST read, the right book at the right time for anyone who wants to understand ‘What went wrong, why, and where do we go from here.’ Juan Cole is uniquely qualified to provide a critical, incisive, provocative analysis and commentary that will be welcomed by experts, policymakers and concerned citizens.”–John L. Esposito, Professor of religion & International Affairs, Georgetown University and bestselling author of Who Speaks for Islam? and What Everyone Needs to Know About Islam

“Cole provides a comprehensive alternative analysis of the current situation in the Muslim world and reveals how new U.S. policies might succeed in bringing peace where wars now rage. He proves the key role of oil interests in American foreign policy and demonstrates how incorrect or exaggerated ideas now prevalent in the U.S. are about the intrinsic militancy of Islam, and the aggressiveness of Iran. Everyone should read and ponder the facts he presents and the solutions he proposes.”–Nikki Keddie, Professor Emerita of History, UCLA and author of Modern Iran and Women in the Middle East

“Juan Cole’s depth and breath of knowledge on the Middle East has made him the most prescient analyst of the region’s politics. It might infuriate the neocons who are proven wrong again and again, but Cole’s insight is invaluable to anyone interested in the truth.”– Markos Moulitsas, DailyKos

“A well-reasoned, useful vision for Western-Muslim relations.”–Kirkus

“A leading American expert on the Islamic world, seeks to dispel many of the persistent myths about Islam and the Middle East. Cole convincingly demonstrates why one should not confuse Muslim activism with hidebound fundamentalism. The chapter dealing with Iran is particularly informative and evenhanded, and the analysis of myriad issues in U.S.-Iran relations is a welcome antidote to the barrage of alarmist commentaries on Iran in much of the U.S. press. This readable and intelligent book is a must read for policymakers and the informed public.–Library Journal, starred review
“Juan Cole’s ‘Engaging the Muslim World’ maps those fault lines, and one can only wish Bush had mulled over such material before the misadventures of the post-9/11 era began.  Like Lawrence Wright’s remarkable ‘Looming Tower’, published almost three years ago, this field guide to the politics of modern Islam traces the history of the different movements, whose violent offshoots are still morphing into new forms.” —New York Times Book Review
“The blog I turn to for insight into Middle East news is often Professor Juan Cole’s, because he’s smart, well-informed and sensible — in other words, I often agree with his take.” — Nicholas Kristof, New York Times
“The Obama administration, as it seeks to correct a decade of self-fulfilling phobias, will find no better guide than this nuanced, clear-headed, visionary book.“ –The Huffington Post
“I cannot improve on Juan Cole’s thorough and excellent debunking of the results [of the Iranian Presidential Election].”– Laura Secor, The New Yorker
“Provocative and sweeping . . . Of the three books, Cole’s is the most critically rigorous and empirically informed. Agree or disagree, one cannot ignore cole’s historically and sociologically driven analysis and moral courage.” — Fawaz Gerges, National Interest
“Cole has written a gripping, accessible and elegant book.  One of its great strengths is its weaving together a wealth of data into compelling historical vignettes and anecdotes.  The author is an excellent storyteller and this book is a pleasurable and entertaining read.” –Ziad Fahmy, H-Levant