Thursday, March 5, 2009

Pessimist Pundits Gaining Strength in Pakistan

Lahore cricket attacks appear to have unleashed yet another wave of pundits of pessimism and prophets of doom and gloom about Pakistan. In spite of the obvious differences, most find it convenient to compare Lahore and Mumbai, just as they compared Mumbai with 911 attacks. While it was clearly a significant security lapse, the parallels with Mumbai are only superficial. Here are some of the obvious differences between the two tragedies:

1. Unlike the Lahore attackers, the Mumbai attackers were on a suicide mission and fought a determined and long battle killing lots of civilians while mocking Indian authorities for almost three days.

2. Unlike Mumbai police, ATS and Indian commandos, Lahore Police were able to protect their charges from hostage taking or being killed while sacrificing their own lives.

3. Unlike the Mumbai attackers, the Lahore attackers staged an ambush and ran away when the police responded. The fact that all of them were able to flee without a serious chase is still something to be very seriously concerned about and it requires better preparation and training for the future.

The nature of the attacks and attackers appear to be very different leading one to conclude that Lahore is not the work of the known Jihadi groups operating in South Asia. Some domestic radical groups in Pakistan could be the perpetrators but it is more likely the work of mercenaries hired by external elements for carrying out a covert action to terrorize Pakistan as supposed pay back.

After writing fairly positive and optimistic articles about on Pakistan following his earlier visits in 2007 and 2008, British writer William Dalrymple has thrown in the towel and joined the hordes of pessimist pundits. Here's his latest assessment published in the Guardian:

Just over a year ago, in February 2008, I traveled by car across the length and breadth of Pakistan to cover the country's first serious election since General Pervez Musharraf seized power in 1999. The right wing press had been predicting violence and bloodshed, but at the time I traveled in safety throughout the country and was struck by the country's fortitude in the face of adversity. The story I wrote at the time for the New York Review of Books was optimistic.

"Like most other people given the option, Pakistanis clearly want the ability to choose their own rulers, and to determine their own future," I wrote. "The country I saw over the last few days on a long road trip was not a failed state, nor anything even approaching 'the most dangerous country in the world ... almost beyond repair' as the Spectator (among many others) recently suggested ... By and large, the countryside I passed through was calm and beautiful, and not obviously less prosperous-looking than its subcontinental neighbor. It was certainly a far cry from the terminal lawlessness and instability of post-occupation Iraq or Afghanistan."

A year on, however, the situation could hardly be more different, or more grim. In just over a year, Asif Ali Zardari's inept government has effectively lost control of much of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) to the Taliban's Pakistani counterparts, a loose confederation of nationalists, Islamists and angry Pashtun tribesmen under the nominal command of Baitullah Mehsud. Yesterday's ambush of the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore, which killed six policemen and injured seven players and officials, combined with the defeat of the Pakistani army in Swat and the subsequent capitulation to the Taliban there, and the recent kidnapping of John Solecki, head of the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Quetta, during an attack that killed his driver, underscores the seriousness of the situation.

Few had very high expectations of Zardari, the notorious playboy widower of Benazir Bhutto. Nevertheless, the speed of the collapse that has taken place on his watch has amazed almost all observers. Across much of the North-West Frontier Province - around a fifth of Pakistan - women have now been forced to wear the burka, music has been silenced, barbershops are forbidden to shave beards and more than 140 girls' schools have been blown up or burned down. From the provincial capital of Peshawar, a significant proportion of the city's elite, along with its musicians, have decamped to what had, until yesterday's attack, been regarded as the relatively safe and tolerant confines of Lahore and Karachi.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of ordinary people from the surrounding hills of the semi-autonomous tribal belt - the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) that run along the Afghan border - have fled from the conflict zones, blasted by missiles from unmanned American Predator drones and strafed by Pakistani helicopter gunships, to the tent camps now ringing Peshawar.

The tribal areas have never been fully under the control of any Pakistani government, and have always been unruly, but they have now been radicalised as never before. The rain of armaments from US drones and Pakistani ground forces, which have caused extensive civilian casualties, daily add a steady stream of angry foot soldiers to the insurgency. Elsewhere in Pakistan, anti-western religious and political extremism continues to flourish, and there are increasing signs that the instability is now spreading from the Frontier Province to the relatively settled confines of Lahore and the Punjab.

The most alarming manifestation of this was the ease with which a highly trained jihadi group, almost certainly supplied and provisioned in Pakistan - probably by the nominally banned Lashkar-e-Taiba, an organisation that aims to restore Muslim rule in Kashmir - attacked neighbouring India in November. They murdered 173 innocent people in Mumbai, injured more than 600 and brought the two nuclear-armed rivals once again to the brink of war. Now Lashkar is being named as the principle suspect in yesterday's attack in Lahore.

Four months ago, in November on a trip to Pakistan, I tried to visit Peshawar, which functions as both the capital of the North-West Frontier Province and the administrative centre for Fata along the Afghan border. But for the first time in 25 years, I was warned by Pakistani journalist friends not even to attempt going. In one week, an unprecedented series of events made up my mind for me.

On the Monday 11 November, some 60 militants identified with the Pakistani Taliban looted 13 trucks carrying military supplies and a fleet of Humvees going up the Khyber Pass to US troops in Afghanistan. Twenty-six people were kidnapped. The next day, a suicide bomber narrowly missed killing the governor and some of the ministers of the NWFP as they left a stadium. Three people were killed in the attack. On Wednesday of that week, unidentified gunmen killed Stephen Vance, a US aid worker, and kidnapped an Iranian diplomat, who joined the Chinese engineers, Pakistani truck drivers and senior Afghan diplomat being held in Taliban captivity. On the Thursday, two journalists - one Japanese, the other Afghan - were shot and wounded. And this was just one week in one single provincial town. Peshawar suddenly seemed to be becoming as violent as Baghdad at the height of the insurgency three years ago.

All this took place in the vacuum created by the temporary flight from the province of the chief minister and leader of the NWFP's ruling Awami National party, Asfandyar Wali Khan. This followed a suicide bombing on 2 October that killed three guests and a member of his staff while he was greeting visitors during Eid celebrations marking the end of Ramadan. Immediately after the bombing, a rattled Khan fled from the province in a helicopter sent to him by Zardari, then flew straight on to Britain. He was persuaded to return only with some difficulty.

In February 2008, Khan's party had been elected with a huge majority, breaking the power of the MMA Islamist alliance, a coalition of Islamic groups that has been a major force in frontier politics, and that had ruled the province for the previous five years. The election seemed to mark a moment of hope for Pakistani secular democracy; but that hope was soon shattered by the apparently unstoppable advance of the Pakistani Taliban out of Fata.

Since then there have been several more suicide bombings and a number of attacks on US convoys and depots in and around Peshawar, including one that led to the burning of 200 trucks and dozens of Humvees and armoured personnel carriers, and another that led to the capture by the Taliban of 50 containers of supplies.

Far from the frontier, in Pakistan's artistic capital of Lahore, the scene of yesterday's attack, the usually resilient members of the liberal elite were more depressed than I have ever seen them, alarmed both by the news of the Taliban's advances and by the economic difficulties that have recently led Pakistan to seek a $7.6bn loan from the IMF.

The night I arrived, I went to see Najam Sethi and his wife Jugnu, editors of the English-language Daily Times and Friday Times newspapers, who now found themselves directly in the Taliban's crosshairs. Three weeks earlier, they had begun to receive faxes threatening them with violence if they didn't stop attacking Islamist interests in their columns. The two have survived years of harassment by various governments and agencies, but now felt powerless to respond to these anonymous threats.

Another old friend in Lahore, the human rights campaigner Asma Jahangir, had also received faxed warnings - in her case to desist helping the victims of honour killings. Jahangir, who had bravely fought successive military governments, was at a loss about what to do: "Nobody is safe any more," she told me. "If you are threatened by the government you can take them on legally. But with nonstate actors, when even members of the government are themselves not safe, who do you appeal to? Where do you look for protection?"

These events dramatically illustrate the central contention of Descent into Chaos, the latest book by Ahmed Rashid, who is widely regarded as the best-informed writer on both the Afghan Taliban and their Pakistani counterparts. He emphasises the degree to which, seven years after 9/11, "the US-led war on terrorism has left in its wake a far more unstable world than existed on that momentous day in 2001".

Eight years of neocon foreign policies have been a spectacular disaster for American interests in the Islamic world, leading to the advance of Hamas and Hezbollah, the wreckage of Iraq, with more than two million external refugees and the ethnic cleansing of its Christian population, the rise of Iran as a major regional power, and now the implosion of Afghanistan and Pakistan, probably the most dangerous development of all. While laying part of the blame for the current disaster on the "arrogance and ignorance" of the US administration, Rashid is also well aware of the large share of responsibility that must be put at the door of Pakistan's army and its Inter-Services Intelligence Agency, or ISI.

For more than 20 years, the ISI has, for its own purposes, deliberately and consistently funded and incubated a variety of Islamist groups, including in particular Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Taiba. Since the days of the anti-Soviet mujahideen, the Pakistani army saw the jihadis as an ingenious and cost-effective means of both dominating Afghanistan - something they finally achieved with the Soviet retreat in 1987 - and bogging down the Indian army in Kashmir, something they succeeded in achieving from 1990 onward.

The army's top brass were convinced until recently that they could control the militants whom they had fostered. In a taped conversation between then-General Musharraf and Muhammad Aziz Khan, his chief of general staff, which India released in 1999, Aziz said that the army had the jihadis by their tooti (their privates).

Yet while some in the ISI may still believe that they can use jihadis for their own ends, the Islamists have increasingly followed their own agendas, sending suicide bombers to attack not just members of Pakistan's religious minorities and political leaders, but even the ISI's headquarters at Camp Hamza itself, in apparent revenge for the army's declared support for America's war on terror and attacks made by the Pakistani military on Taliban strongholds in Fata. Ironically, as Rashid makes clear, it was exactly groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba, which were originally created by the ISI, that have now turned their guns on their creators, as well as brazenly launching well-equipped and well-trained teams of jihadis into Indian territory.

The speed with which the US lost interest in Afghanistan after its successful invasion and embarked on plans to invade Iraq, which clearly had no link with al-Qaida, convinced Pakistan's military leaders that the US was not serious about a long-term commitment to Karzai's regime. This in turn led to them keeping the Taliban in reserve to be used to reinstall a pro-Pakistani regime in Afghanistan once the Americans' attention had been turned elsewhere and Karzai's regime had crumbled.

By 2004, the US had filmed Pakistani army trucks delivering Taliban fighters to the Afghan border and taking them back a few days later, while wireless monitoring at the US base at Bagram picked up Taliban commanders arranging with Pakistani army officers at the border for safe passage as they came in and out of Afghanistan. By 2005 the Taliban, with covert Pakistani support, was launching a full-scale assault on Nato troops in Afghanistan.

As Rashid notes in his conclusion: "Today, seven years after 9/11, Mullah Omar and the original Afghan Taliban Shura still live in Baluchistan province. Afghan and Pakistani Taliban leaders live on further north, in Fata, as do the militias of Jalaluddin Haqqani and Gulbuddin Hikmetyar. Al-Qaida has a safe haven in Fata, and along with them reside a plethora of Asian and Arab terrorist groups who are now expanding their reach into Europe and the United States."

The foot-dragging response of Zardari to the attacks on Mumbai last November shows the degree to which the two-faced dual-track policy of courting both the US and the various jihadi groups remains effectively in place with the Pakistani military. For the last decade, Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, the founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba, has been allowed to operate from Muridke, near Lahore. Although Lashkar has officially been banned in reaction to US pressure after 9/11, widely thought to continue to function under the name of Jamaat-ud Daawa, while Saeed is accused of continuing to incite attacks on India and western targets.

Even now, after the mass murder in Mumbai - although Saeed is himself now under house arrest on suspicion of masterminding the attacks (an accusation that he denies) - his organisation's madrasas and facilities remain open and appear to benefit from patronage offered by Pakistan's authorities. Only this year, the Zardari government cleared the purchase of a bulletproof Land Cruiser for him. Zardari does indeed seem to be in what the Indian foreign minister, Pranab Mukherjee, calls "a state of denial" about the involvement of Pakistani jihadi groups in the Mumbai massacres.

Yet, viewed in the light of Pakistani power politics, Zardari's position has a certain dangerous logic. Army insiders say that General Ashfaq Kiyani, the current chief of staff, who is already involved in a full-scale conflict with the Pakistani Taliban in the frontier tribal areas, does not feel sufficiently strong to open a second front with the jihadis in the Punjab; while Zardari, even though he may wish to be rid of Lashkar and the Punjabi jihadis, cannot afford to be seen to cave in to Indian pressure. It is a classic South Asian catch-22, which allows Lashkar to continue functioning with only cosmetic restrictions, whose main function is to impress the US. Yet the fact remains that until firm action is taken against all such groups, and training camps are closed down, the slow collapse of the Pakistani state will continue, and with it the safety of western interests in the region.

Several factors will determine the future. Rashid makes it clear that only a radical change of policy by the US under Barack Obama can hope to begin turning things around. He writes: "South and Central Asia will not see stability unless there is a new global compact among the leading players ... to help this region solve its problems, which range from settling the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan to funding a massive education and job-creation program in the borderlands between Afghanistan and Pakistan and along their borders with Central Asia." As Obama has hinted, such an approach could be coupled with negotiations with some elements of the Afghan Taliban.

The second factor, of course, has to be reform of the ISI and the Pakistani military. The top Pakistani army officers must end their obsession with bleeding India by using an Islamist strategic doctrine entailing support of jihadists, and realise that such a policy is deeply damaging to Pakistan itself, threatening to turn Pakistan into a clone of Taliban-dominated Afghanistan rather than a potential partner of a future Indian superpower.

A third factor is somehow finding a way to stop the madrasa-inspired and Saudi-financed advance of Wahhabi Islam, which is directly linked to the spread of anti-western radicalisation.

On my last visit to Pakistan, it was very clear that while the Wahhabi-dominated north-west was on the verge of falling under the sway of the Taliban, the same was not true of the Sufi-dominated province of Sindh, which currently is quieter and safer than it has been for some time. Here in southern Pakistan, on the Indian border, Sufi Islam continues to act as a powerful defence against the puritanical fundamentalist Islam of the Wahhabi mullahs, which supports intolerance of all other faiths.

Visiting the popular Sufi shrine of Sehwan in Sindh last month, I was astonished by the strength of feeling expressed against the mullahs by the Sindhis who look to their great saints such a Lal Shabaz Qalander for guidance, and hate the Wahhabis who criticise the popular Islam of the Sufi saints as a form of shirk, or heresy: "All these mullahs should be damned," said one old Sufi I talked to in the shrine.

"They read their books but they never understand the true message of love that the prophet preached. Men so blind as them cannot even see the shining sun."

A Delhi friend who visited shortly before me, the former Guardian Africa correspondent James Astill, met a young man from Swat, in the NWFP, who said he had considered joining the militants, but their anti-Sufi attitude had put him off: "No one can deny us our respected saints of God," he said.

The Saudis have invested intensively in Wahhabi madrasas in the NWFP and Punjab, with dramatic effect, radically changing the religious landscape of an entire region. The tolerant Sufi culture of Sindh has been able to defy this imported Wahhabi radicalism. The politically moderating effect of Sufism was recently described in a Rand Corporation report recommending support for Sufism as an "open, intellectual interpretation of Islam". Here is an entirely indigenous and homegrown Islamic resistance movement to fundamentalism, with deep roots in South Asian culture. Its importance cannot be overestimated. Could it have a political effect in a country still dominated by military forces that continue to fund and train jihadi groups? It is one of the few sources of hope left in the increasingly bleak political landscape of this strategically crucial country.


Robert Prechter Jr., the author of "The Wave Principle of Human Social Behavior and the New Science of Socionomics" and "Conquer the Crash", says, "Until panic, capitulation or exhaustion are in evidence, all rallies, spirited though they may be, are likely to be rallies within a larger downtrend. We look forward to the day when we will put our cash back to work in the investment markets, but that day has not arrived yet." Of course, Prechter is referring to the interaction of human psychology and performance of investment markets. As Pakistanis edge ever closer to "panic, capitulation or exhaustion", I believe the same could be said of them and their change of fortunes for the better.

Related Links:

Foreign Visitors Pleasantly Surprised in Pakistan

Jinnah's Pakistan Booms Amidst Doom and Gloom

33 comments:

Naveen KS said...

Chris Broad, the ex-England batsman turned match referee who escaped injury in Tuesday's attack on the Sri Lankan cricketers, castigated Pakistan yesterday for not providing the promised "presidential-style security" and accused the security services of fleeing the scene and leaving the visitors as "sitting ducks".

As Pakistani police began investigating whether the gunmen were planning to take the whole squad hostage, Broad arrived at Manchester airport with scathing remarks about the way Pakistani police had handled the attack.

"After the incident there was not a sign of a policeman anywhere," said Broad. "They had clearly gone, left the scene and left us to be sitting ducks. I am extremely angry that we were promised high-level security and in our hour of need that security vanished and we were left open to anything that the terrorists wanted.

"Questions need to be asked of Pakistan security. At every junction there are police with handguns controlling traffic, so how did the terrorists come to the roundabout and these guys do nothing about it?"


http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/mar/05/lahore-terror-attacks-chris-broad

So much for protecting Pakistan's esteemed guests. I bet ISI will be trying its level best to disrupt IPL in India. Now even Lahories are not safe from terrorists....soon the entire country will be engulfed by them.

Its going to be a herculean task to get Pak back in order. But the Pak army which is in perpetual fear of India gobbling up Pakistan will never rein in the jihadis hoping one day they will provide the strategic depth it craves for a future war with India. By the time Pak army realizes its folly it will be too late.

The # of pessimists is only going to increase as Pakistan slides into chaos and anarchy in the coming day unless the tide turns for the better.

Ron said...

Mr Riaz

You write:

""2. Unlike Mumbai police, ATS and Indian commandos, Lahore Police were able to protect their charges from hostage taking or being killed while sacrificing their own lives.""

It makes no sense at all. Few facts:-

1> Mumbai attacks happened all of a sudden. No one was expecting it.

Lahore attacks happened ON A MATCH DAY on a visiting team. Terror attack WAS ALWAYS A POSSIBILITY on such days.

2> Indian commandos and ATS were not ready as it was a SUDDEN ATTACK.

Pakistani police was READY for any attack as they were providing security to SL team . Inefficiency of Pak police resulted in escape of ALL 12 MEN during a SUNNY DAY when the entire city was awake.

Dont compare Pakistani security forces with India's.

Ron said...

PLZ DONT DELETE or MODERATE my comments.It raises some very important questions.

Mr. Riaz how can u say this:

""more likely the work of mercenaries hired by external elements for carrying out a covert action to terrorize Pakistan as supposed pay back""

Its infact more likely that it is an Inside Job by pak army.
Few facts will make it clear:-

1) No bullet proof glass in the bus.A very basic security measure considering the number of attacks in Pak.

2) No commando protection to the SL players.Again a basic security measure in high risk places. An absolute must in case of PRESIDENTIAL type security.

3) How could 12 terrorist managed to flee on a sunny day. NOT A SINGLE one got killed or injured.

4) How did terrorist 'knew the route' of the SL team bus. Routes are normally kept secret and revealed at the LAST MOMENT .

5) How could terrorist roam the streets of a MASSIVE CITY like Lahore with rocket launchers and hand grenades on a SUNNY DAY when the whole city was AWAKE.

>> It seems the whole security apparatus of Pakistan is CONTROLLED AND MAINTAINED by RAW......lol.

" Instead of uniting against terror u guys are uniting against India"......

Typical pakistani error of judgement.

Anonymous said...

Riaz,what do you call this? If not degeneration! May I say you are too optimistic!!! Way too optimistic that you think Pakistan is modern porgressive nation which it is not! Povertyis not an indicator for nations progress -there were many poor nations when we gained independence.This nation slid from a position of strength.There are too many islamic terrorists among us to let grow in to progressive nation.As I said,Pakistan is poor and doomed because the way its society was headed as early as 1980s and today was expected by many experts.While I respect your optimism,I would like say it just does not make sense in current scenario.What kind of nation you want to build or see when you have terrorism as STATE POLICY for 3 decades??????????
Is it not true that ISI has raised these monsters for Kashmir but paying for its crimes in form of society destruction of pakistan.This issue has repeatedly appeared in New York times and Times magazine. And Ahmed Rashid is one of the most respected authors of our nation-I am proud of him.While terrorists bomb people,the frightening thing about pakistan is the support they get from people like Imran Khan and thousands of educated to fill in their hatred for western and Indian cultures and religion.It is so deep rooted in our psyche that until Lahore atack-we have not realised how bad the situation is!!! Destruction of pakistan society was anticipated years before today-but you can it pessimism but I would call it as the truth and cost any nation should pay for using religion to fulfill its national obligations and create hatred.

Riaz Haq said...

Naveen and Ron,

No amount of explaining by you or carping by the ungrateful Brit or Aussie will change the fact that they escaped alive because of police protection. Unfortunately, many foreigners in Mumbai didn't live to either carp or be thankful for their lives.

It's much easier to complain and find fault in hindsight. Pakistanis, however, do need to analyze what happened and how and improve security for future.

Riaz Haq said...

Anon:

You say, "And Ahmed Rashid is one of the most respected authors of our nation-I am proud of him."

Do you know that Ahmad Rashid welcomed the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in late 1970s? That, like Sir Vaidyanath, he is a modern day imperialist Rudyard Kipling who believes in "white man's burden to civilize" the colored people of the world. That he has built his career on the events surrounding 911? So much for your cynical hero.

As far as pessimism vs optimism, it's how you see the world around you and your own pre-disposition that guides it. If you share the Indian and Western view that your nation is singularly defined by terrorism, then it'll be hard for you to be optimistic. However, if you choose to see the vast majority of the nation as a whole that is fighting to maintain economic progress, democracy and civil society in the face of the forces of terror, then you should be optimistic that it can and will succeed. This is huge challenge for Pakistan that can be met by those who do not throw in the towel or accept defeat at the hands of forces of backwardness.

Anonymous said...

Raiz -state facts and issues that will back your optimism.While you say good things -it is I hope should be true but your optimism lacks basis because Pakistan is worse today than it was 10 years ago and will get worse if Zardari and Gilani keep evading core issue of tackling terror-its like a nation chained by its sins.If there is sincerety in leadership-I would even worry if we had 90 percent terrorists.But what will happen if our democracy fails-what we have is army filled with religious mad fellows.Where do our vows end????? I am not being pessimistic about hardworking people of the country-but that will not matter in current crisis.

Riaz Haq said...

Anon:

You suggest, "Pakistan is worse today than it was 10 years ago."

I agree. But only partially. Pakistan's obsession with democracy as a panacea has brought us the current political mess. It's clearly a major challenge.

But at the same time, many of the progress indicators such as literacy, life expectancy, per capita income, national gdp, access to higher education, the size of the middle class, news and entertainment media, communication infrastructure, size of the professional and the entrepreneurial class have already significantly improved during the last ten years under Musharraf's rule.

What Pakistan needs more than anything else is peace and stability for another ten years under a strong but benevolent dictator like Lee Kuan Yu or Mahathir Mohammed or Suharto to ensure Pakistan's transformation from a feudal/tribal society to an industrial society with a very large middle class that can sustain a real democracy that serves the people, and not just the political elite that rules Pakistan today in the name of democracy.

Anonymous said...

What Pakistan needs more than anything else is peace and stability for another ten years under a strong but benevolent dictator like Lee Kuan Yu or Mahathir Mohammed or Suharto to ensure Pakistan's transformation from a feudal/tribal society to an industrial society with a very large middle class that can sustain a real democracy that serves the people, and not just the political elite that rules Pakistan today in the name of democracy.

Riaz, for once, I whole-heartedly agree. The current "democracy" is the same feudal order using democratic institutions as cover for their continued looting. I miss the steady hand of Musharraf. I made much fun of him, not knowing just how pathetic the alternative was.

Dalrymple souring is symptomatic of the mental fatigue well-wishers experience when trying to support a deeply confused and conflicted entity as Pakistan. Not long ago - and after watching Pakistan for years - I went through the same process of throwing in the towel.

I admire your attempt to see the glass half-full - even though I disagree violently with your half-baked attempts at pulling India down to hypenate Indo-Pak, rather than Af-Pak. You're trying to hold back the tide though, and I do wish you the best of luck.

Riaz Haq said...

Anon:

You say, "I disagree violently with your half-baked attempts at pulling India down to hypenate Indo-Pak, rather than Af-Pak."

In terms of heritage, culture and nuclear arms, Pakistan is more like India than Afghanistan. So Indo-Pak hyphenation makes sense. What Pakistan shares with Afghanistan are the Pashtoon ethnic roots of about 15% of its people. So Af-Pak makes sense as well, but not as much sense as Indo-Pak.

In terms of democracy serving the people, India is no better than Pakistan. Based on all of the published data by international organizations, the vast majority of Indians suffer great deprivation of basic necessities of life such as food, shelter and clothing, making India look more like Sub-Shararan Africa than Pakistan.

Anonymous said...

Riaz, if you really believe what you wrote on Indian democracy, you are deluded. What democracy has given India, more than anything else, is a smooth transition of power between governments, a stable environment for business and progress and a power to the poorest people in the country (who often vote in larger numbers than the middle class).

I want to be angry at you, but I can only feel sorry for you. The world around you has changed and both India and Pakistan are not what they used to be when you were a student.

Anonymous said...

In terms of heritage, culture and nuclear arms, Pakistan is more like India than Afghanistan.

If that's so, why do many Pakistanis insist on saying "Allah-Hafiz" and "Ramadan" - and attempt (often) revisionist tracing of roots to some Central Asian warrior (AQ Khan, from Bhopal, is apparently related to Muhammad bin Qasim!)? Why does Pakistan attempt to snuff out or mask it's Hindu/Buddhist/Sufi/Shia heritage (Basant, Swat Buddhas, Jehanabad, Sufi saints, attacking Muharram marches)? Why do kids in Pakistan learn about bin Qasim, maybe Aurangzeb, and then fast-forward to Jinnah? Why nor Akbar - is it because of Deen-e-Illahi? Why do Pakistanis look for inspiration to the West to that backwater called Saudi Arabia instead of East? The truth is all major schools of Islamic thought have ideological representation and often, underpinnings, in India. Whether it's the wacky Deobandis, or the Barelvis or the Sufis - heck even the Ahmadis - have their roots in modern India.

I'm sorry - Pakistan and Pakistanis can't have it both ways. Carving out a distinct Pakistani identity does not mean throwing the baby out with the bath-water. That instinct implies either a severe identity crisis, or a severe inferiority complex.

Ray Lightning said...

Riaz..Good luck on your quest to finding benevolent dictators for Pak or whatever helps to find peace and prosperity for your country.. Also spend less time comparing with India and more time on motivating Pakistan.

Comparisons with India are bound to turn more and more depressing in the future.

Riaz Haq said...

Anon;

You say, "What democracy has given India, more than anything else, is a smooth transition of power between governments"

I agree, but democracy is not the only system that allows that to happen.

You add, "The world around you has changed and both India and Pakistan are not what they used to be when you were a student."

Yes, it's a tale of two Indias, but not the old vs new India. It's a tale of a shining, thriving India and a barely surviving India. You and the Western press focus on the former and ignore the latter. By all objective measures, the barely surviving India is much larger and behind sub-Saharan Africa.

About one-third of the world's poor live in India. More than 450 million Indians exist on less than $1.25 a day, according to the World Bank. It also has a higher proportion of its population living on less than $2 per day than even sub-Saharan Africa. India has about 42% of the population living below the new international poverty line of $1.25 per day. The number of Indian poor also constitute 33% of the global poor, which is pegged at 1.4 billion people, according to a Times of India news report. More than 6 million of those desperately poor Indians live in Mumbai alone, representing about half the residents of the nation's financial capital. They live in super-sized slums and improvised housing juxtaposed with the shining new skyscrapers that symbolize India's resurgence. According to the World Bank and the UN Development Program (UNDP), 22% of Pakistan's population is classified as poor.

Riaz Haq said...

Anon:

You say, "If that's so, why do many Pakistanis insist on saying "Allah-Hafiz" and "Ramadan" - and attempt (often) revisionist tracing of roots to some Central Asian warrior (AQ Khan, from Bhopal, is apparently related to Muhammad bin Qasim!)?"

I think you are confusing several different things here. People of South Asia have come from parts of the world over the centuries, settled in India and made it their home. This has created a blend of many different cultures and religion that characterizes people of South Asia. Some may be related to the Caucasian Aryans, others to Persians and Arabs. The true natives of India are probably the Dravidians who have been in South India for several thousand years, longer than anyone else other than maybe the tribal people of central and northeastern India.

Religious practice can never be divorced from culture. The practice of Islam and Christianity are different in different regions and cultures around the world. Even within Pakistan, Islam practiced in Sind and Punjab is markedly different from the practice in NWFP.

As to India being a melting pot, I respectfully disagree. The radicalization of Hindus in India is similar to that of Muslims in Pakistan, though it manifests itself differently. While the radicals in Pakistani mainly target the West and those seen as allied with the West, the radical Hindus in India target their own Muslim and Christian populations. You can see ample proof of that in thousands of Muslims and Christians killed by the RSS and VHP in recent years and the plight of minorities. In fact, all the data suggests that Muslims are are the new Untouchables in India. Just look at the Sachar Commission report that explains it. Nothing justifies Pakistan more than this report.

Riaz Haq said...

Ray,

You wish, "Comparisons with India are bound to turn more and more depressing in the future."

So far, Pakistan has been able to defy wishful thinking and anti-Pak efforts by India. I believe it can continue to defy Indian expectations in the future. It can emerge stronger and more prosperous from the current turmoil.

Anonymous said...

Dear Anon, Ray, Ron, Ree, and RAW - How eloquently... i mean how dumb could you be to speak out your mind the way you are doing on this forum. Is there a doubt left that with 'neighbors' like you who needs enemies? Go wash your tongue in ganga and then with dittol. Its you who need to feel sorry and hopeless as you are showing no signs of improvement as human beings.

Ray Lightning said...

Pakistan enjoyed a higher economic growth rate than India for decades. This is the reason for lower relative poverty in India. After the Indian economy is liberalized, India's growth rates have increased enormously. The percentage levels of poverty have also started falling down.

In 2008, India had a growth rate of 7.3 as compared to a 4.7 growth rate in Pakistan. When you also consider that Indian economy is 7 times the size of Pakistan, this relative disparity in the growth of income becomes more prominent.

Veterans like Riaz have been trained on mocking India's poverty. That argument made sense for their time, but it has become archaic and makes sense no longer.

The most important human right is the right to live. Pakistan should start from the basics and improve its track record in human rights. It is at the 11th position on the worst offenders list of Guardian.

The Human Development Index (developed by Pakistani economist Mahbub ul Haq) ranks India at 132 and Pakistan at 139. It should be remembered that Pakistan was ahead of India a few decades ago.

Ray Lightning said...

Anonymous,

It is the willingness to speak and listen to people you do not necessarily agree with, that is the essence of democracy. We Indians practice it proudly.

(Also try to refrain from insults because you know that it will not hurt the other person anyways).

Riaz Haq said...

Ray:

You assert, "It is the willingness to speak and listen to people you do not necessarily agree with, that is the essence of democracy. We Indians practice it proudly."

Please see this video of democracy in action.

Anonymous said...

Riaz, first I see you have lot of optimism for pakistan but I am surprised about your judgement abilities.
There are lots of nations that are poorer than Pakistan but none of them are like Pakistan when you see the level of religious intolerance even in educated mass.I hope you will try to be really open in your mind to understand this.While I agree that pakistan has good people their percentage is no matter in the direction our nation is headed.
Religious nuisance and islamic hypocrisy of its citizens has led to our trouble.We just do not know where to hold our religious views.One of the writers above said that the comparisions between India and Pakistan wil only grow-well I think he is right and it is true as after 60 years there is no similarity at any level in way I think and how Indian thinks.Thats because we choose religion over secularism.
While you are saying India is no different from Pakistan-I think your are absolutely wrong-with all due respects to your otherwise sane thoughts.Its your inability to see the things as they are that is more worrying for our nation than what mullahs are saying.Indian nation has its own agenda, its future is pretty different and comparing religious troubles of India and Pakistan on same level is insane even for a lay man.What we are seeing in our nation is bombing and elimination of girls schools,beheading women,killing foreigners,killing our policemen,attempting to kill srilankan players.This kind of religious violence is just unseen anywhere.Now you may want to say it happens every where-that THOUGHT is what pakistan needs to stay away from-IT DOES NOT HAPPEN ANYWHERE!!!We are for the worse turn of religious intolerance that islam itself will be in trouble if this continues unabated.Let the Indians talk but I think we need to do is to sincerely analyse and accept mistakes.You are not going to win your verbal war on how India differs from us-the fact is India is very different nation from pakistan.After teaching students from Asia over 15 years-I can see vast difference in the outlook on modern generation Indians and Pakistanis which I believe is fundamentally due foundations of democracy and secularism in India versus religious base in Pakistan. That does not mean there are onley secular people in India or India is great.India has serious issues but there were more serious issues India faced 20 years ago but that did not stop its growth as nation.I need not remind you that growth of nation means its maturity to accept differences and not just poverty indices as you keep mentioning.Look at the positive thing-three indians who won the oscar are all muslims.As you say-now where are our heroes-supposed to have more since we are a "muslim" nation-right? .Facts are more important and those facts will tell you the true story of why the world puts us at par with Afghanistan not India. That said I will not try to pity or put down the pakistan nation where I was born as that is not the solution.The path we have taken is wrong-just not acceptable.We have right to follow a religion but no right to destroy our neighbours peace with the evil that arose from our mistakes.May god show some sense to our leaders.

Riaz Haq said...

Anon:

You assert that "religious nuisance and islamic hypocrisy of its citizens has led to our trouble."

While I agree that Pakistan has a small but vocal and violent extreme that wants to impose its dark vision on the rest of its citizens, I also find that your assessment is based on the kind of false stereotyping of Pakistan that characterizes Western and Indian media coverage of Pakistan. To see how wrong you are, you just have to look at the last election results which saw the massive defeat of the right-wing religious forces in Pakistan. Particularly striking were the results in NWFP, supposedly the stronghold of fundamentalists, where the secular nationalists emerged as the unquestioned victors.

What we have in Pakistan today is a culture war being fought between the extremists minority represented by the Taliban and their sympathizers and the moderate Muslims who abhor the Taliban. What sometimes tips the balance in favor of the Taliban minority is the presence of the US which is seen by many as the cruel villain when its drones strike and kill a large number of innocent civilians, including women and children, on a regular basis. It's the backlash against the US that hurts the forces of moderation in Pakistan.

I think it's wrong to define the country by focusing on a few of its citizens that give it a bad name by their horrible acts that mainly hurt Pakistanis themselves and rarely affect others. Left to their own devices, I believe Pakistani moderate majority can fight and win the battle. America needs let Pakistanis see it as their fight by stopping its interventionist policy which is counterproductive for both Pakistan and America.

Anonymous said...

I think your thought process is right.The reason behind my anguish is the pattern of behaviour shown by the so called moderates I see on TV and even includes -shockingly Imran Khan too.God-just it just pains to see these people will lead this country.When you say moderates-how can we unite when you have insane (sorry if the word is strong) people among moderates having such inconsistency in views about rooting out taliban??
Let me ask who moderates are Riaz-recently I saw a blog which enlightened the fact that Miandads son has married the daughter of south asias worst terrorist Dawood Ibrahim.After googling this-I confirmed the fact was true.Now I need not mention to you who Dawood Ibrahim is-but my question is -What is Miandad doing with this man?Is Miandad not director of pakistan cricket until recently?How shameful that such people are so close to Dawood.More Importantly what is this Dawood doing in pakistan? I hope you understand how hard it to root out this evil and how much these terrorists have penetrated our society and that moderates-if Miandad is a moderate-I defer this issue to all respectable people of my nation.Now can Miandad have anyright to ask for more security or complain to ICC about current mess??? Who is a moderate, Riaz?

Anonymous said...

Riaz - I must admire you for your patience in dealing with these people who have got a picture so tainted, a vision so blurred, and mind so blocked, that makes it impossible to expect anything positive or favorable. Under the guise of democracy and military uniform, all these so called super powers are a lot worst than the Talibans.

Anonymous said...

Particularly striking were the results in NWFP, supposedly the stronghold of fundamentalists, where the secular nationalists emerged as the unquestioned victors.

Mirthful. The governor was so scared of the Taliban he had Zardari send him a helicopter to get out, and then headed to London. He had to be "persuaded" to return. Today the "administration" - if it can be called that - released 12 Swati Taliban. There is not going to be another election there - the folks in charge having no need for such niceties.

What we have in Pakistan today is a culture war being fought between the extremists minority represented by the Taliban and their sympathizers and the moderate Muslims who abhor the Taliban.

Yeah - "culture war". Another vacuous phrase like "non-state actors". Put a little more lipstick on this existential crisis will you? Miliband - turncoat that he is - now talks of "mortal threats".

Riaz, suggest you enjoy the next few years owing allegiance to two countries with nuclear weapons. Who knows when you might - without your consent - have to settle for being a Sindhudeshi-American (or is it Jinnahpuri-American)? The very same nuclear weapons that you're so in awe of will then be your worst nightmare. Then again this is just wishful thinking by a rabid Hindu (wrong!) Indian who has no grip on reality. So not to worry.

Riaz Haq said...

Anon:

You say, "Then again this is just wishful thinking by a rabid Hindu (wrong!) Indian who has no grip on reality. So not to worry."

Everything you say is the conventional wisdom in India. Please find something new and different to say that I haven't heard before. Who knows. You might even be able to persuade me to your way of thinking.

Anonymous said...

Riaz

Please do not listen till the taliban knock the doors of the karachi and pakistan to bump out those islamic follower who are not in the straight line of 7th century medival practices. Probably like the moderate muslims running out of swat the existing inhabitants have to run or move backward to the 7th century

Best of luck. India will see its own destiny and pakistan can see it own. No hassles till reaches the border. Anyhow india is used to pakistan concerns in the border always.

Anonymous said...

Hi,

I am happy to see such a fanatically patriotic pakistani. However the sadness is the dream is not to the reality at home where as you must sitting peacefully in USA without the ground realities of pakistan.

Any how best of luck for all your endevor to show the world that pakistan is not that bad as other perceive.

Riaz Haq said...

Anon & Anon,

With friends and neighbors like you, who needs enemies. Don't forget that the fire in your neighbor's house, if not contained, will eventually consume you as well. All of your dreams of Slumdog-style rags-to-riches will turn to ashes.

Anonymous said...

You might even be able to persuade me to your way of thinking.

I won't even try: you're more loyal than the king. You'' still be defending the indefensible long after the rogues that run it have left it for dead.

With friends and neighbors like you, who needs enemies.

With Pakistan's peerless record of against it's own citizens who needs "friends" and "neighbors".

Don't forget that the fire in your neighbor's house, if not contained, will eventually consume you as well.

Please find something new and different to say that I haven't heard before. Who knows. You might even be able to persuade me to your way of thinking.

Anonymous said...

Riaz,by saying that fire in your neighbours home will consume the surrounding homes-here India,you have rather agreed that religion and hypocrisy have destroyed your nation-which is true though you have every right to have false notions.IOne cannot expect post Zia Ul Haqs Pakistan to have secular mind but rather islamic mind!!!The truth is Pakistan is way too different for it to adjust with even indian muslims or Bangladeshis.Thats what years of mismanagement have done to the psyche of its population that its version of religion and nationhood is not trusted inspite of all good intentions.

Riaz Haq said...

Anon:

You offer "The reason behind my anguish is the pattern of behaviour shown by the so called moderates I see on TV and even includes -shockingly Imran Khan too.God-just it just pains to see these people will lead this country."

While I admire Imran Khan as a philanthropist, a patriot and a sports hero, I think he has a very low probability of winning any elections. So I wouldn't worry about his incoherent tirades on matters he doesn't fully understand but he wants to argue about very passionately. He is a very passionate defender of his positions.

I do think Imran has a point when he says US attacks in FATA and presence in Afghanistan are detrimental to the Pakistanis' fight against terror. There is so much mistrust of the US in Pakistan that anyone seen to be working with or on America's behalf automatically loses support. Removing US as direct participant from the equation will likely help the forces of moderation. US can still play a quiet role behind the scenes without launching predator attacks or issuing belligerent statements or making naked threats to invade Pakistan.

Anonymous said...

Good Point on aversion of US tactics in homeland but again when population is not ready to listen-we need iron hand to deal with this issue.When America or India started of as nations-the population had its weakness but the core difference between those societies and Pakistan is level of tolerance and honestly the fact that they are not islamic -in the sense that we muslims tend to stick to religion rather strongly.I will leave to your judgement about those side effects which are quite evident.We do not have enough time for entire population to understand what these monsters will do.If US does not eliminate them like insects with predators-they will kill ordinary citizens.
But the end point always comes back to the fact we lack a disciplined political setup and also disciplined society that can put its self issues aside for nation sake.Today it is that lack of discipline in politicians and also army(I hate to say this) that we cannot eliminate these monsters.Look what Nawaz is doing.As a matter of fact we had not seen a class leader since 1950s that can reinstate the original principles.Look what our history books say for our children to read.Its either lies or islam and some more religion.