Posts Tagged ‘jeewanjee’

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Empowering the Worlds 6th Most Populous Country

June 23, 2012

Schools in Pakistan’s Rural Areas

The big news in Pakistan right now is about the newly elected Prime Minster, deteriorating diplomatic relations with the United States and match fixing charges on star cricketers, but there is a less publicized, but important story that CNN published last week “Family’s 20 Kids Highlight Pakistan’s Population Explosion”. The article warns that Pakistan is currently among the top ten most populous countries and by 2050 will rank third only behind China and India. The author’s attribute this population explosion to a lack of birth control, and insufficient access to family planning information. And while birth control and family planning organizations are certainly effective means to control population growth, dissemination of information that counters prevailing cultural norms and attitudes that discourage limiting family size are also important. The article accurately describes “a majority of the population – 70% is largely illiterate and resides in rural areas lacking the most basic services” and it is in those regions in Pakistan that are most influenced by the deep conservatism that often views birth control as “un Islamic”, but does not account for the large number of efforts that have been made to curb illiteracy in these areas. Well known nonprofit organizations including The Citizens Foundation  and Development in Literacy are focused on educating Pakistan’s rural populations and DIL in particular focuses on countering female illiteracy.

DIL claims “empowering underprivileged students, especially girls” as part of their “student centered model schools in remote areas of Pakistan” as part of their mission statement. And female empowerment is exactly the kind of education that can help disseminate valuable information to facilitate controlling Pakistan’s population bulge. Successful NGO’s in the Microfinance space including Grameen Bank  have demonstrated success in assisting with a reduction of birth rates of their members. Like DIL, Grameen Bank claims female empowerment as part of their mission, but unlike DIL, puts in place more direct mechanisms to achieve such objectives. Their “sixteen decisions”  is testimony to a commitment to female empowerment making finance contingent to social development goals, including educating children, cleaner homes, maintaining and caring for one’s health, personal discipline, and cooperation with other females in the community. Number 6 on Grameen’s list explicitly has women pledge “We intend to have small families” and through these guidelines their microfinance model is supplemented by female empowerment strategies that encourage family planning and overall develop the social environment in which they live.  Similarly, Microfinance organization Pro Mujer provides poor women with mechanisms for empowerment in Latin America in addition to development opportunities through lending capital. Their approach reads:

 While most microfinance institutions focus only on financial services, Pro Mujer uses a holistic approach, making sure that clients are better prepared physically, emotionally and economically to improve their lives and that of their children. Education is one strategy. Pro Mujer teaches women about domestic violence, communication skills, and women’s rights, using workshops and group discussions to raise their awareness about leadership, gender issues, and self-esteem. It also links clients with other organizations for counseling, legal assistance, and education and vocational training programs. Women also become empowered as they join and become active in their communal associations. Pro Mujer organizes women in groups of 18 to 28 clients and teaches them how to organize and manage a community bank. The women elect a board of directors to run the meetings, form a credit committee to approve loan applications, and create solidarity groups to guarantee each other’s loans. Members of the communal banks gain confidence and self-esteem as they successfully borrow and repay their loans, set up savings accounts, and become more aware of their own potential and abilities. What’s more, they apply their new skills as leaders in other community organizations.

Education + Empowerment for development

Pro Mujer and Grameen Bank are first and foremost Microfinance institutions, as DIL is to education. These organizations converge in their commitment to “women’s empowerment”, but diverge in their mechanisms to achieve that objective. Microfinance, and education are important development goals for a larger purpose of empowerment so it is important that direct efforts are put in place that have a positive impact on female empowerment. Nonprofit organizations have a profound responsibility not only to those they seek to help, but to their donors, and women’s empowerment must be more than just a catch phrase in Pakistan. It requires a serious commitment by organizations who want to have a positive, long term and sustainable impact for women. Education is an important starting point, but the work will not end there. Given the population growth numbers, empowerment must increasingly become part of the plan to develop Pakistan. Education focused NGO’s are in a good position to begin such models of development, especially if empowerment is a stated part of their mission.

 

 

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Would Imran Khan call Ron Paul to Bat?

January 9, 2012
American Congressman Ron Paul

Ron Paul speaks during the Republican Leadership Conference: 2011

Is it just me, or are seemingly incessant GOP debates the past few months allowing President Obama’s lack of public exposure to seem more and more like solid leadership? The Republican lineups simplistic, square and reactionary focus on “Anti-Obama” rhetoric especially on foreign policy has highlighted a resoundingly hawkish stance on Iran with little attention to our current engagements in Afghanistan and Pakistan. And while it may be expedient amongst a certain political base to try and one-up each other in aggressive foreign policy talk, only Ron Paul challenges the party line on Americas role in the world.

When it comes to Pakistan, compared to Democrats Republicans have a consistent history of preferring to work closely with the military establishment in Islamabad. While there is a level of bipartisanship post 9/11, (case in point is Obama’s continuation of Bush era drone use with little debate), Republicans have through the Cold War and beyond preferred dealing with the military establishment rather than focusing on democratic, or liberal institution building. Which is not necessarily an entirely erroneous  policy; part of the rationale is that state building is expensive in blood, toil, time and treasure and rarely feasible. Further, there are an endless number of constraints and uncertainties that profoundly hinder institution, or democratic state building in a place like Pakistan, rendering Republican policies simply pragmatic.

Which brings us to current policy: the bipartisan endorsed “Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act” (S. 1707)  enacted in 2009 has yet to bear tangible fruit. Granted the aforementioned that institution building is time exhaustive, the fact remains that Pakistan has deteriorated politically, in the realm of security and economically. And having watched everyone from Gov. Romney, Sen. Santorun, Gov. Perry, Rep. Bachmann and yes even the soft spoken Gov. Huntsman, reiterates hawkish foreign policy while refusing to acknowledge a need for meaningful improvement. In the Republican camp only Rep. Ron Paul’s extreme calls for an isolationist posture offer some semblance of change. And because his prescriptions have yet to be tried, the utility of his ideas have yet to be tested. And now may be a time to consider his stance since they call for exactly what the Pakistani public wants right now.

Referring to our policies to Pakistan as nothing short of “Bombs for Bribes” Ron Paul acknowledges the nobility, yet inherent futility in calling for democratic institutions in places of strategic engagement. He understands that we are already engaged in “130 countries” with “700 bases around the world” and in this speech against the Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act, he bluntly explains:

the way we treat our fellow countries around the world is we tell them what to do and if they do it, we give them money. If they don’t we bomb them. Under this condition we are doing both. We are currently dropping bombs in Pakistan and innocent people get killed. If you want to promote our good values and democratic processes, you can’t antagonize the people”

He goes on to suggest dialogue and trade as alternatives to current policy. And although his statement is simplistic and was made in 2009, it highlights Ron Paul’s isolationist, more economically focused prescriptions on foreign policy that seek to reduce our military footprint abroad based on pragmatic constraints, like military and fiscal overstretch. And these calls seem more reasonable than before, especially when it comes to Pakistan and the fact that our aid has yet to yield satisfactory results. So while the Obama administration continues engagement and GOP candidates refuse to acknowledge much concern over current policy to Pakistan, can Ron Paul really be the only alternative available?

Someone once considered completely out of left, excuse me, right field, could be the reminder we need to moderate our engagement with countries of interest. Because what is interesting is that current rhetoric in Pakistan is very much in line with Ron Paul’s ideas. Ron Paul isn’t touting conspiracy theories, nor does he echo far left foreign policy thinkers like Noam Chomsky. Rather, his past statements on our engagement in Pakistan as “inadvertently causing chaos” and “violating security and sovereignty” are exactly what the average Pakistani seems to feel and hears about in their mainstream TV, and print media. Takeaway for us means, it’s a perception the is realistic; perhaps more so than current policy reflects.

In fact, legendary cricket star turned politician Imran Khan’s recent surge in popularity is in large part due to his highly critical foreign policy rhetoric that vociferously calls for D.C. to adopt a more isolationist stance so Pakistan might reclaim lost autonomy. Imran Khan steadily built support for his party on the continued observation that America’s “War on Terror” has intensified insecurity and his subsequent promises to curtail American involvement is a first step in alleviating Pakistan’s problems.

He underscores Ron Paul’s sentiment that perceptions urgently matter in a climate where American intervention is increasingly received hostilely.  Both politicians insistence on winnings hearts and minds renders Ron Paul’s foreign policy prescriptions worthy of consideration. Imran Khan’s recent ascendency and Governor Paul’s gradually increasing support marks a convergence in shifting to a direction of a less militarized approach to Pakistan. Two men once considered out of the realm of politician viability now increasingly resonate in their respective publics; policymakers ought to take note.

 

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED @ THE FOREIGN POLICY ASSOCIATION

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Gadaffi Makes Ahmadinejad Look Reasonable & Osama Bin Laden Seem Rational

February 24, 2011
How Can you Not Chuckle at This? - Libya's Dictator M. Gaddafi

How Can you Not Chuckle at This? - Libya's Dictator M. Gaddafi

It’s week 8 of a 10-week quarter in graduate school and suffice to say in such a system one is inevitably swamped from the onset. Despite my itching to write about Imran Khan’s talks since Davos on counterterrorism and the Cricket World Cup , I simply haven’t had the time or energy.

However, a friend came over this evening and we watched CNN coverage of Libya (more like CNN spotlight on “Crazy Gadaffi”) and I just couldn’t help but jot down some thoughts. At one point Wolf Blitzer had the former House Intelligence Committee Chair in the Situation Room and commented:

Is Gadaffi on drugs, there’s always been something off with him. He must be on drugs”.

The Congressman responded You know, two out of three times I met him, he was rational and completely in his senses. That third time though you could tell something was off. (this is paraphrased)

Hilarious. Hilarious  because this comedy was not the least bit intentional, it was prime time news. CNN went hours today with repeated images of Gadaffi in overwhelmingly monotone attire: this dreadful toasted camel tone, from head to toe and on that head was his 1984 curly mullet. It was too much. My friend and I laughed at the video clips and talked about a recent article in Vanity Fair entitled “Dictator Chic” depicting what was clearly portrayed as catastrophic fashion choices over the years. We laughed at a notion of giving Gaddafi a makeover as an effective means of American Intervention, but as students of International Relations/Security Studies that was all the segue required to transform our down time into a serious debate on shady men in international politics who manage to command the worlds attention for decades on end.

My friend (who is sure to be an expert on Iran who we’ll see on CNN one day) commented

It’s funny there are similar protests in Iran right now with crackdown on protestors but Ahmadinejad still publically calls for other dictators to hear peoples requests”.

I said, “Dude, Gadaffi makes Ahmadinejad look reasonable”.

Wow

Wow

We laughed in agreement, but got quiet for a second afterwards in serious thought.

She asked So…..Gadaffi, or bin Laden….whose more irrational?

I didn’t pause to reflect and immediately reacted “Bin Laden. He calls for establishment of an Islamic caliphate. Bin Laden is operating from a premise of ideology rather than rationality”

We looked at each other for a half a second, before I realized two things: One rationality and ideology need not be mutually exclusive in all situations, and secondly: if rationality in International Relations is understood (in a super simplistic nutshell) as a cost benefit analysis determinate of behavior, then my initial thought is incorrect.

I realized this and retracted, “Wait. Bin Laden has very real political objectives. He wants U.S. troops withdrawn from Saudi Arabia and an overthrow of the current Saudi regime. And whether we find that objective absurd or not, they are, according to his calculations attainable political objectives that he thinks are worth the costs he invests in terrorism”.

She was of my initial mindset and countered “No. I think he initially started off that way but has since called for overthrow of all Arab regimes and is so angry at what the west has done in the Muslim World that he would not have Al Qaeda stop targeting America for all that its done over the years

I responded “So the four biggest grievances Bin Laden has regarding the West in the Muslim World are troops in Saudi and Afghanistan being the top two. Next on his list is our military presence in Palestine and Iraq. Let’s assume all four of these, which he finds are legitimate grievances, are miraculously altered in his favor, I don’t think he would then continue to attack American targets

She smiled, and said “Solving those four eh? Now that’s hopeful!

We laughed and I continued, Because if we can agree that Bin Laden sincerely believes both that these objectives are legitimate grievances and his tactics can be effective, then he’s acting rationally. And if those grievances get solved, why would he bear the costs of investing in terrorism afterwards? It requires, money, organization and is very high risk. He would have to begin from scratch in rallying a support base with new objectives. Because he would no longer have reason to wage what he thinks is “jihad” if there were nothing to gain from it”.

She stopped for a moment, then thought about it aloud “So, then Osama Bin Laden does act rationally

It was a disturbing sort of conclusion we both very hesitantly came to. Because it’s immediately easier to assume our enemy is an irrational mad man, (a la the images of Gadaffi on CNN) than understand, recognize and deal with the root causes of their actions. Which has led me to expand focus from solely military forms counterterrorism in my studies. When the crux of the issue is one of grievances over U.S. troop presence in the so-called “Muslim World”, an amplified U.S. presence in response is increasingly seen as counter productive. It’s among the main reasons our initial target of obliterating the Taliban in Afghanistan at the onset of Operation Enduring Freedom has shifted instead to finding ways of negotiating with the group.

Although the United States policy of non negotiation with terrorists on the grounds that concessions reinforce and empower terrorist activity is reasonable, an over reliance on military means simply has not been sufficiently effective into our 10th year of engagement in Afghanistan, and as a dire result, now in Pakistan.

Pakistan is a prime example of how negotiations in tandem with diplomacy supported by military coercion is key to combating terrorism today. Spillover of Al Qaeda and radical militarization of Taliban among other terrorist groups has proliferated in direct correlation with our military operation in Afghanistan since 2001. Bridget Nacos of Columbia University in her work “Counterterrorism Strategies: Do We need Bombs over Bridges” describes a main reason for this:

As the Iraq war demonstrated, massive military force can result in a recruiting bonanza for terrorists. And as ground and air operations against Al Qaeda and Taliban figures in Pakistan’s tribal region showed, such strikes can trigger further waves of Terrorist attacks

Where does that leave us? The aforementioned point of negotiations with the Taliban is a fair starting point. No matter how unpalatable and in stark counter to international norms on human rights the Taliban seem, they were not engaging directly in terrorist activity prior to Bush’s “War on Terror”. The Taliban’s objectives were intrastate, domestic ideological goals of imposing their radical, warped brand of Islam on Afghani’s. In fact, Fawaz Gerges, scholar and author of “The Far Enemy: Why Jihad went Global”  explains while allowing Al Qaeda to operate in Afghanistan, the Taliban was actually at odds with them over their ambitions to wage attacks against American targets, or the “far enemy” if you will.

So, negotiation with groups by attempting to understand their grievances rather than ideology is key. Negotiations attack the support base of terrorist groups, whereas military means have shown to radicalize them in recent years. Groups whose ideologies, and constructed identities are repellent to us, may still be brought back into the fold of non-violence and retreat back into not targeting the United States. This is important because these very groups have aligned with terrorist organizations and made the past few years for our troops the deadliest ever and with General Patreus predicting an even worse situation for 2011, new strategies are essential.

Understanding that terrorism carried out by Al Qaeda is not entirely irrational, but rather calculated, orchestrated and heavily invested in to achieve what they feel are legitimate political grievances is critical in counterterrorism, especially efforts aimed at the spillover and expansion of attackers. An accurate assessment of not only the enemy but also potential sympathizers and supporters in Afghanistan and Pakistan requires immediate and preventative measures. Nacos suggests robust diplomacy through traditional channels, and engaging media and general public. It’s a fair argument, and given the deteriorating situation, her recommendations are very worthy of consideration.

Republished @ The Foreign Policy Association

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Remember Pakistan’s Liberal Dictator?

October 4, 2010
Freedom through Dictatorship?

Freedom through Dictatorship?

Well, I called it: Pervez Musharraf is staging a return to Pakistani politics. Launching his new “All Pakistan Muslim League” (AMPL) party this week in a plan to return to the country, the former General will have to face a tremendously skeptical, increasingly hardened citizenry and even tougher adversaries in the judicial branch and opposition parties. In an Al Jazeera special report, Musharraf’s former Legal Advisor Ahmed Raza Kasuri insisted that should tacit approval come from the country’s military establishment and most importantly, with support of a “silent majority” Kasuri measures at 60-65% of moderate Pakistani’s, Musharraf will garner required support to win in future elections. Political analyst Imtiaz Gul insisted otherwise explaining not only would the military establishment be weary of backing Musharraf who cost them valuable political capital when he sacked the judiciary in 2007 and issued a State of Emergency, but also because he has “lost relevance” in Pakistan today.

Gul makes a valuable point: without relevance a political figure is climbing an uphill battle of garnering credibility, and because credibility is deeply intertwined with legitimacy, Musharraff undoubtedly faces a bumpy comeback.

But relevance is not necessarily an impediment to power in Pakistan since the current situation lends a valuable opportunity for it to be readily earned. Current President Asif Zardari usurped such an opportunity when his wife was tragically murdered and assumed leadership, riding the waves of sympathy that swept the nation to win elections. While that “relevance” is waning now, it was enough to allow him a seat of power for 2 years and actually shake off some of the “Mr. 10%” infamy, which is a far larger feat than what Mushrraf faces today.

While the main opposition party leaders Asif Zardari and Nawaaz Sharif are forever bogged by allegations of corruption, Musharraff’s criticisms revolve around issues of “democracy”.

His most vociferous opponents will cite his sacking of the judiciary, coup to power, and 9 year dictatorial reign as subverting democracy in Pakistan. But such criticism of Musharraf is both misleading and mostly hyperbole.

The deficient part of such rhetoric lies in lacking recognition of liberalism. Notions of individual human rights and liberty, free trade, separation of church and state and religious tolerance are erroneously assumed to come only with democratic leadership in Pakistan. On the contrary, liberal policies extending specifically to women’s rights, fostering regional cooperation and trade, namely with India, opening domestic markets, such as free media and holding free and fair elections were successfully carried out previously by Musharraf.

Ironically, under the title of “dictator”, he brought forth more liberal triumphs than any other leaders in my lifetime. And it is important to not confuse democracy with liberalism. Fareed Zakaria makes this distinction in tweaking “Democratic Peace Theory”. His ideas are described:

“democracy is defined in terms of the process by which a government is selected. In contrast, “constitutional liberalism” is defined not by how the government is selected, but rather b the extent to which the society and its institutions protect individuals’ basic rights (to life, property, freedom of speech, and religion)”

Thus basic tenants of a such liberalism, to a fair extent were brought forth by Musharraf. And as political change seems imminent in Pakistan, if we continue looking to political theory one might advance a case for liberalism by way of identifying Musharraf’s opposition. If we take a voluntaristic view of government, wherein heads of states are integral parts of policymaking as opposed to looking mostly at system wide determinants of policy, one finds that not only corruption, but the fact that both Asif Zardari and Nawaz Sharif are part of feudal, landowning elites in Pakistan is meaningful. With that background, and likely subsequent value sets which are diametrically opposed to liberal notions of liberty and individual rights, Pakistan runs the risk of remaining socially, and economically stagnant under their leadership. Moreover, with the U.S. winding down our war in Afghanistan and shifting in to Pakistan, more than ever liberal ideals are needed.

No amount of drones, target killings or CIA intervention have yet quelled extremism let alone terrorism in Pakistan since 9/11. Modernity and liberalism are Pakistan’s best bet at framing a solution for the long run.

It cannot be an overnight shift, but it will require leadership that espouses liberal ideals. Because without credible experience in upholding individual rights and freedoms, only halfhearted appreciation will come for liberalism and even weaker attempts to implement them.

Is Musharraf the solution Pakistan is looking for? I do not know. But until new, more modern and liberal alternatives in political leadership are available, he just might be the best option now.

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED @

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Obama’s Wars – Not Planning to Fail, but Failing to Plan

September 28, 2010
Obama's Wars - Shifting Focus to Pakistan

Obama's Wars - Shifting Focus to Pakistan

“Obama’s Wars” released today already has the attentive public abuzz with tidbits of explosive revelations disclosing divergences at the top levels of government; nothing short of that we’ve come to expect from a Bob Woodward work. While McChrystal’s abrupt departure earlier this year had already exposed wrangling between our executive branch and military personnel, Woodward’s book is set to make public the reality of Obama’s campaign promise in setting Pakistan squarely at center stage in our War on Terror.

“we need to make clear to people that the cancer is in Pakistan”

The book will illustrate Obama’s aim to wind down the war; elucidating his always meticulous refrain from using “Victory” in reference to Afghanistan.  Woodward reports however, that he is determined that no success can come without targeting Al Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban in Pakistan.

According to the Washington Post, the book recounts a top secret meeting with Obama’s then Director of national Intelligence, Mike McConnell who specifically warned that Pakistan is not be trusted as a partner in our Afghanistan engagement.

It’s thus no wonder “quagmire” is used to describe the task at hand. Because regardless of how much the President wants to cut back in Afghanistan, the very strong reluctance stems from potentially risking American interests and leaving the aforementioned “cancer” in Pakistan. So deepening, or as the President might prefer, “shifting” the focus requires a new, more Pakistan focused agenda.

Looking at his National Security Strategy laid out in May 2010, we do find Pakistan as a top concern. Amidst steadfast commitment to liberalist principles calling to defeat terrorism with multilateralism, in adherence with international law and a sensitive awareness to growing interdependence in an increasingly globalized system, the document reads our security objective as such:

“to disrupt, dismantle and defeat Al Qa’ida and its affiliates through a comprehensive strategy that denies them safe haven, strengthens front-line partners, secures our homeland, pursues justice through durable legal approaches, and counters a bankrupt agenda of extremist and murder with an agenda of hope and opportunity. The frontline of this fight is Afghanistan and Pakistan”

Naming Pakistan alongside Afghanistan underscores the President’s shifting focus. The policy refers to Pakistan as the “epicenter of violent extremism” and warns “danger from this region will only grow if it’s security slides backward”.

Throughout the document, we see such warnings used interchangeably for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Perhaps an indication of how policymakers and journalists use sweeping generalizations such as “Af-Pak” for two countries still far from understood. However the National Security Policy makes no mistake in interchanging recommendations. Clearly spelling out that “denying Al Qa-da the Ability to Threaten the American People, our Allies, Our partners and our Interests Overseas” is our main objective, it specifically spells out how to achieve this in Afghanistan through:

–       Continued work with the United Nations and Afghan Government

–       Improving accountable and affective governance

–       Assistance on supporting the President of Afghanistan

–       Supporting ministries, governors and local leaders who have demonstrated measured progress in combating corruption

–       Targeting our aid to Agriculture and human rights

–       Military and International Security Assistance Forces partnering with Afghanistan to target the insurgency

–       Timetable laid out: transition to Afghan responsibility. July 2011 reducing troops

This describes the first two parts of the three pronged approach spelled out in the National Security Strategy. The third prong refers to Pakistan and is relatively vague. It restates the objective of “strengthening Pakistan’s capacity to target violent extremists with continued assistance in those efforts” without laying out how this can occur, or what this entails. With Afghanistan, there is reference to the United Nations, specific levels of government and ISAF forces collaborating as a means to acheiving the objective to combat and provide security from violent extremists. No such specificities are spelled out in reference to Pakistan. Rather, the document vaguely describes an approach that is meant to

“strengthen Pakistan’s democracy…provide “assistance responsive to the needs of the Pakistani people and sustain a long term partnership committed to…deepening cooperation in a broad range of areas …in the years to come”

That is not a strategy. There is not a linking of means to an end. There is no specific timetable or reference to benchmarks for the end objective, nor quantifiable measurements for success. Further, Pakistan has not been able to cement it’s democracy let alone sufficiently respond to the needs of its population in 60+ years, making our intentions to do so implausible. In regards to “long term, deepening cooperation” amidst the staunch multilateral rhetoric, the document does not once refer to Pakistan among the “partners” it seeks to engage in reaching our objectives. It references “fostering a relationship” but partnership is nowhere to be seen.

So, if the President has his way, we will wind down Afghanistan and likely shift focus to Pakistan. I hope by then there exists a more clearly laid out and practical approach to achieving our objectives and securing our interests there. Otherwise, without sufficient planning, the quagmire just deepens.

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED @ THE FOREIGN POLICY ASSOCIATION

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The Cleanup

July 29, 2010
Zainab Jeewanjee with Ambassador Hussain Haqqani

Zainab Jeewanjee with Ambassador Hussain Haqqani

“30 years of this whole business that started with the jihad against the Soviet Union is what we are trying to deal with the aftermath of. Its 30 years of these groups, supporting them, funding them, the opening of radical madrassahs in various parts of the country. Now I think we’ve done a decent job in the last two years of beginning the cleanup”

Pakistan is serious about cleaning up terrorism, but the mess runs deep. And If you want to share in an insightful discussion on the Wikileaks reports, I recommend watching Charlie Rose from last night. Because Pakistan pulled out the big guns in responding to the reports that suggested their Interservices Intelligence Agency is “aiding” the enemies in Afghanistan. Ambassador Hussain Haqqani was Rose’s guest and spoke directly to American anxieties that Pakistan is not entirely interested in ousting terrorists from the region. Specifically responding to the question of ISI links to the Taliban, Haqqani said:

It goes back to the soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The CIA and ISI both worked with the Mujahedeen who morphed into Taliban. But now the Pakistani military and ISI are conducting successful military operations in SWAT and South Waziristan.

He elaborated:

We’ve Taken out extremists and 74 ISI personnel have been killed in the past two years. With as many as 233 injured. That alone should be sufficient to convince people that was then and now is now and Pakistan is standing firmly on the side of those who want to eliminate the Taliban and extremists”

The statistics were particularly hard hitting. They brought a human element to our somewhat sterilized discussion about Pakistan here in the states. Being geographically removed, and with a vastly distinct culture, we are mostly informed of how the government in Islamabad deals with our administration in D.C., resorting to diplomatic sound bites and news for our information. But Haqqanis statistics provoke us to realize that just as we have struggled in Afghanistan, Pakistan too has sacrificed greatly as an ally in our war and continues to be deeply invested in combating terror.

Haqqani reminds us that the Wikileaks story is just that; a whistleblower. Without subtracting from the value of revealing what governments might otherwise keep classified, the Ambassador offered facts that quell sensationalized reception of the reports.

Rose asked weighty questions in trademark straightforwardness allowing us a chance to get answers to that the Wikileaks story leaves us lingering with. For instance, “what keeps Pakistan from doing more”; a question even those with ample knowledge and understanding of history and ground realities who can put the Wikileaks story into context sometimes wonder. Rose speculated it was a concern with India, and a fear of U.S. withdrawal. The Ambassador responded:

“There is a concern that India is not yet reconciled to our nationhood and statehood. Those are concerns reflected in public opinion and government has to deal with view that the US has not been a consistent friend of Pakistan and if we do too much at the behest of US they could leave us in the lurch and walk away again. The Biggest concern is the US can actually leave projects incomplete it has happened in the past US assistance and economic aid suspended arbitrarily and at short notice. Things have been left incomplete. They have had a very difficult relationship in the past 6 decades. We are trying tot address the totality of these issues”

It is no secret that India Pakistan relations are a primary driver of action in South Asian politics so the real nugget in the Ambassador’s above response is the talk of Pakistani Public opinion.

One of the first rules we learn in politics is that perceptions matter and what our pundits and political speechwriters have left out of the conversation is how Pakistani opinions factor into Islamabad’s policymaking.

The Obama administration made clear by way of allocating funding in the Kerry Lugar bill that America would no longer support military regimes at the expense of democracy in Pakistan, yet we still tend to leave consideration of Pakistani public opinion out of our own expectations. Apprehensions of U.S. foreign policy are increasingly common as Pakistan deteriorated economically, politically in overall security post 9/11.

Ambassador Haqqani did an eloquent job of explaining this tremendous sensitivity with which Islamabad must balance its interest in continuing bilateral cooperation with D.C. while alleviating a rampant fear amongst Pakistani citizens that the United States might not be trustworthy, or as the Ambassador put it “ungrateful” for all their country does.

And although Ambassador Haqqani concluded on a positive note , citing increased military cooperation in fighting terrorism and tripartite agreements on trade, he gave viewers a clear view of the “totality” and complexity of issues from the Pakistan side.

To tally Islamabad’s task list thus far: in addition to 30 years of deep cleaning, speedy recovery from loss of life, toil, treasure and time, one must add mending 60 years of mistrust with the worlds superpower to Pakistan’s list of things everyone wants done yesterday.

So let’s think twice, maybe even thrice before sponging the Wikileaks reports without an understanding of context and implicating Pakistan for not doing enough.  Prime Minister Cameron, that’ means you.

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED @ the Foreign Policy Association

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What About “Moderation” Nietzsche?

May 13, 2010
Zainab Jeewanjee differs with Friedric Nietzsche when it comes to Religion

Friedric Nietzsche & Zainab Jeewanjee : Can't agree on Religion

There’s an amazing article this week at TruthDig.com by Mr. Chris Hedges entitled “After Religion Fizzles, We’re Stuck with Nietzsche”. Hedges’ gist is that the core teachings of Abrahamic faiths (Islam, Christianity and Judaism) “are now lost in the muck of church dogma, hollow creeds and the banal bureaucracy of institutional religion”

Not a new argument; criticism of organized religion for being dogmatic is as ubiquitous as my generations disdain for Michael Jackson (God Rest his Soul).

And Hedges’ does a fairly sound job of supporting a censure of religious institutions by the notion of their failure to “unequivocally denounce unfettered capitalism, globalization and pre-emptive war” concluding that “empowerment of the individual conscience which was the starting point of great ethical systems of civilization” from Confucius to Kant have been traded for adherence to poorly outlined ideologies touted by dogmatic religious institutions. He prescribes we revert to an introspective, individual questioning of authority to guide our moral sense. And I like it; I want to expand on that notion, especially since Nietzsche, although super duper fascinating always irked me with his too sweeping condemnation of religion.

To pick up where Hedges article leaves off; what does happen when we’re “stuck” with the emptiness of Nietzsche’s notion that there is no morality? Like Hedges Nietzsche criticizes religion as inherently dogmatic, but to a far greater extent. Nietzsche says organized religion is riddled with the voids created by an incorrect contention that fixed perspectives exist. I read his work Beyond Good and Evil last year wherein with Christianity in particular,

Nietzsche finds religion prescribes actions, if not an entire way of life based on faulty contentions; faulty in that they are rooted on a morality that is inherently relative; he might even say contrived.

Specifically contrived is morality rooted in asceticism that accompanies organized religious expectations such as those calling for chastity (think Catholic priests) or abstinence from both food and sexual pleasure in the form of fasting (think the Muslim Holy month of Ramadaan). Such boundaries according to Nietzsche give rise to a society of undiscerning masses who wallow, yet make every effort in their struggle to achieve nothing more than a kind of denial, suffering and ultimately, mediocrity.

On top of that, prescriptions of asceticism being rooted in religious truths assumed to be absolute, constant and certain come into question and eventual conflict in light of more modern rationality which is less rooted in faith and instead in science, as Hedges would agree. Thus atheism becomes more readily accepted as the concept of God in and of itself is less able to be reconciled with advances in science that defy so called truths upon which religious prescriptions for a faithful life are based.

So to accept that time and space are relative, denying that absolute truth can ever be experienced and that religious asceticism in specific is nothing more than a pacifying consolation for an individual, Nietzsche’s philosophy condemns Abrahamic faith for their prescription’s of ultimately, a lifetime of mediocrity.

Thus his subsequent explanation for increasing atheism is understandable, however makes religion out to be a dismal experience in utter ignorance. And the bleak realization of such an argument can immediately prompt a kind of defensiveness wherein such radical challenges are immediately contested.

Although I consider myself moderately religious with a most certain faith in a monotheistic God, without intentionally being defensive in response to Nietzsche’s criticism of religion, I find his assertions contradictory to a notion of faith. Because if his premise is that there are no absolutes, and the problem with religion is that it cannot easily be reconciled with science, which is often considered to be in and of itself a kind of certainty, then it is perhaps difficult to reconcile the very notion that absolute truths do not exist and perspectives are relative to time and space.

By arguing that something mostly accepted as absolute, certain and “true” as science is a reasonable explanation against the spread of theism, Nietzsche himself lends credibility to the notion that certain truths might actually exist.

To clarify: if institutionalized religion is embedded in dogmatism founded on untruths as proved by its inability to reconcile with the realities of science, then would science then not be, in its strong opposition to religion, a body of at least some truths? Especially given that science is today generally regarded as irrefutable given its own roots in empirical procedures and products.

Furthermore, this raises the inevitable question that, in the absence of religion or philosophy then, what is morality, or the “right thing to do”? Nietzsche may argue that there is no certain definition of what is moral since it would be relative to time and space. However, again, accepting that a certain epistemic confinement is a plausible result of the dogmatism of religion, then is faith not then a credible means to achieving morality since it is rooted not in any tangible, scientific or absolute truth?

Faith is then relative as it requires no truth. Given the absence of absolute truths, faith then becomes quite conducive to my understanding of Nietzsche in that it seamlessly accepts the possibility of not knowing for certain.

Of course, this can itself become dogmatic and therefore problematic when individuals reach an extreme wherein reason and scientific and other rationale are abandoned for fanatical faith and harmful ends. But bracketing the extreme and assuming moderation as the norm for most individuals of “faith”, religious spirituality, especially a sincere belief in an intangible God who Nietzsche himself describes as “incapable of making himself clearly understood”, then can be a strong, and perhaps ironically, “spiritual” acceptance in the notion of a relative existence.

***sigh*** So guess I’m gonna have to just beg to differ with the late, great Nietzsche on this one and send my props to Mr. Hedges for a very insightful piece  😉

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