Posts Tagged ‘pakistan terrorism’

h1

Aisam Qureshi’s Country

September 12, 2010

It’s my first week in Denver where I’ll be attending graduate school for the next two years and I’m soaking in how kind this city is. It is the most laid back, genuine U.S. City I’ve experienced. The sincerity with which people prod “No, where are you really from?” when I initially respond “California”, is priceless. I feel like a novelty here. At an Eid Celebration last night, even a local of Pakistani descent pointed out “Wow, the guys are going to flip over you. There are no ethnic girls in Denver”.

Ethnic”? I’ll take it; I realize I’m getting a pass for being a Californian female. Because in light of increasingly disheartening news from Pakistan, be it about floods, match fixing in cricket, and mostly terrorism plaguing the country since 9/11, Pakistani’s have captured the American state of mind in a less than appealing way. Once indecipherable on a world map for most Americans, Pakistan emerged as our stalwart ally in victory after 40+ years of Cold War. Yet as we turn to Islamabad again to fight a War on Terror, we possess a deep skepticism of Pakistani intentions.

Pakistan is rampantly associated with concepts of Terrorism, Extremism, Al Qaeda, Taliban, Corruption and disaster as D.C. and Islamabad are ever more understood as reluctant partners. Plus post thwarting the Faisal Shahzad situation , expert indications that homegrown terrorism poses the biggest threat to the United States, stabbing of a cab driver of Pakistani descent and Amnesty International’s recent report that hate crimes against Muslims is on an alarming rise, being Pakistani seems like an uphill battle in America. So on an individual level, Pakistani’s and Americans may be feeling the same skepticism that governments harbor for one another in bilateral relations. But this week the world was abuzz when Pakistani tennis player Asiam-ul-Haq Qureshi with irresistible sincerity exclaimed:

Since September 11, every time I come to the States or western countries I feel people have the wrong impression about Pakistan as a terrorist nation. I just wanted to declare that we are very friendly, loving and caring people, and we want peace in this world as much as Americans and the rest of the world wants.

There are extremists in every religion, but just because of them you cannot judge the whole country as a terrorist nation. I just wanted to get this message across as a Pakistani

In plain terms Qureshi clarified that his country is a mostly moderate nation where people expect the same peace and security desired by all people. He reminded us of Pakistan’s humanity, directly countering the “transactional” ties that progressively complicate our understanding of Pakistan. Fareed Zakaria might agree. In a recent piece, he eloquently concurred:

Across the Muslim world, militant Islam’s appeal has plunged. In the half of the Muslim world that holds elections, parties that are in any way associated with Islamic jihad tend to fare miserably, even in Pakistan.

In his article “We’re Safer Than We Think” Zakaria points out that Muslims in Pakistan and beyond are if anything, less safe from terrorism than we are as they suffer the brunt of radical Islam’s consequences.

Over the last few years, imams and Muslim leaders across the world have been denouncing suicide bombings, terrorism, and Al Qaeda with regularity….The fatal problem with these kinds of attacks is that they kill ordinary civilians—not U.S. soldiers or diplomats—and turn the local population against Islamic radicals.

With more thorough detail, Zakaria’s is saying exactly what Qureshi did; Pakistan is not a country of terrorists. So next time I get asked where I am “really” from, I might just say “I’m from Asiam Qureshi.’s country”.

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED @ The Foreign Policy Association

Advertisements
h1

Strokes of Genius in a Time of War : Pakistani Artist Imran Mudassar

January 11, 2010

Both DAWN news and CNN have good reports on Pakistani artist Imran Mudassar. The following video briefly takes us into some of his recent works that depict deteriorating security, and amplified militarism that torments his country.

VIDEO : CNN talks to Pakistan Artist Imran Mudassir – January 2010

I found his first work in the video of particular interest: the wall piece brought from Kabul that was peppered with shrapnel holes. Mudassir traces an outline of a man’s torso onto the destroyed wall and highlights each hole with color to accentuate a very poignant notion that these aren’t just holes, they’re wounds. He specifically mentions he can’t stop thinking about those holes after having seen them, and quite effectively after seeing his work, one might feel the same. Minimal use of color and the small scale work set into a simple frame brings us in contact with a wrenching reality that mainstream news reporting of terrorism just can’t offer.

Seeing the actual holes that sharpnel makes on an individual human torso is far different than just hearing that another suicide bomber struck in the Af-Pak region.

The holes in this work leave us feeling empty as we peer into the darkness and depth of these wounds. Kudos once again CNN for reporting on one of the many persevering stories out of Pakistan during these testing times.

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED @

h1

Where the War on Terror Is

December 29, 2009

The War on Terror has most definitely shifted: terrorists are massacring Pakistani’s.

I churn each time I hear of terrorist attacks since 9/11, and mostly since then, those attacks have been on Pakistan. This weeks suicide bombings on religious processions in Karachi during the month of Mahurrum, (a somber time of reflection, considered sacred for many Muslims) are particularly unnerving.

I’ve lived in Karachi and was there until 2001: suicide bombings were unheard of before 9/11 and even though Karachi is a relatively chaotic city, never has it been victim to such consistent horror. In my lifetime, Pakistan has never suffered such widespread violence and insecurity. I’ve already written about the deteriorating state of affairs post 9/11, so today i’ll share a links to a BBC slideshow and article capturing the recent atrocities :

SLIDESHOW: Karachi March Attacked

ARTICLE : Pakistan’s Recount Horror of Suicide Attack

When the Economist, pundits and politicians declare Pakistan the most dangerous place in the world, important to remember is that it really is the most dangerous place: for Pakistanis.

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED @

h1

If We Leave Now ….

December 14, 2009

Friday morning a CNN headline informed us that the stock market is inching forward, but America is “still in the red”, simply reminding us that we’re spending more than we’re making.

Ouch. With an expanding war and expanding government (Af-Pak war and healthcare reform respectively), expenses seem excessive. But, thinking about the Af-Pak quagmire within this perspective made me realize the costly necessity of our engagement. Because even though it may seem cost effective and immediately convenient to bring troops home , our absence in the Af-Pak region entails risks that are perhaps higher than the costs of Obama’s troop surge, even in our downward economy.

Let’s run a counterfactual to demonstrate. If we begin troop withdrawal, ultimately winding down NATO forces as well, in the absence of a U.S. presence, Af-Pak becomes fully accessible to regional powers, including China, Russia, and India to step in. Security and development will be led by other foreign powers who emerge with powerful influence in this strategic area. Because in addition to our foremost interest in obliterating Al Qaeda, Afghanistan is strategically poised to access Central Asian energy interests as is Pakistan. Pakistan is not landlocked so the Karachi port becomes key to transporting Central Asian energy to international markets. In our absence, Russia or China emerges as forerunners in supporting Af-Pak in their route to development meaning major energy projects that we stand to benefit from, such as the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan pipeline might take a backseat to projects led by Russia. Similarly, energy projects like the Iran-Pakistan-India Pipeline which the Heritage Organization has already called “unacceptable” for U.S. interests make further headway in our absence with the support China. So withdrawing troops runs the risk of our losing access to potential energy resources and could further threaten Europe by allowing the former USSR to gain a “stranglehold over European energy security”.

Similarly, there are critical security risks that come along with our withdrawal. In our absence, regional powers that are historically not geopolitically neutral in the can create a climate of further conflict.

– Current Afghanistan-India alliance (rapidly increasing)

– Historic Pakistan – Afghanistan alliance (rapidly decreasing)

– Russia-Pakistan enmity (as per India Russia alliance)

– Russia-Afghanistan enmity (Soviet Afghan War)

– India-Russia alliance (An expanding, long term alliance began during the Cold War)

– India-China enmity (Sino Indian War)

– Pakistan-China alliance (Long term alliance began during the Sino Indian War)

– India-Pakistan enmity (Deep mistrust dating back to Partition in 1947 with 3 wars fought since)

This complex mix of regional relations in tandem with competing interests for Afghanistan and Pakistan creates weighty risks that are too big to take. For instance, there’s a widespread notion that Pakistan sought to wield control over Afghanistan to use it as a buffer against India and currently, the Pakistani government says the same is true for India as relations warm between Delhi and Kabul. By removing the United States from the picture, the risk of leaving two nuclear armed, historic adversaries vying for geopolitically strategic and energy rich Afghanistan becomes a weighty concern.

So two weeks ago when Fareed Zakaria questioned Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on whether or not India believes Pakistan is doing it all it can to uproot terrorism, and Mr. Singh gently responded that America has given him all the assurance he needs, one realizes the magnanimity of our mitigating tensions in the region. Leaving the Af-Pak region now runs great potential for further insecurity and could run directly counter to our energy interests. Let’s hope our policies in uprooting terror are accompanied by development strategies for long term stability in Afghanistan and Pakistan so that our presence is not perpetually required.

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED @

h1

Identifying Demons in Pakistan

December 9, 2009

NYTIMES does a good job of publishing weekly articles on the Af-Pak situation. And a recent piece had a very enticing title: “The Demons that Haunt Pakistan” . It conjured deep curiosity and I delved into it anticipating the “demons” referred to how terrorists have paralyzed the country since 9/11.

Instead, the writer interviews one oddball Psychiatrist who says the “Gucci suit” wearing Americans are the real terrorists and Blackwater is luring his hired help to engage in a grand U.S. conspiracy to destroy Pakistan. Based on this sole, very erratic viewpoint, she presumes that like a “teenager” Pakistan is “self-conscious, emotional, quick to blame others for its troubles” and is where conspiracy theories are “pervasive”. But the presumption that Anti-Americanism supersedes resentment of actual terrorists who have is not well founded. In fact, only at the end of the article does she acknowledge the moderate Pakistani viewpoint:

“Islam treats foreigners according to their wishes,” It’s not what these people (terrorists) say — killing them or asking others to terrorize them,” he said contemptuously of the militants. “We must treat everybody equally. Christians, Jews, Muslims”

The author refers to this as the “unlikely exception”, but on the contrary, this perspective is more likely to be found in Pakistan. The gentleman expressing this view is working class and the masses are working class. They’re not doctors or professionals whom the author erroneously cites as the norm. Further, it’s the working classes who struggle most with terrorism, not the sliver of Pakistan’s elite population who maintain comforts despite political upheaval. So the  implication that demon-esque Anti Americanism is rooted in spectacular conspiracy theories is unlikely:

The majority masses are far more skeptical of Pakistani policymakers and domestic corruption than of Blackwater and the American, or Indian government for that matter.

More accurately on India, the author cites counter productive policies in Pakistan that maintained, rather than obliterated the feudal system and attributes the profound struggles of Partition to subsequent skepticism that has been harbored by both countries for one another since. Plus, having fought three wars in just 62 years, she explains it’s “natural that Pakistan’s security concerns focus more on its eastern border with India” and “not irrational” for Pakistan to resent American calls for change in this strategy.

The piece goes on to explain resentment of American policymaking viewed  as “U.S. single-mindedly pursues it’s own interests as it did in the 80’s when it was confronting the Soviets”. And therein lies skepticism for the United States in Pakistan: it’s rooted in abandoning ship post the Soviet-Afghan war. Leaving Pakistan with one of the worlds largest refugee problems well ISI/CIA trained extremist Islamist militants in a developing country hasn’t boded well 20 years later. As a partial result, Pakistan hasn’t developed, it’s deteriorated. Cooperation in our Afghan operation in the 80’s isn’t perceived as productive. Thus,

Current skepticism of U.S. expansion in the Af-Pak war is not a matter of irrational, conspiracy theories or bitterness for all things American, it comes after prolonged, and now daily struggle against extremist Islam, and terrorists who massacre Pakistanis almost daily since 9/11.

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED @

h1

Where’s the Improved Af-Pak Strategy?

December 3, 2009

President Obama stayed true to his word. During the presidential campaign last year, he vowed to hunt down Al Qaeda in Pakistan and after months of deliberation with Congress, his focus on deepening military involvement in the region has come to fruition. 30,000 more troops are promised to the Af-Pak war and in his speech yesterday, Obama focused squarely on the “inextricable” link Afghanistan and Pakistani security share. He insisted the “NWFP” is where terrorist leadership including 9/11 masterminds Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zwahiri find  “safe haven” and reiterated an urgency to pass the Kerry Lugar bill. But overall,

No new strategy was laid out. We’re sending more troops without any information that an improved plan is in place. With an increased focus on Pakistan knowing it has deteriorated since the War on Terror began, it is critical to see details of a more effective Af-Pak strategy.

Politicians, pundits, scholars, journalists and even bloggers like myself have called for increased intelligence sharing and military training from our end to Pakistani forces to uproot terrorists. And President Obama briefly, but finally acknowledged this would take place. However, it was said almost in passing relative to 9/11 rhetoric reminding us that we must stand in solidarity with our allies and expand our efforts in the war on terror. Which is important, however, after 8 long years of conflict and heavy taxpayer dollars allocated to this war in a downward economy, I expected at least some details of a revamped approach. Otherwise there’s a fear that more of the same will lead to more of the same: an escalation of our engagement and simultaneous worsening in the region.

There’s a very good piece in the Los Angeles Times explaining this troop surge is a replay of our approach in Iraq. The idea is that a temporary troop surge with predetermined date of withdrawal allows domestic security forces time to develop so that when our troops leave, they manage security to a large extent on their own. However, experts in the article point out that Afghanistan is vastly different from Iraq and a troop surge might not yield similar success in this case. Also, there’s little mention of Pakistan because a

troop surge would not apply to Pakistan where established military and paramilitary security forces already exist. Thus Obama’s square focus on Pakistan in tandem with a troop surge is incomplete without additional details on a revamped strategy.

And the Kerry Lugar bill is not sufficient. The fact that President Obama at the beginning of his speech still urges us to support the legislation despite widespread skepticism at home and in Pakistan, is testimony to how much a new plan is needed. Let’s hope we hear one soon.

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED @

h1

With Hegemony Comes Great Responsibility : America & The Muslim World

November 30, 2009

According to Thomas Friedman in today’s NY Times, a “narrative” of Anti-Americanism thrives as terrorist organizations proactively convince the Islamic world that our intent is to oppress Muslims everywhere. He explains the narrative is a:

“cocktail of half-truths, propaganda and outright lies about America that have taken hold in the Arab-Muslim world since 9/11 and posits that America has declared war on Islam, as part of a grand “American-Crusader-Zionist conspiracy” to keep Muslims down”

There’s truth to this. Fear of the United States is on the rise in certain Muslim countries like Pakistan. A Brookings poll shows that America is more feared than India by Pakistani’s and as Bruce Riedel puts it:anytime you outpoll India as the bad guy in Pakistan, you are in deep trouble”But there are flaws in Friedmans idea. He says Anti-American narrative comes despite the fact that:

“U.S. foreign policy has been largely dedicated to rescuing Muslims or trying to help free them from tyranny — in Bosnia, Darfur, Kuwait, Somalia, Lebanon, Kurdistan, post-earthquake Pakistan.”

Well, U.S. foreign policy has been largely dedicated to far more than this selection of achievements. Post earthquake Pakistan takes us back only 4 years and fear of U.S. policies does not come despite assistance. It comes as a direct consequence of our orchestrating the Soviet Afghan war, outsourcing that battle to Pakistan, and leaving them with the mess of radicalized Islamic militants and one of the worlds largest refugee problems. In the same way, Friedman fails to mention American foreign policy has consistently sidestepped mediation on the Kashmir issue. And Former secretary general to the Organization of Islamic Conference, in an exclusive interview recently explained to me that both Kashmir and the Israeli-Palestinian issue are of top priority to member states.

So though it’s correct for us to refrain from direct involvement on issues beyond our interests, it’s important that our projected image is one that mitigates rather than inflames anti-Americanism. But Friedman says it’s foreign media that proactively riles Anti-Americanism amongst Muslims, not U.S. policy:

“Although most of the Muslims being killed today are being killed by jihadist suicide bombers in Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan and Indonesia, you’d never know it from listening to their world”

True, but there’s no homogenous “Muslim world”, not even in terms of Anti-Americanism. Pakistan is vastly distinct from the Middle East and within the Middle East itself there are enormous societal, cultural and even deep religious variations from Iran to Egypt to Indonesia.There’s no consolidated agreement on U.S. policies in Muslim countries because policies have been different in each country!

So in the same way there isn’t a homogenous notion of  Christians across the globe, there isn’t one on the United States from Muslims, and there shouldn’t be one from America to a supposed “Muslim world”.

Friedman makes an error with such a sweeping generalization. Also, he uses post 9/11 as a starting point of reference for Anti American narrative. Despite countless micro instances of good will and progress that American soldiers have brought to Iraq an Afghanistan, the macro fact is, we invaded two nations in the span of 9 years, one of which was done pre-emptively.

And with no weapons of mass destruction in sight, two very large Islamic populations are skeptical of U.S. foreign policy that may have been intended to bring a better life for Muslims, but since invasion, have seen decreased security.

In fact, since our invasion of Afghanistan, not only has the targeted state deteriorated, so has neighboring Pakistan. But Friedman maintains incomplete rationale for war:

“Have no doubt: we punched a fist into the Arab/Muslim world after 9/11, partly to send a message of deterrence, but primarily to destroy two tyrannical regimes — the Taliban and the Baathists — and to work with Afghans and Iraqis to build a different kind of politics”

And it’s that tangible “punch” that people remember, not a promise for political change. Plus this kind of rhetoric leaves Muslims skeptical because there’s no mention of practical American interests that drive our policies.

With even a fair number of Americans skeptical of Bush’s reasoning to invade Iraq, Muslims who suffer the tangible consequences of our wars aren’t going to buy the idea that we invaded for solely benevolent purposes, and it’s naive for Friedman to assert that expectation.

By leaving voids in our political narrative to Muslim countries, we open a gap that dangerous Islamist groups fill with Anti-Americanism. Our intention to the Muslim world must be clear and supplanted by security in the countries we invade. With hegemony comes great responsibility. The problem of Anti-American narratives in some Muslim countries might begin with a gap in ours. We have yet to convince Muslims that our war policies, from the Soviet Afghan war, to Iraq, or Afghanistan aren’t Anti-Islamic. It’s an uphill, but necessary battle, after all, the globe is round.

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED @

%d bloggers like this: