Saturday, March 29, 2008

Where are Pakistan ’s Heroes?

By Adnan Gill

A nation's path to success and maturity can be measured by its performance in Olympics. More importantly, its character can be judged by how it treats its heroes. However, the nations determined to leave their mark on history turn their ordinary citizens into idols. India seems to have mastered the art of turning their zeros into the heroes. Regrettably, in a stark contrast, Pakistanis have mastered the art of disowning their genuine heroes. The Loin of Kargil, Capt. Karnal Sher Khan and Pakistan ’s father of nuclear bomb, Dr. A. Q. Khan are only couple of examples of Pakistan ’s knack for dishonoring its heroes.

Not too long ago, Pakistani President Musharraf on humanitarian grounds commuted the death sentence of a convicted Indian spy. Ansar Burney, the Pakistani Human Rights minister played a major role in securing Kashmir Singh’s freedom. Minister Burney ensured that Mr. Singh was seen-off to India with a huge fanfare. On the other side of the border, the Indians gave Kashmir Singh a heroes welcome. The hoopla was topped off by the Punjab (Indian) government’s announcement of a lifetime stipend, a house and job for his son for the jail time Kashmir Singh served for his country. As a token of gratitude to the Pakistanis, the moment Singh stepped into India , he mocked the Pakistanis and utterly embarrassed Ansar Burney by publicly announcing, he was indeed an Indian spy. Ironically, Kashmir Singh was an incompetent spy who miserably failed in executing his mission by getting caught, but that did not stop the Indians from turning their flop into a hero.

India must be on its way to leave its mark on history, because it has learned how to turn even their butchers into heroes. By any definition, Narendra Modi (who sat over the 2002 Gujarati massacre of 2,000 Muslims) and Bal Thackeray (the founder of an extremist Hindu party ‘Shiv Sena’, and a self-professed admirer of Adolf Hitler and Nazism) are racist bigots who openly hate Muslims and call for their elimination. Still they are virtually worshiped by a large of Indians who reelect them year after year.

It was 2003, barely a year after the 2002 Gujarat massacre, when the Indian cricket fans were granted visas in thousands to watch the cricket matches in Pakistan . In a heartening display of Pakistani hospitality the Indian fans were welcomed with open arms and open hearts into their homes. But how did the Indians return the favor? They blamed Pakistanis for every ill of theirs. Within hours of Bombay train bombings Pakistan was blamed. Within couple of hours of Samjhota Express bombings, in which dozens of Pakistanis were burnt alive, Indian authorities were pointing fingers at Pakistan .

However, a worst example of how Indians reciprocate gestures of kindness and friendship is when they returned a severely mutilated body of a Pakistani cricket fan. Khalid Mahmood, 30 years old, died on Feb 12 but his family in Pakistan was not informed about his terrible death till March 4. His dead body bore visible signs of horrendous torture he was put through by the Indian authorities. Just couple of months before Mr. Mahmood’s horrific death, he was visited by his elderly mother and a brother. He told them that he was routinely subjected to inhumane torture; among others: electric shocks, nail-pulling, and dowsed with the boiling-water. In a desperate effort to give a ray of hope to his shocked mother, he tried to put a happy face on the situation, by telling his mother that he is innocent, and at maximum, he will be forced to serve for another couple of years in jail.

To the credit of Aaj TVs host Talat Hussain, he is the only notable media personality who took exception to highlight Khalid Mahmood sad story and the plight of his grieving family. While rest of the major media remained obsessed with the endless political debates. For most of them, Khalid Mahmood’s violent death remained a side note. Sadly the Pakistani government also miserably failed to strongly protest the deliberate and malicious murder of its citizen. Only after the lone crusaders like Talat Hussain raised the issue to the national level; on March 10, the Pakistani Foreign Office spokesman Muhammad Sadiq mildly protested, “It is regrettable that India did not inform Pakistan ’s High Commission in New Delhi about the arrest of the deceased as required under international diplomatic norms in such cases.” Obviously such a protest was ‘too little too late’.

Needless to say, had an Indian met such a deplorable fate, their propaganda machine would have gone into overdrive. Indian government would have gone to the UN Security Council demanding apology and restitution for his family. For their part, Indian media would have moved heavens and earth to demonize Pakistan .

Since we carry short memories; this may be a good time to remind ourselves of how, during the Kargil conflict, the Indian government in perfect harmony with their media successfully elevated the sagging moral of their nation. Case in point, upon getting lost dozens of Indian soldiers wandered over to the Pakistani side of LOC. They died when they accidently fell into deep crevices; frequently found in the inhospitable Himalayas . In an example of humane gesture and at the risk to their lives, the brave Pakistani soldiers retrieved their severely lacerated bodies from the dark depths of crevices. Pakistanis returned their bodies with full military honors to the Indians. But who knew, Indians would play the dirty game of vicious propaganda of the dead bodies. Almost immediately, the Indian propaganda machine circulated malicious rumors that the bodies of their soldiers were intentionally mutilated and their body parts, like kidneys, were stolen by the Pakistanis. Certainly, such ingenious propaganda played a huge role in changing the world opinion against the Pakistanis. Indeed, it was a humongous public-relations coup against the dumbfounded Pakistanis.

The point is not to follow Indian example of capitalizing on vicious lies, but it's about unanimously standing behind and honoring every single Pakistani citizen who meets an unfortunate fate outside or for the Pakistan . This begs the question, where are the Pakistani heroes? Why do we consistently fail to make Capt. Karnal Sher Khans and Khalid Mahmoods our heroes whom we can rally around?

http://www.thefront/ News.aspx?ncat=ar&nid=195

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Articles by Adnan Gill

MQM, Business as Usual!

By Adnan Gill

Since the February 18 elections, a spate of threats emanating from the highest circles of MQM have served as a rude reminder that the party is still running its business as usual, i.e. meeting their goals through arm-twisting, intimidation, scaremongering and/or naked violence. Fairly or unfairly, Human Rights organizations and the majority of Pakistanis blamed MQM for orchestrating and executing the May 12 Karachi Carnage. Astonishingly, it's if the MQM overlords haven't learned a thing from the severe backlash they received from the May 12 Carnage. Its gung-ho leadership continues with its hallmark heavy-handed tactics to convince or coarse their political foes.

As soon as MQM comes across a perceived hurdle, it tries to bulldoze through it with brute force. Ironically, despite its history of sorting matters through violent means, it's patrons in the West shamelessly project MQM as a secular and a moderate political party. Even though there are several criminal convictions against MQM's undisputed lord Altaf Hussain, still he is afforded security and luxury in London: courtesy of Her Majesty’s government, the United Kingdom. Never mind, if he is held squarely responsible for the massacre of thousands of Pakistani citizens. In a prime example of hypocrisy and violation of international laws, in February 2001, Mr. Hussain who is believed to be one of the worst terrorist, was granted British citizenship with full civil, constitutional rights and privileges available to all British citizens. By granting him British citizenship, the UK violated several international laws, like UNSC Res: 1189 (section 5) and 1368. Why a British citizen so intimately linked with terrorism and a person who has renounced the creation of Pakistan (that too in front of Indian audience) is allowed to run Pakistan 's fourth largest political party is a million-dollar question!

However, neither the majority of Pakistanis nor the human rights organizations share West’s pristine view of the MQM. In a 2007 press release, Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, disputed western establishment’ s portrayal of the MQM. Mr. Adams said, “The political crisis deepened on May 12, when 42 people died in violence fomented by activists of the Mutahedda Qaumi Movement (MQM)”. He disclosed, in order to silence its critics, the MQM frequently resorts to intimidation through death threats. He said, “Mohajir Rabita Council (MRC), an affiliate of the MQM, issued a statement naming 12 eminent Pakistani journalists as ‘enemies.’” Finally, Mr. Adams commented on the long history of human rights abuses by the MQM, “The MQM has a long record of political harassment, extortion, torture and targeted killings”

MQM's lust for power is only rivaled by its founding leader’s iron grip on the party. Even though Mr. Hussain, a British citizen and a taxi driver turned politician, has not set a foot in Pakistan in the last 18 years, yet he remains the overlord of the party. Curiously, he manages to fly over Pakistan to land in India only to renounce the creation of Pakistan , but for some conspicuous reason he can’t find heart to stop by in Pakistan for even few hours. Nevertheless, he enjoys a decent following among the Mohajir Pakistanis from Karachi and Hyderabad . His critics allege, it's because people are forced at the barrel of gun to follow his edicts.

As soon as the 2008 election results became apparent, in its lust for plushy and lucrative ministries, MQM was back at what it does the best, blackmailing and extortion. Once again it tried to muscle its way through by demanding to become a coalition partner of the incoming government. In his typical style, reminiscent of Adolf Hitler's fiery sermons, Lord Hussain led the campaign of intimidation. He threatened, “It will be dangerous for Sindh if certain groups do not respect the mandate of the people.” In an apparent threat to Pakistan People’s Party (the overwhelming winner in Sindh, especially in the rural Sindh), he said, Sindh would face confrontation because ‘certain groups’ were trying to create an urban and rural division in the province. Translation: there will be violence if you left MQM out of the incoming government.

Taking a cue from their Lord's opening shot, his lieutenants backed up Lord Hussain’s campaign of intimidation with their own. The City Nazim Syed Mustafa Kamal said that Karachi can face law and order situation if MQM was not included in the new government set-up. To score the point home, MQM presented a sample to highlight their resolve to backup their words with actions. When PPP’s candidate from PS-110 Habib Jan tried to meet the hospitalized men injured in a shootout in which four people were wounded, and an eight-year-old girl and a man were killed, eyewitnesses reported, armed MQM men surrounding the Civil Hospital roughed up and then fired on Mr. Jan.

Then in a follow-up to his initial threats, Lord Hussain again warned, “The MQM does not want war. This is 2008 and we are ready to give our lives but not ready to surrender or retreat.” Evidently, Lord Hussain had been under the impression that in the 2008 Democratic system too the number of seats don't matter, it's the ‘bully factor’ which matters. Apparently, that is how the MQM had been able to become a coalition partner in the past governments, but this time PPP was in no mood to give in to the threats of unadulterated violence, especially not after MQM's stellar performance in the May 12 Carnage. However, perhaps inadvertently, Lord Hussain confirmed MQM's frequent indulgence in violence and terrorism. He lashed out, “Do not push us against the wall. If anything happens tomorrow, do not hold us responsible. We are against violence and terrorism but we are also human beings and we will never compromise on our self-respect, dignity and honor.”

It is anybody's guess, why the backlash from the May 12 Carnage failed to jolt the MQM leadership out of their deep slumber into the reality, that the days of getting business done through intimidation and pure violence are long gone. They need to listen to their voters’ voice, that they are tired of divisive politics. They are tired of their political leaders who constantly demand unbelievable sacrifices from ordinary workers, but the overlords don't part with the luxury they have accustomed themselves to. They are tired of the leaders safely and comfortably sitting in the West expecting their party workers to do Lord’s dirty work and bare the brunt of retributions resulting from the sins of their overlords. They are tired of the politicians who thrive on pitting Pakistanis against each other on their sectarian and ethnic differences. No longer, do they want to be Balochis, Sindhis, Pathans, Punjabis or the Mohajirs, they just want to be plain Pakistanis. They are tired of violence and killings. They couldn't care less who sits in the assemblies or who gets what ministry. They are more concerned about who can provide them the basic necessities of life, like electricity, atta, and security for their families.

If the MQM overlords are genuinely concerned with the well-being of Pakistanis then they need to stop running their business as usual, part with the security and luxury afforded to them by the foreign-powers, return to Pakistan and serve their constituents without packing a gun in their back pockets.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Stay or Not to Stay in Iraq?

By Adnan Gill

Stay or not to stay in Iraq is the question that may very well decide who will be the next American president? The Republican presidential candidate John McCain wants to continue Bush administration's Iraqi policy, while the Democratic hopefuls want to pull the American troops out almost immediately. The Republicans believe prematurely pulling out of Iraq would amount to giving in to the terrorists, who will follow the Americans to the United States. For their part, the Democrats argue that the Iraqi war is unwinnable that is eating up precious American resources. Before answering the question about staying or not staying in Iraq, it maybe helpful to glance over how Americans got stuck in the Iraqi war and what's at stake now?

Like a scene out of a Cowboy movie, one fine day in May 2003, the Texan cowboy dismounted his Navy S-3B Viking on the deck of USS Abraham Lincoln. In the background, the tower was adorned with a banner that read, "Mission Accomplished." Like a victorious emperor, the US President George Bush declared, "major combat operations in Iraq have ended."

From that day onward, in ironic twists after twists, the glorious victory in Iraq kept turning into violent chaos, and finally into what many called a ‘civil war’. The Anglo-American invasion was immediately followed by an Iraqi resistance, led by the Baathist and Shi’ite groups like Muqtada al-Sadr’s militia. It was a nationalistic response to a foreign occupation. Ominously, the resistance turned into a bloody civil war. Like an ostrich with its head in sand, the Bush Administration vainly tried to mask their failures in Iraq with clichés like "freedom is winning", “Freedom's untidy”, insurgency is in its “last throes,” and “staying the course.”

Neither attacking nor occupying Iraq made the Middle East a bastion of democracy, nor did Saddam’s death bring any respite to the chaos and mayhem spewing out of Iraq. Regardless of how sincere Bush Administration’s decision to invade Iraq was, the bitter truth is over $500 billion, half-million dead Iraqis, and some 4,000 American casualties later, the Iraqi misadventure could turn into a war of civilizations. By the virtue of Middle East being the major energy supplier, the Iraqi misadventure could even trigger the Third World War.

As bad as Bush’s mess is, everyone knows that if Americans would leave Iraq now, the country would be dismembered into at least three states. A Kurdish state in the north, a Shi’ite one in the south, and a Sunni state in the middle and west. While the oil-plush Shi’ite and Kurdish states would enjoy their "freedom", the Sunnis believe they would lose more than just the oil revenues. Sunnis fear, a Shi’ite Iraq atop the most prized oil reserves would create a Shi’ite rule in a broad crescent across the Middle-East. Shi’ite governments will stretch from Iran through Iraq and Syria into Lebanon.

Iran and Syria are said to be already turning Iraq into the first Arab-Shia state. Testifying before a House International Relations Subcommittee the (then) Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton insisted that there are strong indicators Syria is assisting the anti-coalition forces in Iraq.

A 40-page security report by the ‘Saudi National Security Assessment Project’ suggested Iran has effectively created a “state within a state” in Iraq, which is providing logistical support to the armed Shi’ite groups. The repot added, while monetarily supporting pro-Iranian Iraqi politicians, the Iranian military is supporting the Shi’ite militias with weapons and training too. The report described the armed wing of the Badr organization as the “key vehicle Iran is using to achieve its military security and intelligence aims.” The (Iraqi) SCIRI party even announced plans to set up a separate Shi’ite state in southern Iraq, modeled after the existing Kurdish state.

Likewise, Sunni states like Saudi Arabia announced, that in case the Americans left Iraq prematurely, they would support the Iraqi Sunni population, because they don’t want to see a contiguous Shia belt encircling them. In a Washington Post article Nawaf Obaid, a Saudi government adviser warned, if America prematurely left Iraq, "one of the first consequences will be massive Saudi intervention to stop Iranian-backed Shiite militias from butchering Iraqi Sunnis." Month before that, the (then) Saudi ambassador to the US, Prince Turki al-Faisal, in no-uncertain terms intimated the Americans, that "since America came into Iraq uninvited, it should not leave Iraq uninvited."

The Kurds who live in Iraq, Turkey, Syria and Iran have long aspired for a Kurdish state, but none of the regional states support their ambition. Turkey and Syria have made it abundantly clear that they will not allow creation of a Kurdish state carved out of Iraq. Ankara fears that an independent Kurdish state in Iraq could also engulf Turkey’s Kurdish regions.

Syria too shares the Turkish concerns. Kurdish state carved out of a fractured Iraq is a “red line” for Syria. In 2004, the Syrian Prime Minister Naji al-Otri warned, the creation of an independent Kurdish state in Northern Iraq would mean the violation of the “red line” for Syria. While visiting Ankara, the Syrian President Bashar Assad also cautioned, "We condemn all approaches that pose a threat to Iraq's territorial integrity."

Turkey blames the war in Iraq for rekindling separatist Kurdish aspirations throughout the region. It is disappointed over the US refusal to take on the PKK insurgents in Iraq, despite Washington's designation of PKK as a terrorist organization. When the Turkish Kurds in the Southeast abandoned the unilateral cease-fire and resumed their fight for independence, the Turkish military attacked the Kurdistan Workers Party insurgents in Kurdish-dominated Northern Iraq.

Turks have consistently warned against the division of Iraq. Its foreign minister warned, "There are those who think that dividing Iraq might be better, that this chaos might end... This is what we say: Don't even think of [such] an alternative because that would lead Iraq toward new chaos." Then he alluded to the possibility of Iraqi conflict turning into an international one, "It would become not only Iraq's problem but the world's problem."

The events unfolding in the Middle-East are matter of serious concern for the global community, but inevitably they are America’s problems as well. If Iraq breaks up, it will drive millions of refugees across its borders. The refuges will bring with them their grievances and weapons. Critiques argue, the Iraqi war has a potential of turning into a regional conflict that could draw Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran and perhaps other regional powers as well into the madness.

Contrary to the suggestions of the Democratic presidential hopefuls, America cannot simply wash off its hands from Iraq and go home. It would be difficult to argue against the fact that the Bush Administration is squarely responsible for the Iraqi mayhem. But what is done is done. Now it’s in everybody’s interest to give a chance to the Americans to cleanup the Bush administration’s mess. American ‘Troop Surge’ and their realignment with the Sunni tribes are showing positive signs of stemming indiscriminate violence in Iraq. Reportedly, now there is notably less violence in Iraq than a year ago, particularly sectarian murders. According to the architect of the surge, Army Gen. David Petraeus, the number of Iraqis killed in sectarian violence has fallen by 80%, while the civilian killings are down by an estimated 65%.

If America leaves now, when for the first time since the Iraqi occupation the violence is in downward trend, the insurgents and foreign operators could be back within hours. It would be suicidal to pull the American troops out; as promised by the Senator Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Maybe, one day, the historians will be able to answer: what or who convinced President Bush to open the Iraqi Pandora’s Box? But for whatever its worth, he seems to be smart enough to understand the pottery barn rule, ‘you broke it, you bought it’. Hopefully, the next American president will give President Bush’s policy of troop surge a chance to work. After all, the alternative would be too dangerous, and this maybe the only Bush policy the historians may look upon with kindness.