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Liberal face of religious bigotry: A response to Jinnah Institute – by Farhat Taj

Related post: Pursuing Pakistan’s interests in Afghanistan? A rebuttal to Sherry Rehman’s Jinnah Institute’s report

The report is aimed at justifying the establishment’s long-standing Afghan policy, the strategic depth policy that has brought nothing but destruction to the Pakhtun and has created religious bigotry in Pakistan

Recently, the Sherry Rehman-led Jinnah Institute in Pakistan and the US Institute for Peace (USIP) launched a report called ‘Pakistan, the United States and the Endgame in Afghanistan: Perceptions of Pakistan’s Foreign Policy Elite’. The report documents the views of a select group of Pakistani foreign policy ‘elite’ on the so-called Afghanistan endgame/future power structure in Afghanistan. The report has been given a great deal of coverage in the Pakistani media by some of the ‘elite’ who participated in discussions leading to the report.

The report is misleading and marred by selection as well as projection biases. It is prejudiced against the Pakhtun in Pakistan and Afghanistan and reflects the view of a narrow vested interest in Pakistan that has been engaged in the genocide of the Pakhtun for three decades. I will elaborate these issues in my critical analysis of this report to be published in a research journal. In this column, I will only comment on the report’s so-called ‘foreign policy elite’ of Pakistan and the views of this elite.

The overwhelming majority of the elite who participated in discussions and interviews for the report, includes people who are linked with the military establishment of Pakistan and have a track record of producing and promoting outright lies or distorted information about the Pakhtun in the media and research in line with the military establishment’s strategic depth policy in Afghanistan. As a mark of tokenism, the Jinnah Institute included a tribal journalist in the elite without paying any attention to the fact whether or not a tribal journalist could freely express himself with a group of people so closely linked with the same establishment that has imposed death and destruction on his tribal homeland — all those tribal journalists who have dared to expose the state terror in FATA have been killed. A representative of the Pakhtun nationalist ANP has been interviewed, but it seems his views have been thoroughly censored: there is nothing in the report that concurs with the ANP stance about the future set up in Afghanistan, especially in terms of the terror sanctuaries implanted in FATA by the military establishment and their role in the future Afghan set up.

It is thus no wonder that this elite presents the Pakhtun and the Taliban as a synonym and argues for the accommodation in the future Afghan government set up of those fringe elements of the wider Pakhtun society, the Haqqani Taliban and Mullah Omar’s Quetta Shura, all of which are hardly anything more than proxies of the military establishment of Pakistan. Basically, the report is aimed at justifying the establishment’s long-standing Afghan policy, the strategic depth policy that has brought nothing but destruction to the Pakhtun and has created religious bigotry in Pakistan. The elite is using the notion of the ‘not antagonistic to Pakistan’ government in Afghanistan to camouflage the notion of strategic depth in Afghanistan. They are using the name of the Pakhtun nation to camouflage the Taliban terrorists. The report is basically a ‘liberal’ cover-up of an essentially fundamentalist policy of the Pakistani state. Since the elite do not want to repeatedly talk of empowering the Taliban — this is not correct political discourse in the post 9/11 world — so they talk of including the ‘Pakhtun’ in the Afghan power structure. It unmistakably looks as if the elite is implying that the Taliban are representative of the Pakhtun. It is stunning to compare the elite’s insistence of Pakhtun inclusion in the future Afghan power structure — as if they care so much for the political concerns of the Pakhtun population — and their devil may care attitude towards the Pakistani establishment-inflicted state crimes against the tribes in the Af-Pak region in which they suffer every single day.

The elite’s whole notion is misleading. The question therefore is: can there be a Taliban without Talibanisation, especially when they emerge from the conflict as ‘victors’? What about the thousands of Pakhtun killed by the Taliban? Their communities want the Taliban to meet justice and the Pakistani elite is adamant to see them ruling the Pakhtun? The views of the elite also look like an invitation to other countries of this region to provide, just like Pakistan, terror sanctuaries to Afghan militants in order to be taken seriously by the US in the endgame in Afghanistan. Do the elite care that the people in Afghanistan, both Pakhtun and others, might interpret their views as Pakistani hegemony over their country? Could the Pakistani elite become any more bankrupt, morally and intellectually?

There is nothing in the report that the world never knew about already. The only difference is that, before, the elite used to express such anti-Pakhtun, pro- establishment-and-Taliban views separately and now their voices have been assembled in one report. It is unfortunate that the USIP, which is said to have supported the work for the report, might have used the US taxpayers’ money for this report. What is in this report that the US policy makers and think tanks were unaware of? There could have been much better use of this money.

The saddest part of the report is that Sherry Rehman, the liberal face of Pakistan, has undertaken an exercise that provided a ‘liberal mask’ to the essentially anti-people totalitarian policy of strategic depth rooted in religious bigotry and state terrorism. This was unexpected of her given her secular and pro-people democratic track record. This is a win for the security establishment and a setback for the pro-democracy forces in Pakistan.

As far as the Haqqani Taliban and Quetta Shura are concerned, the Americans are welcome to eliminate them with their drone strikes. The Pakhtun will not shed any tears for them.

The writer is the author of Taliban and Anti-Taliban

Source : DailyTimes

About the author

Humza Ikram


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  • An interesting article but i was wondering when the report is titled as the “view of elite” it actually is presenting the view of Pakistani state and is establishment. That essentially makes it a report on what is the understanding of these elements. Your analysis of report takes it as Liberal view which it may essentiually not be. The fact that a liberal is conducting a study of the elitist perception does not make it a liberal view or liberal mask! The report is examining the views of people who represent the state department and policy of Islamic Republic. Their policy has been clear, its genocidal and anti pashtun no doubt and any analysis which focuses on these elements will show the same results. So the analysis is not that out of focus.
    If Sherry Rehman has presented the view of the forign policy elites as “peoples view” or the “liberal view” on Afghan policy this criticism would have been more relavant.
    For now it seems to me that she has examined a group of people who represent the state and give the opinion which is the state n elite opinion.
    When she has declared her “study group” i dont see any confusion in it or calling it a masking effort.

  • Your criticism is perfectly valid when it targets the “forign policy elites” of Pakistan. But directing it to a study of this group is not very convincing.
    For example a Marxist or a Left wing historian may study the views of Neo Nazi youth group on Oslo tragedy , it will esstentially reflect the xenophobia , racism and anti semitism of the study group. But would it be justified to consider it as the opinion of researcher?
    That is what i got from this article. If the report is indeed a sort of justification for the elitist view or presented as a liberal answer to Afghan issue , its objectionable but than its not clear from the criticism

  • By recycling, reinforcing, propagating and justifying Pakistan’s (in fact Pakistan army’s) policy on Afghanistan, Sherry Rehman and her Jinnah Institute have done no service to Pakistan or Afghanistan.

    I don’t want to comment more than what has been stated by Kamran Shafi, Dr Taqi and Laibaah on this topic. Farhat Taj is rightly perturbed by the uncritical manner in which Sherry Rehman (Pakistan’s liberal face, as carefully projected by certain sections of media) has presented the GHQ’s case on Afghanistan.

  • In Sherry Rehman’s own words:

    “The recent Jinnah Institute–United States Institute of Peace report, Pakistan, the United States and the End Game in Afghanistan, aims at seeking clarity and motive in Pakistan’s current outlook toward Afghanistan, its strategic interests, and the implications of how it pursues them. Given Pakistan’s centrality to peace in the region, in the context of an unstable strategic relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan, the articulation of a cogent policy view that includes civil society and state representation in Pakistan bears value for anyone looking to secure a successful transition in Afghanistan.

    The report’s findings are based on several discussions with a wide spectrum of Pakistan’s foreign-policy elite—retired civilian and military officials, analysts, journalists, and civil-society practitioners—with established expertise on Afghanistan and knowledge of the modalities of policymaking in the U.S. It also takes on board the views of senior politicians from all frontline parties as well as the military’s official spokesperson.

    The idea was also to find how Pakistan can best pursue its interests in the changing Afghanistan endgame calculus, and what policies the U.S., India, and other regional actors would have to pursue for Pakistani objectives to be met. Pakistan’s goals matter because whichever way one looks at it, either as builder or spoiler, Pakistan is key to durable stability in Afghanistan.”

  • @Sherry (SA) What stopped her from offering a critical view of the military state’s view on Afghanistan?

    Given that the military state’s views on Afghanistan are dominant and widely known within and outside Pakistan, don’t we need to confront and undermine such views instead of reinforcing, propagating and justifying them?

    And then she claims that the “report’s findings are based on several discussions with a wide spectrum of Pakistan’s foreign-policy elite, retired civilian and military officials, analysts, journalists, and civil-society practitioners, …it also takes on board the views of senior politicians from all frontline parties.”

  • What you are not considering that she is referring to wide range of “elites” but nevertheless with the ELITES. She has focused on a select group. Now you tell me where will she find a pro-pashtun , pro people person in the forign policy “elites”. In Social sciences discourse elite is not considered a good word. Her reports targets a specific study group. The elites. When she say elites she already explains that her report focuses a narrow strata of opinion. Those who are connected in one way of another with state policy on forgn affairs, that can be part of the political “elite”, the military “elite” , the civil establishment “elite” and the civil society “elites”, in all cases her report declars 1, the position of privilliage these people enjoy in their relationship to state structure either directly (military and civil establishment and politicians in rule) on indirect(civil society elites and corporate opinion makers.) Now if a study will be conducted on this group of people do you expect that pro-people opinion will come.? It will not. By declaring her study group she has already informed us that she is examinibg a pro state discourse .
    Regarding the point about state policy , i agree but than the ciricism should have been directed against the elites who are the policy and opinion makers in Islamic Republic. That would make more sense than to target a researcher.
    As you will agree if i publish a report on the opinions of students studying in duo bandi madrassa regarding Shia and Taliban, what will i get?. But should i be targeted to doing this report or Duo-bandi madrssa teaching system who are indoctrinating these children.

    My issue with Miss Taj article is the focus, if she wants to say that Jinnah institute should not have conducted a study of Pakistani forign policy elite view because its not a liberal approch i would have agreed but this focus is rather missing in article.If she was expecting a pro-pashtun , pro people discourse from study conduted on Pakistani elites i think that would not make much sense. i know she could not mean it as she has written superbly on these matters and have exposed these elements bravely.
    I think in this case it would have better approach to examine the elitist opinion and show it as a shadow of state policy, rather than taking on the researcher, as there are matters of academic freedom involved, If SR wanted to study elites , its an academic choice, academic dishonesty would have been if she would have potrayed this report as representing peoples opinion. Which she hansnt. She has mentioned it as opinion of the elite. So examination of a select group close to socio-economic-political establishment of Islamic republic.

  • NGO working on state funds can write on lack of capacity of state , but can never write the “will” of the state , and state is itself enemy of its own people .

  • “Regarding the point about state policy , i agree but than the ciricism should have been directed against the elites who are the policy and opinion makers in Islamic Republic. That would make more sense than to target a researcher.”

    That’s exactly why the researcher is being criticized (the uncritical recycling and propagation of the military state’s narrative).

    Else we have no case against Ejaz Haiders and Cyril Almeidas who proudly and uncritically cite their conversations with intelligence officials to explain to us why it was legitimate to kill Prof Dashtiyari or Hazara Shias.

    On page 10 of the report, Sherry and Moeed reveal their motive: “We agreed that an exercise that would allow both sides to comprehend the other’s interests and policy choices better would be an important step in addressing some of the prevailing mistrust [between US and Pakistan military establishment].”

    Clearly, this motive or aim seeks to serve military establishment’s interests, not the people of Pakistan.

    I reiterate why research on something which is already clearly known! Why not focus on other URGENT humanitarian issues which may be more consistent with Sherry Rehman’s much publicized liberal credentials.

  • @ Shaheryar Ali ,

    I’m sick of those mindless op-ed writers which keep on remainding us to be patient and don’t expect miracles from army and if US-NATO haven’t acheived anything in afghanistan its unfair to expect success from pak army .

    These writers are compeletly deflecting the issue .

    1. State itself killing its hero like adezai lakshar of peshawar .

    2. Sifwat Ghayyur Shaheed IG FC was killed by state , the brave solider who cleared peshawr and sourrounding areas from taliban .

  • its interesting to note , even after abbotabad embarassment , liberal face of pakistan still haven’t realized taliban -alqaeda and state of pakistan are partner .

    A brave act I must say !

  • Anyways Abdul though i dont see any comparison between between a study and columns.Researchers will do studies on many things even on establishment working, opinion and style of working and its important to understand how they think and work!
    The fact that criticism is not directed against the elites as much than on a researcher is problematic. Its like criticizing the mirror rather than the image or reality its depicting

  • @Shakeel
    I am not disputing the fact that state is killing people. Infact i believe that all these issues of Afghanistan, Taliban and Talibanization , secterian killings, political instability are due to the state itself. Its an expression of Islamic Republic state of organic decay , its the crisis of the state itself.
    I am just looking at the technical issue here that the study in question is a study about the a select group of people and when it delares its study group i wont call it masking. It not right or academically justified.
    The choice of what to study could be criticized but it has not done in that way either, it would have been better.