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Zaid Hamid and strategic depth — by Farhat Taj

FATA continues to be used and abused as a strategic space by the security establishment of Pakistan in violent pursuit of strategic depth in Afghanistan. In short, strategic depth means Pakistan must have a pro-Pakistan government in Afghanistan by any and all means. People of FATA have suffered more than people in any other part of Pakistan due to this policy. They dread and hate ‘strategic depth’.

Some people of FATA drew my attention towards Zaid Hamid, who, they said, is a new charm offensive of the military establishment to popularise the notion of strategic depth among the youth from affluent families in the big cities of Pakistan. He is frequently given air time by the electronic media, also an evidence that the media, especially the Urdu media, is not free and has to toe the establishment’s line in security matters. Show biz celebrities have joined him. Those who oppose the strategic depth, especially the Pakhtun, who are the biggest casualty of it, are never given so much media attention.

The main concern of the people of FATA vis-a-vis Zaid Hamid is his use of a particularly narrow interpretation of Islam that proposes a belligerent agenda for the Pakistan Army and drawing on controversial Islamic literature. Thus the authenticity of the hadiths — sayings of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) — on Ghazwa-e-Hind that he often refers to in terms of the ultimate defeat of the Indians at the hands of the Pakistan Army is highly questionable.

Zaid Hamid claims in his speeches to young people that God determines the destiny of Pakistan. Pakistan will become a grand Caliphate. Pakistan army will cut India down to the size of Sri Lanka. Pakistan will lead the entire Muslim world and its army will be deployed in Palestine, Kashmir, Chechnya and Afghanistan. The corrupt judicial system, consisting of the lawyers and the Supreme Court of Pakistan, will be replaced by an Islamic judicial system that would ensure — Taliban style — speedy and cheap justice. He claims that the current elected set up in Pakistan is implanted by the CIA and prophesies that the current rulers in Pakistan will have their dead bodies hanging on poles in Islamabad, an indirect appreciation of what the Taliban did in Afghanistan with the dead body of Dr Najibullah, the then Afghan president. He openly threatens the nationalists, especially the Pakhtun and Baloch nationalists, for their aspirations. The Taliban government in Afghanistan, he declares, was Pakistan-friendly and condemns its removal by the US in the post-9/11 attack on the country. He glorifies the biggest mass murderer of the Pakhtun — General Zia, the former dictator of Pakistan.

Judging by the obscurantist message that he communicates, Zaid Hamid does not seem to be a new invention of the establishment. He is an addition to the long list of people who have been handpicked to promote an anti-people agenda in the name of religion and hate of India, like the people from the Jamaat-e-Islami. What seems to be new is his apparent ‘tolerance’ of the ‘un-Islamic’ lifestyle of the urban youth and in this context there are some interesting discussions about Zaid Hamid on some blogs and mailing lists. One blogger writes that Zaid Hamid is using a new strategy to communicate the same old conspiracy theories to young people. The strategy is that unlike classical Islamic scholars, joining Zaid Hamid’s group does not necessarily require the youth to shed their sophisticated lifestyle and adjust to hijab, a ban on music and gender segregation. The only thing they have to do is to glorify the Pakistan Army, including its pursuit of strategic depth, and hate Jews, Americans and Indians.

A writer on one of the mailing lists argues that Zaid Hamid is a Pied Piper for our youth from the prosperous sections of Punjab who have no dreams to be proud of. Zaid Hamid sells the dreams of conquering the world, though they are nonsense, yet still work for the youth who are now caught up in an identity crisis, continues the writer. The writer understands that the fault lies with the leftist intellectuals who have lost direction by joining NGOs and leaving the anti-imperialist struggle open for people like Zaid Hamid or Imran Khan.

Zaid Hamid, in his show, sets a dangerous agenda for the youth of Pakistan; the very same youth who are living a comfortable life in poverty-stricken Pakistan. They lack any ambitions in life to give it some purpose. This lack of goals is rooted in the identity crisis being faced by the Pakistani youth. The crisis is expressed in questions like these: what are we first of all: Muslim or Pakistani? Is our ultimate commitment with Pakistani citizenship or a global Muslim brotherhood? What kind of Pakistan should we aim at: a progressive multi-ethnic social democracy or some kind of medieval caliphate?

Secondly, one has to strive very hard for ideals. If the ideal is the former (multi-ethnic social democratic Pakistan), the youth from affluent families will have to share their riches with the poor, downtrodden fellow citizens. This is very hard for this class of people, otherwise I would at least have seen them working for bringing normalcy in the shattered lives of the people of FATA, who have been living in deplorable conditions in refugee camps for over two years now. In the latter case (caliphate) they can placate their conscience by attaching themselves with the higher ideal without having to give up something from their comfortable lives. The only thing they have to do is to support the belligerent agenda of the military establishment and their poor fellow Pakistanis can go to hell. Zaid Hamid’s campaign is like opium for the young that makes them run away from reality, i.e. Pakistan is a class-based multi-ethnic society that cannot be held together with mere Islamic rhetoric and military ambitions.

What is even more dangerous is the fact that Zaid Hamid is glorifying the same Taliban that the people of FATA hold responsible for their massacre at the behest of the military establishment of Pakistan. Case in point, Jalaluddin Haqqani who occupies North Waziristan. I would invite the young fans of Zaid Hamid to take a tour of FATA, or at least FATA IDP camps in various parts of the NWFP, to observe firsthand what the Taliban and the military did to these people. I would remind the youth that people all over FATA hold the generals of the Pakistan Army more than the Taliban responsible for the death and destruction in their area. They view the Taliban — all Taliban, good, bad, Afghan or Pakistani — as a creation of the intelligence agencies of our country. How much more do the people of FATA need to sacrifice for strategic depth in Afghanistan? The never-ending human sufferings in the area could transform into widespread anti-state sentiments. The youth around Zaid Hamid must know that the current pursuit of strategic depth may turn into — as rightly described in this paper’s editorial ‘Strategic death’? (Daily Times, February 3, 2010) –’strategic death’ for Pakistan rather than securing a friendly Afghanistan.

The writer is a research fellow at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Gender Research, University of Oslo, and a member of Aryana Institute for Regional Research and Advocacy. She can be reached at

Source: Daily Times February 13 2010 Editorial Section.

About the author

Anas Abbas


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  • Zaid Hamid is just plying with the emotions of youths of Pakistan. He disturbing their already diturbed minds, to get fame or God knows whatelse.
    People of Pakistan should not blindly believe anyone rather they need to use their brain. It is a tough time for our generation. Please carry out such investigations about all those people who are becoming Hero in sight of youth, People should know each and everything before making their minds or else something terrible will struck Pakistan and people here.

  • I liked your column, as you didn’t hit Zaid Hamid directly, as others (in their agonies) usually do.
    Zaid Hamid is nowhere securing a friendly Afghanistan. He is talking about Iqbal and his Poetry. Now If you think Iqbal was talking about Taliban then I can’t say anything. Iqbal was not really a simple poet. He was seriously a special person who gave Muslims a dream, for not only getting a new country, but getting a Muslim Country. He has always talked about Unity of Muslims. “Liya Jaye ga tujh se kaam dunya ki imamat ka”, “Aik hon Muslim Haram ki paasbani keliye, Neel ke sahil se le ke Tabakhaak-e-Kashghar” and thousands others. So, in my opinion he is only trying to bring a life in our youth and for that He is very successful.
    I didn’t like the fact that you referenced a writer who think that Imran Khan is an anti-imperialist. Shame on him. When he said that Zaid Hamid sells the dream, why didn’t he say that Prophet (PBUH) had sold the dreams as well when he told all about the future? Utterly idiot he must be.

  • Dear Ms. Farhat Taj Andersen
    I read your article; Zaid Hamid and strategic depth, with great interest and bit sadness. Since it is the first time, I have read anything written by you, I would not take the liberty to hastily criticize your rationale but only comment what I read in this article. By the way, I am not a fan of Imran Khan, Zaid Hamid or any other anti-American ideologue in Pakistan. I have an Indian/Pakistani/Danish background and strongly believe that criticism must be based on facts, correct analyze and with the purpose of moving forward.
    Let us now come back to your article and see if some of your statements hold water and live up to the three criteria, I just mentioned.
    You wrote; “What is even more dangerous is the fact that Zaid Hamid is glorifying the same Taliban that the people of FATA hold responsible for their massacre at the behest of the military establishment of Pakistan”.
    I have seen and heard many statements of Mr. Hamid on TV, You Tube and on blog. I have never experienced that he has praised or glorified Taliban. Actually, he criticizes them for violence, terrorism and attacking the civilians. I would be thankful if you can substantiate your serious allegations for my knowledge. You are also implying that Taliban were created by ISI for political gains. Any student of history can testify that it is CIA who came with the idea, Saudis provided the money, USA the weapons and Pakistan under Zia made a fatal mistake to give their tactical and moral support. Zia, Saudis and USA did that because they could not get involved directly but wanted a proxy to do their dirty job. Taliban in FATA has been cruel to civilians and killed lots of people but they have done that in other parts of Pakistan too. People in FATA are Pakistanis and when the military moved in to eject Taliban, many local people rejoiced. I saw lots of Western TV coverage where not one of the displaced persons blamed the military. It is true that many people were homeless but Pak army had waited too long to avoid civilian causalities.

    You live in Oslo, I understand. How do you say that FATA people blame Pakistan military? As an academic, you can only claim such a broad brush view if you have done a field study of the area, visited refugee camps or have any empirical proof.
    You are way off when you say that FATA continues to be used and abused as a strategic space by the security establishment of Pakistan in violent pursuit of strategic depth in Afghanistan or remind the youth that people all over FATA hold the generals of the Pakistan Army more than the Taliban responsible for the death and destruction in their area.

    You are presenting FATA as an independent country which is invaded by Pak army. FATA is part of Pakistan and army of Pakistan has all legitimate rights to enter the area to destroy militants, terrorists and Taliban. Army is there to defend Pakistan borders against India or Afghanistan. By the way, you know well that all countries have their interests –geo-political and economic.
    I am sorry that my comment became an essay but I hope that you would be more serious and detailed in your future analyse of sensitive issues.
    Kind regards
    Bashy Quraishy
    Chair-Advisory Council-ENAR – Brussels
    Chair-Jewish Muslim Co-operation Platform – Brussels
    President -European Muslims for Social cohesion – Strasbourg
    Mobile; 0045 40 15 47 71
    Phone; 0045 38 88 19 77

  • Dear Bashy Quraishy
    i really do,t like to comment on people view but this time i really feel to add some thing on your comment about the Farhat Taj article`s “Zaid Hamid and strategic depth” i am not a writer or any journalist so apology for any mistake in writing. i belong from FATA and almost all my family still live in FATA, i absolutely agree with the Farhat`s article and her view about the people of FATA, she is absolutely right and this is undeniable fact and the reality on ground. As resident of FATA i know what is going on infect behind the scene, we have seen the killing of innocent people by our own army, they do air strike on populated area killing women and children like Israel did in Gaza but i never heard they killed any leadership of any taliban group. can anybody tell me have they killed or captured any top taliban leader so far in all these operation? we have witnessed that so many time they have got clear opportunity to kill or capture these top leadership of taliban but they did not, because its against their strategy. this is absolutely a strategic gum and FATA is the real play ground for this war gum, who will win the gum, not clear but one thing clear people of FATA have to give their innocent blood for so many years.

  • Dear Abdali
    Thanks for the information concerning the sad killing of innocent people during Pak army operations in FATA.Of course, I do not deny that such incident happens but to compare it with Israeli killing in Gaza is totally misplaced. Pak army was forced to act in Swat abnd other tribal areas only after the Talebaén started their socalled Islamic justice and set up an alternative government.
    Please do not tell me that Army has not killed or captured number of top Taleban leaders. What about Bait Ullah Masuad and his deputies. After operations in FATA Taleban have lost their momentum.Thanks to Pak army. I think also that there is a game being played in Afghanistan by the USA, India, Russia and other players but it is not about FATA. It is about geopolitical influence, resources and political power.
    By the way, all Pakistan is suffering from USA policies and not only FATA.
    I hope that I have made myself clear.
    Kind regards
    Bashy Quraishy