On the anniversary of Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, December 27, 2007, I am submitting my first published essay in Let Us Build Pakistan. The article compared the recently murdered Governor Taseer, to Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto’s resolve for democracy.
Benazir Bhutto and Salman Taseer both respected and had just criticism of the U.S., but, both shared an admiration for the U.S. Constitution.
From the U.S. Declaration of Independence, written by Thomas Jefferson :
“the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them…We hold these truths to be self-evident [“self-evident “ edited in by Benjamin Franklin], tht all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among those are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
We, in the U.S. took a long time to contend with the evils of slavery, and then Jim Crow, and finally Civil Rights, so it is a process and a tough journey. The forefathers sacrifices and Pakistan’s forefathers, Quaid e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Sir Muhammad Iqbal, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto sacrifices initially were those of liberty in much the same way, with the faults of men, but their intentions against all odds unrelenting for liberties, pluralism, and a reversal of restrictive laws from misguided interpretations from religious text- in our case, the witch hunts, in yours today, Blasphemy Laws, and other oppressions of minorities- must be rid.
Benazir Bhutto was a martyr of the true order of those that give their lives for their principles fighting against impediments to God-given liberties also reflected in our Constitution and Declaration of Independence,
Most of what I wrote a year ago, applies today, I repost it again lest we forget the sacrifices of Benazir Bhutto and Governor Taseer.
Not unlike Benazir Bhutto, Governor Taseer was martyred because of his belief in a secular and democratic Pakistan – by Rusty Walker
The Tragic Murder of Governor Taseer
The cold-blooded killing of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer once again illustrates the vulnerability of the government of Pakistan and its top political figures. The whole world is once again watching in horror. The tragedy also serves to warn us that it only takes one misguided fanatic who may even come from the very security agencies we provide. Mumtaz Qadri belonged to an elite police force tasked with protecting Taseer. Qadri is just one of many radicals that can, and do, emerge from nowhere in opposition to the establishment or a rival group. In Qadri’s case he was against the blasphemy laws carrying the death sentence for insulting the Muslim faith.
The guards were apparently provided by the PML N-lead Punjab provincial government which may have roots that spread to the Taliban. It is time to face realities, and shed the endemic “political correctness” we find here in our cities. We must conduct operations against the cancer of collusion that left unchecked is metastasizing. There were signs. Only a few days before his assassination Taseer warned of leakage of Khawaja Sharif’s murder plot report, by a PML-N activist, and cited the development as a plot against democracy. Taseer hinted that the Chief Minister’s Secretary, Shahbaz Sharif, is involved in the disclosure and his intention to have the Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry “set up a special judicial commission to probe the report.” Such political intrigue is common, and a warning sign to careful observers.
Was the murder a conspiracy or, just one lone zealot? Was the PML-N also involved in Taseer’s assassination? No one knows, but a swift and deep investigation needs to occur, unlike the pseudo-investigation of the assassination of Benizir Bhutto which died on the vine, and is still unsolved.
This loss of the highest-profile Pakistani political figure to be assassinated since Benazir Bhutto three years ago, and underscores the difficulty in protecting our political figures against extremists. It is alarming to note that Taseer was considered a moderate. Last month Taseer came out in support of Aasia Bibi, who allegedly insulted the prophet Muhammad, and apparently lost his life over what Qadri called, the ‘black law.” Perhaps out of fear of religiopolitical groups, in recent months most politicians have been silent on the matter, even within the PPP. The silence is pathological within the governmental system. Exceptions to this pathology of political correctness, were the voices in the wilderness of Governor Taseer and Sherry Rehman. One hopes Rehman has more adequate protection. The Blasphemy Law debates held publically in the media have inflamed religious extremists.
There is also the larger issue that the Blasphemy Law is a 1977 legacy of General Zia-ul-Haq, who gave in to radical Islamic demands for Sharia Law. The existence of Islamic Law might have had a place in ancient tribes, but inserted into a modern democratic, secular government it becomes an anachronism with more potential for settling scores or targeting minorities, than impeding the few would-be blasphemers. Instead the goal should be an equal protection under the law of Pakistani secular community; the protection of religious sects and minorities in order to foster a culture of pluralism.
In the final analysis it is the different interpretations of Islam within the Muslim Ummah that is at issue. The Ummah can perpetuate terrorism, or, instead, promote tolerance between the spectre of extremism and the tradition of moderation. In concert with the religious community, the government, together with the media and educational institutions, can play a role towards early education in the deep state, attention to the economically disenfranchised, and increased face-to-face dialogue in an effort to remove barriers between religious sects, and create a greater understanding and tolerance within the religious community.
We must reach the young and the impoverished, before the radicals do. It is essential to let them know we have their best interests at heart. This is only possible if that, in fact, is the case. It is easy to turn against the establishment, see only the corruption and ignore the positives, but this is a process. The enormous gap between the educated and the uneducated, literate and illiterate, and the haves and have-nots create such radicalization while the city sleeps.
Political Correctness and Erroneous Conventional Wisdom
Political Correctness allows a deceptive business-as-usual calm between violent acts in the bustling cities of Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, while the deep state stirs with violent thoughts; the disenfranchised, the uneducated are silently recruited into al Qaeda and affiliates, and the new generation of terrorist acronyms grow and boggle the mind: LeJ, LeT, LeO, JeM, HuM, TTP et. al.. These groups, as if working outside the control of military or government, are the cancer within Pakistan; Pakistani Taliban, Afghan Taliban, and other militant groups based in FATA and NWFP, all share logistical support for attacks on cities in Punjab province and elsewhere. The economically challenged and neglected provinces create the very environment that tears at Pakistan’s internal organs, spawning BLA secessionist groups in southwest Balochistan.
In the cities, terrorists walk among us, youthful minds are indoctrinated and radicalized, intelligentsia is silent, and only a few brave journalists and news organizations are courageous enough to tell the truth. While, the next suicide or assassination mission provides the next headline. Thus, the status quo is a false harmony that allows us to ignore the subterranean involvement of ISI, the Pakistani security establishment, reprisals of rival political groups, and some military factions that then continue their own dangerous and self-defeating ploys. In fact, the Pakistanis, the Taliban, the Ummah, and the United States are all being manipulated for short term goals risking long-term national and world catastrophe. The escalation of violence last year in the major cites, and now the Taseer tragedy, is evidence of what Political Correctness and the errant Conventional Wisdom has to offer us: further violence meant to corrode our confidence in ourselves, and grow the terrorist mindset.
These disingenuous forces utilize Islamofascism for its own questionable gamesmanship over misguided notions of “Strategic Depth,” Af/Pak goals, the Kasimir chess game, obsession over India, and cultivation of internal terrorism to control the population. Even recently, the violent disruption by rival sects’ in the Mourning of Muharram religious processions, and now assassination against political rivals, have become the expected norm and contributes to the control and silence of the population and government establishment by fear tactics. The security establishment hidden in plain sight supports the Taliban, through misleading categories of “Good Taliban,” and Bad Taliban,” and related Jihadi groups as future assets to be used in the region to take out secular and progressive politicians like BB and Zardari to the detriment of this globally significant and nuclear state.
Political Correctness disallows intellectual and respectful dissent. The United States, unfortunately, is no different in its Political Correctness that trumps meaningful discussion and therefore allows erroneous Conventional Wisdom to assume too much and thus, miss the truth. Conventional Wisdom allows the historical ambiguities to exist without question: The United States and the Western World often believes it seeks democracy and supports democracy. And yet, forms alliances with oppressive regimes out of expediency. Democracies were actually developing in turn of the century Egypt, when the British supported autocratic leaders, in an effort to protect the Suez Canal, the pathway to the “Jewel” of Great Britain, India; Persia had elected democratic leaders, but duplicitous Shahs replaced by CIA-support, resulting in a radical back-lash leading to the Iranian revolution. Many of the people outside Washington are unaware of that United States has a history of alliances with supporters of terrorism. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia pays and plays with a double edged sword supported by the U.S.. Support of Saddam in Iraq against Iran in the 80s, and support of the Taliban against the Soviets are examples. The invasion of Iraq over alleged WMDs was later spun into a “belief” in removal of a tyrant, and “liberation.” Still, private contractors converged on Iraq, instead of Iraqi labor force that cultivated resentment due to the Iraqi high unemployment; the best of intentions can be ruined by political correctness. KSA funds terrorist groups and radical Madrassas as the American people are silenced by the Political Correct notion of “allies” in the Islamic world.
It becomes a more dangerous world when the most powerful nation on the globe can be misled by rival Islamic nations. The successive presidents, Bush and Obama, work with different methodology, and a sincere belief in what they do. But both hold an similar naïveté that results in short term action without long term strategic planning. An example is the fact that KSA promotes dissention against President Zardari. Let us acknowledge the existence of rumors of corruption within the government. This government nonetheless, has the potential to build Pakistan where the former military autocratic government has already proven fostered nothing but force and imposed violence. The KSA meanwhile, encourages the U.S. to work with the military leaders and ISI (Bush once asked “Who’s in charge of the ISI?). Currently this is compromising Pakistan’s strategic depth. It also compromises the mutual goals of U.S. and Pakistan in the need for control in Afghanistan. The balance of power throughout the Middle East, South Asian Subcontinent is at stake. None of this should dash the hopes for our future. The terrorists will not win. But, the time it takes to defeat them, the amount of violence in between, is what is relevant. There is still the very real strategic value of the U.S. and Pakistan alliance.
Nevertheless, currently, the Obama administration is hopelessly naïve in understanding the dynamics of the Islamic world. That became obvious early on when Obama hired Dalia Mogahed as an advisor. Obama, during his speech last year in Egypt proved that when he ended up embarrassingly, and unwittingly, supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, by ignoring the reformist movements across the Muslim world. While he was endeavoring to tacitly apologize for past American strategic blunders, and bond with the Ummah, his hesitant methods are instead confusing the issues further. Our current administration is in the process of attempting to not only “reset” relations with the Russians, but also with the Islamic community. Pakistan is a major part of this component. And, make no mistake about it, the America may look weak in such inept attempts at “Reconciliation,” but remains a powerful nation, and willing ally to Pakistan.
Americans are trying to understand and sympathize with Islam and find it difficult to question the religion, in any way, particularly the Left. So, it is easy for wordsmiths such as Mogahed, to pretend to speak for Islam, while avoiding the actual laws of Sharia, history of jihad, oppression of women and minorities, the need for Democratic principles of pluralism, or equal rights to stop in-fighting of Islamic sects. And, so such radicals as Mogahed remain, adding to the confusion. The Administration cannot seem to fathom that the security establishment supported by a duplicitous military, is working against their aims. Certainly, Zardari leadership is given a bad name by the Saudi lobby. But, Saudi Arabia is different scandalous story. A story of funding of Wahhabi Madrassas in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, undermining Zardari with U.S. officials, all the while, perpetuating the suppression of basic liberties, free press and women’s rights within their own Royal oil-rich, manipulative country. We Americans are played by the Saudi’s just as are the other Muslim countries. Muslim against Muslim, is no more going to advance civilization, than the West against Muslim.
If actions speak louder than words, then I doubt that Obama understands that General Kayani is destabilizing Pakistan’s “Strategic Depth” and undermining the democratically elected civilian government. Why Obama cannot see this can be left to speculation. Kayani has obviously avoided action against al Qaeda in sanctuary in the non-tribal areas. I have read many detailed reports from Ali Chrishti’s Daily Times and here at LUBP and many other international news agencies. The Army and the ISI have managed to create an illusion that Zardari instead of Gen.Kayani is responsible for US Drones. So, he remains in favor with the needed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) or Afghan Taliban (here, such mischief becomes a caricature of itself by the notion of trying to control a “Good Taliban, and “Bad Taliban”), al Qaeda, LeJ, LeT, et al.
Since Gen. Kayani took over, obviously, terrorists feel a safer haven in the non-tribal areas than under Musharraf. Gen. Petreaus (and his predecessor Gen. McChrystal) I believe know the difference, as both have expressed distrust of General Kayani. They are very much aware of the Pakistani Army playing both sides, but need their still assistance to contain terrorists in North Waziristan. But, civilian leadership in the U.S. directs the military, and so much is to decided in the next American election.
Is it any wonder the American president is “clueless” when the Pakistani people themselves may have trouble sorting out the divisive games. This is a dangerous environment where assassinations occur over such simple ideological differences as “Blasphemy Laws,” that inflame passions and unnecessarily divide and weaken the populous by pitting secular against religious, when they should be working together. The reign of terrorism condoned by inaction by the security establishment has increased in Lahore, murder is up in Karachi, Islamabad is no safer, and Northern Wasiristan is becoming no-man’s land, even for the indigenous tribes, while neglected Baluchistan rights are ignored and is festering. This in itself is encouraging radicalism. Political double-talk continues: PPP and MQM political gamesmanship, diverse ethnic groups of Karachi with fascist roots; Sharif brothers bide their time; and the educated middle class and the elite, tacitly collaborate with the security establishment.
Perhaps, an brief example of how confusing things can be happened during the recent flood: Zardari travelled to London at the height of the flood, was understandably chastised, but, then it turned out he was mending fences and getting huge foreign aid to help the flood issue– who knew? Lack of communication? Another, is the myth that one can either be pro-PPP or anti-PPP, nothing in between. Many believe that youthful minds are being depolitisized and thus prevented from taking an effective position and engaging with the masses. As a friends put it, “One can be MQM or PPP or ANP or whatever else, but one should at least take a stand and be clear. ”
This is not an easy nation to separate out, who are the villains, and who are the real Pakistani establishment for the people. Certainly, the readership of this news outlet are the educated exception. My hope for Pakistan is that you can all help educate the rest of us, as I vow to do in the United States.
I understand that the feeling in Pakistan might be that it is too late. Consider Kashmir itself: That even if Kashmir were to fall into Pakistani territory, the potential for imposition of strict Islamic radicalism within Kashmir is high, if things were to continue in the current path. However, I am suggesting that things could get worse if one abandons hope of turning the tide against these insidious groups spawned and nurtured by the security establishment; that if the military were to decide to eradicate the terrorist groups, then the result would be a spike in terrorist reprisals; one writer cited it might bring a “blood bath.”
And, consider this: Aren’t we already in a “blood bath?” It might be tempting to roll over and submit to terrorist groups that have for so long, essentially blackmailed the peaceful people of Pakistan, including the government itself. It took a while for this hostage situation to develop; I am not suggesting it be easy, or immediate, to eradicate a cancer that has been allowed to spread. But, I do know that doing nothing, and hoping for change, invites a cancer to metastasize.
But, there is strength in numbers. Pakistan is still a developing nation. The whole world is watching. Pakistan has some of the most intelligent and industrious minds in the world. Isn’t it possible that a ‘new” intelligentsia (lawyers, jurists, professionals, et. al.) can come together and begin such a movement, by replacing the current intelligentsia-dilettantes that instead have chosen to play both sides? A grassroots beginning, working within the system and outside the system, including elections, pressure on government, and a free press that exposes corruption is a good start.
Why do the good die young? Authoritarian regimes use their shadow government resources to hush truth brought by saints we rarely recognize at the time. It is our responsibility to never forget, and to build upon the legacy of such great souls. There is always a chance for national paradigm shift from a growing grassroots organization if they can become resilient enough. What if secular and religious forces realized their similar quest of freedom of tradition, thought and right to economic status? Differences do not have to cause conflict.
Mass education, democracy and economic reform will raise the marginalized lower strata into a growing middle class. Professionals, civil society, human rights activists, judicial activists, journalists/ media bonding together with reform minded Islamic scholars and secular intellectuals can be a powerful force against those in government, military and security forces that thrive on the “chaos.” So many sects and provinces seem to be marginalized by the state, which plays to the extremists. Secular dictators are no better or worse than religious dictators.
I do not presume to have all the answers, but is has occurred to me in my studies that secular and religious intellectuals, professionals and educators, press and legal community need to come together. How do authoritarians manage to keep power in Pakistan? By pitting Muslim against Muslim? “Divide and conquer,” retains control, encourages the shadow government corruption. Exaggerating the differences, rather than realizing the commonalities of family, economic and ethical imperatives, allows those in power to manufacture dissent between brothers. Where are the secular trained religious scholars that can interpret the Quran with reasonable debate against extremist interpretations? Iqbal’s ijtihad is perfectly compatible with Islamic progress. If Islamic interpretation is the Quran’s alone, who are the extremists to presume to hold interpretation hostage, and indulge in an endless war with differing sects? A needless jihad against the West? To what end? It is a waste of resources.
Social, economic and educational activists pressuring corrupt officials, and demanding a revision of infrastructure for the people of all walks of life is the business at hand, not jihad, and not assassination.
It is also incumbent upon us as supporter of Pakistan and future Islamic and Western alliances to study the harmful effects of Saudi funded US Muslim groups like CAIR, ISNA, (both of which are un-indicted co-conspirators of terror as per US courts), ICNA, MSA . These crafty organizations create a false sense of victimhood, and build upon the confusion to insert their potentially lethal agendas.
Long live the memory of Governor Salman Taseer, and long live the memory of Benazir Bhutto; both believed in a secular government; a democratic “power of the people,” pluralism, education for the disenfranchised, and for this, they were martyred.