Original Articles

Pakistan’s fake liberals and their campaign against Professor Hoodbhoy – by Rusty Walker

When commentary by supposedly progressive liberals representing Pakistan continue to mislead the public, as they present themselves as liberal voices of truth, they deserve to be challenged. While I don’t usually focus analysis specifically around Pakistani establishment press, the recent and needless assaults by Ejaz Haider on a thoughtful essay by the brilliant Professor Pervez Amirali Hoodbhoy was too much.

In fact, Ejaz Haider, Hamid Mir, together with Taliban sympathetic rhetoric from Imran Khan, and, Jinnah Institute (JI) report  run by Ejaz Haider and Sherry Rehman, keep re-surfacing. The outrage begins to beckon for someone to speak out in defense of true progressive thought versus fake-liberal establishment press that is obfuscating important issues. I’ll make an attempt here to shed some light into the darkness of pretenders, and later, expose their blatant misrepresentation.

Recently, Pakistan’s respected scientist and peace activist Dr. Prof. Pervez Amirali Hoodbhoy wrote an insightful essay. Professor Hoodbhoy, who is from Islamabad, is a Pakistani nuclear physicist, essayist and political-defence analyst. A PhD from MIT, he is the professor of nuclear and high-energy physics, and the head of the Physics Department at the Quaid-e-Azam University (QAU). Professor Hoodbhoy is also an environmental and social activist and avid supporter for peaceful use of nuclear technology in the world today. As if that were not enough, he is also a gentleman with peaceful insights.

His article, “Let us become – proudly – bayghairat”does not take the tone of someone who has no honor (bayghairat), but rather challenges the current leaders and political figures given to inflamed discourse (Imran Khan comes to mind) that invoke a nationalistic sense of passion and hyped-patriotism. This style is often used as it was by totalitarians, and men of lesser infamy, including a group of  present politicians to elevate ghairat (honour) as the focus of a platform of national unity, so as to distract from the more difficult proposition of addressing people’s needs, which are then pushed aside; i.e., reducing unemployment, increasing literacy levels, urban and rural planning, elevating the poor, or simply providing electricity.  It is a rather self-inflating feeling to declare that it is ghairat to challenge America, by suggesting Pakistanis are saving their “honor,” by rejecting the notion of USAID given to them, as “breaking the chains of slavery,” rather than admitting where the USAID has greatly assisted, after floods for just one example. Rather than being a matter of honor, USAID had been improperly diverted to military means, that was meant for Pakistani citizens. Focusing instead on how to stop such internal corruption, and  misuse of incoming funds from allies would serve the country better.

Dr. Hoodbhoy states: “The more morally and intellectually bankrupt a leader, the louder he thunders about qaumi ghairat (national honour).” Imran Khan and Hamid Gul would be among those that use this as a political ploy to incite passions over pragmatism. He further, cited a question he posed years ago to Pakistani military officers on the point of when “in their opinion, would warrant the use of nuclear weapons by Pakistan.” Their answer was “only defensively,” unless, that is, the “Pakistan Army faces defeat. We cannot allow ourselves to be dishonoured.” Thus, ghairat would allow destruction regardless of how much both sides would lose.

The point of the article then is not that we no longer should consider “ghairat” honour, null and void, and clearly in his theme where he states himself to be proudly “Bayghairat,” anyone with any sense reading the essay understands the context of ghairat that was using today, could lead to nuclear destruction.

Instead of taking Professor Hoodbhoy’s sage advice,  Pakistan’s pro-establishment pseudo-liberals activated a young writer namely Maria Waqar to launch a petty critique. Her Master’s degree in political science from National University of Singapore notwithstanding, Maria Waqar struck me as an example of a student-level intellect taking opportunistic jabs at her professor. This is easy to do when you have the luxury of a fully published article and can pick and choose what to misrepresent. One can address statements out of context and intentionally misunderstand and distort towards one’s own purposes- which is what she was doing in this article, May 14, The Express Tribune:

Maria Waqar claims Dr Hoodbhoy discounts any possibility that a “distinction between empty talk of sacred norms, like honour, by manipulative politicians and their actual strategic motives can exist.” Then, in her pretense of deduction she comes up with something completely unrelated: “Deducing by his logic, then, the US intervened in Afghanistan and Iraq during the new millennium not for strategic interests but for the sake of bestowing freedom and liberty to the local population. And more than a decade later, we are perfectly aware of the rampant destruction of life and property that American presence has inflicted on both countries — all of which befell, according to Dr Hoodbhoy’s rationale, at the behest of normative considerations.”

Excuse me, Ms. Waqar, but Dr. Hoodbhoy said nothing of the kind. Indeed, Bush actually was under considerable ghairat, after 9/11, and both the attack on Afghanistan ( instead of, perhaps a more well-thought out covert ops directly on al Qaeda), and the 2003 invasion of Iraq suggests in retrospect something perhaps very much like Dr. Hoodbhoy’s thesis of ghairat, when one calculates, not the mis-information of WMD, but the actions behind the scenes of cabinet members Paul Wolfowitz, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld insistence on attacking a brash, defiant Saddam, if not ghairat, then something close to it- bravado. In her apparent stand for religion and ghairat, she concludes that Dr. Hoodbhoy would, or should “denounce liberal values of liberty and freedom —‘fruits of the modern world’— for such rampant devastation and death” instead of blaming “traditional notions like honour and religion [he never mentions religion] for causing widespread suffering. Yet, to do the same for liberal values is considered absurd. For the lack of a convincing argument to do otherwise, I will hang onto my ghairat — at least, for now.”  Her smug point here is Western values are to blame, not honour, and her insertion of religion is telling – how about radicalized religion? The Salafist use  ghairat to the youth in their Madrassas- and that, is Dr. Hoodbhoy’s deeper point, cursing honor that is hyped just for the sake of inflaming passions.

Probably sensing that Ms. Waqar’s sophomoric effort did nothing to dent the popularity of Prof Hoodhoy’s writing, the favored journalist of the ISPR variety, Ejaz Haider decided to take the driver’s seat and launched an additional attack, not only out of context, but rather ISI/military-friendly, adverse to any thought of not being ghairat. In “The Pardox reigns Supreme,” Ejaz Haider, mocks Dr. Hoodbhoy from the start, suggesting, “Such are the binaries in this country that we can either be shamelessly ghairatmand or proudly bay-ghairat.”

I disagree with Haider. Dr. Hoodbhoy, in giving such a choice, is merely suggesting the differences on the extreme of the spectrum. Why intentionally miss the point so we can make someone wrong? This is strawmanning at its most petty level and displays a deep rooted insecurity on Mr. Haider’s part.

I find Ejaz Haider’s articles crafted to display intelligence, rather than a byproduct of intelligence, which, no doubt he is; also, thoroughly arrogant, his article is a pedantic ramble. He is more concerned with put-downs and obscure references that serve only to draw ego-driven attention to his wider reading. In his praise of Maria Waqar, he and she isolate his apt references to tribal issues with “Ghairat” as “problems in Hoodbhoy’s thesis… that both Germany and Japan, when they were swayed by nationalist ideologies, were highly industrialised nations, not herding communities.” Indeed. How about reading for meaning! Anyone who is aware of the misogynistic roots of “honor killings” illustrates, tribal, as well as industrialized nations, are guilty of ghairat as a reason for revenge, hate crimes, and in the context of Dr. Hoodhbhoy, he fears its use could include the misuse of nuclear force.

Ejaz Haider goes on, “Waqar also made the subtle point about how “liberal”values can and have brought much destruction.” I would argue, as I am sure Dr. Hoodbhoy would, that singling out “liberal’ was odd, when, all forms of social organization are guilty of violence – military, religious, liberal, fascist, et. al., are guilty of death and destruction, no classification goes unlisted in historical atrocities. So, are we to believe with the slights singled out for liberals by Waqar and Haider, that Ejaz Haider is indeed the liberal, the “anti-establishment” as his friends claim him to be; or, is the closeness to the ISI/Pakistan military starting to register more clearly.

Ejaz Haider continues, “Perhaps unknowingly she pointed to the same paradox Albert Camus did when he tried to figure out how and why we have to wade through bloodshed even when we want to achieve the state of innocence, the story of 20th century that has continued to wit.” Impressive, getting Camus in there, though awkward. It did serve his pseudo-intellectual style, of confusing issues with a literary quote unrelated to the article, while showing off his unwarranted disdain for Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy.

Both of them miss the valid point of the distinguished mind of Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy, in his attempt to put perspective to the concept of “honor” and how it can be used or misused. It is easy for critics to come in later and exaggerate for their own pathetic and misguided agendas. Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy’s example of the British sense of blind loyalty in the “Charge of the Light Brigade” being the most effective illustration of the lethal, appalling and senseless damage that can be done by blind honor- “do or die” – “my country right or wrong,” ghairat – mentality. “The Charge of the Light Brigade, during the Crimean War of 1854, he reminds us of “wave after wave of honour-charged British soldiers rode their horses into the mouths of Russian guns which, of course, promptly mowed them down. Tennyson later immortalised the slain men in his famous poem: ‘All the world wonder’d. Honour the charge they made! Honour the Light Brigade.’”

Beautiful prose? Or, innocents running to their meaningless deaths? Probably both. I ask you to decide: if young men rushing to their deaths for ghairat is worth it? I can tell you that today’s U.S. generals are very unlike the 19th century British in this regard. American commanders today use strategy and caution, and are more careful with our military fathers and sons sent in to battle. The esprit de corps, or the spirit of comradeship, enthusiasm, and devotion to a common cause or goal among the military is valid precisely because it does not use ghairat as a raison d’être for mindless honor killing. I would hope that Pakistani Army commanders would not misuse ghairat against India over Kashmir; or, the way both sides used ghairat in the 1980s Iranian-Iraqis war, another useless killing field, when both sides lost most of their military-age youth as they threw them into the front lines for ghairat; So many killed in the spirit of honor that they needed to start calling up men in their 50s and 60s for replacements. It is Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy’s article that has compelled me to reflect on such things.

This is not the first time that Professor Hoodbhoy has been targeted by those who value a warped, tribal sense of honour over sanity and rationality.  When he criticized the Taliban, Professor Hoodhoy was alleged to be,  by a witless Imran Khan unable to counter the Professer, an “American security advisor” (see 3:20):

During the interval of that show, Professor Hoodbhoy was challenged with physical violence as per a later interview by him:

http://www.viewpointonline.net/tv-debates-progressive-should-boycott.html

All this occurred on a TV show anchored by Hamid Mir; a controversial Pro-Taliban, anti-Ahmadi, anti-Shia bigot who is being actively promoted as the torch bearer of good journalism by some of Pakistan’s “liberal” journalists.  Unfortunately for Pakistan’s media, Hamid Mir and Ejaz Haider are both part of the same security establishment propaganda nexus that needs to be examined to see why any dissenting view like that of Professor Hoodbhoy is relentlessly attacked.

The Jinnah Institute-Friday Times Nexus

Not incidentally, Ejaz Haider is a leading member and now head of the Jinnah Institute, the instrument that misguides both Pakistan people and U.S. leaders. Ejaz Haider along with Sherry Rehman reflected much of the will of General Kayani in this Jinnah Institute (JI) report and the related testimony to Congress by Moeed Yusuf of the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP). In the report, the U.S. subsequently was influenced into granting credence to negotiation with the Taliban and accommodating Mullah Omar and Haqqani network Post NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2012.

Even as the massacres of Shia Muslim were occurring- September 2011 in Mastung (Balochistan), and later in February 2012 in Kohistan (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), continued into April 2012 in Chilas (Gilgit Baltistan). These reports continue to encourage top US officials, not the least of whom is Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who now believes negotiating with Taliban representatives can be effective. Many of these same “negotiators” for Taliban are tied to the banned extremist Deobandi group Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (currently operating as Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat ASWJ) – the same group that ordered passenger buses to stop near Chilas, and were subsequently murdered in cold blood as part of a ISI/Pak-army ignored/ or approved of, Shia genocidal solution.

Violence by the same groups and splinter groups, in Karachi, and Peshawar continue by the self-admitted LeJ-SSP who are linked to the ISI. This committee that wrote the JI report was a self-anointed “foreign policy elite.” It was in fact nothing less than an ISI/Pakistan military mutual admiration society. When the United States President, Secretary of State, and Secretary of Defense, congress and various US think tanks read these reports from Moeed Yusuf, Shuja Nawaz, Ejaz Haider, Hamid Mir and 53 other contributors of the JI report, they are hearing the views of General Kayani, General Pasha and the high command of the Pakistan Army and ISI- they are not hearing the will of the Pakistani elected government nor its citizens – token participation not withstanding.

Ultimately, via misrepresentation, this sophisticated, outwardly liberal group of journalists is misguiding two governments, Pakistan and the United States; a third would be Afghanistan. In its sly effectiveness the emerging communication becomes worse than the Right-wing Urdu media press at misrepresentation. These voices might resonate with western leaders, as they are believed to be coming from trusted sources with mutual interests. In fact, Western allies are unaware that it is generated from sympathies within the  Pakistani Army, ISI and Supreme Court.  This is the narrative that the Deep State uses to protect its Jihadi-sectarian militants Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, i.e., Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat /ASWJ-SSP. The fear of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Lashkar-e-Taiba, SSP-ASWJ and Taliban (Wahhabi-Deobandi militants) turning on Pakistan, keeps the Pak Army at arm’s length, thus the silence on the Shia massacres. There is more silence, in fact, the kill and dump of Balochs, and the blind eye of the security forces and authorities in Karachi political and ethnic-based killings.

In Pakistan there is an inter-connected group that includes Ejaz Haider, Najam Sethi, Nasim Zehra, Umar Cheema, Cyril Almeida,  Sherry Rehman, Mosharraf Zaidi and Hamid Mir who variously portray themselves as “independent: “anti-establishment” and “liberal”.  They thrive because they perpetuate each other’s interests and prop each other up by obsequious praises for each other instead of honest  due-diligence required of proper analysis. On various occasions, the few honest writers in Pakistan also fall in the trap of coming across as sycophants for this dishonest lot as tribal and financial interests dictate such sycophancy.

This Jinnah Institue-Friday Times “liberal” Mafia also include military establishment spokespeople that advise U.S. Think Tanks and Congress. Apparently Moeed Yusuf, Imtiaz Gul and Shuja Nawaz’s job is to misrepresent and obfuscate crucial issues.  The noxious effects of their propaganda are far reaching and the hatchet job against Professor Hoodhoy is just the latest example of their intellectual dishonesty.  In Pakistan, few writers, if any wants to take on this dishonest group of writers and “analysts.  Najam Sethi, Ejaz Haider’s former editor at the Friday Times and current collegue at the Jinnah Institute is a prime example of this intellectual dishonesty.  On a nightly basis, “we regurgitate,” as per his own admission, the views fed to him by his much-celebrated bird (Chiriya).  These views often consist of a mixture of security establishment agendas that are carefully peppered with a mixture of truths, half-truths and wishful thinking, suavely presented as the “liberal” viewpoint.  They are not the true liberal viewpoint. Needless to say, they are intermixed with Sethi’s ethnic bias, chauvinist diatribes and a bitter anti-PPP spin.

I would recommend reading this critical view on Sherry Rehman’s elitist report on Afghanistan – by Khanzada Achackzai

Overseen by Sherry Rehman, here is my own related essay on the misleading Jinnah Institute (JI) report – This is Part II of “Pakistan’s Future: of Misleading reports and false prophets”- by Rusty Walker https://lubpak.net/archives/58267

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Additional sources related to this essay:

This is what Dr. Taqi, a Pakistan-American wrote about Ejaz Haider’s misrepresentation of Shia Genocide:

http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?277951

Refer to their Taliban advocacy report which was deconstructed at LUBP:

Liberal façade of strategic depth — I —Farhat Taj

https://lubpak.net/archives/57730

Debate on USIP-JI report on Afghanistan and Moeed Yusuf’s testimony to US Congress – by Marvi Sirmed

Previously LUBP had published a satirical piece when Ejaz Haider was defending Hafiz Saeed just weeks ago Ejaz Haider’s brilliant legalistic defense for DPC leader, Hafiz Saeed – by Riaz Malik

Of false Prophets and their recipe for Disaster (Part I)-Rusty Walker

https://lubpak.net/archives/57762

Pakistan’s Future: Of misleading reports and false prophets (Part II)-Rusty Walker

https://lubpak.net/archives/58267

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About the author:

About the author: Rusty Walker is an Independent Political Analyst, educator, author, Vietnam veteran-era U.S. Air Force, from a military family, retired college professor, former Provost (Collins College, U.S.A.), artist, musician and family man. Mr. Walker is an ardent supporter of Pakistan. Here is a link to Mr. Walker’s other articles published on LUBP: https://lubpak.net/archives/tag/rusty-walker

About the author

Rusty Walker

About the author: Rusty Walker is a world-travelled, Independent Political Analyst, educator, author, Vietnam veteran-era U.S. Air Force, from a military family, retired college professor, former Provost (Collins College, U.S.A.), artist, musician and family man. Rusty Walker is an ardent supporter of Pakistan.

16 Comments

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  • Excellent job by Mr. Walker who exposed fake liberal proxies of Pakistan military establishment in Jinnah Institute and The Friday Times.

  • Linking Jinnah Institute with Army and calling those who differ with Hoodbhoy as intellectually dishonest is not a good piece of journalism. Rusty needs to be more patient and respect others opinion

  • @Sohaib

    Jinnah Institute is, for all practical purposes, an extension of the ISPR. ISI’s propagandists need to be exposed not respected.

  • Excellent Article, the tragedy is it takes a foreigner to defend right vs wrong. Just goes to show how decrepit we are as a nation….

  • This article was an eye opener. I was waiting for Express Tribune to publish something to counter the pathetic diatribe of the pompous Ejaz Haider. Kudos to Rusty Walker for writing a detailed analysis on this.

  • Abdul Nishapuri ‏@AbdulNishapuri
    #FACT: 95% of those blaming PPP for the one day #TwitterBan kept silent on permanent ban on #Baloch websites by Pakistan army.

    Abdul Nishapuri ‏@AbdulNishapuri
    Liberal Ejaz Haider and “Silence of the Liberal Lambs” http://criticalppp.com/archives/54940

    Abdul Nishapuri ‏@AbdulNishapuri
    Liberal Sethi: “It’s really quite simple. The PM Benazir Bhutto is leading this country to constitutional chaos and administrative mayhem.” http://t.co/jTuia6fH

    Abdul Nishapuri ‏@AbdulNishapuri
    That you are an apologist of Najam Sethi, Ejaz Haider and other pseudo-liberals is enough for us to doubt your liberal credentials.

    Marvi Sirmed ‏@marvisirmed
    @aamir_khan82 Don’t know who is @anjumkiani. But following @abdulnishapuri who often disappoints me by attacking liberals. And ONLY liberals

    Marvi Sirmed ‏@marvisirmed
    If we don’t give a chicken’s shit when they ask for our ‘patriotism’ certificate, we don’t want liberalism certificate Mr. @AbdulNishapuri

    @_R_Srikanth
    Let’s defend Ejaz Haider, the defender of Pakistan army!
    http://t.co/aUy9CEZN

  • As you read my article, please understand that I would never suggest that there is something inherently wrong with “patriotism,” or “honor.” I consider myself a patriot of the United States. It is the true patriot’s duty and right (in the US and in Pakistan) to recognize and constructively criticize one’s own nation’s mistakes in an effort to correct them (God knows we, the U.S., have made plenty of mistakes). We also have the right and responsibility to constructively criticize other countries, while still respecting those countries in their efforts at improving their lot. One of my Pakistani friends is a retired Brigadier in the Pakistani Army. We have a mutual respect for each other whether in agreement, or in disagreement. We have found, and remind ourselves that much of what we want, in the end, is the same: a non-corrupt government, a sensible and transparent foreign policy, prosperity, freedom, and the safety and security of our families. He is a man of honor, as I believe myself to be. So, there is nothing wrong with “honor.” We all should strive to be respected as honorable people. It is the misuse of these qualities, using passion without thought, in a histrionic fervour, which we should be mindful of.

    As for those observing the media, it is a difficult task for the public sometimes to ferret out the proselytizing pretenders, from the more transparent arbiters of truth. They masquerade as liberals,* so it is difficult to recognize the true progressive journalists. In particular, it is daunting, because the one’s to whom I refer in this essay are intelligent in their guile, they are subtle in their references, and clever in mixing just enough fact with fiction to obscure their alignment with PAk/ISI/Supreme Court agendas.

    Once again, consider Ejaz Haider who advocated AGAINST the Pashtun doctor who was instrumental in getting a mass murderer and international terrorist, OBL, is considered as liberal!

    [*My definition within my writings for LUBP of “progressive” or “ liberal” is similar, but different for Pakistan, than the U.S. term would be. That is, progressive liberal journalists defined in Pakistan terms are in my estimation, seekers of democratic freedoms, pluralism/ freedom of religion, protection for ethnic and religious minorities, goals of lifting education, literacy and economic levels in provinces, but especially in federally administered tribal areas, and the goal of insuring elected officials, your representatives in government, truly control domestic and foreign policy, military and national security apparatus.
    For these reasons I should be careful in terminology: in the United States, “Liberal” and “Conservative” do not have exactly the same meaning as in Pakistan, simply because our political, cultural and religious make-up is different; also, political parties in the U.S., Democrat, Libertarian, and Republican parties do not align with political parties of Pakistan. So, when I write in LUBP, and refer to “progressive liberal” it is in the context of Pakistan politics -which may have some similarities to the U.S., but have subtle differences.]

  • Capturing the Punjabi imagination: drones and “the noble savage” By Myra MacDonaldNovember 13, 2011

    Mohsin Hamid may have captured something rather interesting in his short story published this month by The Guardian. And it is not as obvious as it looks.

    In “Terminator: Attack of the Drone”, Hamid imagines life in Pakistan’s tribal areas bordering Afghanistan under constant attack from U.S. drone bombings. His narrator is one of two boys who go out one night to try to attack a drone.

    ”The machines are huntin’ tonight,” the narrator says. “There ain’t many of us left. Humans I mean. Most people who could do already escaped. Or tried to escape anyways. I don’t know what happened to ‘em. But we couldn’t. Ma lost her leg to a landmine and can’t walk. Sometimes she gets outside the cabin with a stick. Mostly she stays in and crawls. The girls do the work. I’m the man now.

    “Pa’s gone. The machines got him. I didn’t see it happen but my uncle came back for me. Took me to see Pa gettin’ buried in the ground. There wasn’t anythin’ of Pa I could see that let me know it was Pa. When the machines get you there ain’t much left. Just gristle mixed with rocks, covered in dust.”

    It is powerful stuff, told in the language of a black American slave in the style of Toni Morrison’s “Beloved”. It vividly captures the terror inspired by drones, and the helplessness of the people who live in the tribal areas. But is it true? And does it matter?

    In a discussion on Twitter, literary critic Faiza S. Khan, who tweets @BhopalHouse, argued that the story should be judged as a work of fiction rather than taken as reportage. A fair point. But what if we turn this around and consider the story as reportage, not of the tribal areas and the drones, but of the way these are imagined in Pakistan’s Punjabi heartland? As a writer who spends part of his time in Lahore, capital of Punjab, Hamid can be considered representative of at least part of that Punjabi imagination.

    We will return to the short story later, but first step back a bit and consider that the narrative gaining traction, at least in urban Punjab, is that the people of the tribal areas have been radicalised by American drone attacks. Pakistan’s rising political star, Imran Khan, attracted tens of thousands to a rally in Lahore last month with a version of this narrative. Stop the drones, and the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), or Pakistani Taliban, can be engaged in peace talks to end a wave of bombings across Pakistan.

    The simplicity of this narrative is beguiling. At a stroke it taps into the anti-Americanism prevalent in Pakistan and also promises peace. Yet it is incredibly problematic. Bear with me – this is not a defence of drones per se. The use of “machines” to fight a war is disturbing, as indeed is the use of snipers in their capacity for personalised targetting by an unseen hand. Emotionally, I would be far more scared of drones and snipers than I would be of artillery and airstrikes, even if I knew the latter two were more likely to kill me. And nor is it a defence of the way the United States has fought its war in Afghanistan – the risks of the Afghan war going wrong have been obvious from the start to anyone with a knowledge of history. But those are different subjects. This is about how the drone campaign is perceived in mainland Pakistan, and perhaps particularly in Punjab.

    The first problem with the narrative is that it slides over the fact that radicalisation in the tribal areas (and Pakistan as a whole) began long before the U.S. drone campaign. Many ascribe it to Pakistani support for the United States in backing the jihad against the Soviet Union after the Russians invaded Afghanistan in 1979. I might go further back, perhaps to the 1973 oil boom when a disproportionate number of Pashtun from the tribal areas went to seek work in the Gulf . The results were twofold – the migrant workers were exposed to the Wahhabi puritanical Saudi Arabian tradition of Islam, and the remittances they sent home upset the traditional balance of power in the local economy. I could go back even further, to the origins of the Pakistani state in 1947 and its use of Islam as a unifying force to counter ethnic nationalism, including Pashtun nationalism. In short – it is complicated. Stopping drones may or may not be a moral imperative, depending on your perspective. But let’s not be fooled into thinking that in itself, it will bring peace.

    Secondly, the narrative on drone attacks takes at face value assertions that they cause high numbers of civilian casualties. The Americans say they are precise; their critics say they are lying; the rest of us simply don’t, and can’t, know the truth. With little independent reporting on the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), we can’t possibly verify whether the claims of civilian casualties are accurate. We don’t know for sure the numbers of the dead, let alone whether among those dead were Taliban foot soldiers who are also civilians.

    What I have noticed however, is that at least some among the Pashtun intelligentsia say the drone strikes are precise, and that opposition to them increases the further away you get from the tribal areas. Earlier this year, a senior Pakistani military officer was quoted as saying that ”a majority of those eliminated are terrorists, including foreign terrorist elements”. Writer and academic Farhat Taj has taken this argument further by saying that people actually prefer drone strikes to living in fear of the Taliban and their foreign allies.

    Now I don’t know the truth. I have been to the tribal areas only once, on a one-day army-supervised trip to Bajaur. Incidentally, I was struck by how far the landscape differed from my own Kiplingesque imaginings of “the Frontier”. In Bajaur, I saw agricultural prosperity, neatly laid out fields, and mountains which in relative terms (ie compared to Siachen, the Karakoram and even the barren mountains of Scotland) seemed unexpectedly tame. I gather other parts of FATA are wilder, but that Bajaur trip was a lesson for me in how far my imagination (no doubt heavily influenced by colonial literature) was very different from reality. Many Pakistanis never get a chance to visit FATA at all – and so it remains in the Pakistani heartland as much of an imagined frontier as it was under the Raj.

    So to get back to the drones, let’s for a moment take the prevalent view that Pakistan is fighting “America’s war” out of the discussion and consider what the people of FATA themselves think about drone attacks and peace talks with the Taliban. As the people who suffer most at the hands of the Pakistani Taliban, their views – at least from a moral point of view – should predominate in any Pakistani discourse which set itself up as idealistic. What do they say?

    This brings me to the most problematic part of the narrative, and loops back into Hamid’s short story. In the “stop the drones, win the peace argument”, the people of FATA are crucially assumed not to be able to speak for themselves. They are frozen in time in an idealised village life, people who will revert to their ancient traditions as soon as the drones and the Afghan war ends, as though the last 60 years of history never happened. As though not not one of them had ever got on a plane, worked in the Gulf, or migrated to Karachi.

    Look at how they are portrayed in Hamid’s story (though since I have not asked him, I will concede this may have been an intentional parody of the way the people of FATA are often viewed).

    In his story, our characters have no ability to grasp the big world events that have brought the machines to their land. They speak in the language of black American slaves. The narrator’s mother is compared to an animal, “snorin’ like an old brown bear after a dogfight”. Their primitiveness is underlined by the sexualisation of the weapon assembled by the two boys to attack the drone: ”We put the he-piece in the she-piece”.

    They are reduced to the cipher of “the noble savage“.

    It is true that the people of FATA do not tend to speak for themselves. But given the scale of bombings and assassinations, fear seems to be a more likely explanation than an inability to articulate their thoughts.

    And it is also true that they are not even proper citizens. Rather they are subject to the Frontier Crimes Regulation – a draconian colonial-era law which makes them liable to collective punishment, and which is only slowly being reformed by the Pakistani government. The eventual abolition of the FCR, the incorporation of FATA into Pakistan, and other reforms meant to decentralise and accommodate Pakistan’s different ethnic groups, would arguably be far more effective in the long run in allowing the country’s Punjabi heartland to make peace with the Pashtun in the tribal areas, more even than ending drone strikes.

    You will find people who argue you can do both – abolish the FCR and end drone strikes. But how can you tell? How do you make peace with a particular group and work out what suits them best, unless they are represented politically? (Holding peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban is not the same.)

    Now reread Hamid’s piece and consider the gap between the characters imagined in his short story, and a people with full citizenship rights and political representation. As Fazia S. Khan said, judge it as a work of fiction. But as a window into the Punjabi imagination, it may also have its uses as a political document.

    http://blogs.reuters.com/pakistan/2011/11/13/capturing-the-punjabi-imagination-drones-and-the-noble-savage/

  • According to Jinnah Institute’s Raza Rumi (an employee of Najam Sethi), Hamid Mir continues his great father’s legacy in journalism:

    http://criticalppp.com/archives/76188

    ………..

    For a list of Al Qaeda’s most favoured journalists (MFJs), refer to this article: http://dawn.com/2012/05/04/al-qaedas-relations-with-pakistan-were-fraught-with-difficulties/ via @ravezjunejo

    Hamid Mir, Saleem Safi, Rahimullah Yusufzai and Jamal Ismail are Al Qaeda’s most trusted journalists. Are we surprised?

    …….

    Marvi Sirmed discovers a new friend in Hamid Mir (patent hater of Shias and Ahmadis, an ally of Taliban and Al Qaeda):

    Marvi Sirmed ‏@marvisirmed
    @Watandost I am noticing some really welcome changes in @HamidMirGEO lately. His and @Najamsethi’s programs keep their Group’s sanity intact

    Hamid Mir ‏@HamidMirGEO
    @marvisirmed @Watandost @Najamsethi I never said anything new i m saying these things since very long ta least from 1990 so i m not changed

    Marvi Sirmed ‏@marvisirmed
    @HamidMirGEO Then I’m glad to discover you janaab. Have been reading you otherwise since long. Welcome to the club 🙂 @Watandost @Najamsethi

    Hamid Mir ‏@HamidMirGEO
    @marvisirmed @Watandost @Najamsethi I never said anything new i m saying these things since very long ta least from 1990 so i m not changed

    (Comments: Above tweet reminds us of LeJ-ASWJ’s terrorist Malik Ishaq’s comment when he was released by Pakistan’s Supreme Court: jo pehlay kartay aaie hain, aaindah bhi kartay rahain ga. I will keep doing what I have done in the past.)

    Hamid Mir ‏@HamidMirGEO
    @Watandost Many people called me and said dont speak too much truth i told them we can save Pakistan only by truth not by lies.Save Pakistan

    Hamid Mir ‏@HamidMirGEO
    @MohsinHijazee Thanks.I never said anything new to Shehzad Roy.Its great that he tried to understand the problems of Balochistan.

    Hamid Mir ‏@HamidMirGEO
    @iam_mudassar Govtof Pakistan never gave freedom actually media people risking their lives and paying price of freedom http://www.thenews.com.pk/article-29192-Pakistan,-most-dangerous-for-media:-RSF
    View conversation

    Hamid Mir ‏@HamidMirGEO
    @zishee You are mistaken.I m not fighting with any indvidual.I m fighting for a cause.They have launched a person who was a minister by Mush

    Hamid Mir ‏@HamidMirGEO
    @iam_mudassar They attacked my kids in Islamabad when they were going to school and this is the biggest black mailing for anyone

    Hamid Mir ‏@HamidMirGEO
    @zishee Everybody knows that whenever i raise the issue of missing persons intelligence agencies try to pressurize through their paid agents

    Hassan Abbas ‏@Watandost
    But Hamid you are more articulate and effective now RT:“@HamidMirGEO: @marvisirmed @Watandost @Najamsethi I never said anything new…”

    Marvi Sirmed ‏@marvisirmed
    @Watandost Am still grateful tohim for responding to my letter in a very graceful manner. @HamidMirGEO @Najamsethi

    Marvi Sirmed ‏@marvisirmed
    @Watandost I also reacted very aggressively when that infamous audio was planted. Even wrote an open letter to him @HamidMirGEO @Najamsethi

    An open letter to Hamid Mir from a common citizen – by Marvi Sirmed
    http://criticalppp.com/archives/11866

    Hamid Mir’s reply to Marvi Sirmed’s open letter
    http://criticalppp.com/archives/11896

    Marvi Sirmed ‏@marvisirmed
    @Watandost Sharp difference of opinion sometimes begets communication block. I had stopped reading his Qalam Kamaan @HamidMirGEO @Najamsethi

    Marvi Sirmed ‏@marvisirmed
    @Watandost Yes that’s true. Also, I had thought he is in favour of Afghan Taliban between 1996 – 2001. I was not @HamidMirGEO @Najamsethi

    Hassan Abbas ‏@Watandost
    Excellent comments of @HamidMirGEO on Geo TV’s ‘Wasu aur Main’ – Shahzad Roy’s great effort focusing in Baluchistan

    Mosharraf Zaidi ‏@mosharrafzaidi
    amen. “@HamidMirGEO: @Watandost …we can save Pakistan only by truth not by lies.Save Pakistan”

    Marvi Sirmed ‏@marvisirmed
    @Watandost I am noticing some really welcome changes in @HamidMirGEO lately. His and @Najamsethi’s programs keep their Group’s sanity intact

    Hassan Abbas ‏@Watandost
    Best wishes “@HamidMirGEO: Many people called me and said dont speak too much truth i told them we can save Pakistan only by truth..”
    Expand

    Hassan Abbas ‏@Watandost
    But Hamid you are more articulate and effective now RT:“@HamidMirGEO: @marvisirmed @Watandost @Najamsethi I never said anything new…”

    Hassan Abbas ‏@Watandost
    Excellent comments of @HamidMirGEO on Geo TV’s ‘Wasu aur Main’ – Shahzad Roy’s great effort focusing in Baluchistan

    Hamid Mir ‏@HamidMirGEO
    @Watandost Yes i believe in Sufis will definitely meet your Baba ji again

    Hamid Mir ‏@HamidMirGEO
    @Watandost @marvisirmed @Najamsethi Hasan you know me since very long when u were a police officer once you took me to a baba ji for dua

    ………..

    Hamid Mir (an operative of Military Intelligence) praises Sherry Rehman, founder of Pakistan army’s Jinnah Institute:

    Good to see Mosharraf Zaidi, Hamid Mir, Raza Rumi & some others praising Sherry Rehman. Helps in connecting the dots. #PseudoLiberalRightWingAlliance

    Hamid Mir ‏@HamidMirGEO
    @shahzadgillani @AajKamranKhan @TalatHussain12 Twitter restored in Pakistan.This is the difference between democracy and dictatorship.

    Hamid Mir ‏@HamidMirGEO
    @mosharrafzaidi @SherryRehman @UsamaKhilji Sherry Rehman played important role for the restoration of twitter in Pakistan.

    Hamid Mir ‏@HamidMirGEO
    @farhadjarral @SherryRehman @SenRehmanMalik Sir may be you have more information than me but i know Sherry spoke to the boss of RM sahib

    Mosharraf Zaidi ‏@mosharrafzaidi
    Ambassador @SherryRehman’s excellent Op-Ed on Pak-US relations in the Chicago Tribune – http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/ct-oped-0520-pakistannato-20120520,0,2761699.story

    sherryrehman ‏@sherryrehman
    @balalhaidermy commitment to minorities, women is reflected in every major public statement. Will never stop. MNA’s job diff from Ambassado

    Raza Rumi ‏@Razarumi
    Ambassador Sherry Rehman on CNN’s Situation Room http://bit.ly/KtJTkf #pakistan v @USAforPAK

    Raza Rumi ‏@Razarumi
    @CMShehbaz made v impt remarks on militancy in South Punjab. Good that he is cognizant of the challenge.Urgent reform/state-building reqd!

    ……….

    Raza Rumi parrots Najam Sethi’s lies and blames elected parliament for NATO supply blockade decision:

    Raza Rumi ‏@Razarumi
    President Zardari has asked U.S. to help the Gov of Pak reach closure on the Salala episode “by following path indicated by Pak Parliament.”

    beena sarwar ‏@beenasarwar
    RT @Razarumi: US should apologise,respect our parliament/settle the issue.We can then open supplies so that the US leaves Afg as planned.

    Tarek Fatah ‏@TarekFatah
    Guys, u do realize it is an act of war to impose a blockade on a landlocked country like Afghanistan. @beenasarwar @razarumi Wake up.

    Raza Rumi ‏@Razarumi
    @TarekFatah Understand what you are saying but as a democrat, I back the parliamentary decisions. Hope this is settled @beenasarwar

    ImSoomro @ImSoomro
    LOL at I Back the Parliamentary Decisions when such decisions are enforced by Pakistan army. Shame on Raza Rumi
    http://criticalppp.com/archives/77192

  • @Bashir Malik , I am not sure why you picked my article to post comments on drones. But, you must be psychic-I’m going to write about the pros and cons of the use of U.S. drones soon.
    Briefly: Why the contradiction in reports of high civilian casualties versus accounts of low civilian casualties?
    This is because US official policies have changed- The initial use of Drones by the U.S. mistakenly caused too many civilian casualties. By 2009, the US government made critical adjustments to correct this. They corrected this by closer oversight and new rules requiring in most cases a sign-off of when drones could be launched, even involving lawyers and generals to sign off- all the way up to the president in some cases, in an effort to reduce civilian causalities. So, this timeline and adjustment accounts for much of the confusion. In fact, there are very few civilian casualties now. In my upcoming article I will point out, the major issue now, is the US has been grossly erroneous in timing- eg. after the OBL incident, to smooth things over, Admiral Mullen visited and then, Hilary Clinton visited, and each time, subsequently drones were dropped immediately following US officials leaving, drones were launched at targets in Waziristan – this was understandably insulting to the Pak Army, and there are more examples. These have come under U.S. fire (excuse pun) by our civilian officials chastising our military.
    That said, civilian casualties have been vastly reduced since the change in policy. Accuracy is more precise with increased technological advances. Further, US policy dictates that the Predator Drones will NOT be fired when there is a chance of civilian casualties regardless of the high-value target. That is why US forces did not decimate the mansion holding OBL, there was not enough intelligence provided. Generals and federal attorneys will not sign-off in launching strikes of a high value target if high civilian or unacceptable collateral damage would occur- two reasons: a.- Civilian casualties must be reduced, b. they have such good surveillance that they can afford to wait until targets are isolated later. as it is an official policy to protect non-combatants in Afghanistan-to-FATA/ Waziristan, et. al.. The US military does not just shoot with no regard for civilians.
    And, contrary to false rumors, the US does not launch attacks out of spite, due to perceived arguments with Pak military generals. That would be petty in the extreme- The US and Pak Army generals are both more professional than that, and are involved in regular communication.

  • Well argued, provocative post by Mr. Walker which forced pseudo-liberals explicitly state their alliance with right-wingers.

    Well done, Mr. Walker. Only if we had honest and bold authors such as yourself in Pakistani media and blogs.

  • Jinnah Institute is, for all practical purposes, an extension of the ISPR. ISI’s propagandists need to be exposed not respected.