LUBP is one of the boldest anti-establishment voices in Pakistan. Along with Pakistan Media Watch and Terrorland, this is one of my favourite websites on Pakistani politics and media. I frequently share articles from LUBP with my expatriate friends and work collegues.
LUBP has done a great job in exposing the Jinnah Institute and its current head, Ejaz Haider, who is widely recognized as a military establishment supporter. When Haider critisizes the elected President from the PPP, he is abusive and takes big liberties with the truth. When he writes anything counter to the military establishment, it is in the form of an overly polite and impotent letter to the ISI. It is obvious from his articles that Ejaz stands with the military establishment of Pakistan and its spawned parties like PML-N and PTI.
When Jinnah Institute issued their first report , it was disturbing to see 53 journalists, opinionated news anchors, senior retired army officers and pro-establishment hacks produce a one sided report. This report advocated that the Haqqani Taliban Network and Mullah Omar needed to be “accomodated” in Afghanistan once US and NATO forces withdraw from Afghanistan in 2014.
While the JI report made weak attempts to say that this was not a repeat of the Strategic Depth Policy of the military establishment of the 1990s, liberal commentators exposed these hollow claims. One of them was Marvi Sirmed who wrote a series of articles in the Daily Times.
“ see a strange parallel between Lavoy’s ‘strategic culture’ and USIP/JI’s ‘foreign policy elite’. But it is encouraging that not only the US but Pakistan also has started recognising the importance of liberal discourse, so much so that a stamp of (social) liberals is needed to legitimise strategic options that the countries might take or might persuade other countries to take.”
“Or does it say that the foreign policy elite cannot have Baloch and Pakhtun nationalists? Not to forget here that most of the Pakhtun nationalists are not so pro-Taliban and have been fighting against them to clear Pakistani territory of their presence. It is astonishing to see how the ‘national interest’ is attached to ‘strategic depth’ and ‘Taliban as Pakhtun’ arguments, which has now permeated deep down the thought process of even the progressive and liberal ‘elite’. An ardent defender of the report passionately justified ‘strategic depth’ and even the Afghan jihad, which he thinks was unavoidable when a ‘godless’ USSR was about to attack Pakistan for warm waters. Another defensive argument (that the report is ‘descriptive, not prescriptive’) gets refuted by the report itself, which carries an elaborate section on the way forward for ‘key countries’. The report, it appears, is probably suffering more because of the mindless and personalised defence rather than what it explicitly carries. Needless to say a ‘defence on demand’ hardly helps, it rather compromises the credibility of the entire exercise. “
Marvi also wrote a critique of the USIP and its presentation to the US congress on LUBP. While being critical of the report, Marvi did not associate its authors with the military establishment also known as the Deep State (this includes most of local media and Judiciary). However, in her subsequent article on LUBP, even she was compelled to at least make the obvious connection.
“While completely respecting Moeed and Imtiaz sahib’s defense, and firmly believing that both of these gentlemen have shown their commitment to progressive ideals in the past, the question still remains. Why the vibes that come from some of the writings of our friends put us under the impression that they are catering to the ages old arguments / conclusions used excessively by the deep state?”
Renowned research scholar and columnist Farhat Taj was more blunt and clear in her assesment and clearly does not suffer from the same constraints and pressures as Ms. Sirmed. Along with her family, Marvi has been frequently harassed by the intelligence agencies and their cohorts and, based on my keen review of Pakistani media and blogs, her most passionate supporters in these times have been LUBP. This is the site, in fact, that informed me of the threats facing Marvi. Then I can understand why she cannot be open and request LUBP to critique her gently. She has to support her collegues at Jinnah Institute even though it goes against her stated beliefs regarding the extremists like Taliban.
Here is what Ms. Farhat Taj says about the Jinnah Institute and their indirect support for the Taliban:
“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.”
Another view that ties up why I agree with the stance of LUBP and others on the sinister Jinnah Institute
“The horrible, sinister part of the report comes when the Taliban are glorified, and shamelessly so. Just these two extracts should suffice: 1. the report seeks “to convince the Taliban of the validity of a power-sharing agreement”; and 2. “a sustainable arrangement would necessarily require the main Taliban factions – particularly Mullah Omar’s “Quetta Shura” Taliban and the Haqqani network – to be part of the new political arrangement. Yes, you read it right. The Pakistani elite want not just the Taliban, but the most bloodthirsty of them to be part of a peaceful post-endgame Afghanistan. Reading the report leaves one very sad and disappointed. An apocalyptic eschatology coming from a band of ignoramuses like the Taliban is understandable. But when highly educated persons bask in the glory of the sophistry of their own ideologically freaky arguments, what can one say but: “the horror! the horror!. The USIP-JI report is nothing more than (and less than) a mindless plea for a Talibanic dystopia which will provide Pakistan’s military a living space, a lebensraum, for the so-called strategic depth”
In recent articles, I was disappointed to see Raza Rumi and Marvi Sirmed’s affiliations with this organization and its writers. This goes against what they have written and stood for in the past. It is also strange to see that LUBP’s position is being distorted whenever it criticizes the liberal elite of Pakistan.
For instance, LUBP’s reservations with Jinnah Institute are not just limited to the Shia killings and their mis-reporting in Pakistan. It also has to do with the anti-Pashtun, anti-Baloch and pro-Taliban bias of the Jinnah Institute. In its Extremism Watch report, JI also misrepresented the suffering of our Ahmadi brothers and sisters.
I would advise anyone who is reading the distorted attacks on LUBP to do the research themselves and google the Jinnah Institute and JI-USIP articles that have been published and cross-posted on LUBP.
The Taliban’s treatment of minority religions and sects as well as their violent attacks on Sunni Muslim shrines is an open fact. Similarly, they have killed several thousands of Pashtuns. Taliban does not equal Pashtun. An institute the advocates their “accommodation” must be exposed. Read Taimur Rahman (Laal music band) on his excellent exposure of the Taliban. Educate yourself about the Taliban – by Taimur Rahman
LUBP and others who are critical of Jinnah Institute must realize that they are going against the financial interests of powerful lobbies. Many people who will criticize them and attack them are probably under tremendous pressure themselves. Marvi Sirmed, Beena Sarwar and Raza Rumi are not your problems LUBP – it is their employers and friends who want to censor you.
Ismail Effendi is an expat Pakistani who works in the advertising industry.