Cross-posted from Khawer Khan’s blog.
Zaid Hamid’s meteoric rise and recent fall has been analyzed by a number of commentators. One aspect of his story that has been missing is Zaid Hamid’s connections to the Pakistani intelligence community. In any case, at this point it seems that the intelligence community has withdrawn its support from Zaid Hamid.
So how did it all start?
Zaid Hamid arrived on the scene as a “security analyst”, commenting on international security issues. He launched a low budget show called “Brasstacks”, named after his own security consulting business, at the fag-end of the Musharraf era.
Well placed sources close to key figures in Pakistani civilian intelligence claim that Intelligence Bearu officers were, at one point, bragging about their success with the Zaid Hamid project. There is considerable confusion regarding the actual reporting structure of IB. While officially it answers to the Prime Minister many allege that the military remains a powerful influence.
In any case IB wasn’t the only parent in the intelligence world for Zaid Hamid. Even before he got his own show, Hamid appeared on PTV with as an analysit on Ahmed Qureshi’s show. Qureshi, himself a product of Musharraf’s demise, has long thought to be linked to the ISI.
The intelligence world does not work like many people think. “Journalists” and other assets of the intelligence community are usually not on a “payroll”. Although this certainly does happen at times, what is more common is that a journalist falls under the influence of intelligence agencies that often feed the journalist with information that helps his or her career grow. While Zaid Hamid is not a journalist, he is a media personality. So it stands to reason that his links to the agencies are of a similar nature.
Nor do Pakistan’s three intelligence agencies (IB, ISI, MI) always work in unison. They are often at odds with each other and can behave like three passive aggressive housewives of a poor man.
It is in this context that Zaid Hamid was adopted, apparently collectively by IB and ISI, and promoted as a mouthpiece. While what he said was shocking to many thinking people, many have observed that what he said was usually in consonance with official state doctrine as expressed in education policy.
In an article on extremism, but not specifically Zaid Hamid, Pervez Hoodhboy quotes the National Bureau of Curriculum and Textbooks Federal Ministry of Education.
Social Studies: At the completion of Class-V, the child should be able to:
* “Acknowledge and identify forces that may be working against Pakistan.”[pg154]
* “Demonstrate by actions a belief in the fear of Allah.” [pg154]
* “Make speeches on Jihad and Shahadat (martyrdom)” [pg154]
* “Understand Hindu-Muslim differences and the resultant need for Pakistan.” [pg154]
* “India’s evil designs against Pakistan.” [pg154]
* “Be safe from rumor mongers who spread false news” [pg158]
* “Collect pictures of policemen, soldiers, and National Guards” [pg158]
* “Demonstrate respect for the leaders of Pakistan” [pg153]
If the last of these can be understood to mean the military leadership, Zaid Hamid has been hitting the nail on the head in terms of reinforcing state sponsored ideology. As always, the function of ‘state ideology’ is to promote an understanding of the world that aligns with the interests of the ruling elite. If we take a step back and actually look at what Zaid Hamid had been promoting in terms of geo-politics we see clear links with these interests. But that requires another piece, lets get back to the point…
In recent weeks we have seen the security establishment in Pakistan reposition its self in response to changes in Afghanistan. Several key leaders of the ‘Afghan Taliban’ have been arrested in Pakistan. There has been speculation that these arrests were to ensure that Pakistan has a seat at the table when U.S. Imperialism plays its final hand in Afghanistan. The anticipation is that the U.S. is stuck in an unwindable war and will be forced to take a backseat role soon, allowing “reconciable” elements of the Taliban a share in power. Apparently the Pakistani establishment has decided that it had better mediate on behalf of the Afghan Taliban. This requires that the leadership of the Taliban be in Pakistani possession. This new calculus is in sharp contradiction with Zaid Hamid’s position that the Afghan Taliban must be supported openly.
This fact coupled with the recent revelations that Zaid Hamid had misled his followers about his views on Muhammed Yousef Ali have made Hamid less of an asset and more a liability for his erstwhile masters. The intelligence world seems to have dumped Hamid.
So what indications do we have these these lovers have broken up?
A number of right-wing groups, also supported by the state, have risen up in opposition to Zaid Hamid due to his views on Mohammad Yousef Ali. If Zaid Hamid continued to enjoy the backing of the intelligence apparatus, the issue would have been handled differently. After all, Hamid’s links to Yousef were well known from the start.
More recently even ISI mouthpiece Ahmed Qureshi has been distancing himself from Hamid. On a recent note on his facebook page Qureshi writes:
“Several young Pakistanis have emailed me a link to this article and asked me if I support Mr. Zaid Hamid’s position in the current controversy over a convicted blasphemer, Yusuf Kazzab.
My answer is: No, I don’t.
This article was written in 2008 and has nothing to do with Mr. Hamid’s current positions and projects. It was a response to criticism by defeatist elements in the Pakistani media who were upset at the increase in the number of PakNationalist writers promoting a new assertive strain in Pakistan’s foreign policy and advocating a stronger stance on Pakistan’s legitimate security and strategic interests in the region.
So the context of this article is Pakistan’s policy issues. As for the current controversy, I regret to inform you that I disagree with Mr. Hamid’s position of not coming clean on the issue of the convicted blasphemer. As such, I do not support his current work and public statements relevant to this question. Mr. Hamid’s current position has resulted in an unfortunate and unnecessary confusion among young Pakistanis.
A distinction must be made between promoting Pakistani interest, which is commendable coming from anyone including Mr. Hamid, and between his personal religious views which are his own business, especially the refusal to accept Supreme Court’s verdict on a convicted blasphemer. Whatever his position, this issue has nothing to do with the pro-Pakistan movement that young Pakistanis are spearheading across Pakistan. Please keep the two separate.
This clarification is important in order not to confuse the context of my article written in 2008 – which touches on a general debate between defeatist and pro-Pakistan camps within the Pakistani media – and the current controversy.
As for TAKMEEL project, I have nothing to do with it. It’s a great idea and I know many of its organizers and supporters. They are well-intentioned and patriotic Pakistanis. But I am afraid the project has been detracted by kooky ideas and zombie theories. Any effort that turns divisive and fails to unite is more harmful than useful. Let’s hope for the best.
This comment answers several points that I have received in tens of emails and privates messages and calls over the past few days.
Don’t let unnecessary controversies and divisions stand in the way of shaping a new, storng and prosperous Pakistan in this century.”
This is a significant development since Qureshi went a step beyond distancing himself from Hamid due to the Yousef Ali controversy, and has gone so far to to refers to Hamid’s views “ kooky ideas and zombie theories.”
Zaid Hamid might still have some currency for the intelligence community, but recent signs show a clear distance between Hamid and the three wives of the poor man.
At long last, we may be closer to a time when we no longer have to say the words “intelligence” and “Zaid Hamid” in the same sentence. They never quite seemed to belong together.