‘On Compromise’ by John Morley that Jinnah suggested for reading


Below is the text of famous writing, On Compromise, by Lord John Morley of UK. I just found it in my collection of pdf documents gathered from various online & offline sources. Thought it is important to share it with today’s young of this country, whose founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah once prescribed this reading to the youth of his era. Jinnah was great admirer of Lord Morley, who, besides being a liberal intellectual & statesman, was a literary writer as well. His writings on Burke, Byron etc. He was an anti-imperialist, but advocated fierce tackling of native resistance against the state in India, which he called conspiracy and sedition.

Morley became Secretary of State to India in 1906 and made an important contribution to Indian politics by introducing his reforms of 1909, commonly known as Minto-Morley reforms. Because of his continuous efforts, British India got some share of Indian nationals (the rich ones) in the decision making. After Minto-Morley reforms of 1909, the Legislative Council of India got two seats for Indians, for the first time. Jinnah got benefitted by getting elected to one of these seats in 1910. But Jinnah’s appreciation of Lord Morley can’t be attributed to his election. It goes back to late 19th century when Jinnah was in UK and had the opportunity to listen to thinkers like Morley and his hero William Gladstone.

At one occasion during his active political life, Jinnah advised the youngsters of the time to read the works of Morley, especially the below posted On Compromise. Hope it proves interesting reading for today’s youth, especially the passionate and ‘all-knowing’ youngsters from Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf. I hope Imran Khan also reads it. Reading is what all of us desperately need.

Haan Mein Mujrim Hoon!


My Urdu article published in Daily Express in September 2011, might clarify few myths about the ‘liberals’ of Pakistan who are frequently accused of being ‘anti-Pakistan’ and ‘anti-Islam’. It also elaborates what I mean when I say I dream of a secular Pakistan. Your feedback will be most welcome.



The ‘anti-state’ Sarmachars of Balochistan

Appeared in Daily Times on Monday February 27, 2012 as my weekly column BAAGHI

After US Congressman Dana Rohrabacher’s sudden attention to Balochistan, the Pakistani media went bonkers to protect the proverbial ‘sovereignty’ of our country — a cause championed by the security establishment and most of its mouthpieces in the media as well as political circles and civil society. Emerging from the fathoms of near oblivion to almost a dozen Op-Eds in the mainstream press daily, Balochistan is now the darling of the prime time TV cupola as well.

If the anchors and columnists want to sound more profound, and if they run out of words to express the imperiousness of the US Congress for interfering in Pakistan’s internal matters, they would endlessly repeat almost clichéd references to 1971 with emphasis on giving ‘due importance to the Baloch problem’. The umpteen ‘political analysts’ and ‘Balochistan experts’ religiously recount the current government’s failure to address the issue despite the latter’s trumpeted mantra of ‘democracy, the greatest revenge’. Such talk would be garnished with admonishing the ‘irresponsibility’ of the Baloch nationalists in attacking innocent citizens of ethnicities other than the Baloch.

What goes completely missing from this narrative is the origins of the conflict, the response of the state to the centrifugal nature of Baloch nationalism and the ever deteriorating civil-military relations in Balochistan, which now seem to have reached the point of no return. The way Balochistan was made to accede to Pakistan goes missing from the textbooks alongside any reference to the military operations carried out in 1948, 1958-59, 1962-68, 1973-77 and the current surge starting from 2002 to date. The result is a general apathy towards Balochistan in the rest of the country with almost no understanding of the surges in historically seeded ethno-nationalism in Balochistan, described as ‘Baloch insurgencies’ in the mainstream media. The same media gives prime space to opinion makers who describe Taliban insurgents as ‘freedom fighters’. No wonder one finds so many people in upper Punjab and Islamabad who take Baloch nationalists as ‘traitors’, while the Taliban militants as flag bearers of Muslim nationalism.

Muslim nationalism, lest we forget, was made the bane when the independent state of Kalat was coerced into accession in 1948. Probably that is why the New York Times in its issue of August 15, 1947, published the maps of the newly born states of India and Pakistan with the latter without the state of Kalat. And that was the time when in the Lower House of Balochistan’s elected parliament — Dar-ul-Awam — one of the most respected Baloch leaders, commonly known as Baba-e-Balochistan, Mir Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo said on December 14, 1947: “We are Muslims but it is not necessary that by virtue of being Muslims we should lose our freedom and merge with others. If the mere fact that we are Muslims requires us to join Pakistan, then Afghanistan and Iran, both Muslim countries, should also amalgamate with Pakistan.” That says it all!

Leaving aside these uncomfortable details, as even the Baloch leaders let themselves be subsumed by the state of Pakistan later, there has been much more to the Baloch conflict than mere political alienation. When Baloch leaders rejected Rehman Malik’s recent ‘offer’ of withdrawing cases against some of the exiled leaders and his invitation to them to return to Pakistan, they have reasons to do so. In 1948, the Baloch had seen Prince Abdul Karim Khan, the brother of the Khan of Kalat, being lured to return to Pakistan from his exile in Afghanistan under an oath on the Holy Quran by the security establishment. Nevertheless, such oaths are not binding when it comes to ‘national interest’. In clear violation of the promise, Prince Karim was arrested and put in prison for the next 10 years.

The second betrayal of this nature was seen when General Tikka Khan took an oath, again, on the Quran promising amnesty and security of life to Nawab Nauroz Khan, a respected leader among the Baloch who was fighting Balochistan’s independence movement from the mountains. In 1959, when he came down from the mountains, he was arrested and put in jail in violation of all the promises and oath on the Quran. Not only that, his sons along with other Baloch leaders were hanged in Hyderabad in 1960. The octogenarian Baloch leader died of shock three years later. With such audacious display of ‘keeping promises’, who would take Rehman Malik seriously?

The duplicity of Pakistan’s establishment was manifest this time too. While the Minister of the Interior was making these offers to the Baloch exiled leaders, the security forces deemed it fit to arrest Abdul Qadir Baloch, the leading figure of the movement for the rescue of Baloch missing persons, amidst a peaceful sit-in in Karachi. Not even a week had passed after the Interior Minister’s ‘generous’ offers when the uninhabited house of another Baloch leader, Balaach Marri, whose killing is an enigma as yet, was demolished in Quetta. Freeing of eight ‘missing persons’ seems a small bait to entice the Baloch leadership in the wake of the recent American pinch.

At the time of the partition of the Indian subcontinent, a rubber stamp Shahi Jirga used to be there for signing off everything the colonial (and post-colonial) masters wanted. The British wanted to build their bases on strategically important coasts in Balochistan. A Balochistan acceded to India would never oblige. An independent Balochistan was not feasible either, keeping in view a strong sentiment prevalent at the time about Greater Balochistan consisting of the Baloch triumvirate in the state of Kalat and adjoining strip of British Balochistan, and the Baloch areas in Afghanistan and Iran. To contain ambitious Russia and prevent regional forces from building on this promising future trade route, the British had to support its accession to Pakistan, in whose establishment the British had too many friends. 

Now, replace the Shahi Jirga with the current ‘democratic’ legislature in Balochistan, the British with the US and we have all the pieces of the Balochistan puzzle fixed. Dana Rohrabacher has probably forgotten a very important factor in the Baloch resentment where even the US has supported Pakistan’s security establishment. The establishment of so many cantonments and military bases in Balochistan, which are seen among the Baloch as consolidating the army’s involvement in their area, was not only supported but excessively used by the US for years, especially in the last 10 years. The way China has invested in mega projects, for example the Gwadar Port project, only explains its strategic ambitions in the region for imports through this easiest possible route.

Why the Baloch see these mega development projects as an eyewash and an attempt to invade their land is a sure shot future monopoly of the non-Baloch on jobs and other resources. If Gwadar is envisioned as a Karachi in Balochistan, the Baloch fear it would be inhabited by mainly Punjabis or other settlers and would outnumber the indigenous Baloch and Pashtun population. This monopoly is not very difficult to see in the rest of Pakistan. On a recent visit to Radio Pakistan’s Headquarters in Islamabad, one was shocked to see the photo gallery of former Director Generals (DGs) of PBC. Since its inception, Radio Pakistan has had only its second DG who is ethnically Sindhi, no Baloch and just two Pashtuns. Rest were all either Punjabis or Urdu-speaking.

And yet we say the Baloch are anti-state!

What’s Brewing in Pakistan

This was written for The Open Magazine of India, and appeared on Saturday January 21, 2012

EYES RIGHT! Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani preside over a military exercise - Photo: Open Magazine

ISLAMABAD ~ Ever since democracy was restored in Pakistan after the general elections of 2008, not a day has passed without a crisis—sometimes engineered, sometimes resulting from the government’s weaknesses and incompetence.

The country’s two major political parties, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), joined hands to contest the elections, which were boycotted by most right-wing religious parties including Imran Khan’s ‘movement for justice’—the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI). One common thread that ran through the winning PPP–PML-N coalition was its strong opposition to the ‘establishment’ (an oft-used euphemism for the military, which remains the largest and most powerful political actor in Pakistan).

The PML-N, foreseeing an economic crisis as well as one of governance, decided to leave the coalition and take on the role of a ‘meaningful’ opposition. But it would be naïve to believe that Pakistan’s key political events were only those being played out in parliament and among political parties. Newly revived, the country’s civil society—of lawyers largely—was still riding the exuberance of two successful campaigns for the restoration of the judiciary, under threat from Musharraf in July 2007 and later from the newly elected government in early 2009. The same civil movement had also given rise to a potent and dynamic media.

Massive corruption charges (still unproven in any court of law) had been used to put the PPP’s Asif Ali Zardari in jail for nearly a decade. During this period, he had to confront a highly antagonistic bureaucracy and judiciary. One story goes that during this time, one of the seniormost judges on the bench once flung a file at Zardari’s face and challenged him to get bail if he could. He could not get bail, but did get spondylitis as well as injuries on the tongue and neck that were claimed to have been inflicted by torture in prison. The result: while Zardari has a history of forgetting personal persecution, the judges do not, so the enmity lives on.

Benazir Bhutto, who was in self-imposed exile, had already earned Musharraf’s rage for her outspoken criticism of his plans. While the PPP’s past political positions since the early 1970s had been largely based on popular sentiment on Kashmir (against India), Benazir had been able to reverse much of the thrust of her father’s foreign policy, especially vis-à-vis India, even while sometimes maintaining a belligerent public posture.

Negotiating with the PPP, Musharraf made sure it legitimised his election as president in 2007, and in lieu issued a notorious waiver on all ‘politically motivated cases’ through the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO). General Kayani, then chief of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), had negotiated the NRO on Musharraf’s behalf. It was challenged in court as soon as the judiciary was restored in 2009. The PPP’s hesitation in supporting the restoration was not something the judges were in a mood to forgive.

This is the backdrop against which Pakistan’s present stage of politics has been set. A belligerent media, a politicised judiciary, an eager-to-rule army, an opportunist clergy, a coterie of selfish pro-establishment politicians—all set against the ruling coalition, especially the PPP, and more so, President Asif Ali Zardari. The problem for the ‘establishment’, though, is that moving its Brigade 111 from Rawalpindi to a couple of buildings on Islamabad’s Constitution Avenue is not as easy and kosher as it might have been in the 1950s or even 1970s. After the army did carry out a coup in 1999, it had to endure severe public disapproval, which gradually started showing on the force’s own morale. At one point, Pakistan’s army officers were ordered not to go to public places in uniform.

Covert martial law or controlled democracy was the best of all available options. But even that did not prove to be easy because of elements within the government that managed to thwart the army’s control of policy. Even foreign aid legislation was manipulated by civilians and linked to civilian supremacy and democratic rule in the country, under the Kerry-Lugar-Berman (KLB) legislation of the US Congress. Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s ambassador to the US, was one of those ‘rogue elements’ committed to civilian rule and had reportedly played an important role in the passage of the KLB bill. He had to be tackled. The recent memo scandal—which concerns an unsigned note allegedly sent via Haqqani from Pakistan’s political leadership to US Admiral Mike Mullen asking for American help in curbing the army’s power—did that quite well. Haqqani was made to resign.

Amid all this, Imran Khan emerged as a potential ‘third force’ in Pakistani politics. With the overwhelming support of the youth, Khan poses a threat to the two traditional loci of political power—the PML-N and PPP. Both of them, though often at odds, are still working together. The PML-N has been worried about the upcoming Senate of Pakistan elections (due in March 2012), in which the PPP was expected to gain a majority. Such a majority in the Senate could hamper legislative business in the National Assembly. It has, thus, started its ‘Go-Zardari-go’ campaign from Punjab; this way, the PPP-led government could be made to pack up before the upcoming Senate elections.

But after a massive October rally held by Imran Khan, the PML-N has clearly said it would not mind a PPP majority in the Senate. Nonetheless, maintaining a semblance of antagonism towards the PPP would allow the PML-N to project itself as an alternative to the ‘incompetent and corrupt’ ruling party. The PTI, in turn, needs time to organise itself—both to select suitable electoral candidates and register its hitherto unregistered voters. The traditional parties would rather press for as early an election as possible to prevent this.

While Pakistan’s political parties are at odds, the ‘establishment’ is all set to teach a lesson to all those who it thinks have been responsible for reducing the army’s clout on the policy front, especially on the country’s counter-terrorism strategy and Afghan policy.

While the memo scandal was helped along by the hyper-nationalism of the urban middle-class, the anger against Musharraf’s controversial NRO has been brought to boil once again. Pakistan’s apex court had earlier ruled that all corruption cases be re-opened, including one in a Swiss court that was closed after Musharraf wrote a letter to the Swiss Government. The [apex] court had ordered the government to write to the Swiss Government to re-open those cases. This order, the government in turn maintains, is against the constitution that grants immunity to the president.

In recent developments, the superior court has charged the prime minister with contempt-of-court for not writing that letter [to the Swiss], and has ordered him to appear in court. His counsel’s licence has also been suspended for contempt-of-court. As of now, an old party comrade, Aitzaz Ahsan, has been appointed the PM’s counsel on this case. Ahsan had earlier been sidelined within the PPP for his apparent closeness to the chief justice, when he was a prominent leader of the lawyers’ movement.

The army is also in no mood to forgive the ‘independence’ of the civilian government, especially of the prime minister who has lambasted the army twice in a couple of weeks. A strongly worded statement from the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) followed the prime minister’s media jibe against the army chief and ISI head, who had submitted affidavits to the court that contradicted the government’s position on the memo issue. The prime minister had called it extra-constitutional and illegal; the army, in turn, threatened the PM with ‘grave consequences’.

While general elections are due in the later part of 2013, they may be held as early as October this year. The prime minister, who is appearing before the court on 19 January, is expected to cite the constitutional immunity enjoyed by the president. Scenarios for the endgame of the government will emerge only after the court’s decision. If the prime minister is convicted or sentenced for contempt, he will be disqualified from holding public office, but this will require another procedure within the National Assembly that might take a week or two. If the prime minister decides to resign meanwhile, it would be a good time for the PPP to oblige one of its coalition partners by nominating a PM from its benches.

All this points to an early election, but suggests no overt coup is in the offing. Rather, covert control by the army is a much more likely option. The timing of the election, however, is crucial and would determine whether the PTI can make a big impact. October 2012 seems to be a time that suits everyone, but anything can happen any time in this ‘land of the pure’. As a popular Urdu adage goes, let’s see what posture the camel adopts.


Marvi Sirmed is a columnist with Daily Times, Pakistan. She is also a member of the Council of Complaints, Pakistan Electronic Media Regulation Authority.


Revisiting the ideology of Pakistan

This was originally published in the September 2011 issue of Pragati 

If there is one national termite that has been eating up Pakistan’s physiology and neurology, it is its purported ‘ideology’. After more than six decades of existence, Pakistan is still defending its genesis and going to-and-fro on the cause-effect tree. Graduating a ‘community’ into a ‘nation’ has not been without consequences, and is now affecting affecting its own existence.

The origin of the idea of Pakistan stands as obliterated in the subcontinent, as is Pakistan’s identity. The most prominent narrative in both countries has been that Indian partition was based on a simplistic ‘Two-Nation Theory’ (that Muslims and Hindus are two essentially distinct ‘nations’ and thus cannot live together). In India, the narrative turns negative, interpreting communalism and Muslim separatism as the raison d’etre of Pakistan. In Pakistan, it becomes the root of jingoist patriotism, hatred of India and religious fundamentalism with a burgeoning political commitment to further theocratise the state. In India, in contrast, the birth of a country based on ‘communal’ considerations continues to be unacceptable to a more secular public. The two narratives remain unchallenged even by the peaceniks; peaceniks who otherwise bear the brunt of popular ridicule for denying harsh realities while trying to find solutions in hollow emotionalism.

Both the narratives seem to simplify the complex political power-play that shaped the events leading to the partition of India.

They also miss a tragic flow of events and ideas that started much earlier than the Lahore Resolution of 1940, which is thought to be the basis for creation of Pakistan.

Photo: International Rivers

The ‘ideology of Pakistan’ as scripted by the state, emphasises cultural and religious difference between Hindus and Muslims, and hence their inability to live together. The Indian discourse about the genesis of Pakistan doesn’t seem to be any different. The majority of notable authors, from Kishori Lal to M J Akbar, put the blame of Pakistan’s current problems on its communal origins. The narrative misses significant political developments post 1857 that pitched the two communities against each other to the point of no return by 1940s.

For many in Pakistan, their country was born the day Ibn-e-Qasim set his foot on Indian soil. This makes a religious hero out of any invader, aggressor, trespasser and intruder if he was a Muslim. Ghauri, Ghazni, Al-Afghani and various others fall in this category, thus undermining the motherland in favour of an apostolic cause—conquest of territories as divine right. The passion is too conspicuous to miss in today’s Pakistan where terrorist groups from every nook and corner of the world can seek shelter for the cause of Islamic conquest of the world.

There is no denying the fact that any differences of religion or civilisation, however big they might be, should not have been made the basis for tearing the ‘watan’ (homeland) apart. Equally noteworthy is the fact that from Mauryas to Mughals, Indian land had had varying delimitations of different territories, loosely forming the umbrella—India. Aitzaz Ahsan, in his The Indus Saga and the Making of Pakistan gives a new meaning to the separation of the Indus and the Ganges. His thesis snatches the space from the religious discourse while attempting to ground the idea in centuries of human experience rather than vagaries of holy mission of conquest of ‘Hind’. The view probably borrowed by earlier work of REM Wheeler, Five Thousand Years of Pakistan.

The crux of Mr Ahsan’s study was the inherent difference between the Indus valley and the Ganges civilisations, which he argues, bound all the people living northwest of the Gurdaspur-Kathiwar salient, as one, irrespective of their religion. The southern side of this cultural border constitutes Mr Ahsan’s Ganges man, who considers every intruder from the south or from the central Asia as an invader rather than a hero. He identifies his Indus man more with the Central Asian culture than the Ganges civilisation—a more ‘Indian’ civilization.

The political brokering since the early twentieth century which formed the basis on which India was partitioned, had combined the tagging of political survival based on parity and ego of the Muslim elite who used Islam as a motivational factor. During these years, no political roadmap, blueprint of the state or an ideology was presented for public purview that could determine the future state and its postulates.

Keeping the confusion and ambiguity about the nature of the state he demanded, Jinnah was able to not only mobilise mass support using a religious tag, but he also succeeded in having an edge over the Indian National Congress on the negotiating table, almost every significant time after 1940. The Congress’s acceptance of Cabinet Mission Plan was, however, a blow to the politics Jinnah was playing. Without being serious—K K Aziz quotes at least two instances where Jinnah confesses that he had used the demand for a hypothetical state just as a negotiation tool—about the Pakistan proposal and being mindful of the consequences of this kind of politics, Jinnah kept on treading wherever the flow of politics took him, with of course his hand firmly placed on the control panel, which the Congress seemed to misread.

Muslims of united India had by mid-1940s become extremely confused about the nature and justification of ‘Pakistan’. Those in the Muslim minority provinces had been main wielders of the idea of ‘save Muslims’ through resolving existential concerns like greater political rights, greater shares in power-sharing formulae and increased job quotas. The ever-evolving idea of Pakistan changed the locus of separatist politics from minority to Muslim-majority provinces. Those already in the majority became incomprehensibly confused about the need for a separate country when they were already enjoying political, social and economic rights as a majority.

The newborn nation obviously could not survive this scrambled egg of an ideology and soon succumbed to political Islam.

The phenomenon of jihad as state policy, though not documented as such, amply defined itself when Pakistan decided to invade Indian Kashmir through the tribal people called ‘mujahiddin’, right under Jinnah’s nose. The Two-Nation Theory became an explosive TNT for Pakistan with the advent of sectarianism in the 1950s and the perpetual subjugation of Bengalis by the state and led to the partition once again in 1971. The ‘Islamic Republic of Pakistan’, in which religious ‘oneness’ was trumpeted disproportionately, could not keep its predominantly Muslim East Pakistan wing intact.

The folly called ideology and political practice, designed by Jinnah, have put Pakistan at the brink of social and political collapse. It is high time to correct this historical blunder adopted as ideology and revise the genesis of Pakistan from the puerile haziness of Maududi’s terminology to Wheeler and Ahsan’s vocabulary. The difference, whatever little it might have been, was in the Indus man and the Ganges man, irrespective of their religion. Indus man should look towards Indus, not the deserts of Arabia for cultural refuge. Embracing heritage and rooting it firmly in the Indus soil rather than the air from the Arabian desert is the option that could put Pakistan on its way to international respect and progress. Destruction, otherwise, is impatiently waiting for us.

Confronting Popular Narrative about the Taliban — II

This appeared as my weekly column BAAGHI in Daily Times on Monday October 17, 2011. The first part of this article can be seen here. This blogpost corrects the two names erroneously misquoted in the printed version; One: it was Jalaluddin Haqqani, not Mulla Omar who took Khost and Two: it was Peter Henning not Peter Jennings who filmed Charlie Wilson while raising Allah-o-Akbar slogans with the Mujahideen after the victory in Kabul over Red Army. The errors are regretted.

Pakistan’s strategic culture follows a bizarrely predictable course: develop a hypothetical security situation, make an internationally unpopular policy decision responding to it but officially say things opposite to it, start mythmaking at public level to generate a popular demand for the decision you have already made, tell the world it is not your fault, it is the stupidity of the people who want that decision. Pakistan’s strategic elite has been following the same course in building popular sympathy, if not support, in order to legitimise the Taliban in the name of our ‘strategic interest’ in Afghanistan.

This mythmaking factory has been working overtime for many years now. The impact can be seen in unquestioned mythical assertions and popular belief that the ‘good Taliban’ and ‘bad Taliban’ are mutually exclusive and Pakistan’s long-term interest rests in helping or at least not offending the former. In this process, little has been realised that this brutal murder of historical facts and simple reason would only result in spilling over chaos into Pakistan itself.

When in the war of narratives, Pakistani right wing media habitually asserts that it was the US that made these jihadis in the first place, and then stopped supporting them once the Soviet forces withdrew from Afghanistan, there is no one to challenge the underlying mendacity. When they say that Islam had better chances to spread under the Taliban and that is why the US disengaged itself for its sheer hatred of Islam, there is no one to confront it. This potpourri of brazen falsehoods keeps growing and influencing public opinion (another fictional term used frequently to legitimise an untruth) in the absence of a counter-narrative that sets the record straight. In order to do that, someone needs to remind them what happened during and after the Afghan ‘jihad’ to bring the windmill of trickeries and fabrications to a halt.

One needs to remind Pakistan’s strategic elite, who keep fuelling public emotion against everybody antagonistic to the Taliban, that just because the US stopped disbursing money using the ISI tarmac does not mean Afghanistan was left alone. If memory serves, Saudi Arabia, the US, Russia, Iran and India kept pouring money into the Afghan civil war and Pakistan continued brokering Saudi and American support alongside providing the mainly Pakhtun warlords with logistic support. If Saudi and American money is put together, the Muj (affectionate name given to the mujahideen by the Americans) got half a billion dollars in the second year of the civil war, which is exclusive of Russian, Indian and Iranian money flowing to the ‘renegade’ non-Pakhtun Muj factions. Historians must record how this kaleidoscope of international interests turned Afghanistan into a permanent theatre of war and bloodshed. Just when the Americans were celebrating the capture of Khost by CIA’s favorite and ISI’s beloved, Jalaluddin Haqqani, as their victory against pro-Soviet Dr Najibullah, no one realised how Pakistan had defeated all the competing states in Afghanistan.

When Charlie Wilson was raising the slogans of Allah-o-Akbar (God is Great) with his Muj boys in Kabul after the withdrawal of the Red Army in the wake of the Geneva Accord only to be filmed by Peter Henning, little did the Americans realise that all they have been trapped in to contribute all through the jihad years was percolating the latent ambition of global political Islam. None at the seventh floor of a Langley building ever realised that 30,000 non-Afghan, non-Pakistani men from around the Muslim world and thousands of Pakistanis that General Hamid Gul proudly boasted to have trained would redirect CIA’s Afghanistan programme towards hitting the World Trade Centre.

Despite Charlie’s Allah-o-Akbar, the ISI’s Afghan wing had never had any love lost with the CIA or the Yankees in general. During the jihad years, the Afghan wing continued to keep the Americans from direct contact with the Muj. The hatred of an ‘exploitative’ and ‘anti-Islam’ Christian America — ironically — permeated silently and smoothly from the trainers to the young students from the Middle East, Afghanistan and Pakistan throughout the network of seminaries and training schools in Pakistan’s northwest. Langley got a shock when tamed kids like Gulbuddin and Sayyaf stood against the US as soon as the Gulf War started. The CIA, in close collaboration with the Saudis, was still running the Afghan programme and had $ 400 million sanctioned in 1992 while hiding a secret appropriation in a $ 298 billion defence bill the same year with $ 200 million earmarked for Afghanistan, records George Crile. And that is just a year before the first attack on the World Trade Centre.

The meshwork of regional and American vested interest went all wrong when the dormant pan-Islamist ambition simmered into a full-blown war against the US. Once the ‘goodness personified’ — Jalaluddin Haqqani in partnership with other ISI-supported Muj kept on capturing one after the other point in Afghanistan, it was, to oversimplify it, an ISI proxy winning the war through American weapons and Saudi money over the boys carrying Soviet, Iranian and Indian money. Victory made the ISI infamous, not the ideology, for none of the providers of that war had any moral ground to play with Afghan blood. The ultimate loser was neither the US nor any other contributor. The sole loser was none other than a Pakistani who had lost any value of her/his life in the eyes of each and every stakeholder as well as its own security establishment. When over a hundred people of Islamabad died in the Ojhri ‘accident’ at the tail end of the jihad, Pakistan’s president called his ambassador in Washington to get the Americans to replace every single weapon wasted during the Ojhri camp incident.

Callousness has run so deep among the Pakistanis that they have heightened their threshold to tolerate loss of life to the level of insensitivity. The figure of 3,000 dead bodies for the Americans is worth fighting a trillion dollars war for over a decade while a figure of 160 dead bodies is enough for the Indians to want to jeopardise ‘peace’ with Pakistan — if there is any. But as high a figure as 35,000 Pakistani lives lost is not big enough to raise a single eyebrow. Not even our own security elite who only use this figure to get more concessions from the world and regional powers to play its games.

Someone needs to tell the mythmakers that their argument that the Afghan jihad was necessary to save Pakistan from a pre-emptive attack by a ‘godless’ Soviet Union is rubbish. During one of my Twitter scuffles in 2010 with Ijazul Haq, son of General Ziaul Haq — infamous dictator and Pakistan’s man behind the Afghan jihad — he told me that had Pakistan not decided to be a part of the Afghan jihad, my name would have been Marvi Sirmedov — implying that the Soviets would have converted Pakistanis to atheism. No one is there to remind them of the real reason behind supporting and training the Taliban even after the fall of the Soviet Union when there was no threat of atheism to spread to the land of the pure.

When the Americans were going to bed with a dream of being the sole superpower, the Saudis were dreaming of heading global Wahabi imperialism, Iran and India were focusing on more of existential concerns of survival among hostile actors, Afghan warlords imagining Kabul — their homeland — to be under their own control, and trainers and students in FATA were fascinated with a global caliphate of Islam, while laying down the lives of thousands of Pakistanis and Afghans. Now go figure, who wins.


Confronting Popular Narrative about the Taliban — I

It originally appeared in Daily Times as my weekly column BAAGHI on Monday October 10, 2011

Last week, one got the opportunity to be on a television talk show with General Hamid Gul and Oria Maqbool Jan, a civil servant turned hawkish columnist for Urdu language newspapers, on the panel. Both have a long, indomitable record of being Taliban apologists and proponents of the infamous ‘strategic depth’ policy in Afghanistan. A lopsided panel it was, no doubt, but the host still insists on being ‘neutral’. Well!

What came up during the discussion was not something new, for one is quite familiar with the arguments usually thrown up by the likes of Mr Jan and General Gul. But how the ‘educated’ middle-class reacted to the counter arguments against those by the two gentlemen was quite astonishing. One would expect a violent backlash from our misguided youth after you loudly challenge the relevance of the Two Nation Theory or maybe stand up for the rights of religious minorities and oppressed social classes. But when even the advocacy of a rational approach in reviewing foreign policy becomes a threat to the ‘existence’ of Pakistan and amounts to ‘treason’, based on which you call for ‘public hanging’ of the challenger, hope is almost lost.

We have a brand of liberal and progressive ‘analysts’ who will join us for the equal rights for religious minorities, women’s empowerment, no persecution of Ahmedi Muslims, etc, but the same coterie will go the extra mile to justify the Taliban and how important it was/is to keep our link alive with the Haqqanis. One would not want to blame the Hamid Guls and Orya Jans who have been clearly putting forward their dream, which is Islamic glory and defeating the imperial US, Hindu India and the infidel West by a glorious Islamic rule first in Afghanistan through the Taliban, and then in Pakistan through — well let us figure it out — whom? I am worried about the ‘saner’ sections of the intelligentsia that enjoys the freedom promised by western civilisation and believes in a progressive world, but still prescribes to a medieval solution to conquer the region.

A queasy fetish of ‘supremacy’ inherited from a delusional united-Indian Muslim has engulfed Pakistan’s educated classes; while the system at home runs on money borrowed/begged from the West, society continues to suffer from unfathomable oblivion leading to sick denial and the people bear the brunt in the form of collapsed state writ to provide for basic needs and ensure rule of law. What General Gul claimed in the said programme is a very simple narrative that is now the popular understanding, thanks to a hypocritical and venal media, which is an accomplice in the radicalisation of Pakistani society and gives uncompromising coverage to these thickheads only to misguide a people with slightly less than zero percent literacy rate when it comes to history, international politics and Pakistan’s own role in violent South Asia for decades. The storyline on Pakistan’s streets is as follows:

The Taliban’s was a peaceful reign. The US made these jihadis during the Afghan jihad and then they got together under the banner of the Taliban. The US stopped supporting the mujahideen after the Soviet withdrawal lest Islam gain power in the region. 9/11 was an inside job to be used as a pretext to enter Afghanistan and then Pakistan. The US attacked a sovereign Afghanistan in 2001 and the Taliban came forward to defend their homeland. They are thus freedom fighters, not terrorists. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) is against Pakistan and is funded by India. More than 70 percent of Afghanistan is being controlled by the Taliban right now. The Karzai government is just an American puppet and does not represent the Afghan people. Afghans love the Taliban and want them in power. It is the indisputable right of the Taliban to rule Afghanistan. India is fuelling the ‘insurgency’ in Balochistan through its massive presence in Afghanistan via “hundreds of Indian consulates” along the Durand Line. Pakistan will get a huge advantage against India if the Taliban come to power. The Pakistani Taliban are just our brats who should be spoken to in order to remove their ‘grievances’ and to mainstream them into Pakistan’s society and state. Terrorist attacks started happening in Pakistan after we announced our support for the global war on terror.

One would need several columns to deal with every single myth listed above, some of which are so insulting to average human intelligence that one cannot even laugh at them. If the Pakistani Taliban is the handiwork of our all time villain, Hindu India, how can the same Indian agents be our bigray huway bachay (spoilt children)? If some of our brats have been conspiring to implode our country in connivance with our supposed enemy, how and why should we negotiate with them in order to mainstream them into Pakistani society?

It might be useful to recall here that the Taliban’s was not an internationally accepted sovereign government. Recognised only by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan, Kabul did not have any embassy during that gory regime save Pakistan’s. Why I call that regime gory is verifiable from the news files of that period. When hundreds of Shias were killed, women were violently subjugated, girl children were denied education and basic health services in case a female doctor was unavailable, anyone who did not accept the authority of the Taliban was brutally killed and non-Pakhtuns and ‘rebellious’ Pakhtuns were butchered, calling such a period as the ‘most peaceful’ one amounts to a shameless partisanship with the killers.

This unrecognised government by a group of barbarians who came to power through the gun (provided by us and not by the US) and not the vote, had zero credibility in the first place. They were loathed internationally for their opposition to and violence towards even aid groups working for humanitarian causes. They hosted militant sectarian organisations that killed the Pakistani people just for saying or not saying their prayers in a certain way. There were training camps of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and other militant outfits that were involved in the killing of urban Pakistanis — ironically, the same class that is today supporting the Taliban as ‘freedom fighters’. They were hosting bin Laden, the most wanted terrorist who was being claimed by the US and Saudi Arabia as well. It was not very long before 9/11 that then Prince Abdullah visited Pakistan (and later Kabul as well) for negotiations with the Taliban, with the Pakistani authorities a part of the process, to hand over bin Laden. This was before 9/11.

This rogue Taliban government not only committed crimes against humanity and stubbornly overturned the world’s repeated requests to not harbour terrorists (belonging to al Qaeda and Pakistani sectarian outfits), it also started antagonising Pakistan. Press conferences by Mullah Zaeef, Taliban’s ambassador to Pakistan, are on record where he accuses Pakistan of not only interfering in Afghanistan’s internal matters but also levels allegations of Pakistan eating up donor money that came to Pakistan in the name of Afghan refugees. Mullah Zaeef’s book shows the Taliban’s hatred for Pakistan where he calls Pakistan a hypocrite state that plays double games with everyone.

(Read the second part here