Some of us tend to take a binary approach towards most issues; like either you are with us or against us. But there are always many reasonable options in between. For instance: a complete surrender of the writ of the state in the tribal areas of Pakistan or its full restoration. Restoration, by the way, implies re-establishment of the writ; which we never had in the first place; we used the tribals to achieve our strategic objectives in Kashmir and Afghanistan; and we abused them by militarizing and weaponizing them.
Anyway, instead of taking a binary approach of complete restoration or complete surrender; we need to start a process of dialogue and political settlement; in which they will accept some of our conditions and we will accept some of theirs, quid pro quo. For instance we could accept their demand of establishment of Sharia-compliant Qazi courts in the rural-tribal areas; and in return they could refrain from carrying out sabotage activities against the state.
And please don’t lecture me on the merits of the sacred tenets of neoliberalism. Take a look at the reality of our legal system and the environment of our lower courts: broken tables and chairs; moth-eaten files and documents; bribe-taking clerks; indolent judges and corrupt civil serpents. How big a deal would it be, if we accept the tribal’s demand of establishment of Qazi courts? The likes of which we had back in 90s in Swat and Malakand. Why do the Western powers object to the enactment of Sharia in the rural-tribal regions of Af-Pak, when they tacitly accept a similar system in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait and all over the GCC?
In the book of most neoliberals, violence is the worst sin in today’s world. I am also pacifist by nature but I see a contradiction in the neoliberals’ pacifism: they want us to meet violence with violence; to fight crime with crime; to wage a war against a war; but an eye for an eye will make the world go blind. It is an issue of emotions, loyalties and value-based subjective narratives which is presented to us in a veneer of rational argumentations and an appeal to logic.
To understand this we need to look at the history of the Cold War and the genesis of the petro-terrorism. There are four parties responsible for the mess that Af-Pak is today: one, the Soviets who invaded Afghanistan in 1979; two, the Pakistani military establishment who created these Jihadis; three, the Saudi and Gulf Sheikhdoms who generously funded them to promote their anti-democratic Wahabi-Salafi ideology. And last but not the least, the Western capitals who funded, equipped and legitimized these pawns to use them against a radical Global Marxist ideology which was a threat to their business/corporate interests back home and all over the world.
In this war between the Global Capitalism and the Global Marxism; Saudi Arabia and the Gulf petro-monarchies took the side of the former; because the USSR and the Central Asian states produce more energy and consume less of it; thus they are net exporters of energy; while the Global Capitalist bloc is a net importer of energy. It suits the economic interests of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries to maintain and strengthen a supplier-consumer relationship with the Capitalist bloc. Now the BRICS are equally hungry for the middle eastern energy but it’s a recent development; during the Cold War an alliance with the Western countries suited the material interests of GCC. Hence, the Communists were pronounced as Kafirs (heretics) and the Western capitalist bloc as Ahl-e-Kitaab (People of the Book) by the Salafist preachers of the GCC.
This blogpost is an assortment of some of my earlier comments at different forums on the subject of petro-terrorism. There is no denying the fact that terrorism is a real threat. But at the same time we cannot overlook the fact that 9/11 provided an opportunity to the Big Oil in the West to intervene in the Middle East region to secure its vast natural resources from the competing powers. Hence the name, True Lies of Petro-terrorism.
In his article titled “True Lies” Nadeem F. Paracha (NFP) of Dawn News asks an interesting question.
NFP: If US drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas whip up an enraged sense of revenge among the area’s Pashtun populace, what do terrorist attacks by the extremists create?
It is a valid logical argument but this argument is based on syllogistic logic. We need to be careful using syllogism for knowing the truth because even when one premise is slightly wrong we end up with an incorrect result. An instance: first premise; Socrates is a rational being: second premise; Socrates is a man: result: all men are rational beings. But all men are not rational beings especially the terrorists? Deductive reasoning in this example is correct but the second premise “Socrates is a man” is flawed on the count of inductive reasoning. Of course Socrates is a man but there are different kind of men, some are more rational than others depending on their education.
NFP is right about the fact that the US drone strikes whip up a sense of revenge among the tribals because in this case the perpetrator of the crime is clear and identifiable. But when it comes to the terrorist attacks the picture gets a little more complex. Here we need to draw a distinction between the terrorist attacks inside tribal areas and the terrorist attacks in the settled areas. We often hear about the infighting between different terrorist networks, it is sometimes a turf war and sometimes retaliatory and retributive infighting between different tribes, clans and terror networks. Thus NFP’s syllogism is correct, both drone attacks and suicide bombings inside tribal areas whip up a sense of revenge among the tribals. Tribal areas is a different world altogether, a world without any writ of the government and a heavily militarized population (thanks to the Soviet-Afghan war legacy) where disputes are settled through Jirgas and retribution is a common practice among different families, clans and tribes.
In my previous post: Is democracy consistent with Islam? I made a distinction between politics and culture and said that a democratic system of governance falls in the category of politics while liberalism as a value-system falls in the category of culture. When we say that Islam and democracy are incompatible, we make a category mistake as serious as the Islamists’ misperception that democracy is un-Islamic. They too mix up democracy with liberalism. In my arguments I conceded that there is some friction between liberalism as a culture and Islam as a religion. But democracy isn’t about religion or culture. It is simply a multi-party representative political system that confers legitimacy upon a government which comes to power through an election process which is a contest between more than one political parties, to ensure that it is voluntary. Thus, democracy and politics is about matters of governance and economics while culture is about the socio-moral values and the kind of social matrix that we, as individuals and families, want around us. There is some overlapping between politics and culture but as an heuristic principle this distinction holds true.
When I discuss the political pragmatism of the PTI, the reader will further appreciate the fact that realpolitik is mostly about power and rarely about cultural matters. Let us admit at the outset that Imran Khan is a very educated, well-informed, articulate and charismatic leader. Being an Oxford graduate he is far better informed than our local politicians. And he is a liberal at heart. Most readers won’t agree due to his strong anti-imperialism and the West-bashing demagoguery but I’ll try to explain. Like I said earlier that there is a difference between politics and culture; anti-imperialism is a political stance and liberalism is a cultural temperament. There is a theory called Reflective equilibrium. It states that our minds try to create a harmony between our different sets of beliefs and actions. If there is a divergence between our beliefs and actions, it leads to cognitive dissonance. To avoid this dissonance we try to attune our beliefs to bring them in conformity with our actions and vice versa.
Introduction: The Pakistani military establishment is rightfully blamed for creating the Taliban; but the phenomena of religious extremism and terrorism is not limited to Pakistan; this conflagration has engulfed the whole of Islamic world from Iraq and Syria to Algeria and Indonesia and even the Muslim minorities in China, Thailand and Philippines. Pakistani establishment does not has access to all these regions, thus, aside from local actors, some regional and global actors are also responsible for creating the menace of Islamic extremism and terrorism. A more holistic understanding of the problem will identify three actors responsible for creating this menace: Pakistani military establishment; Saudi and Gulf petro-monarchies and last but not the least, the Reagan Administration’s support for the Afghan Jihad in the context of the Cold War.
A recent EU parliament report also identified the Wahabi-Salafi roots of Global Terrorism; a laudable report which ironically or rather expectedly doesn’t even makes a passing reference to the role of Western powers in sponsoring Islamic terrorism during the 80s. Plausible deniability in waging proxy wars is a clever Machiavellian tactic in realpolitik but it is a form of “denial” which is always a part of the problem and never a part of the solution. Truth is a sine qua non in any Truth and Reconciliation approach. But this write-up is about the role of Saudi Arabia as the proverbial Caliph of Islam in promoting extremism and terrorism in the Muslim Ummah or Commonwealth; the role of Western powers in creating this hoax, I have already discussed in my blogpost: Terrorism as pretext for intervention.
The trouble with Pakistani liberals is that they don’t understand what they want? PPP (People’s party) and ANP (Pashtun Awami national party) opposed the Afghan Jihad; and the resultant extremism and terrorism in Pakistan in the aftermath of Afghan Jihad is in a way a vindication of their rightful stance. But mere vindication is not enough, we need to find solutions for the pressing problem. And what is their solution? Military-bashing, right-wing-bashing and a false victimhood syndrome. Actually there is more to extremism and terrorism than meets the eye. It is only partly an issue of human rights and minority rights; more than that it is an issue of social identities and subjective narratives.
The killings must stop, there are no two views about that; but the abhorrence and contempt shown by the elite towards the right-wing middle and lower classes is more about the latent religious conservatism in the Pakistani society. A state and its policies constitute a social matrix in which the individuals and their families reside. The kind of religious conservative society that the Zia regime has fostered in Pakistan is an anathema to the liberal elite. If the individuals and their families don’t like the social matrix; they blame the majority and tend to adopt a hostile attitude towards the majority and the state. It’s like the Katchi abadies (slums) right in front of PCs and Marriots; an eyesore in an otherwise posh environment. Like Chaudhry Nisar recently mentioned that thieves and thugs reside in such slums and he would like to purge them pronto.
Drones are in the news. Amnesty international issued a report that, while admitting that “this report is not a comprehensive survey of US drone strikes in Pakistan; it is a qualitative assessment based on detailed field research into nine of the 45 reported strikes (in 2012-13)….”, is critical of drone attacks and says that some of them could even be labelled war crimes.
This report’s accuracy has also been questioned. Meanwhile, the Pakistani defense ministry has officially written to parliament that drones have killed 2160 terrorists and only 67 civilians (each death is a tragedy, but in the context of wars of yore, that does sound impressively precise; compare for example to civilian casualties in Pakistani army operations or in previous US Air Force operations like Vietnam). Pakistan’s defense ministry also states that there have been NO civilian deaths since last year.