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Systematic Neo-colonization of Muslim World By Brig(R) Asif Haroon Raja


Systematic Neo-colonisation of Muslim World


Brig(R) Asif Haroon Raja


In the 6th century, the entire Arab Peninsula had sunk into the morass of deprivation and delinquency. The two superpowers of the time, Romans (Byzantine Empire) and Persians (Sassanian Empire) were situated in the west and east of Arabian Peninsula respectively and were antagonists. The 28-year war (602-630 A.D.) had drained the two empires and decay had begun to set in. It was in those times that Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), born in Mecca on April 22, 571 A.D., came on the scene and started his holy mission in 610 A.D. assigned to him by Allah. In less than 20 years, he purged the degenerated Arabian society of the multifarious deep-seated evils and transformed the savage Arab tribes into civilized people. Mecca became the cradle of a new civilization and the fountainhead of a new culture. An embodiment of all human values and virtues, and the brightest example in the annals of history, and greatest benefactor of mankind, Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) breathed his last on the fateful day of June 8, 632 A.D. He left behind an ideal democracy (Meesakh-e-Madina) based on equality, fraternity, and justice which was meant for the betterment and wellbeing of mankind. It was practiced by the elected Caliphs for next 30 years.


The era of Khulfa-e-Rashida (632 – 661 A.D.) have no parallel in the human history and is acknowledged as the glorious and momentous period in the annals of the Islamic world. Their far-reaching contributions will ever remain the most outstanding achievements recorded in human history. The ill-equipped and unskilled nomadic Arabs destroyed the Persian Empire and humbled the Byzantine Empire. In the space of 100 years, the Arabs conquered an empire extending from the Pamirs in the east to the Atlantic coast of Morocco in the west, and northwards into southern France. In the 7th century, the Arab Muslim armies implanted Muslim faith in all the countries overpowered by them and their victory was total and wholesome. The Muslim Empire was a more civilized society than the Christian Europe. It was more tolerant; even the Christians of Egypt and Syria preferred Arab rule over the Christian Constantinople. Tolerance and justice exhibited by the Muslims toward other religions have been universally acknowledged. Infused by the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), the Arabs brought about the greatest revolution in the annals of mankind.


With the accession of Hazrat Muawiya as the first Caliph of Umayyads in 661 A.D. with capital at Damascus, the democratic nature of Khilafat was changed and it assumed the trappings of monarchy. The Umayyads (661-750 A.D.), the Abbasids (750-1258 A.D.) and Spanish Moors in Spain (714-1492 A.D.) reached the pinnacle of glory during their respective rules and left behind their marks. Muslim rule in Spain, in particular, was the marvel of the middle ages. When all Europe had plunged in barbaric ignorance and strife, Spain, particularly Cordova alone held the torch of learning and civilization before the western world. Christians and Jews were given total liberty to build churches and synagogues.  However, infighting among Umayyads, Abbasids, and Moors, their intrigues, and digression from the path of Islamic teachings led to their humiliating downfall and large-scale massacre.


In their desperate bid to possess the Holy Land of Jerusalem from the Muslims, the Christian world launched series of ferocious crusades from 1095 to 1798. The first series of crusades undertaken in 10th Century were Jerusalem focused. The crusades in the name of religion wrought havoc but their genocide was confined to Jerusalem and the nearby areas of Palestine only. Rest of the Middle East was not touched since the invaders didn’t have the capacity to do so. More so, their objective was seizure of Jerusalem and not Islam and Muslims. Hence the bloodbath remained confined to a limited area. Jerusalem changed hands but was eventually captured by Salah Uddin Ayubi after decisively defeating the crusaders. The defeat of the crusaders left deep imprints of prejudice and hostility among the Christendom against Islam, the effects of which have persisted till today.


The Ottomans reigned supreme from 1299 to 1566 A.D. During Suleman 1 (The Magnificent) tenure from 1520 till 1566, he made Ottoman Empire the most dominant both on land and sea. Its vast dominions included major parts of southeast Europe, West Asia, and North Africa, stretching from Vienna to the wall of China in the east, and from Ukraine in the north to the source of Nile in the south. In 17th and 18th century, the Turks gradually lost their glory. Europe and North America had become much richer and technologically stronger than rest of the world by the end of 18th century. This was owing to cultural transformation and industrial revolution in Europe. Overseas colonial expansion by European powers recommenced after 1870 under a new title of ‘New Imperialism’. Colonization in Middle East, Africa, Asia, and Pacific Basin rich in resources and raw materials was undertaken on the pretext of Europeanising ‘backward’ regions as part of “white man’s burden”. Among the European rivals, Britain took the lead since it had the strongest navy. Great Britain lorded over the colonized world through its policy of divide and rule.


The notorious Sykes-Picot pact – the basis of modern Middle East’s political map, came into being as a product of an Anglo-French joint conspiracy. Turkey raised no objection to the 1917 Sykes-Picot sinister plan of giving birth to an illegitimate child Israel at the cost of Palestinians and hastened to recognize the illegal state. In drawing a new map of the Arab land, the local Arab Muslims didn’t have an iota of involvement. The Arab Muslims were incited and manipulated by the British, joined the Anglo-French Alliance in 1917 against the Turks to fragment Ottoman Empire and dismantle Khilafat –the citadel of Muslim power.


Under Kemal Ata Turk, Turkey was turned into a model secular state and in the name of modernism, Islamic customs and traditions were replaced with western culture. Likewise, The Arab world was divided into 20 states. The Emirates like new states were created to fit in the new political map. A clan of compliant rulers was installed in these Emirates only to serve the imperialists’ agenda and pursue their own opportunism. The British-French installed puppet regimes disapproved the core Islamic principles like Sharia, Hudud, Khalifa and Jihad and instead promoted secularism and nationalism and remained engulfed in intrigues and perpetual inter-state rivalry. Once the US and former USSR emerged as new superpowers after the 2nd World War, the Middle Eastern countries accepted the lordship of the new masters who preferred authoritarian rulers and kings.


Same happened with other decolonized Muslim countries in Asia and Africa where the British trained secular-minded rulers gained power who adopted Westminster democracy, Anglo-Saxon laws and western police, civil and military management systems. For the general public, decolonization proved worse since independence was in name only. Notwithstanding the massive loot, plunder, rapine, slavery in the colonies of the Western Christian imperialism, which cannot be forgotten and forgiven, the colonization did much good in the name of spreading European civilization and Enlightenment. But Gora (White) Sahibs were replaced by avaricious and haughty Brown Sahibs devoid of moral and human values. They maintained the class system and widened the gulf between the rich and poor.  The US-led west made sure that the decolonized States remained dependent upon them. As a consequence, the Muslim world despite its massive wealth and resources remained far behind the western world.


The period between 1946 and 1991 witnessed the cold war between the two superpowers each vying to expand its power of influence outside the western and eastern hemispheres. Developing and underdeveloped worlds suffered the most at the hands of imperialist powers as well as Israel and India. This period saw the occupation of states by the Red Army, resistance war in Cuba, Vietnam War, Korean War, Indo-Pakistan wars, Arab-Israeli wars, civil war in Lebanon, Iran-Iraq war, Falkland war, Afghan war, First Gulf War, conflicts in Africa and forcible regime changes. After the dismantlement of USSR in 1991, the US has been vying to convert the world into a globalized village run by the neo-cons and corporates. This ambition led to the engineered 9/11. In the aftermath of 9/11, the Muslim world was subjected to the US-led global coalition of the 21st-century crusaders under a set agenda to once again redraw the boundaries of the Middle East, steal their mineral resources and neo-colonize the defiant Muslim States. The brutalization of Muslim Ummah was justified and legalized under the cover of global terrorism. The puppet regimes of the targeted countries or the rebels helped the crusaders in destroying Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen and Syria, or in changing defiant regimes.


The global war on terrorism triggered by the sole super power and its western allies has surpassed previous genocidal wars. The sort of destruction and pogrom carried out by the new crusaders have paled the barbarities of the medieval crusaders and even the Mongols under Changez and Halaku – notorious for their genocide, into insignificance. None in the past had razed any Muslim cities to ground as was done in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and now in Syria. After repeated destruction of Gaza by the Israeli forces and keeping it besieged since 2007, Syrian cities are being devastated in succession. Hama, Homs, Latakia, and now Aleppo are worst affected. In Iraq, after systematically ruining Fallujah, Tikrit, and Ramadi, Mosul is now being destroyed.


Notwithstanding the deprivation of the US-led the western world, which is ravenously plundering the mineral wealth of the Muslim countries, the role of the Muslims is no less deplorable. Their moral scale has touched the lowest ebb. There was a time when the old crusaders would find it near impossible to recruit a collaborator from within the Muslims or to build a military base, or install a Trojan horse to promote their agenda. Unfortunately, there is no dearth of collaborators now who are prepared to sell their souls for money. The earlier crusaders didn’t have any collaborating Muslim partners; but now the Muslim rulers -with few exception, compete for each other to become full collaborators cum coalition partners of the new crusaders. The western forces could not have successfully invaded and occupied Muslim countries without the aid of fifth columnists and the conspiring rulers of Muslim states.


The success of the 21st-century crusaders is huge. The old crusaders couldn’t alter the demography and geography of Palestine. But now they have succeeded in changing the boundaries of Middle East as visualized by Lt Col Ralph Peters in 2006. His map shows Baluchistan an independent state. Earlier on in 1982, Israeli Adid Yenon had given the idea of dividing the Arab states into smaller quasi-states on the ethnic/sectarian basis. Eight member team comprising Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, David Wurmser, his wife Meyrav Wurmser, James Colbert, John Bolton, Charles Fairbanks, Jr. Robert Loewenberg and Benjamin Netanyahu were the architects of the gory plan in 1996 to redraw the boundaries of Middle East by stoking chaos, bringing ‘regime change’ to install stable puppets, or else to balkanise. Pentagon’s Memo listing 7 States in the Middle East is well known. The Islamic State (IS), the creation of CIA helped in creating chaos in the Middle East and in changing boundaries of Iraq and Syria.


As a consequence of moral degeneration and leadership crisis within Muslim Ummah, the new crusaders are fighting their battles inside the Muslim lands. Foreign powers are in occupation of Afghanistan since November 2001 and have military bases in Iraq, Syria, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, UAE and several other Muslim countries. In some of the Muslim countries, USA has converted its Embassies into fortresses and spying dens and Pakistan is one example. These collaborating Muslim countries have provided strategic depth to the western world and have enabled it to keep the whole lot of Muslim countries in their iron grip and to loot their resources and to keep them militarily weak and dependent.


Divide and rule policy has helped the western powers to keep the Muslim States, particularly in the Middle East locked in perpetual rivalry. The Arab Muslims – despite their ethnic, linguistic and geographical oneness, stand divided into more than 20 States. The string-puppet regimes installed by the USA have secularized their respective countries and in order to please their so-called patrons, they disapprove Islamic laws. The core Islamic principles like Sharia, Hudud, Khalifa, Jihad and trans-ethnic global solidarity are censured. Contrary to such Qur’anic ruling, they have raised walls of divisions to protect the pre-Islamic ethnic, linguistic and tribal identity. These divisive walls in the name of race, language or religious sect had been dismantled during the golden period of Muslims.


The Saudi-led Gulf States supported Iraq under Saddam Hussain when Iraqi forces invaded Iran in 1980. After the Iraqi forces captured Kuwait in August 1991, the other Arab countries led by Saudi Arabia allowed the US and NATO to bomb and invade Iraq in November 1991. They provided military bases to the US which are still in its occupation. The entire Muslim world supported the US-NATO invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001. The ground invasion was undertaken by Northern Alliance troops (non-Pashtun Afghans), trained and equipped by India and Iran.  Pakistan provided military bases and intelligence support as well as land supply routes to the invaders. The Taliban ousted from power are in the wilderness but are resisting the occupying forces and the US installed puppet regime in Kabul. There is deep animosity between Pashtun Afghans who are in the heavy majority but out of power and homeless, and the US supported non-Pashtun Afghans, belonging to northern parts of the country, ruling the country since December 2001. The Arab world supported the US-NATO invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003 and then of Libya in 2011. Both the countries stand divided and are in turmoil.


The Arab world watched from sidelines the repeated invasion and massacre of people of Gaza by Israeli forces and blockade of Gaza strip since 2007. Only Iran provided some unguided rockets to the Hamas to contest the aggressors. Arab League and OIC have played no role in resolving the chronic Palestinian dispute pending in the tray of the UN since 1948. The world comity has turned a blind eye to Israeli forward settlement policy and Israel’s U-turn on Oslo Accord, after agreeing to the two-state solution in return for peace.


In the Syrian civil war, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Gulf States and Iran are fully involved. The Turkish government had allowed the US to use its airbase to bomb the Syrian and the Iraqi cities to flush out ISIS. This base was closed after the recent coup in Turkey in which it was found to be supporting the rebels. Paradoxically, the US Army personnel are fighting shoulder to shoulder with the Kurdish Marxist-Leninist YPG terrorists in northern Syria – though these Kurdish fighters are marked as terrorists even by the American administration. The US soldiers even wore the YPG badge on their military uniform. However, Turkey treats the Kurds as an enemy and is bombarding their positions in Syria and Iraq. Iranian soldiers and militia, as well as Lebanon-based Hezbollah, are taking part in Syrian civil war in support of Assad regime.


Marooned Assad-led Syrian regime has allowed Russia to establish its air base and a naval base in Syria and to help Syrian forces in fighting the US supported the rebellion. The Russian, the US and western forces, as well as Turkish forces, are bombing the Islamists in Syria. The civil war in Syria since March 2011 has resulted in deaths of 350,000 people and displacement of 12 million people.


Saleh regime in Yemen had allowed CIA to use drones against Al-Qaeda from the US base in Djibouti, which later sparked a civil war and Saudi-Houthis war which is still raging. Saudi air force along with Egyptian and Gulf States air power are bombing Yemen since March 2015. Somalia lived in a civil war since the early 1990s has become a failed state own to the US interventionist policy.


Egyptian President General Abdul Fatah al-Sisi dethroned democratically elected Morsi and Muslim Brotherhood (MB) regime from power in July 2013 and his act was supported by the Saudi-led Gulf States and the US. The major reason for the coup was that Israel was unhappy over MB’s support to Gazans. Sisi’s ruthless persecution of Islamists is overlooked by the advanced world while Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf States dole out reward money to the dictator since their rulers are no lesser autocrats. Resistance forces led by MB are fighting government forces in Sinai.


The two ideological rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia sponsor proxy wars in other countries to promote Shiaism and Wahabism. The Palestinian leadership is divided; one led by Hamas in Gaza and other by Abbas in West Bank. Democratically elected Hamas have been declared terrorists by the US, UN, and Israel.


The ISIS under Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi established its caliphate stretching from Raqqa in Syria to Falluja, Mosul, Dyala in Iraq in mid-2014 and later on spread its tentacles into Libya, Yemen, Algeria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan. It was created by CIA in Bucca Camp in Baghdad in 2006 under Zarqawi to fight Al-Qaeda in Fallujah and Ambar. Later it was sent to Syria in 2011 to help Nusra group and other rebel groups to topple Assad regime. The ISIS fighters after capturing the entire northeastern Syria including oil/gas fields in 2013, then captured large parts of northwestern Iraq and established its own caliphate in June 2014. After capturing Mosul, the Islamic State (IS) became the richest militant group in the world. Large numbers of white Jihadis from Europe started joining IS, and its fighters slaughtered Christians and Yazidis in northern Iraq and enslaved their girls for prostitution. These events coupled with the IS threat to capture Karbala, Najaf, Mecca and Medina, alarmed the US, Europe, the Arab world, Turkey, and Iran.


The US-NATO started an air campaign against the IS positions in Iraq and Syria in August 2014 but couldn’t make any dent in the IS power. From 30 September 2015 onward, Russia airpower also joined the fray in Syria to help the beleaguered Assad regime from collapsing. It is helping Assad forces to recover the lost territories as well as in eliminating the IS, which is in control of the one-third northeastern territory of Syria including oil and gas fields. Although the IS positions are being bombed and Iraqi Nationalist Army assisted by Kurds, Turkmen and Shia militias are fast recovering their lost territories and have recovered Fallujah and are now fighting a pitched battle in Mosul, CIA, Mossad and RAW are on the quiet employing IS fighters as proxies in their target countries. In fact, RAW has become the major supplier of arms and explosives to IS in Iraq and Syria. RAW helped the IS in tying the knot with runaway Jamaat e Ahrar, a breakaway faction of Tehrik-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) under Khalid Khurasani based in Nangarhar and with TTP Amir Fazlullah in Kunar, the two provinces of Afghanistan.


Pakistan was forced by the USA to fight the US imposed war on terror on its soil. Although Pakistan was declared a frontline state and a non-NATO ally, in reality, it was a target. Pakistan was pressed to fight the terror groups, but TTP, BLA, BRA, BLF were secretly funded, equipped and trained by RAW and Afghan NDS and tasked to fight Pak security forces in FATA, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Baluchistan. RAW also funded and armed MQM political party in Sindh. All this was supervised by CIA, Mossad and MI-6. Afghanistan has turned into the biggest launching pad for exporting terrorism into Pakistan. Massive covert operations are going on since 2003 as a result of which Pakistan has suffered well over 60,000 human fatalities, and a financial loss of $ 118 billion. Pakistan is also host to 3 million Afghan refugees since 1978. Despite such colossal sacrifices and Pakistan having performed exceptionally well against terrorism, Pakistan is blamed by Kabul, New Delhi, and Washington that it is abetting terrorism in Afghanistan, Kashmir, and India. The trio knitted in strategic partnership has for all practical purposes lost the war in Afghanistan. Rather than admitting their defeat ad accepting the Taliban as the major stakeholder, or correcting their fault lines, they are merely reinforcing failure. In order to hide their failures, they blame Pakistan, naively thinking that blame game and making Pakistan a scapegoat would lessen their pains.


The ideological conversion cum de-Islamisation of the autocratic rulers in the Arab world has been so complete that they face no compunction nor feel any Islamic prohibition to provide bases for these traditional enemies of Muslims and Islam. It is a consequence of their delinquency and moral bankruptcy and their secret alliance with their masters in the western world that none of them has ever raised his voice against such massive destruction of the Muslim cities and massacre of innocents in Iraq, Libya, Syria, Palestine, Yemen, and Afghanistan. Their willing cooperation has encouraged many in the US to suggest nuking holy sites in Saudi Arabia or the belt along the Pak-Afghan border belt. God forbid, if ever such a monstrous thing occurred and millions are killed, who will condemn it? The tongue-tied and captive Muslim rulers will not utter a word of protest.


The US controlled UN may meekly condemn and so will some human rights activists and those in the West like Noam Chomsky, but no resolution will be passed by the UN to punish the perpetrators of this savagery. The US was not punished for dropping hydrogen bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 killing 1, 40,000 people. George W. Bush and his team of neocons have not been held accountable for invading and destroying Afghanistan without proving Osama bin Laden guilty of masterminding attacks in New York and Pentagon; and Bush and Tony Blair for destroying Iraq on fake charges; and for killing over two million innocent people in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen and Somalia. War monger Obama who used the drone as a choice weapon and further expanded the war on terror was awarded Nobel Prize.


The global war on terrorism has remained confined to the Muslim world only while others have been given a clean chit. Barring North Korea, all other targeted countries falling in the ‘axis of evil’ are Muslim countries. The Muslims stand destitute hostage to these brutal big powers. The occupation of Muslim lands, bombing the cities and killing millions is labeled as their security need to protect their so-called national interests. Even dropping nuclear bombs in 1945 was considered a rightful act in the same context. And whoever challenges such savage aggression and hegemony is labeled as a terrorist. All freedom movements such as Palestinian and Kashmiri movements have been bracketed with terrorism.


The entire Muslim world is disconnected from the roadmap prescribed in the Quran and has chosen the path suggested by the US-led the western world. This deviation from the righteous path has brought upon them untold miseries. Independence is in name only. There is a complete disconnect between the Muslim rulers and the people, a majority of whom fervently seek Sharia (Islamic laws) since capitalism, Westminster democracy and Anglo-Saxon laws are pro-rich only.


Palestinian issue, Israeli belligerence, Gaza turned into open prison, desecration of Al-Aqsa mosque, double standards of the west, involvement of Iran’s increasing involvement in Arab countries, revengeful persecution of Sunnis in Iraq, forcible change of regime in Libya, willful destabilization of Syria, when seen in context with weakened welfare system within Arab world, unemployment, misrule of Arab rulers, hatred against Hamas, their pro-western policies all put together, have bred discontentment among the Arab youth and they are fatally getting attracted towards extremism and organisations like Da’esh.

In Pakistan, people are by and large dissatisfied with the parliamentary form of democracy and the judicial system since these alien systems have utterly failed to transform Pakistan into a welfare state as was envisioned by Quaid-e-Azam. 70 years have passed since independence but the have-nots have remained deprived of basic necessities of life as well as social justice. The cancers of corruption and terrorism are eating into the vitals of the country. The political class seems least interested in badly needed political, electoral, bureaucratic, police, judicial and accountability reforms. The ruling elite is also not prepared to formulate an independent foreign policy that can safeguard Pakistan’s national interests. Until and unless these reforms are implemented in letter and spirit, the scourges of corruption and terrorism will not be eliminated and Pakistan will not become a self-reliant nation. In-house cleanliness, moral reformation, unity, cohesiveness, and patriotism will change the complexion of Pakistan and thwart dangerous Indo-US-Israeli agenda. Only then the CPEC can become a game changer.


The writer is a retired Brig, a war veteran, defense and security analyst, columnist, author of 5 books, Vice Chairman Thinkers Forum Pakistan, DG Measac Research Centre, Member Executive Council PESS. Takes part in TV talk shows and delivers talks. [email protected]     




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Dr. Farzana Shaikh Associate Fellow, Asia Programme, Chatham Houseimages-2

Qatrina Hussain Director, Current Affairs, Express News

Mustafa Qadri Journalist, The Guardian, Radio Australia, The Diplomat

Beena Sarwar Special Projects (Aman Ki Asha), The News International; India-Pakistan peace activist

Rahimullah Yusufzai Executive Editor, Peshawar, The News

Monday 11 October 2010

Introduction: Dr. Farzana Shaikh


Good evening and welcome all of you. My name is Farzana Shaikh and I’m an associate fellow here at Chatham House. So ladies and gentlemen it gives me very great pleasure today to have in our midst a team of Pakistan’s finest journalists who have all made their mark as some of the most astute, perceptive and independent-minded commentators of this complex country. Our guests – television anchor Qatrina Hussain, freelance columnist Mustafa Qadri, newspaper editor Rahimullah Yusufzai and documentary filmmaker Beena Sarwar – have set themselves a formidable challenge for they aim to wrestle with and hopefully resolve for us today that most phony question that plagues us all: Does Pakistan have an image problem and, if so, why? Does the country’s unenviable reputation as the most dangerous place in the world stem from ill-found perceptions encouraged by a hostile media abroad or is it, in fact, rooted in the realities of present day Pakistan? It is precisely this gap between perceptions and realities with regard to Pakistan that will set the agenda for today’s meeting and that will be addressed by each of our speakers before, of course, we broaden this discussion to encourage questions from the floor. So without any further ado, let me hand over to Mustafa Qadri on my left.

Mustafa Qadri:

I suppose, Farzana, you have thrown down the gauntlet to us. Everyone wants to know what’s happening in Pakistan, I suppose. We will try our best to demystify Pakistan. I’m an independent journalist based in Pakistan and I write for a number of agencies including The Guardian, The Australian and Radio National Australia. I’ve also organized this event and two other events later in the week. The thought behind that was in a way simple, in a way not so obvious. At the moment, there is so much interest in Pakistan and its very common to have events discussing Pakistan with experts on the country in London and other international capitals, but one thing I find that is quite sparse is an event where thoughtful Pakistanis and only thoughtful Pakistanis talk about their country. That’s basically why I organized this event today. When I set about to do this task, I thought we needed to have really professional – the best journalists available in Pakistan, people who are the best in their field, veteran journalists and people who really report from the front line. That’s why we have Qatrina, Beena and Rahimullah with us today. So I hope I can get all of this right. I’ll just give you a very brief introduction to who they are.

Qatrina Hussain is one of the most eloquent voices on Pakistan in television. Her Sayasi Log current affairs program is required viewing for anyone interested in Pakistan’s domestic or international happenings. She has interviewed British Foreign Secretary William Hague, US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates and former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Of course, she’s interviewed most of Pakistan’s senior politicians and analysts. Tonight, she will be briefly talking to you about avoiding the narrative that plagues on militants’ strengths. She’ll basically unpack the idea that the current discourse actually promotes what the militants’ agenda is and, in a way, stops us and Pakistan from finding a solution.

We also have with us Beena Sarwar. She’s an award-winning journalist and documentary filmmaker who has recorded extensively on human rights, gender and the democracy movement in Pakistan. She’s currently involved in a peace initiative between two of the largest media companies in India and Pakistan. Beena is also renowned for having some of the freshest insights into the subcontinents oldest problems. She’ll be talking briefly about prospects for peace between India and Pakistan, particularly with respect to the work between the two media companies in India and Pakistan.

And lastly, but not least, we have Rahimullah Yusufzai. For thirty years, he has been on the pulse of what’s been happening between Afghanistan and Pakistan. He was the first to report on the Taliban movement in Kandahar and interviewed Taliban Chief Mullah Omar and Al Qaeda head Osama Bin Laden on several occasions. He is basically the go-to man of international media, trying to understand and to report on one of the most mysterious insurgencies in modern history.

I think it’s fair to say that journalists both from abroad and also in Pakistan are in the forefront of trying to understand the country. I think it’s also fair to say that Pakistan’s media is the most powerful institution in the country. At its best, it keeps the powerful accountable and gives a voice to the voiceless. At its worst, it has been accused of fear mongering and rebel rousing. I hope tonight we can unpack these contradictions and avoid the easy and usual stereotypes. Again, I thank you all and I thank Chatham House for having us.

Dr Farzana Shaikh:

I think we will all now to turn to Qatrina to set the ball rolling.

Qatrina Hussain:

Good evening and thank you so much for taking the time out to come and hear our views and share and exchange some ideas. My biggest concern these days as I continue to live and work in Pakistan is that whenever I talk to people who have never visited Pakistan or know very little about it, is the fact that everything they really know about that country is shaped by militancy, my terrorism and violence. If you ask anyone to free associate and you say the word ‘Pakistan’, they are going to say terrorist. It’s jihad central. It’s all those other words that are put out there. The problem with that is that there are 118 million people living in that country and you could put any number you want on the number of terrorists – you want half a million, one million – that’s still a fraction of the number of people who live in that country. Yet, that fraction, that minority has become the voice of the entire country. I’m not saying at this point that there is no terrorism attacks in Pakistan. You see it in your newspapers every day. We live with it. We go through it every day. We deal with it. Our lives are shaped by it in many ways. But what is concerning me increasingly is that as I talk to younger Pakistanis, teenagers, people are in their early twenties, I begin to see a very conservative, reactionary attitude developing in the educated, younger – I hate the word – elite of Pakistan which didn’t exist when I was a teenager. That was a long time ago. I realize that. But its changing and Pakistan is changing in ways that are scary and difficult to understand even for those of us who live there.

Part of the problem that I’m seeing is that this concept of Pakistan being the world’s terror capital, the perception that Pakistan is the terrorism-exporting capital of the world – All of which has some validity. We all know that [inaudible] Shahzad came to Pakistan and got training there. We know the 7/7 bombers came to Pakistan and there are links, yes, but that is not the entire country. By painting the entire country with the same brush, you are in effect pushing people into coming very defiant and defensive about who they are and what they stand for. I have young teenagers coming to me and talking to me about their Muslim identity and I’m going, “Huh?” It was something we took for granted when we were growing up. It was, you know, we believe we are Muslims, so big deal. Today, this extreme increase where my friend’s teenage daughters are now wearing hijab and their mother’s don’t and never did. So it’s a sort of reaction to what they are seeing as a challenge perhaps to them. Now these are ideas, these are thoughts. I’m exploring this. I’m not saying that this is definitive and this is fact. But that is something that I think we need to be concerned about. We need to think about how we perceive a country and how we portray it so the perception shouldn’t become the reality and that’s what, in many ways, I think is happening.

After that, the frustrations of living in a country where the economic crisis is extreme. With the floods that have ripped through the country this year – and I cannot begin to describe to you in a minute or two what absolute devastation and destruction we have witnessed. Entire villages wiped out. Miles and miles and miles of crop land of standing water. Beautiful lush green and burnt [inaudible] at the base because they are rotting in the water. Two growing seasons [inaudible], rehabilitation and relocation of 20 million people in a country that had 48 percent food insecurity before the floods. So you can imagine the challenge that we are facing and when I say we, this is each and every one of us who lives there because everybody got together and worked as hard as they could and everything and the world has helped. I mean, I would thank every single person who has helped and we still need all the help we can get. Now, compound that with the fact that we’ve had a power shortage in the country for two to three years that has been so extreme that it has absolutely devastated Pakistan’

biggest revenue earner which is textiles and cotton fabrics. In fact, factories have shut down so unemployment is on the rise. Inflation is spiralling — basic food, potatoes and onions and everything has doubled in price over a period of two months.

So we are talking about a country that is going through paroxysms of desperation, of frustration, of anger and that anger I fear could result in a backlash. Not just against the state and the representatives of the state but everybody who has and those who do not have. I for one will not blame in the least because we have pushed them and we continue to push them into places where they simply cannot recover. I’d be happy to go into more detail. I’m just trying to give you a broad strokes opinion over here and I’m assuming all of you here are reasonably aware of what Pakistan is but Pakistan’s media, as Farzana mentioned, one of the things that you hear about – you see bearded men, you see veiled women. You don’t see Pakistan’s amazing music scene. You don’t see Pakistan’s amazing dance and fashion. Pakistan’s Fashion Week has started and it is pretty riveting stuff for those of us. Ok, I’m not saying that fashion, for example, represents all of us. I just think that London Fashion Week doesn’t represent everybody who lives in Britain. It is the other extreme that just simply doesn’t get seen and the huge bulk in between – the kid who goes to work in the bank, the girl who works as a receptionist, a farmer who is worried about the crop. Who is listening to them? Do they matter? The more we ignore them, the more we create a vacuum which is being filled by militancy. Compounded with failure with governance, we are looking at a Pakistan that could conceivably be more dangerous two to five years from now than it currently is. I’ll leave it there and I’ll take questions in a minute.

Dr Farzana Shaikh:

Thank you, Qatrina. Beena, your turn.

Beena Sarwar:

All that Qatrina said, all that tonight’s guests will be saying, there is just so much about Pakistan – it’s just a very limited time. I’ve been asked to speak about the India, Pakistan situation which is something that I’m working on.

So I’ll just tell you a very little bit about that, just a little bit about the initiative that I’m working on so that you have an idea of what it is. It’s called Aman ki Asha which means the Book for Peace and it is a campaign for peace between the two largest media groups of India and Pakistan – the Jang Group of Pakistan and The Times of India. This is the first time that two media groups in both countries have joined hands for any campaign. On January 1, when the campaign was launched, there was an editorial on the front page of the Jung publications as well as the News, as well as the Times of India, that was written jointly. This was the first time ever in the history of India and Pakistan that they had a joint editorial on the front page. The Times of India carried a front page editorial that said ‘Love Pakistan’ and they carried a series of articles and so on. So it started with this bang and it was preceded with a poll that was conducted in December asking difficult questions about India and Pakistan — about what people said about things like the Kashmir issue and the relations between the two countries and all that.

There were surprising findings. For example, many of the people in India, the people polled – I forget the exact figure, but it was about 60 percent perhaps who said that the Indian government should engage with Pakistan on Kashmir to discuss the issue. Everybody was surprised because the feeling that you get or the perception you get in the media and everywhere else is that nobody in India wants to discuss Kashmir and they certainly don’t want to involve Pakistan. So there were many surprising findings in that survey.

About India and Pakistan, I think most of you would probably know what the problems are between the two countries. Just very briefly to recap, is that we fought three full-fledged wars. We fought one war-like situation that was called the Kargil which was right after the nuclear testing, but we have continued to stay in a state of hostilities. We have continued to stay in a warlike situation because of which we have war economies. We have economies that are geared towards militarism, [inaudible] and basically shoring up the army. The food and securitythat Qatrina mentioned is put by the wayside and security is seen only as what is security vis-a-vis India. That is now changing slowly.

There is a discourse within both countries — and I think Aman ki Asha has got something to do with that — where we are saying security is not just about border security. It’s not just about securing your borders. You have to have things like employment and food security and education and all of that. The hostile relations that India and Pakistan have mean that as the country next door to Pakistan, as Pakistan’s big neighbourhood, with these floods that have devastated the country, one-fifth of the country is still underwater even as the floodwaters are receding. But one-fifth of the country from the north to the south, this huge area of land, is under water still.

We have received so many queries from India. People wanting to know, “How can we help? What can we do?” They want to send food. They want to send medicine. They want to send doctors. People want to come and help. But because of the relationship that we have, the Pakistan government is not allowing that, is not tapping into that resource and the aid that India offered was accepted after some bickering. It was finally accepted but they said it would go through the UN and all of that. So the relationship between India and Pakistan colours even a humanitarian crisis as big as the flood which is the biggest catastrophe ever to hit Pakistan and probably any other countries in the world. The situation between India and Pakistan is such that we don’t have tourist visas between the two countries. I cannot visit India as a tourist. Nobody can come from India to visit as a tourist in Pakistan so that we don’t know about each other.

So the misconceptions, the perception that Qatrina talked about, the image of Pakistan – you think terrorism. But next door to Pakistan, right there in India, people turn around – When we went in May for an economic conference and we went to the Women’s Press Club and we were sitting there, there were several of us and many of us were women. A journalist in the human rights press said, “I’m surprised to see so many women in your delegation. I thought that you guys were all in purdah.” And you know we just burst out laughing. These are people, they are like our alter egos. India and Pakistan – it’s like two sides of the same coin. We have our militants, yes, but there is what they call the [inaudible] in India. Terrorism is terrorism. It doesn’t have a colour, you know, green, red, yellow, whatever. It is criminalized. It’s criminal behaviour and it’s been blamed on religion or whatever but it really basically just that – it’s criminal behaviour which needs to be dealt with through a law and order situation. India and Pakistan could cooperate and really make a lot of headway on the issue of terrorism because that is the one major sticking points that we have during talks with India and Pakistan. They always talk about terrorism, but they aren’t willing to concede that we have suffered more under quote, unquote terrorism than any other country in the world. We have lost thousands of lives, not just military but also civilian. As long as India keeps us at arm’s length and does exactly what the West is doing which is, you know, “You are not doing enough. Do more,” instead of cooperating with us, helping to strengthen our democratic political processes, then unless that happens, we are not going to make any real headway in that situation.

So in a nutshell, the real threat to Pakistan comes not from India which is where our entire, our conditioning all these years has been – That India is the enemy, textbooks, media, everything has been geared towards portraying India as an enemy. The economy, the military, everything. We have to face the real threat within which is not just the militancy and the jihadis, but also all the things that are allowing that to flourish which include food and security and unemployment and lack of education and all of that. IN a way, I think that if Pakistan and India were to behave as normal neighbours and live in peace, we could really make a lot of headway in really taking care of all of these issues. So I’ll end there. There’s so much more to say, but hopefully a lot of it will come out in the discussion afterwards.

Dr Farzana Shaikh:

Thank you, Beena. Rahimullah, now you will tell us about that real threat within.

Rahimullah Yusufzai:

Yes, I think I will talk about the identity of Pakistan because, as a reporter, I have been covering this area for so many years. My space is becoming limited. I could go to every place. I could interview Osama Bin Laden twice. I could meet Mullah Omar. I could travel in all the tribal areas in Afghanistan, but now I can’t do that. If I leave Peshawar where I am based and I go to Khyber Tribal area which is the link with Afghanistan, I would think twice just because it is so dangerous to do actual reporting. You are depending on secondary resources. You can’t do primary, honest work reporting any more — it’s so difficult — which means you won’t know the real situation.

The reality is so terrible and insane, but I tell you that the people who live in the tribal areas, in Khyber and [inaudible], you have heard about Waziristan — it is always in the news. But if you go to Waziristan – and I have been there very often, not to Waziristan proper – the people are just normal people, just like us. And myself, a Pashtun, I belong to Mardan, near Peshawar. In Waziristan and all the tribal areas, there have been polls and people have been asked about their biggest concerns and they say, we want to educate our children. We want to have better roads. We want to have electricity. I tell you, they don’t like militants, they don’t like Taliban. If some people are still supporting them, it is out of fear because the government has let them down. The government is not there to try to help the people, just because maybe people are being held hostage in these places. If they get a choice, I’m sure they would not support Taliban. They would support the government. The government has to actually do something more.

It has been a story of neglect. For 63 years, these tribal areas have been neglected and I tell you, this is the most underdeveloped area of Pakistan in every respect. You ask the people in the tribal areas, the tribal elders, the common people, they will tell you, the few all-girls schools – in the past, they would oppose girls’ schools. Now, if the governor, if the [inaudible] and if the builder goes to tribal areas, one of the main demands is that we want girls schools. We want roads – in the past, they would say that if the government builds roads, then the roads will bring the government. The government will come and we will lose our independence. Now, people want roads. They want development, but the government has failed them. That’s why there are problems.

I think we need to have help the tribal people to come out of the situation. That is very important and it cannot be done in isolation. There has to be a lot of inputs for everybody. It’s not only the Pakistan government. The whole world needs to help the tribal people – about 6 million people, 6 million people who are being held hostage. This area as you know has become the centre of militants, of terrorists. They operate across the border from us in Afghanistan and it is a sanctuary now for many people who could easily cross the border. So that’s the real problem there, but I tell you that in the whole province you have a people formally not a frontier province. People are fed up of violence. People are fed up of militants, but people are also angry with the government. We already had 1.6 million misplaced people in my province, but it was before the floods. Now we have more people displaced and all of these people need help to go back to their villages and their homes. Even those people who were displaced earlier, last year in March and April during the military operation in Swat and [inaudible], those people have gone back, most of them, but they are not being helped yet with the damages to their houses and properties. We are only paid one instalment of 35,000 rupees as an emergency help but they haven’t been supported to rebuild their houses or rebuild their lives or rebuild their livelihoods. That is to be done, but that needs resources which Pakistan does not have and then we have these other people who bring displaced by floods in Peshawar and in Swat and in other parts of the province.

So we have these acute problems. I don’t see that the Pakistan government has even the capacity or even the will to try and help these people. The world community has been of some help, but it is not enough. We have many issues of credibility of the government of that is one reason why there is not enough help but I think that if the people are left alone and they are not helped, then they will be many problems with which Pakistan will not be able to cope. We have an insurgency in Baluchistan, we have five military operations and even now, the Balouch people are the people who are fighting the state. They are not willing now to negotiate with the government of Pakistan.

The Pakistan government has been involved in talks, there have been reforms, there have been incentives but the Balouch people are not buying that. So we have problems in Baluchistan, insurgency in the north of the Balouchi borders and the tribal areas and we have now this flood which has misplaced so many people.

I think that Pakistan is in a very bad situation and we have not been able to resolve our problems with India. We have problems, issues, we have political instability. We have lack of trust in Pakistan, also, in the government that is an opportunity for the military to fill the vacuum. The military’s image was really, really bad because of Musharraf but now the military’s image has improved a lot because of the military operations against militants and also because of the military’s relief work in the floods. So I am afraid that if the government falters, the government is not able to do enough, then I think that there will be an opportunity for the military to take over any time. But I think the military at this stage is not in any mood to take over because there are so many problems which even the military will not be able to cope with. So we expect the civilian government – the government must improve its performance, but in the end, I’ll just say people in Pakistan, I must say, 70 million or even more, they are just normal people. We have militancy. We have all these issues with terrorism. But in fact the huge majority, they want peace. They want security. They want good governance.


The views expressed in this document are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of Chatham House, its staff, associates or Council. Chatham House is independent and owes no allegiance to any government or to any political body. It does not take institutional positions on policy issues. This document is issued on the understanding that if any extract is used, the author(s)/speaker(s) and Chatham House should be credited, preferably with the date of the publication or details of the event. Where this document refers to or reports statements made by speakers at an event every effort has been made to provide a fair representation of their views and opinions, but the ultimate responsibility for accuracy lies with this document’s author(s). The published text of speeches and presentations may differ from delivery.Transcript: Pakistan and its Crises: A Journalist’s View


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