Saturday, February 26, 2011

A walk through a terror industry!

Visit to a military cantonment in Pakistan is revealing and inspiring for some and alarming, nay frightening, for many. On the main gate to a compound, one can see on a huge hoarding: “Jehad Fi Sabee Lillah--Jehad in the name of Allah”; wall-chalking like “Shaheed ke jo Mawth hai, Wo Qaum Ke Hayat Hai—the death of a martyr is the life of nation”; “A martyr never dies”; and a collection of Jehadi  and pan-Islamic poetry of Pakistan’s national poet Allama Muhammad Iqbal, defying the modern nation-state theory based on demarcated international boundaries.  
If that fails one to inspire, here is yet another stuff that takes one to a war zone in imagination—a model of fighter aircraft inscribed with, “This (Indian) plane was gunned down by the brave soldiers of Pakistan Air Force (PAF),” a cannon, replicas missiles, crossed swords and war flags.
Don’t blame al-Qaeda or Taliban propaganda for winning the potential suicide attackers on to their side. One does not need to read a book of Maulana Maududi, the 1920s journalist-turned-religious scholar and founder of Jama’at-e-Islami, or a four-week Jehad orientation course in Kamoke, headquarters of the Jamat-ud-Dawa near Lahore to become a religious mercenary. A 20-minute stroll in any cantonment area is enough to inspire a young Pakistani for ‘Jehad’ in Afghanistan, Kashmir or somewhere in Pakistan’s remote tribal regions, FATA or Pakhtunkhwa.
Jehadi slogans and war symbols, smearing the otherwise beautiful and artful walls, red brick pavements, huge entry & exit gates, street lights and blooming flower-beds on road sides in cantonment areas throughout Pakistan are a common scene. The moment one enters military zones in Kharian, Rawalpindi, Kamra, all the way from Nowshera to Risalpur to Mardan, where the Punjab Regiment Centre (PRC) is situated, emotional couplets of Allam Iqbal, urge everyone to violate the international law.
The military and Pakistani nationalists might call the ‘roadside Jehadi campaign’ in cantonments as a morale booster. True, but in uniform the morale is working within the framework of a chain of command, a mechanism lacking in the mind of a stray Pakistani. The roadside Jehadi literature rather targets hundreds of thousands of young Pakistanis who pass through it on daily basis while going to schools and colleges, unfortunately, located again in or near the military zones. They see, and one is sure, read it on daily basis, leaving its impact on their innocent mind at the risk of landing the young student in a terror camp or madrassa (religious seminary) affiliated with a Jehadi organization miles away from military cantonments.
An ordinary Pakistani takes the cantonment style of ‘hoardings, coloured banners, pamphlets and war symbols’ for granted as the military and the text books have injected everyone with high doses of anti-India acrimony, anti-Israel hate and that ‘Islam and Pakistan are in danger’. Some wise heads, however, are questioning the military-sponsored Jehadi slogans now, thanks to the terrorist attacks on school buses, blowing up of girls schools, attacks on Pakistan’s tax payers in crowded markets, killings of the moderate Pakistanis and beheading of those unsung heroes in Swat Valley and FATA who said ‘No’ to the brutal proxies of military.
By the way, how many of you have been to Jamat-ud-Dawa training centre at Kamoki, Harkat-ul- Mujahideen camp in Mansehra, Jaish-e-Muhammad training compounds in Bahwalpur or paradise of potential suicide attackers in Waziristan? Perhaps very few.
For your information, they are also decorated with the same slogans that you see daily in the meticulously preened cantonment areas of urban Pakistan, making almost 70 per cent of the lucrative commercial land of Pakistan's major cities. The only difference is: you will not see a banner eulogizing Mumtaz Qadri for assassinating Governor Salman Taseer in a Jehadi training center but you will see pamphlets hanging from street light poles in Lahore cantonment lionizing the murderer.       

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Gaddafi, Qazafi, stadiums, streets and towns in Pakistan!


Just wondering a cricket Stadium in Lahore will be renamed after whom if the Libyans topple Colonel Qazafi, the longest ever ruler of a country in modern history who so far stands as a hero in Pakistan. Will it not be a shame for the residents of Qazafi towns or colonies in Lahore, Karachi and Faisalabad if their hero goes to gallows or runs away with looted national wealth of his country?
Colonel Gaddafi, as called in the Western media, was ‘the mad dog of the Middle East’ for the former U.S. president Ronald Reagan. His shallow anti-Israel and anti-U.S. stance, however, made him a public hero in Muslim countries, including Pakistan. The 1970s Libya under his rule was a replica of today’s Pakistan. The political historians criticized Mr. Gaddafi for turning the then Libya into a safe haven of the anti-West radicals. As today’s Pakistan is the hub of extremist groups ranging from al-Qaeda, the Taliban, Lashkar-e-Tayyeba, Jundullah, Eastern Turkestan Movement, and Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan with their dreadful influence in the West, Afghanistan, India, Central Asia and China, Libya under Gaddafi played that role while sheltering and financing self-styled libration and rebel movements in west African countries Sierra Leone and Liberia, engaging in territorial disputes with neighboring Chad, financing the “Black September Movement,” the 1972 Munich massacre and kidnapping of the Saudi and Iranian oil ministers in the 1970s and facing terror charges in the Lockerbie ‘terror in the sky’ killing 270 passengers as a planted bomb blew up the plane. These are just a few to name, making Gaddafi what president Reagan called a mad dog.
Pakistani leaders and media, however, revered Qazafi naming the Lahore Cricket Stadium, scores of townships, town halls, roads and streets after him. The state-level respect seeped into the masses too when many parents named, and keep naming, their sons as Qazafi. To their dismay, the Libyan dictator and hero of Pakistan stands in trouble today for his idiosyncratic style of one-man rule. Libyans have reportedly stoned their TV sets when he was boasting in his second TV appearance amid popular uprising, calling himself, ‘history, liberty, glory and revolution’.
That reminds me his interview with a BBC journalist, John Simpson, who noted how Gaddafi kept breaking the wind while stressing on what he was saying. Mr. Simpson was asked recently how he kept his face straight during the interview when the Libyan leader was ‘driving on a punctured tire.’ Simpson replied:
“Because I didn’t know at the time. The cameraman picked it all up from a little microphone on his robes. He asked me if I knew what had happened and I said no. I didn’t believe him when he told me and then we listened to the recording and it was obvious. Gaddafi was actually doing it to add emphasis to what he was saying.”
Someone said well while referring to Mr. Gaddafi’s Feb 22 Green Square speech: “I wonder if the Colonel managed to restrain himself during this afternoon’s rant.”
Mr. Gaddafi also felt pressure when another Pakistani 'hero' Dr. Qadeer Khan allegedly provided nuclear assistance to Tripoli. the Libyan leader then embarrassed Pakistan while admitting he got the help from Pakistan. 
If Mr. Gaddafi follows his former Egyptian and Tunisian counterparts, he will be leaving Libya without a network of institutes to fill the vacuum. Like the military establishment in Pakistan, the junta led by Mr. Gaddafi didn’t favor a system that could survive without him. The hope is his Pakistani benefiters like Maulana Fazlur Rehman, leader of his own faction of Jamiat-e-Ulama-e-Islam (JUI) too is de-linked from Libya’s national exchequer which Mr. Gaddafi has reportedly used as his personal wealth for funding terror and fake slogans of Islamic socialism.
Pakistanis will also be looking forward to see whether the state will rename all those sports complexes, schools, hospitals, roads and streets that were named after Mr. Gaddafi, and if possible other Arab autocrats.  

Monday, February 21, 2011

Personal whims testing Pak-U.S. relations

Has it not become a personal clash between the U.S. and top spy of Pakistan, Lt. Gen. Shuja Pasha, chief of the notorious Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency?  Ever since a US court issued a summons against Gen. Pasha for his alleged involvement in the Mumbai terror attacks in November 2009, killing scores of innocent people including some Americans, the relations between the two countries are moving from bad to worse.
The court summons was a slap in the face of Pakistan’s powerful ISI and military. The reaction was strong and quick. Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani was the first civilian leader, telling the parliament that a U.S. court can’t summons Mr. Pasha. While the statement in the parliament was for public consumption, one can’t rule out Pakistan’s closed-door diplomacy on the summons issue.  Islamabad must have expressed its ‘serious’ concerns over the summons with the top US officials during in-camera sessions to get away with the embarrassment via diplomatic channels.
The possible failure on that front, however, led to dirty intelligence encounters. A man from the mountainous tribal region accused Islamabad-based CIA operation manager Jonathan Banks for the killing of his relatives in a drone attack in North Waziristan in a petition filed in a court. Mr Banks ran away from Pakistan, fearing legal complications in Pakistani courts. Pakistani media reported it an ISI trick to revenge the court summons against Gen. Pasha.
In Raymond Davis, the lucky general got a God-gifted situation well under his nose.  Though it is not clear whether Islamabad has used the case as a bargain chip for the court summons against the ISI chief, but media reports are suggesting ISI has strong reservations over granting immunity to the detained US official. The political proxies of Pakistan military and ISI have already launched an anti-PPP campaign telling the masses the PPP-run central government will give immunity to Mr. Davis.
There are reports that the military, Punjab’s ruling party PML(N) led by the Sharifs, religious groups and the jingoistic media are not in favor of giving immunity to Mr. Davis. They might be right saying the guy doesn't enjoy blanket immunity, but have failed so far in convincing the masses that what legal option the government can use against the detained US official. The absence of a clear position puts in doubt the stands of the U.S. and Pakistan on the on-going diplomatic embarrassment, giving enough fodder to the rumor mills in Pakistan.
Rumors and conspiracy theories are, no doubt, damaging both sides. However, its worse effects are more visible on the Pakistani side. It rolls down at a time when just recently WikiLeaks revealed that General Pasha is an emotional general, in other words, an angry and egoist person.  A professor of psychology will describe him a man ready to pick a fight when it hurts his personal ego.
Gen. Pasha got extension as chief of the country’s top secret services when already the spy agency is considered a manipulating force in Afghanistan, Indian-administered Kashmir, Pakistan’s tribal regions and domestic politics. The ISI and its parent institution, the military, are known to be ‘anti-West’, ‘anti-U.S.’, and ‘anti-democracy’. The world rather knows it for protecting the Quetta Shura, providing safe havens to al-Qaeda, sending militants to Afghanistan and Kashmir, resisting military campaign in North Waziristan, arresting Taliban leaders ready for peace talks with Karzai-led Afghan government, derailing democracy in Pakistan and its alleged involvement in the Mumbai attacks.
The question is whether Pakistan can afford an emotional general as chief of one of the country’s top sensitive agencies at a time when stakes are high and the situation is grave?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Pakistan facing an antithesis of Arab pro-democracy revolutions

Yes, nearly 300 men and women were killed in Egypt while fighting against the 21st century modern pharaoh, Hosni Mubarak. Scores of men were killed in Libya while marching against Mr. Mubarak’s Libyan counterpart. Muammar Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi, who captured power after the 1969 revolution, has been ruling the North African country for the last 42 years—more than the average active life span in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
In Yemen, the King’s loyalists are fighting back the protesters with the shooting order in hand. Protesters in Bahrain dropped their first blood on Feb 17, fanning the anti-King rallies in the tiny state bordering Saudi Arabia. To scare the opposition and block its demos, the Ayatullahs (Iranian version of the Taliban) in Iran are calling for the execution of opposition leaders Mir Hussain Mousavi and Mahdi Karroubi, the two presidential candidates against Iran’s rotten regime led by ‘Ayatullah’ Mahmoud Ahmadi Najad.
But not in Pakistan. It is rather the other way round here. The off-shoots of Arab Wahabism and friends of the Saud house in Pakistan are marching against the democratic gains of Pakistan. Today they are more vocal than the revolutionaries of democracy in the world. The country’s ‘Mansura brand’, ‘ISI coated’ and ‘theocratic’ journalists, collectively called Jehadi Media, are propagating a set of ideologies that suits their masters. They would prefer Pakistan to go for a war with the United States on Raymond Davis case.
In their sermons, Kamran Khan and Hamid Mir, the drum-beaters of ‘national interests’ and ‘virtue’ masses are told to follow Arabs in protest against the ‘corrupt and stooge government’, ‘price hike’ and ‘power outages’.
As the Jehadi media preaches hate to the literate people of Pakistan in their TV lounges, the likes of Hakimullah Mehsud, Maulvi Faqir Muhammad, Mangal Bagh, Mullah Fazlullah and Maulana Sufi Muhammad are trying to implement the TV sermons in the far-remote mountains of hapless Pakistani Pashtuns. Speak against one of Taliban leaders in Swat Valley, Waziristan, Bajaur or Khyber and their men are there to give you Saudi-style justice—will cut your head from the body with a sword, leaving it on a road side with a charge-sheet: “The man was spying for America and whoever is found spying for the enemies of Islam will meet the same fate.”
Give them power and the very next day women will found out themselves an outdated creature, all men will adjust to a new outfit—flowing beard, long flowing trousers, baggy shirts and turbans on their heads; cinemas will be converted into mosques, universities and colleges in grand madrassas; and no relations with the Hindus, Christians, and Jews. Sorry to tell but relations with the followers of the three religions have never been harmonious even in Pakistani style of secular governments. Your passports are not allowing you to visit Israel, your trip to India has a risk of declaring you a spy and western education carries all evils of the day.
While Jehadis are running today’s TV screens and Taliban are implementing their self-defined religious codes in the forsaken land of Pashtuns, here is another brand of ‘forces of virtue’—religious parties, Jama’at-e-Islami (JI), Jamiat-e-Ulama-e-Islam (JUI), Pakistan Sunni Tehreek, Imran Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf and Punjab’s ruling party Pakistan Muslim League (N), etc, are on the streets, in the parliament, and in power, actively involved in pushing Pakistan towards Arab-style ‘rotten’ monarchies. They may not change the shape of Pakistani politics but their move in that direction speaks about their designs and future danger. Most of them have at least one common feature, they lead long marches against the democratic governments and become members of parliament when men in uniform rule Islamabad.
It is an irony, may be a political irony, that our brothers in the Middle East have decided standing against the ‘Middle Ages’ autocracies and life, the media, religious diehards and the right dogmatists in Pakistan have become more vocal than ever against reason, logic and pragmatism—the three virtues of political Islam. In their failed bids for rule, they have opted for spreading violence and extending ‘sheikdoms’ to Pakistan via Taliban, Lashker-e-Tayyeba, Tableeghis, Sharifs, military and men wearing ties called journalists. 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Singing in chorus and baying for blood: MMM


If history unfolds future, Washington will not allow Islamabad to try a detained US State Department employee, Raymond Davis, on charges of killing two men in Lahore late January. The imminent release of Mr. Davis, however, should not be interpreted as a defeat of the Pakistani media. They are in a win-win situation.
The Lahore shooting unleashed them to vent their spleen against the U.S. and Pakistan’s elected government, something they otherwise wouldn’t have gall to do. Over the years they have been saying that the now-renamed U.S. private security agency ‘blackwater’ was out to destabilize Pakistan. In live TV talk-shows and in newspaper comments they repeat the mantra that “Davis’s action has proved all their claims right.”
The right-bended political leadership, in this case led by PML(N)--the ruling party of Sharif brothers in Punjab, and a highly charged media have already imprinted the public mind with labels: “Raymond Davis is a security contractor’; “Davis, the double murderer”; “blackwater’s real face exposed;” “Dying with honor is better than living in insolence--Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif”; and “federal government is releasing the shooter.”
The rabid anti-American anchors on TV channels are inviting comments of their choice with almost no question towards finding a solution. And if an analyst of Shafqat Mehmood cadre talks of the possibility of a negotiated settlement (Diyyat--compensation for blood), an anchorperson of Kamran Khan type is there to play a recorded video of one of the widows of the Lahore shooting victim wherein she rules out settlement and demands ‘blood for blood’.
The bigoted anchorpersons will show a video of Mr. Davis telling the police he was a contractor, when an analyst commits ‘a slip of the tongue’ and uses the title ‘diplomat’ or ‘consulate official’ for the U.S. State Department employee.
And as if the war-mongers in the media are not fighting the ‘cause’ of Pakistan vis-à-vis United States to the best of the nation’s satisfaction, here comes the Taliban. They warned Islamabad of attacking the rulers if Mr. Davis was released and called on the courts that if they couldn’t punish the ‘culprit’, the Taliban are there to give him an ‘exemplary punishment.’
Mr. Davis’s action is condemnable but so is the role of the anchorpersons in ‘plain clothes’. They are intolerant towards a peaceful settlement of the issue and already portrayed the PPP-led government as a dirty dealer. Every civilian government, including that of the PPP, simply follows what civil and military establishment dictates to it. Today the establishment has opted for a battle on Mr. Davis case but tomorrow it will go for the release of the detained State Department employee.
And yet again the PPP is going to be the punching bag for the conspiratorial Pakistani media even if Mr. Davis is pardoned by the victims’ relatives. Then the media will say: “Zardari and Gilani sold out Pakistani blood.” Poor PPP—a loser-loser player in this out of the blue disastrous drama, plotted in Lahore and hijacked by the media, mullahs and military. And if the elected government is dissolved, so far an unfulfilled wish of the ‘sold out’ journalists, the Davis saga will top the charge-sheet.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Journalist of another hue!

Mr. Karim Khan comes from North Waziristan, Pakistan’s remote tribal area bordering volatile eastern provinces of Afghanistan. Mr. Khan was seen protesting on the streets of Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital, for the killing of his relatives in an alleged drone attack on his house at Machi Khel, a village with scattered mud houses in Mir Ali, a sub-district in North Waziristan. Washington has blunted the increasing influence of al-Qaeda and the Taliban by taking out their operatives in the region in drone strikes as the Pakistan government balks at operation in the terrorists’ safe haven.
A missile fired by the CIA-operated drone hit Mr. Khan’s house on February 08, 2010 and allegedly killed his brother Asif Khan, a teacher of English, his son Zaheenullah, a daily wager and another person known as Haji Omar, a resident of Wana in South Waziristan. Mr. Khan, intriguingly, avoids mentioning Haji Omar and denies he was present in his house at the time of the attack.
Independent sources have yet to confirm whether Haji Omar was killed in the attack but one thing is sure that the man is no more active after the attack. Local people and intelligence men knew him as a facilitator of Uzbek militants in South Waziristan.  He reportedly fled South Waziristan after anti-Uzbek Mehsud tribesmen sought him for his alleged support for the notorious Uzbek militants hiding in Waziristan region since US launched military campaign in Afghanistan.
Mr. Khan’s profile makes him an enough suspect. He calls himself a ‘professional’ journalist. Talking to an international news organization in December  2010, he said he was a reporter for ‘Zarb-e-Momin’, ‘Ummat’, ‘Islam,’ ‘Ausaaf’, and contributed to ‘al-Quds’, ‘al-Arabia’, and ‘al-Jazeera’. Pakistani journalists working in the tribal region confirm Mr. Khan’s journalistic affiliation with ‘Zarb-e-Momin’, ‘Ummat’, ‘Islam’, and ‘Ausaaf’ but doubt his claims of working for other media outlets.
The journalistic community, military and militants know well ‘Zarb-e-Momin’. The weekly newspaper is a mouthpiece of al-Qaeda and the Taliban, distributed free in mosques throughout the country during Friday prayers. Its contents are full of hate literature, flaying Pakistan’s political forces, US forces in Afghanistan and drone attacks on safe havens of terrorists in Pakistan’s tribal regions. Its editorials and opinions harangue people to make Pakistan and Afghanistan as ‘Dar-ul-Harb’--a battlefield against infidels.
Pakistani media, ironically, failed to expose that aspect of Mr. Khan’s background and presented him as a hero for his protest against the U.S. and drone attacks. Pakistan’s private TV channels have shown him sitting along with MPs from tribal regions near Parliament House in December 2010. Geo’s Hamid Mir mainly runs the show, beating his rivals with more coverage on such topics.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/dec/17/cia-chief-pakistan-drone-cover
Encouraged by ‘unseen hands,’ Mr. Khan filed a civil suit in a Pakistani court to seek $500 million in damages from the US government. He also named a CIA Operation Manager, Janathen Banks, in his suit accusing him of ordering drone attack on his house. Analysts later questioned how Mr. Khan came to know and then revealed the name of the CIA spy in his law suit as that was a secret between the governments of Pakistan and the U.S. Mr. Khan himself said his ‘sources’ told him the name of the US spy, who later fled the country fearing legal complications in Pakistan.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/12/17/cia-pakistan-station-chie_n_798162.html


Saturday, February 12, 2011

A look into Mullah-Media nexus

Pakistan’s growing electronic and print media has its protagonists and antagonists like any other media model in the rest of the world. However, its yardstick of choosing good and bad guys is different from models in other societies. Its list of protagonists tops Pakistan’s radical and semi-extremist pressure groups and individuals. Watch a talk show of a leading private TV channel, Geo, for example, for one hour and guess who will you see there?
If you are familiar with Pakistan’s radical, semi-extremist or racist groups and individuals so the chances are that you will get Altaf Hussain in the first place in the headlines or talk shows. The man is facing charges of multiple murders and loot and lives a self-exiled life in Britain. He is leading an ethnic organization, Muttahida Qaumi Movement, formerly known as Mahajir Qaumi Movement (MQM) representing the Karachi-based Urdu-speaking Muslims who migrated from India in 1947.
A headline of the Geo on the historical day of Hosni Mubarak’s fall after ruling Egypt for 30 years (Feb 11, 2011), for instance, said: “MQM chief Altaf Hussain said Pakistan too will see Egypt’s like revolution very soon.” Strangely enough, it preceded the news of Egyptians’ celebrating at Tahrir Square in Cairo, the lead news of the day on all international media outlets.
You decide it is not the news you are looking for and click on the The News, a leading English daily and GEO TV’s sister in ‘print media’ of the Jang Group Publications and guess--- how it presents the Egyptians’ struggle for democracy? Here it is what you will find:

“Imran urges people to come out for ‘change’”
http://thenews.com.pk/NewsDetail.aspx?ID=10781
Imran Khan, a former cricketer and now chief of his own party Tehreek-e-Insaaf (Justice Movement), has done no less wonders in charity works, but is known for worst political thoughts.
“Not enough information?”—you think in the hearts of your heart and start switching from one TV channel to another. Oh my God, here you see—Haroon Rashid, a ‘Made in Mansura’ Lahore-based journalist on Dunya, for example’ explains why US is pressurizing Pakistan for releasing Davis Raymond, an alleged US diplomat arrested for killing two men in Lahore in, what he (Davis) called, ‘self-defense’; former minister in Prime Minister Yusaf Raza Gilani’s previous cabinet and a member of pro-Taliban religious group Jamiat Ulama-e-Islam (JUI), Azam Swati bragging about exposing Hajj scandal on Aaj TV; Munnawar Hasan, chief of the Jama’at-e-Islami (JI), sharing the secret with Pakistanis that drone attacks are against the sovereignty of their country; Ansar Abbasi, another ‘Made in Mansura’ Islamabad-based journalist, frothing on the hot subject-secular forces are promoting sex in Pakistan; and as if Mansura brand of ethics has not been fully accommodated, you will see another one from the same school, Salim Safi, in his ‘Jirga’ of former ISI spies and their cronies telling masses their self-defined ‘motives’ of US troops in Afghanistan.
Sorry, you don’t know Mansura—it is the GHQ of the JI, based in Lahore. Though far below than other political and religious parties in popular politics, its brand of journalists, teachers and bureaucrats are feeding Pakistan’s media, educational institutions, text books with radical ideologies and conspiracy theories--and smear walls with the slogan: “More kids, More Mujahideen (holy warriors)”. God bless us, Pakistanis!


Sunday, February 6, 2011

Fazlur Rehman: A Godly or Worldly Maulana?

The Taliban in Kandahar were urging people to come for the speech of Pakistan’s prominent religious leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman to the city’s Eid Gah (a place where Muslims offer only Eid prayers). They were making these announcements till late night in 1999, a day before the Eid-ul-Azha-(a ritual when Muslims sacrifice animals), on the muddy streets of Kandahar from mobile loudspeakers fixed on motor cars. 

Maulana Rehman's scheduled speech had been advertized in madrassas (religious seminaries) in Pakistan well before Eid. Restaurants and chai khanas (tea shops) in Kandahar were full of Arab 'guests' and Taliban on the eve of Eid.
Two things attracted tens of thousands of Taliban and their followers to Kandahar for the occasion. One was the speech of the Maulana, who is leader of Pakistan’s religious party Jamiat Ulama-e-Islam (JUI) and member of Pakistan’s lower house since 1988. And second, they were lured that Eid prayers would be led by ‘Amir-ul-Momineen’ Mullah Omar, then leader of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.
"Afghanistan is a true model of a Muslim state," the Maulana told the gathering at the Eid Gah, a walled ground spread over a 100-acre land (Taliban boasted it to be the biggest Eid Gah in Asia). While the sturdy Maulana offered his Eid prayers in the leadership of reclusive Mullah Omar, the hundreds of vehicles standing outside the Eid Gah were carrying black & white striped flags of the JUI and Afghan Taliban’s white flags, showing how deeply intertwined Afghan Taliban and the Maulana's faction of JUI were. The event went unreported in Pakistani as well as international media though a reference was made to the gathering in a brief documentary of a Japanese TV, NHK.
The Maulana, also known in Pakistan as Maulana Diesel for having sought diesel supply contracts from the government of Pakistan as quid pro quo for supporting the slain Benezir Bhutto's government, was then about 46-year old. Now in June 2011 he will turn 58 (if the reported June 19, 1953 is his birthday). The question is whether his Mullah Omar-led model of a Muslim state still stands valid after a span of a turbulent 12 years. Pakistan’s former military ruler Gen Pervez Musharraf thought he hasn’t. The former general charged him in October 2001 with sedition for inciting people against the armed forces of Pakistan and overthrowing the government after a US-led military campaign was launched in Afghanistan.
This short and direct clash with Pakistan’s military establishment changed into what media termed as Mullah Military Alliance, a decoded name of Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA)--a coalition of Pakistan’s traditionally pro-military religious organizations. The coalition’s biggest ever score in Pakistan’s parliamentary elections in 2002 made Maulana Rehman a serious contender for the post of premiership. Though opposition parties termed MMA’s electoral success as ‘doctored’ but the allegations didn't stop it from forming its majority government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (then NWFP) and a coalition government in Balochistan province. The critics then said empowering Afghan Taliban’s Pakistani masters in the Pashtun border regions was part of military strategy. Most of the Afghan Taliban made their safe havens during MMA rule (2002-2006) in Pashtuns’ borderlands from north to south near Afghan border. A syndicate of Pakistani militants was formed under different names led by different men. Maulana Fazlullah, leader of the Swat Taliban, Maulvi Faqir Muhmmad of Bajaur, Naik Muhammad Wazir of Waziristan and Maulana Nur Mohammad in Pashtun pockets of Baluchistan, until then almost non-entities, got their names in the media. They lived in peace, kept a low profile and reconciled with government on some occasions during MMA rule in the strategic northwest of Pakistan.   However, they got violent after MMA lost power.
A critical view of Maulana Rehman presents a gallery of his political somersaults, thanks to Pakistan’s sensational Urdu press. He openly opposed General Zia's martial law, though his madrassas provided foot-soldiers to the US-funded jehad (holy war) in Afghanistan against the then Soviet Union. Contrary to his peers in religious circles, he supported Benazir Bhutto on Pakistan’s volatile political landscape in late 1980s. That was a step even still considered as a religious taboo among the right-wingers and an antithesis of what his late father Mufti Mehmood stood for. Mr Mehmood led an anti-Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto campaign in the mid-1970s. Mrs Bhutto’s alliance with Maulana Rehman too was contrary to her father’s politics.
At times, Maulana Rehman sounded a pragmatic religious leader. His actions and decisions show he believes in political pragmatism and worldly prosperity. The WikiLeaks says he desired for becoming the prime minister of Pakistan, a state known as a major non-Nato US ally. He aligned his party’s interests with Pakistan military's interests, replacing Jamaat-e-Islami--a life-long bed-fellow of the army. He quit central government recently but kept intact his coalition government in Baluchistan and some positions at the center.
The Maulana gave party membership to rich right-wingers and opportunists in the last eight years and some even were elected MPs and became ministers. During his chairmanship of parliamentary committees at different intervals, he allegedly collected funds for running party politics. He, like many other political parties of Pakistan--PPP, PML(N), ANP--loves to lead his party himself. He encouraged matrimonial bonds of his family’s youngsters with financially sound families. His alleged involvement in a land scandal during Musharraf era explains how much he loves property and wealth. 

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Heroes of Pakistan Media

Pakistan’s mainstream media has been hijacked, unfortunately, by security-centric journalists than ever before in its 63 years history. They champion the cause of their future Pakistan and would prefer flying on the wings of propaganda and speculations if that serves their end goal, i.e., securing state’s interests. Stephen Cohen, a senior fellow at Brookings Institute and expert in South Asian Security issues defines state in his latest essay, “The Future of Pakistan” as:
If nations are ideas, states are bureaucracies. In Pakistan, one specific bureaucratic organization (the army), which neither runs Pakistan effectively nor allows any other organization to do so, has dominated.
http://www.brookings.edu/papers/2010/09 bellagio conference papers.aspx
And so has become the state-centric media. A so-called champion of journalism, for example, forecasts one day that (elected) government will change on October 13, 2010 on a private TV channel in his late night close-ended talk shows. Another one, for instance, takes oaths of patriotism from the relatives of Lahore shooting victims, urging them for a solution—US should release Aafia Siddiqui in exchange for the Lahore shooter and alleged US diplomat Raymond Davis.
The security-centric journalists sometime outrace the state’s major stake holder, i.e., the uniformed military, in their battle for stabilizing what they perceive as increasingly fractious ideological fronts. They, for example, will never tell the nation that Aafia Siddiqui has strong proven links with al-Qaeda top leader Khaled Sheikh Mohammad (KSM)---that her husband is nephew of KSM and that her one former husband is a detainee in Gitmo. They would condemn US for its alleged disrespect for what the media called ‘daughter of Pakistan’ but would never hold responsible the Pakistan state for handing her over to US authorities. One wonders why they have not yet labeled Faisal Shehzad, the failed Manhattan bomber, as the ‘son of Pakistan’.
Pakistan’s state-centric media has hardly covered up its frustrations with an elected government amid developments on the streets of Tunisia and Egypt. Anchorpersons and some columnists got more revolutionaries in their tones than men and women on streets in Cairo, calculating comparisons between Pakistan and the Arab states. Their buddies Altaf Hussain and Imran Khan won appreciations in talk shows while calling for following Egypt/Tunisia model in Pakistan. Their journalistic dishonesty, however, required them to keep secret the alternative option if the masses go for a forced exit of the elected government. They avoided referring to Pakistan usurpers’ history who exploited the street revolutions in 1960s and 1970s for their own benefits.
The so-called champions of Pakistan’s journalism hardly swallowed another pill on Saturday (Feb 05, 2011) when the anti-corruption tribunal of ICC banned three Pakistani cricketers from game for their role in spot-fixing betting scam. The news was not welcomed as some called for leniency and some said the punishment was too harsh. “Pakistan was deprived from its best talent”, was a sum of comments on the mainstream media. They, however, prescribe immediate dismissal of the elected parliament and president when a drone kills a terrorist, hiding in a protected safe haven in Pakistan’s tribal region Waziristan or Bajaur. Well done guys—you do a great job and keep it up.