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Rambling on: Good Article on Pakistan and "realpolitik"

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Good Article on Pakistan and "realpolitik"


"Osama Bin Laden resides in Pakistan"

So goes the mantra of the US government. This is followed by the assertion that ‘Mullah Omar’ resides in Pakistan. Both might be true. My cousin, who lives in Sindh province, was given the first name ‘Osama’ and certainly in a country full of mullahs there must be a few hundred conjunctions of Mullah and Omar ... giving us many Mullah Omars in the Islamic Republic.

Another mantra – that of most mainstream western media outlets – is to present Pakistan as a country on the brink of failure and sunk in violence. This is aptly summed up in the Newsweek headline of Pakistan as ‘the most dangerous place in the world’. And there is, again, partial truth in this. Besides the occasional US drone attacks, the US-sponsored renditions, MI5/ISI torture nexuses and Taliban attacks, the gravest danger we face is in crossing the roads – road accidents in our country are among the highest in the world.

It simply is not a safe place to be, nor is Pakistan a state that we Pakistanis can run ... we are corrupt, violent, harbourers of terrorists (in the same way Saddam harboured nuclear bombs) and simply do not understand Islam (which, as the US State Department and the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office via their spokespersons at the Quilliam Foundation will tell you, is a religion of peace and in harmony with Western foreign policy!) In fact, the Quran enjoins us to servitude to the US State Department. So goes the line of these sponsored Muslim spokespersons.

US governments and their aides in the Western media know realpolitik. The image systematically created of Pakistan by these sources has an operative function of furthering US and Nato intervention in this region. The logic is simple but all the premises are false and based on a distortion of facts, history and most conceptions of justice – Christian, Islamic, liberal and Marxist.

It runs thus: America has a right to pre-emptive action against those planning to attack it or its interests. Islamists are planning to attack America or its interests. Pakistan harbours Islamists. Therefore, America has a right to pre-emptive action against the Islamists harboured in Pakistan. I do not believe that the State Department or the FCO care much for Pakistan, its people, or its realities – the US has a long history of murdering the people of the Third World, from the Philippines and Vietnam to Iraq and Pakistan today - for them it’s a market they want for their companies and a region for their ‘war’ in Afghanistan. The image of Pakistan they manufacture, however, does not and can not correspond to the myriad of realities that exist there. It is not meant to.

What then are these realities? Here allow me to throw some of these realities at you by telling you of only a few of the people of this soil.

Let’s take Shah Inayat, a Sufi saint who in the early 1700s set up a commune on theological lines in defiance of the Mughal Empire. He held that the land belonged to God and that only those who worked to grow the crop were entitled to it. ‘Those who sow should eat’ was the commune’s motto. His thoughts convinced peasants far and wide not to pay crop shares as tax to either the Empire or local landlords. Oral history suggests that the commune grew to over 40,000 strong. As it acquired more members so too did it attract the wrath of the Empire. Emperor Farrukh Sayyar sent in troops; upon their arrival they besieged the commune, but it resisted for months. Having failed with force, the Empire turned to cunning. Offering peace terms and swearing on the Quran to guarantee Shah Inayat’s safety, they angled him out of the commune, arrested and then beheaded him. In Pakistan’s Sindh province, Shah Inayat’s name is well known and he continues to inspire calls for social justice.

Or take the poet Shaikh Ayaz, who, for those who know his work, is considered to be the foremost poet of the 20th century, comparable to Pablo Neruda or Nazim Hikmet. Ayaz was born in 1923 in the city of Shikarpur. A firebrand poet, he was imprisoned for his anti-establishment views and his first book was banned by the colonial government upon publication. In 1965 more of Ayaz’s books were seized and banned as his defiant poetry challenged the republic’s pro-war rhetoric against India. He lived and understood a Pakistan that was not confined to Jinnah and Iqbal, the military state’s two symbolic heirlooms, but one nourished by the soil’s deep connection with Hinduism, Buddhism, river gods, Sufi saints and the civilization-giving river ‘Sindhu’ (Indus). Connected to this 5000-year-old history Ayaz was able to defy mullah, general and invader. Listen to the confidence in his civilization in this short poem entitled The Conquering Ant:

After his attack and conquest
Alexander the Great
Took with him

Two philosophers from Sindh

And he asked them on the way,
What is the philosophy of Sindh?

One of them said,
‘An ant in its home in Sindh
has a grasp on matters philosophical
greater than that of Aristotle’.

The other said,
‘An ant going along its way
Is a conqueror greater than Alexander the Great’.

The Americans and their sponsors will not tell you about him – after all, he would not bow to any invader!

Again let’s take David Barkat. David, 55, lives with other Christians in the Kachi abadi (slum) in Lahore, where he migrated in 1991 to make a living. He sells oranges and peanuts from a small stall in the winter, and ice in the summer, working from 6am to 8pm. If he has a good day he makes around 130 rupees (about 94 British pence). From this income he has to support his family and keep up with bills, food and other necessities…to give you an idea of the difficulty involved, twelve bananas in the market were going for 60 rupees today. None of his three children got any formal education: ‘I cannot even dream of getting my children educated’. They had to work to help the family survive from a young age. David survives by his own ingenuity and his community’s. He relies on an informal support network for interest free loans and other help.

The state and NGOs have been absent. ‘I have been waiting 25 years for the government to provide us with help and work effectively… and I will continue to wait’. David knows that neither army commander General Kayani, nor President Zardari, opposition leader Nawaz Sharif, Hillary Clinton or American Viceroy for Pakistan Richard Holbrooke know or care of his needs or the Pakistani Christian community’s – and so he gets on with his life, as he should and as we all do – despite the US bombs and colonisation, despite the Taliban and the intrigues of the elite and intelligence agencies - with ingenuity, wit, and the wisdom of generations.

How ridiculous to us, then, seem the views of Newsweek magazine, CNN, BBC, the UK and US governments and Mrs Clinton’s imperial visits. They know how to cut political deals, but nothing of Pakistan’s realities. What we Pakistanis, home and abroad, must avoid is the internalisation of this propagandist image of Pakistan and Islam – no easy task given that most of our intellectuals, military brass, mullahs, and the political class have auctioned themselves off. We are part of the long chain of civilizations and in our daily lives we live a beat of our ancient soil and its history. It’s the beat, to remind you of Ayaz’s poem, of the self-conquering ant going about its daily routine. It is civilization.

This is an article by Qalandar Bux Memon, editor of Naked Punch, from the, a new UK-based politics, culture and arts journal, campaigning blog and website.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

(: wow. lots to say.
but ramblings a good thing i suppose
helps to vent and just renew urself so you can take on new experiences.

haha now im rambling
hope youre having a great day!
youre in my prayers
<3 w/ love,

6:13 AM  
Anonymous Naveed said...

thanks for dropping by. if i am in your prayers than do kindly leave your name :)

11:11 AM  

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