Sunday, September 25, 2016

Paknationalism: The Misunderstood Identity

Nehru, Mountbatten and Jinnah.
Although secularism, pluralism and multiculturalism are the accepted social axioms of the modern worldview, but a demand for separate nationhood on the basis of one's ethno-linguistic identity is accepted in the Western discourse; and it cannot simply be dismissed on the premise that since pluralism and multiculturalism are the accepted principles therefore the creation of a nation-state on the basis of ethno-linguistic identity becomes redundant. The agreed-upon principles of pluralism and multiculturalism become operative after the creation of a nation-state and not before it.

Similarly, even though secularism is an accepted principle in the Western discourse, but an ethno-religious group cannot be denied its right to claim separate nationhood on the basis of religious identity; in this case also the principle of inclusive-secularism becomes operative after the creation of a state and not prior to it.

The Muslims of Pakistan also share a lot of cultural similarities with Hindus as well, because we share a similar regional culture; however different ethno-linguistic groups comprising Pakistan, like the Punjabis, Pashtuns, Sindhis and Baloch, have more in common with each other than the Hindus of India, because all of them belong to the same religious civilization.

Notwithstanding, before joining the Muslim League, Jinnah was one of the leading proponents of Hindu-Muslim unity. He attended the meetings of the inner circle of the Indian National Congress, and reached a well-considered conclusion that the outwardly liberal and secular Congress is nothing more than a thinly-veiled Hindu nationalist party.

Even today, 68 years after the independence, Muslims constitute 15% of India’s 1.2 billion population; that’s more than 180 million Muslims in India. However, we do find a few showpiece Muslims in the ceremonial positions; but excluding Bollywood, where they have been overwhelmingly represented, I would like to know that what is the representation of Muslims in India’s state institutions, their proportion in higher bureaucracy, judiciary, police and army, and their presence and participation in India’s civic and political life?

Indian Muslims don’t even support the Indian cricket team in the Pakistan vs. India matches; they cheer for the Pakistani team instead. Fact of the matter is that just like the Indian National Congress, the Republic of India is also nothing more than a thinly-veiled Hindu nationalist state.

The Indian Muslims have lagged so far behind and they have been disenfranchised to such an extent that they need some kind of an “affirmative action,” like the one that had been carried out in the U.S. during the ‘60s to improve the miserable lot of the Afro-Americans.

And our Pakistani liberal “ashrafiya” wanted us to be like the “enviable” lot of the Indian Muslims? Our Westernized social elite is a bit too naïve apparently for its own good. Like Einstein famously quipped: "Only two things are infinite, the universe and the human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."

Notwithstanding, theories, whether one nation, two nations or several nations, are only the subjective interpretations of the objective reality by the biased individuals. The proof of pudding is in the eating. If the Indian and Pakistani liberals claim that the Muslims would have fared better in a United India then they must prove their assertion by tangible actions rather than reductive theories.

There are currently about 180 million Muslims in India’s 1.2 billion population that constitutes about 15% of the total Indian population, as I have already mentioned. The day we see that these 15% Muslims are duly represented in all the institutions of the state and India’s federal, provincial and local governance structure, that day we will accept the Indo-Pakistani liberals’ contention that the founding fathers of Pakistan were wrong and that the Indian pundits were right.

Regardless, sometimes one’s religious sect can take precedence over one’s linguistic identity. The Syrian and Iraqi Shia speak Arabic while the Iranian Shia speak Persian; despite the linguistic difference, during the Iran-Iraq war from 1980 to 1988, the Syrian Shia Baathist regime took the side of Iran against the fellow Arabic-speaking Sunni, Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein. After the fall of Saddam, when the government in Iraq became predominantly Shia under Nouri al Maliki, the three Shia states formed an alliance comprising: Iran, Iraq and Syria against the Sunni Gulf Arab States.

Personally, I don’t see much difference between the Shias and Sunnis; they share a common history and culture, although they do have some minor theological and doctrinal differences. I have only drawn attention to this fact to emphasize the importance of religion in the Eastern societies. Modern secularists think of the social aspect of religion as some redundant idea, but it is a living reality in our part of the world. Theory is theory and practice is practice, and the Western Orientalist theories rarely meet the requirements of the ground realities of the Eastern societies.

Now Sunni and Shia are only two sects of the same religion, Islam, and these sectarian differences can make their followers forget their linguistic identities in choosing friends and forming alliances; while Hinduism and Islam are two completely different religions, so much so that most Muslims in Pakistan don’t even know that what deities the Hindus worship? And following in the footsteps of the Orientalist historians, the Indo-Pakistani liberals believe that the creation of a nation-state on the basis of religion was a wrong approach by Jinnah and the Muslim League?

Regarding the much-touted grievances of the minority ethno-linguistic groups against the supposed Punjabi dominance in Pakistan, the Baloch are the only ethnic group that has lagged behind in Pakistan. The Sindhis have the second largest political party in Pakistan in the form of People’s Party and two of our prime ministers, Benazir and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, were Sindhis.

The Pashtuns also have a significant presence in our bureaucracy, judiciary, army and all other institutions of the state; and some of our heads of state and army chiefs were also Pashtuns. We must give credit where it is due: Islam could be anything but it is a very inclusive religion, which makes absolutely no distinction whatsoever between its adherents on the basis of race, language and other such parochial affiliations.

The prefix “Pak,” which is the root of the word Pakistan, literally means “clean” in Urdu language. Choosing the name Pakistan for their newly founded country sheds light on the psyche of our founding fathers. As we know that Hindu religion is a caste-based religion which deems people belonging to other religions, and even the low-caste Hindus, as “Maleech,” or “unclean.”

The Muslims of India suffered this discrimination at the hands of the numerical majority during the British Raj; that’s why they chose the name Pakistan: the land of the “clean” or “pure,” for their newfound sanctuary. Thus, Pakistan and the oft-quoted epithet: “the land of the pure,” isn’t as much about some conceited sense of superiority as it was about a historical injustice and a reaction to the discrimination and persecution suffered by the disenfranchised Muslims of India at the hands of the Hindu nationalists.

Notwithstanding, the best thing about Islam is its history; if you study Islamic history, you would come to realize that Islam did not spread by force alone, it was the moral appeal of its superior ethics that won the hearts and minds of the medieval masses. For instance: the Mongols conquered most of the eastern lands of the Islamic Empire during the thirteenth century, however, the Muslims of those lands did not convert to the religion of the conquerors: that is, the Mongolian Shamanism. Instead, the conquerors adopted the religion of the vanquished, i.e. Islam. Not only the Mongols but several Turkish tribes also voluntarily converted to Islam. Such was the beauty of Islamic teachings and its sublime moral appeal.

During the medieval times when Europe was going through an age of intellectual and moral regression, the Islamic culture thrived and flourished under the Abbasids. That’s why I am of the opinion that Islam is not just a religion but a civilization. When the Europeans landed in the Americas and Australia, they committed a genocide of the indigenous inhabitants of those continents, by contrast, the Muslims ruled over India for more than 600 years; despite that, at the time of the partition, the Hindus outnumbered Muslims 3 to 1 (there were only 100 million Muslims in the population of 400 million Indians in 1947.) That’s how tolerant and inclusive Islamic culture was back then.

Regardless, I would implore the readers to allow me the liberty to scribble a tongue-in-cheek rant here: that Jinnah, Sir Syed and Iqbal were imperialist collaborators who fell prey to the divide-and-rule policy of the British Raj; there were only two progressive Muslim leaders who joined forces with Gandhi’s socialist and anti-imperialist Congress against the tyranny of the Raj: one was Sheikh Abdullah of Kashmir and the other was Abdul Ghaffar Khan (Bacha Khan) of Pashtunistan.

After the partition of British India, Sheikh Abdullah worked hand in glove with Pundit Nehru to make Muslim-majority Kashmir a part of secular and liberal Indian utopia; the Muslims of Kashmir trusted the charismatic messiah with their lives and the latter met their expectations by conniving with the Congress’ pundits. Today Kashmir is thriving and prospering under the suzerainty of India and the dynamic leadership of Sheikh Abdullah’s descendants: Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah, the true representatives of Kashmiri Muslims.

Had it been up to the “visionary and tactful” Bacha Khan, he too would have made sure to make Pashtunistan a colony of India; however, a plebiscite was held on the eve of the independence in the North West Frontier Province and unfortunately the naïve Pashtuns of the doomed province overwhelmingly voted to become a part of Islamist and reactionary Pakistan.

Let me clarify here that I am not against Bacha Khan or the Khudai Khidmatgar movement, as such, it was a good thing that he politically mobilized the Pashtuns for a cause; but I have doubts about his political acumen; from his bearing he appeared like a simpleton who was given to whims and personal attachments. But the people that he was dealing with, like Gandhi, Nehru and Patel, were shrewd politicians.

The astute Congress’ leadership wheedled and coaxed Bacha Khan and Sheikh Abdullah to form a political alliance with the thinly-veiled Hindu nationalist Congress against the interests of Pashtun and Kashmiri Muslims, whom the aforementioned leaders represented. And the way I see it, it had less to do with any political convergence of ideas; rather it was more about their personal bonding with the tactful Congress leadership.

Jinnah was a brash and forthright leader and the Pashtuns, as we all know, are given to Pashtunwali (honor), courtesy and other such trappings of symbolic respect; and Gandhi and Nehru, by their sycophantic behavior, touched a raw never there. In the end, Sheikh Abdullah legitimized India’s occupation of Kashmir by becoming its first chief minister, though he later had to spend eleven years in jail, but when Pakistan, and more importantly the Kashmiri Muslims, needed his leadership and guidance, he backstabbed them only because of his personal friendship with Pundit Nehru.

Notwithstanding, the Pashtuns are no longer represented by a single political entity, a fact which has become obvious from the 2013 general elections in which Bacha Khan’s Awami National Party (ANP) had been wiped out of its former strongholds. Now there are at least three distinct categories of Pashtuns: 1) the Pashtun nationalists who follow Bacha Khan’s legacy and have their strongholds in Charsadda and Mardan districts; 2) the religiously-inclined Islamist Pashtuns who vote for the Islamist political parties, like Jamaat-e-Islami and JUI-F in the southern districts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa; 3) and finally, the emerging new phenomena, i.e. the Pak-nationalist Pashtuns, most of whom have joined Imran Khan’s PTI in recent years, though some of them have also joined the Muslim League.

Additionally, it should be remembered here that the general elections of 2013 were contested on a single issue: that is, Pakistan’s partnership in the American-led war on terror, which has displaced millions of Pashtun tribesmen. The Pashtun nationalist ANP was wiped out because in keeping with its supposedly “liberal” ideology, it stood for military operations against the militants in the tribal areas; and the people of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province gave a sweeping mandate to the newcomer in the Pakistani political landscape: Imran Khan and his PTI, because the latter preferred to deal with the tribal militants through negotiations and political settlements.

Though, Imran Khan and Nawaz Sharif both have failed to keep their election pledge of using peaceful means for dealing with the menace of religious extremism and militancy, but the public sentiment was, and still is, firmly against military operations in the tribal areas.

Moreover, it’s a misperception to assume that the Pakistani security establishment used the Pashtuns as cannon fodder to advance their strategic objectives in the region. Their support to the Islamic jihadists, back in the ‘80s and ‘90s during the Cold War against the erstwhile Soviet Union, had been quite indiscriminate. There are as many Punjabi extremists and jihadists in Southern Punjab as there are Pashtun jihadists in the rural and tribal regions of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province.

The only difference between these two variants of militancy is that the writ of the state in Punjab is comparatively strong while in the tribal areas of KP it is weak, that’s why the militancy in KP has transmuted into a full-fledged Pashtun insurgency. Furthermore, the difference of ethnicity and language between the predominantly Punjabi establishment and the Pashtun insurgents has further exacerbated the problem, and the militants do find a level of support among the rural and tribal masses of the Pashtun-majority areas.

Although the leadership of the Pashtun nationalist political parties loves to play the victim card but the fact of the matter is that religious extremism and terrorism have equally affected all the ethnicities in Pakistan, in fact this phenomena is not limited to Pakistan, rather it has engulfed the whole of Islamic World from North Africa and Middle East to Southeast Asia and even the Muslim minorities in China and Philippines where Pakistan’s security establishment does not has any influence.

However, without absolving the role of Pakistan’s security establishment in deliberately nurturing militancy in the Af-Pak region and in order to comprehensively identify the real cause of Islamic radicalism, it would be pertinent to mention that in its July 2013 report the European Parliament had identified the Wahhabi-Salafi roots of global terrorism. It was a laudable report but it conveniently absolved the Western powers of their culpability and chose to overlook the role played by the Western powers in nurturing Islamic radicalism and jihadism since the Cold War against the erstwhile Soviet Union.

The pivotal role played by the Wahhabi-Salafi ideology in radicalizing Muslims all over the world is an established fact as mentioned in the European Parliament’s report; this Wahhabi-Salafi ideology is generously sponsored by Saudi Arabia and the Gulf-based Arab petro-monarchies since the 1973 oil embargo when the price of oil quadrupled and the contribution of the Arab sheikhs towards the “spiritual well-being” of Muslims all over the world magnified proportionally.

However, the Arab despots are in turn propped up by the Western powers since the Cold War; thus syllogistically speaking, the root cause of Islamic radicalism has been the neocolonial powers’ manipulation of the socio-political life of the Arabs specifically, and the Muslims generally, in order to appropriate their energy resources in the context of an energy-starved, industrialized world.

Notwithstanding, in the Pakistani socio-political milieu there are three important political forces: the dominant Islamic nationalists; the ethno-linguistic nationalists; and the Westernized liberals. The Islamic nationalists are culturally much closer to the traditionalist, ethno-linguistic nationalists, but politically due to frequent interruptions of democratic process and the martial law administrators’ suspicion towards the centrifugal ethno-linguistic nationalists, the latter were politically marginalized.

As we know that politics is mostly about forming alliances, therefore the shrewd Westernized liberals wooed the naïve ethno-linguistic nationalists and struck a political alliance with them. But this alliance is only a marriage of convenience because culturally both these camps don’t have anything in common with each other. The Islamic nationalists and the ethno-linguistic nationalists belong to the same social stratum and they go through thick and thin together; while the comprador liberals derive their inspiration from foreign sources.

Ostensibly the Westernized liberals preach minority rights and take a less hostile approach towards the ethnic minorities’ cultures than they take towards the majority’s culture. At times they are even generous enough to wear a Sindhi ajrak in a social gathering or listen to the folk music, but their supposed “indigenousness” never goes beyond cuisines and music.

Pray tell us, which local traditions or values you live by? You live in your quarantined suburbs, study in London and vacation in Hawaii, but when it comes to politics and getting the votes of the masses you pretend that you are a native? What do you have in common with the local cultures? You employ a Pathan chowkidar, a Punjabi cook and a Sindhi chauffeur; certainly quite a blend of local cultures you have in your household. So, spare us the lectures on minority rights and cultural diversity and preach the things that you really believe in: that is, complete Westernization, liberal values and social Darwinism.

Fact of the matter is that liberalism in Islamic societies is only skin-deep; it is restricted mostly to the privileged elite. The real flesh and bones of the Islamic societies is comprised of either the Islamic nationalists or the even more backward and traditional ethno-linguistic forces. The latter’s Westernized leadership may sometimes employ inclusive rhetoric to create a constituency for itself, but they have as much in common with the Muslim-majority societies, whether Islamic or ethno-linguistic, as Nehru’s political dynasty has in common with the Indian masses.

Leadership is a two-way street: a judicious leader is supposed to guide the masses, but at the same time he is also supposed to represent the disenfranchised masses; the detached and insular leadership that lives in a fantasy-world of outlandish theories and fails to understand the mindsets and inclinations of the masses tends to lose its mass appeal sooner or later.

Coming back to the topic, although the historians generally give credit to Jinnah, as an individual, for single-handedly realizing the dream of Pakistan, but the way I see it, Pakistan Movement was the consequence of Aligarh Movement. This fact elucidates that how much difference a single educational institution can make in the history of nations. Aligarh bred whole generations of educated Muslims who were acutely aware of the decadent state of Muslims in British India, and most of them later joined Muslim League to make Pakistan a reality.

Regarding the allegation that the Muslim League leaders were imperialist collaborators, until Lord Wavell the British viceroys used to take a reasonably neutral approach towards the communal issues in British India, but on the eve of independence, Gandhi and Nehru specifically implored the Attlee administration to appoint Lord Mountbatten as viceroy.

Moreover, the independence of India and Pakistan was originally scheduled for June 1948, but once again the Congress’ leadership entreated the British Empire to bring it forward to August 1947. It was not a coincidence that on both critically important occasions, Her Majesty’s government obliged Congress’ leadership because they wanted to keep India within the folds of the British Commonwealth after the independence.

Had they not brought forward the date of independence by almost an year, the nascent Indian and Pakistani armed forces and border guards could have had an opportunity to avert the carnage that took place during the division of Punjab.

Furthermore, it was Lord Mountbatten who served as India’s first governor general and he helped Nehru’s government consolidate the Indian dominion by forcefully integrating 500+ princely states. He also made a similar offer to Jinnah to serve as Pakistan’s governor general, and when the latter refused, Mountbatten threatened Jinnah in so many words: “It will cost you and the dominion of Pakistan more than just tables and chairs.”

No wonder then, it was the collusion between the Congress’ leadership, Radcliffe and Mountbatten that eventually culminated in the Indian troops’ successful invasion of the princely state of the Muslim-majority Kashmir, using the Gurdaspur-Pathankot corridor that was provided to India by the Radcliffe boundary commission.

Additionally, in the British Indian context the divide-and-rule policy originally meant that the imperialists used this strategy to sow the seeds of dissension and communal hatred to prolong their tyrannical rule in India, which is a valid assessment; however, some Indian historians later came up with the fancy notion that the colonial powers lent their support to the idea of the creation of Pakistan in order to use the latter as a bulwark against the communist influence in the region; this latter conspiracy theory is farthest from truth.

Firstly, the British imperialists took great pride in creating a unified and cohesive British Indian army and it’s a historical fact that the latter organization was vehemently opposed to the division of the British Indian armed forces; it simply defies common sense that if the colonial power was apprehensive of the expanding influence of Soviet Union in the region, in that case it would have preferred to leave behind a unified and strong India army, rather than two divided armies at loggerheads with each other.

Secondly, although Pakistan joined the SEATO and CENTO alliances in the ‘50s and it also fought America’s Jihad in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union during the ‘80s, but we must keep in mind that there were actually two power-centers of communism during the Cold War, i.e. the Soviet Bolshevism and the Chinese Maoism.

If the intention of the colonial powers was to use Pakistan as a bulwark against the communist influence in the region then how come Pakistan established such cordial relations with China during the ‘60s that Ayub Khan and his foreign minister, Bhutto, played a pivotal role in arranging Nixon’s visit to China in 1972?

Fact of the matter is that both India and Pakistan had good relations with the Western powers during the Cold War; however, India had friendly relations with Soviet Union and adversarial relations with China, while Pakistan had adversarial relations with Soviet Union and friendly ties with China. The relations of India and Pakistan with the communist powers were based more on their national interests than on ideological lines.

The relatively modern Indian historians who came up with this fancy conspiracy theory have actually retrospectively applied this theory to the chain of events: that is, they conceived the theory after Pakistan joined the anti-communist alliances and after it played the role of America’s client state during the Afghan Jihad. At the time of independence movement, neither the Hindus nor the Muslims knew anything about the aftermath of their respective freedom struggles.

Notwithstanding, apart from the divide-and-rule strategy on the part of the British imperialists, we also need to take a look at the attitudes and mindsets of the native British Indian leaders that why did they lauded certain rallying calls and denounced the rest?

In my opinion, this preferential treatment had to do with the individual ambitions of the Indian leaders and the interests of their respective communities as defined by the leaders in the heterogeneous societies like British India: a leader whose ambitions were limited only to his own ethnic group would have rallied his followers around their shared ethno-linguistic identity; but the leaders who had bigger ambitions would have looked for the common factors that unite the diverse ethnic groups, that’s where the role of religion becomes politically important especially in the traditional societies.

It suited the personal ambitions of the Muslim League leadership to rally their supporters around the cause of Islamic identity, and it benefited the self-interest of the Congress leadership to unite all Indians under the banner of a more inclusive and secular Indian national identity.

However, empty rhetoric is never a substitute for tangible actions; the Indian National Congress right from its inception was a thinly-veiled Hindu nationalist party that only had a pretense of inclusive secularism; that’s why some of the most vocal proponents of Hindu-Muslim unity, like Jinnah and Iqbal, later became its most fierce critics; especially when “Mahatma” Gandhi and his protégé Pundit Nehru assumed the leadership of Congress in 1921.

Moreover, while I concede that the colonial divide-and-rule policy was partly responsible for sowing the seeds of dissension among the British India’s religious communities, but generally most outcomes cannot be understood by adopting a simplistic and linear approach that tries to explain complex socio-political phenomena by emphasizing a single cause and downplaying the importance of other equally significant, albeit underestimated, plurality of causes.

The way I see it, Islamic nationalism in British India had as much to do with the divide-and-rule strategy on the part of the British colonizers as it was a reaction to the exclusionary Hindu majoritarianism. As I have said earlier that different rallying calls are adopted as political manifestoes by the leaders sometimes due to their genuine belief in the value of such calls and sometimes such calls are meant only to rally support for the personal ambitions of the leaders.

Looking at the demeanor of “Mahatma” Gandhi and his aspirations of being a savior of the Hindu-kind, did he look like a secular leader by any stretch of imagination? But he chose the rallying call of secularism because it suited the interests of the community which he had really represented, i.e. the Hindu majority.

Furthermore, every political rallying call has its express wordings but it also has certain subtle undertones. It is quite possible that some Westernized Congress leaders might have genuinely believed in the value of secular democracy but on the popular level of the traditional South Asian masses, the Hindus of British India coalesced around Congress not because of its ostensible secularism but due to its undertones of Hindu Raj; a fact which has become quite obvious now after the election of the overt Hindu nationalist, Narendra Modi, to the premiership 67 years after the independence of India.

More to the point, global politics has transformed drastically after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. We now live in the “war on terror” era in which the former allies have become adversaries and the former foes are now cordial friends.

Despite the ostensibly socialist and non-aligned credentials of the first and second generation Indian leadership, the third generation Indian leadership has become the “natural ally” of the Western powers against the economic might of “Rising China” on the world stage. No wonder then, we are witnessing a lot of bonhomie these days between the Indian and the Western leaderships and the signings of numerous arms deals, nuclear energy pacts and mutual defense treaties.

In the international politics there is only one empirically-proven axiom: that justice prevails among the equals, like it has prevailed between the Western powers on the one hand and Russia and China on the other; but justice never prevails among the unequals, like it has not prevailed between the Western powers on the one hand and Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria on the other.

When the Pakistani liberals preach peace between India and Pakistan, who incidentally endorse the Western wars in the energy-rich Middle East, they must keep in mind that India is six times bigger than Pakistan and it has recently announced $100 billion upgradation and modernization program for its armed forces.

Pakistan has always tried to bend over backwards to meet India’s stringent conditions for lasting peace in South Asia, but when has India ever reciprocated? India behaves like a nouveau riche regional power that has aspirations for global dominance. Pakistan is no longer India’s arch-foe, India has now set its eyes on China for regional dominance; and to that end it has struck military and nuclear accords with the U.S.

Historically speaking, immediately after the partition, India annexed Kashmir against all norms of justice and fairness. Jinnah ordered General Douglas Gracey – the Dominion of Pakistan’s army chief – to retaliate but the “loyal” British soldier refused to comply; perhaps after receiving a call from India’s governor general and Nehru’s chum, Lord Mountbatten.

Then in the ‘50s India took advantage of the Kashmiri territory (the riverheads of Pakistani rivers are in Kashmir) and diverted the waters of Pakistani rivers to irrigate India’s Western provinces. The whole of Bahawalpur region turned barren overnight and the agricultural economy of the nascent Pakistan suffered a tremendous blow.

With the involvement of the World Bank and the Tennessee Valley Authority of the U.S., Pakistan and India signed an unfair Indus Waters Treaty in 1960 which allocated exclusive rights to India for the use of three eastern rivers; and some rights, like the right to build hydroelectric projects, over Jhelum and Chenab also.

The Danube river flows through a dozen European countries, I wonder whether the downstream countries have any lower riparian rights to its waters or not? I am mentioning this only for the readers to understand the mindset of the subsequent Pakistani army generals, like Ayub Khan, and their obsession with India and strengthening the defense of Pakistan.

Regarding the Kashmir dispute, there can be no two views that the right of self-determination of Kashmiris must be respected; and I am also of the opinion that Pakistan should lend its moral, political and diplomatic support to the Kashmiri cause; but at the same time I am strongly against the militarization of any dispute, not just Kashmir.

Here we must keep in mind that an insurgency cannot succeed anywhere, unless the insurgents get some level of support from the local population. For example: if a hostile force tries to foment insurgency in Punjab, it would not be able to succeed; because Punjabis don’t have any grievances against Pakistan. On the other hand, if an adversary tries to incite insurgency in the marginalized province of Balochistan and tribal areas, they might succeed because the local Baloch and Pashtun population has grievances against the heavy-handedness of Pakistan’s security establishment.

Therefore, India’s claim that the uprising in Kashmir is the consequence of cross-border terrorism from the Pakistani side is unfounded. Historically speaking, India treacherously incorporated the princely State of Jammu and Kashmir into the Dominion of India in 1947, knowing fully well that Kashmir had an overwhelming Muslim majority and in accordance with the "Partition Principle" it should have become a part of Pakistan.

Even now, if someone tries to instigate an insurgency in the Pakistani part of Kashmir, I contend, that they would not be able to succeed; because Kashmiri Muslims identify with Pakistan. The Indian-occupied Kashmir has seen many waves for independence since 1947, but not a single voice has been raised for independence in the Pakistani part of Kashmir in our 68 years long history.

Pakistan's stance on Kashmir has been quite flexible and it has floated numerous proposals to resolve the conflict. But India is now the strategic partner of the U.S. against China; that's why India’s stance, not just on Kashmir but on all issues, has been quite rigid and haughty nowadays; because it is negotiating from a position of strength. However, politics and diplomacy aside, the real victims of this intransigence and hubris on both sides has been the Kashmiri people and a lot of innocent blood has been spilled for no good reason.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Factors Responsible for the Erosion of the Institution of Family

Benazir Bhutto, Hillary Clinton and their children.
In the light of my limited online experience with the Western culture I have come to realize that a fully functional family is hard to find in the Western societies; they are more of an exception than norm. Most Western women with whom I have interacted are generally divorced, single moms who are raising their kids all by themselves; while the men folks either don’t get married at all, or even if they do get married under some momentary impulse or infatuation, they tend to leave their wives and kids behind them and either run away with their newfound girlfriends or they are otherwise non-committal in their relationships.

Unlike the Eastern societies which are family-centric, the Western societies are mostly individual-centric. Reductive individualism and runaway hedonism is all fine but this unnatural state of affairs cannot last for long; the birth rates all over the Western world are dwindling and in some countries the population growth rate is negative. Only thing sustaining their population growth rate is not their natural birth rates but the immigration of skilled work force from the East to the West.

The institution of a fully functional family is the cornerstone of a healthy society and if the social environment is not conducive for the development of such a pivotal institution then there is something seriously wrong with our social axioms. Although I reckon myself as a social scientist but the specialty of family and relationships is certainly not my cup of tea, therefore, I will leave this issue as an open question that needs to be mulled over. Denying the climate change and global warming, however, will lead us nowhere.

Regarding the civil unions and domestic partnerships whether or not they are arranged under the title of “marriage,” that’s just the difference of semantics, not the substance. My contention relates to the longevity of such relationships and the reciprocal duties of the partners. A marriage is a civil contract meant for the purpose of raising children and family; if one of the partners leaves the other midstream, it creates an unmanageable burden on the other partner to raise the children single-handedly. Sweeping such serious issues under the rug that affects every individual and family on a personal level by taking an evasive approach of “see no evil, hear no evil” will further exacerbate the problem.

Notwithstanding, individualists generally believe that an individual holds a central position in the society; the way I see it, however, being “human” is inextricably interlinked with the institution of family. Only things that separates humans from rest of the animals is their innate potential to acquire knowledge, but knowledge alone is not sufficient for our collective survival due to excessive and manifest intra-special violence; unless we have social cohesion which comes through love, compassion and empathy, we are likely to self-destruct as a specie.

That empathy and altruism, however, is imparted by the institution of family; within which spouses love each other and their children and in return children love their parents and siblings. That familial love then transcends the immediate environs of the family and encompasses the entire humanity, thus, without the institution of family there is going to be no humanity or individual in the long run.

Although the family life in the Eastern societies isn’t as perfect as some of us would like to believe, but those are traditional societies based on agriculture era value systems; industrialization and consequent urbanization is the order of the day, those rural societies will eventually evolve into their urban counterparts. My primary concern is that the utopian paradigm that we have conjured up is far from perfect in which the divorce rates are very high and generally mothers are left alone to fend for themselves and raise their children single-handedly, and consequently giving birth to a dysfunctional familial and social arrangement.

Moreover, some social scientists draw our attention to the supposed “unnaturalness” of the institution of family and polyamory et al in the primitive societies but if we take a cursory look at the history of mankind, there are two distinct phases: the pre-Renaissance social evolution and the post-Renaissance cultural evolution. Most of our cultural, scientific and technological accomplishments are attributed to the latter phase that has only lasted for a few centuries, and the institution of family has played a pivotal role in the social advancement of this era. Empirically speaking, we must base our scientific assumptions on the proven and visible evidence and not some cock and bull Amazonian stories.

Regarding the erosion of the institution of family, I am of the opinion that it is primarily the fault of mass entertainment media (like Hollywood) that has caused an unnatural obsession with glamor and the consequent sexualization of the modern societies. However, I have not studied the anthropological and sociological evolution of the institution of family in any detail; my area of interest has been in the role played by the institution of family on the nurture of the individuals, and in that regard techno-scientific progress alone cannot ensure the survival and well-being of individuals in the long run; unless we are able to rear individuals who, along with intelligence and knowledge, also possess love, compassion and empathy; and such sentiments cannot be taught in schools and colleges, which makes family an indispensable social institution necessary for our collective survival and progress.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Immigration and Normative Science

Imran Khan, Jemima Goldsmith and Diana.
There are two contrasting styles of debating an issue: those who prefer the normative arguments, and those who choose the descriptive arguments. Most pop intellectuals nowadays adopt the former approach, but the truth unfortunately is generally bitter.

Let me admit at the outset that I do understand that race relations are a sensitive issue in the Western countries; especially when millions of skilled and unskilled immigrants from the Third World countries flock to the economically prosperous developed countries every year to find a better future for themselves and their families.

However, instead of bending over backwards and demanding from the natives of their host countries to be more accommodating and totally non-communal, the immigrants need to understand that migration is not the natural order of societies.

In order to elaborate this paradox by way of an analogy, when we uproot a flowering plant from a garden and try to make it grow in a different environment, sometimes it works but sometimes it doesn’t; depending on the adaptability of the plant and the compatibility of the environment. If you want to change the whole environment to suit the needs of that particular uprooted plant, such an unrealistic approach may not be conducive for the native flora and fauna of those habitats.

The right way to tackle the migration problem is to discourage it by reducing the incentive for the prospective immigrants to permanently abandon their homes, families and communities to find a better job in a foreign country and a radically different culture, where they would be materially better off but socially isolated and desolate.

Therefore, in order to minimize the incentive for immigration, we need to revamp the global economic order which makes the rich nations get richer and the poor poorer. Once the relative imbalance of wealth distribution between the developed and the developing world is narrowed down then there will be no need for the people of one region and culture to relocate to another, except on a temporary basis for education, traveling and cultural exchange.

Notwithstanding, throughout our anthropological evolution, from our nomado-pastoral, hunting-gathering phase to the golden era of agriculture, the humans never lived as individuals, but as social groups, clans and tribes. The ‘individual’ is only an artificial modern construct that has been conceived to suit the needs of the industrial economies.

Individuals must have intellectual autonomy and freedom of investigation and information for obvious reasons, but individualism as an ideology with complete disregard for our innate social nature only nurtures lost souls who sometimes find solace in existential acrobatics and sometimes in drug addictions.

More to the point, there is an obvious difference between a Chinese and an American: a Chinese speaks Mandarin while an American speaks English; they don’t understand each other, because they can hardly communicate with each other due to the difference of language.

Now if the difference among people on the basis of language is duly accepted and appreciated with the naked eye, then we should try to understand that under the sociological microscope the cultural ethos and social values of two or more radically different cultures don’t always blend seamlessly.

Humanism only implies that we should be just and fair in our approach: that is, we should try to understand that foreign people and cultures also have their legitimate material, moral and social needs and aspirations; instead of imposing our Orientalist ‘vision’ on them, we should let them choose and facilitate and expedite their choice and vision.

The human mindsets, attitudes and behaviors are structured and conditioned by their respective cultures and environments. A person born and bred in Pakistan or India generally has more in common with the people of the subcontinent.

For instance: when the first generation of Indo-Pakistani immigrants relocate to the foreign countries, they find it hard to adjust in a radically different culture initially. It would be unwise to generalize, however, because it depends on the disposition and inclination of the immigrants, their level of education and the value-system which they have internalized during their formative years.

There are many sub-cultures within cultures and numerous family cultures within those sub-cultures. The educated Indo-Pakistani liberals generally integrate well into the Western countries; but many conservative Pakistani and Indian immigrants, especially from the backward and rural areas, find it hard to adjust in a radically different Western culture. On the other hand, such immigrants from the underprivileged backgrounds find the conservative societies of the Gulf countries more conducive for their individual and familial integration and well-being.

In any case, the second generation of immigrants, who are born and bred in the Western culture, seamlessly blend into their host environments; and they are likely to have more in common with the people and cultures where they have been brought up. Thus, a first generation Pakistani-American is predominantly a Pakistani, while a second generation Pakistani-American is predominantly an American, albeit with an exotic-sounding name and a naturally tanned complexion.

Notwithstanding, the rise of Trump in America, the Brexit in UK, the anti-immigration protests in Germany and the ‘Burkini’ ban in France (which was subsequently overruled) is the manifestation of the underlying sentiment against the policymakers’ normative approach towards the issue of immigration, which generally harms the interests of the working classes of the developed countries.

Therefore, instead of offering band aid solutions, we need to revise the prevailing global economic order; and formulate prudent and far-reaching economic and trade policies that can reduce the imbalance of wealth distribution between the developed and the developing nations; hence, reducing the incentive for the immigrants to seek employment in the developed countries.

Finally, let me confess that I am somewhat insensitive to the issues of racism and discriminatory attitude that the immigrants suffer at the hands of the white supremacists. Actually I am someone who is acutely aware of the reality of the Third World: that is, laborers pulling carts like animals; construction workers doing backbreaking work under the scorching sun; the children of the Afghan refugees working as scavengers in the streets of Pakistan; and all in all a subhuman condition in which the majority of the Third World’s population has been condemned to labor.

Moreover, it’s a fact that we, as individuals, don’t like to revamp our deeply entrenched narratives even when such narratives have conclusively been proven erroneous, because our minds are incapable of radically transforming themselves, especially after a certain age. Despite being a mystery of gigantic proportions, the human mind still has its limits, especially the minds of grownups are highly cluttered.

The reality is always too complex to be accurately conceived by the mind. Our narrative is only a mental snapshot of the physical reality that we have formulated to the best of our humble abilities. But since our minds are quite overloaded, therefore, we generally tend to adopt linear narratives; and try to overlook the deviations and contradictory evidence as mere anomalies (selective perception and confirmation bias.)

Additionally, our minds also adopt mental shortcuts, or heuristics, to ease the cognitive load while making a decision. To instantiate this concept, Pakistan has numerous problems: like, poverty, social injustice, religious intolerance and patriarchy, to name a few. My individual narrative, however, has mostly been predicated on the social justice aspect; but I do acknowledge and appreciate the tireless efforts of the dedicated social activists who are doing commendable work in other areas too.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

War on Terror and the Carter Doctrine

Bush, Obama, Bush Jr., Clinton and Carter.
In order to understand the hype surrounding the phenomena of Islamic radicalism and terrorism, we need to understand the prevailing global economic order and its prognosis. What the pragmatic economists forecasted about the free market capitalism has turned out to be true; whether we like it or not. A kind of global economic entropy has set into motion. The money is flowing from the area of high monetary density to the area of low monetary density.

The rise of the BRICS countries in the 21st century is the proof of this trend. BRICS are growing economically because the labor in developing economies is cheap; labor laws and rights are virtually nonexistent; expenses on creating a safe and healthy work environment are minimal; regulatory framework is lax; taxes are low; and in the nutshell, windfalls for the multinational corporations are huge.

Thus, BRICS are threatening the global economic monopoly of the Western capitalist bloc: that is, North America and Western Europe. Here we need to understand the difference between the manufacturing sector and the services sector. The manufacturing sector is the backbone of the economy; one cannot create a manufacturing base overnight. It is founded on hard assets: we need raw materials; production equipment; transport and power infrastructure; and last but not the least, a technically-educated labor force. It takes decades to build and sustain a manufacturing base. But the services sector, like the Western financial institutions, can be built and dismantled in a relatively short period of time.

If we take a cursory look at the economy of the Western capitalist bloc, it has still retained some of its high-tech manufacturing base, but it is losing fast to the cheaper and equally robust manufacturing base of the developing BRICS nations. Everything is made in China these days, except for hi-tech microprocessors, software, a few internet giants, some pharmaceutical products, the Big Oil and the all-important military hardware and the defense production industry.

Apart from that, the entire economy of the Western capitalist bloc is based on financial institutions: the behemoth investment banks, like JP Morgan chase, total assets $2359 billion (market capitalization: 187 billion); Citigroup, total assets $1865 billion (Market Capitalization: 141 billion); Bank of America, total assets $2210 billion (Market Capitalization: 133 billion); Wells Fargo and Goldman Sachs; BNP Paribas and Axa Group (France), Deutsche Bank and Allianz Group (Germany), Barclays and HSBC (UK).

After establishing the fact that the Western economy is dependent mostly on its financial services sector, we need to understand its implications. Like I have said earlier, that it takes time to build a manufacturing base, but it is relatively easy to build and dismantle an economy based on financial services. What if Tamim bin Hammad Al Thani (the ruler of Qatar) decides tomorrow to withdraw his shares from Barclays and put them in some Organization of Islamic Conference-sponsored bank in accordance with Sharia?

What if all the Arab sheikhs of Gulf countries withdraw their petro-dollars from the Western financial institutions; can the fragile financial services based Western economies sustain such a loss of investments? In April this year the Saudi finance minister threatened that the Saudi kingdom would sell up to $750 billion in Treasury securities and other assets if Congress passed a bill that would allow the Saudi government to be held responsible for any role in the September 11, 2001 terror attacks.

Bear in mind, however, that $750 billion is only the Saudi investment in the US, if we add its investment in Western Europe, and the investments of UAE, Kuwait and Qatar in the Western economies, the sum total would amount to trillions of dollars of Gulf’s investment in North America and Western Europe. Similarly, according to a July 2014 New York Post report the Chinese entrepreneurs have deposited $1.4 trillion in the Western banks between 2002 to 2014; and the Russian oligarchs are the runner-ups with $800 billion.

Notwithstanding, we need to look for comparative advantages and disadvantages here. If the vulnerable economy is their biggest weakness, what are the biggest strengths of the Western powers? The biggest strength of the Western capitalist bloc is its military might. We have to give credit to the Western hawks they did which nobody else in the world had the courage to do: that is, they privatized their defense production industry. And as we know, that privately-owned enterprises are more innovative, efficient and in this particular case, lethal. Regardless, having power is one thing and using that power to achieve certain economically desirable goals is another.

The Western liberal democracies are not autocracies; they are answerable to their electorates for their deeds and misdeeds. And much to the dismay of pragmatic Machiavellian ruling elites, the ordinary citizens find it hard to get over their antediluvian moral prejudices. In order to overcome this ethical dilemma, the Western political establishments wanted a moral pretext to do what they wanted to do on pragmatic economic grounds. That’s when 9/11 took place: a blessing in disguise for the Western political establishments, because the pretext of “war on terror” gave them a carte blanche to invade and occupy any oil-rich country in the Middle East and North Africa region.

It is unsurprising then that the first casualty of the so-called “war on terror,” after Afghanistan, has been Iraq which holds 150 billion barrels of proven crude oil reserves and has the capacity to reach 5 million barrels of daily oil production, second only to Saudi Arabia with its more than 10 million barrels of daily oil production and 265 billion barrels of proven crude oil reserves.

In order to bring home the significance of Persian Gulf’s oil in the energy-starved industrialized world, here are a few rough stats from the OPEC data: after Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq each holds 150 billion barrels and has the capacity to produce 5 million barrels per day; while UAE and Kuwait each holds 100 billion barrels and produces 3 million barrels per day; thus, all the littoral states of the Persian Gulf together hold more than half of world’s 1500 billion barrels of proven crude oil reserves.

No wonder then 35,000 United States’ Marines have currently been deployed in their numerous military bases and air-craft carriers in the Persian Gulf in accordance with the Carter Doctrine of 1980, which states: “Let our position be absolutely clear: an attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force.”

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Shifting Alliances: Turkey, Russia and the Kurds

Erdogan and Fethullah Gulen.
It is an irrefutable fact that the United States sponsors the militants, but only for a limited period of time in order to achieve certain policy objectives. For instance: the United States nurtured the Afghan jihadists during the Cold War against the erstwhile Soviet Union from 1979 to 1988, but after the signing of Geneva Accords and the consequent withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan, the United States withdrew its support to the Afghan jihadists.

Similarly, the United States lent its support to the militants during the Libyan and Syrian civil wars, but after achieving the policy objectives of toppling the Qaddafi regime in Libya and weakening the anti-Israel Assad regime in Syria, the United States relinquished its blanket support to the militants and eventually declared a war against a faction of Syrian militants, the Islamic State, when the latter transgressed its mandate in Syria and dared to occupy Mosul and Anbar in Iraq in early 2014.

The United States’ regional allies in the Middle East, however, are not as subtle and experienced in Machiavellian geopolitics. Under the misapprehension that alliances and enmities in international politics are permanent, the Middle Eastern autocrats keep on pursuing the same policy indefinitely as laid down by the hawks in Washington for a brief period of time in order to achieve strategic objectives.

For example: the security establishment of Pakistan kept pursuing the policy of training and arming the Afghan and Kashmiri jihadists throughout the ‘90s and right up to September 2001, even after the United States withdrew its support to the jihadists’ cause in Afghanistan in 1988.

Similarly, the Muslim Brotherhood-led government of Turkey has made the same mistake of lending indiscriminate support to the Syrian militants even after the United States’ partial reversal of policy in Syria and the declaration of war against Islamic State in August 2014 in order to placate the international public opinion when the graphic images and videos of Islamic State’s brutality surfaced on the mainstream media.

Keeping up appearances in order to maintain the façade of justice and morality is indispensable in international politics and the Western powers strictly abide by this code of conduct. Their medieval client states in the Middle East, however, are not as experienced and they often keep on pursuing the same counterintuitive policies of training and arming the militants against their regional rivals, which are untenable in the long run in a world where pacifism has generally been accepted as one of the fundamental axioms of the modern worldview.

Regarding the recent thaw [1] in the icy relationship between Russia and Turkey after the latter shot down a Russian Sukhoi Su-24 in November last year on the border between Syria and Turkey, although the proximate cause of this détente seems to be the attempted coup plot against Erdogan’s Administration last month by the supporters of the US-based preacher, Fethullah Gulen, but this surprising development also sheds light on the deeper divisions between the United States and Turkey over their respective Syria policy.

After the United States’ reversal of regime change policy in Syria in August 2014 when Islamic State overran Mosul in Iraq in June 2014 and threatened the capital of another steadfast American ally, Masoud Barzani’s Erbil in the oil-rich Iraqi Kurdistan, the Obama Administration has made the Kurds the centerpiece of its policy in Syria and Iraq.

Bear in mind that the conflict in Syria and Iraq is actually a three-way conflict between the Sunni Arabs, the Shi’a Arabs and the Sunni Kurds. Although, after the declaration of war against a faction of Sunni Arab militants, the Islamic State, the Obama Administration has also lent its support to the Shi’a-led government in Iraq, but the Shi’a Arabs of Iraq are not the trustworthy allies of the United States because they are under the influence of America’s archrival in the region, Iran.

Therefore, the Obama Administration was left with no other choice than to make the Kurds the centerpiece of its policy in Syria and Iraq after a group of Sunni Arab jihadists transgressed its mandate in Syria and overran Mosul and Anbar in Iraq from where the United States had withdrawn its troops only a couple of years ago.

The so-called Syrian Democratic Forces, which has recently captured Manbij near the border with Turkey only a couple of weeks ago, are nothing more than Kurdish militias with a tinkering of mercenary Arab tribesmen in order to make them appear more representative and inclusive in outlook.

As far as the regional parties to the Syrian civil war are concerned, however, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the Gulf Arab States may not have serious reservations against this close cooperation between the United States and the Kurds in Syria and Iraq, because the Gulf Arab States tend to look at the regional conflicts from the lens of the Iranian Shi’a threat. Turkey, on the other hand, has been more wary of the separatist Kurdish tendencies in its northeast than the Iranian Shi’a threat, as such.

Notwithstanding, any radical departure from the longstanding policy of providing unequivocal support to the American policy in the region by the political establishment of Turkey since the times of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk is highly unlikely. But after this perfidy by the Americans of lending their support to the Kurds against the Turkish proxies in Syria, it is quite plausible that the Muslim Brotherhood-led government in Turkey might try to strike a balance in its relations with the Cold War-era rivals.

Remember that Turkey has the second largest army in the NATO, the United States has been conducting air strikes against the targets in Syria from the Incirlik airbase and around fifty American B-61 hydrogen bombs have also been deployed there, whose safety became a matter of real concern during the attempted coup when the commander of the Incirlik airbase, General Bekir Ercan Van, along with nine other officers were arrested for supporting the coup; movement in and out of the base was denied, power supply was cut off and the security threat level was raised to the highest state of alert, according to a report [2] by Eric Schlosser for the New Yorker.

Sources and links:
[1] Turkish Foreign Minister’s exclusive interview to Sputnik News:

[2] The H Bombs in Turkey by Eric Schlosser:

Friday, September 2, 2016

Obama’s Legacy of Failure in the Middle East

President Obama and King Salman.
In order to create a semblance of objectivity and fairness, the American policymakers and analysts are always willing to accept the blame for the mistakes of the distant past that have no bearing on the present, however, any fact that impinges on their present policy is conveniently brushed aside.

In the case of the creation of Islamic State, for instance, the United States’ policy analysts are willing to concede that invading Iraq back in 2003 was a mistake that radicalized the Iraqi society, exacerbated the sectarian divisions and gave birth to an unrelenting Sunni insurgency against the heavy handed and discriminatory policies of the Shi’a-dominated Iraqi government; similarly, the war on terror era political commentators also “generously” accept that the Cold War era policy of nurturing the Afghan so-called “freedom fighters” against the erstwhile Soviet Union was a mistake, because all those fait accompli have no bearing on their present policy.

The corporate media’s spin-doctors conveniently forget, however, that the creation of Islamic State and myriads of other Sunni Arab jihadist groups in Syria and Iraq has as much to do with the unilateral invasion of Iraq back in 2003 under the previous Bush Administration as it has been the consequence of the present policy of Obama Administration in Syria of training and arming the Sunni militants against the Syrian regime since 2011-onward, in fact, the proximate cause behind the rise of Islamic State, al Nusra Front and myriads of Sunni jihadist groups in Syria and Iraq has been Obama Administration’s policy of intervention through proxies in Syria.

Leaving the funding, training and arming aspects of the insurgencies aside, but especially pertaining to conferring international legitimacy to an armed insurgency, like the Afghan so-called “freedom struggle” during the Cold War, or the supposedly “moderate and democratic” Libyan and Syrian insurgencies of today, it is simply beyond the power of minor regional players and their nascent media, that has a geographically and linguistically limited audience, to cast such heavily armed and brutal insurrections in a positive light in order to internationally legitimize them; only the Western mainstream media, that has a global audience and which serves as the mouthpiece of the Western political establishments, has perfected this game of legitimizing the absurd and selling the Satans as saviors.

It is very easy to mislead the people merely by changing the labels while the content remains the same – call the Syrian opposition moderate and nationalist rebels or insurgents and they would become legitimate in the eyes of the Western audience, and call the same armed militants “jihadists or  terrorists” and they would become  illegitimate. How do people expect from the armed thugs, whether they are Islamic jihadists or supposedly “moderate” and nationalist rebels, to bring about democratic reform in Syria or Libya?

For the whole of the last five years of the Syrian civil war the focal point of the Western policy has been that “Assad must go!” But what difference would it make to the lives of the Syrians even if the regime is replaced now when the whole country has been reduced to rubble? Qaddafi and his regime were ousted from power in September 2011; five years later Tripoli is ruled by the Misrata militia, Benghazi is under the control of Khalifa Haftar who is supported by Egypt and UAE and a battle is being fought in Sirte between the Islamic State-affiliate in Libya and the so-called Government of National Accord.

It will now take decades, not years, to restore even a semblance of stability in Libya and Syria; remember that the proxy war in Afghanistan was originally fought in the ‘80s and even 35 years later Afghanistan is still in the midst of perpetual anarchy, lawlessness and an unrelenting Taliban insurgency.

The only difference between the Soviet-Afghan jihad back in the ‘80s, that spawned the Islamic jihadists like the Taliban and al Qaeda for the first time in history, and the Libyan and Syrian jihads 2011-onward is that the Afghan Jihad was an overt jihad – back then the Western political establishments and their mouthpiece, the mainstream media, used to openly brag that CIA provides all those AK-47s, RPGs and stingers to the Pakistani ISI which then forwards such weapons to the Afghan mujahideen (freedom fighters) to combat Soviet Union’s troops in Afghanistan.

After the 9/11 tragedy, however, the Western political establishments and corporate media have become a lot more circumspect, therefore, this time around they have waged covert jihads against the “unfriendly” Qaddafi regime in Libya and the anti-Israel Assad regime in Syria, in which the Islamic jihadists (terrorists) have been sold as “moderate rebels” to the Western audience. It’s an incontrovertible fact that more than 90% of militants operating in Syria are either the Islamic jihadists or the armed tribesmen, and less than 10% are those who have defected from the Syrian army or otherwise have secular and nationalist goals.

Notwithstanding, unlike al Qaeda, which is a terrorist organization that generally employs anticolonial and anti-Zionist rhetoric to draw funds and followers, Islamic State and Al-Nusra Front, both, are basically anti-Shi’a sectarian outfits. By the designation “terrorism” it is generally implied and understood that an organization which has the intentions and capability of carrying out acts of terrorism on the Western soil. Though, Islamic State has carried out a few acts of terrorism against the Western countries, such as the high profile November 2015 Paris attacks and the March 2016 Brussels bombings, but if we look at the pattern of its subversive activities, especially in the Middle East, it generally targets the Shi’a Muslims in Syria and Iraq.

A few acts of terrorism that Islamic State has carried out in the Gulf Arab States were also directed against the Shi’a Muslims in the Eastern province of Saudi Arabia and Shi’a mosques in Yemen and Kuwait. Moreover, al Qaeda Central is only a small band of Arab militants whose strength is numbered in several hundreds, while Islamic State is a mass insurgency whose strength is numbered in tens of thousands, especially in Syria and Iraq.

Additionally, Syria's pro-Assad militias are comprised of local militiamen as well as Shi’a foreign fighters from Lebanon, Iraq, Iran and even Hazara Shi’as from Afghanistan. And Sunni jihadists from all over the region have also been flocking to the Syrian battlefield for the past five years. A full-scale Sunni-Shi’a war has been going on in Syria, Iraq and Yemen which will obviously have its repercussions all over the Middle East region where Sunni and Shi’a Muslims have coexisted in peace for centuries.

Regardless, it should be kept in mind here that the Western interest in the Syrian civil war has mainly been about ensuring Israel’s regional security. The Shi’a resistance axis in the Middle East, comprised of Iran, the Syrian regime and their Lebanon-based proxy Hezbollah, posed an existential threat to Israel; a fact which the Israel’s defense community realized for the first time during the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah War.

When protests broke out against the Qaddafi and Assad regimes in Libya and Syria, respectively, in early 2011 in the wake of the Arab Spring uprisings, under pressure from the Zionist lobbies, the Western powers took advantage of the opportunity provided to them and militarized those protests with the help of their regional allies: Turkey, Jordan and the Gulf Arab States.

All of the aforementioned states belong to the Sunni denomination and they have been vying for influence in the Middle East against the Shi’a Iranian axis. Since the beginning of the Syrian civil war in August 2011 to June 2014, when Islamic State occupied Mosul, an informal pact existed between the Western powers, their regional allies and the Sunni jihadists of the Middle East against the Shi’a resistance axis. In accordance with this pact, Sunni militants were trained and armed in the training camps located in border regions of Turkey and Jordan.

This arrangement of an informal pact between the Western powers and the Sunni jihadists of the Middle East against the Shi’a Iranian axis worked well up to August 2014, when Obama Administration made a volte-face on its previous regime change policy in Syria and started conducting air strikes against one group of Sunni jihadists battling against the Syrian regime, i.e. the Islamic State, after the latter transgressed its mandate in Syria and overran Mosul and Anbar in Iraq and threatened the capital of another steadfast American ally: Masoud Barzani’s Erbil in the oil-rich Iraqi Kurdistan.

After that reversal of policy in Syria by the Western powers and the subsequent Russian military intervention on the side of the Shi’a regime, the momentum of Sunni Arab jihadists’ expansion in Syria has stalled and they now feel that their Western allies have committed a treachery against the Sunni jihadists’ cause; that’s why, they feel enraged and they are once again up in arms to exact revenge for this betrayal.

If we look at the chain of events, the timing of the Paris and Brussels attacks has been critical: Islamic State overran Mosul in June 2014, Obama Administration started bombing Islamic State’s targets in Iraq and Syria in August 2014 and after a long time first such incident of terrorism took place on the Western soil at the offices of Charlie Hebdo in January 2015 and then the November 2015 Paris attacks and the March 2016 Brussels bombings.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Victim Blaming: An Orientalist Pastime

Malcolm X and Mohammad Ali Clay.
It’s an indisputable fact that British colonizers built roads and railways in India, they established missionary schools, colleges and universities, they enforced English common law and the goal of exploiting natural resources and the 400 million strong Indian manpower at the time of independence in 1947, and trading raw materials for pennies and exporting finished goods with huge profits to the Indian consumer market never crossed their altruistic minds.

Puns aside, there is an essential precondition in the European Union’s charter of union according to which the developing economies of Europe that joined the EU allowed free movement of goods (free trade) only on the reciprocal condition that the developed countries would allow the free movement of labor.

What’s obvious in this stipulation is the fact that the free movement of goods, services and capital only benefits the countries that have a strong manufacturing base; and the free movement of workers only favors the developing economies where labor is cheap.

Now, when the international financial institutions, like the IMF and WTO, promote free trade by exhorting the developing countries all over the world to reduce tariffs and subsidies without the reciprocal free movement of labor, whose interests do such institutions try to protect? Obviously, they try to protect the interests of their biggest donors by shares, i.e. the developed countries.

Some market fundamentalists who irrationally believe in the laissez-faire capitalism try to justify this unfair practice by positing Schumpeter’s theory of “Creative destruction:” that the free trade between unequal trading partners leads to the destruction of the host country’s existing economic order and a subsequent reconfiguration gives birth to a better economic order.

Whenever one comes up with gross absurdities such proportions, they should always make it contingent on the principle of reciprocity: that is, if free trade is beneficial for the nascent industrial base of the developing economies then the free movement of labor is equally beneficial for the workforce of the developed countries.

The policymakers of the developing countries must not allow themselves to be hoodwinked by such deceptive arguments, instead they should devise national policies which suit the interests of their underprivileged masses. But the trouble is that the governments of the Third World countries are dependent on foreign investment, that’s why they cannot adopt an independent economic and trade policy.

The so-called “multinational” corporations based in the Western financial districts make profits from the consumer markets all over the world and pay a share of those profits to their respective governments as bribes in the form of taxes. Every balance of trade deficit due to the lack of strong manufacturing base makes the developing nations poorer, and every balance of trade surplus further adds to the already immense fortune of the developed world.

A single large multinational corporation earns more revenue annually than the total GDP of many developing nations. Without this neocolonial system of exploitation the whole edifice of supposedly “meritocratic” capitalism will fall flat on its face and the myth of individual incentive would get busted beyond repair, because it only means incentive for the pike and not for the minnows.

Regarding the technological progress, I do concede that the Western countries are too far ahead and even the Far Eastern nations, like Japan, South Korea and China, that attained their independence later than India and Pakistan, have become developed and prosperous nations, while we have lagged behind. The way I see it, however, our failure is primarily the failure of the leadership.

It's a fact that the European culture evolved in a bottom-up manner during the Renaissance period especially after the invention of the Gutenberg's printing press when books and newspapers became cheaper and within the reach of the common man, but when we look at the technological and economic development of nations in the 20th and 21st centuries, that happened mostly in a top-down manner, especially in Russia after the Bolshevik revolution in 1917 and in China after the Maoist revolution in 1949.

Cultures take centuries to evolve and the basic driver is always the level of socioeconomic development of the masses, therefore, our primary concern should be to improve governance and invest in the infrastructure development and the technical education and vocational training of our labor force. In the long run technologically advanced and economically prosperous nations are more likely to bring about a cultural change, too.

Regarding the contribution of British colonizers to India, the countries that don’t have a history of colonization, like China and Russia for instance, have better roads, railways and industries built by the natives themselves than the ones that have been through centuries of foreign occupation and colonization, like the subcontinent. The worst thing that the British colonizers did to the subcontinent was that they put in place a tyrannical governance and administrative system that catered to the needs of the colonizers without being accountable to the people over whom it was imposed.

It’s unfortunate that despite having the trappings of democracy and freedom, India and Pakistan are still continuing with the same exploitative traditional power structure that was bequeathed to us by the British colonizers. The society is stratified along the class lines, most of our ruling elite still have the attitude of the foreign colonizers and the top-down bureaucratic “Afsar Shahi Nizam” is one of the most inefficient in the world.

Notwithstanding, the basic trouble with the 21st century social reformers is that they have lost all hope for bringing about economic reforms; nobody talks about the nationalization of the modes of production and labor reforms, anymore. Laissez faire capitalism and the consequent social stratification is taken for granted; thus, if reforming the economic system is out of question, the next best thing for the chattering classes to espouse is cultural reforms. It must be kept in mind, however, that reforming the culture is many times more difficult than reforming the economic system, which the neoliberals have already given up on, because it appeared daunting and impossible to achieve.

Truth be told, the victim-blaming Indo-Pakistani neoliberals lack any original insight into the social and political phenomena and they uncritically imitate the views of the Orientalist academics. After the onset of the Industrial Revolution, when the Western societies had been riddled with social disparity, the response of their intellectuals had been to come up with theories of economics such as socialism, Fabianism and Marxism; however, in the age of neocolonialism and corporate imperialism, the condition and social status of the labor in the developed countries has improved; therefore, their focus has shifted from economic reforms to cultural reforms. Our gullible intelligentsia, on the other hand, is fixated on bringing about cultural reforms without the essential prerequisites of socioeconomic development and investment on education.

The public schools of the developed world provide quality education to all the citizens irrespective of their social status, because in a country like UK the budgetary allocation for public education is $150 for a population of 65 million, while in a Third World country, like Pakistan, the education budget is only $5 billion for a population of 200 million.

Thus, the fundamental social axiom of the egalitarian modern world view: that is, the equality of opportunity, which is directly linked to the equality of elementary education, has been ensured in the developed world, but not in the Third World countries where education systems are highly stratified along the class lines. Although, the elite schools of the Third World countries provide quality education to the children of the upper classes, but their tuition fee is generally so exorbitant that it exceeds the net income of the majority of the households in Pakistan and India.