Sunday, July 16, 2017

Identity Crisis: Who is Pakistani and Who isn’t?

Imran Khan, Jemima and Diana.
There are two contrasting styles of debating an issue: those who prefer normative arguments, and those who choose descriptive line of reasoning. 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 modern world, particularly 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 the plant blooms in the changed environment but at other times 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 to native flora and fauna of those habitats.

The right way to tackle the immigration 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 could be materially better off but might find themselves socially isolated and emotionally desolate.

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 have 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 urbanized, industrial economies.

There are no two views about the fact that individuals must have intellectual autonomy and freedom of investigation and information, but “individualism” as an ideology with complete disregard for the innate social nature of human beings only nurtures lost souls who sometimes find solace in existential acrobatics and sometimes in alcoholism and 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 one another due to the difference of language.

Now, if the difference amongst 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 we should try to understand that subaltern 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 Indo-Pakistani immigrants relocate to foreign countries, they find it hard to adjust in a radically different culture initially. It would be unwise to generalize, however, because it depends upon the disposition and inclination of 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. Educated Indo-Pakistani liberals generally integrate well into the Western societies, but many conservative Pakistani and Indian immigrants, particularly from backward rural areas, find it hard to adjust in a radically different Western culture. On the other hand, such immigrants from underprivileged backgrounds find the conservative societies of the Gulf countries more conducive to their individual and familial integration and well-being.

In any case, the second generation 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, Brexit in the UK and anti-immigration protests all over Europe, North America and Australia are the manifestation of the underlying sentiment against the so-called globalists’ normative approach toward the issue of immigration, which generally goes against the interests of the working classes of 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 developed countries.

Keeping this background of immigration, globalization and consequent identity crises in the modern world in mind, 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, the latter have been marginalized in Pakistan’s power structure. And as we know that politics is mostly about forming alliances, therefore the astute liberals wooed the na├»ve 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, who are numerically insignificant but politically vocal, derive their inspiration from foreign sources.

Ostensibly, the liberal elites 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 purported “indigenousness” never goes beyond cuisines and music.

Pray tell us, which local traditions, customs and 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 creed 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 elites. 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, Gandhian rhetoric to create a political constituency for itself, but they have as much in common with the native cultures, 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.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

How Raymond Davis Helped Track Osama Bin Laden Down?

Six weeks before the killing of Osama Bin Laden, on 16 March 2011, a CIA’s private contractor Raymond Davis, who had previously worked for Erik Prince’s infamous Blackwater security firm, was released from a prison in Lahore and was secretly flown to the US.

On 27 January 2011, Raymond Davis had killed two armed men on a busy street in Lahore, who, according to the inside sources [1] of Pakistan’s intelligence, were its “assets.” Minutes after the shooting, an SUV rushing to Davis’ aid from the American consulate in Lahore had crushed another bystander to death.

Recently, Raymond Davis has published his memoirs titled: “The Contractor: How I landed in a Pakistani prison and ignited a diplomatic crisis,” in which he has narrated all the gory details of the shooting, his time in prison and the subsequent release under a settlement with victims’ families, but has painstakingly avoided any mention to his role as the CIA’s acting station chief [2] in Islamabad or to his job of tracking Osama Bin Laden’s couriers.

In his last year’s May 5 report [3], Greg Miller of the Washington Post posited that Mark Kelton, the CIA station chief in Islamabad at the time of Bin Laden’s killing in Abbottabad, was poisoned by Pakistan’s military intelligence due to Kelton’s role in the assassination of Bin Laden.

It should be remembered here that Mark Kelton succeeded Jonathan Bank in January 2011, after the latter’s name was made public by Pakistan’s military intelligence due to Bank’s “suspicious activities,” and Raymond Davis worked as CIA’s acting station chief during the interim period.

On the fateful day of 27 January 2011, when Raymond Davis was doing his usual job of tracking Bin Laden’s whereabouts, Pakistan’s intelligence sent two hired muggers to harass him in order to make him desist from his unwanted activities; and in a fit of rage, Raymond Davis, who had been chased and harassed several times before by Pakistan’s intelligence operatives, shot both “muggers” dead.

In his April 2013 article [4] for the New York Times, Mark Mazzetti writes: “By the time Raymond Davis moved into a safe house with a handful of other C.I.A. officers and contractors in late 2010, the bulk of the agency’s officers in Lahore were focused on investigating the growth of Lashkar-e-Taiba.

“To get more of its spies into Pakistan, the C.I.A. had exploited the arcane rules in place for approving visas for Americans. The State Department, the C.I.A. and the Pentagon all had separate channels to request visas for their personnel, and all of them led to the desk of Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s pro-American ambassador in Washington.

“Haqqani had orders from Islamabad to be lenient in approving the visas, because many of the Americans coming to Pakistan were — at least officially — going to be administering millions of dollars in foreign-aid money. By the time of the Lahore killings, in early 2011, so many Americans were operating inside Pakistan under both legitimate and false identities that even the U.S. Embassy didn’t have accurate records of their identities and whereabouts.”

Although Mark Mazzetti has scrupulously avoided mentioning the role played by Raymond Davis and his team in locating the couriers of Bin Laden in his article and he has even tried to distract attention to Lashkar-e-Taiba, but the timing of the surge of CIA operatives in Pakistan, “late 2010 and early 2011,” is telling here, because those were exactly the months when the CIA was tracking Bin Laden’s whereabouts.

More to the point, in his March 10 article [5] for the Washington Post, Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s ambassador to the US at the time of Osama Bin Laden’s execution in May 2011, has confessed to the role played by the Zardari Administration in facilitating the killing of Bin Laden.

Husain Haqqani identified then-president Asif Ali Zardari as his “civilian leader” and revealed in the article: “In November 2011, I was forced to resign as ambassador after Pakistan’s military-intelligence apparatus gained the upper hand in the country’s perennial power struggle. Among the security establishment’s grievances against me was the charge that I had facilitated the presence of large numbers of CIA operatives who helped track down bin Laden without the knowledge of Pakistan’s army, even though I had acted under the authorization of Pakistan’s elected civilian leaders.”

This confessional statement by Ambassador Haqqani lends further credence to Seymour Hersh’s account of the execution of Bin Laden in his book and article titled: The Killing of Osama Bin Laden [6], which was published in the London Review of Books in May 2015.

According to Hersh, the initial tentative plan of the Obama Administration regarding the disclosure of the execution of Bin Laden to the press was that he had been killed in a drone strike in the Hindu Kush Mountains on the Afghan side of the border. But the operation didn’t go as planned because a Black Hawk helicopter crashed in Bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound and the whole town now knew that an operation is underway and several social media users based in Abbottabad live-tweeted the whole incident on Twitter.

Therefore, the initial plan was abandoned and the Obama Administration had to go public within hours of the operation with a hurriedly cooked up story. This fact explains so many contradictions and discrepancies in the official account of the story, the biggest being that the United States Navy Seals conducted a raid deep inside Pakistan’s territory on a garrison town without the permission of Pakistani authorities.

Moreover, according to a May 2015 AFP report [7], Pakistan’s military sources had confirmed that there was a Pakistani defector who had met several times with Jonathan Bank, the CIA’s then-station chief in Islamabad, as a consequence of which, Pakistan’s intelligence disclosed Bank’s name to local newspapers and he had to leave Pakistan in a hurry in December 2010 because his cover was blown.

Seymour Hersh has posited in his investigative report on the Bin Laden operation in Abbottabad that the Saudi royal family had asked Pakistan as a favor to keep Bin Laden under protective custody, because he was a scion of a powerful Saudi-Yemeni Bin Laden Group and it was simply inconceivable for the Saudis to hand him over to the US.

But once the Pakistani walk-in colonel, as stated in the aforementioned AFP report, had told then-CIA station chief in Islamabad, Jonathan Bank, that a high-value al-Qaeda leader had been hiding in a safe house in Abbottabad under the protective custody of Pakistan’s military intelligence, and after that, when the CIA obtained further proof in the form of Bin Laden’s DNA through the fake vaccination program carried out by Dr. Shakil Afridi, then it was no longer possible for Pakistan’s military authorities to deny the whereabouts of Bin Laden.

In his book, Seymour Hersh has already postulated various theories that why it was not possible for Pakistan’s military authorities to simply hand Bin Laden over to the US, one being that the Americans wanted to catch Bin Laden themselves in order to gain maximum political mileage for Obama’s presidential campaign slated for next year.

Here, let me only add that in May 2011, Pakistan had a US-friendly Zardari Administration in power. And as Ambassador Haqqani pointed out in his Washington Post article that then-army chief, Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, and the former head of military intelligence, Shuja Pasha, had been complicit in harboring Bin Laden, thus it cannot be ruled out that Pakistan’s military authorities might still have had strong objections to the US Navy Seals conducting a raid deep inside Pakistan’s territory on a garrison town.

But Pakistan’s civilian administration under then-president Asif Ali Zardari had persuaded the military authorities to order the Pakistan Air Force and air defense systems to stand down during the operation. Ambassador Haqqani’s role in this saga ruffled the feathers of Pakistan’s military’s top brass to an extent that Husain Haqqani was later implicated in a criminal case regarding his memo to Admiral Mike Mullen and eventually Ambassador Haqqani had to resign in November 2011, just six months after the Operation Neptune Spear.

Finally, although Seymour Hersh claimed in his account of the story that Pakistan’s military authorities were also on-board months before the operation, let me clarify, however, that according to the inside sources of Pakistan’s military, only Pakistan’s civilian administration under the pro-American Zardari Administration was on-board, and military authorities, who were instrumental in harboring Bin Laden and his family for five years, were intimated only at the eleventh hour in order to preempt the likelihood of Bin Laden’s escape from the custody of his facilitators in Pakistan’s military intelligence.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

What are Washington’s stakes in the Syrian conflict?

Washington’s interest in the Syrian civil war is partly about ensuring Israel’s regional security and partly it is about doing the bidding of America’s regional Sunni allies: Turkey, Jordan and the Gulf Arab States.

Saudi Arabia which has been vying for power as the leader of the Sunni bloc against the Shi’a-dominated Iran in the regional geopolitics was staunchly against the invasion of Iraq by the Bush Administration in 2003.

The Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein constituted a Sunni Arab bulwark against the Iranian influence in the Arab World. But after Saddam was ousted from power in 2003 and subsequently when elections were held in Iraq which were swept by the Shi’a-dominated parties, Iraq has now been led by a Shi’a-majority government that has become a steadfast regional ally of Iran. Consequently, Iran’s sphere of influence now extends all the way from territorially-contiguous Iraq and Syria to Lebanon and the Mediterranean coast.

The Saudi royal family was resentful of Iranian encroachment on traditional Arab heartland. Therefore, when protests broke out against the Assad regime in Syria in the wake of Arab Spring uprisings of 2011, the Gulf Arab States along with their regional allies, Turkey and Jordan, and the Western patrons gradually militarized the protests to dismantle the Iranian resistance axis.

More to the point, the United States Defense Intelligence Agency’s declassified report [1] of 2012 clearly spelled out the imminent rise of a Salafist principality in northeastern Syria in the event of an outbreak of a civil war in Syria. Under pressure from the Zionist lobby in Washington, however, the Obama Administration deliberately suppressed the report and also overlooked the view in general that a proxy war in Syria will give birth to radical Islamic jihadists.

The hawks in Washington were fully aware of the consequences of their actions in Syria, but they kept pursuing the ill-fated policy of nurturing militants in the training camps located in the border regions of Turkey and Jordan to weaken the Baathist regime in Syria.

The single biggest threat to Israel’s regional security was posed by the Shi’a resistance axis, which is comprised of Iran, the Assad regime in Syria and their Lebanon-based proxy, Hezbollah. During the course of 2006 Lebanon War, Hezbollah fired hundreds of rockets into northern Israel; and Israel’s defense community realized for the first time the nature of threat that Hezbollah and its patrons, Iran and the Assad regime in Syria, posed to Israel’s regional security.

Those were only unguided rockets but it was a wakeup call for Israel’s military strategists that what will happen if Iran passed the guided missile technology to Hezbollah whose area of operations lies very close to the northern borders of Israel?

Regarding the Western interest in collaborating with the Gulf Arab States against their regional rivals, bear in mind that in April last year, the Saudi foreign minister threatened [2] that the Saudi kingdom would sell up to $750 billion in treasury securities and other assets if Congress passed a bill that would allow Americans to sue the Saudi government in the United States courts for its role in the September 11, 2001 terror attack.

Moreover, $750 billion is only the Saudi investment in the United States, if we add its investment in the 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 investments in North America and Western Europe.

Furthermore, 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: Saudi Arabia has the world’s largest proven crude oil reserves of 265 billion barrels and its daily oil production exceeds 10 million barrels; Iran and Iraq, each, has 150 billion barrels reserves and has the capacity to produce 5 million barrels per day, each; while UAE and Kuwait, each, has 100 billion barrels reserves and produces 3 million barrels per day, each; 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.

Additionally, regarding the Western defense production industry’s sales of arms to the Gulf Arab States, a report [3] authored by William Hartung of the US-based Center for International Policy found that the Obama Administration had offered Saudi Arabia more than $115 billion in weapons, military equipment and training during its eight years tenure.

Similarly, the top items in Trump’s agenda for his maiden visit to Saudi Arabia in May were: first, he threw his weight behind the idea of Saudi-led “Arab NATO” to counter Iran’s influence in the region; and second, he announced an unprecedented arms package for Saudi Arabia. The package included between $98 billion and $128 billion in arms sales, and over a period of 10 years, total sales could reach $350 billion.

Thus, keeping the economic dependence of the Western countries on the Gulf Arab States in mind during the times of global recession when most of manufacturing has been outsourced to China, it is unsurprising that when the late King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia decided to provide training and arms to Sunni Arab jihadists in the border regions of Turkey and Jordan against the Shi’a-dominated regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, the Obama Administration was left with no other choice but to toe the destructive policy of its regional Middle Eastern allies, despite the sectarian nature of the proxy war and its attendant consequences of breeding a new generation of Islamic jihadists who would become a long-term security risk not only to the Middle East but to the Western countries, as well.

Similarly, when King Abdullah’s successor, King Salman, decided to invade Yemen in March 2015, once again, the Obama Administration had to yield to the dictates of Saudi Arabia and UAE by fully coordinating the Gulf-led military campaign in Yemen not only by providing intelligence, planning and logistical support but also by selling billions of dollars’ worth of arms and ammunition to the Gulf Arab States during the conflict.

Regarding the Pax Americana which is the reality of the contemporary global political and economic order, according to a recent infographic [4] by the New York Times, 210,000 US military personnel are currently stationed all over the world; including 79,000 in Europe, 45,000 in Japan, 28,500 in South Korea and 36,000 in the Middle East (of which, 28,000 have been deployed in the Persian Gulf alone, including 11,000 in the sprawling Al-Udeid airbase in Qatar).

By comparison, the number of US troops in Afghanistan is only 8,500 which is regarded as an occupied country. Thus, the Gulf Arab principalities are not sovereign states, as such, but the virtual protectorates of the corporate America.

In this reciprocal relationship, the US provides security to the ruling families of the Gulf Arab states by providing weapons and troops; and in return, the Gulf’s petro-sheikhs contribute substantial investments to the tune of trillions of dollars in the Western economies.