By Kiran Nazish
Kiran Nazish: You say that the Pakistani government has double crossed the US, and the US does not have the guts to stand up to it. What are those deceptions in your opinion? Why do you think the US does not stand up? What is their weakness or restraint?
Tarek Fatah:Any country that harbored and protected Osama Bin Laden for ten years while taking billions in US aid to supposedly locate the world’s most wanted jihadi terrorist, would qualify as a country that double-crossed the USA. Pakistan’s military and civilian establishment that runs the country is guilty on that count. In fact on July 19, when the US House of Representatives voted to cut US aid to Pakistan by $650 million, congressman Ted Poe (R-Texas), put it rather succinctly when he said, “Pakistan seems to be the Benedict Arnold nation in the list of countries that we call allies, they have proven to be deceptive and deceitful and a danger to the United States.”
The United States gets blackmailed time and again by Pakistani Foreign Office’s argument that any sanctions imposed on Pakistan will make things worse with Islamabad’s nuclear assets falling into the hands of radical generals committed to a worldwide jihad.
Washington has been playing a Chamberlainesque diplomacy of appeasement and it seems the US State Department is at conflict with the Department of Defence, but has the upper hand in setting US-Pakistani relations.
The influence of pro-Muslim Brotherhood officials in the US State Department and the White House may also be a reason America has not come down hard on Pakistan and is focused on Iran as its enemy.
KN: What is your definition of a fascist? Especially given that you are a Punjabi Muslim yourself, and in that, how do you deal with the fact the Punjabis are often accused of fascism in Pakistan?
TF:My definition of an Islamofascist in the 21st century is a political group that seeks its own armed militia; its own uniforms, separate social service network and a top-down hierarchal command structure political party that does not entertain any dissent. Like the Nazis and Mussolini’s men, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Hezbollah, the Jamaat-e-Islami, the various other jihadi groups of the Difa-e-Pakistan Council and the Taliban all fall into this definition to varying degrees. The one tell-tale sign of a fascist setup is its operation of state within a state with private social service networks and armed non-state armies.
My heritage as a Punjabi has been effectively destroyed in Pakistan. It’s a community ashamed of their own mother-tongue, shoe chattering middle classes are by and large ignorant of who they are and thus end up acting as if they are of Arab or Persian descent, thus making them empty vessels that become easily filled with false identities and hatred of the other.
This is a direct result of the 1947 Partition when non-Punjabi Muslims instigated Muslim Punjabis to slaughter their own neighbors and rip apart a 1,000-year-old society where Punjabi Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs flourished together. The same happened in Bengal too, but Muslim Bengalis woke up and realized their mistake. While Bengal’s Muslims walked away from the two-nation theory in 1971-72, Punjabi Muslims hang on to it and have in effect vandalized their own past and future.
KN: You talk about Muslims and Marxists who have betrayed the cause of social justice. Could you give a few specific examples of such cases?
TF:In the post 1990 world when the collapse of the USSR ended the Cold War, the Left in most of the West and communists in the developing world were left with the reality that the entire communist-socialist experiment in the Soviet Union was a farce and that Chinese Communists had overnight become the hallmark of vulgar capitalism.
The only force that emerged as anti-American were the Islamists and Jihadis who turned on to their own paymasters. A worldwide jihad against the US was launched by Muslim Brotherhood and the remnants of the Arab Afghans coalesced as Al Qaeda under the protection of the Taliban.
This fury of new anti-Americanism has met with nodding approval by what is left of the Left in the West. From Chomsky to Ken Livingstone and George Galloway, one can sense their admiration of the Islamist hostility to all things Western.
They all overlook the reactionary nature of the Islamist agenda; their misogyny, the homophobia, the racism and medieval notion of honor and tribe, and chosen to support Hamas, Hezbollah and respect the Muslim Brotherhood and even get entertained by them.
In doing so they have betrayed every aspect of their supposed vision of a future free of exploitation of man by man. The Left should have been leading the fight against medievalism. Instead it has become a mere cog in the wheel of the Islamist movement.
KN: What is your stance on the Taliban and the Pakistani state after the Malala issue, considering the Pakistani government (and civil society) took a stand.
TF: The Taliban are the same Islamofacsist purveyors of hatred and lovers of medievalism that is ingrained in their ideology. Malala on the other hand shows them for who they are and provides us with a sharp contrast that few opponents of the Taliban have been able to do.
As of today close to half a million people from around the world; from the PM of Canada to Shashi Tharoor of India; Richard Dawkins of UK to Nobel Laureate Dario Fo of Italy, people have risen to back this child. Unfortunately, not many among Pakistan’s chattering classes have risen to the occasion. Najam Sethi, Farhanaz Ispahani, Ayesha Siddiqa and Bushra Gohar aside, I see a wave of pettiness that is camouflaged as conspiracies among the elite.
KN: When you say the military establishment and civilian government are both responsible for OBL, what is your say on the Memogate inquiry? Don’t you think there are now clear differences between the two institutions? Considering Pakistan’s foreign policy is mainly the domain of the country’s military?
TF: Today there seems to be a free-for-all among both the military establishment as well as the civilian backroom operators. The carcass is too tempting to not be picked on by the vultures.
KN: Also consider that this government survived the post-OBL crisis. At another time this would have brought the government down, but it is the first time that an elected government has survived this long. Many feel that it shows that the military establishment’s hold is weakening. Do you consider that a step forward for Pakistan?
TF:Not at all. The military knows what side of the bread is buttered. The Kerry-Lugar Bill signed into law by Obama ensures the brigade remains on permanent stand-by in Islamabad.
KN: Also, if OBL was being protected by Pakistan, shouldn’t he have been captured alive to find out if it was a fact? What do you think?
TF:Only the solitary Japanese soldier still fighting the Americans of World War 2 in an Okinawa cave is not aware of the fact that OBL was protected in Pakistan by the ISI.
KN: You say there are flaws in Pakistan’s foreign policy. What are they?
TF: There is no such thing as “Pakistani Foreign Policy.” It is determined by the needs of its military establishment and their requirements. The only countries with which Pakistan’s people have common cultures – India and Afghanistan – are considered as enemies while those who treat Pakistanis like trash – Iran and Saudi Arabia – are its allies. China has massacred its Muslim population, but is Pakistan’s ally and they love China. The US where Muslims have more rights than any other country on earth, is hated by Pakistan.
KN: Do you find any hope in the people of Pakistan then, considering they have been raised by dictators yet many find the state’s democratic process generally equally deceiving? In your view, are there any good leaders in Pakistan at the moment?
TF:I am sorry, but I see little hope. As long as Pakistanis thrive on a diet of lies, they have a bleak future. Imagine, it is hard to find a single Punjabi politician (and its only Punjabis who matter in Pakistan) who is willing to acknowledge the fact that Pakistan invaded an independent State of Kalat in 1948 and that we have been occupying that land for over 65 years.
KN: How do you align Jinnah’s politics with Iqbal’s views or Sir Syed’s movement?
TF: While I have deep admiration for Sir Syed, I do not share the same feelings about Iqbal who managed in one lifetime to be all things to all people.
Both secularists and Islamist Muslims can pick and choose from his works to justify their points of view. He was a Punjabi but never wrote a single line in Punjabi language.
KN: Some people in Pakistan, including some activist groups, talk about the cause of freedom, democracy, and justice. Are these achievable in your view?
TF:Without a decentralization of power from Punjab to the provinces, Pakistan cannot give justice to its people. Without a separation of Islam and the state, Pakistan cannot afford equal citizenship to its inhabitants. Without acknowledging the truth about Balochistan, there can be no honest dialogue among the federating units.
KN: The Pakistanis who inherited freedom and did not struggle for it, it is said; are at ease to unintentionally destroy it simply out of ingratitude and convenience. What do you think can be done?
TF:The only Pakistanis who seem to have freedom belong to the upper class and their urban variety that imitates the West, yet hates it.
The urban working class and the teeming millions who live as an underclass in Karachi, Lahore and other major cities, work in near slave conditions or low wages and no hope of breaking out of their condition while the non-working upper classes have amassed fortunes beyond belief.
Sooner or later this class tension will erupt. So far the ethnic divisions among the working poor have prevented class-consciousness. Freedom for the chattering classes is not freedom for the underclass of Pakistan.
KN: Some of your detractors are critical of the fact that you were born and raised in Pakistan and you call yourself an Indian Muslim. What are your thoughts?
TF:Indian civilization is 5,000 years old and its origins are the Indus Valley. It is disgraceful for anyone born on the Indus or its tributaries to deny their Indianness. It’s as if a Frenchman says he is not European.
Even as a child and a teenager in Pakistan, I was conscious of the fact that I was a child of Asoka as much as I was a descendent of Bullay Shah and Baba Farid.
KN: Is there anything at all that you find good about Pakistan?
TF:Just the rural people of Punjab, Balochistan, Pukhtunkhwa and Sindh. Get rid of the urban lice and we will have the land of Bullay Shah and Baba Farid breathe again with chimes of Gul Khan Nasir, Ghani Khan and of course Bhittai in the background.
KN: How did you feel about recovering from cancer? What do you want to do with this new life that you did not think of before?
TF: Discovering that one has cancer is an earth-shaking event and leaves the family in a state of shock and grief. For me and my family, the shock and grief lasted no more than 5 minutes and broke into laughter when I told my wife I had a handsome life insurance policy so hire a rock band for my funeral.
In fact, we did have a musical concert in both the hospital where I was treated and at the physiotherapy center where I learnt how to walk again. What is very strange is that not once did I feel like praying for myself. I found the act a bit selfish.
While an Islamist website asked people to pray for my death, which I found sad, but funny, a Pakistani Church held a prayer for my health every Sunday. A friend who is an Imam, a convert from Barbados, would top in every week, but just to chat helped me retain my senses, but above all my wife and daughters ensured my spirits were up. Not a tear, even when the docs gave me about three months to live. When the call comes, I will go.It’s been a good innings.