Saddened to learn of recent extra judicial killings of innocent Sindhis in Pakistan My heart goes out to the families of the killed & missing
See more » https://twitter.com/BradSherman/status/539915149235458048
Saddened to learn of recent extra judicial killings of innocent Sindhis in Pakistan My heart goes out to the families of the killed & missing
See more » https://twitter.com/BradSherman/status/539915149235458048
Congressman Brad Sherman discusses options for dealing with ISIS with host Jose Diaz-Balart on MSNBC
Sindhis appreciate the efforts of Congressman Brad Sherman for Sindh and Sindhis. He raised issues about Sindhi Hindus, Education and recent Thar famine in Sindh during the foreign affairs Committee Hearing. Congressman Brad Sherman is the founder of Congressional Sindh Caucus.
Aid cut to Pakistan won’t be in US interest: Kerry
During the hearing Congressman Brad Sherman urged the Secretary of State for broadcasting the service of the Voice of America in Sindhi language.
“There’s probably no more important country than Pakistan and nothing more important than our public outreach to the Pakistani people, yet we’re broadcasting only in Urdu. This committee voted overwhelmingly that we should spend a million and a half dollars broadcasting in the Sindhi language,” he said.
Continue reading Congressman Brad Sherman urged the Secretary of State that U.S. should spend a million and a half dollars broadcasting the service of the Voice of America in Sindhi language
Washington: Hon. Congressman Brad Sherman continues to advocate on behalf of Sindhis across the world. At House Committee on Foreign Affairs Hearing, Congressman Sherman spoke with Secretary John Kerry about the need for a Sindhi Voice of America program. You can hear his remarks here starting at the 0:26 mark. SAPAC is immensely grateful for Congressman Sherman’s dedication to the Sindhi people.
Courtesy: Sindhi e-lists/ e-groups, April 18, 2013.
A handful of US congressmen support creating an independent Balochistan, carved out of mostly Pakistani land.
By: Eddie Walsh
Some US congressmen support Baloch nationalists in Pakistan and Afghanistan
Washington, DC – Over the last few months, a small faction of congressmen, minority Afghan groups, Baloch nationalists, and their supporters have laid out the framework for an alternative US policy approach for Southwest Asia.
This alternative policy centres on backing remnants of the Northern Alliance and Baloch insurgents, who seek to carve out semi-autonomous territories or independent states from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran.
While supporters of this new approach are motivated by a variety of interests, they appear unified in their rejection of what they see as three cornerstones of the Obama administration’s current regional policy approach: 1) Normalising relations with Pakistan’s government and military; 2) Incorporating the Taliban into the current Afghan political system; 3) Overly accommodating an emerging Iran.
In one broad stroke, this new approach would attempt to advance US national interests by redrawing the political borders of Southwest Asia – contrary to the the sovereignty and territorial integrity of three existing states.
While its advocates clearly do not yet have broad support for their initiative, the campaign for an alternative Southwest Asian policy approach is maturing and garnering increased attention in Congress and beyond, especially as a result of three recent high-profile events: a Balochistan National Front strategy session in Berlin, a US congressional hearing on Balochistan, and the introduction of a Baloch self-determination bill before the US Congress.
Regardless of whether you agree or disagree, it’s nevertheless critical to understand how this alternative policy approach framework has evolved over the past few months.
The ‘Berlin Mandate’ as a loose framework
Continue reading Should the US support an independent Balochistan? – Aljazeera
Washington, D.C: [press release] The Sindhi American Political Action Committee applauds the efforts of Honorable Congressman Brad Sherman for Sindh and Sindhis. The Hearing at Capitol Hill on ” The State Department’s center for strategies counter terrorism communications: Mission, operations and Impact” on August 2nd, 2012.
“The US must reach out to Sindh, where the Sindhi language is spoken by more people than Urdu,” Sherman said in his remarks at the hearing of the terrorism, non-proliferation, and trade subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Congressman Brad Sherman’s continuous efforts and support for Sindhis and Sindh are unforgettable. He is the founder and Co-Chairman of Congressional Sindh Caucus. He initiated the efforts for VOA program in Sindhi language.
He will be keynote speaker and special guest at SAPAC’s upcoming 3rd Annual Celebration on September 12th, 2012 in Washington, DC.
Sindhi population under attack by Pak govt bodies: US lawmakers
Washington: With the popularity of the United States inside Pakistan at an all-time low, an influential American lawmaker has asked the State Department to make efforts to reach out directly to the country’s population, in particular the Sindhis.
“Pakistan is a nuclear-armed Islamic state on the front line of several conflicts with so many extremist groups.
Pakistan is a pressing international problem for us. My hope is that you are reaching out to the Pakistani people not just in Urdu, which is the politically correct language that the government and the ISI in Pakistan would have you use, but also in the other languages, particularly Sindhi,” Congressman Brad Sherman, said during a Congressional hearing Thursday.
Sherman alleged that the people of Sindhi, predominantly those who speak Sindhi language, have been under attack by governmental bodies.
“That’s why the government of Pakistan would just as soon you not use that language. They’re so helpful in so many ways that perhaps you might want to ignore their advice,” he said.
“The US must reach out to Sindh, where the Sindhi language is spoken by more people than Urdu,” Sherman said in his remarks at the hearing of the Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade Subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Courtesy: The Indian Express
Hon. Congressman Brad Sherman discuss with USAID Administer R. Shah. “On Tuesday, March 20, 2012, at a hearing on the foreign aid budget, Congressman Brad Sherman discusses U.S. support for the Sindh.
Courtesy: Sindhi e-lists/ e-groups, March 20, 2012.
By Chidanand Rajghatta
WASHINGTON: Pakistan’s state-endorsed discrimination, and in some cases extermination, of its minorities has finally caught the eye of Washington lawmakers. Coming on the heels of support in Congress for a Baloch homeland in the face of Islamabad’s depredations in the region, a US Congressman has zeroed in on the abduction and forced religious conversion of Hindus in the country highlighted by the case of Rinkel Kumari.
In a sharply-worded letter to Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari, Congressman Brad Sherman urged him to take action to ensure the return of Rinkel Kumari to her family, pursuant to reports that she had been abducted with the help of a Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) lawmaker. In a case that has been widely reported in the liberal Pakistani media, Rinkel, who was abducted on February 24, was forced to marry one Naveed Shah and convert to Islam.
She was subsequently produced before a civil judge twice, but she was reportedly coerced into claiming that she had converted on her own will, even as her family was denied access to her in kangaroo court proceedings that revealed in video clips to be led by a frenzied mob of zealots, including armed followers of the Pakistani lawmaker. According to Pakistani civil liberties activists in Washington DC, Rinkel was allegedly threatened while in police custody that if she did not change her statement, she and her family would be killed.
”Rinkel Kumari’s case is just one case of abduction and forced religious conversion in Pakistan,” Congressman Sherman said in the letter to Zardari, citing the Asian Human Rights commission figure of 20-25 kidnappings and forced conversions of Hindu girls in Sindh every month. ”I urge you to take all necessary steps to bring an end to this practice and other harassment of Hindus in Pakistan.”
The Rinkel Kumari case was brought to the attention of US lawmakers not by Hindu activists but by the Sindhi American Political Action Committee (SAPAC), a lobby group that, like the Baloch groups, is increasingly asserting the secular and syncretic identity of Pakistan’s Sindhi community in the face of growing Islamization in the country. Sapac activists are telling US lawmakers that state sponsored discrimination against minority groups in Pakistan is rampant and is causing Hindus to migrate out of Pakistan in droves.
Hindus, who constituted more than 15 per cent of Pakistan’s population soon after Partition, have now dwindled to less than two per cent, mostly in some districts of Sindh. There have been several reports in recent months of Hindu families seeking to migrate to India in the face of growing radical Islamization of Pakistan, including abduction and forcible conversions, but it is the first time that Washington, which literally slept over Pakistan’s genocide of Bengalis in 1970-71, is paying attention to the issue.
US interest in the Rinkel Kumari case comes close on the heels of sudden support in Congress for Baloch self-determination, an effort led by California lawmaker Dana Rohrabacher. That effort has rattled Islamabad to the extent that it has told American interlocutors that Pakistan-US ties will be deeply affected if Washington interfered in Balochistan, even though the Obama administration has clarified that support for an independent Balochistan is confined to the Hill, where lawmakers are free to introduce any legislation they deem appropriate. That in turn resulted in Sherry Rehman, Pakistan’s ambassador to the U.S.,, writing to House Speaker John Boehner, expressing deep concern over Congressional action on Balochistan.
Attitudes are hardening in Pakistan’s restive Balochistan province against the government, but the state is now belatedly reaching out to the Baloch separatists. Writer Ahmed Rashid considers whether after years of civil war, talks could end the bloodshed.
It took an obscure United States congressman holding a controversial hearing in Washington on the civil war in Balochistan to awaken the conscience of the Pakistani government, military and public.
For years the civil war in Balochistan has either been forgotten by most Pakistanis or depicted as the forces of law and order battling Baloch tribesmen, who are described as “Indian agents”.
Just a few weeks ago, Interior Minister Rehman Malik even hinted that Israel and the US were supporting the Baloch separatists, while the army had totally ”Indianised” the Baloch problem.
On 23 February, Mr Malik did an about-face, saying that the government was withdrawing all cases against Baloch leaders living in exile and asking them to return home for talks. ”I will receive them in person,” he told journalists.
Don’t expect Baloch leaders to turn the other cheek at Mr Malik’s sudden shift – the Baloch have seen too many such U-turns before.
Brahamdagh Bugti, head of the separatist Baloch Republican Party and living in exile in Geneva, remains sceptical.
His grandfather Sardar Akbar Bugti, the head of the Bugti tribe, was killed in 2006 on the orders of former President Pervez Musharraf in a massive aerial bombardment, while his sister Zamur Domki and her 12-year old daughter were gunned down in Karachi in broad daylight just in late January – allegedly by government agents.
He told journalists last week: ”I have seen this all before… I am not an optimist.” Nevertheless, for the first time in years his face appeared on every Pakistani TV channel as he and other Baloch leaders gave interviews.
…. Dana Rohrabacher’s resolution in the US Congress states that the Baloch people “have the right to self-determination and to their own sovereign country”. Expectedly, this unleashed a torrent of anger in Pakistan’s government and media which overwhelmingly saw this as a conspiracy to break up the country. Pakistan-US relations have descended another notch; attempts by the US State Department, as well as the currently visiting group of Congressmen, to distance themselves from the resolution have not worked. …
…. The official Pakistani response to Rohrabacher is still more flawed. Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar termed the tabling of his bill “a violation of UN charter” and of Pakistan’s sovereignty. But this line of defence could forfeit Pakistan’s moral right to criticise other states, Syria and India included.
Consider the fact that on February 17 Pakistan voted for an Arab League-sponsored resolution in the UN General Assembly which calls upon Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad to step down. This surely constitutes interference in the internal matter of a sovereign country. But Pakistan did well. In a civilised world national sovereignty must come second, and human rights first.
Pakistan has also long criticised India — and justly so — for its human rights abuses. But more people are dying in Balochistan today than in Kashmir. For all their brutality against stone-throwing Kashmiri boys, the Indians have not yet used helicopter gunships and fighter jets against Kashmiris. Pakistan, on the other hand, uses airpower as a matter of course in Balochistan and Fata. ….
To read complete article » The Express Tribune
After US Congressman Dana Rohrabacher’s sudden attention to Balochistan, the Pakistani media went bonkers to protect the proverbial ‘sovereignty’ of our country — a cause championed by the security establishment and most of its mouthpieces in the media as well as political circles and civil society. Emerging from the fathoms of near oblivion to almost a dozen Op-Eds in the mainstream press daily, Balochistan is now the darling of the prime time TV cupola as well.
If the anchors and columnists want to sound more profound, and if they run out of words to express the imperiousness of the US Congress for interfering in Pakistan’s internal matters, they would endlessly repeat almost clichéd references to 1971 with emphasis on giving ‘due importance to the Baloch problem’. The umpteen ‘political analysts’ and ‘Balochistan experts’ religiously recount the current government’s failure to address the issue despite the latter’s trumpeted mantra of ‘democracy, the greatest revenge’. Such talk would be garnished with admonishing the ‘irresponsibility’ of the Baloch nationalists in attacking innocent citizens of ethnicities other than the Baloch.
What goes completely missing from this narrative is the origins of the conflict, the response of the state to the centrifugal nature of Baloch nationalism and the ever deteriorating civil-military relations in Balochistan, which now seem to have reached the point of no return. The way Balochistan was made to accede to Pakistan goes missing from the textbooks alongside any reference to the military operations carried out in 1948, 1958-59, 1962-68, 1973-77 and the current surge starting from 2002 to date. The result is a general apathy towards Balochistan in the rest of the country with almost no understanding of the surges in historically seeded ethno-nationalism in Balochistan, described as ‘Baloch insurgencies’ in the mainstream media. The same media gives prime space to opinion makers who describe Taliban insurgents as ‘freedom fighters’. No wonder one finds so many people in upper Punjab and Islamabad who take Baloch nationalists as ‘traitors’, while the Taliban militants as flag bearers of Muslim nationalism. ….
Read more » Daily Times
Press release: Baloch Human Rights Council (UK), Baloch Raaji Zrombesh, World Sindhi Congress and Balochistan Liberation Organistaion are holding a Baloch Solidarity protest rally infront of the USA embassy in London UK.
All Baloch , Sindhis and other democratic and peace loving people are requested to join in the rally.
· To show your solidarity with the genuine struggle of Baloch and Sindhi people for their sovereignty and human rights.
· To say thanks to Congressman Dana Rohrabacher and USA government for their support of Human rights and sovereignty of Baloch Nation.
· To protest against crimes against humanity committed by Pakistani security establishment against Baloch and Sindhi people.
· To condemn the disappearances, torture and extrajudicial killing of Baloch and Sindhi people.
· To request the international community, the USA, the UK that the deep state committing crimes against Baloch and Sindhi people.
Baloch Human Rights Council (UK)
Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-Ca) on Balochistan and Dr. Shakeel Afridi with VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem –
The U.S. Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-Ca), who introduced a resolution on Balochistan along with two bills honoring the Pakistani doctor who helped the CIA catch Bin Laden, sat down with the Voice of America’s Ayesha Tanzeem to discuss some of these issues.
According to the resolution, the Baloch people have the right to self-determination. Pakistan has reacted strongly to this resolution calling it a violation of international laws and interference in its internal affairs.
The U.S. State Department has tried to distance itself from Congressman Rohrabacher’s opinions and efforts and has insisted that it does not reflect official US policy. State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland insists that the US does not want to interfere in the internal affairs of Pakistan.
The two bills introduced on the 17th of Feb, 2012 call for giving US citizenship to Dr. Shakeel Afridi as well as honoring him with the highest civilian honor, a Congressional Gold Medal. Dr. Afridi is under arrest in Pakistan after secretly helping the CIA to collect DNA evidence of Bin Laden’s presence in the compound. The Abbottabad commission has recommended that he be tried for treason for helping a foreign government’s secret agency.
Courtesy: Voice of America
“The hearing showed that there will be no peace in the region without a referendum of self-determination. That cannot be ignored.”
As the sole witness of Baloch ethnicity to speak at the recent Balochistan hearing before the United States Congress, M. Hossein Bor disagrees with comments that he was not relevant to the proceedings.
Not only was he the only witness able to speak as a Baloch, he points out that he also was the only one with deep subject matter expertise in foreign trade and investment in Southwest Asia. From this perspective, he hoped his testimony would have shed light on the unrealised strategic and economic opportunities that an independent Balochistan would provide to Americans, including the ability to contain a rising China and an emerging Iran, prevent an adversarial Pakistan from achieving strategic depth in Afghanistan, and ensure Baloch-American economic prosperity through new energy and mineral resource agreements. However, with little time to prepare for the hearing and only five minutes of allotted time to provide oral testimony, many of these points were not expressed. Bor therefore looks to this post-hearing assessment as a mechanism to share publicly for the first time what he has shared privately with Baloch nationalists and their supporters. As one of the five witnesses called before Congress, it is assured that these remarks will be closely watched by all side to the Baloch debate.
Great Game 2.0
To understand Balochistan, Bor believes that one cannot look at Pakistan’s largest province through the Afghanistan-Pakistan (Af-Pak) box. In retrospect, this is perhaps one of the strongest contributions that he could have made at the hearing.
Continue reading DAWN – “No peace in Balochistan without referendum” – Eddie Walsh
A US resolution for independent Balochistan
Baloch are divided between Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan: Rohrabacher
They had the right to self-determination and to their own sovereign country, says resolution
A US Congressman Dana Rohrabacher has introduced in his country’s Congress a resolution seeking the right of self-determination for Baloch in Pakistan.
The resolution called as the House Concurrent Resolution in the US House of Representatives and co-sponsored by Representatives Louie Gohmert and Steve King calls for sovereign country for the people of Balochistan.
A week ago, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher had also chaired a Congressional committee’s hearing on Balochistan. His move is likely to affect Pakistan’s relations with the US. Both the countries are already sharing difficult relationship after the NATO attack on Pakistani post. Pakistan in reaction had suspended NATO supplies to Afghanistan.
The resolution says hat revolts in 1958, 1973 and 2005 indicate continued popular discontent against rule by Islamabad, and the plunder of its vast natural wealth while Baluchistan remains the poorest province in Pakistan.
The resolution further adds there is also an insurgency in Sistan-Balochistan, which is being repressed by Iran. The people of Balochistan, it said were divided between Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan and they had the right to self-determination and to their own sovereign country and they should be afforded the opportunity to choose their own status among the community of nations, living in peace and harmony, without external coercion.
Media reports said Rohrabacher, who is also the Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations also issued a statement from his office which said, “The Baluchi, like other nations of people, have an innate right to self-determination. The political and ethnic discrimination they suffer is tragic and made more so because America is financing and selling arms to their oppressors in Islamabad.”
The press release further added that Balochistan is “rich in natural resources but has been subjugated and exploited by Punjabi and Pashtun elites in Islamabad, leaving Baluchistan the country’s poorest province.”
WASHINGTON: TP MD, Feb 17, 2012
Courtesy » The Point – Voice of Sindh & Balochistan
A hearing in the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations on February 8, 2012, Congressman Brad Sherman (D-CA) spoke on U.S.-Pakistan relations and the importance of U.S. outreach to the Sindhi and Baluch people.
In a House Foreign Affairs Committee markup on July 21, 2011, Congressman Brad Sherman (D-CA) offered an amendment to the Foreign Relations Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012. The amendment required that, of the funds made available to Voice of America, $1.5 million be used only for Sindhi language programming.
– Foreign Affairs Committee – Unofficial Transcript
July 21st, 2011
Chairwoman Ros-Lehtinen: Mr. Sherman hold on a second before we recognize you. I think we may have to tinker with your amendment a little bit.
Congressman Sherman: I would ask unanimous consent to amend my amendment to read as follows and this is inspired by Mr. Rohrabacher. Of the funds authorized to be appropriated to the Broadcasting Board of Governors, one and a half million, big discount here, is authorized to be appropriated only for Sindhi language communication. Such funds may not be used for any other purpose. Do I have unanimous consent?
Chairwoman Ros-Lehtinen: Without objection the amendment has been amended and approved. So we are on the Mr. Sherman amendment as amended. The gentleman is recognized for 5 minutes to explain his amendment.
Congressman Sherman: For many years the Pakistani government has focused Pakistan on just using one language, …, when in fact Sindhi is spoken by tens of millions of people. We need to reach out to the people of the Sindh province and others who speak the Sindhi language. For the most part these are people who profess a moderate form of Islam and yet they are not hearing from us in their native language. There is probably no country more important to us in our efforts against terrorism and extremism than is Pakistan. We cannot just reach the Pakistani people in the Urdu language. We cannot ignore the southern third of the country. I have received reports from Voice of America that they could begin communicating in the Sindh language if they were to devote one and half million dollars to this. Now I would think that in their three quarters of a billion dollar budget, that they could find the funds necessary to do what might be the most important part of our Voice of America efforts and that is to reach out to the people of Pakistan.
I would also comment that if I can secure support for this amendment it will not only be the last amendment I offer today but this will be the last speech I give today in this room.
There are many things the Voice of America does but the fact that the country that is probably most important to us from a national security perspective at this time, we are broadcasting only in one language and we are ignoring the southern third of the country. I think a million and half dollars a year to correct that is a good decision for this committee and this congress to make and with that I yield back.
Chairwoman Ros-Lehtinen: Thank you Mr. Sherman. Based on the fact that you are a level, intelligent person who is trustworthy as a boy scout it seems like a very good amendment and I do not see any opposition from our side and we are prepared to accept the amendment. So with that, hearing no further request for recognition, the question occurs on the Sherman amendment. All those in favor say, “Aye”, all opposed, “No”. In the opinion of the chair the Ayes have it and the amendment is agreed to.
Source: Sindhi e-lists/ e-groups, July 22, 2011. → YouTube
by Khalid Hashmani, McLean, Virginia
…. I feel proud that the Sindhis have chosen non-violent and democratic methods to promote their rights instead of going on the path of armed struggle like our Baloch brothers and sisters. …
…. Congressman Brad Sherman organized the first ever congressional hearing on the enormous loss suffered by Sindhis in recent floods and wrote formal letters to US Aid officials and the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. He urged them to ensure that the US aid also reached the flood victims in Sindh. At the urging of a Sindhi-American supporter, he confronted the Pakistani Ambassador in USA about why so few native Sindhis were employed at the Pakistani Embassy in the USA. He publicly acknowledged that he never received a satisfactory answer to this question from Pakistani ambassador.
Less than two weeks ago, Congressman Dan Burton wrote to the President of Pakistan expressing concern about the enforced disappearances and other forms of unlawful detention focusing on the disappearance of Mr. Muzaffar Bhutto. The letter says “… I and my congressional colleagues are hearing more and more stories, particular centering on alleged human rights violations against Baloch and Sindh ethnic peoples, including numerous women and children.” …..
Washington: A letter by Honorable Congressman Dan Burton, Member of Congress, to President Asif Ali Zardari about enforced disappearances and other forms of unlawful detention in Pakistan.
Congressman Burton particularly mentioned the disappearance of Mr. Muzaffar Bhutto, who disappeared since February this year.
Through his inquiries, Congressman Burton came to know that some intelligence personnel were involved in Mr. Bhutto’s disappearance.
The congressman expressed his concern over human rights violation against Sindhis and the Baloch and called upon President Zardari to take some measures to put human dignity at high.
He urged the president to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances as Pakistan could improve its human face among the comity of nations where human rights are respected.
Courtesy: Sindhi e-lists/ e-groups, 9th June, 2011.
– Britain is spending millions bolstering Pakistan, but it is a nation in thrall to radical Islam and is using its instability to blackmail the West
by Christina Lamb
When David Cameron announced £650m in education aid for Pakistan last week, I guess the same thought occurred to many British people as it did to me: why are we doing this?
While we are slashing our social services and making our children pay hefty university fees, why should we be giving all this money to a country that has reduced its education budget to 1.5% of GDP while spending several times as much on defence? A country where only 1.7m of a population of 180m pay tax? A country that is stepping up its production of nuclear weapons so much that its arsenal will soon outnumber Britain’s? A country so corrupt that when its embassy in Washington held an auction to raise money for flood victims, and a phone rang, one Pakistani said loudly: “That’s the president calling for his cut”? A country which has so alienated powerful friends in America that they now want to abandon it?
As someone who has spent almost as much time in Pakistan as in Britain over the past 24 years, I feel particularly conflicted, as I have long argued we should be investing more in education there.
That there is a crisis in Pakistan’s education system is beyond doubt. A report out last month by the Pakistan education taskforce, a non-partisan body, shows that at least 7m children are not in school. Indeed, one-tenth of the world’s children not in school are in Pakistan. The first time I went to Pakistan in 1987 I was astonished to see that while billions of pounds’ worth of weapons from the West were going to Pakistan’s intelligence service to distribute to the Afghan mujaheddin, there was nothing for schools.
The Saudis filled the gap by opening religious schools, some of which became breeding grounds for militants and trained the Taliban. Cameron hopes that investing in secular education will provide Pakistan’s children with an alternative to radicalism and reduce the flow of young men who want to come and bomb the West.
“I would struggle to find a country that it is more in Britain’s interests to see progress and succeed than Pakistan,” he said. “If Pakistan is a success, we will have a good friend to trade with and deal with in the future … If we fail, we will have all the problems of migration and extremism that we don’t want to see.”
As the sixth most populous country, with an arsenal of between 100 and 120 nuclear weapons, as the base of both Osama Bin Laden and the Taliban leadership, and as homeland to a large population in Britain, Pakistan is far more important to our security than Afghanistan. But after spending two weeks travelling in Pakistan last month, I feel the situation has gone far beyond anything that a long-term strategy of building schools and training teachers can hope to restrain.
The Pakistani crisis has reached the point where Washington — its paymaster to the tune of billions of dollars over the past 10 years — is being urged to tear up the strategic alliance underpinning the war in Afghanistan.
Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican congressman from California who sits on the House foreign affairs committee and has been dealing with Pakistan since working in the Reagan White House, says he now realises “they were playing us for suckers all along”.
“I used to be Pakistan’s best friend on the Hill but I now consider Pakistan to be an unfriendly country to the US,” he said. “Pakistan has literally been getting away with murder and when you tie that with the realisation that they went ahead and used their scarce resources to build nuclear weapons, it is perhaps the most frightening of all the things that have been going on over the last few years.
“We were snookered. For a long time we bought into this vision that Pakistan’s military was a moderate force and we were supporting moderates by supporting the military. In fact the military is in alliance with radical militants. Just because they shave their beards and look western they fooled a lot of people.”
Christine Fair, assistant professor at the centre for peace and security studies at Georgetown University in Washington, is equally scathing. “Pakistan’s development strategy is to rent out its strategic scariness and not pay taxes itself,” she said. “We should let them fail.”The Pakistani crisis has reached the point where Washington is being urged to tear up the strategic alliance underpinning the war in Afghanistan
Pakistan’s prime minister, Yousuf Gilani, comes from one of Punjab’s largest land-owning families. Watching Cameron sign over the £650m, he said: “I think the root cause of terrorism and extremism is illiteracy. Therefore we are giving a lot of importance to education.”
If that were the case one might expect Lahore University of Management Sciences, one of the most elite universities in the country, to be a bastion of liberalism. Yet in the physics department Pervez Hoodbhoy, professor of nuclear physics, sits with his head in his hands staring out at a sea of burqas. “People used to imagine there was only a lunatic fringe in Pakistan society of these ultra-religious people,” he said. “Now we’re learning that this is not a fringe but a majority.”
What brought this home to him was the murder earlier this year of Salman Taseer, the half-British governor of Punjab who had called for the pardoning of a Christian woman sentenced to death under the blasphemy law. The woman, Aasia Bibi, had been convicted after a mullah had accused her of impugning Islam when she shouted at two girls who refused to drink water after she had touched it because they said it was unclean.
Taseer had been a key figure in Pakistan’s politics for decades and had suffered prison and torture, yet when he said the Aasia case showed the law needed reforming, he was vilified by the mullahs and the media. In January he was shot 27 times by one of his own guards. His murderer, Mumtaz Qadri, became a hero, showered with rose petals by lawyers when he appeared in public.
After the killing, Hoodbhoy was asked to take part in a televised debate at the Islamabad Press Club in front of students. His fellow panellists were Farid Piracha, spokesman for the country’s biggest religious party, Jamaat-e-Islami, and Maulana Sialvi, a supposed moderate mullah from the Barelvi sect. Both began by saying that the governor brought the killing on himself, as “he who blasphemes his prophet shall be killed”. The students clapped.
Hoodbhoy then took the microphone. “Even as the mullahs frothed and screamed I managed to say that the culture of religious extremism was resulting in a bloodbath in which the majority of victims were Muslims; that non-Muslims were fleeing Pakistan. I said I’m not an Islamic scholar but I know there are Muslim countries that don’t think the Koran says blasphemy carries the death sentence, such as Indonesia, Malaysia and Egypt.
“I didn’t get a single clap. When I directly addressed Sialvi and said you have Salman Taseer’s blood on your hands, he looked at them and exclaimed: how I wish I had done it! He got thunderous applause.”
Afterwards, “I came back and wanted to dig a hole in the ground,” he said. “I can’t figure out why this country has gone so mad. I’ve seen my department change and change and change. There wasn’t one burqa-clad woman in the 1980s but today the non-hijabi, non-burqa student is an exception. As for the male students, they all come in turbans and beards with these fierce looks on their faces.”
Yet, he points out, these students are the super-elite, paying high fees to attend the university: “It’s nothing to do with causes normally associated with radicalism; it’s that the mullah is allowed complete freedom to spread the message of hate and liberals are bunkering down. Those who speak out are gone and the government has abdicated its responsibility and doesn’t even pretend to protect life and property.”
Raza Rumi, a young development worker and artist who blogs regularly, agrees. As we sat in a lively coffee bar in Lahore that could have been in the West until the lights went off in one of the frequent power cuts, he said: “Radicalism in Pakistan isn’t equated with poverty and backwardness — we’re seeing more radicalisation of the urban middle and upper class. I look at my own extended family. When I was growing up, maybe one or two people had a beard. Last time I went to a family wedding I was shell-shocked. All these uncles and aunts who were regular Pakistanis watching cricket and Indian movies now all have beards or are in hijabs.
“I think we’re in an existential crisis. The moderate political parties have taken a back seat and chickened out as they just want to protect their positions. What is Pakistan’s identity? Is it an Islamist identity as defined by Salman Taseer’s murder, ISI [the intelligence service], the jihadists? Is that really what we want to be?”
He does not know how much longer he will write about such things. “I’ve been getting repeated emails that I should leave the country or shut up,” he said.
When I left the cafe I was followed for the rest of the day by a small yellow car.
Washington, DC- Representatives of the Sindhi American Political Action Committee were pleased to support Representative Dan Burton (R-IN) at a campaign fundraiser held July 22, 2010 in Washington, DC. Congressman Burton serves as a ranking member on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs’ Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia and is Co-Chairman of the Pakistan Caucus, where he has consistently acted as a stalwart for human rights.
Continue reading Sindhi American Political Action Committee support Representative Dan Burton
A New York Dinner with Congress G. Ackerman
A group of concerned Sindhis had a two-hour long meeting with Honorable Congressman Gary Auckerman yesterday in New York over dinner at Waldrof Astoria. Dr. M. Halepota, Dr. W. Baloch, H. Bursch, M. Laghari, Shahmir and Mahmir Halepota, Dr. N. Lal, congressman’s chief of staff and Professor Dr. Aftab Kazi participated. They discussed U.S., Sindh/Pakistan and Central and South Asian affairs. Dr. N.Lal was gracious host.
June 14, 2010