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Who says countries are permanent?

Ayaz AmirBy Ayaz Amir

Islamabad diary

We should know this more than others. The Pakistan of 1947 is not the Pakistan which exists today, one half of it having broken away to form another country. I served in Moscow in the seventies and nothing seemed more solid or permanent than the Soviet Union, a mighty power which cast a shadow far and wide. Who could have thought that in a few years’ time it would fracture, leaving a trail of small, independent republics behind?

Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall was two countries. Now it is back to being one. Czechoslovakia was one country then. Now it is two. In the UK, of all places, the Scots, or a goodly part of them, are demanding independence. A referendum is set to decide this question in 2014.

After the fall of the Soviet Union it seemed as if American pre-eminence was an assured thing, lasting for the next hundred years. Bright-eyed scholars announced not just the closing of an era but the end of history. As hubris goes, this had few equals. There were other Americans who said that reality would be what America wanted it to be. Yet American power has declined before our eyes, nothing more contributing to this than the wars President Bush ventured upon in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Clash of civilisations was another phrase current just ten years. Something of the sort has happened but not in a way that the US could have intended. Wouldn’t the Taliban, wouldn’t Al-Qaeda, define their struggle as a clash of civilisations?

Ten years ago in a Jamaat-ud-Dawaah mosque in Chakwal (not far from my house) I heard one of their leaders talking of America’s eventual but sure defeat in Afghanistan. I thought his rhetoric too fanciful then. It sounds much closer to home now.

I have just read a longish review of Norman Davies’ ‘Vanished Kingdoms: The Rise and Fall of States and Nations’. This book should be required reading for anyone concerned about the future of Pakistan. For the lesson it emphasises is that history does not promise progress. All it promises is change. Nothing is fixed, all is movement, nations rising and falling, the old disappearing to make way for the new, the new in turn becoming the old and morphing into something else – the philosophy of Heraclitus and Hegel, even of Marx.

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Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and the state

By Editorial

The Pir Chambal shrine strike in Pind Dadan Khan on November 12 by the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) should disturb Pakistan because of what it means in terms of the country’s capacity to fight al Qaeda. The LeJ is a sectarian (anti-Shia, anti-Iran) terrorist organisation closely aligned with al Qaeda, together with the Tehreek-e-Taliban and Jundallah. The Pir Chambal killers kidnapped a group of Military Intelligence (MI) personnel and wanted their men released from prison as ransom, but in the ensuing operation against them they killed all of their hostages. Pakistan has been seemingly trying not to fight the terrorists attached to al Qaeda for various reasons and has been relying on other national hate objects like the US, India and Israel, to deflect attention. In this incident, too, there were reports that sympathetic elements from within the Pind Dadan Khan police had forewarned the terrorists about the coming operation that led to the capture and death of the MI personnel. More significantly, the terrorists were hiding in the Chambal hills for many months and the local police must have had information of this.

The LeJ is the sectarian face of al Qaeda but its main function is to engage in kidnapping for ransom in all the big cities of Pakistan to fill the fast-depleting coffers of its parent organisation. When the military spokesman of the ISPR tells us that the army has broken the back of al Qaeda, he leaves LeJ out. In one case after the other, the courts have convicted LeJ members for abducting people, especially those who are Ahmadis, but the image of the LeJ somehow never takes the sort of beating it should. After its founder, Malik Ishaq, was let off by the courts and ultimately released from a Lahore prison, a flurry of sectarian deaths followed, in particular two gruesome incidents in Balochistan where dozens of Shia Hazara were targeted and killed. Any outside observer would think that the state of Pakistan seemingly has a level of tolerance for these minions of al Qaeda that should arouse suspicion.

Late prime minister Benazir Bhutto was convinced before her death that attempts would be made on her life by the Musharraf establishment through the LeJ on the basis of the interface it enjoyed with it. A Pakistani journalist who interviewed Ms Bhutto after the Karachi attempt on her life, quoted her thus: “I have come to know after investigations by my own sources that the October 18 bombing was masterminded by some highly-placed officials in the Pakistani security and intelligence establishments who had hired an al Qaeda-linked militant — Maulvi Abdul Rehman Otho alias Abdul Rehman Sindhi — to execute the attack. Three local militants were hired to carry out the attack under the supervision of Abdul Rehman Sindhi, an al Qaeda-linked Lashkar-e-Jhangvi militant from the Dadu district of Sindh”. She ultimately died at the hands of another al Qaeda attachment — the Tehreek-e-Taliban.

There are four factors that force Pakistan to lean on its indoctrinated sense of insecurity to ignore the real danger confronting it from within: 1) lack of writ of the state; 2) presence of foreign terrorists on its soil; 3) affirmation of the ideology of the terrorists by the ideology of the state; and 4) the ‘contamination’ of the establishment from the more stringent doctrines embraced by the terrorists. The indoctrinated sense of insecurity which covers up for the reluctance to fight the terrorists is the textbook designation of India and Israel as enemy states and the latest media-led campaign against America according to which the US backs the other two and intends to snatch Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. Most Pakistanis are aware of the change this conduct of the state is bringing about. They call it the rise of extremism. But any diagnosis of how this has been brought about will not fail to indicate that it is the impunity enjoyed by the terrorists. There is Pakistan’s vast madrassa network to endorse the strict ideology of the terrorists and there is a response from within the state institutions in the shape of ‘penetration’. The world is increasingly worried about this symbiosis of terrorists with the Pakistani state and society, simply because an isolationist state relentlessly points to ‘external’ enemies who are to be fought first.

Courtesy » The Express Tribune