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Pakistan has been playing us all for suckers

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.

Courtesy: thesundaytimes.co.uk

Some interesting anecdotes from Mr. Suleyman Schwartz

From San Francisco to Sarajevo – by Michael J. Totten

Stephen Schwartz was raised a communist in the San Francisco Bay Area and once worked for the Cubans. Then he became a Republican and converted to Islam in the Balkans. When he’s not busy with his duties as the director of the Center for Islamic Pluralism, he writes books and articles for magazines like The Weekly Standard.

His analysis of the Middle East and the Muslim world generally is more fresh and interesting than that of most. He is the first Westerner to use the word “Islamofascism” to describe the “use of the faith of Islam as a cover for totalitarian ideology,” and he did so not as an “Islamophobe” but as a Muslim believer. Those who yearn to hear from moderate Muslims, and those who have somehow convinced themselves that the likes of the Muslim Brotherhood are the moderates, really need to hear what he has to say.

MJT: So, what are your thoughts on Egypt?

Stephen Schwartz: Well, during the first two weeks most of the usual chatterers had no chattering to do. Everybody was stunned. Nobody had an answer. A lot of what should have been said was considered politically incorrect. Nobody for the first two weeks wanted to say there weren’t just two alternatives in Egypt, Mubarak or the Brotherhood. There were three alternatives—Mubarak, the Brotherhood, and the army which really rules Egypt.

Egypt has been controlled by the army since 1952. In certain kinds of countries the military takes over because it’s the only stable force. But in other countries the army is more ideological. Some of the armies in these latter countries develop a political ideology that I and a few other people have called the concept of the “army-party,” meaning the army acts as though it were a political party. It’s not simply a matter of a military dictatorship or a regime based on a militaristic or fascist party, and it’s not always necessarily an ideological phenomenon, but the army acts as a political party. It acts as a political force, and it acts as a political arbiter.

MJT: Like in Turkey, for instance.

Stephen Schwartz: Turkey is an example. There are lots of examples in Latin America. Argentina was an example. Algeria and Egypt are examples.

MJT: And Pakistan.

Stephen Schwartz: Yes, and Pakistan. You know exactly what I’m talking about. Egypt has an army-party.

MJT: It does.

Stephen Schwartz: So it’s not a question of Mubarak or the Brotherhood. The army will not, I think, permit the Brotherhood to take power, but the army will shuffle things in some ways. There may not be much of a change at all. When Mubarak said he wouldn’t run in the next election, well, the election is seven months away. How do we know there will be an election?

I’m for democracy throughout the world. I want bourgeois democracy everywhere. I’m an activist for it, but I’m also cautious about euphoria. I think a lot of people have been swept away by hope in the Egyptian case. They think this is the beginning of the great Arab transformation, but they don’t notice that there are few political alternatives in Egypt. There’s no labor-based party. There’s no bourgeois party. There are no parties representing particular social and economic interests.

The most important point, in my view, is that Iran and Saudi Arabia are two countries where democratization, or, at least, popular sovereignty, means leaving Islamist ideology behind. The problem with Egypt is that democratization, to a certain extent, represents a leap into the void. The Egyptians haven’t yet learned about Islamist ideology, through experience, what the Saudis and especially the Iranians have learned. We don’t want them to have to learn it.

MJT: But how are they going to learn it without learning it?

Stephen Schwartz: They can learn it by looking at the experiences of Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Pakistan. They don’t have to suffer it in their flesh. People in the West rejected Communism without having to live under it, thank God.

The other problem is that the weight of corruption and despotism in Egypt is so heavy and has persisted for so long. I often compare Egypt with China in this sense.

Democracy in Iran could lead to social reform in Saudi Arabia and a stiffening of the resistance to radicalism in Pakistan. It could conceivably change the whole Muslim world.

MJT: The Arab world doesn’t look up to Iran or Pakistan.

Stephen Schwartz: No.

MJT: Arabs do look up to Egypt, though, and in different ways to Saudi Arabia.

Stephen Schwartz: If Iran becomes democratic, if the Iranians overthrow the clerical state as we should all hope and pray for every day, there will be a tremendous impact in Saudi Arabia.

MJT: You think?

Stephen Schwartz: Absolutely.

MJT: What kind of impact would you expect?

Stephen Schwartz: If Iranians overthrow the clerical state and put Islamist ideology behind them, they can move quickly along the path of democracy and stability. Iranians are very well educated, very sophisticated.

MJT: The Saudis don’t seem to be so educated and sophisticated about democracy. ….

Read more : http://pajamasmedia.com/michaeltotten/2011/02/14/from-san-francisco-to-sarajevo/

Kerry-Lugar bill – by Farooq Sulehria

A letter to Nawaz Sharif on KLB

Dear Mr. Sharif,

Salam. To be honest, I was not surprised at all to find you and khakis on the same side of fence in case of Kerry-Lugar Bill (KLB). Only a naïve would have believed the radical statements you made about army’s role in politics in the waning months of Pervez Musharraf. How unfortunate! our politicians oppose GHQ’s intervention only selectively. The late Benazir Bhutto welcomed Musharraf’s move on October 12, the way you had hailed her military-sponsored expulsion from Prime Minster’s palatial secretariat. Back in 1980s, many believed her when she would challenge General Zia. On coming to power, she pinned Democracy Medal on General Beg’s malicious chest. Many believed you too when you would grill Musharraf ‘Saab’ (you did not like to call him a general). A year down the line and Shahbaz Sharif was found sneaking his way to GHQ’s in the thick of night.

Continue reading Kerry-Lugar bill – by Farooq Sulehria