This liberalism won’t work

A nation mired in the mud of unemployment, hopelessness, poverty and insecurity that finds solace in its deteriorating state of affairs will never improve. The dissenting voices are vanishing, giving birth to a hypocritical culture where a band of trendy liberals hold sway. They trade on the public fear of extremism to run the lucrative industry of criticism of religious obscurantism by juxtaposing this substance-less liberalism with enlightenment. This is a dangerous move that tramples the hope to create an inclusive, tolerant and pluralistic society where intellectual debates lead to solutions not to denigration.

Liberalism in its true spirit encompasses a vast array of intellectual traditions and ideological underpinnings that evolved from centuries of political and cultural movements and their inner strains. The process of thesis, antithesis and synthesis where ideas are put forth debated and built on for a higher intellectual tradition has ever remained the hallmark of liberalism elsewhere.

Liberalism has never been a monolithic concept and it is as contested a concept as fundamentalism and extremism. Liberalism, therefore, cannot be seen as a singularly anti-extremism philosophy at best and a trendy mode of life at worst. Our liberals in Pakistan have lined up against religious extremists and in doing so they have lost sight of the broader issues that cause extremism to flourish. One example of this was the glorification of the late Salmaan Taseer, not because of his tragic murder, which is condemnable, but more because of his way of life. The more important thing to do is to explore the causes of the hopelessness that breeds extremism than to exhibit hatred towards these hopeless people. Ravaged by poverty, unemployment and starvation with nothing to lose, our youth is increasingly gravitating towards the ideals of a promised better life being propagated by the proponents of extremism.

The powerless, voiceless and alienated youth from the lower socioeconomic stratum find it more appealing to join hands with extremists than to embrace the values of the “elite culture” of the “liberals”. More so because this hollow liberalism does not empower the poor and it does not hold the promise of an exalted life. All it offers is an experience the poor in Pakistan have never undergone. Their hatred becomes furious when they see a class with obscene wealth, and opulence enjoying a princely life in a country where millions are deprived of their basic needs.

The political leadership has turned a deaf ear to the plight of the poor. Globalization has added salt to the injury with the anti-poor economic agenda of the IMF being implemented. The neo liberal mantra of economic growth has never worked in Pakistan and the developing world at large. The agenda of the IMF, in the absence of any social-safety net for the poor people, has greatly contributed to poverty and vulnerability.

Extremism will grow if “progressive” forces continue to live in their comfort zones when they should come forward with viable political alternatives to both religious extremism and unthinking liberalism. The increasing divide between pro-west liberals and anti-west religious extremists may drag our society towards a political and economic collapse and anarchy.

The need for drastic political and economic measures is more urgent today than ever. The government is obsessed with cosmetic changes. The talk about tax reforms and downsizing of the cabinet is shFinding a revolutionary solution

By: Amir Hussain Nihal

Pak-US ‘war on terror’ talks not going well

Nearly seven years ago, President Pervez Musharraf entered into an agreement with the United States Central Intelligence Agency’s National Clandestine Service (NCS) to kill high value human targets through the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). On 18 June 2004, the first UAV operated by the Special Activities Division (SAD) of NCS killed its first human target in South Waziristan.

President Pervez Musharraf also entered into an agreement under which master trainers of the Special Operations Group (SOG) of the SAD were allowed to enter Pakistan for the training of commandos belonging to the Special Service Group (SSG) of Pakistan Army.

In 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009 there were 1, 3, 5, 35, and 53 drone attacks, respectively. Between 2004 and 2011, Hafiz Gul Bahadar’s terriroty has been hit 70 times, the Haqqani Network 56 times, Abu Kasha al Iraqi 35 times, Mullah Nazir’s 30 times and Mehsud’s 29 times.

By mid-2010, CIA’s SAD and SOG along with elements of the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) began sending in hundreds of additional operatives. In 2010, there were a total of 117 drone attacks out of which 104 took place in North Waziristan.

All those additional CIA operatives then began indulging into additional ventures like the gathering of intelligence on Pakistani militant organisations and perhaps even trying to map Pakistan’s nuclear infrastructure.

By late 2010, there is evidence that the ISI and the CIA were engaged in a serious tug-of-war. On January 27, Raymond Davis killed two Pakistanis and the ISI skillfully used the incident to renegotiate the terms of the ‘war on terror’.

On February 23, an extremely high-powered delegation consisting of Admiral Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Petraeus, Commander International Security Assistance Force and Admiral Olson, Commander Special Operations Command met with General Kayani, Chief of Army Staff and Major General Javed Iqbal, Director General Military Operations, in a not-so-secret meeting in Oman (the-then DGMO has since been promoted to Lieutenant General).

This is where some of the renegotiation took place. There is evidence that some of the renegotiation took place on February 23 because within a week of that meeting around 30 CIA operatives in Pakistan suspended their activities. Davis was released on March 16 and within two weeks there were reports that 331 CIA operatives were planning to leave Pakistan.

On April 7, Marine Corps General James Mattis met with COAS for some more renegotiation and four days later Lieutenant General Ahmad Shuja Pasha, Director General ISI, had lunch with Leon Panetta, Director CIA and Admiral Mullen presumably to frame new rules of engagement.

There is evidence that the renegotiation process is not going well. ISI is bent upon reverting back to ‘Reagan Rules 1979-1989’ whereby the CIA along with the Saudi Al Mukhabarat Al A’amah financed the war but the war was entirely administered by the ISI.

The CIA, on the other hand, no longer trusts the ISI. And thus the deadlock. According to Christine Fair, Assistant Professor at the Center for Peace and Strategic Studies at Georgetown University in Washington, “They need our money and our weapons to keep up with India and to maintain their rentier state economy” and “We need them because we are scared about their nuclear weapons, the militants and the intersection of the two.”

Deadlock is mutually harmful. But who will blink first? To be certain, there can be as much value in the blink of an eye as in months of rational analysis.

By: Dr Farrukh Saleem
Dr. Farrukh Saleem is the Executive Director of Center for Research and Security Studies (CRSS), a think-tank focusing on Pakistan’s political / economic, security, regional and environmental issues.

The Haircut

One day a florist went to a barber for a haircut. After the cut, he asked about his bill, and the barber replied, ‘I cannot accept money from you, I’m doing community service this week.’

The florist was pleased and left the shop. When the barber went to open his shop the next morning, there was a ‘thank you’ card and a dozen roses waiting for him at his door.

Later, a cop comes in for a haircut, and when he tries to pay his bill, the barber again replied, ‘I cannot accept money from you, I am doing community service this week.’ The cop was happy and left the shop.

The next morning when the barber went to open up, there was a ‘thank you’ card and a dozen donuts waiting for him at his door.

Then a Member of Parliament came in for a haircut, and when he went to pay his bill, the barber again replied, ‘I can not accept money from you. I’m doing community service this week.’ The Member of Parliament was very happy and left the shop.

The next morning, when the barber went to open up, there were a dozen other Members of Parliament lined up waiting for a free haircut.