A Politico-Moral Dilemma
By Dr Shireen M. Mazari


Important developments continue to take place in the world, but in Pakistan it is difficult to move away from the aftermath of the earthquake given the horrific scale of the destruction and the continuing aftershocks that prevent any sense of normalcy from returning, even to the capital. The month of fasting continues but there is naturally no joyous anticipation of Eid. Within this emotive and physical earthquake-dominated psyche, other political developments, which would normally have seen strong reactions, are now bringing forth hesitant responses from some of us.
For instance, the sheer inhumanity of the burning of Taliban bodies by American soldiers in Afghanistan once again reflected the dehumanized approach the US military seems to have developed post-9/11. The incident, now being subjected to carefully calibrated US propaganda similar to that which came in the wake of the Qur’an-abuse episode at Guantanamo Bay and in response to the revelations of abuse in Abu Ghraib in Iraq, would normally have triggered a strongly critical response from many analysts in the Pakistani press, including this one. But a dilemma confronts us because the US is providing tremendous support on all fronts in the earthquake relief operation.
Of course, the US knows the political value of its highly visible support in this hour of our need. While no US political leader has said so, General Abizaid finally stated US intent when he referred to the US response to the earthquake in Pakistan: "The response of the United States of America is really the face of the United States of America that everybody should pay attention to." He went on to add that he hoped the Islamic world would look to the relief mission in Pakistan for its impressions of the US. So we should forget Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, Qila Jhangvi and the burning of dead bodies of Taliban fighters and see only the relief efforts of the US in Pakistan.
It is truly humbling at this time, when some are seeking to extract political mileage from a human tragedy, that other less wealthy and less powerful states are quietly providing far greater succor to Pakistan and AJK. While some ill-informed commentators continue to vilify the Muslim world, they need to do a reality check so as to realize the immense relief efforts provided by the UAE, Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia -- the first two being the first arrivals on the scene after the disaster. To date, Turkey and the UAE not only continue to fly in material aid but also technical personnel including medical teams. And how can one forget the selfless Estonians and the British rescue and medical efforts. And many more nationals from across the globe who have been motivated purely by a dedication to humanity. One has not heard or seen much of the Australians (apart from a pledge to the UN of $7.5m), who are so gung-ho about seeking wars all over the globe. And little has been heard in terms of aid from the rich Muslim kingdom of Brunei, but there are so many quiet and dedicated workers from all over the world that this is simply a time for being grateful to all of them.
Here one should also accept the fact that many Islamic groups have also been in the front line of rescue operations. Our so-called liberals who are so eager to have us accept aid from India -- and we have done so -- seem to have an absurdly hysterical approach regarding the work being done on the ground by the medical and relief teams of various Islamic religious organizations. Given the scale of the disaster, this help has saved many valuable lives. Alongside the Islamic groups, Christian evangelical organizations and the Church World Service are also taking part in relief efforts. At the end of the day they are all serving the cause of humanity, reaching out with extraordinary zeal to remote areas and their beleaguered populations.
But there is another dilemma that has arisen, at least for this scribe, out of the NATO rebuff to the UN's call for a massive airlift operation to rescue stranded survivors in mountainous areas. The UN wanted an operation similar to the scale of the 1948-49 Berlin airlift in the wake of the Soviet blockade of West Berlin. NATO's rejection of this call was based on a most irrational argument: "That was Berlin after World War Two and this is Pakistan now -- there is absolutely no comparison." Of course there is no comparison because the human misery and urgency for rescuing stranded people is far greater in scale now, but to declare that aid work was not the "bread and butter of the alliance" makes little sense when that is exactly what it did in the Berlin airlift. And the fact that NATO helicopters, as opposed to those belonging to individual members of the military alliance, based in Afghanistan were not being sent to Pakistan showed a certain degree of callousness. If the humanitarian Berlin airlift had a military dimension, so does the Pakistani situation within the NATO context, given that we are a front-line state in the war on terror in Afghanistan and along the Pakistan-Afghanistan international border. And if NATO can expand its operational milieu beyond its mandate from Europe and the North Atlantic region to Asia, then it cannot be merely rules and regulations that are limiting the scope of its relief efforts. But should we be critical of this given that NATO is still providing a fair amount of relief assistance? I suppose in the case of NATO one can, given that Pakistan was always being critiqued for not doing enough in terms of its substantive military contribution to the war on terror. But the quake has created doubts and hesitancy in the context of critical responses because of the international support coming through, especially from individual NATO members.
Even vis-a-vis India, one has been fairly muted on the propaganda tricks India has been indulging in since the quake. While being unable to reach out in a timely manner to the Kashmiris in Occupied Kashmir, the Indians actually had some believing in Pakistan that they would send us their helicopters purely for humanitarian purposes. But now the Indian intent towards Pakistan is becoming clearer.
While the Pakistani state and nation is still coming to terms with the earthquake tragedy, the Indians have launched a campaign against Pakistan at the IAEA. On Monday, October 24, India chose to use the Iran nuclear issue to demand that the global powers not "gloss over" Pakistan's role in Iran's program. And of course, Dr Khan was especially singled out for attack. Perhaps India has forgotten the role of its own scientists who actually worked in Iranian nuclear facilities and then of course there is also the Indian nuclear agreement with Iran. It is unfortunate that India could not wait to restart its anti-Pakistan vitriol, but the timing should leave us in no doubt over Indian intent.
(The writer is director general of the Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad. Courtesy The News)



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