Drive against Pakistan
By Dr Shireen M. Mazari

Since the London bombings of July 2005, the anti-Muslim and especially anti-Pakistan sentiment prevalent within White British society and the British leadership have become increasingly more overt. Last week, we had Mr. Blair threatening Pakistan with dire consequences if this sovereign state implemented its laws regarding hanging in the case of a dual citizenship holder. The sheer gall of Blair! Did the Brits issue the same threats to the US on the numerous occasions when British citizens (not dual citizens either) were executed by the US?

Of course, some of us feel capital punishment should be done away with altogether but that is an entirely different issue and while the law sanctions this penalty, why should an exception be made for a British citizen? Are the lives of Britishers more dear to the state of Pakistan than the lives of its own citizens? As for the argument that the law is not perfect here, well where is it so? Many innocent people have been executed in the US and there are glaring examples of a travesty of justice in Britain also. If it is a humanitarian issue then the Brits should have had the decency to extradite the owner of Margalla Towers instead of sheltering him. As for threatening Pakistan within the context of the Charles-Camilla visit, that is really stupid because the advantage of this visit lies with the Royals who will get a chance to curry favor with their citizens of Pakistani ancestry. What do we gain except a chance to show our continuing colonial mindset?

It is within this context that the postponement of the execution of the dual citizen is at the heart of Britain's anti-Pakistan campaign, which is quite disturbing. Are we still so weak in terms of exercising our sovereignty? Wouldn't it have been better to suspend capital punishment per se while the issue was examined afresh?

Meanwhile, it is apparent that the British have a whole campaign going on to malign nuclear Pakistan. After all, a few weeks before the Blair "threat", we learnt of a study by the Advanced Research and Assessment Group (ARAG) of the Defence Academy of the United Kingdom, which works for the Ministry of Defence and other British government departments. It works in "research clusters" and the particular cluster that held forth on Pakistan in a most uninformed fashion was the cluster on Asymmetric Campaigning (including Terrorism and Ideology), headed by Cdr Simon Atkinson, who visited Pakistan in June 2006 and selectively chose his interviewees!

The parts of the report seen by this scribe are primarily interesting because of the ignorance they reveal. For instance, according to this report, "M (Musharraf) is in a fix", the "West is in a fix", the "UK is in a fix" and "Afghanistan is in a fix"! And it seems all this is primarily a result of the activities of the ISI and IB! If only our institutions were so powerful as to put the whole world in a quandary. But the real ignorance comes out when Atkinson refers to the ISI and IB as being part of the Army. The least the man could have done was to have gotten this organisational structure right but then is any one bothered about the facts in the West -- especially when the exercise is to target the Pakistani state? Based on erroneous presumptions, the Report then talks of making a deal with Pakistan to reduce the role of the army – as if Britain will now dictate deals for the Pakistani state -- which is seen as part of making a deal with India on Kashmir! Seems post-9/11 the colonial instincts of the Brits are back as far as this region is concerned! Is that why they hopped in so merrily into the Afghan quagmire?

The real absurdity of Cdr Atkinson's Report is in the suggestion that the ISI be dismantled and "something else put in its place -- political parties and institutions?" How an intelligence agency can be replaced by a political party is mind-boggling -- or are the two seen as interchangeable? Will the Brits seek to close their MI 5 or MI 6 because of some errors on the part of these agencies? Or will the US close the CIA given the murderous record of this intelligence agency? Or will these agencies be converted into political parties? What an intriguing idea! And so one can go on and on, but the point is that there is clearly an attempt by the Brits to become more interventionist in Pakistan and to malign the state structures.

While they attempt this, they are harassing Pakistanis in Britain as well as undermining the socio-cultural identity of British Muslims when they should be accepting the reality that this identity is also part of British identity. Coinciding with the Blair threat, we heard of the British police harassing a Pakistani architecture student from Pakistan. His crime? Taking pictures of buildings, that many tourists were also photographing, for an art project. To punish him for this innocent activity -- but then for the Brits nothing we Muslims do is innocent if we have beards and dress in an overtly Muslim fashion -- he was bundled into a police car, taken to a police station and subjected to a strip search and cross-examination for over six hours. He was also fingerprinted and required to provide a DNA sample. Should we now start reporting Britishers photographing in Pakistan because they may actually be campaigning against our country? How long will we allow ourselves to be humiliated with no responses in kind?

The real problem lies in Britain refusing to acknowledge its failures -- be they to "integrate" its Muslim population in the model of the White Britishers or to deal effectively with their military problems in Iraq and Afghanistan. Muslims and Pakistan provide a convenient scapegoat but at the end of the day the British will have to look inwards to deal with their shortcomings -- especially those within their society. After all, not every British Muslim can become a Nasser Husain or a DFID employee in Islamabad who lives in fear of Pakistan discovering his Pakistani ancestral roots lest the Pakistani state make "claims" on him! Talk about arrogance as if Pakistan does not have an excess of Brits of Pakistani ancestry wanting it to make claims on them!

For us the issue is the targeting of the Pakistani state and within the dangerous milieu of ignorance. The aggressive tone of the British leadership as it becomes increasingly frustrated by its inadequacies and its failed policies should not continuously be tolerated by us. At the end of the day, it is not the visit of Charles and Camilla or the support of Bush and Blair that will strengthen Pakistan. Our state will only be strong if it has the respect of its own nation and credibility within its own civil society. It is time our skeptical elites renewed their faith in Pakistan -- a faith that still pervades the psyche of the ordinary Pakistani, against all odds.
(The writer is director general of the Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad. Courtesy The News)


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
2004 . All Rights Reserved.