Strange Dilemmas
By Dr Shireen M. Mazari

Finally, the US government has come clean on its real intention in invading Iraq along with its coalition of the willing: it was, as most of the world suspected, all about oil. Having thrown Iraq and its neighborhood into utter chaos and anarchy, and having aggravated sectarian divides which are resulting in a daily dose of bloodshed of the innocent, the US is all set to create a law which would give Western oil companies like Shell, BP and Exxon 30-year contracts to extract Iraqi crude. According to a report in The Independent, the law being drawn up by the US will allow these Western oil giants to retain up to three-fourths of the profits to start of with -- ostensibly as a means of reviving the Iraqi oil industry. What logic! First destroy the country and its economic mainstay, then bring in your boys to takeover and "revive" the industry.
In any event, with the execution of Saddam -- again the whole manner of the trial and execution was in such sharp contrast to the manner in which the Nazis were tried at Nuremberg where all legal niceties were observed before the criminals were meted out their punishment -- the US has opted to discard all veneer of moral arguments for the invasion of Iraq.
A question that has crossed the minds of many Muslims is whether the US deliberately wanted the Saddam execution to aggravate the sectarian hatred in Iraq and beyond that into the wider Arab world? After all, the best way to keep the Muslims weak is to have them fight each other while the real enemy exploits these differences. Is that why no one in the Muslim World has given much thought to reports in the British media that Israel has now put in place a plan to attack Iran?
As for the coming year, moves being made by the US bode ill for the international community and multilateralism. Having propagated failed policies in Afghanistan and Iraq, it appears the US has decided to send Zalmay Khalilzad to the UN to replace Bolton. With this move, clearly the US is still intent on destroying the credibility of the UN -- seeking to replace it with the notion of coalitions of the willing and NATO.
Meanwhile, in this coming year, Pakistan should expect to come under increasing hostility from the US and UK as NATO comes under increasing attack in Afghanistan. Since the US still refuses to accept that its military-focused strategy for the war against terror has failed to show the desired results, countries like Pakistan need to do some serious reassessment of their own anti-terrorism strategies. A start has been made by the government looking to isolate the terrorists and potential recruits through political and economic strategies for the tribal belt, along side the fencing of the international border with Afghanistan.
It is time to adopt a national strategy to fight terrorism based on national priorities so as to minimize the fallout of the flawed policies of the US and its allies. Short of renouncing our Muslim identity and surrendering our sovereignty, nothing we do will please the West as far as the war on terror is concerned, so it is time to focus on our national priorities and cooperate with the US and NATO as far as our own interests are not undermined -- which means that military transgressions of our sovereignty should be totally unacceptable.
Even as various Western countries and donors claim they are reaching out and helping Pakistan, there is an arrogance that needs to be repudiated. Because we absorb abuse so willingly, more abuse is heaped on us. If NATO fails in Afghanistan, we are to blame; if Karzai has no writ outside of Kabul, it is Pakistan's fault; and if British Muslims, whose ancestors were from Pakistan, turn to extremism and violence, it is all because of this tenuous Pakistan connection.
The US and British media, with little to go on barring interviews through translators and hearsay, publish sensationalist reports targeting Pakistan. Newsweek recently carried a report which quoted US "authorities" talking of a UK-Pakistan pipeline whereby alienated British Muslims come to Pakistan for "terrorist" training. If there is such a vast array of alienated British Muslims, surely it is time for the British state to discover why these youth are alienated in a "democratic" but highly racist and class-oriented society? Should Pakistan stop all British Muslims from traveling to Pakistan? Will that really resolve the issue of alienation? In Pakistan, increasingly the main issue is when will the ruling elite say: "Enough is enough"?
Even on the economic front, there is an arrogance with which the donors behave towards Pakistan. In most countries, the tradition is for donors to interact with local economists and social scientists to understand how locals view their problems and what policies they see as viable. But in Pakistan, donors do not feel the need to do any of this and so when the World Bank, UNDP and Asian Development Bank are invited to present their programmes and views, by the most prestigious national body, the Pakistan Society of Development Economics (PSDE) to a conference on governance and institutions, they decide to simply ignore the invitation. Obviously, they seek to dictate policies for this country without feeling the need to get any local assessments and inputs. And we put up with it.
In fact, everywhere we look, Pakistan and its citizens are being abused in one way or another. Apart from the US and UK, even little Denmark has adopted an arrogant posture towards Pakistan. In the wake of the blasphemous cartoons issue, Muslim ambassadors were recalled as were Danish ambassadors from many Muslim states. In the demonstrations that followed, Danish embassy property was destroyed in some Muslim states, and yet Denmark has seen fit to send back its ambassadors to these countries but not to Pakistan. We, on the other hand, have promptly sent a new ambassador to Copenhagen, who is getting no cooperation from the Danish foreign ministry in getting her child into one of the international schools receiving funds from the Danish government. In all this, is there even an iota of diplomatic reciprocity?
But why complain about the Europeans when our Muslim brethren in the Gulf have been abusing Pakistani -- in fact all South Asian -- workers for decades. A short time in any Gulf airport or state will reveal the ill treatment being meted out to our poor South Asians, whose hard labor has allowed the concrete affluence of these Sheikhdoms to come to fruition. What is our response? We go out of our way to welcome the Gulf Arabs as they seek to turn our rich historical land, with its lush green plantation, into a concrete jungle reminiscent of Dubai, just as we are prepared to destroy our natural habitat and rare species to satiate their hunting appetite. Notwithstanding their "largesse" in the form of a few hospitals, schools and an airport, there is a need for them to give more respect to Pakistanis in their lands. Or are our ruling elites totally unconcerned about the dignity and self- respect of the average Pakistani who still retains a sense of national pride?
(The writer is director general of the Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad. Courtesy The News)


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