By Shireen M. Mazari
We have witnessed
a strange "invasion" of Islamabad by members
of the US Administration. For anyone who thought
it is all related to the war on terror and Afghanistan,
the itinerary of the first of these Americans, Mr
Boucher, made it clear that the war on terror was
not the main concern for this visit. After all,
Boucher not only met with all shades of political
opinions but also with the Chief Election Commissioner.
Now honestly, what business did he have to undertake
the last of these meetings -- apart from a clear
intent to meddle in our internal affairs? Why do
we continue to allow these external players this
right to meddle?
As for Mr. Negroponte, only a few months earlier
he was assailing the Pakistani state and government
on the war on terror and other "related"
issues (related in the minds of the Yanks, that
is). Yet here he was in Islamabad, at a time when
the country is confronting and working out its political
crises, quite oblivious to our sentiments after
his earlier ranting against us! What exactly was
he seeking? And, to add to our chagrin, we had the
CENTCOM gentleman over as well -- thrown in for
good measure no doubt! Can all this be a mere coincidence?
Certainly not, given the dire forecasts in the US
media about the state of affairs in Pakistan, especially
the crises confronting the state. Also, for some
time now rumors have been rife about the US seeking
to bring in their all-weather favorite politician,
Ms Bhutto, in a political alliance with the present
powers that be. And we know how the US is seeking
to impact all the Muslim states of what it refers
to as the "Broader or Greater Middle East"
-- West Asia to us Asians. Just when the Muslim
civil societies are asserting their right to unfettered
democracy and social justice, the US has developed
an aversion to the same in the wake of the Hamas
electoral victory. The results have been an unmitigated
disaster for us all.
Look at what the US has helped engineer or engineer
itself: The end game amongst the Palestinians with
Fatah and Hamas killing each other instead of fighting
Israel and with the US now promising to restart
all the held-up aid in the wake of Mahmoud Abbas's
dismissal of Hamas from government. In addition,
arms are flowing in to Fatah from the US and Israel.
Nor is this all. The civil war in Iraq continues
to kill Muslims in ever increasing numbers as that
country nosedives into anarchy. After the success
of Hizbollah in Lebanon, that country seems to be
heading once more into factional violence and chaos
with the US announcing greater arms' supplies to
the Lebanese government -- but arms that can only
be used internally, not externally against aggressive
neighbors like Israel. And, of course, US efforts
to use the terrorist group Jundullah to destabilize
Iran through its Sistan province continue.
Given this negative US agenda and its rather apparent
dislike of true democracy for the Muslim World,
the visits of Boucher and company can only be viewed
negatively. Nothing good can possibly come from
this US intrusion into our domestic affairs. But
it is not just the US that is on a confrontationist
course with populist Muslim forces. Look at events
in Britain. First, there is the issue of British
support for its citizens who preach hatred and violence
abroad. Then there is the recent declaration by
the UN's rapporteur, Ms Jehangir about the discriminatory
and democracy-threatening anti-terror laws of Britain.
According to her report, which will be presented
to the new UN Human Rights body in Geneva, British
Muslims are being discriminated against as a result
of these laws.
Is it a mere coincidence, that at this time when
the British Muslims are being discriminated against,
we have the Queen of England, Elizabeth Windsor,
putting writer Salman Rushdie on her Honors List?
If his literary genius was to be given recognition
should it not have immediately happened after the
publication of what are regarded as his main literary
works some decades earlier? Why reward him now when
his recent products are being seen as mediocre if
not downright poor? Simply to spite the Muslim World
in general and British Muslims in particular? Is
there something to the feeling that Elizabeth Windsor's
Honors List, which has come around the time Diana's
boys are publicly celebrating her life, also reflects
the House of Windsor's personal antipathy for Muslims
like Dodi Fayed and Dr Hasnat? Whatever the real
reason, there is something rotten in the Honors
List and one wonders how the British or indeed the
Europeans would have reacted if the OIC or a Muslim
state would have given a national award for historic
scholarship to historian Irving who was incarcerated
for his views on the holocaust? But there you have
it -- curbs on freedom of expression, double standards,
hypocrisy and, of course, important linkages and
patterns must all be taken note of.
Which brings me back once again to the continuing
pattern of tolerance by the Pakistani state of the
lawbreakers of the Jamia Hafsa-Lal Masjid combine.
Slowly but surely, they are spreading their terror
into mainstream Pakistan. The Christians have already
begun to be targeted, with the PIMS nurses' case.
The government has done nothing to curb this growing
spread of the extremists' tentacles and civil society
is focused on other critical issues. So now more
daring fatwas are coming against publications. Where
will all this end? Will bookshops be pillaged next
-- especially if they happen to have art books?
What will it take for the state to finally end the
reign of terror by the Jamia Hafsa-Lal Masjid combine?
When will the law be enforced?
With all these domestic concerns still being center-stage
in our lives right now, it is no wonder we are not
reacting as strongly as we should to the ever more
dangerous US design for our part of the world that
is now becoming increasingly overt. Nor have we
shown concern over recent pronouncements coming
out of New Delhi. Yet there is ample ground for
concern. India is clearly becoming more emboldened
to gear up for greater intrusiveness in its neighborhood
once again. Why else would India's national security
adviser, Narayan, caution Sri Lanka against buying
weapons from China and Pakistan? Instead, he asserts
that whatever Sri Lanka needs it should turn to
India which is the regional power! Yet India has
also declared that it will not provide offensive
capability weapons. In any event, what right does
India have to dictate to Sri Lanka the source of
the latter's weapons purchases?
It may not sound threatening but given India's record
this could be a first stage preparation for something
akin to an intervention or even invasion -- euphemistically
always termed as an invitation to intercede! Only
recently, the Indian Defense Minister, in the Lok
Sabha, accused the Sri Lankan Navy of killing 77
Indian fishermen during a 16-year period -- but
furnishing no proof to substantiate this accusation.
So there we are -- focused on internal crises but
facing a destabilized external environment, even
without taking into account the mess that is Afghanistan.
Within this milieu, to have external players become
ever more intrusive in our internal dynamics bodes
ill for the nation.
(The writer is director general of the Institute
of Strategic Studies in Islamabad. Courtesy The