Tag Archives: US PAK foreign relations

Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden?

23 Jul

Where is Osama bin Laden? He could be hiding in the mountains of Pakistan, or Afghanistan or maybe hanging out in the south of France. It shouldn’t matter. In the nine long years since 9/11, we’ve seen the world change and we’ve seen al Qaeda’s empire expand rapidly both in popularity and complexity. It’s no longer controlled by one man or one militia and continuing to fixate on the perpetrators of the “original sin” will hardly lead to success in the war on terror.

Where is Osama?

In Hillary Clinton’s most recent visit to Pakistan, she once again said, what is fast becoming the American government’s favourite catch-phrase when interacting with Pakistan: “Where is Osama?” This is followed by an insinuation of “we know that some elements in the [Pakistan] establishment know where he is.” Well if you know the people who know then why don’t you just tell us so that we could expedite the process of finding Osama and get on with the real task of reconstructing a world forever changed by the perpetrators of terrorist acts and the war
on terror.

If the case of Pakistan is at all any kind of example to the world, then the world should be aware that al Qaeda is not just a hydra with many heads but it has spawned off and given rise to countless other terrorist enterprises that operate under their own leadership and mandates. If Osama is found and prosecuted by the Americans, it will not accomplish much, unless he is some kind of genius enterprise manager who is able to keep his fingers on the pulse of every rag-tag terrorist group out there and coordinate, sanction and finance their operations. If that is the case then taking him out will definitely hamper the functioning of Terror Inc but it will not put an
end to it.

For far too long, America has focused on the image of the perpetrators of these terror networks as people they could bomb out of caves. However, time and again, terror groups around the world have shown their skills and savvy in using technology and complex financial transactions to their benefit. Terror Inc seems to be a sophisticated conglomerate of smaller terrorist outfits that need to be defeated using a more refined approach than consistently harping on finding and prosecuting one man.

Clinton’s recent comments in Pakistan suggesting that the Pakistani government is hiding Osama (or at least knows about his presence) speak volumes about the lack of trust between the US and Pakistan. It also reveals that America is still fixated on a rather narrow approach to defeating the menace of terrorism. And it makes the Americans look either incompetent or petulant. If the US government despite all its military might, superior intelligence resources and effective diplomacy is unable to get past the layers of secrecy that the Pakistani government supposedly shroud regarding Osama’s location then either the former is incompetent or the latter is far more creative and competent than it lets on.

So in the interest of world peace, Ms Clinton should stop insinuating that we know where Osama is. If she knows something then please come out with it and save us having to play this game of cat and mouse. We have more important matters to tend to than finding one man. We are a nation at war with a variety of terrorist militias spanning the length and breadth of our country. We have young boys and girls being recruited by terrorist organisations each day and we have thousands that are pushed closer to it due to hunger, poverty and lack of justice. We need to focus our energy on formulating a comprehensive strategy to deal with rising militancy and its underlying causes. Finding Osama should be far down on our list of national priorities and yours.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 24th, 2010.

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Pakistan in Gentler Times

25 May




In 1962, Jacqueline Kennedy, came on a goodwill visit to Pakistan. Her trip was widely documented and photographed. Circulating on the internet is a video of her visit. Watching it, makes me nostalgic for gentler times in Pakistan. And not just gentler times but times when bombs and beards weren’t the defining hallmarks of our nation. 

I was wondering what would a Michelle Obama visit to Pakistan look like? Well its highly unlikely to happen because of our vitriolic hate for the United States of America, propogated by the media and clergy that has put all of us in a frenzy of fiery hate against the US for all that ails our country, regardless of whether they had a hand in causing it or not. 

But forget Michelle, no other first lady is likely to visit either. Actually no one is likely to visit! With the security situation in Pakistan, especially the targeting of Westerners we have deprived our country of a valuable source of income but also good publicity! With our borders closed to visitors and the airwaves open to the “breaking news” images of terrorists and angry young people, Pakistan is not on the list of popular tourist destinations. 

But if some brave first lady were to venture into Pakistan, her trip would look remarkable different. In this video of Jackie Kennedy’s visit, there are large crowds lining the roads and waving to her. There would be no crowds, thronging the roadside. They would be barricaded miles away. 

Jacqueline Kennedy with Lee Radziwill on a camel ride, Karachi, March 25, 1962

Jackie and her sister Lee, dazzle the gathered crowds with their smiles and “trendy merican dress.” There is no covering of the head or of the arms and legs. Both sisters appear in fashionable form fitting dresses with bare arms and lega. And there is no furore. The crowds seem unnmoved by the western dress and rather charmed and enamored. Clearly, there was a time when we were not obsessed with women’s dress and were more tolerant and accepting of what foreigners chose to wear. I doubt it would be the case anymore. If some foreign dignitary wore such clothes today, I imagine, there would be  loud proclamations of collective istaghfirullahs, a program by amir liaqat declaring them “Wajib-ul-qatl” and some protests by the Jamaat-e-Islami women’s wing demanding a ban on foreign dignitaries.

But the saddest was the realization that no other female foreign dignirtary will be visitng the “kyber pass region” anytime soon and walking about freely. And not for a long time, will this region be rightfully recognized for its rich cutlure, its dancers, poets and story tellers. 

A letter from Pakistan / Princeton to President Obama

6 Apr

I came to America at age 17 as a college freshman three weeks before 9/11. And when the world changed forever on that fateful day, I never realised the extent of it because I was sheltered by the loving arms of Mother Yale. She provided guarantees that no harm would come to my person despite the threats being issued nationwide to people of my religion and nationality. University President Richard Levin wrote a beautiful letter to parents assuring them of the efforts Yale would take to guarantee my safety and well-being. My parents tear up, even to this day, when they read this letter from a stranger promising to protect their only child. It was this selfless compassion of Americans that won my heart. In the four years that I was a student at Yale, I benefited from a generous scholarship that probably came from donations made by American families and corporations. It was this unprecedented generosity that made me love America and its people. I write to you in the hope that you will enable more Pakistanis to see this side of America. I write to you in the hope that you will show us how to achieve the American dream of justice and liberty for all and spare us the terror of the American bomb. I write to you in the hope of inspiring change within your government regarding its policies towards my country and its honest and hardworking people who fight your war and constantly live in the hope of change. Your Af-Pak policy is no different from your predecessor’s. It’s dressed in more dollar bills and in the words of hope and change but we, the politically astute people of Pakistan, recognise that there really is no change. What your administration does not recognise is that we, the people, are inherently political. There is a reason why we have more news channels than entertainment channels. We might not have a 100 per cent literacy rate but we have a keen sense of history and we have not forgotten how your country has used us and then forsaken us in our times of greatest need. We are resilient and patriotic and love our country despite its warts. I hope you will change your policies towards Pakistan keeping in mind our propensity for politics and our patriotism. We are a proud nation. Do not scold us. We are not errant children. We are a nation of 170 million people. Your rhetoric towards Pakistan must change. Rebukes from Senator Clinton will not win our hearts and minds. They will not urge us into further action on your behalf. The might of our mountains has sheltered your strategic interests for years. The muscle of our military has flexed on your behalf. The blood of our boys has fuelled your war. Give us the respect that you would a soldier in battle that shields your body with his own. You continue to view this conflict through the lens of a military offensive. You see us as the enemy and not the ally. You send drones to bomb us. You kill one terrorist. You give birth to 20. You anger a hundred and seventy million. You have effectively alienated all those sections of the Pakistani population that would have given you support. How long will you stay to fight the terror and anger you constantly create? The constant din of ‘do-more’ drowns out our strategic concerns. You strike controversial deals with India on sharing nuclear technology but will not give us favourable trade agreements to boost our industries. You exacerbate the regional power imbalance. Ignoring border dispute issues such as Kashmir and the Durand Line leaves fault lines in the region that will periodically lead to violence and instability. Use your regional power to resolve these disputes. Get the India-Pakistan peace process back on track. Regional stability is the key to global security. You cannot keep ‘India Shinning’ at the expense of Pakistan burning. Ignoring regional security concerns and power imbalances in the short term will exacerbate the potential for violent conflict in the long term. You surround yourself with ‘experts’ on Pakistan but with no people who live amidst and understand this great mass of humanity. You talk to those who walk the corridors of influence in Washington but not those who form the real epicentres of power in Pakistan – its streets, its valleys and mountains. You continue to engage with the political and military leadership but ignore those who are the real forces of change – representatives of civil society, journalists, lawyers, Islamic scholars and students. The politicised epicentres of power are throbbing with people ready to resist the forces of extremism. Historically, resistance to all kinds of injustice has come from these folk. It was the brave women of the Women’s Action Forum that first stood up to the barbaric rule of General Zia and its treatment of women to win women much needed rights. It was the lawyers who stood up to the injustice of the Musharraf regime for the rule of law. Our media is a force that can mobilise millions and mould the views of even more. Engage with our media. Train them and equip them. They will launch a media offensive against perpetrators of terror. Give our activists platforms to voice their concerns. They will rally the masses against the extremists. Give our young people scholarships and economic opportunities. They will be the force that drives away obscurantism and ushers in innovation, peace and prosperity. But aid is not a long-term solution. Give us trade with dignity. Help us fuel the furnaces of our factories and revive our economy. Open your markets to our textiles. Give us trade agreements through which our businesses can generate jobs, increase our imports and strengthen our economy. European countries made such agreements with us post-9/11 but not the US. If we can be an ally in war then why can we not be a partner in business? As long as your political engagement in Pakistan remains invested in individuals you will not succeed. Changing from Zardari to Nawaz is not a change of strategy. It’s a change of face. For far too long you have supported the politics of individuals at the cost of our institutions. Invest in our institutions. Invest in our businesses. Strong institutions will give the people the justice and liberty they seek. They will give you the security you need. Today the Taliban sit 65 miles outside my home city of Islamabad. The people of Pakistan are ready to lock arms and battle this beast. The question is whether you will stand by the people of Pakistan in this battle on their terms or choose the Af-Pak policy of no hope and no change. You are either with us or against us – us the people – in whose veins the blood runs green not red! Pakistan Paindabad!

The writer is pursuing a master’s at Princeton University. Earlier, she attended Yale University. Email: stariq@princeton.edu

Published in The News Thursday, May 07, 2009 


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