Waris Husain Editorial- The Empire Without Clothes

To be published in Pakistan Post.

The heinous murder of Governor Taseer was shocking, but one should consider the reactions in support of his assassin amongst some Pakistanis as a sign that the society is at a crossroads. Governor Taseer’s life was stolen from him because he rejected a blasphemy law based on a narrow-minded view of Islam that subjects the nation’s minorities to discrimination. Laws such as these reveal the increasingly conflicting view of Pakistan’s future: either as a nation that is able to adapt to modern times and protect the rights of all its citizens or one destined for devolution into chaos through a medieval view of Islam and the state.

For a moment, I would like to speak to the readers of this column who ardently and passionately believe in the direct role of Islam in the state.  The only way to describe the benefit of a secular and modern society is to understand that the body of Pakistan may undoubtedly be Islamic for some. However, just as any human body requires clothing to protect itself from the elements, so then does a religious-minded public require secular and tolerant policies that provide protection against the political elements.

Just as when individuals put on clothing to protect themselves, their body remains unchanged, a tolerant secular state does not challenge the beliefs in the heart of Pakistani Muslims. Rather, it provides protection for their faith unfettered by political winds. This protection is especially necessary when facing a harsh environment, which well describes a Pakistan beset with economic crises, a war raging across its border, and its flood of international extremists.

Without recognizing that the fallacy of obsessively attempting to create an Islamic state devoid of tolerance, the Pakistani Islamists are walking through a cold winter night naked, believing they will not catch pneumonia and die. However, we know that if the body continues to stay in the environment of Pakistan today, it is destined to become sicker and sicker until it meets an unfortunate end. And it would not just symbolize the death of Pakistan, it would be demise of the true components of Islam that compose its body.

The most striking thing about Islamists who proclaim the necessity of harsh blasphemy laws is that they are embodying a perspective of false prophets who have been prophesized about throughout the Old Testament, and Koran. Mullah Shahi and his cohorts blasphemously assume the role of Allah as omnipotent judges of the Pakistani people, issuing infallible fatwas against the likes of Salman Taseer and Benazir Bhutto. Their irreverent rhetoric provides credibility to horrendous and unjust acts of violence, like assassinations and discrimination against religious minorities. Thus the analogy remains true, that with increasingly intolerant laws that are falsely proclaimed as being Islamic, the body of Islam in Pakistan is withering.

However, the inability of the general public to see the nakedness of Pakistan is due to the inter-generational brainwashing towards conservative orthodoxy. This process was started by Z. A. Bhutto due to his appeasement of conservatives as a means to garner more political support. While Bhutto enacted such laws as the banning of alcohol, the brainwashing of the public with jihadi rhetoric was masterminded by General Zia ul Haq during his 1980’s military dictatorship. General Zia created the blasphemy law as part of an overall propaganda campaign to spread an violent form of Islam in order to achieve his political goals of gaining popular support.

The General encouraged the influx of ultra-conservative Muslim scholars, especially from Saudi Arabia, who established free madrassas and began indoctrinating poor Pakistanis who could not afford to send their children to schools. General Zia also believed that his brand of bellicose chauvinistic Islam should be spread to the middle class. By allowing ultra-conservative groups like the Jamaat-i-Islami to exercise power through force and terror on middle class-dominated institutions like Punjab University, he accomplished this goal. 

The presence and intimidation by the Jamaat-i-Islami led to the silencing of most liberal professors who were attempting to counteract the religious brainwashing of their students. In fact, huge numbers of the professorships were given out to these ultra-conservatives who began to infect the mind of the middle class, just as had been done with the lower class through madrassas. Thus, the reaction from across Pakistan’s socio-economic spectrum in favor of the assassin is directly attributable to this long-term brainwashing the public has widely spread in the body politic.

As the cold darkness envelops Pakistan, its people have become increasingly sick. The only way for the nation to survive is to cover it with ‘clothing’ — the kind of governance necessary to survive in the modern world. This requires correcting the misinformed about religion and its role in the state.  Without developing a secular and tolerant state identity that can provide equal protection to all its citizens regardless of their background, incidents like the assassination of Gov. Taseer will become common-place. And to the millions of Pakistanis who have been forced to stand by as their society is overrun with hate and violence- the words of Bob Marley should resonate: “Rise up fallen fighters, rise and take your stance again… when the heathen back them against the wall.”

Cindy Sheehan featured in Al Jazeera: “Dissent in the Age of Obama”

“The welfare of the people in particular has always been the alibi of tyrants, and it provides the further advantage of giving the servants of tyranny a good conscience.” – Albert Camus

Recently, the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) raided the homes of at least eight anti-war/social justice activists here in the US. I happen to be a prominent anti-war activist myself, and have joked that I am a “little hurt” that I was not raided and perhaps I should try harder. Even though, we have the urge to try and be light-hearted in this time of an increasing police state, with civil liberties on the retreat, it really isn’t funny considering that the activists could face some serious charges stemming from these raids.

I have felt this harassment on a smaller scale myself and I know that defending oneself against a police state that has unlimited resources, time and cruelty, can be quite expensive, time consuming and annoying. There is nothing noble about an agency that has reduced itself to being jackbooted enforcers of a neo-fascist police state, no matter how much the FBI has been romanticised in movies, television and books.
For example, in one instance, early in the morning of September 24, at the home of Mick Kelly of Minneapolis, the door was battered in and flung across the room when his partner audaciously asked to see the FBI’s warrant through the door’s peephole. At Jessica Sundin’s home, she walked downstairs to find seven agents ransacking her home while her partner and child looked on in shock.
These raids have terrifying implications for dissent here in the US.

First of all, these US citizens have been long-time and devoted anti-war activists who organised an anti-war rally that was violently suppressed by the US police state in Minneapolis-St. Paul, during the 2008 Republican National Convention. Because the Minneapolis activists have integrity, they had already announced that they would do the same if the Democrats hold their convention there in 2012.
I have observed that it was one thing to be anti-Bush, but to be anti-war in the age of Obama is not to be tolerated by many people. If you will also notice, the only people who seem to know about the raids are those of us already in the movement. There has been no huge outcry over this fresh outrage, either by the so-called movement or the corporate media.

I submit that if George Bush were still president, or if this happened under a McCain/Palin regime, there would be tens of thousands of people in the streets to protest. This is one of the reasons an escalation in police state oppression is so much more dangerous under Obama – even now, he gets a free pass from the very same people who should be adamantly opposed to such policies.
Secondly, I believe because the raids happened to basically ‘unsung’ and unknown, but very active workers in the movement, that the coordinated, early morning home invasions were designed to intimidate and frighten those of us who are still doing the work. The Obama regime would like nothing better than for us to shut up or go underground and to quit embarrassing it by pointing out its abject failures and highlighting its obvious crimes.

Just look at how the Democrats are demonising activists who are trying to point out the inconvenient truth that the country (under a near Democratic tyranny) is sliding further into economic collapse, environmental decay and perpetual war for enormous profit.
Barack and Joe, the commandantes of this police state, say that those who have the temerity to be critical are “asleep” and just need to “buck up”. White House spokesperson, Robert Gibbs, recently stated that we on the “professional left” need to be “drug tested” if we are not addicted to the regimes’ own drug: the Hopium of the Obama propaganda response team.
It seems like, even though some of those that have been nailed to the cross of national security do activism around South America, most of the activism is anti-war and pro-Palestinian rights. Being supportive of any Arab or Muslim, no matter how benign or courageous is a very dangerous activity here in post-9/11 America.
The Supreme Court just decided (Wilner v. National Security Agency) that the National Security Agency (NSA) did not have to disclose if it was using warrantless wiretapping to spy on attorneys representing the extra-legal detention of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Obtaining warrants, with cause, and attorney-client privilege were important principles of the US justice system, but even the neo-fascist Supreme Court is undermining the law – talk about “activist” judges!
Not only have activists been targeted here in the States, but Obama has ominously declared himself judge, jury and executioner of anyone that he deems a national security “threat”. These are the actions of a tyrant and another assault against our rights and against the rule of law from a person who promised “complete transparency” from his administration.
We have learned that Obama’s first victim under his presidential execution programme is Anwar al-Awlaki, a US-born Muslim who is now in Yemen. Without showing proof of al-Awlaki’s so-called executionable offenses and without a trial in a court of law, Obama has unloosed his hit squads on Awlaki. Is there anyone out there reading this who does not believe, or fear, that this programme could quickly descend into summary executions within the borders of the US?

Al-Awlaki’s father has filed a motion in federal court to stay the execution of his son until he gets his constitutionally guaranteed rights to due process, but Obama’s justice department has refused to cooperate stating that to do so would ‘undermine’ that fabled, exploited and ephemeral ‘national security’.

When Obama behaves like Bush, only on steroids, he amply demonstrates why other people hate our country so much. Persons in other countries are not nearly as blind as Americans. They know that even though Obama went to Cairo to blather about building understanding between the US and the Muslim world, actions speak louder than words and Obama’s actions drip with carnage and pain.

Obviously, the suppression of dissent here in the US, while outrageous and inexcusable, has not reached the level of the McCarthy witch hunts of the 1950’s – yet.

The longer we Americans remain silent in the face of these injustices, the more they will continue to occur and escalate.

Cindy Sheehan has been working tirelessly to end US occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan, motivated by social injustice, the crimes of war and most of all the passing of her son, who was killed in Iraq on April 4, 2004 

Waris Husain Editorial: The Quagmire Attack on Communalism

Communalism is an ideology that rests on the basic premise that a society’s property and resources should be shared amongst its populace. It has been fiercely rejected by the U.S. both domestically and internationally, while it is utilized in many nations around the world and has existed at times of human progress. The forefathers of the U.S. political system believed that private property ownership was part of human nature, and advocated that the democratic order respect this basic premise. Yet, if one looks throughout human history, the theories founded on the “innate nature” of the human as a brutish, independent loner don’t describe the periods of greatest human development.

            Thomas Hobbes and John Locke laid the philosophical foundation for the U.S. system of property ownership. They believed that in “the state of nature,” man existed outside of society as an individual entity who pursued only his own self-interest. Thus, the right to own private property was a part of our human nature and was left uninterrupted by the government through the American Constitution.

Yet, it is hard to find a positive period in human development where the human action could be described in this brutal “state of nature” devoid of social interaction. The strongest example I could find was the caveman, who was, by and large, an individualistic violent creature. However, to base one’s social order on the behavior of cavemen seems to fail to recognize the incapability of those creatures to take the strides we have taken. It was when humans came together as communal tribes that true progress was made:  living standards improved tremendously through collective hunting, agriculture, and housing.

            Those who support Hobbes and Locke’s theory state that the orders of capitalism and global exploitation were built on a respect for human nature rather than a violation of it.  Some say that the U.S. attacks on communalism started with the Cold War against the Soviet Union, but the practice actually dates back hundreds of years to the establishment of this nation through the genocide of the Native Americans.

While the Natives posed a physical obstacle to the colonialists, they posed a far greater ideological threat through their belief that property should be shared amongst the community. Many native tribes believed that they existed in harmony with nature as human beings, and could thus not own any piece of nature itself as it was to be shared amongst the tribe. This directly contradicted the basic principles of democracy as purported by Locke and Hobbes, who claimed that humans were innately greedy, self-serving, and individualistic.

            In fact, these misleading perversions of human nature were necessary to intellectualize and support the most abhorrent chapter in human history: slavery. This practice was built on legal and social norms that protected unfettered right of Europeans to actually own other human beings. The most dangerous element to intellectualizing such disgusting practices is that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy in a society. Namely, if you say that the human essence is based on greed and individualism, and then establish a society on this presumption; people will begin to accept that proposition though it may violate their own values.

The ideological war against communalism waged by the U.S. was started with the genocide of the Natives but reached its peak in the Cold War era. It was during this period that the U.S. obsession with defeating all vestiges of communalism manifested in funding and training for the same mujhaddin in Afghanistan who threaten U.S. security. Indeed, the Pakistani elite who had adopted the conceptions of property ownership through feudalism were more than willing to serve as well-paid liaisons to the mujhaddin. Thus, the adamant respect paid to private ownership and the conjunctive war against modern communal orders created the perfect storm that is ripping through Pakistan and Afghanistan now.

In the post-Cold War Era, the individuals right to property was used as the premise for fast rates of globalization profiting U.S. multinational corporations. Some state that the rise of the U.S. corporations is because of their superior advancements made in the fields of medicine and technology. They would argue that the U.S. system’s respect for private ownership fosters this development.

  However, such advancements are meaningless until they are given to the world community at large to utilize. Through intellectual property laws, AIDS medication and other vital medicines are sold at exorbitant prices across the developing world while legally banning any other companies from creating a cheaper pill. The individual who cured tuberculosis might have done so alone in their laboratory, but the effect of this discovery only surfaces when it helped the community cure its disease.

The same property proponents argue that had it not been for the American system of ownership, the internet would never have been created. Again, one must remember that the internet may have been created by a handful of engineers, but its relevance and impact on the world only came when the world community was freely exposed to it. In fact, the quick explosion of the internet as a free medium of information shows that human nature is communal at its core.

Thus, our focus and obsession with private ownership may profit us in different ways than before, but the objective and underlying theories have remained unchanged from colonization.  One should be leery of arguments that claim the protection of private property is somehow a codification of a human nature that existed at a time when humans were brutish and solitary. The times of the greatest human progress were when we came together as a society, and in light of the grave problems that continue to divide humanity, the lessons from ancient and modern communal societies should not be ignored.

Dr. Manzur Ejaz: Pakistan and India- Apples and Oranges?

Whenever any reference is made to India, my inbox sees a barrage of criticism by Indian readers. Thus, I find one question should be answered once and for all: is it legitimate to compare one society with another and what would be common denominators that make the comparison really genuine?

I think most scientists would agree that comparative studies are useful to derive universal laws to describe human and non-human behavior. However, uninitiated to the basis of social sciences start with an unsustainable assumption that human societies have no common denominator. In reality, all the ‘isms’—Capitalism, Marxism, Pragmatism—believed or practiced are based on the assumption that there are common denominators. For example, common history and socio-political evolution can be used as a denominator for description or prescription.

Most Pakistanis and Indians equate Pakistan with the Muslim world and start idealizing or criticizing it, as if religion is the single most important denominator. Pakistanis project themselves to be part of so-called Ummah in self-denial of their own real history to idealize their past, and Indians find it convenient to put Pakistan in religious category and demonize it. Pakistanis believe they are heirs of Muslim rule and their opponents believe in the same notion as well. In short, Pakistani and Indian nationalists agree on this point.   

The fact of the matter is that most of the Muslims living in Pakistan are converts of lower layers of different castes. Till the time of the partition their status as lowly mass of peasants, artisans and laborers continued. Land was mostly owned by Muslim feudal lords and urban centers were completely run by Hindu elite. Muslims of present Pakistan had hardly any representation in the business community, bureaucracy, or education. During the entire Muslim rule, their status remained similar to untouchables who converted to Christianity during the British rule. Therefore, other than a small percentage of Urdu speakers who may have come from the old ruling Muslim elite, it is misleading for the Pakistanis to idealize themselves as heir to Muslim ruling elites who had descended from central Asia, Afghanistan, Iran and the Middle East.

Looking at the national assembly members, representatives of people of Pakistan, there will be hardly anyone from traditional rulers of Muslim India like Mughals, Ghauris, Ghaznvis or Lodhis. Most of the national assembly member have been and are Jats, Rajputs, Gujjar, Arian and Syed. The caste make-up of the ruling classes in Pakistan, the majority of which come from Punjab and Sindh, is similar to contemporary North Indian states if one equates the status of Syeds with Brahmans.

Conversions of Jat, Rajput or Gujjar families have made no difference to their day-to-day behavior and caste system is well and alive in both India and Pakistan. If one looks at the last names in Punjab one can find their exact counterparts in India, specifically among dominating Jats. If Alberuni would come to his India today—it was only Punjab because that he accompanied Mahmood Ghaznvi who had conquered only this region–his differentiation of Indians from northern invaders would not be different. In short, despite the misleading idealization by Pakistanis and demonization by Indians, the majority of Pakistanis have their roots in the Sindh valley civilization. Their eating drinking habits, marriage and death ceremonies are comparable to the people of the North India. Therefore, large part of Pakistan and North India can be rightfully compared even if the Indian counterparts fair better than Pakistan.

On the empirical level, there are intriguing parallels. For example, an extremist religious uprising first emerged in Indian Punjab in the form of Khalistan movement. To start with, the ruling party in Indian Punjab, Akali Dal, has been much more religious than its counterpart in Pakistan. One can blame Indra Gandhi or Ziaul Haq for creating and abetting the Khalistan movement but the fact remains that outsiders can only exploit the potential and cannot create a large scale conflict from nowhere. Therefore, Khalistan movement was a precursor of religious extremism in North India.

The rise of various extremist religious and sectarian outfits in Pakistan during the 1980s coincides with the emergence of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP, an offshoot of the extremist Hindu ideological formation Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). BJP’s predecessor, Bharatiya Jana Sangh was formed in 1951 by RSS but it did not take off. It was during the 80s—BJP was formed in 1980—that a political party with political Hinduism gained significance. The BJP gained momentum in 1984 for protesting the massacre of 10,000 to 17,000 Sikhs in Delhi. This was the time when the US and Pakistan army were crating and grooming private jihadi militias to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan.

However, the fundamental reason for the simultaneous emergence of extremist religious grouping in Pakistan, Khalistan movement and the Saffron revolution can be traced to rapid change of the political economy of entire North India (including Pakistan). 

Fundamental change of ancient agrarian system through mechanization and commercialism had created an ideological vacuum which was filled by the religious parties. A new ideology of political Islam, Hinduism and Sikhism was born. It is naïve to base analysis on the basic notion of Islam and Hinduism: the political version of both is similar if not identical.

However, if one starts with an extremist individualist approach, no state or province within India and Pakistan can be compared to each other. How can we compare Pakistan Punjab with Baluchistan or East Punjab with Orissa or Kerala? But if historical commonality is taken to be common denominator then north of the subcontinent can be analyzed as a single phenomenon. Most of the north Indian states were center of or off shoots of Indus civilization. The languages spoken in this area has more than 70 percent common vocabulary. Sixty years of post partition history cannot overturn the common history of thousands of years

If today factors like corruption, nepotism, general lawlessness in society, unplanned growth, suicides and sectarian bickering are used as common denominators, Pakistani Punjab, Sindh and North Indian state will appear to be a one contiguous area. Travel from Multan to Delhi by road shows that other than the difference of Sikh turban and beards everything else is identical. There are sufficient common factors of history and centuries old life style that link these areas. Therefore, comparative study of North India and large part of Pakistan is genuine scholarly pursuit.

Waris Husain: Corporate-ism, Printed Pakistan Post


Waris Husain

The U.S. and other developed nations preach the value of capitalism to developing nations like Pakistna, however they no longer follow this model themselves. The corporate take-over of media, culture, as well as business has killed capitalism by limiting its social benefits that allow for small businesses with innovative new ideas to rise and be rewarded by the free market. Corporate control denies us free choice to buy the most innovative product, but rather we are forced to buy products from the handful of companies that control advertisement and more generally, the information we receive.

As capitalism is held as a pillar of the American social order, our understanding of this economic model affects the aid and advice given to nations like Pakistan. First, one must recognize that there have been great benefits of the corporate model throughout history and it is a required model to deliver the safest product for the lowest price in large industries like automobile manufacturing. However, the issue with capitalism as it currently stands, is that it allows for corporations to summarily take over all sectors of business and society. While one may not call these monopolies, one certainly can recognize there is an oligarchic order to the way in which unchecked greed and corporate expansion leaves money and power in the hands of few.  

In 2004, Ben Bagdikian’s book, The New Media Monopoly, shows that only five corporations operate 90% of the mass media controlling almost all of America’s newspapers, magazines, TV and radio stations, books, records, movies, videos, wire services and photo agencies.” Corporations such as Time Warner, Viacom, and News Corp are thus constantly affect the way in which we choose products, but also the way in which we value ideas.

Further, if one looks to the amount of money corporations invest in political campaigns, lobbying, and generally currying favor with Congressmen, their dominance becomes even more menacing.  Companies like Xe, formerly known as Blackwater, offer services to the U.S. military and government which were previously handled by the military itself. With ex-military and State Department employees as their leadership, these corporations have even effected U.S. war strategy and foreign policy; but are mercenaries who were never elected or known by the public.

There are some popular arguments used to support the current corporate model of capitalism; one being that the founders of this nation based the constitution around a capitalistic model. However, the manner in which the founders abhorred monopolies and the British elite, exhibited that their conception of capitalism differed from the corporate model of today. The founders’ ideal of capitalism was more attuned to a democratic institution: as the people choose the best candidate to elect, so does the market freely choose the best product to buy and company to support.

The current perception of capitalism is out of sync with the founders, many of whom were small business-men themselves. The disproportionate corporate control of markets and influence in government creates oligarchies which are antithetical to the democratic constitution. Justice Louis Brandeis of the U.S. Supreme Court once said, “We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.” Thus the right to choose unhindered by persuasions and control by corporations is essential to effectuate the true benefits of our capitalistic order.

The proponents of our current system may point to just a few decades ago when Microsoft and IBM were started in college dorm rooms and garages, and are now billion dollar corporations. The argument further provides support for the capitalist model as the internet and computers greatly improved the human condition across the globe and served a true social good. In fact, Bill Gates provides hundreds of millions of dollars to schools in African and India, and has created his corporation in a socially positive manner.

However, my question is could a Microsoft or IBM rise to such power today? These companies rose with a new product for which there wasn’t a market nor was there corporate control, and thus they were able to freely compete which improved their products as the companies developed. But now, if a small business comes up with an innovative concept it is bought out by an already existing corporation. While this small business owner gains millions of dollars he didn’t have before, he also loses the ability to form a multi-billion dollar corporation LIKE Microsoft in the manner he wished to. Thus, our ability to choose products from the producers is greatly limited by corporate control.

I spoke to a friend of mine who grew up in New Hampshire and he told me that small business like clothing retailers, restaurants, and coffee shops are in fact preferred in his area. Many communities have rejected corporations like McDonalds because they believe in the true form of capitalism which rewards small business. Yet, the majority of the American system has experienced the terrible costs of allowing unfettered corporate greed. However, by realizing the existence of the corporate control over information we receive daily from t.v., magazines, or newspaper, some power can return to the consumer.

Waris Husain: Maoists and Jihadis- An Indigenous Uprising, Printed Pakistan Post

Maoists and Jihadis: An Indigenous Uprising

Waris Husain

The Maoists of Eastern India have been described as a terrorist group threatening the survival of the Indian state just as the Taleban in Pakistan’s frontier province and Afghanistan. While the rhetoric of these movements could not be any more different, they are all being followed by indigenous people who have either long-been ignored or sold out by the government.

Machiavelli was a 16th century political theorist who is frequently cited by military-first analysts because he argued that the state must use force to crush opposition and maintain order. However, Machiavelli also stated that the laws must give equal protection to the citizens “for when legal means do not exist, the people turn to illegal ones and without a doubt the latter produce much worst effects than do the former.”

            Arundhati Roy, an Indian writer who has lived with the Maoists for some time, gave an interview in which she cited the indigenous nature of both Maoist and jihadi movements. Her explanation for the uprising of these groups is that it was a rejection to corporate-take over of lands and society. This explanation works for the Maoists, who are fighting corporations that have purchased their native land for mineral excavation from the central government.

However, this leaves the anomaly of Baluch and Pakthun rebels in Pakistan who are fighting a government that did quite the opposite of Indian’s interventionism in selling land. Instead, Pakistan’s central government has sat back over the last 60 years without incorporating these tribal areas or providing them with any social services. While the citizens of Punjab and Sind are afforded social services and enjoy a better quality life, tribal groups have come to realize their place as second class citizens. Such a practice of inequality before the law would be harsly criticized by Machiavelli who would predict the rise of indigenous terrorist groups in such an environment.

And further, if one examines the rights of the indigenous groups in India, they are technically protected by the Indian constitution. However, by issuing Memorandums of Understanding which portion off huge pieces of land in Central India to corporations, the Indian government has failed in its legal duty to protect the rights of these indigenous groups. These areas have now been ordered to be cleared out by thousands of Indian paramilitary troops who will burn down villages and exterminate thousands to uphold the business deal with the corporations.

The Maoists have organized and armed themselves in small groups and have violently taken control in several areas through the Red Corridor. The Deputy of India’s Communist Party, Koteshwar Rao, stated that “the Islamic upsurge… is basically anti-US and anti-Imperialist in nature. We, therefore, want it to grow.” While the movement in the frontier areas of Pakistan is an inate rejection of U.S. military involvement, the two groups share an experience of injustice orchestrated by their federal government.

The objective of this analysis is not to humanize the incredibly brutal tactics used by both Maoists and jihadis. However, it is to understand that these groups did not form serendipidously as a reaction to corporations or American imperialism. Rather, one must look to the individual federal governments of Pakistan and India who have mistreated these areas to understand the deeper ideological conflict between armed extremists and the central government.

Both Pakistan and India are narrowly focusing on the stratagies laid out by Machavielli in attempting to fight force with greater more violent force (as seen by the Indian military’s entrance into the Maoist areas and Pakistan’s military attacks in Waziristan). Without recognizing the government’s direct fault in inspiring these groups, one cannot hope to alter the militarist ideals of these indigenous populations. Until the states can begin to equally protect the rights of all its citizens, the inherint conflict between these armed groups and the state will continue to spread instability and terror.

Waris Husain: The Changing Pakistani Identity: Printed Pakistan Post

The Changing Pakistani Identity

Waris Husain

The recent outburst of homegrown terrorists from the Pakistani-American community is an alarming development, especially considering the tenuous relationship between Islamabad and Washington. The central issue seems to be why Pakistani-Americans are turning to such violent organizations. The answer is not so simple, and while many point to the xenophobia of American society that alienates these individuals, I believe the problem started in Pakistan. The national identity of Pakistan has been replaced by a religious one; and this identity crisis has siphoned down not only to Pakistanis, but also their children who were born abroad.
            Zahid Ibrahim wrote this week in Express Tribune that the New York Times Square bomber, Faisal Shazad, turned to terrorism because the apparent hostility of American society towards Muslims. Mr. Ibrahim claims that if these young people like Shazad could espouse their extremist Islamic rhetoric in the public sphere openly, they would not turn to violent terrorist groups. While I agree with Mr. Ibrahim that American culture must open itself up to its immigrant populations, the question still remains as to WHY these individuals espouse such religiously extreme ideals.

For many who move to America or were born here of Pakistani descent, they experience an identity crisis as they want to assimilate into society, yet are seen as representatives of Pakistan. But, what happens when the country you are supposed to represent lacks any national or cultural characteristic? Indian-Americans, regardless of their religious beliefs, represent Indian culture with its music, literature, and films Yet, Pakistanis, have turned to the Muslim identity and the concept of Ummah rather than explore their own cultural identity.

This paradigm has affected me, as I would have arguments with my father about how Pakistan is in the same category as other Muslim nations across the world. My ideal of Pakistan being merely a part of the Ummah was emblematic of Pakistan losing its own cultural identity for that of the “Muslim World”. Individuals from my father’s generation are infuriated at the thought of Pakistan forgoing its own identity because it delineates from the vibrant social and political life they experienced growing up in Pakistan.

One should not confuse my distinction between Ummah and Pakistan’s national identity, as an attack on the concept of Ummah. I believe there are several examples of how this Ummah has helped Pakistan as well as other nations in times of poverty or war. However, we see the violent effects of this concept being the ONLY one learned by individuals, without an understanding of the tradition and culture they belong to as Pakistanis.

            The misperception of national identity was no more apparent to me than when reports surfaced of a group of American-born Pakistanis being arrested in Pakistan for conspiring to commit terrorist acts. The most striking part of the report was that young men did not even speak their parent’s language of Urdu and were joining the jihadi movement. This raised a red flag in my mind considering these young men did not have any idea of their cultural heritage, but followed a modern religious trend towards extremism and violence.

The solution to me is not allowing these confused individuals space in our public sphere to discuss extremist rhetoric, but to look to each and every immigrant home. The conversations occurring within these homes are where this seed is sown for these young individuals to understand their roles not only as Americans, but as Pakistanis. If all they hear on the news and all they are told by their parents is that Pakistan is part of the Ummah and they only owe duties as a religious follower: they will fall in the trap of extremism more easily.

 However, if one discusses the ideals of secular governance by Jinnah, or talks about the poetry of Iqbal, or mentions the history of Suffism in Pakistan- they fully understand their own identity and Pakistan’s. These discussions would remind Pakistanis of their vibrant national history and could bring new creativity to the nation. More significantly for immigrants and their children, understanding modern philosophical and artistic movements helps them adjust to American society, which has also experienced similar movements of freedom. Thus, the understanding of Pakistan’s identity as part of the Ummah denies a true understanding of the complexity of the culture and can lead to a rise in extremist thought.