“Stick it to the Pakistanis”

Published Feb 18, 2012 09:45am

“I concluded that it wasn’t about human rights. Rather, it seemed that the people behind this hearing were pandering to diaspora politics just to tick off the Pakistanis at a time when the United States is trying to repair its tattered relationship with Pakistan,” witness Dr. C. Christine Fair said. – Photo by Malik Siraj Akbar/Dawn.com
“I concluded that it wasn’t about human rights. Rather, it seemed that the people behind this hearing were pandering to diaspora politics just to tick off the Pakistanis at a time when the United States is trying to repair its tattered relationship with Pakistan,” witness Dr. C. Christine Fair said. – Photo by Malik Siraj Akbar/Dawn.com

In the days before last week’s Congressional hearing on Balochistan, Dr C. Christine Fair, an Assistant Professor at Georgetown University, was extremely critical of the proceedings, going so far as to call the hearing a “political stunt” and one of her fellow witnesses a “nut” in a series of Twitter exchanges.

At the time, Fair did not elaborate on what drove her to so publicly rebuke the hearing. It is only now that she is ready to set the record straight in defence of her statements amid what she calls “considerable harassment from some vocal members of the Baloch diaspora.”

The “stunt” heard round the world

According to Fair, her “political stunt” comment was prompted by a call from a sub-committee staff member. Fair had contacted him to solicit guidance for her upcoming testimony. In the course of their conversation, the staffer explained “we want to stick it to the Pakistanis.” The staffer further elaborated that the Pakistanis had been “killing our troops for ten years in Afghanistan.”

In Fair’s words, while she understood and even shared this person’s views on Pakistan’s relations with the United States over the past decade, this comment about the hearing made her “feel really uncomfortable about being roped into something that I would call a stunt. So, I wanted to make my position publicly known.”

Looking back on the comment, Fair is unapologetic: “Prior to accepting the request to serve as a witness, I was told this was a hearing about human rights violations and other issues needed to understand the various crises in Balochistan. But, based upon that brief phone conversation, I concluded that it wasn’t about human rights. Rather, it seemed that the people behind this hearing were pandering to diaspora politics just to tick off the Pakistanis at a time when the United States is trying to repair its tattered relationship with Pakistan.”

Fair’s comments did not go unnoticed. Elements of the Baloch diaspora, who Fair called “a bunch of extremists,” took extreme exception to the comments, especially on Twitter. In her words, they then “subjected me to an array of bullying and obnoxious assaults, many of which also tagged Congressman (Dana) Rohrabacher (R – CA).”

This avalanche of tweets protesting Fair’s participation in the hearing ultimately brought the matter to Rohrabacher’s office. On the Monday prior to the hearing, the staff member who had been coordinating with Fair reached out to her again to convey his displeasure: “He called to take a piece out of my hide. I requested that he explain to the Congressperson why I called the hearing a stunt, namely this staffer’s explanation that they wanted to stick it to the Pakistanis.” However, in her assessment, the staffer “did not have the testicular fortitude to explain the comment to Rohrabacher.”

A “nut” by any other name

Fair’s characterisation of Ralph Peters, a fellow witness, as a “nut” also rankled many proponents of Baloch interests, including at least one staff member affiliated with the hearing. According to Fair, during the aforementioned phone call, the angered Congressional staff member explained that he was taken aback that Fair dismissed Peters as a nut. He added that he had never previously experienced one witness attacking another before the hearing.

In recounting that exchange, Fair remains vivacious in her defence. She points out that she actually called Peters “a certified, flipping nut because only a nut would advocate the dismembering of a sovereign state based upon the views of one community in a province.” She then explains the reasoning for her steadfast opposition to Peters: “If this Congressional subcommittee remotely intended to try to use the hearing to put pressure on Pakistan for its human rights record in Balochistan, they should not have included someone who calls for the halving of their country.”

Biting the hand that invites you

Fair acknowledges that her comments were the impetus for the uncomfortable exchange with Rohrabacher at the hearing’s conclusion. Rohrabacher, who looked her straight in the eye and explained “this was not a stunt,” appeared perturbed by her pre-hearing comments. He therefore, used the hearing as the forum to issue his rebuttal.

While Fair admits that she “might not be invited back to give testimony again,” she does not regret her actions. From her perspective, she needed to signal her concerns because “this was a hearing designed by a collection of guys – and possibly a woman or two – who share a strategic image of how the Afghanistan and Pakistan postures should interrelate. While they reflect the general frustration in Congress with Pakistan taking US money and supporting terrorism, their views about dismembering Pakistan do not reflect the larger sentiment in Congress on Pakistan. Their statements struck me as incredibly provocative, did nothing to advance human rights in Balochistan, and made a US-Pakistan rapprochement much more difficult.”

Fair also notes that Congressmen Rohrabacher and Louie Gohmert (R – TX) bear significant responsibility for undermining the hearing before it was ever held. She points to the Congressmen’s pre-hearing OpEd, which suggested the United States should openly support an independent Balochistan, as setting the wrong tone for a hearing purportedly on human rights.

Eddie Walsh is a senior foreign correspondent who covers Africa and Asia-Pacific. He also is a non-resident fellow at Pacific Forum CSIS. Follow him on Twitter here

The views expressed by this writer and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.


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Comments (34) Closed




M Ali Khan
Feb 18, 2012 03:30pm
The timing of this bill seems to convenient when Ahmedinejad just visited Islamabad.
Tauseef Raza
Feb 18, 2012 05:43pm
Frustration of America on trilateral talk, Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan.
M. Asghar
Feb 18, 2012 06:16pm
The USA lacerated with the deply harmful lobbies, have been trying to destabilise Pakistan for years. Pakistan must react with the total defence treaty arrangements with Iran, Turkey and Afghanistan on the lines they have with China, for the security of the region.
Prof. Zubairi
Feb 18, 2012 07:24pm
Everyone would be "sticking it to the Pakistanis " as long as Pakistanis keep sticking it to each other.
Ahmar Mustikhan
Feb 18, 2012 07:33pm
We wished Eddie Walsh would have gotten Baloch viewpoint as well in this piece. I am of the considered opinion Prof. C. Christine Fair was totally unfair in her comments to call a historic session a "stunt." Right to self-determination is part of the human rights agenda. Genocidal situation and human rights abuses are everyone's business.
G.A.
Feb 18, 2012 07:52pm
Definitely a stunt. But one must ask whether these commitee members' loyalty lies with the U.S. or with a certain country in the Middle East whose name one dare not mention.
munsifmizaaj
Feb 18, 2012 08:53pm
Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan should sign a pact and give the US 30 days' notice to quit the region. It is obvious that far from bringing a solution, it is the US who is the main problem.
Valeed Shaikh
Feb 18, 2012 09:56pm
Never before have they had a hearing and recommendation so quickly. Yes this is plain and simple, this is sticking to PAkistan. But who is to be blamed for all this. Pakistan has done to itself.
Saeed
Feb 18, 2012 10:32pm
But one community in a country cannot be its own state or create violence to achieve that!!!! Can u imagine the amount of communities around the world who are going through the same thing with their own governments....its absolutely ridiculous to even attempt to achieve that!!!!
Muhammad Ahmed Mufti
Feb 18, 2012 10:48pm
Finally the cat is out of the bag. Pakistan can see the real face behind Baluch uprising. While the accesses commited by Pakistani security forces must be investigated and the culprits punished, the movement of so called diplomats in the country must be checked. Who knows how many likes of Ramon Didis are bust target killing in Baluchistan.
Sid Taji
Feb 19, 2012 04:30am
They are 'sticking' it to Pakistan because Pakistan has not acted against the Haqqani Network, Pakistan keeps talking to Iran for the pipeline, Pakistan was 'hiding' Osama, Pakistan is not bringing the Quetta Shura to the table, and the list goes on. Pakistan needs to bring it's own house in order first. It's being ruled by the corrupt bunch of people who are asleep at the helm!!
Secular Pakistan
Feb 19, 2012 09:13am
When you invite outside powers to prowl in your neighborhood becuase you cannot control yourselves, the end result is they will stick theri nose into your business. Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan need to learn to talk to each other without involving an outside party. Keep the US and Saudis out of it.
Altaf Hussain, Mumba
Feb 19, 2012 10:28am
As long as US anounces a USD 2.2 billion aid to Pakistan and nobody in Pakistan renounces it, these Congressmen are well within their rights to 'stick it'. Beggars can't be choosers.
Shahzad
Feb 19, 2012 10:39am
If there are internal fissures these will be exploited .
Syed Mubeen Bokhari
Feb 19, 2012 11:25am
I appeal to all Pakistanis,including Balochs,to please understand the serious situation in Balochistan.We should put our house in order first.We need national reconciliation and Balochi people should be treated with dignity and love.Their human rights respected and fair share of their resources given to them.They should be given an opportunity to be part of mainstrem.If we do that,we do not have to worry about anybody,s resolution.Balochis are as pariotic as other people of Pakistan
p r sharma
Feb 19, 2012 11:54am
Blaming others for the problems is just escaping the problem. one needs to introspect with open mind . This will diagnose the causes of problem. once the causes of problem is identified the remedy is possible fast.
Tahira
Feb 19, 2012 11:55am
US should first concentrate on human rights issues at Palestine and Kashmir which are already established facts for years and UN resolutions are already in place for human rights voilations there.
Chaigram
Feb 19, 2012 02:05pm
As the war in Afghanistan is winding down, US can see that in couple of years They will not need Pakistan so now US can stick to the Pakistani one more time, like they have done before.
Yawar
Feb 19, 2012 05:29pm
Pakistanis keep on sticking it to themselves by electing the plunder Pakistan party to power
vg
Feb 19, 2012 06:24pm
rtly said
Abdul Ghafoor Baloch
Feb 19, 2012 07:45pm
US should stop playing good cop...bad cop...and make their intentions clear. The false hopes further aggravates the situation in Balochistan and therefore loss of more innocent lives. THE ABDUCTIONS, TORTURE AND KILLINGS MUST STOP FOR A PEACEFUL SOLUTION keeping East Pakistan in mind.
Asif
Feb 20, 2012 01:18am
Pakistanis have to show that they are united in this. All four provinces should take out peaceful protest condemning this action by the US congress.
Mir Dilbar
Feb 20, 2012 02:39am
Good job my friend keep it up , someone have to bell the cat very soon and we will be in our mother land.
Concerned
Feb 20, 2012 03:43am
Can we discuss on the human rights abuses in USA, focusing on the treatment of African Americans and the almost wiped out community of the red Indians, in the assembly or at this forum??? Especially when they got a token African American president POTUS.
Zahid khan
Feb 20, 2012 06:46am
Balochistan and pashtonistan was never part of panjabi/Sindhi. Federation , every Nation has right freedom and free country, Lang life Balochistan. And Dr alla nazar,
SA
Feb 20, 2012 06:55am
Unless you are a recognized (UN mandated) issue with no sinister or insidious intent, Saeed is absolutely right in his assessment. Well said.
SA
Feb 20, 2012 07:04am
As a Punjabi, I am of the firm opinion that all those who have committed a crime MUST be brought to book and the time to do this is NOW. Just because someone is fighting for his or her just rights does not make them anti-state. On another note, when it comes to checking the movements of diplomats in the country, isn't it now a bit obvious why successive American ambassadors have been insisting on a consulate in Quetta? (Shades perhaps of the eleven Indian "Consulates" right across the border in Afghanistan...hmmn!)
Furqan Khattak
Feb 20, 2012 07:23am
Dear Bro, What force them to be violent in their action?
insaan
Feb 20, 2012 09:20am
Pakistan lost its erstwhile East Pakistan due to hubris of its political class and atrocities of Pakistani army. The same activities are being repeated in Balochistan. Please be ware, as history repeats itself as people repeat their mistakes.
Insaan
Feb 20, 2012 09:31am
Pakistan lost erstwhile East Pakistan due to hubris of its political class and atrocities of its army. The same is being repeated in Balochistan. Be ware of the ides of march, as history repeats itself because people repeat their mistakes. And don't forget "hubris precedes nemesis".
Zeeshan
Feb 20, 2012 03:26pm
Isn't it interesting that the US chooses to talk about 'independence' of this geography right after discovery of Gold, Oil and Uranium deposits there? When will USA's greed end??????
mehmoona javad
Feb 21, 2012 08:25pm
no surprises here america will look after its interests but the the big glaring question is WHEN WILL PAKISTAN LOOK AFTER ITS OWN INTERESTS
Baloch
Feb 23, 2012 05:30pm
We balouch will be united with rest of the Pakistanis and supporting the federation if we are treated fairly, our rights are not violated, balouch are not butchered and people of Baluchistan receive their due shares in return of our resources being used by every one in Pakistan. These are the facts and if Pakistan continues to ignore these rights then we are looking to another Bangladesh in making.
Amber
Feb 23, 2012 09:19pm
When Pakistanis start looking after Pakistan's interest.