DAWN - Opinion; June 10, 2003

Published June 10, 2003

When Musharraf meets Bush

By Shahid Javed Burki

ON June 24, Pakistan’s President General Pervez Musharraf will travel to the US presidential retreat at Camp David near Washington. There he will meet with President George W. Bush. This will be General Musharraf’s fourth visit to the United States, third since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. This is the second time he will be visiting Washington to meet the American president.

No doubt, at this time, the aides to the two presidents are busy preparing the briefing books they will read before they sit down to talk. More preparation will be done in Islamabad than in Washington since much more hangs on this meeting for Pakistan than for the United States. Pakistan comes high on Washington’s worry and wish list but not as high as some other concerns the U.S. president must deal with. Most important of these, of course, is the continuing war on terrorism.

From my way of looking at America’s evolving relations with Pakistan, this visit by General Musharraf is even more important than the one that followed 9/11. Then the rules of engagement were very clear. The American president had neatly divided the world into two parts. “Either you are with us or you are against us”, he told the international community as he laid out his country’s plan to fight international terrorism. Pakistan took no time at all to declare its full support for Washington. It withdrew its support from the Taliban regime and provided all manner of assistance to the United States in its war in Afghanistan. In return, Washington Americans agreed to help Pakistan to revive its economy.

A year and a half later, President Musharraf comes to Washington in a world that not only looks, but in fact is, very different from the two compartments in which it was placed by the American president in September 2001. The American mood, as we will discuss below, has been through some wide swings. Washington has won another war in another Muslim country. In the process it has alienated some of its European friends and created serious misgivings all around the globe about America’s real intentions. Is the Bush administration pursuing “Pax Americana” or is it building an American empire? This question is being asked in several serious policy circles. It is also the topic of a book that is being widely read and quoted in America. I will get back to this subject later in this series of articles.

This then is the environment in which General Musharraf travels to Washington. To draw the maximum advantage from this visit for his country he must come fully prepared with a good understanding of the way the American president works; the aspirations of the people who advise him; President Bush’s domestic agenda and how it is affected by international affairs; how America is looking at the various global hotspots; what is being actively debated in America’s policy circles on issues such as the country’s role in the world, in particular its relations with Europe; and its attitude towards nation-building, particularly in the Muslim world. I will begin by looking at the selection of the site for this Bush-Musharraf meeting and then go on to discuss these subjects.

The fact that President Musharraf has been invited to Camp David has its own significance. There is by now a well established hierarchy in the sites the US president chooses for his meetings with foreign leaders. At the top is his sprawling ranch at Crawford, Texas. That is where he met Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia many months ago to discuss the kingdom’s plan for the Middle East. More recently President Bush held discussions at his ranch with Junichiro Koizumi, Japan’s prime minister, to reflect on the problem created by the fast “nuclearization” of North Korea. Then comes the Camp David retreat in the mountains of Maryland. The White House is the third site, selected for those who are either on state visit or for whom the US president chooses to spare a few moments from his crowded agenda.

There are also less formal encounters when the American president drops in to exchange a few words with a visiting foreign dignitary who is meeting some other officials who have offices in the White House’s West Wing. He did that when Foreign Minister Mehmood Kasuri paid his first visit to Washington. President Bush went to the office of Condoleeza Rice who was in session with the Pakistani foreign minister and thanked him profusely for his country’s continuing support to America in the war against international terrorism.

To be invited for a dialogue in the relaxed environment that Camp David offers is a signal to the Pakistani president that he can expect an unhurried conversation on a variety of issues with the leader of the world’s sole superpower. What will the two presidents talk about? What should the Pakistani leader hope to gain from this visit - a better American understanding of the difficult political situation he faces at home, greater American assistance for the Pakistani economy that has begun to revive, more sensitive treatment of the people of Pakistani origin living and working in America, a fuller appreciation of the turmoil in the Muslim world? Perhaps all of the above and a good deal more if there is time available to navigate some other troubled waters.

A foreign leader, in particular the one who leads Pakistan, must inform himself fully about what his American host thinks before he sits down to talk with him. Pakistan has been touched by America almost throughout its life as an independent country. That touch sometimes took the form of holding of hands, as Pakistan attempted to build its economy and its military in the years immediately after the country’s birth in 1947. Sometimes, the touch became a push as the Americans prodded Pakistan’s leaders to take an openly hostile stand against communism - communism of both the Asian and European varieties.

Sometimes the touch became a tight embrace as Washington and Islamabad, like two tango dancers, intertwined their efforts to expel Soviet troops from Afghanistan. And sometimes the American touch was accompanied by a scowl and a scold as was the case when Pakistan tested a number of nuclear devices. Washington was also not pleased when Islamabad supported the birth of a regime in Afghanistan made up of Islamic zealots who were as ignorant of the world at large as they were of their own religion.

A foreign leader hoping for a serious dialogue with the American president must also take stock of the mood of the country he is visiting. What is America’s mood on the eve of General Pervez Musharraf’s fourth visit to the United States? In what way has this mood influenced the thinking of George W. Bush and how would this thinking affect America’s relations with Pakistan? Even an insular American president, isolated by a small coterie of powerful advisers who choreograph every action he takes and write with care every word he speaks, cannot be totally isolated by what the populace thinks.

The Americans today are more confused than they have been for many years. Since September 11, 2001, when 19 young men from the Arab world rammed two jetliners into the World Trade Centre in New York and a third one into the Pentagon near Washington, the Americans have experienced several mood changes. Each mood change ended with the asking of a new set of questions.

After 9/11 the mood was that of extreme anger. The question then asked was “why do they hate us so much?” “They” in that question were never fully defined. Were “they” the enemies of America because they hated that country’s values, its culture and its economic dominance? Or were they aiming their wrath at America because of the conviction that that country was launching a new crusade against Islam? Or, again, did they hate America because of its support for Israel, a country they viewed as an occupier and colonizer of a precious piece of Arab and Muslim land?

These and many related questions were asked. Before they could be answered, America had launched and concluded a quick conquest of Afghanistan. The hated Taliban regime was gone and Al Qaeda and its leadership were on the run. America’s post-9/11 anger changed into a mood of triumph. Yes, the suicide bombers who staged the attacks on September 11 had shown America to be vulnerable but America in its response had demonstrated that it had the will and the military strength to draw, in copious quantities, the enemies’ blood. America’s army quickly eliminated the bases from which the terrorists had received training as well as financial and logistical support.

Were the blows delivered to the terrorist bases so severe that America could now relax its guard and begin to concentrate its attention on homeland security? Or were there other bases from which foreign terrorists could hit America and its strategic interests? Could Iraq be the front from which terrorists could operate and, armed with weapons of mass destruction, hit America with even greater force?

Some serious questioning took place as America continued to build its case against Iraq. Saddam Hussein’s regime was accused of continuing to build weapons of mass destruction and to provide support to Al Qaeda. This questioning ceased once the attack on Iraq began. As the Americans always do, they rallied behind their president and behind their armed forces once there was a formal declaration of war. But the war’s end followed by a spat of suicide bombings — this time aimed at the countries of the Muslim world traditionally aligned with the United States — brought back doubts and questioning about the direction America was taking.

Things were also going wrong - according to some analysts, terribly wrong - with the American nation-building efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq. And, also troubling was the fact that the transatlantic rift between America and “Old Europe” - so designated by Donald Rumsfeld, the US Secretary of Defence - showed no sign of being closed.

This mood was summed up by Thomas L. Friedman in a column written on the eve of the G-8 summit held in Evian, France. “As President Bush meets other world leaders this weekend, and tries to patch things up between America and the rest of the planet, I find myself looking back and asking what’s been going on here? After 9/11 people wondered, ‘why do they hate us?’ speaking of the Muslim world. After the Iraq war debate, the question has grown into ‘why does everybody else hate us?’”

Friedman’s tentative answer is drawn from a posting on a website according to which there is “sullen anger out in the world at America. Because people realize they are not going to get a vote over American power, they cannot do anything about it, but they will be affected by it. Fending a stable way to manage this situation will be critical to managing America’s relations with the rest of the world.”


Okara: military’s poor case

By Farhatullah Babar

AT A press conference on Saturday in Islamabad the Director- General of the Remount Veterinary and Farms Corps (RVFC) tried to explain the military’s position on Okara farms but in doing so only exposed wide holes in the army’s case.

The DG claimed that the land was “handed over to the army for defence use” in 1913 but refrained from clearly stating that the land was actually leased to the military for 20 years only. It is the property of the Punjab government and was never handed over permanently to the military. The lease period has since expired but the land continues to be occupied by the military.

The military has been making bids in the past to have the land permanently transferred to it but failed. Its strongest bid came during General Musharraf’s military government when the federal defence secretary, a retired general, wrote on February 1, 2000, a letter to the Punjab governor, another retired general, pleading the transfer of land to the military. “The land being the property of the Punjab government provides an occasion for interference by the revenue authorities and litigation by tenants”, the letter said and went on to ask “necessary instructions be issued for permanent transfer of land free of cost in favour of the ministry of defence”.

The Punjab Board of Revenue wrote back, informing the secretary defence that permanent transfer of land would be against the laid down policy and therefore was not possible. According to this policy, the Punjab Board of Revenue reminded the federal defence secretary, that “in case where the land required to be transferred is in occupation of the provincial government, the amount payable by the central government will ordinarily be the market value of the land and buildings”. The letter further said, “The existing policy framework, it will be appreciated, does not favour acceding to the request stated in your communication”.

How can one accept the position, which the military seems to have taken, that the land leased in 1913 for 20 years had been transferred to it permanently? The DG, RVFC, also said that the military had undertaken development projects for the residents’ welfare and the tenants had now recognized the benefits of the contract system. It was only a handful of ‘miscreants’ who were misguiding them and telling them not to accept the contract system and to insist on proprietary rights.

“The lessees were being empowered in the implementation of the development projects in their communities,” he said least concerned about the fact that tenants wanted proprietary rights and not development works just as the military government was least concerned that the people of Pakistan want restoration of the Constitution and not merely the local bodies.

“The uplift schemes will help improve the standard of living of the lessees”, he said. Sounds like saying that the local government development works will improve the lot of the common man, so forget about the niceties of the Constitution, the president in uniform and the LFO.

The casualties among the tenants were dismissed with contempt. “Only four people had lost their lives and not 17 or 18 as was misreported in the press”, as though four unexplained deaths of tenants was of no consequence. There was not a word about the post-mortem reports on those killed, the inquiries held and any follow-up action. Why this fuss about only four deaths who after all died in the line of duty to provide fodder for the ponies and milk and butter to the humans?

And why did the farm management switch over from the lease system to the sharecropping system? There was a ready answer to that question: “The net profit from the farm income had reduced from 41 to 16 million rupees per annum due to lesser share, lack of interest, lower productivity and malpractices. Trees worth about 20 million rupees have been cut and sold illicitly by the lessees”. So it was decided to introduce the lease system to increase the profitability, the general said.

The logic thus advanced is that the military’s profitability must be increased even if it required dispossessing the tenants, barricading their villages and even shooting them to death. The military has made its other industrial ventures profitable by obtaining massive tax concessions. If profitability of farms cannot be enhanced through similar tax concessions, there is another way to go about it: dispossess the tenants.

The tenants insist that the neither they nor the sharecropping system is responsible for the decreasing profitability of the farms. And the Auditor-General of Pakistan agrees with them.

The special audit report (1999-2000) on land management of Okara military farms by the Auditor-General has identified nine cases of mismanagement (read corruption) involving Rs 236 million and recommended investigation in each case to fix responsibility for the losses and disciplinary action. But nothing happened.

In the preface to this report the Auditor-General of Pakistan Manzur Hussain, has lamented: “The findings and recommendations contained in this special report were communicated to the Principal Accounting Officer in May 2001. Neither any reply has been received nor he DAC meeting could be held by the Defence Division within the prescribed time schedule”.

If investigations had been held as asked in the AG’s report, it would have become known as to who had illegally cut and sold trees worth Rs 20 million — the tenants or the management?.

The DG also spoke about how in February 2001 the Lahore High Court rejected the tenants’ petition challenging the contract system. He read out what he said was the operative part of the judgment: “the petitioners are the lessees of the land and the period of their lease has since run over”. He chose to ignore the most important operative reality, namely that in case of lease on a crop-sharing basis, even when the lease period expires no tenant can be ejected. The court has not ruled that the tenants could be ejected only because their lease period had expired. The tenants refuse to accept the contract system as it vests in the management the right to eject them. That is the core issue.

Cliches like ‘terrorism’ and ‘miscreants’ is the last refuge of the wielders of brute force and state authority. The DG, RVFC, said that ‘miscreants’ had injected the fear of eviction into the minds of the lessees to ‘terrorize’ them. He wanted the tenants not to heed these miscreants and should not feel terrorized.

How can the tenants not feel terrorized when a whole nation feels terrorized by the hijacking of the civil institutions despite solemn oaths taken to preserve, protect and defend those very institutions? Who believes in mere promises when solemn oaths are broken with impunity?

The writer is a member of the Senate.

Dangerous times

By Omar Kureishi

PAKISTAN has tried every form of government except monarchy though some of the leaders would not have turned down a crown had it been offered to them. We have had governor-generals, presidents, prime ministers, chief martial law administrators.

We have had constituent assemblies, national assemblies, majlis-i-shooras. We have had caretaker governments, interim governments, partyless elections, free and fair elections, rigged elections. For 55 years we have searched for that “genius of the people” that will allow us to breathe free and devise a political mechanism that will accommodate divergent aspirations within the framework of a broader consensus. We are no nearer it.

Once I had ceased to be a working journalist, I became a distant observer of national politics, more or less detached and rarely, if ever, felt qualified to offer any opinion beyond the observation that it matters two hoots to the majority of the people who holds sway in Islamabad or in the provincial capitals because what is done or not done does not impact on their lives. Yet, when all is said done, there are millions of people in other countries who are far worse off than we are.

This may be of little relevance and provide no consolation to those who have to bend their backs to make ends meet and still not succeed, I have maintained an interest in Africa ever since I first went to East Africa way back in 1956. The British were there in their imperial savagery. I saw a level of poverty that was repulsive even to a trained eye such as mine.

Yet it was an immensely rich continent. Freedom from their colonial masters brought even more misery as country after country plunged into civil wars. Millions have died while famine and disease have done their share of killing and the terrible tragedy continues to unfold. We, at least, have been spared that fate. There is much in this country that sends me spinning into despair but I count my blessings like the little boy who cried when he had no shoes but stopped crying when he found another boy who had no feet.

I have sometimes believed that we are our worst enemies. But we have also been helped by our friends. A US embassy official in Islamabad has called Pakistan “the epicentre of terrorism.” The Christian Science Monitor quotes Michael Evanoff, the Regional Security Officer as telling the newspaper that “this is now the epicentre of terrorism. It really is. This is the only country I know in the world that has so many groups that are against the US or Western ideas.” If he has been misquoted or quoted out of context, let him take it up with the newspaper.

I have a pretty good idea of what epicentre means. But to be on the safe side, I looked it up. It is the point where an earthquake reaches earth’s surface. In layman’s terms, it is, I suppose the point from where all the action starts. This remark seems to be at odds with what his boss (George Bush Jr.) believes. George Bush Jr. has said many times that he considers Pakistan to be a trusted ally in the war on terror.

As for groups or individuals being against US or Western ideas, this does not make them terrorists. There are a lot people who are critical of the buccaneering foreign policy of the US in the Middle East, not because they are anti-Americans but because they are America’s well-wishers. They do not want that country to be trapped in a quagmire, without an exit-strategy and without destabilizing the entire region. Sometimes, friends need to be protected from themselves.

I am not sure whether a mood of a country can be gauged from within the confines of an embassy that has been turned into a fortress and social inter-action is at a minimum. It leads to a siege-mentality. No one disputes that the threat of terrorism is real and the Americans are particularly vulnerable. This does not mean that the national mood in Pakistan is anti-American.

Pakistan itself is a victim of terrorism. But Pakistanis are entitled to their sense of outrage when they learn that their expatriates and those visiting the United States are subject to humiliation and worse, that they are viewed with the darkest suspicion and their lives, in the land of the free and the home of the brave, have been transformed and their names have been put on a watch-list.

One accepts that 9/11 was a traumatic event and Homeland Security and the Patriot Act were a natural response in the aftermath. But there is always the danger of an abuse of power when it is exercised by ‘little minds’ who see their empowerment as a licence to ride rough-shod over the justice system. America needs to safeguard its dearest possession which is its democracy and more than anything else, what is on trial is the tensile strength of this democracy, the ability of a stretched rubber band to snap back.

The war on terror is less military and more ideological. The military battle will be won hands down, as was demonstrated in Iraq, admittedly a third rate military power, but a more meaningful battle lies ahead. The outcome of this battle is far from assured. It does not help when the intelligence available is based on flawed assumption, be it the remarks of a US embassy official or the more meaty existence of weapons of mass destruction which are yet to be traced.

A start has to be made by drawing a clear distinction between a quarrel with a policy and quarrel with the country itself. If the United States is concerned about anti-Americanism, it should undertake a dispassionate study of it and not be influenced by lobbyists who have an agenda of their own Pakistan, on its part, must remain vigilant, as the region continues to remain volatile. The need is for a stable environment.Sooner or later, we will have to start addressing the basic want-list of the people and who must not be fobbed off with hollow slogans. As it was once said, the hungry only dream of bread. It still holds good.

The world once lived in interesting times. It may still do so but the times have become extremely dangerous. The control-system that regulates human behaviour is malfunctioning and the repair- man, apparently, is out to lunch.

No exceptions to rights

“IN all criminal prosecutions,” reads the Sixth Amendment to the American Constitution, “the accused shall enjoy the right ... to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favour.” All criminal prosecutions, according to the Justice Department, except that of Zacarias Moussaoui, who is on trial for conspiracy in connection with the Sept. 11 plot.

Mr Moussaoui, the government argued last week before the US Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, can be tried, convicted and put to death without being able to take testimony that might help his defence from a man whom the military is interrogating abroad and refuses to produce.

The latest wrinkle in the Moussaoui saga presents an extremely dangerous dilemma for both the executive branch and the courts, one that pits national security against constitutional rights. The appeals court must not create an exception to the right to call witnesses in deference to the war on terrorism.

Mr Moussaoui’s trial was supposed to showcase the ability of the American justice system to handle terrorism cases, but it hasn’t. The defendant jettisoned his lawyers in order to represent himself — and he has made a circus out of the proceedings. Then the government captured Ramzi Binalshibh, who it alleges helped orchestrate the plot, and has been interrogating him at an undisclosed location abroad.—The Washington Post

A question of priorities and perceptions

By Amin M. Lakhani

I HAVE monitored with great interest the million-man march organized by the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal(MMA) to protest against the US-led intervention in Iraq. In free societies such activities are a legitimate tool to inform and educate the people and influence governments to modify their policies.

Therefore, lawful protests contribute to strengthening democracy and I compliment the MMA for its efforts. However, the MMA’s discrimination in the choice of countries targeted for protest and the absence of protests under similar circumstances in the past has raised questions about its ‘fundamental principles’ (bunyaadi usool). First, why were the protests targeted solely against the US and UK when a number of Muslim countries actively supported and facilitated the intervention?

The Muslim kingdom of Kuwait was the royal door (Shahi Darwaza) through which the coalition troops entered Iraq. The entire northern desert of Kuwait was handed over to the coalition forces where the troops assembled, trained and subsequently invaded Iraq. With Turkey’s refusal to allow a northern front, an entry into Iraq without Kuwaiti participation could not have occurred. At least not on the same scale, and with the same speed and perhaps success. If Kuwait was the door to the invasion, another Muslim kingdom, Qatar, which hosted the Central Command, was its nerve centre. The role of other neighbouring Muslim countries was as follows.

Bahrain was the Persian Gulf headquarters of the US navy operations. Egypt allowed use of airspace and permitted U.S. navy transit through the Suez Canal. Jordan allowed the use of airspace, hosted Patriot missiles and permitted territory to be used for incursions into Iraq by US special forces. The UAE and Oman allowed the use of airbases. Saudi Arabia allowed the use of Prince Sultan Air Base, Arar airport and its territory for incursions into Iraq by special forces. Turkey allowed the use of airspace and subsequently allowed the transit of food and medical supplies but denied the use of its territory for offensive purposes.

It is instructive to compare the roles of Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy having an Islamic government which was officially opposed to the war. The reality is that it allowed the use of the command and control centre at Prince Sultan Air Base to direct the war against Iraq. Despite denials by the Saudi foreign minister, its participation has been widely reported and acknowledged. For example, Dawn reported in an April 30 story, “At the peak of operations during the Iraq war, as many as 2,700 missions a day were handled by headquarters in Saudi Arabia”.

Turkey is a republic with a representative government and a secular constitution, but it disallowed any offensive action from its soil despite the ‘stick’ of US pressure and the ‘carrot’ of $30 billion in aid. The bottom line is that there was far greater inconsistency between words and deeds of an Islamic monarchy when compared to a secular democracy. Perhaps the lesson is that democracies allow the nourishment of internal strength to stand up for national interests, principles and people’s wishes.

Any organization, political or otherwise, must realize that intellectual and moral integrity and ethical behaviour are prerequisites to building credibility. This is even more important when a political party claims to be the defender and exponent of a great religion. So why did the MMA exempt the Muslim countries supporting the US-led invasion from condemnation? Did it not know or did it forget? Or is intellectual dishonesty necessary to exploit the emotions of the masses that this was a war against Islam? If it was, why were so many Muslim countries, including the venerable Custodian of the Holy Kaaba, supporting it?

The pressure to maintain a facade of unity reigns supreme at Islamic forums. This results in a preference for ignoring rather than facing important but difficult issues. At the Arab League meeting in Cairo prior to the war, the UAE’s proposal, supported by Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar, calling for Saddam’s resignation was barred even from discussion! The Organization of Islamic Conference also did not meet prior to the war lest the fissures within the mythical united Ummah came out in the open.

Why are Muslims obsessed with the notion of unity that they will even fabricate it when none exists? Why do Muslims fear open debate and dissent within their countries and among them? Why do Muslims fear dynamic, democratic, pluralistic societies? What is wrong with conducting open healthy debate and accepting dissent and pluralism at the political, economic, diplomatic, cultural, ethnic, linguistic and sectarian levels and yet be united by the core beliefs and message of Islam?

For example, the US and the nations of Europe are primarily Christian, white and embrace the western intellectual tradition. However, this did not prevent most of the governments and peoples of Europe from vigorously opposing the US-led invasion of Iraq. Their actions did not make them any less Christian, or make them guilty of repudiating the western tradition. In fact, tolerance and dissent are cherished values of their tradition. Why cannot Muslims show the same pluralism? Is one to conclude that Islamic thought does not offer any intellectual space for dissent and pluralism?

Secondly, why did the MMA, or its component parties, not conduct such high-profile marches during similar situations in the past? Saddam Hussein invaded Iran and imposed an eight-year war on a neighbouring Muslim country sacrificing one million Iraqi muslims and killing and wounding one million Iranians. Did the MMA or its component parties hold a million-man march to protest against the invasion and the horrific loss of Muslim life? Could it be because the Iranians were Shia and Saddam was doing the dirty work for all the Arab states which happened to be Sunni or Sunni-ruled? Why did the MMA and its component parties remain silent when Saddam’s forces gassed to death 5,000 Kurdish Muslims in Halajba in March 1986 using chemical weapons?

Is it because the Kurds are non-Arab? Why was the MMA silent when Saddam resorted to brutal suppression of the Shia uprising after the end of the first Gulf War? Did the MMA and its component parties hold demonstrations to protest against Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait? If it did, it would confirm the hypothesis that the MMA is only alarmed when Muslims of a particular ethnicity and sect are at risk. If it did not, why not?

Saddam’s policies and actions were responsible for more Muslim deaths than of any other leader in history. The MMA, by opposing action leading to his overthrow, has therefore supported the continued rule by the tyrant. The fact is that Saddam, his sons and his infrastructure of death, prisons, torture chambers, repression, surveillance, greed and lust constituted the biggest single Muslim-specific weapon of mass destruction.

His removal should have been greeted with a sense of relief and joy by the Ummah, who, by their silence and inaction, became passive accomplices of the reign of terror imposed on 24 million fellow Muslims. Saddam was also discriminating against and repressing Shias as an instrument of state policy. For example, only after his fall, were religious ceremonies in Karbala held freely and publicly for the first time since 1977.

Does the MMA believe in the freedom of religious practise for all Muslim sects? If it does, why was it silent for the past 25 years when a majority of the population of a key Muslim country was being denied such rights? The same question has to be addressed to the Arab League and the OIC.

The MMA needs to explain whether it rises to protect the entire Ummah or is partial to certain ethnic groups, sects, monarchies and nations. Hiding behind technicalities like the plea that the MMA did not exist when those events occurred is pointless. Clearly the component parties of the MMA have existed all along these events.

Thirdly, various leaders of the MMA have called for a jihad against the US and UK interests, starting with the boycott of their products. However, has the MMA evaluated the consequences for Pakistan if the US retaliates in kind. The US is the market for 20 per cent of Pakistan’s exports whereas American exports to Pakistan are less than one per cent of its exports. One does not kick an adversary to lose a leg just to scratch his toenail. One wonders who does the strategic thinking for the MMA. Has the Institute of Policy Studies thought through this idea?

One assumes the MMA boycott would also include higher education since it constitutes an export of US services. Therefore the thousands of Pakistani students in US colleges and universities would be asked to return home to teach the US a lesson! Alternatively, the US may itself decide on such a reprisal. After all why should the US sell its most coveted product, higher education, to a country that boycotts its physical products?

The purpose of this discussion is not to diminish or embarrass the MMA nor challenge its right to propagate its policies. The purpose is to request the MMA to spell out its legal, ethical and religious principles (bunyaadi usool) according to which it condemns and seeks reprisals against some countries but exempts other countries for similar actions. Consistency, fairness and ethical behaviour are expected of all responsible organizations. One expects an even higher standard of an organization claiming Islam as its foundation. Therefore I sincerely hope and pray that the MMA will respond through these columns.

The writer is a Pakistani-American who lives and works in Atlanta, Georgia, the US.

E-mail: amlakhani@aol.com



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