WE have all read accounts of, or watched movies about fugitives brought to justice from far-off corners of the world. Historically, these happen to be persons wanted for war crimes, genocide, or both. The protagonists are usually secret agents of the wronged country/nation, determined to bring the evil doers to justice even if they happen to be octogenarians. Since these operations are beyond the pale of international law and are not governed by any extradition treaty between the countries concerned, they are undertaken in a classic cloak-and-dagger style: the mission and the ‘missionaries’ remain unnamed, till Hollywood decides to tell the tale, that is. How international relations are conducted is changing. We shall return to it, but a digression first.
You have heard of Tando Adam, Tando Jam, and many other places named Tando. Among vernacular words where etymology stumbles, ‘tando’ stands out. The consensus on its closest meaning is ‘outpost’. One can only resort to conjecture that when these settlements first came up, they may have been considered outposts of stronger and somewhat distant centres of power.
In large metropolises around the world, names like Little Columbia or Bangladesh and Chinatown are commonplace. These names come about as the immigrants try to hang on to some part of their erstwhile identity, or the natives — usually earlier migrants — bestow these names to ghettoise the new arrivals.
A federal court in New York has convicted three men, one a retired New York police officer and two men of Chinese descent from the Big Apple on charges of abetting the Chinese government’s efforts to rein in the diaspora. The prosecution believes China is maintaining around 100 outposts, sort of overseas police stations, across the US, UK, Belgium, France, etc. True or not, one wonders: here we are unable to maintain police stations on our ‘mainland’, while pop-up ‘Tando China’ has supposedly become a global chain.
Governing our very own Tando towns has become taxing.
Not a day passes without someone reminding us that the Chinese are taking over the entire globe. Looking at our increasing dependence and the ignominious liability we have become for our friends, many amongst us desire a Hong Kong-type arrangement; only this time, the leaseholder and the lessee share a land border. No ‘hostile enemy corridor’ between the mainland and Tando.
Returning to how the conduct of international relations is changing and the ways in which political, economic and military power is projected, take the Chinese case for instance: the effort to rein in the dissenters among the diaspora and bring back the accused to stand trial is no hush-hush affair. It has a name. It is called ‘Operation Fox Hunt’. It could have been a title thought up by the US Department of Justice to add drama to a plot already thick with intrigue and conspiracy, but for the Chinese dailies who have been reporting about the operation, complete with pictures of hundreds of persons the People’s Republic wants brought back to and tried in China. The man whose harassment purportedly at the behest of the Chinese government led to the convictions by the New York court is on that list on charges of embezzlement that carry severe sentences, including the death penalty.
According to a US government release, the Chinese also had an international red notice issued against the man through Interpol in 2015. The two countries, however, do not have an extradition treaty. A federal US court will determine the punishment, ranging from 10 to 25 years’ imprisonment, for the three men convicted for conspiracy, interstate stalking, surveillance, harassment, and working as agents of a foreign government without intimating the attorney general. The former New York police officer pleaded that he undertook the assignment as a private investigator, not knowing the Chinese government’s connection to the case. The prosecution claims that Chinese officials have been flown in to supervise the day-to-day proceedings of these purported Chinese police outposts.
We also have ‘persons of interest’ living in exile, and, from time to time, hear noises about bringing them back to stand trial in courts of law. However, despite having an extensive network of extradition treaties, we have mismanaged our affairs at home so badly that governing our very own Tando towns has become taxing. In the race for global projection between China and the US, the former has a lead of a couple of thousand years while the latter is at best a newbie. We, too, have a heritage dating back some 7,000 years; the question is whether we own it to join a marathon of eons to survive and thrive, or mark 712AD as our year of birth, or even a much later date and descend even further from vassal status to serfdom?
The writer is a poet. His latest publication is a collection of satire essays titled Rindana.
Published in Dawn, July 10th, 2023