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In search of common humanity


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I woke up this morning to the news that Admiral Mike Mullen, the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, had directly accused Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of supporting the insurgents who attacked the US Embassy in Kabul last week.

The New York Times called it “the most serious charge that the United States has leveled against Pakistan in the decade that America has been at war in Afghanistan.”

The geopolitics of such matters are analysed ad nauseum by Very Intelligent People in think tanks from Washington to Islamabad. The careerist participants in that debate are largely talking past each other, because each of them starts from the tendentious premise that the state that represents his or her society is the one that’s in the right. I don’t intend to contribute to that tedious and largely pointless conversation. I intend to do an end run around it, by reminding myself and anyone who might read this of our shared humanity.

Part of the problem is that both Pakistan and America are hyper-political cultures that, for historical and ideological reasons, both suffer from a damaging tendency to conflate the society with the state. Hence the unexamined terms “the United States” and “Pakistan” – the impoverished vocabulary of conventional journalism – in the quote above from the New York Times.

What is “the United States”? What is “Pakistan”? To what version of these notional entities do I, as an American, or you, as a Pakistani, owe allegiance? Am I, as an American, or you, as a Pakistani, required or entitled to make excuses for things “the United States” or “Pakistan” do that we know to be wrong? Are we required always to support and excuse “us” against “them,” as though societies were necessarily rivals, like football teams?

This sort of thing has gotten much worse, and the stakes much higher, in recent years, but in truth it’s nothing new.

Read the full article here.

Ethan Casey is the author of Alive and Well in Pakistan and Overtaken By Events: A Pakistan Road Trip. He can be reached at and

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

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (12) Closed

ZAFARS Sep 26, 2011 04:58pm
What a piece of analysis
faraz Sep 26, 2011 05:26pm
While the author talks about part of the problem, the bulk of the problem is US presense in Afghanistan. The day Americans leave Afghanistan, there will be peace in the whole region. Do we see that happening soon?
raika45 Sep 26, 2011 07:49pm
The question is this. Who will run Afghanistan? The taliban that stops the womenfolk from studying and earning a living?Can your pakistan government promise that when your friends take over?These females are also the product of Allah.Without them you males would have been born.Your attitude towards women is what makes the world see you muslims with distase. Can you promise the rights of the women before Pakistan backs the taliban?
Pakhtun Sep 26, 2011 10:20pm
@Faraz Indeed we saw so much peace in the 90's when US/Soviets left Afghanistan!!
Salotti Sep 26, 2011 10:22pm
That is a nice thought faraz, but do you seriously think that the terrorist will stop targeting Pakistan if the Americans leave Afghanistan. The terrorist cause murder and mayhem everyday in Pakistan. The main core of the terrorist reside in Pakistan.
sohail Sep 27, 2011 03:18am
absolute analysis no doubt about these mistakes carried out by respective countries.
zafars Sep 27, 2011 03:24am
i did not say waht a piece - i said what an inane piece - if u need to censor then delete the mail dont nisrepresent it.
Awais Khan Sep 27, 2011 11:02am
Both countries should find common ground and work out their differences.
mahmood Sep 27, 2011 01:58pm
So, pray tell us what is the solution out of this quandry for both countries?
Charagh Sep 27, 2011 03:40pm
This terrorism in Pakistan started only after arrival of America in region and after that Pakistan started policy of killing own citizens on USA's push. You should expect only birth of 'terrorists' from areas and families whose members & common citizens were killed by Pak Army and USA drones. It'll end only with USA's departure and after that Pakistan addresses this issue without violation of any human right.
padmanabhan,USA Oct 02, 2011 05:33am
Mr. Casey I am sorry at one level your's is a fatuous article as their are real consequences of supporting terrorists on the one side(both external and seeing the blood letting within Pakistan also internal). If you are saying at a human level you can relate to Pakistanis and vice versa, that is understandable and laudable. As no one, should drag nationality into human conduct.
zaeer Oct 11, 2011 12:14pm
Playing the blame game will not be beneficial for either of the countries. US should realize that it cannot win the war in Afghanistan arena alone, without the strong support of Pakistan, and Pakistan on the other is unable to survive economically, internationally without support of US. Then keeping the national interests in perspective why don’t they sit together and try to finish this problem once and for all.