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Pakistan and Its Future: A Response to Wajiha Ahmed

By: on 21 Mar 2009

Wajiha Ahmed recently wrote a refreshing post on Pakistan on Sepia Mutiny.   Here are the two key points for me:

democracy is not an event, it is a process.

a structural reality: prolonged military rule (for more, read Ayesha Siddiqa’s Military Inc or Ayesha Jalal’s Democracy and Authoritarianism).

Facing up to Nandigram

By: on 25 Nov 2007

To anyone who has been following Indian news lately, there are, of course, many, many troubling issues when it comes to the disaster at Nandigram. West Bengal, the stronghold for the Communist Party of India (Marxist) for 30-odd years, is in a period of immense turmoil and violent protest, thanks to the CPM's conduct in Nandigram, the incredible levels of police and political corruption in the Rizwanur Rehman/Todi case, and, sadly, due to the furor over extending Taslima Nasreen's visa . I was in India for five weeks and the news was dominated by the Tehelka sting in Gujarat for the first bit and then by the CPM-backed murders, rapes and general mayhem in Nandigram for the second. Even the mainstream corporate media seemed truly appalled, and, between endless plugs for Om Shanti Om, managed to cover the escalating violence and insolent CPM response to any and all questioning with a surprising level of critical awareness. They even poked holes in the CPM's claim that even leftier "Maoists" were behind the violence and that the CPM thugs were only acting in self-defense. The one thing that most media fell short on was examining their own assumptions when describing the CPM. From newspapers, to the evening news, to those now-ubiquitous weekly red-and-white news magazines, the CPM was time and again described as "red", The Left, Communist etc. For the mainstream media to paint such a simplistic black-and-white or, ahem, red-and-white, picture, is to be expected. But when an open letter from Chomsky and "other intellectuals" was printed in The Hindu also continued to identify the CPM with "The Left" and therefore, somehow, as their ideological partners, things really started to seem hopeless.

Chomsky and other intellectuals on Nandigram displays the worst tendencies amongst Western, left-leaning academics. The fact that a group including the likes of Vijay Prashad and Tariq Ali – and Noam Chomsky himself – would author/sign on to such a piece of facile gloss on the Nandigram disaster betrays a good deal of arrogance and a certain degree of naiveté amonst these high-profile career intellectuals. “The balance of forces in the world is such that it would be impetuous to split the Left… This is not the time for division when the basis for division no longer appears to exist” says the open letter. Although what exactly this is supposed to mean is unclear, what is obvious is that Chomsky and co. seem convinced that they share with the CPM a larger, “Leftist,” ideology and therefore cannot betray the CPM by definitively condemning the party for its (widely publicized) atrocities in Nandigram. Why continue to employ labels that clearly do not apply, to a group that consistently embarrasses itself every time it attempts to justify its brutality?

State of Emergency: Washington's Role

By: on 4 Nov 2007

A state of emergency has been declared in Pakistan, with General Musharraf finally wearing his true hat, that of a Martial Law Administrator. This declaration puts the democracy movement back a long way.

But what kind of democracy movement is it anyway? The national opposition to Musharraf and military control is in fact opposition to the Pakistani Army’s actions against militants in the Northern Areas, which has led to the destruction of villages and thousands of civilian casualties, retaliation against government and military installations: a civil war by any other name. The opposition to these actions comes in two forms: political and civil society calls for the restoration of democracy and attacks on government installations.

It goes almost without saying that the conflict spreading through the Northern Areas is pushed ahead by the United States’ expectations of Pakistan’s role in the War on Terror. These expectations are not shared by most Pakistanis. Therein lies the problem.

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