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Zardari’s watershed US visit

Dr Syed Javed Hussain


The singular message president Zardari has given to the West in his semi official tour to the US is that Pakistan can’t fail in its war against terror. The visit that took place in the wake of Pakistan’s 9/11, as claimed by law minister Farooq Naik, that had destroyed Marriot hotel, could not have taken place at more opportune time. There are many a factor at the regional as well as global level that has made this visit highly timely. Even though Bush is in the last days of his office, yet Pakistan needed to take US administration into confidence regarding issues relating to Pakistan’s territorial integrity, economic stability, as well as institutional veracity of Pakistan army that could not remain silent witness to incursions into Pakistan come what may.


Political change that came after the removal of General Musharrif from the office of the president apparently did not register any significance in the US, which was obvious from the US army’s frequent incursions into Pakistan, thought it was only killing its erstwhile friends. During the 70’s, the time of cold war, the same Islamic extremists were fighting against the USSR, super power opposing the US. That time these Islamists, i.e. Al-Qaida, Taliban, Pushtoon, Hazaras, Tribals in Pakistan and foreign fighters in Afghanistan were friends of America. On their part, these brash Islamic fascists were fighting for Islamic Renaissance, the concept the US policy makers spent a lot of time, resources and energy to generate and sustain. Gen. Zia ul Haq, like Parveez Musharraf, proved quite useful for strangely different purposes: Zia for establishing a promoting extremist elements and outfits and Musharraf for eliminating then: both for the wrong reasons.Pakistan has slowly been dragged into a war that was never imagined at its western fronts, however, not only Pakistan now owns this war, it is obliged to win it at all costs paying dearly from its own coffers with the blood of its sons. Brothers in faith and citizenry stand eyeball to eyeball in northern areas and according to Ahmed Mukhtar, Federal Defense Minister, Pakistan army has already killed 950 militants. The number has crossed one thousand by now. No immediate let up in the fighting is expected.The NWFP governor last week claimed that suicide bombers were coming from the south (Punjab), whereas, in the plains the dominant perception is that all suicide bombers come down from the mountains mainly to revenge the killings of their brothers as well as for the glory Islam. They also blast bombs to punish Pakistan government for pursuing the so-called American agenda in the region. The president remained heavily engaged in the US and all of his engagements have hinted at the urgency of issues at home. He met with Robert Zoellick of the World Bank who assured of the bank’s continued support to Pakistan and said that a $1.337 billion World Bank funded programme was in the pipeline. The Bank assured of its support for development projects in Fata as well as for poverty reduction programmes.


Earlier Bush had said, “Pakistan is an ally, and I look forward to deepening our relationship. We’ll be discussing, of course, how to help spread prosperity. We want our friends around the world to be making a good living. We want there to be economic prosperity and we can work together, and of course we’ll be talking about security,” Zardai also met Ahmed Nijad of Iran to work out difficulties in the gas pipeline from Iran and other issues relating to trade and commerce between two brotherly countries.


The President also met with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that has produced results, which may well have a lasting impact on relations between the two neighbours. A joint press statement issued after their first handshake in New York covered a broad range of issues. The Indian Prime Minister pledged to resolve the water dispute with Pakistan in the spirit of the Indus Water Treaty. Mr Singh invited Pakistan’s water commissioner to visit India in October to inspect the controversial Baglihar Dam project over the Chenab River.


In his meeting with President Hamid Karzai, Mr Zardari expressed his government’s desire for building a new relationship with Afghanistan. ‘We intend to open a new chapter’ based on mutual respect and cooperation, he said. His meeting with British foreign secretary David Miliband in England, on the way to the US was also very fruitful. David Miliband expressed his government’s total commitment to Pakistan on fighting the twin menace of terrorism and extremism. Zardari’s all engagements were pragmatic and were oriented towards Pakistan’s best diplomatic exposure abroad as well as presenting Pakistan’s case in the best possible way with the gap of 14 years. A civilian president representing a civil set up at home was squeezing the best possible bargain from an ally in the war against terror whose fickle behaviour in the past had won it great many detractors at home.


The so-called Islamists and nationalists like Qazi Hussain Ahmed, Imran Khan and political strategists/opportunists like Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, Ch brothers, Mushid Hussain and host of their kind in the PML-Q having reservations over PPP led government’s relations with the US, have blown hot and cold since Zardari’s election to the office of the president. In case of Qazi Hussain Ahmed and his likes less said the better. They blaming the US for everything that is happening in Pakistan: Very convenient device to absolve oneself of one’s responsibility. Can Mr. Qazi explain what devil might have influenced him and his friends when they had supported Parveez Musharraf on 17th amendment against the wishes of the whole nation.


We need to maintain relation with the US at more popular level establishing extensive people to people contacts. We have always run into difficulties with the US state department. The projection of Ummah in the West as a community of extremists against everything Western has stereotyped the whole nation. The vested interest and anti Islam force in the West will continue to do so. We need to break free from the rut and rejecting the extremist outfits come out in our real colours to the people at large. The onus is on us, because as a nation it has become obligatory upon us to provide just leadership to the world. It will remain a distant dream until we modify our own attitude towards the West and don’t dispose it to hell jeeringly.


First, however, we need to wrench Islam away from the myopic, halfwit extremists who through their random murdering suicidal bomb blasts and other acts of omission and commission are doing more disservice to Islam than its enemies. In this perspective we need to understand what does he mean when our Prime Minister says that it is our fight that we are fighting against terror. We are not mercenaries of America killing our own people for nothing. It is a mega fight that has been going on since centuries. Since the days of Imran Ali when, in early days of Islam, he had to fight many a battle against Kharijites and defeat them. In many cases Kharijites fought to their last man in the fray and were all killed in the battlefield.


Their understanding of Islam was so narrow, restricted, myopic and jaundiced that Imam Ali used to say that they were more dangerous to Islam than its avowed enemies were. Kharijites used to fast all days and pray all nights sleeping very less. They used to wear very simples dresses and ate very simple food.


They, however, would wrongly declare anyone Kafir, who would commit even a small crime. They declared Imam Ali apostate and finally one of them dealt a fatal blow on the head of Imam Ali when he was leading the Morning Prayer in “Kufa” We in fact are faced with new-Kharijitism. New-kharijites are also having tainted vision of Islam. On the lines of Imam Ali we will have to fight our battle to the end until they are completely neutralized and the life, property and civil rights of common man in the lands of Islam are protected from their intransigence.—The writer is a noted columnist and analyst presently teaching at a foreign university.


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