Tuesday, March 4, 2008


Muhammad Mahtab Bashir

First it was US Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Hussien Obama who threatened attacks on Pakistan’s Tribal Areas against alleged Al-Qaeda bases, which incensed the people of Pakistan. Now Republican presidential hopeful a Colorado Congressman, Tom Tancredo has come out with a bigger bomb shell that the best way he could think of to deter a terrorist nuclear attack on the US was to bomb Makkah and Madina, the Muslims holiest spiritual places, even more revered than the Vatican for Catholics. He said a terrorist attack on America was “imminent”. Both statements are not only irresponsible but provocative that exhibit their apparent ignorance about international politics and global diplomacy. Such narrow-minded demagoguery is no way befits presidential candidates neither helps in maintaining the peace in anywhere on this planet. Both statements made by presidents-to-be not only illustrate US policy of ruining the sovereignty of Muslim states as well as of Pakistan. This also helps ending the debate here that democrats are pro-government in Pakistan or republicans.

Pakistan’s Foreign Office spokesperson has rightly disposed the threat of US Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Hussien Obama that if he were to win the election he would order military strikes on terrorist sanctuaries in Pakistan's territory unless President Musharraf took care of them, as views of "individual politician".

The opposition and treasury members in the National Assembly, infuriated by the impish statement of the US Republican presidential hopeful, staged here a strong protest with one voice and decided to hold debate in the House on Monday on the five-points including the country's foreign policy.

The Opposition and treasury benches in the National Assembly (NA) Friday (3rd Aug) staged a strong protest against Tancredo’s remarks and criticized the recent wave of criticism being leveled against Pakistan from several quarters in the US. It was a matter of “grave concern that US presidential candidates are using unethical and immoral tactics against Islam and Pakistan to win their election,” said Federal Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Sher Afgan. Other top officials have also condemned these careless remarks. The US State Department denounced Tancredo’s suggestion, saying the idea is “absolutely crazy”. President Bush telephoned President Musharraf and assured him that the US fully respected Pakistan’s sovereignty. Obama’s rival for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, Hillary Clinton, said that Obama’s comments were careless and unpresidential.

One does not know where the Colorado Congressman got his information from, but no American intelligence agency has given an indication of a threat of this sort being “imminent”. And even in Britain, where the intelligence agencies periodically discover a terror plot involving, mostly, Britons of Pakistani origin, no one has come up with such a preposterous claim. When Muslim groups in America protested against the Tancredo balderdash, his campaign manager said that Congressman Tancredo stood by his statement. This is not the first time that Mr Tancredo has made such a threat. Two years back, in 2005 in a radio talk, he called for striking at the Islamic holy sites.

As a man, Tom has always been articulate in expressing his hatred of Islam and immigrants - no surprise there. In his arrogance, he chooses to disregard the existence of millions of law-abiding Muslim American citizens. What is surprising is that as an elected representative, someone who should be working towards collective safety, Tancredo chooses to throw more fuel on the fire with his hateful words. He is surely irresponsible with his congressional authority and is knowingly creating a more dangerous environment for all of the Muslims around the world. Tancredo should focus more on building bridges with the progressives in the Muslim world rather than burning the few bridges we have left.

These statements from the Presidential hopefuls have swelled the infuriation of the Pakistani nation as these are highly provocative and clouts of mental insolvency and totally devoid of ground realities. Makkah and Madina are the spiritual centers of over one billion Muslims while the people of Pakistan hold the two sites in high reverence and dearer than their lives.
Statements being made by people like Tom and Obama should be a source of serious concern for governments and people around the globe and particularly for the Muslim community as to what will happen if any of them is elected as President of the sole superpower. This world would be more dangerous place to live on for Muslims in particular.

The words by both senators undermine the war on terror, add to America’s enemies and vindicate the extremists’ hate philosophy that expose America as Islam’s enemy number one. The extremists in the Muslim world are guided by America’s support to Israel’s killing of the Palestinian people, its tacit approval of Israel’s usurpation of Jerusalem, its invasion of Iraq without a valid reason, and its occupation of that country resulting in the death of civilians whose number ranges between 200,000 and 600,000. Nearer home, thousands of civilians have been killed in Afghanistan as part of collateral damage and there is no sign yet that the Taliban are on the retreat.

The assertion of congressmen, Obama and Tom would have a serious repercussion in the Muslim world as it reflects the emerging mindset in Washington and is taken very seriously. It is high time that the OIC Countries should start serious thinking and devise a collective strategy to face the future confrontation.

Nobody in the Bush administration or outside seems prepared to take into account the fact that 800 Pakistani soldiers have been killed in the fight against the terrorists, in addition to hundreds of civilian casualties in a series of suicide bombings by religious fanatics. Instead, while some grudging praise is doled out, what Islamabad gets mostly is an order to “do more”. This speaks of the general Musharruf’s regime failure: it has been fighting terror since 9/11 with all the power at its command, suffering casualties and facing intense domestic criticism from both right and left. Yet it has failed to convince America that it is doing all it could possibly do to root out terrorism. Perhaps it’s a time for a change of regime?

The problem in Pakistan is that all foreign policy issues are hostage to US policies. While it is true that the make-up of a regime determines its world view and shapes its foreign policy outlook, there are broad contours of that policy on which there must be a national consensus. Yet in Pakistan, the opposition plays politics with even sensitive issues like nuclear policy or the ongoing alliance with the US. While the government itself has failed to carry the opposition along, the opposition has not come up to the broad approach expected of it in the realm of foreign policy. What is in the state’s interest cannot be sacrificed at the altar of partisan politics. But one thing is for certain, Washington never accepted the foreign policies of Pakistan and keeps on overruling it. Though the US state department has already come out and condemned the statement, calling it “reprehensible” and “absolutely crazy”, it needs to be understood that Tancredo represents the views of many ordinary Americans, who perhaps out of ignorance or hate, or a mixture of both, have such strong views against another religion.

The US and especially US politicians are no way near to discriminate the difference that “War on terror” is against terrorists not against any sole religion. Why then Islam is being targeted? If a Christian, Hindu or Jewish terrorist group hits the US, would the US launch a crusade against Christianity, Hinduism or Judaism? If not, then why single out Islam? Muslims will inevitably perceive these statements as anti-Islam and there is a great chance that now, more than ever, al Qaeda and other Muslim terrorist organizations will hit the US. Majority of Muslims may sabotage the peace around the globe not at all because they are radical force but in reaction of these assertions.

The author is a freelance columnist and political analyst from Islamabad
Published in daily The Post, Weekly Independent, August 13-19, 2007

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1 comment:

momina71 said...

this is pure breach of intellectual property,i ve full rights 2 this slogan, i coined whileprotesting american war on afghanistan in rawalpindi many years ago.i demand that u show my name afterit,as a meansof showing respect to original creator.