Do more or do different?

Published: December 6, 2017
The writer is a professor at the Lonestar College in Houston and also a PhD candidate at the University of Houston

The writer is a professor at the Lonestar College in Houston and also a PhD candidate at the University of Houston

At the Pakistan-US Track II meeting held on November 6th, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, Khawaja Asif, had expressed his frustration about the trust deficit between the two countries. The US Ambassador, David Hale, speaking at the inaugural session of the dialogue, said, “We seek a sustained and irreversible effort to achieve an aspiration and commitment made public by Pakistani officials: an end to the use of Pakistan’s soil for attacks on its neighbours.” The word ‘neighbour’ was tricky and undiplomatic on the part of the Americans.

Then came the reconciled text of the House and Senate versions of the 2018 National Defense Authorisation Act, the bill meant to finance the US armed forces. The reconciled version makes $350m of the $700m available to Pakistan under the Coalition Support Fund contingent upon the defence secretary’s certification that Pakistan is taking demonstrable actions against the Haqqani Network and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). The condition was introduced by the Senate.

The Pentagon recently pressured the US Congress to drop a provision linking financial aid to Pakistan to fight against LeT. This indicates that there is an understanding of the sensitivity attached to asking Pakistan to fight against a religious group whose main objective is to liberate Muslims in Indian-occupied Kashmir and has allegedly attacked India in 2001 and 2008. The US department of defence basically prevailed upon the Democratic and Republican aides in the House Armed Services Committee that asking Pakistan to fight against the enemy of its enemy was not pragmatic.

A review board made up of the judges of the Lahore High Court refused to extend the detention of Jamaatud Dawa’s (JuD) chief, Hafiz Mohammad Saeed. The Indians are unsurprisingly outraged. The White House has termed his release a “step in the wrong direction,” which makes sense since Nikki Nimrata Haley wants India to do something to Pakistan (by having India ‘keep an eye on Pakistan’) not the other way around. So, yes the direction is wrong. The Americans now want the Pakistanis to re-arrest Saeed, who is also the leader of LeT.

Much has been said about the ‘do more’ mantra. It is basically the US policymakers’ wish list, which continues to refresh unabated with new wishes. In fact, the list now includes Indian wishes. Regardless of whether or not LeT is a group of nefarious individuals with sinister designs against India, the fact that the Americans are now pressuring the Pakistanis to fight against Indian enemies is quite astounding. Pakistan has officially denied having any links with the group. That is still a better stance than the CIA’s favourite ‘plausible deniability’ where it wouldn’t even acknowledge the existence of, say, the drone programme in Pakistan’s tribal areas. The ‘do more’ speaks volumes about the imperial mindset that likes thumping its ally-cum-punching bag state called the Land of the Pure.

The US is basically telling Pakistan to ‘do more’ in fighting the group that kills American soldiers in Afghanistan and ‘do more’ in fighting the enemies of India. It’s like asking the Americans to fight against the Mujahideen-e-Khalq of Iran or may be to fight against the so-called rebel group, which is fighting against the Russian-backed Assad in Syria. The rebel group is also called ‘moderate’ fighters, my guess is they probably smile before they kill. Anyway, it just reminds me of a Charsadda specific funny Pashto jibe thrown at people who demanded a lot. It went as Khudaya maa hom ubakhay aow Nisatta ke mei mor plar di hagha hom ubakhay. (Oh Allah forgive me and please also forgive my parents living in Nisatta, a town considered far away in the past.)

It is amazing to realise what words can do in impacting relations between individuals as well as states. Employing different words can alter the meaning in mind-boggling ways. Tariq Khosa in an article in a leading daily said that a ‘do better’ approach would “enhance trust and credibility” between Washington and Islamabad. Khosa also points out that a better use of words could lead to a more cooperative relationship. While I respect Khosa’s opinion, I must say ‘doing better’ won’t bring the desired results either.

The stated aim is dismantling terrorism. But the defacto aim does not seem to be dismantling terror but rather Goliath giving orders and David building the ark before the rain. And it will rain after Goliath leaves the empires’ graveyard.

I propose changing the words a little more if the aim really is ending terror. Let me label it the Steve Jobs approach. Jobs never wanted Apple to be the ‘Me Too’ company making the same products only better than others. He made Apple to focus on being ‘different’ rather than being ‘better’. So, let’s not ‘do more’ or ‘do better’. Let’s do it different. Let’s not kill innocent people, let’s not invade countries, let’s not participate in terror to borrow from Noam Chomsky, let’s not prop up dictatorships, let’s not support neoliberal policies for our selfish aims, let’s not earn hatred. Most importantly, let’s not do aggression, which is the true father of terrorism. Only then can we see an end to terrorism.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 6th, 2017.

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