Dr Weinstein is no CIA agent

Racist generalisations and unsubstantiated allegations is certainly the most shameless way to go about in this case.

Imran Khan August 26, 2011

By repeatedly declaring that there are no Punjabi Taliban, the chief minister of Punjab has basically refused to acknowledge the ethnicity of accomplished terrorists such as Qari Zafar and Usman Punjabi. Many interpreted that statement as, “only Pathans can be Taliban”. But the clarification came very quickly, as the chief minister asserted that ethnicities shouldn’t be labelled with terrorism — be it Pathan or Punjabi. Fair enough, but then that didn’t seem to be the case as Punjab’s minister, Rana Sanaullah commented on the abduction of Dr Warren Weinstein.

Mr Sanaullah has said that the kidnapping was perhaps a result of collusion between Mr Weinstein’s staff and the abductors. This may be a plausible theory, but to support it the minister doesn’t mention any links of the accused to terrorist outfits such as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi or the Sipah-e-Sahaba, instead he simply mentioned their domiciles, as being from Swabi, Charsadda and Fata, as if that were enough proof of culpability. Forget about the non-Pashtun guard, it was the ethnicity of the Pashtun staff that had to be suspected and highlighted, because it just makes good mathematical sense, since the minister would think that Pathan equals Taliban.

But this guilt by domicile wasn’t limited to Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. It also applies to an American passport in which case its holder is assumed to be a CIA agent. It was bewildering to hear the Punjab law minister equate Dr Weinstein with Raymond Davis, and also link it with the doctor’s refusal of an offer by the Punjab government to provide a police escort.

Dr Warren Weinstein, who headed the Pakistan Initiative for Strategic Development and Competitiveness (PISDAC) project, is a very well known figure within Pakistan’s aid and development community. Under the PISDAC project, Weinstein oversaw strategic interventions in the dairy, gems jewellery, marble and granite sectors in Pakistan, resulting in the establishment of companies such as Pakistan Stone Development Company (PASDEC), and the Pakistan Dairy Development Company. The project also provided technical assistance in modernising dairy as well as marble production and improving marketing in the gems and jewellery sectors. The overall impact of that intervention on Pakistan’s economy according to one reported, is estimated to be around $67 million.

The details of Dr Weinstein’s contribution to Pakistan’s economy, including PISDAC and other projects, are easily available on the internet. Given the current office that Mr Sanaullah occupies, and the importance of what he says to the press, Punjab’s law minister should perhaps encourage his staff to use Google to keep him updated on such a sensitive issue.

Another document that the good minister needs to be made aware of is the Pew Research Centre survey for 2010. According to this, the Taliban enjoy an approval of 22 per cent in Punjab, compared to seven per cent in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, six per cent in Balochistan, and five per cent in Sindh. These figures may make some sense especially if one considers that in the past, the chief minister of Punjab has publicly said that an olive branch should be offered to the Taliban.

Ingratitude goes against our national ethos, and we are showing exactly that by baselessly maligning the name of Dr Weinstein — a person who has dedicated seven years of his life to serving Pakistan. There are many other ways to justify the incompetence of Punjab’s security apparatus, but a mixture of racist generalisations and unsubstantiated allegations is certainly the most shameless way to go about it.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 27th, 2011.