Digging our own graves

Published: April 5, 2012
The writer is a columnist, a former major of the Pakistan Army and served as press secretary to Benazir Bhutto 

The writer is a columnist, a former major of the Pakistan Army and served as press secretary to Benazir Bhutto kamran.shafi@tribune.com.pk

As we Pakistanis heap more ridicule on the American action to place a bounty on Hafiz Saeed’s head, derisively pointing out to the world how he is living openly in known residences; attending rallies in the open; addressing announced press conferences, and how he is thumbing his nose at his adversaries, we lose sight of the fact that (most of) the world is not on the same page as us.

No matter what defence we trot out: there is no evidence that he is a terrorist, the Lahore High Court having given him a clean chit; he heads a charity, the Jamaatud Dawa (JuD), and not a militant group, the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT); that he has even asked the United Nations to strike the JuD off the terrorist organisations list, and so and so forth, we lose complete sight of the fact that the United States is a power that can exert its influence anywhere in the world.

The long and the short of it is that we might be misreading the situation on the ground; that our calculus — that because we have the Americans over a barrel, the supply of material to, and then the pullout of, Nato forces from Afghanistan — we can brazen this out. And worse, that the United States has acted unwisely and is now already backtracking, witness the State Department ‘clarification’ of the announcement. Amreeka Bahadur will do what Amreeka Bahadur wants, can we please see to it that our country and its poor hapless people are not harmed?

All of which be as it may, there is a Punjabi saying that I cannot quote verbatim, this being a family newspaper, which well explains the present situation. It goes something like this: Towards the end of day a hungry jackal came upon an elephant carcass, and finding an opening somewhere near the stomach decided to force his way into the carcass to feast on the dead animal unmolested by other, bigger animals. As evening turned to night the temperature fell, shrinking the carcass and restricting the opening. The jackal which had eaten greedily was now of a size that could not force his way out of the carcass and died, his hunger more than sated, later that night.

Now then, while no need to say which is the (dead) elephant, and which the jackal, have we not ramped up the ‘confrontation’ with the supplier of most of our sophisticated defence(?) equipment rather a lot? This question is particularly aimed at my friends in the Difa-e-Pakistan Council (DPC) of which Hafiz Saeed is a leading member. If, as just one example, America stops the supply of spare parts for our much-vaunted F-16s, the mainstay of our belligerent posture, what then? Whither the DPC and whither its violent rhetoric? Time to get real, friends, and to face the facts no matter how ugly and distasteful.

Which immediately brings me to the claim that the JuD is a charity. What? Do charities threaten people, in this case journalists, with death at a public meeting (DPC’s rally in Karachi)? Well, this is what Qari Sheikh Yaqoob of the JuD did adding that the ground in which the rally was being held would be turned into a ‘graveyard’ for journalists who did not properly cover the DPC’s activities. Note please that the Qari was shown saying this on camera as the rally was broadcast live! While one has to ask what a ‘charity’ is doing ‘defending’ Pakistan and using hate-filled rhetoric against what it perceives are Pakistan’s enemies, is it not time that the JuD and its leader Hafiz Saeed acknowledged the dire straits which they and their friends have put Pakistan in?

And now for a matter so painful to one who has travelled to Gilgit-Baltistan since 1972 when my late brother Momin, my cousin Farooq Hyat and I, trekked from just past Muzaffarabad to Kel along the Neelum River, and across the Shontur Pass into Gilgit Agency where we stayed at Rattu and Astor and Gilgit with the great Northern Scouts. Momin died in a mountaineering accident on Mount Paiju in Baltistan, and so I went to Skardu for the first time in 1974 to visit his grave near the airport.

Many are the times that I have gone to the area since, and it pains me to report that from the killings orchestrated during dictator Ziaul Haq’s time when the Shia village of Jalalabad, just outside Gilgit on the main road, was set upon by Sunni zealots. This is what I wrote about Gilgit on April 20, 2006, almost exactly five years ago, in the Daily Times: “Such was the level of readiness all across the city, with armed and helmeted patrols everywhere, that it made me feel I was somewhere else, not Gilgit where I had spent much gentle time, many a wonderful evening with gentlemen like Group Captain Shah Khan and the late and very dapper Hussain Wali Khan; and had pleasant lunches (always lunches!) with the late Mir Sahib of Nagar.

“What had happened to my Gilgit, I asked myself? And then it all came back. Nothing had happened to Gilgit, the tyrant Zia had happened to Pakistan! I recalled the deep religious and sectarian and tribal schisms engineered by Zia and his henchmen to divide the populace of Pakistan so that he could rule the country easier. Gilgit was not to be spared: I recalled too, the 1982 massacre of innocent Shias at the hands of imported and uncouth and cruel tribesmen, who machine-gunned the village of Jalalabad in 1988 to destruction: men, women, children, cattle, and all. It was said then that the slaughter in which upwards of 500 human beings lost their lives…. (I am a Sunni, incidentally, if it makes any difference.)”

And so on and on we go, digging our own graves; trying to box above our weight; and killing those who do not agree with us. In Twitterese #FAIL.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 6th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (51)

  • sidjeen
    Apr 5, 2012 - 11:37PM

    Dear Sir you speak like someone is listening unfortunately this is a country of deaf and blind people nough said.


  • @plarkin
    Apr 5, 2012 - 11:54PM

    If anyone claims religion to be on their side then the great Pakistani nation is blinded into acceptance if not tacit support. If we’re not capable of taking on religious terrorists then let’s allow the Americans to do the job for us. From the admirable drone strikes, to the taking out of OBL we have been rid of Islamic militants. Pakistan does not need this brand of religiosity. Let’s go back to a Pakistan that existed before the election of ZAB.


  • BlackJack
    Apr 5, 2012 - 11:58PM

    Have all the good people of Pakistan left that you are now appealing to the better sense of Hafiz Saeed and his comrades? What is needed is to ignore the Difa-e-Pakistan and to make them irrelevant to the population of Pakistan – not to put them on a pedestal. Instead the Pak Govt has increased Hafiz Saeed’s security (as if enough gun-toting criminals weren’t protecting him already) and taken up his case with the US so that he may continue his charitable endeavours in peace. We all know where this one-way road is headed.


  • Mohammad Safir.
    Apr 6, 2012 - 12:14AM

    He is better than american priests…


  • Babloo
    Apr 6, 2012 - 12:17AM

    Pakistan had last 4 years, to discreetly put an end to the terrorism business of Hafeez Saeed, without showing it was succumbing to Indian pressure. It could have just removed state protection and patronage offered to Mr Saeed and put his finances on scrutiny. However, it chose at best, to turn a blind eye on his actrivities. Now , USA too has declared him a public enemy of USA and the pressure is going to increase and reduce the space that Pak government now has to control him. Its a predicament that Pakistan has carved out of itself and will end up paying a steep price for the excuses it offers for Hafeez Saeed.


  • Parvez
    Apr 6, 2012 - 12:21AM

    So painfully true.


  • Maulana Tharra
    Apr 6, 2012 - 12:22AM

    Matter of perspective: Some see this a part of “Strategic Depth” and will continue to dig even deeper!
    Ask Hamid Gul, Ijazulhaq and Humayoon Akhtar Abdul Rehman; they struck gold during digging!Recommend

  • Noor
    Apr 6, 2012 - 12:27AM

    so true charity has nothing to do with hate, if the politicians are incapable let the military intervene without disturbing the democracry th


  • Abbas from the US
    Apr 6, 2012 - 12:28AM

    The ISI and the Army are playing with fire. They think they have effective control over LeT (call it by whatever name that you may want). The LeT much like Al Qaeda have their own survival at stake, and will prefer to instigate a war whether it comes from the Eastern front or the Western front, a short war that can bring an end to Pakistan’s prized air defence assets in a few skirmishes. Off course raising the level just short of the temperature required for a nuclear exchange.
    Sane Pakistanis need to think thru this before those in Rawalpindi who think they have effective control suddenly appear to have lost control.


  • KhanBaba
    Apr 6, 2012 - 12:31AM

    Preparations are being launched for a new kind of drone with the ability to hit zealots and hypocrites residing in Lahore.


  • Apr 6, 2012 - 12:34AM


    well said!

    we’re anti-shia, anti-ahmedi, anti-umrika, anti-india, anti-israel…


    we’re not pro anything substantive.


  • DB
    Apr 6, 2012 - 12:54AM

    His whole argument is that the US is powerful so we must bow down to it.
    Mr. Shafi also fails to mention the influence of the Iranian mullah revolution which increased extremism among Shias in Pakistan. It’s not all one sided.Recommend

  • Thinktank
    Apr 6, 2012 - 1:34AM

    KS’s logic is much better than of Ejaz Haider. KS atleast realises that DPC is wolf in sheep clothing.. Ejaz almost gave a clean chit to them.
    Did OBL leave any evidence that he was behind 9/11?? How could you expect goons like Hafiz to present you evidence on platter. Grow up people… take a dep breadth and smell Coffee. Salvage whatever is left of land of pure.. atleast your future children can use something from what you salvage…else they got nothing.. absolutely nothing.


  • B N Mohapatra
    Apr 6, 2012 - 1:44AM

    I applaud the truthfulness ,wisdom, sincerity and realistic attitudes of the author. But what I don’t agree is that there is no need to dig the gravesto look for the good people, when you have people like Kamran Safi. Please take their valuable advice rather than seeking solace from these extremist leaders. They are neither religious, nor scholars; they are wolf in sheep’s clothing and will destroy the very core of your values, which you adored for centuries.


  • Mj
    Apr 6, 2012 - 1:44AM

    I was wholly unaware of the massacre of shias that took place in what I used to think of as a relatively tranquil region. It is just another chapter in our history which we like to pretend never happened. I found this book excerpt which provides some background information of the hostilities. Skip to page 402 (pg.15 of the document) for the relevant part.


  • mr. righty rightist
    Apr 6, 2012 - 3:12AM

    Zia was a Hero back then. Today, when Pakistan is rotting, Zia is being called a villain, half heartedly by a few.

    Yahya and Bhutto were heroes back then. Today, some people who understand the truth, blame 1971 on the duo, while the rest of the country is still ignorant.

    Hafees Saeed and others are Heroes today….mmm…so, 30 years down the line, when Pakistan will be a small piece of a big country…what will your children and grand children say?!!!

    No matter what arguments and counter arguments one proposes, there cannot be a counter to the argument that Pakistan is one country, that never learns from its history.


  • gujranwala789
    Apr 6, 2012 - 3:35AM

    The writer seems to be teaching the lessons of cowardness, most of the pakistanis on the other hand prefer honorable death over a coward life.


  • Apr 6, 2012 - 7:58AM

    Common sense will never prevail as long as we continue to believe that USA depends on us because of our strategic location on this planet. The irony is that for survival we have forced our way into the Black hole of this elephant “USA.” No matter what we do, there is no way out especially in presence of an ever expanding Ghairat Brigade.” DPC has not helped us in any way and has established that extremism and terrorism will continue to grow in Pakistan unabated.Recommend

  • Altaf Hussain, Mumbai
    Apr 6, 2012 - 8:18AM

    OBL had no ‘solid evidence’ against him. Same is the case with Mullah Umar and Al-Zawahiri. Since spewing hate on video cannot stand as witness in a court of law, Pakistan should also stand by these men and call them innocent till proven guilty. Hafiz Saeed was head of Let earlier but he is no longer associated with it is an excuse only the dumb will buy. The land of pure seems to be having too many dumbs at this moment.


  • Harry Stone
    Apr 6, 2012 - 8:39AM


    What is difficult for PAK and its citizens to understand is that world does not care about you. That is not a negative but a reflection how the world operates. I dare say there are few in PAK who care about New Zealand. It is the same principle. The world would like for PAK to leave them alone. It seems that PAK is unable or unwilling to do so. PAK is viewed as the epic center of international Islamic terrorism.

    What PAK should be concerned with is what is taking place in your own nation. The government of PAK is not in control and PAK appears to be imploding. Because of this lack of control the world is concern. Look what happened in India and last month in France and what happens daily in Afg.


  • Dee Cee
    Apr 6, 2012 - 9:44AM

    @gujranwala789: At the height of the Taliban/US war in Afghanistan, the Shahi Imam of Delhi’s biggest mosque asked Indian Muslims to rise against atrocities committed against other Muslims. Shabana Azmi, you know who, famously responded by saying that if the Shahi Imam is so concerned, he should be airdropped to Kabul. That effectively shut him up. And you, Sir, if you prefer death to living, please go ahead and choose your calling. Don’t ask others to die for you. If you people live, they have the chance of getting back the honour. If they die, they die.


  • Feroz
    Apr 6, 2012 - 9:52AM

    Preaching to the blind and deaf Mr Shafi is a waste of energy. Please continue to do your job if it gives you the satisfaction. However knowing how violent the country and its people are I am sure your family must be having sleepless nights. Most Religions try to make people loving and peaceful, not sure which religion is being propagated in Pakistan.


  • Anjum Amin Siddiqui
    Apr 6, 2012 - 10:01AM

    The pro religion wants Hate America and the great liberals wants us to “fear America” and this is a big contrats. Till 1980s the liberals were hate America what a turn around.


  • Mirza
    Apr 6, 2012 - 10:09AM

    Dear author thanks for your continued Jihad against the terrorists and religious bigots. We should not provide any protection to these questionable characters.


  • AIN
    Apr 6, 2012 - 10:10AM

    @mr. righty rightist:
    Very true!!!


  • Naveed Ikram
    Apr 6, 2012 - 10:48AM

    My heart bleeds thinking what we have done to our people since Zia’s reign of terror and destruction. Parachinar is one more example.

    I have completely lost hope. Perhaps greater tragedy is that Zia’ indoctrination is defining the narrative in this country now. He has won. We have lost ability to tolerate, to analyze and have become apathetic towards human misery. This is what was Zia’s mission. Millions and millions of this country are out to complete this mission. Yes! I have lost hope. The collective dreams which so many shared once have all gone sour.


  • Truthbetold
    Apr 6, 2012 - 11:21AM


    “I was wholly unaware of the massacre of shias that took place in what I used to think of as a relatively tranquil region. It is just another chapter in our history which we like to pretend never happened. “

    If you google “Balwaristan” you will learn more about many massacres and human rights violations that have been taking place for many decades in Gilgit-Baltistan northern areas. Such news have been suppressed in Pakistan.


  • murad
    Apr 6, 2012 - 11:37AM

    if my memory allows me,when Mehran Bank issue was raised in supreme court the very same Mr Kamran was falling short of words to show his confidence,respect,honour for the honrable Supreme Court,now when it comes to Hafiz Sayed Mr Kamran is trying to tell us forget about the same court’s verdict and hand over Syed to USA.How biased these so called Guru’s and champions of Secularism are.Shame on you


  • Cynical
    Apr 6, 2012 - 12:40PM


    Keep the good work going.Thanks for an incisive piece.


  • Truth Teller
    Apr 6, 2012 - 1:40PM

    We are a nation of mentally dead individuals!


  • Parvez
    Apr 6, 2012 - 1:41PM

    @gujranwala789: The writer gives his name and is in and from Pakistan.
    It would have been nice if you at least had declared where you are writing from ‘gujranwala 789, says nothing.


  • faheema
    Apr 6, 2012 - 3:36PM

    ten million dollars bounty for Hafiz Saeed, Just imagine how many mouths around Hafiz Saeed are watering. Cracks and differences in his group are not new. I fear someone very close to him will do the job.


  • Z.Khan
    Apr 6, 2012 - 4:08PM

    Very righly analysed. However it is the duty of real Paksitanis to keep on jolting the society to wake up. Mr K Shafi is doing it since long very amicably. I am optimistic one day his efforts will pay.


  • B N Mohapatra
    Apr 6, 2012 - 4:20PM

    @gujranwala789: Your views like honourable death is like honour killing or even suicide bombing. Its the same teaching from militants.I believe that you will revise yourself and become more learned one day. Accepting the truth is always a virtue and God wants that. Death is the decision from God.


  • G. Din
    Apr 6, 2012 - 6:02PM

    “Time to get real, friends, and to face the facts no matter how ugly and distasteful.”
    Blow this up and put it on your walls, Moderators of ET. Facts, ugly and distasteful, will not go away just because you don’t let them through or butcher them!


  • wonderer
    Apr 6, 2012 - 6:31PM

    People like Hafiz Saeed are dangerous not only for the perceived enemies of Pakistan but for Pakistan itself as well. This is a factor not realized by Pakistanis.

    It does not matter if he cannot be prosecuted for the Mumbai attacks, but is it safe for him to be doing what he is doing? The venom that he spews is palpable. This venom is being spread inside the territory of Pakistan. It cannot but effect the people who listen to him. The hatred all these people carry in their hearts cannot but effect them.

    I have heard him declare openly in a rally words to this effect. “So what if there was a Mumbai? That was only one Mumbai, and that is nothing. We still have to take revenge for East Pakistan. That will be some Mumbai.”

    He openly criticizes India for water problems of Pakistan, when even the Pakistani Government says India is not responsible. He only incites people and spreads hatred. What is the use of this? Is this good for Pakistan?

    His latest venture, the DPC, is attracting growing crowds. But will this DPC solve any problem Pakistan faces? His activities will only harm Pakistan.

    Pakistan should protect itself from such people. Recommend

  • Nitin Gulhane
    Apr 6, 2012 - 7:14PM

    Giving away Hafeez will cause too much of violence in Pakistan. So it makes sense for Pakistan Govt to support him even at the cost of antagonizing USA. WHat surprises me is that even sane Pakistani public supports him. Doesn’t Pakistan need new heroes???
    DOes anybody here really beleive that he is an innocent common man serving the nation of Pakistan? IMO, Pakistan has way too many dangerous people…India and US will suffer far less by presence of such people on Pakistani soil. Pakistan stands to lose far more. Do people really want such outfits in their country? EVerybody has right to live happily and live a safe and secure life. I hope Indians don’t follow the path that Pakistan has taken and hopefully we should be able to guarantee freedom and security to the next generation.


  • yousaf
    Apr 6, 2012 - 7:20PM

    @DB(be brave.Give your name)…Please have mercy on the few sane Pakistanies that there are.One can talk a lot of irrelevant and irresponsible things but to talk sense one has to have it first,and Mr.Shafi is one of them.Ponder upon and “listen”to what he is trying to drill into our skulls.Moreover,Pl.do not try to analogise Pak prevailing situation with that of Iran,as there is no comparison between the two.If America is a superpower today,it is because she has toiled tirelessly day and night to become one.(Mehnat kar,hassad naa kar) @gujranwala789–If you are so fond of dying,go ahead go stand at the western border,the rest will be taken care of by your loved ones.You have no right to incite others.Before you go do not forget to tell your name so that we can remember you.(for information) I am a sunni and I love my shia brethren and people of all other faiths equally Recommend

  • png
    Apr 6, 2012 - 7:56PM

    Our problem is that we give too much air time to DPC or other people whose perspective may be out of line. In a country of 180 million people, you will always have such voices. Every nation has them. Your country needs to focus on development – problems will resolve slowly by surely. Otherwise keep finding descending voices – and you will always find them – and keep wasting your energy on them. Even the large occupy wallstreet movement has died down because no one took them seriously despite all the noise and disruptions. You do what you have to do.


  • UB
    Apr 6, 2012 - 8:11PM

    Dear Sir,
    While I agree with most of what you generally say, I believe, putting a public bounty on this man’s head was close to being stupid. He was hardly mentioned in the news and was a middle-tier influencer in the global terrorism/militant jihad. Now with a huge public bounty he is relishing in the publicity he is getting while he shares the spotlight with OBL and Mullah Umer and is now a bigger magnet for jihadists and militants. And who will be left to pick up the pieces of this confrontation, the hapless public of Pakistan. You gave the example of an elephant, here is another one, when rhinos fight, its the grass that gets trampled.Recommend

  • Harry Stone
    Apr 6, 2012 - 9:46PM

    There is a message here. It is if you kill Americans there will be a price to be paid. America will seek justice no matter how long it might take.Recommend

  • UB
    Apr 6, 2012 - 10:48PM

    @Harry, I dont think Americans are a superior being that their lives are more precious than others. Anyone killing anyone else regardless of nationality, faith, race etc, should face justice and must pay the price. Its the price that America is making the rest of the world pay that is being questioned now. I am very sure that America has the means and the intelligence to achieve this justice through more discrete and precise means. If it wants justice, it does not have to send messages, justice alone would be a message enough.So, I wonder if there is a deeper message than justice itself.
    Giving this man a platform through this bounty has enabled him to reach out to other idiots for his cause.


  • Harry Stone
    Apr 6, 2012 - 11:11PM

    I do not think Americans believe they are superior beings. What they do believe in that if someone kills one of them that person should be punished. It is about being a nation of laws. Contrast this with PAK, where life has no value, where laws either do not exist or not enforced.

    I think you are wise enough to realize that if America wanted this individual to be dead he would be dead. America want to try this man in a court of law. Killing him is just too easy.

    I believe there is something else going that might be more important. That something is PAK has an opportunity to take action to bring this man to justice. It would seem PAK does not want to do this. This is truly unfortunate. Recommend

    Apr 6, 2012 - 11:22PM

    well analysised sir, onething i really worried about is that defence of Pakistan is only the duty of DPC rather its the duty of pak army. Suppose in other case if the our Army is not able to fullfill its duty even in such a case who has authorized the JuD to defend the Pak. Even out of 18 billion people 1 billion is not willing to give them the authority to defend PAKISTAN.


  • Harry Stone
    Apr 7, 2012 - 8:22AM

    No one seems to be prepared to address what comes next…….what comes after the reset of relations with the US and with NATO. It seems the focus has been only on openning the supply lines and stopping drone attacks. Is this going to be the extent of PAK US relations in 2015?


  • Apr 7, 2012 - 6:27PM

    Dear Karman Shafi sahib you have rightly said “What had happened to my Gilgit, I asked myself? And then it all came back. Nothing had happened to Gilgit, the tyrant Zia had happened to Pakistan! I recalled the deep religious and sectarian and tribal schisms engineered by Zia and his henchmen to divide the populace of Pakistan so that he could rule the country easier.” YES SIR you are right. There; we are searching causes of all the ills of Pakistan in America brought Taliban, Root of terror some where out side. Blaming Army or Civil people. But Sir your words are true the real cause of malady is the deep religious and sectarian and tribal schisms engineered by Zia and his henchmen to divide the populace of Pakistan so that he could rule the country easier. There is warning to India also. There are people who in the name of HINDUISM are trying to do the same. And God only knows what disaster it can unleash to destroy the subcontinent. Thanks for deep insight. People of Pakistan may please think what and so should all Indians.


  • UB
    Apr 7, 2012 - 6:34PM

    You bring interesting points to the table, two of which attract particular attention,
    1) value of life, I am confused, if there is no value of life in Pakistan for whatever reasons, are Pakistanis free cannon fodder for the US in this war
    2) Relationship reboot between the US and Pakistan. This is only at the government levels in both countries to serve immediate needs for both. And I think 2015 is too early to talk about a long term relationship. A significant amount to CBM (confidence building measures) will be needed and it will depend solely on the US’s desire to have an influence based on measures other than money and might. To refresh your history, distrust between Pakistan and the US is not recent and started after the 1965 Indo-Pak war, moved a notch up after the end of the Soviet Invasion, Bush’s threat of bombing Pakistan to stone-age did not help either and most Pakistanis feel being used in this war and now its overflowing.


  • Apr 8, 2012 - 5:21AM

    @DB: Strange argument that if in Iran Shia kill Sunni so we should do the same in Pakistan. What a inhuman and pathetic thinking. God help. No where Islam teaches such ideas.


  • K B Kale
    Apr 8, 2012 - 5:49PM

    I admire Shafisahab’s articles because I think he is one of the few sensible voices in Pakistan.

    God Bless Shafi-sahab!!Recommend

  • AIN
    Apr 9, 2012 - 12:11PM

    I totally agree with you.
    It wasn’t only ZIA who was the pioneer of religious war inside the Muslims. The problem started when people/politician tried to involve religion in politics…And our religious clerics started to seek seats into parliament on the basis of religious cards & politician tried to divert the attention of the mass from their own issues to something else. Bhutto towards ahmedies, ZIA towards shia and ahmedi & now so on..Can’t any one see the end of such leaders?? Truly it is the great sign form GOD for those who play with human.

    Yes divide and rule is the best policy to rule long on the land of subcontinent. …where will b the full stop???? God pleas help poor mankind


  • K B Kale
    Apr 9, 2012 - 12:35PM

    I also pray God that the “powers-that-be” in Pakistan do not do to Shafisahab what they did to Saleem Shahzad!
    Like in all Harry Potter novels where the evil villains is never mentioned by name, the “powers-that-be” in Pakistan are never named directly & if named, that response is “moderated”! (Like this one might be!)


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