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Wednesday, May 05, 2010

From Muslim Khan to Faisal Shahzad: The Story of ‘Made In USA’ Pakistani Taliban.

I am perplexed, should I refer to ‘Made In USA’ Taliban, like the infamous USA returned FM radio Mullah Muslim Khan in Swat valley, Is the USA partly to blame for isolation ,racism and identity crisis engulfing Pakistani immigrants?

Now this Faisal Shahzad, the so called ‘lone terrorist’ of Times Square foiled bomb attack, are the American Pakistanis really going insane? I know the famous catchphrase that rightwing Fox News anchors love to use often,”All Muslims are not terrorists but all terrorists are Muslims”. I can add all Pakistanis are not terrorists but most of these so-called community leaders are ‘burying their heads in sand’ and wishing the sandstorm of Islamic terrorism to go else where, wishing is well and good, start facing the realities!!

It was a long afternoon, with cricket T20 in the background, and the location was a Lebanese restaurant in St. John’s wood, in the shadow of Lords cricket ground in central London and we were enjoying a long outdoor meal.

My guest was a childhood friend (alumni of “Physics under Hoodbhoy” and Islami Jamiat Talba), now an analyst with an American Bible-Belt Neo-Con Think-Tank, visiting London for a seminar on “Preventing Islamist Extremism” in the disenfranchised Muslim youth of U.K. He also ran a blog called “Friends of Pakistan” before the name was artfully stolen by President Zardari’s team (Allegedly by Ambassador Haqqani, who is rumoured to ghost-write Zardari articles in NYT, WP and WSJ).

The background of my friend and his father (still working for JI relief in N.W.F.P), like Hussain Haqqani (the current Neo-liberal Pakistani Ambassador to USA), is from the Islamist- Nationalist Jamaat-i- Islami(JI) of Pakistan. In his youth (student activism) he sent me few fiery emails, lamenting my Infidel, irreverent views and lifestyle.

It was good to reminisce about past memories after five years; a lot of water has passed under the bridges and it was an informative and candid chat. I was more interested in hearing his current world view, since those hot tempered university days.

Pakistani analysts are a highly sought commodity for American “War on Terror” policy makers. In the Scholastic Aptitude Test, if you can tell the difference between JI, JUP and JUI. You are In [Honestly, Mrs. Smith?].

I was more interested in understanding the Young Urban Professional JI, because the newly elected head of JI Mr. Munawar Hassan is a highly sophisticated English speaking born again Pan-Islamist, who in his previous life used to be a student activist for NSF (read Communist) in Karachi University. Mr.Hassan replaces the old guard of populist firebrand Qazi Hussein Ahmed who comes from hard-line N.W.F.P. While Qazi was a flamboyant champion of poor Islamists from the pashtun North(the area of Taliban and US drone attacks), Munawar Hassan’s cultural background is North Indian (steeped in Persian and Sufi poetry and influenced by Shia’ism of Lucknow).he is much more articulate (yet ideological and right wing) about his views on international Pan-Islamism. These subtle differences in styles will only become visible with the passage of time and policy change.

Coming back to the meeting, the food was delicious Lebanese variety of meat dishes ranging from lamb delicacies to beef regulars, the aroma and the taste encouraged my “selective” vegetarianism to sin towards the stray path of the Meat-Eaters (staple diet in my Pakistani Muslim background).

My childhood friend started off with a long monologue on Islamic moral values and Pakistani societal norms of joint family and tribal structure being the best in the world and that Pakistani Muslims will always be strangers in Europe and America.

On marital front, he said why you are so worried about the “Love of your life”, for as Muslims we are ordered by the religion to take risk and should at least have four chances. His wife is a stay at home, look after the babies, MBA finance. He quoted the example of Imran Khan’s failed marriage to a Jewish Heiress as a cautionary lesson for my benefit. Allah has created Muslim male for procreation and increasing the flock for paradise?

I started talking about poetry and Andalusia, my aim was to get views on Tariq Ali’s Islam Quintet. He advised me to read Iqbal(Goethe of Asia and philosopher poet) and read Quran cover to cover with English translation. My friend gets fresh intellectual stimulus, every time he reads Quran. I quoted Ahmed Faraz the left leaning romantic poet, “If we part our ways today, we will only meet again in pages of history”. I wanted to save this memorable interaction for posterity.

Meeting with Ann Coulter of Pakistan(a title given by great journalist late Khalid Hassan), Imran Khan’s policy guru and elocution coach, the Lady owns a right-wing Think-Tank. He was sympathetic in assessment of Imran Khan’s political failures, in his opinion there are no real policy differences in JI and Mr. Khan and that Imran khan does not want to talk about his genuine Islamist credentials in public because of fear of upsetting liberals and intellectuals within and outside his Justice movement.

He was critical of Arabs for their racist attitude towards Pakistanis; his stay with English News in Saudi Arabia was not particularly a pleasant one. The American and British expatriates get 10 times the salary he was getting. According to him the Palestinians living in Arab countries are lazy beggars, impotent to fight for the liberation of the holy Mosque in Jerusalem. He is also a member of a inter faith group for Muslims and Jews in America and he proudly eats kosher (Halal) meat with Jewish friends.

He is happy to be in Obama’s America, fully furnished accommodation and maintained car, although things stay the same for Pakistanis suffering American drone attacks and Muslim suicide bombers. About the Speech he said,” Obama is “His Masters’ Voice” and essentially an infidel because of his middle name Hussein, which I think is a betrayal of the faith of his ancestors”. At least my friend jokingly saw something common in my situation and Mr. Obama. I joked back, “I don’t know about the presidency, but the bestseller status has done wonders for Obama’s bank balance”.

He loves “American Pragmatism” because everyone has short, medium and long term goals and every thing is fair in achieving these goals. Pakistanis and Americans are religious and stubborn people and will do everything to defend their Faith and National (Kashmir and Iraq respectively) interest. Common man on the streets (of Pak and USA) is naïve and gullible. The middle class (Black, White liberals and Asians) university professors (Obama supporters) are isolated from White Evangelical working class and farmers. The Church (GOP) and the Mosque (JI) are the stepping stones to Politics and Power. What do you think of Rev. Jesse Jackson? Jackson who, Michael? Oh, he has converted to Islam, atoned for his sins and now lives in Bahrain, I was quiet.
Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the Founder of Pakistan gave the motto of Unity, Faith and Discipline and according to my mate, the Jewish Nation from Tel Aviv to AIPAC Washington and from Golders Green North London to the diamond traders of Antwerp is the best example of solidarity. Why in his view, is the Jewish Nation so successful? His idea was simple, because they own all the banks and monetary system and adhere to their tribal loyalties.

We need to keep “Pakistan First” when we are abroad. Pakistan is Islamic nuclear nation (like Israel is a state of the Jews, by the Jews and for the Jews) and we need to keep Pakistani expatriates together and not splinter into useless political parties. We are not right or left wing when we come outside Pakistan, we should only be Pakistani. I thought, who says that Pervez Musharraf‘s neo-liberal agenda, “In the Line of Fire”, has no friends in Pakistan.

Why is the west so successful? Simple he said, they live for Today and current time. We cannot separate our Religion from our Politics. Islam is a complete way of life and the Americans are “reverting” back to the only Natural religion, the Islam, in hundreds of thousands. Pakistani Muslims in USA are educated, professional middle class unlike the uneducated Mirpuri (Pakistani Kashmiri) immigrants to UK who can only drive taxis or run takeaways. You see! He said without any bitterness, the question is of loyalty. We east Punjab Muslims (JI was founded in Pathankot India in 1946) have always been loyal to Moughals, Sikhs, English, India and Pakistan. American Muslims are loyal to the stars and stripes and the American constitution. You Kashmiris (referring to my mother’s side of my family) have never trusted anyone; your loyalty is always in doubt whether Indians, Pakistan or United Kingdom. I thought of Lord Norman Tebbit.

The Muslim cultural centres of Islamic Mission (NGO linked with JI) are peacefully colonizing the vast areas of North America. Pakistani Association of Islamic M.Ds in America (PAIMDA is an affiliate of JI) is donating millions (earned from billing Medical Insurance Inc.) to build mosques for American salvation. Ah ah, where have I heard this one before? Yes this utopian vision was earlier on the “Peace TV” by Saudi inspired televangelist Dr Zakir Naik.I was amazed to find that his views on “American sex idol” were slowly becoming liberal, though not in Pakistani context, sorry but we are Muslims our sex is strictly after marriage.

I asked him, why was Pakistani politics in such a mess? Despite (because of) the fact that JI founder always worked with dictators and nearly all of the current 40-70 age range politicians, journalists, ambassadors and army generals were trained in student politics and through the Islamic study circles run by JI. His answer was simple,” Hussain Haqqani (the Ambassador),Javed Hashmi(rightwing Politician),Irshad Haqqani(Journalist) and Dr. Israr Ahmed(Televangelist and Theologian)were all traitors and turn coats and JI is still the Gold-standard on religious and moral indoctrination in the youth and student activists for Pakistani brand of Pan-Islamism.”

I came to the last issue still troubling me, why America? Why work with the “Great Satan”? I conveniently forgot that JI and America have worked together before and have shared guns and dollars in 1970s, 1980s Cold War and Afghan Jihad.

His Personal pragmatism (like Imran Khan’s) baffled me. He wants to stay in America long enough to claim his American passport, until his kids finish primary school and his family perfects their American accents. After that he can walk on the streets of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan with pride (American Citizen) and 10 times Salary.

Apparently the American society is decadent and ridden with sex and crime. USA is no proper place to raise kids (especially young Muslim girls) in Islamic moral and cultural values. Pakistan is the best place to give a right balance of eastern and western values to the young impressionable kids. He wants to earn as much as possible in the land of free opportunity before he turns 45 and then return to Pakistan to open an Islamic college for poor students .I joked, you mean like the “The Reluctant Fundamentalist”.

He hugged me and said, See You later brother! In my heart, I know probably not in a million years. I have also heard the rumour circulating in Pakistani circles that after the famous speech , President Obama is reopening American Green Card visa lottery and university scholarships for suitable liberal (minus beards and long fashionable Arabic kaftans) Pakistanis in 2010 as part of aid package.Land of oppotunity and plenty, The Great and Glorious America we are coming( reminds me of a poster in 1990s in his hostel room with Holy Quran in one hand and Gun in the other).Only Allah knows Best.

Certain brands define the love-hate relationship that Pakistan has had with the United States of America over the past 60 years. America has been the biggest and most advanced ‘Superpower’ of the world. American technology, capital markets and economy is the biggest in the world. Pakistan as a third world country needs investment and technology for development.

Pakistan needed allies and military hardware after its traumatic birth and found a willing patron in United States of America. I will not try and re-write Tariq Ali’s critically acclaimed book ‘Pakistan on the flight path of American Power’. Now the American and Pakistani right-wingers are having an acrimonious divorce over ‘Black Water’ and ‘Predator’ drones, ‘never wash your dirty laundry in public’ is the sane advice. Pakistani right-wingers love to hate Americans and the American right-wingers love to assume that all Pakistanis are ‘terrorists’.

The cotton export quotas in the Korean War helped Pakistan’s financial situation in 1950. 1960s were the ‘decade of controlled democracy and development’ under America’s beloved dictator ‘Friends, not masters’ famed Field Marshal Ayub Khan.1970s started with the disillusionment of American’s ‘Seventh fleet’ failing to show up in bay of Bengal to save East Pakistani Imperialism. In 1979 Henry Kissinger made ‘an example’ of elected prime minister for pursuing nuclear technology.

Pakistani and Arab ‘extremists’ and ‘terrorists’ were enjoying dinners and dollars on the lawns of White House and Pentagon in 1980s for their holy war against the ‘Godless’ Soviets. As a child of Vietnam ‘torch-bearing’ demonstrations, my first memory is a Red Flag of Labour Movement and a Painting which depicted a barbed wire, American flag and a pair of handcuffs. I had no doubts (unlike the bitter sweet ‘bed fellows’ Pakistan’s Jamaat Islami and American CIA) who my enemies were, needless to repeat the names of aforementioned entities.

The Pakistan America love affair, according to author Muhammad Hanif, exploded with the C-130 of Islamist dictator Zia-ul-Haq. By this time the civil and military elites and their children were well accustomed to the military and financial aid as well as ‘Second Homes’ and dubious ‘Scholarship’ grants from the great USA.

Not surprisingly, this love affair had an adverse effect on working and lower-middle class Pakistanis. Ever since the Ayub Khan’s ‘yellow and low grade’ Corn assistance by USA, the masses regarded USA as a donkey(symbol of disrespect and stupidity in Pakistan, not the symbol of American Democrat Party).

1990s were the wake up call for ‘romantic and confused’ Jamaat Islami student cadre when the grants dried up and their brand of ‘pan Islamic militancy’ was declared ‘Public Enemy No. 1’ by USA. The feudal and industrial elite were busy playing see-saw games with Bhutto’s Peoples Party and Mr Sharif’s Muslim League.

The kids were listening to Michael Jackson and Madonna and counting days to the official launch of American McDonalds and Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants in Pakistan. ‘Friends’, the promiscuous flatmates, is best watched English language Sit-com in Pakistan. The American ‘Green Card’ is considered a ‘Status Symbol’ in Pakistan.

Mid 90s saw the ‘American Visa Lottery’ become the biggest cultural craze in Pakistan and even the free application forms were sold for 200 rupees a piece on the streets of Pakistan. Pakistan has since 2001, been taken off the list of ‘Lottery Countries’.The Visa queues continue to get longer day by day while the Islamist ‘flag burning’ anti American demonstrations also continue to grow bigger.

The biggest terrorist attack on the American soil was carried out, by ‘Bin Laden Boys’ who were on student visas in USA, on 9/11 2001.These Arab volunteer were veterans Bin-Laden(former friend of Bush and Saud dynasties of America and Arabia) training camps in Afghanistan.

This cultural schizophrenia is widespread in Arab muslim world, where ‘Great Satan’ America is blamed for every evil yet every young man dreams of a American Visa.I say this on the basis of evidence and observations as management consultant in a oil rich Arab country, where friends who would normally be carrying copies of Koran and recite it undertone at every given opportunity, would curse and swear at their ‘impotent’ King ‘who is only interested in wealth of Royal family’ and ‘America is a heaven compared to these Arab countries’. unquote Some were patiently waiting for three years for Canadian immigration or any possibility of relocation to Dearborn Michigan(little Jeddah).

For Pakistan 9/11, in a perverted way, proved to be beneficial for military and financial aid of Pakistani elite and Pakistani dictator Musharraf became the ‘Darling’ of American elite. Think-tank and university scholarships were reopened for the ‘right’ candidates and the dictator admitted (in his autobiography) taking 5000 dollar a piece for head-hunting the terrorists. An estimated 40 billion dollars flowed into the pockets of elites in form of both direct aid and ex-pat remittances.

Now the new government of President Zardari is willing to submit its ‘Begging Bowl’ to the strict conditionalities of Kerry-Lugar financial package. The Islamists, Nationalist, Socialists are raising their voices on the sensationalist News talk shows against the supposed ‘anti state’ activities of American private security contractors working under the name of ‘Black Water’ or ‘XE’ in Pakistan and Afghanistan. These security contractors need a ‘safe playground’ for rest and recreation in Pakistan after hard and dangerous tours of Afghanistan.

The impression in general public on both sides is that, ‘We can’t live them but we can’t live without them’. Pakistan, Israel and Saudi Arabia are the three states based on religious ideology and can be described as the perfect examples of ‘Client States’ of USA.

Black Water is yet another brand is the long saga of Pakistani American Love (and hate) Story. How long this disposable relationship lasts depends on the needs of American ‘House Boy’ President and his rightwing handler Bob Gates, in the Afghanistani theatre of war. America will not be able to win the war (like other Imperial powers) in Afghanistan for the foreseeable future and Pakistan can hope to cash-in the long term financial aid packages, provided it ignores the human rights abuses(like in Iraq) by Black Water Security Contractors.

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