Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Ambassador Patterson is half way Pakistani

By Saeed Qureshi

Let me write a few words about Anne W. Patterson, the US ambassador in Pakistan. I am trying to picture her as I see her in the media coverage. She is modestly dressed in official meetings and covers her head at places like mosques and in Swat IDPs’ camps where such an observance is necessary. The way she is working with passionate zeal to smoothen and fraternize Pak-USA relations, she deserves to be complimented as half way Pakistani and half way Muslim. She looks affable, confident, relaxed and sober in all her pictures that appear in the media. In the official meetings from the President of Pakistan to a minister, she herself takes notes of the proceedings. It shows how seriously she takes her job. In May 2007, President Bush appointed Patterson as the United States Ambassador to Pakistan. She is a career diplomat having entered U.S. Foreign Service in 1973.

As I observe, she is not arrogant. In these turbulent times for Pakistan and United States, the presence of Ambassador Patterson in Pakistan is a blessing in disguise. By virtue of my creed, I am anti- imperialism and a strong votary of democracy, secularism and a civil society. But, I would certainly appreciate and laud the individuals, irrespective of their backgrounds, who are doing splendid job by contributing their positive input for resolving the inter-state thorny issues.

As I can observe, Madam Patterson is not overbearing or suffering from a false sense of superiority. She doesn’t seem to be cast in a mould of bully ambassador demanding blind compliance of US conditions and agenda. Of late, the USA-Pakistan relations are on much better footing, as the Obama administration and its functionaries exhibit a departure from the G.W. Bush’s propensity for arm twisting to extract the unconditional acceptance of their partisan point of view. Former President Bush’s call “whether you are with us or you are not with us” injected a kind of fiendish despotism on the part of United States with regard to the principle of sovereign equality between nations, especially in relation to the weak and vulnerable states.

Pakistan suffered from Bush’s spasmodic fits and sporadic hiccups as to be able to correctly judge the mood and policies of the American administration. President Bush was the most unpredictable and an irredeemably whimsical person. He was indiscreetly stubborn and thus with his unwise policies and haughtiness he landed America in a big mess. The world at large too remained in a state of flux. Muslim world was specifically targeted by President Bush to unjustifiably suffer. His biggest folly, in the present day times, was to project Islam and America as mutual adversaries.

With Obama and his associates like Kerry, Holbrooke, Hilary Clinton, Lugar and others, Pakistan is being treated with respect and sympathy. The approval of the “Kerry-Lugar” Bill for allocation of 7.5 billion dollars with negligible strings and as grateful appreciation of Pakistan’s fight in the Taliban-infested areas is a pat on Pakistan’s back. United States is under no obligation to give aid to Pakistan because in any case, sooner or later, Pakistan will have to fight with Taliban who have a narrow religious agenda. Pakistan, by fighting the religious militants on its own, has taken off its much maligned shroud of being a mercenary of America. In President Musharraf’s era, Pakistan suffered from such innuendos as doing the job of a quisling.

I would not subscribe to the religious right’s sweeping and venomous anti-America statements or against the rest of the world because religious right is not right itself. Religious right in Pakistan has sowed dissention, bred discord, fomented faith base hate, and nurtured bigoted Sectarianism leading to the ruinous fragmentation in the Pakistani society. The poison of sectarian divide is deep rooted in Pakistan as well as in the Islamic countries which instead of serving as an instrument of unity and cohesion, has become a handy weapon of instilling hatred and disunity in the population.

In a predominantly Muslim society of Pakistan, where a Sunni faithful cannot say prayer with a Shia and a Wahabi cannot tolerate a Naqshbandi, how can the religious classes claim or urge to be a united Ummah or one monolithic Islam nation for bracing against the enemies of Islam? An Islamic polity should be a nation state where religious tolerance, democratic culture, human rights and other moorings of a civil society can be observed.

So Pakistani religious outfits or fundamentalist Muslims need to come out of their cocoons and start imbibing and accepting the imperatives of a modern society and the need of a nation state. It is only in a secular nation state where Islam can be practiced without an incessant collision between the sects which are perennially engaged in deriding, killing and decreeing each other as infidels. If mutual cohabitation is beyond the competence of Islamic sects then how come, they can ever bring about a consensual Islamic theology in Pakistan? It means sectarian war and bad blood should either be curbed or sidelined by the nation if it wants to have social harmony and progress. Only thus a country, no matter it carries the religious nomenclature as Islamic Republic, can remain united and move forward in nation building.

It has become fashionable to dub Western countries as enemies of Islam. But I would argue that more than the others’ enmity, the Muslim countries are their own mutual enemies. Woefully, in the Islamic societies, the Quranic precious injunction that “hold fast to the rope of God”, is seen in breach than in observance. Almost all the Islamic countries are stamped with monarchy, plutocracy, absolutism, authoritarianism, autocracy or dynastic rules. And yet they have the temerity to denounce the western democracies as fodder of hell and enemies of Islam and humanity.

If Islam’s actual code is allowed to prevail in Islamic countries, then many barriers between themselves and un-Islamic countries such as America per say, would disappear, because in the service of humanity and happiness of their own people, they are as Islamic as Islam ordains. We can see model societies in western countries, which in the light of the claim that Islam is a perfect code of life, ought to be in the Islamic countries. The subjective proclamation about the sublimity and supremacy of a religion is meaningless unless practiced for the benefit of the mankind.

It is only the frivolous and fake exuberance that can be seen in the Islamic societies for the establishment of an Islamic order. But in practice it is in the un-Islamic societies that we see the universal Islamic teachings such as justice, equality, freedom and other social and moral values, being observed. There is stark inequality, rampant poverty and pervasive backwardness in the Muslim societies. In the western countries synonymous with Christianity, such problems as poverty, disease, unemployment, lawlessness and other similar social irritants have been minimized.

The Sharif Hussein of Mecca sided with the British and French in the first war against the Ottoman Empire: their Muslim co believers. As a result of this shameful betrayal, the Ottomans lost their territories and Sharif Hussain never received his reward for treachery, promised to him by the colonial victors. The crux is that the Muslims themselves are responsible for their downfall and miseries than others. The present day Saudi rulers seek American and western help in the event of a crisis and not from other brother Islamic coutries. Poor Islam is a mere hollow slogan to befool and beguile the credulous Muslim believers.

The extravagant lifestyle of Muslim rulers and the privileged classes in Islamic societies, being itself a monstrosity, is just opposite to the simple life pattern of the founder of Islam and his soul stirring and redeeming teachings. So let the Muslims stop pointing accusing fingers at America and other countries for their own fault-lines, misdemeanors and weaknesses. Let Muslims stop calling others as enemies of Islam because Muslims’ disunity and division within their own ranks is their real enemy. They should, first keep their own house in order.

Let us take in good grace, the US-Pakistan relations being placed on a friendlier keel by both the governments and by the sincere and commendable diplomatic hard work being put in by the distinguished ambassador of United States in Pakistan. Her reports and writings must have been very helpful in paving way for the sizeable economic and military aid that Pakistan would be receiving every year till 2013. It is good to be a friend of a benign United States than raising fruitless sentimental slogans of fighting American imperialism. We should stop hate and love relationship with America and make it a full-fledged love affair. This is the best time to do so lest another George Bush stalks the American presidency.

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