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Guest Opinion: Commentary on 911 from Pakistan

...submitted by a Scoop reader for publication...

Letter from Pakistan
by a former resident of Afghanistan

September 11th will forever remain etched in the memory and psyche of mankind, for a variety of reasons depending on how it affected the individual's life and outlook on religions, nations, regions and ideologies.

The psychological, political, social and economic impact of the events of that day were of a magnitude that may well decide the course of future world history. The world has now been polarised into two distinct camps: those who will terrorise others in the name of suppression of terrorism and those who be on the receiving end. The September 11 events have changed the ground rules of how wars will be waged in the future, and triggered a new continuous war, that will be waged according to completely new ground rules. Traditional rules of conventional and unconventional warfare have been turned upside down. No region of the world will remain unaffected; the changing frontline states will suffer the most.

We should try to find the reasons behind these events. In my view the injustices, arrogance and ham-handedness of the United States in dealing with the world led to them. Pol Pot, Osama, Mullah Umar and others of their ilk were nurtured by the USA. They were first patronised by the US for their own selfish ends and when things went out of control they cracked down on them. The latest crackdown will also lead to immense suffering for the innocents on both sides. It will also lead to exacerbation of the ongoing conflict. Why are such elements nurtured? In the pursuit of this new war, isn't the US again cultivating the same elements? Until and unless people the world over, the US in particular resist these policies, we will see a recurrences of the same scenario.

In the US, a new McCarthy era has been unleashed. Unfortunately, this will not be restricted to the USA alone because now it has enough clout to impose it on countries which like Pakistan, depend on its largesse. Some European countries have joined the chorus. The tone and tenor are both threatening and disquieting for the rest of the world.

The USA has been proven vulnerable from many aspects. 911 proved that the US psyche, its security and its policies are fragile or should I say fickle, because they have changed now and could change again. The US economy also proved to be fragile and was left paralysed after the attacks. Could it have survived a few more attacks of this severity in succession? Probably, yes. It would bounce back as it is doing now, but the figures of the Dow Jones and NASDAQ can never give us the true picture of the human suffering endured due to the immediate economic impact.

The US needs to have more mature, long-term plans and measures to ensure continuity and inspire confidence. It tends to respond in knee-jerk fashion and panic buttons are unnecessarily pressed. In the aftermath of the attacks, the USA seemed suddenly rudderless. Sudan was a rogue state yesterday but it's an ally today This would not be untrue in Pakistan's case as well. It seems that Taliban, who seemed to be unraveling even before the attacks, may also be tolerated if certain conditions are met. Only a country of "easy virtue" could act in this manner. Such steps breed suspicion in the minds of people the world over and lead to mistrust of US intentions and reduce its stature. Countries like Sudan and Pakistan are famous for similar adherence to principle.

It is ironic that such events occur in our region at a time when undemocratic rulers are in the saddle and a twist of fate provides them with the much required legitimacy compliments of Washington. In 1979 Zia was patronised and now once again the USA has brushed aside every democratic and moral norm for their own goals and provided support to the present regime here. The arms embargo and sanctions were lifted. Much-needed money was given for services provided but to what avail?

A few days after sanctions were lifted, Pakistani generals were seen strutting around the Ankara Arms Exhibition, shopping for new "toys". The precious little we received will be misused in a futile arms race. There is absolutely no need for procuring arms and the money should be used for the reconstruction and development of a country laid waste by 54 years of misgovernance and corruption. But as they say, fools are destined to repeat the same mistakes. This country will see a surge in repression under the flimsy pretext of countering terrorism and the west will nod approvingly at this repression.

It should be remembered that this is not a war between Islam and Christianity or East and West, but sadly this is the course it is doomed to take. Anybody who is beige coloured is a suspected terrorist and if he is self-respecting and doesn't take to western ways he becomes a confirmed terrorist. There have been hate crimes in the USA and Europe. This is bound to have repercussions the world over, with whites being on the receiving end in some places. Nonwhites are perceived differently now, as unfriendly elements, de facto suspects. This will provide an excellent cover to the likes of Timothy McVeigh to carry out operations and conveniently blame us. (Oddly, there was no backlash against whites after the Oklahoma atrocity).

No sane person will even attempt to justify the events of 11th Sept. let alone rejoice over them. Any loss of innocent lives is reprehensible. Neither can a sane person be asked to condone the everyday assault of Israeli tanks and F16s on unarmed Palestinians, or the continued denial of rights to Kurdish, Kashmiri, Albanian, Baluch people to name a few, or the sufferings of Iraqis due to the embargo or the financial and fiscal overlordship over the developing world by the IMF and the World Bank for the sake of Western interests.

In this, the era of the Global Village, cause and effect are more closely related than ever before. Those responsible for the injustices and also those who aid and abet them will have to change their ways to secure a peaceful world. This is a New War; on one side are arrayed the major powers and on the other people with ideologies warped enough to justify unprecedented barbarity to satiate their hate. There is clear and present danger of even more spectacular attacks using atomic, biological and chemical weapons against any country they may consider their enemy.

It is imperative that a more just World Order is evolved with a consensus of regions and states because such attacks are not against individual countries but against civilization and life as we know it. All states sponsoring, aiding and abetting terrorism should be made to pay the price but the criteria shouldn't be the one applied today which sadly is determined by exigencies of the USA. Terrorism should be defined by the United Nations and applied justly. Labeling Palestinians as terrorists and exempting the Israelis will never solve the issue. Terrorism is a crime against humanity and it should be defined as such by the UN.

The people of Afghanistan deserve a respite from the traumas that they have been made to suffer, courtesy of the Super Powers and meddling neighbours. They never deserved to be ruled by the Taliban but the Pakistani ISI (Security Agency) thought otherwise and thrust the Taliban upon these unfortunate people.

The trauma of displacement is barely understood and hardly felt by the people on the sidelines. Every time a family is displaced it loses everything and has to begin anew economically, socially and psychologically. The displacement is total and it leads to loss of self-esteem. No wonder terrorists, criminals and pimps find ready recruits in refugee camps. Only cohesive groups can avoid such pitfalls. The children and the elderly succumb to disease and the elements and you never see many of them in refugee camps.

I have spent 13years (1978-91) as a Baluch refugee in Afghanistan and seen these traumas firsthand. In the future history of Afghanistan 23 years (1978-2001) will be written off as lost years. This suffering should come to an end with the end of Taliban rule and it should be ensured that countries like Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, India, Russia, and the USA aren't allowed to meddle in its internal affairs. The people of Afghanistan deserve a much-needed break, to build their own country without religion or ideology being imposed on them from outside.

The net result of 911 will be curbs on our already scant freedom here and being eyed with suspicion abroad. We will be burdened with increasing external and internal debts as the precious little money that will come our way will be gobbled up by Generals making use of their newfound freedom from embargo will continue their "new toy" shopping sprees and upkeep of themselves and their cronies. The democratic process will be put into the freezer and forgotten because the West now needs a stable Pakistan. They could care less if it is ruled by Atila the Hun as long as it is stable for their needs.

An ever-increasing influx of refugees will strain our already meagre sources, increasing already high levels of poverty and crime, and result in the gradual breakdown of civil society.

Any voice raised for the national rights of Baluchs and Sindhis will be crushed with the blessing of the west as part of the ongoing counter-terrorism effort. Sectarian strife and lawlessness will rise dramatically.

The population as a whole will suffer, not for any crime of their own, merely for the misfortune of being a neighbour of Afghanistan where the policies of Pakistani rulers with tacit complicity of the west led from one thing to another, culminating in the events of Sept.11.

An online friend in the USA was worried about the situation in her country and mine. I told her that the world had survived bigger fools than Osama, Mullah Umar and President Bush and would survive again. Brave words I suppose!

ENDS

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