When commentary by supposedly progressive liberals representing Pakistan continue to mislead the public, as they present themselves as liberal voices of truth, they deserve to be challenged. While I don’t usually focus analysis specifically around Pakistani establishment press, the recent and needless assaults by Ejaz Haider on a thoughtful essay by the brilliant Professor Pervez Amirali Hoodbhoy was too much.
In fact, Ejaz Haider, Hamid Mir, together with Taliban sympathetic rhetoric from Imran Khan, and, Jinnah Institute (JI) report run by Ejaz Haider and Sherry Rehman, keep re-surfacing. The outrage begins to beckon for someone to speak out in defense of true progressive thought versus fake-liberal establishment press that is obfuscating important issues. I’ll make an attempt here to shed some light into the darkness of pretenders, and later, expose their blatant misrepresentation.
Recently, Pakistan’s respected scientist and peace activist Dr. Prof. Pervez Amirali Hoodbhoy wrote an insightful essay. Professor Hoodbhoy, who is from Islamabad, is a Pakistani nuclear physicist, essayist and political-defence analyst. A PhD from MIT, he is the professor of nuclear and high-energy physics, and the head of the Physics Department at the Quaid-e-Azam University (QAU). Professor Hoodbhoy is also an environmental and social activist and avid supporter for peaceful use of nuclear technology in the world today. As if that were not enough, he is also a gentleman with peaceful insights.
His article, “Let us become – proudly – bayghairat”does not take the tone of someone who has no honor (bayghairat), but rather challenges the current leaders and political figures given to inflamed discourse (Imran Khan comes to mind) that invoke a nationalistic sense of passion and hyped-patriotism. This style is often used as it was by totalitarians, and men of lesser infamy, including a group of present politicians to elevate ghairat (honour) as the focus of a platform of national unity, so as to distract from the more difficult proposition of addressing people’s needs, which are then pushed aside; i.e., reducing unemployment, increasing literacy levels, urban and rural planning, elevating the poor, or simply providing electricity. It is a rather self-inflating feeling to declare that it is ghairat to challenge America, by suggesting Pakistanis are saving their “honor,” by rejecting the notion of USAID given to them, as “breaking the chains of slavery,” rather than admitting where the USAID has greatly assisted, after floods for just one example. Rather than being a matter of honor, USAID had been improperly diverted to military means, that was meant for Pakistani citizens. Focusing instead on how to stop such internal corruption, and misuse of incoming funds from allies would serve the country better.
Dr. Hoodbhoy states: “The more morally and intellectually bankrupt a leader, the louder he thunders about qaumi ghairat (national honour).” Imran Khan and Hamid Gul would be among those that use this as a political ploy to incite passions over pragmatism. He further, cited a question he posed years ago to Pakistani military officers on the point of when “in their opinion, would warrant the use of nuclear weapons by Pakistan.” Their answer was “only defensively,” unless, that is, the “Pakistan Army faces defeat. We cannot allow ourselves to be dishonoured.” Thus, ghairat would allow destruction regardless of how much both sides would lose.
The point of the article then is not that we no longer should consider “ghairat” honour, null and void, and clearly in his theme where he states himself to be proudly “Bayghairat,” anyone with any sense reading the essay understands the context of ghairat that was using today, could lead to nuclear destruction.
Instead of taking Professor Hoodbhoy’s sage advice, Pakistan’s pro-establishment pseudo-liberals activated a young writer namely Maria Waqar to launch a petty critique. Her Master’s degree in political science from National University of Singapore notwithstanding, Maria Waqar struck me as an example of a student-level intellect taking opportunistic jabs at her professor. This is easy to do when you have the luxury of a fully published article and can pick and choose what to misrepresent. One can address statements out of context and intentionally misunderstand and distort towards one’s own purposes- which is what she was doing in this article, May 14, The Express Tribune:
Maria Waqar claims Dr Hoodbhoy discounts any possibility that a “distinction between empty talk of sacred norms, like honour, by manipulative politicians and their actual strategic motives can exist.” Then, in her pretense of deduction she comes up with something completely unrelated: “Deducing by his logic, then, the US intervened in Afghanistan and Iraq during the new millennium not for strategic interests but for the sake of bestowing freedom and liberty to the local population. And more than a decade later, we are perfectly aware of the rampant destruction of life and property that American presence has inflicted on both countries — all of which befell, according to Dr Hoodbhoy’s rationale, at the behest of normative considerations.”
Excuse me, Ms. Waqar, but Dr. Hoodbhoy said nothing of the kind. Indeed, Bush actually was under considerable ghairat, after 9/11, and both the attack on Afghanistan ( instead of, perhaps a more well-thought out covert ops directly on al Qaeda), and the 2003 invasion of Iraq suggests in retrospect something perhaps very much like Dr. Hoodbhoy’s thesis of ghairat, when one calculates, not the mis-information of WMD, but the actions behind the scenes of cabinet members Paul Wolfowitz, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld insistence on attacking a brash, defiant Saddam, if not ghairat, then something close to it- bravado. In her apparent stand for religion and ghairat, she concludes that Dr. Hoodbhoy would, or should “denounce liberal values of liberty and freedom —‘fruits of the modern world’— for such rampant devastation and death” instead of blaming “traditional notions like honour and religion [he never mentions religion] for causing widespread suffering. Yet, to do the same for liberal values is considered absurd. For the lack of a convincing argument to do otherwise, I will hang onto my ghairat — at least, for now.” Her smug point here is Western values are to blame, not honour, and her insertion of religion is telling – how about radicalized religion? The Salafist use ghairat to the youth in their Madrassas- and that, is Dr. Hoodbhoy’s deeper point, cursing honor that is hyped just for the sake of inflaming passions.
Probably sensing that Ms. Waqar’s sophomoric effort did nothing to dent the popularity of Prof Hoodhoy’s writing, the favored journalist of the ISPR variety, Ejaz Haider decided to take the driver’s seat and launched an additional attack, not only out of context, but rather ISI/military-friendly, adverse to any thought of not being ghairat. In “The Pardox reigns Supreme,” Ejaz Haider, mocks Dr. Hoodbhoy from the start, suggesting, “Such are the binaries in this country that we can either be shamelessly ghairatmand or proudly bay-ghairat.”
I disagree with Haider. Dr. Hoodbhoy, in giving such a choice, is merely suggesting the differences on the extreme of the spectrum. Why intentionally miss the point so we can make someone wrong? This is strawmanning at its most petty level and displays a deep rooted insecurity on Mr. Haider’s part.
I find Ejaz Haider’s articles crafted to display intelligence, rather than a byproduct of intelligence, which, no doubt he is; also, thoroughly arrogant, his article is a pedantic ramble. He is more concerned with put-downs and obscure references that serve only to draw ego-driven attention to his wider reading. In his praise of Maria Waqar, he and she isolate his apt references to tribal issues with “Ghairat” as “problems in Hoodbhoy’s thesis… that both Germany and Japan, when they were swayed by nationalist ideologies, were highly industrialised nations, not herding communities.” Indeed. How about reading for meaning! Anyone who is aware of the misogynistic roots of “honor killings” illustrates, tribal, as well as industrialized nations, are guilty of ghairat as a reason for revenge, hate crimes, and in the context of Dr. Hoodhbhoy, he fears its use could include the misuse of nuclear force.
Ejaz Haider goes on, “Waqar also made the subtle point about how “liberal”values can and have brought much destruction.” I would argue, as I am sure Dr. Hoodbhoy would, that singling out “liberal’ was odd, when, all forms of social organization are guilty of violence – military, religious, liberal, fascist, et. al., are guilty of death and destruction, no classification goes unlisted in historical atrocities. So, are we to believe with the slights singled out for liberals by Waqar and Haider, that Ejaz Haider is indeed the liberal, the “anti-establishment” as his friends claim him to be; or, is the closeness to the ISI/Pakistan military starting to register more clearly.
Ejaz Haider continues, “Perhaps unknowingly she pointed to the same paradox Albert Camus did when he tried to figure out how and why we have to wade through bloodshed even when we want to achieve the state of innocence, the story of 20th century that has continued to wit.” Impressive, getting Camus in there, though awkward. It did serve his pseudo-intellectual style, of confusing issues with a literary quote unrelated to the article, while showing off his unwarranted disdain for Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy.
Both of them miss the valid point of the distinguished mind of Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy, in his attempt to put perspective to the concept of “honor” and how it can be used or misused. It is easy for critics to come in later and exaggerate for their own pathetic and misguided agendas. Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy’s example of the British sense of blind loyalty in the “Charge of the Light Brigade” being the most effective illustration of the lethal, appalling and senseless damage that can be done by blind honor- “do or die” – “my country right or wrong,” ghairat – mentality. “The Charge of the Light Brigade, during the Crimean War of 1854, he reminds us of “wave after wave of honour-charged British soldiers rode their horses into the mouths of Russian guns which, of course, promptly mowed them down. Tennyson later immortalised the slain men in his famous poem: ‘All the world wonder’d. Honour the charge they made! Honour the Light Brigade.’”
Beautiful prose? Or, innocents running to their meaningless deaths? Probably both. I ask you to decide: if young men rushing to their deaths for ghairat is worth it? I can tell you that today’s U.S. generals are very unlike the 19th century British in this regard. American commanders today use strategy and caution, and are more careful with our military fathers and sons sent in to battle. The esprit de corps, or the spirit of comradeship, enthusiasm, and devotion to a common cause or goal among the military is valid precisely because it does not use ghairat as a raison d’être for mindless honor killing. I would hope that Pakistani Army commanders would not misuse ghairat against India over Kashmir; or, the way both sides used ghairat in the 1980s Iranian-Iraqis war, another useless killing field, when both sides lost most of their military-age youth as they threw them into the front lines for ghairat; So many killed in the spirit of honor that they needed to start calling up men in their 50s and 60s for replacements. It is Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy’s article that has compelled me to reflect on such things.
This is not the first time that Professor Hoodbhoy has been targeted by those who value a warped, tribal sense of honour over sanity and rationality. When he criticized the Taliban, Professor Hoodhoy was alleged to be, by a witless Imran Khan unable to counter the Professer, an “American security advisor” (see 3:20):
During the interval of that show, Professor Hoodbhoy was challenged with physical violence as per a later interview by him:
All this occurred on a TV show anchored by Hamid Mir; a controversial Pro-Taliban, anti-Ahmadi, anti-Shia bigot who is being actively promoted as the torch bearer of good journalism by some of Pakistan’s “liberal” journalists. Unfortunately for Pakistan’s media, Hamid Mir and Ejaz Haider are both part of the same security establishment propaganda nexus that needs to be examined to see why any dissenting view like that of Professor Hoodbhoy is relentlessly attacked.
The Jinnah Institute-Friday Times Nexus
Not incidentally, Ejaz Haider is a leading member and now head of the Jinnah Institute, the instrument that misguides both Pakistan people and U.S. leaders. Ejaz Haider along with Sherry Rehman reflected much of the will of General Kayani in this Jinnah Institute (JI) report and the related testimony to Congress by Moeed Yusuf of the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP). In the report, the U.S. subsequently was influenced into granting credence to negotiation with the Taliban and accommodating Mullah Omar and Haqqani network Post NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2012.
Even as the massacres of Shia Muslim were occurring- September 2011 in Mastung (Balochistan), and later in February 2012 in Kohistan (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), continued into April 2012 in Chilas (Gilgit Baltistan). These reports continue to encourage top US officials, not the least of whom is Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who now believes negotiating with Taliban representatives can be effective. Many of these same “negotiators” for Taliban are tied to the banned extremist Deobandi group Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (currently operating as Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat ASWJ) – the same group that ordered passenger buses to stop near Chilas, and were subsequently murdered in cold blood as part of a ISI/Pak-army ignored/ or approved of, Shia genocidal solution.
Violence by the same groups and splinter groups, in Karachi, and Peshawar continue by the self-admitted LeJ-SSP who are linked to the ISI. This committee that wrote the JI report was a self-anointed “foreign policy elite.” It was in fact nothing less than an ISI/Pakistan military mutual admiration society. When the United States President, Secretary of State, and Secretary of Defense, congress and various US think tanks read these reports from Moeed Yusuf, Shuja Nawaz, Ejaz Haider, Hamid Mir and 53 other contributors of the JI report, they are hearing the views of General Kayani, General Pasha and the high command of the Pakistan Army and ISI- they are not hearing the will of the Pakistani elected government nor its citizens – token participation not withstanding.
Ultimately, via misrepresentation, this sophisticated, outwardly liberal group of journalists is misguiding two governments, Pakistan and the United States; a third would be Afghanistan. In its sly effectiveness the emerging communication becomes worse than the Right-wing Urdu media press at misrepresentation. These voices might resonate with western leaders, as they are believed to be coming from trusted sources with mutual interests. In fact, Western allies are unaware that it is generated from sympathies within the Pakistani Army, ISI and Supreme Court. This is the narrative that the Deep State uses to protect its Jihadi-sectarian militants Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, i.e., Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat /ASWJ-SSP. The fear of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Lashkar-e-Taiba, SSP-ASWJ and Taliban (Wahhabi-Deobandi militants) turning on Pakistan, keeps the Pak Army at arm’s length, thus the silence on the Shia massacres. There is more silence, in fact, the kill and dump of Balochs, and the blind eye of the security forces and authorities in Karachi political and ethnic-based killings.
In Pakistan there is an inter-connected group that includes Ejaz Haider, Najam Sethi, Nasim Zehra, Umar Cheema, Cyril Almeida, Sherry Rehman, Mosharraf Zaidi and Hamid Mir who variously portray themselves as “independent: “anti-establishment” and “liberal”. They thrive because they perpetuate each other’s interests and prop each other up by obsequious praises for each other instead of honest due-diligence required of proper analysis. On various occasions, the few honest writers in Pakistan also fall in the trap of coming across as sycophants for this dishonest lot as tribal and financial interests dictate such sycophancy.
This Jinnah Institue-Friday Times “liberal” Mafia also include military establishment spokespeople that advise U.S. Think Tanks and Congress. Apparently Moeed Yusuf, Imtiaz Gul and Shuja Nawaz’s job is to misrepresent and obfuscate crucial issues. The noxious effects of their propaganda are far reaching and the hatchet job against Professor Hoodhoy is just the latest example of their intellectual dishonesty. In Pakistan, few writers, if any wants to take on this dishonest group of writers and “analysts. Najam Sethi, Ejaz Haider’s former editor at the Friday Times and current collegue at the Jinnah Institute is a prime example of this intellectual dishonesty. On a nightly basis, “we regurgitate,” as per his own admission, the views fed to him by his much-celebrated bird (Chiriya). These views often consist of a mixture of security establishment agendas that are carefully peppered with a mixture of truths, half-truths and wishful thinking, suavely presented as the “liberal” viewpoint. They are not the true liberal viewpoint. Needless to say, they are intermixed with Sethi’s ethnic bias, chauvinist diatribes and a bitter anti-PPP spin.
Overseen by Sherry Rehman, here is my own related essay on the misleading Jinnah Institute (JI) report – This is Part II of “Pakistan’s Future: of Misleading reports and false prophets”- by Rusty Walker http://criticalppp.com/archives/58267
Additional sources related to this essay:
This is what Dr. Taqi, a Pakistan-American wrote about Ejaz Haider’s misrepresentation of Shia Genocide:
About the author: Rusty Walker is an Independent Political Analyst, educator, author, Vietnam veteran-era U.S. Air Force, from a military family, retired college professor, former Provost (Collins College, U.S.A.), artist, musician and family man. Mr. Walker is an ardent supporter of Pakistan. Here is a link to Mr. Walker’s other articles published on LUBP:http://criticalppp.com/archives/tag/rusty-walker
About the author: Rusty Walker is a world-travelled, Independent Political Analyst, educator, author, Vietnam veteran-era U.S. Air Force, from a military family, retired college professor, former Provost (Collins College, U.S.A.), artist, musician and family man. Mr. Walker is an ardent supporter of Pakistan.