Sunday, January 30, 2011

Who Are Pakistan's Westernized Extremists?

I may not have liked his politics but I know that Governor Salman Taseer was not a blasphemer and that clergymen misled our religious-minded people into believing Mr. Taseer was a blasphemer which probably resulted in a 26-year-old man committing a heinous crime that even Muslim law does not condone.

I accused two vocal minorities in Pakistan of killing Taseer. One is the fringe religious extremists. And the other fringe, the westernized extremists.

People are free to be westernized or religious. I have no problem with either. My problem is with extremists from both groups. The westernized extremists venture out to ridicule religion, and the religious extremists take an easy and tolerant religion like Islam and deform it into something unheard of in Muslim history.

I discussed this in detail in my column, Taseer's Real Killers: Two Extremist Pakistani Minorities, which was published by The News International.

In that column, I compared the passionate debate in Pakistan over the anti-blasphemy law to the American national debate between liberals and religious conservatives on abortion a few years ago. And I condemned how some American and British commentators and government officials tried to link an internal Pakistani debate to the war in Afghanistan, two completely different things. [Some American and British commentators tried to justify the failed war in Afghanistan by suggesting that that war is about Muslim-secular divide.]

Some Pakistani liberals emailed me protesting the use of the term westernized extremists. They said westernized Pakistanis are not violent as some religious extremists are like the man who assassinated Mr. Taseer.

My answer is: liberals and religious Pakistanis are not violent. Only the extremists among them are. It is true that a westernized extremist may not carry a weapon, but when he tries to eliminate a substantial and legitimate segment of religious Pakistanis, he or she is setting off a chain reaction that is bound to turn violent at some stage because religion is involved. Respect must be shown in this debate.

The following is how I briefly profiled a westernized Pakistani extremist:

We know who religious extremists are, those who go to extremes not sanctioned by our Prophet PBUH.

Now we should also know the westernized extremists, these are people who ridicule their compatriots who are religious, make fun of religion, don’t understand that to be liberal doesn’t mean that you oppose religion or oppose the right of another Pakistani to be religious. A westernized extremist is someone who can’t differentiate between opposing extremism and opposing religion, who thinks to be a liberal is to go to war with anyone who has a religious mind and heart. A westernized extremist is someone like Sherry who is right in wanting to amend or repeal the blasphemy law but she is NOT RIGHT in saying death should not be a legal pubishment for blasphemy. She not right because this penalty is part of the Islamic legal jurisprudence and part of Pakistani laws even without the blasphemy law, and so she doesn’t have the right to single-handedly decide if it’s right or wrong.

It ok if you want to be westernized or religious, just don’t go to extremes and divide Pakistanis along religious vs. secular, etc. We have more urgent problems in this country than these ‘imported debates’. They are imported because some western writers start this debate and some of our own buy it and think that’s all what we should be debating.

Did Nawaz Snub US Envoy Over Murder Case?

US ambassador Cameron Munter telephoned former premier Nawaz Sharif last night to discuss the case of a US citizen with apparent military training whose actions resulted in the murder of three Pakistani civilians in Lahore.

Mr. Munter asked for the man, who most probably is a covert US intelligence or special-ops officer, to be released from Pakistani police custody and be handed over to the embassy in Islamabad. Mr. Sharif, however, said the American, who is not a diplomat despite US embassy claims, will be tried according to Pakistani laws.

Mr. Sharif's terse half-line response to the US envoy is the only quote of Mr. Sharif that the media reported. We don't know what else Mr. Sharif discussed with the foreign envoy, if at all. The statement shows the former premier has made up his mind on the case.

But it's not that easy for Mr. Sharif. He is also very concerned about this case. One sign of this is the urgent meeting he called of his party seniors at his residence yesterday evening to discuss the American murderer's case.

In the closed-door meeting, Mr. Sharif heard many of his lieutenants warn against pardoning the killer in contravention of Pakistani laws. When a former premier, opposition leader and the leader of the provincial government calls for an urgent meeting to discuss a murder a case, it means the PMLN is in trouble.

Mr. Sharif is in a fix. He knows Pakistanis are closely watching this case and won't let him off the hook if he decides to issue a pardon. At the same time, he is also indebted to the Americans who saved his life in 2000 after a military coup.

Federal interior minister Rehman Malik has denied he is exerting pressure om police authorities in Punjab to release the American. Mr. Sharif's provincial law minister Rana Sanaullah told reporters yesterday no pressure from the federal Pakistani government and the US government would be heeded. But he didn't say if he was indeed facing pressures.

This is a test for Mr. Nawaz Sharif. The entire Pakistani political and military elite is guilty of selling Pakistani citizens for cheap. Mr. Sharif handed over Pakistani citizens to the US during his previous stints in power. So did late premier Benazir Bhutto. So did former army chief Pervez Musharraf.

Even today we hardly see any one of them, in the ruling parties, say a word about hundreds of Pakistani civilians killed by CIA drones in border areas.
Let's hope our ruling elite will let the law take its course in this case, though many Pakistanis remain skeptical.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A US Magazine Reports On Shutting Down A Pakistani Website For Criticizing CIA

A screen shot of the Google cache of a Pakistanian website, which has since been taken down

WHIR Web Hosting Industry News reports on how publishing a critical story on CIA led to shutting down during the first week of the new year. The story confirms how CIA and some government-types are disturbed at how we have been reporting illegal CIA activities in Pakistan over the last three years. The site was restored after the disputed article was removed. As a proof of discrimination, major US-based websites continue to display the same information while PakNationalists was singled out for retribution. Legal action is underway in the US jurisdiction where this discriminatory action occured.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Tunisia & Pakistan: Ben-Ali, Zardari & Kayani

I remember the time when President Zain Al Abidine Ben Ali seized power in Tunisia in 1987. I was 15, a young political junkie attending an Arabic school. A Lebanese friend came to me and said his countrymen and women in the south, where Lebanese Shia villages abound, flocked to the Tunisian embassy in Beirut because they were impressed by the name of the new Tunisian president which resembles the name of one of the key historical Shia Muslim figures.

Of course, religious myths had not place in the mind of the new Tunisian strongman. Tunisia is a Muslim country but staunchly non-religious at government level, with an educated population, and known more for its artists and musicians, books and world-class touristic resorts than anything else.

Since its independence in 1956, it was ruled by El Habib Bou Rgeiba, a Tunisian nationalist who turned his country into one of the most modernist Arab nations. In his early years, Iraq's Saddam Hussain was impressed by Bou Rgeiba's reforms and implemented some of them, turning Iraq into a powerhouse for education and learning before the war with Iran destroyed everything.

President Ben-Ali took charge from an ailing Bou Rgeiba in 1987 and ruled ever since.

While culture, theaters, education, sports and arts were encouraged, political dissent was not tolerated.  China, for example, has allowed the young Chinese many avenues to release their energy through the Internet and social networking, online and offline, with supervision when necessary. No such room in Tunisia. The ability to adapt to change while protecting national interest is essential.  President Ben-Ali was protecting Tunisian stability but failed to adapt to a new economy and society. People can live with a strong government as long as they are busy in making and spending money, which is the core of a healthy economy. Overlooking this dynamic was a mistake that President Ben Ali has paid for yesterday, when he had to escape the country after weeks of demonstrations against corruption and inflation.

An army officer and a former head of Tunisian military intelligence and later in charge of external intelligence, President Ben-Ali was forced out by his own military because of the way he handled protesters, killing around 90 protesters and injuring close to one thousand. The protesters were only against the rise in essential food items and general corruption of the ruling elite.

The military sealed Tunisia's airspace and effectively secured all borders. Some relatives of Sarah Trabolsi, the second wife of the president, were arrested by the military as they tried to board a plane out of the country.

The military did not approve of President Ben-Ali's high-handedness and eased the president out. The people have welcomed the military intervention, and emergency rule is in effect now in the country. The new temporary president Mohamad El Ghanouchi has called on "all sons and daughters of Tunis ... to show national spirit and unity and help our nation pass this difficult stage."


It is just a guess but two people must be watching the Tunisian news closely: President Asif Ali Zardari and Army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.

President Ben-Ali's departure is bad news for our president. It shows that such departures are possible after all and no amount of 'revenge democracy' ['democracy is the best revenge' is one of Mr. Zardari's best catchphrases] can prevent such an ending. 

The Pakistani ruling elite is not just incompetent. It is ineffective, conducts uncivilized politics, and has almost no vision for the country's past, present or future. What is worse is that the Pakistani ruling elite will not allow any mechanism for new Pakistani faces or talents to emerge. This stagnation is what led to President Ben-Ali's escape.

You can add one more charge in the Pakistani case that does not exist in the Tunisian example: Pakistani politics have splintered along linguistic lines, dividing Pakistanis and enticing them to internal warfare. The country's constitution does not allow our parties to do this but there is no one to stop them.

As for Gen. Kayani, his and his colleagues' worry is simple. They do not want to find themselves in a situation where the military intervenes again in a traditional way and clean the mess, like the Tunisians have done. Pakistan needs to create viable state institutions to run the country. The military realizes the importance of this to avoid a meltdown.  But such a meltdown is almost knocking at Pakistan's door. In the face of massive failures of the Pakistani political elite, the military knows it will have to step in eventually.

It is not hard to figure this out. But the million-dollar question is: What to do after an intervention. Traditional-style coups, where the army chief steps in and takes charge, like Pervez Musharraf had done, can no longer work. Whoever is in charge after a meltdown, tough decisions will have to be made to restyle the political system by removing crippling bottlenecks in the constitution and laws and in a manner that would stop political parties from becoming personal and family fiefdoms and allow for a healthy and civilize political growth and practice.

Like Tunisia, Pakistan will have to find indigenous solutions. Lectures and recipes from Washington and London won't help. The Tunisians have clear red lines in this regard. But not in Pakistan, which is a contributing factor to constant instability.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

PakNationalists Site Restored After CIA-Related Glitch

SPECIAL REPORT | Wednesday | 12 January 2010

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan—An American hosting company has restored after a temporary settlement over a story critical of illegal CIA operations in Pakistan.

This is probably the first case where a Pakistani website hosted in the US was pulled down because of criticizing CIA. It confirms frequent reporting by the Pakistani website on CIA’s interference in the mainstream media for propaganda purposes.  

The US-based hosting company demanded the said article be removed from the website based on a complaint by an unidentified party.

The story in question discussed the escape of CIA Islamabad station chief Jonathan Banks from Pakistan last month to avoid a murder trial.

In a formal complaint today to the American company, has raised the specter of a lawsuit in a US court accusing the American hosting company of discrimination. The same story continues to appear on US-hosted websites. Moreover, Terms of Agreement do not preclude posts critical of CIA-related policy matters.

The discrimination shows deliberate targeting of, a Pakistani news website critical of US government and CIA policies in Pakistan and the region. The site is run by volunteers in Islamabad but uses the services of a US hosting company.

"Please note that the very same material," says the letter by to the American firm, 'is hosted in the United States by Google's, where this post is published, titled: The Great Escape Of Jonathan Banks. No one has asked to remove this content [...] Also, Wikipedia has a full dedicated page titled, Jonathan Banks (CIA officer). This page is hosted by a US hosting company. No one has asked to remove it."

A spokesman for issued the following statement: "By this measure, we should ask Pakistani authorities to ban every website or newspaper that reproduces CIA 'findings' that usually mix facts with policy propaganda. Maybe we should suggest that other countries do the same whenever western media sources disseminate material released by CIA or the US intelligence community.”

“They’ve been vilifying Pakistan for the past three years but can’t tolerate criticism against themselves. So much for US VP Joseph Biden’s lecture this evening in Islamabad,” the spokesman added, referring to the visit of the US vice president to the country.

Since 2007, Pakistan has been the target of a mass demonization campaign, largely limited to the mainstream American and British media. The minutes of this campaign overlap with the usual US policy sound-bites on Pakistan.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

How To Save America From The Abyss

After the near-assassination of US politician Gabrielle Giffords, I made an important discovery. I discovered that she was almost killed, and possibly crippled for life, in the same state - Arizona - that produced the American terrorist Timothy McVeigh. It also produced a hate preacher called John Hagee, the one who made the famous statement, 'All Muslims are programmed to kill.'  As a child, Hagee was probably addicted to the science fiction movie E.T.

Arizona is also the same state that produced an American president that wasn't: John McCain. Senator McCain almost made it in the 2008 presidential elections. But see what kind of people Arizona has been producing: Mr. McCain is a warmonger. As President Obama visited India in November, Mr. McCain issued a series of statements welcoming the prospects of United States ganging up with India against China, and also against Pakistan.

Just imagine this: a politician who thinks he is presidential material is rooting for a future massive war in Asia because that suits his ego.

I have always maintained that ordinary Americans are some of the nicest people you'd find anywhere. But it is the American political elite that wants to mislead these good people into a war with the rest of the planet.

This is the theme of my analytical piece that I wrote for Project For Pakistan In 21st Century, an independent think-tank based in Islamabad. The paper is titled, How To Save America From The Abyss. I hope it makes a good read.

Monday, January 10, 2011

CIA Complaint Results In Shutting Down A Pakistani Website says it has been formally warned to remove an article on CIA’s secret war inside Pakistan from its website that mentions the name of CIA’s former top spy in Islamabad. The American Internet company that hosts the website on its servers in the United States has complied and told the Pakistani website that the decision is ‘not up for debate.” The irony is that CIA leaves out American and British newspapers and websites that ran the story and targets a Pakistani site critical of US policies.

SPECIAL REPORT | Monday | 10 January 2011

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan—One of Pakistan’s premier online news websites, was pulled off the Internet in the first week of 2011 after the US-based hosting company said the site must remove an article mentioning the name of Mr. Jonathan Banks, CIA’s former Islamabad station chief who escaped from Pakistan last month to avoid a murder trial linked to CIA’s secret war inside the country.

The US-based hosting company,, said in a written statement sent to the management of in Islamabad that the Pakistani website must remove an article titled, ‘CIA Station Chief In Islamabad Sued For Murder And Terrorism.’ [Click here to see an old snapshot of the article from Google cache.  Or click here to read the article on another website]

In its strongly worded statement, the American company warned, “We ask that you either remove the content […] or move your” website to another Internet hosting provider.

On 3 January, the American company gave the Pakistani website 48 hours to comply, and pulled the site down on 5 January.

“Please be aware that this decision [to remove the content] is final, and is not up for debate,” said an email by the Abuse Department at


The strange aspect of the story is that hundreds of newspapers and websites covered this story worldwide, including in the United States. But only a Pakistani website, PakNationalists/, is being targeted.

UK’s the Guardian newspaper, whose online version is accessible in the United States, published the story on Dec. 17 along with the full name and designation of Mr. Banks.

Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia, runs a dedicated page titled Jonathan Banks (CIA officer) but no one has shut down Wikipedia.

UK’s Channel 4 reported CIA station chief’s name but its broadcast and website are accessible from the US.

Another US-based website, running an editorial titled, The Great Escape Of Jonathan Banks, has not been asked to shut down or remove the top spy’s name.

It is obvious that is the target.


“We inquired as to who could have made this complaint,” said Gulpari Nazish Mehsud, a young Pakistani who sees herself as a ‘Pakistani nationalist’ and helps manage the website as a volunteer. “The US company won’t give us a name, but it doesn’t take a genius to guess who is making the complaint.”

CIA and the US government have requested the mainstream US media not to print Mr. Banks’ name, although it is all over the world media.

Pakistani nationalism has been on the rise in Pakistan since 2007, when Pakistanis complained that the US and its British ally and their media indulged in the worst demonization campaign against Pakistan as a pressure tactic to squeeze strategic concessions out of the nuclear-armed nation. 

The PakNationalists group began in 2007 with four persons. Today, it boasts close to 5,000 members from different parts of Pakistan. “Mostly young and educated Pakistanis, and intensely nationalistic,” said Mehsud. is probably one of the earliest online news sites that monitored in detail the many aspects of the US double game against Pakistan in Afghanistan.

“We’ve been under pressure before,” said Ahmed Quraishi, one of the founders of as an online forum for Pakistani nationalists. “In 2007, a US diplomat in Islamabad fed a senior Washington Post columnist this information that we’re somehow ISI,” he said, adding “Anyone in Pakistan who defends this country’s legitimate rights is somehow ISI. Maybe that’s why they are harassing us now.” is down until further notice.