WASHINGTON DIARY: The sovereignty conundrum —Dr Manzur Ejaz - Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Source : http://dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2011\03\09\story_9-3-2011_pg3_3

The religious parties do not care for the country’s sovereignty because of their belief in a Pan-Islamic state. They just raise the sovereignty issue to provide a cover for jihad waged by the Taliban, al Qaeda and other extremist groups

The Raymond Davis case can be taken to be an authentic proof that the US is violating Pakistan’s sovereignty. The arrest of another American from Peshawar is taken to be an additional proof that Blackwater of the US has infiltrated Pakistan, without any state permission or information. Everyone should rise in condemnation when the homeland’s sovereignty is breached. Many enlightened and left-wing Pakistanis believe that by keeping silent on this issue, liberal secular Pakistanis have conceded a monopoly to the religious parties over the popular anti-imperialist public sentiment.

Left-liberal Pakistanis should forcefully condemn the US intervention in Pakistani or in any other sovereign state’s internal matters. However, if the purpose is to blunt the onslaught of religious extremism, then no liberal condemnation of the US intervention is going to work. The mullahs can always find an issue to raise the ‘intervention’ slogan. Aafia Siddiqui was a US citizen but her prosecution was an intervention in Pakistani affairs. The other day Maulana Fazalur Rehman warned the western countries not to use the martyrdom of Shahbaz Bhatti against Islam and Pakistan. In other words, if the world condemns the murder of a Christian cabinet minister, Shahbaz Bhatti, it is an intervention and attack on Pakistan and Islam. How can any rational person argue with that?

Leaving aside the massive confusion of the last two decades, it was always leftists and liberal Pakistanis who used to condemn and demonstrate against US imperialism. When the US was waging a war in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, it was the Pakistani left who would take to the streets against the US brutality. The religious parties, Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) in particular, used to be in the forefront of defending the US by raising the slogan “Asia sabz hai” (Asia is green). Those were the days when the US consulates used to buy Maulana Maududi’s books in millions and distribute them for free.

Who was inviting foreign intervention in Pakistani affairs? To start with, when the Saudi government sent a hefty cheque to Maulana Maududi (or JI), Zulfikar Ali Bhutto protested over this intervention. But Bhutto had to back off because of Pakistan’s partial dependence on Saudi largesse and the JI cashed the cheque. Probably that was the beginning of a massive intervention in Pakistan’s internal political matters.

During General Ziaul Haq’s regime, Pakistani borders were opened for all kinds of foreign interventionists. Thousands of US spies and international jihadis from all around the world were allowed to descend on Pakistani soil to fight against the Soviet Union. The Pakistan Army and the ruling elites invited the intervention by a mass of foreigners. Osama bin Laden also got a free pass to Pakistan. Was it a foreign intervention or not? If someone argues that they came here by Pakistan’s consent, then the question is who was and is the Pakistani state? Are the military and its intelligence agencies legally allowed to decide to allow foreign elements to come to Pakistan and do whatever they want to do?

When al Qaeda and mujahideen/Taliban were freely coming and going across Pakistani borders without any legal authority, were they violating Pakistan’s sovereignty or not? This went on during the civilian rule of Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif as well. If the civilian government chose to keep their eyes closed to such intrusion, does that make it less of an intervention? Of course sections of the Pakistani state were intervening in the internal matters of Afghanistan, which was equally illegitimate.

For a long time, Saudi Arabia and other Arab sheikhdoms have been funding religious extremists and the madrassas that have produced most of the jihadis. The process intensified during the anti-Soviet war in Afghanistan but it had started much earlier and has continued afterwards. If foreign countries are equipping a section of the population of a country to fight the rest, what would one call it? Most rationalists would agree that it is the gravest intervention by a foreign country.

In the political arena, Saudi Arabia has been intervening in Pakistan’s politics more often than even the US. One can argue that they are doing the US bidding but the fact remains that it is done through the Saudi royal family. From having Nawaz Sharif released from jail, to hosting him in their country, the Saudis have proved to be the biggest interventionists in Pakistan’s affairs. Then why the religious parties or the media do not raise the question of sovereignty against the Saudis?

The historical facts show that it was the religious parties who have been justifying or inviting intervention in Pakistan’s affairs. They were quite vocal in supporting the US interference in Indo-China and in Indonesia where the CIA connived with General Suharto to kill millions of Indonesian nationalists and leftists. It was the religious parties and Pakistan’s military that invited the US and hundreds of thousands of jihadi interventionists from all around the world and violated Pakistan’s sovereignty.

In fact, the religious parties do not care for the country’s sovereignty because of their belief in a Pan-Islamic state. They just raise the sovereignty issue to provide a cover for jihad waged by the Taliban, al Qaeda and other extremist groups. When the US was helping them against progressive elements in Pakistan and Afghanistan, it was not violating Pakistan’s sovereignty. Saudi Arabia is assisting them and it is somehow not violating Pakistani sovereignty. The forces that are coming in their way of Talibanisation are violating our sovereignty.

It is time for Pakistani patriots to rise against foreign intervention whether it is coming from the US, Europe or Arab countries. However, to do that we will have to break the begging bowl because without that we can stop neither the US nor Saudi Arabia from interfering in our internal matters. Can we do it?

The writer can be reached at manzurejaz@yahoo.com

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