open book

My name is Amanullah Jiffrey Kariapper. Today, Saturday, July 3rd, 2010, I am 31 years, 4 months, 2 weeks and 5 days old. (In other words, I was born on 14th February, 1979, the year that Afghanistan was formally “invaded” by the then Soviet Union.)
It is now roughly 40 hours since my life changed.
I cried when I heard the news – 15 killed, 35 injured due to 2 blasts in Data Darbar. I was just about to fall asleep. I was dead tired, having been on a tough beat at work for the ten preceding days. And then I just couldn’t turn over and go to sleep. I cried and the pain came from deep within. I felt that I did not have enough tears, my body arched to compensate, I wailed involuntarily. My wife tried to console me. She has gotten more and more used to terrorist attacks since moving here so she didn’t understand what was eating me up. I was behaving as if these were the first serious attacks in Lahore since the “War on Terror” started to tear apart our communal existence. I would not stop crying – with or without tears. I was screaming “without raising my voice”. Everything in me screamed with pain, hurt, hurt, hurt. “They” – always the mythical, mysterious, semi-mythical “they” – had hit us in our heart. The open, bleeding heart… data ki nagri… what now? what more?
I stopped when I decided that this had to stop. That, if even now, I continued to pretend that things would take care of themselves and that all I should do, all I could do, was to take care of my family, then I would lose everything. Starting with my soul.
So, I decided that as long as I lived in Pakistan, I would do all I could to end Pakistan’s involvement in the “War on Terror”. As long as this fake war goes on, the following will keep happening:
a) Bomb blasts will claim the lives of non-combatants.
b) Drone attacks will claim the lives of non-combatants. I note in passing that drones are now flown by operators of the Pakistan Air Force in tandem with those of NATO.
c) For every non-combatant killed or injured in (a) and (b), at least three to four new combatants would be created
d) Parts of the sold-out, self-obsessed, self-enriching cynical elite will continue to play the game of politics without understanding that they are now playing with fire. They will continue to maintain the dis-connect between the rulers and the ruled, so that they maintain their monopoly over all the real decision-making. In this effort to preserve their ancient privileges, they will agree to all that the IMF, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank – as well as the US, the UK and Saudi Arabia (this list is, obviously, non-exhaustive) demand of them.
e) Hence, subsidies will be withdrawn (such as the one for the lowest bracket of electricity consumers), electricity, gas and fuel prices will increase, sales taxes (under various names) will increase, fake “shortages” will recur – of sugar, of wheat, of gas.
f) (e) and (c) in combination will mean more and more people available to serve as suicide attackers as desperate, out-of-work ex-bread-winners cede to the double temptation to gain entry to paradise while having someone look after their families after they’ve blown themselves up.
g) The export of heroin and cocaine from Afghanistan, transiting through Pakistan (specifically Balochistan) will continue. All those who allow this poison to pass through will become richer by the day – whether civilian (e.g. Police, FIA, Anti-Narcotics Task Force/Board, Customs, FBR, judges and magistrates), paramilitary (Rangers & FC, various levies and scouts) or military (most notably MI, ISI, IB amongst the “sensitive agencies”, the National Logistics Cell (NLC), plus, surely, senior generals in the regular army). In other words, at the highest levels of operative decision-making in Pakistan, a network of colluding officials is coming into existence (or rather, is expanding, at least its influence), who will do all they can to ensure that the present conditions of instability, partial lawlessness, uncertainty and outright terror continue to exist so that they continue to make money.
h) The drug trade is just one of the specific factors that help to align the interests of corrupt officials with those of all those elements who profit from weaknesses in state and society. In the case of Pakistan, the list of usual suspects would run as follows:
i) the military bureaucratic elite
ii) the intelligence elite
iii) the feudal elite
iv) the political elite
v) the civilian bureaucratic elite
vi) extremist organisations and their sympathisers that advocate and carry out hate crimes against anyone whom they refuse to recognise as a fellow human being
vii) interests in other countries, led by the US military and financial elite, who profit from war and instability in the region, specifically “AfPak”. Other foreign elements would be the hawks in the Indian security establishment, Israeli think tanks and lobbies like the AIPAC, the UAE financial operators, the Saudi rulers of Hejaz.
Once could say that (g) is an instance of (d). And yet, it is different in the sense that it serves as a glue, attracting and binding together all the corrupt wielders of power and influence. Also, another very interesting aspect is the fact that containers headed for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), an innocuous-sounding term for the Coalition of the Willing that currently occupies the sovereign nation of Afghanistan, transiting through Pakistan, bypass all the usual customs and police controls and inspections, including I imagine those of the Anti-Narcotics people. In other words, the situation in the 1980s has been re-created, where NLC containers would even be used to transport the drugs that the CIA and the ISI were using to fund the war against the Soviet Union. This is similar to the Golden Triangle created in South East Asia in the 1960’s and 1970’s to fund America’s defence of the free world in South Vietnam. It was during the 1980’s that usage of heroin went through the roof in Pakistan – just like the incidence of gun-related crimes, just like the possession of the “legendary” AK-47, whether with private security guards, members of organised crime syndicates, fake “students” belonging to fake “student unions” in large public universities and colleges.

I live in Lahore. Founded, according to legend, some centuries before Christ. Ancient cross-roads, trading post and melting point. Have met here Dravidians, Central Asians, Afghans, Persians, Greeks, Chinese. All the inheritors and interactors of the Indus Valley Civilisation.

I live in Lahore. By the river Ravi, “the narrator”, third (counting down from the north) of the five rivers of the land called Punjab (punj: five, ab: water). The middle river. It used to be huge, more than a kilometer across, as evidenced by the bridges that still span its bed. Dying the death of a thousand cuts ever since the British decided to settle western Punjab using a system of barrages and canals – with the enthusiastic support, in this instance, of the occupied.

I live in Lahore, compared in the sixteenth century with the greatest cities of the world, a cosmopolitan society. The city that has always saved itself from destruction at the hands of invaders and adventurers by buying them off and giving them sustenance for their eventual destination – Delhi, the heart of northern India.

Lahore, the capital of the Sikh Empire, the only state created by the people of Punjab since the coming of the Ghaznavids and Ghauris in the eleventh and twelfth centuries.

Lahore, daataa ki nagri. Lahore betrays her daataa. Lahore, lost without her daataa.

Lahore burned in 1947. That year, it lost its Hindu and most of its Sikh population. Shah Alam burned. Will it now lose all of its population?

I live in Lahore. There are more than 10 million other human beings who share this bit of earth with me. Help us. Stop this war, stop all these wars!

How?

One small idea is thorough social and consumer boycotts:
a) In Pakistan, boycott all those in your family and friends who you know to be corrupt holders of public office.
b) Boycott companies and individuals that have defaulted on loans, that participate in the transit of goods to NATO troops in Afghanistan, that indulge in corrupt business practices.
c) Boycott all hate mongers, whether maulvis or writers or journalists or artists. Whether they are Sunni or Shia or Deobandi or Barelvi or Naqshbandi or whatever. Whether they are pro-Army or anti-India, or anti-America, or anti-Pakistan, or anti-Islam, or anti-liberal, or anti-yehudi, or anti-Hindu, or anti-daarhi or anti-Ahmedi or anti-Christian or anti-God or anti-Muhammad or anti-Christ or anti-Moses. Don’t listen to them. Listen to them but then take them on. Not aggressively, but with patience and with care. Maybe we’ll find the most effective preachers of love amongst them. Let not “the ignorant armies clash by night.”

Dha de mandir, te dha de masjad
Dha de jo kuch dhainda
Par kisse da dil na dhaaween
Mera rab dilaan vich vasda

d) Outside Pakistan, support all actions taken against American imperialism, whether in Palestine or Venezuela or Cuba or Bolivia.

Why boycott?
Because:
i) it condemns the act, not the person because as soon as the act is rectified, the boycott is dropped
ii) it is non-violent
iii) it does not rely on any state apparatus for its enforcement
a) thus it induces debate and reflection in individuals
b) thus it gives people a little more control over their destiny

Please write back, leave comments. Let’s get going! Let’s start to dig ourselves out of this mess. Ourselves.

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13 thoughts on “open book

  1. sorry – I meant to say that (g) is an instancfe of (d) not (c)… correction made in the text too…

  2. I’m so glad that you, unlike most of the so-called liberal souls, openly acknowledged the role of the evils other than religious extremism in this nightmarish situation.

    I believe, and I don’t know your stance on this, that no doubt religious extremism is a horrible scourge haunting our society each and every instant, official corruption and the political infrastructure is a bigger problem! Because although poverty and illiteracy are not the necessary conditions for the emergence and expansion of religious extremism, these certainly are grand factors – and these factors are the direct consequence of “official corruption”.

    Another issue I needed to discuss is that the problem with liberals (perhaps 99.99%) is that they converse in English. Is that any good for the masses? I highly doubt. People need to tackle these issues in URDU papers, on URDU forums.

    I’m more than willing to join in. Thanks a lot for the thoughts.

    1. Umer,

      Thanks for your sympathetic response.

      My understanding of the relationship between religious extremism and official corruption is that religious extremists (again, a difficult label to use so lightly) sometimes reach a point where they decide that the ends justify the means and decide to try and use such corrupt officials for their purposes. On the other hand, corrupt officials have figured out neat ways of using religious extremists for their own ends. Does the presence of strange bedfellows prove that this is merely politics as usual?
      In the term “religious extremists”, I have often wondered whether people were more scared of “religious” or “extremists”. For me, it’s clearly the second one, the subject (extremist), not the descriptor (religious). The tunnel vision imposed on us by the media has led to the situation where we are willing to accept any and all forms of extremism (nationalism verging on xenophobia, humanitarianism morphing into imperialism, the extreme injustice of the world trade system being set up under our very noses by the WTO) as long as it can’t be labeled religious. That’s so dishonest. And dangerous.

      I will write up a version in Urdu, not exactly a translation but something that expresses these ideas and feelings and post it here.

      Let’s meet up to discuss next steps!

      I’m really interested in figuring out forms of resistance other than boycott… as well as fine-tuning the rough idea of social boycotts.

      Aman

      1. and then we never met up, never discussed this agenda and I never wrote a version in Urdu…. something to do I guess!

  3. I just wanted to add that social and consumer boycotts are just suggestions that seemed the most promising to me.
    As activists, we are always free to choose better alternatives!

  4. A good article indeed. Thanks for sharing these thoughts. By the end of this article, the train of though denied to stop. I was thinking is this the best we can do. The answer came as yes and no. Yes because socio-economic pressures is a real force and ought to be used for creating good, for a change. And No, because the whole activism cloud, in my experience, makes you (the activist) feel special and elite and unfortunately (mostly) leads you to just criticize ‘them’ excluding ‘us’. My conclusion is that we need to be most active against ourselves, first at the individual level, then at the activists community level, and then at the hate mongers, corrupt elite. Maybe we are a new form of that we dislike, in the making, who knows… 😦

  5. Directly, the US war-first mentality drives this catastrophe. Today’s war-style stars McChrystal Death Squads, drones and bribery. Results are predictable for all but the warmongers, some of whom actually think “we” can “win”.
    I carry despair at this official program of “my” country, funded by my tax dollars (very few, in fact). I do, and seek better doing, to stop or mitigate this.

    Behidn this, ultra-right and religious fanaticism is the prime mover. No one is safe.

    Meeting this violent behemoth head-on is a prescription for death or martyrdom.

    One small hope, little loved or remarked by peace activists here is Prohibition: the official criminalization of certain drugs. For many here in the US, it is first a matter of personal freedom. But the huge impact of Prohibition is the maintainence of a market for criminal profit. Take out the immense profits and small “criminals” get out of jail; and big criminals lose their main source of funding.

    J S Hepler

  6. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and the very good proposals.

    I am a German but was married to a very kind Pakistan dipomat, who died some years ago.

    Living in Germany again now since long, I am yet still in contact with relatives and friends in Pakistan. I am as concerned as all of you peaceloving people there. So I decided to write a letter to Obama as Michael Moore did some time ago, asking him to stop the war in Afghanistan/Pakistan immediately.

    I never got a reply or at least a confirmation of the letter.

    I would like to forward this letter to you, but do not know how to contact you. Perhaps you might send me your E-Mail-Address.

    Thank you so much for getting activ!

  7. Very good article. I will direct it to my friends in Pakistan, who perhaps did not read it so far. I am a German and was married to a very kind Pakistan diplomate, who died some years ago. Living in Germany again now since long, I have yet many friends and relatives in Pakistan.
    I wrote a letter to Obama, asking him to stop the war in Afghanistan/Pakistan immediately, similar to the “Open Letter to President Obama”, written by Michael Moore.
    I never got an answer to this letter, not even a confirmation from the White House.
    I would like to send it to you, dear Mr. Kariapper, but do not find your E-Mail-Address.
    I want you to read this letter to show you that many people are thinking like you and that even some Germans would like to solve the Pakistan problems in a peaceful way. And perhaps some other people are encouraged to write to Obama or do something likely, if they read this letter.

    1. Dear Frau Jacobs,

      I am deeply touched by your concern and I am so glad that the publication of this article allowed us to connect.

      You can send me the letter you sent to Obama at my email address: ajkariapper@gmail.com.

      Aman

  8. Pakistans largest trade partner and donor is still America. While we may not want to follow their line, do we really have an option? :-\

    1. Yes, if we seriously decide to find alternative trading partners, we will. It’s a question of will. Many 3rd world countries in the past – and even recently – have done it and it has always been one of the major components in serious attempts at de-colonisation, at real sovereignty, i.e., poora swaraj.

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