http://afpak.foreignpolicy.comWhen people began pouring out onto the streets in Pakistan to protest on Friday, there was little chance that the government would take any action against them. After all, it was a declared public holiday to mark love for Prophet Mohammad, and religious and political groups had taken the government's move as a sign that the protests were sanctioned by the state. Pakistan has been engulfed with protests against the controversial film the Innocence of Muslims. Over the course of a week, members of a religious grouphave broken through police cordons to amass outside the US Consulate in Karachi and protestors attacked the enclave reserved for diplomatic missions in the capital city of Islamabad. In Hyderabad, the second largest city in the Sindh province, a businessman was accused of blasphemy for not participating in the protests. Friday was a free-for-all in Pakistan. Television channels broadcast footage of riots from nearly every major city. Protestors burned down cinemas in Karachi and Peshawar, as well as a church in Mardan, andattacked banks, police vehicles,buildings and evena public hospital. In Karachi, hundreds of members of groups as diverse as the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, a mainstream political party, to the banned Jaish-e-Mohammad and Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan dominated the streets. Dozens of effigies of U.S. President Barack Obama were burned along with American flags, and protestors chanted against the U.S., Israel and the filmmaker behind Innocence of Muslims. Police weredeployedat several key locations, but did not act to stop the protestors. In any case, they were largely outnumbered: about a half-dozen police officers are no match for hundreds of angry rioters. The issue in Pakistan is not just of one day, or one week, of protests. The problem is institutional. The outrage at issues like an allegedly blasphemous film or cartoons has a legal basis, whichstems from controversial laws that make blasphemy punishable by death, and excommunicate an entire sect. Government officials not only support the law, but the Interior Minister Rehman Malik once declared that he would kill a blasphemer himself. In a speech on Friday, Pakistan's Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf questioned why those denying the Holocaust were punished whilethere was no consideration for the feelings of Muslims. The government has supported the outrage ensuing from the film, not just by declaring a holiday, but also by summoning the current U.S. Charge d'Affaires in Pakistan to protest the film, blocking YouTube and reportedly approaching Interpol. These measures do little to control violence. More importantly, the government has failed to act against banned organizations that operate openly and protest without anyone batting an eyelid. Acting against the protestors -- as the Karachi police did when members of a Shiite group protested outside the U.S. Consulate -- is construed in Pakistan as the state attacking civilians for the sake of protecting ‘foreign governments.' The outrage is also politicized, though not entirely. Many of the groups protesting are used by political parties for support during election campaigns. The Difa-e-Pakistan Council, a coalition of over 40 religious organizations that also protested on Friday, seeks to become a pressure group to raise issues of religious ‘honor' and issues related to foreign policy, and will likely support many of the candidates from coalition parties in the upcoming elections. However, many protestors in Karachi said that they were not linked with political parties or religious groups, but had taken to the streets because they genuinely felt angry over the film. In a country where religious honor is tied in with nationalism, it is not surprising that many felt the need to protest. The protestors were from a wide spectrum, ranging from office workers to students to clerics. And for many of them, it was an opportunity to vent: President Asif Ali Zardari was condemned as vociferously as President Obama was. The protests will likely die down in a few days, if not earlier. The pattern of these protests has been fairly consistent over the years, and the issue will be abandoned in favor of something else. But the question of what the government can do to stop the protests may now be too late. The rot in Pakistan has been many decades in the making. Sectarian conflict has been stoked by successive rulers, including military dictators, religious outrage has received state approval by governments and political parties, and those responsible for massacres of various religious sects continue to fundraise to kill more. The military backs anti-U.S. sentiment, as evidenced during the debate in Pakistan over the Kerry-Lugar bill, or the outrage over the May 2 raid that killed Osama bin Laden. What is undoubtedly worse, though, is that there is no attempt to reverse any of the damage that has been done over the decades. Instead, the current government - and successive ones - will likely play a game of appeasement with religious groups in the hope that they will one day back them. That bet, as history has proven, will not pay off.
Friday, September 21, 2012
The two have a vast arrogance in common: both want their values universally accepted and both want to win.If I deliberately wound up an angry, resentful acquaintance to the point where he went on a rampage and murdered someone, I like to think I would have some regrets, that the important detail would not be the fact that it was my right to make the points I did, in the manner I did, but that I had caused someone to kill and someone to die. Similarly, I like to believe that if a teacher called to say my child was insisting on her right to criticise the physical, intellectual and social shortcomings of some of her classmates, and that it was causing those classmates distress, then I would have a word with my child about her behaviour. I would also like to think that were I the editor of a French satirical magazine, having just watched as swaths of people across a number of countries erupted into sometimes fatal anger over a film they believed had insulted them, I would not think: "Cool. Let's see if we can stoke that nightmare right up again." However, an astonishing number of people seem to feel differently. The right to free speech is not in the least abused, it seems, when troublemaking hotheads decide their provocative opinions have more legitimacy than any other consideration within the complex matrix of human responsibility. The right to offend is precious. The right to taunt large numbers of already resentful people is the acme of freedom, civilisation and sophistication. Apparently. Many of the people who defend so ardently the right to offend would call the police immediately if a mob of angry people decided to stand on their doorstep and tell them they were selfish, little narcissists who ought to be ashamed of themselves. Why? Because – no offence – they were all of those things and hypocrites as well. But who really thinks the right to offend is inalienable? Who believes that some hideous error was made when it became untenable to put a sign on the door of your pub saying: "No Irish, no blacks, no dogs"? Is there anyone who thinks the world would be a better place if high levels of homophobia were lauded as a wonderful sign that the right to free speech was being enthusiastically upheld? And who would think it fair and sensible if the primacy of free speech dictated that there could be no such thing as slander or libel? Free speech does not confer the right to be wrong, mistaken, biased or merely a doggedly axe-grinding pain-in-the-ass about your pet hates. It is by no means a settled fact that there is no God, that Muhammad was not his final prophet and that the world would not be a better place if everyone submitted to his teachings. I am absolutely certain that it is bunkum, but I can't prove it. So until someone tries to make me live my life as if Islam were an indisputable fact, I am happy to let Muslims arrange their own lives under whatever legal set of narrative values they prefer. That, to me, is the most vital western value – not the absolute and untrammelled freedom to shoot my mouth off, whatever the ghastly consequences. Happily, the teachings of Islam don't contradict those truly fundamental values. Yes, a lot of hideous acts are perpetrated in the name of Islam, acts that most Muslims abhor. But a lot of hideous acts are perpetrated in the name of liberal democracy, too, without invalidating all aspects of liberalism or democracy. Neither belief system is perfect, and therefore, surely, neither can claim the perfect right to condemn and ridicule the other. Furthermore, many of the Islamic values the west finds so reprehensible were our own settled values too, until embarrassingly recently. Islamic homophobia? Not acceptable. Yet gay people in Britain only achieved the same rights to legal sex as heterosexuals in 2001. Islamic inequality in its treatment of men and women? Don't start me. Yet I remember a time when two women walking into a pub together was like two pheasants wandering on to a shooting range. Barbarous Islamic punishment? We hanged our last murderers in 1964. Some Islamist groups' yearnings for world domination? Britain parcelled out the land of another people like it was the family allotment, as recently as 1948. Of course, most extremist Islamists (not all Muslims) are hypocrites too. They reserve the right to condemn the secular values of the west, even as they threaten to kill those who condemn the religious values they cleave to themselves (or any more handy proxy who happens to be within reach). They demand unconditional respect for Islam, while reserving their own right to despise and revile the west. The worst irony? Despite the many differences between the Islamic world and the west, we have one vast arrogance in common: we won't content ourselves with living and letting live. We each want our values to be universally adopted. We each want to be proved right. We each want to win. The west won't win by antagonising those Muslims who can be relied on to rise to the western dog whistle. It scores a few petty propaganda points, that's all. And Islamists won't win by antagonising those westerners who rise to the Islamic dog whistle. Telling the west it can't criticise Islam, any more than Muslims can, is like a red rag to a bull. Mass Arab street protest thrills the west when we agree with it – as with the Arab spring – and appals if we don't – as when we see a heated anti-American uprising. Yet indiscriminate anti- Americanism is no more or less valid than indiscriminate Islamophobia. Maybe it is time for both western and Islamist hotheads to have a think about this, for example: "Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves." (Quran 13:11). Smart advice. Works for everyone. Islamists need to stop attacking the west, and issuing fatwas against those outside the Islamic belief system. Likewise, the west needs to solve its own problems, rather than insisting on interfering in the affairs of Muslims, while failing to admit that previous interference might have provoked much of the "Muslim rage" that westerners find so "medieval". In fact, the finger-wagging criticism from Islamaphobic zealots is just more of the "We know what's best; you do what you're told" attitude that has already caused such mayhem. It is time for both parties to get a grip.
PRESS TVThe death toll from Pakistan's protests against a US-made anti-Islam film and sacrilegious cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) in France has risen to 23, Press TV reports.
Thomas BärthleinThere have been violent protests in a number of countries over a controversial anti-Islamic film, among them Pakistan. South Asia expert Thomas Bärthlein tells DW what he has experienced in the past few days there. DW: In the past few days, a number of people have been killed in Pakistan in violent protests. How have you experienced the situation there? Thomas Bärthlein: The situation in Islamabad is calming down now. The last I heard from an eyewitness near the diplomatic enclave was that about 300 demonstrators were throwing stones at police and trying to get into the enclave where the American embassy is situated. But the police have them under control, attacking the demonstrators with tear gas and pushing them back. The rest of the city is very calm. Nobody is going out in the streets. The government had declared a public holiday today and all the shops are closed. It's a bit of an eerie atmosphere in the city. You have lived in the country for over a year now and you speak the language. What do you say about the climate against Westerners in the country? Has it changed? I don't feel threatened personally. I got information about a French journalist who was in the middle of all these protests - he was apparently attacked. But I can't confirm that right now. But normally you feel safe in Islamabad. I myself was caught up in one hotel, the Serena Hotel, yesterday for three hours when protesters surrounded the hotel. They apparently tried to enter and the security there told us one of their demands was that they hand over the foreigners - the Americans in the hotel - which, of course, the hotel personnel did not. The hotel fought back against these protesters. After the incident last night, we escaped and lots of people in Pakistan who knew I was in that hotel were very concerned. They called me and asked how I was doing. In general, as a Westerner I am welcome in this country. Who are the protesters going out on the streets? They are definitely a small group and they are very well organized. They are mostly young people, like people from the radical student organizations of the Islamist parties which themselves are small parties, but they are well organized and they can call these crowds onto the streets rather quickly. Apparently, yesterday in the protests in Islamabad there was a big contingent of people from Rawalpindi from the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, one of the well-known extremist or terrorist groups, and the Lashkar-e-Taiba, who are also allegedly responsible for the Mumbai attacks in India. These people are hardcore militants or they are very radical young people who like to let off steam. They've become very destructive over the last two days. They are not getting access to the American consulates or the American embassies; they just destroy about everything that comes their way. They attacked and destroyed little shops in Peshawar today, they destroyed petrol pumps and cinemas in Karachi. They ransacked the chamber of commerce in Peshawar. All of this is not in any way in line with defending the Prophet of Islam. It's just an outlet for them to express frustration and anti-Americanism. The Pakistani government itself called for protests against the video. But they also said the protests should be peaceful. Do you think it has been a mistake to call for the protests? It seems like that now. They had an official meeting with the prime minister addressing the gathering this morning protesting against the video that was made in the United States and they tried to call on people to remain peaceful in their protest. I think I can understand their approach to some extent because they didn't want to be sidelined, they didn't want to become targets themselves, as being seen as less Islamic than the radical groups. They also called in the US ambassador for protests today. They wanted to show that they are also upset about this but then also help keep the protests peaceful. Of course, that's very difficult if you don't allow the people to march before the US consulates and the US embassies, which is where they want to go. In the end it's still the police who are being attacked. Most of the people who were killed today were policemen and it's kind of difficult in a way - by declaring a holiday and declaring their support for the protesters' agenda, the government also gave them justification for doing all of this. Overall, I would think this strategy has backfired, it has not been as successful as they wanted. What kind of long-term consequences to you expect this will have for the United States and Pakistan? From this particular episode I don't expect any big political fallout because the Americans know there is a lot of anti-Americanism in the country. It is a question of security. I was told yesterday that many diplomats actually left Islamabad and went to Lahore for the weekend. Because clearly they were not fully confident that the diplomatic enclave here in Islamabad, which is heavily guarded and which still seems relatively safe, they did not feel a guarantee that they would be safe within this diplomatic enclave. I think it is possible that for some time to come, if these things don't die down quickly, there will be added security concerns for the embassy but they already have very high security and they will probably continue doing their job otherwise. Because as I said, it is not really new information to them that they are not really popular in Pakistan. Thomas Bärthlein is an expert on South Asia and currently works in Islamabad, Pakistan.
Death toll from nationwide anti-Islam film protests rises to 14, dozens injured
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad
http://www.mashaalradio.comپه پاکستان کې د هغه امریکايي فلم پرضد مظاهرې روانې دي، چې پکې د اسلام ستر پيغمبر ته سپکاوی شوی دی.
APA Pakistani TV reporter says his driver was killed when police fired to disperse protesters of an anti-Islam film who were torching a cinema in the northwest city of Peshawar. Kashif Mahmood says he was sitting with the driver, Mohammad Amir, in their vehicle covering the protest when police opened fire Friday. He said three bullets hit the vehicle, including one that critically wounded Amir. He later died at a hospital. The TV channel ARY showed footage of Amir at the hospital as doctors tried to save him. It also showed the windshield of the vehicle shattered by several gunshots. Police could not immediately be reached for comment.
The Express TribuneThe war on terror is our own war and we cannot withdraw from it at this crucial juncture, said Awami National Party (ANP) chief Asfandyar Wali Khan. He added that if the country pulls out now there will be negative repercussions for future generations. While speaking on Thursday at the inauguration ceremony of Bacha Khan University in Charsadda, he said: “The ANP’s popularity graph has increased manifold and they will sweep the next elections in the province.” The provincial government led by ANP took over the reins of power at a crucial time and is not afraid of the enemies of the Pakhtun, he added. By establishing universities across the province, the government is dedicated in its focus on education and ridding the province off extremism and terrorism, Khan said. He criticised the Pakistan Peoples Party-Sherpao chief, Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao, for not doing anything while serving as chief minister twice. He neglected his own constituency as well, Khan added.
REUTERSThe last of the 33,000 'surge' troops ordered into Afghanistan by President Barack Obama in 2009 have withdrawn from the country, returning the American presence to pre-surge levels, a senior U.S. defense official said on Friday. The surge in American troops was designed to push back the Taliban and create space for NATO forces to build the Afghan army to a point where it could take over Afghanistan's security, allowing for an eventual Western drawdown. The completion of the surge withdrawal had been expected by the end of September. Obama has trumpeted ending the war in Iraq and winding down the war in Afghanistan as he seeks re-election on November 6. The return of U.S. forces to pre-surge levels comes as NATO commanders wrestle with an upswing in "insider attacks" by Afghan forces turning their guns on Western troops. NATO announced this week it was scaling back some joint operations with Afghan troops as a result, raising questions about Obama's plan to stabilize the country ahead of the expected withdrawal of most combat troops by the end of 2014.