Archive for the ‘Imran’s blog’ Category

News and Analysis (2/10/16)

Wednesday, February 10th, 2016

“More than 4,600 academics from across the globe have signed an open letter protesting against the death of Giulio Regeni, a Cambridge PhD student from Italy whose body was found on the outskirts of Cairo bearing signs of torture”:

A kindly shop owner graciously offers four Muslim visitors a place to pray and an Islamophobic troll spreads vicious lies turning the act of kindness into a horror story of oppression:

Tunisia’s “constitution that stipulates freedom of conscience and guarantees the rights of women and minorities … is the fruit of peaceful cooperation between moderate secularists and moderate Islamists”:

Generally, converts to Islam, are “incensed above all else by the fact that a tiny, extreme minority of backward-thinking Islamists has tainted the view of the world on their faith and made their lives harder” …

… but says one, “Key in all of this, though, is that I questioned absolutely everything – as is absolutely necessary in a religious conversion. You question yourself. You question what you hear, and what you read”:

Because his duties as chief would require him, among other things, to pray to tribal ancestors instead of the God of Abraham, the Congress of Traditional Leaders say that the grandson of Nelson Mandela must step down:

“The way Barbie dresses is very skimpy and different and there’s nothing wrong with it. I just wanted to give another option for Muslim girls like me”:

“Two men repeatedly punched, kicked and stamped on the head of an 81-year-old Muslim man, killing him as he walked to his mosque in Rotherham for morning prayers, a court heard”:

“Yousef, had never felt any disconnect between being a Muslim and being an American until his sisters were killed. He was like everyone else… But seeing how the media covered the story of the murders made him feel different”:

News and Analysis (6/26/14)

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

Islam in Australia arrived around 1500-1600, where Makassans, sea cucumbers Muslim traders left a legacy and “Islamic beliefs [ that] influenced Aboriginal mythology… Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples had regular contact with Muslims long before the arrival of Christian colonizers” …

…. After the Bendigo Mosque debate, a Victorian woman  protests by unleashing colorful balloons as a “peaceful counter-protest to a fierce campaign raging against the development of a mosque in the regional city of Bendigo” :

In Ukraine,  Mufti Said Ismagov urges Ukrainain Muslims to remain neutral and stay out of civil war… saying “We were free to practice Islam, perform prayers and fast during the Holy Ramadan. Moreover, there is plenty of ethnic Ukrainians who converted to Islam”:

Under US pressure, Iraqi PM Nouri al Maliki struck “a conciliatory tone as he called for political unity to tackle al-Qaeda inspired militants as they swept forward in the western province of Anbar” …

… and as ISIS continues its march towards Baghdad, seizing oil fields and attacked one of Iraq largest airbase, “U.S. special forces troops and intelligence analysts arrived to help Iraqi security forces counter a mounting Sunni insurgency” …

… but John Kerry “ruled out U.S. air strikes in Iraq so long as its government remains fractured along sectarian lines and incapable of combating extremist Sunni militants who are capturing towns in the country’s north,” warning that there’s nothing there that provides the capacity for success” :

Despite solicitation of not always heeded advice from one Muslim group, MPAC, “The Tyrant” has come under fire from another, CAIR, but TV critics have been appalled on their own.  One calling it “clumsily written and stultifyingly acted … with tired and terribly broad notions of Muslim culture”:

The lawyer calling for Bala’s release seeks a second opinion to dispute claims of “the father and physicians … [that] Bala has psychological problems that predate his renunciation of Islam” to sue “because it is against Nigerian law and constitutional human rights to hold someone against their will”:

“Muslims up and down the country contribute a huge amount to their local communities, as local councilors, school Governors, charity trustees and in countless other roles,” said the deputy PM of Britain in a statement to the largest Islamic group:

Meanwhile in Brazil, the world cup has attracted many fans, but also, served as an occasion to attract those who are interested in Islam, where “Mission Da`wah from the British Islamic Education and Research Academy” took the chance to explain the teachings of Islam:


Kurd Elections

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

As expected, the merger between the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) resulted in a political victory in Iraqi Kurdistan. Although the political opposition group Change managed to win an impressive 25% of the total vote, political control of Iraqi Kurdistan will remain with the KDP and PUK, who took about 65% of the total vote.

Notwithstanding the previous political turmoil existing between Change and PUK, the elections highlight a substantial political rift growing between the largely autonomous Kurdistan and Iraq’s central government in Baghdad. US forces serve as a cohesive unit holding together the various factions of the Iraqi government and with the military in the initial stages of withdraw, the question of Iraq’s sovereignty becomes infinitely more complex.

Kurds have long seen themselves as a nation without a state and their independence movements have been met with military force on multiple occasions. The reconstruction of Iraq was confronted by these issues of self-determination, which were accommodated through weak alliances and semi-autonomous government that exists today. Further complicating the problem is Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution, which offers the right of return in Kirkuk expelled my Saddam Hussein in the 1970’s.

More than just the semantics of reparations, Kirkuk stands as the gateway to the oil reserves of Northern Iraqi. Encouraged by perceived distrust between the Shi’ite dominated central government, Iraqi Kurds are unwilling to submit their resources to the control of the state. A problem since the US invasion in 2003, the dispute over resources remains the single biggest threat to a stable and democratic Iraq.

Al-Maliki has parlayed these differences into his nationalist platform, an attempt to bring together Sunni and Shi’ite Arabs against the Kurds in the north. Many analysts believe civil war is avoidable and political demonstrations, confrontation and violence seem inevitable. The Iraqi government is faced with an identity crisis, a large minority of its citizens do not associate themselves with the ethnicity and culture of its ruling parties. Unless these differences are settled, another regional conflict will soon emerge.

Iraqi democracy remains in a very fragile state. Combined with the Turkey’s interests in quelling a Kurdish rebellion as well as the growing threat of water scarcity in Iraq, regional violence may soon be completely reshaped from recent conflicts. Believed by many to be on the downswing of violence and headed towards stabilizations, Iraq could easily be engaged in another conflict.

While a victory of 25% for Change offers hope and optimism for a war-ravaged country, coming to a political compromise will prove to be very difficult. Both sides have legitimate claims to the resources in question and conceding on these resources is tantamount to surrendering power. Although the U.S. continues to lobby for a political solution for this dispute, no signs of progress are apparent. The question remains, how much more violence will Iraqis suffer before these political faction come to a consensus?

Imran Malik
Program Assistant
Minaret of Freedom Institute

Initiating the Stalled Peace Process Through a Settlement Freeze

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

Following the usual protocol of the Israeli government, Ehud Olmert responded to US criticism of Israeli settlements by deflecting blame to the Palestinians while portraying Israeli “natural growth” as a helpless and unavoidable condition of the existing settlements. Perhaps spoiled by the unconditional support from the previous Bush administration, Olmert remains in a world in which Israeli actions are unpunishable as Palestinians are starved, suffocated and oppressed to the point of submission.

Olmert believes the settlement issue is a “non-priority issue” and that the limited time available should be better spent in negotiations. His premise is that Israel will not hand over their settlements to Palestinians as part of a “two-state” solution. However, the settlements serve as a tangible reminder of Israeli oppression, limiting their development could be the symbolic olive branch the U.S. administration wants to push negotiations forward.

This symbolism has been repeatedly avoided by Israel and continues to be a major contributor to failing negotiations. Israel assumes making any concession is an admission of  fault and will make them appear weak to the Arab community. The peace process should not produce winners and losers but rather a consensus in which both societies can prospect and develop as neighbors.

Further emphasizing his agenda, Olmert admits his main concern is “the potential to greatly shake U.S.-Israeli relations.” Excluding the United States, Israel often finds itself without allies worldwide, a very scary prospect for a country with such an inflexible agenda. Israel will not break from its hard-line position on Palestine until the US begins applying the necessary political pressure to break the coalition of right-wing conservatives across Israel. Because of the politics and actions of their inhabitants, as well as the nature of their creation, settlements could prove to be that polarizing issue which finally discourages unwavering US support of Israel.

The Israeli government fears the repercussion of settlement concessions in the overall peace process with the Palestinians. Thus Olmert is completely wrong  in arguing a settlement freeze “will not promote Palestinian efforts to enhance security measures … better movement and access to the Palestinians; nor an improved economy in the West Bank. Nor will it weaken the Hamas government in Gaza. It will not bring greater security to Israel, help improve Israel’s relations with the Arab world, strengthen a coalition of moderate Arab states or shift the strategic balance in the Middle East.”

Limiting the growth of settlements and better controlling the Israeli population strengthens Palestine security by reducing provocation to conflict. A settlement freeze cannot directly improve Palestinian mobility and economy or weaken Hamas only because that policy is not directed at those issues. Indirectly, the US would receive more credibility as a facilitator of peace, having achieved a coveted objective.

Only a fool could fail to see how increased U.S. credibility could enhance its ability to intermediate improved Israeli relations with Arab communities and thus help to facilitate a moderation among Muslims worldwide. However, it should come as no surprise Olmert refuses to accept the simple logic of this argument. Just as he cannot understand why Palestinians refused his offer, Olmert chooses to continue the Israeli government’s strategy of deflecting political issues. Targeting Iran and its perceived nuclear ambitions is a prime example. I understand that Ahmadinejad’s hostile and insulting language against Israel has given the Israeli people reason to worry about their security. While this threat hits close to home given certain Palestinian connections to the Iranian government, it seems to me Israel holds the bargaining chips necessary to neutralize Iran’s attractiveness to those Palestinians. The deep suspicion in which Iran is held by Arabs in the Middle East would trump Iranian hate rhetoric if serious negotiations were held and Israel offered a real solution to the conflict.

Palestinians have no reason to prefer an alliance with Iran over a legitimate opportunity for self-determination in their own land. Rather than quelling the conflict by addressing the reasons behind it, Israel would rather continue to promote a hard-line, zero tolerance policy towards its enemies. This policy is completely unsustainable in the long run and will eventually collapse one way or another. Israel cannot survive without the continued support of its most powerful friend. The Israeli government eventually must compromise.

Imran Malik
Program Assistant
Minaret of Freedom Institute

Fayyad’s Folly: Disarming His Own People

Thursday, July 16th, 2009

In the Washington Post’s latest attempt to adequately illustrate the complex political issues regarding Israeli/Palestinian relations, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad was highlighted as a “technocrat” steadily gaining political ground thought military concessions. A strategy that alienates Hamas, the other major player in Palestinian politics, Fayyad disturbingly argued, “[T]he state should have sole purview over arms and weapons. There is no statehood and armed militias at the same time. It is a contradiction.”

If this statement were true, the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution would prevent it from being a state. Guess what, Mr. Technocrat? The U.S. is state.

As a matter of constitutional rights in America, the Second Amendment secures society’s right to “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed”. Described by the US Constitution, militias are a necessity to a “free State”. Although Fayyad is effectively courting the Israeli government in the hopes they may be granted political autonomy, he is ignoring the Palestinian right to defend themselves both from a foreign occupation, such as Israel’s, and from tyrannical leadership by their own people, such as …. Well, we’ll leave that to the readers’ imagination. The Founding Fathers correctly believed that  the people have a right to overthrow their government. Militias provide a check on otherwise unlimited power by one’s governing body. To quote Libertarian Party founder David Nolan, “The Second Amendment is not about duck hunting.”

In the not-so-hidden agenda behind Fayyad’s perspective, Hamas is naturally juxtaposed as an enemy under this logic. Although militias can be somewhat problematic, e.g., those who engage in racist or terrorist rhetoric, the history of the U.S. has demonstrated that malicious activities can be addressed through normal laws against criminal activity, and do not require taking arms away from the law-abiding. Groups that exceed the law can be dealt with according to the particular criminal acts they perpetrate without Draconian measures of disarmament that only ensures impunity to a state that oppresses its own people.

Fayyad is playing a dangerous game of Russian Roulette with his power plays. By continuing to limit armed West-Bank efforts against Israel, he is gambling that Fatah will remain in power and Israel will continue to offer special treatment to the West Bank and will avoid a suffocating blockade as experienced in Gaza. Beyond its naivete, this policy threatens reconciliation efforts between Fatah and Hamas, an essential element to peace and Palestinian Statehood.

Fayyad’s tactics seem predicated on a strategy of making the occupation palatable rather than making occupation impossible. Rather than defending rights inherent in any free society, Fayyad bets that conceding Palestinian freedom will appease the Israeli occupier. Fayyad has it backwards. Armed militias and statehood are not a contradiction, but a free state that denies the people’s  right to keep and bear arms is a contradiction. There can be no stronger guarantee that a state has the consent of the governed than that it has no fear of an armed populace.

Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, Ph.D., President
Imran Malik, Program Assistant
Minaret of Freedom Institute

Repercussions of the Iranian Elections

Sunday, July 12th, 2009

Summary Kaveh Ehsani’s, Arang Keshavarzian’s and Norma Claire Moruzzi’s Article on Iranian Elections:

Despite certain peculiarities, Ahmadinejad’s reelection should not be considered overwhelming surprising. Every previous Iranian incumbent has been reelected and the circumstances of the election stood as a huge advantage for Ahmadinejad. He had control of the state, including media outlets, and had instigated a populist mentality when distributing the funds generated from oil revenue since his first election. All the major players in Iranian politics supported Ahmadinejad including, the Iranian military, the Guardian Council and the implicit support of Supreme Leader Khamenei.

Any analysts believing these election  mark a changing of the guard should remember the allegations of fraud surrounding Ahmadinejad’s first election. Both Karroubi and Rafsanjani claimed they were cheated in the election process. Also, an investigation into $330 million missing from Tehran’s budget believed to have funded Ahmadinejad’s campaign was eventually suspended by the new speaker of Parliament, an Ahmadinejad ally. Although Mousavi was particularly attractive candidate, having a close relationship to the late Khomeini, the Islamic Revolution, and a track record of success during turbulent 1980’s, these characteristics were not enough to overcome the advantages Ahmadinejad enjoyed as sitting president.

Mousavi campaigned with the slogan “lying is forbidden”, an appropriate counter to the rhetoric of Ahmadinejad, who misrepresented every statistic possible for his advantage. For his argument that GDP has grown by 6%, rather than 5% under his predecessor, Ahmadinejad failed to mention the factor of $300 billion in added revenue from high oil prices during this time. Claims that unemployment was down were tainted by the fact the Interior Ministry changed the official definition of unemployed. The rift between ruling factions in Iran has become public and vocalized in way untested by the current system of government.

More importantly, Iranians believed the political differences in the candidates would have an actual impact in their lives. Mousavi focused his campaign on establishing rule of law. He described violence used to “Islamize” a society as a tool of domination by the elite and promised dismiss the moral police’s authority over “Islamic dress”. He promised to use Iran’s oil reserved to create new industries rather than rely on its value as an export economy. Furthermore, Mousavi criticized Ahmadinejad’s handouts as a short-term solution which provides no viable means for the poor to improve their lifestyle.

In the week leading up to the election, Mousavi proved particularly effective at organizing and coordinating peaceful demonstrations of thousands. These rallies and the perceived popularity of Mousavi undoubtedly fueled the fraud allegations. Also emerging from these elections is a new sense of self-determination from Iranians. In some of the most powerful demonstrations since 1979, the government has proven is can no longer limit the scope of political debates and demonstrations. Furthermore, a relatively independent free press has emerged and with the help of the Internet, the voice of the people can no longer be completely oppressed.

By not seriously addressing documented speculated election fraud, Ahmadinejad and Khamenei contributed to the destabilizing aspects of the elections by their reactions. Resembling an old regime falling out of favor, Ahmadinejad referred to the opposition as “dirt” and dismissed their opinion as those disappointed by a soccer match. Similarly, Khamenei has done little to reconcile with the opposition except press for violent tactics if they continue to protest. While this strategy maybe successful in clamping down on protests in the short run, the resentment of the opposition will continue to grow and could eventually destabilize the Iranian political system.

Repressing the voice of the people is a high risk policy that cannot sustain itself indefinitely. The opposition will be left with little choice but to abandon street marches and search for alternative means to protest the election outcome. Two options currently exist: either Mousavi can begin consolidating political power and expand his outreach to a greater number of constituents, or the opposition can begin engaging in strikes and other forms of social disobedience. While the later may prove to be politically unpopular and produce no immediate results, the later will surely be a costly venture bringing the country to the brink of a revolution.

Imran Malik
Program Assistant
Minaret of Freedom Institute

Congressional Muslim Staffers Association Social

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

Congressional Muslim Staffers Association social On Friday June 19, 2009 Congressional Muslim Staffers Association (CSMA) held their 2nd annual Summer Interns and fellow social with Congressman Andre Carson and Congressman Keith Ellison as guest speakers. However, the event was deceptive by title due to its overwhelmingly rewarding program and diverse group of attendees.

CMSA defines its object as “to effectively represent the Islamic faith and the Muslim American community to Representatives, Senators, Congressional Staff, and other government organizations and officials” and this mission was the target of their event. The program began with Jummah prayer, which is hosted every Friday in the US capital building and open to the public. Despite certain stereotypes that inevitably cross a Muslim’s mind about their treatment by security, Capital Police were very helpful and polite in providing information. The prayer is widely respected among Capital Hill staffers of all faiths and I would recommend it as a venue for Jummah to any Muslim in the area.

In a room packed with over 100 people, Muslims from a variety of professional fields met to pray, network with one another and develop a strong sense of community often lacking among Muslim youth. Congressman Ellison and Congressman Carson, the first and second Muslims elected into the US House of Representatives respectively, both opined in on the importance of Muslim values in America. While their demeanors contrasted sharply, both speeches addressed the same fundamental need of the Muslim Community, a call for greater involvement in public office and public policy.

Particularly interesting was how the Congressmen avoided partisan politics and spoke the greater need. While Congressman Carson was praising Obama as a source of inspiration for Muslims, it wasn’t because of his Democratic affiliation but the Muslim heritage on his father’s side. A strong indication the first Muslim-American President might not be far away. The interests of Muslim communities will continue to be ignored without a strong commitment of Muslim youth to serving the community in Congressional offices, policy institutes and media outlets.

Prominent Muslim organizations across the DC metro area were represented at the event including AIC (American Islamic Congress), CAIR (Council on American Islamic Relations), IIIT (International Institute of Islamic Thought), MPAC(Muslim Public Affairs Council), and Rumi forum. The event offered the opportunity for the youngest affiliates of these organizations to begin building relationships and bonds crucial to serving Muslim interests in government. Although the event was relatively small, the impact was obvious. Muslims of all diversities quickly engaged with one another discussing politics, organizational ties and opportunities to contribute to each other’s causes. If CSMA’s event was any indication of the future, the prospect for Muslim involvement in government is very promising.

Imran Malik
Program Assistant
Minaret of Freedom Institute

Preliminary Thoughts on Ahmadinejad’s Re-election

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

The Iranian elections were the last of three crucial elections, the others being the Israeli and American elections, needed to establish a tone and general direction for peace negotiations across the Middle East. With the international community watching closely,  most experts agreed it would come down to a run-off between the top two candidates.  Shocking everyone except himself, Ahmadinejad won in a landslide victory with almost 63% of the national vote. With no viable alternatives, the opposition cried for foul and the notion of election fraud has been widely accepted by the media.

In an interview on Meet the Press, Vice President Biden attempted a restrained position on the outcome, “‘I have doubts, but withhold comment.’ He added that the Iranian government had suppressed crowds and limited free speech, which raised questions.”

While not mathematically conclusive, some specific aspects of the election are suspicious. Karroubi won a combined 7% in his native Lorestan and neighboring Khuzestan, after winning both with 55.5% and 36.7% respectively in 2005. While it is conceivable that many Karroubi supporters for whom Ahmadinejad was a second choice might have voted for the incumbent in the hopes of preventing a runoff, that such a large number would desert a favorite son on the first ballot even for htis reason strains credulity.

Similarly, Mousavi failed to carry his home province of East Azerbaijan and barely managed to win neighboring West Azerbaijan. While some are quick to point out Al Gore lost his home state of Tennessee, I think a more relevant precedent is Jimmy Carter carrying Georgia in the 1980 presidential election. Iranian politics are deeply divided according to ethnic lines and a poor showing in ones “home district” raises serious questions.

Beyond electoral speculation and analysis, the ballots were hand written and Iran experienced record breaking participation. Rapid and accurate results are characteristics not typically associated in elections using hand written ballots. Diving further in Sexton’s analysis, it becomes clear that Ahmadinejad’s victory most likely represents “an exaggerated figure”. However, whether that figure is only 3-5% outside the actual vote or something closer 20-30% cannot be determined from data available to us.

Notwithstanding the upcoming challenges to the legitimacy of Iranian democracy, the allegations of election fraud and consequential re-election of Ahmadinejad was perhaps the best-case scenario for U.S. engagement with Iran. Ultimate authority in foreign policy matters lies with Ayatollah Khamenei. The election of either Mousavi or Ahmadinejad would not change his anti-American stance. Political pressure from Iranian Youth and the threat of another revolution are the only serious challenges to the status quo. Unprovoked by the US, Iran’s political turmoil might play exactly into Obama’s call for change.

If Ahmadinejad remains president and negotiations stall, he will undoubtedly serve as the scape-goat. Failure to establish diplomatic relations and a peaceful compromise of Iran’s nuclear program will lead to economic sanctions from the international community. Combining the questionable election with his polarizing nature, Ahmadinejad has little chance of encouraging meaningful international support in his second term.

Most importantly, Iran has addressed this election crisis with a complete disregard for free speech; even an official call for a recount was unable to quiet Mousavi supporters. Of course, these oppressive actions play exactly into Mousavi’s accusations. Furthermore, Ahmadinejad has shown little tact in addressing the opposition, who obviously need some more of reconciliation gesture, regardless of the elections legitimacy. Although predictions are futile until the results  of the recount confirm or ovberturn Ahmadinejad’s elections, short of a major political uprising, the international community should expect more of the same from Iran.

Imran Malik
Minaret of Freedom Institute

The Prospect for Success Under McChrystal

Sunday, June 7th, 2009

“With the appointment … of McChrystal, it is clear that the “change” we were promised by Obama is just a change of faces: the policies, at least on the foreign policy front, are remarkably similar.” — Justin Raimando

Speaking on the need for “fresh thinking” and “fresh eyes on the problem” Secretary Gates named Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal as the commander of military operations in Afghanistan. The appointment fits into the counter-insurgency style of combat which has arguably proven effective in Iraq. McChrystal stated his top priorities include “bolstering U.S. intelligence collection, reducing civilian casualties and dramatically speeding up the training of Afghan security forces.” Although these are valuable counter-insurgency tactics, effective implementation in Afghanistan will be a challenge.

From the Western perspective, McChrystal’s strategy is simple in its logic. In Iraq, where there is a remnant of nationalist sentiment among Sunni Arabs, and their ties to al-Qaeda were circumstantial at best, the U.S. bought the allegiance of Sunni insurgents via the “Sons of Iraq.” However, al-Qaeda’s links to the Taliban are stronger and have a history. The durability of the “Sons of Iraq” to the national government is unsettled and the situation in Afghanistan is even more difficult; the opposition is unlikely to be bought off and settle disputes for monetary gains.

Believing the need for troop levels to go above the 134,000 troops proposed by the Obama administration, McChrystal is essentially calling for a “War on Afghanistan.” The U.S. will likely refer to it as a more politically correct “War on the Taliban,” but the tribal forces fragmenting Afghanistan are more complex that the simple Sunni Arabs vs. Shi`a Arabs vs. Sunni Kurds triangle in Iraq. The Shi`a in Iraq dominating the national government are an actual majority, while the Karzai government represents no cohesive social agglomerate in Afghanistan.

Besides, McChrystal’s plan is contingent on cooperation from the Pakistani government. Securing the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan will prove to be a most difficult task. It is doubtful that the Pakistani military can maintain the border without a prolonged American intervention — or even with it.  (And American presence in Pakistan would surely backfire, threatening the eventual fall of Pakistan to who knows what.)

The theory of McChrystal’s strategy is that the US, through collaboration with the Afghan government, will improve infrastructure while smothering the Taliban pressure on the Pakistani border while the Pakistani military performs a similar operation against extremists in its own country. Although the Taliban is a foreign influence in Pakistan’s Northwest territories, the people residing in this area have strong cultural ties to their Afghani counterparts. The flaw in McChrystal’s strategy revolves around its unattended consequences. Given how comfortably ingrained the Taliban are in certain areas, it is hard to separate them from general population. Furthermore, it should be obvious to any outside observer why these areas of Pakistan were semi-autonomous to begin with. If the Pakistani government had adequate national support and the capability of securing these providences, wouldn’t they have done so already?

Even the superficially benign economic assistance can have a blowback effect. In the 1970s Milton Friedman offered economic advice to the Pinochet regime. Although he did not personally support Pinochet, the mere fact that he gave economic advice (mostly ignored or abandoned) allowed critics of Friedman to pretend that he did. We are not in the position of the Marshall Plan in which we reconstruct an economy of a country that has surrendered to us militarily. We are, rather, foreign interveners in a civil war (between the Taliban on one hand and other forces in Afghani society on the other) in which our principle enemy (al-Qaeda) is itself a marginal figure.

Local tribal leaders in Northwest Pakistan are very sympathetic to their Afghani neighbors. Left to their own devises tribal leaders would see Talibanization as a threat to their own status and authority. Under the pressure of violence from the Pakistani government and the American allies, tribal leaders see the Taliban as fellow victims. More conflict will add more refugees to the already overwhelming flood of three million. The populations in these areas will see this as a war against them, augmenting local support for the Taliban and further reducing any chance of this strategy succeeding.  Assuming the Northwest territories will assimilate into a Pakistani national identity requires a giant leap of faith. It ignores the history and cultural connections of the inhabitants and its ultimately doomed to failure. A better strategy would be to focus Pakistani military might on keeping the Taliban out of areas to which they would not be welcome and to let the people in the Northwest provinces discover for themselves why they should reject the Talibanization of their homelands.

Imran Malik, Program Assistant
Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, President
Minaret of Freedom Institute

More Nukes Are Counter-Productive for Pakistan

Sunday, May 31st, 2009

This month MFI’s president Dr. Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad was interviewed by Farspress on the crisis in Pakistan. Among the main reasons for the spread of Taliban influence across Pakistan, Dr. Ahmad cited the US presence as a major motivating force. Although you cannot ignore the polarizing effect of “American influence”, real or perceived, in South Asia, the Pakistani government is not without its share of fault in the blame game. Restricting political freedoms, maintaining an atrocious education system and mismanaging the budget continue to push Pakistan to the brink of destruction.

However, the Pakistani government has outdone itself in proving its own ineptitude. Within the near year, Pakistan plans to produce new plutonium for production in more powerful, more mobile nuclear weapons. India has begun similar actions and both countries are claiming the weapons are for defensive purposes. How exactly will another nuclear arms buildup with India solve any of Pakistan’s current problems?

Facing a humanitarian crisis displacing 1.5 million Pakistanis, a defiant population inhabiting the northwest regions of the country and pressure from America’s increased combat in Afghanistan, Pakistan once again focused on the one enemy who poses the smallest imminant threat to its sovereignty. The expansion of nuclear capabilities only serves as superficial strategy distracting from much needed policy change.

Security assurances from the Pakistani government do not counteract the fact that more nuclear material inherently creates a larger risk. Furthermore, the sheer economic costs associated with this nuclear build up will not help solve any of the current problems plaguing Pakistan. Nuclear weapons are come with a panoply of risks and can be counter-productive to any broader strategy for Pakistan to stabilize itself. Such ill-considered strategies encourage America’s  pursuit of an interventionist agenda in Pakistan.

Meanwhile, India’s ability to increase nuclear material production is a legacy of the Bush administration’s partiality towards India. Without the ability to secure nuclear fuel from the United States, India would not have the surplus material to increase their nuclear arsenal. Once again, the US has enacted policies with contradictory objectives, creating even larger problems.

U.S. officials now seek a global approach towards curbing the buildup of nuclear weapons, which is the correct response. Nuclear weapons, while providing a strong incentive to respect a country’s sovereignty, threaten the existence of all humans and all civilizations worldwide. In practice, the weapons serve no practical purpose and can only function as a deterrent.

Given the difficult agenda and large ambitions of the Obama administration, I doubt any meaningful progress will be made on this issue. Pakistan will continue to unnecessarily focus resources on the external threat while Taliban and U.S. ambitions drive the country further into poverty. From the Indian perspective, Pakistani stability would lead to developing trade and promoting prosperity across the region. However, the more radical and unstable Pakistan becomes, the more likely it is for the radicalism and instability to spill into India.

Imran Malik, Program Assistant
Minaret of Freedom Institute