APP at the Left Forum

March 29, 2010 § 1 Comment

A couple of us from APP participated in a handful of rewarding panels at last weekend’s Left Forum. Comments/questions centered on familiar themes: why the US is in Afghanistan and whether it might withdraw, what has happened to the US anti-war movement and what can be done about it, what is the state of the Left in Pakistan, etc., etc. At times, if I may, it felt as if we Leftists might very well be taking one small step forward, on the road to political recovery (a Jesse Jackson plenary notwithstanding).

Regardless, I thought there might be some interest in the talks APP members gave, since they carry a collection of points that ought to be made and re-made in the context of the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan. I am posting an unabridged version of my remarks after the break. They run quite long, as I picked and chose from this material when I spoke at the panels themselves. But I include it all in the hope that some of it is of use.

–Adaner

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Left of the Taliban

March 14, 2010 § 11 Comments

by: M. Tahir

A critique of the Left from the Left. With the encouragement of friends, I’m posting an email below that I wrote regarding a recent controversy on the Left involving former Guantanomo detainee and human rights activist, Moazzam Begg and head of Amnesty International’s gender unit, Gita Sahgal. The debate exposes a larger division on the Left about where it stands with respect to the global war. The incident that sparked the larger discussion began when Sahgal accused Amnesty of tarnishing its human rights work by collaborating with Begg and the organization with which he works, Cage Prisoners. Begg is a Taliban supporter and Cage Prisoners a “jihadi” organization according to Sahgal, and Amnesty damages its reputation by working with them. Following Sahgal’s public remarks, Amnesty suspended her. Some have taken the view that Sahgal is an upstanding activist wrongly penalized by Amnesty while others argue that she is leveraging rampant Islamophobia for her ends.

The disagreement operates along a deepening fault-line in the Left that has wider implications. Many liberals and leftist allies (who support Sahgal) accuse the anti-imperial Left of egregious silence on the issue of the Taliban while it criticizes America’s imperial wars. Charges of insufficient critique of the Taliban and criminal silence on their atrocities are being hurled with increasing ferocity at Pakistani leftists in particular. Those making the accusations include Pakistani liberals as well as those who in the past have been our international allies in South Asia and elsewhere.

The email below is my response to this debate on a particular listserve. I’ve edited it to excise sections particular to an internal debate as well as to keep identities private but kept the rest in tact in the hopes of having a wider discussion.

****

Dear X,

….

The larger issue, however, is this: why do our so-called allies constantly demand that we articulate our disavowal of the Taliban? Do they perhaps believe that in some deep dark religious corner of our lefty Pakistani hearts, we nurture a secret love for the ruthless brutish bearded circus called the Taliban?  Why are we being constantly asked to prove our bona fides as secularists and as humanists (in the sense that we believe in the dignity of *all* humanity)?  And that too by those who appear to have little qualms about retracting dignity from a man whose words and appearance unsettle us but who has done nothing – in terms of his actions – but run a girls’ school in Afghanistan and, now, defend the rights of precisely those that the American empire has reduced to ‘bare life.’ [1]  Does the problem lie in the fact that he “has championed the rights of jailed Al-Qaeda members and hate preachers…” as the Sunday Times puts it? But isn’t the selective granting of rights precisely what the Left is critical of in general?  Or is it that he stated in his memoirs that the Taliban were “better than anything Afghanistan has had in the past twenty-five years.” Yes, these views are abhorrent, but by no means unique. I heard much the same thing from the Afghans I met when I traveled to the Afghanistan-Pakistan border town of Chaman (in Balochistan) over a month ago.  These were Afghans who all hated the Taliban now (among them were ex-Taliban fighters).  To them, the Taliban had seemed like an answer to the corruption, chaos and random murders that had afflicted Afghanistan for decades when they first rose to power. They left when they realized that this was not the case or that the price they were being asked to pay was too high.

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Pakistan on the Brink? The Real Threat from Within

February 27, 2010 § Leave a comment

APP member Adaner Usmani in Against the Current (Jan/Feb 2010):

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

THE AMERICAN ANTIWAR movement must understand that what is unfolding in Pakistan bears no resemblance to the “failed-state” proclamations of establishment hacks the world over. The danger is not at all that the country will fall to the Pakistani Taliban, drowned in a tidal wave of instability said to be cascading eastwards from Afghanistan. While sham elections in Afghanistan have hopefully helped clarify the venal, corrupt character of NATO’s efforts there, at times an unhealthy haziness still afflicts the Left’s thinking on Pakistan.

As we approach the end of Obama’s first year in office, “Af-Pak” is prominent among the issues at the forefront of America’s political consciousness. For the first time since he took power, the President’s approval rating has dipped below 50% — due largely to the far-reaching crises in the economy, of course, but certainly also partly due to his very vocal commitment to a war that has become increasingly unpopular with the American people.(1) As antiwar activists seek to rebuild in the shadow of this impending surge, clarity over key issues is critical.

The principal danger, for Pakistan and its people, is that the logic of the Long War promises to cement the effective power of autocratic institutions over its political life, which in turn threatens to suck the oxygen out of popular, democratic movements in the country. With Obama’s Afghanistan “surge,” the real fear is that the establishment, embraced by anxious American patrons, will be able to roll back the fragile gains so recently won through the progressive struggles of its people. « Read the rest of this entry »

Swati doctor interviewed in Karachi

July 29, 2009 § 4 Comments

Turn on captions to see English subtitles

Help Internally Displaced Persons in Pakistan

June 16, 2009 § 11 Comments

Dear Friends,

Action for a Progressive Pakistan has joined with SINGH Foundation to help Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Pakistan, now numbering almost 4 million, who are fleeing Taliban and military violence in the Swat region. SINGH FOUNDATION WILL MATCH EVERY DONATION DOLLAR FOR DOLLAR UNTIL WE REACH OUR TARGET OF $10,000! Your donations are tax-deductible to the fullest legal extent.

All proceeds will go to Sungi Development Foundation, a progressive community-based development organization that has been active in NWFP in Pakistan for more than a decade.

To donate by PayPal, click here.

To donate by check:
Make the check out to “SINGH Foundation” (please put “APP Swat Relief” in the memo)
Mail checks to:
SINGH Foundation
c/o Ramakrishnan
50 West 97th St., #15T,
New York NY 10025

Questions? Email us at progpak@gmail.com

THANKS for your support of humanitarian relief in Swat.

In solidarity,

Action for a Progressive Pakistan
https://progpak.wordpress.com

SINGH Foundation: http://www.singhfoundation.org

SUNGI: http://www.sungi.org

Reading on the New Refugees

June 4, 2009 § Leave a comment

A Weaver’s Welcome on the new refugees in Pakistan and how Pakistanis are coping. The author, Kathy Kelly, who also organized Voices in the Wilderness to end UN sanctions on Iraq, traveled with a delegation to Pakistan recently.  An excerpt of her article:

The trauma endured by the refugees is overwhelming. Yet, numerous individuals and groups have swiftly extended hospitality and emergency aid. We visited a Sikh community, in Hassan Abdal, which has taken in hundreds of Sikhs, housing them inside a large and very famous shrine. Nearby, we stayed for several days in Tarbela, where families in very simple dwellings have welcomed their relatives. The townspeople quietly took up a collection to support the refugee families….

Generosity in the face of such massive displacement and suffering is evident everywhere we go. But Pakistan needs help on a much larger scale. The U.S. has pledged 100 million dollars toward relief efforts. Two other disclosures about money budgeted for Pakistan should be considered in light of the unbearable burdens borne by close to two million new refugees. First is the decision to spend 800 million dollars to renovate and expand the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad and to upgrade security at U.S. consular offices elsewhere in the country….

Read the full piece here.

Policing the Press -Long March Day 2

March 14, 2009 § 1 Comment

Remember this? In a reprisal of Musharraf’s policies during Emergency Rule in 2007, Pres. Zardari has banned the largest news channel, GeoTV from major sections of Pakistan including Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, Quetta and Multan. Following the ban, PPP Information Minister Sherry Rehman resigned from her government post.

Rehman had held a “a series of heated arguments” with other officials in the PPP, according to Dawn, but after failing to convince them against the ban, she resigned in protest.

A prominent member of the PPP, Rehman’s decision signals splits inside the PPP about how to tackle a vigorous press that has been openly critical of the government’s policies towards the Long March.

In fact, activists and politicians have relied on it during the recent crackdown. When police came to arrest lawyers’ leader Athar Minallah, he turned to the press for help. From Time:

“I locked myself in the car, and the police didn’t know how to get me,” he said. “So I called the television cameras who were only two minutes away. I began giving live interviews from the car, addressing the Interior Minister, Rehman Malik, directly. After a while, Mr. Malik came down himself and shouted the police officers away.”

There may be institutional issues at several levels in Pakistan, but the press is working. “The media,” Open Society Institute’s Fawzia Naqvi told us, “has become the most trusted institution in Pakistan.” The statement was borne out in interviews with refugees from the NWFP and Fata who thanked the press for covering the dismal situation in their hometowns and exposing the damage caused by the US drone attacks, the Pakistani military and the Taliban.

Activists over at the popular listserve, Emergency List, have asked that people thank Rehman for her principled stance.  You can email her at:

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