Keep Talking and Keep Listening!

They say listening is more difficult than talking. But what is even harder in today's world is to communicate - an intense process of listening and talking and listening and responding........
This is a forum for people to engage in a conversation which is an art that many people don't know. Lets listen to others while maintaining the courage of conviction.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Law Above Law

Ayesha Siddiqa
A MQM worker was killed in Rangers’ custody – a reminder of the old tradition of lack of accountability of law enforcement and the overall security apparatus of the state. Torture and its most crude form: extra-judicial killing takes place all in the name of providing security. But we are not sure if such measures contribute to peace and stability. I am reminded of what a senior police officer once told me the problem was with such above the law mechanisms. In torturing people to death or killing them without following the course of law we often forget that the person has people who love him/her. They will always get back at you and in case the power is disproportionate they may not get back at the powerful but the powerless.
            I realize that this is unattractive for those who are burnt by weakness of the law enforcement and judicial system and have little faith left in it. For societies to survive you can’t have shot cuts. Military courts cannot replace real courts, and torture and extra-judicial killings is not real retribution to restore sense of justice.
            At this point in time when a lot of people seem excited about extra-constitutional use of force restoring peace one is reminded of the dire need of the need of accountability of the law enforcement system. It has become even more important to guard and question the guardians. Let’s examine two important incidents which have happened in the recent past.
            The first pertains to death of Malik Ishaq, a leader of the militant organization Lashkare Jhangavi. Many gave the security establishment a thumbs-up for killing a man who had spilt blood of hundreds. Intriguingly, the state desisted from punishing him for his heinous crimes through a judicial process. I am reminded of conversations with senior law enforcement officials in Punjab, who would argue during Ishaq’s life time, that there was no threat from the militant leader, and that indeed he was a friend of Pakistan’s and didn’t want to bring any harm. No heed was ever given to the fact that he was proven guilty in killing an Iranian diplomat and for killing numerous other people. He was even proven guilty in the eyes of the judicial system which we decry. There was sufficient evidence against him. But none of that was honored. Furthermore, he was released by the Supreme Court that was the final court of appeal, in the absence of new evidence which would have allowed the judges to do so. There are questions to be asked about why did Justices Iftikhar Ch and Dogar do so? In the same vain why was he never really stopped from instigating killings of Hazaras in Baluchistan? And finally what triggered the decision to conduct his extra-judicial killing?
            Let’s not forget that extra-judicial means break down of law and power of those that the state thinks it has punished. Had Ishaq been put through the course of law without having the power to intimidate his witnesses, as he did in the past, his guilt would hgave been proved and people convinced of how he was a terrorist and a burden on the society. A secret death makes him a hero that will inspire some to eulogize and copy. It also demonstrated that there is no judicial system. Hence, even when a killer ws punished as in the case of Mumtaz Qadri people remain skeptical. Why should the law perform now when it has never done so before? If the law can’t bring Ishaq to justice then why should it in Qadri’s case? Its difficult to ignore such rumblings in the minds of many.
            The second incident pertains to operation against the Chotu gang. The death of 72 innocent people in Lahore seems to have resulted in a sequence of events – a sudden announcement that there was need for a cleanup operation in Punjab followed by the security establishment zooming-in on this gang in the tribal areas of Punjab leading to an armed operation. Suddenly, Chotu became the source of all evil and crime spread from Rahim Yar Khan to Dera Ghazi Khan. It was overnight that a hooligan and criminal was transformed into a terrorist who had questioned the state and tried to break it. All force had to be deployed against him. Expert analysts even wrote amazing pieces outlining effective strategies to overpower such phenomenal source of evil.
            Of course, the law enforcement apparatus did not even allow to ask the question whether Chotu was over-rated. No one was even encouraged to find out if the criminal was of the worth that required deployment of an army corps and gun-ship helicopters? Since the end of the operation no one has dared ask the cost and effort incurred to capture just thirteen men. There is certainly little interest in law enforcement officials disclosing how they were part of the ‘wheat war’ being fought between them and these criminals in the tribal areas. Not having extra-regional supply network the gang would try to sell millions of rupees worth of wheat in the process of which they would encounter extortion by the police. The conflict over share of spoils heated up resulting in abduction and killing of policemen last year and even this year. No one has even bothered to inquire where did the millions of rupees worth of wheat disappear last year or this year after the operation. 
          At the end of the day, Chotu is a criminal and not a terrorist. Criminals indicate poor governance and presence of militants, especially with compliance of the state denotes criminality of the state. But both elements increase where the overall state apparatus lacks accountability and transparency. The people have to know facts of the latest operation. They also need to know the elements behind the Lahore attack as much as they need to find out facts about killing of 140 children in Peshawar. These disconnected myths, hidden truths and wrong tools to restore stability is a lethal combination. It will never bring peace or sanity. You can’t have law above law.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

War is Not a Joke

War is Not a Joke
Ayesha Siddiqa
When the French statesman Georges Clemenceau, who led his country into the First World War, said that ‘war was too serious a matter to be left to generals’ he wasn’t demeaning his commanders. It meant that active conflict is not a light matter to be trifled with and thus should not be left to people, who due to their training, have a natural propensity towards conflict. Many decades later, John F. Kennedy followed a similar principle in not adhering to advise of his generals in dealing with the Cuban missile crisis.
If wars teach us anything it is that these must be avoided not cherished. Those, who understand the ugliness of war and violence, can appreciate the tyranny of war more than those for whom war is perhaps nothing more than a thrilling videogame.  
Thus, it can be appreciated when young Russian, Ukrainian, German and Armenian musicians got together in Berlin in late August this year to participate in the 16th Young Euro Classic Peace Orchestra and played to send a signal of peaceful coexistence and international understanding to their respective governments and other in Europe. The 1500 musicians from 44 countries gently challenged cultural biases of their state and political blocks. This was meaningful in the context of Europe that looks strained due to the West’s attitude towards Russia.
And who understands war and violence more than Europe that experienced years of bitter wars over competing political, religious and power divides. Moreover, people of Europe have lost millions fighting both protracted hot and cold wars. The crowd in Berlin would certainly have been amazed to see India and Pakistan recently celebrate a war rather than peace. War are remembered not because of gains made or loses to the enemy but to remember all precious lives lost due to egos of their leaders or that they couldn’t find a reasonable solution. I remember a recent conversation with the sibling of one of Pakistan’s brave war hero who received the highest military award for laying down his life in 1971 war. The sister so wanted him to be alive today and not dead. She wasn’t ashamed of her brother’s sacrifice but weary of those who use these deaths to market war as worth cherishing. This sister was certainly troubled by the increased jingoism on both sides of the divide.
Such expression of heroism is farcical considering that the way 1965 war was fought by both India and Pakistan. The war at best denotes antics of two 2nd World War veteran militaries that were terribly unimpressive in fighting decisive conventional battles. Conscious of its relative technological superiority, Pakistan started Operation Gibraltar with the intent to provide fillip to a wrongly imagined uprising in the Kashmir valley. The gains made during the battle of Runn of Kutch earlier that year gave Pakistan’s generals a sense that they could outmaneuver Indian army in Kashmir, especially with the help of better American equipment. Not only that the plan, which was based on poor intelligence did not work, it provoked a war across the international boundary. So, those of us, who grew up reading about 1965 as a victory were truly amazed to hear the then army chief, Mirza Aslam Baig admit in 1989/90 that this was not the case. This act of his was considered as army’s version of ‘perestroika’. The urgent image change military needed after General Zia demanded truth as a concession to people.
However, India’s performance during the war was equally unimpressive as it could not manage a decisive victory despite that it had greater numerical potential to snatch tactical initiative from Pakistan. The poor inter-services coordination put it in the same league as Arab militaries that failed to make gains despite crossing the earlier considered impregnable ceasefire line into Israel in 1973 Yom Kipur war.
But then those were comparatively decent wars in which casualties were limited. Apparently, the two enemies lost approximately five thousand people in its three wars. This cannot be said about the present age of ‘mutually assured destruction’ where annihilation could be at an unimaginably larger scale. (I have always believed that Japan should lend its Hiroshima and Nagasaki exhibitions for display for ordinary Indians and Pakistanis). Notwithstanding love for their respective countries, people must at least know what can happen in case of a nuclear war. May be when people actually understand the grave risk of nuclear wars to life and future generations that the idea of using nuclear weapons if a crisis goes out of control may not appear very cute. No one, who has lost a loved one, can dispassionately talk about death.
However, observing young serving officers fight virtual battles and promising to finish the unfinished job of 1965 reminds one of how important it is for a professional military to ensure that its men are seen only in barracks and not on twitter and facebook. The leadership may be willing to defend the nation but that requires for it to harness its men from expressing opinions that could complicate perceptions.
It is equally important for these brave men to be taught that bravado is not synonymous with lack of appreciation of life. Majority of militaries globally have not really fought conventional wars they were initially programmed for which means they have not really had taste of its lethality. The appreciation of how increased dedliness of weapons makes conflicts bloodier than imagined. Wars aught to be the very last resort than the first available option.  

The manner in which war is imagined and verbalized indicates a lack of appreciation of the fact that those brave men that we remember did not just die for the sake of dying but so that their future generation could live. The talk of annihilation is anti-life. With a thousand times increase in velocity of destruction caused by nuclear weapons its important that while committed to protecting their nations, military men remain humble about war and death. I will re-iterate that professionalism requires emotions to be kept in check and not influence decisions of leadership.     

Thursday, May 14, 2015


Pakistani generals are reputed to be lucky. The more ambitious a general the better it is. Even gods conspire in their favor. Whenever in power, they seem to attract money and new opportunities. Today, Pakistan and its military would turn any other green with envy. Not only certain segments of the civil society are keen, as in the past, to build the military high command’s image as the ultimate savior, both friends and foe seem to help in boosting the institution’s image. So, its not odd for the former ISI chief Lt. General Asad Durrani to feel so smug and confident as he appeared to be during his interviews to the BBC and Al-Jazeera English in February 2015. With an Oscar and Nobel prizes to boost about, we now have other things to rejoice such as the economic corridor to be constructed by China. Soon pictures of the corridor with Chinese trucks will replace paintings of F-16s painted on the sides of buses and trucks.  
But an even greater stroke of luck is in the form of Seymour Hersh’s story about American operation to kill Osama bin laden on May 2nd, 2011. While many have rubbished it as baseless, others consider it as conspiracy to damage Pakistan or threaten Chinese investment in the country. You may wonder how the OBL story, which says that Pakistan knew about the operation to kill him, is connected with Beijing investing in the country. The conspiracy against Chinese investment is the same logic that is used to argue that since India’s home minister stated that he had no clue of Dawood Ibrahim’s whereabouts, his lack of knowledge should automatically extend to LeT’s Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi and Hafiz Saeed. With such ministers India certainly has no locus standi on demanding legal proceedings against Mumbai attack suspects. Had it been the UPA government in India many a passionate anchors there would already have accused their own minister of being an agent for Pakistan’s intelligence. 
Referring to the Hersh report, one wonders how has Pakistan media not noticed that it is a super-positive story that aught to clear any doubts people had about the military’s incompetence. It is the American that come out looking silly rather than GHQ, Rawalpindi. As the former ISI chief, who is used as one of the main sources of Hersh’s piece, said in February the world’s most famous terrorist was kept as quid pro quo at some later date. And like General Musharraf is supposed to have saved the country by cooperating excessively with the US after 9/11, Generals Kiyani and Pasha also turned visionary and cut a deal with Washington especially after the CIA got wind of bin Laden’s whereabouts. What is for sure is that whoever provided this information to Hersh was fairly sympathetic to Pakistan. According to the story, Pakistan kept OBL as a prisoner and he had little control over Al-Qaeeda operations during that period. The story suggests that the Obama administration lied and build a hype in killing an unarmed and ineffective terrorist, and didn’t even find anything worth its while. So, then it wasn’t such a bad idea after all for Pakistan to betray a spent force?
And this particular ISI chief is just amazing as everyone wants to talk to him – from the British and American to Indian. In fact, he is also one of the key sources of information of the first book about to be published on the ISI which will be the first of its kind (written by a German the book should be out on the stalls in August).
Many believe that this opinion piece is to build up interest in Hersh’s forthcoming book. But it seems he has other ‘partners in this crime’. The former ISI chief’s February interview appears to be part of this campaign as a disclosure was made in London by the retired general strongly suggesting that Pakistan did keep bin Laden (smart generals today know how to suggest things without being caught for doing so legally). Interestingly, such stories were being spread by military’s own sources even in 2011. The military was confronted with a catch-22 of whether to admit collusion or incompetence. It seems they opted for the former.
Logically, the story should result in a demand for a fresh inquiry into the Abbotabad incident to answer questions raised by Hersh. Not only that this will not happen but such demand will be touted as a RAW-driven conspiracy. Already, there is pressure on social media from strange accounts reminding people of lack of patriotism for questioning military on many recent developments. Notwithstanding problems one may have with some of the details, `Hersh's story cannot be outrightly dismissed as illogical and a complete fabrication. It draws attention towards many facts such as how did American helicopters sneak into Pakistan? If we were to believe the air chief’s perspective that is recorded in the leaked version of the Abbotabad Commission report `9the only inquiry conducted by Pakistan) in which he claimed that since they were not supposed to watch out for threat from Afghanistan and so there was little radar cover, how about when the helicopter flew back with OBL’s body? Surely, someone picked up the noise generated by the helicopter crashing stones throw away from PMA Kakul? Or do we not monitor sensitive areas inside our air space? It’s a better idea to think that our generals were on top and had arranged all of that else many would think this is a re-play of generals sleeping while an attack was carried out across the BRB canal during the 1965 war. The story, however, makes one curious about his sources and especially how much was fed by Asad Durrani.
If wishes were horses one would like a detailed inquiry into the Abbotabad operation. Meanwhile, the echo of Pakistani sources is quite audible in Hersh’s story. For example, recently a Pakistan intelligence agency-friendly journalist was feverishly tweeting about Kiyani being investigated for corruption. Seems the source of the tweet and Hersh reference to Kiyani’s investigation are similar. In any case, Pakistan military has found another bad guy – after Yahya Khan and Ziaul Haq – its Kiyani who will be suspected and demonized for the future generations. Not that the investigation against him will go very far but many in command of the GHQ will come out looking bright and shinning in comparison. More important, the story will not be a dent in Pakistan military’s relations with the US, Europe or China. We have a luck general in charge.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The original version of what couldn't get printed in Express Tribune - Why shouldn't Christians be Killed?

Someone called me recently insisting that now there will be action in North Waziristan against the Taliban. His point was that the killing of over 80 Christians in Peshawar would shake us into action. I quickly reminded him of what a rather intelligent nephew told me on recently about not taking such outpour of sympathy too seriously because it doesn’t eventually amount to anything. We sympathized with the Hazaras but didn’t ensure any concrete outcomes for their protection. We cry for the Baluch in conference rooms and think the job is done. The young man mentioned above reminded me that we are the kind of people who will cry over dead Hazara, Baluch, Christian, Ahmediya and others not for the sake of humanity but out of fear that we might be next. Sadly, even this episode of brutality will not go beyond producing some Coke Studio version of Faiz or Jalib.  The debate is likely to degenerate into a nonsensical debate labeled as liberal versus conservative verbal contest. The generals will just sit and wait for extensions and appointments. They want civilian leadership to take the blame but will not take any action themselves.
            The jihadi mafia is such lucky folks because they understand that a divided population, which does not even have clarity on holding someone responsible for these attacks, will not have the will to retaliate. There are many like Imran Khan who think the Taliban are not responsible for the attack in Peshawar. Indeed, the Hakimullah Mehsud group very intelligently distanced itself from the attack. So, now we will hold everyone responsible from CIA, Raw and Mossad to Charlie’s aunt and not look inside.
            Why forget that we ourselves are responsible for the attack on these poor Christians? The bias against this community is inbuilt into our psyche. There are many a people who wouldn’t share the same plate or glass with Christians. The whole drama of Asiya bibi is that she tried to drink water from the same well as Muslims. The majority of Pakistan’s Christians belong to the lowest socioeconomic class and they continue to remain there and treated the same way as they were before their forefathers converted to Christianity to escape maltreatment. Recently, one of Punjab CM’s favorite police officer taunted the Christian community and told them that the photographs of what they had done should be sent to ‘all their embassies’. This was after a fight between police and some Christian boys in which both parties had beaten each other. The police was then sent in full force to pick the culprits up from the slums. They would break open doors of houses with a cry of Allah-o-Akbar.
How can we forget that this is not the first attack against Christians and their Churches? There were two attacks in 2001 as well – one in Bahawalpur and another in the diplomatic enclave in Islamabad. For those arguing that those attacks were in reaction to American attack on Afghanistan after 9/11, why target the poor Christians of Pakistan who have nothing to do with the US? It were the poor Christians in the Bahawalpur Church, who cannot even dream of going to the West, who were killed in an attack carried out by Jaishe Mohammad (JeM) which is also stationed in the same city.
For those, who will argue that nothing has ever happened against Christians since 2002 until now and so this must be a provocation from outside, how can they not see the deep ideological messaging and propaganda ridden with bias against these people? Be it the takfiris, who even advocate killing Muslims that don’t support the cause, or the other kind that believe in killing more strategically, they share a common ideology. Glance through the magnum opus of the JeM leader explaining jihad according to the Koran, and you will see how a jihadi or Taliban will be inspired to kill a Christian. The entire interpretation of surah Baqarah, which is the second and the longest chapter in the Koran, puts the Jews and Christians on the same level as the hypocrites and the non-believers. The 2000 pages book carefully builds a thesis which extols the importance of jihad and martyrdom. But this is one aspect. The other is constructing a thesis against non-believers, Jews and Christians. It very carefully explains and interprets, for example verse 109 of Chapter 2, that the reference in the koranic verse to Jews includes Christians as well.  The detailed explanation of verse 114 of the same chapter reminds the reader of how Christians had depopulated the mosques in Spain. On several occasions in the book it is also pointed out that de-populating a mosque is one of the greatest sins that must be rewarded with death. 
The book is fascinating in how it systematically converts the reference to the notion of struggle in the Koran to jihad. But more important, it constructs a formidable thesis against people of the other two sematic religions who were traditionally always considered as part of the same family. Reportedly, Masood Azhar’s work reflects a similar thesis by a Salafi scholar in a Saudi university in Riyadh.

Azhar’s Fathul Jawwad is one of the fundamental readings for those being converted to the 
idea of jihad. There may be different Deobandi groups; even Taliban are Deobandi, but they 
share the literature especially there are more fighters but less ideologues who can create the ideology considered necessary to rally support from around them. Some analysts would make 
you believe that groups like Jandullah may be responsible for such an act and not the TTP which is in talks with the government. But whoever takes responsibility does not matter 
because ultimately this is the literature they are groomed on which is produced by the state sponsored jihadis.

Even if we were to imagine that the murder of over 80 innocent Christians including women and children may be the work of some foreign agency, how can we rule out the critical role that 
this kind of literature would have played in convincing the person who actually blew him/herself up? Perhaps, the killer might also have read the explanation given for verse 190 
that it is fair and legal to kill women who take part in fight including instigating against Muslim. Children are just collateral damage. 

Surely, the killers and many more see these women and children only from that lens. And still we call these jihadis friendly Taliban. 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

What do Khakis look for in a Boss?

Who will be the next army chief is an issue that seems to have caught the imagination of many a people in Islamabad and even outside. many a defense analysts are setting up shop and doing good business because of their acclaimed expertise on the matter. The closer you are to the GHQ's heart the more answers you might have. At least, you can conjecture much more freely and tout yourself as 'The Security Expert'. There are at least a couple in Islamabad who have a raving business built around their ability to answer questions of less knowledgable people, diplomats and foreign journalists. I bumped into one such character at a dinner who could name the postings that a particular senior general had done like the back of his hand. Very impressed!

But as I write this in mid-september, it seems that the about to retire saviour General Ashfaq Kiyani is still vying for an extension. Or if that's not possible to get appointed as national security advisor to the newly resurrected old military design organization called the National security Council. Such suggestions are not made directly but through journalist/anchor chamchas (translated into English as boot-lickers) who make a suggestion to test waters. The beauty of media empowerment under Musharraf is that now there are too many out there to sell themselves to the GHQ and others at hefty sums. But referring to General Kiyani, who some analysts claim to be a wise man, one's eyes easily pop out at the suggestion of him getting any appointment after his miserable track record of: Abbotabad ignominy, Salala disaster, Raymond Davis fiasco, scandalous moves to threaten democracy (ref: Memogate), and numerous scandals linking his brothers with corruption. 

However, he still seems to have control over a lot of things in the army which is why many sources don't think that Lt. General Haroon Aslam, who is the senior most will make it to the position of the army chief. He is being named for the position of the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC) but not as COAS. This is probably a pet Kiyani trick as he succeeded in kicking General Wyne to the position of CJCSC when he himself got a 3-years extension under the PPP government. Many name Lt. General Rashid Mahmood as a possibility. But then the rumors are that army officers call him baji (elder sister) indicating that he is a softee which also means that he may not be the one to rock the political boat. There are two other generals also famed as bajis: Generals Jahangir Karamat and Ashfaq Kiyani. One of the reasons why junior and mid-ranking officers use such derogatory terms for these two generals is because of their inability to standup to civilian leadership or become part of their corruption. Majority of military officers that include the PAF and PN were unhappy with Karamat for how he resigned and caved into pressure from Sharif's government in 1999. Kiyani makes them unhappy for taking extension from, what is perceived as a corrupt PPP regime. The stories of Kiyani's brothers corruption and involvement in land scams is also a reason some officers refer to him as 'Almas Bobby' (for those interested in bobby simply google).

For many a men the epitome of male officer-type is people like Pervez Musharraf and Asif Nawaz Janjua. These are male predator type for whom honor represents raw bravado, ability to break laws and poke anyone in the eyes. Musharraf still remains popular amongst the jawans more than the current chief. They look up to him for how he protected their interests. The manner in which he supported an alleged rapist of a femal doctor in Sui, Baluchistan Dr Shazia Khalid or condoned the slapping of a police official by an army officer as punishment for stopping the general's car on red light are cases in point. Had Musharraf not poked the CJ in his eyes or seemingly tilted too much towards India, most were fine with him. The men definitely want their man to be a man. The fact that he slept around or ran undressed with women in government buildings in hill stations or elsewhere, or drank himself silly does not really matter. However, it is also interesting that being categorized as a female has never stopped a senior commander from becoming an army chief. Perhaps, as long as the baji generals are good enough in providing kickbacks and perks internally, how they act ultimately is of little consequence. 

Then there is Raheel Sharif who was sidelined to a secondary position of Training and Evaluation in the GHQ. He comes from an army family, younger brother of Major Shabbir Sharif who won two military awards for his performance and martyrdom in the 1971 war.

The other two serious contenders seem to be Lt. Generals Tariq Khan (Coprs Commander Mangla) and lt. General Zaheer-ul-Islam. They say that Tariq Khan may not have a good chance due to his closeness with the US. Reportedly, his territory in Mangla looks like mini-US (these are reports not what I have seen myself). However, there are confirmed reports of him being a great party-thrower and a great DJ as well. However, there are others who insist that whatever the nature of discussion on the issue of the appointment of a service chief it will ultimately be Tariq Khan who will become the army chief. Indeed, he is a restless man who promotes his cause through military men in media. He also has a daughter studying in the US (California to be precise) who writes columns and is the future defense analyst. She will probably land in many American think-tanks (as long as singing a duet with the Pak army remains fashionable).

Zaheer-ul-Islam is the current ISI chief who is also reputed to be a great Muslim. Reports are that he is mindful of his prayers and is less visibly an American chamcha as Tariq Khan. 

The Prime Minister has clearly two choices: he could either go for a baji type and not risk derailment or go for a more American friendly macho type or an Islamic ummah kind and have greater pressure put on him at some future date. I suppose the pieces of the puzzle will get together once the Kiyani retirement or extension or relocation decision is done. 

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Concocting Identity

A few days ago I was surprised to hear a renowned journalist sit and boast about his Baluch lineage. The boasting stuck out because then it was accompanied with claims of good knowledge of the unfortunate province. The comfort with which he spoke about the archaic nature of the tribal culture, his own experience of being head of a tribe at an early age was enough to impress the numerous foreigners sitting there that night. I am sure many of the ignoramuses amongst the audience must have felt pangs of respect for the gent as they realized how he must have abandoned the traditions to turn into a modern, liberal urbanite. All the excitement must have made them not notice the one critical detail of his father being an army officer (on a separate note the number of army brats that now occupy positions of significance in the private sector, think-tanks, media, NGOs etc., is just amazing).

Referring to the journalist, I was in a bit of a shock that evening because the person in question had never boosted about his Baluch lineage before or told tales that may raise suspicion in your mind that he probably knew something about Baluchistan or the culture. My mind suddenly wandered to another character, a female this time who has been presented by the agencies as the grand daughter of some Baluch tribal chief. The woman – a femme fatale – for the notorious ISI was lucky to get her entire resume and life doctored by the military’s intelligence agency and sexed-up to make her appear acceptable in the eyes of the foreigners, local elite and many other customers. The last I remember the young woman from when I met her many years ago was that her mother was some medical doctor in one of the military’s welfare foundations and she was raised in Multan. Reminded me of yet another ISI’s femme fetal, who the other day, was boosting in front of a foreign audience how well she knew of South Punjab because her retired military bureaucrat father had some land in an areas she referred to as the boonies. Such a claim was being made to show her knowledge of the area and to impress an important western diplomat of what she was saying about some positive change in the place was the gospel truth. A common friend later told me that this woman might have visited the place once but never again because the piece of land was taken care of by her elder sister. But let’s suppose she went to the boondocks in South Punjab every month or week; or lets imagine the journalist I referred to earlier was of Baluch descent; or another journalist close to the heart of Pakistan’s military establishment who claims to be a blue-blooded Kashmiri was actually a blue-blooded Kashmiri, does it naturally give them sufficient knowledge of these places, especially what people suffered – their joys and sorrows? The journalist claiming to be Kashmiri has never lived in Kashmir or even visited the place besides accompanying his army dad or in army helicopters, nor has the two man and woman claiming Baluch lineage have ever lived there. They have certainly not seen that part of being a Baluch which experiences humiliation and torture at the hands of the state and its numerous agents. It was not too long ago that I met a newly-inducted civil bureaucrat from the Makran coast. He was frustrated, anxious and deeply hurt as he talked about how the state did not appreciate that people like him did not want to fight a battle with the state and yet were humiliated and dragged around. people like him were caught in the middle between not wanting to fight with the nationalists and being humiliated by the state all the time. His was a blood-curdling narrative about what goes on in people's minds when military and para-military forces barge into people's homes in search of those declared terrorists or criminal. The manner in which families are treated is something that would produce greater anger and resentment. Their's is a different lineage, which, in the eyes of the state cannot be worn around like a medal. There are no prizes for these Baluch whose right over their resources is challenged in the name of the state's desire to bring modernity. The Baluch cannot be made party to a decision to contract out Gwadar to the Chinese or any other firm because they appear as anti-modern. Intriguingly, the tribalism, which the state and General Musharraf (and his predecessors) so loathed is then owned in a different way by giving the mata haris the same identity and lineage. What is despised and targeted in one place is celebrated and romanticised in other cases. 

To those, who like to wear their lineage like a medal to gain prizes from certain quarters, I can only say that an ethnicity or lineage is not in a name or a title. It is also about collective experience. You are either a part of it or you cannot pretend ownership of that identity.