Saturday, October 23, 2010

Crazy Aunty Saying Crazy Things

Shireen Mazari reminds me of that crazy aunt who says nutty things to get attention. She is tolerated because she’s family, but no one really takes her seriously.

Anyway, Pakistan and the United States are currently holding a ‘strategic dialogue’ in Washington to put their relationship back on track. Dr. Mazari is well known for her rabid anti-Americanism—often bordering on incoherence—and considers any concession by Pakistan as an affront to its dignity. So as a patriotic Pakistani, she takes up her pen, she is an editor of a prominent newspaper after all, and scribbles a list of demands the United States must unconditionally accept before Pakistan agrees to anything.

First, it needs to write off Pakistan’s debt and ensure that this happens with its allies and the international financial institutions. The US has done this before when it has seen other states like Egypt as its strategic partners. Surely, the role being played by Pakistan today is as strategic as any for the US in its so-called war on terror in Afghanistan.

Second, if the Dialogue is to be truly “strategic”, it cannot ignore the nuclear factor. So we need to demand from the US that it give the same treatment to our nuclear status that it is bestowing on India. In this context, the issue of non-proliferation is a non-starter, as India’s documented record on the issue is no better than ours or the US’s itself in connection with Israel!

Third, the US needs to immediately fulfil its past commitments on ROZs and market access for our textiles.

Fourth, Pakistan must be welcomed in any talks to resolve the Afghan conflict. Now that the US has conceded that Iran has a role to play in Afghanistan, it should wake up to the reality - however distasteful it may be to it and its ally India - that Pakistan has a role to play also in the future of Afghanistan.

Fifth, the return of Dr Aafia should not simply be a postscript in the Dialogue, but some action sought immediately.
The first four demands are negotiable, but the fifth? Is this even a serious request? Is Dr. Mazari willing to risk US-Pakistan relations demanding Dr. Aafia Siddiqui’s release? The presumption here is that Dr. Siddiqui is some innocent—an MIT-trained neuroscientist and mother of three, we are repeatedly told—railroaded by a callous American judicial system. I agree that her sentence was overly harsh, but she is not as innocent as she appears: she is an unrepentant jihadist and a supporter of Al-Qaeda.

No time to go into details here, but Dr. Siddiqui’s behavior, before and after her arrest, adds credence to her guilt.

That Dr. Mizari would demand her release trivializes US-Pakistan relations, which is key in eradicating terrorism and militancy in Afghanistan. But like the crazy aunt, hopefully nobody listens to her.