October 29, 2009

The Heads

Majid Nizami likes teachers. Education is the foundation of a state and Nizami believes Pakistani children should be taught what it means to be “Pakistani.” He is a proud nationalist, so the teacher workshops he sponsors sometimes turn political. Last week he used one to give his opinion that war isn’t the solution in Waziristan because it will only create more war.

He also suggested renaming the NWFP “Afghania,” justified the Baloch insurrection because they aren’t being treated fairly, and it's reasonable to conclude he opposes the Afghan war.

Nizami is Editor-in-Chief of The Nation, one of Pakistan’s biggest newspapers, and an American foil. Though the Nation stayed objective in its regular reporting, the editorial went back to back on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The front page has four reports at this moment; the Dawn and the News International are also watching her like a hawk.

She could be in for a rough ride.

Nizami is a power outside American control. Clinton has come to support Waziristan so that contrast is obvious. But Nizami opposes America, not necessarily intentionally, at every level. Denouncing the Kerry-Lugar bill at his 14th training workshop of teachers, Nizami told his audience that America, with India and Israel’s help, is trying to bring Pakistan’s nuclear weapons under foreign control.

Nizami’s ideology is deeply shaped by the Indian threat and Pakistan’s quest for a nuclear bomb. Nizami promotes self-determination, saying, “After independence, we inherited three enemies in form of India, US and Israel.” While India has its own reasons to neutralize Paksitan’s nuclear program, warned last year that the "true terrorists," America and Israel, are conspiring against Pakistan’s status as the lone Muslim nuclear power.

Nuclear weapons turn Nizami’s world-view. Without them he believes that Pakistan would’ve become a slave state for India or America at the worst, forced out of Kashmir completely at the least. He praised Dr. AQ Khan and heralded nuclear weapons as the key to Pakistan's "invincibility."

Perhaps Nizami’s power was on its fullest display during the funeral for his wife, where Pakistan’s elite payed tribute to Mohtarma Rehana Majid. He also claimed to have been certified a Mujahid by Liaqat Ali Khan, Pakistan’s first prime minister. He’s like Pakistan’s Rupert Murdoch, who in fact is his enemy judging by the WSJ editorial board.

His reaction to US and India propaganda is predictable, and unchangeable. Instead of assailing Pakistan, Clinton should muzzle the American press and its nuclear weapons parroting if she's serious about promoting clarity and hospitality. Propaganda will surely continue in Pakistan if it continues in America.

Because Majim Nizami is not alone. While Daily Times publisher and Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer hailed the Kerry-Lugar Bill and supports the Waziristan operation, the other heads tilt the scale against America.

Dawn CEO Hameed Haroon shares Nizami’s caution against foreign influence, recently telling reporters, “Both Pakistan and India are competing each other to please Washington and both following its dictates... It is high time that the two governments shun their old tactics and encourage more people to contact so that the clouds of misinformation can be blown away.”

Haroon rejects being compared and conjoined to Afghanistan, putting him on a collision course with many US officials. His profession that, “Terrorism is not the ideology of Pakistan... we are suffering due to Afghanistan,” puts the blame squarely on America; Haroon is also pro-China. The Dawn has a liberal reputation and often tries to cool the hysteria, but it keeps a strict eye on US actions.

Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman’s power might limit him to a lower profile. Though the owner of Geo TV and the News International talk as much to the press, neither outlets can be described as pro-American. Geo TV is infamous for challenging Musharraf and America by extension. The News International columnists constantly question American motives, with Shireen Mazari going so far as to be removed.

US officials and News editors deny the connection, but Mazari’s last article, “Targeting Pakistan and Silencing the Critics," is dated September 3rd.

The News’ current editorial demonstrates the truth of Secretary Clinton’s quest. Her job shouldn’t be to visit Pakistan and explain what’s going to happen or what did happen. She should “learn from one another” like she told one interview and report to President Obama how to promote an equal relationship and perception between the two states. For instance, taking Pakistan’s opinion into account on Afghanistan as the blood of its soldiers and citizens is spilled across the country.

With more than a hint of sarcasm, the editorial harped, "'My visit is aimed at sending a message of all-out support for Pakistani government from Obama administration.' We are delighted to hear that Mrs Clinton, but can we now move to the real meat-and-potatoes of your visit because it comes against a backdrop of indecision on the part of the American; still feeling their way in the new Obama-shaped world of foreign policy."

If Clinton’s goal was to attract extreme attention from the Pakistani press then she succeeded flawlessly. Every paper is trailing her, waiting to see what she’ll say, waiting to critique her and maybe twist her words. But she cannot beat those who control the strings with a media tour, Pakistan is waiting to see what America will do on the ground.

Reality will shape the propaganda.

In the vein of Nizami and Haroon, Rahman’s invisible hand concluded, “The conflation of 'Af/Pak' in the minds of American strategists who may be unfamiliar with the region and its complex cultural weave has led to a 'running together' of the two nations as if they were somehow extensions of one another rather than discrete entities. In terms of policy towards Pakistan the American administration has been described as 'dithering' both on a Pakistani independent TV channel and in print. 'Dithering' we don't need at this point. 'Decisive' and 'clear' we do. Over to you, Mrs Clinton.”

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