by Vaneeza* (see intro here)

What’s Really Going On In Afghanistan and Pakistan, And Why It Matters

We in Pakistan are seeing real changes in America’s way of dealing with our country. When Hilary Clinton came to Pakistan, although her visit was short, still she utilized it very well. She did a number of debates with our top journalists on TV, who asked many difficult and critical questions. The way she answered them and took all the questions and criticism tactfully and gave replies to them was wonderful. I myself watched many of her interviews on TV. She went to a number of mosques and shrines. She showed her respect by covering her head going there. These are the things that mean a lot to the common man here. For me, it was a refreshing change that she pronounced “Pakistan” correctly unlike other Americans.

The Obama administration definitely understands the situation here better than the Republicans, and definitely better than Bush. Obama’s decision to increase troops in Afghanistan might help a little but you need to understand that Pakistan is at the center stage of this whole drama. Some Taliban in Afghanistan are locals but most of them are foreigners and we all know that a huge number of them come from Pakistan who are trained here. Whenever America launches a full scale military offensive against them, they just come here to Pakistan, which they consider a safe haven and, as soon as things get better there, they go back.

Even if the Taliban are stopped from escaping to Pakistan by tighter border control and let’s say all of the Taliban are killed in Afghanistan, more will be recruited from the same madrassahs and extremist training camps in Pakistan. Although America’s launching of drone attacks in our tribal areas has been effective to a degree, these have also caused a huge number of civilian casualties, which has inflamed the common man here more than any madrassah could do.

What needs to be done is better intelligence services and attacking the militant safe havens and training grounds in Pakistan secretly in association with the Pakistani government. This goal can be achieved with the help of American intelligence agencies. It is true that the Pakistani government needs to do more in fighting these terrorists. Unfortunately our politicians can be just as bad as the military dictators, even though it must be said that the country is better off — as a whole — with Musharraf out of power. I believe that the government in some ways is trying to make things bad here to get more aid from America which obviously won’t go to the people but to the pockets of the politicians themselves.

The government of Afghanistan, led by Hamid Karzai, is very corrupt. He is sometimes called the “the corruption king”. Some people here believe that some or even most of the bomb blasts in Pakistan are actually arranged by the government so they can show to the world and especially America “Look what the Taliban have done and what they are capable of and what they can do to you also, so give us more and more money in aid and funds that we can use to fight the Taliban.” Most of the aid money Pakistan has received over the years in fact goes to the pockets of corrupt politicians and little goes to do what it was given for.

It must be said that, for the first time, the aid that is coming from America is starting to go to NGOs instead of the pockets of our corrupt politicians. They will of course get some part of it but the fact that any part of it will be going directly to NGOs too is amazing. Although the common man will not be won over by just these measures — as the history of mistrust goes back decades — but these measures will still do at least some part to help ease the tension. Until more schools and hospitals and factories and jobs are created in Afghanistan and Pakistan and the quality of life of Afghans and Pakistanis is improved, no real change can come.

People oftentimes become Taliban because that’s the only option they have. There are a number of madrassahs still operating in Pakistan that turn regular people who just want to get knowledge about Islam into terrorists. Even in a lot of mosques, the Friday sermon is focused on bashing America rather than anything related to Islam. There are religious shows and channels on TV that preach extremist ideology and urge people to take up arms. Nothing is being done about them by the Pakistani government.

All that is very important, because nobody can deny Pakistan’s role in the war that is going in Afghanistan. There is a lot of social unrest here in Pakistan. The poverty, unemployment and inflation are out of control. People are selling their children and committing suicide because they cannot provide for their families. It is much easier to persuade a person like that to take up arms to go on a “road to heaven” than someone who actually has some part of his or her life under control.

Our mullahs come in all shapes and sizes, hair styles, beard styles and clothing to cater to the religious needs of all social strata. It is more like a business. The other day a more modern looking mullah on TV with a shorter beard and a pant suit with a few sentences of English sprinkled here and there in his speech was urging young people leave Pakistan and wage holy war against India, as it was the prophecy of prophet Muhammad. On TV!! It is so frustrating to many like-minded Pakistanis that these types of psychos are allowed to spread their message of hate and war on TV with no restrictions.

The bottom line is that the war in Afghanistan is not one that can be “won”. America should turn its focus more to Pakistan and urge the Pakistani government to do something about the mullahs and madrassahs and TV channels that are misleading people, recruiting more Taliban and making things worse for America in Afghanistan.


This article was by our new guest blogger, Vaneeza. Vaneeza is a Pakistani woman currently living and studying in Pakistan. I have come to know her through her comments and highly recommend that you read every word that she writes. This is the kind of perspective and analysis that I never hear in the mainstream media, and I think we are much worse off as a country for being deprived of it. I hope you will all welcome her to the Library Grape family and pay close attention to what she has to say. Shukriya, Vaneeza!
  1. schu says:

    Some thing that the Bush/Cheney crowd has never been able to grasp is the fact that we need to see and deal other nations with the respect that we want them to see us. They approached other nations as a bully, you will do as we want because we are the biggest, with the largest nuclear stockpile, and the best military. This is not how a democracy should approach the leadership position of the world. All you do with that kind of attitude is create more opposition.

  2. landon says:

    welcome vanneeza enjoyed reading your perspective!

  3. serena1313 says:

    This is one of the saner reports regarding Pakistan and Afghanistan. I do not know you, however, because you actually live in Pakistan it gives you credibility. I appreciate your insight. I also happen to agree with you on every point.

    For decades the intelligence community successfully dealt with militants and extremists. But Bush came along and decided to eradicate "terrorists" using the military. Of course the rest is history. I had hoped Obama would have reversed course, but like his predecessor he seems to be of a similar, albeit slightly improved, mind-set. That will change. Hopefully soon.

    "It is so frustrating to many like-minded Pakistanis that these types of psychos are allowed to spread their message of hate and war on TV with no restrictions."

    Likewise we have our own type of "Taliban:" Christian fundamentalists.

    Religious fundamentalism poisons the minds of young and old alike. It breeds hate and intolerance and pits man against man. Religion was never meant to be used as weapon or a tool for vengeance. There is nothing righteous or holy about waging war.

    "Our Imam Ali said that a man is either our brother in religion or our brother in humanity and we believe this. You must live with all men in perfect peace. You don't need to fight him or kill him. You know something; Islam is a very easy religion, but some radicals make it difficult. We are against anyone who is killing or kidnapping foreigners. This is not the Muslim way. The Grand Marjas (religious teachers) have told us this."

    Jesus was a man of peace, dedicated to social justice and human decency. His life was a testament to power of love and forgiveness.

    When devotion to the betterment of the human condition is equal to the strength of our convictions in act and deed life has purpose and meaning. It fills the void of poverty and despair. Diversity is met with acceptance not hate and intolerance.

    In the meantime … what can we do, other than wait … ? Iam open to suggestions.

    I look forward to learning more.

  4. Dr. O. P. Sudrania says:

    Vaneeza,
    Congratulations for being a truly bold and straight to the point, a feature rarely seen nowadays in the contemporary journalism. I do not know, how long will you be able to maintain your stamina of veracity and courage in this field, more so in a place like Pakistan, which as you very well know is a place of hardline extremist radicals.

    They have a fixed agenda and anyone deviating from their ideology or path, is treated brutally till s/he surrenders or is subjugated to their line of action. Many politicians in Punjab and Sindh in Pakistan buy peace from them by paying alimony regularly. All the senior politicians are prone to this manipulation by them.

    Unfortunately, even the civilian govt is per se ruled by military bosses, who control the civil administration as well as the economy. The major chunk of the budgetary allocation is said to be consumed by the military/ISI duo. Whatever little is left is distributed in the civil leaders who enjoy the best life of eat drink and be marry at the cost of the common man. contd…

  5. Dr. O. P. Sudrania says:

    Congratulations to the columnist for being a truly bold and straight to the point, a feature rarely seen nowadays in the contemporary journalism. I do not know, how long will you be able to maintain your stamina of veracity and courage in this field, more so in a place like Pakistan, which as you very well know is a place of hardline extremist radicals.

    They have a fixed agenda and anyone deviating from their ideology or path, is treated brutally till s/he surrenders or is subjugated to their line of action. Many politicians in Punjab and Sindh in Pakistan buy peace from them by paying alimony regularly. All the senior politicians are prone to this manipulation by them.

    Unfortunately, even the civilian govt is per se ruled by military bosses, who control the civil administration as well as the economy. The major chunk of the budgetary allocation is said to be consumed by the military/ISI duo. Whatever little is left is distributed in the civil leaders who enjoy the best life of eat drink and be marry at the cost of the common man. contd…

  6. Dr. O. P. Sudrania says:

    contd…
    More or less, the similar pattern is followed in India too. But with a little difference of low intensity and the military has no say at all in the civil matters. The civil authority writ reign supreme in the normal peace time. That makes a big difference to contain the corruption to some extent.

    The religious extremism in Pakistan isolates and singles out the nation at global level due to most of the Islamic terrorists being traced in that land directly or indirectly. I hope that persons like you will make a difference to change the average perception to positivity and help bring the desired change in the life and living of a common man towards prosperity and peace so that Pakistan can become a vibrant society in the map of the world. I wish you as well as Pakistan well.
    God bless
    Dr. O. P. Sudrania

  7. Kory says:

    Wow. That is all i have to say.. I agree on everything that was said here and If only the Government could understand these situations instead of worrying about the flow of oil and money. The Government has to much power and instead of helping countries the U.S. Government is subsidizing them. Since we, citizens of the world, are so low in power, it seems as if we can do nothing to stop the American Government from doing horrible things to these countries. I am in the U.S. Army Reserve and I did NOT join the Army to protect our oil flow.. I joined to protect the people I love from being hurt. I grew up with my parents saying “Two wrongs don’t make a right.” I think the U.S. Government should take that quote into consideration. They say they care about our lives but they only care about how much money they can use and how much oil they can save. I can honestly say that my own government is out of control. No disrespect intended. My thoughts on this might be scattered and maybe not clear but I had to get my thoughts out there and maybe hopefully, one day, somebody will understand and stop this chaos that is happening.

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