VIEW: Rallying the diaspora —Dr Mohammad Taqi
Daily Times, January 17, 2010
Painting the current war as just the Pashtuns’ war might become a self-fulfilling prophecy. It compartmentalises and isolates the Pashtuns even from their direct neighbours in Peshawar, Kohat and DI Khan. It is our war — of the Pashtuns, Hindko and Farsi speakers of Peshawar, Hazara-wals, Chitralis, the Shiite of Kurram and Barelvis of Swat. It is as much a Punjabi, Baloch or a Sindhi war
One freezing night in January 1948, a woman landed in New York on a campaign to raise funds for the state of Israel and its armed forces. She had no winter clothing on, carried only a handbag and a single ten-dollar bill in her pocket. When asked by the customs official how she planned to manage here in the US, she replied: “I have family here!”
When Golda Meir left the US, she had collected $ 50 million — twice her original target, ten times the demand of their resistance officials and three times the Saudi oil revenues for 1947. The diaspora had delivered — but only when rallied by a determined leadership.
The overseas Pakistanis have pumped in about $ 40 billion over the last nine years into the Pakistani economy — three times more per annum than what the Kerry Lugar Law will ever deliver.
Unlike the Kerry Lugar Law, however, no strings are attached to these remittances because the intended beneficiaries are families, friends and communities back home or, as the Americans would say, our loved ones.
The Pakistani expatriates have also remained attuned to the natural and man-made disasters in Pakistan. Whether it was the 2005 earthquake, the 2007 Balochistan floods or the displaced persons of Malakand, the overseas Pakistanis have opened their hearts and wallets upon the motherland’s call. Many came in physically to assist and others contributed financially and materially.
From immediate relief and rescue missions in Balakot to rebuilding and supporting the war-ravished Khpal Kor Foundation orphanage in Mingora, Swat, the overseas Pakistanis have always risen to the occasion.
Individuals have contributed privately and through various charitable organisations. Established groups such as the Association of Pakistani-descent Physicians of North America (APPNA) and Khyber Medical College Alumni Association of North America (KMCAANA) partnered with the Khyber Medical College, Peshawar, in running medical camps for the Malakand IDPs in Swabi, Mardan and Charsadda. APPNA and its affiliates and the KMCAANA are in the process of donating advance trauma life-support equipped ambulances to the NWFP as we speak.
The overseas Pakistanis have been trying to raise awareness in the US and Western capitals about the war in Pak-Afghan region and especially the Pashtun lands. Seminars, lobbying, op-ed writing and blogging have been deployed to flay naked the hideous face of the Taliban monster. When the Swat Shariah deal was being imposed on the Pashtuns under the guise of a triumph of diplomacy and jirga, these Pakistani voices unmasked it as the state’s capitulation to the Taliban fascism and helped build consensus for the army action there.
The question then is whether all of this is sufficient? And the answer is a resounding no! No metrics are yet available to measure how much contribution to Pakistan is enough contribution.
This brings me to an article ‘Pakhtun diaspora: irresponsible and insensitive’ (Daily Times, January 9, 2010) by Ms Farhat Taj, my colleague at the Aryana Institute for Regional Research and Advocacy (AIRRA), in which she has shown her irritation with the expatriate Pakistanis for their indifference to the plight of the Pashtuns.
While I must first take a bow to Ms Taj for the brave and stellar work she has been doing, I differ with the observations in her article. The agreements first, though.
AIRRA is indeed doing a wonderful job of raising awareness within and outside Pakistan about the existential threat to the region. It deserves all we can do to keep it afloat. I join Ms Taj in calling upon all who care to donate generously to AIRRA.
The Baacha Khan Trust Educational Foundation (BKTEF) is another entity that was mentioned as worthy of support, in the said article. This entity came to fore around 2007 as a grantee of the Open Society Institute (OSI), run by the billionaire George Soros (Soros Foundations Network Report 2007, page 152) and has previously solicited donations in the US under the OSI’s US tax identification number. The officials at the OSI confirmed the 2007 grantee status but were unable to provide a statement on the current status of the collaboration and funding.
Like all non-profit organisations in the US, if BKTFE were to present its case in an open and transparent manner and list its achievements of the last several years, the Pakistani-Americans would certainly help. Greg Mortenson of the Central Asia Institute is a frequent visitor to the Pakistani-American community events and his great work has earned loyal supporters for his schools in Pakistan.
Ms Taj has taken an exception to the comments and views expressed by the overseas Pakistanis — the Pashtun diaspora in her words — about the conduct of war in Pakistan.
Firstly, painting the current war as just the Pashtuns’ war might become a self-fulfilling prophecy. It compartmentalises and isolates the Pashtuns even from their direct neighbours in Peshawar, Kohat and DI Khan. It is our war — of the Pashtuns, Hindko and Farsi speakers of Peshawar, Hazara-wals, Chitralis, the Shiite of Kurram and Barelvis of Swat. It is as much a Punjabi, Baloch or a Sindhi war.
It is indeed not for the diaspora to decide how the native Pakistanis conduct the current war. As Golda Meir said to an American audience, “It is not to you, to decide whether we shall continue our struggle or not. We shall fight and never hang out a white flag before the Mufti of Jerusalem. But you can decide one thing — whether the victory will be ours or the Mufti’s.” And it is perhaps the latter aspect that Ms Taj has pitched to the overseas Pakistanis — to help arm the tribal militias (lashkars). Her contention being that if the petro-dollars from Arabs can oil the Taliban fighting machine, why the Pashtun diaspora cannot do the same in response.
Asking the diaspora as a whole to become part of this is a slippery slope. It is a political decision and must come from the political leadership, not individuals.
The history of Pak-Afghan region tells us that outsourcing war to irregulars is a dangerous proposition that has contributed to the warlordism rampant in the region. The factions and militias created by the local, regional and global powers have been a recipe for the fragmentation of Afghanistan.
The experiment of relying on tribal militias was conducted by the PDPA in Afghanistan and unfortunately it was at the hand of one such militia that one of the bravest souls in modern Pashtun history, Dr Najibullah, was arrested, leading ultimately to his martyrdom.
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