Empathy: When is it a force of good and when not?

  Yesterday, a friend and I talked about the violence against peaceful protestors in Sudan. She said she can’t believe what is happening to innocent people. What is worse, she said, is no one cares about them. No one is helping. I said I share your sentiments. But the problem is not that no one cares; it is just that such conflicts are quite complex. Yemen, Syria, Libya and other cases are before our eyes. Intervention or no intervention. People have been dying. She said but why can’t we do something. Why can’t we be with them, so they don’t…

America is unlikely to pressure the Pakistan Army, but PTM should knock on all doors for justice 

Since the onset of the rights-based Pashtun Protection Movement or PTM in February last year in Pakistan, its supporters have hopes from America to pressure the Pakistan military establishment to accept their demands. The PTM is a nonviolent movement that is demanding justice for war crimes committed against Pakistan’s largest ethnic minority— Pashtuns. The PTM supporters have protested in various cities of the U.S., including in front of the White House in the federal capital, Washington DC. The Trump administration has not issued a single condemnatory statement on the issue. From such a lack of interest, it is clear that…

In search of identity

  The last time I saw my family was six years ago, before coming to the States. I talk to them over the phone now but it does not feel real. A lot has changed since then. New members have joined the family. Some family members have died. Their widows and young children are on God’s mercy because that is how life is in a small, poor village in rural Pakistan. My mom has grown weak and old. One family member, I was told recently, is terminally ill. There have been tragedies which I keep mourning. And there have been…

What would Orwell say about Pakistan Army’s repression of Pashtuns?

  The British novelist and essayist and critic of authoritarianism George Orwell opens the second chapter of his book Why I Write with the following quote: “As I write, highly civilized human beings are flying overhead, trying to kill me. They do not feel enmity against me as an individual, nor I against them. They are ‘only doing their duty’, as the saying goes. Most of them, I have no doubt, are kind-hearted law-abiding men who would never dream of committing murder in private life. On the other hand, if one of them succeeds in blowing me up with a…

4 ways in which unarmed insurrections may weather repression in nondemocracies

The emergence of movements or challenges for political change threatens the interests of regimes, especially in nondemocracies or pseudo-democracies. According to Kurt Schock, authorities may respond in four possible ways to these challenges: Ignore, conciliate, reform and repress. When a challenge expands and gains momentum, authorities can not ignore anymore because it undermines their legitimacy. When authorities can no longer ignore the challenge, they seek conciliation. Conciliation may take the form of “symbolic gestures,” channeling or cooptation to encourage challengers to adopt institutionalized political channels such as contesting elections and etcetera. If conciliation fails, then political reforms may become an…

The Pashtun Black Decade-and-Half in Pakistan

In the 1990s, in the civil war between Algeria’s ruling National Liberation Front (FLN) and the Islamic Salvation Front Party (FIS), 200,000 Algerians lost their lives. The period came to be known as the “Black Decade” or the “Red Decade” due to the spilled blood of the innocents. Both the government forces and FIS were accused of committing atrocities again civilians. They particularly targeted Algerian intelligentsia and journalists. In the wake of 9/11, the people of Pakistan, particularly, the Pashtun ethnic group met a similar fate at the hands of the Taliban and the armed forces. It is public knowledge…

The nature of political power

In politics, power is referred to as the ability of the ruler to dissuade the ruled from doing something they want to do or to persuade them to do something they refuse to do. Referencing Robert MacIver’s work The Web of Government, Gene Sharp, in his book The Politics of Nonviolent Action, defines political power as “the total authority, influence, pressure and coercion which may be applied to achieve or prevent the implementation of the wishes of the power holder.” An example of this would be the tussle between the Pakistan army and the rights-based movement called the Pashtun Tahafuz…

Turkey, Kurds and the Angry, Old Man

It was 7:10 in the morning when I returned to my room from a nice and warm shower. I noticed that I had just received a missed call. It must be the driver, I thought. But then I thought he said yesterday that he would pick me up at 7:40. I was going to have a minor procedure at a clinic in another town. The clinic provided pick and drop service. I called back right way. “Hello, Muhammad! I am here,” an ultra-masculine voice in a seemingly thick Arabic accent on the other end spoke. “Hi, Thank you, but I…

PTM has Won the War of Narratives Against Skeptics

The skeptic says, PTM is an anti-Pakistan movement engineered by the “enemy” and that Manzoor Pashteen is the agent of RAW and NDS. But, the skeptic relies only on accusations. They don’t provide evidence in support of these allegations. According to the skeptic, PTM is anti-Pakistan just because it is criticizing the army and its spy agencies for human rights violations against Pashtuns. Their this argument is the most outlandish. The skeptic does not substantiate their claim as to why is PTM a foreign-funded conspiracy. They don’t say exactly how RAW and NDS support it? The blames are based on…

Pakistan’s Fascist Bogeymen  

Socrates, the ancient Greek philosopher, had a name for popular beliefs of the time that were used to frighten children: “bogey” or its plural “bogies.” A bogey, also known as a bogeyman, was a mythical creature used by adults to scare children into behaving. The bogeyman had no well-defined physical appearance and people had varied notions about it. However, it was commonly depicted to be a monster, which Socrates also called “the monsters under the bed.” If Socrates were alive today, about two and half millennia later, he would describe the popular beliefs of many countries bogeymen. One would not…