I apologize, to the few who still follow this blog, for the lack of updates. For the most part, I have been preoccupied with work thanks to the gift that keeps on giving aka US-Pakistan relations. I realize that is no excuse, but in part, it is also because I am still adjusting to life in Washington, and at the risk of being brutally honest, one tries to fill their free time here with as many activities as possible, so as not to face being alone in an unfamiliar city.
In May, I went to Chicago to cover the first week of the Tahawwur Rana trial, and discovered how the city can rapidly change in terms of weather, and one must always be well-prepared. No, seriously, you try braving the cold [read: rain, fog and winds at the same time] of Chicago clad in one measly sweater as protection.
But, coming back to the Rana trial, a man accused of helping David Headley [who's confessed to his role in the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai], and providing material support to Lashkar-e-Taiba, and then helping in the plot to attack Jyllands-Posten, the Denmark newspaper that had published the cartoons that led to protests, deadly riots, deaths, a ban on Danish products [remember that folks?] and more.
While Tahawwur has been found guilty on two of three counts, it was fascinating watching David Headley. I’m still not sure if Headley is a victim of his own neuroses – where he believed that by joining Lashkar-e-Taiba and then dealing with men associated [or retired] from the ISI, he felt he was doing the right thing, or if it was a case of trying to pretend like he was a big shot in this dirty game that is called the India-Pakistan war. There are many reasons for why people turn to extremism – poverty, circumstances, hatred. But for so many, many people, the conflicts in Pakistan dating back to decades now, have allowed those searching for any kind of identity, ideology, a direction, to be influenced by whoever screamed the loudest, or talked in a manner smoother than whipped cream. What Headley’s reasons were is something we’ll probably never know. But the core problems that have riddled our state don’t seem to be going away anytime soon, no matter how much we sweep it under the carpet. The problem is that no one seems to want to talk about it. Instead, terms are tossed around [also particular favourites of the Pakistan Army's] like “national identity” and “national interest,” which have been abused so often that one doesn’t even know how to reclaim these terms back.
Coming back to Washington, not one week passes by where Pakistan isn’t in the news. Somedays, it is more of the same: debates on aid, conditions or no conditions. Then, there is the news that makes you want to rip your hair out – the ISI allegedly telling militants about hideouts, Senators saying that Pakistan hasn’t fulfilled aid requirements ergo they can’t release any money, signifying that a desire to not be transparent is more important than allowing aid projects to be green lit. There is the ludicrous, which I’ve mentioned before: a Senator referring to people from Pakistan as “Pakistanians”. And then, there is the news from back home that breaks one’s heart – the daily incidents of terrorism, the reluctance of the military to cede control over anything, the utter failure of the civilian government to question, or at least attempt to question the military on anything and everything. I haven’t been away from Pakistan that long and I will never write a “The Pakistan I Knew” blog post, but judging by the way things are going, I am anything but optimistic about this country’s future. As I remarked to someone the other day, ab tau yeh lagta hai ke Allah Mian ne bhi iss mulk se apna haath utha liya hai.