Whats Happening In Pakistan? Its Not What The New York Times Will Tell You

A couple of insightful pieces appeared recently. Both, in different ways, challenge the mainstream narrative being bandied about in Washington D.C. and being stenographed by individuals pretending to be reporters but in fact are really acting as government/official stenographers out of Pakistan and the USA.

The first piece is by Mohammad Ahmad Idress, founder of Pulse Media, and appeared in the recent issue of Le Monde Diplomatique. Title Pakistan Creates Its Own Enemies, if offers us some valuable background and some excellent insights. I will quote a few here, but I recommend that you read the entire piece to help cut past what can only be described as willful lies and obfuscations (these editors and journalists are not stupid, just cowards or ‘professionals’, which these days means the same thing really!) being sold to us by our press here in the USA.

Helping us understand how we got ourselves into this mess, Idress reminds us (and we do need to be reminded that):

This war began in 2002 under intense US pressure, with piecemeal military action in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), a semi-autonomous region of seven agencies along Pakistan’s north-western border. The Afghan Taliban were using the region to regroup after their earlier rout: veteran anti-Soviet commander Jalaluddin Haqqani headquartered his network in North Waziristan; Gulbuddin Hikmatyar’s Hizb-e-Islami had a presence in Bajaur. However, the military, reluctant to take on pro-Pakistan Afghans, whom the government sees as assets against growing Indian influence in Afghanistan, instead marched into South Waziristan to apprehend “foreigners” (mainly Uzbeks, Chechens and Arabs). Following the regional code of honour, the tribes refused to surrender the guests and were subjected to collective punishment that soon united them against the government.

This was a situation that I had been able to document during my work in Waziristan in 2004. See (Mother Jones Magazine: Frontier Justice, October 2004). I recommend that you read the entire piece.

Another piece that caught my eye was by Manan Ahmad called Start A War where he too reminds us of some ground realities:

The 3.5 million or more inhabitants of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, of which Waziristan is a component, only received the adult franchise in 1997 – 50 years after the creation of Pakistan. This area, with the highest poverty and lowest literacy rates in Pakistan, is still governed according to the brutal British colonial legal code: a family or even a village can be punished for the crime of a single individual, there is no protection from multiple sentences for the same offence, and most damnably, the state has no obligation to show cause for imprisonment. Most damaging is the utter lack of a judicial system that can adjudicate civil disputes – one reason for the persistent calls to impose Sharia within the region. The Pakistani state has yet to resolve these issues and, in the meantime, segments of the discontented population have resorted to armed aggression against the centre – which has taken both secular and religious forms. Decades of frustration allowed the Taliban a foothold in Swat, and the same conditions exist in Baluchistan.

and as if to shake us out of our intellectual stupor, he ends with this warning:

The true crisis facing Pakistan is not the Taliban: it is the rupture between the federal state and its constituent parts, and Islamabad’s refusal to accede to the legitimate needs and demands of its citizens in places like Swat and Baluchistan. It is a rupture, indeed, that is written into the very fabric of the state, and the reason why Bangladesh seceded from West Pakistan in 1971, after it was denied political legitimacy by the military regime and then brutalised by an oppressive army operation aimed at quashing any opposition.
But the Pakistan Army learnt exactly the wrong lesson from Bangladesh: since 1971 it has been determined to move as rapidly and violently as possible against any sub-nationalist movement elsewhere in Pakistan. The spectre of Taliban conquering Islamabad and the state’s American-backed resolve to press on in a series of wars against its own people have effectively ended any chance for political consideration of the Baluchistan issue. Instead Baluchistan will be, once again, merely an empty badland where Taliban are hiding, waiting, plotting. It awaits yet another military operation. And we await another declaration of success.

For those of you interested in Ahmed Rashid, Tariq Ali has recently penned a strong criticism of Mr. Rashid’s fear-mongering, in a piece called Ahmed Rashid’s War , pointing out that:

The main people who consult Rashid, apart from Robert Silvers at the New York Review of Books, are US policy-makers in favor of a continuous occupation of Afghanistan. Rashid provides them with many a spurious argument to send more troops and wipe out the Pashtuns opposing the occupation. Within Afghanistan, Rashid’s principal backer and friend is Hamid Karzai who has now managed to antagonize even the tamest US liberals such as Peter Galbraith, recently sacked as a UN honcho in Kabul because he suggested that Karzai had rigged the elections. Rashid the journalist has no time for people who suggest that Karzai is a corrupt rogue, whose family is now the richest in the country, or that he manipulates US public opinion with the aid of PR companies, friends in Washington and, of course, Ahmed Rashid himself.

As more and more Pakistani’s are killed to appease American domestic policy needs, and the insatiable greed of the venal individuals who have grabbed hold of Pakistan’s government, we would do well to at least understand how this situation has emerged. Perhaps we care not for some poor Pushtun and his pointless family being cut to pieces by tax-payer funded, but oh-so-sexy pilot-less drones, but maybe we can speak honestly about it and go to bed at night without fear or guilt. After all, international human rights laws, the Geneva Conventions, and even Pakistan’s own constitutional laws to protect the lives and rights of its citizens, were not really written for a bunch of baggy pant barbarians living in barren hills? Or were they, in fact, actually written for precisely such dehumanized, ignored, and invisibly erased people?


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From “Headmen” To “Hitmen”–A People Brutalised Yet Again

Another photographer turns up at another manufactured ‘traditional’ geography, and produces another set of racist, reductive and entirely fake set of images. I don’t mean ‘fake’ in the way that most photographer’s get all concerned about. I mean ‘fake’ in a much more serious way, one that reduces people to social, political and historical caricatures and makes them into concocted objects for class titillation and voyeurism. And this American magazine–mired deep in the heart of American imperialism, its violence and its brutality–publishes the images and accompanies them with what can only be described as one of the most incredibly ahistorical, obfuscatory and infantile articles I have read outside of stuff frequently published by Time Magazine and/or The New York Times.

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Thomas Sankara’s Restless Children

The project is now complete. Although, we may never really complete the telling of this remarkable story. You can see the project by clicking on this link here, or on the image below.


Eyes Of Aliyah–Deport, Deprive, Extradite Initiative By Nisha Kapoor

I have publicly and on this forum very explicitly argued against the strange ‘disappearance’ of black/brown bodies that are the actual targets and victims of our ‘liberal’ state policies of surveillance, entrapment, drone assassinations, renditions and indefinite detention. I recently argued:

“Western visual journalism, and visual artists, have erased the actual victims of the criminal policies of the imperial state. Instead, most all have chosen to produce a large array of projects examining drone attacks, surveillance, detentions and other practices, through the use of digital abstractions, analogous environments, still life work or just simply the fascinating and enticing safety of datagrams and charts. Even a quick look at recent exhibitions focusing on the ‘war on terror’ or wars in general, have invited works that use digital representations of war, or focus on the technologies of war. An extreme case of this deflection are recent projects on drone warfare that not only avoid the actual brown/black bodies that are the targets of deadly drone attacks, but are not even produced anywhere near the geographies and social ecologies where drone attacks continue to happen! Yet, these works have found tremendous popularity, though i remain confused what kinds of conversations or debates they provoke given that the voices of the families of those who have been killed, are not only entirely missing, but people who can raised the difficult questions about the lies and propaganda that are used to justify the killings, are also entirely missing.”

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Public Release of “The Sinner”

This is my first feature length documentary film and we–Justice Project Pakistan, with the guiding support of Sarah BelalRimmel Mohydin and others at Justice Project Pakistan, are finally releasing it.

And we are doing it first in Pakistan.

The film takes us into the world of capital punishment in Pakistan through the life of one man; Jan Masi. Jan Masi worked as an execution for nearly 30 years, and claims to have executed over 1800 people. He started his work in the enthusiastic pursuit of revenge for the execution of Pakistan’s Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.

This isn’t a typical documentary film. No talking heads. No linear story-telling. No polemics or moral grand standing. No righteous exclamations against capital punishment. Instead, Jan Masi, his life, his scars, his fears and despair, act as metaphors for the meaning of capital punishment in Pakistan, and the consequences it has on the broader Pakistani society.

Sudhir Patwardhan

Sudhir Patwardhan.

Can you discover ‘an influence’ after the fact?

What do you call someone who seems to embody your eye, your sensibility, and yet you had never seen his / her work, and yet, when you now see it, you see the ‘influence’…the similarities?

Is he confronting the same questions? Is he seeing this incredibly complex and multi-layered world with the same desire to depict it as close to that complexity as possible?

I was taken aback. The aesthetic pursuit is so familiar. It is as if he is a step ahead of me. He is a step ahead of me.

I am going through these images–gorgeous, striking, unique, and no, I refuse to give you some ‘European’ reference to understand them in any way. They are Patwardhan’s and his alone. But I want to make them as photographs.

They are the photographs I would make if in Mumbai. It is beautiful stuff. It makes me want to go and make photographs.

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Make It Right For Palestine, November 4, 2017

Be there. Hyde Park. Speaker’s Corner. London. 12:00 noon. 4th November, 2017.

The Polis Project…Is Up And Running

If you can’t join them, then just do it on your own.

We launched a new collective focused on research, reportage and resistance. The specific goals and objectives are being developed as we speak, but the idea is a simple one: to collect under one banner a group of individuals from different fields – artists, writers, academics, photographers, intellectuals, poets and others, who are consistently working against the grain. In this time of collective conformity, and a media sycophancy to power and extremism, some of us felt the need to create a small space where people are still determined to refuse the agendas of political power, debilitating capitalism, nationalist extremism and neoliberal idiocy, and remain fools in their hearts, and idealists in their souls.

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Short Doc: “As If A Nightmare”;The Story Of Former Bagram Prisoner Abdul Haleem Saifullah

 

We are commemorating 9/11 this week, but by remembering the ‘other’ victims of that event that few chose to remember. These are the brown bodies that rarely make it into visual media projects, that since 9/11, have chosen to hide behind digital representations, data charts, and other visual forms that do a lot, but never permit us to see or hear the brown and black people who actually suffer the consequences of drone attacks, sweeping surveillance, targeted entrapment, renditions, indefinite detentions, torture and other forms of inhumanity that today liberal minds seem to be able to easily justify.

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Short Doc: “Prisoner 1432” – The Story of Former Bagram Prisoner Amanatullah Ali

 

We are commemorating 9/11 this week, but by remembering the ‘other’ victims of that event that few chose to remember. These are the brown bodies that rarely make it into visual media projects, that since 9/11, have chosen to hide behind digital representations, data charts, and other visual forms that do a lot, but never permit us to see or hear the brown and black people who actually suffer the consequences of drone attacks, sweeping surveillance, targeted entrapment, renditions, indefinite detentions, torture and other forms of inhumanity that today liberal minds seem to be able to easily justify.

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10 Things To Consider…

I recommend that photographers, photojournalists, documentary photographers remember these wise words by Tania Canas, RISE Arts Director / Member – I am copying and pasting it here. As brown and black bodies are stripped of their clothing, as brown and black children are dehumanised to mere misery, as brown and black women are reduced to simply victims, as ghettos and brothels and refugee camps and slums become the ‘paint by number’ formula for White photographer’s career and publishing success, it becomes increasingly important that those of us on the receiving end of White ‘largesse’ begin to build obstacles, speak back, and refuse / reject these ‘representations’ and their reductive, violent and brutal narrative frames. We have lost too much, and are in danger of whatever little we have left as humans and as histories, if we permit this process to continue.

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