Zaid Hamid and the strategic depth

By: Farhat Taj

FATA continues to be used and abused as a strategic space by the security establishment of Pakistan in violent pursuit of strategic depth in Afghanistan. In short, strategic depth means Pakistan must have a pro-Pakistan government in Afghanistan by any and all means. People of FATA have suffered more than people in any other part of Pakistan due to this policy. They dread and hate ‘strategic depth’.

Some people of FATA drew my attention towards Zaid Hamid, who, they said, is a new charm offensive of the military establishment to popularise the notion of strategic depth among the youth from affluent families in the big cities of Pakistan. He is frequently given air time by the electronic media, also an evidence that the media, especially the Urdu media, is not free and has to toe the establishment’s line in security matters. Show biz celebrities have joined him. Those who oppose the strategic depth, especially the Pakhtun, who are the biggest casualty of it, are never given so much media attention.

The main concern of the people of FATA vis-a-vis Zaid Hamid is his use of a particularly narrow interpretation of Islam that proposes a belligerent agenda for the Pakistan Army and drawing on controversial Islamic literature. Thus the authenticity of the hadiths — sayings of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) — on Ghazwa-e-Hind that he often refers to in terms of the ultimate defeat of the Indians at the hands of the Pakistan Army is highly questionable.

Zaid Hamid claims in his speeches to young people that God determines the destiny of Pakistan. Pakistan will become a grand Caliphate. Pakistan army will cut India down to the size of Sri Lanka. Pakistan will lead the entire Muslim world and its army will be deployed in Palestine, Kashmir, Chechnya and Afghanistan. The corrupt judicial system, consisting of the lawyers and the Supreme Court of Pakistan, will be replaced by an Islamic judicial system that would ensure — Taliban style — speedy and cheap justice. He claims that the current elected set up in Pakistan is implanted by the CIA and prophesies that the current rulers in Pakistan will have their dead bodies hanging on poles in Islamabad, an indirect appreciation of what the Taliban did in Afghanistan with the dead body of Dr Najibullah, the then Afghan president. He openly threatens the nationalists, especially the Pakhtun and Baloch nationalists, for their aspirations. The Taliban government in Afghanistan, he declares, was Pakistan-friendly and condemns its removal by the US in the post-9/11 attack on the country. He glorifies the biggest mass murderer of the Pakhtun — General Zia, the former dictator of Pakistan.

Judging by the obscurantist message that he communicates, Zaid Hamid does not seem to be a new invention of the establishment. He is an addition to the long list of people who have been handpicked to promote an anti-people agenda in the name of religion and hate of India, like the people from the Jamaat-e-Islami. What seems to be new is his apparent ‘tolerance’ of the ‘un-Islamic’ lifestyle of the urban youth and in this context there are some interesting discussions about Zaid Hamid on some blogs and mailing lists. One blogger writes that Zaid Hamid is using a new strategy to communicate the same old conspiracy theories to young people. The strategy is that unlike classical Islamic scholars, joining Zaid Hamid’s group does not necessarily require the youth to shed their sophisticated lifestyle and adjust to hijab, a ban on music and gender segregation. The only thing they have to do is to glorify the Pakistan Army, including its pursuit of strategic depth, and hate Jews, Americans and Indians.

A writer on one of the mailing lists argues that Zaid Hamid is a Pied Piper for our youth from the prosperous sections of Punjab who have no dreams to be proud of. Zaid Hamid sells the dreams of conquering the world, though they are nonsense, yet still work for the youth who are now caught up in an identity crisis, continues the writer. The writer understands that the fault lies with the leftist intellectuals who have lost direction by joining NGOs and leaving the anti-imperialist struggle open for people like Zaid Hamid or Imran Khan.

Zaid Hamid, in his show, sets a dangerous agenda for the youth of Pakistan; the very same youth who are living a comfortable life in poverty-stricken Pakistan. They lack any ambitions in life to give it some purpose. This lack of goals is rooted in the identity crisis being faced by the Pakistani youth. The crisis is expressed in questions like these: what are we first of all: Muslim or Pakistani? Is our ultimate commitment with Pakistani citizenship or a global Muslim brotherhood? What kind of Pakistan should we aim at: a progressive multi-ethnic social democracy or some kind of medieval caliphate?

Secondly, one has to strive very hard for ideals. If the ideal is the former (multi-ethnic social democratic Pakistan), the youth from affluent families will have to share their riches with the poor, downtrodden fellow citizens. This is very hard for this class of people, otherwise I would at least have seen them working for bringing normalcy in the shattered lives of the people of FATA, who have been living in deplorable conditions in refugee camps for over two years now. In the latter case (caliphate) they can placate their conscience by attaching themselves with the higher ideal without having to give up something from their comfortable lives. The only thing they have to do is to support the belligerent agenda of the military establishment and their poor fellow Pakistanis can go to hell. Zaid Hamid’s campaign is like opium for the young that makes them run away from reality, i.e. Pakistan is a class-based multi-ethnic society that cannot be held together with mere Islamic rhetoric and military ambitions.

What is even more dangerous is the fact that Zaid Hamid is glorifying the same Taliban that the people of FATA hold responsible for their massacre at the behest of the military establishment of Pakistan. Case in point, Jalaluddin Haqqani who occupies North Waziristan. I would invite the young fans of Zaid Hamid to take a tour of FATA, or at least FATA IDP camps in various parts of the NWFP, to observe firsthand what the Taliban and the military did to these people. I would remind the youth that people all over FATA hold the generals of the Pakistan Army more than the Taliban responsible for the death and destruction in their area. They view the Taliban — all Taliban, good, bad, Afghan or Pakistani — as a creation of the intelligence agencies of our country. How much more do the people of FATA need to sacrifice for strategic depth in Afghanistan? The never-ending human sufferings in the area could transform into widespread anti-state sentiments. The youth around Zaid Hamid must know that the current pursuit of strategic depth may turn into — as rightly described in this paper’s editorial ‘Strategic death’? (Daily Times, February 3, 2010) –’strategic death’ for Pakistan rather than securing a friendly Afghanistan.

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