Thursday, February 25, 2016

C. Christine Fair - Pakistan's War on Scholars

Pakistan's military and intelligence agencies are waging a nasty war on U.S.-based scholars whose writings and public statements undermine cherished narratives promulgated by the army that has dominated Pakistan's governance for most of the state's existence. These agencies aim to intimidate, discredit, and silence us. Their tools are crude and include: outright threats; slanderous articles in Pakistani papers and other on-line forums; an army of trolls on twitter and other social media who hound us; and embassy officials who attend and report on our speaking events on Pakistan. But we are lucky to be in the United States: Pakistan's khaki louts disappear, kidnap and/or kill their critics within Pakistan

My own experience with Pakistan's harassment techniques began in May of 2011 when I received an email threatening me with gang-rape by an entire regiment. I had received a grant from the American Institute of Pakistan Studies to complete research for my book "Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army's Way of War" and had intended to spend the summer of 2011 in Islamabad and Lahore. As I already had a valid, multiple-entry visa they could not use visa denial as an instrument of coercion to influence my writings before my planned visit. So, they tried to intimidate me with this threat of physical harm.

At first, I was incredulous that this email was sent by the "deep state" and I did not immediately call off my travel. Serendipitously, my flight to Dubai was cancelled. While I rebooked my travel, Pakistan's then ambassador Husain Haqqani reached out to me to tell me simply "You have to cancel your trip. The crew cuts are after you." Other embassy officials told me privately that the ISI distributed a circular about me at the Pakistan embassy. One officer asked me "You are in trouble. What did you do?" I was sickened by the situation. Officials from the embassy were, and presumably are, not allowed to meet with me.

When I confronted Brigadier Butt, the then ISI station chief at the Pakistan Embassy and Defense Attaché --it became clear that he was personally angry with me because he had seen or had heard about my book proposal from a small number of persons who had seen it. He said that he felt let down because the army had given me considerable access yet I was writing, what he called, an anti-army book. I explained to him that I was doing my job by being willing to go to Pakistan through various grants--despite the security environment--to hear their side of the story. I also told him that granting interviews to scholars is not tantamount to buying scholars

Since 2011 I have inspired several "planted" stories that have appeared in Pakistani papers and obscure blogs alike. These artless rants would be amusing if they were not dangerous. On one occasion, an article actually gave information about where I was staying in Pakistan which was a clear intent to cause me harm or signal the ability to cause me harm.

In the fall of 2014, two videos were circulated about me that had the imprimatur of the army's media-management organization, the ISPR. The videos included (not very danceable) sound tracks which were taken from ISPR-produced entertainment. Since these videos were published on Youtube, which is banned in Pakistan, the obvious audience of these productions was Pakistanis outside the United States. (Both of these videos have since been removed.).

In early February, The Newspublished an article that alleged that I have nefarious links with Baloch insurgents. The Baloch are an ethnic group in Pakistan whichresists inclusion into the state and its reliance upon Islam as a tool to blunt Baloch ethnic aspirations. Pakistan's security forces have waged five waves of brutal military oppression, sometimes with U.S. weapons systems, which has been widely decried by international as well as Pakistani human rights organizations.

Despite these well-documented abuses--which includes disappearances, torture and murder by Pakistan's security forces--the United States has not levied Leahy Sanctions as required by U.S. law. The ISI has worked tirelessly to keep its actions in Balochistan a dark secret...
read more:
Purifying the pure: Mohammad Taqi examines Farahnaz Ispahani’s book, which traces Pakistan’s path to becoming an authoritarian, fundamentalist polity 
Purifying the Land of the Pure: Pakistan's Religious Minorities