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Pakistan as a Frontline State in the Terror War
Ras H. Siddiqui
courtesy: Pakistan Link 


SAN FRANCISCO--A group of students at the City College of San Francisco probably got more than they bargained for as its instructor Professor Javaid Sayed made it a Pakistan Night of sorts for his "United Nations Class" nearing the end of its semester. The Rosenberg Library witnessed a real grass roots type of
interaction between local students and their honored guest, Pakistan's Consul General in Los Angeles, the Honorable Noor Muhammad Jadmani.

Jamdani was not alone in representing Pakistan at this venue as a number of prominent members of the Pakistani-American community in San Francisco also showed up to represent their country of origin. And since the topic for the evening was "Pakistan as a Frontline State in the War on Terror" a report and a
subsequent discussion on this gathering became all the more important.

Professor Javaid Sayed is a long-time San Francisco community activist, poet, writer and orator. And for some of us, seeing him in the role of a teacher in class for the first time proved interesting but was not a surprise. Teaching is as much his forte as his other work. And as Sayed opened the session with an introduction of the United Nations Class and what it has tried to accomplish with its students by having them interact directly with invited dignitaries and through a live video contact with the United Nations in New York itself, one can only wish that more college campuses (he mentioned U.C. Berkeley) would pick up these classes to widen the horizons of students in California. It is ironic that San Francisco, which is the birthplace of the United Nations, does not have more of such educational outlets.

To the majority of the class that showed up and was not "stressed by finals" (as Professor Sayed put it), there was a "mini Pakistan" here for them to interact with. Sayed went into the nature of weaponry today and how important issues related to peace and war had become worldwide, especially in the context of South Asia where the festering Kashmir Dispute had caused much instability and a cause of conflict between Pakistan and India, two poor countries with nuclear weapons.

He spoke of the involvement of the United Nations in two important conflicts. U.N. Resolution 242 on the Middle East and 247 on Kashmir and their significance in history. An additional focus was put on the number of occasions when Pakistan had offered its territory, its infrastructure and its commitment to the United States through the Cold War years and once again today in the War on Terror at considerable link to itself. The stress this evening was on solutions of conflicts and factors. Poverty alleviation issues can be and are also
directly linked to solutions and the prevention of war. "A nuclear war anywhere is a nuclear war everywhere," said Sayed.

Consul General Jamadani lived up to his introduction by stating that Professor Sayed was a difficult act to follow as he was just a budding diplomat and he had to speak after a seasoned orator. He thanked everyone for coming and said that he had spent a few years at the United Nations in New York himself so he had a feel for how it works. On Pakistan he said that, "strategically, we are located in a very important area and went into some of the geographical realities associated with the country. "Pakistan is a nuclear state," he said. But he added that "we were forced to go nuclear," to maintain a strategic balance with an immediate neighbor. On terrorism he said that it was not a new phenomenon. He said that Pakistan had been fighting terrorism even before 9/11 and that it had decided to join with the United States in the war on terrorism
because it saw a common enemy. "Terrorism has no faith and no creed," he said. He mentioned that there was a growing sense amongst Muslims that their peaceful religion was being targeted. "The essence of Islam must be understood," he added,as the early Islamic period was a model of democracy. "Islam's vision is
modern and futuristic," he said.

On this war on terror he said that Pakistan was not pressured but took the decision in its own interest as it had itself been a victim of terrorism for decades. He said that a few holdovers of the Afghan Mujahideen era had become a problem for Pakistan and had obtained sponsorship from foreign agencies. "Pakistan took a strategic decision," he said. "Our intentions should not be doubted. We are acting against Al Qaeda." But Jamdani also stressed the need to understand the origins of terrorism. "We must understand its causes," he said. He said that some states had used the post 9/11 situation to suppress genuine freedom movements. He added that Pakistan will continue to do its part in this war on terror, but that this issue for which there is no quick fix has to be addressed in its entirety.

Dr. Abdul Jabbar who originated this course at the City College of San Francisco was also asked to say a few words. Jabbar called this United Nations class "education in action" and said that learning about the world is essential. He said that the media here sometimes does not allow us to see the truth in its entirety.

A lively question and answer session followed during which only the students of the class asked the questions. The lack of democracy in Pakistan was pointed out by one student. Positive developments like a coming South Asian cooperation meeting in Pakistan in January were also highlighted. A solution to the
Kashmir Dispute was deemed necessary, as was the protection of human rights in Kashmir. One student expressed her views on America's role in the world today from the point of view of an African-American Muslim. The Consul General seemed quite prepared for these questions. He concluded the evening schedule by meeting the Pakistani-American community members already present.

In conclusion, this event reminded one of the times in the 1980s when America and Pakistan were busy training and supplying the anti Communist "Mujahideen" fighters in Afghanistan. After the Soviet Union was forced to withdraw from its Afghan adventure, crumbling later to a downsized Russia, the blowback from
that operation first hit Afghanistan itself and then Pakistan. It is sad to say that the world took little notice till terrorism hit our own shores here on 9/11.

But as long as this "damage control" operation is on, one can only hope for more fairness. Thus far these mixed signals in the press here and the harassment of people of Pakistani or Muslim descent in this country have been less than encouraging. A Kashmir solution too needs more airtime. And Washington could use a better understanding of the Pashtuns, the people who live along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Their alienation is a worrisome factor. Let us not repeat the mistakes of the past by pursuing only short-term interests and ignoring long-term problems.

 

 

 

 

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