Reason Before Passion

Sindhi, Pakistani and a Sufi Muslim

Dear Jon Stewart (Regards, Arsalan Shaikh)

Dear Jon Stewart,

I used to think of you as one of the good guys. It always seemed that you were a one-man rallying cry for peace and understanding in the US media. You had taken it upon yourself to stand up to the right-wing bigots in your midst when it came to the New York Islamic Cultural Centre, Guantanamo, the invasion of Iraq and countless other instances where US citizens and Governments have acted in a reckless and arrogant manner.

As a Pakistani progressive, I find it increasingly more difficult to rally against the right-wing bigots that are increasingly taking over the agenda in my country. I would say to them that as a practicing Muslim I have more in common with someone like Jon Stewart, an American Jew who believes in equality, tolerance and understanding between different faiths then a jihadi who wants to kill people simply because they disagree with them.

I still believe that despite the uncontrolled, misinformed lazy rant against Pakistan that you spewed out on the Daily Show on May 3, and May 19, 2011. Your performance was deeply disappointing, because it shows that there was, if I may be so bold, no difference between you and those pig-ignorant morons on Fox.

Don’t get me wrong. Osamagate is shockingly embarrassing for our criminally inept Government and the military/intelligence agencies that we spend so much money on at the expense of providing health and education to our people. Nobody is ruling out complicity at some level – but it is not at all proven by your childish and boorish analysis on the show.

This so called analysis consisted of manipulating “facts” and half-truths to come up with a nonsensical and manifestly untrue narrative that the Pakistani Government and military was hiding Osama to milk the American taxpayer and that Pakistan, its government, military and by implication its people want nothing more than the destruction of the USA and your way of life. Let’s make one thing clear regarding this 20 billion dollars the US taxpayers have “gifted us”. Maybe a bit of fact-checking on the part of your 200 writers wouldn’t be a bad idea. America has given Pakistan a total of US$4.8 billion in economic assistance since 9/11.

Of the total US$20 billion dollars, 8.9 billion was in the form of reimbursements. I am sure you know what reimbursement means, Jon, i.e. we buy stuff for you (i.e. fuel, food, transportation costs, military gear, water, troop housing and other expenses/procurements), which you go on and use, in this case in the war in Afghanistan. The thing with reimbursement Jon is that you have to pay us back – and if you do pay us back, this doesn’t mean you have gifted us the money, it just means we are square – kapish!!!

In fact you owe us US$3.2 billion as of now which may be reduced further as you “vet” the invoices. Let’s not get into “accounting irregularities” – just remember Paul Bremner, the Chief Administrator of the Iraqi Coalition Authority, and the missing 15 billion dollars – have you found that yet?   In fact out of the US$20 billion that has been paid, 14 billion is related to the war on terror (including the US$8.9 billion mentioned above).

So to say that the US taxpayer has given us 20 billion dollars is a lie. I fully expect you to point this out next time, one of your so-called analysts, senators or congressperson trots out this rubbish on your show. That’s not to say that we have a right to any US aid. Of course we don’t, any more than the US feels it is entitled to bully a country of 180 million to do its bidding.

Don’t get me wrong I believe in the war on terror. I believe that it is my war, Pakistan’s war. Why – because every place and memory that is so dear to me, has in some way or another been attacked, violated or tarnished by Terrorists.  Let me explain. These bastards bombed a market across the street from my house in Islamabad killing 25 people. People’s limbs landed in my neighbour’s garden. These terrorist mother-*****s bombed the Marriot hotel in Islamabad where I and all my siblings got married, killing 65 people. The faces of the valets and security guards who were killed still haunt me as I drive past the hotel. They bombed my cousin’s university cafeteria – fortunately she left 20 minutes earlier, but 10 other girls were not so lucky. This scum set off 2 suicide bombs to try and assassinate Benazir Bhutto, a few miles away from where I was born in Karachi. Benazir survived (at that time) but 145 other people didn’t. My son was born on the day that Benazir was eventually killed – consequently the memory of that day will always be tarnished.  I could go on and on.

I along with millions of Pakistanis believe that this is my war, that we have to take action against the terrorists that have destroyed our country. But what I cannot in any way in all consciousness agree with is that it is the job of my country, my military and my people to sacrifice ourselves to protect you – the US. That is not my fucking job – would you sacrifice US troops to protect Pakistanis – no fucking way.

Your rant on Thursday really demonstrated to me what you think, and in that there is really no difference between you, Fox and all the rent a quote analysts that spring up on American TV with only a passing knowledge of the facts.

I hope I am wrong Jon, but you came across as everything that you believe you stand against. You came across as an arrogant, imperialist, misinformed bigot. What pisses me off most is the sense of entitlement that you seem to feel. That only you have suffered in this war. Here is a familiar quote, which pretty much sums up what I feel as a Pakistani regarding our role in protecting the World.

 

I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it! I would rather you just said “Thank you,” and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon, and stand a post. Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think you are entitled to!

9/11 was a terrible event, but as you have acknowledged many times in your show it does not entitle America to infinite good will and carte blanche to kill thousands of people on the pretext of its own security. You cashed that cheque when you invaded Iraq.

Unfortunately most Pakistanis are in a state of denial. They do not believe that we need to take these bastards out. Instead they believe in appeasement, that these scumbags can be managed and they will disappear as soon as America leaves Afghanistan. They are not willing to bite the bullet, because they have been shot at so many times that they cannot bear the thought of all out war – even though all out war is already upon us. It is a fatal – but understandable assumption. Now I know most American and Western analysts’ eyes glaze over when we talk about how Pakistan has suffered but I hope it has resonance with the American people, whose media have clearly shortchanged them when it comes to accurate information about Pakistan.

30,000 Pakistani civilians have died since September 11th. Hundreds of thousands have been wounded. 5,000 soldiers have been killed fighting the terrorists. The first suicide bombing in Pakistan occurred in 2002. Since then there have been thousands of suicide bomb attacks. We have lost, although estimates vary, anything between 50-80 billion US dollars as a result of loss of investment and reduction in economic activity caused by the horrendous security situation brought about by the war on terror. Over a 140,000 soldiers have been based in Waziristan and FATA.

Now I know some of this is self-inflicted. We have for too long as a country relied on pursuing our objectives through proxy wars – in that we have not been alone  – our neighbors’ and the worlds superpowers have also fully partaken in these tactics. We share in the credit and the responsibility for removing the Russians as well as assisting in the establishment of the Taliban with the US and Saudi Arabia.

At some stage we had to account for our mistakes, but we do not deserve the hell that has enveloped us following September 11th.  We have failed to not only kill the terrorists but also the warped, prehistoric and nonsensical vision that they represent. The US has also failed miserably in Afghanistan – and we are suffering because of it.

What exactly have you achieved in Afghanistan? You have installed a puppet government, the election of whose leader was condemned by the United Nations as undemocratic and rigged. Where are all the roads, schools and hospitals you said you would build? No-where. Instead you have bombed the civilian population to a pulp and disenfranchised the majority POPULATION of Afghanistan – the Pakhtuns. Corruption up. Opium at record levels. Drug dealers and warlords still ruling over the country.

This is not what you said would happen when the Taliban was overthrown. It’s always easy to pin the blame on us by helping the Taliban. It remains to be seen how much and by whom – but it is very convenient to excuse all the US/NATO’s failing on Pakistan. You dropped the ball on Afghanistan 8 years ago. What did you think Afghanis and Pakhtuns would do; just accept this perpetual state of occupation.

America has failed to engage with the Afghani people – only the puppets and druglords that make up the Afghani Government. That is the real reason that you have failed in Afghanistan – not infiltration from Pakistan. We didn’t let Osama and Al Zawhiri get away from Tora Bora in 2001 – you did by subcontracting his capture to your Afghani friends- these guys let Osama flee into Pakistan – not the other way around.

Instead you have hung around in Afghanistan for 10 years when you should have been out in 3 max. In short – it’s the occupation stupid. Until the Afghani people are given the freedoms that you so talked up in Egypt and Tunisia, i.e. real democracy, real freedom, accountability and justice; there will always be insurgents who in their minds will be fighting for the removal of an undemocratic government and the end of perpetual foreign occupation which has yielded nothing but war and more humiliation. An Afghani Spring if you will.

And by the way infiltration is a 2-way street. The Afghanistan authorities have given sanctuary to Baloch terrorist groups and even Fazlullah – the barbaric mullah that ruled over and terrorized Swat with his sadistic vision of Shariah justice. You see we can point fingers too but this ultimately serves no purpose.

All we ever hear about are US interests. When these interests converge with Pakistan – like they do with removing the culture of extremism, the idea of global jihad and destroying domestic terrorism- then we must continue to work together.

Let’s by all means find Al Zawihiri – just like we did when we found Abu Zubeida, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Ramzi Al Yousuf and over 500 others. But it seems our interests are not important to you – our lives, our sacrifices are unimportant. We have lost 10 times as many civilians as the US did on September 11, more soldiers than all the allies put together. Yet if we are led to believe the US narrative – we need to do more, we need to sacrifice more of our people to protect you. To hell with the Pakistanis, 20 billion dollars should cover it. Is this what you believe in Jon, that all that we are to you is cannon-fodder, a buffer between you and the crazies?

It pains me to say the Pakistani military has deeply disappointed me. Pakistanis have held the military in the highest regard.  Yet finally the penny has dropped – they were just incompetent! We are sick of them being a law unto themselves and how they feel they know best. That they need to be reigned in- for sure. That those who have their own agenda need to be eliminated- hell yes. Lets also accept that while some of them may be out of control, and of the same ideological bent as the terrorists, the vast overwhelming majority have fought albeit unsuccessfully on the right side of the war on terror.

Let’s respect their sacrifices. Especially the young jawans cut down in their prime.   But should the entire blame for an unknown, unaccountable and yes small number of rogue elements that have conspired to kill their own people and possibly others abroad – be put on 180 million people.

You tell me.

Should the entire population of the United States be systematically vilified and punished for the actions of those CIA and intell officials that said Iraq has WMDs.

Should 30,000 Americans die because American drones have killed 957 civilians in Pakistan alone during 1 year.

Should 7,000 US soldiers be brutally slaughtered because a Pakistani ISI agent decides he has the authority to kill 2 Americans who he thinks are about to mug him.

Should American churches be bombed because the US started proxy wars in Central America, South East Asia and pretty much the whole world.

What about torture, Abu Gharaib, redaction, Guantanamo – should American citizens pay for these “mistakes” with their lives.

Of course they shouldn’t.

Yet for some reason you believe that the same standard doesn’t apply to us. Maybe the Pakistani people aren’t the only ones who need to hold their military intelligence accountable. Unfortunately the “mistakes that you have made – have been responsible for a lot more death and destruction then us not finding Osama Bin Laden.

And while we are at it:

Osama Bin Laden, Ayman Al Zawhiri, Mohammed Atta, the 18 other hijackers, Abu Musa Al Zarqiwi, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Ramzi Al Yousuf, Abou Zubeida, the Madrid Bombers, the Bali Bombers and the London bombers. What is the connection?

None of the above are fucking Pakistanis – so why do you want to blow us back to the Stone Age. The architects of 9/11 and the money that is feeding the insurgency in Pakistan and training the next generation of jihadis is coming from your other allies in the Gulf – not us. These people are funding the madrassas and terrorism that has crippled Pakistan. Why can’t your CIA put an end to that? Why can’t they stop the flow of money? Why can’t they destroy the opium fields that are funding the insurgency in Afghanistan and also Pakistan?  What about the Fazlullahs, and Balochi terrorists that have taken refuge in Afghanistan. Why can’t your CIA find them?  Not so easy finding Osama Bin Laden now is it??

I hope I have conveyed how we feel when we hear the same tiring hackneyed narrative coming from the US media. I do not want my country to be taken over by fundos hell bent on establishing a theocratic state whose aim is to export terror throughout the world.

The vast majority of Pakistanis want to be engaged with the world, not vilified by it. Unfortunately the only time Pakistan is mentioned on the media is in relation to it being the centre of global terrorism. It’s always the crazies, nut-jobs and our corrupt politicians who make it onto US TV screens. Our views are never heard.

Believe it or not Jon, you have a strong fan following in Pakistan; our dream US President would be – Jon Stewart!  If you really want to do something that changes the level of political discourse not just in America, but in the Islamic World, you need to engage with us – tape a show in Pakistan or give us real Pakistanis the opportunity to tell the American people that we are not out to get them. At the same time maybe you can convince some of our crazies that here is an American, a Jew who doesn’t seem to want to get his hands on our nuclear weapons.  Unfortunately our media is full of right-wing conspiracist nut-jobs (sound familiar) and rarely does the alternative narrative get played out.

Perversely however even our media is a sucker for anything American and a Daily Show featuring like-minded people from my country would be a small step in the right direction – to convince you and for you to convince us that the American people and the Pakistani people have more in common with each other than the terrorists who want to kill both of us. Think about it.

Finally, you may have read that 80 of our nation’s finest – 16-18 year old army cadets who were going home for 10 days leave following months of training were savagely slaughtered by 2 suicide bombers in Charsadda, North West Pakistan. Not surprisingly, there was no mention of this incident on your show (or the attack on our naval Base in Karachi last night). These boys were training to join the Frontier Corps to act as a bulwark against the terrorists. I would like you and all your journalist, analyst, ex-US military/intelligence and all other rent-a-quote experts that have questioned and even worse made fun of Pakistan’s commitment in the war on terror to visit the mothers and fathers of these boys and tell them that they need to do more in the war on terror, that they need to sacrifice more – they will tell you we have nothing left to sacrifice.

Kind regards,

A. Arsalan Shaikh

(Please Note: I do not know the author and came across this write-up through a friend. All credits for this post go to Mr. Arsalan, whoever he is)

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May 25, 2011 - Posted by | Current Affairs | , , , , ,

8 Comments »

  1. Why is this letter regarding US foreign policy written with such confrontation toward Jon Stewart? Misguided, long-winded, and self-important. Stewart’s coverage after Osama Bin Laden’s death was lacking, certainly, but if Mr. A. Arsalan Shaikh thinks that anyone would take such an unfocused, fuming, and misguided letter seriously, he’s sadly mistaken.

    Jon Stewart is one of the strongest voices the progressive community has; if he misrepresents us (Pakistanis) we must write to him, express our objections, but to swear, and hold him accountable for US policy decisions, and fault him for not covering every item that occurs in Pakistan is silly.

    Let’s all write letters… just not like this one.

    Comment by S. Hamdani | May 25, 2011 | Reply

    • i agree with what Ms. Mariam and Mr. Waqas stated about this letter. It is clearly mentioned that the author, Mr. Arsalan, holds high regards for Jon Stewart and believe upon him but the programs concerning Pakistan where some facts, even if for laughter sake, were misrepresented and the letter focus upon that fact. People such as Fareed Zakarkia always have something or the other to criticize Pakistan and most of the criticism is based on misrepresented facts, twisted to deliberately create the worse kind of image.
      Instead, if Mr. Stewart had harped on the same tune despite being known as the more sane voices in American media and, therefore, it hurts more to the sentiments of those who follow programs.

      Comment by Wasio Ali Khan Abbasi | May 26, 2011 | Reply

  2. Dear Mr. Hamdani, the views Mr. Sheikh has expressed in this letter represent the views of so many of us. I don’t know whether you’ve seen the Jon Stewart episode in question, I suggest you watch the one preceeding it and then the one and question. If you’re as passionate a person as Arsalan Sheikh maybe you’ll feel the same way. Mr. Sheikh is a concerned citizen, he has no obligation under any law to write what he feels under a predetermined format. Jon Stewart however does, he’s a journalist, a person who should speak facts and figures when he uses a media as strong as television to express his views to the world. As far as holding him accountable goes, more than anything this letter is a desperate cry, hoping to be acknowledged by Stewart who the writer obviously holds in the highest of regards and more than that , to be understood by him. Please look past the language in to the heart of the letter’s content, its honest and passionate and then give it the respect it deserves.

    Comment by Mariam Saleem Nawaz | May 25, 2011 | Reply

  3. Mr. Hamdani it is an attempt to get through Jon Stewart and progressive Americans like in Mr. Stewart’s own mindset and language. It’s a pity you can’t see past that. Arsalan is the voice of all educated, moderate and proactive Pakistanis. We have just about enough of the status quo!

    Comment by Waqas Durrani | May 26, 2011 | Reply

  4. Waqas, you don’t speak for all educated, moderate, and proactive Pakistanis, and neither does Mr. Shaikh.

    And Mr. Abbasi, I thank you for posting the letter, and providing a forum for us to discuss it. However, I feel sorry if you equate holding someone in high regard to telling him “if the messages you put out don’t correspond with my world view, then you’re pig-ignorant” (along with a few “fuck”s thrown in for good measure.) That said, I agree with Miss Nawaz, in that my response largely ignored the passion and sadness and desperation in Mr. Arsalan’s letter. My heart hurts when I think of what is happening to Pakistan, and I believe Mr. Arsalan had a lot of good points The problem is his confused messaging, and lack of reality about who he’s talking to. Sure he’s not required to adhere to a certain format, but as someone who works with media and messaging, I can tell you the only people reading and discussing this letter are us, and fellow Pakistanis, not Jon Stewart, or his producers, and that was my main point.

    Also, his claim that there are no Pakistanis sponsoring major terrorist operations is probably false, and I think we know that. The attacks in Mumbai were not orchestrated from the Arabian peninsula, I can tell you that much. The selective reasoning at parts, leaves way to criticism from outside; my criticism comes from love and identifying with his passion. I don’t want these messages to go unnoticed, and I’m sorry if my response came across as uncaring. I feel his anger and his sadness, and I see his intellect, but this letter does absolutely nothing to change the status quo.

    I hope the writing of this letter, and the discussion it has provoked bring rise to an organized movement of accountability. But for the record, Jon Stewart is not a journalist; he’s a progressive comedian. Most of his work is pointing out easy hypocrisies and sidestepping tragedy. He’s no hero of the victims of US military policy, and never has been. It’s the sad truth, but we have no right to ask that he change hte direction of his show. What we do have a right to do, as his audience, is point out falsehoods he portrays, especially as he champions his commitment to truth.

    Comment by S. Hamdani | May 27, 2011 | Reply

  5. http://forums.thedailyshow.com/?page=ThreadView&thread_id=41309

    Discussion thread on the actual daily show website. Thought I’d post it here in case anyone has more to say on the letter. I, however, am done.

    Comment by S. Hamdani | May 27, 2011 | Reply

  6. While we’re at it , Mushaf ali mir (PAF) played a role in 9/11. Gerald Posner in his book , Why America Slept: The Failure to Prevent 9/11 mentioned that. .and also the fact that Pakistan army usually sends a very inflated CSF to the US. Take for example the fact that Pakistan army has spent US$ 77 million on ‘barbed wires’ . source wikileaks and it revealed that US embassy officials were annoyed that Kiyani took them for idiots

    Lot of Pakistani commentators have said the same thing about US aid as this article talks about but the world doesn’t believe since your actions are speaking louder than your words. Keeep on shouting and hiding terrorists in your territory.

    And all the so called moderate pakistani muslims, the 180 million will get blamed because you donot take a stand against the rouge elements. Even the writer admitted in the start he cant take on with the right wing bigots (which make a huge majority in pakistan regardless of the number of degrees they own), so instead of confronting J, Stewart, why dont you confront your people? Millions and millions participate in anti drone /anti american rallys and fatiha khuwanis for OBL, or to support killers like qadri, how many of you have tried to voice our opinion publicly against terrorists and suicide bombers? How many protests, how many dharnas? NONE. because deep down, majority of your countrymen still think talibans are innocent, they are either not real, or are not involved, or they are our ‘strategic assets’ or ‘muslim brothers’ fighting the infidels. And trust me, if you moderate muslims will continue with this attitude, and wont stand up and condemn terrorists openly, the world will keep point fingers because this is the type of sin even God doesnt forgive, as its been even mentioned many a times in the quran, the people who didnot take a stand against evil and kept silent, they all got punished along with the ones committing evil. So, no, not Jon, but your pakistani fellows deserve your confrontation, time and effort. Channelize it in the right direction.

    Comment by Saima | May 28, 2011 | Reply

  7. It is an enemy, when we know its our ENEMY, why are we complaining that the propaganda machine of our ENEMY ( the so called fair media) is not treating us so fair? If you think about it, its very stupid thing to do, a total waste of time and energy.

    THIS IS OUR HOUSE, WE NEED TO TAKE CONTROL! FIGHT FIRE WITH FIRE!

    If they spread lies about us, we spread the truth about us, if they molest facts about us, we protect and raise the facts about us, if there media is stronger than ours, we make our media stronger than theirs, if they are more educated than us, we need to be more educated than them, if they create plans to break our nation, we make better plans to protect our nation and teach enemy’s an unforgettable lesson.

    See the problem is not that there are no solutions, the problem is that NO ONE IS DOING ANYTHING PRODUCTIVE as long as it keeps on going we will meet the same fate again and again.

    We must always be ready to LEARN, and CHANGE… a person or a nation that is not willing to do these two things is as good as dead.

    LEARN from nations that were once poor and now rich…IMPLEMENT CHANGE.
    LEARN from nations that were once new and now strong and firm…IMPLEMENT CHANGE.
    LEARN from nations that were once weak and now powerful….IMPLEMENT CHANGE.

    Look at your nation and ask yourself, why would anyone respect our nation, take those things and improve upon those, ask yourself, why would anyone disrespect our nation, take those things and demolish them one by one!

    Its pretty simple, as long as we have a plan, but judging by the looks of our leaders, we neither have a plan nor a vision! we are doomed.

    WAKE UP MY BROTHERS, TAKE YOUR DESTINY IN YOUR OWN TWO HANDS, HELP OTHERS INSTEAD OF ASKING HELP.

    I would like to end with a simple saying that pretty much sums up Pakistan-USA relations at present.

    “Daynay waala haath hamayshha oopar hota hai”

    Comment by Alhazen965 | May 28, 2011 | Reply


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