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Saturday, December 29, 2007

Benazir & us

Dear Globe Editor,
I returned to the US from Pakistan on Dec. 19th. For three weeks I traveled extensively around Lahore, Rawalpindi, Peshawar and its surrounding villages. It amazed me to talk to such a variety of people with so many different opinions. One thing was consistently put to me wherever I went: “What is happening in the US? It is the greatest country in the world. What are they thinking?”

In order to find out the truth one has to make an extra effort, which means more than watching television and reading the local newspaper. Most of us are too busy and apathetical to make that extra effort.
Our press habitually presents a slant with reports of Benazir Bhutto as the shining star of democracy in Pakistan. The recent Globe article, “US efforts for stability in key ally are shaken” (Dec.28), on our government’s meddling in Pakistan’s politics, shows why our press has been so biased in favor of Ms Bhutto. Even before this terrible assassination, only her friends and fellow party members were quoted.

It was a terrible thing for her to be assassinated but not unpredictable. During her first public appearance in the country there were 20,000 troops guarding her within an armored vehicle. Yet a suicide bomber got within range of that vehicle. This next public appearance she was not so lucky. With her liberal political leanings and her ties to the US, it is extremely dangerous for her to be in public outside an armored vehicle.
It’s worth remembering we created al-Qaeda and this jihadi movement, along with Gen Zia, to fight the Russians in Afghanistan. We actively recruited, around the Middle East and Afghanistan, those who wanted to fight the godless communists. I met a retired Pakistan general of those days who said when asked by US state department officials what he thought of the idea of this recruiting said “It is a good idea but what do we do with them when we are done?” We didn’t care about that and pulled out as soon as the communist did. To this, the Pushtun have a saying: “If you leave a cesspool in your neighbor’s back yard, someday the mosquitoes will come and bite you”.

The people of Pakistan praise our country immensely but are continually puzzled by each step our foreign policy takes. Just after 9-11 the government of Pakistan, along with the US Ambassador in the country, requested $14 million to rebuild the schools of the North West Frontier Province and the Tribal Areas. They knew this was to be a war on ignorance and that lack of education was the root cause of the problem. President Bush turned them down. He found the slogan “war on terror” to be a more catchy slogan for his administration of calamity. My friends greeted me in Lahore in Nov. 2001 and said “It is good you folks are getting rid of the Taliban, but you won’t stay, there is no oil in Afghanistan”. We have stayed in Afghanistan, just barely and just enough to take one misstep after another.

When are the citizens of this country going to realize that our short-sited foreign policy is making this a more dangerous planet? Each one of us needs to actively do something to get us back on the path of world peace, a role we once dominated but have now squandered.

Rachel Williams
(Logo is of an organization which Peace Model School ( Muzaffarabad, AJK) founder Saeed Siddiqui is a member)

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