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Old Saturday, January 24, 2009
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Exclamation

As I entered the room, I said Asalamualaikum. The General asked me to sit down, and I thanked him and sat down.

General: Tell us about your self.
Me: I am Omar Khan. I have done Masters in Philosophy and presently I am teaching the courses of Philosophy at post graduate level at the University.
General: Tell us more. What sort of a person you are.
Me: ( To be honest I was mentally not prepared for this question somehow) Well…I am a sort of person who is rather a bit shy, and I take more pleasure into intellectual pursuits such as reading and writing.
General: You have mentioned in your hobbies that you love Lawn Tennis. Is it just that you love watching Tennis on TV, or you play it too?
Me: No sir, I do play Tennis.
General: Okay. What do you know about CARs?
Me: CARs stand for central Asian Republics that came into being after the USSR collapsed at the end of Soviet-Afghan war in early 1990’s.
General: What is the importance of CARs ?
Me: Well…CARs are of immense importance you see. First, these are energy rich states, having rich deposits of oil and gas, especially in the Caspian region. Secondly, currently if we look at American involvement in Afghanistan, that is not merely to settle score with Taliban and Al-Qaida but also to check the Russian influence in the CARs by establishing American basis in the area. And ofcourse Caspian oil too is one of the reasons that holds American interest in the area.
General: You mean Americans have come all the way from across the atlantic to get the Central Asian oil? Oh C’mon, they have enough oil of their own.
Me: True. They have their own oil, but American interests are global and not just local. Their own oil cannot support them in their global pursuits. They need more oil to meet their requirements. Secondly, as I said their motive here is more than energy resources, and that is to check the Russian influence in the area and to stop it trickling into west. I believe that the great game that started between Russians and Great Britain in the 19th century is not yet over. Its just that the actors have slightly changed and Britain is replaced by US now.
General: You said that US needs to keep Russian influence in check so that their influence doesn’t trickle into west. How can you say that? Look at Europe and look at Central Asia. They have no connection with each other. (The General mocked me and laughed)
Me: Well, sir…Russians in order to influence Europe must have influence here too…after all Europe is separated from Central Asia only by black sea.
General: What is the importance of Central Asia for our region.
Me: We have had a long history together. Our region has had trade with Central Asia from times immemorial....We have had trade with Samarkand and Bukhara via silk route for centuries in ancient times….
General: (Cutting me) But from central Asia all that we have received were invaders who came to our region and played havoc.
Me: Yes, and with invaders always come trade sir. (Smiled) And presently the importance of central Asia for Pakistan is more or less the same as it has for US…those are energy rich countries, and we should enjoy friendly ties with them for our own interests…Besides Indians are going ahead of us and have already good relations with them…
General: (Seemingly annoyed) Must our policies always be Indian specific? Just because Indians are going to have good ties with CARs so Pakistan should also do that…it doesn’t make sense..
Me: (Sticking to my point) Surely Pakistan wont be isolated if it has no great relations with CARs, but to have good relations with them is certainly worth while rather than not. It is better to have as many good friends around as we can, being neighbours of Indian with which we have enmity.
General: Where does Pakistan import its oil from?
Me: OPAC.
General: OPAC includes Argentina too. Does it mean we import oil from Argentina. What countries do we import our oil from?
Me: We import it from Saudi Arabia for instance, which is also a member of OPAC.
General: And..?
Me: (I knew the answer so well and yet my mind suddenly went blank) America. (Making a stupid blunder)
General: (Laughs) So we import our oil from America? That sounds expensive, keeping the distance in view.
Me: I,m sorry sir.
General: Ok. Tell me, do you think we have any real provincial disharmony issue in Pakistan?
Me: I believe the issue of provincial disharmony is absolutely genuine.
General: well…go on.
Me: There surely are grievances of smaller provinces against the center. Take for instance the kalabagh Dam issue....For decades it has been one of the factors responsible for provincial disharmony and the mistrust of smaller provinces against the Center and Punjab. Although Kalabagh Dam is more of a technical issue, and we do need its construction too, and I am all for it otherwise, but unfortunately the facts are that it has become a political issue. And I would recommend that it should be either abandoned keeping in view the trust of people of smaller provinces at stake, or else an atmosphere of dialogue and awareness should be put into work about the real nature of this issue.
General: What are you talking about? Don’t you know that Kalabagh Dam is now a dead issue already.
Me: (Smilingly and tit for tat) But only for the time being sir !
General: Forget about Kalabagh Dam. The new government has abandoned the plans for its building. What do we do right now about the energy crisis. Even if kalabagh Dam plan is put into action now, it will take years to complete. But we are in the midst of worst energy crisis already. What do we do right now?
Me: We should immediately start building new smaller dams. And concentrate upon alternate measures to tackle the current problem as well as we can…(The General didn’t seem very pleased and cut me short..)
General: What other factors do you think are responsible for provincial disharmonoy?
Me: Take for instance the renaming of NWFP. The people of NWFP need their identity, which Punjab denies…
General: Oh C’mon. Punjab has nothing to do with it.
Me: Sir the general perception is that since the center has greater concentration of Punjabis in the assemblies etc. therefore the general perception of misperception if you please has to be rather anti Punjab. For example, if we look at Muslim League(N). It has even recently opposed the renaming of NWFP….(General cuts me short again)
General: But that’s not just a Punjabi nationalist party. It has supported across the nation
Me: True. But sir, the party is dominated by leaders from Punjab after all.
General: Well…renaming of province is a provincial matter. What else?
Me: (Thought for a few seconds) NFC is another factor…
General: Fine. NFC award is another factor. Fine. What else?
Me: Look at Balochistan issue. It has remained the most neglected province. I have traveled into the interior of Balochistan and have hardly seen a metal road, or schools, or hospitals. Secondly they have taken up arms now against state suppression and oppression which God forbid may lead to 1971 situation if not dealt with in a wiser and timely manner.
General: But there is no war in Balochistan. Our Army is not fighting over there.
Me: There is a silent insurgency going on. And there certainly is Army and Paramilitary forces using force against baloch. (I also talked about provincial autonomy issue in brief)
General: Thank you Omar. (He asks the member sitting left to him to interview me)

Member1: India is seeking a permanent membership of UN security council. Do you think Pakistan should oppose it?
Me: Sir, in my view Pakistan should support it.
Member2: But India is our enemy. Would it be wise?
Me: I believe, Pakistan and India need to learn from history and start accepting each other. They need to build an atmosphere of confidence building. They should realize that they have a mutual benefit in peace and friendship between the two countries. They should put the Kashmir issue aside for a while and concentrate on trade with each other. After all China and Russia too have disputes. Like wise, china has also disputes with India. But they are focusing on closer ties in spite of the disputes. When time comes the Kashmir issue can be solved. Besides, India is a regional power, a fact that cannot be denied. And if we both show flexibility towards each other, and as I said Pakistan supports India on international forums, India would also reciprocates. We need to build a better future for this region, and cannot afford anymore enmities.
Member2: okay. Tell me something. Suppose if you are in discussion with a non-muslim regarding Islamic punishments. How would you defend them?
Me: (I smiled) Am I to defend them, or merely explain them.
Member2: Do as you please.
Me: Well, Islamic punishments can be defended by making the nature of Islamic laws clear. I would explain to him how hard it is to meet the criteria of evidences in Islamic law. This criteria is rarely met. Hence Islamic punishments, harsh as they may seem, are rarely implemented, therefore making the Islamic laws very balanced and just.
Member2: Okay, thankyou.

Member3: Well Omar, you have written in your form about yourself that you wanted to be an Egyptologist when you were younger. What does this word mean? Is there really such a word?
Me: (I kind of laughed for a second and then smilingly replied) Yes ofcourse. Egyptology is a branch of Archaeology that studies the ancient civilization of Egypt. That’s true, I was indeed very fond of Egyptian civilization, and still am. It was my dream at that time to become an Egyptologist.
Member2: What happened then.
Me: My parents didn’t allow me to become one, and besides I was only a child at that time.
Member2: Whats so interesting about ancient Egypt?
Me: Everything about ancient Egypt fascinates me. Their colourful mysterious culture, the pyramids, their mythology etc. Orient is after all full of colours.
Member2: You have written in your profile, that at times you do have disagreements with your father. What are those times?
Me: (Was absolutely unprepared, and I hardly do argue with my father if at all, I was wondering why I had written that. Probably I had just wrote it casually, not realizing this question will boomerang back at me) well…its very rare ofcourse when we have disagreements. For instance, take the Palestinian issue. My father believes that an armed struggle is the right way to achieve goals, as he likes Che Guevera a lot. But I always argue that armed struggles can never be the best way to achieve any goals. I believe that talks and diplomacy can be the only way which can secure a permanent peace and get any country his goals.
Member2: But we didn’t get our freedom through peaceful means.
Me: On the contrary sir. There was bloodshed in 1947, but that was not some armed struggle, but only riots. The fact is that we got our freedom by sheer force of reason and political awareness, which was awakened in subcontinental muslims by a great man called Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, and carried on by Allama Iqbal and Muhammad Ali Jinnah.
Member2: Thankyou gentleman.

(I thanked the panel, said salam and left, the whole interview had taken more than 30 minutes. I think my interview was not very good because the general seemed displeased. Please do comment)

I forgot to mention that regarding provincial disharmony i also stressed on the need for bringing all provinces in the folds of Pakistani nationalism and to address any misperceptions and real grievances of the people.

Last edited by Last Island; Friday, February 13, 2009 at 04:28 PM.
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