Strategic Relation and Cultural Barriers
Religions are the founders of imagination. The more any religion’s imagination is shaped in an isolated bubble or in dark cave, the more its imagination is likely to sail off in dangerous directions. The most closed cities are in Saudi Arabia, where no Christian, Hindu, Jews, or other non-Muslims are allowed to express their religions in public or build a house of worship, and in case of Mecca, even enter.
Nothing has contributed more to retarding the emergence of a democratic context in places like Saudi Arabia and Iran. As long as the monarchs and the dictators who run these oil states can get rich by drilling their natural resources – opposed to drilling the natural talents and the energy of its people- they can stay in the office forever. They use oil money to monopolize all the instruments of power-army, police, and intelligence-and never have to introduce real transparency or power sharing. All they have to do is capture and hold the oil tap.
An internet link: Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military: Hussain Haqqani (Pakistan’s former ambassador to the U.S.) in this journalistic endeavor has analyzed the origins of the relationships between Islamist groups and Pakistan’s military, explores Pakistan’s quest for identity and security. Tracing how the military has sought U.S. support by making itself useful for concerns-of-the-moment-while continuing to strengthen the mosque-military alliance within Pakistan- an alternative view of political developments in Pakistan since independence in 1947.
The concurrent review of the book, Pakistan: Between and Mosque and Military: Among U.S. allies in the war against terrorism, Pakistan cannot be easily characterized as either friend or foe. Nuclear-armed Pakistan is an important centre of radical Islamic ideas and groups. Since 9/11, the selective cooperation of Pakistan’s president, General Pervez Musharraf, in sharing intelligence with the United States and apprehending Al-Qaeda members has led to the assumption that Pakistan might be ready to give up its longstanding ties with radical Islam. But Pakistan’s status as an Islamic ideological state is closely linked with the Pakistani elite’s worldview and the praetorian ambitions of the Pakistani military.
Thomas L. Friedman: Cultures are not wired into our human DNA. They are the products of two shaping forces. One is the narratives that people are nurtured on – the stories and myths they and their religious and national leaders tell themselves -and how those narratives feed their imagination one way or another. The other is the context (geography, leadership, and historical experience-of any society) in which people grow up, which has a huge impact on shaping how they see the world and others.
The contents of first four paragraphs of this article, if judged on the above criteria set by Thomas L. Friedman (context being the key), make an interesting reading and open another dimension, the echoes of which are being heard and felt in Pakistan and in the western print and the electronic media.
A British newspaper in its recent edition reported a visit by the chief of Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency to Saudi Arabia and certain other gulf states, the report further added that the chief went to those states with the mindset to have an approval from his country’s strategic partners for president Zardari’s removal from the government.
What Haqqani, Freidman, the reviewer and the news reporter, have in common is the context the live in, and the narratives from their leaders they listen to. The Pakistanis and the Arabs listen to the narratives of their leaders and live in a different context.