Thursday, 5 July 2007

Meanwhile, Back in Afar Land...

This whole lal masjid drama has been completely distracting me from other matters. Quiet apart from the fact that I should be working on my dissertation, there have been a couple of things I had wanted to blog about:

Recently I read an article by Priya Satia called "The Defense of Inhumanity: Air Control and the British Idea of Arabia" (American Historical Review Feb 2006) which apart from its interesting main thesis sparked some ideas about what Afghanistan means as a landscape of Jihad and spiritual redemption for the ISI and military men who became increasingly involved with covert operations there through the 80s and 90s. If I were ever to write an article on this, I might easily call it "The Defense of Inhumanity: Jihad and the Pakistani Idea of Afghanistan". I'm sure that more than one ISI officer in Afghanistan has seen himself as a sort of Lawrence of Arabia, living out the dream of a pure, manly life while helping a tribal people free themselves from the shackles of oppressive foreign rule.

But more on that some other time. Maybe.

The other interesting thing I've recently read is a policy and analysis report prepared by two media experts at the American propaganda unit Radio Liberty, entitled "Iraqi Insurgent Media: The War of Images and Ideas" and because its an American article it must of course have a subtitle which is "How Sunni Insurgents in Iraq and Their Supporters Worldwide Are Using the Media." You can download it here. Some interesting information there on the different insurgent groups, their use of media, and their discussions on strategies, aims and so forth.

Also, I now find myself trying to read for my dissertation, reading Mark Mazower's 'Dark Continent', and desperate to read my newly acquired collection of essays by Philip Curtin on 'The Rise and Fall of the Plantation Complex' which is about the institution of slave plantations - from their origins to their decline with the end of slavery in the Americas. (Note: By the late nineteenth century keeping slaves was so unprofitable that plantation owners were freeing them in droves even before the final abolition laws came into place throughout the Americas). All this, and I am spending most of my time reading blogs about Maulana Auntie!

Speaking of blogs, I've come across an interesting blog called 'Not the Whole Truth'. Given that the humanities and social sciences have generally been bulldozed into a ditch by the "useful" disciplines devoted to the deification of capital, its always encouraging to come across people in Pakistan with a genuine desire to grapple with basic questions about culture, identity and political theory. Its going up on my blogroll!



Skeptic said...

The interference of ISI in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of Soviet troops has proven to be devastating both for Pakistan and Afghanistan. With the benefit of hindsight we can say that had Pakistan’s government and military took a timely decision not to interfere in Afghanistan anymore then everything that happened afterwards may not have happened.

Channels like Al-Jazeera and Radio Liberty that you mentioned are sparking a debate on the freedom of expression and the limitations to this right. By the way, why is it that Sunnis and Shias lived peacefully with each other in Iraq during the Ottoman Empire, King Faisal, Nuri-al-Said and General Qasim’s rule but then this inter-sectarian conflict erupted all of a sudden like a volcano after the US invasion of Iraq? Can you show me a link to some informative article on this issue? Thanks for the linkup to my Blog.

Misanthrope said...

Hello skeptic,

I can't think of an article of the top of my head, but this book may be informative:

The Devil's Game by Robert Dreyfuss, You can look it up on for a brief description.

I checked the Liberty Books website ( and they have the hardback version for sale in Pakistan, but that's pretty expensive. Maybe they will get the paperback version soon as well.

If I come across or remember any articles on the net I will post a link.

Misanthrope said...

As for the sectarian violence, I had some links in a couple of my posts:

A Return to the Bad Old Days (Feb 2007) and...

How to Escalate Civil Wars 101 (June 2007)