Wounds of Waziristan | Trailer
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Our wonderful composer, Andre Barros worked with us to produce beautiful music for WOUNDS. Here’s the music video of the title song:
As I mention below, I had the pleasure of sharing a panel with Sinan Antoon last Saturday at the Page Turner literary festival. Sinan noted, at that panel, the dense, suffocating weight of western constructions of other places and peoples so much so that it begins to seep into our sense of ourselves so that it now, for instance, not uncommon to find casual reference to Pakistan’s Tribal Areas as a kind of “wild west” frontier (or, alternatively, to hear about groupthink by classes of people as “tribalism”). The extension of that imagination –and therefore, implicitly of a network of related ideas: civilization, manifest destiny, noble savage– is both prelude and effect of the terror wars. I have been working on an article that touches on some of this. In the meantime, below, here are some examples, in no particular order (other than rough chronology) of the appearance of the “wild west”/ frontier trope in western writing on Pakistan:
The Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) is Pakistan’s impoverished, wild west region, bordering Afghanistan, where the Taliban and al Qaeda have established a stronghold to plan their attacks on Kabul, Islamabad, and New York City. —Foreign Policy, Nov 04, 2009
Dara, a dusty, Wild West-type town, crawls with intelligence agencies, drug smugglers and gun-toting Pathan tribesmen. —The Telegraph, Dec 02, 2005
Dealing with Pakistan’s Wild West —The Globalist, Jan 24, 2008
“It’s the wild west of the 18th century,” says Imtiaz Gul, Pakistani journalist and author of “The Most Dangerous Place: Pakistan’s Lawless Frontier.”
“People are like the old time Wild West, adventurous creatures who grew up with guns, who grew up with a lot of adventurism and who are pretty partially alien to the culture of United States, or for that matter even the culture of Islamabad. —PBS NewsHour Jun 15, 2010
Darra Adam Khel, a small burg in Pakistan’s tribal areas, is the quintessential frontier town. Picture Wyatt Earp sashaying down the streets of Tombstone in a turban, and you begin to get the idea. —Washington Post, Mar 30, 2008
Pakistan’s Wild West – A Photo Essay —TIME
Waziristan -Pakistan’s Wild West (Video) —FORA.TV on Dailymotion
There are more guns for him to choose from in Darra Adam Khel, the nearest thing Pakistan has to a Wild West town.
In fact, guns are about the only things made and sold in this dusty one-street town near Peshawar, capital of the country’s unruly Northwest Frontier Province bordering Afghanistan. —LA Times, Sept 27, 1987
A Wild Frontier – It will take more than American missiles to bring order to Pakistan’s north-western border region —The Economist, Sept 18, 2008
If Peshawar is the Wild West with electricity, then Lahore is Southern California in the 1950s without the beaches. —Rug Review, Feb 1989
Rudyard Kipling described this dusty frontier capital near the Khyber Pass as a “city of evil countenances.” Other cities lived, Peshawar lurked. Even the shadows here had shadows. —LATimes May 12, 1986
Pathans Rule the Wild West —The Independent, Jun 03, 1999
Wild West Pakistan —The Age, Jan 29, 1980
It is an economy and society evoking an image of the American Wild West —Christian Science Monitor, Dec 06, 1982
Wild West Alive, Well in Pakistan (also on Darra Adam Khel) —The Lewiston Daily Sun, Nov 21, 1973
These two provinces, called the “wild west” of Pakigtan (sic) —NYT, Mar 29, 1973
Asked why many of his opponents suddenly find themselves up for murder, Bhutto said it was all part of the “Wild West” atmosphere of Pakistan politics —Lewiston Evening Journal, Mar 12, 1973
“Shooting started last Thursday,” he continued, “and all hell let loose Friday. It was just like the Wild West.” East Pakistan Refugees Tell of Mass Executions, The Milwaukee Sentinel, Apr 07, 1971
I had ventured into Pakistan’s wild west and I had the scars to prove it. Muslim Cleavage 2011
Peshawar is the capital of Pakistan’s “wild west” Three Cups of Tea 2009
Peshawar Pakistan is the archetypal wild-west frontier town Force Valor – Revenge (Vol 1) 2013
For Special Forces, Afghanistan was the wild wild West, and the new Ranchers reveled in it. —The Hunt for Bin Laden: Task Force Dagger 2003
Distinguished Professor of Geography, Derek Gregory, at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver wrote up a thoughtful post on WOUNDS and connects it to his own work. It’s chock full of useful links and footnotes to other relevant readings on drone warfare. Here’s a snippet:
This matters so much – and reappears in a different form in ‘Moving targets’ – because the contemporary individuation of ‘war’ (if it is war) works to sanitize the battlefield: to confine attention to the individual-as-target (which is itself a technical artefact separated from the exploded fleshiness that flickers briefly on the Predator’s video screens) and to foreclose the way in which every death ripples across a family, a community…
Read the whole thing here.
The UN’s special rapporteur on counter-terrorism and human rights, Ben Emmerson, has concluded that U.S. drone attacks are happening without Pakistan’s consent, following a trip to the country where he met with officials. Emmerson says he was told that “a thorough search of Pakistani government records had revealed no indication of such consent having been given.”
Although on its own, this is a highly-suspect statement given that Pakistan’s military operates quite independently from the civilian government, it is true that the Pakistani parliament–a democratically elected body–has passed successive resolutions condemning drone attacks. The first resolution was passed on May 14, 2011 shortly after the U.S. had carried out its raid to assassinate Osama bin Laden, who it turned out, had been hiding in a Pakistani garrison town, Abbottabad. The American raid occurred on the heels of several contentious events that year. A quick timeline:
Jan 27, 2011 –U.S. military contractor Raymond Davis shoots two Pakistanis dead in daylight in Lahore. An embassy vehicle coming to rescue him mows down a third Pakistani motorcyclist, also killing him.
Feb 7, 2011 –The wife of one of Davis’ victims, Faheem Shamshad, commits suicide with a drug overdose fearing that Davis will be released without trial for her husband’s murder. “They are already treating my husband’s murderer like a VIP in police custody and I am sure they will let him go because of international pressure,” she said. Shumaila had taken pills the day before, doctors pumped her stomach, and she was interviewed on television from her hospital bed.
Mar 16, 2011 –Pakistan releases Raymond Davis after the U.S. draws on shari’a laws and pays “blood money” to the victims families, a reporter $2.3 million.
Mar 17, 2011 –The CIA conducts a drone attack on a jirga killing between 26-42 people. The jirga, which included very senior maliks or tribal elders, many of whom worked for the Pakistani government, had gathered to resolve a local dispute over chromite mining. In a rare show of synchronicity, the Pakistani president, prime minister and army chief all condemned the attack. The AP later reported that then U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, Cameron Munter, had phoned Washington to stop the attack fearing its timing would worsen relations between the two countries. The CIA dismissed the request. Those killed in the attack included a very senior malik, Daud Khan as well as Sharabat Khan, identified in various reports as either a militant or a leaseholder of the mine; it is, of course, possible to be both. In fact, this confusion is exactly what points up to the essential murkiness on the ground that no amount of visual technology can resolve. Sharabat may have been both. He may have appeared, on that day, in his capacity as a party to the dispute rather than as a militant. These are in other words, roles, that people occupy in a social web in which relationships are multiple and layered.
May 6, 2011 –U.S. raid in Abbottabad to assassinate Osama bin Laden.
May 13-14 — The Parliament conducted intense closed-door sessions in which Pakistan’s army and air force chiefs appeared before the body to field questions from representatives.
May 14, 2011 –Excerpts from the 2011 joint resolution:
…unilateral actions, such as those conducted by the US forces in Abbottabad, as well as the continued drone attacks on the territory of Pakistan, are not only unacceptable but also constitute violation of the principles of the Charter of the United Nations, international law and humanitarian norms and such drone attacks must be stopped forthwith, failing which the Government will be constrained to consider taking necessary steps including withdrawal of transit facility allowed to NATO/ISAF forces;
Determines that unilateral actions cannot advance the global cause of elimination of terrorism, and the people of Pakistan will no longer tolerate such actions and repeat of unilateral measures could have dire consequences for peace and security in the region and the world.
Reaffirmed the resolve of the people and Government of Pakistan to uphold Pakistan’s sovereignty and national security, which is a sacred duty, at all costs;
Following that resolution, another series of events led to a second resolution.
Oct 4, 2011 –Despite killing two men, Davis makes it home from prison in Pakistan only to be arrested and charged for a felony in a parking lot brawl in Denver. That case takes longer to resolve than the murders in Pakistan. On Mar 1, 2013, Davis finally pled guilty to misdemeanor assault charges.
Nov 26, 2011 –A U.S. led NATO force attacks the two checkposts on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border killing 24 Pakistani soldiers and wounding another 13. Called the Salala attack, the Pakistani government responded by closing Shamsi airfield in Balochistan from where, some U.S. drones were reportedly operating. NATO supply routes through Pakistan were also shut down as Pakistan demanded an apology. None of this would have been likely possible without the express support of Pakistan’s military. Hilary Clinton finally issued the following statement: “We are sorry for the losses suffered by the Pakistani military. We are committed to working closely with Pakistan and Afghanistan to prevent this from ever happening again.” The government reopened the supply route–once again, very likely at the behest of Pakistan’s military to whom the U.S. gives billions of dollars. Pakistanis, however, continued to express criticism of the U.S., and many disagreed with the reopening of the route.
Mar 20, 2012 –Draft resolution issued. Debate commences.
Apr 12, 2012 –Final resolution issued. Excerpts from that resolution:
1. Pakistan’s sovereignty shall not be compromised. The gap between assertion and facts on the ground needs to be qualitatively bridged through effective steps. The relationship with USA should be based on mutual respect for the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of each other.
2. The Government needs to ensure that the principles of an independent foreign policy must be grounded in strict adherence to the Principles of Policy as stated in Article 40 of the Constitution of Pakistan, the UN Charter and observance of international law. The US footprint in Pakistan must be reviewed. This means (i) an immediate cessation of drone attacks inside the territorial borders of Pakistan, (ii) the cessation of infiltration into Pakistani territory on any pretext, including hot pursuit; (iii) Pakistani territory including its air space shall not be used for transportation of arms and ammunition to Afghanistan.
7. No overt or covert operations inside Pakistan shall be permitted.
8. That for negotiating or re-negotiating Agreements/MOU’s pertaining to or dealing with matters of national security, the following procedure shall be adopted:
i) All Agreements/MOU’s, including military cooperation and logistics, will be circulated to the Foreign Ministry and all concerned Ministries, attached or affiliated Organizations and Departments for their views;
ii) All Agreements/MOU’s will be vetted by the Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs;
iii) All Agreements/MOU’s will be circulated to the Parliamentary Committee on National Security. The Committee shall vet and make recommendations in consultation with the stakeholders and forward the same to the Federal Cabinet for approval under the Rules of Business of the Federal Government;
iv) The Minister concerned will make a policy statement on the Agreements/MOU’s in both Houses of Parliament.
9. No private security contractors and/or intelligence operatives shall be allowed.
10. Pakistan’s territory will not be provided for the establishment of any foreign bases.
11. The international community should recognize Pakistan’s colossal human and economic losses and continued suffering due to the war on terror. In the minimum, greater market access of Pakistan’s exports to the US, NATO countries and global markets should be actively pursued.
12. In the battle for the hearts and minds an inclusive process based on primacy of dialogue and reconciliation should be adopted. Such process must respect local customs, traditions, values and religious beliefs.
(a) There is no military solution to the Afghan conflict and efforts must be undertaken to promote a genuine national reconciliation in an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process.
Apart from the clear condemnation of drone attacks, the other interesting point is the craven attempt to parlay loss of Pakistani lives into greater “market access” (see point 11). It’s desperate, tragic and shameful: tragic that this is mode by which Pakistan asks that the global regimes value Pakistani lives, desperate because it is true that this is to what Pakistan has been reduced through machinations by its own politicians but also through IMF and World Bank regimes as well as continual interventions by the U.S. in matters great and small; and finally, shameful, because, even now, Pakistani politicians barter Pakistani lives on the international market rather than having the courage of any convictions.
To Emmerson’s point however, it is clear that where Pakistan’s elected representatives (as opposed to its unelected, despotic military) is concerned, it has–they have, to the extent that they can without upsetting the Pakistani military establishment–declared their resistance to drone attacks.
Finally, I want to point out some incidents that have evaded most international headlines, but which are connected:
Apr 30, 2012 –The widow, Zohra and mother-in-law, Nabeela of one of Davis’ victims, Faizan Haider, are found shot dead in Lahore. They were reportedly shot by the father-in-law, Shehzad Butt, in a dispute over the distribution of the blood money.
Mar 1, 2013 –Davis finally pled guilty to misdemeanor assault charges in the parking lot skirmish incident.
Originally published March 15.2013.