US hypocrisy to the fore

The Pak Banker - - Front Page - Glenn Green­wald

IM­RAN Khan is, ac­cord­ing to nu­mer­ous opin­ion polls, the most pop­u­lar politi­cian in Pak­istan and may very well be the coun­try's next prime min­is­ter. He is also a ve­he­ment critic of US drone at­tacks on his coun­try, vow­ing to or­der them shot down if he be­comes premier and lead­ing an anti-drone protest march last month.

Last Satur­day, Im­ran boarded a flight from Toronto to New York in or­der to ap­pear at a fundrais­ing lunch and other events. But be­fore the flight could take off, US im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cials re­moved him from the plane and de­tained him for two hours, caus­ing him to miss the flight. On Twit­ter, Khan re­ported that he was "in­ter­ro­gated on [his] views on drones" and then added: "My stance is known. Drone at­tacks must stop." He then de­fi­antly noted: "Missed flight and sad to miss the fundrais­ing lunch in NY, but noth­ing will change my stance."

The State Depart­ment ac­knowl­edged Im­ran's de­ten­tion and said: "The is­sue was re­solved. Mr Khan is wel­come in the United States." Cus­toms and im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cials re­fused to com­ment ex­cept to note that "our dual mis­sion is to fa­cil­i­tate travel in the United States while we se­cure our bor­ders, our peo­ple and our vis­i­tors from those that would do us harm like ter­ror­ists and ter­ror­ist weapons, crim­i­nals and con­tra­band," and added that the burden is on the visi­tor "to demon­strate that they are ad­mis­si­ble" and "the ap­pli­cant must over­come all grounds of in­ad­mis­si­bil­ity." There are sev­eral ob­vi­ous points raised by this episode. Strictly on prag­matic grounds, it seems quite ill-ad­vised to sub­ject the most pop­u­lar leader in Pak­istan - the po­ten­tial next prime min­is­ter - to triv­ial, vin­dic­tive hu­mil­i­a­tions of this sort. It is also a breach of the most ba­sic diplo­matic pro­to­col.

Just imag­ine the out­rage if a US politi­cian were re­moved from a plane by Pak­istani of­fi­cials in or­der to be ques­tioned about their pub­licly ex­pressed po­lit­i­cal views. And ha­rass­ing prom­i­nent crit­ics of US pol­icy is hardly likely to di­lute an­tiUS an­i­mos­ity; the ex­act op­po­site is far more likely to oc­cur.

But the most im­por­tant point here is that Im­ran's de­ten­tion is part of a clear trend by the Barack Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion to ha­rass and in­tim­i­date crit­ics of its drone at­tacks. As Marcy Wheeler notes: "This is at least the third time this year that the US has de­layed or de­nied en­try to the US for Pak­istani drone crit­ics."

Last May, I wrote about the amaz­ing case of Mo­ham­mad Dan­ish Qasim, a Pak­istani stu­dent, who pro­duced a short film ti­tled The Other Side, which "re­volves around the idea of as­sess­ing so­cial, psy­cho­log­i­cal and eco­nom­i­cal ef­fects of drones on the peo­ple in tribal ar­eas of Pak­istan".

As he put it: "The film takes the au­di­ence very close to the dam­age caused by drone at­tacks" by hu­man­is­ing the tragedy of civil­ian deaths and also doc­u­ment­ing how those deaths are ex­ploited by ac­tual ter­ror­ists for re­cruit­ment pur­poses.

Qasim and his co-pro­duc­ers were cho­sen as the win­ner of the Au­di­ence Award for Best In­ter­na­tional Film at the 2012 Na­tional Film Fes­ti­val For Tal­ented Youth, held an­nu­ally in Seattle, Wash­ing­ton.

He in­tended to travel to the US to ac­cept his award and dis­cuss his film, but was twice de­nied a visa to en­ter the US and was barred from mak­ing any ap­pear­ances in the US.

The month be­fore, Shahzad Ak­bar, a Pak­istani lawyer who rep­re­sents drone vic­tims in law­suits against the US and the co-founder of the Pak­istani hu­man rights or­gan­i­sa­tion, Foun­da­tion for Fun­da­men­tal Rights, was sched­uled to speak at a con­fer­ence on drones in Wash­ing­ton. He, too, was de­nied a visa and the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion re­lented only once an in­ter­na­tional out­cry erupted.

There are two clear dy­nam­ics driv­ing this. First, the US is ea­ger to im­pose a price for ef­fec­tively chal­leng­ing its poli­cies and to pre- vent the pub­lic - the do­mes­tic pub­lic, that is - from hear­ing crit­ics with first-hand knowl­edge of the im­pact of those poli­cies. As Wheeler asks: "Why is the gov­ern­ment so afraid of Pak­ista­nis ex­plain­ing to Amer­i­cans what the drone at­tacks look like from a Pak­istani per­spec­tive?" This form of in­tim­i­da­tion is not con­fined to drone crit­ics. Last April, I re­ported on the se­rial harass­ment of Laura Poitras, the Os­car-nom­i­nated doc­u­men­tar­ian who pro­duced two films - one from Iraq and the other from Ye­men - that showed the views and per­spec­tives of Amer­ica's ad­ver­saries in those coun­tries.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Pakistan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.