I have a confession: I promised myself that I would not write any more on the OBL fiasco primarily because there have been some brilliant write-ups on the situation and secondly, overdosing on military jargon and conspiracy theories could be fatal. However, there is one thing that has stood out in this situation (and plenty others in the past), which deserves to be spoken about with clarity – the issue of our ‘sovereignty’. Keeping in mind the importance of this issue, I have compiled a quick checklist/questionnaire to help understand if one’s sovereignty is still intact.

Please feel free to suggest more changes to the list.

First things first: What is sovereignty?

According to Dictionary.com, supreme and independent power or authority in government as possessed or claimed by a state or community/ rightful status, independence, or prerogative.

Modifications of the above-mentioned definition include many acronyms, for instance: the US, CIA, Xe Services, RAW and sometimes even the ISPR

Now that the meaning is established, we must proceed to other more important factors in order of ‘priority’.

Was our sovereignty compromised by the US-led operation that killed b in Laden?

Yes. According to official records, the Pakistani authorities were not only clueless about the operation but were also unable to track the US helicopters during the 40-minute operation. Since the Pakistani military was not taken into confidence and permission was not sought for the operation, there is no doubt that our territorial sovereignty was compromised.

However, it is crucial to note that while the US copters and the US NAVY SEALs are guilty of robbing us off our sovereignty for at least 40 minutes on May 2, Osama bin Laden and his men have been violating it since the ‘90s, or at least for the past five years.

Instances of lost sovereignty: (all instances listed are mutually inclusive)

The US-led operation on bin Laden
Presence of OBL and other terrorist organisations within our borders
Drone attacks
Suicide bombings across the country

Is asking questions regarding the competency of our intelligence agencies and military considered unpatriotic or worse, dishonouring an establishment?

No, not one bit. Patriotism is not blind or inclined to malice in the name of honour. In fact, patriotism should and must allow us to question everything and, we should have zero tolerance for negligence, especially in matters of national security and interest. Honour (more popularly known as Ghairat) should not be sought to avoid pertinent questions. When we raise questions with respect to competency; when we demand answers to some of the most pressing questions, it is out of concern for our country and its’ security, and definitely not intended to malign an institution.

It is ironic that the honour card is thrown in as soon as questions are raised – reflecting a weak relationship, riddled with insecurities and lack of faith. Is this healthy or showing our loyalty or even patriotic? I don’t think so.

Honour that is dependent on a fake sense of respect driven by absolving oneself of accountability is not honour, it is in fact, dictatorial proclamation of it. The sacrifices of both the army and the citizens cannot be undermined by a few incidents or criticism. No criticism can overshadow the loss of 30,000 men, women and children, and thousands others who were left homeless or disabled in the past decade. So, by all means demand accountability.

Instances of loss of patriotism:

Blame game between the state and the military
Absolving authorities from accountability and transparency
Refusal to take people into confidence in matters concerning foreign policy

The vicious cycle of lies that kowtow to the usual “We had no knowledge of this and consider it a violation of our sovereignty, and any such incident in the future will have grave consequences.” Rinse and repeat.

Assuming that Pakistanis, at large, are incapable of understanding the complexities of the global war on terror and that they are a lynch mob, which needs to be kept at bay.

Should we remain silent spectators while our sovereignty, honour and integrity is ripped apart?

Absolutely not; public discourse is needed now more than ever. There is a dire need to reconsider and understand the meaning and importance of sovereignity, honour and integrity. Right now, they mean different things to different people. For some, sovereignty is compromised by US interference in the country while others think it is the terrorists we need to worry about and not our allies. The debate is always about the drone attacks vs suicide bombings and Aafia Vs Aasia. Honour, on the other hand, is subject to change frequently ranging from what CNN said to whether the rape survivors be allowed to speak out. Integrity is sprinkled somewhere in between and Ghairat is more of an umbrella that covers all these aspects.

We should by all means stand up against injustices, mobilise and campaign but that would be more effective if we were not divided into carefully-crafted binaries. If we would just sit down listen to the other side of the argument without name-calling and labels, we may realise that no matter what our stance is, we are all in this together. It is possible to oppose drone strikes and condemn suicide bombings at the same time; both are responsible for civilian causalities, one more than the other. It is only fair to be outraged by the violation of the rights of minorities and the use of torture in detention centers inside and outside of Pakistan. What CNN said would not matter if we all started to focus on eliminating crimes and violence against women.

Instances of loss of honour:

Honour killings
Killings in the name of religion
Tax defaulters
Agencies involved in illegal detentions/abductions/killings

So, what exactly is the point?

Solidarity and patience. Some of us often joke about being called CIA, MOSSAD or RAW agents; these jokes are a norm amongst many of us. But they really are anti-jokes if you read in to it. A sad and unfortunate fact of our lives where faith within our people is so weak that any form of criticism reeks of infidelity. While we try so hard to retain the integrity and honour of our institutions, respect for individual choices have become secondary – diminishing almost. When we cannot respect another’s stance without doubting ones loyalties, how can we expect the world to have faith in us?

We are at war and the enemy is a familiar force from within. Insurgencies are not just fought by weapons and counter-terrorism strategies (never mind that we STILL don’t have one), it is fought in the hearts and minds of the people. We cannot win this war with doubts in our hearts and minds boggled with binaries. After all, sovereignty and honour are far diverse than just political ploys to be slipped in at regular and appropriate intervals to shape public opinion. Don’t be fooled, unite and break free.


15 thoughts on “A checklist for our sovereignty

  1. well written and i agree on the point that there is a need to understand sovereignity actually is and what are the meanings of honour and integrity. there is also a need of unity on the national level and that is something which looks near to impossible to me in current state, that is a fear i have but still i am not hopless.
    by the way thanks for writing it as i got some material to support my next article 🙂

  2. Sana: Thanks for your comment to my previous blogpost. You are one of the very few Pakistani writers who have analyzed the situation correctly and are brave enough to state their position. Reading your blogs is like a breath of fresh air. I appreciate your courage and the determination to state the facts.

    I left Pakistan in 1979 but have stayed tuned to the sad developments since my departure. The educational system and quality of education has become very poor while the world around us has moved ahead much faster. We have a responsibility towards our people to inform them of the reasons for the country’s failures and enable them to take corrective actions and put the country on the path to development. Please read my book Connivance By Silence for a historical overview of what went wrong with Pakistan and why Pakistan has become the home for terrorist organizations and why more Pakistanis, than other Muslims, are implicated in terrorist acts around the world. (This comment may not be suitable for posting on the blog.).

  3. Excellent- Article..!! I always follow your blogs and article in dawn. ( btw, Dawn is doing better job than CNN and Fox) Also if you can , sometime write what’s happening on pakistani ground not what’s happening in Washington DC minds and media. some time, (we) in the west take NYTIMES, FOX NEWS,CNN, BBC, TimesofIndia for granted and forget that we are being injected fabricated stories of Corporate Media who serve every purpose of CIA, MOSSAD, RAW. ( by the way i’m not blaming you)
    No doubt Pakistan has problems but IT WERE NOT CREATED BY PAKISTANIS. GET IT. WE were introduced this MESS in 1980 by these civilized nations and then left alone. WE were used like Towel Paper and then told us to deal with this TRASH. YES, Pakistan is fighting this Monster and lost 35,000 people and 7000 security personnels ?, Altogether “42,000 pakistanis died for US War NOT for Kashmir ” ……..HELLLOOOO WORLD… GET IT…!!!!!!!!!!! WAKE UP. Stop pushing around the little guy and Support PAKISTAN and her INTELLIGENT PEOPLE who are against this Frankenstein.
    Reality is:
    Pakistani died since 2001——————-42,000+ and continue
    Rest of world( US, UK, Spain):————————4,000 since 2007.

    It will be great insult to Pakistan if we keep rejecting truth and keep demanding more and more from this world 4th Nuclear Power who is in this terrible crises. ( please ignore my poor grammar if i made any mistake since English is not my first language).
    Again SANA keep up the good work….2 thumbs up….!!!!!!!!!!

  4. Sana, this is an excellent, thought provoking article. The supreme and independent power, defined as sovereignty, must also accompanied by an important trait called responsibility. Each sovereign nation must be held accountable to generally accepted standards of behavior in the world. Otherwise, the world shuns them and isolates them from the mainstream. North Korea, Libya Sudan, and similar countries are examples of isolated and rogue regimes that refuse to abide by the generally accepted standards of independent nations. The responsibility part of Pakistan’s sovereignty has been missing for several decades. The fact that virtually every attack by Muslims in any part of the world is linked to Pakistan, and the undeniable fact that Pakistan has become the epicenter of Islamic radicalism, provides damming evidence that Pakistan is not a playing by the generally accepted standards of the world. Pakistanis can naïvely argue that, according to the country’s Constitution (The Objectives Resolution), sovereignty belongs exclusively to Allah and no human, and by extension no country composed of humans, can be sovereign. That is where the first abdication of responsibility in Pakistan begins.

    Being dependent on other countries for our very existence, Pakistan has mortgaged its supposed sovereignty to its financiers who, after all, have to safeguard their own interests. Whether it is the US, China, or any one of the Middle Easter countries, their financial support is not without strings. Pakistanis conveniently forget the when the mutual interests of countries converge, they assist each other; otherwise, they oppose each other. The fundamental principle is that countries with divergent interests cannot be friends. Allowing and funding jahidis to enter, train, and prosper in Pakistan during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, and using them for proxy wars against India and against political opponents in Pakistan was tantamount to ceding sovereignty to the financiers. The terrorists’ ability to live and thrive in Pakistan illegally was their victory over Pakistan’s sovereignty and this has gone on for decades.

    Pakistani citizens have been fed on lies and half-truths since its inception. Starting from the Objectives Resolution till today, simple minded people, unable to research history and the theories used by power hungry interest groups (business, religious, government institutions, etc.), accept engineered doctrines as factual. This has resulted in generations of Pakistanis with a warped worldview, unable to identify the real enemy and blaming others for their own shortcomings. State and private interest groups, military and civilians, thrive on this ignorance and perpetuate their control by resorting to more lies. The nation must demand facts and hold the rulers accountable.

    The hollowness of the mere sloganeering of the ‘unanimous’ parliamentary resolutions against drone attacks was aptly exhibited while the initial euphoria about our sovereignty was at its peak. The threatened action of attack the drones proved to be just another empty threat. The national humiliation after the OBL operation and the continuing drone attacks would have been easier to explain in the absence of this unanimous resolution. Rather than be used as an illusion, the unanimous resolution exposed the impotency of the ‘sovereign’ Pakistani nation, including its exorbitantly expensive military and civilian leadership.

    You correctly point out “sad and unfortunate fact of our lives where faith within our people is so weak that any form of criticism reeks of infidelity”. Our misplaced perceptions of integrity, honour, and dignity must be critically analyzed. “When we cannot respect another’s stance without doubting ones loyalties, how can we expect the world to have faith in us?”

    “We are at war and the enemy is a familiar force from within. Insurgencies are not just fought by weapons and counter-terrorism strategies (never mind that we STILL don’t have one), it is fought in the hearts and minds of the people. We cannot win this war with doubts in our hearts and minds boggled with binaries. After all, sovereignty and honour are far diverse than just political ploys to be slipped in at regular and appropriate intervals to shape public opinion. Don’t be fooled, unite and break free.” It is about time that the facts be discussed and Sana has been doing her part in explaining the situation in simple terms. Keep it up Sana and you can count on the support of intelligent Pakistanis.

    1. Thanks so much Arif Sahab for your detailed comment on the blogpost, thanks for your support and for being a regular reader here, means a lot!

  5. Great article. I wish Pakistanis well, since I am married to a wonderful Pakistani and I only want the best for his people.

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