Top 100 Global Thinkers 2012

Farahnaz Ispahani & Husain Haqqani

Top 100 Global Thinkers 2012


For pushing tough love for their troubled country.

Former Pakistani officials | Washington

Husain Haqqani and Farahnaz Ispahani have spent their careers fighting the slow-motion radicalization of Pakistan — even as it became increasingly obvious that the deck was stacked against them. The husband and wife, now in self-imposed exile in the United States, were two of Islamabad’s most prominent interlocutors with Washington as jihadists spread throughout Pakistan’s tribal areas and Osama bin Laden was discovered a mile away from the country’s version of West Point. Now, after a career defending Pakistan’s deeply unpopular ties to the United States, Haqqani is beginning to think it’s time for a geopolitical divorce.

“If in 65 years, you haven’t been able to find sufficient common ground to live together, and you had three separations and four reaffirmations of marriage, then maybe the better way is to find friendship outside of the marital bond,” Haqqani, a scholar of the Pakistani military, said in August. Ispahani, meanwhile, has tried to push Pakistan toward a frank discussion of its internal demons. The real struggle in Pakistan, she wrote this year, is “the systematic elimination” of anyone who stands up to the country’s generals, who have created “a militarized Islamist state.” She found out what standing up to them means in Pakistan’s parliament, where she was a leading voice calling for the repeal of the country’s notorious blasphemy laws — an explosive cause that has cost several of Pakistan’s leading liberal politicians their lives at the hands of Islamist killers.

Their outspokenness has had its own cost: Haqqani was forced to resign as Pakistan’s ambassador to Washington and was hauled before a Pakistani court over allegations that he had sought U.S. help to head off a possible military coup, while Ispahani was stripped of her seat in parliament, ostensibly because she holds dual U.S.-Pakistani nationality. Instead of convincing Washington to rush to their aid, however, they’re trying to convince Pakistanis that their true struggles can’t be won by burning American flags. As Ispahani tweeted recently: “Stop blaming the world — look inside.”

Leaders of the PPP, MQM, ANP, PML-Q & PML-N: Send a letter to the Nobel Committee nominating Malala for the Nobel Peace Prize

On October 9, 2012, 15-year old Malala Yusufzai was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman in response to her campaign against the destruction of girls schools in Pakistan. In the face of terror, Malala risked her life to speak out for the rights of girls everywhere. Malala’s bravery has sparked a global movement and we believe the Nobel Foundation should give her the Nobel Peace Prize.

The first step in this process is to get Malala nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Only certain people, like a Member of the National Assembly or an MPA are allowed put forward nominations. To make a major statement and to show that Pakistanis believe in Malala’s work, we need all Pakistani federal party leaders to unanimously nominate Malala for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Our work will be much enhanced if the Chief Ministers of the four provinces and individual MNAs and MPAs also sent letters to the Nobel Committee.

A Nobel Peace Prize for Malala will send a clear message that the world is watching and will support those who stand up for gender equality and universal human rights that includes the right of education for girls.

Worldwide support

While this petition was started in Canada by the Pakistani-Canadian writer Tarek Fatah, almost half the people who have signed the petition come from countries around the world.

My petition is there for the people in Pakistan to urge their own politcal leaders to nominate Malala.

The counter on this petition reflects the cumulative efforts of the original Canadian petition plus all those from around the world.

Nominators and endorsers so far:


Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Chairman, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP)
Bushra Gohar, Senior VP, Awami National Party (ANP)
Ibad Rehman, Patron, Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM)
Sherry Rehman, Pakistan’s ambassador to the USA
Najam Sethi, Editor of The Friday Times, Lahore
Nadeem Paracha, columnist, the daily DAWN, Karachi
Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, Academy Award winning film producer
Bakhtawar Bhutto-Zardari
Aseefa Bhutto-Zardari, Pakistan’s Ambassador for Polio Eradication

Please take a second and sign the petition by opening the page:

A national psyche of fear By Farahnaz Ispahani




From the day that Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto was assassinated, I have felt the escalation of the mindset of hate. Our country has been hijacked — not politically but through the psychology of hate and fear. It is obvious that those who cannot win the argument about contrasting visions for Pakistan try to intimidate others with the gun. The most recent example of this phenomenon was the armed attack on progressive activists Marvi Sirmed and Sirmed Manzoor. It was not an attack to kill but an attack to silence them.

I was born and raised in a country where it was rare to be asked your religion or about your religious practices. I attended a convent school where the nuns ensured that there was no way to tell whether a girl student was from a rich or poorer household. Our uniforms were strictly enforced and no jewellery or expensive shoes were allowed.

Some scholars say that what started, very soon after the death of the Quaid-e-Azam, was the use of Islam as a political tool and was later militarised and mainstreamed by Dictator Ziaul Haq, which has now become the tyrannising force in all aspects of daily life in Pakistan.

Today, regardless of whether one is Sunni, Shia, Ahmadi, Christian, Hindu or Parsi, he sends his children to school worried, every day. People are careful at workplaces about sharing their personal beliefs. Since 1989, 4,051 people have been killed in 2,800 incidents of sectarian terrorism up until October 2012, according to the South Asia Terrorism Portal database. Most of those were targeted killings.

The majority of Pakistanis may not subscribe to it but a national psyche of fear that has been mainstreamed into every aspect of our lives has become almost overwhelming. We are constantly fed conspiracy theories so that we fear foreign powers or the beliefs of others. It is as if our sect, our ethnic group, our nation or our religion is constantly under attack and we must fear and attack the ‘other’ before being attacked ourselves. The fight to regain control of our lives is on. Whether it is the establishment or the Sipah-e-Sahaba, the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi or the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, there is a constant source of violence in our midst. Our lives are no longer ours to live.

The manifestations of the rising violence and the accompanying fear it generates are many: the rise in incidents of blasphemy cases; the violent and sometimes armed mobs that mysteriously appear outside a school in Lahore over a teacher’s alleged blasphemy; the threats against young Rimsha Masih; the killing of Ahmadis with impunity all over Pakistan; the targeted killing of Shias from Karachi to Quetta to Parachinar and Dera Ismail Khan in what is becoming a virtual genocide. The attackers are almost never apprehended. Even if the state manages to arrest the perpetrators, they are out on bail before you know it and yet, those accused of blasphemy or murdered for simply being Shia receive no justice.

As a child and later as a teenager, Sunni friends would occasionally attend majlises with us during Muharram. Today, when I go to an imambargah in Karachi, police trucks, metal detectors and youth guards serve as a reminder of the looming threats.

The deafening silence of the political class over the killing of Salmaan Taseer should have been a wakeup call that mobilised the nation but where were the leaders?

Chairman of the  PPP, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, was the only politician who publicly condemned Governor Taseer’s murder and in the case of Malala Yousufzai, again it was only Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and MQM leader Altaf Hussain and his party that spoke out strongly.

What is the answer then? Do we continue to be killed or intimidated into silence? No. It is time to hold our leadership accountable. As every Pakistani knows, the civilian government is easy to blame. But, until the military and intelligence services round up, disarm and put away the terrorists and the courts comply and refuse them bail, things will not change.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 13th, 2012.