Friday, November 19, 2010

COMMENT:So what on earth do we do with Afghanistan?

A British Army doctor named Henry Walter Bellew wrote these words after spending a fair bit of time in Kandahar and Kabul:

Now that our armies are in possession of Kandahar and Kabul ... the question arises, what are we to do with the country heretofore governed from these seats of authority, and latterly in the possession of the Ruler seated at Kabul.

We run the show. What do we do? How do we run it?

The question is one which must before very long be answered by the logic of accomplished facts, consequent on the stern demands of necessity more than of mere policy.

We have to figure this out. It isn't enough to just conquer and hope for the best. We need to have some kind of strategy, some direction that we can develop with (if not impose upon) the people of the country.

For having, as we have now done, completely destroyed the authority and government of the tyrannous and treacherous ... Rulers, whose power it has been our policy to maintain and strengthen during the past quarter of a century, it is now incredible that we shall deliberately abandon the vantage ground gained, ignore the great danger we have now thereby staved off, and leave the country a prey to internal anarchy ...

We put these kinds of people in power in the first place. They were our tyrants. We protected their power. And now?

In case you're wondering, the good doctor was writing from Lahore. In 1880. Yep, some things just don't change.

It's all in a fascinating book entitled The Races Of Afghanistan Being A Brief Account Of The Principal Nations Inhabiting That Country.

Words © 2010 Irfan Yusuf

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MEDIA: The perils of working for Today Tonight ...

It's Christmas time. Well, not quite. It's Muslim Christmas time. The Arabs call it Eid al-Adha. The Indonesians call it Hari Rayah Haji. The Turks call it Qurban Bayram. In my parents' part of the world, they call it Baqarah Eid.

It's all about God asking Abraham to sacrifice his som. And this afternoon, I received a phone call from Channel 7's Today Tonight to sacrifice my credibility.

I feel sorry for the producer who telephoned my parents' private number at around 1pm today. She sounded nice. I think her name was Naomi. Or was it Natalie? I recall her surname. My Indian mum with limited English skills immediately recognised her surname as Indian and was happy to talk to her.

Anyway, mum put me through to her. It just so happened that I was in Sydney, visiting my parents for Eid. I talk to the producer (let's call her Sita, a nice Indian name which is also the name of Lord Rama's bride). Our conversation went something like this:

SITA: Hi Irfan. My name is Sita from Today Tonight. How are you?

ME: Aw yeah.

SITA: I'm not sure if you read that story in the Daily Telegraph about some lady in a burqa pulled over who claimed to police they were being racist.

ME: I actually don't read the Daily Telegraph. I prefer to read Australian newspapers.

SITA: Look, I know many people don't read it. I have to read it for work.

ME: Poor you.

SITA: We wanted to give a voice to people in the community who have views on this issue. I know you've spoken out in the past. We don't want to have the usual types like Keysar Trad. We want people with credibility.

ME: With all due respect to you, and please don't take this personally, why would people with credibility wish to appear on Today Tonight? It is a show with no journalistic credibility whatsoever.

SITA: Listen, I know that many people have similar views on the show. Can you recommend anyone?

ME: For a joke, yes I do.

I really felt sorry for Sita. If her goal really is to get to the bottom of this and provide a voice for alternative voices, I hope she succeeds. But if she ends up producing the same kind of racist mysoginistic tabloid tribe Today Tonight is famous for, I hope she is kidnapped by the 10-headed monster-king Ravanna and taken to Lanka for 1,000 years.