by Imran H. Khan

timeWe in the Pakistani American community have been deeply troubled by the attempt by one of its new member to bomb the Time Square. Pakistani American community is a well to do community; as was this perpetrator. Faisal does not fit the typical profile of these kinds of criminals. Before we start talking about putting out the correct responses within our society to stop this in future; we need to learn more about what made Faisal undertake such a mission.

Some of the brute force and shot gun approaches that are being suggested, like aggressive screening of airline passengers alienate the very people that we need to improve the relations between the two countries. I think this is a good opportunity to stress on Pakistani leadership to clean up their act and to provide them assistance in doing it. If they are unwilling to do it, then it is time to tell them “Lead, Follow or Get out of the Way”.

The current approach of firing missiles from 10,000 ft into civilian houses in Pakistan with the associated human carnage only makes it difficult for the Pakistani leadership to do what is right; not only for them but also the rest of the world, and US in particular.

What people like Faisal have proven that the Pakistani American community can no longer be casual about what happens within it. It needs to vigilante to unusual behavior amongst its members that could possibly result in another Faisal. We also need to urge the US government to form a policy in the region that has some chance of successfully stabilizing the region. The current approach of sending too few troops to manage Afghan security only embolden the Taliban. Similarly conducting drone strikes with “collateral damage” is morally reprehensible and only creates more Pakistanis with anti US feelings. You can read more about my views on the subject here.

There is a need for regional approach to that region’s security.

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4 Responses to “Responsible Response to the Time Square Bomber”

  1. Izaz Haque on May 7th, 2010 1:10 am

    Imran, thank you for posting this. We all need to have a conversation on this. I’m hoping we’ll get a real discussion on this board.

    I find my personal experience is light years from this guy. So looking for anything more than a common label – Pakistani American – is futile. But his actions, regardless, taint us all. Thats the unfortunate part. While I find no conflict in being Muslim, Pakistani, and American all at the same time, this guy seems to have had not only a conflict, but was willing to sacrifice his own life and the lives of many others, and his life with his wife and two kids, all for what? It boggles the mind.

    So lets just take this for what it is…a confused mind, a mental case dominated by some extreme emotion that took him to such lengths, a criminal caught in a spin of his own making. I wouldn’t be surprised if he had a bipolar condition actually.

    If you read the Times today, they say many in his hometown think this is an American conspiracy to bomb them. We know the wildest conspiracy theories are rampant in Pakistan’s drawing room conversations all the time. For all i know, Faisal may have fallen victim to one of these. By refusing to acknowledge responsibility for its current state of affairs, Pakistan continues to pay a heavy price with its own.

  2. Mario Moreira on May 7th, 2010 1:54 pm

    You write “by the attempt by one of us to bomb the Time Square”. However, I would not consider this to be in the camp of “one of us”. I would be careful to align the modern Pakistani within the US with the unfortunate mental shift that this guy made when going back to Pakistan.

    From this sample of one, it appears that the modern vaneer of living in the US can easily be dissolved by manipulation from the back lands.

    And maybe this is one of the most important take-aways for parents is to avoid allowing your kids to have unescorted trips to the back lands of Pakistan.

  3. Imran on May 8th, 2010 3:51 pm

    I was forwarded a post by Dr. Pervez Hoodboy that can also be read at

    In it he writes
    Drone attacks have killed some innocents, but they have devastated militant operations in Waziristan while causing far less collateral damage than Pakistani artillery or airpower. On the other hand, the cities of Hanoi and Haiphong were carpet-bombed by B-52 bombers and Vietnam’s jungles were defoliated with Agent Orange. Yet, Vietnam never developed deep visceral feelings like those in Pakistan.

    He is completely towing the US govt. line for convenience. How does he know only some innocents have been killed? There are no reporters allowed on the ground. As far as I am concerned all claims to number of militants killed are concoctions as even the Pakistani military is not present in the areas.

    Secondly his assertion that drone attacks have caused less damage than Pakistani artillery or air power ignores the fact that these were made as part of close support to ground troops that were engaged against fire coming at them. The only time air support makes sense is in these kinds of operations. Even here utmost care must be taken to minimize excessive use of force. On the other hand, drones fly over large swathes of land creating a collective psychological punishment for all and physical mayhem for some. There is no validation that the target is genuinely valid.

    Thirdly he refers to US bombing of Vietnam and use of agent orange. This is wrong comparison as Vietnam was at war with the US and they were getting back at the US with their military power. Both these strategies failed to get the desired results and only galvanized Vietnamese resolve against the US. The world thought less of US and it harmed US vets who can still be found suffering the consequences.

  4. Imran on May 8th, 2010 4:06 pm

    I put up a question on one of the discussion groups with the following
    “Are CIA drone operators guilty of war crimes in Pakistan?

    David Glazier, a professor from Loyola law school in Los Angeles, California, warned that “any CIA personnel who participate in this armed conflict run the risk of being prosecuted under the national laws of the places where [the combat actions] take place.” CIA personnel, he said, could be guilty of war crimes.

    And I got some interesting responses that I am putting up for a more general discussion and introspection.
    If Pakistan and Yemen are regarded as neutrals in a war between the US and Al Qaeda, then indeed air strikes on their territory would be a technical violation of the Hague V convention of 1907 on the RIghts and Duties of Neutral Powers. Calling it a “war crime” is a little extreme; that language is usually used for serious violations like murdering prisoners. Also, Pakistan and Yemen have not fulfilled their obligations as neutrals under the same convention to prevent use of their territory by a belligerant, so it seems to me that they are not entitled to the protections of neutrality.

    Certainly the air strikes might be illegal under Pakistani or Yemeni law, and the aircraft operators liable to prosecution if detained in those countries. The same would be true of undercover CIA officers operating in those countries. Those are the risks of the business.
    1. Can the war against Al Qaeda be considered as a war according to international laws? I believe the laws and conventions of waging wars are limited to conflicts between countries. Obviously, 21st century conflicts are different then the ones envisioned by those writing the laws and conventions in the 20th century, when it was not conceivable that non-state organizations will perform massive attacks against nations. IMHO, the current laws and conventions are inapplicable to this case, and probably should be changed.
    2. In this context, why should attacks on Al Qaeda combatants in Afghanistan and Iraq be considered as “legal” while attacks on the same combatants become “illegal” when they flee to Pakistan? These are the same combatants, and if a country is too weak to deal with them (e.g. Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia) or in some contexts is an accomplice to these organizations (e.g. pre-2001 Afghanistan or Lebanon in the case of Hezbollah) then attacks in these countries make sense. The problem is that it is debatable whether a country is too weak, an accomplice, or simply reluctant to clam down on terrorist organizations. It should also be noted that even the mere definition of a terrorist organization is debatable in the world, e.g. Hezbollah or Hamas, which only parts of the world define as terrorist organizations.
    3. The next topic is the ability to sue a specific soldier for a certain attack, and whether this soldier should be held accountable for their actions if performed as a result of an order. I believe that soldiers should exercise some thinking before following orders. We don’t want soldiers saying they were “only following orders” after a massacre or genocide. Hopefully, this excuse died in 1945. Even if the government should be accountable (and it should) for any attacks, it doesn’t mean that soldiers are not accountable as well.
    4. I really can’t see a difference between a UAV operator and a pilot of a manned aircraft. Both are accountable in exactly the same way for similar actions. If manned aircrafts were used in Pakistan or Yemen the same rules would apply to their pilots, and therefore vice versa.
    5. Finally, I feel encouraged by the fact that a discussion about the legality of actions in wars against terrorist organizations is starting. I hope that debates like this will eventually culminate in updates to some archaic international laws about wars, conflicts and the ability to deal with combatants hiding within civilian population. Perhaps changing the rules of these wars will also help in winning this war and expedite bringing some peace to our societies, which, I believe, is a goal we all share.