Ethan Casey discusses Pakistan: Its People and Future.
In the post 9/11 world, The Islamic Republic of Pakistan and General Pervez Musharraf have been described by the United States as partners of the U.S.-led "war on terror", but Pakistan's future is increasingly uncertain. The President-General, having vowed to restore democracy in upcoming elections, faces formidable rivals in two previously exiled prime ministers, Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, who are attempting to return. Pakistan's conflict with India over the disputed region of Kashmir remains unresolved. From a Western perspective Pakistan's future seems unstable and fraught, but how do Pakistanis feel about their country and its future?- World Affairs Council of Oregon
Ethan Casey is an American print and online journalist who has written or edited five books. He was founding editor of the online global affairs magazine BlueEar.com (1999-2005) and is founding co-editor of PakCast (2006-), a weekly podcast about Pakistan's relations with the West.
Casey's work has appeared in many periodicals, such as The Guardian, the Financial Times, The Boston Globe, and Geographical Magazine. He has reported from diverse locales, including Haiti, Zimbabwe, Nepal, and Pakistan, and has lived in Bangkok and London for long periods.
Casey graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1987. His first book, which he co-wrote with journalist Michael Betzold, was Queen of Diamonds: The Tiger Stadium Story (1991, reprinted 1997). The book chronicled the history of Tiger Stadium and the efforts of Detroit Tigers fans to save it. From 1993 to 1998, Casey worked as a journalist in Bangkok, covering stories throughout the region for The Globe and Mail, the South China Morning Post, and Outlook magazine, among other publications. He later lived for several years in London, where he launched the online periodical and discussion community BlueEar.com. While serving as editor of BlueEar.com, Casey edited or co-edited three books: 09/11 8:48 am: Documenting America's Greatest Tragedy (2001), Dispatches From A Wounded World (2001), and Peace Fire: Fragments from the Israel-Palestine Story (2002).
During the 2003-04 academic year, Casey taught at the newly-founded School of Media and Communication at Beaconhouse National University in Lahore. He has also given lectures at other institutions including Yale, Harvard, the University of Texas, and the Royal Geographical Society. During the 2000s Casey also wrote columns for the English-language Pakistani newspapers The News and the Daily Times. By 2006, Casey had moved to Seattle, where he launched the podcast series PakCast in collaboration with Pakistan-born software entrepreneur Nasir Aziz.
Maria Wulff is president of the World Affairs Council of Oregon.
She was formerly director of business assistance at the International Trade Institute and managing director of an import company producing custom products in Asia for worldwide distribution. She was founder and president of the East West Business Association and serves on a number of civic boards.
She holds degrees in History, International Relations, and Business from Portland State University, the University of Zagreb in Croatia, and Harvard University.
Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. It's lovely to see all of you here today in the festive call of theUniversity Club. Thank you for braving the stormy weather to to be with us today to hear about thismost interesting subject. You may have noticed our speaker here at the head table writing - not on hiscloth napkin, but on a piece of scratch paper, rewriting his speech because things change literally every30 seconds in Pakistan. So I am sure we are getting up to the minute account.I am Maria Wulff, President of World Affairs Council. In fact Ethan has decided to not speak as longas he originally plan which is about half an hour, and to cut it little shorter because anticipating a lot ofquestions that you can be thinking about those well about the talks that this just go out. Yes, is thatokay? Technologically challenged as always. Okay Ethan Casey has covered South East Asia and theSubcontinents since 1993 he is being based in Bangkok, London and most recently Seattle. He was afounding Faculty member of the School of Media and Communication at Beaconhouse NationalUniversity in Lahore in 2003-2004, and traveled throughout Pakistan, India and Kashmir State between1994 and 1999. He has compiled his experiences in a book 'Alive and Well in Pakistan: A HumanJourney in a Dangerous Time', which mostly Hammed had praised as 'the insights of a singular cleareyed and humane traveler and intelligent and compelling book'. This is what it looks like and bycoincidence we have it first sale outside and Ethan to be happy to write his name in it or what ever youwould like after his lecture todayEthan is a graduate of University of Wisconsin, and has written for many distinguished newspapers inputting the financial times, the Boston Globe, The Hong Kong South China Morning Post. He iscurrently working on a documentary film called 'Musharraf: Man of crisis' indeed. Ethan has alsoaddressed all kinds of audiences at you know to ideal in schools of various sorts but perhaps moreinterestingly The Royal Geographical Society and The Pakistan High Commission to UK. I think thatthis is really unique man on the street perspective of what is going on today is something that's - that'sa special opportunity for us. So please join me in welcoming Ethan CaseyThank you Maria for the very gracious introduction and thank all of you for for the interest. I have aglass a glass of water that I needed to put on a horizontal surface and its not safe, so I its alwaysvery interesting to me to be speaking to a group like this because where I really belong is on the street,and and and I I feel and especially on the street in in Asia and that's where I intend to be againsoon. People have been asking me lately why aren't you there now, which I don't really have a goodanswer for that but I think the documentary film will get me there sometime next next year. I amgoing to read something first and then make a few remarks about about the context in which I I amspeaking and reporting about Pakistan these days and then tell you little bit about the background ofmy own exposure to Pakistan over the past almost 15 years now and then as Maria as said I think I willkeep my remarks relatively informal and short, because I anticipate as as as happened in few recenttalks I have given that there is - people have many questions and also also views to share and I hopewe can do that today as much as you like to doI am just going to read something very short that somebody wrote about a decade ago. Well, I just gaveit away. I am going to read some thing short. 'Some ugly specters are hunting Pakistan these days, thespecter of an ugly and to the current government, violence and certain chaos even perhaps in Islamicrevolution. Recent events have let many to wonder if a major up evil is growing in Pakistan'. Well yessurely something along those lines is indeed on the cards that I am ashamed to say that I wrote thosewords in 1996, and they were published as a- as an unsigned leader editorial in the Bangkok PostNewspaper on the day that Benazir Bhutto second elected government fell when the day of BenazirBhutto fell from power as Prime Minister for second time in November 1996. Those words have beenproven wrong. That - and in today's context, I I am not going to predict how unstable the currentsituation is today in Pakistan but I I will caution everyone who is paying attention to the situationthere. That often things that seem more unstable and dangerous than they turn out to be, and sometimesthat's by sheer luck, it is constant as as one author put it comic opera. The comic opera of Pakistanipolitics is is a great and I think the very telling phrase, nothing is ever quiet as it seems there are allsorts of vested interests there is a lot of grand standing, there is a plenty of hypocrisy to go around onall sides, no one is entirely in the right. And so that's that's a big cheviot that I would offer about thecurrent situation in PakistanThe other thing I would say is that it's not about the War on terror. There was a time as many of us -most of us hopefully remember when there was no War on terror. When I first went to Pakistan in1995, that's wasn't the phrase and it wasn't the framing, it wasn't the defining frame of the Pakistanstory. In fact people wont really paying attention to Pakistan much of the time. And when I went there Iwas a young guy just went there on my own reconnaissance on the ground and and to my goodfortune and perhaps to my credit, I I learned about Pakistan in it's own terms at the ground levelbefore it became one of the vehicles for for some very fought propaganda wars. A friend of mine,Anthony Davis is a very distinguished and very experienced journalist with a lot of experience inAfghanistan, similarly very telling story, he was in Kabul when the President was hanged in September'96 when the when the Taliban took over Kabul, and and Anthony at the time was writing for AsiaWeek Magazine which no longer exists, but it was at the time a major news weekly based in HongKong, further further region for Asia and he had to do battle with his own editors just to get the storyof the of the Taliban taking Kabul into Asia Week Magazine. He had he really had to do battle withhis own editors and and he was very disgusted by that. And you know, time has vindicated him, butthat doesn't really help you at the time if you are a working journalist trying to make a living as free lancerSo, on a similar way I would say that I would tell you that I was speaking to a Pakistani contact inSan Francisco last night in the car on the way down here, and we were talking about the documentaryfilm that I am I am beginning to work on. And he he said something that I hear a lot of Pakistanisay and I speak to many Pakistani groups these days. He said you know, he get so frustrated when he isas a Pakistani living in America, which I think he has lived here for 15 years or something, he isalways having to represent the country and he has I think represented in the terms of this War on terrordialogue or or frame. He said the currently he said the current situation is a domestic story it's notabout the War on terror. And I think I would agree with him about that. So I have a challenge when Ispeak these days I speak to a lot of Pakistani groups as well as American groups like this one WorldAffairs Council and another groups and I find as I said to Maria earlier you know, sometimes withindays I would speak to a Pakistani audience and then I turn around as I did to know about ten days agoand two days later I speak to American audience, its disorienting for me because the the mentaluniverse of the two different kinds of audience is are so different and perhaps that something that wecan say about - talk about as well. I think you might be interested inI have always wanted to tell the story of Pakistan in its own terms going back to, when I first went toJammu and Kashmir in 1994 and then through that I became interested in Pakistan in its own right. Iwanted I didn't I was fortunate enough to be in under the radar and under before the the topic gotforth as as it has been. And I have always wanted to write about it with sympathy and with an ethic oflistening to the people and make meet on the ground. That's something that I have always tried to makein formal on my reporting, and that's that's the tone that I tried to take in the book and that that weare going to have with the documentary film as well which of course is not that you cant talk about theWar on terror, the context of the War on terror in which Pakistan fits. And it's also not to say thatPakistan is a perfect country. It certainly its not it's a highly flowed country. Its one of the mostdysfunctional countries in the world, and yet I would turn around and say it also has it has a bit of steelat the core of it and not only is that is that the army, but that's the I think very admirable patriotismthat Pakistanis have the the loyalty that they have to their own country, and is much as they feudamong themselves. There is there is a unity of purpose there that I think is admirable and its patrioticand that helps the country hold together despite all its great lossSo tell you just a little bit about my own background covering Pakistan. I in 1993 I have reallywhimsically went off to Asia to make my fortune as a as a journalist, I was naive enough to think thatI can make a living doing that. We landed a job as a Copy Editor at the Bangkok Post, which is themajor English language newspaper in South East Asia. And quickly within a few months got verybored because there is all sorts of really interesting stuff happening in Cambodia and Burma at the timeyou know, one hour flight away from Bangkok and I was stuck in an air conditioned office editing wirecopy. So I quit and I went off to India. Two things led me to India.One was that I was enamored of V S Naipaul, the problematic yet fascinating Caribbean/Indian/BritishWriter who won the Noble Prize a few years ago. His - Naipaul's first book about India 'An area ofdarkness' is I think a master piece published in 1964 covering events during nonfiction books, coveringevents while he was living in India in 1962 having gone there for there for the first time at age 29. Inthe middle section of that detects the summer that he spend in Srinagar and Jammu and Kashmir andit's very evocative, its - I think some some of the best writing that Naipaul has ever done andcertainly some of the best travel writing at the last half century that particular section of 'An area ofdarkness', and so I was young and callow and naive and ambitious. And I wanted to meet the peoplethat Naipaul had met, the actual people. And the second thing that was happening was that various ofsiege, the Indian army was besieging a Mosque called Hasrat Bal Mosque in Srinagar. And this was amajor event at that time in in the history of the Kashmir dispute and the Kashmir uprising that hadhad erupted in few years earlier. And so I wanted to see that for myself. So I went off to India and Iwent to Kashmir and I spent a total of two months on the ground there in 1994 and '95 meeting lots ofpeople on the ground learning about the Kashmir dispute from the ground. And then - and also talkingto people in India about it, and as well as traveling else where in India, and then it dawned on me in '95that at the time I was ambitious to write a book about Kashmir. A lot of time I am going to write a bookabout Kashmir, I need to go to Pakistan and as a matter of fairness and also just to see the situationfrom that perspective to see itI think many in many journalists covering the subcontinent suffered from being based in Delhi. Andthere may be flight to Islamabad or to Lahore to do a story then they go back to Delhi where they liveand most of their friendships and their connections and their contacts really are India based. So theirperspective is skewed, understandably but I think regrettably by the effect that they are based in India. Ialways wanted to resist that. I think it has something to do with growing up in Wisconsin and aresenting the fact that Chicago is so much bigger and more important than Milwaukee. So I went off toPakistan and saw it for myself. And then of course became much more interested in Pakistan and itsown right. I have the good fortune then I have to spend several months in Pakistan in 1999 which is -was a very problematic and it tends - politically tenth year in Pakistan. There is a cargo that many warbetween Pakistan and India in May to July to summer. That was really a crisis moment of one of many,early in the year when I was there in January and February, Nawaz Sheriff who is the Prime Minister atthe time was I think - I will content and perhaps some of you might disagree with me and I hope it will if you do.He was digging his own grave. He was he was taking on and every other political institution in thecountry and with the press the National Assembly he was sending - he send his own armed goons tophysically intermediate the supreme court. He his people have ducted important journalists and thenfor the second time in twelve months he dismissed the Army Chief, which he was constitutionallyentitled to do but I think if you know anything about the history of Pakistan you might agree with methat's not such a good idea even if you are allowed to do at the constitution. In the second time he didit, the Army Chief that he dismissed was was Musharraf. And the army wasn't going to stand for thatand that's when the coup of October 12th 1999 happened, harrowing yet bloodless coup. So I wasn'tthere for the coup but I was there not a quite bit earlier that year, and when the coup happened Iconsidered myself fortunate to been there only a few months previous. And then I went back to Londonwhere I was living at the time and went on about my business, you cant keep up sustained attention onany one country if you are free lanced journalist and if there isn't a crisis in that country. You have togo where the crisis are. But then in 2003 the Beaconhouse National University was launched, and I gotan email from a Pakistani friend saying that there is this new university that's been started by this elitevery very interesting elite public school - elite private school system in Pakistan, and they are startinga university and do you know anybody who might like to teach there. And I said oh yeah. And I signedup and I got you know, paid modestly but they paid my way there and and it was a great opportunityto spend a sustained period there on the ground five months, I was there from September 2003 to February 2004.And that experience was valuable to me for a couple of reasons, one that all my previous experience ofPakistan had been what we now refer to as before before 9/11. I was able to live and work in Pakistanafter 9/11 and to see what it changed and what had not changed and that I think that for me was afascinating and valuable experience. And it also allowed me to close really kind of close this circle. II felt that you know, at that point that was about a decade of my life that I have given to to payingattention to Pakistan, and I was able to you know, not to put the final force stopped the experiencecertainly, but similar call by referring back to my own earlier experiences and then renewing it andrefreshing it by by living there and developing friendships and connections, and and getting toknow the country in I think in a deeper way than I known it before. And of course that that theexpression of that was my book. And again just the post script to that is that my hope is to go againnext year for the purpose of this documentary film. I am going to say one thing about my ethic of ofjournalism and then I think it would be great if we can have a discussion about anything that interests any of you.I never have worked as an institutional journalist I have never been I have never been a staff reporterfor any newspaper the only newspaper staff that I have never been on was the Bangkok Post. I havenever worked in worked for an American Newspaper except as a freelance stringer based in Asia. Ithink that's again to my benefit as as a practitioner because even though there was not much moneyin the way I have done it, its you develop a sense of intellectual and moral honesty based on on thekind of, based on giving you reporting, infusing your reporting with which you actually experience onthe ground. And a little bit of a pugnacious attitude to towards the institutions of of journalism, whichI think is benefits journalism. I consider journalism to be a personal vocation, its not it's it's anvocation like the pre starter or like the law on the dentistry it's not just something you do for money,which is good because I have never made much money doing it. In in Asia you cannot say people arepuzzled if you tell them you have no religion. So when people would ask me - Asian people would askme what's your religion I started saying my religion is journalism.The journalism is my way of trying to understand and learn about the world as one of my mentors androle model, James Fellows says "Journalism is a way to get paid to learn" and I think that's awonderful way to put it and that's really is the privilege of journalist. And another of my role models isgreat now Late British journalist named Gavin Young, very fine international reporter for the Observerback when that newspaper was was a great paper said that he fell into journalism the way that adrunken man falls into a pond, and he found that after decades after having falling into that pond hehe realized that really was a street calling and as as bitter and and annoyed as I have been by thefrustrations of my work over the years I have no regrets about that. And I and and I believe thatpeople should be out there doing the kind of reporting, getting the stories out in the world and bringingthem back in whatever form that is whether its news articles, blogs, books, films and that's what I triedto do and sort of what I try to do about Pakistan. So thank you very much and and please that's all Ihave to say in terms of prepared remarks, so please please say what you have got to say and I canrepeat questions since I have microphone and you don't and I can repeat them for the audience yeah.