Sunday, April 30, 2006

Moonstone: What Dreams May Come

What follows is a vision of what lies ahead for the Middle East. This is my opinion and I present it before you.

As throngs of the faithful dutifully circled the Kaaba Sharif chanting the praises of the Blessed Lord an oppressive sun bore down upon them. In the alcoves that surround the periphery of the shrine, the old and young sheltered to regain their strength. As they stood in the shade their eyes briefly dwelt on a spectacle not too distant from the shrine, a shimmering needle of concrete and steel that shot upwards into the heavens. Vistors to the two thousand year old shrine could scarely miss the newcomer. A full 2000 feet high, designed by French architects and built by Askari Construction Corporation of Karachi, Pakistan - the Nishan was a testament to human genius and will. Its mere presence sent a wave of confidence throught the followers of the light that theirs' was not blighted world, an archaic form of worship withering away in the face of modernity but a faith imbued with raw substance that could create miracles even in this age.

Atop the Nishan, in the holiest of cities, sat Mohammed Akhtar Khan, the president of the omnipresent Al Khidmat Bank, the Kingdom's largest financial entity. As Mohammed Akhtar stared out his window, a rare wayward cloud from the Red Sea fluttered briefly inland and blocked his view of the Holy Haram. As the cloud gently swivelled over the shrine, is wisps lent an almost magical quality to the shrine. Ever so slowly Mohammed Akhtar Khan's eyes misted too.

A few decades ago, this would have all seemed a mere phantasm. And yet, it had happened all so quickly. In less than a century, Pakistan had catapulted from obscurity to the forefront of a new world order.

For a good fifty years after its birth the Nation of the Pure had found itself locked in mortal combat with the Hindus of India. The Hindus with their secularism and international showmanship had almost drowned the Castle of Islam. In those terrible times Pakistanis rich and poor struggled to make ends meet and constantly questioned their faith. Yet despite the travails a series of strong minded thinkers had arisen in the land and carefully charted a path for the Islamic Republic. It was these strong minds that had invested in Pakistan's quest for nuclear power and single mindedly pursued it regardless of its costs. By carefully leveraging its support to the West, the Pakistanis had built a sizable nuclear capability. The quest had brought the national economy to near collapse but in the end, strategy had prevailed and heroin - the opiate of the modern Western masses - had saved Pakistan.

By the late 1990s, Pakistan had emerged as the center of a huge nuclear black market capable of delivering from a wide menu of nuclear options. From this point on, Pakistan would never be short of anything. It was no surprise when a decade or so later, the dreaded Hindu India gave up without a fight and the Shaheen - the spirit of Pakistan - soared majestically. Pakistan was no longer a failed state but rather the fulcrum of the Greater Middle East.

The Middle Eastern states which had initially ignored Pakistan and treated it like a unwanted member of the Islamic family now saw Pakistan's obvious strength and sought out alliances with it. The misbelievers of Iran had proved to be easy pickings, their precious revolution against America had left them with everlasting paranoia. They were attracted to idea of possessing nuclear weapons like moths to fire. When they approached Pakistan, so the did the protectors of the Holy Harams. After they came, it was only a matter of time before the all the rulers in the Middle East lined up.

One after another middle eastern rulers, unable to cope with the challenges of running a modern polity in their nations, sought a nuclear amulet to wear. They believed that the nuclear ornament would scare their people into subservience, and their enemies away. With each ornament they purchased from Pakistan, they bartered away their soverignity.

A few brave rulers in the Middle East had dared to seek alternatives to nuclear trade with Pakistan, but the Islamist radicalism urged by Ayman Al Zawahiri and Osama Bin Laden's speeches instantly labelled them as being apostates and collaborators of the United States. A great many were slaughtered by their own kin and the remainder died at the hands of "Al Qaeeda" assasins. Perhaps the chiefs of the intelligence services of the Middle East failed to make a correlation between the fact that whenever a ruler of a Middle Eastern country did something to upset Pakistan, Osama Bin Laden issued a fatwa calling for his assasination. Perhaps they also missed that the death warrants issued the Al Qaida leaders were always delivered from a Pakistani source. It didn't really matter now, one by one the dominos fell and the Middle East became a Pakistani protectorate.

The social dominance of the Pakistanis had taken a tad bit longer. What had begun as an obscure sub-committee, the Technical Support Working Group, of the Organization of Islamic Countries had gradually reinvented itself as the Security Council of the OIC. This Pakistan dominated body had quickly leveraged its military presence around the Holy Harems and security for Islamic conferences to ensure that graduates of Pakistani Islamic schools were given a place of priority. Gradually most Islamic conferences held in the holy cities were a Pakistani affair. Slowly the leadership of the faith had passed in to Pakistani hands. In the lands of Islam, financial systems and industries could only follow where faith would lead them.

Mohammed Akhtar Khan's reverie was interrupted by his manservant's sudden entrance. Abdal bin Qasim bin Saud had just brought Mohammed Akhtar some tea. As the well dressed Arab carefully adjusted his traditional turban and poured out the tea into a china cup, Mohammed's secretary, the refreshingly beautiful and shapely Noora al-Mansoor, stood framed in the door asking him if he wanted lunch early today. Mohammed mumbled his assent, but eyed the two young Saudis before him carefully.

"Friends not Masters..." the great General Ayub Khan had said, ... well that has certainly changed though Mohammed, he recalled is mentor the late Agha Hassan Abedi and wondered what he would have thought of all this.

"Masters not Friends.." though Mohammed..."Masters..."

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