Some friends roll up their eyes or look at me strange when I tell them that President Vladimir Putin and General Raheel Sharif are heroes of our time. To some of them, it is silly to view actions of powerful individuals on the world stage as heroic or otherwise. Others usually find something cynical to say, or something to suggest that I could only be joking. And thus the conversation begins.
So, should we not even thank General Raheel Sharif for turning Pakistan around, 180 degrees from the edge of hell to finally face the light at the end of the tunnel? Should we not thank President Vladimir Putin for calling the world bully’s bluff? Should we not acknowledge greatness when we witness it? Even when it is obviously pushing our war-torn world, or parts of it, to a better peaceful place?
The cynics say there’s no need to make a big deal about General Raheel Sharif: He is paid to do his job and the same goes for the soldiers sacrificing and risking their lives and limb on various fronts fighting terrorists. They believe that the activation of Putin’s Russia on world stage would do little more than intensify the power tussle.
It’s just another great game with powerful players and no heroes, they say. To them, President Putin portends more wars rather than real change and General Raheel is just another army chief, better than his predecessors but not as great as the nation is hailing him to be.
Instead of feeling sad about my despondent friends stuck in this state of status-quo-friendly helplessness, I challenge them.
Where is it written that nothing really changes, that we must resign ourselves to live in a world without hope, without heroes who could change it? Of course, it suits the centers of privilege along with the multitude of individuals orbiting them, to paint monsters and heroes with sweeping hues of grey, blurring the distinction between them. If not demonized outright, the brilliance of anyone challenging imperial designs must be neutralized to appear as drab as everything else.
We live in a world where Nobel peace prizes, Oscars, Times Person of the Year awards and such politicized gimmicks have been made the measure of greatness. Glamorous showbiz celebrities with extravagant lifestyles and no substance are thrown around as role models.
Every screw has its designated place in the imperial machine and no one is allowed to throw a wrench in. Well, there are always some who do. To me, they are the heroes of our time.
General Raheel and President Putin are not the only ones, of course. Edward Snowden, Bradley Manning and Julian Assange did their bit by exposing the dirty secrets of the empire. Iraq has joined the Russian coalition in Syria and the Governor of Okinawa in Japan has revoked the permission to build a US military base in the province.
We have had Hugo Chavez, and many other reigning and emerging leaders are challenging the exploitative diktats of the empire. There are unions of teachers, nurses and labor as well as green activists fighting GMOs and Big Pharma in the US. The anti-war and anti-austerity groups in Europe are growing. They are all bringing the machine of corporate imperialism to a grinding halt by exposing and resisting it in their big and small ways and, as far as I’m concerned, they are all heroes of our time.
For us in Pakistan, General Raheel and President Putin are more significant, of course. They are successfully taking the wind out of the sails of militant proxies of the empire, the terrorists and insurgents that it nurtures and facilitates as a routine to spread chaos and violence around the world, changing regimes through ‘humanitarian’ interventions and turning functioning states into failed ones through subversion.
General Raheel’s role in saving us from that fate can’t be overstated. His leadership and resolve have been the guiding force in successfully countering militant proxies from FATA to Karachi to Balochistan. He is also the man responsible for bringing about the much-needed realignment, from the deathly embrace of the empire to our natural alliance with the China-Russia axis.
Our oh-so-democratic government was happy appeasing the terrorists as they martyred our citizens and soldiers. It would have joined the Saudi coalition to attack Yemen under the imperial umbrella and continued to play the Af-Pak game, promising to do more and talking about intelligence sharing with an empire out to get us. That would have surely taken us to hell as there is no turning around in the dark shadow of the empire.
President Putin has similarly overturned the terrorist applecart in Syria. By rescuing Crimea and its people from the engineered catastrophe in Ukraine and holding on to the Russian naval base there, he had already upset the imperial plans. He is now dismantling the infrastructure of terrorism engineered by the empire in the Middle East in association with its European allies, our royal Muslim brothers, Turkey and Israel. He is articulating a vision of the world that strikes at the heart of every facet of imperialism; military, economic and cultural.
It is a matter of time before the two anti-terrorism warriors turn their attention to Afghanistan and how its lawless territory is being used by the empire to export militant proxies not only to Pakistan and Iran but also to the Central Asian States, and the contiguous Muslim regions of China and Russia.
Russia is already cooperating with Iran in Syria and has strengthened counter-terrorism cooperation with Central Asian states including bases in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Pakistan and China are also working closely on countering terrorism emanating from Afghanistan. Together, these immediate neighbors of Afghanistan must push for an end to its occupation by the US. It would help them bring the warring factions to the table for reconciliation.
With their experience in fighting terrorists and dealing with the slippery empire, and given the stakes for Pakistan and Russia, President Putin and General Raheel are positioned to play a leading role in saving Afghanistan.
Source: The Nation