EDITORIAL: Fazlur Rehman targeted
April 01, 2011
Even though terror attacks in Pakistan have become routine, their shock remains a fact of life. The latest attacks, though, have reached new heights. The target of two attacks in less than 24 hours is none other than the ‘father’ of hardline and militant Islam in Pakistan: Maulana Fazlur Rehman. On Wednesday, the convoy of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl (JUI-F) was ripped through by a suicide bomber on the Peshawar-Islamabad motorway near Swabi in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The JUI-F leader got away unharmed but 13 died and 21 were injured. Yesterday, this same convoy — which was on a contact drive — was targeted by another suicide bomber in Charsadda, killing another 12 people. Again Fazlur Rehman survived the attack but he has now been made painfully aware of the fact that someone has it in for him.
At first glance, it seems quite inconceivable that the militants would target a leader and his party whose ideas are congruous with those of the terrorists. Maulana Fazlur Rehman has always supported the ideology and cause of the militants who have been attacking Pakistan’s security establishment, minorities, shrines and people of liberal views. However, it is slowly becoming apparent that the extremists are a breed apart, one that is now beginning to turn on its benefactors of yesteryear. Colonel Imam, who was at one time known as the ‘godfather of the Taliban’, was brutally executed some time ago by the same militants he had helped nurture in the 1990s. Now, it seems as if the Maulana is in their crosshairs.
It is the classic case of the rebellious child turning on its ‘parents’. The latter too are beginning to realise that the monsters they have nurtured are now challenging the writ of the Pakistan state instead of confining themselves to the struggle in Afghanistan. The child of militancy belongs to no one and will continue to bite the hand that once fed it if concrete action is not taken to wipe it out. These two assassination attempts on JUI-F’s chief — even a hardliner like Fazl might be considered too soft by the militants — are proof that the terrorists are now turning on their masters; it is up to the fathers and godfathers to obliterate the Frankenstein monsters they have created.
The JUI's cre3ations are now targeting him, the army's creations on the Eastern side are now targeting the army -- What gives??
The piece above offers it's take : iIt's interesting, to me, that nowhere in the above piece does one come away with the sense that it's a change in state policies that has now made the radicals understand that this Pakistan is empty, hollow and their for the taking. It's unreasonable to suggest that they just woke up one day and decided to bite the hand that feeds them.t is slowly becoming apparent that the extremists are a breed apart, one that is now beginning to turn on its benefactors of yesteryear. Colonel Imam, who was at one time known as the ‘godfather of the Taliban’, was brutally executed some time ago by the same militants he had helped nurture in the 1990s. Now, it seems as if the Maulana is in their crosshairs.
It is the classic case of the rebellious child turning on its ‘parents’. The latter too are beginning to realise that the monsters they have nurtured are now challenging the writ of the Pakistan state instead of confining themselves to the struggle in Afghanistan. The child of militancy belongs to no one and will continue to bite the hand that once fed it if
Then of course there is the perennial conspiracy stories that Pakistanis find endlessly appealing - The Islamic extremists are CIA and US, India, Israel, Iranian or some combination thereof -- truth hurts and young Pakistanis, without alcohol, sex or drugs, learn to cope best they can.
VIEW: Dealings with the devil
Gulmina Bilal Ahmad
April 01, 2011
With all the hype about counter terrorism these days, the formulation of winning strategies and how we have curtailed extremism successfully, there is still a lot of doubt if this is the real situation on the ground. If one only takes a stroll through any sector in the federal capital of Islamabad, the horrors of the prevalent circumstances dawn upon us. The capital is filled with posters and placards put there by Hizb ut-Tahrir (HuT), calling for a “Caliphate” and overthrow of a legitimate and democratic regime. For anyone not familiar with HuT, this is an internationally banned organisation. The eerily long time these placards have stayed on display gives the impression that no one is ready to challenge them. This is all taking place in a city where no banner can be displayed without administrative approval. Similarly, the donation box at a grocery store, in which customers generously donate their loose change, may on careful examination belong to some banned outfit or an organisation affiliated to it. The blood of Shahbaz Bhatti and Salmaan Taseer is still fresh, along with the numerous other innocent Pakistanis who die every day due to terrorist-related violence and our citizens themselves seem to be arming them with their money. Our state and policy circles are unaware that the extremists have not been curtailed in northwest Pakistan but have actually infiltrated the capital under the guise of saviours.
With millions of dollars of international aid flowing into the country in the name of countering terrorism, it is surprising that our country is standing at the same juncture where it was a decade ago. Our people still believe that we have been fighting a war sponsored by the US and the west against our own brethren. Our people blame “hidden hands” and “foreign powers” for any untoward incident (including the floods and earthquake), rationalising that they are out to destabilise Pakistan. We are still distinguishing between terrorists, even at policy level, and categorising them as friendly or controllable and non-friendly or uncontrollable. Our policy is still based on dealing with the devil and considering some terrorist groups as a lesser evil. These groups are still being pampered for some future utilisation. The mullah-militant nexus is out there for everyone to see. Religious political parties are hand in hand taking out rallies with the open support of these outfits, aiming to acquire the limelight. Unfortunately, even the mainstream parties are either cosily accommodating them or are preferring to stay silent. Let me rephrase: the prevalent situation is not of that of a decade ago, it has actually worsened.
What have our policy circles been doing since this war on terror began? Were we ever sincere while coming into this war? Why are fingers being pointed at us in the international arena, questioning our intentions? It is getting difficult by the minute to defend Pakistan on the global platform. While at every forum, we try to reach out and list down our sacrifices and efforts against terrorism, our international partners are concerned about the outcomes and rightly so. Two of the main figures of our federation have been assassinated only in the last three months in the name of religion and there has been no outcry over it. Every sphere of our lives has been infiltrated by religious extremists, who exploit religion every chance they get. They have, most importantly, infiltrated the media as it is a tool that can be used to shape public opinion. In the garb of freedom of speech and promotion of opinion and ideas, the militant media has been brainwashing our people. They openly promote the activities of banned outfits and terrorist organisations in the print and electronic media. These groups are conveniently given the spotlight by airing and publishing their statements and promotion of their so-called philanthropic activities. The anchorpersons on various news channels also seem to be promoting their viewpoints.
It is evident that throughout these years we have been fire fighting and that also with the wrong tools. It was only when the militants came too close for comfort that military operations were launched. So far there has not been a single decision taken during this conflict that has been accepted across the board. This accounts for the half-hearted attempts being made by the state. Our efforts have not only been half-hearted but are only reactive, rather than attempting something proactive and turn the tables by forcing the extremists on the back foot. Our policy makers have been so far looking to triumph in this conflict only by force, but there are other aspects as well that have to be looked into. The root causes and the main elements involved in the rise of extremism within the country are not being addressed. The Taliban apologists in our midst and the right-wing religious parties have always looked towards sabotaging any sincere effort to curb terrorism. They have been able to successfully convince the ignorant masses that this war has been imposed on us and we are falling prey to an imperialist plan.
It is imperative that while there is still time, we should retrace our steps and implement a multifaceted policy to counter the extremist insurgency at every level. Our media, education sector and our politics should be cleared of these elements. Instead of political parties bowing down to these elements for electoral point scoring, they should face them and help the general public in identifying and rejecting these radicals. The policy based on strategic depth and vague ideologies should be abandoned for good, as the resulting fallout has proved to be the biggest threat to the sovereignty of Pakistan. Perhaps it is time that the progressive sections, which have kept their silence in the face of the onslaught of the extremist quarters, should come out with force. This is a crucial stage and if the progressive sections do not take a stand, then the extremists will flourish and flood the minds of the masses with their poison.
The writer is an Islamabad-based development consultant.
EDITORIAL: More casualties in this war
April 06 2011
The extremists have accelerated their nefarious designs against the state. In the past seven days, almost as many attacks have left the country reeling from destruction and loss of lives. The latest attack occurred in Lower Dir on Monday when a suicide bomber detonated himself near a bus stand, killing some eight people. Apparently, the target of the bombing was Muhammad Akbar, the leader of an anti-Taliban lashkar (militia). This was not the first attempt on the man’s life. In another incident, the body of Dushmankhel tribal chief, Sardar Amanuddin Mehsud was found tortured to death in Wana, South Waziristan. Mehsud had been missing for two months but now he becomes yet another casualty in this bloody war against moderate voices.
The militants are making sure that there is no space left in Pakistan for men and women of enlightened beliefs and moderate standing. They are obliterating any remnants of sanity so that only their ilk remains. Anti-Taliban lashkars exist because the state has failed to protect the citizens from the extremists’ wrath. They exist to safeguard the beliefs, principles, views and values of an entire people who do not follow the rigid interpretations of the extremists’ theology. It is because of this very reason that they are being targeted so ruthlessly. The state must offer protection to those who are doing the job of guarding Pakistan.
The news that three suspects — thought to be connected to the Sakhi Sarwar shrine blast in Dera Ghazi Khan — have been arrested from Chakri by the intelligence agencies is encouraging. It is of paramount importance that greater efficiency is introduced into our intelligence agencies and security apparatus to pre-empt any threats and strikes and to arrest anyone connected to terror attacks. Pakistan has become fair game for the extremists, where lawlessness and anarchy are being spread to their advantage. Without our intelligence agencies sitting up and taking notice of the fraying of the writ of the state and the murder of moderate elements, Pakistan will see many more such attacks on the citizenry. It is now time to strategically and precisely target all terrorists as they are increasing their war on the state and have established links between their networks for the purpose. Our establishment must sever all remaining links and give up any lingering support for these groups in order to uproot them all.
COMMENT: For he, that once hath missed the right way
Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur
April 10 2011
Crises are not news here but, of late, they have encompassed the entire economic, social and political spectrum, exposing the prevailing malignant and dangerous situation and indicating that even more distressing and devastating times are to come. The doctors’ strike, uproar over the HEC devolution, anti-extortion industry protests, increasing food insecurity, rampaging inflation, nearly daily suicide attacks, ever increasing electricity and gas load shedding, falling standards of education, pathetic healthcare, repression of national rights and abductions and killings of Baloch are all indicators of the malignancy of the crises.
Reasons abound but the main reason is the ‘establishment’s’ dogmatic obsession with warped priorities. The dreams of a flag on Lal Qilla, the ‘strategic depth’ and ‘strategic assets’ policy, the ‘ummah bomb’, the false notion of invincibility and infallibility and use of unbridled force to bring all in line have all added to our woes.
The present situation is neither accidental nor externally created; it is the result of ill-planned state policy. Mr Tasneem Siddiqui, in a column from August 2007, ‘Elite consensus under strain’, said, “India may not have been a good neighbour, but the hype of enmity and permanent hostility was deliberately created. As a result, the social sectors were relegated to the lowest priority and most of the resources were diverted to nonproductive uses. In our first budget, over 60 percent of income was allocated to defence, and in October 1947, Mr Jinnah requested the US government to sanction a loan of three billion dollars to modernise the Pakistan army.”
Bourke-White, a Life magazine correspondent and photographer, interviewed Jinnah during partition and soon after. These excerpts will give you the picture: “When asked what plans he had for the industrial development of the country, and did he hope to enlist technical or financial assistance from America: ‘America needs Pakistan more than Pakistan needs America,’ was Jinnah’s reply. ‘Pakistan is the pivot of the world, as we are placed...the frontier on which the future position of the world revolves’...‘Russia,’ confided Mr Jinnah, ‘is not so very far away.’”
Since then this ‘pivot of the world’ has gone astray and as Edmund Spenser (1552-1592) in his poem Faerie Queen says,
“For he, that once hath missed the right way,
The further he doth goe, the further he doth stray.”
Little wonder then that during the year 2010-11, Rs 442.2 billion was allocated for defence while the health allocation was cut by 27 percent. A couple of years back, Fakharuddin G Ibrahim said: “During the last 30 years, Rs 178.3 billion had been spent on education and Rs 98 billion on health while, on the other hand, around Rs2,835 billion had been consumed on defence alone.” Interestingly, combined expenditure on health and education in 30 years is little more than half of that for defence in 2010-11 alone. The defence budget was jacked up 17 percent in 2010-11 and a further 18 percent rise is in the offing.
The real spending on the military is much higher because the billions allocated for military pensions, the rangers, civil armed forces, coastal guards, special areas of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission and even schools in cantonments are under the civil budget. The real financial cost of making and maintaining A-bombs is strictly under wraps and so is the environmental cost that Balochistan bore.
With ‘national security’ being the priority it is, money to the health and education sector is precluded. There will be no wavering from this disastrous policy until of course there remains nothing to defend or any goal to pursue.
Though military expenditure is the major cause, it is not the only reason why other sectors are utterly neglected. A glance at the expenses of the President’s House and Prime Minister’s House tell the story. In 2010, the President’s House and Prime Minister’s Secretariat expenditure was increased by 14 and 13 percent respectively, and they were not on a shoestring budget before. Raised to Rs 447 million and Rs 484 million respectively, a total of Rs 931 million, translates into Rs 2.55 million daily — mind you, this is spent come what may. Expenses incurred on trips and protection are not disclosed. Add to this the recent 50 percent salary raise of MNAs and all that is spent on senators, the cabinet, provincial assemblies and cabinets and not much remains behind to use for education, health or other things.
Pakistan has received $ 27.8 billion in civilian and military aid from the US since 1947; it also received $ 18.5 billion from the World Bank (WB), $ 16 billion from the IMF and $ 15 billion from the ADB. Where all this money has gone is truly surprising because, under the Marshall Plan between 1948 and 1952, the US gave $ 13 billion in economic assistance to war-destroyed Western Europe and it recovered while the $ 77 billion plus from the US and WB, etc, not to mention the other loans, grants received from anyone who would give made no improvement here. All they can boast of is ‘the bomb’, F-16s, suicidal ‘strategic assets’ and a delusional sense of superiority. When 70 percent plus of all that is earned and received is spent on the military and the rest on upkeep of the ‘establishment’ and elite then this situation is a natural consequence.
The beg-and-spend policy has resulted in a distressing situation and, last year, foreign debt stood at $ 55.6 billion and the domestic debt at Rs 4.3 trillion. Rs 902.8 billion is needed annually to service domestic and external loans so precious little is left to improve other sectors. This borrowing continues as does the waste on warped priorities; those hoping for future improvement will be sorely disappointed.
Microsoft spends $ 9 billion annually on its research and development and leads the world. In 2008, Exxon Mobil Corporation set records for annual and quarterly profits. It earned a net income of $ 45.22 billion. Full-year revenue stood at $ 477 billion, or just over $ 1.3 billion a day.
The rulers here are capable of spending a billion dollars daily; it is little wonder that Pakistan stands at 137 in the UN’s Human Development Index. Over 35 percent of its population lives below the poverty line, 31 percent lives on less than one dollar daily and 85 percent lives on less than two dollars daily.
The writer has an association with the Baloch rights movement going back to the early 1970s.
EDITORIAL: HRCP report
April 16 2011
The security situation of the country has dominated the findings of the annual report of the Human Right Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) for 2010. From drone attacks, suicide bombings, the situation in Balochistan to attacks on minorities, all these incidents are manifestations of a peculiar doctrine adopted by the security establishment of Pakistan that, on the one hand, nurtured non-state jihadis to be used as proxies in neighbouring countries for strategic purposes, and on the other hand, brutally suppressed local dissent. Those jihadis have now turned against their benefactors and unleashed a reign of terror on Pakistani soil. Year 2010 saw a series of attacks on shrines and other ‘soft’ targets. Balochistan has seen disappearances and targeted killings of political and social activists at the hands of the country’s security forces while Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the tribal areas have become a battleground of militants and the military in which local populations have been displaced or become targets of crossfire.
Arguably, the pursuit of the elusive ‘strategic depth’ in Afghanistan is very much on the security agenda of Pakistan, despite the fact that the people of this country have had to pay a very high cost in terms of life and property, militarisation of society, rising intolerance for any kind of dissent or difference of opinion, and attacks on minorities. Pakistan saw the worst attack on Ahmedi worship places last year on May 28, which killed nearly 100 worshippers who had congregated for Friday prayers. The HRCP report presents other harrowing details of mistreatment of minorities at the hands of militants, the state, and society in general in different parts of the country. The public attitude of indifference and persecution of minorities is replicated at the level of the state.
In this climate, it is but natural that those holding a monopoly over force abuse their powers and indulge in human rights violations. The issue of extra-judicial killings in Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa has caught international attention. This is a very sad picture of a country that invests heavily in defence at the cost of millions of disadvantaged people but remains an essentially insecure and fragile state. It is time the movers and shakers of this country did some introspection and considered if this was what the Muslims of united India took the plunge for and carved out a separate country?
Cry till you laugh
By Sami Shah
The Express Tribune, April 21st, 2011.
As our latest nuclear-capable ballistic missile, Hatf-9, is propelled into the sky on a fuel composed of educational textbooks, hopes and dreams, it’s time to consider just how deeply committed we are to farce. A cursory scan of the headlines of any newspaper reveals that the government and the army are, together, involved in a comedy of errors of epic proportions. What we have, all this time, taken as signs of incompetence, greed, cruelty and base stupidity, are actually all part of an elaborate joke designed to make you laugh. It’s not their fault you have a terrible sense of humour and can’t appreciate their cerebral comedy.
Just take a look at the evidence: The PPP government is currently excavating their founder’s grave to steal whatever scraps of authenticity and credibility might still be clinging to his bones. The recent petition to the Supreme Court to reopen the Zulfikar Ali Bhutto murder case is such a blatant attempt at misdirection that it resembles a fumbling magician trying to pull a parrot out of his hat while forgetting about the tail feathers sticking out of his sleeve. It is the kind of trick that makes you feel bad for the poor amateur conjurer and earns him your sympathy for at least making an attempt at amusing you. Only the most cynical person would attribute any sincerity to this effort, particularly when you take into account who the PPP has put in charge of the entire process. Babar Awan, who, according to most sources, basically submitted a petition written in crayon, is a man who clearly suffers from multiple personality disorder. In just a few decades, he has gone from waving pom-poms at Ziaul Haq’s side to waving those same frayed and balding pom-poms for the Bhutto clan. If the PPP is to be criticised, it should be for so clearly exploiting the mentally unwell for the purposes of our amusement by making Mr Awan responsible for this entire investigation. Reality television was never this depressing. It’s like finding Mr Bean in a murder mystery.
Meanwhile, the army has decided that their old pie-in-our-face routine isn’t getting the laughs it used to and have decided to up the ante. There is an old comedic technique which involves being so over-the-top with your slapstick that it becomes almost horrific but then, instead of screaming, you find yourself laughing. By demanding even more money from the budget, basically taking what few pennies were left rattling around in the development tin, they are now clearly just going for extreme exaggeration. Rob us blind once and we laugh. Rob us blind three times and we stop finding it funny. However, if you rob us blind 15 times it becomes hysterical. It’s the same punch line that the Rangers are trying now, figuring we just can’t hear it enough times. Demanding a budget increase, they are promising an end to target killing. Apparently, budgetary inflation is directly linked to inflating murder numbers.
Something occurred to me the other day: In the West, their conspiracy theories involve the government or the military being in complete control. Thought control, secret alien bases, assassination plots. Conspiracy theorists in America worry about their governmental institutions taking over completely. Our conspiracy theories, however, involve other people being in charge. RAW is controlling us, the CIA, the Mossad. Anyone but our own institutions. Apparently, in Pakistan, the government having a coherent plan to take charge of things isn’t conspiracy theory, it’s conspiracy fantasy. That’s pretty funny, if you think about it.
A man is known by the company he keeps!
COMMENT: The establishment’s twelfth man
Dr Mohammad Taqi
April 28, 2011
The citizens of Hayatabad, Peshawar, have finally breathed a sigh of relief after the two-day long sit-in organised by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) has ended. Whether NATO supplies were halted because of this so-called protest remains moot, but life in one of Peshawar’s largest residential districts was certainly brought to a grinding halt by the chapli kabab-fed 5,000 people herded from outside the city by the PTI and various sectarian and religio-political parties allied with it. The idea, ostensibly, was to block one of the delivery routes through which the NATO forces in Afghanistan are supplied, thus forcing the US to halt its drone attacks.
Among the assorted declarations adopted at the end of the rally, the second one — as posted on PTI’s website — stated: “To end the hippocratic (sic) double faced policy and bring before parliament all past and present agreements/understandings with the US government on the ‘war on terror’”.
‘Hypocritical and double-faced policy’ is an interesting take by the PTI, whose own show from the word go was a total scam, with hypocrisy written all over it. The cast of characters ranged from political nobodies and wannabes to loan defaulters, jihadists of various shades, to retired civil and military officers with a tainted past. For a party and its leader who claim to be the spotless agents of change and certitude personified, it was pathetic to have gathered so many charlatans at one time.
The PTI even stole the name for its concluding resolutions, calling them the “Peshawar Declaration”. The original Peshawar Declaration was adopted by the Amn Tehrik (Peace Movement) on January 16, 2010 and was signed by the PPP, ANP, PMAP, NP, PPP-S, AWP, eminent scholars, leaders of civil society and the Pashtun elders from Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and FATA.
The leader of the Amn Tehrik, Idrees Kamal, has already demanded that the PTI rename its resolution but I suspect that might not happen. The simple reason being that the Peshawar Declaration had explicitly endorsed the drone campaign to take out the terrorist leaders and cadres and called for the expulsion of the Arab, Uzbek and Chechen terrorists from FATA. In a world where tag and keyword web-searches are the building blocks of revolutions rolled out through social media, use of similar names for diametrically opposite political goals is deceitful and was deliberately crafted to confuse and spread disinformation.
But Imran Khan’s only major stopover on his way to Peshawar helps put things in perspective. While it is not known if he was served sandwiches or not, Imran Khan was hosted at the Haqqani seminary by the granddaddy of the Taliban, the ex-senator Maulana Sami-ul-Haq. In his speech at the Haqqani madrassah — the alma mater of the top Afghan and local Taliban leaders — Khan extolled the virtues of jihad while taking pot shots at the US. Add to this the presence of the terrorist outfit Sipah-e-Sahaba’s cadres at his Peshawar rally, and it appears that Imran Khan has opted to cast his lot in decisively with the Pakistan-based franchises of global jihadism.
Sure enough, plenty of noises were made at the Peshawar rally about restoring Jinnah’s Pakistan and how PTI will bridge the Shia-Sunni schism. The visceral hatred of Sami-ul-Haq’s spiritual antecedents for the Quaid-e-Azam and Pakistan is on record. In fact, Allama Iqbal, in a famous Persian poem, had compared the founder of Deoband to Abu Lahab. The notorious Deobandi madrassah is hardly a place that the Quaid would have wanted Pakistan’s renaissance to start from. And the Sipah-e-Sahaba flags fluttering right under Imran Khan’s nose in Bagh-e-Naran, speak volumes about the double-speak he unleashed over the past weekend.
Choosing a densely populated area to flex muscle against NATO is an interesting one too. Bagh-e-Naran, where the sit-in was staged, is not where the NATO supply trucks are loaded, parked or serviced. It is not a base from where the US drones are flown or controlled. The supplies are loaded from Karachi and even Chaklala, while the drones are flown from Shamsi, Khost or Jalalabad airbases and controlled from the Hancock base in Syracuse, New York or the Creech base, Nevada. But Imran Khan would never criticise the establishment, which remains the master of Pakistan’s security and foreign policies, including the permission to let the drones fly and the decision to not shoot them down. Despite being a frequent political litigant, he has never mustered the courage to support Air Marshal Asghar Khan’s petition in the Supreme Court against the ISI’s meddling in politics. It would be too much to ask him to drop his hypocrisy vis-à-vis the army’s role in politics and drone attacks, when he can conveniently whack the national piñata — the politicians.
The fact remains that Imran Khan has always been the establishment’s twelfth man — called upon to field as needed. He claims that the establishment cannot buy him, but do they need to? He has always volunteered for them and it is no different this time. As Pak-American relations deteriorate, the establishment has decided to up the ante against the US so that it allows Pakistan a say in the future dispensation in Kabul. A flat refusal to let the US run supplies through Pakistan or the drone attacks, is something the security establishment will not do, as the US spigot of military funding will be turned off, leaving the khaki boys without toys.
To this end the deep state is trying to stir up hysteria against the US, through Imran Khan and his ilk and, in the process, build pressure on the PPP and ANP et al to fall in line as well. By letting the twelfth man warm up now, the establishment wants to elbow out Mian Nawaz Sharif — whom they mistrust deeply — as potentially the next premier. They know that a savvy politician like Mian sahib may actually play ball with the US, against their diktat.
While milking the Saudis for funds, and allowing mercenaries to be recruited for the Gulf, the establishment is getting its domestic ducks in a row, in preparation for a showdown with the US over its endgame. What can serve them better in this than a conglomerate of the martial law’s perennial B team like the Jamaat-e-Islami, pro-jihadists like Sami-ul-Haq and assorted opportunists? The twelfth man has always hoped that the establishment will grant him the political test cap one day. His hypocrisy may actually earn him the captaincy of the junta’s ‘B’ team this time.
BAAGHI: Bad drones, good Taliban
by Marvi Sirmed
May 01, 2011
Last week was all taken up by the anti-drone sit-in initiated by Imran Khan, the leader of Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI), joined by Makhdoom Javed Hashmi of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Marvi Memon of Pakistan Muslim League-Q (PML-Q). In a declaration passed on the second day of the sit-in, Imran Khan expressed his angst over the drone attacks and termed them against Pakistan’s sovereignty. He asked the government to implement the joint resolution of parliament against drones and gave a deadline of one month to do the needful to stop drones, otherwise he will “forcibly stop the NATO supplies by blocking the routes throughout Pakistan”.
Something intrigues me in this entire emotionalism. One, since when did Imran Khan start respecting parliament that he has frequently alleged of being a bunch of robbers and ‘corrupt’ politicians? Two, how democratic is it to give a government (elected one) a deadline without having a single vote and while talking to a rally of 5,000 and a host of cameras?
Imran Khan goes on to praise Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry by calling him “the last hope” and appealed to him to hear PTI’s petition against drone attacks and thus save the country. In one breath you are using the elected parliament and then negating its supremacy in favour of an unelected individual (he addresses the individual, not the Supreme Court). Next brilliant thing that Khan does is invite sitting MNAs from two parties (PML-N and PML-Q) to join his party. How democratic and legal is it to openly ask politicians to defect who were elected from the platform of different parties? In emotions, Khan ends up doing exactly what he loves preaching against. When Nawaz Sharif welcomed some defectors of PML-Q, our legendary Khan bullied him on media for doing so. His jibes on Altaf Husain and former dictator Pervez Musharraf are open and part of history, so are his latest meetings with both of them.
In a recent TV talk show on a private channel, Imran Khan confessed that he had met Lt General Ahmad Shuja Pasha, head of the premier spy agency, which is being suspected to have instigated his latest pricks of conscience regarding drone attacks. He can choose to build on public sentiment and craft his constituency in young apolitical Pakistan, but he surely needs to think beyond his nose and short-term interest if he has a fragment of sincerity with the long-term interests of this country. He, along with all the ambitious politicians who suddenly found a rallying point to grab political relevance need to reflect on the possible hazards of exploiting rhetoric instead of rationality. To say that the war against terrorism is not ours but ‘theirs’ is the height of being cruelly selfish and opportunist, if not delusional.
The media-orchestrated national narrative of ‘not our war’ largely comes from our selective amnesia that seldom lets us go back to the roots of our pathology. The severe economic crunch of the 1970s in the wake of the dismemberment of Pakistan brought us to the brink of economic collapse in 1979. Those who remember the notorious Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) would also remember Agha Hasan Abedi and his role in financing terrorism. With BCCI’s life support to Pakistan’s economy, it had become clear that a foreign injection to the country’s economy would be needed for a long time to come.
Come 1980 and Zia’s government got exactly what they were looking for — the injection of foreign money using the syringe of Islam. This syringe made them closer to Saudi Arabia and the US — the former working on a pan-Islamic (read pan-Wahabi/Salafi) agenda while the latter pursuing expansionist hegemonic interests in the region. That proved a perfect catalytic mixture for the domestic ambitions of Zia for the consolidation and prolongation of his power.
We used ‘them’ in securing petrodollars when ‘they’ were allied with the House of Saud in financing the mujahideen carefully chosen by none other than our very own ISI. We managed the battlefield in Afghanistan for ‘them’. We sent our young boys as mujahideen to fight the ‘enemy’ and never asked ‘whose enemy?’ We never bothered when terrorists were being trained in training camps on our land. Nor did we ever worry about active recruitment of Arab fundamentalists along with our own youth, to fight the war without asking ‘whose war?’
After winning a war completely owned by us, we looked around only to find ourselves alone, wandering around for a hand that would still dole out dollars. The ‘syringe’ we had made so generous use of was consistently supplied with an ideological injection throughout the 1990s. We suffered loss of lives, money and credibility in pursuing ‘strategic depth’, the path chosen by the usurpers of power who had torn apart the constitution of the country — the very basis of our republic. Our ‘programmed’ will never ask any questions.
Imran Khan and his supporters seem to have a memory that does not go beyond 2004 — the date where they think terrorism started in Pakistan when we allowed drone attacks after choosing to fight ‘their war’. One wonders what has been happening since 1988 when Allama Husseini, the leader of Tehrike-e-Jafriya Pakistan (TJP) was killed. We seem to have completely forgotten the terrorist activities against the people and the state of Pakistan by those trained by our own security paraphernalia. These trained terrorist outfits were prepared for ‘our war’ (really?) in Afghanistan with resources siphoned off for another war of ours in Indian-administered Kashmir.
The religious and sectarian monster created by our own virtuous selves was now hounding us. Getting stewed in our own juice, we faced terrorism throughout 1990s when we were creating and strengthening what the world called the Taliban. If not terrorism, what exactly was the bombing of the Egyptian embassy in 1996? Bomb blasts in the Lahore Sessions Court in 1996, mass killing in a Multan Mosque 1996, assassination of four Americans in Karachi in 1997, Karachi and Hyderabad bomb blasts in January and February 2000, March blast in Torkham, July blast in a train in Hyderabad, September blast in Islamabad the same year, December blast in Orangi Town Karachi and assassination of Interior Minister Moinuddin Haider’s brother in 2001 to cite but a few. Are these the acts of joyous playfulness or terrorism?
When the creators of Frankenstein were made to surgically remove it, they started crying out loud. My question to Khan is, if the war against terrorism is not ‘ours’, whose is the war for terrorism, of terrorism and by terrorism? Have we started owning terrorism so much so that fighting against it has become ‘their’, not ‘our’ war? The fact of the matter is, someone has very successfully transformed us into zombies. Programmed for our own destruction, we have become androids who would only ask questions when made to do it.
While still gulping the dollars, our syringe-administrators still want us to become fodder for their own follies and ambitions. Many questions can be asked from those responsible for our security. So many terrorist incidents in the country prove one thing quite amply: our intelligence apparatus is but a failure, our forces cannot avert a bunch of ‘misdirected’ tribesmen (as Khan puts it), our state allows free flow of explosive material and freedom of transportation to the terrorists.
Let us also ask from our free judiciary why none of those indicted for terrorist activities could ever be convicted so far? And let us imprint in our minds that terrorists cannot be our friends and are anything but innocent. If they are killing our people, fighting our army, bombing our bazaars and mosques, they need to be fought against. This is certainly ‘our war’.
Postscript: None of the politicians rallying against drone attacks could come up with a public condemnation of the recent blasts on Navy buses in Karachi in which several died and dozens were injured.
The writer is an independent researcher and political commentator based in Islamabad.
Smokers’ Corner: Revolutionary nuisance
Nadeem F. Paracha
May 01 2011
In all probability he doesn’t know. I am talking about the great Imran Khan. I hope he doesn’t know that he’s being used. I say this because that’s the way he is. Naïve and vulnerable – especially to the instant wonders of some of the most worn-out right-wing clichés this side of Westophobia.
But then, of course, as the large number of politicians and media personnel suspected to have been ‘propped up’ by the shadowy ones (or what Kamran Shafi calls the ‘Deep State’) would tell you, nobody’s an innocent prey in this respect. One just cannot be used by the shadowy ones without showing eagerness and the will to proceed with what one is being propped up for.
Considering the mighty Khan’s case, his main constituency, can one suggest that the ideals and moorings of the current generation of urban young middle-class Pakistanis are now actually being navigated by certain sections of the security agencies? After all, the constant process of intellectual and ideological bankruptcy and redundancy that this country has been suffering from for the last many decades was bound to take its greatest toll on its youth.
For example, 20 to 30 years ago, being a youthful rebel usually meant being democratic and against anything that symbolised military intervention in politics or the use of faith to meet demagogic ends. Fast forward to today and the scene has been turned on its head. Today, mainly thanks to the brilliant ways the ‘Deep State’ has used to manoeuvre and mobilise the electronic media and certain ‘youth icons,’ young urban middle-class Pakistani ‘rebels’ are closest in their thoughts to the aspirations of the security establishment than ever before.
No wonder, in the past young rebels were chased, hounded and hunted down by the agencies for being anti-Pakistan, anti-state and anti-Islam, no such thing happens to today’s urban rebels. The unemployed Baloch youth are the only exception, but when has that unfortunate lot ever counted in the scheme of Pakistan’s governance?
The urban youth elsewhere have platforms on mainstream media and generous opportunities to hold, well, their ‘revolutionary’ rallies. But this generation, has been given a ready-made narrative.
A narrative spun by right-wing media men and intellectuals backed by the civil-military establishment. It reflects the ‘strategic’ concerns of those sections of the establishment that has kept a ubiquitous presence in the country’s opinion-making institutions.
As I have mentioned before in many of my previous pieces on these pages, this narrative sees Pakistan as always being surrounded by malicious enemies that are to be dealt with through an always full and well-fed army and its ideological allies in the shape of the political clergy, right-wing ideologues and preferably media personnel and politicians. Even till about 25 years ago, this narrative was scorned and challenged, both intellectually and through political action, by numerous young, middle-class rebels.
Not anymore. Ironically, what was once decried as being establishmentarian mantra and modus-operandi to exercise illegitimate and undemocratic social and political control has now become a rallying cry of those waving their fists for a revolution.
Such a scenario can make for a daunting black comedy; it was on full display at the magnificent Khan’s anti-drone sit-in in Peshawar.
To begin with, the explosive issue of drone attacks has been cleverly mutated into the kind of a bargaining chip that certain sections of the security apparatus use to haggle with its more sinister counterparts in the CIA. Journalist Najam Sethi maintains that these agencies use certain civilian politicians and media personnel to whip up anti-Americanism among the public to pressure US policy.
This pressure, according to Sethi, is excreted to get a better deal from the CIA whenever it refuses to play, what it says, is Pakistan’s ‘double game’ regarding the war against Islamist militants. Whatever the case, the truth is, it is a cynical move that a part of the establishment should be given (or asked to be given) an emotional and populist twist by certain politicians and media men.
Secondly, Imran Khan is mouthing a rather bizarre post-Cold War ‘revolutionary’ rhetoric in Pakistan in which leftist sloganeering is weaved together with gung-ho right-wing gibberish! No wonder, the scene at the sit-in seemed rather surreal. Tehreek-i-Insaaf fan boys rubbed shoulders with Jammat-i-Islami activists and even with supporters of a few banned sectarian organisations, as some so-called leftist youth nodded their heads while the glorious Khan spoke to a crowd at a madressah. Also present on the stage were known TV anchors. So much for objective reporting.
A scene from a Dali painting, one might ask? Fire ants and elephants with wings watching TV made from huge megaphones shooting flowers as well as bullets!
Such peculiar juxtaposing of establishment-sponsored odd balls and ideological renegades masquerading as vanguards of the faithful is what the concept of revolution has boiled down to in our country.
Imran Khan is nothing more than a false hope. The guy is being propped up by PA just like it has propped up so many Pakistani politicians in the past.
He will be disposed off, though, once his utility expires.
By Aqil Shah
The Express Tribune, May 5th, 2011.
Whether Osama bin Laden (OBL) managed to evade the attention of Pakistan’s military-intelligence authorities because of their connivance or their negligence, one thing is clear: The buck stops at the doors of the GHQ. Why? The answer is simple: The military ultimately decides matters of war and peace. Hence, it must also squarely accept responsibility for making (or not making) the right decisions.
They say every cloud has a silver lining. For a fleeting moment, I thought the whole OBL episode could provide a golden opportunity for openly questioning the military’s veto over defining and defending the ‘national interest’. But, not surprisingly, the initial debate on the issue seemed to be heading in the opposite direction, thanks in good measure to our ‘lamestream’ electronic media. The role played by many a news anchor and the usual suspects who appear on their shows as experts, was particularly egregious. As soon as the news of OBL’s demise hit the airwaves, this assorted gang of spin doctors went batting for the ‘establishment’, disingenuously thumping their chests over the failure of the civilian government to prevent another violation of Pakistani sovereignty, and, of course, repackaging familiar conspiracy theories, from casting the operation to get OBL as a dry run in the diabolic American plot to deprive us of our mighty atomic weapons, to dismissing it all as a cynical attempt by the Obama administration to shore up its sagging domestic political fortunes. There were a few sane voices reminding everyone that the capture of OBL on our territory would be interpreted by the international community as solid evidence of Pakistan’s duplicity in the fight against terrorism. But fact and reason predictably drowned in the shrill crescendo of paranoid nationalism.
Then came the belated official Pakistani reaction, ostensibly crafted by the brilliant graduates of the Pakistan Military Academy (PMA). This priceless exercise in self-indictment basically revealed that the Americans swooped deep into Pakistani territory to take out their enemy number one while the generals were sleeping at the switch, ‘blind spots’ and all. Hence, by the generals’ own admission: They are not up to the task for which an impoverished nation compensates them more than handsomely.
The military’s latest faux pas shows that the real threat to Pakistan emanates not only from militants and ‘hostile’ neighbouring states. It is rooted in its warped civil-military state structure that allows the establishment to always duck responsibility for its misdeeds. From the military’s violent suppression of the Bengalis’ democratic aspirations, which fractured the state in 1971, to its strategic blunder at Kargil in 1999 (history’s first ground war between two nuclear-armed states), the military has never been held accountable. Its continuing pursuit of ‘strategic depth’ against India has brought Pakistan ever so close to the status of a ‘failing’ state, one that is struggling to enforce its writ on its own territory but indulges in costly proxy warfare in its surrounding region.
Enough is enough. Heads must roll this time. The military high command must be held accountable for this act of commission or omission. Everyone must do their part in speaking the harsh truth to those in power, including political parties and members of civil society. Some unlikely heroes in the media have turned to faulting the ‘establishment’ for letting Pakistan down. It is still too soon to tell if this is a temporary blip driven by a concern for ratings or (the more unlikely) stirrings of professional integrity. While public opinion is crucial, the primary responsibility for holding the military accountable rests with parliament. The standing committees on defence must summon the high command and ask it all the tough questions in the days ahead. Ultimately, we need to devise ways to guard the guardians. There is no other choice. The establishment has shown us that we need not fear external enemies; it is fully capable of squandering our security through its ‘patriot games’.
The emperors’ clothes
May 06 2011
PAKISTAN this week has been confronted with a deeply unsettling question.
Could the self-appointed custodians of the national interest themselves be the greatest threat to national security?
There is no joy in asking this. Pakistan exists in a tough neighbourhood. A strong and vibrant army is necessary and desirable.But as the initial shock and disbelief wears off, there is a deep, deep sense of unease here.
Did they know he was here? Surely, they knew he was here?
Nobody has come out and said it openly yet. It’s too early, the story still unfolding. Ask the question in private, though, and with hand on heart, no one will say anything but, yes, they knew he was there.
Some do try and clutch at straws. Maybe they didn’t know. Maybe they’re so daft they didn’t really take this whole business of pursuing Al Qaeda seriously. Maybe they just didn’t think it was their problem.
But those voices, unconvinced by their own words, quickly trail off … They knew. They knew he was there.
It’s too frightening to make sense of. The world’s most-wanted terrorist. A man who triggered the longest war in American history. The terrorist mastermind the world’s only superpower has moved heaven and earth to track down. A decade of hunting. Hundreds of billions of dollars spent. The blood of countless Americans and others spilled.
And when he was finally found, he was found wrapped in the bosom of the Pakistani security establishment.
Away from the bleatings of the ghairat brigade — the paranoid schizophrenics marching this country into the abyss — the shock is profound. Grim questions are etched on anxious faces, but so is fear of the answers.
Proud men and women, people who love and serve their country, have cried as they connect yet another *** in the horrifying trajectory this country is on. If we didn’t know, we are a failed state; if we did know, we are a rogue state. But does anybody really believe they didn’t know?
Why would they do it? What did they hope to gain? Pakistan has nothing in common with Al Qaeda. They serve no purpose to us; there is no confluence of interests that can be imagined.
Did we think we could produce him like a rabbit out of the hat when we needed to? Did we think if we turned him over, the American attention span would lapse and they’d move on, leaving us unable to suckle at the teats of the superpower?
Or, assured in our assumptions about the world around us, did we simply think we could get away with it?
It makes no sense. And yet, perhaps there was an inevitability to this. Did the 1965 war make any sense? It was hard to find any sense to it then, even less so today.
Did Kargil make any sense? Not then, not today.
Did hawking nuclear paraphernalia on the international market make any sense? Buying did perhaps, but selling? And now we
have the world’s most-wanted terrorist recovered from the bosom of the Pakistani security establishment.
So maybe it does make sense after all. The establishment has flirted with irrationality in the past. Now it appears to have perfected it.
Where do we go from here as a country?
As long as national security and foreign policy remain in the hands of a cabal of generals — unaccountable and untouchable, a lay unto themselves, and in thrall to their own irrational logic — what future can this country have? Surely, not much of a
Is self-correction an option? Good luck trying to find anyone in the homeland or beyond with even a modicum of knowledge
and understanding of the institution who believes it is capable of reforming itself.
What you will find are retired officers who will tell you what it feels like to be the masters of the universe, part of the inner core
of the establishment. How your feet leave the ground as the world gathers beneath you, bowing and scraping for crumbs
thrown their way. The view from the inside, the inner core, is of limitless power. The view from the outside is of a perch almost
designed to abjure humility and rationality.
What you will find are bureaucrats with decades of experience who ultimately concede that peace with India is unacceptable to the army on any terms. What you will find are diplomats who scoff at the possibility of Musharraf being able to seal a deal on Kashmir with India. Being Numero Uno at home requires having Enemy No 1 across the border.
Zia’s army, Musharraf’s army, Kakar and Karamat’s army — it may seem difficult to reconcile the differences. But while they were very different men, the strategic orientation of the army has more or less been the same. Some addressed the strategic imperatives from a religious angle, others from a more secular angle, but it has always been the army’s angle.
Can anything be done?
The outside world can’t fix us. In fact, even now the US is probably a better friend of the Pakistan Army than of the Pakistani people. Soldiers and intelligence networks are more useful than an under-educated and impoverished population. Double-gamers and duplicitous allies at least have something to offer; what can the wretched Pakistani people offer myopic Americans?
Can we fix ourselves? Take a look around. Does anyone think Asif Zardari has what it takes? Nawaz Sharif may have the chutzpah, but does he have the nous? Beyond them, what is there but a fetid pool of opportunists and political mercenaries?
So maybe that’s the answer after all. They knew. They knew he was there. And they knew they could get away with it.
The writer is a member of staff.
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