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  #51  
Old Friday, March 05, 2010
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State within a state?


By Ayesha Siddiqa
Friday, 05 Mar, 2010


It is amusing to note that there has not been a thorough discussion in the media on the army chief’s decision to give extension in service to a couple of lieutenant generals on his own — something which has major implications for the state.

The little that has appeared in the print media indicates that Gen Kayani indeed has the powers to promote senior officers without consulting the government. The development is far too important to be brushed aside as a minor procedural issue.

While the decision is a part of the larger picture of AfPak politics, it is symbolic of the true nature of the Pakistani state’s inner power structure. It shows that the present army chief has, by not seeking prior sanction for giving the extension, yet again established his organisation’s autonomous status. He has, in fact, established a precedent which many would be tempted to follow even in the civil bureaucracy.

The prime minister, who seems to have raised no objection, must immediately restructure the state bureaucracy and pack up the defence ministry and the establishment division as their services are no longer required. If heads of departments can carry out such functions, why bother with keeping this section of the bureaucracy?

As far as the state’s bureaucratic function is concerned, Gen Kayani is what may be termed as the head of a department. Some may even argue that it is actually the secretary, ministry of defence, who is the head of the department. But then that might have been challenged. The general is clearly his own boss.

The concept of the head of department is important from the perspective of defining the powers of different office holders. During Musharraf’s tenure the establishment decided that heads of the department could give leave to their staff. This was done to provide relief to those who had to run from pillar to post to get their leave sanctioned. This was like setting up a one-window operation. However, this power did not interfere with the government’s authority to give its sanction to all other decisions including promotions or extensions.

Giving extension to an officer means that those below will not get promoted which has a ripple effect in a top-down hierarchical system. This means that some of the officers at every level of the bureaucracy would have to be retired which is an expense on the state. Since the government is the one responsible for the functioning of the state, it is the right authority to make such decisions. So, while Gen Kayani might like some of his men to remain on his staff, he would have to first seek approval from the right quarters.

Some may get restless with this view and refer to the corruption of political governments. Why bother with a couple of extensions when there is so much else going wrong? But this is not just about how much money is lost but the principles of governing a state. More importantly, this is about not encouraging the phenomenon of a ‘state within a state’.

The government’s first and only white paper on defence written during the 1970s had strengthened the defence ministry’s position as the main interface between the military and the civilian government. The first defence secretary was not only a civilian, he was a non-bureaucrat. This was the primary government organisation to deal with the armed forces for which a centre-point was created in the form of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (JCSC).

Unfortunately, neither institution could grow because of the military takeover in 1977. The JCSC couldn’t really stand up to the pressure of the military in the seat of power. Later, under Musharraf, the army more or less killed the institution by changing one of the core principles for the JCSC, that is the appointment of the chairman by rotation. Even Nawaz Sharif contributed to the malaise by appointing Musharraf as the chairman when it was actually the naval chief’s turn.

In Pakistan’s power politics it is the army chief who calls the shots. With the decision to give extension to his officers the current army chief has established his autonomy and power. Other service chiefs may not necessarily replicate this authority unless they get a tough-minded head. The air force is more likely to follow the tradition. This region’s history is witness to the fact that moves to alter the principles of governance are costly. The Indians suffered as a result of this during the 1960s. Their defence establishment got into questionable human resource management in the armed forces which lost them the war of 1962 against China.

Gen Kayani may have signalled to the government that human resource management in the army comes under his purview and that he does not want politicians to decide on issues close to the military’s heart. More importantly, however, this is part of the politics being played in the capital and its twin city to get the right man in before the Afghan operation gets to the crucial stage. Since Gen Kayani has caught the imagination of his American friends, there are many in Washington who are in favour of an extension for the army chief. In case that doesn’t work out, the army chief would position his cards to get the preferred man in line to take over from him.

Some in the Obama administration continue to bet on the military horse rather than the civilian government. Within the army the preference is for certain officers, especially the ISI chief Gen Pasha. Whether or not this personality-driven approach solves the AfPak problem to Washington’s satisfaction is another matter. Meanwhile, the Pakistani state’s structure is being altered to accommodate a ‘state within a state.’

The writer is an independent strategic and political analyst.
ayesha.ibd@gmail.com
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  #52  
Old Friday, March 05, 2010
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Post State within a state?By Ayesha Siddiqa

It is amusing to note that there has not been a thorough discussion in the media on the army chief’s decision to give extension in service to a couple of lieutenant generals on his own — something which has major implications for the state.

The little that has appeared in the print media indicates that Gen Kayani indeed has the powers to promote senior officers without consulting the government. The development is far too important to be brushed aside as a minor procedural issue.

While the decision is a part of the larger picture of AfPak politics, it is symbolic of the true nature of the Pakistani state’s inner power structure. It shows that the present army chief has, by not seeking prior sanction for giving the extension, yet again established his organisation’s autonomous status. He has, in fact, established a precedent which many would be tempted to follow even in the civil bureaucracy.

The prime minister, who seems to have raised no objection, must immediately restructure the state bureaucracy and pack up the defence ministry and the establishment division as their services are no longer required. If heads of departments can carry out such functions, why bother with keeping this section of the bureaucracy?

As far as the state’s bureaucratic function is concerned, Gen Kayani is what may be termed as the head of a department. Some may even argue that it is actually the secretary, ministry of defence, who is the head of the department. But then that might have been challenged. The general is clearly his own boss.

The concept of the head of department is important from the perspective of defining the powers of different office holders. During Musharraf’s tenure the establishment decided that heads of the department could give leave to their staff. This was done to provide relief to those who had to run from pillar to post to get their leave sanctioned. This was like setting up a one-window operation. However, this power did not interfere with the government’s authority to give its sanction to all other decisions including promotions or extensions.

Giving extension to an officer means that those below will not get promoted which has a ripple effect in a top-down hierarchical system. This means that some of the officers at every level of the bureaucracy would have to be retired which is an expense on the state. Since the government is the one responsible for the functioning of the state, it is the right authority to make such decisions. So, while Gen Kayani might like some of his men to remain on his staff, he would have to first seek approval from the right quarters.

Some may get restless with this view and refer to the corruption of political governments. Why bother with a couple of extensions when there is so much else going wrong? But this is not just about how much money is lost but the principles of governing a state. More importantly, this is about not encouraging the phenomenon of a ‘state within a state’.

The government’s first and only white paper on defence written during the 1970s had strengthened the defence ministry’s position as the main interface between the military and the civilian government. The first defence secretary was not only a civilian, he was a non-bureaucrat. This was the primary government organisation to deal with the armed forces for which a centre-point was created in the form of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (JCSC).

Unfortunately, neither institution could grow because of the military takeover in 1977. The JCSC couldn’t really stand up to the pressure of the military in the seat of power. Later, under Musharraf, the army more or less killed the institution by changing one of the core principles for the JCSC, that is the appointment of the chairman by rotation. Even Nawaz Sharif contributed to the malaise by appointing Musharraf as the chairman when it was actually the naval chief’s turn.

In Pakistan’s power politics it is the army chief who calls the shots. With the decision to give extension to his officers the current army chief has established his autonomy and power. Other service chiefs may not necessarily replicate this authority unless they get a tough-minded head. The air force is more likely to follow the tradition. This region’s history is witness to the fact that moves to alter the principles of governance are costly. The Indians suffered as a result of this during the 1960s. Their defence establishment got into questionable human resource management in the armed forces which lost them the war of 1962 against China.

Gen Kayani may have signalled to the government that human resource management in the army comes under his purview and that he does not want politicians to decide on issues close to the military’s heart. More importantly, however, this is part of the politics being played in the capital and its twin city to get the right man in before the Afghan operation gets to the crucial stage. Since Gen Kayani has caught the imagination of his American friends, there are many in Washington who are in favour of an extension for the army chief. In case that doesn’t work out, the army chief would position his cards to get the preferred man in line to take over from him.

Some in the Obama administration continue to bet on the military horse rather than the civilian government. Within the army the preference is for certain officers, especially the ISI chief Gen Pasha. Whether or not this personality-driven approach solves the AfPak problem to Washington’s satisfaction is another matter. Meanwhile, the Pakistani state’s structure is being altered to accommodate a ‘state within a state.’

The writer is an independent strategic and political analyst.

ayesha.ibd@gmail.com
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  #53  
Old Friday, March 12, 2010
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A leaf from Turkey’s book


By Ayesha Siddiqa
Friday, 12 Mar, 2010


The discussion in Turkey on a botched coup attempt some years ago raised some hopes of Pakistan following a similar route. Operation Sledgehammer, as the attempted coup in Turkey was codenamed, involved senior military officers and aimed at creating internal chaos to allow for a military takeover.
The Turkish military is generally uncomfortable with an Islamic party in power. In April 2007 it had issued a general statement opposing the candidacy of the current president (Abdullah Gul) for the presidential elections, calling it a disaster for the country. However, Gul’s party still made it to power. Despite continued pressure from the armed forces, the Islamic AKP (Justice and Development Party) could not be dislodged due to popular support. Pakistan could have a similar experience but in a different context.

In Turkey’s case, the military was historically considered part of the nation-building process. It was Kemal Ataturk and his forces that got rid of the Ottoman empire and the system of khilafat to build a new republic based on secular principles. This meant that while people were allowed to pursue their faith, the state would not mix politics and religion.

Hence, the Turkish state never became a ‘faithless’ state. However, the military directly became the guarantor of the new socio-political system including the survival of secular politics and the establishment of more European social structures. The fact that the ruling elite built internal partnerships and supported the military began to create a wedge between the rulers and the ruled. Even leftist parties supported the military, which resulted in their losing some measure of popularity.

For society at large the only other option was offered by the Islamic parties that provided a different agenda to what was being offered by the elite, resulting in the AKP’s popularity. The debate on joining the European Union further strengthened the party’s position as it accepted the demand for democratisation laid down by the EU.

The AKP managed to outsmart the military, which was forced from the outside to accept the internal changes. The EU constantly challenged the power, perks and privileges of the Turkish armed forces, which had built their significance on the basis of being the guardians and guarantors of Turkey’s changing national narrative. The AKP did not talk about reinstating the khilafat; in fact, it benefited from the European demand for Turkey to become democratic.

Pakistan’s case is quite different. There are similarities but it is the differences which put Pakistan in a separate league. Firstly, its military was not part of the initial nation-building process. It was actually a post-colonial institution just like the civil bureaucracy. This means that the various stakeholders did not necessarily consider the military above board and an uncontested writer and guarantor of the social contract as in Turkey. Pakistan’s military was part of the state bureaucracy that gained power over time and began to dominate the state.

Each bout of military rule has extended the armed forces’ power even further. The power to extend the service of senior officers, which the current army chief has exercised, was never naturally his but was made so by Gen Ziaul Haq. As per the rules, the power to appoint, promote and extend service belongs to the appointing authority, which in the case of the federal government lies with the prime minister. Zia and later Musharraf were responsible for extending the military’s pervasive role in politics, society and the economy in order to wield power even though the armed forces were not in direct control.

Like Turkey, the ruling elite in Pakistan has also contributed to building the military’s power. In fact, in Pakistan’s case the civil-military divide is not simply linear but both horizontal and vertical. Eventually, all political leaders make strategic compromises with the military for short-term gains. The signing of illegal deals or hiding the military’s assets or trying to whitewash the defence establishment’s blunders is done because political leaders and significant members of civil society believe they can benefit from association with the generals.

If we were only to dig up and compare the statements of individuals regarding military rule it would be easy to see the somersaults made by so many to secure their financial and other interests. The short memory of the people helps some get away with murder.

But Pakistan does not have the convenience of foreign actors who would help with a fundamental change as in Turkey’s case. Islamabad’s international benefactors have happily rebuilt their links with GHQ, especially now that there seems to be some hope of making gains in Afghanistan. Foreign stakeholders like the US have always been shortsighted as far as Pakistan is concerned.

But it is also a fact that they want to keep the military on their side because it is not ideologically opposed to using religion as a tool. This is not to suggest there is something wrong with the idea, but it is a matter of a military not geared to apply western or even Islamic principles of secularism as done by Turkey. Therefore, the only gains the US and its allies can hope to make in the region are to get maximum support from the armed forces even though they do not hope to change the institution. The military has a radical outlook and is comfortable with some aspects of political Islam as an operational tool. The Islamists are integrated into the military machine as those who adopt a pragmatic approach in dealing with external actors.

For instance, the military is keen for the US to stay but only deal through the GHQ both nationally and regionally. Policymakers in Washington are of the view that the idea of an American withdrawal from Afghanistan has deeply perturbed Pakistan’s military.

However, the issue with a multifaceted institution, which builds multilayered partnerships, is that it is difficult to push back. It can change clothes and reappear once a crisis is over. Thus the major difference between the Turkish and Pakistan’s military is that the latter has more than nine lives and has an open field since even the opponents are ultimately its partners.

The writer is an independent strategic and political analyst.
ayesha.ibd@gmail.com
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  #54  
Old Friday, March 19, 2010
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Shahbaz Sharif’s faux pas


By Ayesha Siddiqa
Friday, 19 Mar, 2010


SHAHBAZ Sharif’s comments asking the Taliban not to attack Punjab have caused a furore in many parts of the country. In imploring the Taliban to not attack the PML-N-ruled Punjab since both had a common enemy in Pervez Musharraf, the Punjab chief minister is being accused of pleading for peace for only his own province.

He is being attacked from all directions despite his later claim of having being wronged by journalists who quoted him out of context.

Notwithstanding the fact that this is a typical excuse used by most people in high positions, the Punjab governor and others might just forgive him considering that unintelligent statements could be a family trait. One is reminded of the 1980s, when jokes used to circulate in the country regarding the older Sharif brother’s fondness for food and his inability to concentrate on food for thought. In fact, Shahbaz Sharif had the reputation of being the brightest of the Sharif lot and was loved by many, including Gen Ziaul Haq. His recent statement, however, shows that he does not think before he speaks. While the older Sharif may have learnt a few lessons from having been in exile, the younger one looks ready to shoot from the hip.

But then, why get angry, given that all political figures tend to talk unthinkingly? Perhaps Shahbaz Sharif did not intend to make such a statement but was so dumbfounded by the recent terrorist attack in Lahore that he was simply unable to hide his surprise at the jihadis breaking their promise yet again. Wasn’t it just a fortnight ago that his police officials gave him the assurance that Punjab was safe from terrorist activities? A fly on the wall might have overheard him mumble his frustrated thoughts on what had propelled the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi (LeJ) to deviate from the agreed-upon peace formula.

It’s not fashionable in Pakistan to talk about deals being brokered in Punjab, just like they were in the tribal areas. In our earnestness to accuse outside forces, we often forget that the main perpetrators of violence sit inside.

A number of people claim to see an Indian hand in the recent attacks in Lahore in the same manner as they suspected our neighbour of all earlier acts of violence. Let us assume for a minute that the Punjab government and the various intelligence agencies are able to prove that some outside agencies were involved in financing the attacks. Such an assumption still doesn’t answer the question of why the Punjab government is holding on to those terrorists who then engage in terrorist activities.

The case of Omar Saeed Sheikh planning a war between India and Pakistan, while in Hyderabad jail, after the Mumbai attack, allegedly organising the murder of Maj-Gen Faisal Alavi and even threatening Pervez Musharraf from his jail cell goes to show that such people cannot be controlled even if they are behind bars. Punjab has Malik Ishaq, who is the head of the LeJ and is currently incarcerated in Multan jail. And there are many others who traverse the length and breadth of the province, including some lethal proclaimed offenders, involved in various terrorist activities.

Anyone in the Punjab chief minister’s place may be equally shocked and disappointed to see the jihadis not delivering on their part of the bargain which was concluded over a year ago: not to attack Punjab in return for certain concessions. The agreement seemed to have gone awry even earlier when terrorist activities were carried out in and around Lahore, such as the attack on the Sri Lankan team. Sources claim that the LeJ leadership was probably involved in those cases.

Malik Ishaq of the LeJ is accused of carrying out hundreds of murders but was not convicted because of lacunas in the legal system and the police’s inability to collect evidence or run a sound witness protection programme. Resultantly, he is being kept in jail under the Maintenance of Public Order act; there is no other substantive case against him. Let us also not forget that there are many in the lower judiciary who are sympathetic towards the jihadi mindset. Not surprisingly, Malik Ishaq was apparently allowed to cross-examine prosecution witnesses inside jail even in cases not related to him. The police official who tried to stop this practice was later murdered.

Shahbaz Sharif is responsible for agreeing to keep silent on the jihadi ‘assets’. According to one source in the government, there was an understanding that he would take care of these elements, especially while the military was busy in the tribal areas. Therefore, the Punjab chief minister and his loyal law minister, Rana Sanaullah, deflected attention away from Punjab. There were even occasions when senior police officers covered up the jihadis’ tracks and maligned those that warned about such threats.

The younger Sharif brother was not keen to upset the apple cart he was trundling, since such a disturbance would have had a direct impact on the possibility of his riding the tide of the future of the PML-N. It is sad to see the elder Mian, who has learnt a few lessons from his exile, being gently sidetracked for the sake of political expediency. Shahbaz Sharif appears to have his footprints all over the PML-N’s future.

Then, there’s the fact that other politicians have also made deals with banned outfits to win seats in parliament. Hardly anyone in there or in any of the provincial assemblies has the capacity to challenge the growing tide of radicalism and jihadism in the country, especially in the two major provinces. For the leadership, it is convenient to blame ordinary people for being conservative, although the leadership has itself never tried to deliver any better message.

The problem with strategic assets, as Shahbaz Sharif may realise, is that they often bite the hand that feeds them since they can also feel insecure. Some ‘boys’ may interpret the arrest of Mullah Baradar and others as a strategy which may result in local networks being finally wiped out. The ‘boys’ who feel they are not getting the right signals are likely to jump the gun and turn into splinters of the splinters. It is up to the Punjab chief minister to face this reality before it’s too late.

The writer is an independent strategic and political analyst.

ayesha.ibd@gmail.com
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  #55  
Old Friday, March 26, 2010
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Post Turning a new page By Ayesha Siddiqa

Turning a new page


By Ayesha Siddiqa
Friday, 26 Mar, 2010



THAT Pakistan needs an alternative vision and leadership is beyond doubt. Any forward movement will depend on our national ability to recreate ourselves in our own eyes before we can have an impact on how people think about us or what they are willing to offer.

Such were my thoughts as I stood in the company of some 300 Pakistani expatriates at the US State Department. We were all there at a reception during the US-Pakistan strategic talks.

The Pakistani embassy staff was jubilant about the positive atmospherics. They believe that the US is being positive and forthcoming in dealing with Pakistan. The US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, spoke about bilateral relations turning a new page where ties would not be focused on military security but would involve socio-economic development as well. Washington hopes to cooperate in areas such as water, energy, education, health and larger social development. Apparently, both sides also agreed to use a better framework for communication to build confidence at all levels, especially with reference to fighting the war on terror.

One of the new dimensions of this strategic dialogue is that it will bring in the private sector to collaborate with the public sector and take on board the Pakistani expatriate community to share its rich experience and capital for the development of Pakistan.

Pakistan’s foreign minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who spoke next, also endorsed that the strategic dialogue was about a new chapter in bilateral relations. He also implored the Pakistani expat communicate to use its expertise and resources to build Pakistan.

There was definitely a lot of positive energy in the room and one could have a sense of the US turning the page. But the million-dollar question is whether Pakistan is ready to do the same. We must bring about change at two levels: bilateral and domestic.From the standpoint of US-Pakistan ties the major question is whether we are willing to deliver more to the US in exchange for a broader role in the region than what we delivered before. The US is back to talking to the military as well. The fact that the army chief received greater attention and better treatment than visiting army chiefs from other states normally get in Washington, indicated the Obama administration’s desire to take both the civilian and military leadership together.

For Senator David Lugar, who was present, the US couldn’t do much if the Pakistanis wanted a lame civilian government. America’s demand is for Islamabad to clamp down on all terror networks including those we are fighting and others that we have links with. This demand is linked to the US concern about rabid elements taking over weapons of mass destruction after assuming control of the Pakistani state.

We have been keeping some of the ‘strategic assets’ because of the Pakistani military’s concern for India’s nefarious activities in Afghanistan. Let’s say that we manage to convince the US to give us a role in Afghanistan where we could ensure our larger strategic interests. Would we then be willing to shut down the jihad machine?

These are tough questions which we cannot answer without, as my friend Sabira Qureshi pointed out, starting a strategic dialogue inside Pakistan.

The conspiracy theorists will naturally question America’s logic for treating Pakistan fairly this time. Perhaps, political realism buffs may understand that in this changing world no country can afford to adopt neo-conservative tools and attitudes any more. Washington might have realised that it will have to listen to Pakistan and feel concerned about Pakistan’s inherent insecurity vis-à-vis India’s role in Afghanistan. The fact of the matter is that the Afghanistan problem cannot be solved without the US, India and Pakistan abandoning their neo-conservative approach and adopting realism, which is not about the use of force all the time, but that involves measured movement.

This means using both force and negotiations depending on a particular situation. It also means understanding the inherent limitations of the use of force. Brute power cannot be advantageous all the time nor is overestimating one’s strength. Pakistan’s internal dialogue would require an assessment of how far it can go in using force to draw benefits and estimating strategic benefits and costs. While it must aim for gaining a foothold in Afghanistan to secure its position, a policy to force other neighbours out would prove counter-productive. It would help if Islamabad combined the acquisition of a role in Afghanistan with multilateral assurances that India or any other country would not threaten its core interests.

Furthermore, an internal dialogue entails building and strengthening institutions at all levels. The foreign minister spoke of the expat community investing in Pakistan. However, he did not mention improving accountability and ensuring transparency in governance. Perhaps that was not the right forum to give guarantees of improving the state system. Nevertheless, nothing that he said demonstrated a willingness to do so.

A glance at the audience indicated that those present might be very intelligent and successful, but they were also part of a crowd that eventually didn’t allow reforms to happen and opportunities to reach a larger group of people than the most affluent and well-connected.

The bottom-line is about the need to change our mindset first and adopt a new framework that will help in maximising our gains domestically, regionally and internationally. Realism is not about muscle power but about the sense to make a good bargain. We will not be able to force our competitors out of South Asia even if we wanted to. The best option, hence, would be to learn to coexist and make gains by adding to the peace initiative. So, when the US seems prepared to broaden the nature of the relationship the question we must ask ourselves is whether we are ready to turn a new leaf.

The writer is an independent strategic and political analyst.
ayesha.ibd@gmail.com

Last edited by Predator; Friday, March 26, 2010 at 09:32 AM.
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  #56  
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Exclamation Time for real change By Ayesha Siddiqa

Mian Nawaz Sharif is right on the dot in asking for an independent inquiry into the Abbottabad affair. His press conference is a timely response to arguments made by some, for instance, one military-client-turned-diplomat, according to whom the incident indicates a ‘system failure’ in Pakistan. Notwithstanding, the fact that such a statement was made to cover up the failure of just one organisation, the military must be made accountable as far as its primary job is concerned. Nawaz Sharif is right in demanding answers and a neutral inquiry, though such investigation should be conducted not just by the judiciary but by select judges and members of the civil society as well.

But let us not be too hopeful regarding what might happen. Nawaz Sharif and his party have made this demand at a time when they are politically isolated. The religious parties will not join in his protest and the other two parties — PML-Q and MQM — are friends of the establishment. Imran Khan, the army’s new friend, would also hate to join the Sharifs.

Surely, some members of Mian Nawaz Sharif’s party might be twiddling their thumbs at the party leader’s statements, as they know that such a demand will not make them popular with their right-wing-militant types. Also, the PML-N and the PPP’s relations are too sour for the latter to trust the former. The PPP is more concerned about the passing of the budget and the senate elections next year, thus being more interested in surviving than joining ranks with the Sharifs, who were earlier seen as letting down the ruling party.

In short, the military’s accountability is a non-starter. In any case, there are too many rent-a-crowd processions and posters in Islamabad that may discourage the ruling party from pushing Lt-General Ahmed Shuja Pasha too hard. The establishment is busy reinventing itself, including by sending SMSs reminding people of the army’s great sacrifices and it being backstabbed (to be read between lines) by the US. The support from the ruling coalition definitely adds to this process of reinvention, as the military along with its several civilian partners has raised the ante for anyone asking genuine questions regarding its lacklustre performance.

Perhaps it is difficult to do so, but if there was a way, one would want to remind the establishment that it is now necessary for the army to rewrite its ‘social contract’ with the nation. I am reminded of a management workshop the navy had once held in which a member asked who the navy considered its stakeholder. While some identified the president and prime minister, others named the ministry of defence and even the ministry of finance. But no one said or identified the people of Pakistan. The security apparatus of a state becomes more logical once it is better connected with the people, and genuinely so.

The South African state undertook an experiment of redefining its security needs in view of what people wanted after the end of the apartheid regime. The government identified stakeholders including the common people who were asked to present their views in a commission set up on the pattern of the ‘truth and reconciliation’ commission. People generally did not demand that the military be scrapped but they identified threats and expressed a desire for better security. This then resulted in the government revamping the security structure, rewriting the mission statement and revising the size and structure of the armed forces to make it more responsive to the people of South Africa.

Surely, some of the comments put forward to Lt-General Pasha made him extremely uncomfortable to the point where he reportedly asked that he not be treated as an enemy. But the members of parliament did not treat him as such. Any individual and citizen would, and has a right to question the professional credibility of an organisation which dominates the state and society politically, economically and intellectually, and takes upon itself un-mandated tasks. The constant manipulation of politics and society is not professionally beneficial for the state, its people, or even for its security establishment.

We need a neutral inquiry followed by a restructuring of the security establishment. Without such changes we know that General Pasha’s submission to parliament is nothing but a face-saver. This is not a time for games but for real change. It’s not just the politicians but the military that must change as well. As for the politicians, they must know that militant nationalism produces the same results as militancy.
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Exclamation Security lapses By Ayesha Siddiqa

Naval chief Admiral Noman Bashir’s statement that there was no security lapse in the case of the PNS Mehran terrorist incident, instantly reminded me of customs at Gibraltar. Despite the fact that the greatest threat faced by the small city is from smuggling, customs close shop at 9 pm and there are very few officers patrolling the border between British Gibraltar and Spain. You really have to be a fool and riding on top of a tank to get noticed by border patrol after nine.

Interestingly, the prime minister has authorised the naval chief to conduct an inquiry. One wonders what the outcome will be since the gent rarely admonishes his ‘own kind’. In any case, the navy being the smallest and most insignificant service, naval officers tend to be more protective of their men, at times, at the cost of professionalism and efficiency. The navy never even investigated how the blueprints of some of its indigenously co-produced equipment landed in the black market in Dubai. Also, why would Admiral Bashir be expected to fire his men, when the larger service, which everyone wants to follow, never punished incompetence in the earlier Bin Laden case?

So, why bother the naval chief when what we seriously need is for someone to hold an inquiry into the involvement of some in the ISI in the Mumbai attacks. The David Headley trial is taking place in Washington in which Headley has named a few serving ISI officers. Apparently, there are informal suggestions, from within the army, that a couple of junior officers might be involved. In fact, the ISI took this story to western diplomats a day after Mumbai. If this is the case, then it sounds like a security lapse which needs serious investigation. We cannot let spooks run around wild blowing up other countries, our own, or even themselves. Or are we still going to hire Zaid Hamid and his ilk to contest all of this as some foreign conspiracy?

The media machinery of the agencies tends to come quickly into action after every case of omission or security lapse. This time, fingers are being pointed at India and the US for conspiring to blow up the P-3C Orions. These are naval reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare capable aircraft supplied by the US. If it were such a threat for the US, then why would Washington sell these to Pakistan in the first place?

The P-3C Orions certainly are force multipliers but there was never any naval staff requirement generated for these aircraft, which were initially obtained during the end of the 1980s because these were the only major equipment on offer from the US. Later, more of similar aircraft were ordered. The procurement of these aircraft was so badly handled that they were not even in a ‘fit-to-fly’ condition, until at least the mid-2000s. One has not come across any news to suggest that these are now in a ‘fit-to-operate’ condition, which would make them a strategic threat for the next door neighbour or anyone else. These are very sophisticated aircraft that are deemed as fully operational, only when the navy operating them has the capacity to operate all their features and has the capacity, in terms of spare parts and components, to operate them independently of the supplier. Since the navy is very bad at procurement planning, it acquired a lot of short-shelf life items at the cost of long-shelf life items. Therefore, the P-3C Orions were sitting when the US arms embargo hit the country in 1990. Despite the release of some spares and equipment after the Brown amendment was passed, the navy could not acquire the capacity to operate these aircraft fully. Consequently, at least one aircraft just lay sitting disused on the tarmac at PNS Mehran.

Lest someone gets upset and thinks that these are just allegations, it is important to note that now is the time to think of greater accountability of the defence sector. This is not to humiliate the officers and the brave men but to ensure that precious lives shouldn’t be lost just because those at the helm of affairs can’t mind their shops.




Security lapses – The Express Tribune
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Exclamation What weakens the military?By Ayesha Siddiqa

A lawyer recently filed a petition in the Supreme Court requesting the superior court to gag the media regarding any criticism of the military. Interestingly, notices were served on fairly military-friendly journalists. This was possibly done to warn the less friendly ones and to show them that if the GHQ can run out of patience with friendly folks such as Saleem Shahzad, Najam Sethi, Ejaz Haider and Hamid Mir then just imagine what could happen to those who are considered by the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) as irreparably unfriendly? The defence establishment does not seem to be able to deal with the heightened criticism that is caused due to the influx of information. Just the availability of certain information makes the defence organisation’s behaviour look less kosher than what it would want people to believe.

The problem caused by the expansion of information technology is what neither Pervez Musharraf nor the present ISI/ISPR seem to get. There are so many channels of communication that it is difficult to ‘gag’ news and analysis. For instance, had The New York Times not gone to a retired military chap-turned analyst, the newspaper would have figured out the flaw of its story regarding General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani struggling for his job. Controlling information and its interpretation is what sustains the military’s sense of power.

It is essential to realise that the army is not being weakened by random commentators but by the nature of its politicisation. It is a deeply political institution that many refer to as the biggest political party in the country. Surely, today’s military is different from that of the 1950s. This one has multiple vertical and horizontal fault lines. There is differences of opinion on whether Kayani should have received a three-year extension. However, it still has immense capacity for the top leadership to shed some major differences for common benefits. So then why get a retired brigadier to spread the story on pressures on Kayani? The general must have been the happiest reading the story that presented him as the only liberal guy in the military who was fending for American interests and was thus in trouble vis-à-vis the more conservative thinking officers. Now that there are stories of a brigadier and a major sympathetic to Hizbut Tahrir, the Americans may have greater reason to believe that the Kayani team is the liberal one. Therefore, the Washington- Islamabad relationship will remain intact, though troublesome. The heightened xenophobia may even help the relationship.

However, this is a story of over four decades. Successive civil and military leaderships in Pakistan have marketed the story of being the only dependable friends the US can have. Enticing the US and keeping a relationship is as old a plan as Pakistan itself. In fact, the founding father, as it appears from some of his last interviews, saw Pakistan’s strategic location as critical for reaping resources from the western world. Pakistan was part of the new world that got created due to the end of World War II politics which was centered around the US – USSR rivalry. The paradigm has continued.

But referring to the military, there is no truth in the speculative story of Kayani being pushed out. This is not to say that the army does not push out its top leaders. It did so in the case of Ayub Khan, Yahya Khan, Ziaul Haq and Pervez Musharraf. It is perhaps The New York Times’ fascination with the current Middle East which made it suggest the possibility of a colonel’s coup which is not likely in Pakistan. This is not to suggest that Kayani will not honour the feelings of his fellow generals. In case he crosses a line, there will be a handful of three-star generals that could checkmate him and push him out. Once the handful gang up, others follow.

In case the military still holds civilian commentators responsible for its weakening, it could employ various methods such as muffling voices through extra-judicial and now judicial means. The larger risk, however, will be the greater divide between the military and civil society. As long as the GHQ can avoid following the Latin and South American military model, it can save itself politically.




What weakens the military? – The Express Tribune
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Exclamation Let’s dump America! By Ayesha Siddiqa

Many a good Pakistani is weary of the US, which is seen as engaging in massively twisting Pakistan’s arm. American media reports on Pakistan’s military and nuclear programme anger many beyond imagination. Extreme rightwing forces such as the Jamaat-e-Islami and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) are keen to sever relations with the US. Although seemingly representing the interests of the middle class, these two parties use an extremely feudal method for assessing relationships. The divide between friend and foe in the context of state relations follows an extremely feudal ethos. Whoever is not my friend is my enemy. Such a notion defies the main principle for state relations, which is that states have permanent interests, not friends or foes.

However, since Khan sahib is getting popular by the day I am willing to stick to his feudal ethos of seeing states from the prism of friend or foe. The next indication of my support is to endorse his idea of dumping the US. Yee-haw, let’s break ties! We will not have any more of American bullying and as a show of our indignation let’s begin by boycotting American goods. Does that mean that I will have to now stand in front of the newly opened American fast-food joint in Islamabad, convincing the long queues of Pakistanis to not support the American economy? I am sure we will be able to convince them because the majority of people in the queue outside the place are probably not only PTI fans but are anti-US as well. My only fear is that someone will argue that the joint is actually supporting the local economy.

Or there will be those like the gent with the long beard and five children that I once tried to stop from going into Pizza Hut. He smiled and gestured towards his stomach, reminding me of his real needs and interests. This was an incident from 2004/05 when numerous liberals from Islamabad would lineup in front of American eateries in the city and convince people to boycott American products in protest against Washington’s attack on Iraq. The idea of economic sanctions did work temporarily and we could see replacements for Coke and Pepsi. But then it all died down. It seems that, like the rest of the Muslim world, we could not get rid of our dependence on these drinks.

Historically, one of the most effective forms of protest is economic boycott. Gandhi’s movement against the British or Mandela’s movement against apartheid in South Africa could not have taken off had they not used the method of economic boycott. Nothing hurts even a big state than what has an impact on its economy. Seems tough not to have a chilled can of Coke or Pepsi after standing in the sun in an anti-US protest?

We can certainly break ties with the US and stop asking Washington or European capitals for trade quotas and also ask our great Chinese friends to stop dumping their goods into our market. After all, nothing will work better in weaning us off of American money than improving our earning capacity, especially our trade balance. It will also make a lot of sense for Islamabad to convince Beijing to start giving us grants instead of soft loans. We don’t want the treatment given by the US. We have honour and we won’t accept any free goodies from enemies, only from friends.

In a future meeting with the Chinese government, our officials should insist on Chinese companies not adding the huge fat into the cost of their military equipment. It is only infidel enemies from the West that get into the business of offering kickbacks. Last but not the least, we will insist on Beijing breaking off from India. Since China has a rivalry with India and so do we, it makes perfect sense for Beijing to disengage with India. An enemy is an enemy. It’s true that India is a huge market and China is keen to have a share of this market, including India’s expanding civil-nuclear market. But then what is money in face of honour? An enemy, after all, is an enemy and should be treated as one. We, in fact, promise to expand our economic potential so that the Chinese business and industry don’t miss what they have lost in the Indian market.

Did I just hear someone say Pakistan should improve trade ties with India to escape American arm-twisting? What blasphemy!







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Obituary of liberal-secularism — I



By Ayesha Siddiqa
Published: August 20, 2011


The government seems inclined to launch a countrywide de-radicalisation campaign. Seemingly, the inspiration was an army-organised seminar in Swat to showcase its de-radicalisation campaign for which Rs6 million were sought from the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government. The event brought together military men, politicians, journalists and academics to ponder over ways to de-radicalise the country.

But this may be too little, too late, as liberal-secularism is almost dead. Radicalism is going to be the future of a country where the religious and political right are increasingly gaining strength and followers. It’s the emerging culture in which the battle-lines will be drawn between ‘us’ and ‘them’ on the basis of religion and a specific interpretation of religion. While post-modernist academics have infested national and international universities and are trying to popularise the radical right-wing narrative as representing the people’s popular instinct, the fact is that these academics base their analysis on elite ethnographies. Moreover, they forget that radical views acquire the arrogance of divine sanction and thus are difficult to counter.

Besides the religious parties, radicalism is now nested in all mainstream political parties such as the PPP, all versions of the PML and the MQM as well. The intellectual base of some of the top leaders of all political parties is the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI). They might have shed the affiliation but not the thoughts. Similarly, we have a significant portion of the media which is affiliated or sympathetic with the religious right. To top it all, the fashionable post-modernist narrative is inherently right-wing. The Pakistani post-modernist academics are in the process of creating a narrative that will eventually replace any existing liberal narrative which, in any case, is scant.

The issue here is not of militancy but radicalism. While militancy translates into violence against pockets of people, radicalism destroys a society internally. It forces people to think of those who do not subscribe to their religious interpretation as being the ‘other’, which results in segregation and ‘ghettoisation’ of a society. While we remember Ziaul Haq’s dark era, we forget how radicalism spread in the country during the 1990s as a social movement denoted by organisations such as Tableeghi Jamaat and al Huda. Moreover, while the so-called liberals were happy that the Jamaat-e-Islami and other religious parties did not gain much in the elections, the influence of the religious right sneaked into the society at all levels. Today, even the begums of elite families are connected with al Huda-type movements. For example, the Leghari household reportedly invites al Huda to hold an annual milad ceremony for the wives of their political workers. How much more elite and fashionable could this get?

Nevertheless, it’s only the liberals who are reputed to be elite mainly due to their failure to connect with people across the socio-economic spectrum or offer a pluralistic political, social and religious narrative. The protest of the begums of Islamabad in 2008 against the going-on in Lal Masjid is a case in point. Another problem is that the liberals are ill-equipped to deal with religion in a religious ideological state. As a resultant, they can’t gather people behind them with the same force as the radicals. Sadly, the liberal elements have tried hiding behind the argument that radicalism has no future due to the preponderance of the Sufi culture without understanding that the essence of Sufism is against all forms of injustice and not just religious bigotry. Nor do people realise that the machinery that operates Sufi culture now suffers from major problems and lacks an alternative to counter the post-modernist radical narrative.

But can we even imagine fighting radicalism on the basis of a flawed historical narrative? Reportedly, some senior retired military officers at the Swat seminar were indignant about the idea of recognising that they had a hand in creating the jihadi Frankenstein. The alphabet of terrorism in South Asia starts with Pakistan fighting someone else’s war during the 1980s at its own expense. Dictator Zia opened the doors to Afghan refugees, weapons, drugs, jihadis and all sorts of intelligence agencies. The jihadi proxies were never discarded, not even now. Can de-radicalisation work when jihadi outfits and the support structure remains intact? Who says that hundreds of murders later leaders like Malik Ishaq, Masood Azhar, Hafiz Saeed and others will change?

And can radicalisation be countered without recognising that we can’t ‘have our cake and eat it too?’

Published in The Express Tribune, August 21st, 2011.

Obituary of liberal-secularism
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