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Old Thursday, December 29, 2011
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Who’s heading what?

Syed Saadat

I AM building a house and I wish Ahmed Faraz, the poet, or Ashfaque Ahmed, the writer, had been alive. Why? Because I would want one of them to be the project manager responsible for making sure the construction goes well technically.

After reading the first paragraph, readers would reach out for their laptops and blackberries to send me messages about the absurdity of my choice. However, I would like them to consider the three most important technical organisations in the country: Pakistan Railways (PR), the National Highway Authority (NHA) and Wapda. The gentlemen heading these organisations are senior bureaucrats from service groups that have nothing to do with anything of a technical nature.

They are all civil servants who had not served in the departments they are heading prior to their appointment to the top slot.
Secondly, during their careers they have hardly been associated with any job in the technical domain. Thirdly and most importantly, they are bureaucrats occupying positions that, for the sake of Pakistan, should have been occupied by technocrats. However, do not blame them for this; it is absolutely normal in a country where a banker can be turned into a prime minister and back with enviable ease.

Logically speaking, someone from within the officers of an organisation who has given a couple of decades of his life to it and knows the dynamics of the organisation inside out deserves to eventually head it, instead of someone who specialises in not specialising in anything — the typical bureaucrat that is. Degrees earned miles away without the recipient having a clue as to how he or she would actually make use of them hardly helps when it comes to decision-making. Keep in mind the various unions, logistics, attitudes, technical knowledge and vested interests.

If Microsoft had been an organisation in the Government of Pakistan, an MA Persian who cleared the civil service exam in 1979 and knew only one meaning of the word ‘windows’ might have been its CEO.

The other day it was interesting to read the ‘50 years’ section of this paper which said something about Pakistan Railways making a considerable profit in 1961. The news item prompted me to research when things took a turn for the worse in the case of PR. I figured out that until the 1970s, PR was a self-sustaining organisation run by an autonomous railway board which constituted a member traffic, member mechanical, member civil and member finance.

Apart from the member finance all were Railways employees specialising in their respective fields and the PR chairman was also appointed from among these three. That was PR’s golden era, one reason, apart from many others, being that technocrats were in control.

The problems our technical organisations face are not of a commercial nature because the number of passengers willing to travel by train is still pretty high; electricity consumers are desperate to purchase power at any cost; and the need for roads cannot be denied especially when militants continue to take over and destroy infrastructure in the north, including roads and bridges.

I am fully aware that appointing a technical head would not act as a magic wand and matters would not change overnight but at least it would be a step in the right direction. At the moment, we have our eyes set on the moon while we are actually drilling the earth and digging ourselves into a deeper hole.

Some might argue that the chairman PR has general managers from the Railways group and the engineering wing at his disposal to assist him, and similarly the NHA or for that matter Wapda has many technical members who give their input. But the point is this situation ensures that the chairman plays into the hands of those who are better equipped in the said field.
Arbitrary appointments devoid of vision cannot lead to progress. One day a certain officer from a certain fraternity is appointed head of the NHA, the next day he might find himself an OSD and the next something else.

Another interesting fact is that the ‘spoils system’ prevalent in the political parties of Pakistan ensures that the political heads of the ministries are generally clueless. It is part and parcel of the system that we have, though maybe there is nothing bad about it as long as the ‘cluelessness’ ends with the political heads, and the secretary, who happens to be the eyes, ears and hands of the minister, is somebody who knows it all.

Lastly, a suggestion for our policymakers is to think along the lines of establishing a tangible criterion for appointments to top positions in important techno-based organisations. There should be a check list ascertaining the qualifications and the years of service in the said department as eligibility for heading these organisations.

If nobody does that, somebody should move the Supreme Court with a petition in the same manner that we are moving the SC in every other matter. Some, including old-school bureaucrats, who may be holding or vying for such positions themselves, might find these views disturbing. But the point is that they will retire in a few years. It is the country that still has a long way to go and that longs for a paradigm shift.

The writer is a civil servant.

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Old Tuesday, January 31, 2012
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Default Judging the sovereign

Roedad Khan
Tuesday, January 31, 2012

I had the privilege of moving a petition in the Supreme Court challenging the validity of a deplorable legislation, not because I had an animus against any particular person. Nor did I stand to personally gain anything. I did so because, as a citizen, I felt it my duty to challenge such an iniquity being imposed on millions of my fellow citizens.

The nationwide jubilation which we witnessed after the Supreme Court delivered its landmark judgement in the NRO case was justified on many grounds. It restored the majesty of the Constitution; it proved the independence of the judiciary; it threw into the dustbin the odious agreement between a military dictator and an ambitious politician which was motivated purely by the desire of each to retain or gain political power. The court also directed that criminal proceedings against all the beneficiaries of the NRO should be continued from the stage at which they were withdrawn. The date was Dec 16, 2009.

While doing all this, the court did not exceed the limits of good jurisprudence and stopped short of actually assuming the role of a trial court and proceeding against any particular individual. It did, however, insist that the names of the beneficiaries should be disclosed, no matter how high and mighty they may be, and the amounts they had stolen be shown to the court and the public.

The government’s refusal to send a letter to the Swiss court and, in particular, to comply with the Supreme Court directive is an alarm call of the most compelling kind. The fear of conspiracy against the Supreme Court hangs heavy in the air. Our history can show no precedent for so foul a plot as that which this corrupt, dying regime has hatched against the Supreme Court.

One thing is clear: disillusion is fast setting in. People are getting impatient and are asking questions: Why is the Supreme Court not taking action against the corrupt rulers who are defying its orders and not implementing the NRO judgment? Why is no action being taken against ministers guilty of contempt of court? What is preventing the court from taking action against the prime minister who is openly defying it? Why is the court not exercising its awesome powers under Article 190 of the Constitution? Is there one law for the common people and another law for the corrupt few who rule this country?

The “historic encounter” between Justice Nasirul Mulk heading the bench in the NRO contempt case and Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani over the issue of immunity for President Asif Ali Zardari reminds me of the famous confrontation between Chief Justice Coke and King James I. “This means,” said King James, “that I shall be under the law, which it is treason to affirm.” “To which,” replied Chief Justice Coke, “I said that Bracton saith, quod rex non debet esse sub homine, sed sub Deo et lege” (the king should not be under man but under God and law). This was the first confrontation between the king and the superior judiciary in England. Chief Justice Coke did not waver. He did not falter. He risked going to the Tower but he stood his ground.

In the altercation between Chief Justice Coke and the King, there is personified the basic conflict between power and law. Coke did not stop with affirming that even the king was not above the law. In Dr Bonham’s case, Coke seized the occasion to declare that law was above the parliament as well as above the king; that when an act of parliament is contrary to fundamental law, it must be adjudged void. The year was AD 1608.

Zardari is obviously much more powerful than King James was in AD 1608. He is President of Pakistan, Co-Chairperson of the ruling People Party, and First Diplomat, all rolled in one. He is above the Constitution, above the parliament, above the law, accountable to none. He has power without responsibility. For all practical purposes he has become the state. No wonder, he gets away with murder.

It is not always easy to say no to the sovereign. In late July (43 BC) a Centurion from Octavian’s army suddenly appeared in the Senate House. From the assembled gathering, he demanded the Consulship, still vacant, for his General. The Senate refused. The Centurion brushed back his cloak and laid his hand on the hilt of his sword. “If you do not make him Consul,” he warned, “then this will.” And so it happened. Today the Supreme Court Reborn finds itself in a similar situation. It faces the unenviable task of deciding the question of President Zardari’s immunity. How will the court decide this contentious issue? It “ought to do that,” in the memorable words of Chief Justice Coke, “which shall be fit for a judge to do.”

The court has to decide whether President Zardari’s case pertains to civil or criminal proceedings. He has no immunity if the proceedings are civil. The government of Pakistan was a civil party to the proceedings in the money laundering case in Switzerland, claiming that the money belonged to the people of Pakistan. The unauthorised letter written by Malik Qayyum to the Swiss court, in 2008, also stated that the government wanted to withdraw its case as a “civil party” in the money laundering case.

In the NRO judgment the court had observed: “It is to be noted that while making request to the foreign states for legal assistance, no request for criminal proceedings in such states can be demanded under Section 21 of the NAB Ordinance. The money laundering case in Switzerland was not opened upon the request of Pakistan; the Pakistan government became a civil party to the proceedings in Switzerland. One thing is clear: The issue is of civil nature and not of criminal nature. There is no mention of criminal proceedings, for the simple reason that it was a civil case in 1997 when the unauthorised letter was written by Malik Qayyum. It remained a civil case when the case was withdrawn. There might have been criminal proceedings in Switzerland but the government of Pakistan joined the proceedings in a civil capacity.

One thing is clear: Civil society must remain actively engaged. It must, as it did in the Judges’ Case, see the battle through. No single individual, no matter how well-intentioned, can do it alone. If civil society is to be effective, it must organise itself as an identifiable and disciplined force. Those of us who took the initial steps now need the support of civil society as a whole to see that the spirit of the Supreme Court judgement is carried through. We must be ready to join in actions which ensure that thieves and robbers never again take the destiny of the nation in their hands. They must atone, they must be cast aside, they must not be allowed to enjoy the tainted wealth that they have acquired. It is our duty to ensure that the judgement of the Supreme Court is put into full effect, in letter and spirit.

The writer is a former federal secretary. Email: roedad@comsats.net.pk, Roedadkhan.com
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Arrow Many faces of Arab Spring

Many faces of Arab Spring

Tanvir Ahmad Khan

“A THING long expected,” Mark Twain noted, “takes the form of the unexpected when at last it comes.” The yearning of the Arab masses for self-determination, democracy and human rights has a long history stretching back to the Ottomans, the European colonial rule in North Africa and the British and French mandates following the First World War.

The anti-colonial struggle often led to Arab socialist regimes and not multiparty democracy. The Arab people that resisted republicanism witnessed consolidation of strong dynastic rule.

The protests that began in Tunisia in January 2011 and quickly spread to several Arab states were hailed in highly romantic terms. The original clichés still figure in the international discourse on the changing political landscape in the Arab world but its glowing vistas stand darkened by the post-Qadhafi chaos in Libya, the conflict in Syria, the collapse of the state in Yemen, the uncertainties of Bahrain and the unresolved political and economic issues in Egypt.

The Arab Spring has been no exception to the fact that revolutions are prone to unintended deflections of course. Arab struggles have historically suffered from a deterministic mix of internal contradictions and foreign interventions. First, the affluent Arab states built counter-revolutionary dykes against the rising tide with limited reforms and generous spending of oil revenues on instant welfare schemes. Secondly, external interference came in a concerted western effort to control and redirect the processes of change by diplomatic and military means.

The indigenous dynamics of the Arab Awakening were unmistakable. The UNDP report on Human Development and Poverty in the Arab states (March 2000) documented how the Arab region had lagged behind other regions in moving towards participatory governance by missing out on waves of democratisation that swept across Latin America, East Asia, Eastern Europe and Central Asia in the 1980s and early 1990s. There was also a conspicuous failure to translate economic development into social development with most indices being disappointing.

A decade later, the scene was even more ominous. Leaders in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya had been in power for 25 to 40 years; their authoritarian rule more intolerant of dissent and their political institutions more stagnant than ever before. In Syria, the long rule of Hafez al-Assad had been followed by his son Bashar al-Assad assuming power. Unexpectedly, Bashar al-Assad failed to reform the state, partly because of the reluctance of senior members of the ruling Alawite clan to take risks when the West held a sword of Damocles over Syria, the closest regional ally of Iran.

None of the Arab leaders seriously addressed the deleterious effects of the neo-liberal economics adopted under western advice. As Soumaya Ghannoushi pointed out in the Guardian in March 2011, millions had suffered as state-owned firms (67 per cent of firms in Tunisia; more than 50 per cent in Egypt) were privatised and sold to foreign investors and their local partners.

Ghannoushi identified the upsurge as a rebellion as much against political authoritarianism as against the economic model imposed by the IMF, the World Bank and the European Union. The aging rulers, in particular Hosni Mubarak, also faced simmering discontent because of the failure of their conciliatory Israel policy.

Against this backdrop, western powers can achieve only limited success in redirecting the Arab upsurge to their advantage.
President Sarkozy began by offering French assistance to the then Tunisian president, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, to put down the protests. Washington made pro-Mubarak noises. Once the West comprehended the scale of the uprising, it switched to the lexicon of freedom and liberation.

The climax of this role change was Libya where France and Britain, with Barack Obama leading from behind, deftly converted the UN Security Council resolution 1973, passed in the name of the doctrine of Responsibility to Protect (R2P), into a mandate for a massive and sustained assault on Muammar Qadhafi. Not much is heard of this doctrine now that Libya is ravaged by disparate militias fighting for turf and profit.

Tunisia was a relative success but the Egyptian revolution continues to be characterised by surprises, especially for the West.
There was no chaos as the armed forces led by Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi stepped in to ensure stability and the military’s pre-eminence in Egypt’s polity. Since then, radical activists have continued to agitate against the military’s interim rule as they are fearful of it influencing the presidential election and the new constitution.

The other unforeseen development in Egypt is the phenomenal success of Islamist parties in parliamentary elections: the Muslim Brotherhood participating as the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) bagged 47 per cent of seats; the new rightist Salafist Nour Party took another 25 per cent seats. The traditional liberal parties fared badly.

Till the other day, the moderate Muslim Brotherhood seemed ready, much to the chagrin of the secular protesters, to accept the army’s dominance till June. In a remarkable shift, it has risked tension with it by demanding that parliament form a new coalition government to replace the prime minister and the cabinet.

Egypt’s politics is complicated by a notable economic downturn: sharp fall in foreign investment; shrinking of foreign exchange reserves from $36bn in January 2011 to the current $10bn; rising unemployment; double-digit inflation; and a steep drop in tourism revenue. Ironically, the military has run into difficulties with the US that is unabashedly leveraging economic assistance to gain political influence.

Nothing defines the complexity of the Arab Awakening better than Syria where all the sub-texts are heading for a bloody denouement. The regime used gratuitous force against demonstrators in Latakia and Deraa more than a year ago triggering off a spiral of ever-increasing violence by government and armed protesters. An emerging ‘Free Syrian Army’ may well become a conduit of external military interference.

Bashar al-Assad has lost support of Arab states and, no less significantly, of neighbouring Turkey. He now depends heavily on Russia and China that vetoed a Security Council resolution which might have conceivably created space for foreign intervention. Obviously, Syria needs a separate article that should also encompass the politics of influential oil-rich Arab states.
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Is a rethink under way?

By Najmuddin A. Shaikh
March 07, 2012

FOREIGN Minister Rabbani Khar`s recent statement to journalists rubbishing, in the words of one journalist, the concept of `strategic depth` and maintaining that if this were being sought it could not be obtained militarily or through proxy war but only by `building trust with the Afghan state`, is welcome.

It is a recognition of the reality of the regional situation. It appears to signal that Pakistan is now prepared to perceive Afghanistan, with which Pakistan shares many bonds and on whose behalf it has assumed many burdens, as a sovereign, independent neighbour. But is this statement and the claim that the `trend` towards the change of policy `isclear` and we have actually `walked the talk` reflected in actual actions? In this exchange with journalists, Ms Khar noted approvingly that PresidentKarzai had talked of Pakistan having a `proactive supportive role and not a proactive leading role`. But then she added her views on the path that Afghanistan should follow: hold a loya jirga to decide the broad framework for peace talks including an intra-Afghan dialogue to see on what conditions they want to run the process of peace and reconciliation, who do they want it to be run by and the time frame in which they want this completed.

This is good advice. I myself have long advocated an intra-Afghan dialogue that brings together various ethnic groups the Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazaras and anti-Taliban or at least moderate Pakhtuns to decide on power-sharing arrangements and changes in the constitutional structure that can be offered to the Taliban.

I, however, am a private citizen and can offer such advice publicly. A Pakistani foreign minister has to be much more circumspect in public statements even while being prepared to offer such recommendations in private discussions.

One must assume that since Ms Khar was obviously speaking from a well-prepared brief this suggestion was designedto address suspicions in Afghanistan that Pakistan did not believe that ethnic minorities had a role to play in the reconciliation process.

But does this, important as it may be, constitute `walking the talk`? From the Afghan perspective our contribution should be to persuade the Taliban to come to the negotiating table. After President Karzai`s visit Ms Khar dismissed as ridiculous what she termed as the Karzai demand that Pakistan deliver Mullah Omar to the negotiating table.

She may be right in saying that Pakistan does not know where Mullah Omar is and certainly cannot force him to negotiate with Karzai. What Pakistan can, however, do is be more helpful in identifying and bringing forward such Taliban and Haqqani representatives that have credible positions in the move-ment and are valued as initial negotiating partners by Afghanistan.

Mullah Ghani Baradar, who we have been holding as an honoured guest, is one person Karzai believes is of consequence in the Taliban movement, since at the time of his detention he was perceived to be Mullah Omar`s principal lieutenant. He probably also believes that Ibrahim Haqqani, brother of Jalaluddin Haqqani with whom the Americans held talks arranged by the ISI, could be another interlocutor. If we are really rethinking our position on Afghanistan these are requests we should accede to and urgently.

This is not altruism. We must recognise that reconciliation on whatever terms the Afghans can agree among themselves with such prodding as we and other Afghan well-wishers can provide is as urgent a necessity for Pakistan as it is for our Afghan brethren. We must recognise that suspicions about our intentions trigger reactions by other neighbours of Afghanistan that would retard reconciliation. We must therefore be seen through our concrete actions as being sincere in our protestations of sup-port for Afghan-led reconciliation.

Recent incidents such as urinating by American soldiers on Afghan corpses, and more importantly, the burning of religious texts makes problematic the prospect of agreement on the Strategic Partnership Document that the Afghans have been negotiating with the Americans to govern a limited US presence after foreign troops withdraw.

These incidents have probably also ensured that the Americans will complete their withdrawal by 2013 rather than the originally envisaged 2014 date.

Therefore, this possible source of economic activity and employment generation for Afghans will also disappear faster than anticipated.

Political turbulence in Afghanistan and the expected economic downturn have already increased the flow of eco-nomic refugees to Pakistan.

This refugee trickle will turn into a flood as there is greater unemployment following the reduction inthe size of the Afghan National Security Forces from 358,000 to 230,000, by retrenchment in firms that currently provide security at ongoing projects and by the halt of construction and other economic activities generated by the foreign troops` presence.

It is my estimate that unless we take precautionary measures we will have in the next two to three years some two million economic refugees from Afghanistan. If there is no reconciliation, the mix of economic and political refugees will climb to five million to add to the numbers already here.

Even as we work with Karzai to promote reconciliation and increase our diplomatic efforts to win support from others for such reconciliation, we must do more to secure our borders against the influx of refugees. For starters the biometric system must be enforced for all travellers between Afghanistan and Pakistan across Torkham and Chaman.

We must also ensure that we exercise greater control over the refugee camps even if we cannot close them down.

The writer is a former foreign secretary.

Is a rethink under way? | ePaper | DAWN.COM
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What law and whose rule?

By Iqbal Jafar
March 06, 2012

A QUESTION has been waiting to be asked for a long time, but hasn`t yet been formulated. Let me try: why do our collective thought processes work in such devious ways that twisted logic, perverse defence of patently criminal acts and misplaced sympathy for the guilty, find easy accommodation in our legal and moral universe? This is not an idle question in a society where vocal support for, or partisan silence over, suicide bombing, faith-based murder, massive corruption, open defiance of the law, or even making fun of the superior courts is not uncommon.

Two factors could be at the root of this moral and legal disorder. First, the lingering colonial mindset where defiance of the laws of the state is not only permissible but even laudable, and free of social stigma. Second, the different laws, values and practices of pre-Muslim, Muslim, and of the modern origin, that have coalesced into a mishmash of hybrid morality.

Defiance of the laws of the state is a residue of the colonial period of our history where persons charged or punished by the agencies of the government were our compatriots and the punishers were the alien rulers or their native mercenaries.

Hence, sympathy for the punished and antipathy for the punishers sounded justifiable. That behaviour pattern survives as a baggage of history that we`ll have to carry as long as our ruling class remains alienated from the people and retains a pre-Independence adversarial relationship with them.

The other factor has even deeper ramifications, and is profoundly complex. First, this hybrid morality is not the end product of an evolutionary development where the old is replaced by the new. The three different strains of hybrid morality that emerged at different times, separated by hun-dreds of years, continue to run parallel to each other, and remain largely unaffected by each other.

Secondly, each of these three strains has its own source of sanction. The pre-Muslim (tribal, feudal, customary) laws, values and practices, have the sanction of history and community; Muslim values, laws and practices have the sanction of religion and tradition; modern laws, values andpractices, codified and compiled during and after the colonial period, have the sanction of the state, unsupported as yet by any social, religious or moral pressure, except the coercive power of the state, where the state is willing and able to exercise that power.

Since there are three different flavours of morality on offer, the choice of one instead of the other is often motivated by self-interest or considerations other than what is just and what is unjust. This can happen at the highest level of public discourse.

Consider, for example, the debate on the question of presidential immunity under Article 248 of the constitution. Since the case against the president appears rather weak within the confines of the constitution, it has been argued at the highest level that the president cannot claim immunity as it is against the traditions of Islam.

The example cited is that of the second caliph who presented himself before a court to answer a charge against him.

But one could, then, argue that by the same token, the president could claim to be the chief justice as well, as was the case with the second caliph and the one before him and those after him. I am sure the claim will be rejected out of hand on the basis of perfectly sound reasoning that this cannot be done without amending the constitution. This is a good example of how the hybrid nature of our laws and values allows a person to be selective, inconsistent, even dishonest, and yet remain credible.

Another example, taken from the highest rung of the social and intellectual ladder, is that of Ghulam Ishaq Khan. In his famous letter to Sardar Shaukat Hayat, about a matter relating to their two families, he took pride in his own belief in Pakhtunwali and Islamic values, that he adhered to, but advised Sardar Shaukat Hayat to seek redress through a court, knowing full well that the courts administer mainly the British-made laws based on the Anglo-Saxon notions of justice.

This shows how deeply these three strains are embedded in our hybrid morality. Our conscience would be satisfied by resorting to any one of them.

The third example is that of a senator who wouldn`t hesitate waxing eloquent on the virtues of modern democracy, rule of law and human rights, but did choose to defend a tribal practice whereby women suspected of adultery could be buried alive.

These three examples, taken from the highest strata of society, show that we are truly a lawless society in a very subtle way, for we do allow three different, often conflicting, laws and values to prevail wherever they may. Worse, each of the three strains grows weaker by the day for different reasons.

While the sanctions behind the tribal, feudal and Muslim laws, values and practices do command voluntary acceptance, their hold on the people grows ever weaker due to the sectarian and linguistic polarisation of society. But there is nothing to replace them. The modern laws (codified during and after the colonial period), on the other hand have the sanction of the coercive power of state, but are subject to the rule that weaker the state, weaker would be the enforcement of laws; and more rapacious a state, more hostility there would be to its laws. It so happens that the state of Pakistan is both weak and rapacious.

The stage is thus set for complete legal and moral anarchy, both in concept and in enforcement. Hence, the question: what law and whose rule?

The writer is a former civil servant.

What law and whose rule? | ePaper | DAWN.COM
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Fair wind from Kremlin

By Tanvir Ahmad Khan
March 13, 2012

THE Putin project to restore Russia to great power status advanced on March 5 when Vladimir Putin won 64 per cent of the vote to win the presidential election for a third term.

The margin of victory frustrated a lingering hope of his opponents and of some western circles that Putin would be forced into a run-off election that would diminish his moral authority and substantiate the thesis that he had won a Pyrrhic victory and would not be able to rule effectively.

Putin has dominated the corridors of power for 12 years. He became prime minister in August 1999 under president Yeltsin and, upon Yeltsin`s sudden resignation on Dec 31, 1999, his successor.

Faced with a constitutional bar to a consecutive third term in 2008, Putin shifted back to the office of prime minister under President Dmitry Medvedev.

As expected, he is now returning to theKremlin as elected president. An attempt to trigger off mass protests by questioning the legitimacy of the decisive vote for him has fizzled out.

From a Pakistani viewpoint,Putin`s triumph ensures continuity of the process by which Islamabad and Moscow are overcoming decades of distrust. It is a work in progress that would greatly benefit from Moscow`s quick acceptance of a prompt Pakistani invitation to Putin to visit Islamabad in September. Musharraf went to Moscow in February 2003 and President Zardari was there in May 2011. These visits from Pakistan have distinguished precedents but Putin would make history when he comes to Islamabad.

The Russian election and the forward movement in Pakistan-Russia relations take me back to the autumn of 1996 when, in Moscow, I observed the political and economic decline of Russia. Unlike Putin in 2012, Yeltsin got elected president in August that year only in the runoff; the first round gave Yeltsin 35 per cent of the vote with 32 per cent going to the communist leader, Gennady Zyuganov, who had campaigned in the name of the lost glory of the Soviet Union.

As Pakistan`s ambassador, I also had to contend with the darkening shadow on bilateral relations of the Taliban`s cap-ture of Jalalabad and Kabul and, much worse, their northward push.

Yeltsin had gained in stature during the crisis that led to the break-up of the Soviet Union but had faltered in steering the democratisation of the state and the liberalisation of the economy. In his camp, battles of turf raged continuously; privatisation was a struggle between those who wanted a much larger middle class to rise from it and the emerging oligarchs pursuing extreme concentration of new wealth.

William Safire wrote in New York Times that lights were going out all over Russia.

In the midst of increasing chaos, our despatches foreshadowed economic disarray though hardly anyone visualised the staggering scale of the financial crisis that overwhelmed Russia on Aug 17, 1998, warranting massive devaluation of the rouble. Bailout packages from the West were suspect in the public eye because of Nato`s eastward march despite sanctimonious treaties with Moscow and the reckless greed of west-ern firms invading the Russian economy.

Vladimir Putin`s authoritarianism may be rooted in his long association with the KGB but it gets easily validated by the need for stabilising the ship of the state.

The latest onslaught of the western media doesnotcutdeepbecausein the12years of Putin`s ascendancy, per capita income rose from a little over $6,000 to well over $19,000; the `oligarchs` were contained and a large middle class emerged for the first time in Russian history.

This self-conscious class, predictably, demands greater participation in governance and the rule of law, human rights and individual freedoms. As the main architect of this basic restructuring of Russian society, Vladimir Putin should be ready to engage constructively with its legitimate expectations in his third, and possibly fourth term, as president.

The effort to transform PakistanRussian relations is marked by two important features: one, there is, at long last, a consensus in Pakistan to establish meaningful cooperation with Moscow; two, Moscow is outgrowing the assumption that Pakistan was, deep down, animplacable ideological foe.

Pakistan tried to dispel this entrenched perception in 1996 as well but the initiative failed to gather critical mass as the much-needed visit of prime minister Benazir Bhutto to Moscow kept getting delayed. The military ambitions of the Taliban were the principal hurdle; the presumed Pakistani assistance to the Chechen insurgents added fuel to the fire.

When I met the affable commander of the Russian Border Forces Gen Nikolaev in August 1996, he and, more particularly, his associate Col Gen Koveshnikov additionally alleged that the Islamist insurgents destabilising Tajikistan were trained in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

A self-proclaimed bulwark against the rising tide of Islamic jihadist forces, Yeltsin`s Russia viewed Pakistan as a threat to Russian interests in what we call a `common region` today even though Russia had retreated from Afghanistan.

Bhutto`s visit tentatively slated for December 1996 was aborted by her dis-missal; I was precipitately recalled from Moscow and P a k i s t a n ` s embassy there remained, rather disdainfully, without an ambassador for six months.

Pakistan`s rela-tions with the Soviet Union took a nosedive after Nikolay Bulganin and Nikita Khrushchev took adversarial positions on Pakistan`s issues with Kabul and New Delhi during their visits to these two capitals in 1955. Relations deteriorated even more sharply during the Bangladesh crisis and the decade in which Afghan leftists seized power and the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan to prevent the collapse of the Marxist regime.

History cannot be erased but the momentum of bilateral contacts between Islamabad and Moscow since 2003, of which president-elect Putin`s visit would be the high water mark, will enable the two capitals to put it in the perspective of a receding past and initiate a new phase of cooperation.

Future prospects would obviously need to be assessed in a separate article.

Suffice it to say that the wind is fair and that it is possible to sail forth towards new horizons.

The writer is a former foreign secretary who was ambassador to Russia from 1994 to 1997.

Fair wind from Kremlin | ePaper | DAWN.COM
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The changing endgame

By Najmuddin A. Shaikh
March 21, 2012

AS parliament begins its debate on the resetting of USPakistan relations and presumably insists on laying out transparently the parameters for the relationship it should bear in mind the recent dramatic changes in the Afghan situation which are an important though not dominant element in the USPakistan relationship.

I say important rather than dominant because the elimination of the terrorist threat posed by Al Qaeda and its affiliates remains the principal American objective in the region and that is seen to be emanating from Pakistan`s soil rather than Afghanistan`s.

In my view, even if a reconciliationprocess brings a modicum of peace to Afghanistan the American interest in our region and in our own struggle against terrorism and extremism will continue for the decade or more thatwould be needed to change the mindset created over the last 34 years.

Unfortunately, recent developments in Afghanistan make it unlikely that peace of any sort will be achieved in Afghanistan. One can break up these developments into two parts, the first being those that have exacerbated almost to a breaking point the tensions between the Karzai and Obama administrations, between the Afghan National Security Forces and Nato forces and perhaps most importantly between the Afghan populace and the Nato forces particularly in the insurgency-ridden south and east of the country.

These include the video showing American soldiers urinating on Taliban corpses, the discovery by Afghan cleaners that Americans were incinerating copies of the Holy Quran, the subsequent riots in which some 30 Afghans were killed and 200 injured and the killing of two American officials in a high-security area by a security-cleared Afghan.

These also include the withdrawal of all Nato personnel from Afghan offices thus halting progress on developmental and training activities, the shooting ram-page by an American sergeant Robert Bales in an Afghan village killing 16 people including women and children and the abortive effort by an Afghan interpreter employed by the British to use an explosives-filled hijacked truck to ram either the plane carrying US defence secretary or the VIP military delegation waiting to receive him at a military airport in Helmand.

In terms of the impact on Nato plans for completing the withdrawal of all foreign forces by 2014 and then retaining some 20,000 Americans at Afghan-controlled bases perhaps the most important of these developments are the attacks on Nato forces by the very Afghans that they are training and mentoring or employing.

These `green on blue` episodes are not new. Many in the past have been talked about as resulting from personal differ-ences rather than ideology or from poor vetting which permitted Taliban infiltrators to join the Afghan security forces. It was said that inculcating greater cultural sensitivity and more rigorous vetting would reduce if not eliminate this problem. After the two most recent incidents, however, this optimism is questionable.

The training mission already understaffed will find it difficult to find the extra people needed or to retain those already deployed from other Nato countries. Similar problems will arise for the Special Operation Forces that are supposed to train the Afghan local police, the creation of which is theoretically a key element in retaining government control of areas wrested from Taliban control.

The second set of developments relate to US-Afghan relations at the government level.

First, on March 11 President Karzai said in an interview to Radio Free Europe that he was almost ready to sign a general Strategic Partnership Agreement with the Americans (this followed up on an agreement reached earlier on the transfer to Afghan control within six months of Bagram prison and the 3,000Taliban or suspected Taliban held there).

However, he made it clear that while this agreement could be concluded before the Nato meeting in Chicago in May this would not cover an agreement on a continued US military presence after 2014.

For this, he said, another year of negotiations would be needed.

Second, after the shooting rampage by Bales, Karzai demanded that American forces withdraw to their bases and leave the protection of villages to Afghan forces and that the handover of security responsibilities to Afghan forces be completed by 2013 rather than 2014. This despite the fact that of the Afghanistan army`s 158 battalions only one is deemed capable of operating independently and even that is dependent on American air support. It seemed that Karzai had backed away from this demand after aconversation with President Obama but thefactthatthe demand was made reflects his frustration and his perception of the public mood.

Third, the Taliban haveannounced the breaking off of negotiations with the Americans in Qatar. This is probably because the Americans made the release of the five Taliban demanded by the negotiators conditional on an unequivocal renunciation of Taliban ties with the Al Qaeda or any international terrorist movement.On the American end in this election year opinion remains divided but it is my view that there will a growing clamour for `bringing our boys home` and for pursuing American goals by other means. Parliament must therefore bear in mind the strong possibility that Nato will be licking its wounds, leave Afghanistan earlier than expected and the Americans will abandon plans to maintain a residual presence.

Reconciliation will remain stalled and chaos will ensue as the Afghan economy shrinks, as the exodus of capital estimated at $8bn a year increases, as the Northern Alliance girds its loins to prevent a Taliban takeover and as the flow of Afghan refugees, a trickle now, becomes a flood bringing another two to five million refugees into our beleaguered country.

The writer is a former foreign secretary.

The changing endgame | ePaper | DAWN.COM
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Parliamentary oversight

By Tanvir Ahmad Khan
March 27, 2012

AFTER a curious and almost indefensible delay, the Parliamentary Committee on National Security (PCNS) on the guidelines for revised terms of engagement with USA/Nato/Isaf finally tabled its recommendations to a joint session of the two Houses of Pakistan`s parliament on March 20.

It was a workmanlike document written by members representing various parties; at least Prof Khurshid Ahmad had known reservations about the report`s contents on drone attacks and transit facilities to foreign forces in Afghanistan.

The text, competent though it was, showed the strain of various factors that weighed on PCNS` deliberations. First, it could not be assumed that the executive had referred sensitive foreign policy issues to parliament because of a funda-mental change in its outlook; it may simply have been an expedient to conceal failures of its muddled US policy under the cloak of parliamentary consent.Secondly, PCNS addressed the task of reflecting the will of the people without any assurance that the executive had the resolve or the capacity to implement recommendations that Washington would push back against even as it repeats sanctimonious clichés about respecting Pakistan`s parliament.

Third, the committee did not, apparently, feel that it could sketch a comprehensive framework of Pakistan`s external relations with any greater detail than customary phrases about national sovereignty and bare-bone recommendations about China, Russia and Iran.

Considering that PCNS had such luminaries as Senators Raza Rabbani, Wasim Sajjad and Ishaq Dar as its members, an opportunity to write a document that would have compelling and abiding power over an executive, the motives of which are suspect in the eyes of the people, for years to come has almost been lost. PCNS should have aspired to a longer shelf life for its report particularly when it is evident that in its uncertain final year, the current parliament may not be able to strike deep roots for parliamentary oversight of external relations and worse still, may not even be interested in doing so.Establishing this oversight is a challenge even in states with long traditions of democracy. The demanding business of crafting adequate responses on a daily basis strengthens the grip of the executive, particularly it`s foreign and security policy establishment, on the conduct of external relations. The `establishment` can draw upon supportive inputs from think tanks and an already enlisted media.

On their part, legislators have, in the more recent past, sought to leverage their influence by strengthening the role of consultative bodies such as foreign affairs committees, by scrutinising money bills more critically, and above all, by promoting direct parliament-toparliament contacts. Pakistani parliaments have seldom manifested such proactive interest in the formulation and conduct of the country`s external relations. Did they, for instance, act strongly enough to prevent the government from contracting secret obligations after 9/11and did they demand that such agreements be brought to them for approval? Substantial sections of the present government are a carry-over of the Musharraf regime and were complicit in decisions that parliament now is expected to review.

Be it as it may, the Raza Rabbani committee`s challenge to parliament to assume ownership of foreign policy is a dynamic that can have a life of its own, particularly if the media keeps it alive. It will, in future, be difficult to hide behind the belief that the armed forces do not allow the elected institutions to play a significant role in the realm of foreign and security policy. Parliamentarians will be expected to invest time and energy to make an intensive study of issues confronting the nation.

Rhetorical demands for ending drone attacks are liable to wither away for two major reasons: one, the offensive use of unmanned vehicles an increasingly lethal weapon of choice is a growth industry; two, Washington is likely to return to leaks that drone attacks are often carried out with clandestine approval from Pakistan. Pakistan`s parliament will probably make little impression on this CIA operation; its ability to rule out Pakistan`s own secret assent, atleast in some drone attacks, is also not assured.

The issue of Nato supplies is emotive and will attract sharp partisan politics if the government does not handle it with tact. Depreciation of Pakistan`s infrastructure by its large-scale use for Nato supplies amounts to billions of rupees.

Failure of international users to compensate Pakistan adequately with much higher taxes and tolls would fuel resistance that may not only be conceptual.

The committee was strangely weak on `foreign intelligence operatives`. The international system tolerates their limited presence as duly accredited `diplomats` in foreign missions but what has happened in Pakistan with undeniable complicity of government functionaries is simply outrageous. Parliament`s task is to reduce this pervasive foreign `footprint` to acceptable levels available only in embassies.

PCNS` recommendations about deepening relations with China, about pursu-ing Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline and about strengthening the initiative to build a qualitatively different relationship with Russia would have better traction if parliament can pursue them robustly and with expertise comparablewith, if not superior to the specialised institutions. Foreign affairs committees would need to meet more frequently and draw upon experts within and outside the government. Similarly, parliament must create a tradition of informed and professional engagement abroad and eliminate the deeply rooted culture of inane tourism in the name of foreign policy, worst seen in `projecting` the Kashmir issue.

Foreign policy of a state cannot be static even as some of its underlying concerns and norms have an enduring value.

In a world of flux, its conduct demands flexibility and adjustment within its abiding parameters. Pakistan`s parliament would have to remain continuously, and not episodically, engaged with foreign and security policy issues if it wants to break the near monopolistic control of the executive on them.

Unless it re-tools itself for an effective role in formulating and supervising foreign policy, it would run the risk of instrumental use by the core practitioners in the Foreign Office and elsewhere.

Effective parliamentary oversight in future would be a bold departure from our past.

The writer is a former foreign secretary.

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Regional security

By Najmuddin A. Shaikh
March 28, 2012

MEETING his Iranian, Afghan and Tajik counterparts in Dushanbe President Zardari made all the right noises.

A stable Afghanistan was in Pakistan`s interest; the nexus between militancy and drug trafficking needed to be curbed; non-state actors wanted to destabilise Afghanistan and, implicitly, they should not be allowed to do so; cooperation in all spheres among the four countries would assume added significance after the withdrawal of foreign forces in 2014; etc.

Separately, all four leaders agreed that terrorism and militancy needed to be tackled jointly. This clichéd repetition of public stances adopted earlier should not be the only thing to emerge from thequadrilateral summit. They must have discussed the implications of the following developments and raised the following questions: One development has been the increase in `green on blue` incidents, the latest example being the killing of two British soldiers by an Afghanat milÏtar Éras n elmand and the confirmation that the man was from the Afghan army. Separately, an Afghan policeman shot an American soldier.

These brought the number of such incidents in 2012 to 10.

The US commander in Afghanistan, Gen Allen, has conceded that these incidents have led to an erosion of trust between allied and Afghan forces, though earlier he had suggested `we should expect that this will occur in counterinsurgency operations`. Yesterday 16 people were arrested from the Afghan Ministry of Defence, at least some of them Afghan soldiers intending to use suicide jackets stored in the ministry itself to blow up buses bringing workers.

Where then will trust come from? In a New York Times poll conducted before the latest incidents, more than two-thirds of those surveyed think that the US should not be at war in Afghanistan when four months ago only 53 per cent felt that way. As regards the state of the war, 68 per cent thought the fighting was going `somewhat badly` or`very badly`, compared with 42 per cent who had those impressions in November 2011. Will there be any support, in the face of these polls and the green on blue incidents, for a continued, albeit reduced, presence of American troops at jointly operated Afghan bases? Did the participants seek confirmation from Karzai that even if the US agreed to halt night raids he would only sign off on a general strategic partnership document and that the question of basing rights for the Americans would need another year of negotiations? Or was this not raised because of the known Iranian opposition to continued US presence? Earlier, Gen Allen in his testimony before Congress said that the build-up of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) to 352,000 would be completedby the end of 2012 and that these forces would be maintained at that level until 2017. It has been estimated that at present pay and maintenance levels such a force would cost $7-8bn annually.

On the other hand, it appears that Ambassador Grossman had difficulties in securing firm commitments from European allies for a contribution to the $4.1bn annually, post 2014, to support a reduced ANSF force of 230,000. Even if the $4bn target is met who will plug the gap for the three years that the ANSF will remain at its present level? Certainly, Congress would have no appetite for this in the face of the opinion polls cited earlier and the general weariness with the decade-long conflict. What would be the consequences for stability if the forced demobilisation of lethally trained soldiers added to the ranks of the unemployed in an economy strained by the massive drop in foreign aid? The Taliban have suspended talks with the US ostensibly because of the latter`s vague and erratic stance. Is this the real reason or is it because the Taliban do notwant to publicly renounce ties with Al Qaeda or its affiliates among the latter would be large sections of the Tehrik-iTaliban Pakistan or because hard-liners in their ranks believe that they can resist regional pressures, wait for Nato forces to withdraw and then restore the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan? If the hard-liners prevail in Taliban ranks will the result be anything other than a civil war for which the minority ethnicities are now better prepared than ever before? Could the participants in the summit take the initiative to seek the appointment of a UN special representative along the lines of the Cuellar/Cordovez mission of the 1980s to bring together the government and `armed opposition`, the only precondition being the renunciation by the armed opposition of ties with ter-rorist organisations? Could the participants call for a meeting of all regional countries for a reiteration of the 2002 Kabul declaration on good-neighbourly relations and ensure that this time pledges of non-interference would be honoured? Would something along these lineswork when vested drug trafficker and warlord interests within Afghanistan actively seek to subvert it? Can the government and opposition in that country, unlikely as it may seem, work together to eliminate this threat? The quadrilateral summit in Dushanbe coincided with the fifth Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan. As against the 11 countries that attended the first conference in Kabul and the 24 that attended the third in Islamabad more than 80 countries and a host of international organisations are present in Dushanbe.

International interest in working for a stable Afghanistan after the Nato withdrawal is obviously at its peak. Any worthwhile initiative by the summit participants and other regional countries will win international support. Pakistan must take the lead because it is Pakistan, as I have shown in earlier columns, that would be most affected by continued instability in Afghanistan.

The writer is a former foreign secretary.
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An outstanding civil servant

By Sartaj Aziz
March 30, 2012

ZAFAR Iqbal, who passed away last week after a brief illness, was not only an outstanding civil servant but also belonged to a very different class of civil servants.

Through tradition and the force of circumstances, most civil servants learn very early to say `yes` to all commands from above. Some of them even learn to say `yes sir` and not just `yes`. Zafar Iqbal was very different bold and upright always looking for opportunities to display his fighting spirit, if he detected any irregularity or digression at any level.

The most dramatic display of Zafar Iqbal`s defiance came in 1972, when he was outraged by the out-of-turn promotion of an officer junior to him as additional secretary.

He submitted an appeal to the establishment secretary and requested him that the issues raised about the criteria, under which the principle of seniority has been ignored, should be clarified and also brought to the notice of the president.

The establishment secretary felt that the representation of Mr Zafar Iqbal wasarrogant and provocative and therefore amounted to misconduct. He recommended that the displeasure of the government should be conveyed to the officer.

The president recorded the following order on the file: `I agree with all the reasons given by Establishment Secretary but the action suggested is not sufficient. First suspend this man and charge sheet him for dismissal. I will not tolerate impertinent individuals like this malapert servant.

Mr Zafar Iqbal was suspended and a charge sheet was served on him in July 1972 with the allegation that the impugned letter was impertinent, arrogant and irrelevant. Mr Zafar Iqbal`s response to this charge sheet was given to an enquiry officer who ruled that the accused officer was guilty of the charges. Subsequently, Mr Zafar Iqbal was dismissed from service in August 1973.

Mr Zafar Iqbal did not give up his fight. He appealed to the Services Tribunal and after six years` struggle won his case.

He was reinstated with full benefits and seniority.

I first met Zafar Iqbal in1955 when he went to England with the 1953 CSP batch for final training and I was also there for a threemonth O&M training course with the British treasury.

After that we remained colleagues and close family friends. Zafar Iqbal rose to prominence in the mid-1960s when, as deputy secretary external finance, he displayed exceptional competence in preparing and presenting the annual foreign exchange budgets which provided the basis for periodical import policies whose centrepiece was the famous Export Bonus Voucher Scheme.

As chief of the international economics section in the Planning Commission at that time, I worked very closely with him and his immediate boss, the late Majid Ali, joint secretary external finance.

Zafar Iqbal`s reputation for hard work and innovative management got another boost in 1979, when after his reinstatement, he took over as chairman, National Development Finance Corporation, which had been set up to meet the funding requirement of public-sector enterprises.Two other DFIs, namely PICIC and IDBP had been working for two decades to finance private-sector projects, but after the large-scale nationalisation of industries in the early 1970s, there were dozens of corporations to handie nationalised units in several sub sectors.

By the time Zafar Iqbal left NDFC in 1986 to join the central secretariat as secretary ministry of production, it was one of the best DFIs. NDFC`s monitoring role, before extending financial facilities to public-sector enterprises, kept them from gliding into the kind of financial meltdown that was witnessed in later years.

Greenstar, the well known family health NGO, which Zafar Iqbal had been managing for the past 15 years, bears his hallmark of integrity and efficiency. Zafar Iqbal, above all, was a very fine human being. He leaves behind many friends, and admirers who will miss him with many fond memories.

The writer is vice chancellor of the Beaconhouse National University, Lahore.

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