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  #101  
Old Wednesday, May 14, 2008
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Still chasing democratic shadows


By Shireen M Mazari
Wednesday, May 14, 2008


It is difficult not to respond to the absurdities being visited upon us by the US from all directions and the whining of Ambassador Patterson last week was a tempting issue to respond to. However, other more significant developments have occurred since then and after all, if the US finds many in Pakistan willing to accept the largesse of the US without considering the costs, then the blame must lie with our own people for selling this great nation short for a few junkets and military trinkets thrown our way while our neighbour to the east gets the real goodies and benefits. But it certainly does not endear the US to the Pakistani nation which has seen the US' shadow over all the negatives that they have had to and continue to suffer at the hands of their various rulers as well as the price extracted from those who do not fall into line. Pakistanis are not an ungrateful people and a small example will be a useful illustration from which Ms Patterson could draw a valuable lesson.

Unlike the US, with whom our leaders have attempted to cosy up to whenever they can, Cuba is a country with whom we did not have full-fledged diplomatic relations when the earthquake struck in October 2005. Yet the response of that country, beleaguered as it has been since the US' continuing embargo against all international norms, was simply amazing. A medical team accompanied by a deputy minister stayed in the earthquake zone for six months with no fanfare or publicity. This led to the establishment of full diplomatic relations and a Cuban commitment to train over 900 doctors in Cuba in the field of preventive medicine and public health -- medical areas the Cubans are known to excel in globally. All this with no political or other demands. Notwithstanding the bureaucratic hurdles confronting Cuba and the poor beneficiaries of this training scheme, the Pakistani people showed their gratitude in the way they embraced the Cuban medical team and the embrace of friendship the first Cuban ambassador, himself the son of a leading Cuban revolutionary, continues to find here. Ms Patterson could certainly learn a lot from the Cuban interaction with the Pakistani people! She would also find some uncomfortable answers if she examines why some of our nationalist political leaders are not prepared to make public their visits to the US and their interactions with US officials!

But coming to more critical events that have brought despondency and despair to the nation as the expectations that the new democratic dispensation would be responsive to the people's demands for the restoration of the pre-November 3 judiciary have finally been shattered. Almost every Pakistani living here, and many outside, was committed to the cause of the judges' restoration. Political workers and apolitical citizens by the dozens, paid with their lives for this commitment, especially on May 12, 2007 in Karachi, and also in Islamabad. Others came, often with their families, to protests and braved the ire of the state. The media took the lead as it suffered a backlash of restrictions and persecution. Political leaders, who had been unable to galvanise the nation on earlier counts, saw the whole nation mobilised on the judiciary and media issues.

With the nation increasingly challenging the legitimacy of the rulers, the need for a new legitimate political dispensation became unavoidable and fair and free elections became a necessity. However, while many people debated the worth of elections prior to the restoration of the judiciary, eventually they cast their verdict in the face of commitments for the restoration of the judiciary by the major contestants. While the nation, ever hopeful of fresh political starts, hoped for a new political dispensation reflecting the electoral mandates, it forgot the backroom deals brokered by the US (and Patterson wonders why Pakistanis dislike the US) to protect its own interests in Pakistan. Even the NRO was pushed into the background after initial critiques, in the hope that at least the commitment for the restoration of the judiciary would be fulfilled.

Unfortunately, since the February elections we have been put on a rollercoaster with meetings across the world between the main political players. What by all legal accounts should have been a simple matter has been complicated by factional interests, political rivalries and backroom commitments and deals. Why else would US officials loom large over the political discussions between the Pakistani coalition partners? Surreptitious meetings and continental dashes have added to the increasingly bizarre political machinations going on presently. Meanwhile, the nation is plummeting into food and energy crises -- with no remedies in sight. Notwithstanding the responsibility of the Aziz government in these crises, and many of us had been pointing these out at the time, after over six weeks in office some remedies should have been instituted. Instead, the blame game continues as prices of food and fuel continue to spiral. Why is no one asking where the excellent wheat harvest has gone? Why is every successive government determined to deny farmers the market price for wheat while taking no action against the hoarders who take this cheap wheat and hoard it or smuggle it out of the country?

Yet despite all these issues of survival, the nation's greatest hopes were pinned on the new elected dispensation moving immediately to restore the judiciary and establish a truly democratic and responsive government. With the withdrawal of the PML-N from the cabinet -- and the frustration was writ large on the party's leadership – these hopes have been destroyed.

As for democracy, where do we stand today after the holding of the February elections? There is a government and parliament in place, but where are the decisions being made? Certainly not in parliament which has yet to become effective in terms of its committees and substantive debates. Worse still, the political leaders of the main parties in power remain outside the elected and parliamentary ambit. Comparisons have been made to the present coalition dispensation in India where the leader of the Congress Party has chosen not to hold the prime ministerial office. However, the comparison is false because Ms Gandhi is an elected member of the Indian parliament and it is elected representatives that hold political and ministerial posts.

Perhaps most distressing is to see how real power is being wielded by unelected holders of advisory posts -- be it in efforts to thwart the timing of bye-elections or to threaten the free media. If our ruling elites are so admiring of the all things Indian, they should also see how it is Indian elected representatives who hold cabinet positions and wield power, and parliament is supreme -- as the US has found out in the case of the Indo-US nuclear deal. Of course, there are advisers to the PM in the PM Office but if they head a ministry then they have to seek election to either the upper or lower house of parliament and they are not members of the cabinet till then.

In Pakistan, regardless of the people's sacrifices, the voice of the nation gets drowned in the cacophony of vested interests, backroom and extra-constitutional deals. For those of us who have chosen to stay in this land of ours through the good times and bad, it is a case witnessing that the more things seem to change the more they remain the same. That is why there is a chink of light piercing through the political darkness in the PML-N showing its responsiveness to its electorate on the judicial issue, its leadership's decision to contest elections and have its elected parliamentarians as the negotiating team on the judicial issue. We cannot let our resiliency and hope be destroyed because that is our greatest weapon against the forces of repression.

The writer is director general of the Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad. Email: smnews80@hotmail.com

http://www.thenews.com.pk/editorial_....asp?id=112357
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Old Wednesday, May 21, 2008
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A brutalised people fed on lies

By Shireen M Mazari
Wednesday, May 21, 2008



It has certainly been an unmitigated time of horror, repulsion and despair for this nation. The mob justice being meted out in Karachi followed by a similar, mercifully failed, attempt at the same in Lahore has been a stark reflection of the depths of barbarity and despair to which society has sunk.

After waiting for decades to see effective and fair governance, promises of a better life fulfilled and basic decency, it is hardly surprising to find mobs taking justice into their own hands, venting all their rage through a barbaric violence and watching with a vengeance the burning of fellow human beings. The total lack of faith in the law enforcers has never been so chillingly reflected and it is ironic that all this has happened after Mr Suddle was sent to Karachi as the law enforcer par excellence. Seems his mission may have been more politically directed to rein in the MQM even as the streets of Karachi burnt. In any event, if this is not a spiralling into anarchy, then what is?

But then why blame the ordinary Pakistani who has witnessed the elites abandoning them when the going gets rough and creating safe havens for themselves abroad -- only returning through scandalous deals and when the scent of power is strong. Worse still, they have had to see indifferent rulers themselves brutalise and physically violate the people when they rise against injustice and tyranny. Just a year ago, the officially sanctioned carnage in Karachi on May 12 took officially practiced brutalisation to new levels with a callousness that was reflected in the ugly celebrations of power the same day in Islamabad.

That is why from the urban centres of civil society elitism to the humble abodes of ordinary Pakistanis living their increasingly miserable lives in the rural areas and urban slums, the clarion call for justice and rule of law that was led by Chief Justice Iftikhar and the lawyers' movement found an unquestioning resonance.

For the ordinary citizen who cannot hope for NROs and other such salvations, it is the higher judiciary that is the last hope for justice and protection against state tyranny. It was the support of the people that created a scenario whereby the government of the day increasingly lost credibility and forced the need for a new political dispensation which in turn had to begin with fair and free elections. Of course, the US sought to draw the parameters of this new dispensation and hence the deal since they saw the threat of the growing anti-US sentiment in Pakistan in the form of a less welcoming democratic political dispensation.

So when Mr Zardari expresses his gratitude to the US, UK and EU for pushing the country to democracy, that is not entirely correct. It was the street power of the lawyers' movement and the upsurge of civil society in its support that forced the move towards a new democratic dispensation. However, it was certainly the US and its allies that pushed a particular democratic dispensation on to the country. That has been the negative aspect of the post-electoral scenario where the elected people are increasingly out of the loop as unelected returnees from overseas implement certain agendas -- with the US ambassador, Ms Patterson, filling the role of a viceroy. What was left of our sovereignty post-9/11 has now been bargained away to the US. But perhaps the most galling aspect is the lies that are still being fed to the nation at large.

For instance, the US continues to kill our citizens indiscriminately through its missile and helicopter gunship attacks but we are either told there was no such attack -- the presumption being we are all blind -- or that the killings by the US were not "an attack"! This last claim was made by Haqqani, our new rep in the US, who declared in the face of clear evidence and US media reports to the contrary that "the US has not attacked Pakistan." Then what were the missiles launched against the tribals' in Bajaur -- a gesture of love through "friendly" killings? Or is Bajaur not regarded as a part of Pakistan so that the attack cannot be regarded as an attack on Pakistani territory? At a time when others in the Muslim World are beginning to stand up to the US, why are our rulers so servile in their submission to US diktat?

There are lies, big and small, these days and they are being fed to the people as a daily diet. The British, in their usual games, now tell us that while the British officials at our airports can grab a Pakistani's passport, it is not confiscation but mere retention! A forced retention can hardly be different from a confiscation and it is a shame on our successive governments for allowing the Brits this nonreciprocal authority in our own country. When I had raised this issue in an earlier column the Brit press person was miffed and gave out a bizarre and accusatory response. The latest news in this regard yet again substantiates by earlier contention that our rulers are merrily renouncing elements of the nation's sovereignty to the US and UK.

Lies have become so endemic in the psyche of the ruling elites, regardless of who they may be, that in all probability they do not see it as an issue. Look at our prime minister declaring that the judicial issue was complicated because of the problem of "one seat, two chief justices". This is just one of the deliberate confusions being created at the official level to continue keeping the judiciary under executive control, and are all ploys similar to the claim that the judges can only be restored through a constitutional measure -- which immediately would be an expression of legitimacy for the actions of November 3 and beyond!

Meanwhile, people are facing a crisis of survival -- again at the level of foodstuff it is certainly an artificially created one given the bumper wheat crops we have seen over the last few years. So where are these stocks? Are we deliberately being led to a situation where we are in such dire straits that the US can step in and demand exacting quid pro quos -- as was done immediately post-9/11? Some of us had been critically writing about the extent to which the US was intruding on our sovereignty, but post the February elections, the intrusiveness seems to know no bounds.

Ironically, every time we move in the right direction ourselves in order to deal with the problem of violence and the tribals' marginalisation the US ensures failure by military attacks on our territory. So we continue to sell lies to our people. But now the results of being fed on such lies over decades has created its own monster within our civil society. We do not need to look for Al Qaeda or other "militants".

Our state has created a dehumanised population that has been terrorised and suppressed and has now unleashed its own terror within society. Today it is robbers who are facing mob "justice" through public burnings. Who will it be tomorrow? Everywhere violence has become more brutal -- with the dispossessed either taking their own lives along with those of their children; or turning on to other citizens and reflecting an uncontrollable rage that needs satiation even beyond killing -- as was witnessed in the unbearably hideous incident at an NDU residence in Islamabad where the mother and children were butchered and then burnt. Is the headiness of power so lethal that the whole nation can be sacrificed for self-satisfaction and revenge?

Tailpiece:
Just to set the record straight, the US embassy had twice asked Riaz Khokhar when he was foreign secretary to remove me from the ISSI but they failed. I am told the General Hood expose put them into a hyper frenzy and this time they succeeded. But I had a good innings thanks to the talented and responsive research team of the ISSI.


The writer is a defence analyst. Email: callstr@hotmail.com


http://www.thenews.com.pk/editorial_....asp?id=113768
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Old Wednesday, May 28, 2008
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HOW WE WASTED OUR NUCLEAR ACHIEVEMENT

Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Shireen M Mazari

The writer is a defence analyst.

May 28, 1998 was a proud moment for Pakistan. After defying discriminatory sanctions and Western pressures including veiled threats, especially from the US, the national leaders and scientists gave the nation its nuclear capability – reflecting a major scientific achievement against all odds. Both our leaders and our scientists paid heavily to reach their target. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto defied the US, while our scientists from Munir Ahmed Khan onwards worked around the increasing technology denials to push ahead in the nuclear field. Teamwork was essential to the nuclear achievements, but as always happens, some individuals stand taller than the rest within this teamwork. For us it was Dr A Q Khan, who finally brought the technical know-how of uranium enrichment and allowed the country an alternative to the plutonium reprocessing path to nuclear achievement – given that the US had persuaded the French to renege on the reprocessing deal with Pakistan.

For his audaciousness in the service of Pakistan, Dr Khan has and continues to suffer in the wake of our leadership's capitulation on this issue before the US post-9/11. Dr Khan's continuing captivity and maltreatment is a national shame and a testament to the declining stature and confidence of our leadership. When we did not have the capability our leaders boldly defied the Western world; now we have the capability our leaders have fallen victim to temerity and fear that is unfounded except in their minds. While NROs can be readily fashioned to wash the slate clean for politicians and bureaucrats, the real heroes like Dr Khan and Chief Justice Chaudhry continue to be subject to political machinations and victimisation. With the 10th anniversary of our nuclear achievement today, the nation needs to reflect, with shame, on the continuing incarceration of Dr Khan and the continuing marginalisation of Chief Justice Chaudhry. Is it any wonder the US and Europe feel they can push our leaders any which way? Certainly this is no country for heroes.

In seeking to understand why the US and the West were so opposed to our nuclear capability, we need to understand the psychological trauma for the US and Europe in having a Muslim nation achieve nuclear weapons' capability. The Crusades' mindset has always been there in the Christian West; it simply became kosher to give it overt expression post-9/11. After all, when India tested in 1974, no one in Europe and the US showed any concern whatsoever and no punitive measures were taken against India. Ironically, even at that time, the punitive measures targeted Pakistan – for example, the Canadians simply walked out of the KANUPP cooperation despite the fact that this civilian reactor was subject to IAEA safeguards.

But the tragedy is that we as a nation not only failed to move forward with the May 28 scientific achievement, we made sure that those in the forefront of the achievement were eventually punished. From the start, the distrust between civil society and the government came to be reflected in the erroneous decision to freeze the foreign currency accounts. Our ruling elites wavered from being reckless in their nuclear bravado to being almost apologetic for having tested the nuclear device. Of course, had we not taken that critical decision, India would have immediately been given de jure recognition as a nuclear weapon state. As it is, over the years, the US has manipulated and manoeuvred to give India nuclear legitimacy while denying Pakistan the same and it has eventually succeeded in creating the delinkage between the two South Asian nuclear programmes through the Indo-US nuclear deal.

There are many "could-haves" that would have allowed us to take advantage of our nuclear achievement in a substantive and sober manner. The first requirement was to have initiated a long term assessment of the impact of nuclearisation on our defence and foreign policy goals. How we could build in this new advantage into our policies and undertake immediate damage control that was bound to follow in the immediate short term. Soon after testing we could have signed the CTBT while withholding our ratification of the same – to earn political mileage and put India on the defensive. In any case, the CTBT is a dead treaty with US rejection, since an essential part of the treaty requires the ratifications of not only the P-5 but also India, Israel and Pakistan. So we would not have had to declare a linkage with India in the case of this treaty – it is already there. However, now the moment has been lost and politically it would be unacceptable domestically to add our signature to the CTBT. Also, internationally we would now gain no substantive advantage.

We could also have used the opportunity to restructure our country to becoming more self-reliant given the massive sanctions we were already subject to. It was a time to have a more nationalist approach to all aspects of public life including the economy, education, defence and so on. The problem was that though we had entered a qualitatively different status as a state, our mindsets had not moved beyond the pre-nuclear days. So we failed to restructure our defence in a substantive manner. We simply saw the nuclear capability as an added capability rather than a central component of a restructured military where conventional power could have undergone major reorientation to focus on dealing more with unconventional and Low-Intensity threats which are going to be the main conflict in this region. That is why we now have a largely conventional military confronting a set of unconventional low intensity threats.

Even now we have not moved on into redefining ourselves in the post-nuclear mode which would require a more pro-active and confident national strategy to deal with issues, both domestically, regionally and globally. A quiet but firm approach would have fared better than dithering between the bombastic and the timorous – a hallmark of our post-nuclearisation behaviour. Our floundering and confusion was a central feature of the Kargil conflict.

Even when we made the right move, as in the case of establishing solid command and control structures as well as export control laws, our projection of the same was dismal partly because we failed to use our own non-official sources and experts for this purpose. Also, when a strong statement was required from the state, as in the A Q Khan case, we chose to buckle under for the self-interest of a few and penalised a man, who for all his faults, brought a technology to this country that even now the Indians are having problems with. The worst of it is that we actually sought to undermine even this aspect of Khan's contribution.

We never chose to highlight the Indian record of proliferation at the level of the state although it has been public knowledge for some time now. Instead, we succumbed to Western propaganda against our own. We volunteered all manner of concessions (remember the sending of our old centrifuges) which were not necessary in the vain hope that we would stop being a target for the US and Europe on the nuclear count. Had we understood the basis of why these powers were opposed to our nuclear capability, we would have spent less energy and even fewer national resources in trying to satisfy them. Now while Dr Khan continues to suffer, all others of his so-called network are free souls and the Swiss government has actually destroyed the records involving their countrymen since they felt this was a threat to the country's defence and security. If the US is presently riding roughshod all over our national life it is because we have allowed them to do so. Today, as our leaders quiver like pygmies, our nuclear achievement lies wasted and the achievers' are either incarcerated or killed.

http://www.thenews.com.pk/daily_detail.asp?id=115130
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  #104  
Old Wednesday, June 04, 2008
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Post Need to move away from self-destruction

Need to move away from self-destruction


Wednesday, June 04, 2008
Shireen M Mazari


There can be nothing but condemnation for the attack against the Danish embassy. Hatred and violence have become endemic in our psyche with tolerance all but a vanished word from our vocabulary. We find grand reasons for unleashing violence all around us, and no reason has been so frequently abused as religion. It is as if we are the sole defenders of the faith even as we contravene basic injunctions of this faith on a daily, nay, hourly basis – both collectively and individually.

The terrorist incident comes at a time when the state has been seeking to end the cycle of violence flowing out of our tribal belt and onto the mainstream of the country, especially in the wake of the US-led "global war on terror" which not only has its own face of state terrorism but has been premised on an erroneous strategy of killing and humiliating Muslims in Guantanamo, in Abu Ghraib, in Bagram and wherever the US can find an opportunity. So we have seen the hatred and condemnable violence of Al-Qaeda face off with the hatred and violence of the Bush Administration post-9/11. The hatred has found easy takers on both sides – one in the name of religion and "jihad"; the other in the name of freedom and "democracy." Never have such terms been so brazenly abused. Pakistanis have been caught in this crossfire in a most central manner.

That is why some saner voices have been advocating strategies to break the cycles of violence we have been plunged into. While there are many incitements to violence, there can be no justification of it. It is high time we Pakistanis looked inwards to dealing with our dehumanised psyches so that we can restore a human face to our civil society once again. Of course, for any such effort to succeed a first step has to be the creation of some space between ourselves and the US and its NATO allies, which are calling for our blood and the blood of our tribal people. No effort to get the tribals to renounce their violence and shelter for those living by such violence will succeed as long as we are embedded in the US-led war on terror.

It is a strange irony that the US, which effectively forced Britain to dialogue with the Irish Republican Army at a time when the IRA had moved its acts of violence to the British homeland itself, is unable to accept the Pakistani state seeking dialogue with its own people to end the violence and terror in the country. Nor is the British example the only one of a state dialoguing with those it had earlier declared as "terrorists."

We have seen the Philippine government negotiate with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) of Nur Misuari and later on with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) of Hashim Salamat in the '90s. Unfortunately, the latter negotiations soured in 2000, providing more space to the Al-Qaeda-Abu Sayyaf extremists, but the earlier creation of the "Coordinating Committee for the Cessation of Hostilities" and the International Monitoring Teams, composed primarily of the Malaysian Armed Forces with some members from Libya and Brunei, have been able to contain local violence from escalating by decisive action.

Indonesia's Banda Aceh, where a more conservative form of Islam is practised than in the rest of Indonesia, is another example of dialogue making the difference. A peace agreement, facilitated by Finland, was in place in 2005. As a result the Abu Sayyaf Group has been isolated in this region. But the main point that should be noted by Pakistan is the recognition by all sides that the status quo reflecting colonial structures in a post-colonial setup was untenable. Of course, closer to home are the dialogues the Indian state has had with its militants in the northeast and the Sri Lankan states efforts to dialogue with the Tamil LTTE. And look at the Nepalese Maoists moving from being a violent militant entity to the majority party in the new republican set up.

So why should Pakistan's much needed efforts at dialogue with its tribal militants, including the Taliban, be sabotaged by the US and NATO? Clearly, they wish to keep this country destabilised -- especially the US, which has been seeking to shift the centre of gravity of the war on terror to the tribal belt and enter Pakistan militarily, as part of its efforts to violently redraw the borders of what it refers to as the "Broader Middle East." There also seems to be an assumption that if the country is weak and divided internally, those in power can accept external demands more easily, including from the US and India -- with the latter in terms of the peace process. Added to this is an even more nefarious game being played in Punjab in terms of fissiparous tendencies.

Overall, one needs to see the NRO and the PPP-Musharraf deal in this larger framework. When the Shaukat Aziz government lost credibility nationally, a new US-brokered political setup was evolved anticipating the people's electoral choices. The spoiler proved to be the PML-N which got votes that were not anticipated. If one is to understand the run-around being given by Zardari to the nation and to his PML-N coalition partner, one needs to know details of the whole NRO deal brokered by the US between Musharraf and the PPP. That is why there should be no surprise at finding the US ambassador, nay, vicereine, in consultations with Zardari almost every other day. Perhaps if the president is made to go, he can do the nation a major service and reveal the whole nefarious deal.

As vacillation continues and deliberately contradictory statements arise from the Prime Minister's House and the real power centre, Zardari House, about President Musharraf, there seems to be a deliberate effort on to incite the people to new heights of anger and frustration. Every time the US senses Pakistanis discovering some free space for manoeuvre, it steps in with diatribes and visitors, and now the use of the IMF and World Bank – in terms of subsidy removals, knowing full well the instability that that will cause. We may have had fair and free elections, but the state continues to be run by the unelected. The greatest confusion has come to dominate the efforts by our democratic forces to dialogue with the tribals and Pakistani militants. The US knows that as long as we are unable to bring stability to our tribal belt, we will have to go along with their misguided military policies in Afghanistan. That is why whenever a "deal" seems imminent, out come the Predators and helicopter-gunships.

But why are we allowing ourselves to play this dangerous game that will destroy our nation -- even though the state of Pakistan has remarkable resilience to survive? It is time for civil society to reach out to those we mistrust or even hate -- and this move must come from all sides. The westernised elite, a key component of the civil-society protest on the judicial issue, must reach out to the religious groups and parties. While accepting our differences on all manner of issues, we also need to come together on national issues like the restoration of the judiciary and a national spirit. We have to stop the cycle of violence and hatred that has become endemic within us and is leading us to self-destruct.

Acts like the bombing outside the Danish embassy not only helps to bolster our negative image abroad, it undermines our own society and development. What we need to do is to expose the hypocrisy of the West and its myths of freedom and tolerance. Instead, every time we respond violently, we bolster their position and tragically kill more of our own innocent people. The Pakistani nation is the sole loser once again.



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Post The Long March out of surrealism

The Long March out of surrealism


Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Shireen M Mazari


As the Long March gets underway, the extent of public enthusiasm and support that it still arouses reflects the commitment of the people across the country to the restoration of the judiciary – and the central figure that continues to symbolise defiance against tyranny remains Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry. But as the Long March gets underway the blast outside the Danish embassy last week continues to raise some bothersome questions.

* The first question is whether it really was Al Qaeda, given that the group claimed responsibility for it much after the event and that too in a rather obscure fashion. This is not like Al Qaeda which tends to gloat over all its violence.

* The second question is over the type of blast – certainly not the usual suicide bombing pattern one has come to expect from Al Qaeda.

* The third question relates to the actual location of the blast – given that it hit out at poor Pakistanis at large rather than any Dane, and this is what must have been anticipated given the place of occurrence. So was the intent really to hit at the Danes or to create a security situation that could be exploited in terms of undermining the Long March on security grounds?

* There is also the intriguing thought as to why one would target the Danish embassy after the issue, even for the second time, had effectively died down much earlier? When no violence actually accompanied the protests that followed the republication of the blasphemous cartoons, why would this blast have occurred after the protests had died down?

Certainly one does not have any easy answers, but there is clearly more to last week's blast than meets the eye. After all, the surreal is normal for us.

For instance, only in Pakistan the ultimate defence of the US could happen at the official level in the face of all evidence to the contrary. I am referring to the constant violations of our territory by the US and the killing of our tribal people in the process. But our defence minister insisted that in fact the US was not guilty of any violations of our sovereignty. And the "logic" that governed this gem of his was that the US was using unmanned drones to attack us in the tribal belt! So as long as US personnel were not physically involved in the attacks, one could not accuse the US of carrying out such attacks. Who can argue with such logic?

Clearly, the US will continue to haunt us as our new leadership lives in the lingering shadows of a deal brokered by the Bush Administration. That is why our leaders are constantly offering doublespeak on dialoguing with the tribals and militants. Rehman Malik's declaration that the peace deal with the local Taliban in Swat had been scrapped, should also be seen in this context. Unfortunately for the unelected but most powerful controller of the state forces of violence, the NWFP government has insisted the deal stands. So will US interests hold supreme or will our local needs and interests finally win some space?

Nor is this all. Look at our style of begging for aid and assistance from our friends! Instead of a low key delegation comprising a finance minister accompanying our prime minister, we saw an entourage of eighty plus winging their way to Saudi Arabia in what was a most grotesque sight. And amid the delegation was Mr Zardari – but in what capacity? Was this an official government delegation or was it a PPP delegation? Ms Sonia Gandhi, who also happens to be a member of the Indian parliament, has never flexed her power in such a crude fashion. But here in Pakistan we now have government being run not by the elected people or parliament, but by those outside of the state and governmental structures. In other words, the wielding of power without responsibility. Is this our new model of democracy? Incidentally, the new set up also comes with a lot of "I will do this" and "I will do that" – all very reminiscent of the old Musharraf-style that has now become passι.

But then in Pakistan the more things change, the more they tend to remain the same. Junkets by the new PM and FM have already begun even as domestic issues require immediate attention. But what would life be for the leaders without these "great escapes"? Prime Minister Gilani certainly provides a bridge between the old and the new – although in all honesty, there is nothing "new" in terms of the politics today. It is simply a recycling of the old, one more time. Old politicians have been recycled and old bureaucrats have also undergone a recycling process. In terms of vocabulary also, just as the word "honour" was used to describe gruesome killings of women, we now have Prime Minister Gilani referring to hoarders and other such criminals as "honourable" families! What a farce. Where is the "honour" in such criminal activities? And how can families indulging in hoarding be regarded as "honourable" to begin with? Does anyone really care to begin with?

We are, though, an ever hopeful people. Presently in Lahore there is much hope and joy with the election of Shahbaz Sharif as chief minister of Punjab. There is also a high level of expectation on all fronts amongst the elite, including the concerned citizens of Lahore. However, for those us who come from southern Punjab, we remember the neglect of our areas by all those occupying the seat of power in Lahore. Will things be different this time round? One certainly hopes so, although the record of our elected representatives is dismal and if one looks at even the divide of women seats of the PML-N, hope and expectations will be tempered once again.

Perhaps it is this hope that continues to sustain the citizen's support for the deposed Chief Justice. At the end of the day, we all have to rely on the judiciary for relief and Iftikhar Chaudhry was doing that for the dispossessed, the disappeared and other such victims of state excess. That is why the Long March will bring us all on the roads once again, just as vested interests will continue to seek all manner of subterfuges to delay and eventually deny Iftikhar Chaudhry's restoration as Chief Justice.

There are devious designs afoot which seek to destroy all the surviving institutions of the state, with many amongst us willingly playing the role of fifth columnists. But the will and determination of the nation has been thwarting these designs so far. The Long March will also be a reflection of this will and determination which is why certain forces are opposed to it. If the government had shown a responsiveness to its people, instead of playing games through confused signalling, the Long March would not have been needed.

The real test for the state will be after the Long March arrives in Islamabad. What happens then? Will the government heed the voice of the people finally? If not, how will the post-Long March situation play itself out? Who is testing whose patience and commitment? And, finally, who is actually committed to what? Clarity is fast playing itself out in an increasingly murky political environment.

http://www.thenews.com.pk/daily_detail.asp?id=117822
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America: dubious ally or outright enemy?


By Shireen M Mazari
Wednesday, June 18, 2008




What have we been reduced to as a result of our successive leaderships' kowtowing to the US post-9/11? What many of us had feared and written about at the time seems to have come true -- be it the growing US intrusions into our territory or the periodic diatribes from the US against Dr A.Q. Khan whenever they feel Pakistan needs to be put under pressure. However, nothing reflects our state's sovereign bankruptcy as much as the audacious threats issued by Afghanistan's Karzai of sending in his Afghan Army into Pakistan to take out "militants" and "terrorists." Here is a man who barely has power in his own capital, Kabul, and has hundreds of occupation forces from the US and NATO -- not to mention some Arab contingents from the Gulf states -- and he is actually threatening Pakistan, a country with a massive conventional military, and nuclear capability to boot.

Herein lies the irony of Pakistan's predicament post-9/11. Our military seems to have no stomach for fighting the violations of our sovereignty by the US and its allies. That has emboldened the US and they now feel they can target the Pakistani security forces directly -- as they did in March 2008 in Bajaur, and more recently last week in the Mohmand Agency which left 11 FC men dead, apart from the civilians that are a constant target of US and NATO forces -- especially as their frustration has grown over their lack of success in Afghanistan.

Since the war began in Afghanistan, one has seen only whimpers of protest from the Pakistani military and the government in response to brazen attacks on Pakistani soil by US/NATO forces in which many innocent Pakistani civilians have died. Sheltering behind these forces are the ragtag members of the "Afghan Army" -- which Karzai now wants to send into Pakistan! Karzai, whose security forces stood helpless in the face of a massive prison break, actually thinks the Pakistani military is so weak that the same ineffectual security forces can simply march into our country and carry out military actions against our people.

Our government, and our military, have reduced us to a laughingstock --– a joke of a nation that can be pushed around militarily by all and sundry. The point is, if our military is unwilling or unable to fight those who violate our sovereignty and kill our people, then what is the purpose of continuing to beef up and support this expensive organisation? Here we were thinking our investment in nuclear weapons and updating of conventional weapon systems would ensure that our borders were secure and any military threat from anywhere would be dealt with effectively by the Pakistan military. Yet nothing of the sort has happened. Instead, we continue to be subject to US military attacks as and when they choose. From all accounts, they do not bother to inform us either till after the event. And all we do is whimper a few protests.

When will we realise that if the US targets our territory it must surely fall into the category of "enemy" and be given a military response -- even if it is symbolic to begin with. The "enemy" within -- that is the militants -- we have to dialogue with, since they are our people and we need to bring them into the mainstream. As pointed out in earlier columns, all other countries have done the same. But we must also be cognisant of the far more dangerous enemy outside -- that is the US with its long-term hostile intentions towards Pakistan. Our leaders, who are surviving, or have come to power on deals brokered by the US, must be exposed and compelled to disown these deals and respond to the needs of the nation.

Increasingly, the hostile intent of the US towards Pakistan is becoming more overt as the Americans become more emboldened in the face of the vacillating and whimpering Pakistani ruling elite.

President Bush effectively endorsed Karzai's threat by trying to rationalise it. Worse still, the US has now declared that Dr Khan must not be released. On what authority can they make such demands, except that we have given up much of our sovereign space to them willy-nilly? Our rulers, and little differentiates one lot from another in terms of their efforts to fool the people while catering to their own coteries of sycophants, can hail abuse and threats on their local rivals or oppositional forces, but almost no substantive backbone is visible in the face of abuse from external enemies disguised as "allies," such as the US.

Where else but in Pakistan would the defence minister simply declare that we cannot give a military response to US attacks against our country? He is the same man who also declared that the US was not attacking us because they were using pilotless drones! Yet his party leader, Zardari, also declared in Lahore, if the press report is taken as correct, that the PPP "had the potential to, both give and take life." So once again, more bombast and once again derision of the people's will that was clearly reflected in the Long March. As for Governor Taseer's or Rehman Malik's efforts to try and play a numbers' game in order to undermine the people's force that was displayed in the march, the less said the better, given that neither individual has much credibility. We, the people, know the strength and camaraderie of the nation that was present in the Long March since we were all there and had the privilege to feel the hope, commitment and faith even the most downtrodden, alongside the most privileged, have in the notion of an independent judiciary.

But coming back to the strange servility our rulers continue to show in the face of foreign abuse, it is not just the US and Afghanistan that feel they can ride roughshod over us. While Zardari sends flowers to V P Singh, and our human rights' groups advocate pardons and release of Indian prisoners, including Indian spies, the Indian state continues to kill Pakistani prisoners and send their dead bodies back through Wagah. So while Indian prisoners go across Wagah garlanded from the Pakistani side, Pakistani prisoners come in wooden caskets, often with their body parts missing. Is this what the Pakistani state regards as reciprocity? Why has the Foreign Office not taken a strong position on this count? If the foreign minister would take some time to be in Islamabad, perhaps he would be more effective in protecting the interests of the Pakistani people and nation -- instead of only showing concern for the Afghans, and so on. He should know that he has enough time to project himself internationally once he has taken care of poor Pakistani lives.

But it appears that, as always, Pakistani lives come cheap and no one in the state structures is prepared to fight for them -- not the leadership and, unfortunately, not the military. As for the US, there are many dangerous developments that need to be put together to understand the long-term threat from this power. Many of us have been writing for many years now that the US is seeking to destroy the organisation of the military in Pakistan, as well as breaking up the country, given that our nuclear capability and our ideological moorings in terms of historically supporting Muslim causes have never sat well with the US.

If anyone still thinks that the publication of "Blood Borders," in which the breakup of Pakistan and Iran was a central contention, in the US Army Journal a few years earlier was an aberration, what do you make of a US consultancy firm, Ergo Advisors, paying high rates to Pakistani analysts, to give them intimate data on Pakistani army officers of the ranks of major general and brigadier from the armoured, infantry and engineers. The questions they were asking were pinpointed and dealt with family backgrounds, views on "secularism" vs Islamism, foreign investment, war on terror, future promotion prospects, age and so on. Now one wonders who would want such extensive information and for what purpose?

It is time we re-examined whether the US is really an "ally" or a dangerous enemy.

The writer is a defence analyst. Email: callstr@hotmail.com


http://www.thenews.com.pk/editorial_....asp?id=119044
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WHEN RULERS DELIBERATELY CREATE CHAOS

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Shireen M Mazari

There is a normal and rational expectation on the part of a nation that when chaos hits the rulers will work towards bringing order and clarity so that the country is not left in a state of uncertainty and befuddlement. But, as with everything else in Pakistan, ours is always a unique predicament. Here we have gone through a democratic revival but there is a disconnect between the government and the rulers, or ruler – for, in practical terms, one unelected man rules the roost. Decisions are made, with no official record, behind the confines of Zardari House, with the cabinet and parliament becoming mere reflections of his will. If this is not continuity with the Musharraf-Aziz tradition, then what is? The result is becoming ever clearer with chaos reigning supreme.

Take the case of our external relations, especially with the US and specifically in the context of the so-called "war on terror." Because of our vacillations, we are now facing our own mini-wars not only in the tribal belt but also in the NWFP. Sectarian wars have come to the fore once again and efforts to dialogue with our tribal people and "militants" are constantly being sabotaged by the centre – at whose behest is not difficult to guess! That is why, despite our "strong" verbal response to the US military attack against our security forces, the attacks against our people and territory continue unabated. So far we have taken no action in our defence against our attackers – amidst it all our military seems to have no stomach for fighting to protect our western borders. In fact, these attacks have increased in frequency post the last Karzai diatribe.

Meanwhile, with the NWFP government continuously asking the federal government to rethink our US policy, no one in Islamabad seems to be listening. So the result is a growing and dangerous chaos. But why should Islamabad listen, given the deals that have sanctified the present rulers politically? In any event, the US has ensured that its people are there as fifth columnists amidst us – be they national security advisers or ambassadors.

Equally critical, if decision-making has been privatised then institutional inputs will be missing or unrecorded, so no one knows how much substantive information is actually being made available, or what advice is given, before a decision is made. Surely for all their political wiliness, neither Zardari nor Rehman Malik has a monopoly on intelligence or wisdom? The worst of it is the fact that when state decision making is privatised one witnesses the wielding of power without responsibility.

Yet the problem of militancy and violence in FATA and NWFP can be dealt with in an orderly fashion if there was some coherent long term policy which has clear end goals of bringing the FATA into the mainstream of the Pakistani polity by eventually making it a part of the NWFP. This would automatically call for a strategy which would allow all political parties of the country to operate in the FATA and would also require political dialogue with all groups – militants and others. At the same time, short-term economic benefits need to be brought in along with schools, hospitals and so on. In other words, if the state wants to convince one's people to renounce violence and isolate those dedicated to this form of action, the state has to give people a viable stake in the system. Also, while respecting local traditions, the state has to ensure a respect for the law of the land.

But the problem of terrorism and violence is a difficult issue so some chaos surrounding the rulers' actions is understandable given the time factor and the inherited deals with the US. However, the chaos within the mainstream of national politics seems to be self-created. Take the judges issue. We have finally seen the PML-N, Ayaz Amir and Ahsan Iqbal notwithstanding, play its politics of compromise in their silence on the passage of the finance bill. Post the passage, the PML-N leaders at the centre have been ranting and raving about how they do not support the PCO judges and so on – but this is spin being given after the event. The only clarity is that the PML-N leader, Nawaz Sharif had a clear and defiant stand on the judges issue, including the expansion of the Supreme Court, but the troubling question is why his views were shrugged aside by his party members in the National Assembly.

In any event, we now have these PML-N politicians speaking with multiple voices in a manner similar to the PPP – so that at the declaratory level there is a deliberate chaos while deal-making leads to decisions which have little reflection in the verbal diatribes. But timing is everything and one has to credit the Zardari camp with perfect Machiavellian timing. The Lahore High Court verdict on Nawaz Sharif's eligibility to contest elections comes 'after' the passage of the finance bill. A mere coincidence? Can one not envision what would have happened to the finance bill's passage had the LHC decision come earlier? But are the PML-N leaders really that naοve to unwittingly continue to play the Zardari-Rehman Malik game? Or is there something else going on behind the smokescreen of chaos that is being sustained by the rulers? Or perhaps the phenomenon of a new and seemingly revolutionary Nawaz Sharif is not being understood by his own party members?

Ironically, as some PML-N members have charged, the coalition partners are playing silent spectators to what happened at the LHC and only Farhatullah Babar has issued a statement, whereas normally the much-vocal Sherry Rehman would have held forth on such a crucial development. Surely we now have the ultimate irony with one lot of politicians being pardoned all past sins of commission and omission through the NRO, while another lot is constantly being held to account for the same! How unique are we in our political machinations?

The games being played with the Pakistani nation as it continues its uncertain drift, are truly bizarre. And as long as President Musharraf remains in his position, everyone is ready to cast him as the villain of every piece of absurdity. So we saw him being accused of masterminding the pressure on Geo from the UAE, even though it would be more logical to have assumed this pressure had come from the government which now has more access and power with the country's external allies. Now Musharraf is also being cast as the villain in the LHC decision.

If for no other reason but to expose the ground realities, it is time for President Musharraf to step down. For as long as he remains in the presidency, the new Machiavellians will get away with murder, literally. Whether this was part of the US-brokered deal with the US or not, President Musharraf's continued holding of office is providing the present political power holders (both official and non-official) a convenient whipping boy for all the deliberately created chaos that we are witnessing at present. It is time the rulers of the past were held responsible for their sins of omission and commission and the new leaders took responsibility for their actions. While the prevailing chaos may benefit the rulers, it undermines the nation as it engulfs them with uncertainty and confusion. This is too steep a price to pay for the politicians' (the uniformed and the civilians) war games.

Tailpiece: It was amusing to discover the limited tolerance some Europeans have for satirical cartoons. While Muslims were told that sacrilegious cartoons in Europe were a reflection of "freedom of speech", two Spanish newspapers are on trial for poking fun at the Spanish King and Crown Prince. Makes you wonder!

http://www.thenews.com.pk/daily_detail.asp?id=120322
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Post A costly drift and neglect

A costly drift and neglect


Wednesday, July 02, 2008
Shireen M Mazari

Pakistan continues to create unique situations for itself. After the February elections, hopes for a normal democratic dispensation quickly died when we saw yet another unique governance system come into play. We now have a government and parliament on the one hand, and a decision maker outside of these structures on the other – the Zardari phenomenon. The result is that parliament and the cabinet are fast becoming irrelevant to crucial decision making – as was the case in the Musharraf-Aziz setup, but the difference now being that strategic decisions are being privatised and power being delinked from responsibility.

Ironically, the main coalition partner of the PPP, the PML-N, seems to be completely in the dark also as to what is happening in terms of policies – as Chaudhry Nisar has been compelled to state in terms of the military action in Pakhtunkhwa province and the tribal areas. The fact that parliament was not brought in seems to be a deliberate attempt to create a further divide between the military and the civilian political elite. Is this part of the new game plan that is emerging: deliberate chaos, policy drifts, increased civil-military mistrust? All this will of course benefit our detractors – be it our large neighbour to the east or the external super power with its grand neocon design.

The drift in state affairs is certainly not hindering the new members of the government from enjoying all their perks. However, in the chaos that prevails all around us, no one seems to be particularly bothered about some crucial developments relating to our external policies. As has been our shameful tradition, our leaders continue to provide time for mere bureaucrats from the US. Our prime minister, in the subservient tradition long established towards the US, continues to make the right noises by declaring that the Pakistan's strategic partnership with the US would not remain restricted only to the war on terror. Given that we have given up a large bit of our sovereignty for this relationship already, God help us if we go beyond for that will entail handing over the country to the US.

Incidentally, the US already has its own plans for Pakistan and the anti-Pakistan group of US analysts of Indian origin are already sharpening their knives. Now they have the added advantage of the US-funded Balusa group's leader here as the National Security Adviser and another member as the Foreign Minister! Nor are we being spared the absurd declarations from the prime minister who has once again declared that "we will never negotiate with militants nor allow foreigners to use our soil against another country." Perhaps someone should educate him on the fact that states in similar situations have always had to negotiate with militants – as has been pointed out in these columns, with the examples of Britain and the IRA and Sri Lanka and the LTTE, to again cite some cases.

As for preserving the sanctity of our territory, could he explain why the Pakistani state then got involved in the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan at the behest of the US and why we are turning a blind eye to what the US is doing through Shamsi base against Iran? Even more important, the prime minister should explain why we are allowing an external power the right to use our soil against our own people as they carry out missile and helicopter gunship attacks on our territory? But then ordinary Pakistani lives have always been cheap for our rulers.

However, coming back to the fact that our drift in terms of policies is preventing us from evolving crucial responses to developments in the neighbourhood and beyond. Just look at our embarrassing silence in response to what is happening in Indian Occupied Kashmir for days now. For all those who had declared that India was winning over the Kashmiri people, clearly they need to do a major reality check. The situation in Occupied Kashmir remains brutal and the people remain alienated from their Indian occupiers – which results in violence and mayhem at the slightest provocation. If anyone thinks the Kashmiris have accepted being part of the Indian Union, they need to take off their blinkers.

The only thing that is certain is that the Kashmiris struggling against Indian occupation have given up on any expectations they had of getting some level of sustained and rational support from Pakistan. If we are unclear today of our state's Kashmir policy, how can the Kashmiris understand where we stand. Our policy drift has certainly sent wrong signals to the Kashmiris, especially when all and sundry insist on holding forth on Kashmir without even an awareness of the facts on the ground. We have let down the Kashmiris more by our inconsistency than anything else.

Nor is it just Kashmir. For over a year now some of us have wanted the government to prepare a proper strategy to deal with the Indo-US nuclear deal and its fallout in terms of IAEA safeguards and the Nuclear Suppliers' Group (NSG). So far there is nothing but complacency that has been evident in our decision-making circles. Would India have been equally complacent if Pakistan had signed a similar deal with a major power?

For instance, India is seeking to negotiate a special safeguards agreement with the IAEA (already mentioned in these columns earlier) rather than accepting the standard one for non-NPT states like Pakistan, which we continue to sign for our civilian reactors. India wants an escape clause in its safeguard agreement and Pakistan needs to make clear publicly – so that international arms control lobbyists can be mobilised – that if the IAEA gives India a country-specific safeguards agreement then Pakistan will also seek the same and will not sign the existing IAEA agreement for its new civilian plants. So far we have done little but vacillate on this count – partly because we feel the majority of the IAEA Board will go with India in any case. But this is a defeatist approach and we should be more active on this front – including making more public India's proliferation record.

Secondly, the US is seeking India-specific waivers from the NSG while Pakistan has called for a criteria-based approach. Interestingly, Israel has a similar approach to Pakistan on this issue and it circulated a non-paper in this regard over a year ago. Again, we seem to have done little on this count, although there are some NSG members who are opposed to the Indian deal on principle – countries like New Zealand, Ireland and Sweden. Others may be more ambivalent but anti-nuclear lobbies within their countries can be approached. Even within the US there is a strong lobby opposed to the US-India nuclear deal including the various arms control NGOs.

The point is that we are being kept so busy internally that we have almost stopped responding to developments that already impact or will certainly impact our strategic environment in a most negative fashion in the future. Whether by design or by sheer ineptitude, our successive rulers are reducing our regional strategic operational space post-9/11. That is why the Karzais of this world can threaten us with impunity and the US can brazenly conduct itself intrusively within our domestic space.

Meanwhile, internally, we are creating greater gulfs between the haves and have-nots and thereby encouraging a culture of intolerance bred out of frustration and anger. As for the fear of Talibanisation of Pakistan, the best way to prevent that in the long term is to create some space between our state and the US so that the people are confident that the state is making decisions based on its national interests and not on US interests. That is the only way to give the nation, as opposed to simply the rulers, a long-term stake in strengthening a tolerant and vibrant Pakistan.



The writer is a defence analyst. Email: callstr@hotmail.com
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Questions that must not be ignored




By Shireen M Mazari
Wednesday, July 09, 2008.




When those who are meant to protect the ordinary citizen cannot protect themselves, the country has indeed plummeted into a dark abyss. The poor police who died at the hands of a suicide bomber will not be remembered beyond the useless homilies of the morally bankrupt ruling elite of this country. Why are all our ruling elites destined to mess up? One cannot forget the bungled-up Lal Masjid operation last year when the state first allowed the issue to fester and its writ to be openly challenged as fortifications and fighters assembled inside the area and took the law into their own hands. Then as the government prepared for action, it clumsily shifted the context of the problem by referring to it as a hostage crisis just before it used massive force to end it all. Of course, the excessive force that was finally used only created more issues and myths and Lal Masjid became a rallying cry for all those opposed to the Musharraf government – from the liberals like Aitzaz Ahsan to the extreme right religious forces and all groupings in-between.

But the blunder is not unique to the Musharraf regime. A new government is in place, with a godfather who exercises total power with no accountability or responsibility and the blunders continue – more so as the drift in state affairs becomes more palpable and the enemies strike where they can. For how long will the present holders of power continue to shift all blame on their predecessors?

Coming back to the Lal Masjid issue, as the interior boss Rehman Malik continues to claim that there was no security lapse on July 6, the major question that arises is why the conference was allowed to be held in the centre of one of the most populous areas of the capital? Surely a token group could have come to the site to pay their respects to the dead, while the conference could have been held in an isolated part of the capital or on its fringes. Why jeopardise the lives of so many simply to appease a few?

Who took the decision to allow this conference to be held in the heart of the capital? In any civilised state and society, responsibility should have been accepted at the top with the interior advisor offering his resignation in view of his failure to protect the lives not only of ordinary citizens but also the security personnel, and especially with the Karachi blasts following a day later. That would have been the honourable thing to do but that really begs another question about our ruling elites!

As for the Karachi blasts, clearly they were intended to terrorise the population and cause panic and confusion. Is it a mere coincidence that these blasts came in the immediate wake of the terrorist attack outside the Indian embassy in Kabul? Should our security personnel not have been more aware and prepared for such a contingency? Or has our cooperation with the US on intelligence reduced our human intelligence abilities to their abysmal levels?

Is it a mere coincidence that both at the centre and in Sindh, government and power are now separate with the latter being exercised outside of the former? That there is a drift cannot be denied and Pakistan's enemies are capitalising on it, led by US organisations and the media. Stratfor released a report on July 7 declaring that the situation was spinning out of control in Pakistan – clearly encouraging external intervention by the US into Pakistan.

The report comes at a time when the country was reeling from the damaging Dr A Q Khan versus the establishment controversies. So much deliberate misinformation has been spread on the whole Dr Khan issue that some facts need to be restated.

First, Dr Khan revealed no nuclear secrets of Pakistan since our programme itself was acquired clandestinely and uranium enrichment technology was not our secret! So it serves no purpose to equate him with Israel's Vanunu who was opposed to Israel's nuclear programme and sought to inform the world about this programme and how it was developed and what was its present status. Dr Khan's contribution to the nuclear programme was crucial in terms of bringing in uranium enrichment technology and his position is more akin to American nuclear scientist Oppenheimer who was stripped of his security clearance in 1953 by the US AEC on charges of being a communist and giving information to the Soviet Union. In 1963 an effort was made to reinstate him but by then the persecution had taken a toll on his health.

So the question is, did any Pakistani reveal the country's nuclear secrets to external actors? The nearest one gets to point a finger here is at the state itself which voluntarily sent its old centrifuges to the IAEA. As stated in my column on the issue at that time, this effectively meant that our weapon design could be ascertained.

An even more crucial question that remains at the heart of the whole Dr Khan issue is why is he being penalised? What exactly was his crime? Proliferation? India proliferated to Iraq and Iran when it signed nuclear cooperation agreements with them in 1974 and 1975 respectively. In fact, there is a whole record of India's proliferation record that no one wants to take up or talk about including, mysteriously, our Foreign Ministry? Ironically, while our establishment is busy fighting Dr Khan, India is all set to get country specific concessions from the IAEA and the NSG courtesy the US and our state's ineptitude.

Of course, the US, UK and France have all been proliferating to Israel with impunity – and the US continues to do so even today – and all these states are parties to the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and members of the Nuclear Suppliers' Group (NSG). Pakistan, on the other hand, is neither a member of the NPT nor of the NSG, so which law did Dr Khan break? Now that our Export Control Laws and NCA Ordinance are in place, the scenario has altered but legally what is Dr Khan being punished for? For making money by selling scientific information? If that be the case then if the NRO can dry clean all our corrupt politicians, why should a national hero – and he truly is – be punished for his human weaknesses?

If the SPD feels Dr Khan's utterances have damaged the country, why did it keep quiet when some of its own personnel on retirement immediately proceeded to the US and made some highly damaging remarks relating to our nuclear programme? And have revelations made in books by serving leaders been any less damaging? And what about the bizarre revelations by an Indian journalist in his book regarding the late Mohtarma Benazir's visit to North Korea? Why is the state not pursuing legal action on that count, if as the PPP has claimed, these revelations are false? The big question is whether anyone in power in Pakistan has ever kept their silence in the larger interest of the country, even when they are not being pushed against a wall and abused as Dr Khan has been? The Official Secrets Act is a joke here as far as the ruling elite is concerned.

Finally, questions that continue to haunt in the North Korean context. Why would this country want centrifuges when it adopted the plutonium route for its nuclear weapons programme? Surely it would have been more interested in money for some military hardware?

Now our government is thinking of making public some information regarding the "Khan proliferation network". This would be a most stupid and suicidal move – as inane as our earlier self-confessions – as it would harm Pakistan further, aid our detractors, while not undermining the majority of Pakistanis' belief in Dr Khan as a hero. But then so far the state has never shown much wisdom in terms of safeguarding its national interests. Nothing has changed in that direction to date.


The writer is a defence analyst. Email: callstr@hotmail.com


http://www.thenews.com.pk/editorial_....asp?id=123017
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A state adrift amid militancy and US threat of war


By Shireen M Mazari
Wednesday, July 16, 2008


There is always so much to write about in terms of the antics of our rulers. The "people's government" is certainly showing its adeptness at spending the people's money in their travels and other shenanigans. According to one report, Gilani's Dubai detour cost the Pakistani nation Rs10 million, at a minimum and no one knows how much the rushed visits to Dubai by cabinet members are costing the nation just as no one knows what is being spent on the non-state centre of political power presently. Then there are the costs of the prevailing major disconnect between government and power – and there are many instances of decisions having been approved by the prime minister and duly processed, being stalled or actually overturned as a result of a command from the power centre outside the state structures.

But all these issues pale in front of the brewing crisis confronting the country in terms of the terrorism issue at a time when the writ of the state is increasingly adrift as the elected leaders of the main ruling party pamper to the idiosyncrasies of their unelected boss, Zardari. The net result is a series of bizarre and damaging statements coming forth from the prime minister down. Our foreign minister insists that we cannot refer to US attacks against our territory as "unfriendly" while the prime minister tries to justify US threats against Pakistan by saying they fear another 9/11 attack on the US mainland. What about Pakistani fears of an impending US attack and its repercussions? Why is Gilani silent on that count?

Is the prime minister going to also justify a US military attack against us in the FATA region as a response to US fears? As it is, he has still not accepted the fact that the US has been attacking our territory as and when it has seen fit. The only reality is that they may now opt for a more large scale operation inside of Pakistan which may require their ground forces to come in and stay for some time. Mullen's visit to Islamabad and the uneasy silence on the Pakistanis' part regarding the content of his visit – which one can learn more about in the US media – shows that the US was now conveying an unambiguous threat to Pakistan.

Before his visit, Mullen had already declared that he had been given the power to decide whether the US should conduct operations against Pakistan. In other words, the power to go to war – how else should we describe such actions – against Pakistan had already been delegated by Bush to the military commanders. The political Bush-Mush and other similar lines of communication have thus become irrelevant in this context.

The seriousness of the situation can be gauged by the fact that after the Mullen visit, the Afghan government has broken off all talks with Pakistan – an action normally taken when one is ready to start military action (war). This expression of intent by the Afghans has been accompanied by Karzai's declaration that Pakistan was responsible for the Kabul Indian embassy blast. All this while we continue to pussyfoot around the growing Indo-Afghan-US nexus.

Within this increasingly warlike environment, our own military warns that if the US feels Pakistan cannot deliver they will attack perhaps through "precision bombing" – something the US has so far been unable to do given the collateral civilian damage wreaked on civilians both sides of the international Pak-Afghan border as well as within Afghanistan. So US military aggression against Pakistan seems imminent.

At the same time, there is no denying the fact that Pakistan also confronts its own terrorist problem where armed groups are attempting to create mini states within the state of Pakistan. Sporadic deals with groups of militants have done little to assert the writ of the Pakistani state. While political dialogue and negotiations are the only rational way forward with our own militants and extremists, these cannot be done rationally unless there is first an acceptance of the writ of the state by all parties – in other words political means have to be backed by a background of force.

The problem confronting us presently is two-fold. The first and most debilitating is the lack of a cohesive state presence and state policy. Our army conducts military options, but there is no political ownership nor any political strategy to move in after the operation has been conducted. The provincial government as well as the centre talks of deals but where is the writ of the state in their enforcement? What is the overarching national policy if these deals fail and there is a need to conduct paramilitary or military operations? Because the drift in the writ of the state is becoming increasingly palpable, those seeking to establish a counter writ are becoming bolder and more assertive. Another reality is that the successive failures of pro-Western governments have been creating a growing support base for a more "Islamic" political dispensation across the country.

The second issue has been our inability, post-9/11, to distinguish between our own domestically-rooted terrorism problem and the Al Qaeda brand of transnational terrorism. The result has been an enmeshing of the two with the result that our domestic polity is being rent asunder by suicide bombers and violent intolerance. The state has also been confronted with a growing credibility gap in terms of its assertion that the war against the practitioners of terrorism is our war and not the American war. There is a rationale behind this loss of credibility – the jumping on to the US bandwagon of the so-called "global war on terror", which has within it a strong element of abuse of Muslims and Islam.

Is there a way out of this impasse? A beginning has to be made on two fronts simultaneously. First the state has to evolve a clear-cut, implementable policy regarding violence and extremism confronting our own polity and its fallout in the neighbourhood. But the policy can only come when the state drift is halted and there is a coherent state presence. Any such policy must have an overarching strategic framework of political dialogue, economic injections into the troubled areas and groups, and the backing of a viable strategy of the use of force – such that it does not create a long term negative fallout on civil society. The effort has to be to bring the militants into the mainstream so that those committed to violence are isolated. This is the only way to deny space not just to the existing terrorists but also future recruits.

In such a situation the state has to realise it is dealing with three categories of people: those who support the state and therefore must be protected; those who are sitting on the fence waiting to see where the power balance will tilt – these need to be shown the ability of the state to exert its writ; and, finally those who are actually part of the militant extremists who need to be shown that they are on the losing side and need to use other non-violent means to assert their cause, or face the use of force by the state – in which case the state should have the ability to exert effective force against now heavily armed groups. All in all, if the writ of the state is asserted, the problem of infiltration can also be tackled to some extent, although an equal share of that problem arise from a lack of effective presence of state and international forces on the other side of the border.

The second front has to be to create immediate space between ourselves and the US. Unless this is done, the credibility of the state in declaring that it is fighting a national war on terrorism will continue to lack clarity amongst civil society. At the end of the day no state policy can succeed without being credible to its own people. If US aid is the cost then so be it, because we have already damaged our polity and our psyche by this disconnect between the government, military and the nation at large. In fact, the nation will rally round the state if the political and military elite show their intent and ability to create this space.

There are other tactical strategies that are also required to deal with the critical problem of terrorism within the country and its neighbourhood, but the starting point has to be assertion of the writ of the state and space between it and the US.


The writer is a defence analyst. Email: callstr@hotmail.com

http://www.thenews.com.pk/editorial_....asp?id=124334
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