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Old Thursday, September 03, 2009
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Post Targeting Pakistan and silencing the critics

Targeting Pakistan and silencing the critics

Thursday, September 03, 2009
Shireen M Mazari

While US diplomats target their critics in Pakistan with a new ferocity, the US media and politicians target the Pakistan's nuclear and military capability. Taking the latter first, Dr Khan had barely gained his "freedom" when that murderous former Vice-President Dick Cheney, in a pre-taped interview to Fox News (Aug 30), declared that the Obama Administration should use the CIA to find out what Dr Khan was up to. Cheney also expressed pride in the Bush administration's aggressive use of drones in FATA. So should we assume that the increased presence of Blackwater and other unidentified US personnel in Islamabad may also have Dr Khan as a possible target?

Nor was it just Cheney firing off on one of America's obsessions – Dr Khan – while quite unconcerned about the massive proliferation that the US continues to Israel (this is all now part of the published and publicly available data). More irritating than disturbing, has been the story in The New York Times (NYT), citing unnamed senior administration and congressional officials (of course when we cite similar sources, US officialdom is not amused), accusing Pakistan of modifying Harpoon missiles given to the Pakistan navy so as to be able to hit land-based targets.

Had the NYT bothered to do some basic research they would have realised that Pakistan has no need to modify the old Harpoon missiles when they already have far better land-based missile systems already battle-tested and in their arsenal. As it is, the Harpoon does not have the range that would be required to hit land-based targets.

The question that arises then is why plant this story now – apart from the continuing US effort to undermine the Pakistan's military capability and keep the military institution under pressure (or so they assume)? One reason may have to do with putting pressure on the Pakistan Navy to give its go-ahead to a US request, forwarded by Pakistan's Ministry of Defence to the naval chief, to allow them to build a landing strip near Gwadar (their own miniport facility) which US marines can use ostensibly as part of their anti-narcotic activities. So far there has been no response from the Pakistani side. Why they can't do that at the existing facilities in the area is the question some Pakistanis are asking?

Interestingly, in relation to the Pakistan Navy and the Harpoon issue, there are also unconfirmed (but reliable) reports that the Special Services Group Navy (SSGN) is constructing operational facilities in Gharo, Sindh (close to the Indus delta, south of Thatta) which are purpose-built to serve as a base for an army unit – comprising halls, residential units and storage facilities. Some years back the Navy had decided to shift the SSGN headquarter (PNS Iqbal) from the dockyard to a coastal area, but Gharo was not the likely site at the time. Because there has been a sudden increase in assistance to the SSGN from the US, questions are being raised whether this shifting of the SSGN to Gharo is actually a ruse to allow US Marine 'trainers' to arrive there in large numbers on the pretext of training SSGN commandos in newly-acquired weapons and tactics? So, the old carrot and stick approach – assistance and then the ridiculous Harpoon story – continues to be at work. What is disturbing here is that perhaps this whole Gharo "deal" is being done at a micro-tactical level with the overall military high command not totally in the know. Certainly it merits a closer examination by the military leadership and more transparency.

Clearly, the Americans do not understand the ordinary Pakistani. Their interaction with the ruling elites has led them to assume that this elite, with its tendency towards subservience and a constant gaze towards Washington (with a few exceptions) is reflective of the Pakistani nation at large. Again, subtlety having never been a strong American trait, they are responding to negative responses of ordinary Pakistanis in the usual ham-fisted manner in an effort to silence the critics.

This writer has had the honour of being one of their targets especially since 2008 when stories regarding General Hood and the 11 conditions relating to unfettered access in Pakistan for US personnel with no legal restraints surfaced in the media. But even earlier, when Riaz Khokhar was Foreign Secretary, the US embassy had sought to have me either silenced or removed from the Institute of Strategic Studies -- or else the embassy would assume that I was reflecting (heavens forbid) the official views of the government of Pakistan. That is why some readers may recall for a while at the bottom of my column there was a one-liner stating that the views expressed were my own. Full credit to Mr Khokhar for standing his ground, but I knew it was simply a matter of time when I would be liberated from all official strangleholds.

Now, once again, this scribe as well as some electronic media hosts – all of whom have been exposing the increasing muscle flexing by the growing number of non-diplomatic Americans now in Pakistan (especially Blackwater – now re-christened Xe Worldwide) are being targeted. Just for the record, whatever has appeared in these columns regarding this group and the dubious Creative Associates International Inc (CAII) has been gleaned from Western media sources including the Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA), but then verified from reliable local sources.

Especially with the Blackwater issue refusing to die down in the media despite a strange silence in Parliament and in spite of threats of multiple types from the yet-to-be-expanded US embassy in Islamabad; new revelations are made on a daily basis about US shenanigans in Pakistan. Here in Pakistan it has got to the stage where one is not sure who is an "official" American and who is not. After all, the guard who abused Pakistan and an SHO in the diplomatic enclave was a member of the US government; but who were the three Americans who beat up a Pakistani citizen, Mohsin Bokhari, in Islamabad's Aabpara last week? After using violence against this citizen they did eventually apologise, but the police refused to register a case because they felt that if the case registered by the SHO of the diplomatic enclave had no impact in terms of justice – thanks to the pusillanimity of the present MFA set up – it would simply be a waste of their energy in the month of fasting to register yet another case of violence by Americans against a Pakistani citizen.

Further, as the growing disaffection hits the more conscientious Pakistanis in officialdom, what should one make of the information (from frustrated police officials) regarding four Americans initially arrested on Aug 25 at FIA headquarters, Peshawar Morrh, Islamabad with unlicenced automatic weapons (seven MI-6) and no identification – although the arresting officials say they were "kala pani" (Blackwater) personnel around 14:45. When they were brought to the Margallah police station, SP Nasir Aftab, who had previously been serving in the diplomatic enclave, also arrived, followed by US embassy's security officer, a retired Pakistan army officer, Captain Ijaz. The latter abused and threatened the policemen and in front of SP Aftab had the four Americans, with no diplomatic identity, released from custody. When the SHO protested, SP Aftab also adopted Captain Ijaz's tone and later confessed he was helpless as he had orders from "above" for the release of the men. (This was reported in at least one major newspaper the following day.)

So how much pressure will we all be able to endure and when will we all be silenced one way or another? If the Americans understood us they would realize that the Pakistani nation cannot be silenced into submission despite its leadership.

The writer is a defence analyst. Email:
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Old Thursday, October 27, 2016
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Default Overwhelmed by corruption

Overwhelmed by corruption

Thursday, October 27, 2016
Shireen M Mazari

Corruption revealed weakens those who stand exposed, which is why the Panama Papers have seen leaders either defend themselves against the revelations made or resign from office. Corruption is a cancer that eats away at the very fabric of society, killing people’s initiative and sense of purpose while pushing forward mediocrity, dishonesty and demise of rule of law.

Today, in Pakistan we are seeing a government adrift as the PM refuses to address the serious issues relating to revelations about his family’s offshore companies and properties abroad. It is not that corruption has only come with Nawaz Sharif – it has been plaguing the state since its inception. But today the Panama Papers have provided proof that compels investigation and punishment. Today, a government that has been diverted to defending the PM’s person rather than formulating national policies to deal with multiple issues confronting Pakistan is leaving the country directionless and vulnerable.

This vulnerability came to the fore in the horrific terrorist attack on the Police Training Centre in Quetta late Monday night, raising serious issues of intelligence and security. It also revived the looming question mark as to why at the UNGA PM Sharif failed to utter a single word on Indian involvement in Balochistan and specifically the revelations made by RAW officer Kulbhushan Yadav who had been arrested in Balochistan earlier this year.

In fact, there has been an increasingly questionable silence on the part of PM Nawaz Sharif with regard to security-related issues, especially with multiple developments all being linked together under the overarching outbreak of a new cycle of Indian military violence in Indian Occupied Kashmir to put down a new wave of Kashmiri protests against Indian Occupation. As the Kashmiris protest has gained momentum and greater international attention, India has sought to divert attention with daily attacks along the LoC and the Working Boundary (WB). The rhetoric from Indian PM Modi also spirals upwards in it aggressive tenor and tone. The Uri attack provided India with added momentum to target Pakistan and that was done with a threat to suspend the Indus Waters Treaty unilaterally.

Post-Uri, at every diplomatic level India has created impediments against Pakistan – even on issues like climate change and water management. The attempt to draw in the BRICS members’ into its anti-Pakistan designs may have failed but that has not deterred India. In any case, the US, as usual, has aided the anti-Pakistan Indian agenda by giving a statement against ISI in the context of terrorism during this period of heightened Pakistan-India tensions.

For Pakistan, the external situation has been further aggravated by the growing Indo-Afghan nexus, which has allowed the Afghan government to also increase its bellicose tone against Pakistan while the US continues to blame Pakistan for its military failures in Afghanistan. Through all these developments, Pakistan’s responses have been noticeable for all the wrong reasons. There was the complete silence of the PM on the Indian role in Balochistan on his trip to the UN; as well as the government’s muted and delayed response to events in IOK. Strong statements condemning Indian designs have emanated less from the PM and more from the military leadership.

Then there has been the confused response on the issue of the Indus Water Treaty with Sartaj Aziz giving a false statement in the National Assembly that the World Bank was a guarantor of the treaty – a statement he had to retract almost immediately. A marked feature during this crisis period has been the muted tone of the PM on India and his government’s failure to provide a resolute direction to Pakistan’s policy in the region and the fissures that have appeared in the civil-military relationship.

These fissures came to the fore in the controversy of a sensitive leak from a security meeting which was clearly intended to target the Pakistan Army and which was subsequently declared as being totally fabricated. Increasingly it seemed that the disinformation had deliberately been ‘fed’ to the media not ‘leaked’ – the distinction being important within the context of mala fide intent. Nevertheless, other than targeting a journalist, the person who actually leaked the information has neither been publicly identified nor proceeded against – adding to the growing civil-military disconnect.

So the two questions confronting the nation are: one, is there a conflict of interest between the PM’s business interests in India and Pakistan’s security interests’ imperatives in the face of the overwhelming Indian attack on Pakistan at multiple levels with the support of the US? This question is gaining momentum because when timelines are examined relating to increasing Indian violations across the LoC/WB for the year 2014 and 2016 and to heightened domestic political challenges to the PM, there is an uncanny coincidence between the two.

Add to that the personal ties between Modi and the Sharif family; the fact that PM Sharif was the first Pakistani PM who did not meet the APHC leadership in New Delhi when he went on an official visit, for PM Modi’s inaugural; the secret meeting arranged in Nepal by an Indian businessman between Modi and Sharif to cite a few examples, and the question has growing validity.

Two, have the Panama Papers revelations, lending credence to corruption charges, diverted the PM and reduced his ability to provide resolute policies to deal with the multiple crises confronting the nation? As his ministers and loyalists focus on defending his person, there is a vacuum of policy to deal with critical developments within the country and external threats.

Diplomacy on important issues has been reduced to reliance almost solely on support from China – which continues to show its commitment to the Pakistan unlike our imagined allies like the US. The Nuclear Suppliers’ Group membership has seen no proactive Pakistani diplomacy to present our case – strong as it is – in world capitals and influential think tanks. A few free trips for retired civil and military bureaucrats are hardly a solution!

The National Action Plan still seeks implementation holistically and the sunset clause for military courts is about to set in with no reform of the criminal judicial system in sight. The madressah reforms and registration process is muddied and the formulation of a counter narrative has yet to move forward. Fata reforms have only reached discussion stage. But the most disturbing issue is the lack of action being taken against proscribed organisations and militancy. While Operation Zarb-e-Azb reflects military successes against terrorism, the political and economic follow ups are not in place and terrorism cannot be defeated purely through military means.

The government is adrift as the shadow of corruption overwhelms its leadership. Without strong governance, terrorism and militancy will continue to find space despite the sacrifices of the people and the security personnel. How many innocent Pakistanis, from schoolchildren to lawyers to women to minorities to cadets, must die because the government is adrift and has failed to implement its National Action Plan to deal with terrorism holistically – a plan that had national political consensus? The malaise of corruption is eating at our core and the cure has to begin from the top.

The writer is DG SSII and a PTI MNA. The views expressed are her own.
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