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  #11  
Old Wednesday, February 01, 2006
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Condemned either way
Shireen M Mazari
The Hamas victory in the recent Palestinian elections was a rare spark of hope that a civil society can collectively impede the will and diktat of the powerful. Perhaps Mr Bush is having second thoughts to his democracy agenda now! He wanted democracy to spread to the Middle East and that is what the Hamas victory has signalled. It also reflects an honesty and courage of commitment and tenacity on the part of the Palestinian people -- a people without a state but with a tremendous sense of nationhood.
Meanwhile, the US continues its arrogant approach to foreign policy -- both at the official and non-official levels. While the US Administration has not so much as even whimpered a hint of regret at the killing of innocent Pakistani citizens in Bajaur, the US media along with its British counterparts has continued to rant against the Pakistani state in what they see as its lack of effort in helping nab the al-Qaeda leaders. However, what is more ominous is that a pattern seems to be emerging in the US Administration's viceregal abuse of Pakistan's sovereignty and the US-British media tirades against the Government of Pakistan, especially the military.
The pattern suggests a deliberate effort to destabilise the state of Pakistan by undermining its domestic credibility and support in particular. So, despite the protests over Bajaur, we continue to see the US military carrying out military action on Pakistani soil against Pakistani citizens -- the latest being the violation of Pakistani air space by a US helicopter on 29th January and the harassment of Pakistani citizens in the tribal belt by the release of flares by US helicopters which have hit children and terrorised the locals. Alongside, the US and British media at regular intervals come up with editorials and stories that try to establish the reluctance of the Pakistani leadership towards capture of al-Qaeda leaders. Never mind that the arrest of most of the members of this group so far could not have been possible without the help of Pakistan -- that little fact is conveniently forgotten.
That is why we saw the Washington Post, an obsessively anti-Pakistan newspaper, write a diatribe against Pakistan and its President (January 25th). There was nothing new in the content of this diatribe. Once again it bemoaned what it saw as an avoidance by President Musharraf of an "all-out campaign against the Islamic extremists in his country". Presumably the paper would want to see the Pakistani state kill all and sundry with any affiliation to religious parties in the country. It talks of the continuing economic aid coming from the US, but it fails to mention the economic costs Pakistan has incurred as a frontline state in the war against terrorism.
Nor does it accept that the manner in which the US is conducting this war has resulted in the creation of more space for the terrorists when the strategy should have been of denying political space to them. But then it is difficult for an arrogant superpower and its civil society to accept their strategic errors. Much easier to make countries like Pakistan the punching bag for the continuing survival of al-Qaeda and its leaders! And while A. Q. Khan continues to be maligned as the "greatest criminal proliferator," the Post has forgotten its own proliferator, Oppenheimer, and its own government's proliferation role still continuing within the context of Israel. And there is also a memory lapse regarding India's nuclear cooperation with Iran and the Saddam regime. Even in the context of Khan, there is a convenient amnesia regarding his "network" comprising Europeans!
As believers in democracy we, of course, continue to accept all the insults and abuse meted out to us by the US Administration and its "free" media. But in its haste to abuse President Musharraf, the Washington Post definitely crossed all bounds of rationality and decency when it referred to the President of Pakistan as "this meretricious military ruler." Assuming that they are well-versed in the English language, one assumes that they knew the meaning of the word, "meretricious", so they knew the word is normally used in a feminine context and they knew the abuse they were hurling. According to the Oxford dictionary, the word means "showily attractive but cheap and is derived from the Latin word, "meretrix" meaning "prostitute". Need one say anything more? But it is incumbent upon the country's representative in Washington to take up this issue since it is all very well to criticise a head of state but there must surely be some sense of decency in the language used.
A few days after this Washington Post hysteria, we saw the British press have another go at the Government of Pakistan. This time it was the Sunday Telegraph which indirectly justified the US abuse of Pakistani sovereignty and its attack against Pakistani civilians in Bajaur, without prior notification to the Pakistani government. It stated that the US would have nabbed Osama bin Laden two years earlier when they had information that he was in Zhob in Balochistan, had Pakistan not delayed giving consent for a US attack. By the time the permission came, it was too late. Clearly such stories not only undermine Pakistan generally, but also specifically target the Pakistan military as an institution, raising unsubstantiated suspicions on its intent. The Pakistan government has denied this story and it seems a little absurd that it took two years for this damning information to come to light. But it fits neatly into US efforts to counter the accusations of violation of Pakistani sovereignty and the killing of innocent Pakistani citizens!
Nor is it just Pakistan that is the subject of a concerted vilification campaign in the Western media. Islam itself is being ridiculed in the name of freedom of the press -- especially in Europe. The recent example is the scandal of the blasphemous cartoons in the Danish press which the Europeans have justified in the name of freedom of speech! Saudi civil society, along with some Arab states, has done well to counter this European stance by boycotting Danish products and recalling their envoys. After all, freedom of choice is everyone's right -- and Muslims must have the freedom to exercise this choice of economic and diplomatic boycott of Denmark.
Nor is this all. The Indian media has also been capitalising on the anti-Islam sentiment dominant in the West post-9/11. For instance, Karan Thapar, writing in the Hindustan Times last week on "Number Crunching" refers to his friend pointing out the importance of the number 11. The effort is to link the acts of 9/11 to an alleged passage in the Quran -- thereby trying to show that terrorists who happen to be Muslims will justify 9/11 with reference to their Holy Book! The reference given for the passage quoted is 9:11. Having gone back to the Quran, I discovered this to be a total fabrication because the verse cited is not there. Perhaps Thapar and his friend were so obsessed by linking terrorist events to the Holy Book of Islam that they forgot others may actually check the source cited.
Clearly, we cannot please our habitual detractors, so let us go the way of our national interests.
The writer is director general of the Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad
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  #12  
Old Wednesday, February 08, 2006
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Exposing freedom myths legally

Shireen M Mazari

It is unfortunate that the whole issue of so-called freedom of expression that the West has been throwing at us in defence of the printing of blasphemous cartoons of our Prophet (PBUH) has got lost in the violence that has followed in the Muslim world. Clearly, this violent reaction reflects the anger and frustration we as Muslims feel over our inability to stop the growing Islamophobia and victimisation of Muslims in Europe and elsewhere -- which was always there in these parts, but which found a rationalisation for overt manifestation in the wake of 9/11.

Strong protest was only to be expected given the offending nature of the cartoons and the almost conspiratorial approach of the primarily European press to keep Muslim passions inflamed by reprinting these. Unfortunately, the debate seems to be shifting away from the real issue relating to the cartoons to one where allegations of Muslim intolerance and violence are taking centre stage. This is truly a travesty of justice for it allows the guilty -- the European press and states -- to hide their wrongdoing behind the volatility and violence of Muslim civil societies.

That is why it is necessary now, as never before, for Muslims to get past emotive and violent reactions, and coalesce together to take on those who abuse Islam and Muslims under all manner of guises including 'freedom of expression' on their terms and within their legal frameworks. Because the fact of the matter is that in the context of the cartoon issue, European states and their press are guilty of contravening the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. While guaranteeing freedom of expression, Article 10 of this Convention states:

1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.

2. The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection or rights of others...

So when the Prime Minister of Denmark declares that he cannot do anything against Jyllands-Posten, the paper that began the controversy, he is clearly lying because the European Human Rights Convention was ratified by Denmark in 1953 and is an integral part of the Danish constitution. In fact, before ratification, the Danish government made certain changes in Danish law so that it was in consonance with the Convention. Hence, the government should have sued the paper for breaking the law of the land.

Article 11 of the French constitution states that: "The free communication of ideas and opinions is one of the most precious of the rights of man. Every citizen may, accordingly, speak, write and print with freedom, but shall be responsible for such abuses of this freedom as shall be defined by law."

And France too is party to the European Convention.

The Norwegian constitution, in Article 100, declares: "There shall be liberty of the Press. No person may be punished for any writing, whatever its contents, which he has caused to be printed or published, unless he wilfully and manifestly has either himself shown or incited others to disobedience to the laws, contempt of religion, morality or the constitutional powers or resistance to their orders, or has made false and defamatory accusations against anyone."

Now, on what grounds can the French and Norwegian governments claim an inability to take legal action against those newspapers that have clearly violated their countries' constitutions? In fact, Muslims in Europe should have used the legal route, in addition to their street protests, and sued the various newspapers and the states that took no action against these papers, in their national courts as well as the European Court.

However, to step back further, this whole issue of freedom of expression really does not fit into the Jyllands-Posten case because it was not the cartoonists who of their own volition got the idea to come up with cartoons against the Prophet of Islam (PBUH). Instead, they were deliberately commissioned by the Danish daily Jyllands-Posten -- as the paper itself explained on its culture page, on September 30, 2005, where it carried a statement entitled 'The painting of a portrait of Islam's Prophet':

"In the current season, three theatres have staged satirical plays about George W Bush, but none have contemplated doing a similar thing about Bin Laden ... In Denmark, if we are not careful, it is possible for self-censorship to take on an unpleasant dimension. For this reason, Jyllands-Posten has invited members of the Press Painters Association to paint a portrait of Islam's Prophet."

So let us be clear about this so-called 'freedom of expression' and the claimed legal helplessness of the European governments to take action against the papers printing the offensive cartoons. All this is absolute rubbish and this is where Muslims can take on the guilty in a non-violent and legal manner. That Muslims have been fair game in countries like Denmark has been clear for some time. In April 2005 their Queen declared that Danes should show their opposition to Islam. In September 2005 we saw a member of the Danish Parliament, Ms Louise Frevert, put hateful articles on her website which declared that young Muslims, even if born in Denmark, had fundamentalist leanings which were incompatible with Danish society. According to her, "Our laws forbid us to kill our enemies in public so the only remedy is to fill our prisons with these criminals. Most efficient method would probably be to send Muslims to Russian prisons for a fee of DKK 25 per day."

Is this not an advocacy of hate and violence? Yet no one thought to take legal action against her! This is where the Muslims are found wanting.

There are other avenues for action by Muslim states and societies which also do not need the use of violence, which only detracts from the real issue and the guilty. Economic measures need to be taken by Muslim states such as a refusal to buy products from specific European states and New Zealand. The agricultural sector of these states would surely suffer an immediate blow. Basically, economic responses are also very effective if political and diplomatic responses fail to stir the guilty states into legal action against their nationals, which is required by their own laws. It is time consumer power became more effective in Muslim states.

Incidentally, to give credit to the US, its condemnation of the cartoons should be appreciated. At the end of the day, Muslims need to develop more effective responses to the abuse of Islam and Muslims that is spreading in Europe and parts of the dominion. Violence always backfires.
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  #13  
Old Wednesday, February 15, 2006
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Targeting Islam and Muslim polities
-Shireen M Mazari

It is a sad time for Muslims. Europeans have declared open season on Islam with blasphemy and abuse deliberately going unpunished by states. The unprecedented scale of protest from Muslim civil societies is also being misread as something happening at the behest of extremists and/or Syria and Iran. Some recognised European experts on Islam, like Olivier Roy, have declared that the protests go beyond the issue of the cartoons. Some have even tried to link the protest to the lack of freedoms in some Muslim polities! Well all this may comfort those who refuse to accept the extent of hurt and anger caused to all Muslims by the unpunished acts of blasphemy against Islam and its Prophet (peace be upon him), but it is absolutely incorrect.

The fact of the matter is that all shades of Muslims are angry and want to see the guilty brought to book and the issue is very much of the cartoons themselves. No one has to push the protest forward. We are all protesting because we are angry and hurt by the injustice of the countries allowing their own laws to be broken because the targets are Islam and Muslims. Contrast this with the action taken against historian David Irving who denied the Holocaust and has been in prison in Austria, since 2005, under a warrant issued in 1989, for this denial. Denmark, too, has seen the same Jyllands-Posten editor, who was supposedly taking a stand for "freedom of expression" when he commissioned and printed the blasphemous cartoons suddenly being sent on holiday when he felt he must also print anti-holocaust cartoons!

So, it becomes increasingly clear that Islam and Muslims are now acceptable targets for abuse in Europe and other parts of the Christian world. So much so that we are now seeing revelations of yet more physical and mental abuse being heaped on Muslims in Iraq by the occupying forces -- this time the victims being mere teenagers. As if Guantanamo Bay and Abu Gharaib were not enough of abuse against Muslim prisoners, British forces seem to have developed a perverse joy in the physical abuse of Iraqi teenagers. A few sentiments of regret by Blair and a news item stating that one of the guilty soldiers has been arrested is all that one has gotten in response from the British Government. Even here, the name of the offending soldier has been kept out. Why? After all, the teenagers were abused in public with one clearly deranged soldier giving vent to his thrill in witnessing this abuse. Once again, even guilty Europeans must be protected while Muslims remain fair game.

And now we are hearing of yet another invasion of a Muslim state in the offing -- this time Iran. And the pretext? Its nuclear programme. Consider the following: North Korea opts out of the NPT, declares it has nuclear weapons and intends to continue down this path. So what does the US do? Get involved in the Six Party talks while keeping the North Korean issue at the UNSC on ice. Then we have Iran, reiterating its intent of staying in the NPT, stating it simply wants to pursue its right to enrich uranium as allowed for under the NPT, makes a clean confession of its past omissions, allows inspections, disavows any intent to produce nuclear weapons, so what do we get? The US threatening the possibility of military action against Iran. Ironically, no one is allowed to cast any aspersions at all or seek any limits on Israel's nuclear programme and weapons' stockpiles. This threat of military action comes alongside the British Foreign Secretary's statement to a parliamentary committee, on 8 February, that there was no proof that Iran was developing nuclear weapons. But then the US has never waited for proof when it seeks military action against a Muslim state.

This is not to say that Iran has not been guilty of violations of the NPT, but if it really wanted to go the nuclear weapon route it would have left the NPT and not held its nuclear programme up for inspections and negotiations. As for producing fissile material, no non-nuclear party to the NPT has a larger and more threatening programme than Japan. Japan has a massive fast breeder programme and is in the process of building the Rokkasho-mura reprocessing plant. Already, in Japan's pilot Tokai reprocessing plant, 206 kg of plutonium have gone unaccounted for. But we have not heard anyone refer to this, even at the IAEA.

Of course, sending the Iran issue to the UNSC will only up the ante and politicise the issue even further, leaving little flexibility for negotiations -– that is, if the US is prepared to have negotiations. After all, the US still suffers from an Iran trauma since the Islamic Revolution and the hostage crisis that followed. But for other members of the UN, some pertinent questions need to be answered if one is to assess the value of moving the issue out of the IAEA, which has a technical rather than a political focus, to the UNSC.

* First, what will be the next step, once Iran has been reported to the UNSC? Is there a cohesive strategy that exists on this?

* Second, now that Iran has decided to voluntarily implement the Additional Protocol and has also taken some transparency measures, that go beyond the IAEA safeguards and Additional Protocol, is the international community better off? The suspension on the enrichment was voluntary and non-legally binding so how can this be made legally-binding now just to try and find some rationalisation for taking Iran to the UNSC. After all, Iran continues to observe the regular NPT safeguards.

* If Iran refuses to cooperate with an UNSC resolution, what will be the response of the international community? In the case of Iraq, non-cooperation impeded verification. As for sanctions -– will they be enforceable effectively? Will there be military action a la Iraq-invasion style by the US and a coalition of the willing with a post-event UNSC resolution to give it legal cover? Will that help stabilise the region or enable an effective response to the situation in terms of non-proliferation, which the US itself seems to have reneged upon in the wake of its nuclear deal with India?

Clearly, the US approach has only put the international community, including Iran, on a lose-lose path and any military action against Iran will end what is left of stability in this region. It seems the US will target the oil installations of Iran, which are clustered together, with cruise missiles and then try to take physical control of them. The oil resource factor in play again!

For Pakistan, the danger lies not simply in the fallout on the domestic polity of any military action against Iran. With the US delinking India's nuclear status from that of Pakistan, a far greater danger lies in the possibility of a similar threat being given to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan's nuclear programme -- which still sits uncomfortably with the US. Otherwise why should the US deny Pakistan the same nuclear recognition it is offering to India?
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  #14  
Old Wednesday, February 22, 2006
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New forms of old threats
Shireen M Mazari

While some very important developments in the context of Pakistan-India relations merit major focus this week, two new developments, one in Austria and one in the US, should jolt any Muslim still sanguine about how the West views Muslims and Islam into a reality mode. Post-9/11, it truly is open season on Muslims and Islam even as the West reasserts its sensitivity towards the Jews. This was shown only too starkly in the three-year prison sentence awarded to historian David Irving by an Austrian court for his denial of the Holocaust. There was no support for freedom of expression in this case even though the issue in question was a historical event and not blasphemy of the Prophet of Islam, one of the leading religions of the world today. Just as anti-Holocaust cartoons cannot be printed in the Danish press, no one in Europe can have a revisionist view of Nazism and the Holocaust.

Meanwhile, in the US there is an outcry because control of six major US ports is being given to a UAE -- that is Arab -- company, Dubai World Ports, after it won the bidding. It appears that while American and European companies can have free access to the Muslim world and can operate in sensitive areas, including energy and communications, Arab companies cannot have a reciprocal freedom to operate in the West. What we in the Muslim world need to do is to see patterns because that allows a better comprehension of the in-built biases against us in the western world.

Meanwhile, Pakistanis have been consumed by the violence that has increasingly accompanied the protests against the blasphemous cartoons. In the process some critical developments this month have gone by without much attention or comment. First, there was the bizarre statement from the Indian president, in Singapore, that in about 50 years there was the possibility of a Pakistan-India confederation. His understanding of history is confused, because he supported his argument by citing the case of the two Germanies! Or perhaps age has caused a certain level of amnesia in Mr Kalam's mind because the two Germanies were the result of post-war occupation of Germany by the four Allied powers -- not a result of post-colonial independence. Also, of course, both Pakistan and India were created in 1947 out of a colonial entity, British India, so both were 1947 constructs in their independent shape.

However, the Indian president's statement does reveal a particular Indian mindset that still views Partition as a temporary event. Never mind that 1971 led to the creation of Bangladesh -- a reaffirmation of the two-nation theory -- rather than the expansion of the Indian state of West Bengal. The Indian trauma over Partition persists.

That is why while Pakistan has been prepared to go that extra mile in its peace moves, India continues to be playing for time on the conflictual issues. Despite myriad proactive suggestions from Pakistan, India maintains an obduracy on conflicts like Kashmir. In fact, a pattern of hostile intent is beginning to emerge visibly from the Indian side, which should be a warning to Pakistan. Apart from the questionable diplomatic stance reflected in the Indian president's statement in Singapore, more ominous has been the growing concern that India is increasingly involved in the terrorist acts in Balochistan.

Many of us have been suspecting that India would get involved in low-intensity operations in Balochistan once it opened six consulates in Afghanistan, especially those close to the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. After all, Pakistan had been protesting Indian activities from its consulate in Zahedan earlier. Finally, the Pakistan government has had to go public with the Indian agency RAW's involvement in Balochistan, and has formally handed over evidence to this effect to the Afghan president. The Karzai government, despite statements to the contrary, seems to have an inbuilt hostility towards Pakistan. Given that some of its cabinet members have had close links to India, this is not surprising, although President Karzai's periodic accusations against Pakistan are a little disturbing.

However, the Afghan government's complicity, be it indirect, with Indian designs is a serious issue and one hopes the Karzai government will move effectively on this count -- especially since we are constantly being told to deal more effectively on the al-Qaeda-Taliban issue.

What makes the new Indian threat from Afghanistan extremely serious is the fact that India sent 300 commandos into the Kandahar area in the first week of February -- as given out by official sources to the Indian media. The rationalisation was that there are Indian workers in the area, but this logic is a little absurd because if every country that had workers in Afghanistan sent their forces to 'protect' these workers, there would be utter chaos. After all, there are Chinese and Pakistani workers also present and they have also been attacked. So, should China and Pakistan also send in their commandos to protect their workers in Afghanistan? And would the Karzai government allow us such access?

One needs to question the Karzai government's intent in allowing Indian commandos into a clearly volatile and sensitive area. The 300 Indian commandos are bound to add to the instability of that region -- as is their intent.

As for President Karzai stating that he had given a list to Pakistan pointing out the Taliban figures sheltering in Pakistan, it appears no one in Islamabad knows who was given the list. So what is the Afghan game all about, especially the constant accusations against Pakistan? Clearly, there is a pattern here because Indian actions are well thought out and India's close links to the Karzai government has allowed the Indians operational space against Pakistan on its western borders.

Nor is this all. An Indian maritime aircraft also violated Pakistani air space earlier this month over Pakistan's Exclusive Economic Zone. Why are all these things happening now when we thought the dialogue process was inching forward, despite Indian intransigence on Kashmir and other conflicts? Clearly, one intent is to keep Pakistan preoccupied internally as India moves ahead on controversial nuclear deals with France and the US. As it is, the French president's visit to India has gone almost unnoticed by Pakistan as has the nuclear deal between France and India which effectively accepts India's nuclear weapons status. India is desperate to de-link its nuclear status from that of Pakistan's. The Indo-US nuclear deal already provides de facto recognition of India's nuclear weapons status and the US has reiterated that it will not have a similar agreement with Pakistan.

For Pakistan this de-linkage between its nuclear status and that of India is going to be the most threatening long-term development, impinging directly on our overall security parameters as well as the status of our nuclear programme. That is why we need to act pre-emptively on that count, but we cannot do so effectively if we continue to remain preoccupied and destabilised domestically.
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  #15  
Old Wednesday, March 01, 2006
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Default The Bush visit: premature euphoria

The Bush visit: premature euphoria
Shireen M Mazari

Even as the cartoons' issue continues to linger with the Europeans becoming ever more arrogant in their defence of the indefensible, the Bush visit has taken centre-stage in Pakistan. The pre-visit interviews given by President Bush to the Pakistani and Indian media were intended to create a positive environment for his arrival, while his talk at the Asia Society probably was a clearer picture of actual US policy towards this region. There was little new in the Asia Society speech on February 22, because the prime focus was on the strategic partnership the US perceives with India and the multiple commonalities that Bush sees between the US and India. Interestingly, his lack of historical recall was also revealed when he stated that the US had not "always enjoyed close relations with Pakistan and India" because in the past "the Cold War and regional tensions kept us apart …" Clearly, he forgot that Pakistan at least perceived itself as being a close ally of the US during the Cold War! But perhaps that was merely a reflection of the dominance of India in his mind and on his South Asian tour itself.

Bush sees India as a partner in pushing forward US global policy goals -- from free trade to democracy to energy and so on. Bush also reiterated the US position on India's nuclear programme when he declared that the US will address the "need to bring India's nuclear power programme under international norms and safeguards." Obviously, the US has already delinked this programme from India's military programme and accepted the latter without any curtailment or safeguards being required.

In contrast, in the context of Pakistan, Bush saw us primarily as "a key ally in the war on terror". Beyond that, there was no extensive strategic partnership that was outlined. Instead, the Pakistan part of his Asia Society speech was focused more on Pakistan's internal dynamics, including the democracy issue and education. US intent once again focuses on restructuring our polity -– while the Indian polity, with all its abuses and shortcomings, is of no concern to the US.

It was on Kashmir that President Bush gave cause for a premature euphoria in Pakistan and a massive display of self-censorship in the Indian media. At the Asia Society, President Bush only declared that he would encourage the leadership of Pakistan and India to address this "important issue. America supports a resolution in Kashmir that is acceptable to both sides." However, in the interview with the Pakistani media he recalled that he had referred to "both sides" but he said the language should be "all sides" because he recognised that a solution "must be acceptable to India, Pakistan and those living in Kashmir." Quite rightly, taken by itself, this remark was welcomed in Pakistan because it seemed to imply that the US was not pushing simply for a status quo as the solution.

In his opening remarks to the Indian media, he went even further and stated: "I do want to make something clear in the speech I gave today (to Asia Society). I said that -- as to the Kashmir interest -- issue, America supports a solution that is acceptable to all sides. As you might recall in my remarks, I said 'to both sides'. I would like the record to be so that the world hears me say, 'all sides'. I fully understand that the deal has to be acceptable to the Indians, Paks, as well as the citizens of Kashmir…"

The Indian media simply left this quote out but the White House put out an official text! Yet, Pakistan should not be too delighted with this statement because it also reflects the derogatory way in which Bush perceives Pakistanis in his reference to "Paks". While the US media has been abusive of President Musharraf, including referring to him as "meretricious", one does not expect the leader of one sovereign state referring to a whole nation by a generally-recognised term of abuse. Also, when Bush uses the word "citizen" in the context of Kashmir, it implies an independent sovereign status for Kashmir. What could he possibly have been implying?

So, what is the real US position on Kashmir? Is it contained in the Asia Society Bush remarks; or the reference to Kashmir in his interview to the Pakistani media; or the censored opening remark made to the Indian media? While Pakistanis immediately began welcoming the Bush remarks, it may be more prudent to wait and see what actually transpires during the course of the Bush visits to Pakistan and India -- and, it seems, Afghanistan. After all, in his interview with India's Doordarshan, in response to a question on the so-called "terrorist training camps and training infrastructure in Pakistan-occupied (sic) Kashmir", Bush declared that "on my trip to Pakistan, I will, of course, talk about the terrorist activities, the need to dismantle terrorist training camps…"

Therefore, let us be more contained in our enthusiasm of the Bush visit -– especially when we recall what happened to our self-respect and dignity when Clinton visited as President. There are also some critical issues for Pakistan in the context of the US. Two of the most important, strategically, are respect for Pakistan's sovereignty in the ongoing war on terror and the threat to Pakistan's strategic stability posed by the Indo-US defence and nuclear cooperation deals. The first requires a clear and unconditional commitment by the US -- without which there can be no concept of any substantive cooperation let alone partnership. We are a strong state; let us behave like one.

The second issue requires making the Bush Administration understand, in as simple and clear-cut a language as possible, that their military and nuclear deals with India -– and their so-called de-hyphenation in their Pakistan and India relationships -– threaten the nuclear stability of South Asia as well as challenging Pakistan's self-imposed nuclear restraint and minimum nuclear deterrence. Unless the US intent is to deliberately destabilise this region, their Missile Defence cooperation with India and their acceptance of India's military nuclear programme have a direct negative fallout on Pakistan's security parameters. That is why, unless there is some similar balancing agreements with Pakistan, US interests in the region will conflict with Pakistan's strategic compulsions. The wheat and soya bean approach towards Pakistan while military hardware and technology flow to India cannot be thrust on us anymore. And if India's civil nuclear programme is delinked from its military -– in clear violation of the NPT -– then our programme has to be dealt within a similar fashion. That does not mean we need civil nuclear energy from the US, given that China is a far more reliable option, but we do need to have a non-discriminatory US nuclear policy for this region.

Unless we can get a positive response in terms of these two vital interests, we must accept the issue-specific limitations of the Pakistan-US cooperation and institute more equitable quid pro quos in this framework. As for Kashmir, the strength of the Kashmiris and the righteousness of their cause will see them through and it is our support that must be unflinching because US statements may simply remain just that.
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Old Wednesday, March 08, 2006
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Default Pak-US relations: no room for illusions

Pak-US relations: no room for illusions
Shireen M Mazari


President Bush's visit to South Asia was all one expected it to be, although the level of intimacy he achieved with India went far beyond expectations. In Pakistan, a lot of time was devoted to a visit that in the end produced little of long-term strategic value for the country -- no matter what spin one puts on it. But why do we always have expectations from the US when they consistently make it clear that these will be refuted. In the present context, the most painful example was the nuclear issue. Despite consistent statements from US officialdom -- right from the top down -- that Pakistan could never be treated to a deal similar to the Indo-US nuclear deal, we were being told by various utterances from Scherezade Hotel that we would be demanding such a deal and it could actually happen. A delusional air surely hangs heavy in various corridors here!

Of course, the US arguments for sustaining this differential treatment on the nuclear issue do not hold in any rational discussion given India's formal nuclear cooperation with Iran and the Saddam regime as well as its scientists' work in Iranian facilities, but then rationality has never been a strong point of US policies in this region. In any case, President Bush tried to put the delinking of India's nuclear status from that of Pakistan's in as polite a form as he could muster: As he put it, "Pakistan and India are different countries with different needs and different histories. So as we proceed forward, our strategy will take in effect those well-known differences". Apart from the fact that he conveniently forgot that the two countries histories are also interlinked, he was right in stating that our nuclear histories are different because India broke the nuclear taboo in this region and it is India that has an extensive nuclear agenda as well as a questionable record in terms of nuclear cooperation officially with regimes like the Saddam regime! So is India being rewarded for its nuclear ambitions and past shenanigans?

Even more galling from the Pakistani standpoint, even on investment and market access opportunities, nothing was formalized. At the end of the day there were many promises and a commitment to a strategic dialogue at mid-level seniority, but nothing concrete. There can be no delusions as to where Pakistan stands with the US: We have an issue-specific strategic cooperation on the issue of terrorism. Beyond that, the US seeks an intrusive role in our domestic polity -- be it education or our political structures. Much has already been written on the Bush visit to Pakistan but there is nothing new or substantive for Pakistan that one can discuss. The only substantive agreement was the Declaration on Principles relating to the Integrated Cargo/Container Control Programme (IC3), which is part of the anti-WMD and anti-terror agenda of the US. Even the issue of US forces violating Pakistan's sovereignty was ignored in terms of an expression of regret, let alone an apology, despite the fact that President Bush focused primarily on the "war on terror". Even the Bush body language in Islamabad was in marked contrast to the gushing and euphoric body language we saw in India. But why was anyone expecting anymore?

On Kashmir, where many Pakistanis went into a state of heady expectations after the Bush remarks to the Indian media prior to his visit, Bush clearly reversed into the traditional US posturing by the time he arrived in Pakistan from India. So on that count, too, it was clear that the US was not prepared to so much as put India in an even mildly irritable mood. Thankfully, President Musharraf also sought only US "facilitation" rather than mediation -- the latter portending dire results for Pakistan in the face of the new Indo-US relationship.

Far more important, especially in the long term, is the Indo-US nuclear deal. While the US talks of declining its relationship with India from its relationship with Pakistan, this delinkage in the nuclear field is going to have serious repercussions for Pakistan, especially when seen in the broader context of the US-India military pact with its missile defence component. In fact, the single most critical factor to come from the Bush visit is the Indo-US nuclear deal -- which was preceded by a nuclear agreement between France and India.

Effectively, the US has killed the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). After all, any nuclear assistance to India, even in the civilian field, directly contravenes the NPT. Such assistance also contravenes the US Non-Proliferation Act, but the US can alter that. However, it cannot alter the NPT unilaterally so it has simply decided to kill it in a most brazen fashion. The global non-proliferation agenda is dead as a result of US unilateralism and total disregard for international treaties. Also, by allowing India a delinkage between its military and civilian facilities -- with India deciding which is which -- the US has accepted India de facto into the nuclear club. Pakistan remains outside and can now be targeted in the future on its nuclear programme. Not that we cannot hold our own -- but it will be a source of future unwarranted threat/political pressure.

To make its rejection of the NPT even starker, the US has also given out its decision to retain its nuclear arsenal and to bolster it further -- thereby writing off Article 6 of the NPT. It is in this context that the US and Britain conducted a joint subcritical nuclear experiment (February 23), Krakatau, at the Nevada test site. This has been followed by a statement from Linton Brooks, head of the National Nuclear Security Administration declaring that "the United States will, for the foreseeable future, need to retain both nuclear forces and the capabilities to sustain and modernise those forces".

Nor is the Indo-US nuclear deal and the US formal abandonment of disarmament significant only for Pakistan. There will be consequences in terms of how the US now challenges Iran's nuclear programme. After all, having laid the NPT to rest, how can there be any rationalisation of taking the Iran nuclear issue to the UNSC? Also, unless the IAEA critiques the Indo-US nuclear deal, how can it further the goals of non-proliferation? Or is there now going to be a formal acceptance of the discriminatory approach to non-proliferation where only certain states' will be targeted for their WMD programmes, while everyone else can continue to develop their WMD totally unchecked. After all, that is the signal that has been given to India in terms of its fissile material and nuclear weapons development. If one contrasts the manner in which the US is dealing with North Korea, where dialogue is being sought to resolve the nuclear issue, and Iran, one can make a valid assumption that it is the programmes of Muslim states that will be targeted in the future.

In hindsight, Pakistan should have taken note of the Bush reference to its nationals as "Paks" in his opening statement to the Indian media in Washington. That would have better prepared many in Islamabad for the Bush visit. It would certainly have removed all delusional notions.
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Old Wednesday, March 15, 2006
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Shireen M Mazari

Post-9/11 one has had to witness a strange decline of national self-confidence, despite our innate national strengths, to a level where we are now being subjected to all manner of abuse, by all and sundry. For instance, despite our unstinting support in the war on terrorism, the nation had to face an outright insult by President Bush when he declared that the purpose of his visit was to see whether President was "as serious" on the war against terror as he had been in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. Nor was that all. Mr Bush also declared that he wanted to see "fair, free and honest" elections in Pakistan in 2007.

While one can concede to the "fair" and "free" -- although coming practically in the form of a command did nothing to bolster the issue -- what did Bush mean by the use of the term "honest". Was he remembering his own deceit in Florida which led to his first electoral victory, or was he casting yet another aspersion on our leadership? In any event, despite the cricket, and my admiration for the young bowler who defeated Mr Bush at the batting crease, Mr Bush followed true to Clinton's form even though the admonitions may have been less aggressive at first glance.

The US interaction has become ever more farcical. Following the Bush visit, we have now had to hear more absurdities from representatives of the US Administration -- this time in the form of the visit to Islamabad by US Secretary of Energy, Samuel Bodman. While we still continue with our dream of getting US nuclear cooperation similar to what has been promised to India, the US once again has sent a clear message that that will not be the case. As Bodman stated: "Let me make it clear to you that nuclear energy is not part of our agenda." This, despite the very rational Pakistani proposal of safeguarded nuclear parks for energy generation.

So what is part of the US energy agenda for Pakistan? After seeing the text of Bodman's press conference, clearly the primary agenda item is to undermine the Iran gas pipeline project and push us towards gas projects "with Turkmenistan or Qatar." In addition, we have been told we must meet our requirements of energy from coal and solar power! Given our technical capabilities in the nuclear field and the support of China, under IAEA safeguards, in the field of nuclear power generation, there is little to be gained from pursuing the energy dialogue with the US.

But that would be a strong, nationalist message being sent to the US, and we seem to have been reduced to a state of uncertainty psychologically in terms of our own strengths. So many dollars will be wasted in sending teams to continue a fairly meaningless energy dialogue in Washington which will only increase the pressure for abandonment of the Iran pipeline project. Despite no technical or material help in the nuclear field, Bodman has declared that the US "will also send a delegation of scientists to Pakistan". One really needs to know what the purpose would be for such a visit.

Ironically, the US insistence that civil nuclear assistance is not for Pakistan comes at a time when more revelations are being made about India's proliferation deals. We already know, although the US Administration has chosen to turn a blind eye to this reality that India has had nuclear deals with Iran and the Saddam regime and that Indian nuclear scientists worked in both these countries. Now a former UN weapons inspector, David Albright, who heads the Institute for Science and International Security has revealed how India circumvented other countries' export controls and leaked sensitive technology in order to procure materials for its nuclear programme. How long will the US State Department deny India's faulty proliferation record?

Interestingly, for Pakistan even the promised US investment is not going to be forthcoming. That is the other message Bodman has brought in the wake of the Bush visit. As Bodman put it: "There is a potential security issue in Balochistan and unless there is a substantial reduction in that risk, it is hard to think that there would be any substantive American investment there."

Of course, given that India is one source of the security problems in Balochistan, perhaps the US could talk to its strategic partner to desist from aiding terrorism in that part of Pakistan. More critically, we should now realise how critical our economic cooperation with China is becoming for the future and give it topmost priority in terms of investment opportunities and joint production ventures.

So at the end of the day, clearly given the US intent vis-a-vis Pakistan in terms of security and economic investment, the so-called joint statement signed during the Bush visit to Islamabad, to launch the Pakistan-US "Strategic Partnership" has been reduced to a farce with the US simply telling us what we should and should not do -- and what it will and will not do with us. Basically, they want us to fight the anti-terrorist war along the international border with Afghanistan because they are increasingly unable to control the situation within that country despite all the high tech military arsenal and despite the highly equipped US soldiers.

But the Afghan leaders are also getting cocky vis-a-vis Pakistan, especially in the wake of the Bush visit. President Karzai, who has only US support to keep him in power, has now made his hostility to Pakistan clear. But he keeps contradicting himself because he wants us to stop "cross border infiltration" but opposes our fencing of the international border. Now we have the totally absurd situation where every puny little Afghan leader feels he can abuse Pakistan ad nauseum as that will garner him local and US support. So we have had the ridiculous statement coming from Sebghatullah Mujaddedi that Pakistan was behind the attack on his person. Given the intricacies of in-fighting amongst all the former Mujahideen leaders, Mujaddedi would be closer to the truth if he looked closer to himself for his enemies. After all, why would Pakistan bother with him?

Like Karzai, whom Pakistan sheltered for many years, Mujaddedi was the first Mujahideen leader to be installed as President after the fall of Najibullah. As a reporter, who witnessed the event recalled, Mujaddedi had to be forced to go to Kabul from Peshawar since he was in a state of total fear. So scared was he that he even feigned a stomach ailment till a doctor was summoned and he was told he was perfectly fit to travel to Kabul!

As for our so-called interference in Afghanistan -– which is what we are constantly being accused of even now -– we can hardly feign complete indifference when we still continue to host Afghan refugees and when we are seeing the Karzai regime allowing India space for low intensity operations within Pakistan. President Musharraf's rejoinder to Karzai's accusations was timely, but this tough stance has to be sustained. It is time to restore a nationalist assertiveness. Else we are in danger of being reduced to an absurd farce as a nation.
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Our education deficit

Shireen M Mazari

It is a strange phenomenon that as the number of private educational institutions in the country has increased; the overall standards of education within the country have declined. The public schools fast-declining standards have been a given for many decades now and much has been written on that count. But scant attention is being paid to the burgeoning industry that private schools have become. Yet these are the institutions that a sizeable chunk of our bureaucracy and other elites are eventually drawn from and that is why we have increasingly poorly educated civil servants -- as reflected in the story published in The News on April 2. It was sad rather than funny.
Despite the increasing fees and competitiveness of private schools, it is not difficult to see the declining educational standards that are rampant across the country -- because schools are the nurseries for our universities. Of course, some will contend that our children's performance in the O and A level examinations has seen a steady increase in A grades; but the picture is fudged because many private school systems, especially, compel their weak students to appear as private candidates so that the school picture is artificially rosy!
One of the problems today is that education has become an extremely lucrative business in Pakistan and therefore all manner of private schools are mushrooming around the country -- with no control or accountability system. Some schools have become school systems, and none are answerable to any authority in the country. Parents often get short shrift if they become interventionist, because there are always students waiting to get into one or the other private school. This is not to say that all schools are bad. There are some excellent schools but these are scarce and are exceptions.
The major issue is one of accountability. No one is accountable either for what is being taught in these schools or for how it is being taught. The owners are the final arbiters and can hire, fire and expel at will with no control from any supervisory body. This issue was raised in the present cabinet by the education minister, but vested interests, especially of the private school systems, raised a major hue and cry and that was the end of the issue. But there are some serious issues involved and the government does need to lay down some basic ground rules.
To begin with, there has to be some supervisory body which includes parents and civil society members to oversee private schools and to receive and examine complaints relating to these schools. After all, the multi-branch schools often have six to ten sections in each grade, and each section has over twenty students with only one teacher. So the slower or quieter children often get neglected -- especially in a class of almost thirty students. That is why there is now a growing menace of excessive homework. The teachers are shifting the burden of teaching on to parents at a time when in many families both parents are working. So eventually the norm of private tuitions has become pervasive and often the schools' own teachers provide tuition to their own students thereby earning extra income.
However, this means the children spend a good two to three hours studying after they come home from a full day at school -- hardly a healthy life for young people who need their leisure hours, especially outdoors. Nor is this the only health hazard that confronts the school child of today -- and I am talking of those children whose parents often struggle to meet the costs of private education in the vain hope that this will provide better opportunities in life to their child.
The other basic hazard is that schools are opening up in all manner of residential houses and their conversion to schools requires no building examinations or minimal standards. With crowded classrooms, and often no fire exits, these schools put the children at risk every day. In addition, a lack of professionalism in the teachers, as well as bad student-teacher ratios, encourages violence in schools often leading to injury. Again schools will rarely accept liability or even responsibility for the results of the growing violence in schools.
Coming to the education imparted, since there are no minimal standards to comply with either in terms of course content or teachers' qualifications, women with time to spare suddenly transform themselves into teachers and are allowed to teach subjects in which they are not specialised -- often having studied them only at school or intermediate level. Then there is a high turnover of teachers' themselves since many are simply whiling away their time either till their husbands get posted elsewhere or they themselves get married. It is not uncommon to find children dealing with at least three new teachers for some subjects every year.
Fee structures are also totally controlled by the owners and there is no supervision so as schools become more popular their fees rise higher and parents are presented with a fait accompli. Also, many private schools pay no heed to the government rule that O level students must take up Urdu, Pakistan Studies and Islamiat; while some are inculcating their own political values on to the young children. In any event, the standard of Pakistan Studies is a serious issue and achieves no purpose. Instead, a proper study of the history of this region and the Pakistan movement would be more useful in secondary schools along with world history -- which is presently a major deficit in our educational system. As for Islamiat -- the O level syllabus is absurd because it has a sectarian bias with children being allowed to choose which sectarian version of the subject to take up in terms of the O level examination. In any case, religious instruction should be part of a child's home environment and not a compulsory secondary school subject -- rather an optional one for anyone wishing to specialise in it later. What should be taught in schools -- that is, the national anthem is often missing altogether from some private schools.
In this environment, the government has to take swift and rational action if we are to overcome our education deficit at the primary and secondary school levels. There is a need to lay down minimal standards for the curricula as well as rationalising it. There is also a need to lay down a minimum pay scale and other facilities and qualifications for teachers. Perhaps most important, there must be supervisory bodies to oversee the functioning of private schools and to take note of complaints from parents. Private schools cannot function in a legal void; hence the need to create laws to regulate and supervise these institutions.
Some of the older and established private schools have their governing boards, but most private schools do not even have these. In any event, with a few exceptions, governing boards are not inclined to be full time watch dogs and an external regulatory authority is needed to ensure that private schools are imparting standardised and quality education, through properly qualified and trained teachers, in safe and properly constructed buildings. The profit motive must be balanced by societal responsibility.

The writer is director general of the Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad
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A fatal juxtaposition of violence and resignation

Shireen M Mazari

A strange air of resignation and fatalism seems to have pervaded our society in a most damaging fashion. This is reflected both in our approach towards our external relations and events within the country. Take the devastating terrorist attack on the Eid-i-Milad-un-Nabi congregation at Nishtar Park, Karachi: It should have shocked the national polity into serious introspection. Yet, after the initial shock, the nation went about with life as usual. We seem to have become immunised to the growing violence within our society as we are given a daily account of the killings across the country. It is not just acts of terrorism but the domestic violence that leads to the non-stop media accounts of women being burnt or axed or simply shot dead.
Militarisation of society has become ingrained as violence is seen as an answer to all disagreements amongst ourselves -- no matter how petty the issue. Whether it is rival student groups, or siblings, or spouses or political or religious groups. From the micro to the macro levels of society, we seem to revel in the use of violence. Our language for ourselves is violent; our responses to even the most minor of provocations is violent and, of course, no political or religious gathering can be held without an adequate display of weapons.
The violence is, of course, the means or expression of a growing intolerance for diversity amongst ourselves. Be it the religious or secular extremist, a self-righteousness embodies a lack of tolerance for the other. Our so-called "western liberals" are not prepared to see any good in any form of religious expression or school, while our "religious" pontiffs condemn all opponents as "un-Islamic". The space to coexist is disappearing fast and the rising tide of intolerant self-righteousness will sweep us all in its wave of destruction.
What is the reason for this air of resignation and fatalism? At some level, the ruling elite, of all varieties, must take responsibility at the macro level, at least. Over the decades, their unresponsiveness to the people; their abuse of this wonderful land and its resources; and, their complete lack of commitment to a sense of nationalism, while pushing forward factional and personal interests, has unleashed a similar "looking out for oneself" mindset within the nation.
Elections are the only time that at least some lip service is paid to the wishes of the people but once the votes have been cast, the people become irrelevant. Corruption has become endemic and the "take what you can" mentality is all-pervasive. The irony is that corruption or percentage-taking is not unique to Pakistan. Other countries, which are in the fast lane of development also have these issues but as one Southeast Asian explained, while people take their "cut" they also ensure that the project they are involved in not only gets completed on time, it is done up to the specifications -- so that the nation also benefits.
At the micro level, we see our children being short shrifted in their education with government schools having neither the resources invested in them nor the commitment to produce proper teachers; and private schools seeing themselves more as purely commercial outfits rather than as places where future generations must be nurtured fruitfully. As for the profession of teaching itself, it lost its lustre decades earlier and a teacher now is more an object of derision or ridicule rather than respect and awe.
It is assumed people turn to teaching when they cannot do anything else, or simply to while away time till other things happen. In our homes also we have stopped inculcating this sense of respect for the teaching profession which eventually means that we have stopped respecting the notion of learning. We draw many comparisons between ourselves and other South Asians, but a major difference between Indians, Sri Lankans and ourselves is the passion for learning in the two former nations in the true sense of the word.
Ironically, while intolerance for each other is becoming a hallmark within our society, our fatalism and sense of resignation is making us overly tolerant of abuse from outside. With our larger neighbour India, we are desperately seeking conflict resolution even though it is clear they are more interested in conflict management or the imposition of solutions. The arrogance of the Indian state has been increasing as we have become more accommodating and nothing reflects this more clearly than their offer of the so-called "peace and friendship treaty" which they suggest should leave Kashmir out of its ambit!
Nor are we taking abuse only from the Indians. Mr Bush came here to "check" whether "his friend", President Musharraf was "still serious" about his commitment against terrorism! The sheer cheek! But worse has followed. We had the US Energy Secretary coming to Islamabad and berating us and the State Department's Boucher coming to hold forth on our domestic political situation. Yes, we have our problems but our political elites can surely resolve these without external interventions? In any case, it would have been a little more seemly if our politicians had met with Boucher outside of the US embassy, if they had to discuss the domestic situation.
Our sense of resignation has become so pronounced that we are unable to offer any strong response to the abuse being heaped on us from external forces. Even when the government knows what India and others are up to in Balochistan, we do not become more assertive -- even in our language. When we do object to events abroad which impact us, even then we choose to hurt ourselves through violence against each other rather than rationally defeating the guilty on their own turf and with their own legal weapons. Violent actions against Pakistani business interests and Pakistani people, to protest the blasphemous cartoons published abroad, only made our own people the losers.
Again, while we hold nothing back in the language we use against each other, we have become overly circumspect in responding to external machinations against our nation. Even Mr Karzai, who can barely keep his government's writ in Kabul, has found himself able to hurl accusations at us and make demands on us ad nauseam. That Mushahid Hussain actually broke the circumspect mode on the link between events in Balochistan and Indian activities in Afghanistan, his interview to The News was a welcome surprise, but those directly responsible for foreign and security policy also need to show more spine in their public statements.
We need to overcome our seeming air of defeatism in external dealings because we are not as weak as we seem to be feeling and the problem is in our elite's psyche. At the same time, we need to break out of our intolerant and violent mode within the domestic framework. The earthquake brought out the best in this wonderful nation but why must we wait for catastrophes to show the true spirit of nationhood that still prevails amongst the nation at large. It would be a self-created tragedy to allow the humane spirit, caring and commitment of this wonderful nation, to be buried under the violence of intolerance and the defeatism of an unwarranted fatalism.

The writer is director general of the Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad
Email: smnews80@hotmail.com
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Old Thursday, May 04, 2006
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Questioning NATO's new rationalisation
Shireen M Mazari

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) has been seeking new legitimacy and rationality for its existence in a unipolar world. The disintegration of the Soviet Union signalled the end of bipolarity and destroyed any semblance of balance in the system -- with the US emerging as the sole superpower, determined to establish global strategic structures attuned to its policy goals -- and there was and continues to be little room for hostile states in this new design. The tools also altered -- and these altered much before 9/11. For instance, deterrence (reflecting maintenance of the status quo) was gradually being pushed into the background with the advent of the notion of Missile Defence; and the notion of collective security was fast degenerating into a collective defence system for the pursuance of the US strategic agenda -- as reflected in the manner in which UN sanctions were used in the case of Iraq and Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.

9/11 merely accentuated these trends, with the US moving towards a new concept of collective action -- through a notion of the "coalition of the willing" which directly challenges the UN's collective security system. In fact, one can identify four major trends that came to the fore with the end of bipolarity and which became more pronounced in the wake of 9/11.

First, the disintegration of the Soviet Union physically altered the Asian map with the creation of a whole set of new states in the Caucasus and Central Asia. These states, with heavy structural and economic dependencies on Russia, created a region of strategic vulnerability, especially since many of them had old historico-political cleavages within them that came to the fore with independence. The war on terrorism, which brought in external military forces into the region, added to the instability of the Central Asian region.

Second, along with the post-bipolar geopolitical change, the dividing regional lines between the various Asian sub-regions -- such as South Asia, West Asia, and Southeast Asia -- also stood dissipated, with the advent of medium range missiles in the arsenals of some of the states of the region. Post 9/11, the parameters dividing South Asia from the neighbouring Asian regions have further weakened -- especially with both Pakistan and India becoming part of the international coalition's war on terrorism and the presence of external military forces not only in Central Asia but also in the Indian Ocean. Drawing the Central and West Asian regions more directly into the South Asian strategic milieu have been the various schemes/proposals for oil and gas pipelines.

Third, and adding to all these regional changes, was the already strategic shift in US policy. The US legitimised state intervention through the pre-emptive doctrine at the economic, military and political -- that is regime change -- levels. A major global theme that is evolving is the notion of "coalitions of the willing" -- which effectively is a direct challenge to the UN system, especially the notion of collective security.

It is in this new milieu that NATO is seeking to re-legitimise itself. After all, NATO was rationalised post-WWII as a collective defence system with the North Atlantic and Europe as its operational milieu. Within this framework, it acquired legitimacy under the UN Charter's Article 51. The context of NATO was regional both in terms of membership and operational milieu. So, with the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact in 1991, questions were beginning to be raised about the continuing rationale for NATO.

NATO, however, began seeking a new validity almost immediately with the setting up of the North Atlantic Cooperation Council as a forum for consultations between NATO members, East European states and the former Soviet republics. Since then, NATO has begun to focus more on bringing into its fold the Eastern European states, initially through its Partnership for Peace initiative of 1994, as well as providing a certain, limited access to Russia through the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council set up in 1997.

Despite all these developments and efforts by NATO to find a new relevancy, debate intensified by the time NATO reached fifty (in 1999) about its continuing validity. But to some extent, the sheer weight of its bureaucratic and organisational structures accounts for its continuing survivability. That is why NATO is looking for political rationalisations for its sustenance. In the process it is undergoing a transformation from its original shape and purpose into a wider politico-military institution that seeks to encompass a wide range of agendas -- from peacekeeping to anti-proliferation of WMD to disaster relief.

While NATO may well have been effective in complying with its new multitasking agendas, a shift in its basic collective defence identity to something more encompassing raises some serious issues in terms of the basics of international relations and the laws, norms and principles that govern these relations. To begin with, while the NATO agenda has expanded, its membership remains confined to Europe and the US -- a sort of bridge between the North Atlantic and Europe. So, if it represents collective interests, these are the interests of these two geographical entities. Yet, its theatre of operations on the ground has become increasingly Asian -- a region that has little say in the NATO agenda or functioning. Unless NATO alters its very identity through Asian members, it will by definition be plugging US-European agendas in Asia.

Closer to us in Pakistan, the NATO presence in Afghanistan raises a host of questions including whether this presence is going to be a permanent one? If the answer is yes, then it will raise security concerns for countries like Pakistan, Iran and China because our national interests may not always coincide with US or NATO interests.

Even more troublesome at a basic conceptual level is the idea that NATO is being transformed from a collective defence organisation (Article 5 of the NATO Charter is surely in the context of collective defence?) to a collective security organisation to serve the interests of future "coalitions of the willing". There is no legitimacy for any collective security organisation other than the UN with its universal membership. Will NATO now push itself as a collective security organisation promoting the values of the Atlantic-European community?

Internationally, there is no legitimacy for such an organisation because Article 51 (Chapter VII) of the UN Charter provides a very clear and limited framework for collective defence organisations. Article 52 (Chapter VII) of the Charter relates to regional arrangements in connection with maintenance of peace and security and talks in terms of these organisations coming into being "as are appropriate for regional action." Also, under Article 53, there can be no action without authorisation of the Security Council except against an enemy state as defined in Article 53:2.

Is NATO going to be an alternative to the UN system of collective security, peacekeeping, and so on -- just as the notion of "coalitions of the willing" is a direct alternative to the UN and its Security Council? If that is the case, then NATO is functioning in a legal and moral void especially given its continuing limitations in terms of membership.
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