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Old Thursday, March 29, 2007
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Troubling issues and the war within
By Shireen M Mazari


Dated: 14 March 2007

The sun has finally come out after days of a wet bleakness that shrouded everything. Developments within the country seemed to match this dreary woefulness. However, there is little to be cheerful about even with the emergence of the sun. Issues troubling us presently have been declared sub judice, and since one is condemnatory of judgements being passed before due process, one cannot do the same oneself. However, in the few instances when some of us had the chance to witness hearings before Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, it was clear that the police and bureaucracy were brought down to earth and civil society was the better for it — especially in terms of public interest judgements. In the aftermath of that terrible low point in our brief democratic political history, the storming of the Supreme Court, hope of legal redress for the ordinary person was gradually beginning to revive again. As for what happens now and in the future, we will have to simply wait and see — but there is a heaviness that abounds. There is also an irony in hearing the same voices supporting the independence of the judiciary that had instigated the storming of the Supreme Court in an earlier democratic dispensation. When genuine commitment gets entangled with opportunism, cynicism tends to win the day.

Meanwhile, what one is seeing only too clearly is the sheer violence and abuse ingrained in our police. The ugliness of police violence once again reared its head in Lahore when a lawyers' procession was charged upon by baton wielding police. Lawyers had taken out processions in other cities also and the law enforcers had managed to keep the peace without violence. Lahore was another story altogether and the sight, on television, of policemen not only using their legally-allotted (one assumes) and threatening batons, but also pelting the processionists with stones which they picked up as they advanced menacingly towards the crowd. Once again the law enforcers, and protectors of civil society, were breaking the law — for that is what pelting with stones is — and lashing out at protesting but unarmed members of civil society. What message does this send out about our society — surely not one of a positive soft image?

It is not as if we do not have enough enemies outside seeking to harm us. We have the continuing efforts by the US Congress to tie aid with conditionalities that impinge on our internal functioning. We have the continuing diatribes from Afghanistan and NATO about us not doing enough in the war on terror — although what they mean by enough is inexplicable. We also have growing proof of Indian involvement in acts of terrorism in Balochistan. If all this was not enough, we now face a looming indirect threat as a result of US covert efforts to destabilise the Iranian regime through Iranian Balochistan and a threat of US/Israeli military adventurism against Iran.

The massive array of striking forces in the Gulf in itself poses a threat — especially of accidental war or an accidental mishap. It has happened before — specifically in the case of Iran Air flight 655 which was shot down on July 3, 1988, by a US naval warship. A National Geographic documentary on this event showed how the US warship had been four miles inside of Iranian territorial waters when it shot down the Iran Air civilian airplane, resulting in 290 deaths. Nor did the US take to task those responsible for this criminal act. With such a reckless approach to human life and scant regard for international law, the chances of another accident waiting to happen now cannot be ruled out.

Added to all this, we also have to face an irrationally hostile Western media aided and abetted by our own disgruntled/hostile elements. The latest salvo fired in this context is the case of the CNN airing "Divide Pakistan" advertisements — and then having aired them long enough, denying any culpability! The fact is that someone calling himself Syed Jamaluddin is hawking his book "Divide Pakistan to Eliminate Terrorism" on Amazon.com and has been buying time on CNN — 15 minute spots — to advertise the book by charging Pakistan with global terrorism and suggesting the only solution is to split the country into four parts!

It may sound too farfetched to be taken seriously, but given the lack of knowledge about the world amongst the US political elite, such nonsense could be believable and add to the damage already being done to Pakistan in the US Congress. After all, it was not too long ago that the US Armed Forces Journal printed an article by Ralph Peters, where it was recommended that all powerful Muslim states be divided — including Pakistan. Interestingly, the division suggested by this so-called Jamaluddin is not dissimilar to the one suggested by the Ralph Peters article, "Blood Borders"! Another interesting point to ponder over is the money available to this Jamaluddin since a 30-second prime time spot on CNN costs at least $20,000. So who is providing the funding for these damaging anti-Pakistan ads on CNN and why did CNN allow itself to be used in this fashion?

The point is that we have enough enemies outside and we need to develop consensus and move towards a national resurgence from within to deal with these external challenges and threats. Instead, we are unable to affect the compromises necessary for national reconciliation and national healing. It is no wonder civil society is becoming increasingly despairing and cynical. It seems we are destined to move in an ever-repetitive cycle of repetitive events at the national level.

After all, before the country was immersed in the judicial issue, it was being confronted with the PIA tragedy — for that is what the EU ban is. After all, here was an airline that was a leader in the field and built up airlines like Singapore, Alia and Emirates, and look to where it has sunk decades later. Much as one would like to accuse the EU of discrimination, the fact is that PIA's old fleet of 737s and Airbuses are in a shabby condition and no attention is paid to safety or cleanliness. How many times have we experienced broken seats and seat belts, gaps in the light sidings and dirty floors?

Whatever the issue — no matter how big or small — we are certainly proving to be our own worst enemies. Our faith in ourselves is eroding even as we wait for someone else to turn the tide for us. This will not happen and this is certainly no way to nurture our future generations in. It is time for each one of us to restore our faith in ourselves and our nation — no one can simply stand by and watch cynically anymore.
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  #42  
Old Wednesday, April 04, 2007
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Default Civil society under threat

Civil society under threat

Date: 04 April 2007

The threat to civil society from violent extremists is not something we in the urban areas of the country can view as an occurrence in the remote tribal areas of the country. We in civil society have watched with trepidation and sorrow the extremists using violence in the NWFP to prevent barbers from shaving, to destroy video stores and enforce closure of schools, with the state being ineffectual to enforce its writ in the face of these violent challenges. But we have remained mere silent spectators as we went about our own lives. And so the threat has come to haunt us in the capital Islamabad itself -- thanks to the conciliatory approach of the state in dealing with lawbreakers who happen to be armed zealots. When the Jamia Hafsa students first challenged the law and law enforcement agencies as they occupied the Children's library, some of us had suggested a strong response to send a message to civil society that breaking of the law will not be tolerated. Instead, there was an air of appeasement with dialogues going on with the lawbreakers and even accommodation in terms of some of their demands. Sensing the state's self-created vulnerability, the Jamia Hafsa brigade stood their ground and continued the occupation of the library.

Seeing no effort by the state to challenge them and dislodge them from their occupation -- in fact seeing some politicians actually supporting them -- over the period of weeks and months since the occupation began in January 2007, they moved a step further in their violence and went on a rampage threatening video store owners and even women in private homes -- with accusations of immorality. The sanctity of home and hearth fell by the wayside in this extremist agenda. Even more audacious, they managed to kidnap members of the law enforcement agencies also! And when the police fought back and arrested some of their co-conspirators, political pressure was put on them to immediately release these captives! So once again the Jamia Hafsa ladies (or so we assume since no one can tell who is beneath the covering) and their male supporters from the Lal Masjid madressah seemed to have won the challenge to the law of the land and the law enforcement agencies.

It is no wonder the average citizen, especially women, are feeling a direct threat to their existence. After all, it would appear that the state has tacitly given these perpetrators of violence a free run of the capital instead of dealing with them according to the law. But then, already we were seeing the police turn into a threat rather than a source of protection when we saw them launch their assault on the non-functional Chief Justice and Geo television. So far no high up heads have rolled on this count either. So it seems if you have the force, you can implement your extremist agendas with no fear. As for those politicians, who have insisted on the state tolerating this violent extremism, they are deliberately undermining not only the government's standing amongst the electorate at large -- because the extremists are a minority in terms of electoral power -- but also the state and nation as a whole. After all, it hardly does Pakistan's image any good to be seen as a state which cannot enforce its writ right in its heartland -- and it does no good to have the nation as a whole living in a state of fear from extremist violence with a perception that the enforcers of the law will do nothing to protect the average citizen.

So what are our options? First and foremost the state must move in an uncompromising manner to deal with the lawbreakers. No citizen can be seen to have the right to challenge the law and get away with it through the use of violence. No citizen should be able to hold a citizenry to ransom through the threat of violence. There can be no room for private vigilantes and self-appointed assertors of a bizarre and extremist "morality". All agendas must find their expression through the law of the land and electoral politics.

Equally important, how long will the silent majority, professionals such as doctors, teachers, lawyers, bankers as well as housewives and the many others, who want to simply be allowed to lead their lives safely, will go on living under this threat? It is time for all these sane voices to be heard -- especially within the capital where these voices are now directly under threat from the stick-wielding minority. If the Jamia Hafsa group can use violence to flaunt their limited support within civil society, the rest of us must show our larger electoral support through a public but peaceful display of the same. And let the law and the state protect us in a proactive fashion, before we come to regard ourselves as living in a state of anarchy with no rule of law. So far, this is the growing perception and no society can develop in such a fear-filled environment. As for all claims of enlightenment and moderation, for those of us who are actually committed to these principles even when they had not acquired official patronage there is a growing sense that they are gradually being confined to declaratory claims but little is being done to enforce these principles in the face of retrogressive challenges.

In the context of political realism, it is false to assume that in an election year the forces of violent extremism need to be accommodated. While dialogue with all political factions is to be welcomed and religious parties must be part of the political mainstream, no one should be given the sense that somehow they are above the law -- and certainly those who are determined to enforce their writ through violence should not be given an iota of accommodation. Otherwise the message being sent to the rest of civil society is be armed or be harmed.

That is indeed what seems to be happening today as a recent incident in PIMS shows. While the story has come out in the papers, what has not come out is what reflects the malaise prevailing within the domestic polity today. An SHO abuses a nurse and doctor, then calls his thana people while the doctor calls Rescue 15 and fisticuffs follow with the cop bringing out his gun. When the Director Emergency tries to sort things out, he gets slapped by the police and a brawl follows between all the doctors present and the cops. This is what the police now do regularly with unarmed civilians even as they kowtow before danda-wielding lawbreakers. Equally important the incident also reflects the inner rage and frustration amongst civil society against a police force that is seen more as a threat rather than a source of protection. There is something inherently absurd with this state of affairs, where the rage of frustration within the silent majority is surfacing fast as it gets caught between threats from the police on the one hand and armed vigilantes on the other. In this shameful state of affairs, how long will it be before all of civil society descends into a state of armed anarchy a la Jamia Hafsa style?
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Old Wednesday, April 11, 2007
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Default Lawlessness, terror and a common insecurity

Lawlessness, terror and a common insecurity
By Shireen M Mazari
Dated: 11th April 2007


The Jamia Hafsa saga of terrorisation of civil society and of a continuing violation of the law of the land has the nation mesmerised in a state of disbelief and horror. Disbelief at the inability/reluctance of the state to exercise its writ; and horror at the prospect of civil society at large becoming hostage to the tyranny of the minority of extremists in our midst. After all, we are already seeing tyrannical decrees being issued by extremists in various parts of the Frontier province while the sectarian violence continues in Parachinar area quite oblivious to any effective state intervention. The ineffectual writ of the state was also written large at the Sunni Tehreek (ST) rally in Karachi a year after the terrorist bombing in Nishtar Park. Last week's rally had the ST leader brandishing a sword and declaring his organisation's intent to take the law into their own hands -- as he put it, "there will be arrests, bullets will fly, bodies will fall to the ground". And these are just a few of the more visible reflections of the violence and anarchy being threatened from within the country by a violent minority who are becoming increasingly emboldened into defying the law and the writ of the state. Is it any wonder that the rest of civil society is reflecting its options: either to succumb to the pressure of these obscurantists or to stay confined within the home and hearth -- with a few having the privilege of weighing a third option: that of seeking an exodus to safer and more positive climes.

To a large extent the malaise afflicting us presently is a result of our own internal dynamics -- especially where the state is seen to also be paying scant regard to the law. Be it the cops manhandling the non-functional chief justice or beating up unarmed protestors or attacking the offices of a television channel; or state institutions disregarding environmental and other laws; or local elected nazims misusing funds or harassing political rivals; or municipal organisations violating articles of the Constitution in a most brazen fashion -- the message being conveyed to the public at large is that the law can be violated if there is force to back up this violation.

Nor do we have to look far for such instances. Right in our capital we are now beset with the threat of vigilante action and the destruction of the city itself by the CDA. While we are focused on the former, the CDA boss continues to violate the Constitution with impunity, especially Article 26 of the Constitution which ensures non-discrimination in respect of access to public places. As part of his ongoing violations of this Article, he has now approved a membership-only golf course in the F-9 public park despite the fact that golf is an expensive and elitist sport. The argument that money needs to be raised to maintain the park is absurd since we pay property and other taxes to the CDA to maintain the city, including its public parks. But who is noticing these challenges to an already battered Constitution?

Adding to our domestic challenges is the mutating war on terror (WOT) under the US leadership, post-9/11. With a military-centric approach, the WOT has mutated into a war for pushing forward a dangerous global agenda of the US and its coalition of the willing and we are seeing Muslim states and civil societies becoming almost sole targets of the WOT -- given that state terrorism has been totally ignored in this "war".

From the invasion of Iraq, to the extra-legal advent of NATO into Afghanistan, the WOT, with a reckless approach to collateral damage, has created increasing space for terrorists. Additionally, the abuse of Muslim prisoners, at the illegal facility of Guantanamo Bay and at Abu Ghraib and other Iraqi prisons manned by the occupying forces, has provided space for extremists to gain access into the hearts and minds of Muslim populations.

Fighting against terrorists meant fighting an asymmetric war which required unconventional strategies, since the goal was politico-military in terms of winning over the hearts and minds of targeted populations and thereby denying space to terrorists and extremists who could become future terrorists. Yet the strategy of using conventional military power never reflected this end goal. Conventional land, sea or air forces cannot successfully be pitted against the unconventional enemy -- especially where human intelligence networks have not been spread out effectively. Instead, local populations have arisen against the external powers and extremism and terrorism have gained space as they have become enmeshed with nationalism.

As for the US-NATO plug for the notion of "common security", there can be no such concept unless there is respect for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of all states within a particular neighbourhood -- in our case the Gulf and South Asian neighbourhoods. Yet we have a scenario in these regions -- both interlinked -- where there is an amassing of extra-regional military forces both in the Gulf and Indian Ocean region and in Central Asia and Afghanistan, alongside an ongoing effort by the US to destabilise and bring about regime change in one of the major regional states -- Iran. Then there is the destablisation of the bilateral Pakistan-India nuclear deterrence as a result of the Indo-US nuclear agreement and military deal. Add to this the constant violations of Pakistan's sovereignty by US-NATO forces along the Pakistan-Afghanistan international border, accompanied by the cacophony of unfounded accusations against Pakistan from Karzai and NATO as the situation under their control worsens, and for countries like Pakistan these become threats that aggravate its long term security.

So there can be no common security notion as long as the intent is to target one state deliberately and destabilise or undermine another's security. Certainly part of the rise of extremism in Pakistan is a result of the external environment and the sense of Muslims being targeted or even victimised by the US and Europe. As it is, the domestic sectarian issue has become intertwined with transnational terrorism. Add to this news about the US actually using terrorist groups like Jundullah to conduct acts of terror against the Iranian state, and the security issue for Pakistan becomes even more intractable since the US media has been asserting that Pakistan's Balochistan territory is being used for these attacks. That no government of Pakistan would ever allow such criminal activity is a given since it would be undermining our own stability and security; but if the perception of the writ of the state being weak becomes widespread then external actors could become reckless enough to use our territory. And the US track record in terms of its relationship with Pakistan is not particularly comforting -- remember the U-2 incident?

It is ironic that the US is now supporting a terrorist outfit in the bizarrely mutating WOT. If the US can use one such outfit for its own ends, who is to say whether they may not be supporting other extremist outfits in Pakistan also, perhaps in our capital itself? It is no wonder, then, that the WOT has left the mainstream of the moderate Muslim Ummah under siege with a common sense of insecurity and terrorisation from within and from outside.
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Old Wednesday, April 18, 2007
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Thumbs up Terrorisation of the majority.

Terrorisation of the majority

Wednesday, April 18, 2007,

By Shireen M Mazari


At all levels of society in Pakistan, the silent majority of all shades is being terrorised in one way or another. The state may feel that negotiating with the Jamia Hafsa and Lal Masjid extremists and lawbreakers will result in a peaceful resolution of this challenge to the writ of the state with an avoidance of collateral damage. However, for the civil society of Islamabad, the terrorisation is already in full swing so the collateral damage from the Jamia Hafsa terror and blackmail has already happened. How has this happened? Through rumours that have been floated and circulated to terrorise civilians, primarily women and young girls into submitting to the demands of the Jamia Hafsa to abide by their social norms.

For instance, rumours have been allowed to run amok that young girls wearing half sleeve shalwar kameez suits have been attacked with acid in public places -- including in front of shops in Super market and Jinnah Super market. Other variations on this rumour are that hot coffee has been thrown on young girls in Aabpara and one variant even had it that this scribe was attacked in Jinnah market with a needle thrust into my neck or back -- depending on the version one heard -- by a burqa-clad woman! Of course, in my case the incident definitely did not occur but the children are fearful and it took a lot of persuasion to make them visit the usual video shop. The visit was necessary because one does not want to submit to the tyranny of a crazed minority simply because the state has chosen to indulge their extremism.

Unfortunately, many members of civil society are succumbing to the climate of fear being generated not only by the Hafsa brigade itself accompanied by their baton-wielding Lal Masjid, but also by the state's decision not to assert its writ firmly against these lawbreakers. The fear is based on the premise that if the state is unable to protect the ordinary person from the diktat of the violent extremists then there is little choice but to either stay locked up indoors or fall in line with this extremist diktat. So, effectively the damage to civil society has already been done and the dye of extremism has been cast.

The situation has been further aggravated by emails from self-proclaimed "intellectuals" who are sending addresses of alleged "brothels" -- some of whom on quiet investigation turn out to be addresses of respectable citizens who belong to a different sect from that of the Jamia Hafsa-Lal Masjid brigade. Vigilantism is in full swing and is having the desired terrorisation effect on civil society, especially when there is a receding expectation that the state will/can protect the innocent.

Enlightenment and moderation are perforce being cast aside in the wake of the tyranny of an extremist minority that has been unleashed on Islamabad. Young girls are being kept home and women also fear going out to the markets in the evenings. So an unnatural male-only environment is taking over in the public domain in the capital. And each day brings ever more groups of the extremist ilk strutting with the confidence of "the protected" in the streets of all the sectors of the capital. With the world watching all this for themselves, what soft image can we portray?

And this is our tragedy today. We really are, by and large a tolerant and moderate society but the state seems to have lost its will to assert its writ firmly when confronted with the armed zealots. Where are the law enforcers and the defenders of the nations? In the copters incident -- where all claims by the Hafsa lot regarding the emission of gas from the helicopters were false when checked into -- the fear that has spread into the public was reflected in the fact that the Lal Masjid extremists broke the car windshields and mirrors of some passing cars but no one chose to report these incidents. Instead, the long-suffering public stoically bore this abuse also. After all, few believe the police would have come to their assistance.

So there we are; a terrorised civil society as a result of mind games played through rumour mongering and the visible inability of the state to exercise its writ against an increasingly tyrannical minority. So adamant are some segments of the state in indulging these extremists that the concerns of the wider society have been given short shrift. After all, the wider society is seen as the silent majority -- non-violently pursuing their micro level lives. But when the life and liberty of this silent majority is threatened, they will have to rise and be counted.

Such a time is on us now. At every level we are being threatened. Here in the capital we are suffering the tyranny and terror of the Jamia Hafsa, but this is rampant all across the country. In our rural areas, we are facing the wrath of power-hungry local politicians who terrorise through the DPOs (as the SPs are now termed) and DCOs (former DCs) all those who seek to remain outside their influence or challenge their corruption. When it is women managing alone in the rural areas, the situation is particularly disturbing with DPOs transferring any SHO who may be enforcing the writ of the law. So we have to contend with SHOs who are in league with local criminals and terrorisation has become the norm.

Is anybody concerned? There is no one who will listen if the oppressors are district nazims, government MNAs or MPAs -- certainly not the local officials who are now beholden to the local politicians. Clearly, the law and writ of the state hold little value for the "powerful". Whether it is the danda of the Jamia Hafsa or the political clout of the local politicians, the security the state must provide and the law and order that it must assert has all but vanished. Local criminals, including known declared absconders of the law, are now openly asserting their will through violent terror. Even local lawbreakers who have been banned from entering their areas continue to rule through "remote control" of the local officials.

This scribe has always been passionate about this wonderful nation but never has so much despondency been so rampant. It is not so much the extremist perspective that is worrying -- after all, a stubborn liberalism still compels one to accept and tolerate diversity as long as this tolerance is mutual -- but the inability of the state to assert its writ effectively and the hijacking of the state authority by individuals and groups. Unless the state can exercise its writ effectively on the domestic front, it will constantly face both internal and external pressures -- as seems to be happening presently.



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

http://thenews.jang.com.pk/daily_detail.asp?id=51724
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  #45  
Old Wednesday, April 25, 2007
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Thumbs up The state adrift?

The state adrift?


Wednesday, April 25, 2007,


By Shireen M Mazari


Is the state adrift in terms of clarity over policies? It would seem to be so if we examine recent pronouncements from different levels of leadership and actual actions by the state. On the home front there is the challenge to the writ of the state by the violent extremists of Jamia Hafsa and Fareedia right in the capital itself. At the declaratory level, the president himself has assured that extremism will not be tolerated since the greatest threat to the country is from within, especially from extremists threatening terrorism if their will is not accepted. Unfortunately, on the ground, actions being taken by the state are in clear contradiction of the presidential statements in that law and order have been cast aside and dialogue with the lawbreakers is being indulged in even as the extremists continue to up the ante. Worse still, a cabinet member has declared that he saved a terrorist from arrest.

The result has been terrorisation of civil society and threats of more violent terror in the form of suicide bombings. The latest in this connection was the horrific news that members of a banned extremist organisation, specialising in suicide attacks, have sent some of their leaders to the Lal Masjid to abet those holding the state to ransom. Worse still, if the news item is to be believed, one of the leaders on being arrested was ordered to be released by some powerful quarters.

To add to the confusion, bizarre and unfounded rumours abound that the state has itself engineered the whole Jamia Hafsa crisis to detract from the judicial crisis in which the state is now in a clearly no-win position regardless of the eventual outcome. Even the factor of damage control is being minimised as the crisis drags on. But the Jamia Hafsa crisis has long term damaging consequences for civil society at all levels -- far worse than any political crisis -- in that it touches the very essence of our and our future generations' social, moral and political fibre. In any event, as we see the crisis unfold, what is visible is the lack of the state's writ rather than any cleverly engineered government or "agency" plot.

Nor is the drift of the state only limited to critical domestic issues. On the external front also, there seems to be a disconnect between what is happening on the ground and statements emanating from some political leaders. The most visible example of this drift is with regard to India and the existing conflicts -- not just Kashmir but also Sir Creek and Siachen. In the case of the latter, we had the bizarre situation where before the last Pakistan-India meeting on the issue, the Pakistani Foreign Minister was announcing with surety that an agreement was at hand, or about to be initialled. Yet the last round of talks got nowhere since the Indians clearly are unprepared to move an iota from their new, hardline position that Pakistan must authenticate Indian troops' withdrawal positions before any Indian movement out of Siachen. The Indians know full well that any such authentication would be tantamount to Pakistan recognising India's claims on the glacier.

In addition, Indians are not only bolstering their military facilities in Siachen, they are also reportedly raising another brigade for the glacier. So India has no intent of moving out permanently from Siachen. Yet, again relying on extremely reliable sources, it has been learnt that our Foreign Office, in an unofficial or "non-paper" paper has suggested that Pakistan would add an annexure to a Siachen agreement where we would take note of the Indian withdrawal positions. As had been discussed in detail in an earlier column, such a move would also legally, under international law, imply recognition of India's claim on the glacier. So who is being fooled here?

Beyond Siachen, even on Kashmir, while President Musharraf, in genuine effort to move out of the stalemate, suggested possible ways to move the two sides towards eventual conflict resolution, India has shown no interest in responding positively. Instead, it has sought to reassert its control over Occupied Kashmir while seeking greater access into AJK through demands for greater economic access from Indian-Occupied Kashmir (IOK) into AJK. It has also sought to hold out political concessions to the Kashmiris in IOK but within the confines of the Indian Constitution and state. Despite these very visible developments, the Pakistani foreign minister last week declared that soon Parliament would be presented with proposals for a settlement of the Kashmir issue. Unless we are prepared to accept the Indian position of the status quo and are prepared to get into the rut of CBMs for the sake of CBMs alone, there is nothing new from the Indian side to make us believe that a settlement is in sight. This is the reality on the ground so on what is the state basing its assumption that a settlement is near? Equally important, the president's proposals, the core of which is a sequential order, seem to have been all but ignored by those in a hurry to what amounts to an appeasement of India. Or perhaps here again there is a certain disconnect and drift within the state.

This is even more glaring in the case of Sir Creek where unilaterally we have accepted the India position to delineate the border from the water moving inland, as India had been demanding. Only when we made this unilateral concession, India moved forward towards map surveys and so on. What prompted this unilateral concession? Where are we headed in terms of dialogue and peace with India within a wider context if unilateral concessions are going to be the hallmark?

Even on the issue of the war on terror, which has effectively degenerated into a perceived war for control of energy resources and strategic territories, the writ of the Pakistani state is seen as wavering. Again, while the president has once again come out forcefully, and quite correctly, to declare that without trust the war against Al Qaeda will fail and if the US/NATO/Karzai histrionics against Pakistan continue, we may simply opt out of the cooperation on the war on terror, however developments on the ground are undermining the president's position. The Pakistani state has been unable to assert its biometric programme at Chaman as a result of Afghan opposition; and, even on the issue of the fencing, which is our sovereign right, we have not retaliated assertively to Afghan forces' use of violence along theF international border against Pakistani posts. In the case of the US alliance with the terrorist group Jundullah for covert operations against Iran in Sistan, the US media is replete with reports of Pakistan providing its territory for this purpose. While the Pakistani state is not suicidal to allow this, is the US exploiting its lack of writ in the border region with Iran? Is the state adrift here as well?

While the drift may be merely a perception -- and an incorrect one at that -- perceptions become as important as the reality and the state needs to the show civil society that its writ is strong across the land and it will not succumb to violent blackmail from within and pressure from outside. Equally important, institutional records must be there, accompanying institutional inputs into policy-making. Most important, though, the leadership must never allow itself to be isolated to an encircling coterie of sycophants.

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


http://www.thenews.com.pk/daily_detail.asp?id=52789
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Terrorism closing in on us


Wednesday, May 02, 2007


By Shireen M Mazari


That the state is adrift, as argued in last week's column, is being reflected in the growing audacity of terrorists and extremists who are reaching far beyond the tribal areas. The most visible form of this expanded terrorist milieu is of course the horrendous attack in Charsadda, which claimed so many innocent lives, but the insidious agenda of the extremists in the urban areas, especially the capital, is no less terrorising. After all, a Cabinet minister had declared how he had rescued the leaders of the Lal Masjid after links had been established between them and Al Qaeda. And now, by all reports, it appears that the state has chosen to appease Jamia Hafsa-Lal Masjid extremists by giving in to many of their demands. Even more worrying, because the state is now clearly unable to protect the ordinary citizen against the violence and extortionist threats of the extremists, this minority has already achieved its goal of forcing the citizenry into submission. If anything, the state functionaries are going out of their way to appease the Jamia Hafsa-Lal Masjid combine even as they become ever more daring in their terrorisation of the public at large. Women are now being stopped on the roads and asked to cover their heads while driving. This is obviously just the first step down a dark abyss. But how many can defy this tyranny of the minority when the state itself seems to have fallen prey to this tyrannical force?

The ultimate absurdity has come in the form of a statement by the SSP of Islamabad that the police will now rid society of social evils. The job of the police is to enforce the law of the land and protect the citizens -- the two tasks in which the police have been found most wanting in this country. The Jamia Hafsa occupation of the children's library and its subsequent terrorisation of the public at large reflect this failure. Given their record of ineptitude, the citizenry can only look at their new role of moral policing with horror and fear. In any case, why is it that only now the SSP has awakened to the fact of illegal operations in the city of brothels and gambling dens?

Nor is this visible tyranny of the obscurantists the only form of terrorisation of the public at large. There is also an insidious campaign through the internet which seeks to play on the sectarian card, with many journalists, editors, analysts and some politicians being vilified -- especially those who have been in the forefront of the protests against the illegal actions of the obscurantists. The diatribes and abuse are so intense and full of hatred that they may appear to be the work of madmen to be ignored, but this is a most dangerous development and many unsuspecting or vulnerable people in our midst could be converted to a violent course.

In the present environment, where is the enlightened moderation that was a cornerstone of President Musharraf's political creed, which touched a chord in civil society but also raised expectations that Jinnah's vision of Pakistan would finally come to fruition in terms of a liberal, tolerant and moderate Muslim polity? One finally thought the nightmares of the Zia legacy of sectarianism, religious obscurantism and intolerance would finally be put to rest, having lingered on in the compromises Ms Bhutto made with the extremists -- how can one forget the advisor from a now banned sectarian group in the Punjab -- and Nawaz Sharif's efforts at the same in parliament which had led to the resignation of Mr Kasuri. But it seems the brute force of the obscurantists tends to win over the mainstream of civil society as far as the state is concerned.

Perhaps that is why we seem to be easy prey for external powers that demand that we keep giving, presently on terrorism, without any reciprocity. That is why the British are surprised if Pakistan actually demands such reciprocity in terms of the handing over of wanted terrorists and other criminals. Although we are presently demanding the British hand over our wanted men in return for Rashid Rauf, will we be able to hold our own under British pressure and a propaganda campaign which accuses Pakistan of "stalling terror suspect talks"?

In this context, the Ankara Declaration between Karzai and President Musharraf is to be welcomed but only if the Afghan leader fulfils his commitment, inter alia, "to deny sanctuary, training, and financing to terrorists and to elements involved in subversive and anti-state activities in each other's country...." A first CBM with regard to Afghan intent should be the closure of the rather public BLA office in Kabul and some control of the Indian "consular" activities in Kandahar and Jalalabad.

Coming back to the issue of terrorism in Pakistan, one of the reasons we have failed to deny space to the terrorists is because of the perceived weakness of the state to exercise its writ when challenged by the forces of extremism. A positive development was the much-maligned tribal deal, which, unlike the US-led war on terrorism, actually isolated the foreign militants and terrorists from the mainstream of the tribal populace thereby denying the former operational space. Unfortunately, the state was not prepared for the shift of the terrorists operational milieu to Pakistan's centre of gravity -- its urban areas, especially the capital and its ruling elite. This should have been anticipated but it seems even now the state is unwilling or unable to see the obvious linkages between the isolation of the Al Qaeda elements in the tribal belt to the terrorism in Charsadda and Peshawar to the terrorisation of the urban areas by the Jamia Hafsa-Lal Masjid extremists. This is the disconnect within the state structures revealing why they seem adrift and why the enlightenment and moderation agenda has been lost sight of.

The leadership has also been ill-served by its sycophants who insist on aggravating prevailing crises through poorly chosen tactics. On a more personal note, the use of a non-credible businessman and stage producer as the state's standard bearer against the chief justice serves no purpose. I was alleged by this gentleman to have taken a petty bribe through which I was able to pressure the Supreme Court bench headed by the chief justice to rule against the mini-golf project. For the record, this was not my petition and to belittle the chief justice of coming under pressure from an ordinary citizen, when he stood up to far greater pressure, does little to advance the government's cause. Ironically, my own petition against the CDA still awaits a hearing in the Supreme Court after a year and a half -- so much for influence! As for the issue of my taking a bribe, luckily I have never needed to on any count but that is an issue for the courts. Nevertheless, it is sad when respectable television channels allow all and sundry to slander respectable members of civil society -- and I do lay claim to being that. In fact if we were to familiarise ourselves with Article 26 of the Constitution we will understand why the mini golf project was undone by the Supreme Court. The CDA should understand this Article so that it stops contravening it at will even now.

Meanwhile, with the state adrift and terrorism reaching to our societal core, sycophants do no service to anyone. But has any leadership ever realised that?



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


http://www.thenews.com.pk/daily_detail.asp?id=53850
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When will we ever learn?

Wednesday, May 09,2007
By Shireen M Mazari

We certainly are a resilient nation, but as a State we never seem to learn from our history or our mistakes. So cyclically we see ourselves confronting crises -- some of which could certainly have either been avoided or resolved in a timely fashion. The State also has a proclivity to accommodate, some would say appease, external players more readily and often excessively than domestic players. International developments on the nuclear proliferation issue are a clear reflection of this. As was stated in these columns a while back, it will serve little purpose to undergo a rigorous self-confessional path and go beyond international legal commitments in terms of giving access to our old equipment and so on since we will always be targeted on the nuclear issue and Dr Khan when we are to be pressured by the US and its allies -- and there is no ally more devout than Blair's Britain. Sure enough, despite all our protestations and accommodation to international demands on the proliferation issue, periodically the Dr Khan factor and its suspected linkages to state functionaries and institutions comes up. This despite the US itself now having contravened its NPT obligations by signing the civilian nuclear deal with India. Meanwhile, we continue to accommodate some more; but that will only raise the ante against us since our nulear assets sit uncomfortably with the West.

Take the recently released IISS publication from London, entitled "Nuclear Black Markets: Pakistan, A.Q. Khan and the rise of proliferation networks". The title itself shows the political bias built into the study. After all, the insinuation is that it was Pakistan and Dr Khan that gave birth to the proliferation networks and nuclear black market. Yet this is factually incorrect, even by the authors' own definitional framework where they state that "in this dossier the term 'nuclear black market' and '(illicit) nuclear trafficking' denote the trade in nuclear-related expertise, technologies, components or material that is being pursued for non-peaceful purposes and most often by covert or secretive means." Going by this definition, illicit nuclear trafficking began from the US and Europe when they chose to covertly aid Israel's nuclear programme. So heavy water went to Israel illegally and the US continues to give technological assistance to Israeli nuclear weapons development. Yet the IISS dossier barely focuses on this aspect! It is too bad that the IISS is exploiting its research and academic credibility to do what is primarily a highly biased, political work targeting Pakistan, with a few sections only devoted to the global problem of proliferation. While Israel is barely cited as a state that was acquiring clandestine nuclear technology much before Pakistan even got into the game, India is also spared despite its known proliferation record in terms of Iran, Iraq and its own programme. In fact, US think tanks have elaborated on this issue.

The major part of the IISS study is more a project on Pakistan's nuclear programme, various estimates relating to the number of nukes it possesses, details of the country's nuclear installations and so on. Yet the IISS claims that "the subject of this study is not a single country but the global problem of proliferation networks and nuclear black markets." Are we taken to be fools? It would appear so, since Pakistani officialdom provided a fair amount of access to IISS personnel -- and this is reflected in some of the data and tables that they have printed and acknowledged! Certainly, Pakistani researchers are never given similar time and access, but that is another issue.

If one reads the sources cited on the various estimates of the nuclear weapons we may possess -- Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, SIPRI, Peter Lavoy and so on, those working on security issues in this country will realise the access these sources have always been provided! Of course, to give the devil its due, the IISS does grudgingly accept that we now have in place a robust command and control system and export laws, but that is not sufficient to satisfy them. They assume, with no proof cited, that somehow the state or elements within it are still proliferating despite our stringent controls and transparent National Command Authority.

Worse follows with claims that Dr Khan and Pakistan got off lightly. Given that the State of Pakistan was not the proliferator, unlike the State of India or France or the USA, why should it be penalised on any count in the context of nuclear proliferation especially since in any case Pakistan has never been a party to the NPT nor has it been asked to join the Nuclear Suppliers' Group (NSG)? Even Dr Khan did not break any of Pakistan's international legal commitments, and one is not sure exactly what national laws he contravened that would have required the State to give him harsher penalties than he already got.

Clearly, the dossier seeks to have Pakistan pressured into giving the West direct access to Dr Khan. In fact that is one of the options it suggests. So it is time Pakistan declared, with no ambiguity, that the issue is definitively over once and for all. Nor is that all that is being sought from Pakistan. There is talk of capping of its nuclear programme in exchange for some vague security guarantees from the US. Who in Pakistan would find these credible is never examined, of course, since our ruling elites have historically seemed ever eager to embrace the US!

There is also the usual talk of "religious elements" gaining access to our nuclear assets -- as if Christian, Hindu and Zionist fundamentalists have never had access, or continue to have access, to the nuclear trigger in the US, India or Israel?

The timing of the dossier is also politically interesting. We know the US is trying to fast track a Fissile Material Control Treaty (FMCT) in the multilateral disarmament framework in Geneva (the CD), that does not deal with the issue of verifications or existing fissile stockpiles. The IISS recommends -- and this should come as no surprise given the propaganda tract that the dossier effectively is -- that Pakistan must be persuaded to accept this FMCT even though we have made it clear that we have some basic problems on the principles enshrined in the US version (supported by India but opposed by China) of the FMCT draft. So we should expect pressure on that count also but more on the issue next time.

The question is why we continue to be excessively open and accommodative to outsiders on sensitive issues? Worse still, our leaders are ever ready to make statements, which have tremendous repercussions on the well-being of the country per se -- rather than any particular government. Take the latest statement of Ms Bhutto in an interview with The Washington Times (28 April 2007). Even the worst enemies of Pakistan have not attempted to link the 9/11 hijackers to Pakistan. Yet, Ms Bhutto says, in response to a question on the war on terror: In 1993 Pakistan was about to be declared a terrorist state following the first attack on the World Trade Towers. However, I was elected soon thereafter and …my government stopped the spread of terrorism. After my overthrow, the terrorists regained the upper hand and planned the second attack on the World Trade Towers.

When will we ever learn?

http://www.thenews.com.pk/editorial_detail.asp?id=54923
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Where is the state?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007
By Shireen M Mazari

The entire nation watched with horror and anger the killings and sheer terror unleashed in Karachi on May 12 and the complete abdication of responsibility by the state. Who could remain unmoved by the loss of innocent lives? Who could distance themselves from the shock of seeing young men wielding weapons with no restraining element of the law and order elements of the state? And all that blood … why is the blood of Pakistanis so cheap for the state that allows it to be spilt unchecked? The nation has been left with a gaping wound and the state is unwilling to move towards healing it. Instead, we heard the callous sound of drumbeats and song emanating from the capital that very evening when Karachi was counting its dead.

Instead of silence in respect of the dead, we heard hollow sloganeering as no one sought to at least stop the music and dim the lights. The leadership should have led the mourning and halted the celebrations that had taken on a nauseating repulsion after a day of unbridled killings in Karachi. Where was the responsiveness and sensitivity of the leadership to the pain of the nation, which could have allowed us Pakistanis to have a national catharsis through a national grieving which could have put us on the path of national healing?

That was not to be. Instead, more violence has followed, including the loss of yet another innocent life -- that of Syed Hammad Raza. The credibility of the state stands so low today that no one gives any credence to the story of his death being a case of dacoity -- especially since the police standing across the street made no initial effort to catch the "dacoits". The general perception has taken hold that this was a target killing to terrorise others into submission. So we stand polarised today, with no one stepping back and with battle lines being drawn and cross currents of accusations and vilifications hurtling us all into an unknown abyss.

Clearly Karachi was not simply a case of state ineptitude since once the state authorised the Rangers to move in, we saw the Rangers and police in full force, post-May 12. Yet, on May 12 no Ranger was in sight, despite being deployed permanently in Karachi, and only a sprinkling of police who acted more as bystanders watching the carnage unfold. Also, no bureaucratic or political heads have rolled for the official lapse of law and order. It seems no one in power is prepared to shoulder any responsibility for this latest national tragedy. Instead, from the Karachi Nazim to members of the MQM to all officialdom, a futile blame game against political opponents, and even the CJSC, has begun -– with no expression of regret or apology to the nation for what happened.

What happened in Karachi on May 12 was the state allowing a fascist party to run amok in the country's commercial and financial heart. For those who have seen films relating to the rise of the Nazis and read the history of that time, the similarity with the events of May 12 was frightening. The same pattern of attacks against all opponents, the media and so on. Even the tone and incantation of the MQM leader's address from London had an eerie ring of familiarity to Hitler's rabble-rousing speeches. (It is also ironic that just as British Prime Minister Chamberlain pandered to Hitler at Munich, so now the British Government is sheltering a Pakistani fascist leader -- as well as many Pakistani terrorists.)

That other political groups in Karachi also responding with fire power and violence only added to the tragedy, but the responsibility lies with the state and the fascist party in power in Karachi. The crucial question is simply: Where was the writ of the state? While Nero fiddled as Rome burned, Karachi was a case of the ruling party of the province actually doing the burning, the forces of law and order in Karachi keeping their distance while Islamabad fiddled away and the nation watched in a state of frustrating helplessness.

For those who accuse the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (CJSC) and his accompanying lawyers for the Karachi bloodbath, theirs is a bizarre and desperate rationalisation. Perhaps the CJSC could have chosen to give in to the blackmail by the fascist party ruling in Karachi or simply been more cautious given the warnings conveyed to him and his lawyers. Yet, the CJSC has been going all over the country to address lawyers and there has never been any untoward incident. In fact, there has been a democratic tolerance shown by the local and provincial governments while the people have celebrated the assertion of the power of the judiciary. So who would have thought fascism would unleash a national tragedy. At the very least there was an expectation that the forces of law and order would be present and that the senior bureaucrats responsible would not be wasting their time standing guard outside the airport lounge where the CJSC and his lawyers were being kept.

But again, the issue is why fascism must be pandered to in all its forms? It is not just in Karachi, where the state could have ordered a ban on processions and simply allowed the CJSC to address the lawyers. Earlier, we saw the fascism of the religious extremists of Jamia Hafsa and Lal Masjid also being pandered to by the state. In fact, while the issue has been sidelined in the face of the judicial crisis and the Karachi melee, the Jamia Hafsa-Lal Masjid combine have become a fortified no-go area in the heart of the capital. While the government has been conceding point after illegal point to these fascists, the latter merely keep upping the ante. Clearly, all commitment to enlightenment and moderation, on which so many of us had laid our hopes, has been lost sight of in the wake of the challenge by the terrorists of Jamia Hafsa-Lal Masjid.

So where do we go from here? Are we going to be overwhelmed and terrorised by varying forces of fascism while the writ of the state vanishes in their wake even as it is unleashed mercilessly against those using democratic and peaceful norms of protest? Pakistan's detractors could not have wished for a better scenario -- especially with the dreaded prospect of an eventual civil--military confrontation.

Who in the leadership will boldly begin a national healing process which accommodates and tolerates peaceful dissent and protects the nation from the violence and terrorisation of the forces of fascism? Target killings and terrorisation of the innocent by those forces of the state that are meant to protect them cannot intimidate the nation into a brutal submission. The credibility chasm is widening by the moment and this beautiful country's white and green seem to be a receding vision through the growing haze of a wounded nation's unstoppable tears.

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

http://www.thenews.com.pk/daily_detail.asp?id=56046
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BESIEGED INTERNALLY AND EXTERNALLY

Wednesday, 23rd May, 2007
By Shireen M Mazari

As the country continues to reel from the aftermath of the events of May 12 and the acts of violence and terror that have followed, we in Islamabad continue to be confronted with the growing power of the extremist law breakers of the Jamia Hafsa-Lal Masjid combine. While for the other urban centres of Pakistan, the extremist terrorism still remains at a distance, for us in Islamabad, the unreal nightmare continues as we witness the black comedy being enacted by the law enforcement personnel and decision makers in response to the growing challenge thrown to the state by these extremist terrorist forces.

We have seen the ridiculous scenario being repeated, ad nauseam, of law enforcement personnel coming in with what is assumed will be an operation to end the siege of Aabpara by these law breaking extremists and then we see the forces of the state backing off with no action having been taken. Meanwhile, the extremist terrorists are becoming ever more emboldened and have directly begun challenging not only the authority and laws of the state, but also the law enforcement personnel themselves. So far, they have managed to kidnap, at will, police personnel, as bargaining tools and the state seems to be showing a strange helplessness. The show of force it mobilises is dissipated as rapidly when the Jamia Hafsa-Lal Masjid combine makes a tactical gesture of releasing some of the police personnel. Meanwhile, the extremists, very much in the fascist mode, are gaining media access through interviews and columns in the English language press obviously targeting an audience beyond Pakistan.

The argument by the state that they cannot use force because of the collateral damage and its fallout is losing its credibility as the extremists widen the area of their control and operations. The roads around the Jamia Hafsa have been cordoned off by these fascists and their supporters from the Jamia Fareedia in E-7 have joined the terrorisation of state and society far beyond the Aabpara area. Tolerance for these lawbreakers has given them an upper hand in the standoff with the state. As for the collateral damage so far, the civil society is reeling from this because of the inability –- it surely cannot be a deliberate unwillingness -– of the state to deal with this law and order challenge posed by the extremist terrorists.

So cowed down has the citizenry become that barring a few words of protest by individuals, there was no civil society protest at the attack by a religious extremist against a woman professor of Quaid-i-Azam University. In days gone by, the teachers association would have held suitable protests and so would the students -– supported by WAF and other societal NGOs. But not so this time. Certainly there is a feeling of frustrated resignation about the inability of civil society to impact the state with its peaceful protests. But, there is also a feeling of extreme vulnerability because of the state's seeming acquiescence of this extremist terrorism right in the heart of the capital.

As for an anticipated civil society fallout following civilian collateral damage from state action, surely the civil society is far more distressed at the way in which fascist forces can indulge in violence as and when they please while innocent people are left defenceless. In any event, action by the state can also include options like jamming of communication systems, turning off utilities and use of water cannons and other non-lethal means of ending an occupation. We may not have a highly educated and prosperous populace, but we do have well-budgeted, strong and well-equipped law enforcement organisations, including paramilitary forces and, of course, one of the most cohesive and strong national organisations -- the military. When will they protect the nation from the forces of fascism and extremist terrorists, because we have to believe that no one in officialdom can be suicidal enough to have any truck with these forces of hate and destruction? So why is the mainstream civil society being left to feel under siege with no state protection?

It is this feeling of extreme vulnerability that is also allowing our external detractors to attack us at will. The Afghan government, still occupied or at least inundated, by foreign forces, has had the gall to challenge us at the international border by amassing its "forces" -– and we have kept a stoic silence. We have had the British High Commissioner hold forth, viceregally, on our internal political issues and by the time our Foreign Office woke up to summon him he was gone. Incidentally, we do need to take up the issue of British citizens inciting hatred in Pakistan, especially since we are about to initial a prisoner exchange treaty which does not look after our interests in terms of extradition of criminals to Pakistan, as much as it does British interests. British hypocrisy on the extradition treaty -– that the UK cannot sign such a treaty with a country that has capital punishment -– stands exposed because the UK had an extradition treaty of 1972 with the US which has now been replaced by the new extradition treaty of 2003, which entered into force in April 2007. The issue of capital punishment is dealt with under Article 7.

In any event, all British nationals suspected of inciting hatred and terrorism including overseas, stand vulnerable under three British laws relating to incitement of hatred and violence, either directly or indirectly. There is the Public Order Act of 1986 (Part III), Article 58 of the Terrorism Act of 2000 which includes prosecution for incitement to commit an offence overseas, and the Terrorism Act of 2006, Part One, Article I in which there is, inter alia, a reference to "indirect encouragement" of hatred and terrorism, in terms of statements and so on.

As for our "ally" the US, its think tanks like Stratfor are stating quite clearly that the Lal Masjid standoff is merely a "government ruse". Is this how badly they think of the Pakistani state and an allied government -– that it would play with the lives of its citizens and abet extremist terrorists? Worse still, there are increasing calls for the US to either cut off its payments to Pakistan for the counter-terror operations in the global war on terror (GWOT) or link it to performance. What "performance" do they want to see, given that we have effectively undermined our own nation and state to support the US in the GWOT -– despite the latter's misguided and erroneous strategies that have taken a heavy toll on Muslim states and societies? The US may be paying $1 billion annually but the cost to Pakistan, in terms of its polity, is far beyond this monetary remuneration.

Clearly, as the state and nation seem besieged by extremist terrorists and fascists from within, external detractors will feel free to pressure and attack us on any number of counts. This is a wonderful country bestowed with natural resources and a beautiful people. How long are we going to have to watch helplessly and see it all being destroyed by stick wielding extremist terrorists and gun-toting fascist mobs with an abdication of responsibility by the law enforcers -– and our gleeful detractors watching like vultures?



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

http://www.thenews.com.pk/daily_detail.asp?id=57117
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EU's HOSTILITY

Wednesday, 30th May, 2007
By Shireen M Mazari

We Pakistanis are certainly not without our many faults, most of which we admit to but fail to rectify as a collectivity. As for the state, its shortcomings have been only too evident in recent months. In terms of faith of the majority, we have never been in any doubt as to the commitment to Islam but we are a diverse and homogenous nation and have undertaken our religious commitments in our own way having had the advantage of not needing a formal -- and hence doctrinal --church or clergy. That is why when the state decided to takeover the function of zakat, it not only had to make exceptions for some sects but also failed in performing zakat distribution effectively without favour. Instead, a new avenue was opened for politicisation and corruption.

In the same way, blasphemy laws promulgated by the state have been abused in such a manner that they are simply indefensible. They have become a tool for repression, discrimination and terrorisation not only of minorities but Muslims as well. That is why in our now almost receding vision of enlightenment and moderation, given the ever-increasing absurdity of the state's continuing indulgence of the Jamia Hafsa-Lal Masjid extremists, we should not even attempt to defend this law in any manner whatsoever. Why do we doubt our own people on their commitment to Islam? And are any of our upholders of "the cause" on morally sounder grounds than the average citizen? Now that personal mud raking and sleaze are becoming an integral part of our political culture, much in the way that the Nazi party used such tactics in Germany, it will be difficult for any member of the ruling elite to sustain the impeccable high moral ground, since all of us are human beings endowed with human failings.

The point I am making is that we do have failings, but that is no reason to constantly be put on the defensive by our external detractors who have equal vulnerabilities. The most recent case in point is the growing hostility being displayed by the EU towards Pakistan -- a hostility that is becoming ever more irrational and shows the continuing anti-Islam thread that still runs through the white European psyche. Behind the high moral ground the EU tends to adopt of human rights and freedom, there is an underlying political duplicity and hypocrisy at work. For instance, where was the voice of the EU when the massacre of Muslims happened in Gujarat, India? Also, we see no mention of the persecution of minorities in India despite attacks on Churches and missionaries. Nor has the EU ever sought to condemn the caste system for its discriminatory nature. In any event, such issues have certainly never been raised in discussions on economic issues.

Undoubtedly it is our own fault. Take the case of the EU on Kashmir. First, no one in Pakistan sought to use proactivism to point to the EU Parliament that in the highly politicised dispute of Kashmir, an EU Rapporteur, who heads the India caucus, can hardly be balanced. Instead of raising valid objections at her appointment, and simply refusing to work with her, we thought we could "charm" her through some of her so-called Pakistani friends. Even here we were then not prepared to pay the price she was seeking, so at the end of the day, her Report on Kashmir is a bizarre document that seeks to pass judgement on Pakistan's internal dynamics as much as on Kashmir. Unfortunately, she basically submitted a document that was as Indian in content as anything the Indians could have produced.

Yet even at that time, our decision-makers thought, rather naively, that we could rationalise with the EU parliament to see the bias and distortions in her draft. Again, our strategy, flawed as it was to begin with, failed miserably and the final Report, which the EU Parliament approved earlier this month, basically reflects the Indian posturing on Kashmir. This is unfortunate and perhaps the Kashmiri and Pakistani Diaspora in Europe can now begin to become a more effective force in EU politics -- aside for once. That Baroness Nicholson is fast turning into a mouthpiece for the Indian state is becoming evermore abundant if one looks at her response to the letter written by Pakistan's ambassador to the EU on May 8, 2007. In fact, the whole debacle of the EU Report on Kashmir is one of the clearest reflections of a complete failure of our policy in this regard, but will we accept this reality and learn from it? When mid rank diplomats proclaim that they do not read newspapers because they get misguided since there is no correct information in them, then one can only wonder at the level of information and awareness that prevails in the overly-sanctified atmosphere of Scherezade Hotel! As for belittling the media, it seems to have become the favourite pastime for officialdom at large.

With our diplomacy seemingly in a state of strange suspension -- or at least lethargy -- the EU feels it can attack Pakistan at will. It is no wonder then that the EU Parliament's resolution of 24 May 2007 on Kashmir: present situation and future prospects, makes a totally out-of-context reference to the CJP issue and the internal politics of Pakistan! The reference is not only incongruous but reveals the innate hostility that still dominates white Europe's thinking on the only nuclear Muslim state, Pakistan.

This growing hostile trend towards Pakistan has been there within the EU for a while now. After all, we have had the EU decide to have a FTA with India but not with Pakistan and then we have been told that this will not impact us! Are we really taken to be such fools? More recently, we have just seen the ludicrous situation of an EU delegation coming to Pakistan for trade discussions and then raising unrelated issues like demanding the sending of observers for the elections. It is not that Pakistan would object and the EU has always sent observers -- including the hostile Mr Cushnahan -- but was an economic forum the place where this issue should have been raised? Especially since we in Pakistan have yet to be told of the date for the elections!

Is there a logic to the EU hostility? Not really. Instead, there are two main factors that may be generating this hostility -- other than our nuclear capability, of course and the historic legacy of the crusades which continues to underlie the discourse of the EU even with Turkey and of the Vatican with the Muslim World. There is the growing and increasingly assertive Muslim population of Europe -- in some countries comprising primarily of migrants with Pakistani ancestry. The EU is unable to accept that it has a bias against these migrants, especially the Muslims. Some of these biases are actually reflected in laws -- others are reflected in practices.

So when EU representatives choose to discuss our indefensible Blasphemy Law, let us accept its shortcomings and instead seek a discussion on their discriminatory laws and practices against Muslim minorities (earlier columns have cited a few). Why should only Pakistan's internal dynamics be up for discussions in what is supposed to be a bilateral dialogue? We have our faults and our problems and we need to face up to them, but let the EU move beyond its duplicity and hypocrisy and also accept its shortcomings.


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

http://www.thenews.com.pk/daily_detail.asp?id=58188
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