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  #81  
Old Wednesday, December 26, 2007
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A NEO-COLONIAL ELITE MINDSET

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Shireen M Mazari

Watching events over the holidays from Dubai makes one acutely aware of the sorry state Pakistanis are in, in particular, and the Arab world is in, in general -- and inevitably the cause comes to rest with the ruling elites. In the case of Pakistan, much has always been made of the Islam factor, but when one sees the inhumanity of the terrorist attack at Eid prayers in Charsadda one has to question whether any sense of the essence of Islam and its humanism has touched any of us at all. From rape to murder to terrorism to so-called "honour" killings to karo-kari to the pervasive corruption, we have been singularly devoid of any sense of humanity whatsoever.

As for the Arab world in general, the sheer abuse of the migrant labourers, the lack of free expression and the inhumane treatment of women shows a clear void of the spirit of Islam. Only recently, we saw mass labour protests in some of the Gulf Sheikhdoms by workers demanding better working and living conditions. Saudi Arabia has also chosen to send back drivers from Pakistan because they dared to protest the working conditions. While everyone gapes in wonder at the architectural sights of Dubai, does anyone spare a thought for the migrant workers who have paid with their blood, sweat and often lives, for these architectural dreams to have been realised? Ironically, the plight of these poor people has been highlighted by the west rather than by countries from where the migrants have come; and equally ironic, if one talks to some of the foreign labourers in the Gulf, it seems it is the Arab-owned companies that exploit cheap labour while European and American companies in these states provide good working conditions and health benefits to their labour. Clearly, there is a major human dignity deficit prevalent amongst all of us Muslims.

Nor is it just a case of being devoid of the spirit and essence of Islam that has become so haunting within the Muslim Ummah. Politically also there is a strange psyche that still pervades us despite decades of being nominally sovereign. In the Gulf the colonial social structures have resurfaced in a stark fashion with the menial tasks being performed by Asians and the white man at the helm of business affairs! This is not to say that no Asian has made it to that level -- many have but certainly no white man is seen within the migrant labour force. Also, despite constant criticisms and political pressures from the US and Europe, why is the Arab mindset so unable to de-link itself financially from these entities? The investments made by the Arab world in the west could have done so much for the development of the Muslim world and certainly with no political strings attached. Arab finances have played a major role in bolstering western economies but this financial strength has not translated into any political leverage -- in fact, to the contrary, Arab investments in the west are under constant threat and have become a source of political leverage for the US and Europe. And, yes, it is the elites who make all the decisions. No wonder Muslim causes lack a strong bargaining lever.

Coming back to the case of Pakistan, in particular, statements emanating from some of our political leaders presently highlight once again how desperate these elites are to play to the western gallery, particularly the US. Ms Bhutto has made it clear she will go all the way to do US bidding -- be it access to US troops in Pakistan or Dr Khan. Yet in the case of Pakistani civil society's basic demands in terms of press freedom and an independent judiciary, the same leader has been less than sensitive -- even casting aspersions on the independence of the pre-November 3 Supreme Court judges.

Worse still, Ms Bhutto, it seems, wants to appease all those external players who are not well-wishers of Pakistan, not just the US. Just look at her recent pronouncements in response to Indian national security adviser Narayan's comments on her credibility vis-à-vis India. To prove her "Indian" credentials, she declared that it was her government that stopped the Sikh insurgency. Was she implying that before her time it was Pakistan rather than the Sikhs themselves who were masterminding this insurgency? Is this the responsible statement of a Pakistani leader? As for her declaring that there were no Mumbai blasts during her time, again she seems to be quite reckless in implicating the Pakistani state despite the fact that Pakistan has consistently stated its condemnation of these acts of terror and India has provided no evidence to connect us to them. So if Pakistan has no linkage to acts of terror in India, why should Ms Bhutto feel the need to state that during her tenure in power there were no "Mumbai blasts"? Of course she may just as well have stated that there was no 9/11 during her tenure! The point is that it is highly irresponsible for an ex-PM to make these statements merely to establish her credentials with India or the US or any other external power. As for her claim of having quashed a Kargil operation, perhaps she is unaware of the fact that General Karamat has categorically stated, in an interview with this scribe, that there never was a Kargil plan at that time so none was presented to her during her premiership.

At the end of the day, Ms Bhutto should realise that what is required of her is more sensitivity to Pakistani aspirations and goals, and less sensitivity to US and Indian aspirations or goals -- except where they coincide with Pakistan's. So far, the US is simply targeting Pakistan on one count after another. If it is not our nuclear programme, if we are not the most "dangerous state", then it is the US money we are squandering and many other criticisms that come so readily to the American mindset. When will we realise that the US goals and Pakistani goals are simply irreconcilable at the strategic level despite having some niches for tactical issue-specific cooperation. But that cooperation has to be based on equitable quid pro quos and transparency -- neither of which seems to have happened in our becoming the frontline state in the US-led war on terror. The result: a tremendous domestic and external price that Pakistan continues to pay.

Damaging our own domestic polity, we have offered the US unprecedented access and logistical support and now they have the gall to question the financial charges they have paid for use of certain services. Surely the time has come to reassess the US-led war on terror in terms of Pakistan's priorities so that we can fight the terrorist menace more holistically. But will our ruling elites ever get out of their neo-colonial mindsets? Some like Ms Bhutto clearly seem unable to do so.

Perhaps when we have developed strong independent state institutions and have come to rely less on individual leaders, our state policies will be more responsive to domestic compulsions and aspirations than external demands. After all, when we want we can do what we as a nation are determined to do, despite all manner of pressures. That is how Jinnah, the Quaid, founded Pakistan; and that is how leaders like Z A Bhutto and scientists like Munir Ahmed Khan and Dr A Q Khan defied all odds and developed the nuclear capability for the nation. So the national spirit is present, but it is being destroyed by unresponsive leaders and a morally bankrupt state edifice. And that is also the story of the Muslim elites in general.

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

http://www.thenews.com.pk/daily_detail.asp?id=87814
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  #82  
Old Wednesday, January 02, 2008
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UNDONE BY OUR OWN SHENANIGANS

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Shireen M Mazari

While the nation was still raw in its grief over the assassination of Ms Bhutto, not only was its sorrow aggravated, its rage and anger over this cowardly act of terror was fuelled, and its intelligence insulted by the senseless and bizarre pronouncements of the Interior Ministry on the cause of Ms Bhutto's death. One does not know whether to cry out in frustration and anger or to simply and helplessly despair at officialdom's ineptitude and absurdities. What possible end was expected to be achieved by denying what the world was seeing repeatedly on television screens and hearing from first hand accounts? Honestly, the ordinary and sane human mind cannot comprehend why the grieving Pakistani nation was subjected to such insensitive and inane pronouncements.

That the caretaker government has now apologised for it is a welcome change from the norm. Unfortunately, the damage has been done in terms of any investigative credibility that the government may have had. Worse still, it has provided an opportunity, if that was ever needed, for external players to seek justification for intrusion into the country's domestic matters. Added to this has been the demand from many quarters within Pakistan, including the slain leader's PPP and her spouse, that an international probe be undertaken for seeking out the guilty. The most recent statement coming from the GoP, that it will seek foreign help in its investigations if needed, is sensible, since the much-cited UNSC-sponsored Hariri investigation was highly politicised and effectively a US effort to corner Syria.

Of course, there is scepticism about a credible national investigation given the State's past record on this count. That is why there is a dire need for the government to ensure transparency and establish credibility at each step of its inquiries and investigations. As one who has always decried foreign interference in our domestic affairs, given this particular situation with a grieving nation and a trust deficit between civil society and officialdom as well as the history of past investigations, some foreign help, such as the one offered in a politic way by the British Prime Minister, would go a long way to assuring the Pakistani nation that the government is serious about exposing the guilty and bringing forth the truth. National healing will only happen if the trust deficit can be overcome -- especially since the deficit has been self-created by the government.

Having said that, what is coming out of the US and its politicians, in terms of pronouncements relating to Pakistan and the assassination of Ms Bhutto, is nothing more than abusing Pakistan for American domestic political ends in an election year. Of course tirades against the safety of our nuclear assets are immediately brought in, no matter what the issue relating to Pakistan. Meanwhile, Ms Clinton, in an effort to show her knowledge of the world, has gone to town on the Pakistani State. Accusations fly with no explanation as to the rationale behind them, and yet she states, in a typically American imperialistic fashion, "I am not calling for him (President Musharraf) to step down" – as if that is her call to make in the first place, rather than that of the people of Pakistan!

Reuters asked me on 31 December why Pakistan abounds in conspiracy theories, and I felt it was partly a result of a credibility and trust deficit which created a suspicion-prone civil society. I asked why the US was also playing this game not only with Pakistan but also in the case of some of its own assassination cases. Of course, the JF Kennedy assassination comes most vividly to mind since theories still abound as to who killed JFK and why.

This brings me to a point that Ms Clinton and other US politicians are conveniently forgetting when they are demanding that an FBI investigative team be thrust upon us. It would be a valuable and much-needed lesson in humility for them to recall how the JFK assassination has still not been investigated satisfactorily which is why todate conspiracy theories continue to exist on this issue. So while Scotland Yard may have some credibility, the FBI is a totally different case.

Ms Clinton's ignorance seems complete in terms of Pakistan when she declares that Pakistan's "feudal landowning leadership" must be disempowered because it was led by President Musharraf and has protected Al-Qaeda! Now there may be many grounds on which President Musharraf has been critiqued, but in all fairness he cannot be labelled a feudal landowner or even the leader of the feudal land-owning class! And while one may detest the feudal class and the feudal mindset, and there are many evils associated with feudalism, but empowering the clergy is not one of them. Without being an apologist for feudalism in any sense, the fact is that it is where the feudal leadership has been weakened or is non-existent, that the mullah has gained power and come into his own. Perhaps Ms Clinton is also not aware of the fact that the late Ms Bhutto, widely regarded as the symbol of moderation and secularism, was also a feudal landowner. More comment on the post-Ms Bhutto PPP would be indecent till the forty-day mourning period the family has sought is over.

Ms Clinton also declares that US aid should shift its military aid to social welfare aid so that the US can build up Pakistani civil society. God help us if the US is going to chart the course for our civil society bolstering! But more important, Ms Clinton seems to have had a convenient amnesia regarding why the US is giving limited military aid to Pakistan. This is not charity. Our military is in the front line of the global war on terror and for this we are paying a high price. But certainly without the basic military aid and equipment, we cannot fight this war. Whatever the level of our efficiency or lack of it, it is with our help that Al-Qaeda leaders have been nabbed and it is our leaders and our people who are paying with their lives. We also know that when the US interests in the war on terror have been served, Pakistan will cease to be an "ally". So Ms Clinton, the US should stop being an ingrate and accept with graciousness whatever Pakistan, with all its flaws and shortcomings, is able to do in the war on terror. Look where the US is in Iraq aided by its core allies like Britain and Australia.

However, at the end of the day, the fault lies with us as a state. By looking for support outside and seeking external approval rather than trusting our own people, we have laid ourselves open to abuse by external actors. Instinctively, the state seeks to shy away from truthfully facing its people and trusting in their good sense. Machiavellian games are played with the poor nation by the power wielders. That is why this country is such an easy victim of America's imperious ignorance.


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

http://www.thenews.com.pk/daily_detail.asp?id=88895
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Old Wednesday, January 09, 2008
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It can and continues to get worse


Wednesday, January 09, 2008
Shireen M Mazari

Since March 2007 we in Pakistan have found that just when we felt things could not get worse, we have been plunged into an ever-darker abyss. Our domestic troubles have come in tandem with external pressures and abuse at the hands of our so-called allies, especially the US. The recent situation reflects this most clearly. In the aftermath of the national trauma over the assassination of Ms Bhutto, and the physical ravages suffered by the pillaging and looting, we are confronting absurd diatribes from American politicians contending for the US presidential slot. Perhaps Ms Clinton has shown the most irrationality in her efforts to show off her understanding of international issues! In the process she has shown a frightening ignorance, revealing once again why the world will always be unsafe as long as ignorant and imperial US mindsets come to rest in the White House — thereby putting their irresponsibly ignorant fingers on the nuclear button.

One can hardly take Ms Clinton’s remarks on Pakistan’s nuclear assets seriously when she suggests a joint US-UK control of our nuclear assets, but the trouble is that many imperial minds in the US do just that and herein lies our problem. Not many in the US are even now aware of the US live nuclear weapons that went missing for a while aboard US fighter planes on 29 August 2007; nor are they aware of the 2.8 metric tons of missing plutonium, or as the US Department of Defence puts it, “inventory difference”, from official US stocks up to 1994. But being informed properly has never been a trait found in US presidents — which is why the world has had to, and still continues to suffer so much bloodshed and chaos as a result of US military adventurism.

However, while we cannot take Clinton’s pronouncements seriously, it is high time we took substantive action to put some distance between the US and ourselves to send an unambiguous message to them that we have reached the limits of our tolerance of abuse at their hands. Let us hold back on our logistical and other support to the US, even as we fight our own war against terrorism in our country keeping in view our ground realities. As part of our distancing from the US perhaps we can reduce the number of unexplained Americans present all over Pakistan who are fluent in the local languages, attired in local dress and travel all across the country including areas such as Warsak and Quetta. At a time when travel advisories abound against travel to Pakistan, there is a question mark as to who all these mysterious Americans are in Pakistan? Are they part of the “foreign hand” we hear of that is trying to destabilise Pakistan?

Of course a major reason why our external detractors find Pakistan such a lucrative target is our own internal wrangling. One would have thought that a tragedy such as the one we suffered in the assassination of Ms Bhutto would have brought the nation together so that a healing process could have begun. Instead, we not only saw loot and plunder — and a very disturbing question here is where were the law enforcers — we saw all the problems confronting civil society come to the fore in terms of daily life. After hearing a constant refrain of the wonders of the revived economy over the years, we have been sent into a state of shock and disbelief over the shortages of food, of electricity, of water, of gas and so on. What good are the ‘reserves’ if the man in the street has no bread to eat and no heat or electricity?

Amid the emotional suffering and physical hardships, no succour has been coming from the leaders. Instead, the political elite are busy hurling accusations and abuse at each other, while the insensitivity of the present holders of power can be seen in the statement of the Food and Agriculture Minister, Prince Essa Jan, who declared that the rural masses were responsible for the wheat crisis since they had hoarded the wheat! Such ignorance about one’s own country is surely unforgivable especially since the cabinet he is a member of has already been given a list of 50 influential hoarders. Just for the record, and to re-educate the “Prince” (I thought there was no royalty anymore in Pakistan) let me remind him that the ordinary rural inhabitant does not hoard wheat since he needs to sell it to get cash and pay for the inputs used to produce the wheat. He barely keeps enough for his own needs. The same is true for the larger agriculturalists also. So, please minister, do not insult the intelligence of the ordinary man who knows full well that hoarding in done by the flour mill owners, smugglers and professional profiteers amongst whom, according to news reports, can be counted influential politicians.

As reported in the national press, the cabinet has the list of 50 such offenders, but for some inexplicable reason — although perfectly explicable to the public at large — the finance minister has opposed taking any action against these criminals. Why? Why should those causing this wheat shortage at a time when we had a bumper harvest not be brought to book? Amongst the political wranglings of electoral politics, the poor are being left to starve and if our political elite had educated themselves even a little on history, they would realise how close we are to creating conditions for a general uprising given that atta riots are beginning to take place already.

Shaukat Aziz spoke of economic recovery and the wonders that now surrounded our economic health. Where and how has all that disappeared so quickly? If basic necessities are not available to the citizenry at large, economic “recovery” is a mere farce. Today, with atta at Rs 25 a kilo, how can an average citizen feed his family? After all, a family of four would consume at least a kilo and a half of atta per day at the minimum — if it could assuage its hunger properly. But then, if they have atta, the gas is missing or simply too expensive. And, as for education, who can get it when there is no light because of power cuts? Surely the major terrorist threat to the average Pakistani is the one emanating from the terror of want.

A responsive government would have immediately made public and punished the wheat hoarders so that the nation would have begun to have at least an iota of confidence in its rulers. Instead, the caretakers have chosen to shelter the influential hoarders and smugglers. And this callousness is then aggravated by ignorant or simply uncaring ministers having the gall to lay the blame at the door of the poor rural masses who are already suffering state neglect and social repression. The elite within civil society are fighting bravely for the independence of the judiciary and media, but the average Pakistani is fighting a more critical battle for mere survival. And the politicians are fighting their battles for power. So we are all at cross-purposes with no connecting thread it would seem. Amid all this we have to contend with the plague of terrorism from within and from outside. That is why we are easy prey for our external detractors, especially the US. That is also why the voice of the common Pakistani, who alone is tied to the nation from birth to death, is being lost amid the competing choruses of self-interests that have surrounded us.

The writer is director general of the Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad. Email: smnews80@hotmail.com
http://www.thenews.com.pk/daily_detail.asp?id=90261
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Old Wednesday, January 16, 2008
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FOOLING OUR OWN
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Shireen M Mazari

On almost every issue, clear cut state policies seem to be either non-existent, or contradictory when operationalised. Much is already being said about our confusion over the nature of our domestic terrorist threat -- how much of it emanates directly from Al-Qaeda, now more of a brand name for a terrorist "coalition of the willing" decentralised network, and how much of it is rooted within the domestic landscape of Pakistan itself? Confusion has made it difficult to have a holistic and unambiguous anti-terror policy with the result that we often seem to be fire fighting and reacting to the increasing and ever more deadly acts of terrorism, rather than conducting a proactive, long-term policy. This is similar to the confusion and ignorance that has surrounded US policy in the context of the so-called global war on terror, which is now degenerating into more of an US imperialist war against its detractors. So all in all, there is a lack of cohesiveness and clarity on the political front in terms of the terrorism issue.

But equally damaging is the lack of clarity and cohesiveness on the economic front in terms of foreign investment and trade policies. The results are devastating not only for civil society in terms of the shortages of food staples, but for the country as a whole in strategic terms. First, the wheat issue. The government's total lack of sensitivity to the plight of the common person is reflected in its refusal to punish the hoarders, despite having a list of the fifty main ones. But then why should one be surprised. Sugar barons have and continue to rule and dictate terms to the farmers and their identities have been well known for over a decade now. The people have tended to suffer in silence and the calculation this time is also that people will show the same tolerance and fortitude in the face of influential business lobbies and criminal hoarders. Of course, the calculations could prove wrong this time round since wheat shortages have been compounded with electricity, gas and water shortages and price hikes of almost everything from utilities to foodstuff. Add to this the almost daily deaths from acts of terrorism and one really wonders just how much the poor Pakistani is expected to bear before he reaches his culminating point of tolerance?

However, the wheat issue is not simply the result of profiteering by a few influential criminals. It is also the result of deliberately manipulating wheat production figures so that large-scale wheat export could take place -- as well as smuggling with impunity. The previous government allowed wheat exports knowing full well the production and wheat stock figures were fudged. But in the period of the grand sale of Pakistani assets, there was a free-for-all in terms of not only selling off all available state assets, regardless of the terms, but also exporting foodstuff regardless of the shortages that would follow. That is why we have had the disaster of KESC and the wheat shortages. But who will hold the guilty accountable?

In the grand sale of all things Pakistani, we also handed over Gwadar Port to the Singapore Port Authority --with ne'er a thought for our Chinese friends who risked life and limb to develop this facility at a time when no one else was interested. For once the Dubai entrepreneurs were outflanked by the Singaporeans! But we are now discovering the costs in terms of reported delays by the Singaporeans over the development of this port. Is it deliberate given that the US is not keen to see Balochistan developed or is it that the Singaporeans are not particularly interested now that the Chinese have been sidelined? Whatever the reason, Pakistan is going to lose the initial advantage it should have had in developing Gwadar, simply because of the delay in the completion of this project. Again, who will examine what has gone wrong and why?

The most glaring example of confusion over trade and investment is reflected in our dealings on the issue with India. At the declaratory level we have officially stated that MFN status for India, access to India across the Wagah land route and investment agreements are all linked to seeing some progress towards conflict resolution on some of the outstanding political disputes. In India, the aim is to push for trade access first. Even within Pakistan there are lobbies that fall in line with the Indian approach but some of us do feel that the declaratory policy has much merit in it. The problem though is that on the ground the government has moved away from this policy in a freewheeling fashion, which is giving Indian business and investors' unprecedented access to opportunities in Pakistan, while Pakistanis are being denied the same in India.

How have we come to this one-way benefit for Indian business? To begin with, as has been reported in earlier columns, Indians are purchasing property in Lahore and its environs as well as businesses through front men and businesses registered in Dubai. Singapore or Britain. Through this clearly visible indirect route, and also through a more direct route at times, Indian nationals and businesses are openly involved in investment projects in Pakistan. I recently met a most affable Indian who visits Islamabad every two months since he is building the Intercontinental Hotel in Islamabad. Similarly, Mahinder Tractors is selling to Pakistan through Millat Tractors via Singapore.

Even more interesting, a Dubai-based company, Astra Netcom has been given a project to build a communication tower in Karachi and the businessman in charge is an Indian citizen, Rakesh Gupta, who travels frequently to Pakistan on a SAARC visa. More disturbing in security terms is the fact that his company has also been given the project to upgrade the PAF computer system. Needless to say, Mr Gupta is extremely well connected in Pakistan. In Karachi, one sign of direct Indian investment is the opening of the Indian coffee chain, Café Coffee Day. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Nor is information unavailable. On the contrary, there is a wealth of information on this issue, available even to officialdom.

Whatever our policy, let us at least enforce it across the board so that it is not undercut through devious backdoor machinations and individual exceptions which seems to be the norm in Pakistan -- much to our national detriment. If we have decided to abandon our linkage of trade issues with India to political dispute resolution, then let us move formally on this count. The point is that if Indian business is getting this access, then why are we holding on to a farcical position at the declaratory level, which merely deprives the Pakistani businessman similar opportunities in India, which has a thriving economy where Pakistanis can find a profitable niche? Presently, while India continues to raise the trade and investment issues, its businessmen are laughing all the way to the bank!

Worse still, we seem to lack total institutional cooperation within the various bureaucracies. External policies relating to trade and investment seem to have no foreign office inputs -- or at least this is the prevailing impression since contradictions abound between declaratory policy and what is actually happening on the ground. Nor is it just trade. There is a disconnect everywhere leading to disarray and disquiet. The bureaucratic approach of trying to fool all the people all the time remains the dominant trait, which has now resulted in a major trust deficit between civil society and officialdom. In these trying times, when trust is so critical for success in the fight against terrorists and other detractors of Pakistan, we are found wanting. What could be a greater national tragedy?


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

http://www.thenews.com.pk/daily_detail.asp?id=91321
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Old Wednesday, January 23, 2008
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THE RULING ELITE'S UNENDING FAILURES

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Shireen M Mazari

Day after day it is the same story. Internally, the citizen continues to face increasing hardships with power cuts, gas shortages with no end in sight to the wheat shortage. Rumours now abound that a ghee shortage may now be in the offing. As has repeatedly been stated in these columns, so much for the economic "miracle" of the government. We dreamt of becoming an Asian tiger but have only managed to become a paper tiger, crushed under the growing weight of shortages.

What is particularly galling in all this is the sheer callousness of not only officialdom but also civil society towards human life. Look at the tragedy of the gas explosion in a Rawalpindi school last week in which Pakistan's future fell victim. The state knows that every year gas explosions and gas leakages cause deaths in Pakistan's bitter cold winter. It is also known that with gas shortages this danger is exacerbated. Then why has the government not moved to prevent incidents like the Rawalpindi one? Must we always wait for tragedy to strike in our habitual mode of inaction and unconcern?

Even now the government has not moved to ensure that such incidents do not happen in our schools. Yet what needs to be done immediately will cost the government nothing but enforcement action: Strictly ban gas heaters in all schools -- from the poor state schools to the elite schools housed in all manner of buildings, and ensure compliance. I remember decades earlier when the cold weather was not only more biting but lasted longer, going to school clad in layers of clothing because there were no heaters in our school. And this seemed to be the case across the board -- just as a few fans were our only respite in the summer. And I am talking in the context of a well-established private school. A good period of games provided us with further succour against the cold.

As for the unconcern of civil society, it is reflected in the manner in which the teachers rushed out for safety in that school with no concern for the children left behind to suffer. The unconcern is also reflected in civil society's total lack of protest over this incident. We have become so attuned to unnatural deaths and disasters that we find no motivation to compel the government to move on that count.

In fact, it is this growing apathy towards abuse coming our way that has also opened us to a now daily routine of external abuse. Our old colonial masters, now reduced to the small isle of Britain, have found in Pakistan a means of neo-colonial expression. So it was that last week the British Parliament chose to discuss the affairs of a sovereign state, Pakistan, and the challenges that our state posed. We were given a host of derogatory labels -- from a dangerous "faltering" state since we were a nuclear power to a "failed" state. Much fury was vented over the madrassah issue even as the British MPs quite forgot that their own system had also created a disgruntled Muslim youth who had then resorted to terrorism in their country. A convenient amnesia also allowed the Brits to forget that any aid they were channelling to Pakistan was not charity but as part of the costs of the war on terror Pakistan was not only fighting but also providing military support in terms of logistics and so on to British and other Allied forces.

MP Keith Simpson summed up the new neo-colonial attitude prevailing in the British government towards Pakistan when he declared imperiously that Britain must "persuade the Pakistanis to do things that are not only in their national interest but in our interest too." Now what happens if we in Pakistan do not see a coincidence of interests between Pakistan and Britain, eh?

British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, has continued with this theme on his visit to India where he has declared that failed or failing states can harbour terrorists. Ironically, in India he should surely have also recalled state terrorism such as the one inflicted on the Muslims in Gujarat or the Kashmiris in Occupied Kashmir. And of course like all white Brits he refuses to see the rise of terrorism from amongst the marginalized minority populations of Europe (including Britain).

What was more laughable was Brown's assertion that Britain would use its expertise to establish requirements for the verifiable elimination of nuclear warheads. If Britain is serious it should lead by example and eliminate its own little nuclear arsenal. This would have won over his Indian hosts on nuclear disarmament since they have always demanded the five de jure nuclear states move first towards nuclear disarmament. As for the issue of verification, it needs to persuade its ally Bush on this count since the US is not prepared to have verification even in a Fissile Material Cut off Treaty! In fact, verification seems to have become a dirty word for the Bush administration in the context of arms control and disarmament (AC&D). Some would say AC&D itself has become a dirty word in the Bush lexicon.

Nor is it just the Brits and the Americans who have found Pakistan to be a pliable whipping boy for their own political ends. The lack of credibility that the present holders of power present was most glaringly reflected in the US violations of Pakistani airspace yet again last week, according to press reports that have not been denied by Pakistani officialdom, and its bombing of our tribal belt. Added to this violation of our sovereignty were the Afghan troops firing across the international border into Pakistan. So what happened to the challenge thrown to those who chose to violate our sovereignty? Where was our response?

This bizarre acceptance of external actors violating our sovereignty with impunity undoubtedly led an Indian minister to simply walk or as the reports put it, stroll across the international Pakistan-India border unchecked and unstopped. Why? Have we lost all dignity and self-respect in terms of our sovereignty? I dare any Pakistani minister to walk across into Indian Territory in the same fashion! The Indians will not stand for it. One just has to look at the way they treat visa applicants -- including those invited by Indian official bodies -- to see the difference in approaches. Just over eight months back film star Zeba was arrested for being in Ajmer without a visa -- although she thought she had it -- because the hotel immediately reported her to the authorities. Yet we all know of so many Indians who have visited all manner of places in Pakistan with their friends and without visas. Has any hotel reported them on discovering the absence of the relevant visa? Clearly, the new spirit of accommodation and bonhomie is pouring out primarily from the Pakistani side but haven't we gone too far in the case of the open challenge to our sovereignty by Indian Minister of State, Jairam Ramesh? Why has no Indian been summoned to the Foreign Office or no protest lodged with the Indian government?

Clearly, our internal turmoil has highlighted the costs of decades spent in the destruction of institutions and systems, and exposed our ruling elite as never before -- not only in terms of their commitment to the Pakistani nation, but also in terms of their commitment to the state of Pakistan.


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

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THE STATE AND NATIONAL RELEVANCY

Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Shireen M Mazari

With the army busy fighting bush fires that are sapping away its capacity in terms of sheer manpower as it moves into Swat and into Darra Adam Khel and into Kohat as well as re-seeking control of the ring of forts in Waziristan, clearly even though it is managing to gain or regain control of the salients, its' successes are at a tactical level. These tactical military encounters are being conducted within an adverse strategic environment which in turn limits success and also threatens to suck the army into a widespread arena of bush fires where just as one is put out, another flares up. Pakistan has gradually been sucked into its own war on terror and it needs to alter its strategic environment at the political level to a more favourable and supportive one if its tactical military successes are going to translate into an overall strategic success.

So what is the hostile strategic environment? There is an externally hostile one as well as a growing internally hostile environment for the state. Before identifying these in detail, it needs to be stated that a nuclear Pakistan located in its critical geostrategic position will by definition be a relevant strategic player -- both to states within the region as well as extra regional powers -- regardless of the status of its relations with them. In fact it is the relevancy that is seen as an issue by extra regional powers like the US and what we need to ensure against is their effort to reduce this relevancy by getting us bogged down in our internal crises and external absurdities.

The externally hostile environment is largely the making of the US and its post-9/11 military-centric war on terror. Just as the chaos in Iraq and the weakening of the Arab polities has been part of the US agenda, with 9/11 providing the pretext, so the war in Afghanistan has provided the US an opportunity to weaken, perhaps Balkanise and attempt to take out Pakistan's nuclear assets. Articles by US analysts that focus on these issues are not random thoughts but carefully orchestrated campaigns at the declaratory level. As for the war on terror, it is not by accident that the US has managed to shift the centre of gravity of this war from Afghanistan to Pakistan. Now it is seeking to create a scenario whereby it can rationalise the physical intervention of its military into Pakistan. It is indeed an irony that a country that to date has had not one success in any unconventional war post-1945 -- beginning with the failure in Vietnam -- should have the audacity to suggest it can come to Pakistan's assistance in the tribal belt. Even more in what can be regarded as black humour it has offered to enhance training of our troops in counter insurgency. Surely that will mean that whatever our military does know of counter insurgency will be lost successfully after US training. History, Iraq and Afghanistan should paint a clear picture for the Pakistan military in terms of the US competency in counter insurgency!

But coming back to the one US success -- of moving the centre of gravity of the war on terror into Pakistan. After all, was it not a deliberate policy to allow Al-Qaeda and the fighting Taliban an escape route from the south into Pakistani territory rather than moving in from the north and south right at the start of the war in Afghanistan post-9/11? There is also the increasing strategic partnership between the US and India that has allowed India new space on Pakistan's western borders with all the adverse fallouts that represents for Pakistan's security. Nor is it simply a coincidence that at a time when the US is seeking greater intervention militarily in Pakistan, the Indian naval chief declares that Gwadar has "serious strategic implications for India".

Is it not strange that this statement comes after the management of the port has been handed over to Singapore Port? As for the reference to Gwadar giving Pakistan, and my inference China, control of the "world's energy jugular", the Indian naval chief has conveniently forgotten that it is India and the US who are seeking this control in their agreement to jointly patrol the Indian Ocean from the Red Sea to the Malacca Straits; and India's establishment of the Far East Command on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, thereby giving itself the ability to choke the flow of energy through the crucial Malacca Straits. Perhaps the most threatening aspect of the Indian naval chief's statement is within the context of the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) -- another venture of the coalition of the willing in which India was invited to join by the US. After all, the PSI members accord themselves the right to physical interdiction and the Indian naval chief's statement coincided with suggestions by the US that it could enter Pakistan's tribal areas through a "joint" Pak-US military operation. If one examines patterns and holistic pictures, seemingly disconnected events can be seen to be intrinsically linked.

That is why it is imperative to reassess the cooperation with the US and to evolve a counter-terror strategy premised on indigenous assumptions and ground realities. To counter the developments in FATA as well as in the settled areas of the NWFP, the Pakistan military cannot fight without the support of the nation as a whole, as well as political and economic inputs from the state. Otherwise the army will expend all its force fighting bush fires, no matter how successfully. At the tactical level also, military action must be followed by immediate economic infusions, as well as a minimal structure of an effective civil administration on the ground that can provide some semblance of governance, health and basic schooling facilities as well as speedy justice for the local people. If prominent locals can be recruited for this purpose, so much the better. Adhocism has to be the rule to start with, to get over bureaucratic red tapism.

However, at the domestic strategic level a more favourable environment has to be created politically across the country. We are in the throes of electioneering as civil society awaits a return to full-fledged democracy. But have any of our political leaders focused on the issue of the war on terror. Has any party given any detailed intent of how it expects to fight the menace of terrorism? While many statements have come forward on how democracy will offer a better option of fighting terrorism, how this will be done has not been explained. It is astonishing how, in the face of the growing challenge of terrorism in Pakistan, the issue has barely aroused political and public debate. Yet, unless there is an awareness of what is actually happening in FATA and some of the settled parts of the NWFP, there can be no building of a national consensus that is required to back the military action.

Worse still, our government is increasingly making us a laughing stock thanks to emotive outbursts and contradictory statements, along with efforts to maintain secrecy over events which by definition cannot be kept under wraps. Systems and due process have been all but destroyed so that personalised governance is increasingly the order of the day. It is almost as if the government is becoming irrelevant to the ground realities of Pakistan and its people, thereby fostering a hostile domestic environment in which a strategic war on terror cannot be conducted successfully. Till we realise that the state has to make itself relevant and credible to its own people first, their will continue to be a disconnect between the nation at large and the state, and we will not be able to move beyond efforts to douse the terrorists' bush fires.


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


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RECIPROCITY: A COSTLY OMISSION

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Shireen M Mazari

What’s with the admirals of the Pakistan Navy? When Admiral Fasih Bokhari was Chief of the Naval Staff (CNS), soon after Pakistan’s nuclear tests in May 1998, I was surprised to be asked to a meeting with him but was then horrified to find him questioning why I had supported Pakistan’s nuclear testing. He declared that Pakistan had made a big mistake at which point I asked him why as naval chief he had not given his view officially. Anyhow, it was not at all astonishing to find Admiral Bokhari, after retirement, declaring at an IISS meeting in the Gulf, that Quaid-i-Azam had made a mistake in seeking the creation of Pakistan. It appears Admiral Bokhari got away with a mild rebuke when his peculiar view became known to the military leadership.

Now we are seeing another CNS actually taking the Indian naval chief’s totally out-of-order outburst regarding Gwadar, seriously and actually offering dialogue to address Indian concerns. How absurd can we get! Have the Indians offered to dialogue on their agreement with the US to patrol the entire Indian Ocean region, thereby controlling all the choke points from the Red Sea to the Straits of Malacca? Have we dared to raise strategic concerns over the Indian navy’s rapid expansion or its acquisition of nuclear subs? Has the Indian government or its military ever offered dialogue to allay our fears regarding their activities in Afghanistan or Iran? So why should we feel the compulsion to explain the development of Gwadar — something which is our right as a sovereign state?

The problem is that we have discarded the valuable principle of reciprocity in our dealings with major players in the region, including India. In an earlier column I had already mentioned the disconnect between our declaratory policy on trade with India, and our shenanigans on the ground which were in total opposition to this policy. The result has been a one way financial and trade access to Indian business while our businessmen continue to suffer the consequences of the declaratory posturing.

But the malaise of non-reciprocity extends far beyond trade. Even in terms of diplomatic norms, we do not apply the reciprocity principle. Take the case of the visa regime with India, which in any case is becoming increasingly ridiculous and riddled with contradictions. The Indians require all Pakistanis to fill out foreign residence papers on arrival in India — as well as the usual arrival card which all foreigners fill out. We do not require a similar cumbersome exercise on the part of the Indians arriving in Pakistan. Nor has our high commission in New Delhi suddenly turned away all visa seekers, demanding they type out their applications afresh! Again, while Indian business and academic elites manage to get visas in a day or so if recommended by official Pakistani sources, the same is not reciprocated by the Indian side.

Now I am all for improving relations and greater interaction with our Indian counterparts, but there has to be a reciprocal base for such interaction. What is happening now is that, thanks to our officialdom’s lackadaisical attitude, we are being short-shrifted by our Indian friends. Nor is it just the Indians. We have always been treated equally poorly by our so-called western allies. Look at the way in which the US and UK deal with Pakistani visitors. Be it Edhi or Pakistani politicians, they are all fair game for abuse by American and British immigration and security personnel. As for any admission of error or apology — what a laugh! But if we were to mete out similar treatment to a few Brits and Yanks at our airports, that is, if we could force ourselves into adopting the principle of reciprocity, we may alter some abusive behaviour patterns on the part of our neo-imperialist “allies”.

Given our officialdom’s docile posturing before the west, it is no wonder then that the Brits can simply decide to move their visa office out of Pakistan, thereby making it even more difficult for Pakistanis to visit family and friends in Britain; while a British minister visits India to see how Britain can revise the visa regime to make it easier for Indians to visit their families and relatives in Britain. Yet has anyone heard even a whimper of protest from our foreign ministry or indeed our government?

Reciprocity in inter-state relations is essential because in an anarchic society that is what prevents abuse and maltreatment, and ensures somewhat of a level playing field in terms of interstate behaviour and civilised norms of behaviour towards one’s citizens from other states and nations. Look how the Indian state and civil society fell behind Harbhajan Singh in the cricket incident in Australia, which took the wind out of the Australian arrogance and unsportsmanlike competitive culture. Yet we continue to pussyfoot around Australian highhandedness in the cricketing arena. Their latest threat of not playing in Pakistan because of security reasons is yet another ploy in harassing us into submitting to their diktat.

In reality, it is our cricketers who will be facing a major security threat if they travel to Australia, especially if they gain the upper hand. Look what happened to Murlitharan and his fellow Sri Lankan players the other day in Australia. All they did was walk back to their hotel after having dinner and in the process some Australians drove by and attacked them. Such is their hatred for Murli it appears — or such is their fear of his excellent bowling! While there may be no problem of terrorism per se in Australia, clearly there is a very real problem of terrorisation by the ordinary Australian! Therefore, it is important for the PBC to stay its ground and assert the principle of reciprocity.

Indeed it is an irony that in a country where officialdom is dominated internally by the principle of “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours”, often the larger national perspective is lost or deliberately cast by the wayside; reciprocity is all but forgotten exactly where it is required to ensure a basic respect for one’s sovereignty by external players. Even more basic, if the state itself does not respect its citizens, how can it see the value of reciprocity for them from others? And this is a malaise that is rampant in the Muslim world which is why the war on terror has become a golden opportunity for the abuse of Muslims by all and sundry. Last week in India, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board and other Muslim organisations protested against the central and state governments’ harassment of the Muslim community in the name of terrorism.

Finally, it seems maltreatment and terrorisation of fellow humans is also not something that can be laid solely at the doorstep of the world’s Muslims, as the Western media and politicians would have us believe post-9/11. In India, last week, the press reported that a Dalit man was pushed into a kadhai by his employer because he was too unwell to work. Clearly, dehumanisation is a central feature of all class ridden societies. Somewhere it is the caste system; in other places it is the race; in others it is religion and in worse case scenarios it is a combination of all three.

Life is certainly not fair but should one simply give up fighting for some minimal norms of civilised inter-state behaviour? Has our state given up on this count, even as our civil society has reawakened to fight for its basic rights?

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


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UNBROKEN CYCLE OF VIOLENCE AND STATE MYOPIA

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Shireen M Mazari

The extent of the lawlessness prevalent in the country today had never been so stridently evident before May 12 last year with the carnage in Karachi. Since then, violence on all sides has become the hallmark of our state and society. First there has been the US-led war on terror, in which Pakistan has become a frontline state. Unfortunately, that has meant accepting a US-formulated military-centric strategy which has brought disaster for the US in Iraq and Afghanistan; and has merely increased the violence and mayhem in Pakistan. Today, there is a near-anarchic situation that has moved beyond the tribal belt into the settled areas of the NWFP and is creeping into the rest of the country as well. The disappearance of our ambassador to Afghanistan on Monday, 11 February, as well as the kidnapping of two PAEC personnel, reflects the declining security in the NWFP.

Is it a mere coincidence that these incidents occurred after the wounding and capture of Dadullah, who was attempting to cross into Pakistan from Afghanistan after his dismissal from the Taliban movement of Afghanistan by Mullah Omar. With the denunciation of Baitullah Mehsud and Dadullah by the Afghan Taliban spokesperson, Zabihullah Mujahid (27 December, 2007) – who had said that there is a purely Afghan movement aimed at fighting a jihad against foreign occupation and that Pakistani extremists are irritants for them -- these extremists and their followers are on a weaker wicket within Pakistan.

The kidnapping incidents come in the wake of some seeming success the military has had in recent weeks against the militants in Pakistan. Whatever the US failures in its own war on terror, it has managed to successfully shift the centre of gravity of this war from Afghanistan to Pakistan. Given the various levels at which Pakistan is being targeted in the US, the aim is clearly to destabilise Pakistan, which is why one does need to ask the question: Is there some US linkage to certain acts of destabilisation, especially in terms of the kidnapping of PAEC personnel -- despite the fact that they are not linked to SPD -- given the numerous US personnel roaming around Pakistan in native dress and beards? After all, with the assertive and public manner in which we have countered the absurd allegations regarding safety and command and control of our nuclear assets, the US could become more desperate in its efforts to continue to raise the bogey of loose nukes -- even though they should now be the central concern in this context, given their B-52 incident of August 2007.

Of course, more pertinent is the question why we are falling prey to this nefarious US design of destabilisation of Pakistan? First, it is the sheer level of violence emanating from all sides. Targeting of political rallies through bombs and suicide attacks, kidnappings, political murders, and collateral damage of civilians in drone attacks in the tribal belt -- all these bode ill for the health of the Pakistani state and its civil society.

Worse still, instead of moving into the tribal belt and other parts of NWFP where there is unrest and violence, with a holistic policy of economic incentives, health and education initiatives and political mainstreaming, alongside law and order enforcement and a visible judicial redress set up, the state is seeming to offer controversial sops like the imposition of Qazi courts through a new Shariah Regulation 2008 -- which presently rests with the president -- which will create further cleavages between the troubled areas and the rest of the country. This regulation is for the Malakand division, which will be governed by a different legal system than the rest of the country. So, the message being sent out to civil society at large is if you can use enough violence to challenge the state's authority, you can have the legal system of your choice. Let us recall the strong links between the extremists of Malakand with the clerics of Lal Masjid especially in terms of snowballing effects.

For the people of Malakand division, the establishment of the Qazi courts will deprive them of any judicial redress at the highest level, since the Shariah Court at the division level will be the apex court for the people of the seven districts of Malakand division. So these poor people will not have the freedom to appeal against the decision of the Shariah Court in the Peshawar High Court or in the Supreme Court of Pakistan. How can we deny some of our citizens these fundamental rights which other citizens of Pakistan have?

Is this the way to build a cohesive and modern polity? Such short term controversial moves on the part of the state can, in the long run, negate social and political cohesion of the nation. After all, what did the earlier measures, similar in nature, do for Malakand except create more space for local extremists and criminals? One should recall that during 1994, the provincial government in Peshawar was terrorised into negotiating with radical mullah Sufi Mohammed and into conceding a Qazi system in Malakand which eventually led to the NWFP's Shar'i Nizam-e-Adl Regulation of 1999, for this division. Learning from history may be painful but not learning from even recent history is our national tragedy.

If the state is now committed to bringing the tribal areas into the mainstream than how can it deny some of its own people in the settled areas their fundamental right of access to the highest court of the land, simply because they happen to live in an area being terrorised by a minority of terrorising extremists?

We seem to have no clear long term policy direction in terms of the tribal belt and the trouble spots of the NWFP, which is why there is a growing sense of lawlessness, rendering the ordinary citizen insecure and overcome with fear, while the extremists and terrorists continue to be emboldened. Instead of overcoming the deficient state performance in the troubled areas by asserting the will of the state and providing basic amenities so that the ordinary citizen has a stake in the system, short term sops are being offered to the trouble makers at the expense of the innocent.

Also of interest is what one hears when one talks to people from areas such as Mohmand and Bajaur. There is a repetitive theme that outsiders are offering lucrative lures to the locals to get them to use violence and destabilise the state. Perhaps that is why one is seeing young teens offering themselves as suicide bombers in return for money for their poverty-stricken families. That is why, unlike in Palestine, we are not seeing the farewell videos or notes of bombers in which their religious and political commitment is frighteningly evident. But that is also why the state of Pakistan can, with a commitment to bringing in development at the economic, social and political levels, counter the suicide recruitment trend effectively.

The poverty and neglect of the people has created a human dignity deficit and its restoration requires the state to show itself as a responsive and positive entity. Putting in place discriminatory procedures of justice, and denying the people of some areas the rights available to other citizens is hardly the answer. In fact that will only ensure a continuing cycle of violence, radicalisation and hatred in the tribal belt and the surrounding settled areas.


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

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Congratulations Pakistan … and now the issues



By Shireen M Mazari
February 20, 2008

The people of Pakistan have, given the opportunity, again sought to shift the centre of gravity of the national polity to the civilian elected leaders. Once again the nation has done itself proud by going through an electoral process successfully. Contrary to forebodings of major acts of terrorism, Election Day went off largely peacefully, although there was isolated violence and precious lives were lost. Equally important, despite the bogey of massive rigging, the results show a largely fair and free election. And, in keeping with the civil society resurgence since March 2007, the electorate showed a determination to start afresh and reject the previous incumbents because of their poor showing on issues relating not only to judicial independence and rule of law, but also on the food shortages and gas and electricity outages. That the low turnout seemed to have brought out the protest vote in large numbers was another interesting feature of these elections which saw major political figures' suffer humiliating defeats.

Perhaps the only pre-poll prediction that proved correct was that no party would show an overwhelming majority at the national level, thereby necessitating some form of a coalition government. However, the assumption, especially by western pollsters that the PPP would lead by a clear margin, followed by a close contest between the two main PML factions proved to be incorrect as the PML-N seemed to have ridden a wave of support in the Punjab. It appears that even the PML-N itself may have been somewhat pleasantly surprised by the results!

The debate has already begun as to why primarily the PML-N gained at the expense of the PML-Q in Punjab, rather than the PPP. Many reasons are being cited, including the traditional explanation that the PML-N basically got back its old vote bank which was the traditional PPP -- anti-PPP voter divide in Punjab. Yet that is too simplistic just as it tends to insinuate a static polity -- which is certainly not the case anymore. One should also focus on the fact that the PML-N was the only major party which took a strong and unequivocal stance on the judicial issue; and in the urban areas of Punjab that stance found resonance in the voters of these constituencies -- including in Islamabad.

Whatever the final tally, the anti-Q vote was as much a vote against President Musharraf as it was against the Q League; but there had always been a mutuality of interest and support between the president and the Q League, so it makes no sense for the latter to lay the blame of their electoral wipe out solely on the shoulders of the president! Also, in many constituencies, including this writer's, it was not simply the macro level national issues like freedom of the media and judiciary that worked against the Q League candidate. Instead, it was the micro level subsistence issues and the corruption and harassment by the district nazim and his setup, that led the voters to the opponent.

Moving on, now that the elections are over, there is a need to focus on the issues the new political dispensation will have to face. Perhaps the most pressing issue is the judiciary issue and here it will be interesting to see how the PPP and the PML-N resolve their differing approaches. But it must be evident to all the elected politicians that civil society expects the restoration of an independent judiciary from the new political leaders. This is an issue that could once again bring civil society on to the streets.

As central an issue to the well being of the nation is the scourge of extremism and terrorism that is afflicting us presently. What, if any, will be the new approaches to dealing with this interlinked twin menace? Does the fact that elections were held peacefully even in the tribal belt signal a new approach on the part of the extremists or does it reflect the tribal people's intent to delink from these forces of violence and terror?

And, of course, linked to this issue is the issue of the US-led "war on terrorism". Will we continue to expend our energies in fighting this war according to the US's failed military-centric strategy or would we push forward a more holistic and indigenous strategy for fighting the terrorist threat within our midst? All this leads up to an even more central issue for the country: our relations with the US. Will we continue to willy-nilly be following US diktat as we seemed to have done even in the context of the NRO; or will we finally realise that our strategic interests over the long term do not coincide with US strategic interests? How we deal with the US requires a careful assessment of US policy towards Pakistan since 9/11and of the history of Pakistan-US relations before 9/11, so that a more viable and rational policy in this regard can be devised. We stand at a critical juncture in terms of our relations towards the US and India, and how we formulate our policies in this regard will determine our future long term regional status.

When our new political dispensation is considering Pakistan-US relations it must recall the insidious moves within the US to suggest balkanisation of Pakistan. Although the suggestions have come from US analysts, we would do well to remember that these analysts work closely with the US establishment. Even more dangerous for Pakistan have been suggestions from members of the US Congress that have targeted our nuclear assets and their safety. Will our resurgent political leadership find within itself the will to confront the US on this crucial national issue and not offer explanations about nuclear safety ad nauseum?

Coming back to domestic issues, there is the question of freedom of the media. It will be interesting to see how the new power set up deals with this issue. Will they simply go along with the restrictions imposed on the media through PEMRA or will a new age of a free media emerge once again in Pakistan? After all, what one commits to when one is in power is a trifle different to what one supports when out of power. Or are we going to find ourselves amid a new and tolerant political culture even though we are mainly circulating the same political faces all over again -- only their positioning has altered?

Another crucial issue is to examine why there have been the power and flour shortages at a time when our economy was being touted as having gone into a state of good health! In fact, there is a need to examine overall policy making relating to the energy and agricultural sectors and expose the vested interests that have hindered development in both these sectors.

Finally, the nation has suffered much turmoil and heartache, not to mention abuse from within and outside. That is why there is a need for national reconciliation through acceptance of national diversity and "the other"; and for a friendly but resolute stance in the face of external powers. The strength of the state arises from within the nation. For too long the rulers have ignored this and looked to strengthen the state through external alliances. It has never worked, except in an illusory and fleeting manner.

Perhaps it is time we learnt the first lesson the elections have taught us: the people know what they want and, given a fair chance, will ensure that their will is asserted. Those who have ignored this basic fact have had but a brief period of triumph, only to be brought down and humiliated by the collectivity of the people. Our chequered electoral history has shown this time after time. It is time the state imbibed this basic lesson from its history.



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



http://www.thenews.com.pk/editorial_detail.asp?id=97202
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No respite from the external detractors



By Shireen M Mazari
Wednesday, February 27, 2008


These are certainly exciting times filled with highly inflated expectations. That is why premature dismay and disappointments also come rapidly. For a columnist there are simply too many issues to focus on. There is the attempt by the APDM to regain lost political space riding on the shoulders of the lawyers' movement-- needlessly pushing the latter into a premature and perhaps needless confrontation with the newly-elected voices of the people. There is also the almost-desperate sprint of US diplomats from one political leader to another-- especially in the aftermath of an almost unanimous national critique of a Pakistani political leader rushing to the US embassy.

There are the growing rumours of a presidential resignation, countered equally vigorously by the presidential spokesperson. Just to prove that in all that is new, some things never change, we have also seen the caretaker prime minister sneak in life and after-life privileges for Senate Chairmen and their families! And this is just a tip of the iceberg in terms of issues and events that confront us; but while Pakistanis are enjoying a much-deserved political respite before a new government is sworn in, there is no breather on two major fronts which link us to our external detractors: terrorism and the continuing foreign intrusions into our internal matters as well as a continuing bombast against Pakistan in one form or another.

On the issue of terrorism, while the country definitely has its own terrorist menace to fight, it is a mistake to assume that the US war on terror is also our war. Certainly, we are already paying a heavy price for going along with the US's military-centric strategy to fight terrorism. In fact, our own terrorist problem has become exacerbated directly as a result of the erroneous US policies in the war against terrorism. We have only to see the introduction and spread of suicide bombers; the increasing acts of terror spreading from the tribal belt to the settled areas; and the successful US shifting of the centre of gravity of the war on terror from Afghanistan to Pakistan; to understand the negatives of going along with the US anti-terror agenda. Instead, we need to evolve our own holistic strategies to fight the blight of terrorism which aim at long term space denial to the terrorists.

Worse still, the US continues to remain dissatisfied and we should realise that their long term interest is in undermining a nuclear Pakistan rather than strengthening it. Even in terms of paying their costs to Pakistan for support in their war on terror (there being no "free lunch" in US culture), the US is seeking to withhold these payments as a punitive measure against the Pakistani state. Not that these payments are "huge" as the yanks claim! According to news reports, the US pays Pakistan $ 650 per solider per month, while it spends $ 80,000 per soldier per month in Afghanistan--and the amount is even higher in Iraq. Also, the US continues to deny Pakistan access to high tech weapon and intelligence gathering systems.

Of course, at the end of the day it is not these factors that should be the deciding element in our decision to go along with the US strategy in the war on terror, since the Pakistani nation does not see its military might as a mercenary force--but these factors do reflect the US mind set and approach vis a vis Pakistan. It is an approach that is derisive and condescending towards our sovereignty, hostile towards our nuclear capability and objectionably intrusive towards our domestic polity. That is why it is naïve for any political leader to equate our war against terrorism with the US's increasingly suspect war on terror.

It was heartening to see the PML-N leader going to the heart of the issue and asking the US to define clearly what it means by the war on terror. He also seemed to understand that a war against terrorism is an asymmetric war that cannot be won solely or even primarily by military means alone. It is also heartening to know that he showed no haste in meeting with the US ambassador, and chose to meet other elected political leaders before interacting with her.

It is time for the new Pakistani leadership to stand its ground in terms of asserting a nationalist posture that stops external powers from feeling they can intrude as they wish into our internal matters. Already the CIA has claimed that it conducted a successful unilateral attack against an Al-Qaeda commander in Mir Ali on January 29 without the knowledge/approval of Pakistan (Washington Post, 18 February). Moreover, the CIA has declared that this will be the model for the future in terms of attacks by US forces on Pakistani soil since Pakistan is considered unreliable by the US military. Also, US democratic presidential candidate Obama continues to threaten unilateral military action inside Pakistan by US ground forces. Frankly, if this continues, for Pakistan there is going to be a dual threat of terror -- from our own extremist militants and from the US as well. Can any Pakistani leader call for greater cooperation with the US under these circumstances?

But the feeling that Pakistan is fair game for intrusion in its domestic affairs is not limited simply to the US-- although action in this regard so far seems to have been the sole preserve of the US. In fact, as one observer quipped, "since many Pakistanis cannot go to the US to experience the American way of life", the US is bringing America to Pakistan!" One just has to see the one way student exchanges, the buying of air time on radio and TV and the wide range of NGOs funded by the US trying to teach Pakistanis "democracy", "enlightenment" and so on and one can understand the new White Man's burden the US has thrust on itself!

At the declaratory level, of course, we have seen the army chief of our large neighbour to the east, and now a strategic ally of the US, make a blatantly political statement relating to Pakistan. Given how the Indian military leadership never comments even on Indian politics, it was totally unacceptable to have the Indian army chief commenting on our elections, regardless of the nature of his comment. But what has been more distressing has been the lack of reaction from the Pakistani side.

Incidentally, despite the positive electoral process and results, it is not just the US political elite that continues to target Pakistan. The British government, through its Foreign and Commonwealth Office, is sponsoring a conference in Wilton Park specifically on "Pakistan: Sources of Stability and Instability". The first issue is why specifically on Pakistan given that many other developing states are in far greater straits. Amongst other things, the Brits are seeking to tell us how our state can engage with FATA-- as if that was not part of the Pakistani state! The bias in the conference, in terms of invited speakers, is what is striking with the usual critical foreign scholar suspects. Some of the topics themselves are value-laden such as the one on "the risks of nuclear terrorism". Of course, there are some Pakistani ministers/officials who apparently will be invited plus some Pakistani scholars, but the whole agenda in its formulation is a negative one portraying a picture of a problematic state and civil society. This is the image the US and its allies continue to seek to promote and they are simply not prepared to accept that the Pakistani nation is self-confident in its diversity and resilient as reflected in its assertiveness since March 2007. But such positives are best ignored by our US and British detractors.

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

http://www.thenews.com.pk/editorial_detail.asp?id=98441
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